Boulder Computer Maven Newsletter - June 2005

Dear Friends,

Thank you for letting me help you with your computer needs in the past.  This is my monthly customer newsletter.  This month's topics are Protecting Your Computer with an Uninterruptible Power Supply, Connecting Multiple Devices With a USB Hub, Saving Money with AOL and a High-Speed Internet Connection, and Another Recommended Antivirus Program.  Previous issues of this newsletter are available on the newsletters page of the Boulder Computer Maven web site.

If you don't want to receive this newsletter, please let me know, and I'll remove your name from my mailing list.  If you change your E-mail address, please tell me. 

As always, feel free contact me at any time with questions.  I want to help you get the most from your computer.

Best Wishes,
Steve Winograd, Boulder Computer Maven

Helping People Use Computers in Boulder for Over 20 Years

Protecting Your Computer with an Uninterruptible Power Supply

Boulder's summer thunderstorms can cause interruptions in the electrical power for your home or office.  Even a momentary interruption can shut down your computer and cause problems: losing a document or E-mail message that you've been writing, corrupting files stored on the computer, or damaging the computer hardware.  The solution is to use an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), which can provide power for several minutes during an outage.  The computer will continue to run during a brief outage, and you'll have time to save your work and shut down the computer normally during a longer one.

Computer and office supply stores have many brands and sizes of UPS.  For a typical desktop computer and monitor, a UPS with a rating of 500-700 VA is sufficient.  The product selectors on the APC and TrippLite web sites can help you find the right size.

Connecting Multiple Devices With a USB Hub

The USB ports (Universal Serial Bus) on your computer let you connect devices like printers, scanners, digital cameras, storage drives, and cable/DSL modems.  Many people have more USB devices than available ports, and the ports are usually on the back of the computer, where they're hard to access.  A USB hub is a small box that plugs into a USB port on your computer and provides additional USB ports.  You can place a USB hub where it's easy to access -- I have one on top of my desk

There are two types of USB devices in common use.  USB 1.1 (also called "Full" speed) is the older, slower type.  USB 2.0 (also called "High" speed) is the newer, faster type.  If your computer has USB 2.0 ports, be sure to get a USB 2.0 hub.  To see if your computer has USB 2.0 ports:
  1. Right-click My Computer.
  2. Click Properties.
  3. If your computer has Windows 2000 or XP, click Hardware.
  4. Click Device Manager.
  5. Scroll to the end of the list of devices.
  6. Double-click "Universal Serial Bus Controllers".
  7. Look for the words "Enhanced Host Controller" in any of the USB devices.

Saving Money with AOL and a High-Speed Broadband Connection

Many people who used to have a dial-up AOL account have switched to a high-speed broadband connection, such as DSL (Qwest, Earthlink) or cable modem (Comcast).  With a broadband connection, you don't have to keep your AOL account -- you can view web sites using a web browser like Internet Explorer or Firefox, and you can send and receive E-mail using a program like Outlook Express or Thunderbird.  Your E-mail address would be one provided by your broadband service, not an AOL E-mail address.

To use an AOL E-mail address after getting a high-speed broadband connection, you have to keep your AOL account.  However, you can save money by switching from AOL's full-priced plan ($23.90/month) to the lower-cost broadband plan ($14.95/month).  For information or to switch plans, go to the AOL keyword "Billing".

Another Recommended Antivirus Program

I'm adding avast! 4 to the list of  recommended antivirus programs that I began in last month's newsletter.  There's a free edition for home and non-commercial users, and a professional edition for commercial users ($39.95 for a 1-year license, with discounts for multiple years and multiple licenses).  In my tests, avast! 4 has removed some viruses that other antivirus programs missed.