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volume 13 number 4 april 2008 TipSheet

Welcome to the April issue of MicroMetric's TipSheet.

This monthly newsletter is targeted at addressing the needs of our customers.

This month we'll give you some PC Questions and Answers.

Tip 618   Is There a Downside to Using Free Security Programs? Category:   WINDOWSVISTA

Yes, but not so problematic a downside as to make free security programs unacceptable. You lose the convenience of a one-program-does-all security suite. And companies that don't charge you seldom offer great tech support. (Then again, neither do some companies that do charge you. In fact, some of the biggest hassles readers report about security programs involve billing snafus.)

Yet if you know what you're doing, a software combination like Comodo's Firewall Pro, AVG's Anti-Virus Free Edition, and SpywareBlaster (to find each, just Google) will probably keep you safe.

Not all free security programs can be trusted. Some are scams and amount to malware themselves. So don't use one unless you've heard good things about it from a reliable source.

Tip 619   How Can I Make Vista's UAC Less Annoying? Category:   WINDOWSVISTA

Many Vista users hate User Account Control, the security system that pops up a warning every time they try to do something as serious as installing software or as innocuous as changing the system's clock. Luckily, a free program called TweakUAC can turn UAC off for Administrator accounts but leave it on for everyone else. Just run the program, select Switch UAC to the quiet mode, and click OK.

But this expedient has its risks. Vista deems this setting a problem and so notifies you. Sure, you can turn off the warnings or learn to ignore them--but either way, you risk missing other, more important warnings.

Another option: If you use Vista Pro or Ultra, you can fine-tune your system's UAC settings. Select Start, type secpol.msc, and press Enter. Navigate the left pane to Local Security Settings, Local PoliciesSecurity Options, and scroll to the bottom of the right-hand pane for several User Account Control options. Experiment with them until you find something to your liking.

Tip 620   Is TV Burn-In a Real Problem? Category:   WINDOWSVISTA

Yes, it is--especially for plasma and CRT sets. A static image that remains on screen too long can burn into the screen's phosphors and remain there, possibly permanently. And if a portion of the screen goes unused for extended periods of time--for instance, if you watch a lot of TV programs in "normal" (that is, 4:3 aspect ratio) mode--the outline of the black bars that your set uses to frame the image could become a permanent part of your television.

If you have a plasma TV, you may want to restrict the amount of time you spend watching stations with permanent logos or ticker tapes, or watching in 4-by-3 mode--or you may want to switch from black bars to the TV's gray bar option. This is especially true during the first few months you own the set; the older a TV gets, the less likely it is to suffer from burn-in. If you like older TV shows or movies made before the mid-1950s, and you prefer to watch programs as they were meant to be seen, you should probably not buy a plasma set. For more information on handling aspect ratios and avoiding burn-in, read Becky Waring's article, "How to Get the Most Out of Your HDTV."

LCDs aren't as susceptible to retaining images as plasmas are, but it can happen. I know of one instance where a new LCD television was permanently damaged by very heavy 4-by-3 viewing (about 6 hours a day). Of course, since they lack phosphors, LCD screens can't suffer from true burn-in. Call it "image retention" instead, but for all practical purposes it's the same thing.

With any of these technologies, lowering the set's brightness and contrast improves your odds of avoiding damage.

As far as I know, DLP sets don't suffer from image retention problems.

Tip 621   Can Failing to Drain Batteries Completely Before Recharging Them Still Cause Problems? Category:   WINDOWSVISTA

No. Only nickel cadmium batteries exhibited the notorious "memory effect." In fact, today's lithium ion batteries have the opposite problem: Draining the battery can shorten its life. So avoid letting the charge drop below 10 percent.

Heat affects lithium ion batteries, too. A laptop battery will last longer if you remove it before running the notebook for lengthy periods on AC power.

But anything you do merely delays the inevitable. These batteries start wearing out on the factory floor, and eventually they'll go bad even if they never see an electric current. Remember that before you buy a spare battery as protection against the day your current one dies.

Tip 622   Why Should I Buy a Desktop Instead of Laptop? Category:   WINDOWSVISTA

If you don't need a laptop's portability, a number of factors favor a desktop.

Better price-to-power ratio: You can buy a cheap laptop, and you can buy a cheap desktop, but a cheap desktop has the power of an expensive laptop.

Cheaper ownership costs: Because they are made from off-the-shelf components, desktops are cheaper to upgrade and to repair. They're less likely to need repairs, too. No one ever drove away after putting a desktop PC on the roof of their car and forgetting it was there.

Less likely to be stolen: Desktops don't disappear during a bathroom break in a caf� or a nap at the airport.

Ergonomically friendlier: You can't have good posture if your keyboard and your monitor are just inches apart, although you can get around this problem by plugging a full keyboard and a mouse into your laptop whenever practical.

On the other hand, laptops use less electricity, and you can take them places.

Copyright 2008, MicroMetric, Inc., All Rights Reserved. Permission to copy in total, with this statement and copyright, is hereby granted.

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