Bits & P.C.s: Let’s take a look

Bits & P.C.s: Let’s take a look

By Richard Heller

In the computer world, someone is always coming up with new and neat things for you to spend your money on. Let’s take a look at some of the latest gadgets that will give you that “new computer” feeling for hundreds of dollars less.

Are you tired of that beige box sitting on your desk? Maybe all it needs is to be modeled. For less than $50, you can install a “picture window” so you can see the inner workings of the mighty machine. By placing colored lights ($10-$40) inside the case, you can give an eerie glow to your computer, while replacing the cooling fans ($20) with ones that have colored LEDs will create a virtual light show. Now that the Universal Serial Bus or USB has become the standard for connecting devices to your PC, you are probably running out of ports to connect everything to. The answer is a USB hub ($30-$80) that acts like an extension cord and will enable you to connect an additional 4-8 USB peripherals such as mice, scanners and digital cameras at the same time.

One of the best upgrades for your computer is to dump your old dial-up Internet access and to go with a broadband service such as DSL or cable modem. It will not cost much more than what you are currently paying (about $30 per month), and is an “always on” high-speed service. If you signed up for the Internet when you purchased your computer a couple of years ago, and the service term has now been met, it’s an ideal time to make the change. No

more tying up the phone line for hours while surfing the net.

If you do have a broadband connection and more than one PC, you should be sharing your connection. By purchasing a router ($30-$80), you can network your computers so that you can share your files and printers while also having more than one person on the Internet at the same time.

Over the past year, the price on digital cameras has dropped while the resolution has increased, whereas two years ago a mega-pixel camera would have cost $500. Now you can purchase a camera for $200 that has more features and more memory. The price on digital camcorders has also declined. Entry-level devices run for about $500. A couple of years ago, it would have cost you more than $1,000 for a beginner model.

Another low-cost option is an operating system upgrade. Windows XP upgrade edition for the home use sells for less than $100 and will probably work on your computer if it was purchased in the past two to three years. Microsoft states that you will need at least 128MB of memory. I’d recommend 256-512MB and a CPU of 500MHz or better. XP offers better stability than Windows 95 or 8, and, with the release of service pack one, many of the bugs discovered over the past year have been corrected.

Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service-related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times or e-mail

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