Click here to look at the e-book in PDF format, Computer Guide, based on these columns
What is the battery shelf life?
Q: Do you know whether a Lithium battery has long shelf life and how many times more than an alkaline battery?
A: I assume that you wish to compare non-rechargeable batteries. In such case the Lithium battery has a shelf life of up to 15 years which is over twice that of the alkaline battery. However, this is under ideal conditions as shelf life depends on several factors and the prime one is temperature. If the batteries are stored at temperatures above 25 degrees then the shelf life is reduced. At normal temperatures the self-discharge of lithium batteries is between 5% and 10% over a 10 year period.
With rechargeable batteries a Lithium battery will have a shelf life of about two years. Depending of the brand of rechargeable alkaline battery, it can have a shelf life of over 5 years.
A Lithium battery has more energy per unit volume or weight than alkaline and can be recharged many more times.
Upgrade to Vista?
Q. I have a reasonably new and powerful machine with Windows XP Pro installed. I would like to install Vista in place of XP. Do I need to buy a full Vista installation or are the much cheaper Vista upgrades adequate? Which version of Vista would you recommend?
A: An upgrade will be adequate unless you planning to upgrade to Home Basic or Premium as only these can be upgraded from XP Home. Otherwise a clean install is likely to be required. As you are not sure what version you want, why do you wish to upgrade? For most users the operating system is not important. What is more important to most users is the applications they use. The more common applications are word-processing, mail, financial records, anti-virus and similar software, possibly games etc., as well as being able to access all your existing hardware.
You will have to ask yourself what will I gain and what will I lose as a result of the upgrade. Apart from cost and time in installing and learning, make sure that all your other hardware will be able to work even if the computer is OK. Peripherals such as printers and scanners will need to be checked because if there are no Vista drivers for your printer, you will need a new printer as well. My guess is that very few users really need Vista and I suggest that you wait until some program appear that will only run on Vista. By then Vista will be more stable and you can consider the upgrade.
Q: How do you change the settings in XP when viewing files etc in either my computer or Windows Explorer to always open in file rather than icons?
A: From Internet Explorer set everything as you require and click on Tools, Folder Options, View tab then click on Apply to All Folders. Then you will have your desired views. You can have the columns that you want in the details view by right- clicking on any heading such as Name and selecting More to see a large range of options.
Travelling with a Laptop
Q: I have planning an extended trip around Australia and want to maintain my Internet access with my laptop. As I will be camping, what should I plan for keeping the laptop charged? Should I rely on using my Gmail account? How can I obtain Internet access?
A: Keeping the laptop charged is easy. Most electronic stores sell inverters that will convert the output from the car’s 12 v DC into 240 v AC so you just plug in your normal laptop power lead and it will charge the laptop. As the power requirement for the laptop is relatively low, charging it for a couple of hours when the car is stationary will not flatten the car battery. Although most manufacturers provide an optional power pack for use in the car, an inverter even of 60 watt capacity is adequate and is usually much cheaper. You can re-charge your camera and other equipment with it.
Gmail is a good account to have when travelling. However, most but probably all ISPs provide a browser based facility for you to read your mail that you would normally use with Outlook Express. You can always use your own ISP’s browser mail system when connected to any ISP.
Now for the hard part. Internet access in remote areas may cause problems. The best and most expensive solution is to purchase Telstra’s Next G adaptor for your laptop and to sign up on their 24 month plan. Other carriers have lower cost plans. At the low cost end of the scale there is dial-up from many ISPs who will provide access at local call cost from almost anywhere in Australia. Whatever plan or option you pick set up your laptop at least a week before departure and practice sending and receiving your mail and monitoring your usage if you select a low volume monthly plan.