Hazelnuts and naps – what your computer really means

By | July 1, 2011
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In the Computers newsletter this month:
  • Hazelnuts and naps – what your computer really means
  • How fast is your broadband, really (or are your internet company telling porkys)
  • Tip from next door: watch out for this scam

Well, it’s one birthday today – and less than two weeks until another!

It’s 6 years ago today that I first set up this newsletter. Back then Windows XP was the new kid on the block, I’d only published two books and I didn’t have so many grey hairs. They came later, in fact a lot of them came since one year ago – that’s when Alastair was born. In just under two weeks it’ll be his birthday, so it’s an exciting time all round!

But in the meantime, I’ve got several useful articles for you – here we go…

Hibernating computers – what does it all mean?
When you go to turn your PC off, you get several options – and it’s really not clear what they all mean. What’s the difference between hibernate and sleep, for example (it’s not about having a stash of hazelnuts nearby…)

What options you get in the start menu* does vary depending on the set up you have. There are some (like “shut down”) that everyone will have. But there are others that might or might not appear. Here’s what they all mean:

Shut down – this is the “actually turn it off” option. It’s what I’d recommend as the one you normally use.

Restart – this turns it off and then turns it back on again. It’s useful if your PC is playing up – sometimes restarting it will get it working properly again. It’s also a good idea to restart your PC after installing a new program.

Stand By – doesn’t actually turn the PC off, but puts it into a low power mode. Wiggling the mouse or pressing a key will bring it back to life. It’s useful if you’re not using your PC for (say) half an hour but you know you will want it again and don’t want to have to start it again from scratch. The downside is that if there’s a power cut while it’s in Stand by mode, it gets confused and you might lose anything you were in the middle of when you put it into standby.

Hibernate – This actually does turn the PC off, but saves everything Windows is doing to a special file. When you turn it on again, it doesn’t have to start up from scratch, it just uses that special file. That makes it quicker to start up than if it was turned off properly, but if there’s a power cut, that’s fine since it’s turned off anyway.

Sleep – combines hibernate and Stand By to get the best of both worlds.

Switch user – if you have more than one “log on” on the screen you get when you first start up Windows, this lets you change between them without turning the PC off

Lock – this locks the PC so no-one else can use it until you type in your password. Useful if it’s in a public place and you don’t want anyone accessing your files!

Log Off – Again, if there are different users, this closes down anything you’re doing and lets someone else log on. The difference from “Switch user” is it shuts down what you’re doing, while switch user keeps it going in the background so it’s quicker to switch back again if you want to.

If you have Windows Vista, it doesn’t choose “Shut down” as the normal option – you need to press the little arrow that points to the right (next to the padlock and on button symbol) to get a little menu that gives you the shut down option. That’s the way I’d recommend turning your PC off if you have Vista, rather than using the little red button that looks like a power switch.

* I know, it’s daft. You go to the start menu to turn it off. What were they thinking…

How fast is your broadband, really?
If you ever want to check how fast your broadband actually is (as opposed to how fast the broadband company tell you it is), you can use an online checker:http://www.broadbandspeedchecker.co.uk It downloads a big file and times it to find out how quick your connection is. Just click on “Start speed test” on that webpage and leave it for about half a minute. For example my download speed at home came in at 1432 Kbps (broadband companies would quote it in Mbps which would make it 1.4Mbps – not far off as they tell me I get 1.5Mbps) That’s fairly slowish because I live in a tiny little village – at the office I’d get a much faster result.

It isn’t essential to test but it’s useful if your broadband company tell you you’re getting one speed and you’re not convinced you are!

Tip from next door – watch out for this phone call scam
Laura’s mentioned to me she’s heard from several people who’ve been victims of a scam that’s still going on. It’s where people ring you pretending to be from Microsoft. I wrote about it a while ago, so you can read the full detail here: /NL010410.htm

It’s still going on, exactly as it was over a year ago, so it’s worth being on your guard.

Well, I’d better go and sort out the last presents for Alastair – chances are he’ll like the wrapping paper as much as the present so I’d better make sure there’s lots of paper wrapping them!

Tim Wakeling
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