Mini-article – Getting Help

By | March 1, 2007
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March 2007 Newsletter

An important message first. At some point in the next month you’ll get a message from me asking for you to confirm that you want to get this newsletter. This is because we’re moving to a new email system to cope with everyone who’s signed up to the newsletter. Legally when we put everyone’s email into the new system we have to have you confirm you want to get the emails. If you don’t confirm, we won’t be able to carry on sending the newsletter.

All you have to do is click on the link in the email. It’ll be explained in the email but I wanted to let you know it’s coming.

On with this month’s issue…

Mini-article – Getting Help
I get lots of emails and letters and even phone calls asking for help on specific PC problems. I often manage to help (because I’m nice!) but as the books become more popular and the business grows, it gets harder to fit in answering all the questions I get. One of the things people often say is that they don’t know where else to turn. So I thought I’d write about the different places you can get help – including one sneaky trick I use when something has me foxed!

The first thing to mention is that there are thousands of independent PC tutors around the country who can sort out problems for you. Local PC shops usually know who there is in the area. They do charge, of course, but can be good for big problems that need someone to actually come and sort out.

Most PC magazines run a “help” letters page. I’d probably recommend ComputerActive as the best one for beginners. The only snag is they can only print say 8 or 10 letters per issue so yours might not get answered for a while. But the advice is free apart from the stamp and buying the magazine next time!

Here’s my sneaky trick – there are thousands of FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) webpages and technical forums (see word to the wise) on the web. There are far too many to read through them all, but what you can do is type the problem into a search engine and see what it brings up. For example, if you have an error message saying “twain_32.dll missing or corrupt”, then type that into and see what comes up. Usually you’ll find someone else has had the same problem and put the solution up somewhere. If it’s a problem with a piece of equipment, check the manufacturer’s website. Again, if other people have had the same problem, there’s a good chance the answer will be there. And of course, getting help this way is free!

Then there are phone services where you pay per call or per minute and someone tries to help. BT have started one up and I heard rumours that Curry’s group were also starting one. The snag is that it’s not cheap! Frankly, given the problems I’ve had with BT just sorting out phones, I wouldn’t recommend them to sort out computers! But it’s only fair to mention the service exists.

Finally, of course you can email me for the Readers question section in this newsletter. I only include questions likely to be of interest to other people but if yours is like that, email to [email protected] with “Reader’s question” in the subject.

Download of the month:
After telling you about Vista last month you can read even more about it in this month’s download – an electronic copy of my booklet “What you should know about Windows Vista”. To download it, click here:

Reader’s Question
My printer is costing me a lot in ink. How can I make it more economical?
There are a few things that I’d recommend. The easiest one is to simply tell the printer to use less ink! This means the quality won’t be top notch but it’s fine for, say, reading something you’ve printed off the web. When you get the print window up (by going to file and print), click on properties. Then look for “Economy mode” or “draft mode”. Different printers have the setting in different places but almost all of them have it somewhere. You can also choose to only print in black ink when you don’t need the colour. Black ink doesn’t get used up so fast so that makes a big difference. You can also get refilled cartridges instead of new ones – or buy a refill kit (you can even get them from Tesco nowadays) and do it yourself. That works out really cheap, though be careful – it’s easy to make a mess.
Finally, if you’re printing lots of text in black only, I’d recommend buying a laser printer, even if you already have an inkjet. You can get them from about £100 and their ink (called toner) is so much cheaper than inkjets that if you print a lot you’ll save that very quickly.

Word to the Wise – forum
A forum is a web page where lots of different people can pose questions and answer them. So one person might ask “Such and such an error message has come up on my PC, what do I do?” and someone else might write up “I had that and when I did so and so that fixed it.” They aren’t only about computers, either. You could find a forum on maintaining a specific type of vintage car or on cooking Thai curries – whatever someone’s decided to set up.

That’s it for this month. Don’t forget you’ll be getting an email asking you to confirm you want to carry on getting this newsletter.

Tim Wakeling

All the above © Tim Wakeling 2007

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