[ccc-news] Assorted News 12 :)

[ccc-news] Assorted News 12 🙂

In this edition:

Important News
Possible new MP3 Virus

Buying Cheap Laptops
Other Bargains
USB Record Player

Losing another friend.

Possible new MP3 Virus

A new virus is apparently going around turning people’s MP3s (music) into Windows Media Audio (.asf) files, adding links to malicious sites within them, but leaving them with the original mp3 name. http://www.infoworld.com/article/08/07/18/New_worm_transcodes_MP3s_to_try_to_infect_PCs_1.html

For those of you who use Limewire, etc, to download music from the Internet, I’ve traditionally said that MP3 files are safe and WMA/WMV files are not. It is possible that MP3 files may now also be slightly risky – although as yet I haven’t been able to get confirmation of this.

It’s easy to spot if you’ve picked up a bad file, however, because when you try to play it you’ll instead be taken to a website, which will probably ask you to download a ‘codec’.(A codec is a program for your computer that lets it play a specific type of file – a bit like teaching your computer a new language if you like – but in this case it’s a ruse as they’ll actually send you a bug instead.) If you close the website you’ll probably be OK.

Buying Cheap Laptops…

One of the most common questions I get these days is ‘what’s a good laptop to buy.’ Many retailers, such as Dick Smith and RetraVision, have laptops for sale from about $650, and with $150 cash back offers when you post away a registration form. Mostly these are Compaq and Acer laptops.

For this low price, you’ll usually get a single brain laptop, whereas more expensive laptops tend to have two brains. Having two brains does help your computer run faster when it’s trying to do two things at once, and may be worth the $200+ premium over these cheaper laptops in some cases; but for general office work having one brain is enough. (Curious if your computer has two or more brains? Hold down Ctrl + Alt + Del, click “Task Manager” then look on the Performance tab. If you see two graphs under CPU Usage History, you have two brains – or rather, your computer does!)

The other thing you’ll probably want to do is add more RAM to one of these cheapies – as they usually come with only 1GB of RAM,.The good news there is another GB of RAM will cost you about $40-$50 from RetraVision. (Avoid buying RAM at Dick Smith Electronics, as they use a different brand that’s about three to four times the price!) Fitting it is always easy on these new ones, but does involve undoing a small door under the laptop with a screwdriver. I usually have memory in stock as well, so you can always ask me to do it for you 😉

As a side note, part of why Vista has received such a bad wrap is that it needs at least 1GB of memory, preferably 2GB or more to run at a bearable speed. Many laptops sold last year only have half a GB, so they’d take 4-6 minutes just to start. XP on the other hand used to need only 256MB to be happy, although with new virus scanners, etc, you really need at least 512MB to get by.

So, there you go. $550 will get you a nice new laptop with a bit of extra RAM, with most of the modern features you’d want, such as wireless, dvd burner, etc, and at a reasonable speed for most people.

Desktop PC sales appear to be dropping off rapidly – Dick Smith no longer stocks them for example! For those of you who prefer a fixed working position as opposed to a laptop, you can easily attach a normal screen and keyboard to a laptop and use it like a desktop PC.

Other Bargains

I recently missed one of my supplier’s closing time by a few minutes, and needed a new hard drive for a customer. So, went for a power-walk to K-Mart and found that you can get quite large USB hard drives there for about $120 – which for a 300GB hard drive was quite good value just for the drive itself. The drive inside was a seagate drive, so quality’s not a concern. (Anything other than Western Digital is pretty good these days.) So, if you’re worried about your hard drive dying, or you’re getting low on space, it could be a good investment for a backup or more space!

USB hard drives come in two physical sizes – one the size of the average Bible or Dictionary, the other about the size of a short, wide TV remote control. The big ones require mains power to run, whereas the smaller ones will run just from the computer’s power. The bigger ones often have more space for the same price, and are also faster since they spin a 7200 RPM whereas the smaller ones are, well, smaller and slower at 5400RPM, but more convenient since you can easily take them with you.

USB Record Player

One of the services I offer is converting LPs and Cassettes to CD & MP3. However, at $5 per album it can be a bit pricey for some people. So, here’s a way that you can convert your old LP records to CD using your computer. Jaycar Electronics now sells a record player that plugs into your computer’s USB port. http://snipurl.com/3140x – although I notice they’re out of stock at the moment. The Amac computers shop next to The Warehouse in Armidale is a Jaycar dealer if you want to get your hands on one.

Losing another friend.

Many of you know Heppie, the border collie / kelpie cross that usually resides on the back seat of the Kingswood. (Some of you have probably also seen the fan in the front window, or heard of the gadget that rings my mobile when the temperature exceeds 30 degrees.) Well, over the last three weeks she’s been getting slower and slower – not wanting to run with the electric scooter any more, and now not wanting to walk more than about 100 metres at a time.

I found her, or rather she found me, back in Bourke in ’98 where she was already full grown, showed signs of having recently had puppies, and appeared to have been dumped. (This was at May’s Bend, a fishing spot some way out of Bourke.) As a result, I don’t know her exact age but expect it’s at least 11 years, possibly up to 13 years.

A recent trip to the vet didn’t come out too well – her heart’s OK, lungs are OK, but she’s very anaemic. (You can tell this because her gums are ghostly white rather than pink.) A blood test said something I think like “hermatic rate of 12”, where normally it’s 37-55. The implication from this is that she’s either losing blood or has a tumour. Operating could be an option, but I suspect at her age it’s better just to enjoy her remaining days until eating becomes an issue, or any pain becomes evident.

So, as a result she’s getting a bit spoilt. She’s been upgraded to the front seat, where she’s always tried to be in the past. (Although technically she prefers utes to cars and has tried to jump into a few that weren’t mine in the past!) She has a new coat, new electric blanket, and a new diet. She’s particularly fond of Cafe 627 spicy chicken sans spice, and shelled Mars bars for energy. (Shelling a Mars bar is a messy but tasty job!) Canned fish (cat food) is also a popular but previously forbidden dish, along with that cheddar cheese stuff you get with snack packs..

The stress of knowing you’re going to lose a friend isn’t terribly pleasant of course, and has made me a little less reliable than usual. (I’ll discuss the 7 register theory in another newsletter.) I’m trying to keep to reduced hours to get home before dark during the week,and making more stops to let her check out the world. Funnily enough, I’ve been through this with her before when 5 years ago she was on the back of a ute that rolled when it hit a roo. (Datsun 4WD with buggered shocks, and I wasn’t driving.) We couldn’t find her after the accident – but she turned up two days later at a nearby property. She was very lucky in that her leash snapped – but it must’ve been a heavy impact to do that. (It bent the pin in the collar’s buckle by 30 degrees too, kind of amazing that she survived unscathed.)

When she does eventually go, I’ll probably have a break from dogs for a while as I’m planning a trip to Tazzie at the end of the year. Maybe after that I’ll find another – or another will find me!

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