Drill away to remove computer's screws

Help Line

September 28, 1998|By Jim Coates | Jim Coates,Chicago Tribune

My daughter is off to school at the University of Michigan. In trying to install the Ethernet card she needs to get online at school, I discovered that the screw heads in the back of the computer are stripped and I cannot get in there.

When this happens to me, I break out my Sears 3/8-inch power drill, stick a carbide bit in the chuck and drill the screw out. The chrome-plated screws used on most PCs are soft enough to drill away.

I understand there is technology out there today that will, in effect, copy images from old Super 8 and videocam tapes directly onto CDs, and that PCs can serve as the hardware for this transfer. Can you give me some direction to find this4 capability?

You're nibbling at the bait that can lure a computer owner into a riveting but relentlessly expensive hobby. Home PC video production is a snap on a Pentium-class multimedia machine with a large hard drive. But you need a small amount of equipment and a large amount of free time to make it work.

Start with a plug-in video board like Hauppage's WinTV or the ATI All-in-Wonder board, which are priced in the $150 to $300 range. These boards plug into a computer's PCI slot and open up a window on your desktop that acts as a television set. Both of these products and their competitors allow capture of single frames or full-screen movie clips of whatever is playing on the TV, which can then be edited, titled, dubbed and otherwise manipulated by the computer.

To get your videotapes into the computer, you run RCA video- and audio-out wires to the board's connectors just as you would with a TV set or VCR.

I have Windows 3.1 (and honestly don't see needing anything more for the uses I have). I have just installed some new birding software: Thayer's Birds of North America and Birder's Diary. They are the kind that require you to use the CD in tandem with the hard drive. The latter software works very slowly, and then I noticed that this CD (but not the Birds of N.A.) recommended having 16 megabytes of memory, whereas I only have 8. However, only about 1/3 of my hard drive is used, so why shouldn't it work better? Any way I can speed it up?

The size - and even the speed - of the hard drive in one's computer has very little to do with how fast software runs.

Software does its stuff by manipulating electric signals inside a computer's RAM (random access memory) chips, and the role of the hard drive is to hold the code for the software until it is loaded into memory for execution.

If there isn't enough RAM to hold all the code, the machine will PTC swap data in and out of superfast RAM and onto the relatively slow hard drive, causing slowdowns, just as you are encountering.

But since you make such heavy use of your present antique, I would urge you to give a thought to buying one of the modestly priced sub-$1,000 PCs now on sale.

Pub Date: 9/28/98

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