'Computer guy' at work might have the PC for you HELP LINE

November 09, 1998|By James Coates | James Coates,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

I would like to buy a new, faster computer but am at a loss as to what to buy. I have looked at many models, from the less expensive packages for under $1,000 to the more expensive ones around $1,700. I have also gotten a quote from our computer guy at work who builds computers as a sideline. Several co-workers seem to be satisfied with his work.

Would it be better to purchase an upgradeable custom system or one by a large company like Packard Bell, Gateway, etc.? Can you make any suggestions on current good buys?

Your letter implies that the "computer guy" where you work is offering a deal in your price range. If so, grab hold of him like the treasure he is. Unlike Packard Bell, which is out in California, and Gateway, located on the edge of a Dakota cornfield, the computer guy is within easy reach should problems develop. Keep in mind that whether a PC is built by a Fortune 500 giant like IBM or a backwater reseller in Idaho, chances are it will be assembled from the same parts your computer guy gets.

Several days ago our daughter sent some .JPG files of pictures of our grandchildren. We use AOL and the download came through as a .MME file. How do we open this to see the pictures? I had her resend them to my office e-mail and they came through fine, so I assume it is an AOL configuration problem on our home PC.

America Online's software attempts to decode photographs sent people using traditional Internet e-mail techniques, but often slips up for a variety of reasons. That .MME on the files you can't see on AOL stand for Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) and you can get help displaying them by hitting the Control key plus K for Keyword and then typing MIME. The help screens you get on AOL will then let you download MIME viewing software, and you'll soon be basking in the glow of those grandkids' smiles.

Regarding the on/off debate, I have been leaving my desktop on, not to save startup time, but because I thought that startup and shutdown was more wearing on the computer than leaving it on. Is this a consideration in the debate?

I should explain that the issue is whether to leave one's computer turned on all the time or to switch it off overnight and during periods when you're doing something else. I say leave it on and fancy that I am in a growing majority, although I have yet to see a poll to back me up.

My response to the idea of saving wear and tear by avoiding shutting down at beddy-bye time is a bit contrarian, however, because I suspect that whatever stress might come from switching off at the end of the day is far less than the several times during almost any day of heavy computer use where you're forced to either Control-Alt-Delete and restart or else forced to push the on/off button by a total lockup.

Should I upgrade to Windows 98 from 95? Is it worth the money? I just don't know much about Windows 98.

If you have to ask, chances are you'll do great just sticking with Windows 95 until you decide to buy a new machine, which will come with Windows 98 or whatever else is current at the time.

Although Windows 98 is a screaming jewel of a tool for those using the Internet, it is, at best, only a minor upgrade for those whose main use of a machine tends toward more computer-oriented pursuits such as word processing, recordkeeping or desktop publishing.

Pub Date: 11/09/98

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