Looking for a good PC book?

September 13, 1999|By James Coates | James Coates,Chicago Tribune

I would like to find a truly helpful book on how to get the most out of my computer. There are so many out there that it is very confusing for a beginner. I have an old Mac and now a new Pentium II.

I am real big right now on Bob O'Donnell's "Personal Computer Secrets" ($49.99, IDG Books), which does a superb job of covering a great many of the issues covered in these columns.

O'Donnell is a technical analyst for IDG specializing in the computer display industry. His 1,000-page book comes with a CD-ROM holding the entire text, making it easy to search. Its unbiased coverage of Macs as well as PCs means you could benefit with both.

I have a problem with my system not making a sound to indicate e-mail has arrived, although I have set it to do so. I have a Windows 98 system, but the person who helped me set up did not set the Outlook Express e-mail program.

I suspect that your computer is not set to play the required sound file when the e-mail notification you have selected is triggered. Your machine looks for a sound file to play when e-mail comes in, but since a sound file isn't associated with that action, all you get are the sounds of silence.

To pick the sound that will play when e-mail arrives, click on the Start menu, then Control Panel, then Sounds. You will find a list of Events alongside the name of the sound file that is played when each event pulls the trigger. Scroll down to mail notification and then use the box marked Browse to find the sound you want. Finally, test the file by clicking the Preview button to make sure the file is working.

The local cable company is starting to add Internet service in my area. Will I have to get a new modem as well as their adapter?

Internet cable hookups require you to install an Ethernet card in your PC in order to access the ultrahigh-speed connections of 1 million bits per second and above that they offer. That card, which typically goes into one of your PC's expansion slots and which the cable company will provide, then connects into a cable modem, also supplied by the cable company.

You don't need any other modem, although you can keep your traditional analog telephone modem as a fallback to dial out to traditional Internet service providers such as America Online, etc.

How do I remove icons from the Windows desktop without also removing the program from the computer?

You can simply drag most of the icons on the desktop to the recycle bin and dump them with no problem. This is because the Windows desktop display icons are usually "shortcuts," tiny files that simply point to an actual program that is elsewhere on the hard drive. Deleting shortcuts has no effect on the programs to which they point.

You will find, however, that a few of the icons on the desktop are hard-wired, including the Recycle Bin, the Network Neighborhood, My Computer, and, of course, the Microsoft Network.

I have a computer with an AMD 686-type processor (a pre-Pentium II clone), running at 100 MHz, that will not run some of the newer, more interesting programs. Having an otherwise excellent system, is it possible to exchange the motherboard for one of the newer AMD or Pentium 350 MHz models?

With the advent of today's sub-$500 computers, it probably isn't worth doing the kind of upgrade you're dreaming about.

Although it is possible to buy a new central processor (Pentium or AMD) and motherboard and then cannibalize your memory, hard drives, etc., chances are the bench time it would take to bolt things together and get the proper software, called drivers, working smoothly would exceed the cost of a new CPU.

On the slim upside, your monitor and perhaps your memory chips could easily be used in a new machine, providing that it uses the same sort of Random Access Memory.

Send e-mail to jcoates@ tribune.com.

Pub Date: 09/13/99

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