Q: I enjoy your columns as they aren’t just technology for the sake of it but show applications in real life. Interested in column about the new BlackBerry - and would be interested to hear your comments about the Xda Exec from 02. I have seen it in various guises from other operators around the world (HT, Imate Jasjar) and I am seriously considering it to replace my laptop and Nokia 6230i when traveling internationally.
I travel a lot and would find it useful for cheap Skype calls from wireless hotspots - a personal benefit not company one mainly.
No more laptop on the road - my company’s archaic IT is not set up for BlackBerry push e-mail - so I just use gmail when travelling. This could be easily accessed from an XDA as it has a mini keyboard.
I understand you can’t possibly act as Tech Guru to all and sundry but would appreciate a quickie “go” or “no go” on this question.
A: The XDA Exec is actually a re-badged handset from HTC and is now a few years old so if you go this route you might want to consider a later model.
Check out the “Smartphone Parade” on FT.com.
If you particularly like Nokia equipment you might want to take a look at the latest Nokia E90 announced last month which has a full keyboard and a big screen.
A Qwerty keyboard-based smartphone might well provide an alternative to a laptop/mobile phone, provided you do not want to write long documents and the places you are visiting support reasonable data rates.
Make sure, in particular, that any smartphone you chose supports WiFi so you can use hotel and hotspot connections - if you are relying on a cellular rather than WiFi connection, roaming charges tend to be pretty steep in most parts of the world.
The lack of a laptop might also limit your access to web-based services that really require a broadband connection and big screen.
Personally, I am not quite ready to give up traveling with a laptop, but the time may come. So I guess that is a “no go” for now….
Q: I read with interest your article about the BlackBerry 8800. You might be the person who know how to solve this one:
For my Vodafone BlackBerry I would highly benefit from a real keyboard. To type with 10 fingers. The hardware supplier is not too helpful. Is there anybody making money offering this to consumers like me nevertheless?
A: That is an interesting idea. Assuming you have a Bluetooth-enabled BlackBerry like the 8800 or 8700 series, your best bet would probably be a Bluetooth keyboard from Logitech or another supplier.
I have not tried this myself, but here is a link on the BlackBerry site that may be of help.
Microsoft Office 2007
Q: In the Outlook 2003 I was using previously, I could choose to print just one page of a multi-page e-mail. For example, if the most recent e-mail exchange was giving directions to a meeting, I could print off page 1 without having to print the whole e-mail string (say 5 pages).
I couldn’t find that option in Outlook 2007 so I sent Microsoft Online Support an e-mail. This is their response:
“I tried to print a part of an e-mail in Outlook 2002 and Outlook 2003. It appears to be working fine. However when we tried in Outlook 2007, it does not have the option to print a selection. Word 2007 and Excel 2007 have the feature to print a selection. However Outlook 2007 does not have the option. It appears to be design issue.
“The work-around would be to copy the text into a word document and then print it. As this appears to be due to the design of Outlook 2007, we would be archiving the case as unresolved at the moment.”
Truly amazing! So I have just printed out a 5 page e-mail, wanting page 1 and immediately binning the other 4 pages….
A: Yes, unfortunately it seems that Outlook 2007 “lost” some of the features present in earlier versions. In my view, Outlook was and still the Office component most in need of a thorough reworking.
Connecting a DVD Player to A PC Monitor
Q: I would like to connect a free standing DVD player to a PC monitor in order to watch DVDs. This would be separate from my office PC. Is this possible, and if so, what sort of connections should I look out for?
I don’t need a television and wish to avoid the expense of a licence.
A: You may well be able to connect your DVD player to a PC monitor either directly, or through an external box. It all depends on what connectors the two machines have. If the PC monitor has either an S-video input or a composite input then you can connect the DVD player directly to it simply by buying the appropriate cable.
If however your PC monitor has only a standard VGA connector, you will need to to buy a composite to VGA converter. Lots of electronics component manufactuers make these devices, and you can probably buy one in a Radio Shack store or online. Here for example is a link to one made by DataPro avaiable in the US and one made by AKE available in the UK.
Here also is a cheaper option from Startech designated as a video game console to PC monitor adapter that will also accept input fro a DVD with composite video out connectors.
Q: Have you done a review of anti-virus software? I am not even sure how broad to think of that - virus, adware, malware etc? I do not like Norton products, as they are too bossy and take over the system. Your thoughts appreciated.
A: As it happens, I wrote a review of Norton 360 this week (like you I have been somewhat sceptical about some Norton products in the past, but 360 seems to much better behaved and Symantec claims it has made a special effort to make 360 unobtrusive).
Alternatively, if you want a security suite (which I would recommend) check out either McAfee Total protection or Microsoft Live OneCare.
Otherwise you could go for standalone products (anti-virus, firewall, anti-spyware etc). In this case I would recommend Zone Labs’ ZoneAlarm and perhaps Kaspersky’s anti-virus product and an anti-spyware package like SpySweeper from Webroot.
Vanishing Hard Drive Space
Q: I wonder if you can throw light on my “dark matter”. I have a 60GB HDD, Windows XP Pro and my computer (a Dell Inspiron 9300) is just over 18 months old.
Four months ago when defragging I had only 30 per cent free space. That surprised me so I removed all the photographs and deleted a couple of programs I used hardly at all. The next time I defragged my free space was reported as being only 15 per cent. So I cleared out all software programs other than the basic ones I use all the time - including a few plug ins that seem to occupy a lot of space.
Having done all that I now have only 2% free space and I cannot perform defragging or backups because my program tells me I do not have sufficient space to carry out the necessary file compression.
In your article you stated (and I thought this was a fact anyway) that once files are deleted, Windows XP classes this as usable space even though data is still present. Can you cast any light on this as I am baffled and mortified that I am going to have to clean my hard drive with all the misery and time that this will involve. Not least in trying to get to grips with a useful member of Dell’s support team. I’d be grateful for any wisdom you can offer.
A: This is indeed a curious problem and Im not sure I know the answer but here are a couple of possiblities.
The most likely reason is that deleted files are still in the recyle bin. If you have not already done this you should make sure the recycle bin is empty (left mouse click on the desktop icon and chose the empty bin option).
I am assuming you are running security software but if not you could have a rogue virus and should run one of the free security scanners like Trend Micro’s scanner.
Another possiblitity is that a growing slice of the hard drive is being automatically allocated to a backup if you have set backup options in XP or using a third party program.
Probably the best way of trying to figure out what is going on would be to use a software program that lists all the files and folders on the drive and their sizes. ZtreeWin is one such program you could try (there is a 30-day free trial) or the even more powerful Directory Opus 8...
Can I Upgrade to Vista?
Q: I have a Dell laptop Inspiron 7500 with Internet Explorer 5 and I have not got Windows XP yet.
You might be wondering how out of date I am. The reason being, I am mainly an internet user and I have managed to get bye so far, by using the “Firefox”. Thanks to your recommendation in the FT columns I have chosen “Firefox”.
Now, I am thinking to upgrade to Vista on my present laptop. Is it possible to do so or do I have to buy a new computer/laptop?
Please advise me. Your help in this matter will be most appreciated.
A: Don’t worry about being “out of date”. My philosophy is that if it works and does what you want it to do, stick with it. I am also pleased that you like Firefox though I must say that the latest version of Internet Exporer, IE7, is much improved. As a result, Firefox and IE7 are much more evenly matched.
In terms of upgrading to Vista, personally I do think this would be worth while. The chances are that the processor, memor, hard drive and graphics chips in your machine are not suitable for Vista and upgrading them is either not possible, or prohibitively expensive. Plus, at the end of the day, you would still have an old and relatively slow machine.
So if you want Vista you should buy a new machine (with at least 1GB of RAM, 80GB hard drive, fast graphics etc.) with Vista already loaded onto it. If you go for a desktop machine, this would probably cost around $600. A suitable laptop from Toshiba, Dell, Acer or another good manufactuer will cost around $1,000.