03/12 - PC Chat presents Ask Mr. Modem! - East Valley Tribune: Business

03/12 - PC Chat presents Ask Mr. Modem!

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Posted: Friday, March 12, 2004 10:43 am | Updated: 6:03 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

Q. Once and for all, will you please explain the difference between RAM space and hard drive space?

A. RAM is short for "Random Access Memory," and is frequently referred to simply as "memory."

RAM is a temporary storage area your computer uses to hold items (programs or files) that are currently open or being used. In other words, if you launch your word processing program, it loads into RAM. By having a program loaded into RAM, it's conveniently accessible and saves your computer from having to continually send and retrieve data to and from your hard drive.

If RAM is your computer's temporary storage area, your hard drive is its permanent storage area. Programs not loaded into RAM reside on your hard drive. When summoned into action, they are loaded from your hard drive (long-term storage) into RAM (short term memory.)

Caution, Analogy Ahead: Think of RAM in terms of your desk. Your desk has drawers and a desktop. Your desk's drawers are analogous to your computer's hard drive and the desktop acts as RAM. If you remove a stapler or other object from a desk drawer and place it on top of your desk, it's easily accessible, although it's taking up desktop space. You can push it off to the side while you're working on something else (which is analogous to minimizing a Windows program), but when you need the stapler, it's conveniently at hand. It would be less convenient and less efficient if you returned the stapler to the drawer, then retrieved it every few minutes when you needed it again. If you continually removed items from your desk drawers and piled them on your desk's surface, pretty soon you would run out of room. Similarly, if you continually open programs, at some point you will run out of memory.

RAM is arguably the single most important element contributing to your computer's overall performance. So if you're computer shopping and trying to decide between a faster processor speed or more RAM, opt for more RAM. Today's software programs are so large, (technically referred to as "space hogs"), I'd recommend a minimum of 256MB of RAM. If your budget will permit it, 512MB is even better.

Q. My Outlook Express suddenly started blocking file attachments. Nobody else has access to my computer. Any idea what's going on?

A. It sounds like you may have recently upgraded your Internet Explorer, which includes Outlook Express. The newer version automatically blocks attachments that might carry viruses. This option, designed for your protection, has been part of Outlook Express since its inception, but with the latest upgrade, it's turned on by default. To turn it off, click Tools > Options > Security tab.

Under "Virus Protection," click to remove the check mark from "Do not allow attachments to be saved or opened that could potentially be a virus." Click OK to exit.

Q. After I install programs, installation setup files remain on my hard drive. When I try to delete any of them, I always get a warning message that if I proceed, I may not be able to use the program. That always make my knees wobbly, so I don't do it. Is it safe to delete setup files without affecting the programs themselves?

A. Yes, after installing a program, its setup files remain, but they are safe to delete. If you ever need to download and reinstall a program, you'll go through the same installation process which will result in the setup files being reinstalled, as well. The reason you're receiving the warning message is because Windows is programmed to warn you before deleting any .exe (executable) file.

Mr. M's Geekspeak Translator: PING

Short for Packet INternet Groper, this is a program that determines whether a particular computer is accessible on a network. "Pinging" is used to test a network by sending out a packet of data to a destination computer (to its numeric IP or Internet Protocol address), and noting the amount of time it takes for the signal to bounce back. Internet lore suggests the term "ping" comes from the sound SONAR makes when exploring underwater terrain, but "PING," as we now know, is actually an acronym. You heard it here.

Mr. Modem's Sites of the Week:

Cliché Finder

If you're looking for a cliché using the word "cat" or "tree," you won't be meowing up the wrong maple if you visit this site. Don't be discouraged if you can't find the perfect cliché right off the bat, though. Just remember that it's always darkest before the dawn -- except if there's a glow from the light at the end of the tunnel.


Free Email Providers

Search more than 1,400 free email providers in more than 85 countries to find one that's perfect for you. Also listed are free e-communications services such as Internet Service Providers, fax, long-distance calls, voicemail, online storage, etc.


HomeTown Press

Here you'll find links to more than 5,000 local news sites. Just click the world region you want, then drill down to find the specific location that interests you. For example, perusing the Zimbabwe Standard, as I do each and every morning, I learned that the popular musical group Boyz Dze Smoko are performing this weekend in Bulawayo. Without the benefit of this site, I would have missed the concert!


(For prompt, personal answers to your computer questions, subscribe to Mr. Modem's weekly newsletter at www.MrModem.com. Read Mr. Modem's column each month in "Smart Computing" magazine. For a free issue, visit www.MrModem.com and click the "Smart Computing/Mr. Modem" logo.)

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