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Feb 2015

What do all those numbers mean?

We are constantly asked by our customers why buying a laptop has to be so complicated. So this week I’m going to try to help out with a little guide on the 3 main things to consider for when buying a laptop.
Processor – (CPU)
This is the brains of the laptop. It does all of the calculations that make everything from a web page appear on your screen to a game play. The first thing you’ll need to consider is whether you need low battery usage, speed or both. Intel (a CPU manufacturer) makes the low battery usage chips a little easier to see by popping a letter ‘U’ on the end of the chip name. Speed on the other hand is a lot harder to tell. The easiest is to look the processors name up on an independent website, such as www.cpubenchmark.net, which lists all processors, thus making it easier to gauge which is right for you (a score of 1500 is about average).
Storage – Hard Drive
This is the part of the laptop on which all of your data is stored. It is measured in Giga Bytes. Each Giga Byte (GB) represents 1000 Mega Bytes (MB). Most people struggle to fill a 250GB Hard Drive with photos, programmes and music because the average size of a photo or MP3 is about 4MB. In plain terms that means you can store about 62,500 photos or MP3’s on a small 250Gb Hard Drive. But if you play around with video files, 250GB is no where near enough and you should look to 1000 GB drives, which can store about 24 hours of HD video.
Memory – RAM
Confusingly this is measured in Giga Bytes too. RAM is a fast, temporary type of storage that Windows uses to load both itself and whatever it is you are doing at the time. So if you are surfing the internet you are using some RAM for Windows, a little more for the web browser, a little more for your anti-virus program, a little more for the nice picture on your desktop, etc. The rule of thumb with the current generation of laptops is 4GB of RAM is good and more is better.
There are other things to consider, such as the size of screen or whether you want touch screen or faster graphics cards but these are more about personal choices.

GO WIRELESS WITHOUT BEING CARELESS

If you have a laptop, smartphone or tablet with wireless connectivity, you can access the Internet using Wi-Fi or wireless networks in public places such as cafés, airports and hotels.
Here are some tips to enjoy the convenience of public Wi-Fi whilst helping protect your privacy.

Turn off sharing

Ensure you disable sharing settings on your device before connecting to a public Wi-Fi network. Tablets and Smartphones don’t share at all but laptops do, therefore when you connect to a public network, make sure you select the public profile.

Avoid Automatically Connecting to Wi-Fi Hotspots

If your device is set to automatically connect to any available Wi-Fi hotspot, not only will this allow it to connect to public networks without your permission, you may also be connecting to malicious networks set up specifically to steal your information.

Confirm the Network Name

Hackers can set up fake Wi-Fi networks to attract innocent public Wi-Fi users. If you’re in a café, hotel or other public place and you’re not sure that you’re connecting to the official network, ask. Staff should know the name and password of the official network if there is one.

Check the network is secure

Wireless networks might require a password or other security key, or they might be unsecured and open to anyone with a wireless adapter close by. Make sure you connect to a secure network; Windows warns you if it’s insecure by using a yellow shield, Apple tells you it’s secure by putting a padlock on it.

Don’t type in credit card numbers or passwords

The measures mentioned above can provide some protection against identity thieves who prey on wireless networks. However, a hacker with the right tools can use the same public network to see everything you do, including the websites you visit and any passwords or information you type. It's like inviting someone to peer over your shoulder. To be truly safe, never use public networks for banking and shopping.
One more thing about wireless networks: if you've set one up at home, you should secure it too to avoid anyone within range of the signal accessing your personal files. No offense to your neighbours!
We were recently asked by a customer if we could write this column regarding security advice on connecting to public Wi-Fi. If you would like me to write about something specific in a future column, please email me at wisbech@diamondbyte.com