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Tech questions and answers
Scripps Howard News Service


June 21, 2005

It's hot outside, at least around here, but the mail keeps coming. I guess you all are inside working on your PCs when I need to be outside mowing the grass. But let's go to the questions.

Q: You mentioned the dropping cost of PCs versus building one yourself. There's no way that $300 PC you mentioned from could match the one I built for myself. Just my video card cost that. That has to be a pretty basic PC.

A: My point was that the cost of the components exceeded the retail cost of the device so for basic machines it made no sense to build one. I just talked myself out of a job in my repair business because a client wanted me to swap out a motherboard, processor and operating system so he could upgrade a PC to run a specific piece of software. By the time we invested $200 in a processor and motherboard, $100 for Windows then my labor, we exceeded the cost of a new Dell.

Anyway, the point I was trying to make is we used to pay $3,000 for a basic PC. (On a cost-adjusted basis it's about $3,500 today.) Now a basic PC is $300 and a powerhouse is a grand.

Q: You at one time had written about a program that sends toys and stuff to the soldiers in Iraq to give to children there. I can't find the Web address any longer and I have some stuff to send.

A: I have written about a couple. One is "Beanies for Baghdad", where U.S. soldiers are collecting Beanie Babies, McDonald's toys, small toys and other items to give to the children of Iraq. The Web site is

There's also Operation Crayon, which collects school supplies for the Iraqi children, and many more. You can go to and click on "Support Our Troops" and see lots of programs and ways you can help both the soldiers personally and the children of Iraq.

Q: If Apple switches to Intel chips does that mean I can install the Apple operating system on my Dell desktop?

A: Maybe someday. It would take some pretty impressive coding to make that happen and Apple isn't agreeing to it. Part of the Apple experience, they say, is the way cool Apple hardware. Once it is ported to the Intel platform someone could hack it over but I would not hold your breath. Apple could change its mind someday.

Q: How come Windows PCs are so much more exposed to spyware and virus infections than Apple?

A: Without getting too much under the hood, Windows PCs are simply more "open" than the Apple operating system. It's getting better but Windows PCs pretty much let anyone install anything they want. If you visit a Web site that needs a plug-in, Windows and Internet Explorer simply would install it. When Apple software, plug-ins or anything else needs to be installed, it won't install on an Apple system without the administrator password. That step alone stops many infections.

It is expected that the next version of Windows, due in late 2006, will be more secure than the current one.


WEEKLY WEB WONDER: I still get many requests for a column archive. I maintain a free archive of my past columns at


James Derk is co-owner of CyberDads, a computer repair company, and a computer columnist for Scripps Howard News Service.
His e-mail address is jim(at)

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