Deciding between e-readers, tablets
Q: I want a book reader like a Kindle or a Nook, but I wonder if perhaps I would be better off with a tablet computer. It would be more flexible and expandable. What are the issues I should consider?
A: Both Amazon's Kindle and Barnes & Noble's Nook are fine book readers, and there are many models of each. And they have become cheaper and more functional over time. If you are only going to read books, I'd suggest one of these: the Kindle Paperwhite (high-resolution and built-in light for night reading) or the Nook Simple Touch with GlowLight (also a low-light reading feature). They are priced about the same, have 7" screens and are light and small enough to carry in a purse or large pocket. Each can hold many books while offering light travel and ease of use.
If you want to branch out to web browsing, watching movies or running any of the countless apps that are available for Android devices, then you might want to look at the Google Nexus 7 (more flexible than the Kindle or Nook), the Nook HD or the Kindle Fire HD. These also have 7" screens, so they are light and easy to carry. You can read books on them, as well as run various apps, watch movies, etc.
And if you want a bigger screen, there are many more choices again. There are 8.9" and 10" screens models from several manufacturers, including Apple (iPad, the original), ASUS (Transformer), Samsung (Galaxy Note) and Sony (Tablet S). Of course, these are more expensive than the 7" models, and some can be outfitted with external keyboards for typing documents and spreadsheets, if you need to do that kind of thing. These then become heavier and less convenient to carry, but still much lighter than a typical laptop.
I'd suggest that you do a web search for topics like "best book readers" or "review tablet computers." It's best to add "2012" to the search so you don't end up with old information. This market segment is moving fast.
Q: Recently, my computer would not connect to the Internet. In a previous column, you suggested going to Google and seeing if anyone resolved a similar problem. What can I do if I cannot connect to the Internet? I use Windows 7.
A: The simplest answer is to use the "Help and Support" information installed as part of your operating system. Click on the Start button and then on that topic. Next, select "Browse Help Topics" and you will see Networking and Internet as two of the choices listed. Those topics will offer ideas about connecting, but Microsoft realizes that those answers might be too general and/or confusing. As an alternative, they have developed "Microsoft Fix-It Portable." This program can be downloaded to your computer and will check a variety of settings and details. The program focuses on your actual computer and generates a list of problems without you having to understand what is happening.
If you have more than one computer, you can download the program to a USB drive and use it with whichever computer is giving difficulty. From the USB drive, click on Launch Fix-it.exe, and you will get a list of topics that can be checked. Click the title of the troubleshooter that is closest to your problem. The software will check to see what might be wrong and offer to fix the problem if it involves a setting that needs to be changed or something that needs to be updated.
You will be told about any problems it locates and asked if you want the program to make any recommended changes. One negative is that it only looks at issues with Microsoft programs or system problems. For example, in checking on Internet connections, it checks Internet Explorer but not other browsers like Google Chrome or Firefox. It is also limited in size and won't check as much as Microsoft's online Solution Center, but it can be a rapid way to locate and fix common problems.
The Prescott Computer Society (PCS) is a PC-based users group located in Prescott. We hold several entertaining and educational meetings each month to show you how to get the most out of your computer. For further information, visit www.PCS4me.com. Email questions for future columns to PCSquestions@gmail.com.