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Personal Computing Demystified
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When you buy a PC, it s always a good idea to do a little disc comparison shopping Any DVD-ROM drive will play audio CDs and DVD movies because they run at the same speed, but if you plan to burn CDs and DVDs and use discs for data storage, there is a whole lot of difference between the capabilities of a 24X CD-RW/ DVD-ROM combo drive and an 8X DVD+RW drive
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Prior to the Internet, we had the walknet To transfer information from one place to another, we would store it on a floppy and then walk it to another computer Today, we can do the same thing with interchangeable CD and DVD media, but there is another, more convenient alternative the USB flash drive Called by several names, such as mini-USB drive and memory key, the USB flash drive is packaged within ballpoint pens, key chains, and other small personal items (see Figure 2-5) When plugged into a PC s USB port, a USB flash drive is recognized immediately as an active drive and is assigned an unused letter Any type of files can be saved in or retrieved from the flash memory module, which can have capacities up to 1GB, a capacity equal to that of 700 floppies With the USB flash drive you can have your own personal storage drive on any PC your home PC, your customer s, your boss s, your friend s well, you get the idea It certainly lends itself to innovative uses
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Figure 2-5
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(Photo courtesy of Iomega Corporation)
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CHAPTER 2 Storing Information: Disks, Discs, and Flash
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The Best Mix of Storage Options
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Choosing the right mix of storage devices for your circumstances requires a little thought Every PC will have a hard disk and one disc drive Basically, you have to choose how much hard disk space you will need and your requirements for rewritable disc capabilities PC hard drive capacities range from 40GB to 400GB Keep in mind that a high-end hard drive can add several hundred dollars to the cost of a PC Rewritable DVD is becoming standard equipment on mid- to high-end PCs Budget PCs may have only a CD-RW drive Some people, including me, like the convenience of having both a DVD-ROM drive and a rewritable DVD drive All of these choices involve trade-offs between disk/disc capacity, budget, and application I ll talk more about the storage mix and offer specific recommendations in Part Three, Buying and Using a PC
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CHAPTER
Getting Information In: Input
Remember all of those ports from 1 the USB, parallel, FireWire, and all the rest Well, what do you do with them You might use one or two of them to connect to a network or the Internet, but mostly you use them to hang peripheral devices on the system unit These might include a storage device, such as a USB flash drive, but the typical peripheral is an input/output (I/O) device The variety of I/O devices available to enter and present information continues to grow, with at least one new innovative device being added each month You can capture real-time video from your desktop digital camera or play DVD movies while enjoying theater-like surround sound In this and the next chapter we talk about the input and output devices you will most likely encounter in your first few years of personal computing As you gain experience, you may wish to explore other I/O devices For
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Personal Computing Demystified
example, some people use biometric fingerprint verification scanners to ensure the security of their PCs Of course, we routinely use source data automation devices that aren t part of the personal computing world For example, we swipe credit cards, scan grocery items, and talk with irritating automated telephone systems In this chapter, I ll run through common input devices; I will do the same for output devices in 4 In both chapters the emphasis is more on function than on mechanics, physics, or electronics These devices are fascinating engineering marvels, but you really don t need to know how a cordless optical mouse works However, if your curiosity gets the best of you and you just have to know how inkjet printers form the tiny ink droplets to create images, you re normal That s why there are plenty of available explanations posted to the Internet A good resource for explanations of the inner workings of I/O devices is the popular Internet site, How Stuff Works, at wwwhowstuffworkscom Before we get into I/O devices, it might be helpful if I describe a typical PC Why not mine With a couple of exceptions, it has the usual I/O devices I continually switch between a mouse, keyboard, and headset microphone (for speech recognition) to enter text and commands to my PC My other input devices are a flatbed scanner, which I use a few times each week, and a desktop video camera (one of the exceptions), the kind you would use for videophone conversations I rarely use the camera I have two open-ended cables in my front USB ports, one to download pictures from my still digital camera and the other for my digital camcorder My output devices are dual monitors (one is more typical), an inkjet printer, and surround sound speakers I probably print ten pages a week, on average, and listen to Internet or CD music every other day or so
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