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FAQ

Welcome to the CyberPoet.Net consulting FAQ. This section is designed to answer some of the common questions our customers & visitors have about our services and offerings.

GENERAL QUESTIONS

USER QUESTIONS

GENERAL TERMS

TECHNICAL FAQ's
   This section has been placed on it's own page.
   Please visit the Q&A Section.


Q: I have a Window's PC that needs a floppy drive. Should I contact you?
A:  Although we do not do Windows PC hardware repair, we will be happy to recommend a vendor to provide services to you -- one that we have dealt with in the past with good results.

Q: I have a Window's PC that is misbehaving. Should I contact you?
  We can provide a consultant to correct you software & operating system issues, or, if you prefer, provide a referral to a qualified consultant.

Q: I have a mac that is misbehaving. Should I contact you?
A:  By all means! We have been providing macintosh hardware, software and operating system assistance since 1990. This is one of our core businesses and we would love to serve you. Our number is (813) 910-1500, or you can page (813) 969-9800 if we are out.

Q: I have a mac that needs repair or upgrade. Should I contact you?
A:  Yes, please call us at (813) 910-1500 or page us at (813) 969-9800. Macintosh consulting is one of our core businesses (since 1990) and we will be happy to handle repairs or upgrades on your Mac. Over 99% of misbehaving macs are caused by misconfigured or mismatched software & configurations. We would be quite pleased to correct this for you at your convenience. It is extremely rare to have a hardware failure during the warrantee period, and while we do not provide Apple Warrantee Repairs, we will be happy to take care of getting it to the proper authorized repair center for you.

Q: I have an UNIX machine that we need help with. Should I contact you?
A:  Yes, please call us at (813) 910-1500 or page us at (813) 969-9800. Unix consulting is one of the standard services we provide, including installation, configuration, training and custom software.

Q: I have a problem with my laser/inkjet printer. Should I contact you?
A:  Yes, please call us at (813) 910-1500 or page us at (813) 969-9800. We provide laser printer repairs, as well as complete laser printer overhauls. We also provide limited inkjet repairs. Finally, we can provide installation & configuration of current printer drivers, and all cables/networking for communication between your systems and your printers.

Q: I am seeking someone to program custom software. Should I contact you?
A:  We provide some custom programming services, but are focused on only a limited number of areas. We have also found over the years that most custom programming can be better achieved through use of off-the-shelf software configured specifically for your needs. Either way, we suggest that you give us a call at (813) 910-1500 to discuss your project needs. If we are not qualified, we will be happy to set you in the right direction by referring competent firms or individuals.

Q: I need a web site. Should I contact you?
A:  Yes. We have been providing web sites and web page design since 1993, and our hyperlink experience (the underlying core to the concept of web pages) predates that by another 6 years. If you are looking for a straight-forward, information-based web site or just a single web page, we are your ideal choice.

Q: I need a web/mail/ftp server. Should I contact you?
A:  Yes. We have been providing internet servers since 1991. We currently offer among the most secure and reliable servers in the world for small to mid-size organizations. Our choice in servers & supporting software is so secure, the US Army choose it as their global preference in servers at the organizational level. Please call us at (813) 910-1500 or leave us a message at (813) 969-9800.

Q: I am looking to buy a PC. Should I contact you?
A:  Yes and no. We do not sell PC's and PC hardware, but can recommend reliable and cost-effective sources for equipment. We can also insure that your hardware needs are fully established and that your selection of hardware is in sync with your needs.

Q: I am looking to buy a Mac. Should I contact you?
A:  Yes. Since we are not resellers, we will be able to find you the best price through a variety of sources and will be happy to provide post-purchase services, such as installation, configuration, training, maintenance and upgrades. Macintosh systems have been our core business since 1990. Please call us at (813) 910-1500, or leave a message at (813) 969-9800 and one of our Mac specialists will be happy to assist you.

Q: I am looking to buy software. Should I contact you?
A:  Yes. Since we are not resellers for most software products, we will be able to find you the best price through a variety of sources, and will be happy to insure that the product you are considering is matched to your specific needs. We will also be happy to provide installation and training on most products available.

Q: Our company is moving. What services do you offer that will help us?
A:  We provide a large set of services for companies that are preparing to move to a new location, or locations. Premoving Services include:
• Specifying networking requirements (jacks, wiring and electrical) on the pre-construction blue prints, or working with architects/designers to ensure that it is properly planned prior to finalizing blue prints.
• Providing independent bidding oversight.
• Installation of the network and related hardware/software.
• Installation of network & telephone wiring, and PBX systems.
  Additionally, we provide complete computer equipment moving services, removing the systems from their current locations, and reassembling them in the same manner on the other end. Finally, our publishing division does on-demand change-of-address mailings for your customer and vendor base at a cost that probably can not be matched in house, and definitely can not be matched by any printer in town.

Our company needs equipment removed. What services do you offer that will help us?
A:  We provide equipment removal, equipment liquidation, equipment resales. We can handle office closings, bankruptcy equipment and furniture liquidations. If you are closing a branch office and need everything removed before you terminate your lease, we will come in and remove it all. If you have declared bankruptcy and are under a court order to liquidate your material assets, we will inventory your equipment and liquidate it at top dollar. If you are trying to figure out what do with your old or obsolete equipment, we will be happy to remove it at no cost to you! Just contact us at least 24 hours in advance.

Q: We are just starting our company. What services do you offer that will help us?
A:  For firms that are just starting up, we can provide a variety of services from differing perspectives. As a hands-on consulting firm, we can assist you in ensuring that the equipment and networking you obtain will be able to both grow and will mesh well with your work-flow processes. The consulting portion also can provide access to financing sources for both loans and leases for equipment and services. As a publisher, we can provide you with design services in creating a company logo, as well as designing & printing stationary, business cards, mass-mailers and full catalogs.
   Conversely, in an advisory-only capacity, we can provide you oversight review (to insure that you are getting what you need), independent bidding control, and assist in brokering the absolute lowest prices and rates for the IT & printing/design services you need.

Q: Our company is just fine. Why should we use you, and what can you provide?
A:  We operate from the perspective that our services are designed to either make you more productive, by reducing your time requirements in your company's processes, or to make you more profitable through better utilization of resources and through improving the impressions that you provide to your customer base through a variety of means.
 
   For large firms, we provide oversight IT reviews for the upper management, to insure that they are obtaining what can be provided by their IT departments effectively, and to insure that their future IT plans will not dead-end in obsolete or unsupported technology.
 
   For firms of all sizes, we provide work-flow process review and redesign -- taking your core business and reviewing the entire method by which services or products flow from the initial request through the actual fulfillment, and then optimize that process by implementing better solutions, training, stand-alone process servers (which can take much of the drudge work out of the hands of employees and turn it over to automated processes running in a computer).
 
   For firms of all sizes, we also provide equipment removal, liquidation, disposal and resales (when feasible). Closing an office or branch location? Filed for bankruptcy and need someone to liquidate your equipment? Call us.
 
   We also provide risk assessment, disaster aversion, and disaster recovery services, ranging from providing secure off-site storage for back-ups, up to complete plans to get your firm operating again the day after a hurricane decimates your current location.
 
   Finally, in conjunction with various medical specialists in the area, we provide ergonomic training, ergonomic redesigns and recommendations for an ergonomically better workplace. Given that last year, the single largest legal and medical expense to US Corporations were ergonomic-related injuries, use of such services can easily divert a million dollar lawsuit.

Q: Do you work on networks? Network equipment, wiring?
A:  Yes. We provide complete network solutions, including site wiring, hubs, switches, routers and connectivity. Each of our consultants have had over a decade of networking experience. If you have any networking needs, please give us a call at (813) 910-1500.

Q: Do you work on AS400 or VAX systems?
A:  Not at this time. We can provide referrals to AS400 and VAX specialists, but we do not consider this part of our specialties and thus do not provide support for it. We can, however, provide workstations and terminals for both VAX and AS400 systems, as well as the networking for them.

Q: Do you provide Risk Assessment and security reviews?
A:  Yes. We have been providing risk assessment and security reviews to our customers since 1991. Our reviews are in-depth, detailed and conducted by experts with over a decade of experience in this field.

Q: Do you provide Disaster Recovery Services?
A:  We provide complete disaster recovery services, on par with any firm in the world. We can have your small to mid-sized firm up and running again the day of, or the day after, a catastrophic failure such as a tornado, lightning strike or hurricane. We also provide the framework for such recoveries ahead of time, so that in a crises, everything that needs to be done is already set-up to happen, from rental of alternative workspace, to delivery of leased computers, installation of leased phone, fax & data lines, and installation of software & back-ups for quick reestablishment of your services following a catastrophe. We also handle much small issues in disaster recovery services, such as providing a secure off-site storage location for you back-ups.

Q: Will you come to my location?
A:  Yes. We normally provide almost all of our consulting services at the client location. There is no travel nor trip charge for customers in Hillsborough, Pinellas or southern Pasco counties. Beyond that range, we charge fifty cents (50) a mile, plus twenty five dollars ($25) an hour for central Florida, and actual costs plus time for locations beyond that.

Q: What are your hours?
A:  We offer services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Q: What are your prices?
 
Standard consulting services (upgrades, training, software installations, hardware installations) $120/hr

Network design services $150/hr

Management consulting services $175/hr

Hardware/Software at cost

Publishing services (standard) per piece
Publishing services (special projects) $50/hr

Programming services (off site) $70/hr
Programming services (on site) $140/hr

Equipment Removal Free
Equipment Liquidation Percentage

Web design services
Font design services
ask for a project bid
 

Q: Should I back-up?
A:  If you have any items that you created on your computer, such as correspondence, drawings, pictures, bank balances/check-book, investments, then yes. If you receive email, files, attachments and you need to be able to go back and access it after the first time you read it, then yes. If you just use your computer to play games and can easily reinstall everything from the original disks, and would not suffer from the loss of anything, then no. As the old saying goes (well, old is relative): It's not a matter if you need to back-up, it's a matter of when you needed to back-up.

Q: How often should I back up?
A:  Ideally, every day that you create something it would detrimental to lose. Realistically, at least once a week for a business user, and at least once a month for a home user. If you are in a networked business environment, you should probably be using a network back-up solution that backs up every computer on the network. If you aren't, please feel free to talk to us about implementing such a solution.

Q: What should I use to back-up?
A:  Anything that permits the removal of media (such as a tape drive, a Jazz or ZIP drive, et cetera) and which is large enough to hold all the data you need to back-up on a single piece of media. We will be happy to match a device to your needs for you and install it. For most of our users, specific types of tape drives are the best, because we can script the software to automate the back-ups with no user intervention other than remembering to change the tapes. People tend to back-up religiously after they've had a crash, but then get more and more lax over time about doing it if it has to be manually initiated, so automated solutions are ideal.

Q: What is an UPS and why should I get one?
A:  UPS stands for Uninterruptible Power Supply. Basically, it's a battery and a set of circuits that checks the incoming power's voltage, absorbs the spikes and powers your systems when there is either a black-out (a total loss of power), or even more dangerous to computer and electronic equipment, a brown-out (when the voltage drops from the standard 120v downwards towards 100, 95 or even 90). Brown-outs cause computer chips and circuits to overheat from the reduced power availability.
   Modern UPS's also filter incoming power to remove spikes (transient increases in voltage from heavy equipment switching on or off), glitches (nano-second interruptions of power), and over-voltage from power sources. Most also provide suppression for network wiring and/or phone lines, to avoid heavy surges coming through those lines. Additionally, most UPS's (including all the ones we recommend) provide an insurance policy for replacement or repair of any equipment connected to it against damage from electricity (including electrical strikes).
   UPS's are rated for a certain power output, and must be well matched, or over-matched to your equipment's requirements. Although cheap UPS's are advertised as being able to power your computer for 20 minutes, most can't handle the load of a tower computer and monitor and produce a brown-out condition from their output. We will be happy to review your requirements and provide a recommendation of the correct size for your needs.
   Why get one? To be able to know that you are protected from lightning strikes (did you know the Tampa Bay area is the world's lightning strike capital, averaging over two strikes per second during the summer months?), power-outages, and brown-outs long enough to finish up what you are doing and shut down safely.
   Finally, a special note: the batteries in a UPS are not designed to last indefinitely. Under normal usage, they have an expected two (2) year lifespan. We can provide and install replacement batteries for most UPS brands and models.

Q: What are the differences in RAM upgrades, Hard Drive upgrades and processor upgrades?
A:  Your computer has several different parts that are crucial to it's operation. The different parts perform different functions, and can be replaced with larger/faster/more powerful parts if the need arises.
   All the calculations on a computer are performed by the 'processor'. Replacing the processor will cause your computer to perform it's calculations faster, which is normally beneficial to those who work on very large spreadsheets, graphic files, sound files, video or use simulation software. In general, our stance is that a new machine, complete with a faster processor, a faster bus and other improvements will normally be a better performer than the purchase and installation of a processor upgrade.
   The active memory that the processor calls upon to store and serve up information on the fly is called your RAM or memory chips. Having more ram can increase the speed of your machine greatly if you work on large documents, databases, or tend to run several programs simultaneously. Each year, the memory (RAM) requirements for new software normally increases, so it is not uncommon to need to upgrade your RAM before your computer becomes obsolete. Fortunately, RAM is fairly cheap, unlike most processor upgrades. We will be happy to upgrade your RAM for you, should you desire to, or should your needs dictate it.
   The long-term storage of information on your computer is handled by the hard drive, a magnetic-based storage device that retains the information even when you computer is off. When you go to save a file, it moves from the RAM to the hard drive and is saved onto the hard drive. If you run out of space (or are getting within 85% usage of the space on your hard drive), you need a hard drive upgrade. Depending on the design of your computer, we may be able to add another hard drive to your set-up, so that you can then utilize both (or all of the) drives -- in some cases, the existing drive must be swapped out and a large drive is then used to replace it. You may also need to have your hard drive replaced if the magnetic media starts to fail on the drive (usually indicated by crashes when saving or opening a file, or messages to the effect that you have a large number of bad sectors). We will be happy to upgrade or supplement your hard drive when you need it.

Q: What does a server do; what services does it provide?
A:  A server is a computer designed to provide services & information to other users at other computers on a network. There are many kinds of servers (both in brand, and in what services they perform). The most common types are:
• file server -- shares files with everyone on the network, so that people can share documents when working on the same project;
• web server -- responds to requests from web browsers by delivering information (such as this page, which is delivered from a web server to your browser);
• email server -- receives and stores incoming email for it's clients, and sends outgoing email to the internet for delivery to other email servers, and ultimately to the recipient when they connect to the email server;
• fax server -- collects outgoing fax requests from various computers on the network and handles the task of actually faxing the documents out, so each user's computer doesn't slow down (and so each user doesn't need their own fax line). It may also act as a fax-back system for outside requests for information.
Note: depending on the requirements, all of the above services can run on a single computer.
We install, configure and maintain all of the above types of servers for our clients (both at their sites, and at ours). We also offer a non-mainstream server called a process server, which performs automated actions on various information to eliminate some of the drudge work for a company's employees (thus making them more productive and more profitable). We have some simple samples of process servers we have implimented for clients.

Q: I want a faster connection to the internet/AOL. How do I do this?
A:  There are several ways of connecting to the internet/AOL. The most rudimentary form uses a modem, which connects your computer to the far end by sending analog signals across your existing phone lines. Standard modems come in two speeds these days: 28.8 and 56.6. The number approximately represents the number of characters times one-thousand that the modem can send across the line under ideal conditions. If you have a 28.8 modem, upgrading to a 56.6 modem will increase the speed of your connection approximately 80%.
 
   Alternatively, there are much faster methods of connecting, with permanent connections. The two most popular in the Tampa Bay area are cable modems and xDSL.
 
   Cable modems use your cable TV connection to communicate with the far end at high speeds, but the method they employ causes the connection to be shared by everyone in your cluster (i.e. - neighborhood, subdevelopment), so if you tend to access the internet during peak residential hours (5pm - 1am), the effective speed of this method is greatly slowed down. If, on the other hand, you use during off-peak times, it is a very fast, cost-effective method for connecting. Expect speeds of around 5 to 20 times faster than a 56.6 modem, with a monthly bill of approximately $40 over your existing cable bill (or $60 if you don't have cable).
 
   DSL stands for Digital Subscriber Line. The x in xDSL represents all the means for using DSL, which can be aDSL (asynchronous DSL) or sDSL (synchronous DSL). aDSL can be faster than sDSL, but the offerings will probably be limited to one form or the other in your area, depending on what system the local phone company can support (if any -- not all areas have DSL access). In a traditional telephone line, the signal is an analog signal from your house to the local switching station, where it is converted to a digital signal for moving around the phone company's equipment and wiring. With DSL, the phone company changes your connection at their switch to a digital connection that runs all the way to your home or office (still using the existing wires). Then, within the house/office, or outside at the drop, they install a signal splitter that converts part of the signal to analog (so your phones keep working), and keeps the digital connection straight to your DSL modem. Unlike cable modems, DSL lines are not shared, so your speed is fairly constant irrelevant of conditions (2 to 27 times faster than a 56.6 modem). Also, unlike cable, DSL has a pricing structure that is based on the speed of the connection you request in both directions (coming to you and going away from you). The speed is normally written as xk/yk, where x represents the speed to you and y represents the speed away from you, and k means thousands (e.g. - 384/128).
 
   DSL is the ideal choice for supporting a small to mid-sized company's connection to the internet. For large firms (over 100 computers), there are faster methods that are more suited to their needs (T1, T3, D1 connections).
 
   We support all of the above systems -- telephone modems, cable modems, DSL modems, as well as T1 & T3 connectivity. Feel free to give us a call at (813) 910-1500, or leave a message at (813) 969-9800 and we'll help you find what's right for your needs.

Q: What is a workflow process review?
A:  A workflow process is the method a company uses to provide it's services or products to it's clients or end-users. The workflow process starts at the point where the product/service is offered initially (advertising, sales force, et cetera) and continues through all the steps required to fulfill the customer's request, as well as all post-fulfillment work (such as invoicing/billing). The process can be broken down into the operations that single person or department performs, or taken as a whole of the entire company's process. A workflow process review examines closely, from an outside point of view, that process or part of the process and comes up with ways of making it more streamlined, more efficient, more productive, more responsive to the customer, and/or more profitable. Out part of this process is not acting as a raw efficiency expert coming in to fire squads of people, but rather looking at the process to see which parts of it can be better performed, automated or otherwise restructured to improve the company. Examples of Workflow reviews and process servers we have actually set up.

Q: What is a VPN and when would I want/need one?
A:  VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. A VPN is a method for connecting separate installations and sites so they exist as if all the systems were in a single place, while offering security against outside intrusion while the data is in transit between locations. If your company has multiple sites, or if perhaps the president/CEO/Corporate Officers want to be able to access the network remotely as if they were in the office, we would recommend looking into setting up a VPN.

Q: What is risk management?
A:  Risk management, as it applies to the computer field, is the analysis of what can interrupt your core IT operating structure and data/processing availability, and then designing methods and processes to minimize the risk to an acceptable one (usually less than 0.0015% chance of occurrence for fortune 500 firms, less than 0.01% for small firms). We would be please to provide an in-depth risk assessment for your firm; feel free to contact us today for assistance with this and other services we provide.

Q: What is a computer virus?
A:  A computer virus is a self-replicating program that is designed to copy itself onto systems covertly and then continue reproducing onwards through various means to yet other systems. Some viruses are very destructive, erasing data after successfully reproduction, or worse yet, sending information from your system(s) back to an outside source (such as passwords, credit card info, et cetera). Some viruses are fairly benign, merely replicating themselves, or perhaps also displaying a message to the user. As I write this, there are over 30,000 viruses that can infect Windows & DOS PC's, and some 200 that can infect macintosh systems.

Q: How long is my warrantee?
A:  Warranties on hardware and software vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Many computer & peripheral manufacturers warrant their products for an industry standard year, while most software carries no warrantee at all. Please ask us about specific products via email and we will provide you an answer within a day or two.

Q: What satisfaction guarantees do you have?
A:  We have the ultimate satisfaction guarantees:
if you are unsatisfied with our work or services, pay us what you think it was worth. That's it. Of course, if you constantly short-change us, we will come to assume that you are generally unhappy with our firm's offerings and may choose to decline additional work, but in general it's a simple policy designed to keep everyone happy. Now why don't more companies operate like this?

Q: How do I translate a file my computer doesn't recognize?
A:  The answer to this question varies with the type of file that you are attempting to open. We will be happy to provide you with either an answer on how to translate the specific type of document you have, or we also offer a flat-rate translation service (when possible) for $5/file individually, or as low as $1/file for large translation projects.

Q: How do I know when to upgrade my computer?
A:  Please also see: Q: What are the differences in RAM upgrades, Hard Drive upgrades and processor upgrades? There are three times that your system should be upgraded: when you run out memory or storage space, when you are not capable of running software that you desire to run, or when the computer appears to have slowed down for you. In the first scenario, you may run out of sufficient RAM or hard drive space, and these items are easily augmented. In the second scenario, your hardware, operating system or other limitation may prevent you from running new software that you need -- it may be feasible to upgrade, or to replace your computer, depending on the circumstances. Finally, in the last scenario, as users become more proficient, they find themselves waiting for the machine to complete a command. When this happens, it is definitely time to upgrade to a more powerful/faster computer that is designed to maximize the speed of your particular types of work & related software.

Q: How often should I run my antivirus?
A:  At least once per month. In an ideal situation, your antivirus software will scan all in-bound files, whether they come from internet downloads, email attachments, or inserted floppy disks, CD's, DVD's. In a corporate environment, I recommend that the antivirus software be set to run automatically at least once a week across all the units in the workplace. For those not interesting in worrying about the low-downs of such issues, please contact us and we will provide all maintenance for your systems on a regular schedule.

Q: How often should I defragment my drive?
A:  At least once a quarter for all users. If you are a normal user, once a month to once a quarter should be sufficient. If you are burning CD's or DVD's, I recommend you defragment your source drive before you perform any burns. For people who are constantly creating & amending files, such as programmers, people who surfing the internet very heavily, those who work constantly with image manipulation/sound editing/video editing, or who use a database extensively, defragment once a week. For those not interesting in worrying about the low-downs of such issues, please contact us and we will provide all maintenance for your systems on a regular schedule.

Q: How often should I run a disk repair tool?
A:  At least once after each time you crash, plus once a week in a business environment and at least once every three months for a home user. If your repair tool finds serious problems, please rerun it immediately, as some problems that it fixed on the first pass may have masked problems that it will find on the next pass. Keep rerunning it until all problems are resolved. For those not interesting in worrying about the low-downs of such issues, please contact us and we will provide all maintenance for your systems on a regular schedule.

 
 

GENERAL TERMS

Q: What is Ethernet or 10baseT/100baseT/Gigabyte Ethernet?
A:  Ethernet, originally invented a Xerox's Pablo Alto Research Center (PARC), is a method for encapsulating information and transferring it across a network. Almost all networks today use ethernet as their standard. The different forms of ethernet reflect the speed, such as 10BaseT (moves 10 Megabits per second under ideal situations, 100BaseT (moves 100 megabits per second), and the recent Gigabyte ethernet (which moves up to 1000 megabytes per second). The wiring used for ethernet is often referred to as ethernet cabling (incorrectly), and must also meet specified standards for supporting the various speeds. Gigabyte ethernet is relatively new, and requires specialty cabling, but provides a significant upgrade in speed over standard ethernet. All Macintosh computers have shipped with gigabyte ethernet since June, 2000.

Q: What is SCSI and it's variations?
A:  SCSI (pronounced scuzzy) stands for Small Computer Standard Interface, and is a method for connecting devices such as hard drives, CD/DVD players, CD/DVD burners, scanners and tape drives to your computer. SCSI in general is a very fast method for transferring large amounts of information to and from your computer. Over the years, the SCSI standard has been revised to provide faster standards of communication, and each revision has been given a new name, such as SCSI-II and SCSI-3, as well as SCSI-wide, et cetera. A well designed SCSI card can move 160 Megabytes of information per second, besting almost all the other forms of data communications normally used at the desktop level. Additionally, the current SCSI standards permit inter-device communication without the interaction of the computer, so information can be moved from a SCSI hard drive to another SCSI hard drive or DVD burner without slowing down the computer.

Q: What is USB?
A:  USB stands for Universal Serial Bus. It is a method for connecting devices that use a low-speed communication method to transmit information to and from the computer. Examples include keyboards, mice, slow scanners and slow CD burners. The advantage of USB is that it is a cross-platform standard that has been embraced by almost all manufacturers of computers. For peripherals that would benefit from greater communications speeds, we recommend using firewire* or SCSI instead of USB.
* NOTE: see FireWire, next entry. See SCSI, previous entry.

Q: What is FireWire/IEEE1394?
A:  FireWire, also known as IEEE1394, is a standard for a very high speed communications method between external peripheral devices (such as tape drives, hard drives, video cameras, CD/DVD burners & players, scanners) and the computer. Theoretically, FireWire has a maximum speed of 400 Megabytes/second. Unfortunately, in the real world, there are very few, if any, devices which can serve up data at speeds approaching even half that 400 Mb/s speed, so the capabilities are not completely realized. Additionally, almost all FireWire storage devices are actually IDE or ATA storage devices with a IDE/ATA-to-FireWire converter in them, thus operating only at the IDE/ATA standards for speed (33Mb/s or 66Mb/s, respectively). Unlike many of the other standards for device data communications, FireWire permits inter-device communication without the interaction of the computer, so data can transfer from say a digital video camera to a FireWire hard drive without slowing down the computer.

Q: What is ADB?
A:  ADB stands for Apple Desktop Bus, a method for connection low speed devices (such as keyboards and mice) to Apple brand computers built between 1984 and 1998. If you have ADB standard keyboards, trackballs and/or mice and want to use them with your USB-equipped Mac, there is an USB-ADB converter that permits the older ADB items to be used.

Q: What is I/O or IO?
A:  IO, properly written as I/O, stands for input-output. The term is used to represent the methods by which the computer obtains information (such as the connection to a scanner or a keyboard), as well as the method it delivers it's computing results (such as to a monitor or a printer).

Q: What is a ZIP drive/Orb Drive/Syquest/Jazz Drive
All of these devices are storage devices which use removable magnetic-based disks to store information.

  • A ZIP drive (manufactured by IOmega) stores 100, 250 or 750 Megabytes on a 4" x 4" removable flexible disk contained in a hard plastic sleeve.
  • An Orb drive (manufactured by Castlewood Systems) stores 2.2 Gigabytes (2048 Megabytes) on a 6" x 6" removable hard disk platter contained in a hard plastic or metal sleeve.
  • A Syquest drive (manufactured by SyQuest) stores from 44 Megabytes on the older drives up to 1 Gigabyte on the new drives on a removable hard platter contained in a hard plastic sleeve.
  • A Jazz drive (also manufactured by IOmega) stores 1 or 2 Gigabytes on a flexible disk contained in a hard plastic sleeve.
All of these drives are targeted primarily at people who need to move large amounts of information around with them in a useful portable size factor. Some people also use these drives to back-up their computers, although these formats are not the ideal ones for back-up, because of the cost per megabyte to back-up.

Q: What is a removable drive?
A:  A removable drive is a drive that either (a) contains media that can be ejected and taken with you, or (b) a drive that is small enough to take the entire drive with you conveniently.
NOTE: Also see the above entry, what is a ZIP drive/Orb Drive/Syquest/Jazz drive.

Q: What is DAT?
A:  DAT stands for Digital Audio Tape, a 4mm wide tape format used for backing up computers, as well as for multi-track digital recordings created in music studios. For our purposes, we will limit ourselves to the back-up usages. DAT tapes come in a single size factor, but have varying lengths of tape (60, 90, 120 and 160 meter lengths). DAT drives come in one of size standards known as DDS, which range from DDS (also known as DDS-1) to DDS-4. Note that which tape lengths are compatible are dependent on which DDS standard, and the amount which can be stored is dependent on both the tape length and the DDS standard. For general comparison, a DDS-1 drive with a 90 meter tape can normally store between 3 and 4 Gigabytes (Gb), while a DDS-4 drive with a 160 meter tape can store up to 16 Gigabytes. Because back-ups to tape can be completely automated, leaving the user only to change the tapes, and because tape offers the lowest cost per megabyte for storage, we highly recommend DAT drives as the preferred back-up device for most single users and small firms. For larger firms, we recommend DLT drives, which can store up to 40 Gb per tape, uncompressed. Please contact us to assess your back-up needs and to provide you a complete solution.

Q: What is PostScript?
A:  PostScript (PS) is a mathematical imaging method developed by Adobe. It is used in high-end laser printers, virtually all image setters and virtually all plate makers. PostScript is the standard used in the printing industry, as well as the standard for almost all Macintosh-compatible laser printers. PostScript has had three revisions, original PostScript (extremely robust), PS level 2 (adds better color support),and PS3 (provides added features and better memory usage). In devices that use PostScript, a special controller called a rasterizer takes the mathematical description of the page and converts it into the dots the printer/image setter/plate maker can use, on the fly. The advantage of this method is that the page descriptions are device independent, printing at the best resolution that a device can support (i.e. - rasterizes to 600 dpi on a 600 dpi laser printer, rasterized for up to 8000 dpi for an image setter). Many companies have tried to avoid the cost of paying Adobe the licensing fee for the PostScript technology and have instead created PostScript emulators -- rasterizers that will attempt to create the same image from the PostScript description. Many emulators have been found not to support the full set of PostScript commands. If you are working on prepress, we highly recommend going with true Adobe PostScript to insure that your results will be the same in-house as at the printer's. We support and repair PostScript and non-PostScript based laser printers of almost all brands and makes. We also provide consulting services that includes matching your requirements to the correct printers for your tasks, including such considerations as duty cycles, cost per page and resolutions. Please contact us via phone or drop us an email and we'll be happy to assist you.

Q: What is PPM?
A:  PPM stands for Pages Per Minute, the theoretical maximum speed a printer or copier can produce pages. For inkjet printers, the PPM is virtually a joke, as it measures the speed at which a page can cycle through the printer with almost no printing on it. On laser printers, it is the number of duplicate pages that can be printed after the first page is generated. On copiers, it is the maximum copy speed, given no reduction or increase in the size of the page.

Q: What is DPI?
A:  DPI stands for Dots Per Inch. Generally speaking, the more dots per inch, the finer the image resolution, and the closer you can hold an image before you start to see the individual dots. Laser printers and inkjet printers are both rated in DPI for their resolution. Some printers use continuous-tone printing, whereby the DPI figure is almost irrelevant (a 400 dpi continuous-tone printer produces the same quality of image as a 2400 dpi color laser printer).

Q: What is LPI?
A:  LPI stands for Lines Per Inch. In printers, dots are combined in patterns to approximate lighter and darker colors or lighter and darker grays from a black-only printer. The number of dots in the pattern dictates how many shades (steps) you can make between absolute saturation (on a black & white printer, all dots on would be black, all dots off would be white). So, if you take the number of steps you want between absolute saturation and no saturation, you can calculate the pattern size. Example: to get 256 steps between black and white (the number of steps the human eye can discern normally), I would need a 16 x 16 grid (the square root of 256 is 16). If I had a 600 dpi printer, I would effectively get (600 divided by 16 = 37.5) 37.5 LPI. The LPI represents the apparent crispness and conciseness of focus of the printed image. LPI is normally only a concern for prepress work and professional printers. Examples of various standard LPI's to help comprehend the issue: Newsprint - 60 or 85 LPI, Time or Newsweek - 95 or 120 LPI, National Geographic - 150 - 200 LPI.

Q: What is the difference between various monitors?
A:  Monitors come in different standards for how many colors they can display (although almost all are 16 Million colors, the most the normal human eye can discern), their size diagonally in inches, the size of their dots (smaller is better), what method they use to align the 3 different light beams as they hit the screen (invar mask, shadow mask, trinitron), and how often the image is repainted on the screen by the beams (the refresh rate). There are also concerns on how much the image distorts as it approaches the corners, how close their colors match printed output, and whether they can be automatically degaussed (i.e. - to correct for the magnetic distortions on the light beams caused by the earth's magnetic field). Generally, there is no single 'right' monitor for everybody, just as there is no single brand or type of computer suitable to everyone's needs. We factor in the type of work you do, how many hours you are in front of the screen per day, the environment (i.e. - bright sunlight or fluorescent lights) and the amount of accuracy you need in matching printed output to recommend which monitors would be best suited to your needs. Although we do not traditionally sell hardware, we would be pleased to assist you in your next monitor purchase, as well as in all your consulting needs.

Q: What is a scanner?
A:  A scanner is a device designed to digitize an image and move that image file to your computer. Scanners are usually purpose-driven, and come in a variety of types suitable for different types of work, from accurately scanning a color picture or negative at high resolutions, to high speed black & white scanners for scanning large numbers of documents for long-term storage and recall. Scanners come in different resolutions, with different scannable sizes and are designed to support different scannable media (such as 35mm negatives, positive prints, blue prints, and even 3 dimensional objects in some cases). Scanners also come in different sensitivities to subtle difference in color and in dynamic range. With such a selection, obtaining the right scanner for your uses can be a daunting and difficult task. We would be pleased to assist you in matching the right equipment to your needs.

Q: What is a CD Drive and DVD drive?
A:  CD and DVD drives are special devices designed to read optical reflections of a laser beam off a compact disk or digital versatile disk. The differences between the two involve storage capacity and method used to read information. A CD drive uses a standard red laser to read the pits in the CDs. A DVD drive uses a much more narrow beam of a blue laser to read pits that are 1/32 of the size of the pits on a CD off a DVD disc. As a result, a CD drive can not read a DVD disk, but a DVD drive can easily read a CD. A CD holds 650 or 800 Megabytes of information (depending on which size is used at time of creation), while a DVD holds up to 9.4 Gigabytes (9625 Megabytes) currently, and will come to support up to 16 Gigabytes in the next couple years. Because of that pit size difference, while a CD can hold approximately 70 minutes worth of music, a DVD can hold over 17 hours of the same quality of music, or, more popularly, a complete length movie in a crisp, digitized format.

Q: What are CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+RW and DVD-RAM drives?
A:  CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+RW and DVD-RAM are all devices for recording information onto CD's (called burning a CD) and DVD's.

  • A CD-R (CD-Recordable) is a device that can write data to a blank CD once, creating a permanent CD. These drives come in a variety of speeds. To understand the speed ratings, the first number is the record speed, and the second number is the read speed, in multiples of the speed of audio CD players (i.e. - 1x4 would be records at single speed, reads back at 4 times that speed).
  • A CD-RW (CD-Recordable/reWritable) performs all the functions of a CD-R, plus allows use of a rerecordable CDs, which can be erased and used multiple times. CD-RW has replaced CD-R as the defacto standard, and drives are available in a number of speeds. To understand the speed ratings, the first number is the record speed, the second number is the rerecord speed and the third number is the read speed, in multiples of the speed of audio CD players (i.e. - 4x2x20 would record at 4 times the speed, rerecord at twice the speed, and read from the disk at twenty times the speed of audio CD players).
  • A DVD-R (DVD-Recordable drive) permits recording of a DVD in a write-once method, similar to CD-R, but at much larger data capacities, and is ideal for long term archival back-ups of financial data, as well as for creating DVD's playable in late-model DVD video players (such as for video evidence in court cases, or home movies).
  • A DVD-RW (DVD-Recordable/reWritable) performs all the functions of DVD-R, plus it permits use of rerecordable DVD-RW media, which can be erased and rerecorded multiple times.
  • A DVD+RW (DVD-Recordable/reWritable) is a competing standard to DVD-RW, and is (as of this writing) not yet available. DVD+RW is designed to give you the same features in general as DVD-RW, but is a different standard and not interchangable with DVD-RW.
  • A DVD-RAM permits data DVD's to be used like a floppy drive, recording and erasing information on the fly as you move data to, and trash/recycle data from the disk. DVD-RAM's make great back-ups, because they can be reused to add data without erasing them, and have a huge capacity. The only downside to DVD-RAM disks are that the writing process is slow on all current DVD-RAM drives (2x maximum).
  • A SuperDrive (generation 1: CD-RW/DVD-R) or (generation 2: CD-RW/DVD-RW) are drives that permit recording of both CD's and DVD's. Currently only manufacturered by Pioneer, these drives are available stock in some Macintosh system configurations (certain iBook, PowerBook, iMac and G4 tower systems), as well as a stand-alone external drive (approximate cost $900 - $1000). The drive performs like both a CD-RW drive (see entry above for CD-RW) at up to 20x20x24 speed, as well as DVD-R or DVD-RW (depending on which generation of drive it is, see entries for DVD-R and DVD-RW) at speeds up to 2x.

Q: What is Duplex?
A:  Duplex means two connected together, or in the computer field, it normally means both incoming and outgoing simultaneously (without interference between them). If you can move data both away from the computer and to the computer through the same connection at the same time, it is considered a duplex connection.

Q: What is aDSL, sDSL, ISDN, T1, T3, OC3, and OC48?

  • aDSL stands for Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line, a very fast duplex method of connection either a single user or a small workgroup to the internet at speeds from 128 Kps to 1.5 Mps.
  • sDSL stands for Synchronous Digital Subscriber Line, a fairly fast non-duplex method of connection either a single user or a small workgroup to the internet, at speeds from 64 Kps to 768 Kps in most areas.
  • ISDN stands for Integrated Services Digital Network, a method for connection to the internet at speed higher than a modem, but slower than DSL's offerings, at speeds from 64 Kps to 128 Kps.
  • T1 is a type of trunk line, which provides a broad pipeline for moving data and voice to and from a company at speeds from 56.6 Kps to 1.52 Mps.
  • T3 is a type of trunk line, which provides an even broader pipeline for moving data and voice to and from a company at speeds from 3 Mps to 45 Mps.
  • OC3 is a type of optical carrier, where data & voice move over optical lines, with speeds up to 155 Mps.
  • OC48 is a type of optical carrier, where data & voice move over optical lines, with speeds up to 2,448 Mps (2.2 Gps).

Q: What does the 28.8 or 56.6 stand for on my modem?
A:  The maximum speed, in thousands(k) of bytes per second (think characters), that you modem can transmit or receive under ideal conditions. For a 28.8k that would be 28,800 bytes per second; a 56.6 modem would support up to 56,600 characters per second. By comparison, DSL offers you speeds starting at 128kps, up to 1576Kps, or 2.2 to 27 times faster than a 56.6 modem.

 

 
 

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