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Laptops
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userstarspirit
Posted: 26 February 2007 8:04 PM
Subject: Laptops
 


Can't be a ludite all my life so am contemplating a laptop and as far as I can see an Acer Travelmate or Aspire for under £400 seem as good as any as they have more hard drive than I'll ever fill and 512mb ram as well as wireless capability.

I want it mainly for emails and browsing with, maybe, navigation, phone and digital TV.

So now for the grovelling advice seeking bit please!

Don't do music or games so what more do I need?

Do these USB plug in TV adapters work?

I presume you control them via the keyboard?

Not as convenient as a remote but much cheaper than an LCD TV - as long as they work?

Which is better a12 volt adapter or an inverter?

Do I need a USB memory stick or a mini flash drive (whatever that is) thingy for secure off machine sensitive data (banking etc) storage?

Any other words of wisdom please that might stop me acting in haste and repenting in irritation?

Thanks guys and gals.
userCliveH
Posted: 26 February 2007 8:29 PM
Subject: RE: Laptops
 
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Hi Starspirit.

Personally I prefer Dell laptops as they are built on a common basis and so spares are repairs are possible. My techy chap who comes to upgrade, sort out problems, tell me off for doing something stupid says that some of the cheaper ones from the likes of PC World are essentially through away items if they go wrong.

We have an old Latitude Dell laptop as a backup here and that has had a new hard disc, a new top cover and all the keys upgraded with new stickers when the lettering was so worn you had to type from memory!

As regards the TV hardware - I did buy a plug in and play bit of kit from PC World about a year ago when it was on offer. I have to say it is very good as it is digital freeview on your Laptop.

It is plugs into a USB port and your aerial plugs into it. Very simple - very neat. You then load up some software and then using a neat little remote not much bigger than a credit card you get 30 to 40 channels or however many are available now. I haven’t used it since last summer as I only use it in the caravan.

One thing that is really good and should make you consider getting a good sized harddrive is that you can save TV programs/films etc straight onto your harddrive. Very useful on a wet afternoon to be able to watch a film or whatever.

However - that said!!!! - We probably will do it differently this year in that we have just bought a great little 15 inch LCD TV from Tesco Direct for £140 and am about to get a DVD player and expect to pay £25 to £30.

So in caravan entertainment is available for circa £170, instead of my taking a Laptop worth well over £500 with us just to watch TV or play films.

So my advice is just because you can use a Laptop as a TV does not mean that you should. I used to work occasionally when away and then having a duel purpose Laptop worked well - especially as the Laptop was so much smaller than even a portable TV.

But now LCD TV's and DVD players are so cheap - I do not believe the risk of loosing an expensive laptop AND all the info on it!!! is worth it.

So the next thing we are looking at is a DVD recorder to give us a bit of a "library".

Hope this helps.
usertwooks
Posted: 26 February 2007 8:55 PM
Subject: RE: Laptops
 


2000100100100100


ACER did have a rep for not being terribly robust, but that could've changed.
If you want a good deal try Dell's factory refurbished options aka Dell Outlet - but you have to be quick. http://preview.tinyurl.com/3ckvhl
Yes get a memory stick to keep your essential data safe.


userDave Newell
Posted: 27 February 2007 7:39 AM
Subject: RE: Laptops
 


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Hi Richard, if you have other uses for the laptop while away in the 'van then its a good all round solution. Other uses might include being able to view/edit digital photos, internet on the move where wifi connections are available etc. Most TV tuner units come with a remote control so no fiddling about with the keyboard. I always beleived Acer to be an OK brand but as I've only ever owned a Toshiba latop (but plenty of home built desktops). If you haven't already done so I'd recomend you check out ebuyer.com as they do lots of computer stuff at pretty good prices, you should find several laptops in your budget and a USB TV tuner thingy.

D.
userGJH
Posted: 27 February 2007 8:06 AM
Subject: RE: Laptops
 
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I bought my third Acer about 10 days ago. They seem robust enough to me.

Not sure about these days but when I worked in IT a few years ago (at a more or less total IBM place) I was told that IBM Thinkpads were actually built by Acer. IBM don't normally badge anything that's iffy.

Graham
userDavid Dwight
Posted: 27 February 2007 8:38 AM
Subject: RE: Laptops
 
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hi
richard,

We use an old refurbished IBM think pad, (on adive from son who works for a multinational company and they use them) We use it for sat nav, TV, photos etc,etc,. Pleased with it do's all we need. If it gets nicked it was only £300 to wasnt a fortune. I bought a 12v adapter from Maplins, this has switching voltage and various adapters for other appliances £20.

David
userempress
Posted: 27 February 2007 9:16 AM
Subject: RE: Laptops
 


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We now have a Packard Bell EasyNote. We changed to this because it is very light in comparison with other Laptops we have owned. We find it is fine for taking in the Rapido. We have bought a WinTV (USB) Hauppauge which works o.k. and is sufficient for our limited TV viewing when away in the van. It is fine for storing our photos, etc. Though you don't think you'll need much space, do go for a larger hard disc than you initially think you'll want! Good luck with your search.

Empress
usermom
Posted: 27 February 2007 9:21 AM
Subject: RE: Laptops
 


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Totally agree with Clive... I take my Dell Latitude with me when I know I will need to do email, web or photos.  I also play DVDs but am now looking for a reliable small DVD player simply so that I don't "worry" about my laptop being in the van (unless I really need it).

One trick, though... apparently some Dells have a pin in the charger jack that is needed to charge the battery on 12V.  All this means is that you have to buy the official Dell 12V charger, for something like £90.  I have heard, though, that there are some clone chargers out there.

userenodreven
Posted: 27 February 2007 11:28 AM
Subject: RE: Laptops
 
1000


Hi,

I personally don't think you can buy better than a Sony Vaio as the screen quality is so good it makes everything you do look so much better and the build quality is far in excess of anything i have seen, albeit you do usually have to pay more.

Before you purchase anything its worth looking at what you use at the moment as if you use a desktop that is getting on a bit it may be worth looking at a better spec laptop that can ultimatly replace that as well. As most of them have the facilty to output to a larger monitor and you can connect a USB mouse and keyboard so it will completely replace the desktop.

We downgraded from a Sony Vaio to a packard bell as the Sony was to big to use in the MH and other than it fits on the shelf we have on the dash it was the worst days work we ever did. Double check the screen quality of what ever you by as the sun and reflections are a real problem if you are thinking of using it as a GPS I can say that the Sony Black Screen never suffered from any of these problems and the quality of the build against the others is far superior the only ones that i think come close is the Toshiba and perhaps the Compaq. But like every thing you pays your money and takes your chance, but i would rather buy a shop soiled or refurbished Sony Vaio than anything else

Hope this helps

Brian
userstarspirit
Posted: 27 February 2007 12:43 PM
Subject: RE: Laptops
 


Thanks everyone for your words of wisdom - and now I'm even more confused!

My home pc is fine and I still, after four years, have only filled 10gb of hard disk.

I too am concerned about the theft risk and am more inclined to risk leaving a £300 (ex vat) laptop in the van than a more expensive one.

I can't quite see the logic of converting 12v to 240 then reducing it back down to the laptop's low voltage.

However using the laptop's own transformer via an inverter should stabilise the input voltage - shouldn't it?
userDave Newell
Posted: 27 February 2007 1:10 PM
Subject: RE: Laptops
 


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Go for a 12volt psu, you can get one from Maplin. Just remember to check the output voltage is correct for the laptop every time you connect it as the switch can often be easily knocked to a different setting and it could do serious damage to your laptop.

D.
usernet-traveller
Posted: 27 February 2007 1:20 PM
Subject: RE: Laptops
 
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Just to bung a small spanner in the works -

The new Microsoft operating system Vista needs a minimum of 512 Mb RAM so you should look at 1 Gb RAM for decent speed.
The other reason you should get a bit more than minimum is that firewalls and anti-virus software + anti-spyware will use memory thereby reducing the amount for everything else.

As to which brand it's very much personal preference - I like Siemens stuff because they always give you more than you want and OEM Nero ain't bad either.


userenodreven
Posted: 27 February 2007 3:45 PM
Subject: RE: Laptops
 
1000


Hi,

The reason I suggested the possible replacement for the desktop, was because mine has just given up after 5 years and the repair/replacement/upgrading cost is nearly the same price as a similar spec laptop ? nothing to do with the hard drive size ?

as for carring expensive items in the MH i only paid an extra £12 on my home insurance to cover my laptop while away from home. and we never leave it on show it is always stored out of sight

Hope this helps
Brian





starspirit - 2007-02-27 12:43 PM

Thanks everyone for your words of wisdom - and now I'm even more confused!

My home pc is fine and I still, after four years, have only filled 10gb of hard disk.

I too am concerned about the theft risk and am more inclined to risk leaving a £300 (ex vat) laptop in the van than a more expensive one.

I can't quite see the logic of converting 12v to 240 then reducing it back down to the laptop's low voltage.

However using the laptop's own transformer via an inverter should stabilise the input voltage - shouldn't it?


Edited by enodreven 2007-02-27 3:46 PM
userMel B
Posted: 27 February 2007 8:08 PM
Subject: RE: Laptops
 


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I'd strongly suggest taking out a warranty on the laptop if you buy new as having to get them repaired is extremely expensive and quite specialised. We've got hardly anyone locally who repairs laptops 'properly', quite a few who'll have a look for £X but no guarantees they can sort it and may have to send it away in any case, no dobut after we'd already incurred a stinking great bill from them and added their 'handling' commission.

Only one company would look at it properly but as they charge £60.00 an hour plus VAT plus parts we decided not to go there. We've managed to find a company that specialises in laptop repairs and are sending it away to them, much cheaper by far and at least they have the expertise - as they pay for the courier to ship it to them, they will only bother if it sounds like something they can sort out ... we'll have to wait and see, fingers crossed.
userpeter
Posted: 27 February 2007 8:54 PM
Subject: RE: Laptops
 


You can get decent one on E.Bay for peanuts
userVixters other half
Posted: 27 February 2007 9:42 PM
Subject: RE: Laptops
 


Keeps coming back for more

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Starspirit
We have an Acer Aspire Laptop which we use as a pc, a DVD and a tv. The space saving is a good reason for doing so and obviously there is a weight saving as well. Had no problems with it and it also has wireless and data card slots so we can surf the internest with ease- dependent on location. If you can see an advantage in having a combined unit as we have, then I recommend the Acer.


Rgds
VoH
usermaggyd
Posted: 27 February 2007 11:15 PM
Subject: RE: Laptops
 


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Hi I have an Acer Aspire 1520. which I use wirelessly although I think it is set up for wireless and it should connect up I bought a wireless Lan card.

I dont keep anything important on my computer just photos and such like but you should still set it up with a security password so people carnt access your computer (dont ask me how ) my neighbour did it for me as he was able to see everything he even new my password.

I think a memory stick would be a good idea for your sensetive stuff although I dont have one I know a couple of people that do.
userBrian Kirby
Posted: 28 February 2007 12:13 AM
Subject: RE: Laptops
 


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Location: East Sussex. Motorhome: Knaus Boxstar 600 Street


Mel B - 2007-02-27 8:08 PM I'd strongly suggest taking out a warranty on the laptop if you buy new as having to get them repaired is extremely expensive and quite specialised. We've got hardly anyone locally who repairs laptops 'properly', quite a few who'll have a look for £X but no guarantees they can sort it and may have to send it away in any case, no dobut after we'd already incurred a stinking great bill from them and added their 'handling' commission. Only one company would look at it properly but as they charge £60.00 an hour plus VAT plus parts we decided not to go there. We've managed to find a company that specialises in laptop repairs and are sending it away to them, much cheaper by far and at least they have the expertise - as they pay for the courier to ship it to them, they will only bother if it sounds like something they can sort out ... we'll have to wait and see, fingers crossed.

Afraid I don't agree, Mel.  Most of these warranties are terrible value.  If you buy a new computer it will come with a warranty.  If it's a laptop a return to maker type warranty should be OK, provided you have something to back up your stuff to, and do so regularly!  Then, if it goes wrong, you'll be without the laptop until its fixed, which is a nuisance, but at least you shouldn't loose all your stuff, which might be a disaster.

If it survives its first year (the so called infantile failure), and provided it is regularly used, it'll probably then go on for years without fault - unless you drop it in the bath or something!

When it does go wrong, just get a new one.  They are virtulaly obsolete after the first year anyhow, so if it lasts 3 years or more it will hardly be worth repairing, its chip will be too slow, its memory too little, and its hard drive too small. 

Personal view I know, but just buy it, and the software you intend using, all at the same time, use it till it gives up the ghost, never upgrade it, and never do any more than just update the resident software once it's installed.  Then, when it fails, start again with new computer and software of the next generation (or two) along.

userhowie
Posted: 28 February 2007 12:28 AM
Subject: RE: Laptops
 


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Location: Dunnshargin


Right enough Brian as these are more or less obsolete from the day you buy them. With advances in technology moving so fast you might just as well buy cheap and upgrade every three or four years. Most laptops give you all the functions you need, and external hardware takes care of capacity.
userDave Newell
Posted: 28 February 2007 7:19 AM
Subject: RE: Laptops
 


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I agree with Brian in all but the obsolete part. Any computer is not obsolete if it continues to do the work you require of it. Get one with at least 512MB but better still 1024 MB of memory and the biggest hard drive you can get.

I'm currently using my 3 year old Toshiba with just 256MB Memory, a 20 GB hard drive and a 1.5GHz Celeron and it still does everything I need including basic pphoto editing, DVD playback and TV functions, including schedule recording, with a tuner card. I do agree that when it dies its probably not worth repairing but I expect to get a good few years more use out of this one yet.

D.
userGJH
Posted: 28 February 2007 7:51 AM
Subject: RE: Laptops
 
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I agree with Dave.

My older laptop has a similar spec to his but with the addition of large external hard drive and external CD writer. The main reason for buying the replacement was because it was getting to be a pain lugging the peripherals as well as the laptop round family history fairs. The new one has everything built in.

I'll probably continue using the older one in the office for CD writing because the external drive is faster than the one in the new machine.

Graham
userCliveH
Posted: 28 February 2007 11:11 AM
Subject: RE: Laptops
 
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I think the point to remember is that LCD TV's were a ridiculous price a few years ago. Now a super little 15 inch can be bought in Tesco's for c. £130!

A DVD player for £20. Things have moved very rapidly re price in this area.

We used the Laptop because it was FAR more efficient space wise. The TV software worked very well - no complaint there.

However, I was always very concerned about personal data that was at risk if my Laptop was stolen. How wonderful it would be to have your £500 Laptop pinched and then realise the B*st*rd has got your identity as well!!!!!

No - for the limited time I want to watch TV/films when away - I will stick to kit that costs about £150 and carries no personal information on me and mine. Using a Laptop certainly had some advantages in the past – but unless you really have to use one whilst away (as used to) – I see little point.

But I realise "Risk" is a personal choice.
userBazza454
Posted: 28 February 2007 4:45 PM
Subject: RE: Laptops
 


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Hi Starspirit,

I use both a Fujitsu/Siemens desk top and lap top and to date have had no problems at all. They both appear to be very well made machines.

As Net-traveller says, if it's supplied with Microsoft Vista, you will need a minimum 1GB Ram, 80GB hard drive should be sufficient for your needs.

Check out the following, but obviously don't purchase until you have done a price check on KelKoo.

http://www.dabs.com/ProductView.aspx?Quicklinx=4DS2&InMerch=1

In terms of safe storage of personal data, use a USB Flash Drive, prices are now ridiculously cheap.

http://www.dabs.com/productview.aspx?Quicklinx=3KQG&SearchType=1&SearchTerms=flash+drive&PageMode=3&SearchKey=All&SearchMode=All&NavigationKey=50010
userBazza454
Posted: 28 February 2007 5:13 PM
Subject: RE: Laptops
 


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Hi Maggyd,

To set or change a password, click start - control panel - user accounts - change an account.



Edited by Bazza454 2007-02-28 5:19 PM
userPhilman
Posted: 28 February 2007 5:26 PM
Subject: RE: Laptops
 
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Location: Hertfordshire. - 1993 Swift Royale Fiat 1.9TD


For around £50 you can get an external 250GB Hard Drive that plugs into the USB of your Laptop or Desktop. You can regularly backup everything on it. Keep all personal stuff on it.
Keep it separate from the laptop when on holiday as it's a lot easier to hide away somewhere than the Laptop.
Phil.
userstarspirit
Posted: 28 February 2007 7:36 PM
Subject: RE: Laptops
 


Thanks one and all - some interesting points raised.

I was going to use a usb plug in flash drive to store personal data etc as I can just put that in my pocket or easily hide it when leaving the van and as there will be nothing else on the hd that can't be reloaded from cd or online do I really need an extra hd?
userBrian Kirby
Posted: 28 February 2007 9:39 PM
Subject: RE: Laptops
 


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starspirit - 2007-02-28 7:36 PM Thanks one and all - some interesting points raised. I was going to use a usb plug in flash drive to store personal data etc as I can just put that in my pocket or easily hide it when leaving the van and as there will be nothing else on the hd that can't be reloaded from cd or online do I really need an extra hd?

On the last point, I forgot my personal bete noire, which is the present tendency for computers to be supplied with all the OEM software in a "hidden" partition on the hard drive.  Thus, no reinstallation CDs, so if the hard drive does crash bang goes your software master copies, and you loose a chunk of the stated HDD capacity to hold it all.  I think most do allow you to take it off to CD, but so far as I can tell, not in the original "compressed" format, so it won't fit on one CD.

My final whinge is the bind you get caught in if something does malfunction and it isn't as simple as a dead HDD, or nothing happens when you push the power button.  Hardware manufacturer blames software conflicts, the operating system is OEM, so only the hardware manufacturer's boffins are allowed to deal, but they don't know the OS as well as, say, Microsoft, and just blame the hardware, and round and round and round it bl**dy goes.

Pa in law bought a Dell in 2005 and it suffered intermittent blue screens.  We reinstalled the OS twice under guidance from India, changed the broadband modem (not, of course, Dell supply, so the obvious cause of the trouble) then Pa got ratty and told them he was far too old for all this (he is 90!), and they'd just have to take it away and fix it.  They whinged about the warranty, which was so badly written it could have meant almost anything, but eventually relented, took it back, tested it and returned it saying it was fault free.  Another blue scereen followed in short order, more fireworks, a lot of research on the blue screen error messages, and we convinced ourselves, and eventually, after further, exhaustive on line and diagnostics checks, even Dell that it was either faulty memory or a dud HDD.  Eventually, after seemingly countless e-mails, Dell sent an engineer, who simply installed, without testing anything, a new hard drive and memory chip.  It took hours because the software pre-loaded on the drive was wrong, and had to be fully updated, and it has worked perfectly ever since.  And they'd had the thing in their own workshop six weeks earlier, and had pronounced it fault free.  How so?  Oh well, said Dell, the return was for a software fault, not a hardware fault!  Well, it was returned to Dell because of a fault, and if the software checked OK, why not turn attention to the hardware?  Oh, it doesn't work like that!!  Durrrrr.

Like all computers Dells are fine provided they keep working: but when they don't, be prepared to find their award winning customer support wouldn't actually win any awards from you!

Sorry about that little rant.  Go in peace!

userstarspirit
Posted: 1 March 2007 11:46 AM
Subject: RE: Laptops
 


Your rant would be oh so wrong if it wasn't so oh so right Brian!

Trying to get good service for just about anything is a lottery these days as so very few people give a toss any more.

I would not need to be so paranoid if the whole world was not out to get me.

Perhaps I won't bother with a laptop after all as I'm not really convinced I need one after all!

Some of the many joys of going away are no computer, no newspapers, no TV signal, no telephone (unless I turn it on to make a call)!
usernet-traveller
Posted: 1 March 2007 2:40 PM
Subject: RE: Laptops
 
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It seems a daunting task to buy IT kit but it isn't. It is useful to know a few things to check for so .......

You want a laptop to take away with you so you can check your routes, save your digital photos, do a bit of writing and maybe e-mail, internet and TV. You may also have downloaded some tourist brochures.

You also said that on your desktop PC you haven't used much of your hard disc.

I'll start by naming a few brands and what is known about them.

Acer - used to be part of Siemens but have been sold on.
Dell - mail order only. Has had a rough ride in the IT press, seems to have the same sort of reaction as our friends in Newark.
IBM - good name but comes with a price tag.
Sony - as IBM
Toshiba - been around for yonks, were producing laptops in the days of Windows 3.x (before Windows 95)
HP + Compaq - as IBM
Fujitsu/Siemens - not big in the domestic market but good in commercial.
Packard Bell - used to be cheap & cheerful but is now thought to be reasonable.

A honest PC World assistant did suggest that Patriot, Advent and a few others not mentioned above were somewhat below par.

So I would suggest that you look for 1Gb RAM + 40GB hard drive (more if you can). You should also ask about watching TV because that will affect your choices. All computers have either Intel or AMD processors. In both cases there are slow processors and fast processors and that may affect what you want to do.

I would also suggest that you visit the likes of PC World, Comet, Staples and have a test drive. Easiest way to do that is to get the start menu up then select Run, type notepad and OK. This should bring up the notepad and you can type away. The reason is to check out the keyboard as the keys and pressure needed to get a result do differ.
You should also check the screen. Never mind the physical size it's the resolution that counts. Once again get start menu, select control panel then select display then settings. The more pixels on the display the less you will have to scroll but the smaller the writing, eg 1400x1050 needs no scrolling.
The equivalent of a mouse is either a touchpad or a rubber teat. Go for the touchpad, the other is a pain in the nether regions.
Go for 4 USB ports.

Check that it comes with reload discs (CDs or DVDs). A post from Brian stated that Dell doesn't. I assume that this is because Dell builds to order and perhaps has a interest in relieving customers of a bit more cash as and when.

For travelling I would suggest that you buy a case for it. Doesn't have to be expensive. While travelling store it flat in the bottom of the wardrobe or a drawer so it doesn't wander too much.

Warranty - not usually worth the paper it's written on. Check your yellow pages and see if there are any local PC Repairs or Data Recovery folk around. They will be able to sort out any of your problems and probably a good deal cheaper too.

Refurbished laptops.
An alternative to buying new. Again check your local area as above or try http://www.ittrading.co.uk/default.asp. I have no personal experience of them but they've been around a while.

Computer consumables - memory sticks, hot swappable hard drives - yes they work but have you considered the humble CD preferably CD-RW?
Cheap, simple and can transfer data from laptop to desktop.

One final suggestion. Go online and check the manufacturers websites. You should find information on the product line and where to buy.

userenodreven
Posted: 1 March 2007 3:33 PM
Subject: RE: Laptops
 
1000


Hi,

lots of interesting information, after reading some of the replies i have just purchased a 2gb USB Memory Stick which I will store all of my personal info on and put it in a safe place away from where i store the laptop.

www.autdirect.co.uk 2gb USB Memory stick £9.99 inc vat.

Brian
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