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General computer buying advice


Please do not rush off to P C World, Dixons or Curry's


The reason is that these outlets will sell you a proprietary PC, which is likely an own brand, Compaq or Dell lookalike, and as such uses a proprietary motherboard, power supply and case. This ties you into the outlet for spares and serviceing-and to their prices for failed parts and replacement.

A generic PC is made from standard, inexpensive "Meccano bits". As such, if a part requires relacing, a motherboard can be £22, a PSU £15, a case £22

By buying a £200-£400 PC at £500-£800, you are in effect buying a disposeable PC. The outlets will say-"its not worth repairing, why not buy another upgraded model"...

The other failing of outlet PCs bundles is that you cannot choose the best monitor-say Iiyamas or NEC, etc. All in one printers/scanners/fax are usually not the best way to go-far better to choose the best printer Canon/Epson/HP for your needs and budget, the best scanner Canon/Epson/HP, the best seperate standalone fax machine. [You can fax from Word with xp/2000 and a modem]


Please do not get ripped off-see the base prices below for guidance. Do not buy a warranty unless you are dumb enough to buy an outlet proprietary PC.


Do not buy extra software from these are far better sources. XP Pro £90

AVG anti virus is free and easy, reliable to set up. Norton Internet Security is tricky to set up-ZoneAlarm is free, AdAware anti spyware is free...


Office 2000 can be bought for £10-20 North Hykeham PC Fir or Micromart quite legally.


Samson C01u usb microphone.
Maplin usb telephone handset
Mackie Tapco mixer
PicturesToExe slideshow av creator

SamsonC01u usb2 “studio” recording microphone from
This is a heavy, large solid, but portable mic which plugs directly into a usb2 socket on any pc. It cleverly avoids the noisy interference-prone, poor quality mic analogue inputs of a typical cheap onboard soundcard: the decent sensitivity and very decent sound quality make this item a must for inexpensively improving the usually poor audio mic quality and extraneous noise of a pc soundcard.
It requires no external power supply, no batteries, and has a long lead, stand mount, and with pop filter gives excellent sound pickup for a good value price. Two can be used, each on a different channel for Sound Forge or CoolEditPro etc. The noise level is commendably low, without the hassle and messiness of preamp strips or external mixers and preamps.

It will never match expensive studio mics around £150, which need preamps to line level, but avoids the onboard motherboard interference and noise of a normal soundcard.

Downloadable additional software allows better control of the internal preamplifier, but it works straight out of the box with Win2k/xp.

Cost £79 Brilliant! 10/10

Maplin usb telephone handset for Skype/Netmeeting A87U from

At £14.99 this Maplin C-Audio unit is excellent for giving a high quality telephone handset mic/headphone for voice over ip. The lack of noise and interference is great, quality is surprisingly good. Extraneous sounds are zero, and sensitivity is great without Larsen’s dreaded effects. Brilliant ! Cost £14.99 10/10

Mackie Tapco mixer 6306 at £79 is a very low noise, high quality mixer with inputs for 48v phantom power XLR mics, ¼” jacks, guitar inputs, aux sends and returns, and normal outputs for line main amplification, mix to tape, control room, and phones.

Made by Mackies subdivision Tapco-their original name-it is a brilliant small introductory mixer with very silent noise levels, excellent pre-amp sensitivity. It has only an external 12v plugtop AC transformer, precluding battery operation, which would have been the icing on the cake.

Brilliant! Cost £79 10/10

PicturestoExe is the present global gold standard for Audiovisual presentations: now in v4.6, with lifetime upgrade license fee of £18, it is a brilliant, complete av slideshow program, outputting a single standalone .exe file, which can play from itself-no program required- containing .tiffs, jpegs and stereo downmixed multitrack music and CONTINUOUS NARRATION-unlike Photoshop Elements 4.-.mp3 sound. Via a timeline, slide timings can be synchronised exactly to music. This file can be embedded in a website, and run or saved as usual-giving very high quality .jpeg output with .mp3 sound. Each slide can have buttons, hyperlinks, labels and subpictures; intro slides, exit slides with copyright, timed expiry etc etc.

It can output .avi files.

Cost £18 Brilliant! 11/10

Finally, Automatic Batch Converter from
is a brilliant multiple resizing, reconverting, and “optimising for web” converter.
It quickly and easily converts 90 (yes 90!!!) file types from a folderful to another new folderful of images in 23 types It allows individual cropping, filesize reduction, image size reduction, and for a webdesigner or av producer, is the best answer yet to the horrendous task of resizing say 50 images quickly and automatically as a batch. It can convert thirty file types, best being .png lossless 24-bit files for webpages at highest quality, or optimised .jpegs for lower quality filesizes.

Purists would probably use Photoshop on each individual file, but in the real world, ABC is brilliant, timesaving, inexpensive easy-to-use program.
It also has an extensive editing/conversion program inside-including morphing and slideshows with transitions, and bitdepth conversions: a very inexpensive and useful tool.

A Pictures to Exe file can be reduced in five minutes from 170Mb to 47Mb-and your web server hosting owner will be mightily pleased!

Cost £24 Brilliant! 12/10

Steve Sanford


Full system/data backups held remotely
Data recovery-non-destructive
Film and slide scanning
PC doctoring
PCs built to your spec at cost
Virus and fault cures
System reinstalls
Upgrade advice-broadband, peripherals etc

Email S R Sanford

Computers for sale-All newly built at cost from new parts, excellent value, tested, fully correct
as a no profit service for the good burghers of Welton

Computer Services
Steve Sanford 01673 860054 15 Sudbeck Lane Welton

Full system backups held remotely-Acronis TrueImage 8-reliable and accurate.
Data recovery-non-destructive, memory card data recovery.
Film and slide scanning Nikon 8000 6x6 slides/negs.
PC doctoring, PCs built to your spec at cost. Virus and fault cures. System reinstalls
Upgrade advice-broadband, peripherals etc

Computers for sale-All newly built at cost from new parts
excellent value, tested, fully correct, as a no profit service for the good burghers of Welton.
Excellent upgrades for family, children or relatives-box only All 40Gb harddisk, lots of software, Office 2000, TrueImage backups etc etc. DVDxcopy Express
[Monitor/mouse/keyboard + £60]
Any available with Windows98SE/Win2K/WinXP SP2, bigger hard disks, more memory, DVD rewriters, Photoshop CS etc

Comp One
PC Chips 863G motherboard, AMD Athlon XP2800, [usb2/network /256 3200 memory], modem, Very capable, good, cheap, modern, very upgradeable, neat small case. Brilliant!!!
Norton Systemworks Pro [antivirus and system check/fix]
Acronis Trueimage 8 [easy backups]
Can copy and duplicate CDs, DVDs, has Windows Media Player 9 or 10.
DVD rewriter dual layer +£35

Comp Two
Windows XP Pro 3.0 Intel Pentium 4 800 fsb 265 Mb memory, 40Gb harddisk Asus P4B400 motherboard [USB2, video, audio, network]
Norton Systemworks Pro [antivirus and system check/fix]
Acronis Trueimage 8 [easy backups]
A very modern, fast, capable computer-not Celeron-the real McCoy...!
DVD rewriter dual layer +£35

Comp Three
Windows XP Pro Socket 939 Athlon 64bit, 3500+ 2.2GHz 800 fsb 265 Mb memory, 40Gb harddisk Asus A8V deluxe [USB2, video, audio, network]
Norton Systemworks Pro [antivirus and system check/fix]
Acronis Trueimage 8 [easy backups]
A very modern, fast, capable computer-futureproof, state of the art…
DVD rewriter dual layer +£35

Steve Sanford 01673 860054

Suggested great-value favourite suppliers
Please don't use PC World!
Google for the item you want, then Kelkoo or Pricerunner...!!! a very reliable established company, very excellent services, prices and excellent returns policy. a very reliable established ditto very good prices, delivery etc

TR Computers-secondhand HP Laserjet 4Lprinters, monitors... CCTV, ink... Speedie Computers-secondhand HP Laserjet 4Lprinters, monitors...