PC Doctor October 19, 2011

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Dear PC Doctor,

What is 3G and WiFi? I know they're something I use on my cell phone to go online but I don't understand how they work or what they mean. (Sorry for a not very computer-related question).


Dear Marsha,

You are correct when you say that both are wireless internet services for many phones, including almost every smartphone out there (iPhone, Android, BlackBerry etc.). The difference between them is that they're two different ways of receiving the wireless data. Wifi is used by many other devices, such as laptops, to access the internet. The library has a free wireless network which anybody can use to access the internet on their mobile device (laptop, cellphone, e-reader, tablet for a few examples) but only when you are in a certain range of the library building. You're most likely not going to be able to access the library's WiFi network from your house unless you live next door! On the other hand, you may already have a wireless network for your house.

3G is the third generation of mobile telecommunication for all kinds of devices, but mostly just for smart phones. You're not going to be able to connect to 3G with your laptop unless it's specifically able to do so. It also requires a contract with a mobile phone company, such as Verizon or AT&T. It has limitations, like WiFi, where you need to be within range to have services. However this is less of a problem since you'll have service typically wherever cell phone towers are. Typically, WiFi is faster than 3G but that all depends on the speed of internet being broadcast over the WiFi network you are accessing.

Usually, you'd want to use WiFi whenever you're near a wireless network and 3G whenever you're out and about. However it's typically not something to worry about physically “switching” to and from since your phone will probably already manage that itself. Beware, that you may need a 3G connection to receive picture/voice text messages.

You may have recently heard of 4G, the newest type of mobile telecommunication for cell phones. It's only the next generation in the types of wireless networks in succession to 3G. Each successive generation (which comes out almost every ten years) uses new frequency bands, higher data rates and updated transmission technology. To be precise, the “4G” that's currently available isn't exactly the 4th generation, but more like “3.9”. It's almost there, but not quite.

            PC Doctor

Dear PC Doctor

My friend has a Mac computer and I'm actually kind of jealous of him. It looks really nice. One thing he showed me that I thought was cool was that, when he plugged in an USB thumb drive, it made an icon on his desktop. He could double click on the icon and go right to his thumb drive! Is there something like that for Windows?


Dear Pete,

That is a feature on the Mac OS that I find pretty cool and handy. Indeed, there is a somewhat of a work around for Windows. It's not something that you can turn on in Options or anything though, you'll have to download extra software for it. It's called “Desk Drive” and it works pretty well. Check it out at www.blueonionsoftware.com/DeskDrive.aspx. It doesn't say that it supports Windows 7, but it worked great on my computer.

Window's version of Mac's dynamic drive icons is AutoPlay. Ever get the annoying window pop up when you plug in a drive or put a CD into the drive? You can change the settings there so that the folder for the USB drive automatically opens when the drive is plugged in. A little annoying maybe, but convenient.

First, if AutoPlay isn't turned on, you'll have to do that. Go to Start, then Control Panel, then Hardware and Sound and then click on AutoPlay. Check the box labeled “Use AutoPlay for all media and devices” and click Save. Plug in your drive. The AutoPlay box should soon appear. Check the box labeled “Always do this for pictures” (this may differ, depending on the content on the drive). Then click the option labeled “Open folder to view files using Windows Explorer” Remember, when you're finished with using your drive, make sure you eject it before disconnecting! (Hint: My Computer>Right-click drive>Eject)

            PC Doctor

Until next time… happy computing!