Skip to content

Author: Jack Schofield

Want to advertise here? Email nathan@basitweb.co.uk to rent this space!

Can an external SSD match the Mac Mini’s pricey inbuilt storage?



David wants a new Mac Mini but doesn’t want to pay Apple’s eye-watering price for a 2TB SSD

My general question is: can a computer that has some of its storage on an external drive with a fast connection (such as Thunderbolt) perform as well as a computer with the same amount of storage inside the computer?

To be specific, I have a 2014 Mac Mini, which is very slow. I am considering upgrading to the latest 2018 version, but I need at least 1TB of storage. Apple can supply the unit with up to 2TB of solid state drive (SSD) storage, but charges an eye-watering £720 per terabyte. If I bought an external Thunderbolt SSD for about £220 per terabyte, would I be likely to see any difference? David

The general question is easy: external drives are slower than comparable internal drives, because the interconnection itself adds an overhead. While you could have a faster external drive, it would be better to spend the money upgrading the internal drive, where possible.

Continue reading…

Is there a way to use Facebook without giving up my privacy?



Eira wants to join because she is missing out on things, but doesn’t want to build a profile

Is it possible to be a passive user of Facebook? I want to read announcements relating to friends and colleagues, and maybe post comments, without building a profile with photos, a timeline and so on. I have managed perfectly well without joining, but occasionally miss useful information that is not available elsewhere. Eira

What’s known as “lurking” – being a member without actively participating – is very common. To quote Jakob Nielsen, “In most online communities, 90% of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute a little, and 1% of users account for almost all the action.” This is known as the 1% rule, and it’s obviously a gross generalisation.

Continue reading…

How can I set up a small website for a local group?



Robin wants to find a way to create a site that doesn’t require coding experience

As chair of our local allotment association, I’m wondering about setting up a website to provide information and news to new and existing allotmenteers. Can this be done with basic tech knowledge and zero experience of web design or coding? There’s a bewildering number of services offering to host websites, sell domain names, provide easy-to-use templates and so on at a range of prices. What are the catches with the free or cheap services on offer?

We have a Facebook group but nobody in the association is very keen to keep this active. Robin

It’s a pity you don’t like the idea of using Facebook because this is generally the quickest and easiest way for a small group to get online. In fact, if an organisation has a physical manifestation – a school, park or church, allotments, a restaurant or so on – then it may already have a Facebook page. If so, you can apply to take it over. If that fails, you can start your own page and compete with it.

Continue reading…

How can I avoid paying a TV licence fee?



Steve doesn’t watch TV and wants to stop paying the UK licence fee, but now it applies to smartphones, consoles and the BBC iPlayer app on all devices

I have a TV set for streaming videos from my NAS, but I have given up on the BBC, and I never watch ITV, Channel 4 and certainly not 5. What exactly do I need to do to stop paying a TV Licence fee? Is unplugging my aerial enough? Steve

In the old world of analogue broadcasting, this was an easy question. “Watching TV” just meant feeding a broadcast signal to a box containing a TV tuner and a cathode ray tube. If you did that in the UK then you needed a TV licence. In today’s digital world, however, you may need a TV licence if your only device is a smartphone.

Continue reading…

What’s the best Windows all-in-one or iMac for illustrators?



AT wants to replace her MacBook Pro with an all-in-one computer with a bigger screen

I’m an illustrator, and I’m looking to replace my old MacBook Pro with a PC. I have a budget of up to £1,500, but would love to spend less if possible (about £1,300). I mainly use Adobe Photoshop for digital painting and editing scanned artwork, InDesign and occasionally Illustrator.

For space and comfort reasons, I would ideally buy an all-in-one. I want a fast processor, lots of RAM (16GB at least) and a good screen display.

Last September, Bernadette, a writer and photographer, asked for a cheaper Windows alternative to her MacBook, and I was criticised for recommending that she stuck with what she knew. Guess what: I’m going to do it again. Anyone who switches either way will lose some of the benefits of years of experience, and will spend time relearning. Lost productivity is a cost.

Continue reading…

How do I recover an email address I lost when my phone was stolen?



Tay’s mobile was taken and his password changed. How can he get back into his inbox?

Somebody stole my phone and changed my email password. I’ve tried to recover it, but I don’t have the phone number linked to my account because my phone was stolen. What should I do? Tay

First, recover your phone number, which is much more important than the phone.

Continue reading…

Can I buy a monitor for photo editing that shows colour like print?



Pa wants the screen image to be true to the print image, but his budget is only £300

I read your answer about the best computer monitor for under £200. I’m looking for a monitor for serious photo editing. I want to get as true to what the print will be like (when printing via online printers). My budget is about £300. Pa

Sad to say, prints can never look like screen images. Screens are bright and display colours using combinations of red, green and blue pixels (RGB). Prints don’t light up so they can’t have the same brightness or contrast range, and they’re printed using cyan, yellow, magenta and black inks (CMYK).

Continue reading…

I got a phishing email that tried to blackmail me – what should I do?



Pauline received a spam message that looked like a sextortion or webcam scam

I got this email today. It says “I hacked your device, because I sent you this message from your account.” It goes on to claim that it has filmed me watching pornography, and demands $698 in bitcoin. Phishing? Pwned? What to do? Pauline

This is generally known either as “webcam blackmail” or “sextortion scam” and the email should have been diverted to your spam folder. Millions – perhaps billions – of similar emails have been sent over the years, but there seems to have been a flood of them over the past few months.

Continue reading…

Which is the best laptop for music production?



Miles uses Visual Studio and wants to use coding program Sonic Pi on Windows, not a Mac

I am a musician and software developer who wants to get into live coding and electronica using software like Sonic Pi and maybe, in the future, Max/MSP from Cycling 74. Most people seem to use Apple’s MacBook Pros, but I have always been a Windows user, and develop software on Windows using Visual Studio, so I am reluctant to switch to a Mac. However, every time I have tried to get a good music-making setup on Windows, I have been beset by latency problems. From what I have read online, it seems the Windows audio drivers, though improved with Windows 10, are still way behind those on MacOS.

I have a Roland Duo-Capture EX and an older Novation X-Station, and I am happy to use one of these as part of my set-up, but I would like a system that is sufficiently portable to make performing with it straightforward.

Your best bet would be to find and cultivate some of the people who compose and/or perform using Windows laptops – there are some! – and ask for advice. Areas like this usually involve tacit knowledge that you only learn by doing stuff for some time, and I have not done it at all.

Continue reading…