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Author: Jack Schofield

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What’s the best compact camera for travelling?



Dave wants a point-and-shoot camera, but should he just buy a top-end smartphone instead?

I’m looking for a compact travel camera. I presently have a Canon S100 and realise it is old and out of date. In its price range to maybe double its value ($1,000 Canadian or £570), what would you recommend for a simple but good point-and-shoot that also takes top-quality video?

On the other hand, a US camera reviewer suggests buying the best quality smartphone possible, not a camera … Dave in Canada

The Canon S100 was announced in November 2011, and it was one of the best digital compacts of its day. Enthusiasts liked its ability to shoot RAW images, its full manual controls and its 5x zoom lens. It also offered HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography, in-camera GPS, auto-focus tracking with face detection, and could shoot 1080p videos. It wasn’t bad value at £429/$429.95 (US dollars). Amusingly enough, I recommended the Canon S95 in Ask Jack, before your S100 replaced it.

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Will I be forced to upgrade Windows 7 to Windows 10?



Microsoft wants Martin to upgrade Windows 7 to 10 for £120, but what if you can’t afford it or a new PC?

Microsoft has just started its bombardment about the end of Windows 7 and upgrading to Windows 10, suggesting that a new device is advisable and including links to its preferred dealers. Apart from the integrity or otherwise of this approach, I don’t think Microsoft has really thought this through, especially in relation to those who simply cannot afford the £120 upgrade even if their current machine is suitable. The fact that people chose to remain with Windows 7 rather than take the free upgrade to Windows 10 surely tells Microsoft that this forced upgrade is a step too far.

I’ve been using home computers since the late 1980s but have never felt so cornered and dictated to. Martin

Microsoft has a lot of sympathy for your point of view. Software updates are inevitable, because the world changes, new hardware technologies are developed, new features are needed to cater for new circumstances, and new threats need new defences. That’s true for every operating system in the fast-moving consumer world.

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How do I buy a laptop with an encrypted hard drive?



Derek needs to find a laptop with Windows 10 Home’s device encryption to keep his data safe

I want to buy a new Windows 10 laptop for home use, and I want one with device encryption capability, so that the boot drive is encrypted. Until recently, this has only been possible with Windows Professional editions using BitLocker. I now see that if a laptop has the right specification, all versions of Windows 10 can have device encryption turned on.

The problem is that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to get information from mainstream laptop vendors as to whether a specific model supports device encryption. Recent MacBooks are capable of using FileVault and Apple spells out which models support it, so why is this information so hard to find for Windows laptops? Derek

I’m glad you asked because you’re right: there’s a shocking lack of information about device encryption on laptops, and this applies to Microsoft, to PC manufacturers, and to retailers. It’s also something that laptop PC reviewers rarely seem to mention, which makes it hard, if not impossible, to tell how many laptops are compatible with Windows 10’s device encryption.

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How do I stop old USB drives from infecting my new Windows PC?



Jason wants to protect his new high-end laptop from viruses but needs data on old SD cards

I’ve just bought a high-end Windows laptop for video editing while travelling around Europe. What steps can I take to prevent any possible infections from being passed on from previous machines on SD cards and external hard drives? Some of the external hard drives go back to machines from 2004 but I have never plugged any of them into any computers other than my own previous Macs and PCs. I work professionally with video, photography and coding, so all of this data is vital.

I have a five-machine Bitdefender licence but I’d be prepared to use another protection system, and I’ve looked at Sophos Intercept X. Jason

There are at least three things to think about. First, there’s the threat level: how at risk are you? Second, there’s provenance: how much do you know about your devices? Third, how can you mitigate any risks revealed by the answers to the first two questions?

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I need a laptop that can handle CAD and has a good battery life



I’m an engineering student who wants to run professional design and manufacturing systems

I am an engineering student entering into either mechanical or ocean naval architecture. I need a new laptop able to run programs such as SolidWorks and some games, such as Civilization 5 and Stellaris. In addition, it needs to be portable and have good battery life.

I’ve started comparing laptops and think I’ve found a potential candidate: a Lenovo Yoga 730 with an eighth-generation Core i5-8250U, 8GB of RAM, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX-1050 4GB graphics card. Are these good specs for what I’m looking for? Rhya

There’s still a clear divide between ultra-thin-and-light laptops that double as tablets and high-performance laptops designed for running serious software, and you’re looking at the wrong side of it! I like Lenovo’s touch-screen Yoga laptops, and I own a bright orange one. It’s great for email, word processing and web browsing on the move. It’s not really suitable for running heavyweight programs like SolidWorks, where “16GB or more” is the minimum recommended memory.

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Can I abandon a Gmail address that’s getting too much porn?



IMB is receiving explicit emails and is thinking of creating a new account

Someone has been using my Gmail address to sign me up for things online, and I consistently get explicit emails sent to my inbox and my spam box. I have decided to get a new email address, abandon my current one and delete it from my phone account. What will happen to my old email address when I’m not using it? IMB

It’s amazing how little progress we have made in the past 30-odd years. First, any company that still emails people – or adds them to mailing lists – without a “double opt-in” is run by idiots. If anyone signs up for anything, they should get an email that they must click to confirm they really want whatever it is. This remains true even for porn sites.

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Should I use Microsoft Word on a Mac or a cheaper alternative?



Ed doesn’t want to pay an annual subscription for Office 365 and he’s looking for a compatible rival

I chose Microsoft Word for Mac when I switched to a MacBook Pro some years ago. As a writer, I have a very large number of Word files, but with Microsoft moving to an annual subscription model, the cost of remaining with Word is looking prohibitive.

Is there is a cheaper way of carrying on with Word, or, failing that, an alternative word processor with which I’ll still be able to open and edit my existing Word documents? Ed

Microsoft would prefer both Mac and Windows users of Office to move to the online version, Office 365, but it’s still entirely up to you. In fact, you can already use some Microsoft Office programs online, including Word, without paying Microsoft a penny. All you have to do is create a Microsoft Account using any working email address – it doesn’t have to be a Microsoft email address – and you can use online versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint with free online storage in OneDrive. This is exactly the same as Google’s online suite. The main difference is that Microsoft’s programs are better, except for multiuser simultaneous editing.

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What’s the best laptop screen size for poor eyesight?



Chris wants to know if a Windows laptop with a 17in screen would be easier for his ‘pensioner eyes’

For home use, would a 17in Full HD laptop screen be better or worse than a 13in or 14in model? Will the clarity and crispness be better for my pensioner eyes? Chris

According to my pensioner eyes, clarity and crispness are less important than size. And in one of life’s little ironies, increasing the resolution of a screen, to make things look crisper, leads directly to a decrease in size.

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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.

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