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Issue #181: January 9, 2011

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Q: I read your column last week and saw something that I would be interested in to find out if my computer has it and how can I make it work. I have a landline that I only keep connected because I need to fax documents at least once a week. I have Paperport that came installed on my computer, but it seems to require the landline to work. How can I tell if my computer has a way to fax documents without using a landline? It would be great if I could scan my docs and then send them by fax using the computer. Any help would greatly be appreciated and it would save me $30-40 a month. 

– Adrian W.
Crestview, Fla

A: When you send a fax you are, by definition, using a fax machine or equivalent to send a copy (or “facsimile”) of a document to another fax machine or equivalent.  Universally, these machines are hooked up via phone lines, because fax machines are a dinosaur remnant of the days before the Internet revolution.  There are a number of web-based facsimile services out there.  These involve you sending the service an electronic copy of the document you want faxed, then they fax it for you.  The modern day equivalent of faxing is e-mailing documents as an attachment.  It is far more reliable and faster than faxing.  This, by the way, is even how you get documents to the web-based faxing services.  So, to answer your question, NO computer has the ability to fax documents without using a phone line, but ALL computers connected to the Internet can use web-based services to do the faxing for you.  By the way, the “fax service” that I mentioned last week is a something that runs in the background on a computer that is equipped with a fax modem.  It manages commanding the modem to send and receive faxes.  It is often left enabled by default whether you need it or not.

Q: I’m 75 yrs and fooling around with computers (with no pro training) and have my first thing to pop up – “Low Disk Space” – and I am not sure how to handle this potato. What do I keep and what do I delete? 

– Nancy L.
Destin, Fla

A: Ah, for the days when the worst problems we had with our computers was running out of disk space!  Well, Nancy to explain it in simple terms, your computer has type of disk storage that retains its contents when you shut the computer off.  The storage is used for the operating system itself, as well as any files you create or acquire, such as pictures, music, movies, documents, and so forth.  It is unlikely that you can make the problem simply go away by deleting files – that would only be a temporary solution that would last until you’ve again used up the space.  So it sounds like you need a larger hard drive, or a second drive that you can use for storing your files.  In the mean time, there are several things you can do to reduce the amount of disk space you use.  First, make sure you empty the Recycle Bin that is sitting on your desktop.  Deleted files can easily accumulate in there, using up space that you thought you recovered already.  Second, go to the Windows Control Panel and uninstall any software you don’t need.  Some programs are quite large, and you can get back a large piece of storage by removing them.  Finally, in Internet Explorer, go to Tools->Internet Options.  In the dialog the pops up, go to the General tab and select Delete under Browsing History.  Use the dialog that comes up to delete all the garbage that IE has collected over time.  Remember, unless one of these actions frees up a massive amount of space, this is only a temporary solution, and an upgrade is probably in your future.

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