Should I Turn Off My PC at Night?
Leaving your PC on permits your system to scan for viruses and to back up data while you sleep, and it lets you avoid the hassle of booting in the morning. But shutting down saves power. What's more, Windows tends to build up garbage and problems as it runs, and a fresh boot a day keeps the errors away.
You should be aware that compromises are possible. One option is to hibernate the PC, which won't get rid of the garbage but will save as much power as shutting down the PC. Alternatively, you can put the PC into sleep mode (also known as Standby), which saves some power (though not as much as hibernation does) and allows your PC to wake up very quickly.
If you use the sleep or hibernate option, you can run maintenance programs in the middle of the night. For details, see "How Can I Get My PC to Boot at a Scheduled Time? "
Can I Boot From a USB Drive?
USB flash drives make good emergency and alternative boot devices--unlike CDs and DVDs, they're writable. Put Linux on a flash drive, and you don't have to fool with hard-drive dual-boot options.
And you can probably do it. Most modern PCs can boot from a USB device if you set them up to do so.
You'll need to go into your hardware setup screen to find out whether your system will let you boot from a USB device. When you boot up, watch for a message about entering the setup program. Once in Setup, look for a Boot menu and then for USB options on that menu. You may need to enable booting from a USB drive and place it ahead of the hard drive in the boot order.
What can you boot from a USB drive? Not Windows XP or Vista, which only work from an internal drive. But DOS, Windows PE, programs that are built around Windows PE, and many flavors of Linux will boot from USB devices.
What Are the Best Sites for DRM-Free Music?
I've taken the pledge! I will no longer buy music in any form that limits the devices I can play it on once it's mine. For that matter, I won't buy music from online stores that insist on installing software on my PC, either.
And upholding that pledge is easier than ever, thanks to sites like Amazon, Audio Lunchbox, and eClassical.
Amazon.com: The big retailer gets the big labels with the big artists. As I write this, Sony BMG is the lone music studio still fighting the DRM-free movement. Amazon offers plenty of artists, both well-known and obscure. Amazon wants you to install its download manager, but it doesn't insist that you do so. Annoyance: Each selection is handled as a separate purchase--so if you buy ten individual tracks, you have to plod through the purchasing forms ten times.
Audio Lunchbox: The selection leans heavily toward little-known independents, many of whom deserve a larger audience. The familiar names tend to be well-aged, including greats like Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, and Jimi Hendrix. Prices for single tracks and albums are a bit higher here than at Amazon, but subscription services can save you a bundle if you buy a lot. Annoyance: You can't get a single track without being told how much better off you'd be with a subscription.
Classical options: If you're part of the "Don't applaud between movements" crowd, you have two excellent specialty sites. eClassical offers a huge collection of respected and eccentric recordings at bargain prices--the complete Brandenburg Concertos for $6, for example. But even better for aficionados, the venerable Deutsche Grammophon label now sells its magnificent recordings online in full-throttle 320-mbps MP3 transfers. Selections aren't cheap--tracks can cost more than $2 each--but hey, its Deutsche Grammophon. (Full disclosure: I'm married to a professional classical musician, and some of the opinions expressed here are hers.)