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Advice for the Impatient

By Stephen H. Wildstrom Q: Are there any developments for an instant-on notebook? I hate having to wait for my notebook to boot up. Why can't notebooks instantly turn on like PDAs?

A: Actually, a lot of progress has been made in hardware and software to get notebooks to boot faster. Unfortunately, the gain has been offset by the growing number of programs that have to be launched at startup, including the necessary evils of firewall, antivirus, and antispyware software.

A PDA can turn on instantly because it never really turns off. A notebook is a vastly more complex device. It can wake up very quickly from a suspend state, but notebooks can't be suspended indefinitely because they will slowly drain their batteries.

I very rarely shut down my laptop completely. I generally only do it in the case of crashes, which have become blessedly rare, or because a software installation requires it. The best alternative to shutdown is hibernation, in which the computer turns off, but saves an image of everything in memory to the hard drive. Waking up from hibernation is not only faster than booting but it also restores the PC to exactly the state it was in when you shut down. You control how and when a computer hibernates from the Power control panel.

Q: I'm looking to purchase another computer monitor and wanted to know the pros/cons of LCD vs. TFT? Would you please enlighten me about the differences.

A: The tech industry's fondness for TLAs (three-letter acronyms) can make life hard on the uninitiated. At least in terms of notebooks, these are really two abbreviations for the same thing. LCD -- liquid crystal display -- refers to a group of technologies that use electrically sensitive crystals that change from opaque to transparent to allow light to pass through. TFT -- thin-film transistor -- refers to one particular way of activating these liquid-crystal shutters.

Some notebooks used an older LCD technology called dual-scan twisted nematic or passive matrix (DSTN). Prone to ghost images, these screens were neither as sharp nor as bright as TFTs. They have disappeared from laptops but are occasionally found in some lower-cost products. Technology & You columnist Wildstrom's new Help Desk column will appear every Friday at BusinessWeek Online, where tech queries will reach him at

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