Q: I am new to broadband and have been turning my computer off when I am done using it. I understand that some people leave their computer...

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Q: I am new to broadband and have been turning my computer off when I am done using it. I understand that some people leave their computer and their modem on continuously. Is this a good practice? Why waste the energy?

— Tom Callahan

A: You’ve hit upon a debate that has been going on for a long, long time. There are two primary issues involved: energy costs and wear on equipment.

Some people think electronic equipment is more susceptible to failure when being turned on or off. Hence, the argument goes, your equipment may last longer if it is left on.

In the old days of PCs, energy efficiency wasn’t much of an issue and hardware was less reliable — especially hard drives — so many users got in the habit of leaving their equipment on all the time. I’ve never seen any formal studies that settle the issue of whether equipment left on lasts longer than equipment that is turned off each evening.

With the rise of concerns about energy efficiency and the advent of Energy Star ratings introduced by the Environmental Protection Agency, the debate has become more interesting. An Energy Star-compliant computer uses about $8 of electricity a year, according to the EPA, while a conventional computer uses $53 over the same period. Quite a difference. Much of the saving is realized by software putting the computer into sleep or hibernate mode when it is not being used for a period of time.

For my part, if I have a computer that doesn’t sleep or hibernate, I’d lean toward turning it off anytime you’re not going to be using it for eight hours or more. If you’ve got an Energy Star-compliant computer, I’d recommend leaving it on unless it’s going to be idle for, say, 48 hours or longer. But more than anything, that last recommendation has more to do with yet another factor that needs to be considered: security.

The longer a computer is left connected to the Internet, the greater the risk of being hacked or otherwise intruded upon.

The EPA offers a nifty Energy Star benefits calculator at: www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=find_a_product.ShowProductGroup&pgw_code=CO.

Q: Successful and prizewinning European movie DVDs can readily be purchased and shipped to the U.S. when requested. Unfortunately the differences in format makes these unplayable here. I assume that there is no Web site that can perform this translation. Is there a legitimate place to perform this service for a fee?

— Gunther Stieneke

A: First, a little background. Televisions in various parts of the world employ different — and incompatible — formats. In the United States (as well as Canada, Japan, Mexico, the Philippines and a number of other countries) the format is NTSC. Europe (along with most of Africa, China, India, Australia and even North Korea) use the PAL format, which offers higher resolution.

Most DVD players sold in countries that use the PAL format can also play NTSC discs; the reverse is not true. There are a small number of NTSC players that can also play PAL discs.

But there’s another snag. Most commercial DVDs are “coded” for certain regions. And most players won’t play discs that are coded for regions other than the one where the discs are sold.

The simplest solution for you would be to buy a “region-free” DVD player. Just search the Internet for region-free DVD player and you’ll find a number of vendors willing to sell you one.

Oh, yes. Software such as Adobe After Effects can perform conversion between NTSC and PAL, but it’s really only feasible to do so before the video is encoded and put on a disc. It won’t, therefore, help with your problem.

Finally, there is a Web site that offers a wealth of information on all things DVD: dvddemystified.com.

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by e-mail to pmarshall@seattletimes.com or pgmarshall@pgmarshall.net, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.