QUESTION I used to be able to dial out to contacts whose numbers were held on Smart Address 2000 (Oakley Data Services), using a PC card modem added to my Windows XP desktop PC. I now have a Windows 7 laptop and, as far as I know, no dial-out facility, although Smart Address 2000 still runs. Is there such a thing as an external USB dial-out modem for my laptop? Howard Fuller

HELPROOM ANSWER Yes, you can buy a USB modem. These cost as little as £24 online, but are becoming rather scarce. We found several at, but were unable to track down the 56K modem for your laptop's ExpressCard slot that you'd need to dial out.

Things have moved on in the 10 years since Smart Address 2000 was launched. Broadband, mobile phone networks and PC-to-phone communications using VoIP and instant messaging now fulfil many of our communication needs.

Using a Bluetooth or USB VoIP handset and programs such as Skype and MSN Messenger, you can call your friends' landline numbers. Local and international calls are usually far cheaper this way too. For more on making calls from your PC, see How to make free calls from a PC or mobile phone.

Both Skype and MSN can store contact details and dial them on-demand using VoIP. If you need a program that manages your email, contacts and calendar, and can dial out, consider Outlook 2010.

See also: How to fix everything: the ultimate guide to fixing technology

Free tech support in the Helproom Forum