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December 2006

28/12/06

Mywebs Mwsbar Error Message

Hi Rick, when I boot-up my Windows 98 I get the following error message on my desktop screen: ‘C:\progam~1\mywebs~1\bar\1.bin\mwsbar.ddl. The system cannot find the path specified’.

 

I have tried putting it in Find and Google but since the program names are abbreviated they cannot help, can you?
Dick Harrison

 

A. The clue is in the *.dll (dynamic link library file) Mwsbar, which belongs to a browser helper object or BHO called ‘My Web Search’, which I assume you have downloaded or clicked on a box to install.  BHOs can be a real pain, especially when they go wrong, as in this case.

 

You may be lucky and find it in Add/Remove Programs in Control Panel, in which case just highlight the entry and click Remove. Otherwise you’ll have to try and uninstall it from Internet Explorer. Got to Manage Add-Ons on the Tools menu. My Web Search may show up in he Name column but it’s more likely that you will have to hunt down Mwsbar.dll in the File column, and you may find several instances. Highlight each one you find and check Disable in the Settings box.

 

If all else fails download a tool called BHODemon, which will definitely seek it out and let you zap it. Incidentally, several readers have written in to say that BHODemon is no longer available. In fact it is still there -- just click on any of the download links -- however the author has suffered a house fire and is no longer updating the program. Here’s hoping he manages to get things back to normal asap, and I am sure he won’t be averse to a modest donation if you find the program useful.

 

27/12/06

OS Upgrade, XP or Vista?

Hi Rick, I currently use Windows ME, now nearly seven years old, and as you know is no longer supported by Microsoft. I’ve recently purchased a new 19-inch flat-screen monitor and a fancy keyboard and optical Mouse. I’m now thinking of replacing the operating system in February with either a version of Windows XP or Vista; the computer is only used for domestic purposes.

 

I’ve followed your columns and editorials for some years now and your understanding of the average layman’s problems have always re-assured me. Bearing in mind the above info, which system would you feel appropriate for me?
Michael Tudor

 

A. I have a horrible feeling that the answer is going to be neither… If your PC is more than 4 or 5 years old it is probably just about capable of running XP but it won’t be a happy experience, and it is very unlikely that it will be Vista-capable.

 

The minimum specs (which should be treated with a very large pinch of salt) calls for a 1GHz processor and at least 512Mb of RAM, and unless you have video adaptor with 128Mb or more of memory you will miss out on all of the fancy graphics. In practice I wouldn't run Vista on a PC with less than 2GHz CPU speed and 1Gb of RAM. It might be possible to upgrade but it’s going to cost you more than a new PC.

 

Head down to the sales, there are some real bargains to had for £300 - £400. It will probably come with a flat screen monitor but you can switch to your new one, or use it in a dual monitor setup. Most new PCs come with XP but if it comes from one of the big name manufacturers you’ll probably get a Vista Upgrade voucher entitling you to a copy of the new OS free, or at a substantial discount.

 

22/12/06

Retrieving Digital Photo Data

Hi Rick, when I take a photograph using my digital camera I can see, on the LCD, the settings used by the camera (ISO, shutter speed and aperture).  When I transfer the pictures to the computer and clear the memory card, this information is lost. Is there any way that I can transfer the settings with the picture so I have a permanent record?

Peter Watson.

 

A. I suspect you are referring to EXIF (Exchangeable Image File Format) data, which is generated by most digital cameras and includes such things as the time and date the image was taken, the make and model of the camera that took it, and as you point out various technical details, such as the resolution, shutter speed and so on. This information is embedded in the image data and not normally visible but it and should travel with the image file wherever it goes, from the camera to the memory card, and the memory card to the PC, until the image is edited. Older photo editing programs, and some recent ones corrupt or discard the EXIF data but others retain it and will let you see it for as long as it is available. One such is one of my all-time favourite picture editing tools, which also happens to be absolutely free, and that is PhotoFiltre. If present EXIF data can be viewed by opening the image and going to File > Image Properties and select the EXIF tab.

 

20/12/06

Using an old PC Monitor with a Playstation

Rick, I wonder if you could sort out a problem that has probably been causing many parents problems for years at Christmas time. We are giving our son a Playstation 2 but only have one television. However, we have three computer monitors. I don't want to buy another television just for the Playstation.  To stop arguments from the rest of the family is there any way that we can run the games machine on one of the computer monitors?

Mike Green

 

A. A lot of us now have small collections of old CRT monitors that still work and quite possibly cost a small fortune to buy, so it seems a shame to throw them away if they can still be put to good use.

 

It can be done and all you need is a little gadget called a Video (or Composite/S-Video/SCART) to VGA Converter. They are not horrifically expensive; Maplinsells one for around £60 and you can find them on ebay for £40 or so, but bear in mind that there will be some loss of quality, unless you shell out for a high-end design costing the thick end of £150. If your monitor is the silent type -- i.e. no internal speakers -- you will have to rig up some sort of audio system as well. 

 

The only thing I would add is that cheapo CRT TVs with 15-inch screens are now selling for £40 or less, and LCD TV prices are tumbling, with 15-inch screens costing under £100, so maybe it is time to give those old monitors a decent burial, at the local amenity tip of course, where they can be properly recycled.

 

18/12/06

Cats and Rotating Screens

My cat has a habit of sitting on the keyboard of my notebook, and today, this resulted in the screen display being rotated through 90 degrees. Whilst on this occasion I could sort out the problem by using System Restore - what did we do without it? - I couldn't find any reference in the XP Help files about how I might return the screen to its usual landscape orientation using the machine's settings. Any ideas?

John Powell

 

A. You won’t find anything in Windows Help because ‘Screen Rotate’ is a function of your laptop’s video adaptor or display software. It’s meant for designers and graphic artists, to allow them to rotate the display to view the screen in portrait mode.

 

The keyboard shortcut that your moggy found was probably Ctrl + Alt + Left Cursor arrow and to get it back again you need to press Ctrl + Alt + Right/Up/Down arrow, though there are other variations and these should be in your owner’s manual or the machine’s own Help files There should also be a set of controls for the screen rotate function in Display Properties (right-click the desktop, select Properties then Setting and look for a Special or Screen Rotate tab).

 

14/12/12

USB Modem Misbehaving?

I am having problems setting up my new broadband connection kit. It has a SpeedTouch modem connected by a USB plug. The ISP’s Technical Help told me to download some software from SpeedTouch, I did this but it has not solved the problem. Technical help then said it was a problem with my machine and was outside their remit, or words to that effect. As I sit watching it now there is a red 'USB' indicator light flashing (It should be steady green), and hovering the pointer over the SpeedTouch ADSL Modem icon next to the clock in the RH bottom corner of the screen gives the message 'Modem not plugged in'.

Alex Herschell

 

A. I think that they are right about the problem being at your end, though I am surprised they didn’t offer any further assistance. The blinking light is a good sign and suggests that the modem and USB port are probably okay, though I would double-check the latter, If you haven’t been using it, by plugging in a USB device, like a Pen Drive, Digital Camera and so on, and make sure they are working properly.

 

If the USB port checks out, as I suspect it will, then the PC is not communicating with the modem and that is almost always due to a driver problem. I suggest that you go back to the SpeedTouch website and make sure that you have downloaded the correct driver for your modem and PC operating system. However, before you try re-installing it again completely uninstall any previously installed software as it not unknown for older versions of software to conflict with later releases. Try again and make sure that you follow the ISP’s installation instructions to the letter. 

 

13/12/06

Zone Alarm Blocking Net Access

Hi Rick is there a problem with Zone Alarms blocking Internet connections? When the computer first boots up it connects okay but after the screensaver has been activated the connection is lost, unless ZA is shut down, or the computer rebooted.  The same problem occurs if the computer is started from standby or hibernation. I cannot find any reference to this in the help or FAQs, most relate to inability to connect after installation

Lenny Liew

 

A. This feature is by design. The idea is if you leave your PC unattended for any length of time -- i.e. the screensaver kicks in -- Zone Alarm automatically protects your PC’s Internet connection from unauthorized access. Obviously this is inconvenient if you are the only one using your PC but in an office environment it could be very useful.

 

To switch it off double-click the ZA icon in the System Tray, select Program Control, under Automatic Lock click the Custom button, uncheck ‘Lock when Screensaver activates’ click OK and exit the dialogue box. 

 

11/12/06

Rotating Screens and Disobedient Icons

Hi Rick, I have a question regarding my desktop icon layout and screen rotation.  I have an LCD monitor and Windows XP Home. I often rotate my screen 90 deg. left and then back to standard landscape.  After rotating back, my icon layout changes.  I wish to avoid this behaviour and preserve my icon layout for the standard landscape orientation. Any solutions, and I would consider upgrading graphics card if it helps?

Jeff Brown

 

A. You shouldn’t need to make any hardware changes. There are a number of applications and utilities that promise to freeze or store your icon layout. I haven’t had a chance to try them all but one I have used in the past is Desktop Restore. It’s freeware, really small (the download is only 78kb) and it works as a Shell Extension, which basically means it is integrated into the desktop right-click menu.

 

08/12/06

Sounds Peculiar

Hi Rick, sounds and music on my PC is fine, except when the PC does some computing and the sound becomes distorted. I have XP SP2 with a Pentium (4) 3.GHz CPU with 1GB of RAM. What's wrong? Great site, it's one of my home pages, hate to miss anything.

Brian Edwards

 

A. These days PC sound problems are quite rare, I can remember struggling for hours, if not days, with disobedient sound cards, rogue Interrupts, messy IRQs and flaky drivers, and if you’ve not come across them before, consider yourself very lucky...

 

It would have been helpful to know a little more about the audio side of your system, such as is the audio adaptor integrated with the motherboard or is it a separate plug-in card, and if so what make or type, but I think we can make a start on fixing it.

 

Nine times out of ten it’s a driver problem, so start by visiting the motherboard or sound card manufacturer’s website and download the latest audio driver. Next go to Device Manager (Winkey + Break > Hardware > Device Manager), double-click on ‘Sound, Video & Game Controllers’ then double-click on your sound adaptor.  Select the Driver tab, click the Update button and when prompted locate and install your newly downloaded driver.

 

If that doesn’t work it then there are two possibilities. Either the audio adaptor is faulty, or some other piece of software is interfering with it. Is there a pattern to the distortion and does it only happen when a particular program is running?  If so check the manufacturer’s support site for any known glitches. Otherwise, if you have an old PC with a soundcard try swapping it for the old one. 

 

06/12/06

What are those Keys For?

Hi Rick, I’m enjoying your current Boot Camp series on getting LPs and cassettes etc. on to PC. Now for my problem. On the bottom row on my keyboard on my first class Acer Aspire there’s the Ctrl and Alt keys, the Microsoft flag, Alt Gr and the washboard-with-arrow head thingy.  Is there a definitive list anywhere of all the combinations or at least some sort of clue for any of these mystery keys?

John R Suttle

 

A. As you know the functions of the Alt, Ctrt and ‘F’ keys change according to the application but there are some constants, like Ctrl + C, Ctrl + V, Ctrl + P and Ctrl + Z for Copy, Paste, Print and Undo, for example, and F1 is almost always Help. Normally you will find a list of keyboard shortcuts in the program’s Help menu. As for those others, the ‘washboard’ as you call it is actually a duplicate right-click mousekey but you might like to have a look at this Top Tip for the others and to finish off, here’s a more or less complete list of Windows key (Winkey) shortcuts

Winkey + B = Set focus on Taskbar

Winkey + Pause/Break = System Properties

Winkey + E = Windows Explorer

Winkey + D = minimize all windows/desktop

Winkey + F = Find

Winkey + F1 = Windows Help

Winkey + F + Ctrl = Find Computer

Winkey + L = Lock Desktop

Winkey + M = Minimize all windows

Winkey + R = Run dialog box

Winkey + Shift + M = undo minimize all windows

Winkey + Tab = cycle Taskbar buttons

Winkey + U + Utility Manager.

 

04/12/06

Sounding Out Dell Laptops

Rick, love your Boot Camps. In BC 450 you say ‘Virtually all PCs and laptops have a 3.5mm minijack stereo line input socket’. Unfortunately my Dell Inspiron laptop, bought this year, only has a microphone socket! Is there something that I can get to connect the line out from my Hi-Fi to my laptop so that I can preserve the music on my LPs?

Nigel Lewen

 

A. Thanks for the encouragement and my commiserations for the Dell glitch. If it’s any consolation you are not alone and the audio facilities on some Dell laptops has been a bone of contention amongst owners for some time. There is a solution and this should work with any similarly handicapped PC and that is to use a USB audio adaptor. There’s quite a few of them to choose from, the best-known being the Griffin iMic, which gives you both stereo microphone and stereo line inputs; it has some internal processing and by all accounts the quality is very good. It’s widely available; try Amazon.co.uk, which has them for around £21.

 

01/12/06

What's In A Name?

Dear Rick, can you please tell me the difference between a laptop and a notebook?

Veronica Daley

 

A. I'm not aware of any formal 'industry-standard' definitions and these days the two words are generally interchangeable. Originally notebooks were small laptops but there are no clear dividing lines. Nevertheless I did some digging around and came up with a couple of fascinating facts.

 

The use of the word 'Laptop', to describe a portable computer goes back to the very early days, 1983 in fact and it was first used by the Gavlian Corporation when it introduced the Gavlian SC 'Laptop'.  The earliest occurrence of 'Notebook' dates back to 1989 and the NEC Ultralite, which broke new ground with a footprint around the same size as a sheet A4 paper. 

 

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