August 07


Stop It at Startup

Hi Rick, I'm really tired of programs like Real Player, BBC iPlayer etc. which, when used, insert themselves on your Startup routine. I do not wish to delete these programs but I wonder if there's any way of preventing this happening in the first place as I object to other parties deciding what is loaded on my computer's boot up.

David Broatch


A. You and me also and I disable any program or service that has the temerity to use my Internet connection without asking my permission. You can do this semi-automatically with a decent firewall, which will intercept any attempt to connect to the net, and ask you if you want to allow it. However, the Windows firewall won’t do this as it only monitors incoming traffic, something like Zone Alarm or Kerio will do the job quite effectively, and they are both free.


However, you also need to stop these Startup components running in the first place, and to do that you need to open the Windows Configuration utility. Go to Run on the Start menu and type msconfig then select the Startup tab and all of the miscreants will be revealed.


In XP you can deselect pretty well anything you see there, but obviously start with the ones that are connected with the programs you want to control. Google any names you don’t recognise and you can find out what they do. You will be asked to reboot the system and when it starts you’ll see a dialogue box; check the item that says ‘Do not show this message again’. In the unlikely event you disable something important just go back into msconfig and re-check it. All of the programs on your system will continue to work as normal, all you are doing is stopping them starting (or parts of them starting) with Windows, or searching for updates on the web. This little exercise also has the useful side effect of speeding up boot up. On my system I have only 4 or 5 items enabled on the Startup list, for my anti-virus program, the Firewall and a couple of utilities that I want to start with Windows 



When The Talk Stops

Hi Rick, I have a desktop computer - my husband a laptop. We both use the same TalkTalk broadband account. I can forward e-mails to him be he cannot send them to me. We have a friend with TalkTalk but I cannot send them e-mails, though my husband can.  Her e-mails arrive with us both, but I can't reply! This doesn't make sense, and even TalkTalk were defeated when we enquired - any ideas?

Valerie Wenham


A. If I understand you correctly both PCs can receive incoming mail and your husband’s laptop can send email, but you cannot send mail on your PC, other than to your husband’s laptop.


Apart from the slight twist with you being able to forward emails it sounds like the sort of problem that can be caused by an incorrect SMTP server address (this is the computer at your ISP that handles outgoing email), or more likely, something on your PC blocking your email program’s access to the Internet.  Check the SMTP address first; in Outlook Express you’ll find it in Tools > Accounts, highlight the account name and select Properties then the Server tab. Check the entry in the SMTP box against your account, or the one on your husband’s laptop, which can assume is correct, because he can send emails.


However, the most likely culprits are an email scanner in your anti-virus or security software (no names, no pack drill, but Norton software is often at the bottom of this…), or it could your firewall. Either way, the thing to do is temporarily disable or uninstall these programs, one at a time, and hopefully the emails start flowing again. The fact that you can forward but not send emails is a little baffling, but I’m reasonably confident that it will turn out to be a security component on your computer.



A Fiend Has Sent you an ‘E-Card…

Hi Rick, I received an email, the other day, that said an old friend had sent me an ‘e-card’. I didn't recognise the name but thought that I would have a look and maybe reply that they had got the wrong person. I am normally very careful not to open any emails that might be phishing for my bank details, etc, but I didn't even think that this might be a problem. I clicked on the link, and my virus checker sprang into action, Virus! Trojan! Malware!


I managed to get rid of it using the antivirus software but I think that my main email address, not this one, is now on some kind of suckers list and so now I am getting loads of e-cards, rubbish, and ones actually containing viruses, that my ISP is stopping and informing me about.


How can I stop all of this? I keep putting the offending e-mails on my blocked sender list, (I use Outlook Express) but I don't think that the same address ever sends me more than one email.


Someone suggested using Mail Washer, have you heard any good reports of it? I am running, at the moment, AVG, Sygate Firewall, AdAware and SpyBot. I have not set the Spam filter my ISP provided as it filters out emails that I actually want.

Ron Osborne


A. You wouldn’t believe how many ‘friends’ send me greetings and emails every day. I also seem to be particularly attractive to ‘bored’ ladies looking for a friend (maybe I should send them an e-card), and I can’t tell you how many of my hundreds of bank accounts that I didn’t know I had have been compromised, so that I have to enter my details on a special website.


The current flood of ‘e-card’ nuisances -- and that’s all they are -- will pass, though unfortunately they will be replaced by something equally plausible. All it takes is a brief lack of attention to be caught, but luckily for you your security software – all good programs -- protected you, so no harm was done.


The morals of this story are simple and can never be repeated often enough. Never open emails with attachments from people you do not know. Never reply to Spam, unless you enjoy being swamped by this rubbish, and keep up your guard with regularly updated anti-virus software, an effective firewall and good malware cleaners. As for stopping it, the Blocked Senders list in OE is virtually useless these days for the reason you mention, that most Spam comes from multiple, and frequently changing sources, or there’s no address to block.


I have been recommending MailWasher virtually since it was launched. It is free but I urge all users to upgrade to the paid-for Pro version, which works on multiple accounts, has extra features and gets rid of the nag screens, but above all, it is fair payment for what is a very effective program. 



iGoogle not Behaving

Hi Rick, I recently personalised my opening page in Explorer so that it goes straight to iGoogle but then I changed to Mozilla Firefox but only get their basic opening page.

Mary Sheppard


A. This is a bit of a puzzle because as far as I am aware there are no issues with iGoogle (formerly the Google Personalised Home Page) and Firefox, or indeed any other browser. The only thing I can think of, that might gum up the works, is to use the .com address for iGoogle, rather than the .co.uk address, which could conceivably give some cookies or JavaScript the jitters.


Try this, visit the UK iGoogle home page (http://www.google.co.uk/ig), rather than click the ‘Make it your own’ button, which sets the home page default, go to Tools > Options, select the Main tab and click the ‘Use Current Pages’ button and see if that sticks.



DT Mk2 Odd Message

Following your instructions I have built and used a Daily Telegraph Mk 2 computer for nine months and I have just installed a new Epson printer (R240. Only now am I aware of the following on screen message when loading, referring to the Maxtor hard drive, it reads  -

Ultra DMA Mode 5 SMART - Capable but Disabled. Is this OK?

Peter Keefe


A. S.M.A.R.T stands for Self Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology, it’s a feature on many recent IDE type hard disc drives and as you have probably guessed by now it is a diagnostic utility. The idea is if anything is about to go wrong with the drive, such as the imminent failure of the heads, problems with the magnetic layer or mechanics, it will tell the operating system, which in turn will warn you, hopefully in time for you to do something about it.


The SMART facility is enabled by the motherboard’s BIOS program, there are no performance implications and I have yet to see a SMART warning on any PC I’ve built or used, so it’s not something you need to worry about but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to switch it on.



Reinstalling Windows

Hi Rick, is it possible to reload the Windows software from the Windows XP disc that came with the computer?

Michael Wilton-Cox


A. Yes it is and Windows XP makes it easy (compared with earlier versions of Windows) with a facility called ‘Repair Install’. This lets you reinstall Windows without having to reformat the drive first. All of your programs and data should be preserved, though I advise anyone who tries it to make sure they have everything safely backed up, just in case. A Repair Install will cure many problems with sluggish or unstable systems but it can’t help if the PC is infected with a virus or malware, or there is a serious problem with the Registry.


It’s very easy to do, just pop in the Installation disc and follow the prompts; it takes about as long as a normal AP installation, typically between 45 minutes and an hour. There’s easy to follow, step-by-step instructions in Boot Camp 336. 



Disabled Access for Websites

Hi Rick, I run a web site for my local Operatic and Dramatic Society and I have been told that I am breaking the law because the site is not accessible to people with disabilities. Is this correct and, if so, how are site builders supposed to know bearing in mind that there has been little, if any, publicity about this situation.


Also, where do I begin to update my site to provide disability access - indeed, how must a site be constructed to provide such accessibility? Can I expect a knock on the door at any time and find a man from a web site detector van standing outside?

Ken Nixon


A. Strange but true. Under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 there is a Code of Practice that came into effect in 2004 that does include websites, but I really don’t think you need to worry too much. It was designed to protect people with disabilities from being discriminated against by making it unnecessarily difficult to access information. It is aimed at employers, educational establishments, large businesses and websites advertising jobs and services for the disabled.


The wording of the relevant Code of Practice is rather vague and makes a lot of use of the word  ‘reasonable’, but in theory a disabled person could make a claim against you if your website makes it unreasonably difficult to gain access to services or information but how on earth this can be defined, and what you are supposed to do about it to put it right is not well explained, nor has any case been bought to court in the UK. Nevertheless, there’s some serious stuff, and some good advice contained in the Act and this summary, from the Disability Rights Commission sets out the key points.



Freeview DVD To PC

Hi Rick, what’s the best way to connect a Panasonic DVD Recorder DMR-EZ 45 to a PC? The recorder has a built-in Freeview decoder, which I would like to watch through my computer monitor; on the back of the recorder there are SCART and HDMI sockets. On my monitor there is a DVI-D input and my PC has 2 VGA connections.

Darren Oliver


A. I have to say it’s a bit of an unholy mixture and you’ll be far better off connecting it to a proper TV or video monitor but, depending on the monitor’s capabilities, it should be possible. Without having access to the latter, or knowing its make and model number, it’s difficult to be certain but you might be able to get away with a HDMI to DVI-D cable and these are available in various lengths with prices starting at around £10 for a budget 2-metre jobby. Whilst you probably will get a picture, the monitor almost certainly lacks the firmware and picture controls to get it right, so don’t be too surprised if the picture is misshapen, bits are chopped off or you can’t get the colour, contrast or brightness quite right.



Vegetative Video Projector

I wonder if you have any suggestions on this problem. When I rehearsed my Antarctic talk I borrowed a Sony projector to run off my laptop. I found that it had a green image (looked a bit like a bit of broccoli) on the screen. This was clearly something on the projector since it occurred with another laptop. Should I get a specialist to look at or is there something I can check first?

Frank Brown


A. I’m tempted to suggest getting a greengrocer to give it the once–over but I fear your on-screen broccoli could to turn out to be quite serious. As you may know that Sony projector is a LCD model and inside there are three small LCD screen, one for each colour component (red, green and blue). It’s possible that there’s a shaped-shaped piece of fluff stuck somewhere in the green optical path but it’s far more likely that the actual LCD is faulty. If so it has to be replaced, and I can tell you this isn’t going to be cheap, quite possibly more than it is now worth. If it is still under warranty you, or the owner, might get lucky but either way there’s nothing you can do, so get it checked by an engineer, and keep your fingers crossed.




Recovery Recommendations

Rick, a number of us have had hard drive issues of late. The desktop and laptop PC’s in question are all around 5/6 years old and run Windows XP. Our question is can you provide a summary of what we should look for in the Data recovery software field. At first sight there is a bewildering array of products available, including ‘No win No fee’ companies! Any products you have experienced that do the job on the tin would be a great help.

Steve Rowe


A. The trouble is there are so many different ways a PC can go wrong that if the worst happens there is no single product or service that is guaranteed to get your data back. So rather than worry about which program to buy my advice is not to get into that position in the first place.


A simple backup strategy will ensure that nothing is lost, or at least, never more than a few minute’s worth of work, even if your PC suddenly keels over and dies, and you if you have an old PC tucked away somewhere you can be back up and running in a matter of minutes.


Everyone’s needs and ways of working are different but in my case, where I depend on my office PC for my livelihood, I’ve adopted a near-paranoid boots-and-braces approach. I have a second HDD and every few weeks I ‘clone’ my main drive. I have Word set to back up open documents I’m working on to a CD-R every five minutes and I have Windows do a bi-weekly backup of my main folders to an external USB hard drive (actually a redundant HDD from an old machine in a cheap HDD enclosure, which cost me £15 online). 




Outlook Express Taking Over

Hi Rick, I currently use Outlook Express as my email program but would like to use Microsoft Outlook. When I open Internet Explorer and go to Internet Options > Program and make Outlook my default email program my incoming mail still goes via Outlook Express. Can you help me to sort out this problem?

John O’Neill


A. Even if you set Outlook as your default email client Outlook Express still has a record of your email settings and it will download your email messages if you open it. So the first thing to do is open OE and go to Tools > Accounts, and highlight each entry and click Remove, and from now on try to remember not to open it.


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