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December 2007

 

30/12/07

Laptop to Car Stereo

Hi Rick, I want to play my laptop through my car stereo. There is an auxiliary socket for an MP3 player on the stereo but when I connect up, using an ordinary audio lead from the socket to the headphone output of the laptop, the sound quality is poor with a lot of background noise. Is there a solution or should I abandon the idea?

John Baker

 

A. I hesitate to ask why you should want to do such a thing, but it should work. The signal coming out of the headphone socket on a laptop is essentially the same as that as any other electronic/audio device with a headphone socket. The output levels on some models can be a tad higher, though, so if you havenít already done so, experiment with the volume control, on the laptop. Windows also has some audio output options in Control Panel  (Sounds > Volume tab, click Advanced button and try the various Speaker Setup options).

 

The other two options are to purchase an USB audio adaptor Ė they cost around £5 - £10 from online sellers -- and these have headphone outputs, which may be better suited to your car stereoís input circuitry. Otherwise you could try a wireless Ďsenderí. These are basically low power stereo VHF FM transmitters that you plug into the laptopís headphone socket and you tune the car radio to the senderís output signal. These cost from around £10 upwards, though I have to warn you that the quality of the budget models Iíve tested is not very good.

 

27/12/07

Mystery Files

Dear Rick, I check my PC with SpyBot weekly and find the number of files being checked increases although I haven't added any more programmes etc. Is something being added to my PC without my knowledge?

D. Rhodes

 

A. In a word yes. Your PC is constantly creating new files without your say so. The vast majority of them are perfectly legitimate and mostly concerned with housekeeping functions, like error and activity logs and so on. Windows and the applications you use also create a great many temporary files. Most of them will be automatically deleted when you exit Windows, but if your PC crashes or freezes these can be left behind. Web surfing generates a lot of new file activity with downloaded updates for the operating system and your applications; your browser is probably set up to automatically download and install plug-ins without asking.

 

Malware also comes in through this route, though hopefully SpyBot (and preferably at least one other cleaner) will take care of these, then there are email attachments, anti virus signature file updates, then there are all of those multimedia files, if you have a digital camera or audio player and the list goes on, but as long as your PC is behaving normally, you take all of the usual anti-virus, malware and firewall precautions, and you have plenty of free hard disc space, thereís no need to worry.

 

24/12/07

Slowdown after Updates

Hi Rick, I don't know if you can shed any light on something I have just started to experience.

I am a frequent PC user and am well aware of the 'foibles' of the software I use but since a bunch of 'security fixes' auto loaded down from Microsoft a couple of weeks ago the initial opening of my home page takes ages. Once up every thing runs as normal. The phenomenon does not affect Outlook Express, which starts up and connects in the normal timescale.

I removed Norton, which I thought might be part of the problem but nothing gained. Communication with my ISP's helpdesk and performing several 'procedures' at their request has not resolved the problem. Are you aware of any one else experiencing this?

Warwick Prior

 

A. Security updates are frequently blamed for slowdowns, and for good reason, there have been some really dodgy ones in the past but Iím not aware of this sort of problem associated with the most recent batch, released on December 11th. Thatís not to say they havenít affected your PC and most of them were concerned with IE6 and IE7 so they must be high on the list of suspects. The first thing to do is take a look at MS Knowledgebase article 942615, which relates specifically to this update, and then try uninstalling it, to see if that makes any difference. You will find it listed in Add/Remove Programs in Control Panel.

 

If itís not to blame I suggest putting it back and then looking at any other programs you have installed recently. Other things to try are to see if thereís a more recent version of Internet Explorer, run a couple of malware cleaners (youíll find several excellent free ones listed on the Software page of my PCTopTIps website), and also see what happens when you temporarily disable your anti virus scanner and firewall.

 

20/12/07

Mac Attack?

Hi Rick, I recently purchased a new Apple Mac notebook.  Will I need an anti virus program and if yes, which one do you suggest?

Lorenzo Zanacchi

 

A. In theory you do not need one since there is no viruses Ďin the wildí that can as yet affect the current releases of OS X (though there are one or two flaky Trojans), but never say neverÖ

 

I certainly wouldnít bother buying any anti virus software but if youíre a better-safe-than-sorry sort of person, then have a look at a freeware virus checker for the Mac called ClamXav.

 

Itís worth having on your Mac if you run Virtual PC and just in case some idiot goes ahead and develops one of the theoretical exploits that have been doing the rounds, though the chances of it spreading at anything like the rate of a Windows infection are vanishingly small as there are so few Mac users.

 

17/12/07

Clean Bill of Health

Greetings Rick, one of my colleagues who is a computer engineer has been telling me about a software called Super Anti-Spyware.  He maintains that this is the best anti spyware program he has ever used and thoroughly recommends it.  Have you any thoughts on this program? I would be interested to hear of another opinion.

Robert Palmer

 

A. Coincidentally I was already looking at this program, and the first thing I do when checking out malware cleaners is to see if it is listed as a Ďrogueí on the excellent Spywarewarrior website. Rogue cleaners, and there are scores of them, try to trick you into paying for them by reporting false positives, and in some cases actually spiking PCs with malware.

 

I am happy to report Super Anti Spyware isnít on the list, but it does turn up elsewhere on the site, on the list of Trustworthy Anti Spyware Products, so itís off to a good start. Iíve been using it on my main PC for a few weeks and so far so good. It didnít find anything new after scans from my regular malware cleaners so it will have to wait until I can get around to giving it something really nasty to chew on, but Iím happy to include it alongside the other free cleaners I list on the Software page of my PCTopTIps website. As I have said many times in the past, you canít have too many good malware cleaners as no single program can possibly hope to detect all of the infections floating around the web, so this one is a useful addition to your armoury and a weekly scan with two or more cleaners should keep your PC clear of nasties.

 

13/12/07

Cross Border DVD

Hi Rick, I recorded some TV programs on my Panasonic HDD recorder and then edited it (on the recorder) onto a DVD, and sent it to a friend in the US. It won't play on their DVD player. The DVD ran OK on my player, also on my PC. Is it possible to send such a DVD thatís payable on a US TV? Is there a facility on Nero, or such, to tweak it?

Ray Woodyear

 

A. Youíve run afoul of cross-border incompatibility caused by the differences between the 625-line PAL colour TV system used in the UK, and the 525-line NTSC system, used throughout North America, Japan and parts of the Far East.

 

Unless your friend can get hold of a multi-standard DVD player and TV the only way theyíll be able to watch your discs is if you convert them to NTSC format during the authoring process. A number of freeware programs that will do it, such as GUI for DVD Author, which you will find in the software section of my PCTopTips website. However, itís all a bit of a palaver and youíll have to use a Freeview dongle to make a recording of the programmes on your PC, or get the recordings you have on your HDD recorder into your PC with a video input card or something like Pinnacleís Dazzle video to USB adaptor. You can then re-author the recording in NTSC format and burn a DVD using Nero. If anyone can think of a quicker or simpler solution please let me know.

 

10/12/07

Disabling Drives

Hi Rick, following your instructions I have assembled a computer complete with two hard drives. I use Casper to copy from the first to the second drive. It seems to me that it would be better to have the second drive switchable, so it would only be running for a short period when using Casper.  Is there any way this can be achieved without opening the case and physically disconnecting the second drive?

Peter West

 

A. Iím not aware of any way in Windows to power down an individual drive, nor do I think this would be a good idea. Strange as it may seem the best way to ensure that a hard drive leads a long and healthy life, is not to keep switching it on and off. Statistically, and in the real world, the most likely time a drive will fail is when it is powering up or down. Thatís the time when it is must vulnerable to electrical and thermal shock, and all I takes is a few broken bytes to render it useless. Modern hard drives are incredibly reliable and most will outlive the rest of the hardware they are connected to, so leave well alone, and avoid switching your PC on an off any more than is strictly necessary and you data should be safe (though route backups to removable media is a sensible belt and braces precaution).

 

06/12/07

Life after Apple

Hi Rick, my Windows XP Pro PC went bust Ďbig timeí so I have invested in an Apple Mac and have been successful in migrating across to Tiscali using Wi Fi Airport Extreme. To keep some Microsoft capability I activated an old laptop and wonder if it is possible to use this to access my broadband Internet with the following kit, albeit with reduced capacity:  Windows 95 2nd Edition, Xircom Credit Card Modem 56, spare micro filter from my Wi Fi setup, and 

a telephone cable.

James Wilcock

 

A. Itís not a bad idea to keep your options open but Iím afraid you wonít be able to simply plug your old laptop into a phone socket and surf the net. (By the way, Iím assuming that you mean Windows 98 Second Edition).

 

Your PC card modem is only capable of making a dial-up connection, which might be okay for emergencies or when you are out and about but in order to hook up to your broadband you need to connect the PC to the AirPort Extreme by an Ethernet cable, or through a wireless (Wi-Fi) adaptor.

 

Check to see if your PC has an Ethernet socket Ė itís a little larger than the standard US type telephone cable socket fitted to most PCs. If not you could try a PC card or USB Ethernet adaptor; though make sure it comes with a Windows 98 driver. Once connected simply run through the Win 98 Internet connection Wizard and it pretty much configures itself.

 

Wi-Fi adaptors are also available to fit PC Card slots and USB ports, but once again, they must have support for Windows 98. Setup is usually fairly straightforward but you will find it easier to temporarily switch off wireless encryption, and turn it back on again once the connection has been established

 

03/12/07

Hide Cursor Whilst Typing

Hi Rick, did I dream it or was there once a facility in MS Word (or other software) for making the cursor disappear from view, when starting to type? How often do we click in a cell/document, type in some numbers/letters and then find our text has been obscured by the flashing cursor? It's annoying to have to stop and move the cursor in order to verify the data that has been input.

Hugh Sawyer

 

A. No you werenít dreaming but Iím not aware of such a facility in Word. I think the one you are referring to is in Windows, and in XP and Vista you can get to it by going to Start > Control Panel, double-click the Mouse icon and select the Pointer Options tab then deselect ĎHide Pointer While Typingí and click OK

 

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