FAQS! FACTS! FAX!

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February 07

26/02/07

Missing Movie Clips

Hi Rick, I have a couple of questions regarding digital video. I am a complete newbie to DV editing, as you will see. I have made a 10 minute video using Windows Movie Maker. I saved it as a wmv file of 70Mb for the boss to look at and in the meantime was tidying up the various files and collections I have accumulated in the process of working. As soon as I put the files in the trash they disappeared and when I found that I had lost some of the vital clips, which I had edited in the movie, I could not restore them from the trash.

 

I have searched high and low in temp files etc but can’t get everything I need back. I obviously don’t understand how the program stores the clips and edits etc how do I learn about this and avoid doing it again? Can I import the wmv file in to any editing program and edit further? When I try in WMM the clips are missing. I hope you get the gist of what I’m asking and can help

Karen Smallwood

 

A. I understand why newcomers to ‘non-linear’ editing find it confusing, PCs make it all appear so simple and you don’t see any the really fancy footwork that’s going on behind the scenes. The term non-linear may help to explain what’s going on.

 

In the olden days, before PCs got in on the act the only way to edit a video recording was to physically copy clips from a camcorder or VCR to another VCR. This is ‘linear editing’ as the original recording is strung out on a length video tape, and each clip has to be re-recorded onto the second VCR in the correct sequence. In the early days you had to wind the tape back and forth manually but later on the process was automated, using an edit controller, which stored the edit in and out points of each clip on an ‘Edit List’, and controlled the transport systems of the source and record VCRs.

 

Non-Linear editing on a PC does away with all that tape shuttling. The original recording is stored on a hard disc, which means any part of it can be accessed more or less instantly. So, when you edit a recording on a PC and create lots of ‘clips’, they don’t actually exist as such.  The little thumbnails you see on the timeline simply represent the edit in and out points on the Edit List. So when you deleted the ‘project’ files all you were actually deleting was a set of numbers, telling the program which parts of the original recoding you wanted to use, where you wanted them to be in the finished recording, and any other attributes, such as scene transitions, effects and so on. The finished movie – the ‘.wmv’ file – is created from this data, and that does exist, and it can be imported into other editing programs that can read this format (most do).

 

The bad news is that once you deleted the project it probably became unrecoverable. There is some good news and that is your original recording and the finished recordings are both still intact, so if needs be you can go back and recreate the project.

 

23/02/07

Email on the Move

Hi Rick, I am relatively new to computing. I use Outlook Express for my emails. Can you explain to me how I can check my emails when I am away from home please?

Ron Howarth, via email

 

A. This question comes up a lot so here’s a quick run-down or your options. If you are taking a laptop with you on your travels then all you have to do is set up your email account(s) in Outlook Express and when you connect your PC to the Internet you will be able to send and receive emails as normal.

 

Your net connection options are many and various. If you have access to a phone line then you can use a basic dial-up connection and if you are going abroad check to see if your ISP has any local dial-up numbers, otherwise you will have to call home to the UK, which can work out expensive. You can also use your mobile phone for a dial-up connection, provided it can communicate with the PC via a data cable, BlueTooth or Infra-red link. Speeds can be painfully slow if you don’t have a high-speed data facility, and it’s expensive too, especially if you are abroad, so it’s really only suitable for very occasional use and emergencies.

 

By far the best option is Wi-Fi, and you should be able to find a free ‘hotspot’ in most large towns and cities throughout the world, otherwise there are plenty of paid-for services in Internet cafes. Hotels often provide broadband access, sometimes free, via Wi-Fi or through a LAN/Ethernet socket in your room, so pack a connecting cable or you'll have to hire or buy one locally.

 

If you are not taking a PC or PDA then you can pick up your mail on a colleague’s PC or in an Internet café, and the simplest way to do that is though a webmail service like mail2web. It’s free, all you have to do is visit the website, tap in your email address and password and it displays the contents of your inbox, so you can send, read and reply to messages.

 

21/02/07

XP Mystery Restart

Dear Rick, I wonder if you can help? My Windows XP computer restarts automatically. Sometimes it goes for days without doing it and then during the last couple of days it has
done it several times.

Because I share the computer with my partner, I used to assume he had closed it down and so wasn’t aware of the problem initially.  But no, looking back I think it has probably been continuing and getting worse for several months now. I’ve followed your tips and gone into Start Up and Recovery to deselect the Automatic Reboot but it was actually already deselected.

As the problem has continued for quite a time, I’ve no idea at what point to try setting the System Restore and I imagine if I did, it would mean huge problems getting it back up to date.
I’m even wondering if there might be a bit of a conflict with BT Yahoo, BT and Internet Explorer although it can happen even when I’m not online. (We have dial up not Broadband)

Neither of us is very computer literate and we have not therefore installed lots of other things. In fact I can’t think of anything offhand, which was installed just prior to when the problem is likely to have started. Is there a reasonably quick and easy way to sort this out please
Tricia Sabine

 

A. Faults like these can be swines to sort out, but I think we can rule out conflicts between BT and IE, though badly coded websites have been known to frazzle a PC. The first thing I would do is try and see if there is a pattern to it. For example, does it only happen when you are using visiting a particular website, using an application, have certain programs running in the background, accessing a file or drive? If so try and narrow it down to one event and if a program is involved reinstall or check the manufacturer’s website.

 

Does it happen after the PC has been on for a while? This might indicate a cooling problem, so check and degunge the fans on the CPU and in the power supply with an ‘air duster’ (a tin of compressed gas, available from most stationary suppliers). If there is a software problem it may have been logged by Windows, so go to Start > Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Event Viewer and check through the logs to see if there’s an error message that coincides with the time of the last restart. Device drivers can cause this, so pop along to your PC’s motherboard, audio and video adaptor manufacturer’s websites and check to see if there are any updated drivers available.

 

19/02/07

Instruction at Referenced Memory Error Message

Hi Rick, I have used your site to educate myself about computers, as I am about to retire, so a million thanks for it being in my language. I have recently started having an error message when closing outlook express, which says ‘The instruction at 0x77f124se referenced memory could not be written etc., click ok to terminate the program’, which I then do with no ill effects that I can see. Although searching your archive and the Internet I cannot find how to correct it. I wondered if you had any thoughts?

Adrian Wells

 

A. Thanks for the kind comments and after a build up like that I am afraid to be the bearer of bad news and say I haven't the foggiest idea what's wrong! These sorts of error messages are often hardware related and a nightmare to fix as they can be caused by just about anything. I have heard of people tearing their PCs apart, re-installing Windows and still not finding it. It can also be due to recent updates, software installation, Service Pack 2 and so on. If it coincided with a download or install of some type then that’s the place to start.

 

I can find no reference to your specific message but there are a few instances of similar faults being caused by dicky RAM modules. If you have two or more RAM board, or a compatible spare, try swapping them out, Windows XP will launch with only 128 or 256MB installed. If you have a spare video card try swapping that as well, and although I don’t think it has anything to do with Outlook Ex, it wouldn’t hurt to uninstall and reinstall Internet Explorer (OE is part of IE). Failing that, ditch OE and use Mozilla Thunderbird, which is just as good and free.

 

16/02/02

Sending Photographs by Email

Hi Rick, I run windows XP and I have a problem with my photos. The files are too big.  Every time I open an image file in My Pictures, it shows that I am "viewing" at 50% or sometimes even less; if I go to 100% I can only see a small portion of the photo. When I email a picture or two in OE by attaching the chosen pictures from the My Pictures folder the email is slow to send and slow to download (despite my 4MB broadband).

 

When I choose to email through My Pictures, by clicking on ‘Email this file’, I am asked if I want to reduce the size and when I choose yes, the photo goes quickly, but it seems I can't send more than one photo per email this way, so I'm stumped. Can you advise me how to select all my photos and reduce the size of each file and save my friends and family tearing their hair about because of my huge files?

Roger Longstaff

 

A. The ‘size’ of digital photographs often confuses newcomers to computing and/or digital photography, and it’s easy to see why because of the way PC’s can ‘scale’ or resize an image to fit the screen or a window. It gets even worse when you throw things like the number of pixels and file compression into the mix, so let’s start at the beginning, with the camera.

 

The more pixels the camera’s image sensor has the more detail it will capture. The more pixels there are the larger the picture can be printed or displayed, before it starts to look grainy. Conversely it also means you can ‘crop’ the picture  -- i.e. select part of the image – and the pore pixels there are in the original the better the crop will look. The downside to lots of pixels is the size of the picture file, which basically means you’ll get fewer images on the memory card. Most cameras have a ‘quality’ setting, which compresses the data, to make the files smaller so you can get more pictures on the card. What that boils down to is depending on the specification of your digital camera, and the settings you use, pictures files are typically be between 1 and 4 megabytes.

 

Many ISPs impose a limit on the size of email file attachments, there’s no hard and fast rule but 1Mb is not unusual, so clearly you cannot send pictures files hot off the camera as they are simply too large. The ‘Email this file’ option in My Pictures creates a highly compressed version of a selected image file, which it attaches to an email message, it’s small enough to view comfortably view in a message window on the screen, without sacrificing too much quality. You can also do this with other applications, and I highly recommend Picasa, which has an excellent picture email facility. But in answer to your last question, you can send multiple images from My Pictures, simply hold down the Ctrl key and select all of the images you want to send and you will see ‘E-mail this file’ has changed to ‘E-mail the selected items’ click on it and it will ask if you want to ‘Make all my pictures smaller?’, click OK and they will be automatically attached to a blank ‘new’ message.

 

14/02/07

Flash Memory & NTFS Formatting

Hi Rick, I would like to format my CF Card as NTFS but Windows won't let me. For some reason it's stuck in the ancient FAT32 format and is actually much slower at file transfers than my USB hard disk!  It's fine for photos, but whenever I transfer a typical PC work folder with lots of small files it's just ridiculously slow. I presume this is because of the obsolete file system, as flash itself is supposed to be fast.

 

It's a (very expensive) Sandisk Extreme III card and has been confirmed as genuine. Sandisk technical support did not know how to format it as NTFS!  I hope you can help.

Garry Wright

 

A. Although the microcontrollers in some flash memory devices do not support NTFS most do, but there are good reasons for not using it. Firstly the NTFS system is much more dynamic than FAT 16/32; data is being constantly journalled, which involves many more read/write cycles and since these memory cards have a finite life -- determined by the number of read/write cycles -- NTFS formatting will reduce its life expectancy.

 

Secondly, because the card is being constantly interrogated by the PC to check and update the contents, you can't just pull it out of the socket -- as you can with a FAT32 formatted card -- and get away with it. If you do there's a very good chance the data it contains will be lost or corrupted. The drive has to be formally 'ejected', using the Safely Remove Hardware utility in the System Tray, which the manufacturers rightly expect few users will have the patience to do.

 

It may be that your card does not support NTFS but if you haven't already done so try formatting it from System Management (Start > Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Computer Management > Disk Management, right-click on the drive's entry and select Format.

 

12/02/07

Slipstreaming XP and Motherboard Drivers

Hi Rick, I have only recently found your website so this question may have already been answered. Is it possible to build a Slipstream CD with not only XP and SP2 but also the drivers for the various motherboard components e.g. Graphics, Sound, Ethernet etc. so that on re-installing XP on the same machine, XP install will find and install the correct drivers for the motherboard components automatically?

Charles

 

A. For those of you that may have missed it Slipstreaming is a way to combine your Windows XP installation disc with Service Pack 2 and the most recent updates on a single discs, basically to save time if you have to carry out a full re-installation or want to install XP on a new PC. It’s worth doing in any case as a way to backup your installation discs.  If you want to know how to do it have a look at Boot Camps 428 and 429

 

Combining the Slipstream with a set of drivers is certainly possible but I’m not sure it would be worth the time and effort involved. The obvious problem is that it could only ever be used with that one motherboard, you have to ask yourself how many times you are likely to want to re-install XP on that one PC? If you want to have a go then if you refer to Boot Camp articles, you can pop all of the drivers into a folder and add them to the other sub-folders in the main ‘XP2’ folder and they’ll be added to the image. The only problem that might arise is if the drivers take the files over a CD’s 700Mb limit, but the only way to find out is to try. Afterwards, when Windows has been installed you can point requests for driver files to the folder where they are stored.

 

08/02/07

Upgrading USB Ports

Hi Rick, I hope you can help a 71year old silver surfer. Is there any way that I can change my USB 1 ports into USB 2 types?

Monty

 

A. Good news, there is, probably... It all depends on what operating system you are using and the age of your PC, in particular the motherboard, but provided it’s no more than four or five years old, and you are using Windows 98SE or ME, or better still XP, then all you have to do is get hold of a USB 2 PCI adaptor card. This plugs into a spare slot on the motherboard and all you have to do is install the driver, which will be on the supplied CD, and you are in business. There’s plenty to choose from, usually with 2 or 4 ports, and prices start from less than £5 from online sellers like Aria

 

07/02/07

DVD Life Expectancy, Never Say Never...

Hi Rick, when using DVD or CD for backup or storage it would be useful to know if these discs have a limited life span? Do the materials used to make DVDs and CDs deteriorate? Should I buy cheap or expensive, branded name or any?

David Braisher.

 

A. Nothing lasts forever and optical discs are no exception, however, there is a more fundamental question, and that’s the longevity of the devices and drives needed to read a particular media. The point is, even if discs last 100 years (and we’ll come to that in a moment), will there still be PCs around to read them in a century’s time, or even 50 years, or even 25? 

 

We don’t have to look very far to see examples of how this works. Who today has a PC capable of reading 5.25 floppy discs, and they only became obsolete 10 years ago? The 3.25-inch floppy diskette is going the same way as we speak and very few new PCs have floppy drives these days. On the plus side, once data is in the digital domain it is relatively simple to keep copying it to the media of the day, providing of course you have the equipment to read it in the first place.

 

As for CD and DVD longevity, the short answer is no one really knows for sure. Accelerated lifetime tests suggest data on recordable discs stored in ideal conditions should be readable for between 50 and 100 years but since the formats have only been around for 15 years or so and with ongoing improvements in materials and manufacture, who’s to say how long they will last.

 

What can be said with some certainty, however, is that if they are stored incorrectly the data can be lost in a matter of weeks or months. Strong sunlight is a real killer for recordable discs, as is excessive heat and humidity, and it goes without saying – but I’ll say it anyway – that scratches and careless handling can also destroy discs. In short, if you keep your discs in the kind of conditions you would be comfortable in, but without the sunlight, then they should last for between 25 to 50 years, maybe a lot longer, and you can take it as read that good quality discs from top name manufacturers should last longer than cheapo no-name discs.  For complete security it’s a good idea to re-record your data every 10 years, or store a mothballed PC (and the instructions how to use it) along with your discs if you want them to be accessible to future generations.

 

05/02/07

Ripples on the Screen

Hello Rick, during the past few months I have noticed a strange screen distortion. It is as if the inside of the screen is being continually washed over by a regular and constant series of ripples, rather like regular ripples on a beach!  The computer performance doesn't seem to be affected. I am wondering if it is a simple setting problem that I am not aware of and whether you have encountered it before?

Don Roylance

 

A. I can think of two possibilities. The first one happened to me, some years ago, and it all began when I installed a new desk light from Ikea. The lamp is a low-voltage type, with a super-bright bulb on the end of a telescopic arm. In the base of the lamp there’s was a chunky mains transformer and if it came within a foot of a CRT monitor the magnetic field it generated produced something very similar to the rippling effect you describe. Similar things can happen if you have any other mains power devices, or indeed anything with coils or transformers close to a CRT display.

 

The other possibility is a fault. It’s most likely the monitor but I’ve been bitten often enough to know that anything is possible. However, the easy way to check is to substitute a known good monitor, and if the ripples go away Robert’s your mother’s brother... Unfortunately it’s simply not economic to repair most monitors, so if it turns out to be dicky it’s a good excuse to upgrade to a bigger brighter and thinner display (if you are replacing a CRT model). 

 

02/02/07

Standby Kills Laptop Wi-Fi Connection

Hi Rick, when I put my laptop on standby and then open it again I find my wireless link has gone. I can fix that but it is a nuisance.  I never used to have this problem so what have I erroneously altered and what please can I do to sort it?

Alan Kennedy

 

A. Since it used to be okay the most likely explanation is that your machine’s power management settings have changed. This could be in Windows or more likely the Wi-Fi card or adaptors own setup utility. The place to look is Device Manager, press Winkey + Break, select Hardware > Device Manager and navigate your way to your wireless adaptor’s entry. Right click on it and select Properties and check the contents of the Advanced or Power Management tabs for any items that suggest Windows is allowed to switch it off when the computer is in Standby or Power Save mode.

 

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