March 2007


Old Movies to a PC and Beyond

Hi Rick, is it possible to transfer my "movies" from an old Sony Video 8 Handycam to my L10 Toshiba laptop computer? I usually show my movies through TV and then on to videotape. I would like to try and keep up with all this new technology, rather difficult at my age, but it would be good to be able to then copy them to disc. My old VCR is still in excellent order, and I would prefer not to have to buy a new one.

Margaret. Smith


A. Your timing is impeccable and I have just finished off a six-part Boot Camp series of articles (don’t worry, it’s not as long-winded as it sounds…) on copying recordings and home movies on ageing VHS and camcorder tapes onto DVD, using your PC. I mention some of the commercial packages available, and very good they are too, but the object of the exercise was to do it using only freeware.


Normally the only thing you will need to buy is a video adaptor module, one end plugs into your PC’s USB port and the other one goes to the analogue audio and video outputs of your camcorder. The actual procedures are very straightforward and, depending on the amount of tmie and effort you spend on editing out the wonky bits, the end results can look very professional.



Compatible Cartridge Maker Sued?

Rick - help! I print a lot of my own photographs and through expensive trial and error in the past have settled on inks made by Printrite. My supplier now tells me that Printrite has been sued by Epson and has stopped making inks. I can find no reference to this on the web and wonder if it is fact. Any comments - especially any that would enable me to carry buying Printrite, or can you recommend other makes that are satisfactory?

Colin Baker


A. That’s a new one on me and I can’t find any reference to it either, though I do know that from time to time printer manufacturers can get a bit miffed by companies making ‘compatible’ cartridges. It might just be a ploy by your supplier to steer you to another make. As far as I’m aware Printrite are still selling Epson carts on the web but you never know and now might be a good time to put in a bulk order. It probably wouldn’t hurt to try out a few more brands as well, so you have a backup in case they stop selling them.



Faster Vista With Flash Memory

I was persuaded when I bought my new PC that Vista start up could be speeded up with the use of a Memory Pen inserted in a USB drive.  If this is correct, how does this work and how do I go about it please?

D. Jenkins.


A. You are referring to a Vista feature called ReadyBoost, it won’t make any difference to the time it takes the PC to boot up since it doesn’t get involved until Windows has finished booting but it can help speed up the PC thereafter. The idea is Vista uses a USB memory stick as a temporary cache memory, to store files and data that it needs to get at in a hurry. Solid-state memory is a lot faster than a disc drive, and it takes the pressure off the PC’s RAM memory. The only caveats are that the PC requires a USB 2.0 interface (not a problem as most PCs made in the last 2 years will have it) and the Flash memory needs to be at least 512Mb and fast enough to handle the data. That’s the catch, only the most recent Pen Drives are ReadyBoost capable, so unless you have one to hand you’ll probably have to buy a new drive to take advantage of the facility. We covered ReadyBoost a few months ago in the Vista section of PCTopTips and the MS Website



Monitor Resolution Won’t Stick

Hello Rick. I am running XP SP2 on two computers sharing keyboard, monitor and mouse via a KVM switch.  I have just bought myself a nice shiny 19-inch LCD monitor and there is a slight problem that if I don't switch to a particular computer when it boots up the screen resolution is way off the screen. I have tried to resolve the problem with the manufacturers of the monitor but to no avail. Incidentally the same happens if I connect the monitor directly to the computer after it has booted up. Any help would be appreciated.

Ted Wooller


A. For anyone that hasn’t heard of a KVM Switch, it stands for Keyboard, Video Mouse, and is basically a little box that lets you control two PCs with a single keyboard, monitor and mouse. The key feature is that it tricks the PC into thinking a mouse, keyboard and monitor are connected to one of the PC when the other one is using them, by mimicking the signals the PC would normally expect to receive from these devices. However, although an early suspect I am fairly sure this has nothing to do with it, since you say the problem occurs when you connect the monitor directly to the PC. That narrows the field significantly, to the graphics adaptor, its driver, Direct X, or the monitor. The latter you can easily eliminate by substituting your old one (or try your new monitor on another PC).


Assuming that gets a clean bill of health then I would first update your video driver by visiting the graphics adaptor card manufacturer’s website, (or the motherboard maker’s site, if the adaptor is an integrated type). If that doesn’t work try updating to the latest version of DirectX from the Microsoft website and as a last resort, try a new graphics adaptor



System32 Folder Opens at Startup

Hi Rick, I have a minor but irritating problem, which I hope you can help me resolve. Recently every time I load Windows XP the C: Windows System32 folder also opens. I close it and everything is fine until the next time I start up and bingo its back again. Can I stop this happening?

John Clark

A not uncommon problem and it is usually due to a corrupt Registry entry, or the tail end of a ‘malware’ infection that has been removed. I’m afraid the only way to fix it is to delve into the Registry, it’s not difficult but it is imperative that you make a backup first, and there’s details of how to do just that in this
Top Tip.


Once that is done open the Registry Editor (type ‘regedit’ – without the quotes – in Run on the Start menu) and work your way to: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\


Double click each key in the right-hand pane and make sure that in the ‘Value Data’ fields there are no nonsense entries, in particular a single double quotes (“”), if so remove it. Do the same with the following key:



Failing that there are some more suggestions in Microsoft Knowledgebase article 170086



Failed Backup Installation

Hi Rick, I've installed EZ BackItUp on my personal laptop three different times now, from three different sources (all reputable). Each time I've gone to launch the installed program; it seems to launch for a millisecond then disappears. Each time this has happened, I've un-installed it, restarted, and tried downloading and launching again. Same thing, over and over.


I had no problem with installation or use of this program on my business laptop; but on my personal laptop it continues to occur. Both systems are ThinkPads running XP. Any ideas?

Katie Krayer


A. I can’t say for sure what has gone wrong in this case but I can give you some generic advice for when a program repeatedly fails to install.


Much of the time it’s due to remnants left behind in the first installation (log files, configuration settings etc.), which do not get removed when the program is uninstalled. When you install the program a second time whatever caused the problem is often still there. The solution is to uninstall, then run a Registry cleaning program (I recommend the freeware utility RegSeeker).  After that open Windows Explorer and make sure that there are no folders – put there by the program you’ve uninstalled  -- still there, if so remove them too, then try re-installing.



Webcams and Birdboxes

Hi Rick, we've just installed a miniature webcam in a birdbox. At the moment we're using PY Software's trial version of Active Webcam.  However this has annoying banners, various restrictions and isn't entirely reliable.  Do you know of any other free software that includes motion detection and ftp upload facilities?

Caroline O'Callaghan


A. Not as such, however, Googling ‘webcam freeware’ brought up several promising sites, and at the top of the list was the ever-reliable Tucows site, which lists several promising programs. Sharewareconnection, also listed more than 20 freeware and shareware titles, but even if you can’t find a freebie I note that Active Webcam, which is excellent piece of software, only costs around £15.00, which isn’t exactly a lot to pay for something that useful.



Changing Drive Letters

Hello Rick, my large main drive is designated as C:\ drive. My small second hard drive has the letter: E:\ . I wish to buy a new large drive. Could I designate the new drive as C:\ and, could I copy the whole contents of the present C:\ drive on to the new drive? Could I then delete the contents of the 'old' C:\ drive and re-designate it as the new E:\ drive, having removed the 'old' E:\ drive?

Brian Robinson


A. Yes, yes, and yes. However, and there had to be one of those, I would take this opportunity to make a fresh start. I would whip out the old C: drive and switch the jumpers to Slave mode. Set the new large drive to Master mode and connect it up, you now have a clean drive on which to install Windows and all of your major applications. Yes it’s going to take a while but afterwards it will be like owning a new computer – for a while at least… When it has finished you can connect up your old C: (and E: drives) copy across all of the data you need then reformat it and use them as you will.


The problem with copying the contents of a drive – even using commercial programs like Acronis -- is that there is a small risk that data on one or both drives could be lost so never try it unless you have all of your irreplaceable data securely backed up. The other, more fundamental problem is that if your installation is more than a year or two old then it is almost certainly carrying a lot of excess baggage. You will just end up copying all of the Registry errors. Corrupt files, infections and myriad of things that slows a PC down across to the new drive.



Surfing in Florida

I usually holiday once a year in Naples, Florida. We stay in a private villa. I take my laptop with me, for accessing the Internet and company and personal emails. At home I am a subscriber to BT broadband.


On previous visits to Florida, just before leaving the UK I have downloaded AOL and joined as a dialup subscriber on a one month free basis. When returning from USA I have telephoned to cancel the contract. However, usage in the states has been expensive (it’s something like £2.50 or $2.50 per hour when in the USA).  Is there a cheaper way I can do this?

Mel Gunn


A. I did a little research and found that Florida is awash with rental villas and following the recent security alerts and downturn in tourism owners are having a tough time attracting customers. In an effort to drum up business a growing number are now offering wireless broadband, or even the use of a PC in with the package. It would seem this adds little or nothing to the price so if you have the option to choose, get one with Internet access. 


Some villa companies and private rentals offer free or very low cost local telephone calls, in which case it’s worth signing up with AOL or CompuServe (now the same company) who provide local dial up access numbers. If your laptop has a Wi-Fi adaptor you’ll find plenty of free wireless hotspots in Florida. It’s also worth knowing that all US libraries provide free Internet access, and the good news for you is that the Collier County Public Library on Airport Pulling Road and Orange Blossom in Naples operates a free wireless hotspot during opening hours, which you can use inside or outside (but apparently not in the car park…).



Monitor Power Down Not Working

Hi Rick, the monitor connected to my XP computer has recently decided not to go into Standby mode after 15 minutes, as set by me using the Power Options in Control Panel. It always used to do this without fail, but although I can press the sleep button on the keyboard and get the monitor to power down OK, it refuses to do so automatically. I've tried resetting the time period in Power Options, but to no avail. It has me baffled.

Geoff Lawn


A. It would have been helpful to know if it was only the monitor Standby that was affected but in any event Windows Power Management problems can be quite tricky to troubleshoot as seemingly unrelated and obscure things, like mouse drivers and BIOS settings can wreak havoc with it. It might also be prevented from switching off by a program running in the background, maybe your screensaver or email program checking for messages. Reset the off time to 5 minutes, exit all running programs and see if it still refuses to power down, if so press Ctrl + Alt + Del, select Applications to see what’s running and End Task anything showing.


A fault with the monitor is a long way down the list of possibilities but if you have another one handy try swapping it. A change to the BIOS power management also seems unlikely if you haven’t opened it recently, but investigate anyway. If you have installed any hardware or software at or around the time the problem started try uninstalling or removing it/them. Video drivers have been know to cause this sort of problem, so try updating to the latest version and see what that does. Finally, if all else fails try the Microsoft Power Management Troubleshooter Tool ‘pmtshoot’ which you can download from the Microsoft website, which might be able to identify a rogue driver.   



Stuck With 800 x 600 Display

Hello Rick, I recently did a fresh install of XP Pro and everything is fine except one irritating thing. When I switch on my laptop first thing or after it being off for a couple of hours everything on the display is too large for my liking, namely 800x600. Checking display settings there is no option to change to my preferred 1024x768. When I reboot everything is

back to normal and display settings offer the full range. I hope that this something that I have missed during my reinstall or subsequently and not a hardware failure. I would be grateful for your assistance.

Dave Woodham


A. My guess would be that you haven’t installed the correct video driver and its falteringly running on one of Windows’s default drivers. This should be easy to put right and all you need is the original driver. It’s usually on an utilities/driver disc that came with your PC, or the motherboard disc, if you have an integrated graphics adaptor. Better still, download the most up to date driver from the graphics adaptor manufacturer’s website. Occasionally Windows XP will do this for you from Device Manager (Winkey + Break or System in Control Panel then Hardware > Device Manager). Right click on your display adaptor, select Update Driver, but this is not a very reliable method.



Cannot Delete Emails in Outlook Express

Rick, I have a problem in OE in that I can no longer delete received emails. Highlight and delete - nothing! I have Windows ME, which otherwise runs well.

David Thompson


A. This is usually caused by a corrupt Deleted Items.dbx file, which lives alongside all of your other mailbox files. If you haven’t moved your store folder then in XP you will normally find it in: C:\Documents and Settings\<yourname>\Local Settings\Application Data\Identities\{GUID}\Microsoft\Outlook Express (where GUID or Global Unique Identifier is a long strong of characters). If it doesn’t show up you will need open Windows Explorer then go to Tools > Folder Options > View tab and deselect ‘Do not show Hidden Files and Folders’. Delete or rename Deleted Items.dbx and the next time OE is opened the file will be automatically recreated.



XP and Vista Dual Boot?

Hi Rick, do you know if it will be possible to run XP and Vista on the same PC? The reason I ask is that having run the Vista Upgrade Advisor, several of my old programs are not being fixed to work on Vista. If so, would you think it advisable to place XP and the associated programs on a separate drive as I have heard that Vista will not tolerate a mixture of XP only programs on the same drive as Vista?

Alan Fitzjohn


A. Dual-booting XP and Vista is certainly possible. My work PC currently has XP, Vista and Linux, all living happily side by side on one drive but unless you have prepared the ground and have a clean drive or an empty partition in which to load Vista you will need to re-partition your drive, and that can be a messy and risky business, even with one of the commercial partitioning tools. Your best bet is to start over; format and partition the drive then install XP first, followed by Vista. Incidentally, I wouldn’t give up on programs that are being flagged up by the Upgrade Advisor as not Vista compatible; several I’ve tried actually work just fine. Even if they do not at the moment there’s a fair chance a patch or fix will become available, especially if it has a large user base and there’s sufficient demand.


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