Sky+ to DVD
is it possible to connect a Sky+ receiver to a PC and transfer a recording,
via the hard drive, to a DVD? My PC has a SCART socket. Would I
need any additional software?
A. Yes and no... If you are asking is it
possible to copy digital data from a Sky+ box direct to a PC and somehow
convert that into a DVD then the answer is no, at least not without hiking the
drive out of the Sky+ box and cracking open the encrypted and copy protected
files. On the other hand you can record from its analogue AV output, in which
case your PC will need an analogue AV input, in the form of a new video adaptor
card, or a USB AV input module, like ‘Dazzle’, which is used to make DVDs from
camcorder tapes (now selling for around £50 on Amazon UK). Dazzle also comes
with DVD editing and authoring software, which makes the job even easier. The
downside to this method is there will be a noticeable drop in picture quality
as the picture signal has to go through several stages of conversion, from
digital to analogue, then back again, from analogue to digital, furthermore DVD
authoring involves compressing the already highly processed picture data, so
the end result can be a bit whiskery
Free, but not easy…
Hi Rick, I removed my firewall together with Norton to ease
email sending problems and replaced it with AVG but I can’t find a free
firewall. Your PCTopTips
website says Kerio Personal Firewall is free but on their website it isn’t
free. I’m not sure what ‘freeware’
means? Can you recommend a free firewall please? I’m running Windows XP.
A. There is still a free version of Keiro, but for obvious
reasons they would much prefer you to buy the paid-for version, and very good
it is too, and it only costs $9.95 a the moment, so it’s not going to break the
bank. Anyhoo, to get the free version, which has some features disabled, all
you have to do is click on the download for the free trial of the retail version
and install it. It will run in full mode for 30 days, after which you can
either pay the licence fee, or leave it running in ‘Free’ mode. There’s a list
of the features that will be switched off after the trial but the free
components will still do a good job of protecting your PC. Other free firewalls
I am happy to recommend are Comodo and of course, the granddaddy of free
firewalls, Zone Alarm (free Basic).
Don’t forget Windows XP also has a built-in firewall, and it
certainly provides protection against incoming attempts to hack into your
computer but one the major flaw is that it doesn’t stop programs and nasties on
your PC from ‘phoning home’, spying on you or using your Internet connection
without your permission, which the free programs mentioned do.
For the record freeware means free software, no
ifs or buts. I always try to make a clear distinction between freeware and the
many other types of downloadable software, such as Trialware (time limited
trial of full program), Shareware (usually free to try, or some features
disabled, but you should pay a licence fee if you continue to use it),
Donationware (freeware but the author would really appreciate a donation if you
continue to use it) and Open Source usually free, but donations welcome, and
user development and participation encouraged. I always recommend paying the
licence fee or sending a donation, even if a program is completely free. It
helps and encourages the authors and companies to continue developing their
software, and if nothing else, it’s just polite!
Make it disappear
Hi Rick, I am currently backing up my data to an external
USB drive using Back2Zip. The back-up folder is currently on view to anybody
who uses my external drive. Are there any password protect or hide programs
(freeware or otherwise) available that are suitable for this purpose?
A. I think the first thing to do is stop others
from accessing your USB drive, especially if it contains sensitive data. Keep
it in your pocket, on a chain around your neck, or lock it away, leaving it lying
around is just asking for trouble. I’m not familiar with the archiving program
you are using, but most, including the granddaddy of them all WinZip has a
password protection facility, which at the very least will stop a casual
snooper getting at your files. If you really want to make your files
inaccessible then they should be encrypted, if you are using Windows XP Pro or
Vista you should have this facility already. Another option is to use a little
utility that I mentioned last year on my PCTopTips website, called Hide
Folder, which does what it says, and makes folders invisible, until you
enter a password.
Hi Rick, I'm not a computer whiz by any stretch of the
imagination! I think I transferred some digital photographs from my camera's
memory card using Picasa 2 software. This automatically transfers to a
"default" file but I am unable to locate the file and thus my photos.
A. Picasa is a wonderful piece of software, and I love it to
bits but the filing system is an absolute nightmare, and even when you think you know
your way around it can still catch you out, but more on that in a moment.
When you import images from a memory card by default Picasa
saves them in a sub folder in the My Pictures folder. When you carry out the
import function you will be asked to give the folder a name, and you can’t
continue until you put something in the Name box, though it will accept a
space; if you leave it blank the folder it creates will be simply called
One of my gripes with Picasa is that its not obvious from
the file tree display where the original images are stored, and it really gets
confusing when you create new albums or folders from exiting collections as
these can end up on the bottom of the tree.
On the plus side it’s worth knowing that even though you can
edit images in Picasa to destruction, the originals are never touched, unless
you resave the edited image. Instead it saves the changes on the displayed thumbnails,
and in a series of database files. It also squirrels away copies of edited
image files in hidden folders called Originals. For good measure there’s more database
files detailing search information, keywords and captions, unsaved edits, starred
images and albums and a whole host of other information and this usually ends
up in your ‘user’ and ‘application data’ folders. My advice to you, and anyone
else who is curious about what makes Picasa tick is, don’t go there, just
accept that it works…
Sandbox or Virtual System
Hi Rick, your recent tip about Returnil reminded me of a
previous mention of Sandibox, which I noted at the time but never tried. It's
true that I'm easily confused these days, but reading the summaries of the
principles of the two programs on their respective sites left me none the wiser
about what the basic differences are, if any, or which would be likely to be
more effective. Could you please shed some light on this?
A. It’s true that superficially they do appear
to do similar things but there are fundamental differences. Sandibox runs
inside Windows, in a temporary chunk of hard disc memory called a ‘sandbox’. It
is specifically designed to contain programs that connect to Internet.
Programs, such as your browser or an online game, run inside the sandbox and
are unable to access or make any changes to the system. Returnil takes the sandbox idea one stage
further and runs a copy of your whole system inside a ‘virtual’ partition on
your hard drive, but it doesn’t try to protect it. This means you can try out
new things, beta programs and even dodgy software, and if it infects or crashes
the virtual system it doesn’t matter because your real system is isolated and
the damaged system will be deleted, and recreated the next time you boot your
Hi Rick, in the days when you had a Thursday column in the
Telegraph, I followed your advice then and installed CrapCleaner. When I
purchased my next PC with Windows XP, I again used it and found it very useful
as in a single operation I emptied recycle bin, deleted e-mails, internet
history, cookies etc. Now I just have a new PC with Windows Vista Home Premium.
Would you still recommend CrapCleaner for the above
functions, or a better alternative? On my old PC I did once run CrapCleaner’s
Registry cleaner, but did not action it as after 4 years the list for action
was too long, and I remember your advice not to go into the registry unless a
confident PC user. If CrapCleaner is OK, would you recommend fully using the
Registry Cleaner regularly from the beginning?
On my PC now I have Norton 360. With this and Windows
Defender, is there any need for anti spyware protection to also run AdAware (another
of your recommendations) I found most useful as further protection?
A. Thanks for remembering those Thursday columns, and I hope
you’re still with me in the Saturday edition of the newspaper, you’ll find my
‘Houston We have a Problem’ column in the Review section.
Okay, enough of the
plug, Crap Cleaner, or CCleaner as the publishers prefer it to be known these
days still does a bang-up job in Vista and all previous versions of Windows,
back to Win 98, and you’ll find a link to the download (it’s free!) on the
software page of my PCTopTips
You are right to be wary of Registry Cleaners, they can
wreak havoc, but the one in CCleaner is pretty safe. However, before you use it
set a System Restore Point, and rather than use it to clear all errors and
anomalies in one go, select maybe 20 to 30 at a time, reboot and check for
error messages. It has a Registry Backup facility so you should be able to get
out of trouble if anything untoward happens.
I’m not a fan of Norton software but if it works
for you, stick with it; between them Windows Defender and AdAware should do a
very reasonable job of keeping out Malware, just remember to run checks every
week or two and as a final touch, I suggest switching to Firefox as well, and
that way your PC should be safe from the nasties.
IE in Firefox
Hi Rick, having suddenly had problems with onelook.com in
Firefox, I followed your tip to install IEView and clicked ‘Always open in
Internet Explorer’ and everything was fine. I would like to try to open onelook
in Firefox again, but how do I do it?
A. No problem, and for anyone who hasn’t tried it, IE View is a Firefox extension that you
can set to open Internet Explorer for selected websites that only work properly
in IE. To remove a site all you have to do is go to Tools > Add-ons, select
IE View and click the Options button. Select the Main tab and you’ll see a list
of the sites you’ve chosen to open with the program, simply highlight the one
you want to remove and click Delete.
While we are on the subject, I have come across
an even smarter Firefox extension for IE only websites, but unlike IE View, IE Tab actually
opens an Internet Explorer window inside Firefox. It’s really clever and you
can even access normally difficult sites, like Windows Updates from inside