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28/08/08

Photo Finish?

Hi Rick, having worked for many years past retirement age, the end of a contract will soon mean reduced circumstances. Speaking as an ex-professional photographer, my Canon i470D inkjet printer (5 years old) produces wonderful quality prints with decent inks and regular use. However, my use is infrequent and thus the printer can be temperamental and therefore, expensive. Do you think that I could expect a colour laser printer to fulfil my needs of high quality, modest running costs and easy maintenance? Operation speed is not much of a factor.

Derek Nowell

 

A. No, budget and mid-range laser printers are not really suitable for photo-quality printing. Basically theyíre just fancy photocopiers, using finely granulated toner particles to build up images, which is okay for document printing and simple coloured graphics but simply not good enough for the fine detail and wide colour and contrast ranges needed for photographic images.

 

You have correctly identified the major weakness of inkjets, namely, no matter how good they are; unless they are used regularly they dry up. The only other alternative is a dye-sublimation printer, which works a bit like a fax machine. They use a heat transfer process to imprint images on specially coated paper, from a roll of thin colour film. There are no inks to dry up so, in theory at least, the results are always consistent. The only trouble with the dye-sub process is that it is expensive, with prints costing anywhere from around 40 pence to £1 a pop. In the end, however, one of the cheapest and most reliable ways to get an image from a digital camera onto paper is on-line processing. If you shop around, and keep an eye out for special offers, you can get the cost down to just a few pence per print, and most of them will mail them back to you with 24 hours. Otherwise you are just going to have to keep your printer in regular use, a couple of sheets each week should be enough.  

 

25/08/08

Regional Variations

Hi Rick, I want to buy a French/Russian film with English subtitles on DVD called ĎSerkoí . It only seems to be available from the US or Canada.  I need to know whether it would be compatible with PAL in the UK.

Diane Doble Leemans

 

A. Probably not, but many DVD players, especially cheap and cheerful Chinese-made models -- the sort you see in supermarkets and bargain basement stores -- are either 'Multi Region' straight out of the box or can be switched to multi region playback by entering a Ďhackí code (just Google the make and model number with the word Ďhackí). I can't give you a list of names or models because they change almost daily, but if you can find a knowledgeable salesperson they should be able to tell you, and you really don't need spend more than around £25.00 on one.

 

Generally speaking, if you have heard of the brand, and it is made in Japan it won't be multi-region capable as this is an infringement of the DVD patent and licensing agreements, which stipulates that DVD players should only be able to play discs intended for the region in which they are sold.

 

21/08/08

Corruption Conundrum

A film I recently took was put on to CD by the developers. No problem there. I copied the files on to my hard drive, and edited some of them using PhotoFiltre (good program, thanks for the tip!).  Everything looks fine. Then when I come to view the pics again, I find half of them are corrupt -- regular bands of false colour across the picture. This happens whether I look at them in Photo Filtre, Windows Fax and Media Player, or Picasa.

 

This is rather mysterious, as the thumbnails (in Windows Explorer) as far as I can see are often (but not always) ok. It has nothing to do with my editing, as it also affects unedited pictures. And although I haven't kept an exact log, I think that it doesn't affect the same pictures every time: a good pic in one session is corrupt the next, and vice versa.

 

Viewed direct from the CD, there is no problem (but of course I can't edit them there). So far only one film has been affected: can it be that a bug got into the folder while copying? As occasionally I spend a longish time editing a single picture, it is very annoying to find, on next opening it, that my hard work is unviewable. Any ideas?

 

I use Windows XP Pro, and the above named programs. I store the pics as best-quality jpg files. (Occasionally I use Windows Paint. The resulting bmp files seem immune, but that may be coincidence.)

Michael

 

A. The only thing I can say with any certainty is that it shouldn't happen and the software and methodology you are using are all okay. At this distance it's impossible to say what's wrong but I am not surprised that it only happens to JPEGs, bitmap (.bmp) files are more robust as thereís no compression involved.

 

You could try and isolate the problem by seeing if you can replicate the corruption on another batch of images. If they are immune then there must be something lurking inside those files. Without knowing whatís going wrong itís difficult to come up with a cure but I would try batch-saving the afflicted files bitmaps, then open and resave them as JPEGs and hopefully this will strip out whatever is causing the problem. It would also be interesting to see what happens if you try the same thing on another PC, using the same software.   

 

In any editing session (be it documents, photos, movies, audio etc.) get into the habit of saving your work every few minutes, and in the case of images, after every half dozen saves, close and re-open the file, to verify it is okay.

 

18/08/08

AutoComplete Hangovers

Dear Rick, as a self-employed person with no IT support I can usually solve most PC problems with a bit of help from various websites including your own (usually my first port of call), but I am stuck on this one. I have a colleague who uses Outlook Express 6 (I use Pegasus Mail myself).

 

When she tries to email me, the AutcComplete feature inserts an email address I abandoned two years ago. The result is that if she fails to notice which address is being entered, stuff she sends me does not arrive, but goes into a great black hole at my old ISP. I have gone through her address book and deleted all the dead addresses, but this does not seem to deter it. She finds AutoComplete useful generally so does not want to turn it off altogether, just get rid of the entries that make these errors. I am surely not the only one who changes email address occasionally, after all people change jobs so their work email changes. Can you help please?

Pamela Meadows

 

A. It is possible that your address is stored in another OE Identity and the quick way to find out is to go to Run on the Start menu and type wab /all. This will open the address book showing all identities, so tell her to go through that and check you are not there.

 

The only other thing I can suggest is to create a new identity, which effectively restarts AutoComplete. Go to File > Identities > Add New Identity. Give it a name, switch to the new Identity, set up the email account, then import the messages from the old Identity (File > Import > Messages) and Address Book,

 

14/08/08

Video on the Blink

Hi Rick, my All in Wonder 9800 series video card is failing and I cannot find a new one, how can I find a suitable replacement?

Brian Wood

 

A. I am not sure what you mean by failing and you do not mention any symptoms or give me much else to work on but in my experience video adaptors usually either work or they donít. However, before you replace it here are a couple of things to try. Reinstall the driver, preferably with the latest version downloaded from the manufacturerís website. This quick and simple procedure fixes many video problems. If that makes no difference, switch off, unplug the PC, whip off the lid then remove and reseat the card. Again, it only takes a few mew minutes, it wonít cost you anything but it can cure all sorts of problems, like intermittent and unstable displays.

 

If a replacement is the only solution then although this popular ATI card is no longer being made there are still plenty of them around. Try tapping Ďall in wonder 9800í into Google, I found several companies that had them in stock, not to mention half dozen or more on ebay. If you are still having trouble finding one then there are numerous alternatives. The simplest solution would be a like-for-like replacement, so search the main on-line sellers (Aria, Ebuyer, Amazon etc.) for an AGP video card with at least 128Mb of on-board memory. If you have a spare PCI slot you could use a PCI video card as well, just make sure it has 128Mb or more memory.

 

11/08/08

Choice Chips

Hi Rick, I'm thinking of replacing the hard disk in my laptop with a Solid State Disc (SSD) because the hard disk protection keeps cutting in when I'm using it on the train.  I don't understand the difference between SLC and MLC and having done some research, I'm not sure I'm capable of understanding. What's your view on this?

Rhydian Potter

 

A. Personally I would get a new laptop, preferably one that doesnít freak out every time you go over a set of points. If itís reasonably recent it might be worth getting it checked out, to make sure itís not being over-sensitive to jolts and vibration.

If you want to go ahead with replacing the hard drive then there are a few things you need to know. To begin with itís probably going to cost you almost as much as a new laptop, prices are falling fast though, and you will be quite annoyed in a year or sos time at having spent so much.

As you point out there are two technologies, Single Level Cell (SLC) and Multi-Level Cell (MLC). They are both NAND flash, but MLC squeezes in more data so in they can be cheaper, per gigabyte of storage space. The trade off is slightly slower access times and a theoretically shorter life. In practice I donít think you need to worry too much about life expectancies. In most cases an SSD, of any type, will outlive whatever it is used in. If you want to be ultra-cautious and your laptop is going to be very heavily used for mission-critical applications then SLC would be the safest choice but the way the technologies are going I really donít think it will be an issue for very much longer.  

 

07/08/08

Drive Bargain or Dead Loss

A local discount store has a limited offer of a 750Gb external hard disk drive loaded with

Vista Home Premium at a very good price compared to the buy it now prices for both these things on ebay. I run XP Home Edition on my C Drive.  But according to some sources, there have been endless problems with booting up from external drives with Vista. Have you a view?

Andy, Ireland

 

A. Yes, donít touch it with a bargepole! To begin with that copy of Vista is probably pirated or a dodgy OEM version. Even if it does boot up, you probably wonít be able to activate it, download any updates or install any other MS software. Second, booting from an external USB drive is okay once in a while, in an emergency, to restore a backup or repair an installation but itís not something you would want to do all the time. Apart from anything else itís slower, and it introduces another layer of things that can go wrong. Also, unless the drive enclosure is a good quality design thatís actively cooled there is a chance that the drive will overheat, especially in hot weather, resulting in, at best, a crash with the loss of whatever you were working on; at worst, your operating system and all of the data on the drive. Finally, I have no particular qualms about buying hardware on ebay but take great care with software, especially MS products, as there is endless opportunity to be sold knocked-off, pirated and iffy goods, usually with no comeback.

 

 

04/08/08

Disappearing Dictionary

Hi Rick, I have a problem with finding the dictionary on my PC. I am a beekeeper, and I and produce a monthly newsletter, for our beekeeping branch, and as such use technical terms. I would like to add these words to MS library. In your book Boot Up Projects, you mentioned a similar problem. The start of the answer says to click on Help. Where do I find this Help? I have tried Start then Help, and any other I can find but no luck. Am I looking for something that is not there? My OS Windows XP.

Fred Poole

 

A. There are no dictionaries as such in Windows, which is why Help on the Start menu didnít get you anywhere. Normally the only applications and programs that have dictionaries are office suites, like MS Office and stand alone word processors, such as Word (also part of Office), and this can be shared by other applications, email programs like Outlook Express, for example, uses the Office/Word dictionary for spell-checking.

 

You cannot edit the core dictionary in Word, at least not easily, but you can create you own Custom Dictionary, which adds to the main dictionary, and prevents it from making changes to spellings. You can also edit the Custom Dictionary, in case you have accidentally added any misspelled words. In most versions of Word go to Options on the Tools menu and select the Spelling and Grammar tab. Click the Dictionaries button and your Custom Dictionary -- and any others you might have installed -- appears in the box. Highlight the entry and click Edit and a list of all the words youíve added appears. You can now edit the list like a Word document and when youíve finished Save it as normal.

 

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