FAQS! FACTS! FAX!

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FEBRUARY 2008

28/02/08

Selective Sony

Hi Rick, why will a computer made video DVD play on my Cyberhome DVD player but only jerkily on my relative's Sony combi player? Her unit plays commercial recordings with no problem. As she wants to upgrade her computer to edit her holiday VHS recordings and put them on DVD it seems she may have to change the Sony player too. Any suggestions?

Arthur Bond

 

A. Even after all these years optical disc recording is still something of a black art, and there is a surprising variation in the quality of blank discs, which together conspire to make some players, and some discs, just not get on. Commercially produced discs use a highly consistent manufacturing process that produces very sharply defined reflective Ďpitsí that represent the digital data.

 

Home-made discs, on the other hand, rely on a low power laser beam changing the optical characteristics of a thin layer of an organic dye compound. This allows light to pass through the layer onto a reflective layer beneath, but unlike shop-bought discs, the edges of the reflective areas are not as crisp. This results in errors on some players, whilst others, with less fussy or more tolerant error correction systems are able to read the data. Sometimes just changing the brand of disc will work, otherwise switching to another player is the only solution, and ironically cheaper models are often better in this respect.

 

25/02/08

Ctfmon, Can I Get Rid of It?

Hi Rick, I have a feeling that ctfmon.exe is slowing things down. It seems to hang around when I switch off and there are some suggestions on the web that it can be safely deleted by most users of XP. I use WinPatrol, which would enable me to disable it on start-up. Would this do any harm?

David Lowe

 

A. Ctfmon.exe is a little application loaded by Microsoft Office and its job is to keep a watch on what you are doing in case you suddenly get the urge to use a voice or handwriting recognition application. Itís tiny and shouldn't use any significant resources so I doubt very that it is the case of your slowdown. If you want to get rid of it go-ahead, either through WinPatrol, or via msconfig (assuming youíre not using voice and speech recognition...).

 

There is also a piece of malware -- a Trojan -- that creates a file called cftmon.exe, and this has been linked to shutdown problems, so check the spelling and if this is what you have try running a malware cleaner like AdAware or Spybot

 

21/02/08

Wonky Compaq and HP Wi-Fi

Hi Rick, I have a Compaq Presario V6000 series Notebook computer, purchased in the UK about 15 months ago, which up until last week was working perfectly on a wireless signal and now will not recognise a wireless signal and the wireless light glows orange no matter whether the switch is on or off.  I am currently staying in the USA and know Hewlett Packard have recognised a component defect and are recalling machines for repair.  Do you know if there is a similar action being taken by HP in the UK?

Colin

 

A. Compaq and HP in the US have only grudgingly admitted a problem may exist on 6000 series laptops but there doesnít seem to be a single cause. A fair number of users have reported that updating the BIOS and/or wireless adaptor driver fixes the problem. Judging by some of the posts in the forums it also seems a lot of people simply havenít read the instructions and have switched their Wi-Fi systems off, but there are also users with what sounds like a common hardware fault, that requires a motherboard replacement.

 

If you know your way around your laptopís inner workings and Windows then I would certainly work your way through the suggested fixes on the HP Forum . If that doesnít work then I suggest that you get in touch with Compaq support and remind them that a number of aggrieved US users are banding together to start a Class Action against the company.

 

18/02/08

Short Shrift For Shortcuts

Because of my poor typing skills I frequently hit shift and ctrl together on the lower right side of my keyboard.  This moves the text to right align.  Is there an easy way to remove this intrusive over helpful shortcut?

Rob Milliner

 

A. I confess to being a little confused by this one because in Word, and Iím assuming thatís what you are using, the keyboard shortcut for Paragraph Right Align is Ctrl + R and you would have to be a pretty dismal typist to brush those two keys accidentally. As far as Iím aware Ctrl + Shift on its own does nothing. Possibly you are using another word processor, I know not which one, but on a general note it is usually possible to disable shortcuts in most WPs and In the case of Word itís on the Customize menu. Right-click on an empty part of the toolbar or select Customise from the Tools menu and click the Keyboard button at the bottom. Enter the keyboard shortcut thatís troubling you and assign it to something innocuous or uninstrusive like specifying ĎNormalí document template.

 

14/02/08

Dodgy Defrag?

I defrag my HDD regularly and, at the end of the exercise, I am generally confronted with a window informing me that some items could not be defragged. These are usually quite small files (up to about 2Mb) and are usually no more than 5 or 6. Nevertheless, it is rather worrying to know that these files may be mounting up in the system and may cause problems at some future date.

 

Is there any way you know of to defrag these small files independently of, or in conjunction with, the main defrag operation so that I can be sure that all of the HDD disc has been dealt with?

Don Roylance.

 

A. Defragging, especially on XP and Vista, is greatly overrated and quite honestly on most PCs it only needs to be done once or twice a year. The only exceptions are very well used PCs where thereí/s a lot of data coming and going all of he time. Applications like video editing are a good example, and defragging the drive helps to ensure the smooth movement of data and avoid glitches in the picture, or jump DVDs. Otherwise itís not something you need to worry about, and if a few 2 meg files prove sticky, donít worry, continually defragging isnít going to help and providing they donít suddenly multiply in number you can leave well alone. The Windows defrag utility has a fairly light touch and is reasonably safe but if you want to sort out those rogue files you are going to have use something a bit stronger, like the Open Source UltraDefrag or one of the many paid-for utilities, but I really donít think itís worth the bother.

 

09/02/08

Waiting for the big Switch On

Hello Rick, I have just built my first PC, it seemed to take forever but eventually, after 7 hours, it appeared to be finished. I havenít powered it up yet, because, If I have inadvertently wired a power lead incorrectly (although I have been told it is impossible as they only fit where they are supposed to and nowhere else) I donít want to damage anything.

 

I Have checked and double-checked and the wiring appears correct, but, I have several unconnected PSU leads, possibly for components that I do not have, and some mother board plugs that I cannot find a wire plug to fit, again probably because I do not have a relevant component. I have also connected one PSU plug lead to three case specific components in sequence; PSU Ė case component 1 Ė case component 2- etc, is this correct, as I will not have enough PSU Leads.

Henry C.

 

A. I hope that by now youíve bitten the bullet and switched it on, and unless you did something spectacularly stupid I am reasonably confident that it will have powered up. It really is almost impossible to get it wrong.

 

Itís not unusual to have a spare lead or two; most power supply manufacturers try to cater for several different types of motherboard, and variants thereof, and quite often the main power connector has a Ďbreakoffí section, so if the plug doesnít fit, simply snap off the extra connectors and bend them back out of the way using a couple of cable ties. The golden rule in PC building is if it doesnít fit donít force it. No connector should require more than light finger pressure to fit.

 

When building a PC your bible is the motherboard manual; this shows exactly where all the connectors and plugs go. On most mobos there are one or two large sockets for the power plugs and a small one for the fan supply. The other plugs are for hard drives and the CD/DVD drive (theyíre all the same) and there may be one small odd-looking one left over for a floppy drive. 

 

The other large bundle of leads coming from the case are for the power and reset buttons, power and HDD activity LEDs, the internal speaker, front panel USB sockets and, in some cases, front or rear audio connectors (line in, speakers, microphone etc.). These use tiny little plugs that fit onto pins or Ďheadersí on the motherboard and they can be quite fiddly, and the marking s hard to read (a desk lamp or torch can be invaluable). Not surprisingly the commonest cause of a home-build PC failing to work is a wrongly wired power button, but donít worry, even if they are wrongly wired it will do no harm, it just wonít work.  

 

07/02/08

Freeview Kafuffle

Hi Rick, I recently purchased an integrated TV with Freeview but unfortunately was not receiving a strong enough signal. I have now reinstated my old digibox and am now able to get a good picture. However, when making all the connections the instructions said to connect phono leads - red and white - from my old digibox to the Home Theatre system.

 

However, the sound system has already got a set of leads installed leading to the TV and I have not got another set of sockets for the second pair of leads. The result is that I cannot regulate sound levels through my box and I cannot use the 'mute' switch.

Fred Wilson, Northern Ireland

 

A. Itís difficult to say whatís going on without actually seeing the system in the flesh, but this is how I would set it up. I would use a SCART to SCART (Type V or U) to connect the digibox to the TV, This will route both video and audio from the box to the TV. I am assuming the TV speakers are not up to much, which is why you have routed the TVís audio output to your home theatre system. If so you need do nothing more because the audio connection from the digibox is now superfluous as the sound is being routed through the TV back to the home theatre system via the existing phono lead connection. One word of advice, though, the next time you buy a home theatre system, make sure that it has more than one line input (in fact double check yours, one input is quite unusualÖ).

 

I donít know what your aerial arrangements are but it sounds as though you are getting a marginal signal. If itís getting on a bit then it may be worth getting a new one, and this might improve the signal sufficiently for the TVís built-in Freeview decoder.

 

 

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