The Colour of Sound
Hello Rick, my soundcard appears to have five sockets;
black, orange, green, blue, pink. The
speakers are plugged into the green socket and the microphone into the pink.
Could you tell me what the blue is for ('Line-In')? What are the black and
orange for? (Yes, I have looked in my manual!).
A. Unfortunately there’s no industry standard for soundcard
sockets and some manufacturers use proprietary colour schemes to match the colours
of plugs and sockets for idiot-proof installation. Nevertheless there are some
loose conventions, and as you have pointed out blue is usually stereo line
input, pink is for the microphone and green is for stereo line out, headphones
or powered speakers.
Things start to get a bit more complicated on soundcards and
motherboard adaptors that have multi-channel
‘5.1’ and ‘7.1’ surround sound capabilities and SPDIF digital outputs.
Again, don’t take this as gospel but the orange socket normally carries the
mono centre-front and sub-woofer outputs, the rear stereo channel socket is
generally black and on 7.1 channel card there should be a grey socket for the
mid surround speaker channels.
However, don’t just rely on the colours, most soundcards and
motherboards also have a little symbol stamped into the metal next to the case,
or some sort of label, so double check before you plug anything in.
By the way, 5.1 and 7.1 refer to the number of
channels in a surround system. In a 5.1 channel system there are the normal
right and left stereo channels, two rear surround channels, a high quality
centre front dialogue channel, and the narrow bandwidth sub-woofer channel,
which carries only low frequency sounds and effects (it’s the .1 channel). In a
7.1 channel system there’s an additional pair of speakers placed mid-way
between the front stereo and rear surround speakers. And in case you were wondering, SPDIF or Sony Philips Digital
Interconnection Format is an optical (infrared) connection system that carries digitally
encoded and compressed multi-channel sound between decoders and multi-channel
amplifiers over a fibre-optic cable.
DVD in Windows 98
Hi Rick, we
are using Windows 98 but seem unable to play and watch conventional DVDs
through the system - can you help please?
may surprise some PC owners to learn that until comparatively recently DVD
replay was not a function of Windows. Even now it’s only possible with versions
of XP and Vista with the Windows Media Centre option, and this is true even if
your PC or laptop came with a DVD drive.
to watch DVDs you need a fully-fledged DVD player program or a media player,
like Windows Medial Player (WMP), which has been included with all versions of
Windows since Windows 95. However, WMP on its own isn’t enough, it needs a
software component called a ‘codec’. Its job is to unscramble the data on the
disc, and I’m guessing this is what your PC lacks.
Codecs are available for most versions of WMP, though if you are still
using the one that came with early releases of Win 98 that might not be
possible, but there are alternatives. I suggest downloading an excellent free Open
Source program called Media Player
Classic, and this includes a DVD codec as standard. It’s also small, very
easy to use and consumes relatively few resources so it’s ideal for older and
slower PCs. You’ll find a link to the download in the Software section of
PCTopTIps. By the way, if by some chance your problem is that you could once,
but now cannot watch DVDs – which suggests you have a suitable player program
and codecs installed – then it may just be something as simply as a dirty
drive. Otherwise try uninstalling and reinstalling your DVD player software, or
install Media Player Classic.
Master Boot Record Malarkey
Hi Rick, I have looked at your site but cannot find the
answer to my problem. Basically, I do not know how the MBR works, I do
not know how to deal with the error messages like ‘winload.exe is missing or
corrupt’ and ‘NTLDR is missing’.
Since I installed Vista Ultimate, I have cheerfully run
Vista/XP on one hard drive, and Vista on another, waiting for Vista to accept
the many programs it still rejects. I recently decided the time had come
to use my 2 hard drives for only one OS, something I have done many times in
the past, except this time all hell was let loose. Basically I lost all
access to my second hard drive containing Vista. Changing the boot
sequence in the BIOS produced the NTLDR error message, and from time to time,
Vista appeared as a choice during boot up but selecting it produced the second
Surfing the net produced to fixes to try out but none of them worked. I
have seen all sorts of software advertised to solve MBR problems, but I find
them confusing. I have returned to dual boot on one hard drive and Vista on the
other. When I had XP and Windows on separate hard drives, I had to change
the boot sequence to access the other hard drive. Now the OS seems to take
over and produce the booting sequence. Is the MBR written only on XP? Can
you erase it? Why doesn't formatting erase it, since reformatting and
reinstalling have not solved my problems?
A. So many questions, but let’s begin with a quick and dirty
guide to what the MBR or Master Boot Record is, and what it does. This is the
first sector on a hard disc drive, it stores the ‘partition table’ -- a sort of index – detailing the contents
of the other sectors and partitions on the drive. When you first switch on your
PC this is the first part of the drive to be read and it tells the computer
where to look for the boot loader or NTLDR (NT Loader – used to boot up
Windows) and the operating system files. Because of the MBRs’ importance and
location it is protected, difficult to access and it is extremely unwise to
mess around with it.
Usually any attempts to tinker with the MBR ends in
disaster, even seasoned experts give it a wide berth, however, there are ways
and means. My preferred option is to give up trying to fix it – when in a hole
stop digging – and try something else instead. I suggest installing a copy of
the Linux operating system.
This will effectively take over the booting of
your PC, repairing or installing a new MBR and BootLoader program. During
installation it will create a new partition for itself, using free space on the
drive (most Linux ‘Distribution’ need only 20Gb or so), and leave your Windows
installation intact. After installation the Linux bootloader will appear on the
screen, giving you the option to boot into Linux, or any of the copies of
Windows on your drives; (this can be changed, in Linux, to boot into Windows by
default). Best of all you’ll have the option of booting into a near
bullet-proof OS if Windows gives you any more trouble, so you can continue working
and extract files, surf the web send and receive emails and so on. There’s a
simple to follow guide to installing and multi-booting with Linux in Boot Camp 446.
Multi Clipboard Solution
Hi Rick, is it
possible to have more than one item of copy/paste text stored on the
keyboard-computer? For example (and this doesn't work): Ctrl/C/1 copy text 1, Ctrl/V/1 paste text, Ctrl/C/2 copy text
2, Ctrl/V/2 paste text 2. It
would be very useful if it were possible.
A. I think you mean the Windows Clipboard, in which case the
answer is yes. There is such a thing as a multiple clipboard, or clipboard
‘manager’, that can store several copied items. There used to be one in
Windows, but I’m going way back now, to Windows 95. Nowadays you have to use a
third-party program, and there are dozens of them to choose from. The good news
is most of them are completely free. If you are a heavy-duty clipboard user
then I would start with something like 101 Clips, which despite the name,
stores up to 25 items. If you want to see what else is on offer then there’s a
very good selection on the Tucows
Which Print Icon?
Hi Rick, I have never discovered whether it is better,
correct or recommended to click on the ‘Print’ on the File Menu or to use the
Print icon that appears with whatever program is in use? Does it matter?
Peter F. Penney
A. There is no right and wrong way, and just to
confuse matters, in most applications you can fire up the printer by pressing
Crtl + P. The print icon you see on most program’s toolbars is generally the
quickest option as it usually just prints out whatever you’re working on, or
seeing on the screen, which is normally all you want when using a word
processor etc. Print or Print Set-up on the File menu is what you would use if
you want to change some aspect of the printout. It usually opens up your printer’s
Properties menu, or the applications print set-up or layout menu. For example,
you would use one of these options if you want to change the paper size or
type, print multiple copies, change from portrait to landscape view, alter the
borders or margins, print quality or change the size or position of whatever
you are printing.
my Internet Explorer browser is unable to connect to any web sites but Windows
Diagnostics tells me there are no connection problems (I have also checked as
suggested by IE to ensure that my SSL 2.0 and 3.0 and TLS 1.0 protocols are
ticked and they are). I believe this problem started when I uninstalled Panda
Anti virus as my free period had expired (although I was unable to totally
uninstall) and tried to install A-Squared anti virus which I was unable to do
and then my computer crashed and I needed to boot in safe mode and do a system
restore as well! I have RegCure and Error Smart installed also but no cure
is AOL, it connects perfectly and I am using Vista Home Premium and I have
now installed Avast! anti virus but I cannot update it as my computer will not
connect to their server. All part of the same problem. The MS website does not
seem to have any suggestions and wont allow me to download Explorer as it is
already installed. Am I safe to uninstall Explorer and then will I be able to
re-install from Microsoft or is there another solution I can try. I am not a
complete novice but also I am not terribly experienced either. Any assistance
will be appreciated
A. As I read through this long tale of woe I couldn’t help
recalling the old nursery rhyme about the old lady who swallowed a fly (and for
those unfamiliar with it, she went on to swallow a spider, then succession of
progressively larger creatures, each one meant to catch it its
predecessor…). Denis Healey’s famous
quote about holes also springs to mind (‘when you are in one stop digging’),
but I digress.
I’m not sure how you managed to download all of
these programs if Internet Explorer isn’t working but as a general rule, if
everything suggests that you have a solid connection to the Internet but you
can’t go online the usual culprit is a Firewall or security program blocking
access. Temporarily switch them all off, and the simplest way to do that is
right-click the program’s icons in the System Tray, next to the clock. However,
some of these programs can still operate in the background so uninstall them
one by one and see if that beings back your connection. Still no luck? Then get a friend to download
a copy of Firefox browser, install that on your PC and see if that works, if so
then it’s starting to look as if IE has a problem, in which case you can safely
uninstall it and use Firefox to download the latest version.
MMF to MP3 Converter
Hi Rick, can you help a silver Surfer please? My problem
concerns MMF Format music files. I have downloaded some music in this format
but I am unable to either change the format into MP3 or play it on my Windows
Media Player (which does not recognise the format). I would like to do both if
possible; I have Windows XP Professional Service pack 2.
A. I have to say I’m a little puzzled. As far as I’m aware
the only audio format with an .mmf extension is SMAF or Synthetic Music Mobile
Application, which is mostly used for mobile phone ringtones – please correct
me if I am wrong.
I suppose you might want to hear your downloaded
ringtones on your PC, though I can’t for the life of me see why, but if that’s
what you want then who am I to argue and a little freeware utility called
PSMPlay, which converts from mmf to midi format, should do the trick. The
download seems to come and go but you should be able to find it by Googling the
name or try this link: http://encoderx.eu/mobile/index.php?id=1
Scary Registry Cleaner?
Hi Rick, after hearing such good reports about the Registry
cleaner utility RegSeeker I downloaded it onto my computer. My question is: Is
it usual for it to run for hours on end because after it had brought up over
2600 files I decided to abort the operation. There didn't seem to be many green
files, mostly red. I would like to run it again but will wait until I hear from
you to say the above is normal. I consider myself fairly competent on the
computer but know nothing about the registry and I hear so many times 'do not
mess with the Registry if you are not clear on what you are doing'!
A. I certainly have no hesitation in recommending RegSeeker
and it’s about as safe as a Registry cleaner can be, and of course, it free,
plus, unlike other some free or commercial programs, it doesn’t try to sell you
anything, or deliberately infect your machine.
One of the best features of RegSeeker is the backup
facility, so if something does go wrong, it can usually be safely undone.
However, if you want to take a boot and braces approach always manually backup
the Registry first -- see this TopTip
for how to do it.
Since this is the first time you’ve run
RegSeeker I am not surprised it found a lot of errors, though 2600 is
definitely more than I would have hoped to see. I would proceed cautiously in
that case, so definitely make a manual backup first and when you open RegSeeker
and run Clean the Registry, uncheck all but one of the ‘Keys’ – i.e. just leave
HKEY Classes_Root – run the cleaner and fix any problems it finds, reboot, make
sure all is well, backup the Registry again then move on to the next key and
repeat the exercise until all of the keys have been cleaned.