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JULY 08

31/07/08

Haunted Modem?

Hi Rick, here's a conundrum. Last night I put my computer into hibernate as usual, but I switched off my modem (for a new IP address, etc.). Well, damn me this morning the computer was on and Windows had sent me updates as they normally do, at 03.02. How is this possible? The modem lights were still off! What is this - some form of magic? I'd love to know how they did it.

Terry Grant

 

A. So would IÖ I am reasonably sure no magic is involved (though Iím always willing to be convinced), which leaves just two possibilities. The updates were downloaded when the modem was on, and you didnít notice it, or you have another connection to the Internet.

 

I suspect it is the former, and even though you have scheduled updates for the early morning, if they are set to automatic they can happen at any time, and the scheduling simply switched the PC back on at the appointed time.

 

A phantom connection is possible, though highly unlikely. If, in the past you have configured and used a dial-up modem, and it is still connected (or inside) the PC this could be dialling out. Alternatively, if your PC is wirelessly networked, when it powers up to carry out a scheduled update and your Wi-FI router is off, it could log on to a nearby unsecured network and carry out the download. This would normally only be possible if, at some time in the past, you have manually or mistakenly logged on to the neighbouring network. If you ever get to the bottom of it let me know, and if it does turn out to be magic we need to talk  as I reckon we could make a few bobÖ

 

28/07/08

Switch it Off?

Hi Rick, I usually switch my computer of at the mains when I go away and at night this includes the broadband connection. I have now been told that broadband should never be turned off as switching it on again can cause all sorts of problems. Can you advise please?

John Bashford

 

A. Thereís certainly a grain of truth in that. If your broadband link is repeatedly interrupted the systems monitoring your connection can interpret it as a line fault and in some cases will wind down the speed to try and compensate. However, this is only going to happen if you disconnect the modem several times a day; switching it off at night shouldnít have any effect, and it might even save you a few quid every year in electricity.

 

24/07/08

Routing for Old Software

I've been using Isys Route Master for years. I got it from the cover of a computer magazine. However Iíve lost the disk so I can't load it onto my new computer. Do you know where I can get a copy of the program?

Ray Fuller

 

A. Iíll put you out of your misery right away and say no, and unless someone out there reading this has a copy Iím afraid that you are going to have to let it go.

 

Itís not much use to you in this instance, but for future reference, two good places to look for long lost programs are www.oldversion.com and www.archive.org. Theyíre well worth a look in any case for some old favourites,  most of which are free to download.

 

Now for the good news. Pretty well all of the functions of Routemaster, and quite a lot more besides, is available from on-line mapping services, like Google Maps. Just select ĎGet Directionsí tap in where you are starting from, and where you want to go, and moments later a turn-by-turn route appears on your screen, which you can print, along with a map of your route. Unlike software based programs, like Routemaster, itís bang up to date and of course itís free. Better yet, get a GPS

 

21/07/08

Tape to Disc Transfer

Hi Rick, I have some video tapes that I wish to put on to DVD but the quality of some of them is not very good. What sort of program should I get to tidy up the recording?

John Howard

 

A. Unlike still pictures, cleaning up an enhancing video footage is rather difficult, for the simple reason that you are dealing with not one, but 25 pictures each second, and making detailed changes in real time requires a huge amount of computing power. In practice all you can really do is tweak things like brightness, contrast, saturation and sharpness, on a scene-by-scene basis. Some editing programs also have quite effective noise filters, but in the end you canít put back what isnít there, at least not without a lot of very sophisticated software and hardware (and for sophisticated read eye-wateringly expensive). 

 

I suggest a straightforward editing package, check out the Pinnacle and U-Lead ranges and look for a program thatís appropriate to your hardware, and pocket. Donít despair, excessive processing often spoils old footage, just concentrate on editing out the wonky bit, and once itís on DVD you can be reasonably sure that itís not going to deteriorate any further, as will be the case if you leave it on tape.

 

17/07/08

Whereís the colour gone?

Hi Rick, I have been given an old Aiwa DVD player Video recorder combo machine. When playing DVDs via a SCART connection to the TV the picture is in black and white, yet on a normal video connection replay is in full colour. Do you have any ideas? I read in an answer to a previous query, relating to a different player, that disc region and PAL/NTSC playback were possible causes.

Grant du Feu

 

A. I donít think it has anything to do with Region Codes, but colour standards could be involved, however, usually itís just a simple connection or configuration issue. To understand why his is happening you need to know that there are basically four signal standards on non-HD DVD players. They are composite video, where all of the colour, brightness, and synchronisation information is packed together; S-Video (or Y/C), where the colour and brightness signals are separated (thatís what the S in S-Video stands for), and RGB, where the red, green and blue parts of the signal are carried separately, and Component Video, (aka Y/CbCr/YpbPr) which is another ways of splitting the signal, and tends to be mostly found on high end players, and doesnít in any case have anything to so with SCART sockets.

 

From the sound of it you are piping a S-Video signal through your SCART cable, because if the SCART socket on the TV is set to recognise a composite video signal it will only see the Y (luminance) or brightness signal, which produces a black and white picture. 

 

I mentioned that it could have something to do with colour standards but we can discount this as you get a colour picture on a normal composite video connection. In any case this would only apply if you were playing a NTSC coded DVD on a multi-standard player, connected to an older TV with limited NTSC display facilities. It wouldnít happen on a UK standard disc, so I think you should concentrate on checking the TVís input configuration, but if that is not possible then, and you want to use a SCART connection, you may need to check the DVDs setup menu and switch the output to Composite Video.

 

14/07/08

Vanishing Video

Hi Rick, the picture quality on my old PC is rather fuzzy due to a faulty integrated graphics card. I have acquired a new graphic card that I am certain is in working order but I cannot get this to work. I have tried to disable and uninstall the current card by going into the BIOS settings and Device manager but to no avail.

 

The new graphics card is recognised by the system but will not supersede the functions of the integrated one. Can you please advice as to how I can get this to work?

Michael R.

 

A. Without being Ďhands-oní with the PC itís difficult to say, and Iím still not sure how you can tell it is being recognised by the system if it is not workingÖ  However if, as you say, you have disabled the integrated adaptor in the PCís BIOS then the new card should function. Even if the correct driver isnít installed it should still operate in the default 800 x 600 VGA mode. That means that the only possible causes of failure are a faulty or incompatible video card, faulty video bus or a more deep-seated problem with the motherboard. Are you sure the card is okay? How about the connection type? For example not all mobos made in the last few years support the more recent PCI-Express video cards. PCI-E slots also look similar to standard PCI connectors and it is possible to force some cards into some slots. If the new card is a recent high-end type I suggest trying an older, simpler card and see if that works, if not then I fear there may be something wrong with the motherboard.   

 

10/07/08

Whereís The Fire?

Hi Rick, I have a Dell Inspiron 1501 laptop. At first, when opened Network Connections, I had three icons, Wireless Connection with Dell WLAN Card, Local Area Connection with Broadcom 440x 10/100 Integrated Controller and a 1394 Connection the details of which now escape me.

 

Within the last week, the 1394 Connection has disappeared.  I have looked in System and the entry for IEEE1394 Bus host controllers has disappeared.  I have tried installing new hardware and nothing is being detected.  I am not sure whether it is relevant, but I have a Nokia 3120 phone, which will still connect using the Nokia software and USB cable and haven't tried with anything like a camera yet.  Is there any software reason, or is it likely that the relevant hardware has died?  I shall be disappointed if it is the latter as the machine is only 8 months old.

John Gallon

 

A. IEEE 1394 was the original name for FireWire, the connection system used to connect things like digital cameras and high-speed peripherals, such as hard drives, to a PC. Although mostly used as a serial data connection it will function quite happily as a fast (400mb/s) network connection, which is why it is listed as a Network Connection. However, I checked the specs for the Inspiron 1501 and it doesnít have a FireWire port, so I am not sure why it showed up. The only thing I can think of is that a driver is installed Ė possibly as part of a bundle of drivers, shared by a range of models Ė and for some reason Windows mistakenly listed it in Network Connections. Anyway, the upshot of all this is that thereís nothing to worry about, and since everything appears to be working properly, I would let sleeping dogs lieÖ

 

07/07/08

Wireless Keyboard BIOS Access

Hi Rick, I have a secondary hard drive fitted which has a cloned version on my PC on it, to change Boot sequence on my PC hitting F2 on start up gets me into Windows Advanced Option Menu so I can do this, but now I have a cordless keyboard, which isnít recognised until full boot achieved, I wondered if there is a way to get into this menu via a DOS command, or can I make a Floppy or CD to get there?

Rex Hinton

 

A. It might be possible, many PCs made within the past five years or so have whatís known as USB Legacy Support, which basically mans thereís an option to enable the USB ports and recognise USB devices, before Windows loads ití own USB drivers. You will find this facility in the BIOS (Basic Input Output System) program that tests and configures your PC hardware immediately after switch on.

 

The BIOS program is usually opened by pressing a key (or keys) as soon as it is switched on. The key(s) are usually displayed on the screen, normally something like ĎTo enter Setup press Escí or something similar, otherwise check the manual. Once the BOS program has opened look through the Advanced or Peripherals menus and enable USB Legacy Support, or it may just be called ĎUSB Keyboardí. Touch nothing else, Save and Exit. If you canít find it then Iím afraid youíll just have to revert to a wired keyboard.

 

03/07/08

Shortcut to Speed?

Hi Rick, I have an XP PC which is around a year old and whilst it isn't painfully slow, I think it is slower than when new. I have about 100 shortcuts on the desktop and wonder if these can affect the speed?

Eddie Gaskill

 

A. No, a profusion of desktop shortcuts adds just a fraction of a second to the time it takes for your PC to boot up but thatís about it. They have no direct impact on performance, though I suspect that having so many means your PC is pretty cluttered, which is almost certainly the reason it has slowed down.

 

My guess is some of those programs, possibly quite a few, load components and background services at startup that will definitely sap your machineís resources. The computer is probably wasting a fair amount of time shuffling data around, between the system memory and hard drive, especially if you have 1Gb or less of RAM. If you havenít defragged your drive lately I would do that, but only after youíve cleared out the dead wood by uninstalling all of the programs that you no longer use, prune the Startup list and give the Registry a spring clean. See my Boot Camp articles on Tuning XP for the specifics.

 

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