FAQS! FACTS! FAX!

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JUNE 08

30/06/08

Out of the Zone

Hi Rick, I have been using ZoneAlarm for some time now - the free version - with no problems and a lot of confidence that it was working as advertised.  A few months ago I upgraded my RAM from 1 to 2 GB since when XP's security software regularly reports that ZoneAlarm is switched off.  I contacted Zone Labs and got a response, which suggested turning ZoneAlarm off and on again.  This worked, but on next reboot the problem is usually back again.  Also whereas it used to report literally hundreds of attacks thwarted, now it shows none at all.  Am I really protected by this firewall now, and if so how do I restore normal operational appearance please?

 

I am using XP Home with SP2 and all current upgrades installed.  I am also using ZoneAlarm on a laptop running Vista Home Premium with no untoward symptoms.

Brian Oke

 

A. You can spend a lot of time chasing your tail with problems like this one, I know, I’ve been there. There’s no guarantee you’ll find a solution either, though you will probably learn quite a lot about the program, encounter fellow sufferers, and explore the nether regions of the maker’s support services. All well and good but if all you want to do is get back on the road the quickest and simplest solution is uninstall the program, eradicate all traces of it, clean the Registry and reinstall. So, from the top, set new Restore Point, uninstall from Add/Remove Programs in Control Panel, delete any related folders (i.e. anything called Zone Alarm or Zone labs), run RegSeeker, reboot, set new Restore Point, reboot, reinstall program.

 

26/06/08

Slow Word

Hello Rick, I seem to have a problem with Word (Office 2007 Home and Student).  It takes an incredibly long time to open a document, once up and running, opening new files does not seem to be a problem - it is the opening of Word in the first place. Could this be down to the computer needing more RAM, (it has 256MB I think), or is there anything else I can do?  Any advice is welcome.

Bridget Potts

 

A. I am surprised that it works at all with just 256Kb or RAM, so yes, upgrading your PC’s memory will definitely help pep things up a bit and if you are using Windows XP or Vista I suggest a minimum of 2Gb. If Word has always been slow to open then this is almost certainly the solution but if it has been getting progressively worse then there could be another problem. Word’s document template file, called normal.dot, is always the first place to start. It’s constantly being updated, easily corrupted and slow opening is one of the symptoms. If it is still sluggish after a RAM upgrade see this TopTip from my PCTopTIps (where else?) website.

 

23/06/08

Sluggish Favourites

Hi Rick, I have a small but annoying problem. In Favourites, I have several folders with links in them. Each folder takes about 5 seconds to open and then each link within it another couple of seconds or so, making navigating very slow indeed. The same thing is also happening in folders on the desktop. Any ideas?

Derek Greenaway

 

A. It’s not clear from your message how widespread this problem is but I’m guessing it’s a Windows Explorer issue, rather than anything to do with Internet Explorer. Favourites are just another folder, and if Windows Explorer is on a go-slow then it will be slow to open. Unfortunately there are quite a few things that can cause this so the place to start is Microsoft Knowledgebase article 819017, which deals with a number of common solutions. Beyond that there is a Registry fix that increases the Folder View Size on the excellent Kelly’s Korner website (see tweak number 2). It can also be due to an excess of programs and services running in the background, indexing operations, running XP on a FAT32 partition, malware and viruses, you name it, but try the Microsoft suggestions and Registry fix first.

 

19/06/08

Bring Me The Menu

Hi Rick. I have suffered the loss of the Menu Bar (File, Edit, View, etc.) in Internet Explorer. I am running XP on Dell Dimension 3000. Please advise?

Geoff Smith 

 

A. For the life of me I still can’t work out why Microsoft had to fiddle with this aspect of IE and I know from the many, many letters I still get. It annoys the hell out of everyone who suddenly experiences the loss of the Menu bar, and are left with no obvious means of getting it back. It’s unlikely you’ll ever stumble across it by accident but all you have to do is press the Alt key, and up it pops.

 

And here’s another quirk that can catch you off-guard (though it is not unique to IE7); if for any reason all of the toolbars and menu bar disappear, the browser is probably in Full Screen mode and to restore normality just press F11.

 

16/06/08

Sleep Desktop Shortcut

Hi Rick, I tend to use my computer intermittently during the day. Rather than leave it running all the time, I've always put it into standby mode with the 'Sleep' key. Having just bought a new keyboard, I'm a little lost to discover that it doesn't have such a key. Is there a quick way of creating a short cut on the desktop, which would do the same job?
David Lowe

 

A. As far as I am aware you can only create shortcuts to shutdown, Hibernate, Logoff and Restart, but there is a workaround in the shape of a freeware utility form Microsoft, called Ps Shutdown and it works for both XP and Vista. Download the zip file and extract it to a folder called PsTools on your C: drive. Next, right click the desktop and select New > Shortcut and in the Type the location box enter ‘C:\PsTools\pssutdown.exe –d –t 00’ (without the quotes), click Next, then Next and it’s ready to go. When you double click the icon you will see a licence agreement box, click OK and that’s the first and last time you’ll see it.

 

12/06/08

Change of Address

Hi Rick, quite recently you replied to a reader regarding the pros and cons of switching computers on and off too often. You said that switching off them on again had the advantage, from a security point of view, that one's modem got a new address each time when connecting to the Internet. Does the same - i.e. new address - apply if one is connecting via wireless (I have the BT Home Hub)?

Beatrice Saunders

 

A. I think you may have misunderstood me slightly. I was actually talking about switching broadband modem-routers off at night when they are not being used. It won’t save much electricity, but every little helps. Anyway, the point I was making was that when you disconnect the modem from the Internet the link to your ISP is lost, along with it your ‘Public’ IP Address – which is the one that identifies your connection to the Internet. When you reconnect the ISP assigns the modem a new address, which is a good thing from a security standpoint as it makes it a little harder for human and non-human hackers to get into your system. The IP address remains the same for as long as the modem is switched on and plugged into the phone socket, irrespective of whether your PC is running or not. The Public IP address is also unaffected by PCs connecting to the router or hub wirelessly, though the ‘Private’ address of the PCs involved can change, as these are assigned by the router, but that’ another story…

 

09/06/08

Speed Icons and Porky Pies

Dear Rick, I am puzzled. If I hold the cursor over the Internet connection icon in the System Tray this indicates a download speed of 7Mbps.  However I have just checked my connection speed on the BBC Technology website and this indicates a download speed of 4.7Mbps. I am paying for 8Mbps but accept that I am unlikely to achieve this although I am only half a mile from the telephone exchange. Which of the two measurements is correct please?

Peter Watson.

 

A. This confuses a lot of users but the answer is simple, the System Tray icon shows the maximum data throughput, according to your type of connection. In other words all it tells you is how fast data can be moved in and out of your computer, in your case a very average 7Mbs, which suggests that you have a Wi-Fi connection to your router.

 

Online checkers such as the one you mention provide a more realistic measurement of actual data speed but it is important to remember that it’s only a snapshot as Internet traffic, and consequently download speeds vary enormously throughout the day. In fact I suspect there was something like a 10 percent reduction in download speeds across the board in the minutes following the BBC news report when the speed checker address was mentioned, simply because several tens of thousands of people all tried to use it at the same time…

 

You really need to check your speed several times throughout the day, and try two or three different on-line checkers, to get a realistic figure. But if you think your ISP is going to give you a discount, dream on. The best we can hope for is that they’ll make it clearer in the ads that the maximum quoted speed is only a general estimate and that in reality although you are paying for an 8Mb/s connection, under real word conditions it’s highly unlikely you will ever get anywhere close to it.

 

05/06/08

Spanish Sounds

Dear Rick, we live in Spain and (probably illegally) watch Sky TV from which I listen to all the radio channels. The TV is connected to the Hi-Fi and I record onto cassettes any programmes I want, say from Radio 2 or BBC7 or whatever, then I listen to them in the car. My problem is we're going to have to change the car soon and I'll probably have to have a CD radio in it and our Hi Fi is giving up the ghost.

 

Is it possible and if so, what would I need, to record radio programmes from the TV onto a CD? If it is possible, would I have to throw the CD away afterwards or can it be recorded over? Any advice would be much appreciated - thank you.

Ann Rossiter

 

A. Sky would definitely take a dim view of you receiving its programmes in Spain, but we’ll make that our little secret… As for recording radio programmes on CD, whilst you can still use your current setup to make an analogue recording of radio broadcasts, at some point you will have to introduce a PC into the proceedings, to burn the CD, so why not make things even simpler and use your computer to download and record the radio shows? Virtually all BBC output is live online, and many programmes are available as podcasts and ‘Listen Again’ streams.

 

There are three ways to go with the conversion to CD, four if your new car has a radio with an mp3 input. The guaranteed universal solution is to create audio CDs from the downloads or recordings. If the CD player has mp3 replay, and many do these days, then you only need to copy the files to the disc, and if the radio has an mp3 input, you can download the files to a player and plug it in. The fourth solution is to copy the files to an mp3 player and connect that to a ‘sender’. Which is basically a small FM transmitter that re-broadcasts the programmes to an unused channel on the radio, these are widely available from around £15 upwards.

 

To convert analogue recordings on cassette tape, or mp3 audio files and podcasts into audio CDs see Boot Camp articles 450 – 454.

 

02/06/08

DVD into CD Won’t Go

Hi Rick, some time you suggested a Boot Camp article on how to transfer tape to CD (and I printed the article you suggested). Because the amount of space on a CD is limited (and most of my double-sided tapes are 90 or 100+ minutes), is it possible to transfer music tracks onto DVD-R, because they can hold so much more than a CD?  And, if I did, would I be able to play the resulting (music) DVD on a CD player in the home or in a car?

Nigel Gates

 

A. You can certainly store music tracks, as MP3 files, on a DVD but the disc will only be playable on PCs and DVD players that have an MP3 replay facility. Unfortunately the vast majority of CD players simply cannot play DVDs, and there’s no reason why they should. I am afraid that if you want to create audio CDs that can play on any CD player then you are going to have to edit your recordings to fit in with the 80-minute capacity of blank CDs. Otherwise the only alternative is to upgrade your CD players to models that can play MP3 files, in which case you can use a CD’s 700Mb capacity to hold hundreds of tracks in the compressed data format. Needless to say the quality will be degraded – compared with audio CD, but this probably won’t matter too much if your source material wasn’t that good to begin with.

 

02/06/08

DVD into CD Won’t Go

Hi Rick, some time you suggested a Boot Camp article on how to transfer tape to CD (and I printed the article you suggested). Because the amount of space on a CD is limited (and most of my double-sided tapes are 90 or 100+ minutes), is it possible to transfer music tracks onto DVD-R, because they can hold so much more than a CD?  And, if I did, would I be able to play the resulting (music) DVD on a CD player in the home or in a car?

Nigel Gates

 

A. You can certainly store music tracks, as MP3 files, on a DVD but the disc will only be playable on PCs and DVD players that have an MP3 replay facility. Unfortunately the vast majority of CD players simply cannot play DVDs, and there’s no reason why they should. I am afraid that if you want to create audio CDs that can play on any CD player then you are going to have to edit your recordings to fit in with the 80-minute capacity of blank CDs. Otherwise the only alternative is to upgrade your CD players to models that can play MP3 files, in which case you can use a CD’s 700Mb capacity to hold hundreds of tracks in the compressed data format. Needless to say the quality will be degraded – compared with audio CD, but this probably won’t matter too much if your source material wasn’t that good to begin with.

 

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