Your Priorities Right
Rick, when you set a digital camera to Aperture Priority mode (in this case
Fuji E900) is the aperture set automatically?
Joe Busuttil, Malta
A. Most mid-range and high-end cameras (digital and film) have an
assortment of exposure modes and most of them are fairly self explanatory (i.e.
‘Twilight’, ‘Landscape’, ‘Cloudy’ and so on), but Aperture Priority and its
stablemate Shutter Priority mode can be a bit confusing. So let’s take a quick
look at what they do, and what they’re good for.
Aperture Priority lets you adjust the aperture, also known
as the iris, whilst the camera takes control of the shutter. The iris is the
gizmo behind the lens that opens or closes to allow more or less light through
to the image sensor. Opening the iris too wide would result in over exposure,
and conversely making it too small would make the picture too dark, so to make
sure this doesn’t happen, the camera sets the optimum shutter speed. If it
thinks the iris is too big it compensates with a very fast shutter speed.
Similarly, if the iris is open too far it selects a slower shutter speed, to
allow more light through.
Setting the Aperture manually allows you to control the
depth of field, which is basically the area in front of the camera lens where
everything will be in focus, which for the sake of simplicity we’ll divide up
into the far background, the middle ground and close to the camera, the foreground.
For instance, you might want to have your subject stand out against a blurry
background, in which case you would choose a wide aperture, whereas a narrow
aperture would put the background in sharp focus, to make it stand out but objects
in the middle ground and foreground will be less sharp.
Shutter Priority works the other way around. You
manually control the shutter speed and leave the camera to figure out the best
aperture or iris setting. It works well for things like races, where you want
to emphasise the effect of speed and movement, by blurring the subject, or if
you pan with the subject, blur the background.
Rick, can you help with a Startup problem? My Windows XP SP2 computer starts
and loads up to the full desktop window with icons then goes blank with a small
window saying No Signal. I press F8 and then reboot and after two more attempts
it will load. Once loaded there are no further problems. I have tried System
Restore and also msconfig. I had a look at Device Manager but then I get lost.
A. I suspect the ‘No Signal’ message is actually
coming from your monitor, rather than Windows, and it is usually an indication
of a problem with the video adaptor, it’s driver or, very occasionally, the
monitor itself. The first thing to do check and reseat both ends of the cable
connecting the PC to the monitor. Next, make sure you are not using an
unsupported resolution for your monitor – try changing it in Display Properties
(right-click desktop and select Properties) and see what happens. Still no
good, then update your video driver. If you don’t know the make and model
offhand open Device Manager again and it will be displayed under Video Adaptors
– pop along to the manufacturer’s website and download the latest version for
your operating system. If the problem persists whip off the PC’s lid and reseat
the adaptor card (assuming the adaptor is not integrated with the motherboard.
If it is, or the No Signal message continues then try a new video card.
Broadband Limits -- If the Cap Fits…
Hello Rick, some ISPs impose monthly download limits, and
the cost of exceeding these can be quite high. Are you aware of any shareware
or freeware utilities which keep a track of the number of bytes downloaded
during each internet session, ideally adding them together so that one may
determine one's internet download totals?
A. My first piece of advice to you is to shop around and
find yourself a broadband deal that doesn’t impose a ‘cap’ on your downloads.
Ask your existing ISP, you might be pleasantly surprised at how cheap it is to
upgrade, after all they don’t want to lose your business.
A year or so ago capped packages might have made sense for
some low demand users, but now, with so many very competitive deals available
it is unlikely that you would save any money, and as you have pointed out, you
risk of exceeding your limit and running up a large bill. Even if you never
considered yourself the sort of person who would download music and video from
the web, I bet you will after playing around with the BBC iPlayer (the subject
of a series of articles for my Daily Telegraph Boot Camp columns).
Anyway, if you decided to stay with a capped
deal then a little freeware utility called Netmeter is what you are looking
for, and you’ll find a link to it on the software page of my
Hi Rick, I am hoping you can once again help us with a
problem. We have a desktop and Acer laptop linked by a Lynksys router, which works fine
together. We are connected by Virgin Media Cable to their modem. The operating
system is Windows XP. Yesterday we
bought a Packard Bell laptop with Vista Home Premium. When we tried to connect
to the Internet it asked for the security passkey but would not
accept it. We have tried different versions - capitals etc. but no go. Our present
system works well so we know the password is correct. Can you help us add this
A. Been there, seen it, done it, got the
tee-shirt… I have wasted hours of my life chasing down problems like this, and
although I can’t rule out the possibility of a hardware of software fault, I’m
willing to bet 50 pee that everything is working just fine, it’s just one of PC
networking and wi-fi’s funny little ways. When it happens to me now I have
learned that the best thing to do is switch everything off, and I mean
everything, including the router, modem all PCs and laptops in the vicinity,
and if you have any other wireless devices, in the house, switch those off too.
Now you can carry out a staged reboot, working your way forward through the
chain starting with the modem, then the router, followed by the new laptop,
which should now log on, then you can proceed to the other PCs.
Jerky Scroll Mouse
Hi Rick, I have just spent half a day doing a repair install
of XP Home and SP2 plus all the MS updates, AVG and Zone Alarm, which the
reinstall seemed to mess up. I now find that scrolling in almost any program is
very jerky and the page moves up and down in chunks like a wave rolling down
the page. I have auto scrolling and
smooth scrolling enabled on Firefox. I
seem to recall that you have advised someone else on this problem in the past…
A. It does sound familiar and the usual cause of
a significant change in behaviour, and not just a twitchy moue, it could be
anything from no sound to a loss of USB functionality, is almost always down to
missing or corrupted drivers. Normally the driver cache on a Repair Install is
left alone, but who knows what goes on under the bonnet when you carry out such
a major reinstallation job. If you can track down the manufacturer it’s worth
visiting the manufacturer’s website and download the latest version, otherwise
try deleting the installed driver from Device Manager and a fresh copy should be
reinstalled following a reboot.
Hi Rick, I have had my Advent laptop since 2001 and it has
given sterling service. Recently the
power socket became detached from the motherboard (a common problem I
understand) and attempts to repair it weren't successful. I sourced an
inexpensive, identical model second hand that had a faulty hard-drive. It was
obvious that the ‘new’ machine was in physically better shape than the
original, and since swapping motherboards would involve complete disassembly I
simply fitted my old hard-drive and RAM module into the replacement laptop.
The computer now boots up no problem, and charges okay -
which means I've solved the original problem, but I find after 15 minutes or so
of use I get a window pop up that tells me that Windows has detected an
additional pointing device and is disabling part of the touch pad’. The machine
then goes on to randomly move the pointer around closing open applications.
I don't have any additional pointing devices or mice plugged
in and my original laptop didn't do this. I can only think it must be something
to do with hardware the previous owner of the laptop had used. I can't boot up
the hard drive that came with the machine, so I can't look on there for any
drivers to remove, and I can't understand where the bug is hiding - could it be
buried somewhere in the RAM chip from the original machine? If so, how can I
A. That is an odd one but since you have
replaced the hard drive it can’t be a driver problem. My best guess is the touch
pad or its controller chip (on the motherboard) is faulty, or there’s something
off happening in the BIOS. You should be able to tell if it’s the touch pad by
replacing it with the one from your old PC, if the error message persists check
the BIOS and look for any settings associated with the touch pad, or an
external mouse, and see what happens when you change them. Failing that then I’m
afraid the only thing left is the motherboard, so dig out the screwdrivers…
Hi Rick, I have just switched from dial-up to ADSL broadband.
According to the icon in the system tray I am getting a download speed of 7.1 –
7.4 Mb/sec, so that seems to be OK. The problem is that I keep losing my
connection. Sometimes it may be after
ten to twenty minutes and sometimes after a couple of hours. I thought that
with broadband I should remain connected all the time. My ISP has told me to
uncheck ‘Disconnect if idle for XX minutes’ and ‘Disconnect when connection may
no longer be needed’ in the Advanced Dial Up window, but I had already done that
and it doesn’t make any difference. Do you have any suggestions please?
A. I’ve dealt with this before but questions like this are a
recurring theme so it doesn’t hurt to return to the subject every so often.
Your broadband connection should be on all of the time. The items your ISP told
you to check are certainly a possibility when migrating from dial-up to
broadband, but disconnection is more likely to occur at regular intervals,
which means the problem is probably due to something external to the PC.
Unfortunately there are rather a lot of possibilities but
you should be able to track it down by a process of elimination. The number one
cause of intermittent connection is a poor quality or noisy line, which can
also be due to living too far from the exchange. It’s less likely in your case
as you are getting a decent download speed and if you are comfortably within
6km of your local exchange then we can probably rule that out. The next step is
to carry out an automated
Line check, this is a bit rough and ready but it should highlight any
serious problems. It’s also worth just listening to the line, if you hear a lot
of hiss and crackles then there may be something wrong. Often it’s something
simple, like water ingress in a junction box outside your house or up the
If al that checks out see how many other devices
are connected to the line, and if there’s more than 3 or 4 extension phones and
things like fax machines, sky boxes and so on, disconnect them one at a time.
You should also check the microfilters, an easy way to do that is buy a new one
and exchange it, one at a time with the others in use. Finally, note when the
disconnection occurs, does it coincide with other large appliances in the home
switching on or off – central heating boilers, fridges, freezers and so on? If
so they may be generating ‘spikes’ which are carried by the mains so you should
isolate the computer and modem/router using a mains spike suppression adaptor.
My wife recently bought a new Acer laptop with Windows Vista
as the operating system. She had
problems with our old HP Printer, which was subsequently replaced with an HP
All was well for a few weeks but since then the printer
fails to print. Printing from the web was not possible and then all attempted
printing produced nothing. I have uninstalled and reinstalled the printer
software but to no avail. I have checked your Boot Camp Archives but there is
no reference to the problem. Could the Vista operating system be responsible?
A. I know it is tempting to blame Windows for everything
that goes wrong but just occasionally the problem is much simpler, and so
obvious that you forget to check it. So before you do anything else let’s try a
spot of troubleshooting. Make sure the printer is switched on, properly
connected, there are no warning lights or error messages showing, check the ink
cartridges are correctly installed, swap the printer cable for a known good one
and if it still won’t work, try installing the printer on another computer. If
possible try installing another printer on the Acer laptop.
As far as I’m aware there are no known issues
with this model and Vista so once you have established that the PC and printer
are working properly you can pop along to the HP support website and download
and install the most up to date drivers and utilities for Vista. They’re dated
early 2007, which also suggests there hasn’t been any serious compatibility
problems to date. Finally, on the same download page there’s a HP Printer
diagnostic utility, I suggest that you download that and see what that has to
Hi Rick, we run a small office with three networked PCs
using Windows XP. We are expanding our self-catering holiday lettings from one
small property to three and therefore from four bed spaces to fourteen. There
is potential to increase in size again in the future to twenty bed spaces.
Is there some software that we can use to run our bookings
and keep track of who is arriving when and whether they have paid the full
amount by the due date etc?
A. I have to confess this is not an area I know
much about, other than as a consumer on the other end of hotel booking systems,
and I could tell you a few stories about that. However, I recall a similar question
coming up several years ago in a now defunct column that I used to edit for the Daily
Telegraph, called Over 2 You, where readers solved each other’s problems and
some of the replies in a thread that began in O2Y 025 may prove
useful. Otherwise it’s Google to the rescue and the search terms ‘holiday
booking software’ threw up a number of useful looking packaged from the likes
of Zebra, 247 Booking and Roeville,
to name just a few. If you are on a tight budget try changing ‘software’ to ‘freeware’. Either way there’s
a ton of software out there, but I’m afraid it’s up to you to do the legwork
and work out which one is best for you.