Houston We Have a Problem… 011 18/11/06


Rural Broadband

I finally persuaded my 76 year-old mother, living in a small hamlet in Devon, to join the digital revolution and buy a computer. Unfortunately she is having problems with BT Broadband. The service is fine for a few minutes but then it drops out. She can reconnect but the same thing keeps happening. It is very irritating and makes surfing the web virtually impossible.


We have tried moving the computer next to the master BT phone socket and unplugging all the phones, which is rather impractical. I believe the computer is fine and it seems to be the broadband connection that is at fault.

Nigel Knowlman, Cheltenham.



You seem to have eliminated most of the possible causes at your mother’s end of the connection, though make sure there are no other devices still plugged into the line, such as a SKY box, fax machine, extension bell and so on.


In theory broadband should be available to anyone living within 6 km of a suitably equipped BT exchange. It’s possible that your mother is at the limits of BT’s reach, or there is a problem with the phone line. Either way it is a BT issue and your case would be strengthened if any immediate neighbours with broadband are also experiencing difficulties. Explain the problem to BT and ask it to check the line; it is in its interest to get the connection working properly and in many cases all that is needed are some simple tweaks.




I do not own a TV and have no wish to get one but I enjoy watching movies on my computer, which has a DVD player. Would it be possible to connect a VHS video recorder to my PC so I can watch tapes as well? 

Tricia P. by email


A. It is and the Dazzle DVD Recorder, which costs around £40, connects between your video recorder’s audio and video (AV) output and the PC’s USB port. You can also use it to ‘capture’ and record your videos onto DVD. You should do this in any case. VHS is now virtually obsolete; VCRs will disappear from the shops within the next few years and tapes deteriorate so you should start thinking about preserving your recordings now.


Presumably you do not have a TV licence, however, connecting a video recorder to your PC puts you into a grey area because virtually all VCRs have built-in TV tuners, which would enable your PC to display TV programmes. You could have this facility disabled by an engineer, or buy a video ‘player’; they haven’t been made for several years but you might find one on the ebay auction website.  



Key Question

I use a USB portable memory key drive, which on my Windows XP laptop I can disconnect using the icon in the System Tray. Our main computer runs Windows ME and offers no facility to remove the drive safely while the machine is still running. I was told that just pulling out the drive, could damage both USB port and the drive but my daughter says she does it all the time (she uses a laptop with Windows XP), with no ill effects. Can you advise?

Reinardina Arreman, by email


A. Windows XP has built-in support for USB and it is usually tolerant of ‘hot plugging’, i.e. connecting or disconnecting a device without re-configuring software or rebooting. Earlier versions of Windows (Win 98, ME and SE) also support USB but require a specially written program or ‘driver’ for each device. A few drivers allow hot plugging but most do not and removing the drive usually results in a BSOD (Blue Screen Of Death…). This can sometimes involve loss or corruption of the data on the drive and very occasionally messing up the drive’s filing system, so you shouldn’t do it but I don’t think you need to worry about too much damaging the drive or the port.   



Taking a Detailed View

I am using Windows XP and in the My Documents folder I cannot find out how to set it so that it always goes to the ‘Details’ View. Some folders open on Details and others on Files View so I have to manually change each it time.

Russell Abrahams, by email


By default Windows stores the View setting for each folder but it may have been disabled. To switch it back on open Windows Explorer or My Computer then go to Tools > Folder Options and select the View tab. On the Advanced settings list scroll down to ‘Remember each folder’s view settings’ and make sure that it is checked. To set all of your folders to the same View click the ‘Apply to All Folders’ button on Folder Option’s View tab. 


Incidentally Windows remembers the Views and customisations for up to 400 folders and this can be increased but it involves editing the Windows Registry. This is a critical System File that controls and configures Windows and the programs on your PC and the procedure is not for novices but if you would like to know how it’s done see Microsoft Knowledgebase article 812003.





© R. Maybury 2006 0611



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