Houston We Have a Problem… 016 30/12/06


DVD Dilemma

Can you please tell me where I can find a definitive and simple guide to the various types of recordable DVDs? Being new to DVD I find it all thoroughly confusing.

John White, by email


Don’t worry it’s not as bad as it looks. All you really need to know is that there are two types of recordable DVD, called DVD-R (minus R) and DVD+R (plus R). Both types of disc hold 4.7Gb of data and they are ‘read-only’ formats, which means you can record on them only once. There are also ‘rewritable’ variants called DVD-RW and DVD+RW and when a disc is full it can be erased and used again. In terms of cost and performance there’s almost nothing to choose between the two types.


These days most DVD-writer drives in PCs and laptops are multi-standard and can use both ‘plus’ and ‘minus’ R blank discs otherwise they will be clearly marked. Some recent PCs and laptops can use ‘Dual Layer’ discs, which have twice the capacity (8.5Gb) of ordinary recordable DVDs. DVDs you have recorded should be readable on any PC DVD drive (or DVD player, if you have used it to record video).


For the sake of completeness you should also know that there is another type of re-recordable disc called DVD-RAM. These work like giant floppy discs and data can be recorded and erased at will. You need a special drive and blank discs are fairly expensive. It is not very popular on PCs, though, and tends to be mostly used on DVD video recorders and camcorders. There are also two high-capacity DVD formats (HD-DVD and Blu-Ray) waiting in the wings. They are designed for recording high-definition TV and movies and are about to engage in a pointless format battle and we’ll have to wait for the dust to settle to see which one has won.


If you want to know absolutely everything there is to know about DVD then I recommend the DVD FAQ. Don’t be put off by its size; it is well indexed so you can dip in and out and it is written in a very approachable style




Does Size Matter?

A friend of mine wishes to transfer about 50 photographs from an old Windows ME laptop to a new PC.

It has been suggested that she use a USB Flash Drive, what would be the smallest type required?

Bill Robins, by email


A USB drive is the quickest and simplest method of transferring files and unless your friend has a high-end digital camera it is unlikely that the picture files amount to more than a few hundred megabytes of data. A 512Mb pen drive should be more than enough but I have seen 1Gb models selling on line for less than £20.00 so there really is no need to skimp on capacity.




Wireless Security

I use a laptop with a wireless connection and I had been intending to do all my banking online but friends with considerable IT experience have expressed doubts about wireless security. Is it really possible that other, neighbouring, wireless enabled PCs and laptops could hack in to my PC?

Lawrence Bruce


A. Wireless networking can be very secure, the only trouble is most Wi-Fi-equipped devices are sold with their encryption systems switched off! There are two types of wireless encryption. The older WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) system is fairly easy to ‘crack’ by anyone with some expertise and the will to do so but it is sufficient to keep out casual snoopers. The alternative is WPA PSK (Wi-Fi Protected Access, Pre-Shared Key) encryption. This is capable of near industrial-strength protection and you can reduce the chances of someone breaking in to almost zero by using a 10-digit random character ‘passphrase’, rather the name of your cat or favourite auntie.


Remember that the data on your PC will be vulnerable if you use your laptop at a wireless ‘hot-spot’, as you will normally have to switch your security systems off, so remove or encrypt any sensitive or private data before you take your laptop on the road.       




Runaway Web Pages With Internet Explorer 7

Last week I downloaded Internet Explorer 7 and I now find that when I scroll down a web page it just keeps going. It is driving me mad because I can’t read pages properly without grabbing the side scrollbar. I rang Microsoft and they asked me to do a System Restore, which didn’t work. Can you shed any light on the scrolling problem? Maybe I'm not the only one?

Rosie Hibbs, Sussex


You are not alone and this quirky behaviour has been vexing a lot of readers lately. Most of the time it is due to a compatibility problem between IE7 and Logitech mice. The trick is to let the Windows XP control the mouse; go to Start > Control Panel > Mouse, click the Buttons tab and select ‘Use MS Compatible scroll only’ on the drop down menu and select ‘Scroll in Active Window only’, and click OK.


If you are not using a Logitech mouse here’s something else to try; in Internet Explorer go to Tools > Internet Options and select the Advanced tab. Scroll down the Settings list and under Browsing uncheck: ‘Enable Visual Styles on Buttons and Controls in Web Pages’ and click OK.






© R. Maybury 2006 1112


Search PCTopTips 



Digital Life Index

Houston 2006

Houston 2007

Houston 2008


Top Tips Index

Windows XP

Windows Vista

Internet & Email

Microsoft Word

Folders & Files

Desktop Mouse & Keyboard

Crash Bang Wallop!

Privacy & Security

Imaging Scanning & Printing

Power, Safety & Comfort

Tools & Utilities

Sound Advice

Display & screen

Fun & Games

Windows 95/98/SE/ME







 Copyright 2006-2008 PCTOPTIPS UK.

All information on this web site is provided as-is without warranty of any kind. Neither PCTOPTIPS nor its employees nor contributors are responsible for any loss, injury, or damage, direct or consequential, resulting from your choosing to use any of the information contained herein.