Houston We Have a Problem… 020 27/01/07


MiniDisc to CD

I have a music collection stored on MiniDisc mainly recorded from my hi-fi FM tuner. Is there a simple means of transferring these recordings to CD?

Trevor Phillips, by email


Data on a MiniDisc is recorded using a proprietary compression format and there is no easy way of converting it to the format used on audio CDs. In other words you have to treat an MD player like a cassette deck or any other analogue source component and connect the line output or headphone socket to the PC’s line input socket. Use a program like Audacity (http://audacity.sourceforge.net/), to record and convert the tracks into ‘Wav’ files then ‘burn’ your audio CD with Windows Media Player (v10 or above) or an application like Roxio Media Creator or Nero.


You can improve the quality of the recording if both your PC and MD player have ‘optical digital’ or SPDIF (Sony Philips Digital Interface Format) inputs and outputs. This connection method bypasses the digital to analogue and analogue back to digital conversion processes.  



French Leave

I shall be spending much of the summer in France and would like to use my laptop to connect to the Internet using a fixed phone line. Will it be necessary to sign up with a new French ISP, or can I use my existing e-mail address but without having to dial an international phone number.

Timothy Dean, by email


A few Internet Service Providers have local rate dial-up numbers in other countries, so it is worth checking with yours, otherwise a local ISP would be the simplest solution, though if your laptop has a wireless adaptor you could log on at a wi-fi ‘hotspot’ (see http://tinyurl.com/ttvqy) or failing that, collect your email using an Internet café. 


Maybe you can come to some arrangement with whoever is responsible for the phone connection where you are staying? Otherwise there are a number of ‘free’ ISPs in France, which provide Internet access for the cost of local or premium rate calls but it helps to have a smattering of French to sign up. You will find a list of free French ISPs at: http://tinyurl.com/y4fjsh



Backing Up Email Messages

Having recently suffered a second hard disk failure within ten months, I have yet again lost all my emails and Address Book contacts in Outlook Express. Could you tell me how to identify and back up the necessary files, and also how to copy them back to Outlook Express, should disaster strike again?

John Hamilton, East Knoyle


Outlook Express gives your email message folder an unfathomable name and squirrels it away deep inside a System folder. I rename and move my Message Store folder as a matter of routine, to make it more accessible and easier to backup. Here’s how. In Windows Explorer or My Computer go to File > New > New Folder and rename it ‘Oestore’ or something similar. Next, in Outlook Express go to Tools > Options and select the Maintenance tab. Click the Store Folder button then Change, Locate your newly created Oestore folder and click OK.


Once all of your messages have been moved to the new Oestore folder you can copy it to a CD or a removable drive. If you ever need to recover your messages use the Import function on the Outlook Express File menu. Your Address Book is stored in a ‘wab’ (Windows Address Book) file in C:\Documents and Settings\<yourname>\Application Data\Microsoft\Address Book. Copy the file to your backup drive or better still, Export it as a text file. Open Outlook Express and go to File > Export > Address book, select ‘Text File (comma separated value)’. Click the Export button, give the ‘csv’ file a name and use the Browse button to save it in the location of your choice. If you ever need to recover it in Outlook Express go to File > Import > Other Address Book and use the Browse button to select your address book csv file.



Calendar Confusion

I recently put some of my digital photographs onto a CD and took this to a local shop so that they could make a calendar. I had played the CD back on my PC so I knew the pictures were on the disc, however the shop told me that they could not read it and that they thought it was due to the Adobe Elements program. Is this the real problem? If this is the case how can I get around it?

Janet Alllen, Sidmouth Devon


My guess is you saved your images in the Adobe PhotoShop Element’s *.psd file format, though I am a little surprised that the people in shop couldn’t be bothered or didn’t know how to open or convert the files. To avoid this happening again save your picture files in the industry standard JPEG format, which is almost certainly the same format that your camera uses to record the images.


There is one other possibility and that is your CD wasn’t ‘finalised’. This is necessary in order to make the disc readable on any PC CD/DVD drive. Check the Help section of the software you are using to create the CD for more information.



Goodbye Google

I have downloaded the Google search toolbar from the Google website but I don’t like it and want to get the “normal” Internet Explorer one back. How can I do this?

Michael Shirt, by email


All you have to do is uninstall the Google Toolbar and Internet Explorer will revert to its previous state. Simply click the Settings icon on the Google Toolbar then Help and Uninstall and click the ‘Uninstall Google Toolbar button.




© R. Maybury 2007 0801


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