Houston We Have a Problem… 021 03/02/07


Premature Obsolescence?
I buy a lot of DVDs and I have noticed recently that quite a few new releases will not play on my Philips combi DVD/Video player.  The picture freezes and then jumps to an hour into the film. However, all DVDs play with no problem on the Philips DVD drive on my PC. Could it be that new DVD disc technology is confusing my DVD player?
John Allison, Chorley, Lancashire.


Over the years there have been some minor tweaks to the DVD specification and the movie studios are constantly dreaming up new ways to combat piracy. These refinements have been known to cause problems on some older players but in your case it could be something as simple as a dirty laser pickup head.  If a run-through with a good quality disc cleaner doesn’t do the trick then it may indeed be time to retire your VCR’s DVD playback facility but with new DVD players selling for under £25, it needn’t be too painful.



Laptop Lacks the Right Connections

With regard to copying LPs to CD using a PC you have previously stated that most computers have a stereo audio line input but on my laptop all I have is a microphone socket. I tried recording LPs recently using the Audacity program but it was impossible to get the level low enough to avoid horrendous distortion. As I am just about to purchase a new laptop, can you possibly tell me what I should be looking for in terms of sockets, soundcard, etc. that the new computer must have.

Edward Beaumont, Fareham


I wouldn’t let a laptop’s audio facilities influence your buying decision. It really doesn’t matter if the model you want lacks a line input socket, you can easily add one with an audio adaptor module. This is a small device that plugs into a USB socket, providing a full range of audio inputs and outputs. One of the most widely available is the Griffin iMic, which is currently selling on Amazon UK (http://tinyurl.com/ya2byr) for around £21.




Unable to Install Scanner

My film scanner worked perfectly for almost 3 years until I bought a new computer. The first time I connected the scanner to the new PC I got a message that new hardware had been detected and did I want to launch the Microsoft 'set-up' Wizard? I erroneously clicked on 'No' and now I can't get that screen message back. What should I do?

Geoff Hood, by email


A. When you clicked ‘No’ you effectively told Windows to disable and ignore the scanner but there are a couple of things you can do to make it recognise it again. Plugging it into another USB socket sometimes fools Windows into thinking it’s an entirely new device. If that doesn’t work then open Windows Device Manager (press WinKey +Break or go to Start > Control Panel > System), select the Hardware tab and click the Device Manager button. Double-click ‘Imaging Devices’ and your scanner should be listed. Right click on the entry and select Properties. Under Device Usage click on the drop-down menu and select ‘Use this device (enable). Click Exit, reboot Windows and it should launch the installation Wizard. If your scanner is an older model, using a Parallel or SCSI type interface then launch the Installation Wizard from Add Hardware in Control Panel.



Read Only CD Files

I use Windows XP home and when I copy something on to a CD-ROM, I find that it comes out as ‘Read Only' and that I cannot subsequently do anything with it. Can you help?

Chris Nicholls, by email


This is perfectly normal because recordable CDs are a read-only medium and Windows or your CD recording program automatically applies the file ‘Attribute’. You can remove the Attribute when you copy data back to your PC’s hard disc but whilst it is on the CD the data cannot be changed.   


This confuses some people because Windows and some CD writer programs appear to allow files on a disc to be erased and re-written but this is just a trick. When you erase or update a file on a CD all that happens is the reference to it is removed from the disc’s Table of Contents or ‘TOC’ and new or replacement files are recorded on unused space. In the case of Rewritable (CD-RW) discs the whole disc can be erased and used again but on record once (CD-R) discs erased and updated data remains on the disc and eventually the free space will be used up.



Copying Slides to a PC

I read your recent comments about pasting photographs from a digital camera’s memory card into a computer. No problem there, but is there any way of getting my old colour transparencies into my PC?

Peter Adams, Goffs Oak, Herts


You are almost spoilt for choice. Many scanners can be fitted with optional slide/transparency adaptors and you can also buy dedicated slide scanners. If you are using an SLR type digital camera you should be able to get hold of a slide adaptor that fits onto the lens and if you fancy a challenge you could try shooting directly from a projection screen or a slide/cine transfer screen. Most of these devices can be obtained from high-street camera shops or specialist companies like Keene Electronics (www.keene.co.uk).






© R. Maybury 2007 0801


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