Houston We Have a Problem… 026 17/03/07


Switching Off Shortens Lives?

In an effort to save energy we are encouraged us to switch off everything at night. Is it the case that repeatedly switching a PC or monitor on and off is damaging?

Deirdre Caley, by email


It is true that the chances of an electronic device failing are at their greatest when it is being switched on or off. That’s because of the increased possibility of high voltage ‘spikes’ or surges and ‘thermal shock’. Electronic components do not like sudden changes in temperature, as happens when power is applied or removed. Repeated temperature change can also make circuit boards flex, resulting in ‘chip creep’, which over time can make socketed components, like microchips and plugs, work their way loose. However, manufacturers usually go to some lengths to avoid this happening, moreover the life expectancies of most electronic and mechanical components is normally a lot longer than the 3 to 5 years we tend to keep our gadgets gizmos, so in practice it’s not a problem. If your PC and monitor are not go to be used for any length of time switch them off or use the very low power Hibernation mode. 




Hijacked Email Address

I am receiving returned emails addressed to variations of my email address, purporting to have come from me. I have tried an on line anti-virus scan but this did not report anything. I have tried blocking them in Outlook Express, but to no avail. I have set up a number of Message Rules to filter them into a separate folder but I am now receiving about 30 per day. How do I get rid of them?

John Gillespy, Cumbria.



Only 30 a day? Count yourself lucky; a lot of people – me included – get several hundred every day... Online virus scans are not very reliable so I hope that you also have a regularly updated anti-virus program and malware scanner installed on your PC. If so you can be reasonably sure they are not coming from you but most likely from someone that you know or have exchanged emails with in the past. My guess is one of your contact’s computers has become infected with a worm or Trojan and it is being used to send out Spam, using details from the PC’s Address Book, which contains your details. Your email address could also have been harvested from an Internet forum or web page. Either way there's little you can do about it, as the emails generally do not have a legitimate address, so there is no way of knowing where they came from. You can, however, stop them getting onto your PC with a Spam Filter like MailWasher (http://tinyurl.com/2tnq4k). It’s free and works well and if you like it I suggest upgrading to the paid-for version, which is even better at zapping these annoying messages.  



Recording Freeview Channels
I have Phillips TV, a Freeview digital receiver and a VCR. Can you explain, in plain English, how to program digital stations into the Freeview box and how I can record digital TV stations? I do have the handbooks but do not find them particularly helpful.

Norman Martin, Derbyshire


I am sorry but you are going to have to read the instructions to find out how to set up your Freeview receiver and program your VCR but I can tell you general terms how to connect everything together.


You need two Type ‘V’ or ‘U’ SCART-to-SCART leads. (V = video and audio, U= ‘fully-wired’ or ‘Universal’). The first one goes between the Freeview box’s ‘TV Out’ socket and the VCR’s AV In/Out socket. This is sometimes labelled with a TV screen and a two-headed arrow. The second SCART lead goes between the VCR’s TV Out socket and the TV’s AV1 input socket.


With your TV set to External Input or AV1 it will show whatever channel your Freeview box is receiving. If you play a tape the TV should switch automatically to VCR playback (though on some set-ups you may need to switch the Freeview box off). To record a Freeview channel set the VCR to record from the external (Ext) source; on some models this is channel 0. Since you only have one Freeview receiver you will either have to watch the channel you are recording, or switch the TV to analogue/UHF reception and watch a terrestrial channel.



Visa Multi User Licence

Is there such a thing as a multi user licence for XP or Vista? I currently have three PCs and am considering building another one for my daughter. This is common with security software but I can't find anything from Microsoft that supports 3-5 licences for domestic users?
Ian Goddard


Multi-users licences for Windows do exist but they're meant for corporate users. The savings are negligible (around Ł5 per copy) and I'm not even sure there is route for consumers to go down. You can save quite a lot by buying Upgrade versions of XP and Vista, and these can be installed on blank or reformatted drive, though in the case of XP you will be asked to briefly insert a full retail copy of Windows 98, SE or ME, to validate the upgrade. This facility had supposedly been removed from Vista, however, Microsoft has deliberately left a backdoor open and it is possible to cleanly install the Vista upgrade on new PC or blank drive. It’s a bit of a palaver but you will find the details at: http://tinyurl.com/ytcl54




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