Houston We Have a ProblemÖ 033 08/05/07


Is iPod the only Player in Town?

I canít find any sane, sensible and unbiased advice about which model MP3 player to buy. Apple appears to be the most popular but I see lots of other makes, often a lot cheaper but I donít know the names. Are they any good or should I just be done with it and buy an iPod?

Heather Dawson, by email


At the last count there were more than 200 digital music players on the UK market. Appleís iPod range is a very safe bet, they are easy to use and you are spoilt for choice when it comes to accessories. However, you will normally get more features for your money with the rival brands. First decide how much storage capacity you need. As a very rough rule of thumb you can store between 150 and 200 tracks per gigabyte, which can be in the form of solid-state flash memory or a miniature hard disc drive.


Up to a couple of thousand tracks your best bet is a flash-memory player, above that hard-disc models come into play. Flash memory players go up to 8Gb or so, hard drive players are available from 10Gb to 100Gb and capacities are increasing all of the time. As well as being cheaper flash memory players are usually smaller, more robust and the batteries last longer.


If you only want to listen to music donít worry too much about the gadgets and gizmos, which for the record these include still image display, video replay (OK for short clips but you wouldnít want to watch a full-length movieÖ), FM tuner, text display, voice recording and games.


See and handle as many models as possible. Donít be taken in by flashy cosmetics; award bonus points to players you can work out how to drive without prompting or referring to the instructions. I suggest that you donít pay too much attention to sound quality. This is almost entirely dependent on the supplied headphones and with few exceptions I would chuck them away and buy a decent set of phones or ear buds.   


Most of these devices, including iPods, are made in China and players with names you recognise are often assembled alongside, and contain identical components (memory chips, hard drives etc.) to models from makers you wonít have heard of, and these can sell for a fraction of the price of their branded counterparts.



Glaring Error

About a year ago I bought an Olympus digital camera.  It's always much admired for its looks but, apart from interior shots and on the very dullest of days, I find it absolutely useless because of reflections from the LCD monitor screen. 


Am I being too picky in thinking that one should actually be able to see what one is taking a photo of?  Is there any way around this problem or am I just in possession of a pig in a poke?

Jan Kilby, by email


Itís an example of poor design, pure and simple and Olympus isnít the only offender. In my opinion an optical viewfinder is essential on a digital camera. LCDs are just not bright enough to work properly in daylight, let alone bright sunlight. Itís fairly obvious why they do it, though. A decent optical viewfinder adds significantly to the complexity, weight and cost of a camera and I have no doubt that designers regard them as an untidy nuisance.


There is a solution, albeit a rather inelegant one and that is to fit a Screen Shade. Keene Electronics (www.keene.co.uk) stocks four sizes, for 1.5 to 2.5-inch displays and they attach to the back of the camera using a Velcro Ďgasketí for easy fitting and removal.



Green But Not Envious

I have an HP DeskJet printer and recently everything except Word documents are coming out green. I have tried replacing both the black and the colour cartridges, but with no success.

Richard Taylor, by email


As Iím sure you know colour inkjet printers use magenta, cyan and yellow inks to reproduce the range of visible colours. Green is a mixture of cyan and yellow, which suggests that the magenta print head is blocked, though since on most HP models these are integral with the cartridge, this seems unlikely, unless you have been very unlucky and replaced it with another duff one.


Running your printerís cleaning utility might do the trick (Start > Printers and Faxes, right click, printer icon and select Properties) though in the end I suspect you'll have to have a chat with the HP Helpline. However, if it's a serious problem, such is the crazy economics of the printer business that repairs and replacement parts often cost more than a new printer. 



Changing Word Envelopes Default

When I use Envelopes & Labels in Word to print the envelope for a letter, I always alter the delivery address setting to 4cm from the left and 5cm from the top, as I think the default setting is too far to the right.  Is there a way to save this setting to avoid having to adjust it each time? 

Liz Dunkin, by email


The default settings are Ďhard codedí and cannot be changed but I do have a workaround. Open a blank document, give it a name then click on Envelopes and Labels. Enter the address then use Options to set the style and layout. When you have finished click Add to Document and then Save. This becomes your address template and the next time you need it open it first then click Envelopes and Labels and make any changes.


© R. Maybury 2007 0904


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