Houston We Have a Problem… 034 15/05/07


Dim View of Laptops

My daughter has a laptop, which is about 4 years old. When it is booted up the screen hardly lights up.  It is only just possible to make out the icons on a very sunny day, holding the screen to the light.  We have tried pressing the brightness buttons but this has not improved things.  Can you help please?

Jill and Sarah Johnson, by email


LCD screens and monitors rely on a ‘backlight’ to illuminate the screen and until recently most models use one or more cold cathode fluorescent (ccf) lamps. These are miniature fluorescent tubes and they do have a finite life, typically 5 – 7 years with normal use but normally they fail gradually and when they are about to expire you will notice dark areas at the side of the screen. This leads me to suspect that the circuit that powers the lamp, called an inverter, has died. Replacements are available, however, the cost of fitting one could easily come to more than £100, which may be more than the laptop is worth.


If there’s valuable data on the laptop’s hard drive you can retrieve it by plugging a normal computer monitor into the ‘VGA’ socket on the rear of the machine, then you will be able save your files on recordable CD or a pen drive.



Taken to Task

The other day, whilst moving the cursor across the screen, the Windows taskbar across the bottom of the screen suddenly turned vertical, and now sits upwards along the right hand side of the screen, getting in the way of all kinds of things. I have been into Control panel and Appearances, but nothing appears to remotely say 'put the taskbar back across the bottom'. Help please!

Alan Hadfield, Urmston, Manchester


Actually I prefer it there as it makes more room for web pages and documents. If you want to get it back to the bottom (or the maybe ring in the changes and move it to the top or left side) move the mouse arrow until it is just inside the taskbar box, click and hold the left mouse button then move the pointer to the bottom (or top or left side) of the screen and the taskbar will follow and you can release the mouse button. You can also make it wider or narrower by moving the pointer over the taskbar border, when it turns into a double-headed arrow click and hold the left button and drag the border. To stop it happening again right-click into an empty area of the taskbar and check the item 'Lock the Taskbar'.



Right Form for Emails

I want to send by email an A4 sized application form, the object being the recipient being able to print off the form. However! When I try, it either arrives seemingly over six times the size or it arrives undersize and is still useless. The only way I can get anywhere near is to treat it as a picture; even so, it arrives smaller than the original. I have racked my brains, and asked about, though nobody has come up with any suggestions.

J D Knight, by email


Why not create the form as a ‘locked’ Word document and send it as an email attachment? (To lock a document go to Tools > Options > Save and create a ‘Password to modify’). The only slight disadvantage with this method is that some recipients may not have Word on their PC, in which case you could send it as a portable document file (pdf). PDFs are about as close as it gets to a universal standard for sending documents over the Internet and they can be read on almost any PC (Mac, Windows Linux etc.) that has a copy of the free Adobe Reader program installed.


Until recently the only easy way to create pdfs was to use Adobe Acrobat, however, there are now a number of freeware alternatives available, including a utility called doPDF (more details at: http://tinyurl.com/2rgjln). The excellent Writer program, part of the free OpenOffice suite (www.openoffice.org/) also has a built-in export to PDF option.



Address Book Out of Control

My computer seems to automatically add senders' details to my Outlook Express Address Book especially in the case of Round Robin' emails. I have been astounded to find masses of names in my Address Book relating to people I do not know. I find that it takes considerable time to delete them before another load of unknowns arrive! Is there a way I can stop this?

Mrs J Taylor, West Overton, Wiltshire


There most certainly is, however, this rather annoying feature works by adding the names of the people you send email messages to, to the Address Book, rather than the other way around. To switch it off go to Tools > Options, select the Send tab then uncheck the item ‘Automatically put people I reply to in my Address Book’, click OK or Apply and it’s done.





© R. Maybury 2007 1704


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