Houston We Have a Problem… 039 16/06/07


Paper Chase

I am very interested buying a Sony PRS-500 Portable Reader to read my own files and PDF documents in particular. However, as it is not on sale in Europe and there is no indication of a date on which it will become available I am thinking about buying one via the Internet from Sony US or buying one while visiting America. Are there any reasons why this would be inadvisable?
Mary Browne, Co. Dublin


The Sony PRS-500 is an electronic device – about the size of a thin paperback book -- for displaying text and graphics on a new type of screen that has the appearance of print on paper. This particular model can store the equivalent of around 80 books and the rechargeable battery is good for around 7,500 ‘page turns’. 


One of the reasons you cannot buy this product in Europe is because Philips owns the rights to the iRex ‘Electronic Paper Display (EPD) technology and wants to preserve the European market for its own product, called the Iliad, which has just gone on sale for around £430.


There's nothing to stop you from buying a Sony Reader in the US or online but you may run into difficulties if it goes wrong as Sony UK probably won't want to have anything to do with it. You should also be aware of the current limit of £145 on importing or buying goods outside the EU. The VAT and import duty imposed by UK Revenue & Customs could prove costly. Remember too that this is a relatively new technology and it might be wise to wait a while for the dust to settle and prices to fall, as they inevitably will.



MP3 Compatibility Problems?

My PC runs Windows 98SE, which is more than adequate for my needs. I have no interest in downloading tracks from the Internet, but I would like to transfer my collection of CDs to an MP3 player. Checking on various models I have found several that will run on Windows 98, however they all seem to require Intel Pentium 3 or above CPUs whereas my processor is an Intel Celeron. Are there any players that will accommodate this chip?

Geoff Woods, by email


Generally speaking the make or type of CPU chip that your PC uses is not an issue. The crucial features for connecting an MP3 player to your computer are the availability of a USB socket – almost certainly not a problem in your case -- and a suitable driver. This is a small piece of software that allows the player to communicate with the PC. Now that Windows 98 is technically obsolete fewer MP3 player manufacturers bother creating the necessary drivers for it. However, providing the player’s ‘System Requirements’ clearly states that it supports connection to a Windows 98SE PC then you should have no problems. The supplied software, used for converting or ‘Ripping’ audio CDs to MP3 format may not support Windows 98SE, but don’t let this put you off as there are plenty of third-party programs available.



Lost Smart

Can you tell me where all the SmartMedia memory cards have gone?

Hugh Devereux, by email


SmartMedia (SM) memory cards first appeared in 1995. They were quite successful for a while, supported by several major digital camera manufacturers, however, as demand for storage capacity grew the format’s technical imitations became apparent. As far as I’m aware the largest cards produced were only128Mb. This was a major disadvantage and rival memory card formats, like the small, cheap and flexible MMC/SD/SDHC family now go up to 8Gb, with even bigger ones in the pipeline. Amazon.co.uk and one or two specialist memory card suppliers still have a few SM cards left so if you want to continue using your camera now might be a good time to stock up.



Outlook Uncertain

The last time I accepted the invitation  'To free up disk space, Outlook Express can compact your messages’, 1,500 messages and many attachments were lost or corrupted!  It can appear incessantly and I dread clicking 'Yes' instead of 'Cancel' by mistake. Can I prevent this message from appearing so often or altogether?   

Alan Brown, by email


OE and its sucessor Windows Mail makes this generous offer after you have opened and closed the program 100 times. Previously it used to compact messages automatically but this feature was removed by Windows XP Service Pack 2.


Normally it is safe to allow OE/WM to compact your messages, however, it is vitally important not to interrupt the process, by switching the PC off, or putting it into Standby or Hibernation mode as this will almost certainly result in your message folders being corrupted. 


Unfortunately this function is 'hard-coded' into OE. In short you can't switch it off, but if you know your way around the XP Registry there is a way to reset the counter manually. However, this procedure is not for novices and you try it entirely at your own risk. (Note: this procedure applies only to Outlook Express)..

Open Regedit and make your way to:

Microsoft\Outlook Express\5.0

In the right hand pane right-click on Compact Check Count, select Modify and change the value data to 0 (it's a hex value, so don't worry if it's showing
a letter)


It’s possible your lost messages are still there, though, and you may be able to recover some or all of them using a program like Diskinternals Outlook Express Repair Tool (http://tinyurl.com/gttot), Repair Tool for Outlook Express (http://tinyurl.com/nxu3o) or Scandbx (http://tinyurl.com/982wt). They all offer a free trial version; this will tell you if any messages can be restored, if you have the option to pay a licence fee (typically £15 - £20) to unlock the program and recover the damaged files. 



© R. Maybury 2007 0704


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