Houston We Have a Problem... 042 07/07/07


Driving out iPod

We live a mobile life (ski instructor in winter, running a B&B in summer) and so need things to be portable. I have recently purchased a 30Gb iPod, but iTunes has really jammed up the laptop's hard drive.


Would it be possible to move my iTunes files to an external hard disc drive, or does iTunes have to be on the laptop's hard drive in order to function?

Isobel Evans, by email


No problem, open iTunes and go to Edit > Preferences, click the Advanced tab, make sure ‘Keep iTunes Music folder organized’ is checked and click OK.


Still in Preferences, select the General tab, click the Change button and work your way to the location on your external drive where you want your new iTunes library to go and click ‘Make New Folder’ button. Give it a name and click OK. Now go to the Advanced menu, click on Consolidate Library and confirm the action by clicking the Consolidate button then the files will be copied. Finally, delete your original iTunes folder (usually C:\Documents and Settings\<yourname>\My Documents\My Music\iTunes), and empty the Recycle Bin.



French Connection

I live in France and find getting help with my computing problems difficult. I have a laptop with 2 USB sockets, the lower one of which has suddenly stopped working. I can therefore no longer able to use my HP printer at the same time as the connection to my French broadband connection. Can you help?

Maureen Benjamin, Bourreliere


USB sockets on laptops are quite fragile – cables get snagged, plugs strained – and if the motherboard is damaged it may prove expensive to repair, possibly more than the machine is worth. If so the workaround is to use a ‘Hub’, which plugs into your working port and functions like a mains extension socket, giving you 2 or 4 sockets from the one working one. If any of the devices you use draw power from the USB socket you will need to use a ‘Powered’ type hub.


Otherwise there may be a driver problem. Press Winkey + Break to open System Properties then select Hardware > Device Manager. Scroll down the list to USB Serial Bus Controllers and if you see a yellow exclamation mark against any of the entries right click on it and select Properties > Driver > Update Driver; if asked insert the driver/utility disc that should have been supplied with your machine.




Bouncy Laptop?

Our 13-year old daughter has mild cerebral palsy, which means she has limited manual dexterity and poor balance. Her school is reluctant to issue her with a laptop (essential as her handwriting is poor and slow) because it fears that it could be damaged. Are there any laptops on the market that might be robust enough for our daughter without being prohibitively expensive?

Roger Bleach


No ordinary laptop can survive a fall of more than a few centimetres onto a hard surface, though a well-padded case provides some protection against knocks and bumps. There are several ‘ruggedised’ models, like the Panasonic Toughbooks  (http://tinyurl.com/7au5y), General Dynamics Itronix (http://www.gd-itronix.com/) and Terralogic’s Toughnote range (www.terralogic.co.uk). They’re designed for military and industrial and outdoor users but they are very expensive, though second-hand bargains do turn up on ebay from time to time.


Help may be at hand, though and a new generation of cheap, rugged, but very well specified laptops is in the pipeline. They’re a spin-off from the One Laptop Per Child project, and the first model, the Asus Eee PC (http://event.asus.com/eeepc/) uses microchip memory instead of a hard drive. It is due to go on sale later this year with an anticipated selling price of £100 for the basic model.




Noise Annoys

Whenever I turn the computer on, the broadband is connected straight away automatically.  Nothing wrong with that, but often I just want to write a letter or look at photos or do something on iTunes and I don’t need it on.  While it’s not doing any harm, it means that when we use the telephone, the connection on the phone is not that great, with a lot of background noise. Is there an option to tell the computer only to connect to the Internet when I click on the icon, as I used to do with dial-up?

Carla Maddocks, via email


One of the key benefits of broadband is that it’s ‘always on’ and you can surf the web and make and take phone calls at the same time. Those noises are be blocked by devices called Microfilters so you shouldn’t need to disconnect. Microfilters are the small white boxes that are supplied with your modem; there’s one for the modem and you need to fit one on every phone in the house. You can buy extra ones from your ISP, PC suppliers and online, prices start at around £3.00.





© R. Maybury 2007 2805


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