The Digital Life, Houston We Have a Problem,  052


Dubious about Digital

Some two months ago I bought a DAB radio. It’s a top of the range model but I find it quite temperamental. I particularly like LBC but some days it is almost unobtainable, the next day it might be clear as a bell. I live in Somerset, which apparently is perfectly OK for DAB reception but I get the impression that there is still quite a way to go.


I have been leaving it switched on 24/7 not playing all the time obviously, but still on with the time showing and with the back-light switched to zero, I probably listen to it on an average 2 hours a day. I pay my electricity bill by direct debit and until now had always been in credit but the last bill stated that they were going to have to increase the Direct Debit by a whopping  £7 a month


Has the radio got anything to do with this do you think? I had read that DAB radios are quite heavy on juice, needless to say I have left it off now except when I use it.

Reg. Evans, Somerset


I suspect the intermittent reception is simply due to a poor signal. On an analogue radio the sound fades or becomes hissy if the signal is weak but with digital it's all or nothing. If you are in a fringe reception area changes in atmospheric conditions could be enough to cause the signal level to fall below the required threshold and the station just disappears. You should be able to check if this is the case by connecting an external aerial or trying the radio in an upstairs bedroom or a location closer to the transmitter. 


As for the increased energy bill, it is true that DAB radios consume a little more electricity -- compared with analogue radios -- but this would only add a few pence to your quarterly bill. Something else must be responsible, has your tariff changed recently?




The Need for Speed

Can you recommend a free program that will help me to speed up my computer, which has become cluttered and is slowing down? I am running Windows XP.

John King, by email


No single program can speed up a computer, and I would be wary of any that make such claims as the slowdown you and every other Windows users experiences is caused by a combination of many different factors. The most effective cure is to save all of your data, reformat the drive and re-install Windows every couple of years or so, it’s like having a new PC. Otherwise you can try some manual spring-cleaning and fine-tuning, such as uninstalling unused programs, clearing temporary files, cleaning the Registry and disabling the many unnecessary programs and ‘Services’ that load automatically with Windows. Have a look at Boot Camp 355 (http://tinyurl.com/cczzr) in the Telegraph.co.uk Archive for more detailed help.




On the Cards

My hobby is collecting books on the typology of an area in West Yorkshire and I want to compare my collection against the local history library holding. The library has a very large collection, which is catalogued by means of typed index cards, which are held in punched-hole files containing several hundred references. I have tried copying down titles by hand but it is too time consuming and prone to error. The cards have been typed at different times and there is no standard format or positioning of the text on the card. Can you suggest a way of digitally extracting the library card details and generating a single searchable text file database containing all the details?

John Coldwell, Harrogate


Providing the typing is clear and legible then it should be possible to scan several record cards at a time and use OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software (included with most scanners), to convert the scanned images into text files. These can be opened in your word processor then edited into a common format, suitable for importing into a database program.




Vintage Virus Protection and Clunky Clocks

I am still using Windows 98 and I have a couple of problems. The subscription to my anti-virus program has run out and now I learn that the newest version does not support Windows 98. Do you know of any good anti-virus programs that still run on Windows 98?


Secondly, the date and time on the computer seems to have a life of its own. Each time I correct it; it changes it to former dates and time when I switch on the computer again. Any idea what I can do to stop it?

Carole Kirby, by email


Two of the best anti-virus programs, AVG (http://tinyurl.com/2n49nd) and Avast! (http://tinyurl.com/8z9h5) both run perfectly well under Windows 98, and as an added bonus they are both completely free. Ironically your PC is probably now a lot safer than most machines running Windows XP and Vista, which are now the focus of attention for virus writers and hackers


A dead or dying ‘backup’ battery on the computer’s motherboard causes your clock problem. This is responsible for keeping the computer’s RTC or ‘Real Time Clock’ module running, which ensures that Windows knows the correct time when it is running, even if it has been disconnected form the mains. These ‘button cell’ type batteries generally last for between 3 to 5 years, they are quite cheap and usually fairly easy to replace but if you have any qualms about poking around inside your machine ask an expert.




© R. Maybury 2007 0209


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