The Digital Life, Houston We Have a Problem, 059 03/10/07


Putting a Spell on Windows Mail

Windows Mail does not appear to include a spell checker. Can you help?

Alan Seymour, by email


Vista’s email program still has a few wrinkles that need ironing out and one of them is the fact that the spell checker isn’t enabled by default. To switch it on go to Tools > Options, select the Spelling tab and tick the box at the top ‘Always check spelling before sending’.


Some users have found that they cannot select English as the spellchecker language. If that happens choose any another language in the drop-down box, click OK, exit Windows Mail, reboot the PC, open Windows Mail and this time you should be able to select English.



Baffling Boost

I bought a 2Gb memory stick for my Vista Notebook. When I put it in it asked me if I would like to put in ReadyBoost to speed up the program. I agreed because I thought it was recommended. After I started putting my photos in it said the memory stick was full. When I checked what was on I found out that the ReadyBoost had used up most of the memory only leaving me a few megabytes for my photos. Do you have any idea what I can do?

Maureen Sherwood, by email


ReadyBoost is a clever, but poorly explained feature in Vista that uses an external memory device as a temporary data store. Normally Windows uses free space on the hard disc drive as a ‘virtual memory’ but memory sticks and cards are up to 100 times faster than a hard drive, so there can be a noticeable improvement in the performance of Windows and some applications. Unfortunately for it to do any good it uses most of the memory device’s capacity, though you can adjust this when you say ‘yes’ to the option.


If you want to use your USB drive for transferring files simply delete the ReadyBoost folder, or reformat the drive and ignore the offer the next time it appears. Otherwise get another drive and keep this one for ReadyBoost, but only if you notice a worthwhile difference.



Sound Advice for DVD Soundtracks

Is there a way I can save the audio from a DVD as an MP3 file so I can listen to it on my personal player?

Yvonne Blake, by email


No problem and the excellent freeware audio recorder and editing program Audacity can record anything you can hear through your PC’s speakers. Simply play the DVD and set Audacity to record, afterwards ‘export’ the recording as an MP3 file. (You will need to install the MP3 encoder plug-in at the same time that you download and install Audacity). Alternatively try a simpler audio recorder with built-in MP3 encoding called EXPStudio Audio Editor Free. Links to both programs can be found on the Software page of the PCTopTips website (www.pctoptips.co.uk).



Skype Takeover

We installed Skype with on our PC and ever since it has taken over all sounds and they can only be heard through the Skype phone’s earpiece. 


We tried to alter the settings in the PC’s audio Properties menu but the Skype program is shown in both slots. When we disable it we are left with nothing.  We seem to have lost our original sound settings and uninstalling Skype makes no difference.

Norman Aldrich, by email


Older versions of Skype, the voice over Internet protocol (VOIP) service that lets you make free phone calls to other Skype users (and to landlines and mobiles, for a small extra fee), can occasionally take over your PC’s audio resources but it’s easy enough to put right. Either upgrade to the current version or if you want to stick with your current installation Open Skype and go to File > Options. Select Hand/Headsets > USB Audio Device (Do not use Windows Default Device). Next, go to Start > Control Panel > Sound and Audio Devices and on the Audio tab set the Default Device to your PC’s soundcard. Also, at the bottom of this dialogue uncheck ‘Use only default devices’.



Photo Screensaver

Please can you tell me how to convert an image in My Pictures into a screensaver?   I imagined this would be a simple task but I'm having difficulty.

John Mcculoch, Houston, Renfrewshire


Assuming that you really do mean a screensaver, rather than a desktop background, then right click an empty area of the desktop, select Properties then the Screensaver tab and from the drop-down menu click on My Pictures Slideshow. As it stands it shows all of the images in the My Pictures folder in sequence but if you want to take control of what’s displayed create a new folder in My Pictures, copy the images you want to use into it then click the Settings button on the Screensaver setup dialogue box and use the Browse button to locate your new folder. Just in case you meant to ask about using an image as a background on your desktop then as before open Display Properties, select the Desktop tab and use the Browse button to locate your image file.




© R. Maybury 2007 2210



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