The Digital Life, Houston We Have a Problem, 062 08/12/07


AutoPlay won’t Display

My mother and I have exactly the same laptop and software (Windows XP).  When I put a memory stick in a USB Port on my laptop I get a little window popping up asking me whether I want to copy to a folder, view slideshow, print them, transfer images etc. etc.  This is so useful and quick.  My problem is that when I do the same on her laptop absolutely nothing happens and I have to go to My Computer then click on the appropriate icon for her.  This is a pain for her as she's 81 and spends a lot of time with her camera and photos.  It would be so much easier for her to have the little window appearing automatically.  I have tried hopelessly to get this window to appear on her laptop.

Deedle Clarabut-Catmur, by email


This feature, which seems to please and annoy Windows users in equal measure, is called AutoPlay.  It’s a bit of a slippery customer and doesn’t always do as it’s told but try this first. Insert the device then open Windows Explorer or My Computer. Right-click on the drive icon, select Properties, then the AutoPlay tab and make sure ‘Prompt me each time to choose an action’ is checked, click Apply then OK. If that doesn’t work go back to the device Properties and this time click ‘Select an action to perform’ and click the Restore Defaults button. If it still won’t obey you there is a little utility called Tweak UI, which you can download free from Microsoft (http://tinyurl.com/22otrh), and this gives you full control over AutoPlay’s actions, including completely disabling it (see My Computer > AutoPlay > Drives).



Easier on the Eye?

I have a fairly old computer monitor with a large curved screen. I have been advised that a flat screen would be better for my eyes and it will take up less space. Is there any truth in this?

David Moynihan, by email


Well, there’s no disputing the fact that flat screen monitors don’t need as much room, they also consume a lot less power and whilst we’re on the subject, contain fewer harmful chemicals and are easier to recycle than older CRT type monitors.


LCD screens emit negligible amounts of non-ionising radiation whilst old CRT monitors generate all sorts of magnetic and radio frequency fields across a wide spectrum of frequencies. The jury is still out over the health effects of these emissions but if you want to play safe then an LCD is the best option.


Personally I find LCD screens are easier on the eye, but it is very subjective. The images on CRT monitor screens are redrawn many times each second and at lower ‘refresh’ rates some users become aware of a flickering effect, which at best is annoying, and at worst can result in headaches. The curved faceplate on a CRT monitor creates distortions in the display and annoying reflections from room lighting whereas a decent quality LCD model that has been correctly set up should exhibit no flicker and look just like a sheet of paper. Big old CRT monitors still have a lot of friends, and they’re still better at rending colours accurately and displaying rapid movement but for most users it’s no contest.





Daggers Drawn, in Word…

Suddenly I find that whenever I access a document in Word file it is peppered with lots of daggers. Is there a way of getting rid of them without painstakingly deleting them line by line every time I wish to take a print?

John Hawthornthwaite


The 'daggers' are formatting marks and these can be switched on and off by clicking the backwards 'P'-shaped symbol on the Word Toolbar.



Free Lunches, What’s the Catch?

Recently, in a well-known PC store I was handed a CD that promised 1 gigabyte of free online data storage. The idea of remote backup is very interesting but 1Gb isn't very much. This prompted me to do some research and I discovered a company that offers unlimited free secure digital storage.


So what's the catch? Can they be relied upon?  There appear to be other free storage providers.  I just don't understand what's in for them. Is it a case of getting what you pay for?

Phil Joy, by email


Companies providing online or off-site data storage usually make their money from large commercial customers, and persuading those using their ‘free’ services to upgrade to more sophisticated paid-for products. The obvious drawback is if the company goes down the pan, stops trading or simply disappears you may lose your data, and since it is a free service whom are you going to complain to?


Online storage is always going to involve a certain amount of risk and no company can give you a cast-iron assurance that your data will always be safe, secure and accessible. A major failure of Internet infrastructure, (Taiwan 2006, undersea earthquake damages six submarine cables), a catastrophic power outage (US & Canada 2003), criminal activity and terrorist action could all deprive you of your data. That’s not to say it isn’t a useful option but it would be unwise to rely on it as your only means of backup for irreplaceable data and you should always maintain some form of local backup on CD, DVD or hard disc drive. 






© R. Maybury 2007 1911


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