Houston We Have a Problem... 065 12/01/08
Travels with my Laptop
Now we are both retired we are travelling on an extended holiday
to Australia, Hong Kong and Thailand in September. We’ll be taking a digital camera and camcorder and I would also
like to take our laptop, to keep a travel diary, stay in touch with family and
friends via e-mail, use it as a depository for pictures and videos and for
viewing and playing back photos, videos and DVDs. I have a number of questions:
Can I use my UK ISP on our travels? Should I set up a “Hotmail”
account? Will I be able to send emails using hotel etc. Internet facilities?
Will I need to buy a voltage adaptor for the laptop’s battery charger? Is there
anything else I should consider?
Derek and Val Wilkinson, by email
You can send and receive emails using your existing email account,
however, your laptop should ideally have wireless connectivity, a LAN socket
and a built-in dial-up modem, and this will cover pretty well any eventuality.
There are few places in the world where you can’t log on to the Internet
through free or paid-for wireless ‘hotspots’ in hotels, Internet café’s
airports and so on so before you go Google ‘free hotspots’ plus the name of the
places you’ll be visiting for a list of locations.
A few hotels have networked Internet connections in the rooms so
get an Ethernet patch cable before you go, they only cost around £2 -
£3 but some hotels try to sell or rent you one at an extortionate
cost. It’s worth packing a modem lead and international phone socket adaptor
kit as well, though hopefully you won’t need to use it Ask your ISP if it has
any overseas access numbers, otherwise at a pinch you can dial the UK number
from abroad but the cost doesn’t bear thinking about.
The advantage of webmail accounts like Hotmail or GMail is that
you’ll be able to send and receive emails from an Internet café or someone
else’s PC if you can’t get a connection on your laptop, or it is damaged or
stolen, so set up an account as a second string, just in case. Laptop chargers
switch automatically to the local mains voltage (100 - 230VAC 50/60Hz), so no
problems there. In areas of high humidity it’s a good idea to let laptops and
camcorders ‘acclimatise’ for an hour or so before using them when moving into
or out of air-conditioned environments.
Assuming you have full insurance cover then the only other things
I would suggest is to take some form of additional backup for your photos and
files; USB Flash drives or large capacity digital camera memory cards are
ideal, but make sure you keep them apart from the laptop in case it goes
walkabout. Instead of sending lots of photos as email attachments why not
upload them to an online picture sharing site, like Flickr (www.flickr.com) or one of the many on-line
photo printing companies, which have on-line galleries that your friends can
Finally, protect your laptop with a well-padded bag and keep it
close to you or locked up at all times. Keep your anti-virus software updated
and only turn the firewall off briefly if you have problems logging on to
an Internet connection. It sounds like quite an adventure and if you need
someone to carry your bags let me know…
Dishing It Up
I subscribe to nine BSKYB and Setanta satellite channels, 4 of
which I cannot receive or, after a delay, I get a very pixellated picture. The
other channels I can receive all seem to be fine. Setanta told me that all
channels were broadcasting at full strength. Sky also said there were no
problems and suggested there must be a fault with my digibox or dish. How could
a fault within the dish or receiver only affect 4 channels?
Keith Reid, Kings Lynn
I agree with Sky and
the problem is almost certainly at your end. The
satellite channels you receive actually come from a fleet of
satellites in geosynchronous orbit 36,000km above the Earth.
The satellite's transmitters or 'transponders' may well be
operating at ‘full strength’, but the power is reduced, as the satellites
get older. If your dish is misaligned, even slightly, or the LNB (low
noise block converter -- the gizmo on the end of the dish arm) is
faulty, then there will be problems receiving the weaker
channels. An engineer should be able to tell you very quickly if your
dish needs realigning or replacing.
I recently bought an HP colour laser jet printer and since then I
cannot get rid of a pop-up box headed 'hppusg.exe’, which asks me to insert a
disk. HP state that this is nothing to do with them even though I keep telling
them it only occurred when I loaded in the printer software.
Anne-Liese Badyan, by email
HP support should know better as hppusg.exe is a component in its
‘Customer Participation Program’ and one of the ‘Enhanced Capabilities’ options
but appears to have no impact on performance. Apart from the problems it is
creating it is sapping resources and probably using your Internet connection to
‘phone home’. Unfortunately it’s quite tricky to remove on its own and the
easiest way to get rid of it is to uninstall all of the printer software then
either install just the printer driver and utilities (available from the HP
website) or use the CD and decline the offer to install any Enhanced
© R. Maybury 2008 0301