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 view.


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. 



HP Sauce

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 Capabilities. 




© R. Maybury 2008 0301

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