The Digital Life, Houston We Have a Problem, 069 09/02/08


Owl Watch

I am incorporating an Owl Box in a barn conversion that I am undertaking, and would like to fit a small keyhole camera to record the activity onto my PC, without disturbing them. What software, preferably freeware, and perhaps extra hardware, do I require to do this effectively?

Kevin Cottrell, Buckland


Many webcams come with recording utilities, so that shouldn’t be a problem but I expect you will have problems with lighting if you use an ordinary camera. One answer would be to use a security or door monitor webcam or network camera, fitted with infrared illuminators. These emit near-invisible IR light, which you can’t see but the camera is very sensitive to and you will get a good clear image (albeit in black and white) in complete darkness. Apparently Owls and many nocturnal creatures are relatively insensitive to the longer wavelengths of infra-red light so it shouldn’t disturb them. 


If the camera doesn’t come with suitable recording software you can try a Microsoft freebie, called Webcam Timershot, which records single images at preset intervals, from one per second, to once every 999 days. There are more details and a link to the download at: http://tinyurl.com/2jhuzt.



Skipping Generations

Having previously run a Windows 98 PC and subsequently purchased a laptop with Windows Vista Home Premium I would like to arrange for files to be copied or transferred from the old computer to the new machine. Is it possible and how would I go about it?

Colin Morgan, by email


It can certainly be done and if your old PC had been a Windows XP model it would have been very simple indeed. Vista has a facility called Easy Transfer, for copying files and settings from one PC to another; it’s similar to the Windows XP Files and Settings Transfer Wizard, for copying data from Windows 98 PCs. Since you have ‘skipped’ a generation things are a little more complicated. One option is to buy an external hard drive enclosure – they cost around £15 from online sellers – into which you fit the hard drive from your old PC. You can then plug it into the USB socket on your new laptop and copy files and folders from one drive to the other. If your old PC has a network connection, and you have a broadband/Wi-Fi router you could connect your old PC to that and copy files and folders across the network, otherwise there’s the ever-reliable Laplink PC Mover, which works on all Windows PC – back to Windows 95, and Macs -- and it sells online for around £40 (amazon.co.uk).



Email Problem Writ Large

I am fairly new to this computer business but even my neighbour, who is computer literate, has failed to help me on this one. I want to print emails, especially ones that contain important information, like flight bookings etc.  The problem is that the print in so tiny that it is virtually unreadable. I have had to cut and paste into Word, enlarge the size of the print and then print the page.

Dorothy Holmans, by email


On a more general note it is always useful to know which version of Windows you are using, and a little more about the programs involved but on the assumption that it is Windows XP and Outlook Express (or Vista and Windows mail) then I should be able to help.


For historic reasons that are too convoluted to go into here the print facilities in Outlook Express and Windows Mail in Vista are controlled from Internet Explorer. The accepted method to change the size is to open IE then go to View > Text Size and select Large or Largest. It should work straight away, if not exit both IE and OE (or Windows Mail) and reboot the PC for the change to take effect.


On some versions of OE you can increase the print size on a per-message basis by going to View > Text Size on the open message window. Some printers also have the option to enlarge the size of a printout, if so you should find this by opening the message you want to print then go to File > Print and select Preferences, which should open your Printer’s Properties menu. If available it will probably be on the Layout tab, look for an Enlarge or Fit to Page mode and see if that helps.



Getting In Shape

Following on from your recent comments about CRT and LCD monitors, I am wondering whether my Dell PC (Aug '03 vintage) will automatically adjust its screen area to widescreen format? Maybe a BIOS update is required or possibly it just won’t work? I notice that an expansion slot is available on the motherboard which will presumably accept a separate graphics card, would this be a solution?
Peter Munson, by email


There’s no need to fiddle with the BIOS or buy a new video card. Monitor display format is mainly determined by the resolution setting in Windows. Yours PC is relatively new and almost certainly supports several widescreen modes. To check open Display Properties (right click the desktop and select Properties > Settings tab) then move the screen Resolution slider and you will see the screen icon change size and shape.




© R. Maybury 2008 1911


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