The Digital Life, Houston We Have a Problem, 076 29/03/08


Message Received…

In the past I have used office computers, which told me when my email messages had been received and opened by the recipient. I am, regrettably, computer illiterate and can not find a way of doing this on my home PC.

Sheila Fisher-Jones, by email


This is relatively easy to achieve on an office network but when sending emails over the Internet you run into a number of problems. In Outlook Express, Windows Mail and other popular email programs you can enable a feature called Receipt Request (in OE go to Tools > Options > Receipts),. However, this depends on the recipient's email program being configured to accept and respond, but in OE this is usually switched off by default.


There are also number of third-party programs that can tell you when an email was received and read, and even if it was forwarded to someone else but I and a lot of other people regard this practice as intrusive and the methods used to track emails in this way are tantamount to spiking an email with spyware. For that reason many owners set their PCs to reject the monitoring data these emails contain using programs like Email Tracking Blocker (http://tinyurl.com/23pzat), which is free, though sadly no longer supported.




I had been intending to replace my CRT television with an LCD TV.  After visiting a few shops I was underwhelmed by the picture quality. They all had poor detail and none were as good as the lone CRT TV in one shop.


Is there a CRT TV that is capable of high definition?  If not I shall stick to CRT.  Are LCD TVs a confidence trick on those who prefer style to quality?

Derek Ransome, by email


Samsung briefly marked an HD-capable CRT model but as far as I am aware the only high definition CRT displays available now are specialised studio monitors. I am regularly appalled at the way TVs are displayed in shops. The lighting is often far too strong, pictures are frequently set to the wrong aspect ratio and I have seen many instances where the TV signal looks as though it’s coming from a bent coat hanger.


I think you may have been a bit unlucky in your survey of LCD TVs; some of them are very good indeed. In practice the differences between LCD and CRT displays are now relatively small, especially when viewing high and normal definition DVDs and broadcast TV at normal viewing distances and under typical room lighting conditions. Incidentally, have you looked at any Plasma TVs? The very best ones come close to the performance of CRTs.



Hard Lesson

The hard drive in my Son’s laptop no longer functions. With help from Google we searched for companies capable of recovering the precious photo files of my granddaughter from day one to 3 years of age. The drive was sent to one of them, who said they could not recover the data (there was no charge), but they could send the drive to a specialised outfit, which works for the MoD. However, the cost would probably be upwards of £1000, with or without recovery. I find these prices inappropriate, to say the least. What should my son pay to recover his precious photographs?

Peter Crossley, Kiel Germany


I am sorry to say that your son has learned the hard way why it is so important to backup irreplaceable files, particularly when they only exist in one place. These days, with so many simple and inexpensive backup options available there really is no excuse. 


Data recovery firms work mainly for companies rather than individuals and the prices they charge tend to reflect the value of the data they aim to recover and to be fair retrieving data from a badly damaged drive can be a time consuming process, requiring specialist knowledge and skills.


Your son should continue to shop around ‘no data no fee’ companies but there can never be any guarantee of success and a cheapo back street recovery job may well result in any retrievable data on the drive being lost forever. But in the end only he can decide how much those photographs are worth.



Wobbly Wireless

Can you explain why my wireless broadband has a ‘very good’ signal one minute and a few seconds later shows a ‘low’ reading, but nothing has changed in the meantime.  Can this be fixed?

Nigel May, by email


Despite the high signal reading this may be a sign that your PC or laptop is close to the edge of your wireless system’s range. Wi-Fi signals operate at microwave frequencies and are affected all kinds of things. You, for example, being mainly composed of water, readily absorb these signals whilst metal surfaces like radiators and filing cabinets block and reflect them. Small movements by you or someone else in the room can drastically affect the signal reading, and moving the PC just a few inches can have a similar effect. If your Wi-FI router has a ‘rubber duck’ type antenna try replacing it with a more efficient external antenna, and experiment with its position and orientation.




© R. Maybury 2008 1003


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