The Digital Life, Houston We Have a Problem, 094 02/08/08


Licensed to Annoy

Our old television has given up the ghost and we do not intend to replace it. We are preparing for a battle with the licensing authorities, which seem incapable of believing that there are people who have better things to do than watch television. What is the legal position? Do I have to buy a television licence if I use a laptop computer?

G. Mackay, by email


Unless you are aged 75 or over you are required by law to have a TV licence if you have any equipment that is capable of receiving (though not necessarily displaying…) terrestrial or satellite TV broadcasts – and not just from the BBC. This includes TVs, digiboxes, video recorders, computers, mobile phones and organisers, and no doubt gizmos yet to be invented. Even the registered blind have to pay, though they can qualify for a 50 per cent discount…


Currently you do not need a licence to watch TV programmes downloaded or streamed via the Internet using BBC iPlayer since they are recordings and not live broadcasts, though that might well change.


The trouble is that the TV Licensing Authority (TVLA) take some convincing before they will accept that you are exempt, and the fact that you had a licence until recently probably doesn’t help. Judging by the personal accounts at: www.marmalade.net/lime/, a site representing the views of those who do not have TVs, you could be in for a rough ride. At the very least you can expect a steady stream of threatening letters and eventually a visit from an investigator. However, it seems that if you pre-arrange a visit, at a time convenient to you, and spend a few minutes explaining your position then you might well be left alone thereafter.



Going Forward with Attachments

Can you please explain to me why, when I receive an email that has pictures mixed with text, i.e. funnies, jokes and cartoons, when I send them on to friends the pictures are not transmitted and the text is basic? This does not occur with attachments, which arrive at their destination perfectly?

Kate Hawkesford, by email


It sounds as though your outgoing mail is being sent as ‘Plain Text’ which strips out any images or web links. To forward your messages 'as-is' go to the Outlook Express Tools menu, select Options and the Send tab and check the item: 'Reply to messages in the format that they were sent' is checked. You should also make sure that HTML is checked under Mail Sending Format and in the message windows, on the Format menu, 'Rich Text HTML should be selected.



Friendly Firefox?

You often recommend the Firefox browser; if I install it will I have to remove Internet Explorer?

Roger Piper, by email


No, and should you get the urge you can even have both browsers running at the same time, viewing different web sites.



Website Time Out

About three months ago I logged on to a website and obtained some helpful information.  Since then I have been unable to access the site again. A message on my screen says that the server is temporarily unobtainable. I have left messages on the site’s answer phone and sending emails and a snail mail elicits no response. Is there a central organisation that I can contact, to find out what is going on?

David Knight, by email


Not as such and the day-to-day operation of a web site is entirely up to the owner. Web sites can and do disappear suddenly and without warning or explanation. There’s any number of reasons why this might happen. It could be that the website owner has simply decided to call it day, has gone out of business, or is ill. It’s also possible that the company hosting the site has gone bust, though an active site will normally reappear quite quickly, once the owner finds a new hosting company. You can find out if the website’s domain name registration has lapsed – suggesting that the site is dead and gone -- with a ‘whois’ search (www.whois.net). However since you are getting no response then it is fair to assume that in the words of the famous Parrot Sketch, this particular site has passed on, is no more and has ceased to be!



Speed Check

My broadband has just been upgraded from 4Mb to 10Mb, but the service seems just the same. They tell me speed-checking sites are unreliable. I really would appreciate your help.

Keith Bailey, by email


It's true that a single on-line speed check won't tell you much but try several different test sites (google broadband ‘speed test’), at different times of the day, over several days, and this should give you a fair average. However, until there is better regulation and tighter controls on advertising, ISP download speed claims are at best only a theoretical maximum and should be treated with a very large pinch of salt. My guess is your connection is now a bit faster than it was before but without test results from before the upgrade it’s impossible to tell.





© R. Maybury 2008 1407


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