The Digital Life, Houston We Have a Problem, 101 20/09/08


Convert to Windows

My recently purchased digital camera can produce short movie sequences in .mov format, which is not recognised by Windows Media Centre and can only be played through QuickTime. Is there any cheap software on the Internet for converting .mov files to .wmv format so they can be played in Media Centre?

John King, by email


There is and I suggest Quick Media Converter, (http://tinyurl.com/5zzolx). It’s free and it works with most popular video formats. Otherwise, if you want to avoid installing software on your PC try the free and very simple to use online converter at: http://media-convert.com/.



Yellow Line Fever

Our son lives in Ilkley Yorkshire, and we live in Norfolk. Because of the distance between us we can't just pop over to see our young granddaughter, so every week my son helps her to call us using the video facility in Skype. He has a clear picture of us on his screen but his picture on our computer has a yellow line taking up about a third of the screen. Any ideas?

Joe Tolch, by email


I am assuming that you have checked with your son to make sure that there are no lines on his ‘preview’ screen (the small inset screen showing the view from his camera. If so this could be something as simple as sensor ‘flare’, caused by a bright light immediately above (but out of view) of the camera lens.


The other, more likely cause is a DirectX setting.  DirectX is the collective name for a set of software components responsible for handling multimedia content on Windows PCs. Normally DirectX remains behind the scenes but you can access a configuration menu by going to Run on the Start menu (In Vista go to Search on the Start menu) and type ‘dxdiag’.  Click OK, then No to get rid of the ‘Do you want to allow…’ message and the DirectX Diagnostic Tool menu screen appears. Select the Display tab and under DirectX Features, if permitted, disable ‘DirectDraw Acceleration’ and Direct3D Acceleration then click Exit.



No Wi-Fi Worries in Oz

I am going to Australia for six months and in the past have used Internet cafes for email and online banking.  However I thought of taking a small Asus Eee notepad this time.  I am assuming that there will be Wi-Fi hotspots in the big cities, however one dealer has assured me that Linux, although it has no security software, is quite safe.  A second dealer tells me not to consider anything less that XP or Vista with Norton software, which means a more conventional laptop.  Would I be better staying with the Internet cafes if the Eee really is not safe to use for on line banking etc.

Keith Balentine, by email


The Linux operating system is inherently more secure than Windows. It’s also nigh-on impossible for viruses and malware to spread due to the small number of machines involved, what’s more Eee PCs are a lot cheaper than Windows models, so could it be that dealer number two is trying to sell you something? If opt for an Eee I would go for the 900 or 100 models, which have larger, more useable screens and better battery life (Windows XP is also available as an option if you can’t bear to be parted from Microsoft). The only downside is the flexy keyboard, which really isn’t up to serious typing otherwise they make good travelling companions.



Dodgy Defrag

When I try to defrag the drive on my Windows XP computer I get a message that says ‘Some files on this volume could not be defragmented. Please check the defragmentation report’, but no files are listed. I have tried turning off the anti-virus program and firewall and defragging using Safe Mode but with no success.

Ian White, by email


Unless you are defragging for a very good reason I would leave well alone and contrary to popular belief defragging has very little effect on performance. If you want to go ahead then there are several reasons why this message appears. Usually it is because programs are ruining in the background or some files are in use, but they are normally listed and since you have tried running defrag in Safe mode we can discount this possibility.


Other reasons include a lack of hard disc space; defrag needs at least 15% free space to run. Very large, gigabyte plus files can upset it, though sometimes they will be processed if you run defrag several times. Defrag does not like the Recycle Bin, so make sure this is empty before you start, and it cannot defrag files that contain errors. To find out if it is the latter open Windows Explorer, right click on the disc icon then select Properties > Tool > Error Checking, make sure ‘automatically fix errors…’ is ticked and click Check Now.  If that doesn’t help, you are still unable to run defrag, and you are really, really obsessive about getting it to work then try a third-party defrag utility, like Diskeeper or PerfectDIsk.




© R. Maybury 2008 1808


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