The Digital Life, Houston We Have a Problem, 102 27/09/08


A Degree of Security

My daughter is off to uni with a brand new laptop. She can obviously use any security features present in Vista to prevent access to the computer but if someone steals it, is there any software, which might prevent longer-term access and as such make the computer worthless to steal.

N.H., by email


Vista’s security features are quite good but obviously they are only effective if they are actually used. However, a stolen laptop will always have some black-market value. Even if all the data it contains is encrypted or protected it is a relatively simple matter for a thief to reformat or replace the hard drive and sell it on.


In fact there are programs that will destroy the data on a drive if the machine is stolen and these can be activated remotely, or by repeated entry of an incorrect password. Security software is also available that uses an Internet connection to report if it has been stolen but all these measures are expensive – in some cases costing more than a mid-range machine -- and by the time they’re activated it’s too late and you are just bolting the stable door.


The best thing you can do is help to prevent her PC being stolen in the first place. Provide your daughter with a good quality laptop cable locking device, so it can be tethered to something immovable when it is left unattended. Alternatively install a laptop-sized locking security cabinet in her room. Any irreplaceable data should be routinely backed up to a removable media (CD/DVD or USB flash drive) and kept in a safe place away form the laptop, and instil in her how important it is not to let it out of her sight when she takes it out and about with her.



Three Dimensional Digital Recorder

My Humax PVR-9200T digital TV recorder has twin tuners. What puzzles me is how I am able to record two digital channels while watching a third one? I would have thought that doing that would have required three tuners.

James Burgess, by email


It does seem a bit odd but I think there is a simple explanation. Terrestrial channels are broadcast in groups or multiplexes (muxes) and since this machine has two tuners it can receive and record two channel streams at once. That means if you are recording two channels from one multiplex you can watch a third one. However, if you are recording from two different multiplexes this trick doesn’t work. This can also happen on other digital video recording systems, like Sky +, where, for example you are watching a ‘live’ broadcast of a third TV channel, whilst recording two different channels, in which case the third channel is coming through the UHF or Freeview tuner built into your TV.



Orange Off Colour

I have installed an Orange mobile broadband modem dongle on my laptop with Waitrose as my ISP. Now I find I cannot send emails via Outlook Express, although I can receive them OK.

Sheila Drury, by email


If you think about it when you use your mobile broadband dongle to connect to the Internet, Orange becomes your Internet Service Provider or ISP. This doesn’t matter when surfing the web or receiving emails but it will prevent you sending emails. That’s because emails are sent using a system called Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (smtp), which basically means outgoing messages have to go through your active ISP’s mail server computer.


Outlook Express on your laptop is almost certainly set for the Waitrose smtp server, so when you send emails through Orange you have to change it. To do that go to Tools > Accounts, highlight your email account, click Properties then select the Servers tab. Make a note of the current Outgoing mail (SMTP) setting – you will need to restore it when connecting through Waitrose -- and replace it with the Orange SMTP server address, which should be ‘smtp.orange.net’.


Incidentally, I’m putting together a short series of articles on the delights and difficulties of mobile broadband. It’ll be available in a couple of weeks and for those of you reading this online all you have to do is click the Boot Camp link on the left, otherwise go to: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/digitallife/index.jhtml



Broadband in the Sticks

I’ve recently moved to a rural location and after much to-ing and fro-ing BT have told me that they can’t provide broadband as we’re too far from the exchange. I’ve pretty much accepted that I’ll have to use dial-up if I want to continue to access the web from home. It’s quite few years since I’ve done this and my recollection is that it was slow and expensive. I also remember that it took ages to download updates (e.g. for virus checking software) and as one of the main things I’d use it for are Internet banking and shopping security is really important for me. Is there any hope? What would you recommend (apart form moving house!)

Neil Rose, by email


Where there’s a will… If you and enough of your neighbours make a fuss BT will often relent and make the appropriate upgrades after all, they're in business to make money. Otherwise the main alternatives are mobile broadband using high-speed data modems on cellphone networks – still pricey but getting cheaper; satellite broadband – very expensive and reliant on a BT line for the back-channel/uploading data, and local Wi-Fi or ‘Wimax’, which again needs enough local interest to set up, maybe 10 - 20 potential subscribers. There’s some useful advice and links on the ruralbroadband.co.uk website.





© R. Maybury 2008 0809


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