The Digital Life, Houston We Have a Problem, 103 04/10/08


Key Question

I recently had to do a full re-install of Vista on my daughter's laptop (just out of guarantee!), but now some of the keys (q, w, e, r, u, i, o, p) won't type. It has been suggested that the membrane under the keyboard is

faulty, but I suspect I've done something to cause the situation as it only affects the top line of the keyboard. Is it me? If so can I fix it?

Duncan Massey, by email


A row of dead keys sounds like a hardware problem to me; I think it’s just a coincidence that it happened after reinstalling Windows. You should be able to verify if it is the keyboard, or more likely, a lose ribbon cable by plugging in an external keyboard. If that works, and you are confident of your abilities you may be able to fix it yourself. You need to remove the keyboard, but first disconnect the charger lead and remove the battery. On most models the keyboard is held in place by two or three small spring clips along the top edge, though you may need to remove a trim plate to get at them. There may be some guidance in the manual; a lot of manufacturers hide the RAM modules underneath the keyboard so removal is often a routine procedure


Gently lift the keyboard clear of the case – being careful not to stress the flexible ribbon cable -- and prop it up out of the way so you can get at the cable connector. To reseat the cable you need to release the clamp holding it in place. This usually takes the form of a pair of clips or lugs either side of the connector block, which have to be prised forward, towards the cable. Check that the cable contacts are clean and if necessary wipe them with a clean, dry, lint-free cloth or a cotton bud. If, after reassembly, it still doesn’t work then you probably need a new keyboard. Manufacturers’ replacements can be expensive but you may be able to find one quite cheaply on ebay.



Crashing the Symbols

In my work I regularly use the € (euro) and ° (degrees) symbols. I am running Windows Vista and have quite an old Dell keyboard without a € key.  Is there a way that I can put a these symbols directly onto my keyboard using the function keys rather than going to Insert > Symbols tab each time?

Ian Condliffe, by email


In almost all Windows applications you can use simple shortcuts. Press Ctrl + Alt + 4 for the Euro symbol (or Alt Gr + 4 – the Alt key to the right of the spacebar), and for the degree sign press Numlock, hold down the Alt key and tap in 0176.



Wayward Wireless

I recently bought a new laptop and wireless modem for my Broadband setup and it was installed by the ‘Tech’ people from a well-known computer store. The telephone socket and wireless modem are approximately 30 metres away from where I use the laptop, separated by a landing and thick cottage walls and consequently the wireless connection frequently fails.


The shop has suggested upgrading the modem, but I don't wish to buy more expensive equipment, only to discover that it does not work. 

Heather Mealing, by email


There are plenty of things to try. Moving the modem or re-positioning the aerial may be all that’s needed. Fitting a more efficient antenna often helps. Get one with a long lead and mount it high up on the wall or, if possible in the loft or roof space, or nearer to where you work. Alternatively, move the modem nearer to your laptop with a telephone extension lead; a few meters could make all the difference.



Bright Ideas

I am having some trouble with the screen on my new Vista laptop. When it is plugged in to the charger it is bright enough but when running on battery power its is very dim. I have tried changing the brightness setting but it has no effect. What else can I do?

Hannah Kay, by email


As you may have guessed this is perfectly normal and the laptop is simply trying to conserve battery power. You can override the default brightness setting by going to Start > Control Panel > Power Options (or type ‘power’ in Search on the Start menu). Click the selected 'Change plan setting' link and adjust the brightness slider under ‘On Battery’. Needless to say the brighter the screen the faster the battery runs out, dramatically so on some models.



Gloomy Outlook

When I open Outlook I invariably get a message saying ‘Personal folders were not closed properly’. How can I stop it happening?

Sinclair McLeod 


Your Outlook storage folder may contain corrupted files or filing errors. Try using Outlook’s built-in repair tool, which you will find on the Help menu. Click Detect and Repair and follow the prompts. I would also run the Windows Scandisk file repair tool. Right click your C; drive icon in Windows Explorer, select the Tools tab and click Error Checking. You may have to repeat both operations several times, before the error message goes away.




© R. Maybury 2008 1508


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