The Digital Life, Houston We Have a Problem, 105 18/10/08


Cancelling Echo on Skype

We have a Vaio laptop and have recently purchased a Skype headset and microphone to enable us to talk to our son and family abroad.  Our son uses an Apple laptop with a built-in camera.  We can see him but he cannot see us as our laptop doesn’t have a camera (yet).


Everything works fine apart from an irritating echo of our own voices when we speak to him.  His voice sounds normal.  Do you know how to stop this?


When we plug the headset cables into the laptop the laptop speaker is disabled. This obviously results in only one of us being able to communicate with our son. Would it be possible for us to connect a second headset?

Mike Greenaway, by email


The first thing to do is find out if the echo is at your end, or coming from your son’s computer. The simplest way to do that is to use Skype’s audio test utility, called ‘echo123’, (or Skype Test Call), which you will find in your Contacts List. Double-click the entry and you’ll be asked to make a short recording. If there’s no echo on the playback the problem is on your Son’s computer. If the echo persists then try adjusting the microphone input level, which you can access from Sounds in Control Panel on the Start menu.


Otherwise there’s one last thing to check. Skype has automatic Echo Cancellation, it is enabled by default but it is just possible that it has been disabled. The setting is tucked away in a configuration file, which you are not really supposed to fiddle with, but if you know your way around your computer it’s not difficult to find.


In XP go to C:\Documents and Settings\<yourname>\Application Data\Skype\<your Skype name>\config.xml. (In Vista it’s C:\Users\<yourname>\AppData\Skype\<your Skype name>\config.xml).

Right-click on the file and open it in Windows Notepad. Automatic Echo Cancellation is listed under General as ‘AEC>1</AEC>’, the 1 indicates that it is switched on, ‘0’ means off. If you need to change the setting don’t forget to save the file.


The extra headset problem is easily solved using a 3.5mm stereo jack ‘splitter’ cable, which you can get from your local branch of Maplin.


Just Because…

I need the keyboard code (Alt + whatever) for the 'because' symbol. I can find the three dots 'therefore' symbol (\) but not the inverted form.

Alan Seymour, by email


The symbol () is there, but you have to dig deep to find it. It is not part of the normal ASCII character set and as far as I’m aware it only exists as a Unicode symbol, which means it is only available in a limited number of fonts. In Word, for example, there are a couple of methods. Methof one, select the Symbol front, press the Numlock key then hold down the Alt key and

enter the code 0092. Method two, go to Insert > Symbol, on the Font drop-down menu select Lucinda Sans Unicode and on the Subset drodown select Mathematical Operators and you should see it opn the fourth or fifth row. In other applications, such as Outlook Express, Outlook, WordPad and so on, it’s a little more involved. Position the cursor where you want the symbol to appear, select a Unicode Font (i.e. Lucinda Sans Unicode), from the Fonts drop down menu. Next, press Numlock, hold down the Alt Key then press the ‘+’ key and tap in the symbol’s hexadecimal code, which is 2235. 


Incidentally, in Word you are also supposed to be able to enter Unicode symbols by entering the hex code followed by Alt + X, though I have never managed to get it to work.



Deleted Programs Linger On

I have removed several programs from my Vista laptop but the titles remain on the Programs and Features list. How can I remove these references? I know I should have removed them using Vista utility but some programs have their own removal features and I foolishly used those instead.

Mick King, by email


It probably wouldn’t have made any difference. Programs and Features in Vista, like Add/Remove Programs in XP is just a repository for your program’s uninstaller utilities. Those redundant listings are stored in the Windows Registry but apart from being a minor annoyance they do no harm whatsoever, so you might want to leave well alone. If not then I suggest that you install a freeware program, called Revo Uninstaller. (http://tinyurl.com/56uydj), which does an excellent job of getting rid of unwanted programs, and the clutter some of them leave behind, which includes the left-overs from previously deleted programs. Revo should also be your first port of call when a program’s own uninstaller fails to work. 



Losing the Space Race

I keep getting a message that the C: drive is short on space despite the fact that I clean it up daily. The free space can drop from 753Mb to 113Mb in the space of a few days. I have run AVG and anti-malware programs, which say that all is well. However I am still losing disc space at an unacceptable rate for no apparent reason. Any ideas on how to correct this?

Anthony Wilkes, by email


Yes, get a bigger hard drive, or install a second slave drive... You are going to have to face up to the fact that you have run out of space. For comfort Windows needs between 1 and 3Gb of free hard disc space for all of the behind the scenes operations, like the virtual memory or Swapfile, file indexing and caching operations.





© R. Maybury 2008 2908


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