The Digital Life, Houston We Have a Problem, 108 08/11/08


Collage Education

I have Microsoft Picture It Express on my 5-year old dinosaur PC, which I have often used to create photo collages. It is very simple to use and allows me to drag photos to different positions and re-size as necessary. However, I can only print these creations on the printer attached to this computer, if I load the work file onto a CD and try to upload onto another computer or try to print at a printing shop it is not recognised. Can you recommend another program, which is more widely acceptable and will allow me to create an individual collage?

Pennie Reed, by email


If you want to persevere with Picture It you should be able to save your collage as a standard JPEG (.jpg) or bitmap (.bmp) file, which will be almost universally recognised. Failing that simply take a screen grab by pressing the PrtScn key on your keyboard. This sends a bitmap image of whatever is on your screen to the Windows clipboard and you can open this in any image editor, including Windows Paint, and crop and save that as a JPEG file. Alternatively, try Picasa 3 (http://picasa.google.com/). It’s now available as a Beta test program, so the usual disclaimers about unforeseen glitches and backing up important files before you install it apply, but I’ve been trying it for several weeks and it seems rock-solid. Anyway, in amongst the many interesting new features there is a an updated and very versatile Collage utility that I’m sure you will take to straight away, and it saves finished collages in .JPEG format.



Playback Time

How can I get Windows Media Player to start playing automatically when a CD is inserted into the CD drive?

When I load a disc it starts up but it does not launch WMP, and this has to be done manually.

Colin Morris, by email


A. Before we get started can I just say, not just to Colin but also to everyone sending questions that my telepathic powers are very limited and I really do need to know a little more about your setup. At the very least it is helpful to know which version of Windows (or Mac or Linux etc) you are using. The more information you can provide the easier it is to find a solution.


Okay, grumble over and if you are using Windows XP right-click on the CD/DVD drive icon in Windows Explorer, select Properties then the Autoplay tab. Select Music Files on the drop-down menu then under Actions choose Play using Windows Media Player and click OK. It’s slightly different in Vista, go to Start > Control Panel > AutoPlay (or Hardware and Sound if you are in Normal View) then on the Audio CD drop-down select Play audio CD using Windows Media Player and click OK.




Firefox Foible

When I visit websites using Firefox I sometimes get an error that says ‘Content Encoding Error, the page you are trying to view cannot be shown…’, but it works OK in Internet Explorer. Am I missing a plug-in of some sort?

Fran & Geoff Higgin, by email


I doubt it though plug-ins have been implicated, as have faulty website coding and many even more exotic causes but as it is so widespread that I suspect there’s a glitch deep inside Firefox 3. There are plenty of suggested fixes but the one that I use, which seems to work in almost every case, is to empty Firefox’s ‘cache’ memory. Go to Tools > Options, select the Privacy tab, under Private Data click the Clear Now button and try again.



Hibernate in a Hurry

I remember reading about a program that makes your PC to go into Hibernate mode with one click. Is it possible to do this with a simple shortcut in the taskbar?

Jerym Eedy, by email


Yes, by using a variation on the Shutdown Shortcut we looked at a few months ago (http://tinyurl.com/64gkjk). This simple trick works in XP and Vista and all you have to do is right-click on the desktop, select New  > Shortcut and in the Location box type the following: 

rundll32.exe PowrProf.dll, SetSuspendState


Click Next, give the shortcut a name and click Finish. Incidentally, it only works if Hibernate mode has been enabled; in XP go to Power Options in Control Panel; Hibernate is switched on by default in Vista



Open and Shut Case

I use OpenOffice.org for letters etc., and when I send a letter as an attachment the recipient cannot open it. Is the fault my end or the other?
Henry Woodgate, by email


Sorry, it’s all your fault and you need to save the attachment in a format that can be read on the recipient's PC. If you are not sure save it as a Plain or Rich Text Format (.txt or .rtf) file as these can be read on virtually any PC. Otherwise ask which word processor they are using; it’s probably Microsoft Word, in which case you should save it as a *.doc file.



© R. Maybury 2008 2010


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