Ask Rick 2008



Ask Rick 009, 15/12/08


Preaching to the Converted

Can you recommend a good freeware program for converting .wav files to .mp3 format?  I have used Audacity but I had many problems with it.  I then downloaded another program, which did the job quickly but last time I tried to use it appeared to allow malware into my system.

Carole Noakes, by email


Audacity is essentially an advanced audio recorder and editor so it wouldn't be my first choice for audio file conversion. I suggest something better suited to the task, like Quick Media Converter ( This freeware program converts just about any popular multimedia file type and although it is geared towards video formats, audio files types are very well represented. It can also do 'batch conversions', which is handy if you have a lot of files to process.



Vista Lockout

I have had problems accessing my Vista PC and on two occasions my password has been rejected with the message 'User Profile Service Failed the log on. User Profile could not be loaded'. Not being fully computer competent I have had to resort to seeking expert help but he could not provide an explanation as to why this has happened.

Neville Gent, by email


It's called user profile corruption and why it happens, no one knows. Fortunately it is quite a rare event but it has been happening every since Windows NT. You have either been very unlucky or there is a more deep-seated problem that is going to be very difficult to diagnose. The corrupt files are in the Windows Registry and it is possible to repair them manually, if you can get into the Registry, however, unless you've had the foresight to set up a second administrator account that can be difficult to do. There is a simple workaround, though, and that is to start the PC in Safe Mode and carry out a System Restore to an earlier date. To do that just press the F8 key immediately after switch on the Advanced Boot Options menu will appear. Select Safe Mode at the top of the list and when it has finished booting go to Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > System Restore and follow the prompts.    



Tongs Twister

I am using Windows XP and recently, whilst shopping online I clicked on an image to enlarge it and then clicked on the image once again to close it.  When I left the website and returned to the desktop there was the image (appearing even larger) left on my screen behind all the desktop icons.  It doesn't affect the working of the computer at all but I find it irritating to have this huge image of black straightening tongs filling the whole screen!  And try as I can, I can't find a way of deleting it. I would be grateful if you have any suggestions of how I can solve this problem/

Rosemary Davies, by email


You have accidentally enabled Active Desktop, an obscure and now obsolete feature that first appeared in Windows 98, and came to the end of the road in XP. It lets you display web pages on your desktop, for no good reason that anyone could see....


You can easily switch it off by right clicking onto an empty part of the desktop, select Arrange Icons and uncheck 'Lock Web items on Desktop'. To make sure that it does come back and haunt you right-click again on the desktop, select Properties > Desktop tab. Click the Customize Desktop button, select the Web tab and make sure all boxes are unchecked.



Line up your Labels

I am trying to set up and print address labels in Word on my Windows XP computer. My printer is an HP C4180 and I am using Avery J 8160 labels, which should give a sheet of 21 labels; 7 vertical and 3 horizontal. The set up is OK but when printing they drift out of registration after about 4 rows.

Terence J. Richards, by email


It's probably a printer paper feed problem and after a while the rollers become shiny and lose their grip. However, the amount of slippage is usually slow to change and can be consistent from one print job to the next so you may be able to compensate by manually altering the label's dimensions. On the Label dialogue box click the Details button and use trial and error to adjust the Pitch or Margin values until the printing is back in registration.



Russian Compression

Occasionally I get pictures or videos sent to me in the .rar format. I have tried to open them but it fails and it turns into a Word document, full of gobbledegook. I tried do download a free Rar program but I was not sure what I was doing as they wanted me to use their browser so that failed to. I use a bog standard PC with 2000 windows. Any ideas? Not too complicated please.

Mike Hoskins, via email


Rar is not a media format but a data compression and archiving system, named after its inventor, Russian software engineer Eugene Roshal (Roshhal ARchive). It's similar in concept to the more widely used .zip system and provides higher rates of compression and the facility to handle very large data files, which can be conveniently split into several parts, but enough of the technology lecture. In order to open (or create) a .rar 'archive' file you need a suitable program and the best known is Winrar. Once installed it automatically opens when you click on a rar file and all you have to do is tell it where to save the extracted files, so it's very easy to use. You can download a fully functional trial version from After the 40 day trial it continues to work but you'll be 'nagged to pay a £22 license fee.




(c) R. Maybury 2008 2411


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