Ask Rick 2009 & Houston We Have a Problem 09



Ask Rick 017, 12/01/09 &  Houston 114 , 24/01/09

Virtually Running out of Space

I have Photoshop Album 2 and Elements 2 which has worked perfectly on my on my original Windows 98 computer and then my XP system. Now have a new Vista computer on which Album has loaded and works fine. The Elements program loads OK but when I try to open the following message appears - Could not start Photoshop the volume windows is using for virtual memory does not have enough free space… Is there a compatibility problem between my older version and Vista?  I have looked at the guidance about expanding Virtual memory but do not like to act on it, as I am not an expert!

My computer has 2Gb RAM

C Stride, by email


Virtual Memory, otherwise known as the Page File is a clever Windows trick that speeds up the operation of some programs by allocating them a slice of the hard disc drive, as a temporary system memory. The size of the Page File is set by Windows and it tends to use a fairly conservative value, typically one to one and a half times the amount of RAM, so yours is probably between 2 and 3Gb. However some programs get a bit greedy and try to use more than is available, hence the message you are seeing. Increasing the size of the Page File is really easy, and you can’t mess it up. There are no hard and fast rules but you can increase it to up to 3 times the amount of RAM, which in your case would be 6Gb, however, I would pitch for something in between, 4Gb say, which should be plenty. To change the setting open System Properties (Winkey + Break > Advanced System Settings), select the Advanced tab, under Performance click the Settings button, select the Advanced tab and under Virtual Memory click the Change button. Uncheck ‘Automatically manage…’, check Custom size’ and enter the Initial and Maximum values in the two boxes, in your case I suggest 4000 and 5000Mbs. Click OK and if asked, reboot the computer  



Burning Question

My question may be outside your terms of reference, but it does have some computing relevance. How many times can a DVD-RW be used? When recording TV programmes I find that after six or eight Format-Record-Play cycles, the disc becomes unreadable. Is this to be expected?

John V. Hughes, by email


Many manufacturers quote up to 1000 burn-cycles for CD and DVD-RW discs though that is undoubtedly on the sort of perfect hardware and ideal conditions that you are unlikely to encounter in the real world. Even so you should expect several hundred cycles before there’s any serious reliability problems, which means that you either have a batch of faulty discs, there’s something seriously wrong with your recorder, or the way you store your discs is causing them to degrade. Storage is simple; keep the discs in their protective sleeves, well away from strong sources of light, heat and humidity. In short keep them in the sort of conditions that you are comfortable in. You should be able to eliminate the other possibilities by changing to another brand of blank discs, and if the problem reoccurs, you need to have your player checked.



Linux to the Rescue

I have an external hard drive, which has been working fine for over 2-years but now, all of a sudden, I can't open it. I am using Windows XP. It keeps saying the disk needs formatting. If I do that I will loose everything on it. How can I get XP to recognize it? I have tried giving it a new ID letter, but this does not work.

Mike Conway, by email


The first thing to do is check to see if it can be read on another PC, if so then try reinstalling your PC’s USB drivers. If the data on the disc is still unreadable then the filing system on the drive may be corrupted. Windows isn’t always very good at dealing with filing errors and this is where the mighty Linux may be able to help. I suggest that you create a ‘Live’ rescue disc using a version of Linux called Knoppix. Once you’ve made the disc pop it into the drive and restart the PC. The PC should boot from the CD and load Knoppix into the memory – don’t worry, it doesn’t install Linux on the PC and doesn’t change any files on the hard drive. Once Knoppix is up and running – it looks and works a bit like Windows – you might be able to access the files on the disc, and if so, save them to the hard drive or another storage device. Creating a Live CD is very easy and only takes around 10 minutes, there’s a simple to follow guide in Boot Camp 203 ( If Linux can’t get at the files then try one of the commercial data recovery programs. Most of them offer trial or demoware programs that tell you if they can recover anything. If the damage is too great a specialist data recovery firm might be able to help but it could prove expensive.



The Wrong Signals

At home we have a very weak mobile phone signal.  I have looked on the net at various antenna and signal boosting devices some with dubious performance claims and very expensive. My mobile phone has no external aerial socket, how do you connect to the phone? Any help you could give me would be appreciated.

David Pickard, by email


A few years back I reviewed a few of these widgets and not one of them made a blind bit of difference. It’s possible the technology has improved since then but I doubt it. Without a direct connection or access to the antenna components inside the phone I can’t see how it is possible to make any meaningful difference to the phones performance. You might find that one of the other networks has better coverage in your locality and some phones works better then others in marginal reception areas, so check with visiting friends and relatives, however, in the end the only sure way to get a better signal is to move closer to local phone mast…




© R. Maybury 2008 2312

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