Ask Rick 2009 & Houston We Have a Problem 09



Ask Rick 021, 30/01/09


Picture Imperfect

How can I print good quality photos from images that have been emailed to me? When I try the quality is always poor, probably due to the photos being made smaller to email? Can I re-size then back to normal? If so would this rectify the problem?

Rosemarie Williams, by email


Unfortunately not, when someone sends you an image as an email attachment it is normally compressed, which means a lot of the information in the picture, such as fine detail and subtle colour variations are removed to make the file smaller and quicker to send. In short you can’t put back the lost detail and colour information. You can make the image bigger but that only emphasises the imperfections. All you can do is ask the sender to experiment with different levels of compression, if they can keep it below 30%, say, you shouldn’t notice too much degradation. Otherwise ask them to send you the original image file, though be warned that most digital cameras create files of between 1 and 2 megabytes per image and unless you both have a fast broadband connection it could take a while.



Baffling Backup

I am considering buying an external hard drive as I have so many pictures and files on my computer. If I use an external hard drive to store these items should I delete these files on my computer after transferring them onto the backup drive? Also if I deleted these items would it make my computer faster and keep my photo's files on the external hard drive safer rather than on the computer?

Ann Chambers, by email


Quite the opposite. The main reason for backing up files onto an external drive is so you have a second copy in the event of the originals being lost or corrupted. If you delete the originals you’re back to square one with just the one copy and I have to say an external hard drive isn’t the safest place to store irreplaceable picture files. Drives can be damaged through mechanical shock; if you drop or knock the drive when it’s reading or writing data it may never work again. Some models are also prone to overheating and data can be lost if the drive is stored in adverse conditions, (high temperature, humidity, close to strong magnets or electromagnetic fields). Deleting the originals won’t make a blind bit of difference to your PC’s general performance, apart from brief periods when the computer accesses the files or indexes the hard drive your pictures and most types of data files just sit around doing nothing.  



Driven Mad by Wireless

There are three PC's in my home. Mine runs Windows 98SE, which is more than adequate for my needs, but now XP and Vista laptops have been added to the home network. All have Wi-Fi Internet access so I am being urged to secure the wireless router. I set up WEP encryption, which worked well on the XP and 98SE machines but I could not fathom how to set up this up on the Vista computer. The advice I get on the Internet searches about WEP is that I shouldn’t use it but I don't want to sacrifice my 98SE machine, with all of it's adequate but old, non-transferable applications. Does WEP work under Vista, if so, how do I enter the encryption key?  Otherwise can I get WPA to work under 98SE?

John Flynn, by email


WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) and WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) are wireless network encryption systems and whilst WEP is less secure than WPA, it’s better than nothing and certainly good enough for most home networks. You certainly shouldn’t’ run a wireless network without some form of security.


WEP encryption is supported by Vista, though it is possible the laptop’s wireless adaptor, or its driver or utility software isn’t WEP-friendly. There’s an easy way to find out, let Windows manage the connection. Select the network from the connection icon in the System Tray (next to the clock). Now go to Start > Control Panel > Network and Sharing Centre. Under Tasks click Manage Network Connection, double-click the entry under Wireless Network Connection, click the Wireless Properties button and select the Security tab. Here you will find the a drop-down menu for Encryption Type – select WEP, and in the box below enter the network security key, click OK and see if that works. If not check the laptop and/or wireless adaptor manufacturer’s support pages to see if there’s an updated driver or a solution.


Otherwise you might be able to use WPA encryption on the Windows SE machine. If as I suspect the Wi-Fi adaptor is a few years old check the manufacturer’s website for an updated driver. If not, in theory all you need to do is buy a new Wi-Fi adaptor. However, relatively few come with Windows 98 drivers these days, so you could end up chasing your tail on this one…



Rip Roaring Effects

I use XP and edit my camcorder tapes with Windows Movie Maker 2. I can import music from Windows Media Player with out any difficulty but recently I purchased a DVD of home video sound effects. I copied it to Windows Media Player to convert it to WMA format. However whenever I try to import a sound effect to Movie Maker it says ‘…wma is protected using digital rights management and cannot be imported’. Looking at the disc’s properties it states there is no limit to the number of times it can be copied, so why is it protected or am I going about it the wrong way?

Jeff Ward, by email


DRM or Digital Rights Management can be a real pain and Windows Movie Maker seems to be obsessed with it. Provided the sound effects disc really is copyright free then the simplest solution is to ‘rip’ the tracks to wav or MP3 file format and this should strip out the DRM data.





© R. Maybury 2009 0601

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