Ask Rick 026, 16/02/09, Houston 018, 28/02/09
I have an occasional need
to display images about twice the size of my current 15-inch Apple Laptop, and
I am interested by recent reports about 'Pico Projectors'. I have so far found
4 models, but doubtless there are others? Most seem not to be available in
stores and so a demonstration is not possible. Do they work?
Robin Hazelton, by email
Yes they work, sort of,
but at this stage of the game I have to say they’re a bit of a gimmick. Don’t
forget a conventional video projector, capable of displaying a decent sized
image, 40 or more inches across, will have a light output of between 1000 and
2000 lumens, and it still needs to be used in a semi-darkened room. That sort
of light output requires a powerful and very expensive bulb that gets extremely
hot and needs a lot of elaborate cooling. Pico projectors that fit in your
pocket mostly use a single extra bright LED and have light outputs in the order
of 10 – 15 lumens or about as much as a pocket torch, so the image isn’t going
to be very big, or bright, even when used with a high performance screen.
Clearly a pocket-sized
projector would be very convenient, but I am not convinced that they are yet
ready to have a serious role in video presentation. The ones that I have seen
produce a barely acceptable display, only a little larger than your laptop
screen, and that’s in near dark conditions, or with a specialised screen
heavily shielded by black cloth, but give it time…
Heading for Trouble?
How safe is it to be in
close proximity to a PC (base unit) health-wise? I recently had to reorganise
my computer layout, and since doing so my head is now about 18-inches from two
PC base units. I have noticed I now seem to feel a bit queasy when working on
the PCs. Is there any possibility that the computers are responsible?
Peter Vick, by email
I cannot begin to imagine
the kind of bizarre setup that compels you to work with two PC system units so
close to your head. If nothing else, the noise from the cooling fans and
chattering disc drives will eventually drive you potty... PCs, like pretty well
all electrical and electronic devices generate a wide spectrum of electromagnetic
and radio frequency emissions but they are at a very low level and usually well
shielded by the metalwork of the case and chassis.
I am not aware of
specific health concerns relating to PC system units; research into this area
tends to be patchy and inconclusive, nevertheless this sounds like a really
unwise arrangement. At the very least I would be worried about banging my head
on the boxes – PC cases can have really sharp edges – and getting tangled up in
the cables so I strongly suggest you find somewhere else to put the boxes.
Is Switching ISPs
I am considering
switching to a satellite service for faster Internet speed. I currently use
Outlook Express for my emails. If I change providers, will I lose all my
current contacts, folders etc.? I have an external hard drive, can I transfer
them onto that, and how might I do that? Any light you can shed on this tedious
situation would be most appreciated.
Linda, by email
Don’t worry, how your PC
connects to the Internet has no bearing on your existing email messages and
contacts, they should be quite safe, though it’s always a good idea to backup
your irreplaceable data, even if you are not changing ISPs. There’s advice on
how to Export your Outlook Express essentials to another drive in Boot Camp 490
there’s a more general piece on PC backup Windows XP in Boot Camp 376 (http://tinyurl.com/6q8box).
broadband has had a chequered history and you should check how the system
you’re considering actually works. Some services provide fast download speeds
but rely on a slow ‘dial-up’ connection, using your phone line as the ‘back
channel’, to request web pages and upload data, so the costs can be
significant. If BT has told you that you can’t get broadband where you live
it’s worth checking several other broadband suppliers websites. If there enough
of you in the same boar in your locality BT may be persuaded to upgrade your
lines, and there are a number of alternative systems suitable for remote areas.
There’s also 3G mobile broadband – if it is available where you live -- and
some of the data packages can be quite attractive, especially for those who
only want or need basic web-surfing and email.
Fiddling with Formats
I have recently purchased
a Sanyo Xacti digital video camera that records video clips in .mp4
format. Unfortunately, 'Movie Maker' on
my Windows XP PC, does not recognise this format. Can you help?
Geoff Spencer, by email
Although .mp4 has been
around for quite a while – it’s a variant of Apple QuickTime (.mov) -- it’s success, as a video recording format
on portable devices seems to have caught a lot of people by surprise. The choice
of decent editing software is still quite limited and programs have problems
reading files created on some devices, but not on others so it can be a bit hit
and miss. My solution is to convert your .mp4 files to .wmv or .avi format so
Windows Movie Maker can read them. Try a freeware program called Quick Media
Converter (http://tinyurl.com/5zzolx), it’s a little
quirky but it does work. Otherwise there are plenty of paid for
conversion programs to choose from. AVS Video Converter (http://tinyurl.com/ydlrpd) is one of the
best and it costs $59, however, that includes access to a wide range of useful
Movie Makers doesn’t have a facility to create DVDs but that’s not a problem
and you can use another freeware program, called DVD Flick (http://tinyurl.com/2m8jcr) to burn your
edited movies to blank DVDs.
© R. Maybury 2009 2401