Ask Rick 2009 & Houston We Have a Problem 09



Ask Rick 031, 06/03/09


Wireless Storage

Is it possible to set up a stand-alone hard-drive to a wireless network? This is so that we can store tunes and photos on the hard-drive and then access them from anywhere in the house.

Tom Dingwall, by email


Yes it is and you are spoilt for choice. What you want is a NAS or Network Attached Storage device and they come in a variety of flavours. Basically a NAS box contains one or more hard drives, some electronics and a wired or wireless Ethernet connection. A wired NAS device connects directly to a spare LAN socket on your wireless router/modem and the drives will be accessible to any PC on the network. A wireless NAS works in the same way, except there are no wires, so it can be sited anywhere within range of your wireless router.


Some NAS devices have extra bells and whistles, like the Freecom Mediaplayer 450, which as the name implies has a built in media player and can stream music and video directly to a suitably equipped TV or hi-fi system. Ordinary wireless NAS devices include the Acer Easy Store, Apple Time Capsule and D-Link DSM G600. Prices for wireless NAS devices start at around £150 though check the small print, as the hard drive may not be included.


Stroppy Screensaver

I have a new desktop PC running Microsoft Vista Home edition with a 250Gb hard disk and 4Mb of RAM. The only programs I have loaded so far are ESET NOD32 Anti virus and Adobe reader 9.


Try as I might I cannot initiate the screen saver. I can choose the screen saver and test it but it never activates. Can you help please?

Lionel Barnard, by email


I am reasonably sure the screensavers are fine but they will not launch if there’s something running in the background. It could be almost anything, but there is a known glitch with Microsoft Wireless mice, if you have one see this MS Support article:


Otherwise, unplug any other USB and wireless devices and see if that makes a difference. If it still won’t start try the icons in the System Tray (next to the clock). Right-click on any device or programs icons that show up and select disable or exit. You could also check what’s happening in Task Manager (Ctrl + Alt + Delete > Task Manager). If there are any items listed on the Applications tab, highlight and End Task them one at a time and see if that makes a difference.



Broadband Crash

I have used the same broadband provider for a number of years without any problem but recently a delay of about 5 minutes occurs every time I switch on my computer before the connection icon appears in the System Tray. All programs in the start-up menu have been checked and there is nothing sinister there. If I attempt to click on the connection shortcut on the desktop the computer freezes. Once the connection icon pops up, there is no further problem connecting. However if I have to reboot then the delay occurs again.  I have removed the modem software and driver on the basis that it may have been corrupted and reloaded from the original disc but to no avail. Have you come across this problem, as my broadband provider cannot provide any useful pointers? I am using Windows XP.

William Morrison, by email


By the sound of it you are using a USB type modem, one that relies on the PC to provide power, and requires a driver and utility program. If so then you can try updating the software from the manufacturer’s website. However, some older USB modems could be unreliable and their dependency on the PC often caused problems.


If it is more than 3 or 4 years old I would replace it with a network type modem, and you might as well get one with a wireless router built in. They’re not expensive, these days you can pick them up for less than £25 online. The modem/router connects to your PC via a LAN/Ethernet cable but it operates independently of the computer so there’s no need to install any drivers or software. This also means it can be left on all of the time, even if your PC is switched off, so there’s no waiting for a connection and the Internet will be available to any other PC or laptop with a LAN port or wireless facility. Installation is simple and you access the modem’s setup menus through your web browser. Most run quite happily on the factory defaults and all you have to do is enter the username and password issued to you by your ISP.



Block Buster

When my PC has finished booting up a pop-up message appears saying ‘Windows has blocked some startup programs’. If I click on it there are four options: Show or remove blocked startup programs, Run blocked programs, View help and Exit. Clicking option one opens Windows Defender, which shows several programs. I have tried the uninstall and reinstall options but the popup still appears. Any suggestions please? 

J. C.   Sheffield.


This message box appears if you disable any programs on the Startup list, using the Windows System Configuration utility, better known to its friends as msconfig. Basically it’s just a reminder and meant to help if disabling a program causes boot up problems. However, it’s really badly worded, counter intuitive and with no obvious way to get rid of it. 


Thankfully it’s quite easy, just ignore logic for a moment, select the Run Blocked Program option and click System Configuration Utility. This opens another message box, which this time warns you that you have changed the way Windows starts. In the bottom left hand corner there’s a little box, which says ‘Don’t show this message or start System Configuration when Windows starts’. Tick the box and you won’t see that annoying pop-up again.




© R. Maybury 2009 1002


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