Ask Rick 2009 & Houston We Have a Problem 09



Ask Rick 033, 13/03/09


Pardon my French

Outlook Express on my PC is set to spellcheck in French with no alternatives offered. How do I reset this to English? The spell checker works normally in Word, in English.

Peter Hancock, by email


I naively thought Microsoft would have fixed this glitch by now, which first appeared back in 2007. Clearly it hasn’t and my guess is that it has been quietly forgotten in the hope that it will eventually go away as users switch to Windows Mail in Vista. It’s due to a bug in Office 2007, which deletes language files in Outlook Express. A patch was promised but Microsoft Support ( now suggests that sufferers install a third-party spell checker. It’s not a very satisfactory solution but it works, so try IE Spell or Spellchecker for OE; they’re both free and you’ll find links to the download at:



Monitoring the Changes

We are one of the few households without a television and have no need of one. We can play DVDs on our desktop PC, but that is in an upstairs room so it’s not very comfortable for watching DVDs. What I'd like to do is buy a cheap DVD player and connect it to the PC's 17-inch LCD monitor, which I would move to the living room when we want to watch a DVD. There is a 15-pin connection from the PC to the monitor at each end (as well as a lead with an audio jack at each end), but it appears that DVD players have a different shaped connector. I'm told that it is not possible to get a lead to connect a DVD player to the monitor. Is that so? Is there any other solution?

Roger Davis, Leeds


DVD players and PCs use different video systems so it’s more than just a problem with the plugs and sockets. However, there are ways around this incompatibility and you need a widget called a Video to VGA converter. There are lots of them on the market, and quite a wide variation in performance so I would avoid the really cheap ones. The Lindy Video to VGA converter is one of the better entry-level models and it costs around £55 on line (Amazon etc.). You can spend a lot more than that on higher performance converters but I doubt that you would notice the difference on a 17-inch screen.



Refresher Course

Until recently on ebay auction items there has been ‘Refresh’ button that appears during the final 15 minutes and this instantly updates the screen to show the countdown and the bid movements. A few months ago and for no apparent reason, the screen layout changed and the Refresh button is no longer there. Last week the same thing happened on one of my laptops. I contacted ebay by email but have received no response. Do you have any answers?

Chris Paulin, by email


The on-page refresh button is a Javascript component and only updates time and bid amount information and there does seem to be a problem with it on some versions Firefox. There appears to be a conflict between ebay web page coding, a recent Firefox security update and some extensions. Sorry for sounding so vague but it’s not consistent and I have been unable to reproduce the fault but you may be able to resolve it by disabling or uninstalling any Firefox add-ons that you have, one at a time (Tools > Add-Ons). Afterwards try the Refresh button. However, don’t be surprised if the button continues to work if you subsequently re-install or enable the add-on…



Dicky Defender

For the last 6 months fault message has appeared at start up. It reads ‘Application failed to initialise 0x800106ba, Windows Defender’. I have been able to eliminate other error messages but this one persists. Can you help me, as this one seems to slow start up?

B Watkins, by email


This message usually means that you are using the obsolete beta version of Windows Defender, which was released back in 2006. Updating to the latest version (download free from Microsoft at: should make it go away. A similar message also appears if you are using Windows 2000, which is no longer supported by Windows Defender.



Spasmodic Socket

I have a 2-year old Sony Vaio laptop and after a couple of months the USB sockets spasmodically stopped working. When it happened the only way to turn the machine off was to press and hold the on/off button. After having numerous phone calls to Sony, and restoring the computer to its factory settings I returned the machine. They said there nothing was wrong with it.


The problem is now happening more frequently and my USB wireless mouse does not work. I have checked wireless strength and the battery in the mouse, which is fine. My local IT shop says it is a motherboard problem and it would cost £200 to replace; they suggested I buy a new PC. I use the computer for my business so reliability is paramount, any thoughts please?

Ian Coop, by email


Intermittent faults like these can be difficult to diagnose, especially at a distance but you should be able to establish the cause by a process of elimination. The first thing to do with any USB problem is update the drivers, which you will find in the Support section of the Sony Vaio website. If that makes no difference see if the USB ports are working with other devices, such as a memory stick. If they are then the problem lies with the wireless mouse. If not check the sockets and motherboard. Insert a USB memory stick. Windows should recognise the device and sound the ‘Connect’ beep. Now gently (and I mean gently!) press the device and see if the connection is lost, at which point you will hear the Disconnect beep.  If so then it needs to be opened up, though I think a replacement motherboard may be a bit drastic; it could be something simple and a competent engineer should be able to mend or re solder the broken connections. 




© R. Maybury 2009 1702


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