Ask Rick 037, 27/03/09
Taking the Flac
I have recently downloaded some music from the web but they are
'flac' files. Can you advise of an easy method of converting these tracks to
Flac or Free Lossless Audio Codec is an up and coming audio
format. It works like mp3 in that it reduces or compresses the size of audio
files, to make them more manageable and easy to store or send over the
Internet, but unlike mp3 it does so without any loss of quality. As the name
implies it's free, open source and non-proprietary; there are no patents or big
business interests stifling its development and distribution and it's generating
a lot of interest. Everyone from Pearl Jam to Sir Paul McCartney are releasing
albums in flac format so expect to see, and hear, a lot more of it in the
A growing number of portable devices and most media player
programs support the format, or can be persuaded to do so by downloading a
suitable codec, so file conversion should only be necessary if you want to burn
an audio CD or listen to the tracks on a non-flac compatible mp3 player. In
that case you have several options, the most flexible solution is to download a
conversion program. I suggest Switch Sound File Converter (http://tinyurl.com/d6woe9), which is free,
and can convert from and to just about every audio format there is. Otherwise,
you can do it online through websites like Media-Convert (http://tinyurl.com/l3lc6), which is also
free and covers most popular media formats.
A Question of Size
How can I increase the print size in received emails? Sometimes
the print is so small it is illegible. I do not have this problem with web
browsing (I have discovered the zoom function -- Ctrl key and the + key.
Noel Milchem, by email
I know what you mean and some people seem to use the smallest font
available when composing emails; maybe they think they get there quicker, or it
saves electricity... Who knows but if it is just emails the simplest thing to
do is go to the message window's View menu, select Text Size then Larger or
Largest. If it is still too small to read then fire up the Windows Screen
Magnifier. In XP you'll find it by going to Start > Programs >
Accessories > Accessibility Wizard. In Vista it's Start > Programs >
Accessories > Ease of Access.
Making the Rules
How can I set my Outlook Express so I receive only from persons in
my Address Book?
Ron Cochran, by email
It's easy enough to do this using the Outlook Express 'Rules'
facility but it's a bit of a blunt instrument and you may miss or delete
legitimate messages. To set it up go to Tools > Message Rules > Mail and
click the New button. In box 1 tick the item 'Where the From line contains
people' and in box 3 click the underlined link 'contains people'. Click the
Address Book button select everyone you want to be included in the Rule. If
there's a lot of entries hold down the Ctrl key and select them one by one, if
it's all of them hold down the Shift key and press the down cursor arrow key.
When that's done click the From button to copy the entries into the Rule
Addresses box then click OK and OK.
You should now be back on the Message Rules configuration window
and you can either automatically delete messages from people you do not know or
quarantine them and peruse them at your leisure. In box 2 just select 'Delete
it' if it's the former, or Move to a specified folder, if you want to keep
them. If you do that you'll open the Move dialogue box; click the New Folder
button, give it a name and click OK, then OK to exit Rules setup.
A less drastic way of controlling Spam is to use a Filter program
and I can thoroughly recommend MailWasher, which is free, and very effective.
You'll find a link to the download at: http://tinyurl.com/66mo3p
External Drive Prevents Boot-Up
I have just increased the data storage capacity of my XP SP2
desktop computer by adding a 640Gb external hard drive. The installation was
straightforward, but there is a problem with starting and restarting the
computer. Unless the new drive is unplugged from its USB socket, the computer
hangs almost immediately (I do not have this problem with another external
Plugging in the drive once the boot up has got beyond the critical
point works OK, but it's a nuisance and I would prefer not to have to do it
every time I need to start up or reboot. Can you help?
Howard Davies, by email
This is a BIOS issue, which for irregular readers is the Basic
Input Output System program that tests and configures the computer before
loading Windows. It could be one of several things. Usually it's due to a BIOS
option that enables the USB ports at boot up, so you can use a USB mouse and keyboard,
or it could be the boot order. This is when the BIOS has finished its checks it
searches the drives connected to the PC in sequence, looking for the boot files
and operating system (Windows). If the USB ports are the first in line, and
there's a drive present with no boot information on it then the boot sequence
Launch the BIOS or 'Setup' program (see your user manual for
details). Check the Boot Order and make sure that your main hard drive it at
the top of the list. If it is then look for an option called USB Legacy Support
- it's usually listed under Integrated peripherals or -- and disable it.
Another possibility is the BIOS may simply not be able to handle
the new drive, in which case it may be possible update it from the manufacturer's
website, though this can be a tricky operation and not for novices or the
© R. Maybury 2009 0303