Ask Rick 2009 & Houston We Have a Problem 09



Ask Rick 041, 10/04/09


Bonjour Bother

I use Internet Explorer as the default web-browser on my laptop and run Windows XP. Ever since downloading iTunes software, every time I attempt to connect to the Internet my security program warns me that something called 'Bonjour Service' is attempting to connect to the Internet. Is this sinister and how can I stop it happening?

Peter Walker, by email


The two events are connected and Bonjour Service is a component in Apple iTunes (it's also in Safari Browser and PhotoShop). It's a Service Discovery protocol, which basically means it scans networks looking for other Services that you might want to connect to. It does this automatically, in the background, so there's no need for you to faff around with IP addresses and DNS servers. Services in this context can be anything from printers and wireless adaptors to iTunes playlists on other computers.


Your security software, specifically the Firewall, is just doing its job by intercepting and blocking Bonjour's attempts to connect to your network and the Internet. You can safely allow it to do so and you shouldn't hear from it again. Bonjour was originally developed for Mac systems and there's some debate over how important it is on a Windows PC, which has it's own Simple Service Discovery Protocol (SSDP). Nevertheless, Bonjour doesn't seem to waste resources so I would leave it be, but if you want to remove it there are plenty of sites on the web with detailed instructions. Be warned that it may affect some functions in  iTunes but you can always install an earlier version of iTunes that doesn't use Bonjour (it first appeared in v5.0). You'll find them all on the OldApps website:



Wireless Loophole for Banking?

Does the use of a secure (https) web page mean that your information is safe even if it is being accessed via a Wi-Fi connection? I have always used my desktop PC for on-line banking but I have recently bought a Wi-Fi enabled laptop and I am not sure if it is safe to use for this sort of application.

Paul Thomas, by email


Https or Hypertext Transfer Protocol over Secure Socket Layer is a way of encrypting the data that is sent between your web browser and a remote web site. A little locked padlock icon appears in the bottom right hand corner of your browser window to show that it is working. Basically this means that your data is about as safe as it can be throughout its journey, from your PC to the web site, and this includes the short hop from your laptop to your wireless router. Even if your wireless network was unsecured and someone was able to intercept the data whilst you were connected to a secure website it would be of no value, unless they also had access to a powerful computer, some very sophisticated code-breaking software and a lot of time on their hands.


Even though your information is reasonably well protected whilst you are on an https site you must still enable your wireless network's encryption system. These days most Wi-Fi products use WPA or WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access) encryption, which scrambles the data flowing between your laptop and your wireless router. It adds an extra layer of protection to secure web surfing but its main job is to stop anyone else from accessing your Internet connection or poking around inside your computers.



Fax of Life

I have just changed laptops, from a Tosh running XP to a Compaq model with the dreaded Vista Basic. I want to be able to send and receive faxes. Is there any freeware you know of?

Charles Holloway, Edinburgh


Once upon a time almost everyone seemed to have a fax machine but I can't remember the last time I sent or received one. Nevertheless, Microsoft's decision to only include Windows Fax and Scan with the Business and Enterprise editions of Vista has annoyed quite a few people. I haven't been able to find any freeware fax programs that work with Vista, and if anyone knows of one please let me know, but there are a couple of commercial programs that you can try. Both SnappyFax ( and Fax Machine ( claim to be Vista compatible and they are available on a 30-day free trial. If you really don't want to spend any money, and you are feeling adventurous, you could try dual-booting Vista and XP, or run XP in Microsoft Virtual PC (



Netbook Drawback

I recently purchased a netbook as a portable extension of my home-based tower PC. Generally things are fine, but a couple of applications on CD will not load when transferred to USB flash drive; XP asks: 'please insert the CD'.  Do you have any ideas, apart from purchasing an external CD/DVD reader?

Tim Garrett-Moore, by email


Usually copying the entire contents of an installation CD to a flash drive will work. When you get the 'please insert...' message there's usually a Browse button that let's you point the program to the files it is looking for on the flash drive. Have another go.


Another possible solution is to connect your netbook to your desktop PC via your home network, wirelessly, or by LAN cable, and set up sharing on the desktop's CD/DVD drive. Once the netbook can 'see' the drive you should be able to use it install programs onto the netbook.


However, in the end an external USB CD/DVD drive would be the simplest solution, especially if this is likely to be a recurrent problem. They're not that expensive, if you shop around you should be able to find one for less than £30. Otherwise you may be able to cobble something together. If you have an old PC with a CD/DVD drive you could use that. All you need to do is whip it out the case and hook it up to an IDE to USB converter module - Maplin sells one for £20. You can do something similar using the connectors in an external hard disc drive enclosure (around £10 to £15 online). 





© R. Maybury 2009 1703


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