Ask Rick 2009 & Houston We Have a Problem 09



Ask Rick 044, 20/04/09


Memory Card Games

I have a couple of SD memory cards (1 and 2Gb capacity) that I use to save Word documents and pictures. I have been trying to transfer some photos, originally from a camera phone, from the 1GB card onto the 2 GB card. Having transferred only 75 pictures I now cannot transfer any more as if the card were full. If I right-click and go to properties I find that I have used 33.5MB and that there is 1.87 GB free. Is the 2GB card really full or is it something I am doing?

James Unvala


Memory card capacities have outpaced the abilities of older filing systems to handle the vast amounts of data they are now expected to contain. One very common problem is a limit on the number of files imposed by the FAT filing system. For example, the FAT/FAT16 formatting, which some devices use and is available as an option in Windows, permits a maximum of 512 entries in the ‘root’ of the drive. These can be files or folders. You can easily overcome this, however, and the trick is to create folders and use those to store the files. The capacity of FAT16-formatted cards can also be reduced by file names longer than the ‘8.3’ standard (i.e. a name with a maximum of 8 characters, followed by a 3-character extension). It’s possible that your problems are caused by a combination of these factors, especially if data on the card has been repeatedly written and erased, in which case the easiest thing to do re-format the card using Windows but make sure that FAT32 is selected on the File System drop-down menu. Alternatively, use the more thorough SD Formatter utility, which is available free from Panasonic (



Misguided Mouse

Two or three times a day my mouse pointer makes an unexpected and disconcerting leap across the screen. It has been suggested to me that some malware could be to blame but none of my defences report any problems. Does this sound like malware? If so where does it lurk and how can I rid myself of it?  If it’s not malware do you have any explanation?

Don Kelley, by email


It sounds like a dodgy mouse to me, or it could be interference, especially if it's a wireless type, but the first thing to do is see what happens when you plug in a known-good, hard-wired mouse. A few years ago I came across a similar problem that was eventually traced to a powerful desk lamp. Older ‘ball’ type mice can be affected by strong light as they use optical sensors to detect movement. When the mouse moves into a shadow or into the pool of light, created by the lamp, it can suddenly veer off course.


If it’s just that one mouse, and you are attached to it then try updating or reinstalling the driver, especially if it’s a fancy one with specialised functions. It’s unlikely to be a malware infection though, this isn’t the sort of thing that it does, though again, going back a few years I recall several prank programs that made the mouse pointer do unexpected things but the effects tended to be much more dramatic.



Numbers Up

I use a Samsung notebook running XP home which now has a problem (in all probability of my own making) - the keys M J K L U I and O also have the numbers 0 to 6 (in blue) on them and when typing the above keys I get the number instead of the letter. In other words if I type the word MILK and I get 0532, is there a solution to this problem?

Ivor Davis, by email


This can be a bit disconcerting but what you have done is switched on the machine’s numeric keypad facility. For obvious reasons notebooks and laptops don’t have separate number keypads, so they are integrated into the body of the keyboard (the blue numbers on the keycaps). To enable and disable them you usually need to press the Fn key plus NumLock, which is usually on the top row of function keys. You’ll find a more detailed explanation in your user manual, which is always worth reading as there may be other features that you don't know about and are worth getting to know.



Extracting Addresses

I received a list of email addresses in a document as an attachment to an email. When I open the document I cannot transfer these addresses to the Outlook Express Address Book unless I painstakingly retype or copy and paste them one by one. Is there an easier way of getting them into Outlook Express?

Geoff N., by email


Not that I know of, but I do have a quick-and-dirty workaround that will help to speed things up. Highlight and copy the addresses in the document and paste them into a blank New Message window. Now send the email yourself. Open it, right-click on the addresses and on the drop-down menu select ‘Add to Address Book’.



Partition Primer

I have recently rebuilt my PC and partitioned the new 500GB hard disk three equal ways.  I now realise the partition containing Windows and my program files is much bigger than necessary as is the 'spare' partition (should I ever need to reload the operating system).  I would like to move the spare capacity to the third partition where I keep all my data.  I am running Windows XP Home edition SP3.  Having searched the Internet I am left confused!  Can you recommend a step-by-step instruction for resizing partitions, without having to reload software and data?  If software is needed free or cheap would be preferred!

Rod Bunyan, by email


Unfortunately there are no free or cheap partitioning tools that I would be happy to recommend to a novice. The only free and relatively safe alternative is to Install a Linux distribution like Mandriva or Ubuntu, and these have partition management programs built-in. If you fancy having a go see Boot Camp 446 ( Otherwise commercial programs like Partition Manager or Partition Magic are your best bet, the former can be picked up on line for around £20.




© R. Maybury 2009 1603

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