Ask Rick 2009 & Houston We Have a Problem 09



Ask Rick 045, 24/04/09  & Houston 126, 02/05/09


Defending Freeware

I have a Dell desktop running Vista Home Premium. My subscription with McAfee needs to be renewed in June. Recently I started using Windows Defender to scan the drives for viruses and that seems to be working fine, alongside McAfee. Given that Microsoft updates Defender for nothing and McAfee costs £40 pa, is there any benefit in continuing to subscribe, or am I wasting my money? Are there other free virus checking services that I could use as an alternative and are they updated regularly and competent to do the job?

Neil Upward, by email


In short you need both. Your virus scanner and Windows Defender do quite different jobs. Viruses normally generally attack system files and spread to other computers by replicating themselves, travel via the Internet, networks, infected software, emails, discs and memory devices. Defender’s job is to protect your machine against Malware and Spyware that targets Windows and Windows applications, like Internet Explorer. These nasties don’t usually replicate but sneak in through web pages, exploiting loopholes in Windows security, which is clearly something Microsoft should know all about, and be able to fix.


There’s nothing to stop you switching to a free anti-virus program; most of them are updated daily or weekly and they provide similar levels of protection against viruses as their commercial counterparts. However, paid-for programs usually have many more features, which can include such things as a firewall, malware and spyware cleaners and of course free and usually live support. Support for freeware programs tends to be online, in the form of FAQs and user forums. 



Empty Promises

I use an Epson DX6000 printer and until recently have had no trouble with compatible cartridges. However, I have run into difficulties with a recent batch, which ran out when the computer reckoned they were still more than half full. I replaced them with a pack from the same source but as fast as I put one colour in another colour shows empty so I have used all four in one day and still the printer shows one colour empty and refuses to function. I have uninstalled and then re-installed the printer but this has not solved the problem.  


Should I remove all 4 suspect cartridges and insert genuine Epson cartridges? I am reluctant to do this only to find it will still not work and the cartridges cannot be re-inserted. They have now gone up to £36 a set! Any suggestions would be most welcome.

Norman Martin, by email


It could be a firmware problem but as I am sure you are aware, you will get little sympathy from Epson once you’ve committed the cardinal sin of using ‘compatible’ cartridges. Many models in the Epson range can be ‘reset’ to factory defaults by using a Service Code (pressing buttons in sequence) or through a service utility but I’m unable to locate one for this particular model.


Epson own-brand cartridges might do the trick but first I would try a couple of cheaper remedies first. Chip ‘resetters’ are available for this model and zapping the cartridges with one might get things moving. Alternatively, try a set of ARF (always read full) or ARC (Auto Reset Chip) cartridges, which fool the printer into thinking it has been fitted with brand new carts. The latter are available online for around £10 empty, or £30 with bottles of refill ink. 



Dongle Dilemma

I have just bought a new HP laptop running Vista with a fast processor but the download speed on my mobile broadband dongle is very slow. It works fine on my old XP laptop, which has a much slower processor. I have contacted Orange, who says it should work equally well on both operating systems. Both laptops are used in the same location. I just wondered if there is anything I can do to help speed it up?

Alison Graham, by email


I agree with Orange and the operating system shouldn’t make a difference. Try comparing the speeds at, preferably at the same time as slowdowns can occur due to network congestion. It may be due to over-enthusiastic security software on your Vista laptop. Try temporarily disabling the virus scanner and firewall by right clicking on their icons ion the System Tray, next to the clock. Otherwise it could be something else running in the background, clogging up the works. Press Ctrl + Al + Delete, select Task Manager and check the Applications, Processes and Performance tabs to see what’s running and using up resources.



Fonts in Outlook Express

When I start an email in Outlook Express Arial Black is automatically set as the typeface. I would prefer to use Verdana. At the moment I can only do this manually and afterwards it returns to Arial Black

Marlene Maguire, by email


The default font for sending emails in Outlook Express is actually Arial so it must have been altered at some point. To change it back, or to Verdana go to Tools > Options and select the Compose tab. Under Compose Font at the top click Font Settings, make your selection and click OK.



Detect Defect

Every time I log on to my XP computer I get a message that says ‘Digital Line Detect, Please verify that your phone line is connected to a standard analogue modem or fax line’. The only way to get rid of it and continue is to click OK. The computer is directly connected to a broadband modem, which pre dates this problem.

Steve Duckworth, by email 


This message is coming from an obscure utility called BVRP Phone Tools, and specifically a program called Dlg.exe, which is set to launch at boot up. It turns up on some Dell PCs and is also bundled with a number Connexant and Broadcom dial-up modems. Since you are using broadband you do not need it so you can stop it launching at start up by going to Run on the Start menu, type ‘msconfig’ (without the quotes), select the Startup list, uncheck the item dgl.exe and restart your PC.




© R. Maybury 2009 1603

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