Ask Rick 2009 & Houston We Have a Problem 09



Ask Rick 046, 27/04/09 & Houston 127,09/05/09


Unexpected RAMifications

Some two or three years ago I recorded all my home video tapes onto DVD-RAM discs, using a PVR. Now I would like to copy these discs for my daughters, but find that although they play readily on the PVR, neither my PC nor another one I have tried will read them; they all say the discs are blank! Is there any software that will convert their contents into a readable format?

David Colman, by email


At the very least you should be able to re-record the discs on a PC, using the PVR’s analogue AV output and a USB video recording module. Most of them come with DVD recording programs and I’ve seen them selling online for as little as £25. There will be some loss of quality but this method should be able to capture all of the detail from the original recordings, which were made on relatively low definition videotape.


When it comes to reading DVD-RAM discs on a PC the bottom line is that some can, and some can’t… This is due to the tangle of standards and formats. Windows Vista, for example can have problems reading DVD-RAM discs with FAT32 formatting.  PC DVD drive firmware (the built-in software that controls it), is another fairly common troublemaker, though it’s worth checking the PC or drive manufacturer’s website to see if there’s an update or patch. Just to confuse matters there are two versions of the DVD-RAM specification, and discs made using the newer DVD-RAM2 standard may not be readable on some older drives. There’s no easy answer but it’s worth checking friends and colleagues PCs and MACs to see if the disc can be read on their machines, and if so, ask them to run off some copies. 



DVD to MP3

Do you know if it is possible to convert, for example, soundtracks from a DVD to MP3 so you can them play in on a non-video-playing iPod?  I have a number of music DVDs that I'd like to be able to listen to on the move. My PC uses Vista.

Gareth Jones, by email


There are a couple of possibilities, you can either play the DVD on your PC and at the same time use a recording program, like Audacity or Free Audio Editor (, to record the soundtrack, edit the file and export it as an MP3 file. Alternatively, there’s an all-in-one freeware utility called DVD MP3 Ripper ( This simplifies the whole process and even makes it easy to pick out single tracks, however, as I am sure you know, you are not supposed to make recordings of copyright material, so consider yourself duly warned!



Faulty Defaults

I have a Vista laptop and I have never been able to click on emails in website addresses. I get a box that says: '…could not perform this operation because the default mail client is not properly installed'.  My support man says I am not the only person with this problem and he is trying to find a solution.

Jennifer Margrave, by email


He really doesn’t have to look very far… Click the Start button then ‘Default Programs’  (you can also get to it through Control Panel, which is also on the Start Menu). Click on ‘ Set your default programs’ then on the list that appears select your email program (Windows Mail) and click ‘Choose defaults for this program’.  Check all three boxes, click Save and it’s done.


Officious Office

My old computer with Windows XP recently failed so I bought a new machine with Windows Vista Home Premium. I have installed my copy of Office Pro 2003 onto the new computer and updated it from the Internet. However whenever I need to use one of the programs each and every time I have to accept the End Users License Agreement. How do I stop this message appearing once and for all?

Phil Tait, by email


This happens if you use Office in a User Account that isn’t allowed to modify the Windows Registry, which it needs to do in order to record the fact that you’ve accepted the End User Licence Agreement (EULA). To fix it all you have to do is log on to the computer using an Administrator account, open Word, say, and wait for the EULA to appear. Now go to Start > All Programs > Microsoft Office, right click on the Word icon and on the menu that appears select ‘Run as Administrator’ then ‘Continue’ and ‘I Accept’. You may have to repeat this for every Office program that throws up the EULA but that should be the last you’ll see of it.



Closing Remarks

When closing Word documents a window often appears asking whether I want to save the changes. This is

odd since I have made no changes, just looked at the document. Why does this happen and what is the effect of clicking No?

Brian Perriss, by email


Although you haven’t made any changes they can still happen behind the scenes. For example, embedded Field Codes can automatically record when a document was last opened or printed, it also happens if you do a word count. I’m not aware of any way to switch it of, and who knows, one day it might prove useful, so just ignore it and click Yes.



Shift of Opinion

I and probably millions of other Microsoft Word users would love to know if there is a way of making the Shift Key NOT function when Caps Lock is on.

Paul Donatantonio, by email


As far as I can remember you are the first to ask though a great many Word users have issues with the Caps Lock function. I am not aware of any way to change the behaviour of the Shift key, at least not from within Word but there is a way to disable it – or any key for that matter -- or change or ‘remap’ their functions, using a small freeware utility called Key Tweak ( The change is global and affects all programs but it may be worth experimenting with.





© R. Maybury 2009 0604

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