Ask Rick 2009 & Houston We Have a Problem 09



Ask Rick 049, 08/05/09 & Houston 128 16/05/09


Card Tricks

I have a Panasonic hard disc DVD recorder/player and I have burned DVDs on my PC so that I can show all my digital pix (jpeg files) on TV.  This works fine, however what I would like to be able to do would be to put the jpeg files on my USB memory stick and use that instead as it is obviously quicker and more flexible to transfer files from the PC to the stick rather than burn a DVD.


My problem is that the DVD player has no USB input (it has SD card slot and of course a SCART socket). Is there such a thing as a cable (or device) to connect my USB stick to the player via either of these inputs? I have searched online so far without success

Neil Bingham, by email


Not as such but you could use a USB/SD Card reader. I suggest one of the compact models that look like normal USB memory sticks. These have a slot on the side, or at the end (covered by a removable cap) that accepts a standard SD memory card. When a card is inserted into the reader and plugged into the PC it is treated like a normal memory stick, so all you have to do is copy your files to it. Remove the reader then pull out the SD card and plug it into your player. Readers like this can be really cheap too, in fact my local Poundland stocks them: I’ll leave you to figure out how much they cost…



Grabbing Stills from DVD

I can't print stills from DVDs on my Windows XP PC using the Print Screen function. When I view the captured image with Office Picture Manager the screen area is completely black. I have no problem printing images generally.  It's the Print Screen facility that doesn't seem to copy stills from DVD. Am I missing necessary software? If so, how can I get it free or cheaply?

Victor Adereth, by email


This is normal and the reason you can’t take a screengrab of a DVD is because the video display is what’s known as an ‘overlay’. In other words it’s a separate display window, created by your computer’s video adaptor, rather than Windows. On some PC’s it is possible to override this feature by turning off your computer’s graphics acceleration, which puts the display back under the control of Windows. To do that open Display Properties (in XP right-click desktop, select Properties > Settings; in Vista select Display Settings), click the Advanced button then select the Troubleshooting tab. If available move the Acceleration slider to ‘None’. If that facility isn’t available you can use a media player with a screengrab utility, I suggest VLC, it’s free and you’ll find a link to the download at:



Seeing Better Through Windows

I have a friend who is partially sighted and as a result has increased the screen resolution slightly, which improves matters a lot. However, because of the increased font size, when she opens a secondary window or a dialog box, it does not always fit completely on to the screen (typically the title bar is off the top or action buttons are off the bottom).


She has learned to use Alt + Space > Move to enable her to use the keyboard to shift the box around, but this disables the mouse, so she cannot then click on any buttons, since once she clicks, the box reverts to showing the title bar at the top and consequently loosing the action buttons off the bottom.

Cliff Darby, by email


Vista has a number of built-in ‘Accessibility’ features for those with vision impairments and I suggest that your friend tries them all. Go to Start > Control Panel > Ease of Access Centre > Make the Computer easier to see. Try the High Contrast Colour Scheme first, which is turned on and off by pressing Alt + Left Shift + Prt Scr. If that doesn’t work out experiment with the settings under  ‘Change the size of Text and Icons’. There’s also a Screen Magnifier that can help if the visual impairment isn’t too severe. However, in the end one of the mort effective solutions is to switch to a larger display, especially if your friend is using a 17-inch display, the sort supplied with most PCs as standard. Changing to a 19-inch or even a 21-inch display can make a world of difference.  



Shrink Wrap Music

I've been recording music from some of my old LPs using my PC and I am then able to burn the tracks onto a CD. These 3-minute tracks take up about 37Mb of memory in .wav format. What do I need to do to compress these tracks down to around 4Mb, similar to mp3 tracks? I would like to attach individual tracks to an email but 16Mb is the most I'm allowed.

David Wilkins, by email


Strictly speaking you cannot compress Wav files, at least not easily; it is a ‘lossless’ format and very closely related to the CDA (CD Audio) format used by CD. Wav files precisely describe a sound by sampling it many thousands of times each second, producing a very large, fixed amount of data. On the other hand mp3 is a ‘lossy’ format, and files can be compressed or made very much smaller by discarding data that represents sounds we cannot hear, or are masked by other louder sounds. It is possible to make wav files smaller by reducing the number of samples or ‘bitrate’ but this has a much more noticeable effect on quality, compared with mp3 compression and it may also render the file unreadable on some CD players. To get back to your question, if you want make a .wav file smaller or send it as an email attachment, convert it to an mp3 file and the easiest way to do that is to open it then save or Export it in an audio editing/recording program like Audacity or Free Audio Recorder (






© R. Maybury 2009 1404

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