Ask Rick 2009 & Houston We Have a Problem 09



Ask Rick 051, 15/05/09 & Houston 131, 06/06/09


Senior Skyper

My mother's oldest friend, a granny in her 70's, has heard about Skype and is desperate to see her grandchildren. She is not at all computer literate (has never had one) and suffers from MS, so has a fairly short fuse for things going wrong. I have been tasked with advising her on what computer and broadband supplier she should have. I quail at the prospect - can you help please?

Barry Hillier, by email


I firmly believe that you are never too old to learn about computers, but it can be a very steep learning curve, especially for novices with a short temper.  Long before you get to any buying decisions she needs to get to grips with the basics, learning to use a mouse and keyboard, and finding her way around Windows. She really needs to spend some time in front of a computer with someone, maybe you can help? This will also highlight any problems she may experience with the display and input devices, which is important to know before you buy any hardware.


If Skype is her only reason for wanting a computer, or she doesn’t take to it, then there are alternatives. Asus have just introduced the AiGuru SV1, which is a dedicated Sky Videophone that is now selling online for around £220. It has a 9-inch display, a built-in camera and is very easy to use; all you have to do is plug it in. If course the user will need a broadband connection but there are plenty of comparison sites and buying advice on the web to help you make a decision.



Documenting Word

I have Microsoft Office on my laptop, from which I use for letters etc.  Every file gets a .wps extension, which is OK unless I attach a piece to an email, which the recipient can't read. Some periodicals will only accept emailed attachments with .doc or .txt extensions, so how do I change my documents to these formats? 

Barry Martin, Bolton, Lancs


By the sound of it you have Microsoft Works Office Suite, rather than Microsoft Office, which is a completely different animal. You can save documents in plain text format using the Save As dialogue box on the File menu; the .txt option is on the Save As Type drop-down menu. You may also be able to save documents in .doc format, depending which version of Works you have. If it has Word 2000 go to Word’s File menu then New > More Word Templates > Other Documents > Batch Conversion Wizard, click OK and follow the prompts.


If your copy of Works doesn’t have that facility then you can either install Word (or MS Office, older versions can now be found quite cheaply on ebay), or switch to one of the alternative word processors, like AbiWord, Jarte or OpenOffice.Org. These have the option to save documents in .doc format, they are all free and you'll find links to the downloads at:



How does my Garden Grow?

Is there a program, which will let me put 6 or 8 photos on the screen at once, for comparison, without any surrounds? In Photoshop Elements I can open them, but there are various toolbars both for the page and for each photo, taking up a lot of space.  I don’t want to manipulate the pics, just see how my garden grew from one year to the next!

Jennifer Fletcher, by email


Once again the solution lies with our old friend Picasa, the free picture organiser and editing program from Google (I should be on commission…). Anyway, download and install Picasa from, and once it has catalogued all of your images it opens in the Library View. The default setting shows around 24 thumbnail images per page (depending on your screen size and resolution etc, but just below the Library View window, on the right hand side there’s a slider that lets you increase the size of the thumbnails. The maximum setting, around 6 per page, should be just what you are looking for. The slideshow option also lets you skip backwards and forwards through your images, so you can make comparisons.



Print Range Ink Saver

Having downloaded a 100 page PDF instruction manual into Adobe Reader the printer ran out of ink half way through. Is it possible, having replaced the ink, to take up the printing from where it was stopped instead of having to print the whole lot again?

Ian Jackson, by email


Yes it is and in Adobe Reader and most Windows applications with a Print function simply go to File > Print/Print Setup. This opens your Printer's Properties dialogue box, which should have a Page Range option, where you can set it to print from Page X to Page Y.




© R. Maybury 2009 2004


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