Ask Rick 2009 & Houston We Have a Problem 09



Ask Rick 052, 18/05/09 & Houston 129 & 130,  23 & 30/05/09


Bird Box on the Web

We have a bird box with a small camera in it and blue tits nesting. This is connected via a transmitter/receiver to the television. Do you know of any way to transfer the image to a computer (a desktop in a different room, though I could relocate it short term) and ideally to stream the images, or at least stills, over the Internet to friends so that they can share the pleasure of watching the birds hatch and fledge. I have a web site so I could make use of that for web hosting. The computer is running Windows XP home.

John Raper, by email


The first job is to get the video feed from the camera into the PC and to do that you will need a video adaptor card with a video input, or a USB analogue video capture device. I think the latter will be your best bet as these often come with recording software and can be found selling online for £20 to £30. Allowing others to view the images is not too difficult either and I suggest an excellent little freeware utility called Yawcam (Yet Another WebCam), you’ll find the download at: It features a video streaming over networks and the Internet, there’s an FTP upload facility, it will take snapshots and there’s a built in motion detector that can be set to take a snapshot and save an image, upload images or send email alerts.


Vista Video Problem

I have just bought a new PC with Windows Vista to replace a Windows XP PC. I am having problems running .AVI video files in WMP on the new PC despite the fact that they ran perfectly on my old XP PC. On the new PC all I get is the sound. What am I doing wrong and how do I configure WMP to run these files properly.

John Waterfall, by email


Windows Media Player in Vista should be able to play most .avi files straight out of the box, but contrary to popular belief .avi is not a video format. It’s a ‘container’ format, which basically means it’s a way of transporting several different types multimedia files. Your PC may lack the necessary coding/decoding software or ‘codecs’ needed to replay the video, or if it has them, they may be corrupt. One way to find out is to use a freeware tool called Gspot ( This tells you which codecs you have on your PC, and if there are problems with any of them. If your installed codecs get a clean bill of health then I suggest you download the K-Lite codec ‘pack’, which contains just about every audio and video codec you are ever likely to need. It’s free and you’ll find a link to the download at:


BCM Error Message

I bought a new Sony laptop, running Vista business. It had the trial version of Office 2007 on it, which I didn’t want as I have my own copy of Office 2003. Now every time I open an Office document or program I get a dialogue box entitled BCM office admin. The message says, Office application version does not match.

Ian Wedge, by email


BCM is the Outlook Business Contact Manager add-in, it requires Office 2007 to run and gets annoyed if it isn’t there, or encounters an older version of Office. To stop the message appearing you need to remove BCM, which you should find listed in Programs > Uninstall a Program in Control Panel on the Start menu.



Persistent Password

I have Windows Vista on my laptop with a password to log in. If I leave the laptop for around 10 minutes or more I have to log in again. As I am the only one using it this is unnecessary, is there a way to disable this so I only have to log on once when first using? I have looked on the Help section and can only seem to find things to increase security not lessen it.

Chris Grimley, by email


In order to save energy and reduce wear and tear, especially when running from the battery, your laptop’s power management system is putting the machine into a Sleep mode after 10 minutes of inactivity. You can easily change this by going to Start > Control Panel > Power Options. The machine is almost certainly still on default ‘Balanced’ power plan. Click the link and you will see the settings for switching off the display and putting the computer into Sleep mode when running on battery power and using the mains adaptor. If it is mostly used with the mains adaptor change the Sleep time to an hour or more, or Never, to suit your way of working.



TV Licence Workaround?

I’m one of the three percent of households in the UK who does not have a television set but I do watch DVDs through my computer and external monitor. I’d like to purchase a separate DVD player, which has no TV tuner circuitry, which I can connect to a 22-inch computer monitor.  Local retail stores have told me that this cannot be done but surely somebody out there has cracked this problem?


I thought of buying a TV with integral DVD player and not connecting it to an aerial but I already get warning letters from the TV Licensing people in Bristol about sending investigators around to check if I’m illegally watching television, that I’d rather just have equipment which clearly has no capability of receiving television broadcasts.

Tudor Thomas, by email


It certainly can be done but be warned that the cost of the extra hardware won’t be far short of a TV licence – at least if you want to do it properly… The problem is the video signals that come out of a DVD player are quite different to those from a PC, so they have to be converted into a form that a computer monitor understands. Basically you need a Video to VGA converter or ‘scaler’ and a half decent one, capable of doing justice to DVDs, will set you back in the region of £150. Cheaper converters are available but you may find the picture quality disappointing. You will also need to connect the DVD player up to a hi-fi system or powered speakers in order to hear the soundtrack.





© R. Maybury 2009 2704

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