Ask Rick 2009 & Houston We Have a Problem 09



Ask Rick 054, 25/05/09 & Houston 131, 06/06/09


Skype Caps

I have been talking to my sister in South Africa using Skype and my PC’s webcam. She has used up her monthly broadband allocation and I am concerned that I may be doing the same. How can I measure my use without dealing with my provider’s call centre? Can you provide an estimate for a 1 hour Skype video call, and also for a call without video?

Babs of Herts, by email


Consider switching to an uncapped tariff but if that’s not possible check the Help or Support pages on your ISP’s website to see if there’s a record of your data usage. Otherwise the simplest way to keep tabs on it is to install some monitoring software. I suggest Tautology Bandwidth Meter, which displays daily and monthly totals at a glance. It’s free, and you’ll find a link to the download at: As for Skype, there’s a lot variables but as a very general rule of thumb you should reckon on between 20 and 30Mb per hour for voice-only calls and 40 to 80Mb an hour for video.



Silent Treatment by BBC iPlayer

I am having trouble increasing the volume on the BBC iPlayer. I have tried adjusting the PC volume but although all sliders are at maximum, the sound is very low.

Peter Joyce, by email


It would have been helpful to know something about your computer and its sound system and whether or not it is a global problem. If it is and the sound level is low on all applications check what happens when you change the speaker settings in Sounds in Control Panel or see if there’s a dedicated audio control panel for your audio system. Otherwise try updating your PC's audio driver.  If only iPlayer is affected then make sure that the player’s own independent volume control is set to maximum, and it goes all the way up to '11'...



Turn Off Track Changes

Do you know if a simple way to kill ‘Track Changes’ in Office 2007? I have used Help and it seems to require me to edit every change before removing it.

Graham Sasse, by email


As far as I am aware the only way to permanently disable Track Changes in Word 2007 is to use Group Policies, a fairly complex procedure not recommended for novices. However, you can easily turn it off on a per-document basis; just click the Review tab then the Track Changes icon. You can also toggle it on and off using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Shift + E. If you prefer you can put a clickable Track Change button on the Status bar, at the bottom of the screen, by right clicking on it and select Track Changes. If you want to retain the facility to track changes but don’t want to see them on screen in the Tracking Group go to the Final Showing Markup dropdown menu and select Final.



Over Protective Windows

I have Windows XP Home Edition, and transfer photographs from my digital camera using the Windows wizard. Occasionally a few photographs cannot be put into a file, nor can they be deleted. If I click on the offending photograph the computer freezes and the following message appears: ‘Data Execution Prevention… Microsoft Windows has closed the program’. On closing the window another appears which says: ‘Windows Explorer has encountered a problem and needs to close’. Is this because I have tried to put too many photographs on the file and can I prevent it?

Keith Lewis


Windows Data Execution Prevention (DEP) is supposed to help protect your PC from unknown programs trying to open, run or install viruses and malware but it can be quite touchy and can be triggered by perfectly benign files or files that have been corrupted, which may be the reason you are seeing this message. If you are absolutely certain that these photos were taken by your camera then you can safely reduce DEP’s sensitivity. To do that open System Properties, and the fastest way to do that is to press Winkey + Break.  Click the Advanced tab, then the Settings button under Performance and select the Data Execution Prevention tab. Click ‘ Turn on DEP for essential Windows programs…’ and click OK to close the boxes and reboot. You should now be able to open or copy the files, though if they are corrupt you may see another error message to that effect. If you have a good anti-virus program and Firewall installed on your PC you can leave DEP as it is, otherwise return it to the original setting, which is ‘Turn on DEP for all programs…’.



New Life for an Old PC

I am loath to give up on an old PC though it has become very slow and access to the Internet takes a long time. The PC has a 566 MHz processor, 256 Mb memory, and a 15GB hard drive and runs Windows ME.  I would like to have a go at upgrading it, even if it should cost more than a new one. I assume I will probably need a lot of new parts.  However is it really possible to do all this with any expectation that it will work?  I have an up to date laptop so it doesn't matter if the PC is out of action for a time.

John Brigham, by email


Upgrading a PC as old as this one is simply not worth it as you will have to replace the CPU and motherboard, hard drive, add new memory and possibly install a new power supply as well. In fact the only thing you’d be left with (apart from a much lighter wallet) is the case. If you really want to hang on to it for old times sake then why not install the Linux operating system? Even a machine as old as this one will fly along with Linux; Internet log-on will be lightning fast and you’ll be able to do all of the usual things as most versions or ‘distributions’ of Linux come with a Microsoft compatible Office Suite (word processor, spreadsheet, presentation program etc.). It’s not difficult to do either, and it needn’t cost you a penny, Linux distros like Mandriva and Ubuntu are free, they look and feel a lot like Windows and you’ll learn a lot along the way. There’s a simple to follow tutorial in Boot Camp 446 at:





© R. Maybury 2009 0505


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