Houston We Have a Problem 09



Houston We Have A Problem 061, 11/07/09


Mobile Accessibility

I am going deaf and have difficulty in hearing my mobile phone, especially when receiving text messages. Do you know of any make or model of phone that has a loud ring both for receiving calls and for texts? It would also be helpful if it had large display, as my eyesight is not so good when I haven’t my specs with me, and I would prefer one with big buttons as I have large stubby fingers.

Derek Godson, by email


That’s quite a shopping list but I think that one way or another most of your needs can be accommodated. However, before you rush out and buy a new phone there may be options on your existing mobile that could make it a lot easier to use. If your hearing impairment only affects a particular band of frequencies then changing the ringtone to one that you can hear more clearly should certainly help. Virtually all mobile phones these days have a vibration mode so make sure that’s enabled for incoming calls and texts.


Otherwise I suggest that you have a look at the ‘Guide to accessible mobile phones’ on the RNIB website (http://tinyurl.com/596vf6). This includes details of a number of models with large or high contrast displays and supersize buttons.


If you prefer to stay with mainstream designs then the Apple iPhone is worth investigating. In addition to the screen zoom feature, which can help to make text more legible, the latest 3G models features high contrast display setting and voice control. There is also a small but growing number of third-party ‘apps’ (applications) and accessories than can assist the hard of hearing and visually impaired. These include rather neat ‘tactile’ silicon slip-case from Yanko Design (http://tinyurl.com/6fh3cz) with raised ‘buttons’; there’s also a large button touch screen display app called Special Phone (http://tinyurl.com/mnpdjk). There’s clearly a lot of potential for this model when it comes to developing accessibility features and you may be interested to read blind photographer Tim O’Brian’s tips and thoughts on the matter at http://tinyurl.com/dmqk92



Safety First

I am operating a Dell Studio 540 PC with Vista Home Premium. In Windows Mail a lot of incoming messages have a yellow band at the top stating ‘Windows Mail removed access to the following unsafe attachments in your mail’. Is it possible disable this?

Eric Castle, Felixstowe,


This is almost identical to the sometimes-perplexing security feature in Outlook Express. It tries to protect your PC by preventing attachments from opening, in case they contain viruses or malicious software. Providing you have a full set of security measures (anti virus and malware protection, two-way firewall and so on), they are kept pp to date and you only open attachments from trusted sources then you can safely switch this feature off by going to Tools > Options, select the Security tab and deselect ‘Do not allow attachments to be saved or opened that could potentially be a virus’,



Editing DVD Movies

I have a DVD camcorder, which records on to small DVD discs. I have six such discs that I wish to edit into a movie, but Windows Movie Maker will, not accept files with names like VTS_01_1.VOB.  Can you please suggest an alternative program?  Failing that, is there any way in which I can change the format on the discs?  I am running Windows XP.

John A. Cadman, via email


The ‘vob’ filenames indicate that the discs have been closed or finalised in the standard DVD format so they can be viewed on any DVD player. For future reference it may be possible to edit the movies in the camcorder or on a PC using software that came with your machine, but once the disc has been finalised for viewing the files can no longer be altered.


You have a number of options. A quick and simple trick that sometimes works is to rename the .vob file with an .mpeg extension, and the file may play in Windows Movie Maker, but it’s a bit hit and miss. A better solution is to use a commercial video editing program, from the likes of Pinnacle and Ulead, which can ‘rip’ and edit non-copyright DVDs. Alternatively, you could try converting the .vob files to the Windows standard .avi format using a free utility like avi.NET (http://tinyurl.com/24p29v) and you should then be able to edit the recordings in Movie Maker, however, be warned the resultant files can be enormous, so make sure you have plenty of free space on your hard disc drive.



Putting the Squeeze on Files

I have downloaded a number of driver files from a website that are needed to install the Vista operating system on my PC. Two of them are in the RAR format.  Could you please explain how to decrypt and set them up for installing?

Dan Hughes, by email


RAR or Roshal ARchive (named after the Russian software engineer who developed it) is used to compress, rather than encrypt data, to make it easier and quicker to send files over the Internet. It’s similar to the more common ‘zip’ compression system, which can be processed by Windows, but you will need to download a decompression utility to extract the files. There are plenty to choose from but the most popular is WinRAR (http://tinyurl.com/116e). It’s a commercial program but the free trial version is fully functional, so if you find it useful and plan to continue using it you should pay the license fee.


Once the program has downloaded click the Add button to locate the files then click the Extract button to expand the files in a folder of your choice. Once that’s done all you have to do is do is double-click the extracted Setup or Install file to start the installation.





© R. Maybury 2009 2906


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