Houston We Have a Problem 09



Houston We Have A Problem 063, 25/07/09


MP3 Player Not Loud Enough

I have a small MP3 player, which I use to play music and podcasts in the car. I transfer the files from the My Music folder on the computer to the MP3 player using Copy and Paste.


Is there any way of boosting the volume level of these MP3s either before or after transfer as the volume level when put through the Aux socket in my car seems very low? With the MP3 player set to full volume, I have to have the car radio volume set at around 25 where normal radio listening is around 10-12.

Peter Buck, by email


This is a job for an excellent little freeware utility called MP3Gain (http://tinyurl.com/2w2na). In addition to adjusting the volume or gain of a single track it can also ‘normalise’ your whole collection so that all tracks have the same level.



Revert to Type

On a typewriter each character occupies the same width on the page, which means that characters in following lines can be aligned vertically with those above. In Microsoft Word, the width taken up by each character varies, e.g. 'W' occupies more space than 'I', with the result that I find it impossible to align characters vertically, which I think looks very untidy! Do you know of any way that the characters in Word can be evenly spaced?

David Lyle, by email


All things are possible, though I disagree that proportional spacing or ‘kerning’, looks untidy, it is a long established typographical technique that makes printed text much easier to read. However, I accept that there are situations when it may be useful to align characters vertically, lists and charts for instance, in which case try this: highlight the block of text that you want to change then go to Format > Font, select the Character Spacing tab and override kerning by changing the spacing. Try increasing the value to between 0.5 and 1pt and click OK to judge the effect. Another way to achieve a typewritten appearance is to Justify the copy, (highlight the block of text and click the Justify icon on the toolbar). There’s also a very good selection of free Typewriter-style fonts at datafont.com, (http://tinyurl.com/2v4acj).


Seeing The Big Picture

My laptop runs Vista Home Premium. When I start up a magnifier appears, which I do not want. How do I disable this device?

Brian Watson, by email


The on/off switch is not well signposted. Go to Start > Control Panel and double-click to open Ease of Access Centre, Ignore the Magnifier button at the top of the page and scroll down to and click on the link above Optimize Visual Display, called ‘Make Computer Easier to see’. Scroll down to the ‘Make things on the screen larger’ and uncheck ‘Turn on magnifier then click Apply



Lightning Reactions

We run a PC and laptop and have been connected to broadband since last September.  Last week we had thunderstorm, which activated the electricity supply trip switch.  The broadband router, which I've left connected to the mains, was not working after the trip switch was reset.  I contacted the ISP and they sent a replacement router as it was still under warranty. I've bought a new adaptor with a power surge device.  Will this protect the router in future? Is it advisable to turn the router off or should it be left connected?

Marilyn Pope, by email


Both the mains supply and telephone network are generally quite well protected against lightning strikes but if you live in a rural area, your phone and power connections are carried by overhead cables and a strike occurs nearby then a surge protector isn’t going to be much use against the enormous voltages and currents involved. Fortunately such incidents are rare and smaller but potentially damaging voltage ‘spikes’ on phone and power lines can be eliminated by surge protection devices, so they’re well worth having, wherever you live. Nevertheless, if it looks or sounds as though there’s a thunderstorm approaching then it is prudent to disconnect all electronic devices, including TVs, video recorders, satellite boxes, PCs and so on from the mains and phone line for the duration, just in case.



Mixing it with Word

I have some old pictures on my computer that have been saved in a .mix format.  Vista cannot open them as it says it is an "unknown format".  Is there any way I can open the files to view them and save in jpeg?

Barry Toms, by email


The .mix image format is used almost exclusively by Microsoft PhotoDraw and Picture It. If you no longer have these applications then you should be able to open it in Word. Open a blank document and go to Insert > Picture > From File and locate the .mix image and it will open on the page. To extract it and save it as a jpeg save the Word document as web page (SaveAs on the File menu) and in the folder where it has been saved there will be a folder called ‘filenames-files’, your image will be in there, as a jpeg file and you can copy it to another folder.



Opening Attachments

I cannot seem to open any attachment sent to me on my Compaq laptop (Windows XP) when it is sent using .pps, whatever that is. It tells me to create an association in folders in the Control Panel - but it doesn't work for me. What am I doing wrong?

Anita Temple, Winchester.


It’s not your fault; this message is really misleading and results in a lot of confusion. Basically Windows is saying that it doesn’t know how to open the attachment you’ve been sent because it can’t find the necessary program on your computer. The file in question is a PowerPoint presentation, so you either need to get hold of a copy or install Microsoft Office, which contains PowerPoint, otherwise you can install OpenOffice (free from www.openoffice.org/), which includes a PowerPoint compatible presentation program called Impress, or download a free PowerPoint ‘viewer’ utility from Microsoft at: http://tinyurl.com/6b6g5.




© R. Maybury 2009 2906


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