Houston We Have a Problem 09



Houston We Have A Problem 064, 01/08/09


FireWire Foibles

I recently bought a Compaq laptop with a good specification, except that it didn't have a FireWire socket. I realised too late that I couldn't connect my Canon mini-DV camcorder to the laptop. I later bought a cable with a FireWire plug at one end and a USB plug at the other. That didn't have any effect. There is no room in the laptop to insert a FireWire capture card. Is there an affordable way to solve the problem? 

J. Levy, by email


I’m not surprised the cable didn’t work and you are lucky that you didn’t fry the PC or camcorder. FireWire and USB connections employ two quite different technologies and protocols and there is no way that a simple cable connection can convert data from one format to another. FireWire to USB adaptors do exist but they involve microchips and software drivers. Even then a FireWire connection will not work at its full potential, due to the way the two systems process data (USB relies more heavily on the PC to manage the flow of data, which can produce bottlenecks).


It doesn’t end there either. FireWire devices can be quite picky about the type of adaptor used. The only sort I’m aware of that usually works on a camcorder to laptop hook-up plugs into the PCMCIA/Cardbus slot; online prices start at around £50. Anything else I would treat with caution, especially the really cheap USB type adaptors but if anyone has had any luck with them please let me know and I‘ll gladly pass it on.



Digital Radio Dongle?

I see on advertisements for the Bose Wave Radio/CD, they show a small plug-in gadget to enable DAB reception through the FM receiver. Is there such a plug-in being manufactured so that other receiver/amplifiers can still be used when the radio digital switch-over occurs?

Les Hargreaves, by e-mail


Stand-alone DAB tuners have been available for some time, for use with high-end and component based audio systems and don’t forget most DAB radios can be connected to a hi-fi system using their analogue or digital output sockets. However, I don’t think a plug-in adaptor would be practical or economic unless the manufacturers got together and agreed on a common standard, and I can’t see that happening anytime soon. But I wouldn’t worry too much at this stage. Digital radio has some enormous hurdles to overcome, in terms of coverage, receiver design, funding and most importantly public acceptance. My personal belief is that the switch-over target date of 2015 is hugely ambitious and by then DAB could be sidelined by other technologies such as Internet radio and satellite delivery systems.



Malfunctioning Mail Icon

I have just upgraded from Internet Explorer 7 to version 8 but would like to go back to IE7 again. I realise I do not need all the extras and I was unable to access my emails in Outlook Express from the Read Mail icon on the toolbar - it just doesn't work anymore. It works in Mozilla Firefox, though, and I can add an Email icon to the toolbar for quick and convenient access. There is probably a simple solution to this problem but everything I have tried just seems make things worse.

Anne Hudson, by email


Reverting to IE7 is easy enough, just go to Start > Control Panel, Add/Remove Programs, scroll down the list until you find Windows Internet Explorer 8 and click the Remove button. Before you do, though it’s worth having another go at making that toolbar icon work. I also think that once you get to know IE8 it you might even grow to like it. Step one, right-click the Taskbar, select Properties > Start Menu tab > Customise and on the Email drop-down menu at the bottom select Outlook Express then click OK. This is important and you must do this even if Outlook Express is showing. Next, whilst logged on as the Administrator open IE and go to Tools > Internet Options. On the Programs tab select Outlook Express and on the Email drop down menu, click OK.



Acer Space

I have an Acer laptop and the hard disk is split into two partitions of 26.5Gb labelled C: and D: It would appear that I can only use the C: partition which is now full. How do I use the rest of the disk or can I change the size of the C partition at the expense of the D partition?

Tony Parker, by email


The D partition contains Windows recovery files that will be needed in the event of a serious crash. It's meant to be off limits and you fiddle with it at your peril! If you want to chance it and alter the size of the partitions the only safe(ish) way to do it is with a utility called Partition Magic, but make sure that you have backed everything up beforehand! Otherwise you can buy yourself a temporary reprieve by eliminate files and programs to free up space, buy an external hard drive or fix the problem and install a larger drive, though and start afresh with a new installation.



Active Annoyance

Every time I go into my Windows Internet Explorer I get a pop-up saying  ‘Do you want to allow software such as ActiveX controls and plug-ins to run? This Pop-up does not give me the opportunity to establish the benefits and I'm very wary of answering this with a Yes bearing in mind the many ways computers can be infiltrated. How can I stop it?

Ray Woodcock, by email


You can make this message go away by disabling ActiveX plug-ins and prompts and I doubt that you will notice any difference in the appearance or functionality of web pages. Here’s how, in IE go to Tools > Internet Options > Security tab. Click the Custom Level button and scroll down the list to the ActiveX options and select Disable for all three entries then click OK.




© R. Maybury 2009 1307

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