Houston We Have a Problem 09



Houston We Have A Problem 066, 15/08/09


Lazy Laser

My Bose Wave radio/CD has developed a fault with the CD player in that, half way through a CD, it starts to stutter, as if the CD is scratched. This happens with every CD, all of which play flawlessly in other CD players. I am guessing but it seems to me that the laser reaches half way along its track and starts to stick.
Opting for a repair by Bose is prohibitively expensive. Could I repair it myself?

Michael Brook, by email


I suspect your diagnosis is correct and the laser pick up is not tracking correctly but it's not the sort of job that you can tackle yourself as it requires specialist tools and skills. If that is the problem then it shouldn’t be a difficult (for an engineer) or expensive job, though, so it’s worth taking it to a couple of local repair shops for a quote.



Wandering Icons

Using Windows XP (SP3) is it possible to save the location of icons on the desktop? After installing new software and restarting the PC, quite often the icons all bunch up on the left hand side and in alphabetical order on the desktop and I have to drag each icon back to my preferred layout. I have tried a program called Virtual Desktop Manager PowerToy but this doesn't seem to help.

Terry Lee


There are a lot of desktop and icon manager programs on the market but one of the simplest, and cheapest (it’s actually free) is Desktop Restore (http://tinyurl.com/4xovmw). It’s a Shell Extension, which means there’s no program to run, simply right-click on the Desktop and select Save from the menu that appears.


Wireless Shortcomings Foiled

Using Windows XP, I have a wireless broadband router, which works, well in the house. Is it possible to somehow boost the signal so that I can use broadband in my hut, out in the garden, where the present wireless signal doesn't reach?
Terry Lee, by email


There are all sorts of fancy (and expensive) wireless boosters and repeaters on the market but in many cases if your PC is only just outside of your router’s coverage area you can achieve a very significant increase in range with an extension antenna. This plugs into the aerial socket on the back of your router and should be mounted as high as possible, on a wall or if possible, in an upstairs room or loft. 


Better still build your own high-efficiency parabolic reflector. It’s really easy, costs next to nothing and could double your present range. All you have to do is go to the Freeantennas.com website (http://tinyurl.com/2lflc) download, print and cut out the template for the Ez-!2 antenna, cover it in baking foil, fold it into shape and attach it to the aerial on your router.



Queasy Does It
My wife suffers from Ménière's disease and finds that continuous movement makes her
feel very ill. Many web pages have adverts, which are continuously moving which
she finds very distressing. Is there any way to stop the adverts being updated
to stop the movement or, better still, remove the advert completely? Her laptop
uses Internet Explorer with Windows XP.

Geoffrey Ash, by email


You can disable animated graphics in most web pages by going to the Tools menu then Internet Options and select the Advanced tab. Scroll down the list and in the Multimedia section uncheck  ‘Play animation in web pages’. Click OK and restart Internet Explorer.


You might want to consider switching to Firefox as you can download a free advert-blocking ‘add-on’ called Adblock (http://tinyurl.com/2cd87q). If you want to disable animations in Firefox you have to fiddle with the configuration settings, don’t worry, it’s very straightforward. In the address box type ‘about:config’ (without the quotes), and hit Return. Click the ‘I’ll be careful…’ warning button and in the Filter box type ‘animation’ and click Show All button. In the box below double-click on image.animation_mode and in the box that appears type ’none’ and click OK.



Free Electricity for Laptops

My two sons constantly leave their laptops on running all through the night and often for 24 hours a day, together with several lights, electric shower switch etc; despite me telling them to close down and switch off when they have finished. They are convinced that leaving a laptop running costs nothing, could you possibly let me know the approximate electricity running costs, to settle the problem once and for all? I may be wrong but I suspect that fairly considerable costs may actually be incurred over the course of a whole year.

Philip Pinkham, by email


Making a fair few assumptions about the price of electricity and the power consumption and efficiency of a typical laptop power supply/charger, basic back of a bus-ticket calculations suggest that it costs between 0.75 and 1.5 pence an hour to run a typical laptop, depending on whether or not it is charging the battery. I’ll leave you to work out the annual cost...


At the upper end of the scale that’s a little less than a 60-watt light bulb but if you really want to find out what it’s costing then I suggest that you buy a Electricity Usage meter. Once programmed with your electricity tariff it will show you, and your sons exactly much each appliance is costing to run. Maplin stocks an easy to use model for just £9.99 (http://tinyurl.com/mdesft), and by the sound of it, if it has the desired effect, you could recoup the cost quite quickly…



Email to DVD Slideshow

I have a lot of emails with photos and graphics as attachments.  Is it possible to transfer these to a DVD? I am a silver surfer and would like to show these e-mails, on a projector, to members of a club that I belong to.

Peter Wilson, by email


Yes you can, but first you have to save a copy of the attached images into a folder on your PC. To do that just right-click on the attachment icons in the email and select SaveAs and select the folder where you want to keep them. Once that’s done you may be able to sidestep the need to create a DVD by connecting your PC or laptop directly to the projector. These days most models have a VGA connector, which plugs into your PC’s monitor output socket.


If that’s not possible then you can copy the image files (in jpeg format) to a blank DVD, however this only works if the DVD player concerned has as ‘jpeg replay’ facility. If not, or you are you are unsure then you will have to create a proper DVD and there are plenty of commercial applications that can do this for you. Amazon has a wide selection and prices start at under £10 (http://tinyurl.com/naf6gj).  There’s also a cost-free DIY method using freeware applications, see Boot Camps 504 to 508 (http://tinyurl.com/a8svro) for a simple to follow guide.



PhotoShop Alternative

I have been using Adobe PhotoShop for many years. The software came as part of a package when I bought a new PC and because it was on a separate disc I have been able to install it on successive machines until my present one that operates with Vista. Is there a free equivalent program available?

Richard Coulson, by email


Older versions of PhotoShop either won’t run on Vista, or require extensive patching in order to do so, so I can understand why you are looking for an alternative. It would have been useful to know a little more about what you use it for as there may be other applications that will suit your needs, but there is at least one free Open Source application that comes close to PhotoShop, and that’s The Gimp. However, it can be quite hard going, especially for novices and those accustomed to PhotoShop, so I suggest the more approachable variant, called GimPhoto, which has much tidier menus and a more intuitive layout. You will find a link to the download at: http://tinyurl.com/m4kw7o




© R. Maybury 2009 2007


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