Houston We Have a Problem 09



Houston We Have A Problem 067, 22/08/09


French Connection

I often stay in a rural part of France, which has no broadband. Is it possible to get mobile broadband in France using a dongle at a reasonable price?

Richard Pugh, by email


Not really and whilst 3G coverage in France is usually okay in and around the towns, elsewhere it can be patchy, especially in valleys and mountainous regions. I suggest that you do a little homework the next time you are there. Ask the neighbours or at the local phone shop about 3G reception in the locality.


If you can get a signal then you will need a mobile broadband dongle or ‘clé 3G’. They are generally cheaper in the UK (prices start at under £10) but most models are tied to a network and using it abroad, on a UK broadband contract or pay as you go (PAYG) deal can be very expensive indeed (between £1.50 and £9.99 per Mb). My advice is to buy a dongle here and get it unlocked so that it will work on any network; this costs around £10, depending on the model.


Once that’s done you can purchase a PAYG or ‘Offre Sans Engagement’ SIM card and data bundle in France. However, they are nowhere near as common or cheap as they are in the UK and the best deal I’m aware of is from Orange France (http://tinyurl.com/2gjumh). This costs €25 and buys you 6 hours of Internet connection time over a period of 15 days. But shop around, new bundles and tariffs are appearing all of the time and if anyone knows of a cheaper method please let me know and I’ll pass it on. Otherwise log on to Wi-Fi hotspots, which you will find in many bars and restaurants and hamburger chains like McDonalds and Quick, and some of them are free to use.



A Change of Identity

Not long ago I purchased a computer from a friend who lives a fair distance away from me. How can I delete his details from my computer?  I have recently written a book on the computer that shows him as being the author.

Mick Fox, by email


In XP and Vista Registered Owner information is entered during the initial setup of Windows and stored in the Registry. Programs installed subsequently, like Office, use this information to set up the user or owner’s name. In Word you can easily change this by going to Tools > Options > User Information, but if you want to do the job properly and make the computer yours you will have to edit the Registry.


As usual I have to warn of the dire consequences of messing about with the Registry but that said it’s a simple enough procedure. Begin by setting a new System Restore Point – just in case – by going to Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools. When that’s done go to Run (in XP) or Search (in Vista) on the Start menu, type Regedit then navigate to the following Registry key:


HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\Current Version


Double click on the Current Version key icon, in the right-hand pane double-click on RegisteredOwner and in the Value Data box make your change, click OK and exit the Registry Editor.



Dial Up Pop-Up Nuisance

Some time ago I switched to Mozilla Firefox because IE crashed with some websites. However, I have a different and recurring problem now. Often, when I click on a hyperlink on a web page, instead of opening the relevant website, up pops the dialogue box that would normally appear if one were using dial up, even though I have a broadband connection. If I close that, I get an error message saying that the website that was requested is not available. Can you tell me what to do to prevent this happening?

Maryanne Roach, by email


There are several possibilities, including malware and spyware infections so eliminate that possibility first and give your PC the once-over with two or more malware cleaners. I suggest AdAware, A-Squared, MalwareBytes and Spybot. They’re all free and you’’’ find links to the downloads at: http://tinyurl.com/2woy5u.


Next, go to Control Panel > Internet Options > Connection tab and delete any entries in the Dial-Up box and check ‘Never Dial a Connection then click OK. If, after a reboot it happens again and ‘Never dial a connection’ has been unchecked your security software may be trying to protect your system settings, so check the Help section to see how to switch this option off.



Billy Bunter Won’t Play

I bought some discs on ebay with some vintage video recordings of Billy Bunter but they are recorded in MP4 format. How can I play these recordings either on my Dell PC or my Panasonic DVD player.

Michael J Phillips, by email


There’s nothing you can do to persuade your DVD player to recognise these discs but you can play them on your PC. I suggest an excellent freeware media player called VLC. This can cope with most popular audio and video formats, including MP4, and it’s also a dab-hand at difficult DVDs, that other players have trouble with. You’ll find a link to the download at: http://tinyurl.com/nvqmm9



Margin of Error

A wide blue margin has appeared on the left-hand side of the desktop on my XP laptop and I cannot find any way to remove it. It's only on the desktop and doesn't affect anything else. When I described it over the phone to my local IT service centre said that it wasn’t possible. I took the laptop in to them and they were astonished but could offer no help or reason why it's happened. I can live with it if I have to but I don't like mysteries.

Mike Josey, by email


It sounds very much like a rogue Common Tasks list and it’s due to a corrupt Registry entry but I haven’t the foggiest idea how or why it happens, it’s just one of those things I suppose… Anyway you can edit the Registry yourself but it’s quicker and easier to download a small Visual Basic script that will fix the problem and you can download it from Microsoft Expert Doug Knox's website: http://tinyurl.com/sz1




© R. Maybury 2009 2707


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