Houston We Have a Problem 09



Houston We Have A Problem 070, 12/09/09


Sign of the Times

Unwittingly I must have enabled date and time settings on my Canon digital camera so when uploading to my PC all the pictures displayed date and time. I understand there might be some software around that can delete this information from the pictures held on my PC. Can you help please?

David Gibson, by email


If, as it sounds, the time and date stamps have been ‘burned’ into the image they are now part of the picture but there are several ways of getting rid of them using basic photo editing techniques. The simplest method is to crop it out of the image, and since the stamp is usually along the bottom edge or in a corner the impact on the picture is often minimal; in fact judicious cropping often improves a photo, cutting out bland backgrounds and making the subject larger and more prominent.


Another quick and simple method that works well when the numbers are imprinted on an evenly lit plain or patterned background is to define a section of the adjacent background and copy and paste it over the characters. If the background is irregular or highly detailed the alternative is to use a ‘clone’ tool to airbrush the characters out of the image. This works by picking up detail immediately next to the numbers and spraying it over the top. It takes a little experimentation with the tool’s settings but with practice and patience it’s possible to achieve near invisible results. Most photo editing programs have these features but if you don’t have one to hand you could do a lot worse than a freeware program called PhotoFiltre and you’ll find a link to the download at: http://tinyurl.com/6k6n4v



A Blow for Security

I read some time ago that to ensure all personal data is completely removed or destroyed when recycling an old computer, the only thing to do is to smash the hard disc to smithereens! What is the safest and securest way to get rid of data on old mobiles so that they can be donated to charities or sold for recycling?

Jenny Vickers, by email


Expunging data on a personal computer is child’s play, compared with a mobile phone. The problem is there’s so much of it, and the memory devices used to store information cannot be easily got at, other than through the phone’s menus, or a PC connection and specialised software.


It’s not just your contacts, phone numbers and so on; there may be text messages, photos, voice messages, call logs and if you have one of the fancier smart phones it can include emails, web pages, passwords, appointments and so on. Unfortunately there’s no simple method that works with all makes and models, but a good place to start is the Wireless Recycling web page (http://tinyurl.com/2f4ue4). This carries detailed data removal instruction for many popular models. Otherwise, if you still have it, consult the manual. There may be a guide to deleting data or resetting the phone to its factory defaults, which should wipe the memories. Failing that, try the support section of the manufacturer’s web site, but in the end, don’t take chances. If there is any personal or sensitive information stored on your phone and you can’t be sure it’s completely erased, a quick visit from Mr Hammer will make sure it cannot fall into the wrong hands, but make sure you remove your SIM card first…



AI Alternative

A few weeks ago you suggested a free alternative to Adobe Photoshop. I am wondering if there’s a similar equivalent program for Adobe Illustrator? My printer says he can only accept Illustrator files but I only need it for a couple of small design jobs and it not worth the large outlay for this program.

Jess Stevens, by email


Indeed there is, and you should look no further than an excellent Open Source program called InkScape (http://www.inkscape.org/). It is a vector graphics editing program, it looks and feels a lot like Illustrator and it can save files in a wide variety of formats that can be read by AI, including .eps (encapsulated postscript) and .svg (scalable vector graphics).



Skyping Espana  

My parents have recently moved to a remote part of Spain without mains electricity or a telephone. Consequently, the only way of talking to them is on a Spanish mobile but the costs are proving to be prohibitive. They have been considering buying a laptop so they can use Skype. However, this poses some questions. Firstly, as they only have a diesel generator is this suitable for charging a laptop? Secondly, will the mobile broadband be adequate for using Skype? And finally, is there an alternative to Skype?

Colleen Roebuck, by email


Providing the generator’s output exceeds the laptop charger’s power rating (typically 50 – 150 watts) and it is within the required voltage range (normally 100 – 240 volts) then I can’t see any problems running the laptop, or charging its battery. A laptop charger also isolates the laptop from variations or interruptions in the generator power supply, so it doesn’t matter if it cuts out; the laptop switches to battery power, giving the user plenty of time to finish what they are doing and save their data.


Skype works well over a mobile broadband connection but 3G data connections can be unreliable in rural areas where signal strength is low, and it can be quite expensive, so your parents need to do some homework to see if it’s viable and cost effective. However, they might be able to get by without a laptop. You can use Skype on your PC to call them on their mobile using the ‘Dial Out feature. Calls to landline and mobiles, at home and abroad, cost a fraction of normal rates. For example using Skype Dial Out to call a Spanish landline number costs from just 0.012 pence per minutes, calling a Spanish mobile will set you back between 15 and 17 pence a minute.


Skype is by no means the only free VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) application but it is the most popular and therefore the one that other people you may want to contact will probably be using for free PC to PC calls. There’s a list of Skype alternatives at http://tinyurl.com/cqf56c, but don’t forget that whichever one you choose, your parents must also use the same program.





© R. Maybury 2009 1708


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