Houston We Have a Problem 09



Houston We Have A Problem 071, 19/09/09


Frustrated Phone Flinger

You are my last hope before I throw my new mobile phone as far away as I can. I have recently purchased a Vodafone 830 mobile phone from a Vodafone shop. I explained at the time that my contract is with Virgin and I would be using a Virgin SIM card. No problem stated the shop assistant.


Unfortunately it has been one big problem. The person I spoke to at Virgin informed me that the Technical department would contact me. Nobody did. What I would like to know is, whether it is possible to operate the Vodafone 830 phone with a Virgin SIM card, or do I go back to the Vodafone shop and get a completely different make that is recognised by Virgin.

David Clark, by email


In order for you to be able to use your 830 on the Virgin network the phone has to be ‘unlocked’ from the Vodafone network. This can often be carried out online and I have checked some of the more reputable phone unlocker websites but none of them list this model, (made in China by Huawei). A couple of websites say they can do it if you send them the phone away but that can be risky. I would be very surprised if it wasn’t possible but the only other thing I can suggest, if you don’t mind taking a punt, is to try one of the many while-you-wait high-street phone unlockers. They tend to be quite resourceful in these matters and you can keep your eye on the phone while they’re tinkering with it. They typically charge £10 to £15 on a no unlock, no fee basis. Otherwise I’m afraid that you are stuck with Vodafone as your service provider.



Hot and Bothered

For the past 6 months my PC turns itself off and then restarts and reboots itself with the onscreen message that Windows has recovered from an error.  This can happen several times in an hour.  The machine makes more noise than it used to.  We've had it checked out but nothing can be found and the problem continues.

Carolyn Naylor, by email


Clearly it wasn’t checked very thoroughly as a sudden increase in noise is almost always due to a failing CPU or power supply cooling fan. Most are quite cheaply made and tend only last 3 or 4 years before the bearings fail. Slow or intermittent running causes the CPU to overheat and shut down, to protect itself. The faulty fan should be replaced straight away as permanent damage could result. An internal inspection will quickly establish which one making the noise. CPU fans are not expensive and usually cost between £10 and £15, power supply’s have to be completely replaced and these cost anywhere from £13 to £50, depending on the model. While you are at it, I would also upgrade your RAM memory; 512Mb is barely sufficient for Windows XP and increasing it to 1 or 2Gb will show a marked improvement in performance



Port Authority

Is there an easy way of telling whether a USB port is a 1.1 or 2.0 type?  I would like to buy a slide to JPEG converter and these apparently do not run on older type 1.1 ports.

Bernard Jones, by email


Most, but not all motherboards identify and report on the type of USB port your PC has and this information shows up in Device Manager. I’m assuming your PC is a few years old and running Windows XP (most Vista machines are less than 3 years old and will have type 2.0 ports), in which case press Winkey + Break to open System Properties. Click the Hardware tab then the Device Manager button and scroll down to Universal Serial Bus Controllers and double click to expand the tree. If you have any USB 2.0 Host Controllers they will normally be clearly labelled as such or described as ‘Enhanced’. If you see neither then it’s fairly safe to assume that your ports are type 1.1.



Blame it on the Banks

Since Barclays Bank ‘improved’ their online banking my printer has started printing horizontal blue lines on my bank statement print outs and everything else! Black print only printouts such as emails are immune but anything with colour on prints out horizontal blue lines as well as the proper colours (including the test page)


I have followed all the instructions in troubleshooting and Barclays do not appear to think it is their problem. Can you suggest anything I can do?

Brian Crompton, by email



Banks get blamed for a lot of things these days but I don’t think they are responsible for your printer problems. The simple rule of thumb is if it’s on the paper but not on the screen then more often than not the problem lies with the printer, rather than the computer.


It sounds to me like a clogged cartridge or print head so change the cartridges or tanks. If that doesn’t fix it run the printers head cleaning utility. If it still banding after two or three cycles cut your losses and dump it!


I know that sounds wasteful and not very environmentally friendly but I speak from bitter experience. Most modern inkjet printers are simply not repairable, at least not economically. I have wasted far too much time, impossibly expensive ink, household chemicals and scrubbing brushes (removing ink stains from my fingers) to attempt repairs any more. With many printers now costing less than a set of branded refills, it’s just not worth the effort or expense. Just make sure it goes into the correct recycling container at your local amenity site and there’s a fair chance the parts it contains won’t end up in landfill. One final tip, unless you absolutely need the facility to print in colour do yourself a favour and get a laser printer. These days they don’t cost much more than an inkjet, they’re more reliable, usually a lot cheaper to run and no more inky fingers.




© R. Maybury 2009 1708


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