Houston We Have a Problem 09



Houston We Have A Problem 075, 17/10/09


PC to TV OK?

I have just started to use the BBC iPlayer on my computer. Is it possible to run the iPlayer programs (with sound) on my flat screen TV?

Joe Butler, by email


Yes, probably… The best possible scenario is that your PC or laptop and TV are less than a year or so old, say, and both have HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) ports. If so all you need is a HDMI connecting lead of the correct length to connect the PC to the TV and this will give you the best possible picture and sound quality from iPlayer.


Sod’s Law says only one of them has an HDMI connector but all is not lost. Pretty well all LCD and plasma TVs have a PC (or VGA) input sockets, and with a suitable ‘monitor’ lead you can connect it directly to the monitor output on your PC or laptop. You’ll probably have to go into the TV’s setup menu and change the input to PC or VGA mode, and if you have a laptop you’ll have to change the output from the built-in screen to an external monitor, but it’s usually very straightforward. The picture quality won’t be as good as HDMI but it should still be comparable with digital terrestrial or satellite TV. 


This gets the picture from your PC to the TV but you’ll need another lead for the sound, and this is where it could get a little complicated. The PC end is usually no problem and on most models the audio line output is handled by a 3.5mm stereo jack socket; on laptops you can use the headphone socket. On most large screen TVs the audio input is through a pair of phono sockets, but on smaller models, where space is at a premium 3.5mm stereo jacks sockets are often used. Occasionally there are none at all and the TV’s audio input is routed through a multi-pin SCART connector but once you know what type of audio connector your TV has you can get a suitable connecting lead from your local high-street TV and PC dealer.



Active Concern

Several websites that I visit use ActiveX, but I have been put off by the warnings that it can cause harm. I looked it up on Google and nearly frightened myself to death. I use the Internet largely for family history research, and there are times when ActiveX would enable me to view the original entry on a document.  I would dearly love to be able to do this as I’m not in a position to get to see the original records.


Can you tell me what the real dangers are, and if possible how to avoid them? Please keep it as simple as possible!

Pat Goldsmith


ActiveX isn’t in itself a security threat it’s basically a programming tool used to create multimedia and interactive features on web pages. However, it can provide hackers and virus writers with a means of infecting PCs with malicious software. Security patches are normally released as soon as vulnerabilities are discovered, and the latest version of Internet Explorer (IE8) has added protection and ways of limiting the damage caused by infections but these people are clever and always seeking ways to exploit loopholes. However, provided you have decent security software on your PC, Windows is regularly updated, you stay away from iffy websites, never click on pop-ups or open unsolicited attachments then you should be reasonably safe and you can go ahead and install the necessary plug-in.



Bearer of Bad News

I am using Three mobile broadband and I am now getting the following message every time I try to connect: ‘Software activation has made 228 unsuccessful attempts over WWAN bearer…’  Three have told me that it is not a problem with its software or hardware. I'd appreciate any help you can provide.

Andy Locker, by email


Whenever you get a fault like this, where a program that has been working properly, suddenly starts playing up, the first things to do are use System Restore to reset the computer’s system files to a date before the problem occurred. If that makes no difference, completely uninstall the program then re-install it. By the way, I would use a third party uninstaller, like Revo (it’s free and there’s a link to the download at: http://tinyurl.com/56uydj), which gets rid of all of the bits and pieces the program’s own uninstaller may leave behind.


This fixes most Windows System and broken software glitches but broadband dongles have spawned a whole new generation of problems. Many of them are directly related to the ‘dashboard’ programs that come with the dongles. Network companies like to create their own pre-configured dashboards, smothered in branding, fancy graphics and features that you don’t need and will probably never use. The alternative is to use the generic, unbranded dashboard developed by the dongle maker. You can usually download one for your modem from the manufacturers support website. Once installed all you have to do is enter your service provider’s Access Point Name or APN (for Three use: 3internet) and the Dial Number, which for most phones and connections is *99#.



Monastic MP3s

A Buddhist Monk we know has made CDs of talks given by monks at his monastery. He would like to copy several of these talks onto MP3 discs but does not know how to do so.

Does he need special equipment to do this?

Buddhist Group of Kendal, by email


All you need is a PC or laptop that can play and record CDs and a small, free program called an audio recorder. Simply run the audio recorder and play the CD and it will create an MP3 file that can be copied to a blank disc or a personal music player. Normally I would suggest a program like Audacity but it’s a bit over-qualified for a simple job like this, so try MP3myMP3; you’ll find a link to the download at: http://tinyurl.com/5om5oa.



© R. Maybury 2009 3108


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