Houston We Have a Problem 09



Houston We Have A Problem 083, 12/12/09


Visible Improvements

Because of deteriorating eyesight, I decided to make everything on my screen a little larger. I did this by setting the screen to 1024 x 768 pixels. This gives me the increase I wanted but part way through the startup it switches to a 640 x 480 setting. Although I can change it back, the same thing happens every time I boot the computer.

Trevor Prescott, by email


Windows normally determines resolution based on your monitor’s size screen and capabilities and the performance of your PC’s video adaptor and you can usually trust it to find the optimum setting. Fiddling with the screen resolution is a very blunt instrument when it comes to improving legibility; you are much better off changing the display font size, which should make toolbars and menus a lot easier to read. You’ll find this option by right-clicking the desktop. In XP select Properties then Appearance and under Font Size select Large or Extra Large. In Vista right-click the desktop then select Personalise and click the Adjust Font Size link in the left hand task pane. Window’s also has a number of built-in Accessibility features for the visually impaired, which you will find in Control Panel (Ease of Access in Vista). These include high contrast colour schemes and an on-screen magnifier.



Defacing the Music

I am the secretary of a music club and we have a logo, which is in Word and we wish to change the society’s name. I can alter the background colour but am unable to get into the logo itself and change the wording. Are there any free software applications, which I could download to enable me to make changes?

Richard W Hall, by email


Your logo is a bitmap file and the text it contains is part of the image so it cannot be easily changed, at least not by Word. It can be done using an image-editing program, and it’s certainly something that PhotoFiltre (freeware, download link at: http://tinyurl.com/6k6n4v) can do but it can be a time consuming business. You first have to carefully blank out the old lettering, using the ‘Clone Stamp’ or spray tool (use the ‘colour picker’ to match the background colour), then you can use the Text tool to type in the new name; a variety of plugins are available for fancy text effects, should you feel the urge. However, you might find it easier to start from scratch and create a completely new or updated logo. PhotoFiltre can do that too, though a specialised graphics design program like Inkscape (also free, http://tinyurl.com/yk68wlk), has many more options and will do a much better job.



Digital Wish-List

I'm buying a digital TV. How do I ensure that it can be used with my Fujifilm A850 digital camera and my Sony camcorder, which uses a DV tape cassette?  Previously I connected the camcorder to my old analogue TV through an AV connecting cable.

David Davies, by email


Your digital camera uses SD memory modules and a growing number of LCD and plasma TVs have card slots that can read them and display the images they contain, so put that on your shortlist of desirable features. Virtually all ‘digital’ TVs have analogue AV inputs, so you should still be able to connect your camcorder to it as before. Quite a few models also have S-Video inputs, which should give a noticeable improvement in picture quality. A handful of TVs have a digital FireWire input (aka iLink and IEEE 1394) but when it comes to camcorder connectivity it’s very hit and miss. If this is important to you then your best bet is to check with the manufacturer regarding compatibility with your machine. Otherwise you can kill two birds with one stone, archive your videos and keep them in the digital domain by downloading and editing them on a PC and burn the finished recording onto a DVD.



Message Mass Destruction

I have over 2000 saved email mail messages on my PC. Is there a way of deleting all of these old emails without the need to highlight each individual message then hit the delete button?

Jeff Davies, by email


No problem. Simply click on one of the messages in your Inbox to highlight it then press Ctrl + A, and they’ll all be highlighted. Now you can press the Delete key, or right-click the highlighted block and select Delete on the menu that appears and they’ll all be sent to the Deleted Items folder where they will remain until it is emptied.


Alternatively, if you want to delete contiguous blocks of messages, rather than the whole lot, click on the first one, hold down the Shift key then tap the down arrow key to rapidly highlight the messages below. If there’s a lot of them hold down Shift and use the Page Down key to highlight a screen-full of messages at a time. Once again press Delete or right-click Delete to zap them. If you accidentally overshoot the last message just press and hold the Ctrl key and use the mouse’s left button to deselect the messages you want to keep. Incidentally, these simple keyboard shortcuts work in most Windows programs, on any list of files or in Explorer type windows so they are worth committing to memory. 



Laptop Blackout

When viewing TV programmes on BBC iPlayer on an Acer laptop the screen goes blank after about 15 minutes but sound continues. Touching the touchpad restores the picture for another 15 minutes when the same thing happens.

H R Chalk, by email


Your laptop is going into power save mode, switching off the monitor backlight when the keyboard or touchpad hasn’t been used for 15 minutes. Usually this only happens when the computer is running on battery power but you can easily set it to stay on all the time when it’s powered by the mains adaptor by going to Start > Control Panel > Power Options. In XP use the drop-down menus to change the monitor off time; Vista and Windows 7 have extra options and you can choose a Power Plan, or click Change Plan to customise the settings.



© R. Maybury 2009 0911



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