Houston We Have a Problem 10



Houston We Have A Problem 086, 09/01/10


One Over the Eight

I have accumulated a number of Video 8 cassette tapes and would now like to get them onto DVDs via my XP desktop computer. My old Sony camcorder has long gone the way of all flesh, but I feel there must be some way of converting the tapes other than through an expensive video to DVD copying service.

Brian Langdon, by email


There are many ways of getting old home video recordings onto DVD but they all depend on you being able to play the tapes, so they can be digitised and copied to your computer. The first thing you need is a suitable camcorder or VCR. Although production of 8mm machines stopped about 6 years ago, camcorders using later variants of the format, Hi8 and Digital 8, are usually able to replay 8mm tapes. Your best bet is to trawl ebay for a cheap Hi8 camcorder on ebay; you should be able to fine one less than 4 or 5 years old for under £50. Shortlist Sony models as these were usually the best in terms of picture quality but make sure it’s in good working order as repairs can be expensive. Digital 8 machines were produced in smaller numbers so they tend to be dearer and not all of them can play 8mm tapes.


Once you have the replay side of things sorted out you can concentrate on the digitising process. The simplest option is a USB AV adaptor module with connections for the camcorder’s audio, video or S-Video; prices start at around £25.00. The final step is to chop out all of the rough bits, add some fancy titles and burn the finished recording to disc. For that you’ll need a DVD editing and authoring package. You are spoilt for choice but you can’t go far wrong with software from the likes of Corel, Pinnacle and Roxio; basic no-frills programs that are ideal for beginners start at under £30



Ebook Enigma

I have been looking at Ebooks recently and the Sony model seems the best bet but after further checking I feel the big problem is that there are insufficient books to download. Even Waterstones and W.H. Smith have only a few thousand titles available. Should I wait?

Alan Fitzpatrick, by email


These are the very early days and being an early adopter is always risky but already there are tens, if not hundreds of thousands of books and publications available for download from free and subscription based web sources. However, at the last count there were around a dozen different Ebook formats, and no one reader can handle more than two or three of them. Some models are limited to one proprietary format or delivery system, which makes them vulnerable to premature obsolescence. If one of the current models takes your fancy and has enough titles to keep you interested for the next 2 – 3 years, say, then take a punt as by that time I expect the industry will have got its act together and agreed on a set of common formats and new and better models will be available; otherwise bide your time.



Safety First

Could you tell me if there is some safe way of opening emails that might be suspect? I vaguely remember reading how messages could be taken to a ‘safe’ place for viewing. Most emails can be recognised as either friendly or dodgy. But there are some in-between ones that might just be the winnings for that lottery I never entered or an inheritance from a long lost relative.

Patrick Brogan, by email


Most email programs let you view just the text content of a message and this prevents viruses or malware embedded in the message or sent as attachments from being activated. In Outlook Express and Windows Mail, for example, right-click the suspicious message in your Inbox, select Properties then the Details tab and click the Message Source button. However, it’s safer to get rid of these messages automatically, using a decent Spam filter and as regular readers know I've been a long term advocate of MailWasher (http://tinyurl.com/66mo3p), which is both free and very effective. Otherwise use the junk mail options in Windows Mail and Windows Live Mail and I promise you that you that you won’t miss out on any unexpected windfalls from overseas benefactors.


Microsoft Mystery

Further to your recent answer about upgrading from XP to Windows 7, I have managed this on an older PC and demonstrated that it is far too slow so I am going to buy a new tower. How do I deregister Windows 7 so that I can register it on my new machine?


How does Microsoft know that I have reformatted my old hard drive and reloaded the operating system onto my new machine? How can they detect that two machines running at the same time have the same registration?  Would it be illegal to use my old machine under XP as a typewriter without connection to the Internet?  I have no desire to have my collar felt!

John Beattie, by email


When you install Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7 on a PC for the first time it has to be ‘activated’ within 30 days or all or part of it will stop working. Normally on PCs where Windows has been preinstalled it happens automatically but on a DIY install you usually have to click a button to activate Windows online and this takes just a few seconds.


During the activation process Windows sends Microsoft information about your PCs hardware including details of the CPU, motherboard, hard drives and memory. If the same copy of Windows is subsequently installed on another PC, or you make changes to your PC, prior to a re-installation, Microsoft online activation spots the differences, activation may fail and you’ll be asked to call a freephone number. It’s happened to me many times and when you explain what has happened and make it clear that you are not trying to run the same OS on two or more machines they’ll provide you with an activation code. There’s nothing to stop you installing your copy of XP on another PC and using it offline; you can reinstall a copy of Windows as many times as you like, but only on one PC at a time. However, it will still have to be activated, either online, or by calling the phone number that appears in the activation notice box.  




© R. Maybury 2010 1412


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