Houston We Have a Problem 10



Houston We Have A Problem 087, 16/01/10


Troubled Tosh

My Toshiba laptop is saying that it can’t check for updates and it gives the error code of 8000FFFF. There is no help or explanation; can you help?

David Robinson, by email


This glitch has been causing problems for a lot of Vista users and is usually due to one or more rogue Registry entries. Microsoft Knowledgebase article 946414 (http://tinyurl.com/bsm4hq) offers two solutions. The first is to switch off and try again, it sounds daft, but you never know… Method two is more promising and involves removing the errant Registry keys. It’s not difficult and the KB article has some simple to follow instructions but if you don’t feel up to it get a PC savvy friend or relative to help.


In the Frame

Do you know of a digital picture frame that runs on batteries? I want to get one for an elderly person.  A trailing wire seems dangerous and there is no convenient power socket.

Anne Vinnicombe, by email


The backlights used to illuminate the LCD screen consume a fair amount of power and since the general idea is to have the picture frame displaying photographs for prolonged periods, they can be very expensive to run on disposable batteries. Several models have internal rechargeable batteries that last for between 2 and 8 hours. Have a look at the Philips SPH8208, Link 8-inch or the Nix Designer Series (all available from Amazon). However it’s only a partial solution and they are still going to have to be connected to their mains adaptors from time to time to charge the battery.


Underlying Problem

My problem is that somehow I have configured Word 2000 so that when I press the underline icon on the toolbar I get double underline instead of single underline. I have tried all sorts of ways to rectify this but have failed.

Ruth Leonards, by email


The controls for the Underline option can be found by going to Format > Font > Font tab. Close to the centre of the dialogue box there’s an Underline Style drop-down menu; select the default ‘(none)’ and this will reset it to a single underline.



Media Attention

Following a recent update to Windows Media Player I am no longer able to play DVDs (which I bought and was able to play prior to the update) on either my PC or laptop.  The error message says ‘Windows Media Player cannot play this DVD because there is a problem with digital copy protection between your DVD drive, decoder, and video card. Try installing an updated driver for your video card’. I have the latest drivers for the video cards.


Since this happens with both the PC and laptop, I assume the problem lies with Windows Media Player. Is it possible to go back to an earlier version?

Jim McCartney, by email


This is almost always caused by missing or outdated codecs (coder-decoder) conflicting with Windows Media Player. Codecs are small plug-ins and add-ons that WMP and other media players use to decode multimedia files. When WMP is updated some older codecs may stop working. Basically there are two solutions, switch to another, less pernickety media player and you can’t go far wrong with VLC (http://tinyurl.com/nvqmm9). The alternative is to install an up to date universal codec pack, which should solve any compatibility issues. Several are available but one that seems to work well with the sometimes-cranky combination of Vista and WMP is CCCP or the Combined Community Codec Pack. It’s free and there’s a link to the download at: http://tinyurl.com/yb3xy3v, and don’t worry, it’s not dodgy Russian software


Unable to Label

When I used Microsoft Word I was able to make labels quite easily. My son decided to change me over to Open Office when I had a new laptop. I have tried all ways, but I cannot work out how to make labels any more.

Elizabeth Snow, by email


Open Office Writer is comparable with Word in terms of features and sophistication and it does have a label making facility, though needless to say it is in a different place. Go to File > New > Labels. The dialogue box layout is a little different too but it has the same basic options, to use standard branded labels, or create your own custom labels. 



Life Stories

I shall soon have taken 10,000 photos with my Fuji FinePix S8000fd digital camera. How many photos can I reasonably expect before it dies of old age?
Charles King-Smith, by email


When it comes to longevity and reliability most electronic devices follow what’s known as the ‘bathtub curve’, a graph, representing the likelihood of failure against time. It suggests that at the tap-end of the bath the chances of a fault developing are highest in first few days and weeks after purchase. If it survives then it should work properly for a good while – the bottom of the bath -- before reaching the other end, after which the graph and the risk of a fault developing rises steeply.


The big question is, how long is the bottom of your Fuji FinePix’s bath? Unfortunately there is no definitive answer; most semiconductor components should operate reliably for between 25 and 50 years. Mechanical parts tend to be the first to go but it all depends on how well they were made in the first place and how much use they get.


In practice the majority of electronic gizmos are replaced after 3 to 5 years. Not because they are faulty; well-made products from respected brands are mostly still working at that age but by that time cheaper and better-specified models are usually available. If you bought your camera when it first came out it is now around two years old. It probably hasn’t escaped your notice that digital cameras with 10 and 12 megapixel sensors are now selling for less than half what you paid for your 8 megapixel digicam, but how long they’ll last is still anyone’s guess…



© R. Maybury 2010 2112

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