Houston We Have A
Problem 114, 24/07/10
the last week a young man has sat outside our home on the curb in West London
using his laptop. At the time my laptop was switched on and linked to the Internet.
I asked him if he was piggy-backing on my Internet service and he claimed he
was not. Aside from calling the police or asking him to move on are there any
precautions I should take regarding my PC?
O'Sullivan, by email
your wireless system has its encryption system enabled and your laptop isn’t
set up for Internet sharing then it is extremely unlikely that anyone could
hack into your broadband connection. Your wi-fi router handles encryption and
it is usually switched on by default, by your Internet Service Provider, when
you sign up for broadband. You’ll know if it is because you will have been
asked to enter a passcode when you logged on to your wireless network through
your PC for the first time. If it hasn’t been set, do it now! Full instruction
can be found in the manual that came with your wireless router. Internet
sharing is much less of a problem as it is normally disabled by Windows. You
would know if you had switched it on as it’s quite a palaver and you couldn’t
do it by mistake.
course it’s possible he is tapping into one of your neighbour’s wi-fi networks,
which has been left open, so you may want to alert them. If you are still
worried and you see him or anyone else using a laptop near your property
there’s easy way to tell if they are using your connection, just switch off the
router and see if that gets a reaction. If it does and you believe you have
good grounds to believe he is hacking into your Internet connection then you
should contact the police. This is a serious offence and if he were to be
downloading or uploading pirated material or pornography through your
connection it could be traced back to you and you could be held liable.
However, my guess is that anyone with the technical ability to crack wireless encryption
would much more discrete and this chap is just doing a spot of innocent
surfing, probably using a 3G mobile broadband dongle.
I have a
house in Spain, which I visit several months a year and I have a broadband
connection through a free wireless mast system, which was set up by the
Andalucian government to bring broadband to the mountain villages which have no
land line telephones.
I have a
neighbour in Spain who receives his television programmes on his laptop from
his cable system at his home in the UK via a device called a Slingbox. I had
never heard of this before but he says he can receive all the programmes from
his UK system on his laptop anywhere he goes in the world. Do you think it
would be possible for me to get my home TV via a Slingbox through my free
there a few things to bear in mind. Firstly the Slingbox, your digital decoder
or cable box and broadband modem will all have to be left switched on and
running while you are away. Slingbox works by streaming video through your
broadband modem, so you need a reasonably fast connection with decent upload
speeds and since it involves large volumes of data, if you are on a ‘capped’
tariff, you should find out what, if any limits there are on the amount of data
you can upload each month. You should also check with your Spanish service
provider, ‘free’ services are often capped and exceeding the limit may incur
charges or restriction.
final thought, so-called ‘placeshifting’ whereby you watch TV programmes
intended for one location in another geographical region is a legal grey area
and there has been a lot of discussion by broadcasters and copyright holders
about how it could be controlled or prevented. As far as I am aware it hasn’t
yet been tested in court but don’t be too surprised if one day it stops
years I have watched my old Panasonic TV linked to a SKY+ box which enabled me
to pause the picture so that I could, for example, make a cup of tea or answer
a phone-call - for as long as 30 minutes on occasions - without any problems.
As a treat
I decided to buy a new 32-inch LCD television still linked to my Sky+ Box for
the most important Pause facility.
print of the new TV manual warns that ‘extended use of fixed image programme
material can cause a permanent shadow image on the LCD panel which is
irreversible’. Can you give any advice as to the safe length of tie I can use
the pause mode?
Anderson, by email
used to be a real concern on CRT (cathode ray tube) computer and video
monitors, however, it took weeks, if not months for a bright, high contrast
static images to imprint on the screen’s phosphor coating. It was never really
a problem on TV displays, though, and pausing live TV for 30 minutes certainly
wouldn’t do any damage. LCD displays can suffer from a effect, similar to
screen burn, called temporary image persistence, but it takes 5 or 6 hours for
a still picture to produce a ghost image but and as the name implies it is not
permanent and it disappears when the TV or monitor is switched off. The pixels
in Plasma TVs are phosphor based and screen burn is a possibility and channel
idents or ‘Dogs’ (digital on-screen graphics) in the corner of the screen have
been cited as a potential threat but most models have anti-burn systems, which
imperceptibly shifts the image to reduce the chance of colour change in
constantly lit pixels; in short, don’t worry.
The facility to highlight words or phrases in colour seems
to have been removed in Internet Explorer on my XP computer. I foolishly,
upgraded from IE6 where one could very simply run the virtual pen across a word
and it would highlight it in the chosen colour, all it now does is alter the colour
of the text itself. I am sure the upgrade is to blame for this. Is there any
way in which this facility could be restored?
Jerry Tepper, by email
controls the colour of highlighted or selected menu items in most applications
and web browsers. I am not sure how upgrading Internet Explorer could have
altered it, but you can easily change it by right clicking on the desktop. On
the menu that appears select Properties then the Appearance tab and the
Advanced button. On the Item drop-down menu click Selected Items and you can
then change the both the colour of the background and the highlighted text.
Click OK then Apply to store the new setting.
Maybury 2010 2806