Houston We Have a Problem 10

  

 

Houston We Have A Problem 114, 24/07/10

Curb Trawler

Twice in 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?

John O'Sullivan, by email

 

Providing 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.

 

Of 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.

 

Ex-Pat TV

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 broadband connection?

Gilbert Paton

 

Yes, but 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.

 

One 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 working.

 

 

Burning Question

For many 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.

 

The small 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?

William Anderson, by email 

 

Screen burn 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.

 

 

Explorer Highlight

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

 

Windows 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.

  

 

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© R. Maybury 2010 2806

 

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