Houston We Have a Problem 10



Houston We Have a Problem 115, 31/07/10

Flash Crash

Recently the BBC iPlayer on my PC displayed a notice telling me to install Adobe Flash. I installed the download exactly as instructed but it still will not work.

Richard Burwood, by email


It sounds as though the Flash player update didn’t install properly so the first thing I would do is uninstall it and try again. However, it’s important to remove it completely and the best way to do that is to use the custom uninstaller utility, which you can download from: http://tinyurl.com/c3e657. When you download and re-install Flash do not click the Open option, instead Save it to a folder on your PC and when the download has completed double-click on the file to start the installation. If you are still having problems then try uninstalling and reinstalling the iPlayer. Again it is important to perform a clean installation by removing all traces of the old program first. The built-in installer only does half a job so as usual my advice is to use a freeware program called Revo Uninstaller (http://tinyurl.com/56uydj), which ferrets out all of the bits that get left behind.



High Times for iPlayer

I work as a painter and decorator and like to listen to music and radio programmes on my iPhone using headphones. But going up and down ladders and moving around means I'm constantly catching the headphone cable. Is there any way I could carry on listening to my iPhone radio via wireless headphones? I also need to be able pick up phone calls without touching the phone; otherwise it gets covered in paint.

Jeff Lyons, by email


Help is at hand in the shape of iPhone/iPod Touch software update 3.0, which includes support for Advanced Audio Distribution Profile, or A2DP devices. This Bluetooth based technology streams stereo audio from the iPhone to a compatible A2DP headset, hi-fi, speakers or car radio. In the case of A2DP headsets and headphones designed for iPhones there is a facility to interrupt playback and take an incoming calls 



Printing Double with Word

I use PagePlus for producing books and find its ability to print two identical A5 pages on an A4 sheet very useful. as I can print two copies of the book in one pass. Can Microsoft Word be configured to act similarly?

Bernard Cooper, by email


In most versions of Word all you have to do is go to Print on the File menu. Under Zoom select 2 pages per sheet and in the Page Range box select Pages or Print Current and enter 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, and so on.  



Sun Screens

I have had three laptops and it has been impossible to use any of them outside because of sunlight rendering the screen unviewable. Still I see adverts for laptops depicting laughing men and women using their PCs outdoors, which is irritating to say the least. Are e-book readers any better?

Alan Stockwell, by email


Clearly you shouldn’t believe everything you see in adverts…  My personal bugbear is the next to useless LCD screens on most digital cameras. It is fair to say that some LCDs are better than others in bright daylight but the basic problem is that LCDs have to be lit from behind. Unless the backlight is brighter than the incident light you won’t see anything. Non-reflective coatings and brighter backlights can help but they reduce battery life and may cause eyestrain. Better screens are in the pipeline and organic light emitting diode (OLED) displays, now being used on the latest smartphones, show promise but it will take a while for the cost to come down.


Many e-book readers use e-ink or e-paper displays. These are thin flexible films coated with millions of microscopic capsules filled with black and white particles, suspended in a clear liquid. White particles are negatively charged, they float at the top of the capsules, and the display appears white, but when a positive charge is applied to a capsule, or group of capsules the black and white particles switch places and that part of the display turns black. The effect is a lot like a sheet of printed paper, and since the display reflects ambient light there’s no need for a backlight. It doesn’t need to be constantly refreshed so it is very stable, and they consume little power. The downside is that current e-ink displays are slow to change and of no use on laptops – you wouldn’t be able to see a moving mouse pointer for example – and although colour e-ink has been developed it suffers from the same slow refresh problem.


Match Fixing

Our tennis centre uses a laptop, to arrange matches, events etc., and it is connected to a large flat screen television for public display. However, the computer can be easily nudged, causing it to disconnect itself from the TV. The connector plug has screws, but the computer does not, which seems odd. The only way we can keep the plug in is to hold it in place with insulating tape stuck, which is far from unsatisfactory.

Steve Hitch, by email


Nowadays the external monitor or VGA sockets on laptops rarely have plug anchor threads, either to save space or as a cost saving measure. These sockets also tend to be designed for occasional use so they are not especially robust. You could try a new high quality connecting cable but I suspect it will only be a temporary solution. Some laptops can be used with an external port replicator or docking station, and the connectors are usually more durable but unfortunately this doesn’t apply to your model. Eventually the laptop’s VGA socket will fail and it will probably cost more to repair than the machine is worth. Why not replace the laptop with a desktop PC? By the sound of it, it doesn’t have to be anything special; maybe a member has a redundant computer they can loan or donate? If you must use a laptop don’t forget to shortlist models with VGA plug anchors, docking station or port replicator option.




© R. Maybury 2010 0507


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