Houston We Have a Problem 10



Houston We Have  Problem 116, 07/08/10


Shoot the Messenger

Can you tell me how I can delete Windows Live Messenger, which pops up as soon as I switch on my laptop? It can be irritating? 

Maureen Hembley, by email


In the past few weeks I have noticed a steady increase in the number of readers asking to be rid of this nuisance. My usual response was to run through a lengthy set of procedures for removing this program, which vary according to the version of Windows and Messenger involved. Now there’s a better way, a simple little utility that works on all editions of Windows, from XP onwards, and all variants (so far) of Windows Messenger, MSN Messenger and Live Messenger. It’s called ZapMessenger, it’s free and you’ll find a link to the download at: http://tinyurl.com/37eyze9


If you are a Windows 7 user and you don’t mind getting your hands dirty you can manually uninstall WLM by going to Start > Control Panel > Programs > Programs and Features > Windows Live Essentials. Click Change/Remove and on the list of ‘Essentials’ that appears, select Messenger, click OK to exit and restart your computer.



Locked Out

I have a 1Gb SD camera memory card full of a memorable holiday photos. To my horror, when I removed the card from the camera part of the case broke off and the lock is gone, but the gold connectors look intact. All attempts to recover the images using the camera and its software have failed. I was told that professional recovery might cost upwards of £300 with no guarantees. Do I have any other options for restoring the images?

Bob Rickard, by email


It sounds as though the memory card’s write-protect switch has broken off, which shouldn’t be a problem as all this does is stop files on the card from being erased or overwritten, but they can still be read and copied. I would try using an external card reader, which connects to your PC by a USB cable. They are not expensive, my local branches of Poundland and 99p Stores stock perfectly service ‘multi-format’ models. With the card in the reader and connected to the PC it will show up as a removable disc in Windows Explorer. Your picture files will be stored in one or more sub-folders on the card, from where they can be copied to a folder on your hard drive.


Incidentally, I have managed to fix broken SD memory card locks with a tiny blob of fast setting epoxy resin in the ‘lock’ position. Once set it can be carved into the shape of the missing switch with a sharp craft knife, however I don’t recommend this technique to novices and you try it entirely at your own risk.  



Plane Simple

Last year I was fortunate enough to have the chance to fly a Spitfire. A cockpit DVD recording was made of the flight, and I am anxious to print off a freeze frame taken during the sortie. However, when I play the DVD, pause the recording and use the Prt Scn function to capture the frame I wish to print, I end up with nothing.

Brian Vaughton, by email


Although Prt Scn and other screengrab utilities are supposed to capture whatever is on the screen, they do not work on DVDs. That’s because the video screen is a separate image or overlay, created by the PC’s video adaptor so it’s not part of the normal Windows display. If you know your way around your PC’s settings you can try disabling graphics acceleration but it doesn’t always work and in the end the simplest solution is to use a DVD player with a screengrab facility. For that you need look no further than our old friend VLC Media Player. It’s free and you’ll find a link to the download at: http://tinyurl.com/nvqmm9



Sky is the Limit

I have a number of VHS tapes that I would like to copy onto my Sky+ HD Box. Is this possible? If so how do I connect to I my VHS video recorder to the Sky+ box and the TV?

Jack Harris, by email


The short answer is you can’t. Sky+ boxes, both standard and HD, have no external audio or video inputs so they can only record from their internal tuners. If the aim is to preserve your recordings you can transfer them directly to disc using a DVD recorder but there is a better way. If you have a PC with a DVD writer all you need is an AV adaptor module to connect your PC to the camcorder and some editing and authoring software to cut out the wonky bits and add some transitions and titles. Together these items will cost you around £50. If you are looking for an even simpler solution try Roxio’s VHS to DVD (http://tinyurl.com/yen4ckg). This is a complete hardware and software package, costing under £40 and it includes everything you need – apart from a PC -- to produce a very decent looking DVD.



Shortcut to Shortcuts

I frequently send and receive emails from France and Germany. Recently I bought a laptop with Windows 7 and find that I cannot produce accents as I could on my desktop using, for example, ALT + 130 on the numeric keypad to produce é. There is no numeric keypad on a laptop! I even bought a plug-in numeric keypad, but still no joy. At the moment, I have to type emails for abroad in Word and then copy and paste the result but it is laborious inserting symbols. Please help.

John Trevor, by email


I’m willing to bet your laptop does have a numeric keypad. Check the printing on the U, I, O, J, K, L and M keycaps. You’ll see the numbers 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3 etc, usually in blue. This is your laptop’s numeric keypad, which is usually enabled by holding down the FN key and pressing NumLk on the top row. Your accent shortcuts should now work, and if you want some more handy symbols and accents go to: http://tinyurl.com/39v932




© R. Maybury 2010 1207


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