Houston We Have a Problem 10

  

 

Houston We Have A Problem 117 14/08/10

 

High Hopes for High Definition

Will Freeview HD and Freesat HD be able to broadcast all of the new HD channels as they become available, or will they be limited to just a few channels?

Robert Clark, by email

 

Freeview is a terrestrial service so it doesn’t have the luxury of near unlimited bandwidth enjoyed by satellite broadcasters who can launch more satellites when they run out of capacity. Currently there are four HD channels on Freeview (BBC HD, ITV1 HD, 4HD & S4C HD or Clirlun). It is possible this could be increased to five with some technical jiggery-pokery but it is unlikely there will be any more in the foreseeable future. Freesat has the capacity to carry more HD content but since this is a ‘free’ service the chances are they will be news and shopping channels, rather than movies, sport or general entertainment.

 

 

Time for a Change?

A local firm built my desktop computer for me several years ago. It uses a 1.8GHz processor with 512 Mb of RAM and runs XP Pro. Recently I switched it off at the mains whilst my grandchild was using the bedroom. When I switched it back on I had a 'check your anti-virus' program message and the clock was set at the wrong time. I reset the clock and updated the anti virus program and all now seems to be fine. Does the clock message mean that battery, which I assume is in the workings somewhere, is now defunct? If so, is it reasonably easy to change?

 

If so I might take the opportunity to upgrade the memory. How do I find out what sort it uses and what is the maximum my system will take? Or is it all too old to be worth bothering with, and should I start again? I only need it for email, Internet and photos.

Grahame White, by email

 

If your PC is more than 5 or 6 years old, say, then it is living on borrowed time and key components will eventually fail, probably sooner rather than later so you should be thinking seriously about a replacement but it won’t hurt to fix it up and keep it as an emergency backup. The clock problem does sound like a dead or dying CMOS backup battery but how easy it will be to replace depends on the design and layout of the motherboard, case and cables. On some PCs the only way to get at it is to completely dismantle the machine. As a general rule if you can see the battery in its holder without disturbing anything then you should be able to change it fairly easily.

 

But first, give the case a thorough spring clean by blowing out the fluff and debris with an 'air duster' (can of compressed gas) or use the high-pressure airline at your local garage. Also take photographs of the inside of the case before you begin, just in case you dislodge any cables or connectors.

 

XP runs best with 2Gb of RAM and upgrading your memory should bring about a noticeable improvement in performance, for a relatively modest outlay. You can find out which type of memory modules it uses from the motherboard manual that should have been supplied with your machine, otherwise use a freeware utility called HWINFO32 (http://www.hwinfo.com/), which tells you everything you need to know about your PC’s hardware.

 

 

Camcorder Shake-Up

I recently purchased a compact camcorder and have been busily practising with it. Unfortunately some of the recordings are a bit shaky. I know, ideally, I should use a tripod but this is not always practical. Is there a program available which I can use after I have downloaded the images to eliminate the shake.

Anne Doody, by email

 

As you say it is best to avoid the problem in the first place. Many camcorders have built-in image stabilisation systems and there are also plenty of pocket-sized tripods and telescopic monopods to choose from. Otherwise just brace or lean against a tree, wall or lamppost. Small amounts of wobble can be removed after the event but a lot depends on the severity of the shake and the quality of the original recording. Most image stabilisation programs are in the form of add-ons or plug-ins for editing programs; a few have this feature built in so if you are already using an editing application, or about to buy one check to see if it is available. 

 

If you want to go down the freeware route and don’t mind a fairly steep learning curve then I suggest an Open Source program called Virtualdub (http://tinyurl.com/yvf46). This is actually a video capture program, rather than an editing application, but you can use it with a stabiliser add-on called Deshaker, which you can download from http://tinyurl.com/26zvba. Once your video is safely on your PC you can use Windows Movie Maker to lick it into shape.

   

 

FreeCell Foibles

How can I get the FreeCell game to show as a full page on my Windows computer screen?

Christopher S Wall, by email

 

In short you can’t. Windows FreeCell, originally known as Microsoft 3200 (the number of games in the first versions) dates back to the early 1990s and it, along with its library of playing card images, was designed for PCs with a screen resolution of 640 x 480. You could reduce the resolution of your PC’s display but it’s not really a long-term solution.  Your best bet is to download a variant of FreeCell that supports full-screen mode. There are plenty to choose from but I suggest FreeCell Pro (free from http://tinyurl.com/2h9bkd). The size of the cards can be changed. The graphics are a touch crude but you quickly get used to them. FreeCell Pro uses the same game numbering system as MS FreeCell and it provides a number of extra features and challenges for serious players, including the allegedly unwinnable game number 11982.

 

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© R. Maybury 2010 1207

 

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