Houston We Have a Problem 10



Houston We Have A Problem 121, 11/09/10


Support Scam?

In response to a cold call I foolishly agreed to purchase computer support from a company. I now have serious doubts about the wisdom of this action as, at one stage, I allowed them to take control of my computer and I worried that they may have copied details from my computer during the process. Can you advise me if this is likely to cause serious problems?

R P, by email


It'a almost always a scam, and a lot of people say that the caller claims to be either working for Microsoft or they know their name or that they are using Windows so it's easy to get taken in. My general advice is don’t get involved and don’t allow anyone who cold-calls to get anywhere near your PC. Incidentally, it doesn’t take a genius to obtain your name and telephone number, and given the popularity of Windows there is an excellent chance they’ll get lucky with most calls. One of their favourite tricks is to ask you to check an error log or system file, which appears to be riddled with problems. In 99 percent of cases this is perfectly normal and simply an indication that Windows is capable of fixing simple errors, without any intervention from you so don’t fall for it.


Without knowing more about the company and what they did to your PC I cannot say if or how badly compromised your system might be, but I would assume the worst. To be on the safe side you should immediately change any PINS and passwords that you use for online banking and transactions or accessing secure websites, and it wouldn't hurt to alert your bank, building society and credit card company so they can keep an eye out for any unexpected activity on your accounts


Next remove any software the company may have installed on your computer, Add Remove Programs (XP) and Programs and Features (Vista and W7) in Control Panel ill tell you when an application was installed. If you don’t see anything obvious run System Restore and choose a Restore point dated before your PC was taken over. You should also carry out a full anti-virus scan and run two or three malware and spyware cleaners, such as AdAware, Spybot and Malwarebytes (all free, links at: http://tinyurl.com/2woy5u).


Sometimes it's not possible to fully remove an infection and the only way to safeguard your security and undo any damage that might have been done and put your PC back into an as-new state is to back up all of your important files before wiping the drive and reinstalling Windows. 


Dodgy DAB?

We have a DAB mains-powered radio in our kitchen, which generally operates well, until my wife runs her laptop. I can tell instantly when she switches the laptop on because the radio will start to break up and distort, and in some cases just drop out altogether.  Yesterday it displayed ‘Station Not Available’ messages on all the pre-sets. Is this unique to us or is it another problem with DAB that the world needs to know about?

Robin Taylor, by email


Quite a few DAB users experience this sort of problem and it appears to be fairly common in areas of poor reception; it’s almost always caused by laptops, and some DAB models seem to be more susceptible than others. The electronic circuitry and motors (fans, disc drives etc.) inside PCs generate a fair amount of radio frequency interference or RFI, and it covers a very wide range of frequencies but it is mostly contained by the metal cases of desktop machines. Laptops tend to have comparatively little shielding, or what there is, is less effective; some are less ‘noisy’ than others but some interference is always going to get out


Some of these frequencies, or their harmonics (multiples of a frequency) stray onto the VHF bands used by DAB and to make matters worse some digital radios are not very good at rejecting or ignoring them. There are a few things you can try, apart from changing your PC or DAB radio. An external aerial can help boost the signal, especially if you are in a weak signal area. Try running the laptop on its battery as interference can travel through mains wiring. If that makes a difference try a mains adaptor with a built in RFI filter or ‘conditioner’.  Lastly, move them apart, you might find a ‘dead spot’ or only have to shift the radio or PC a meter or two from its present position to stop it happening.



Colourful Conundrum

Why is the screen colour and density of my photos on my laptop totally different from the prints that I either do myself or have printed at my local photo shop? I have calibrated my screen and created a profile using Adobe Gamma. My desktop computer screen matches any colour prints I do, fairly closely.

Bruce Watson, by email


It’s a simple case of getting what you pay for. Laptop displays are generally built to a different set of criteria to desktop monitor screens, with greater emphasis on viewability and bright colours in strong incident light. Low-end, mid-range or general-purpose laptops also tend to have less sophisticated video adaptors due to the space restrictions and power limitations. If you want the sort of colour fidelity you get from a decent monitor you will have to trade up to a machine targeted at games and high-end graphics applications.



Low down on Highlights

In Microsoft Word on my XP computer when I highlight a word or paragraph etc. and then type something, I expect whatever I type to replace the highlighted item. This used to happen but for the last year or so the highlighted item is just pushed forward by whatever I type and isn't replaced. Any ideas?

Steve Clarke, by email


It’s a settings glitch and in most versions of Word just go to Options on the Tools menu, select the Edit tab and under Editing Options make sure that ‘Typing replaces selection’ is ticked.



Taken To Task

Something is intermittently slowing down my PC. I used to be able to use Task Manager to see what was going on. But now when I try to launch it (Ctrl, Alt, Del), all I get is the CPU usage window. I have looked it up on the interweb, and the suggestions are that I should mess around with the Registry. It’s not something I would like to attempt so can you give me some clue as to how I could re-instate Task Manager?

Bob Lambe, by email


You appear to have inadvertently enabled an obscure feature called ‘Tiny Footprint’. All you have to do to get it back to normal is double-click onto an empty part of the right-hand edge of the Task Manager window.



Open Question

My PC with Windows XP uses OpenOffice.org 1.1 and not Word.  Recipients of my emails cannot open my text attachment.  How can I remedy this?

John Nettleton, by email


Since few of your recipients are likely to be using OpenOffice you need to save your document files in a format their word processors can understand. Plain Text (.txt) and Rich Text (.rtf) files can be read on any computer but the chances are most of them will be using Word, so all you have to do is select Microsoft Word on the Save As Type drop-down menu on the SaveAs dialogue box.



© R. Maybury 2010 1608


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