Houston We Have a Problem 10



Houston We Have A Problem 123, 25/09/10


Advertising Office

I have just acquired a new PC, which came with Windows 7.  When I open an Excel or Word document I get annoying ads for other Microsoft products. They are very distracting because they keep changing.  How can I hide them, or better, eliminate them please?

Jerry Smith, by email


You have Microsoft Office 2010 Starter Edition installed on your PC. It’s a new ruse by Microsoft to sell software and it replaces the trial versions of Office that used to be loaded on new computers. Trial version programs were fully functional but they stopped working after 30-days, unless you stumped up for the full version.


The big difference with Starter Edition is that Word and Excel work pretty much as normal and never expire, but as you know there’s no such thing as a free lunch. A number of advanced features have been disabled, but most users won’t miss them. Several other Office components are missing, like PowerPoint and Outlook, and again a lot of users can live without those, but it’s the annoyingly persistent ads that will either break your will and make you pay up, or switch to one of the freeware alternatives, like Open Office (http://tinyurl.com/28hx9k).


As we speak hoards of hackers are trying to disable the ads in Starter Edition but they’re not having much luck, Microsoft has managed to outsmart them and it looks as though they are here to stay.



Savings Advice

I have a savings bond expiring in 2 years, and at that time have 14 days to decide what to do.  Is it possible to set a reminder pop-up on my desktop PC running XP for a date 2 years hence?

Derek Vaughan, by email


There are numerous calendar and reminder programs but I definitely wouldn’t entrust such an important and distant task to a computer. What happens if it crashes or you replace it?  Assuming that in two years you will still have a PC or a device capable of receiving emails, I suggest that you use an on-line reminder service that sends you an email at the appointed time and date and to be on the safe side, I would use at least two different ones. Google Calendar (www.google.com/calendar) is free and a good place to start but if you search for ‘online calendar and reminders’ you’ll find plenty of other free and paid for services. If you’re a boots and braces sort of person also get a five-year diary or planner, and start using it.



Preferred Pointers

On my Windows Vista PC, for my mouse pointer I used the Conductor scheme. Unfortunately this is not available in Windows 7. Do you know how I could obtain the Conductor mouse pointers?

Ron Abbott


All you need is a USB flash drive and a Vista or XP computer. Just use the flash drive to copy the contents of the Cursors folder in C:\Windows on the Vista or XP PC to the folder of the same name and same location on your Windows 7 PC. You be warned that files with the same name already exist so select the Don’t Copy option, and check the box ‘Do this for the next XXX conflicts box’ and click Skip. Afterwards all you have to do is go to Start > Control Panel > Mouse > Pointers, select the first item on the Customize list, click the Browse button and choose your preferred Conductor pointer design. Repeat for each entry on the Customize list and when you have finished click Save As, give the scheme a name and click OK.



Beta Block?

There seems to be no problem in transferring VHS tapes to disc, but do you know if it’s possible to do this with Betamax tapes?

Peter Smith


The process is exactly the same, except of course that you need a Betamax VCR to replay your tapes. The audio and video (AV) signals that come out of a Betamax video recorder are identical in all respects to those from a VHS machine, so all you need is a capture device – to digitise the AV signals, and software to record the video, edit it if necessary and then burn it to DVD. Roxio’s Easy VHS to DVD ticks all those boxes and sells online for around £30.



Smartphone Viruses

I have become increasingly aware of the potential vulnerability of mobile phones to viruses. Although I have not yet been hit, I prefer the prevention to cure route. Is it possible to install anti-virus software, or some form of firewall to deal with those services that a mobile allows connection to?

Martyn Elkington, by email


It is becoming a real problem and several hundred mobile phone viruses, malware, spyware and Trojan infections have been identified. They are mostly targeted at Smartphones, which are basically pocket computers and therefore vulnerable as they process malware prone multimedia files, but nasties can also lurk inside emails and web pages. The only good news is that the diversity of mobile phone operating systems has tended to slow things down and makes it harder for them to spread. Never the less all of the popular Smartphone platforms are under attack, including Symbian, Palm, RIM and Windows Mobile. Android and iPhone are not immune either, Linux-based Android is a tough nut to crack but it’s rapidly growing popularity puts it firmly on the virus writer’s radar. Although iPhone apps run in a protected or ‘sandboxed’ environment, security loopholes have been discovered, at least one self-replicating virus is now in the wild, and jailbroken iPhones can catch malware infections and are prone to hack attacks.


Anti virus software and apps have begun to appear but it’s still very early days and some operating systems are better served than others. Companies like AVG, Kaspersky, Symantec etc. are now getting in on the act, so check if there’s any anti-virus software available for your model, especially if it contains personal or sensitive data. You should also employ the same precautions that you use with your computer, namely do not open unexpected email attachments, avoid visiting or downloading dodgy websites, and stay away from pirated software and iffy apps.  


© R. Maybury 2010 3008


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