Houston We Have a Problem 10



Houston We Have  A Problem 125, 09/10/10 


The Range In Spain…

I have a Mac iBook G4, which I take to Spain with me. We can use our apartment complex’s Wi-Fi service, but despite being in a direct line of sight to the antenna it is a little too far away to receive the signal reliably. I do not want to install broadband, which will be unused for long periods.

Maurice Convey, by email


The iBook G4’s wireless performance has received mixed reviews. Whilst many users seem to be happy with it some suffer from reception problems and everything from the Wi-Fi adaptor’s firmware to the titanium chassis have been blamed. Fitting an external antenna is one way to improve reception, though this involves opening and modifying the case and is not recommended if you want to keep your warranty intact.


Another solution is to use a range booster or extender, which acts as a Wi-Fi repeater or relay station. There are several models designed specifically for iMacs, including the BearExtender n3 (http://tinyurl.com/yaysqhr) and Quicky3 (http://tinyurl.com/3xgmohs). These clip onto the edge of the screen (close to where the internal antenna is located); prices start at around £120. A cheaper solution is to use a universal wireless range extender, which works with any PC. The Netgear WN2000RPT, D-Link AirPlus DWL-G710 and Sitecom Extender 300N, for example, sell for around £60 - £70 online.



Sussex Slowdown

You recently mentioned that four High Definition TV channels are available on Freeview. We live in East Sussex but I don't seem to be able to receive any Freeview HD channels

James Spires, by email


Freeview’s HD service is still being rolled out and unfortunately for you the Meridian region will be one of the last to get it. According to the Freeview website http://www.freeview.co.uk/HD) it isn’t due until 2012, though some transmitters will probably be operational well before that. You can keep track of progress on the site, where you will also find a coverage map and an all areas postcode checker.



iPlayer Take Over

My laptop, using Windows XP, has recently been running very slowly. When I open the Task Manager it often shows that something called KService.exe is using up to 99 percent of my CPU’s resources at any one time. I have been told it is something to do with the BBC iPlayer. Will the problem be solved if I uninstall it, or is it not that straightforward?

Jeff Ewing, by email


Nothing to do with PCs is ever simple but yes, uninstalling BBC iPlayer will get rid of KService and may well speed up your computer. KService is a component in the Kontiki peer-to-peer file sharing service used by iPlayer and other online TV services, like 40D and Sky Player. But if you want to keep on using iPlayer there are other solutions.


Make sure your PC is running as smoothly and efficiently as possible, if you have 1Gb or less of RAM adding more memory will almost certainly help lighten the load, and you might like to run through the XP Tuning Tips outlined in Boot Camp 355 at http://tinyurl.com/5jbmuw.  


You can also manually switch off KService or use a batch file to turn it off when it is not being used, however, this involves a fair amount of tinkering and is not for novices. Incidentally, if every user disabled KService iPlayer would slow down or stop working altogether as it relies on users sharing their files to help speed up downloads.


My suggestion is to use a small freeware utility called Process Lasso, (http://tinyurl.com/3yj8jxs). This program works really well with older PCs and underpowered netbooks. It automatically prioritises Windows processes and Services to make the most efficient use of the CPU, helping to avoid lock ups and slow downs. It should take control of KService without any intervention but you can manually change its priority if it is still making a nuisance of itself.



Mac to Basics

I have a MacBook Pro kindly donated by a friend, so I have no instruction book, and my problem is that I cannot delete anything. As a retired engineer, I know the problem is often with the user, but I cannot figure this one. I always understood that that Apple computers were logical and user friendly; that has not been my experience so far.

Dave Jordan, by email


The manual I can certainly help you with and you can download a copy for your model, in pdf format, from Apple, free from: http://tinyurl.com/ydh3fwj. However, this is only a general guide to the hardware and doesn’t go into basic operations.


Macs really are exceptionally easy to use and very intuitive but there’s a fair amount of ground to cover if you are an absolute beginner, and a few old habits to unlearn (if you’re a ex PC user).  Big Dummies Guide, ‘Macs for Seniors’ is a good place to start if you never used one before, or try one of the many online tutorials, like MacForBeginners (http://tinyurl.com/ykk5vbj).



In the Works

How can I convert a MS Works 7.0 spreadsheet with the extension .xlr, which is on my Windows XP desktop PC, to a MS Office Excel worksheet .xls file so it can be read on my wife's Dell laptop? I do not have Office on my computer, and she doesn't have Works on hers!

Eric Jones, by email


There’s no need for any fancy conversion utilities, here’s two things to try. First, if it’s only one or two files the quickest and simplest thing to do is open them in Works on your computer then go to SaveAs on the File menu and in the Files of Type drop-down menu choose the Office/Excel .xls option. Alternatively try this old trick. Copy the file to your wife’s PC and change the file extension from .xlr to .xls. By rights it shouldn’t work as there are a number of differences in the two file formats but it seems that in many cases it does, so it has to be worth trying



© R. Maybury 2010 1309


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