Houston We Have a Problem 10



Houston We Have A Problem 132, 27/11/10


Eliminating Spam and Shorter Addresses

I keep getting an email from a friend, there’s no subject but when I open it, it shows a strange web address http://bit.ly/xxxx (actual address removed). When asked he says he doesn't know anything about it. I delete each time but it keeps coming. How do I stop it?

Keith Fry, by email


It’s Spam and bit.ly is a shortened web address or URL (more about that in a moment) that leads to a site selling certain well-known pharmaceutical products. The messages could be coming from your friend’s computer if it is infected by a Spambot virus. You should warn him and ask him to run a malware scan, and this is a good opportunity to test drive a new free Malicious Removal tool from Microsoft, as well as old favourites like AdAware, Spybot and Malwarebytes. You’ll find links to them all at http://goo.gl/CZ3A. Otherwise it’s coming from another infected PC, with yours and your friend’s email addresses on its contact list. If so there’s not much you can do about it apart, apart from installing a Spam Filter. Mailwasher is a good place to start, it’s free and effective and you’ll find the download link at: http://goo.gl/tc9C.


Back to URL shortening, which has been troubling a few readers recently. As the web expands so too have web addresses or URLs (uniform resource locators) and it’s not unusual for some of them to run to 20 or more characters. If you make a mistake you will end up on a ‘404 Address not found’ page, or worse. To reduce the risk, and save ink, we use a web-based shortening service that converts long web address into a shorthand code of just five or six characters. Tiny.URL (http://tinyurl.com/) was one of the first and is the best-known web shortener; Bit.ly (http://bit.ly/) is another and they both work really well. Try it for yourself, they are both free to use.


The trouble is spammers, like the one just mentioned now use URL shorteners to avoid detection. Several security programs have begun rejecting tinyurls and bit.ly addresses as malicious, even though most shortened URLs are entirely legitimate. We are now trying out the new Google URL Shortener (http://goo.gl/), which works well and should provide some temporary relief though inevitably that too will be hit by the spammers but for the moment it seems to be reasonably unaffected.



It’s All Greek

Is it possible to download free software to translate a document from Greek to English?

Divna McLean, by email


If the document is important and has significant legal, financial or technical content then you would be better off paying for the services of a human professional. On the other hand if you just want to get the gist of what it has to say then Google Translate (http://goo.gl/n1yM) and Microsoft’s Bing Translator (http://goo.gl/MNsQ) do a pretty good job. They are both free and can handle quite large documents, though Bing Translator seems to run out of puff after around 1400 words. Yahoo’s Babel Fish (http://goo.gl/d5T7) can handle Greek to English translations but has a limit of just 150 words.



High Hopes

I have just bought a new Panasonic digital still camera, which uses AVCHD for shooting videos.  It seems an unnecessarily complicated affair. I think it would be a lot easier to convert the files into another format to simplify the job of editing. I have tried a free trial version of a converter program, which seems to work well but is far more than I really need.  Do you know of a free program that would do the job?

Pete Fincher, by email


AVCHD or Advanced Video Coding High Definition format is widely used for recording HD video on camcorders and more recently on high-end digital still cameras and the idea is it is compatible with the Blu-ray disc format. Don’t forget it’s still early days and HD video recording is steadily making the transition from a professional to a consumer technology. Even so there is now a fairly good selection of editing software available that supports the AVCHD format, including Windows Movie Maker. Editing HD footage maintains the quality of the original recording but if you want to convert your HD recordings to a more widely used format that’s not a problem either. Obviously there will be a reduction of quality but if you are happy with that then a freeware utility called Super C (http://goo.gl/1P2j) can do this, converting your recordings to any one of a dozen or more common multimedia formats.



Time and Motion

In the olden days we were able to plug our camcorder into the TV and record the video along with its on screen date and time display on a VCR for safekeeping. This isn’t possible with new DV camcorders and we now have to use a commercial program to transfer recordings onto a DVD, but somehow the important date and time info is missing. Is there a way to overcome this problem?

Harry Elmee, by email 


Time and date displays on analogue camcorders were either superimposed or ‘burned’ into the recording. Many users found this intrusive; it obscures detail and once re-recorded there’s no easy way to remove it. On digital recordings time and date info is embedded in the data and it can be displayed on demand by the replay device. If you really want to see this information on a DVD copy then your best bet is to put it in at the editing stage, either as a static title or caption or extract the data from the recording and insert it as a  ‘timestamp’ display. Not all editing programs can do this but one that does is Cyberlink PowerDirector 8, which sells online for under £40.00.



Blowing Up Word

I was brought up on WordPerfect for which I feel great affection. It had a facility called Banner Script, which would allow display and printing of huge characters, whereas in Word I have not discovered how to print larger than 72 pt. Does a banner script facility exist somewhere in Word?

David A D Smith, by email


No Banner Script, as such but you can type in the font size that you want directly into the box on the formatting toolbar, up to a massive 999.5pt.





© R. Maybury 2010 2510


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