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.
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
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
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