Houston We Have a Problem 10



Houston We Have A Problem 133, 04/12/10


Shut Down Nuisance

I am trying to find out what is causing a recent problem when I shut down my XP computer. Now a box appears which says ‘End Program - Explorer Exe'. If I press OK, the computer closes then down, but if I don’t another box appears, which gives me further options to shut down the computer. Do you have any ideas what this is and how I can stop it?

Tim Myerson, by email


This is often due to a program or background service not doing as it is told when you issue the shut down command. You may be able to find out what it is by pressing Ctrl + Alt + Del when the message appears and see if there are any applications or processes still running. Re-installing the offending program may help. If you can’t see anything obvious try this Registry hack from Kellys-Korner (http://goo.gl/qXMwp), which automatically ends running tasks at shut down. Otherwise, if there are multiple users on your PC install this Microsoft utility, which ensures that all user sessions are properly terminated (http://goo.gl/BWjMS).



Better For Business?

My home PC’s usually come from high street stores and reliability is generally not that good. Every three years or so we suffer from a hard drive failure and end up changing the computer. My work laptop, and the machines used by the business seem to be bulletproof and hard drive failures are virtually unheard of. I am thinking of giving the consumer market a miss this time and purchasing a business grade PC. I realise they cost more, but they appear to be better quality and last longer. Is this a good idea in your view, are there any pitfalls and will there be fewer time wasting software upgrades?

Ray Collington, by email


I suspect that you have either been very unlucky, or badly advised. These days hard drive failures are comparatively rare and the same types are used in both consumer and what you describe as business models. The only real difference is that your work PCs are probably better maintained. Could it be that whoever fixes your home PCs is taking the easy way out and telling you that the dive has failed?



Musical Notes

I am a music teacher in a junior school and have to write simple arrangements for the choir and band. Do you know of a free downloadable program that would enable me to convert MP3 or wma files to MIDI so I can use them in my music notation-writing program?

Rosemarie Butson, by email


It sounds reasonably straightforward but it is actually quite a tall order so it’s worth explaining the considerable differences between MP3 and MIDI.


MP3 (and wav, wma and so on) are digital file compression formats that are used to store or transport music and sounds. MIDI or Musical Instrument Digital Interface is a set of instructions and protocols that tells electronic instruments and computers how to play musical sounds and communicate with one another.


The basic problem is that most music is polyphonic, in other words it’s made up of several instruments plus percussion and possibly vocals as well. This has to be untangled to produce a clean MIDI file or musical notation, and that can be very difficult, even for a skilled musician. I am not aware of any freeware converter programs – if anyone knows of one please let me know and I’ll pass it on. However, there are several commercial converters, and trial versions are available so you can try before you buy. Intelliscore (http://goo.gl/LsptB), TS Audio WAV MP3 to MIDI Converter (http://goo.gl/7mXxz) and WIDI Recognition System (http://goo.gl/nS6BF) are worth road testing but they work all best with simple instrumental tracks, so don’t expect miracles.



Scale of Destruction

My BT Broadband router was recently upgraded. It didn't register with me at the time but our five-year old electronic bathroom scales stopped working at the same time. I bought a replacement set which worked once then crashed. The supplier took them back and I bought another set, which immediately crashed as well. The instructions for the scales advise …’avoid environmental interference such as vibration, electrical current and magnetic fields…’.  Could the new router be responsible?  I have tried using the scales with the router switched off but it didn't make any difference.

John Ling, by email


It is highly improbable and much more likely due to a dodgy batch of scales. Wireless routers have a radio frequency (RF) output of just a few milliwatts. That’s nowhere near enough to damage electronic circuitry, even if you plonked the router on top of the scales. To put that in context, the RF output of a mobile phone is between 20 and 50 times greater and I seriously doubt that even that would be enough to zap microchips.



Awkward Apple

I have recently acquired an Apple iPhone 4. Whilst I have iTunes and QuickTime on my Windows XP desktop PC, I am experiencing problems installing it on a Windows Vista laptop. The message 'Apple Application Support was not found' keeps appearing with a request to uninstall and re-install iTunes software. I have repeatedly done this but no success. Any ideas?

Nigel Peardon, by email


Apple Application Support is needed by iTunes and QuickTime and to communicate with your iPhone. It is part of the iTunes download and supposed to install automatically but it doesn’t always go to plan, so try this. Download and install an archiving and decompression utility called WinRAR (http://goo.gl/PQHT, this is a fully functional trial version). Next, download iTunes and save it to a folder on your hard drive. Right-click on the iTunesetup.exe file and select Open With > WinRAR Archiver. This opens up the download file and inside you’ll see a file called AppleApplicationSupport.msi. Double click on it and in the window that opens select Repair. Hopefully this will fix the problem and you should now be able to install iTunes normally by double-clicking on the downloaded iTunesSetup.exe file. 




© R. Maybury 2010 2211


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