Houston We Have a Problem 11



Houston We Have A Problem 138, 29/01/11


Wireless Worries

I read recently that the average broadband download speed in the UK was a whopping 6.8Mbps. I live in Harlow, a town of some 80,000 people and I can only achieve 0.58 Mbps. This is an increase from a previous 0.11Mbps following the replacement of my wireless router. Would I get a faster speed with a non-wireless router or is there no hope for me? 

Garry Slark, by email


Without knowing what type of Wi-Fi system you are using and the speed your broadband provider claims you could be getting, it’s difficult to say what’s wrong. However, assuming that your service is supposed to be 1Mbs or faster, say, then there may be a data bottleneck at the exchange end of the connection or there are problems with the copper wire ‘pipe’ through which your service is delivered. The three most commonly used Wi-Fi protocols (802.11b, g & n) have theoretical top speeds of 11, 54 and 200Mbs respectively. In the real world actual data transfer speed between wireless routers and PCs will be a fair bit slower but it should still be faster than most broadband connections. There is an easy way to find out if Wi-Fi is slowing things down and that’s to bypass it by connecting your PC directly to the router using an Ethernet cable. This type of connection has a nominal data transfer speed of around 100Mbps, so if your broadband speed tester indicates that it is significantly slower than what you are paying for – and you should check it at several different times throughout the day – then it’s time to have a chat with your ISP.



Catnap Conundrum

I've recently bought a new laptop with Windows 7. I am getting on with it, but wondered if it is possible to do something about the feature that locks the computer after what seems an irritatingly short period of time? I tend to leave my machine on all day, just occasionally checking my emails or web browsing, but I'm finding that after just a few minutes of inactivity, Windows has locked me out and I having to re-enter my password. Can I disable this feature or extend the period before I'm locked out?

Linda Rudge, by email


The first stop for anything that affects the way your PC looks or behaves is Control Panel, which you will find on the Start menu. Click on the Power Options icon (if it’s not displayed click the link next to ‘View By’ and select Large or Small Icons), then Change Plan Setting. Here you can adjust the times it takes for the PC to do things whilst on battery power or when plugged into the mains. While you are at it click Change Advanced Power Settings and uncheck ‘Require a password on wakeup’.




I have recordings stored on the hard drive of our Virgin V+ box and I want to convert some of them into DVDs. There is a facility on the V+ box to enable this but what else do I need? I have a Windows 7 laptop, with a DVD recorder drive, could this be used?

David Bush, by email


For various copyright and rights management reasons Virgin V+ and Sky+ hard disc drive recorders won’t allow you make direct digital copies of stored programs but there’s nothing to stop you recording the analogue video (and audio) outputs. By far the simplest method is to connect your V+ (or Sky+) box to the AV input on a DVD recorder using a SCART cable.


If you want to do it on your PC you will need an AV input module, which plugs into one of your laptop’s USB sockets and takes care of the analogue to digital conversion. You will also need some suitable recording, editing and DVD authoring software. There are plenty of free and commercial programs to choose from but if you want to keep things simple then I suggest a bundled hardware and software package like the ClimaxDigital VCAP302 VHS to DVD (around £17.00) or Roxio’s Easy VHS to DVD (around £60) – both available from Amazon. By the way, whichever method you use to make your DVDs, the conversion from digital to analogue and then back again to digital means that there will be a small but noticeable drop in picture quality.



Delinquent Dongle?

When away from home I use a Vodafone 3G Mobile Connect USB dongle. I find that I can receive my emails but cannot send them and it shows system error. My laptop operates Windows Vista.

M G Wood, by email


In most cases incoming emails are stored on your home Internet service provider’s POP3 (Post Office Protocol) mail server and you can access them from anywhere using any type of connection. Outgoing mail, on the other hand has to be sent through the SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) mail server of the service that you are currently using, whether it’s a 3G mobile network or a wi-fi hotspot. There are two solutions. You can change the SMTP address in your email program, or do what many travellers do and access their mail through an Internet browser using a webmail service like Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail and so on, and most of them can be set to pick up your POP3 messages.


If you want to continue using your email program then you need to find out the service’s SMTP address. There is a list of the main UK 3G SMTP servers at http://goo.gl/Ak50V. At Wi-Fi hotspots and in hotels etc. you’ll have to ask whoever is in charge for the SMTP address.


To change the SMTP address in email programs like Outlook Express and Windows Mail etc., go to Tools > Accounts, select your account, click Properties, then the Server tab. Make a note of the existing SMTP address then replace it with the right one for your service, which in your case should be smtp.vodafone.net. Don’t forget to change it back when you get home.




© R. Maybury 2011 1001


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