Ask Rick 140, 05/02/11
Keep Taking the Tablets
I recently bought a seven inch Android tablet
PC from a Chinese seller on ebay. The instructions are poor, I can’t find any
help on the web and I am having problems finding out how to get some features
to work. I am also having difficulty locating files and linking it to my
Carl Wells, by email
The world and his wife have jumped onto the
tablet PC bandwagon and tales of woe like this one are becoming all too common.
Within days of the iPad launch Chinese clones and copies were appearing in the
Far East by the time the Samsung Galaxy reached the shops the market was awash
with cheap 7 and 10-inch Android tablets. Most of them are pretty awful and the
majority of the sub-£200 models have ‘resistive’ touch screens that are
generally not as precise and responsive as the ‘capacitive’ screens on the
iPad, Galaxy and better Android tablets. Many of them use older or unlicensed
versions of Android, which may not allow access the official Google Android
Market app store; some features and apps do not work properly and the really
cheap tablets tend to be underpowered or have insufficient memory.
Unfortunately there is almost nothing you can
do to improve a poorly designed tablet so at this stage it’s best to avoid the
cheap no-name models but don’t let that put you off if you are in the market
for an Android device.
Android is loosely based on the Linux operating
system and it is very different to Windows, but once you get to know it, it’s
really easy to use. Early Android was a tad flaky but version 2.1 onwards is
very civilised. However, it can be frustrating, especially for those accustomed
to the relative flexibility of the Windows and Mac filing systems. Important configuration
settings are protected, essentially to stop owners tinkering, so expert users
resort to ‘rooting’ their tablets and smart phones, to remove or bypass the
controls that limit access to Androids higher functions.
There’s no need to go to such extremes but
newcomers can find it difficult to navigate their way around their new tablet
or smart phone’s filing system. It’s often due to the fairly basic file manager
programs included with some Android devices. One the best ways to get to grips
with Android is to switch to one of the alternatives, like the popular Astro
File Manager. It’s a free ad supported app, downloadable from the Android
Market (the ad-free Pro version costs around £1.90). The tabbed display
provides quick and easy access to files, it has a very effective Search
facility and there are features for attaching files to emails, editing, sorting
and viewing of all of the files stored on a device or memory card.
Marking Your Property
I have a library of my original photographs on
my computer, which a third party wishes to copy. Is there a simple way that I
can superimpose a copyright notice with my name onto the pictures before
downloading them? I run Windows Vista with Office 2007.
S. Kilroe, Cornwall
That’s not a problem, all you need us a small
free utility called TSR Watermark Image (http://goo.gl/roIi).
It can handle single or multiple (batch) images and there’s a very wide range
of options as to how the watermark appears, font, colour, transparency and so
on, as well as its size and position.
MP3 Takeover Bid
I recently purchased a Philips MP3 player. The
supplied software for communications between it and the PC has taken over my XP
computer. My audio and video files are now only accessible using this program.
Also, any incoming files are opened by it, which is irritating because it is
particularly slow to start. I need to keep the program as it provides firmware
updates and I find it convenient for loading files to and from the player.
Alan Wenbourne, by email
A great many applications will do this, if you
let them. For future reference it pays to stay alert during the installation
process, as there’s usually a point at which you are asked if you want to allow
the program to ‘associate’ with particular file types. There’s usually a long
list with tick boxes, so feel free to uncheck the lot or just allow the ones
that you want the program to open. File associations in Windows XP are handled
by Windows Explorer; go to Tools > Options and select the File Types tab.
Scroll through the list, highlight each file type you want to re-associate,
click the Change button and choose the program you want to open it with.
I have a very decent Bang and Olufsen FM stereo
radio system. Is there any way I will be able to adapt it or have it converted
to digital when we switch over next year?
I cannot afford to change it for a digital system and would miss its
quality if I have to dispose of it.
Derek Godson, by email
There’s no need to panic, the previous
Government’s provisional switchover date of 2015 has been set aside and the
plan now is to wait until at least half of all listeners have digital receivers
or when ‘the weight of public opinion dictates’, according to Communications
Minister Ed Vaizey; no-one is taking bets on when that might happen. No doubt
the day will come, though, and the inevitable bad news is that it is highly
unlikely that your treasured FM radio can be converted to digital. It may be
possible to connect a digital radio or purpose-designed DAB tuner/adaptor to
your system, provided it has an auxiliary input. This will allow you to use
your existing amplifier and speakers so performance shouldn’t suffer (though
there is an on-going debate about the quality of some DAB radio channels,
compared with analogue FM broadcasts). This would be the cheapest option and
entry-level models start at around £20.00. If you can’t connect an external
tuner then you may be able to use a DAB converter. Basically this is a digital
radio with a built-in FM transmitter that re-broadcasts the signal to your
existing FM radio. The ones that I’m aware of are designed to work with car
radios so getting it working with your setup could be a bit of a palaver, the
quality isn’t going to be as good as a plug-in tuner either and prices start at
© R. Maybury 2011 2701