Houston We Have a Problem 11



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 PC. 

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.



DAB Delay

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 around £50.00.



© R. Maybury 2011 2701

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