Houston We Have a Problem 11



Ask Rick 141, 19/02/11


Conspicuous Consumption

Since we are all asked to do our best to reduce our power consumption it would be useful to know the approximate figures for a router, PC, monitor, printer, external hard drive and laptop charger.

John Kember-Smith, by email


It’s difficult to be specific but devices like routers and printer use relatively little energy and cost just a few pounds per year to run even if left switched on all of the time. Desktop PCs and monitors typically consume about as much power as a couple of 60-watt light bulbs (the old fashioned type) but the best way to find out is to install an energy monitor. They are very simple to use and usually all you have to do is clip a sensor to the mains supply cable coming into your home. Once set with your tariff the display tells you, in real time, how much power you are consuming and what it’s costing you. Some energy companies, like Npower provide them free if you sign up for online billing, otherwise they are widely available from around £30. More advanced models like the Owl CM160 operates wirelessly, it can cope with a number of different tariffs and rates and it has a USB connection so you can log the results on your PC for long term analysis.



Shape Shifting TV

I watch BBC iPlayer on my Panasonic LCD TV using a VGA connection from my Vista laptop.  With the laptop screen in the open position, the picture fills the TV screen, and appears the same as on the TV. I have set the PC to ‘Do Nothing’ when the screen is folded down, but as soon as I close it the display on the TV changes and looks as though it is being compressed top and bottom.

Jim Harwood. by email


I can see this becoming more of a problem as laptop owners discover how easy it is to connect their computers to a TV to watch movies and programmes streamed or downloaded from the Internet. The ‘Do Nothing’ option you mention (Power Options in Control Panel) only stops the laptop going into Sleep mode or shutting down when the lid is closed; the screen is still switched off, to prevent overheating. This doesn’t matter if the laptop screen and TV have the same resolution and picture shape (aspect ratio) settings. However, if they are different, when the laptop screen turns off the TV becomes the primary monitor, switches to the laptop’s video settings and the TV picture may appear distorted. 


The solution varies according to the laptop’s video adaptor and driver but you should be able to fix it by right-clicking on the desktop, select Personalize > Display Settings. Click the Advanced Settings button then the Properties button and there should be an option for independently setting the resolution and aspect ratio of your external monitor or TV. On some machines this utility may be found in Control Panel on the Start menu, or a warning message with the option to specify, fix or ‘clone’ the laptop and TV picture size and shape settings may appear if you switch on TV when it is connected to the laptop. 



Sticky Seven

I have used PC's for many years with Windows 95, 98, 2000 & XP (missed out Vista) and had great hopes when I bought a new laptop with Windows 7. I like everything about it except when it comes to shutting down. Seven times out of ten it gets stuck into a loop and I have to eventually just switch the machine off.  On switching it back on I have to select 'Start Windows normally'. It’s not a major problem but very annoying.  The vendor told me nothing was wrong and gave me some bull…. about Windows 7 having to learn more about how I used the system!  Is this a known problem?

Peter Gould, by email


Well done for smelling a rat, or should that be a bull; and no, there are no specific shutdown issues associated with W7. However, like all versions of Windows, it can freeze when a program or background process is busy or ‘hangs’ after the shutdown command is given. The next time you close down your PC make sure that you have exited all running programs then open Task Manager (Ctrl + Alt + Del and select Start Task Manager). Check the Applications list; this should be empty, if not whatever is showing is the guilty party and you can try removing re-installing or updating the offending program. If the list is empty it may be a rogue Process. Click the Performance tab; the CPU usage graph should be flat at around 2 – 5 percent. If it is any higher check the Processes tab and see what’s still running from the numbers in the CPU column. Apart from System Idle Process (should be 95 - 97 percent) and Taskmgr (2 – 4 percent) anything else registering more than an occasional 2 – 5 percent is suspect. If it’s not obvious what it is Google the name to find the program it belongs to and as before deal with it as appropriate.  



Password Pointer

I am in the ridiculous situation of having forgotten the password to my e-mail account. I have endeavoured to use the reset password routine provided by my ISP but to no avail.

John Cawley, by email


I am usually reluctant to pass on anything that might compromise computer security but this particular wrinkle is very well known and readily available so I’m not giving anything away. All you need to do is download and run a little freeware application called Mail PassView (http://goo.gl/kh2he), and it displays all of the passwords and settings used by most email programs, including Outlook Express, Outlook, Windows Mail, Windows Live Mail, Incredimail, Thunderbird and Google Mail. Obviously this only displays the passwords stored on your PC, so if you have changed it online you will have to ask your ISP to help you create a new one.



© R. Maybury 2011 2401


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