Ask Rick 142, 26/02/11
Time for a Change
My Vista desktop PC is now three years old and
out of warranty. Logging on each day
the clock is now always a few hours slow which suggests a failing clock
battery. The manual is not very helpful in this area but it advises that, it is
necessary to record the System Setup screens before commencing. It fails to
explain where these screens are located or what type of battery is required.
It’s no great hardship having to reset the clock each day and, as I am rather
wary about dabbling 'inside the box', I wonder whether anything will be
adversely affected if I do nothing and the battery fails completely?
Ken Seaman, by email
The manufacturer is taking a boots and braces
approach by suggesting that you record the settings on the BIOS setup program.
However, it’s probably unnecessary as most PCs operate perfectly happily on the
defaults. If you don’t want to take chances just call up the BIOS program by
pressing the appropriate key or key combination. This is normally displayed
immediately after switch on, e.g. ‘To enter Setup press F2’, etc. Either jot
down the entries shown on each menu page or use your digital camera to take a
series of screenshots.
Not replacing a dead or dying clock battery has
no long-term consequences and nothing in Windows is seriously affected,
providing you remember to reset the date and time after switch on. If you
don’t, and your PC is not set to automatically check time and date on the
Internet then usually the worst that can happen is that newly created files
will be incorrectly date-stamped.
My router frequently drops the connection with my
wireless printer. I have been advised that to overcome this, I need a Static IP
address. My ISP tells me that this would cost an extra £5 per month. Is this a standard charge?
Gerald Timmis, by email
You don’t need a static IP address. Your IP
address is the unique numeric code that identifies your PC on the Internet, so
that web pages and emails etc. can be sent to your computer. On most broadband
connections your IP address is set by your ISP and it changes if the connection
is interrupted or you switch the router off. A fixed IP address is usually only
needed by businesses or individuals who operate their own web servers and
actually need an unchanging Internet addresses. The wireless connection between
your printer and router is entirely local and uses a fixed ‘internal’ IP
address that is set by the router. The dropped connection is probably due to a
weak signal or interference from another nearby wireless device, in which case
try moving the printer closer to the router, or manually switching to another
wireless channel in the router’s setup menu.
Little and Loud?
I need a high quality portable recorder to
record a choir, and also to play the recorded music back at a high volume. Can
I do this with one device, or would I need to plug it into a stereo system to
play it back?
Udita Everett, by email
Most portable digital audio recorders have only
a small monitor speaker so yes, you will have to plug it into an amplifier or
PA system if you want the playback to be loud enough for the choir to hear. On
the other hand, if you only need it to be heard in a small room, say, they you
may be able to get away with the built-in speakers on a laptop PC, in which
case you can also use it as a recording device. All you need is a decent stereo
microphone and a freeware recording application, like our old friend, Audacity
(http://goo.gl/frrBS), which, depending on
the microphone and PC hardware, is capable of making near broadcast quality
recording. If that doesn’t work out you can always plug the laptop into an
amplifier, or amplified speakers to boost the volume.
For the last two months our broadband usage has
exceeded the 10Gb cap imposed by our ISP. Our use of the computer and the
content has not generally changed over the past three years, but now according
to the ISP we are averaging 1Gb per day. We have contacted their technical
department who suggested changing the security key of our wireless router. This
we have done with no noticeable difference in usage. Any suggestions?
Frank McGuigan, by email
As a matter of urgency you should closely watch
your router when all of the PCs and devices that connect to it are switched
off. If any of the router’s activity lights blink then your connection may well
have been hacked by someone close by. If the lights remain steady when you are
not using the connection then there’s probably something on your PC soaking up
your data allowance. It may be completely innocent, like programs seeking
routine updates, or it could be a malware of Spambot infection but either way,
you need to verify your ISPs download figure and the simplest way to do that is
with a free application like BitMeter (http://goo.gl/NYRml).
This tells you how much data is flowing in and out of your PC, and it logs the
results, so you can see, over the course of a few days, if there are any
suspicious ‘spikes’, which may help you identify the cause of the problem.
Thin Red Line
My Sony laptop has recently developed a display
problem. A vertical thin red line goes from the top to the bottom of the
display. This line is permanently present, as soon as the display powers up. Is
there a cure for this?
Derek Koelling, by email
I am fairly sure it’s going to be due to a
faulty LCD panel or a problem with the flat ribbon cable that connects the
display to the laptop’s motherboard but you can easily confirm this by plugging
a known good monitor into the machine’s VGA monitor socket. If the red line
isn’t on the external monitor display be warned that replacing a display panel
can easily cost more than the machine is worth. Cable faults are usually easy
to fix but either way it needs expert attention. If the red line also appears
on the monitor that suggests an even bigger problem, probably with the video
adaptor and that usually means a new motherboard, which can be very expensive.
© R. Maybury 2011 2401