Houston We Have a Problem 11



Ask Rick 146 26/03/11a


Shifting the Blockage

Twice in the last month we have been sent very large e-mails, probably containing photos, which we have not been able to download on our dial-up system. They both blocked the system, not letting us view any of the other messages. Our ISP dealt with the first one by deleting the lot and our local PC wizard downloaded the second one. As we use the Internet very little, and really only for e-mails, we are reluctant to pay for broadband, especially as we hear that its pretty slow here. Do you have any suggestions as to how, should this happen again, we can by-pass troublesome emails one and read any others there might be?

Jean Myers, by email


You can preview the contents of your inbox using a free webmail service like Mail2web (www.mail2web.com). Just enter your email address and email password and it shows you all of the messages awaiting download on your ISP’s mailserver. It also tells you who they are from, whether or not they contain attachments and you can delete the ones that you don’t want the next time you access your email.


By the way, it’s worth reassessing the broadband situation every so often. Connection speeds are improving all of the time, and prices are coming down, especially if you are a light user; you may well find it’s now cheaper than your current dial-up service.



Key Question

Is there a simple way of attaching a text string, such as my email address, to a particular keyboard key such that it can be used in any program?

Dave Thomas, by email


There is and I suggest a neat little freeware utility called SuperKeys (http://goo.gl/d0qSs). It’s really easy to use, but do read the quick start tutorial. Don’t forget, if you find it useful and want to continue using it the author would really appreciate a small donation.



Artful Dodges

I want to copy part of a picture to another place inside the same picture. Can you recommend a piece of software that would allow me to do this?

Peter Essex, by email


This is a fairly straightforward job and the sort of thing that most picture editing applications can do but to keep things simple I’ll run through the steps using a freeware program called PhotoFiltre (http://goo.gl/YG9NY). Open the image in PhotoFiltre, from the toolbar on the right select the Lasso tool and carefully outline the object that you want to copy. This takes a steady hand, especially if it’s a fiddly shape but you will find it easier if you magnify that part of image using the Zoom tool. Once that’s done press Ctrl + C to copy your selection to the clipboard. Next, press Ctrl + V, the selection is pasted into the image and you can move it to its new location with the mouse. This next part is important; save the edited image giving it a new name so that the original is preserved. You can now get to work on the new picture and blend the copied selection into the picture using the Clone Stamp tool. This works like an airbrush, ‘spraying' parts of the adjacent background – selected by pressing the Ctrl key -- to help soften the edges. Experiment with the Opacity and Radius settings and with a little practice it’s possible to get near professional results.  



Lost in Translation

Recently, a facility in my browser has disappeared. It automatically translated English words into Spanish when I hovered the cursor over them. As I am learning Spanish I found this feature extremely useful.  My problem is that I don't know how it was first activated, it seemed to have just appeared one day, nor can I work out how to get it back.

Peter Sykes, by email


This is an option in the Google Toolbar, so you have either uninstalled it, or switched it off. If the Toolbar is still there (if not reinstall it from http://goo.gl/BggE) click the spanner icon and on the Tools tab select the Translate checkbox then click Edit to select the language, in your case Spanish.



Camcorder Connections

I do quite a bit of video editing, but I am thinking of buying a new camcorder, as my trusty Sony mini DV machine seems to be getting heavier as I get older. I have a problem though, in that all the new camcorders seem to only have facilities for editing videos if you use their own dedicated software. I have always used Windows MovieMaker and downloaded my videos to my PC by connecting to the IEEE 1394 FireWire socket, but none of the new cameras seem to support this method. Can I still download to my PC and use MovieMaker, without having to use the manufacturer’s software? Reviews suggest that these programs can be temperamental. Are there any camcorders still being made that have a FireWire connection?

Don Cook, by email


The camcorder market has changed dramatically in just the past two or three years, with a shift away from tape – now virtually obsolete on consumer models – and mini DVD, to solid state recording media. FireWire was just the easiest way of connecting a tape or disc based digital camcorder to a computer but now, with most camcorders using removable memory cards (mostly SD/MMC type) there’s no need for it any more. Simply plug the memory card into your PC’s card slot – if it has one – or a USB card reader if it doesn’t, and copy the files to your hard drive.


In most cases you can continue to use MovieMaker to edit your videos, though older versions can only read .wmv, .avi and some variants of mpeg video, so it’s a good idea to switch to Windows Live Movie Maker (http://goo.gl/a8RO). This covers a lot more ground, including the increasingly popular mpeg4 format. Otherwise you can convert most camcorder and digicam video files to .wmv, .avi or mpeg2 using a freeware utility like Format Factory (http://goo.gl/oXLL).



© R. Maybury 2011 2102


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