Houston We Have a Problem 11



Ask Rick 149 16/04/11


Bing Banned

Twice my Windows 7 PC with Firefox has been taken over by Bing and each time I have managed to fix it using instructions I found online. It has happened again but this time it didn’t work. I am furious and frustrated. I don't want it, it is a grossly unwelcome intrusion and the perpetrators should be caught and publicly castrated. Can you propose an alternative way to remove it?

Mike T, Blackpool


Public castration seems a bit drastic but you are not alone and having your search engine hijacked without so much as a by your leave, annoys a lot of PC users. It can happen without warning following a Windows update, especially if you are using MSN or the Windows Live Toolbar, or after installing programs. Always watch out for messages that ask if you want to make Bing your default, or offer to install the Bing Toolbar.


If Google or your preferred search engine is still listed as the default in Tools > Options, you need to edit the Firefox configuration file. I suspect you’ve done that already but for the benefit of others the procedure is as follows. In the Firefox Address box type ‘about:config’ (without the quotes), click ‘I’ll be careful…’, the config page opens and in the Filter box at the top type ‘keyword.URL’ (no quotes, no spaces) and double click. Now all you have to do is replace the ‘Value’ text with the following: http://www.google.com/webhp?ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8. Click OK, close the page and all should be well. If it’s not then you may have the Bing Bar installed, which is overriding your preferences. Exit Firefox and uninstall it from Control Panel > Add or Remove Programs (XP) or Programs and Features (Vista and W7). In Firefox you should also make sure it has been removed from Tools > Add Ons > Extensions. If Bing persists go to Internet Options in Control Panel and select Programs > Manage Add Ons > Search Providers and if Bing is listed click on it and select Remove or change the default back to your preferred search Engine.



Sky Is The Limit

We have a router supplied by Sky installed on the ground floor of our semi. It serves three computers, the closest one is okay but the connection on the other two is unreliable and keeps dropping out. We asked Sky if they could provide a more powerful one. Their response led us to understand that their broadband would not work with any other router and even if it did, the chances were that there would be no discernable difference in performance. What is the truth?

Malcolm Turner, by email


Sky certainly keeps a very tight reign on its equipment. Unlike most other broadband providers, key user settings are stored in the routers firmware and not easy to get at, but it’s not strictly true that you can’t use other makes. You can but it’s a breach of Sky’s terms and conditions, and it’s possible for them to tell if you have switched routers. It’s also fair to say that there can be quite significant differences in router performance, but a lot also depends on the construction of the building its used in, as well as the abilities of the wireless adaptor’s used by the PCs and laptops connected to it. If you want to stay with Sky your best bet is to experiment with different locations for the router. Sky routers are made by Netgear and these can be fitted with more efficient antennas with longer leads so they can be mounted higher up, or you could install a wireless range extender, or upgrade the Wi-Fi adaptors used on your PCs or laptops.  



Gmail Go-Slow

I have been a contented user of Gmail for about a year.  However, recently it has begun to operate extremely slowly, so slowly that it is almost impossible to use. Why is this happening, and how can I fix it?

Brian Scott, by email


Browser clutter, caused by running too many extensions, plug-ins, add-ons and toolbars, is a common cause. Uninstall or disable the ones that you do not use, which is probably most of them. You can also try clearing your browser’s cache memory, which gets filled up with web site remnants that can slow things down. If you have installed any of Google Lab’s Experimental settings, or the Skype extension I would get rid of those as well. Reducing the number of ‘conversations’ to 25 per page can help and unless you use it, disable the Chat feature (at the very bottom of the page, next to Gmail View). Finally, if all else fails switch to another browser. Google Chrome, for obvious reasons, handles Gmail very well, or try Gmail Mobile (http://m.gmail.com). This is a stripped down version designed for low powered mobile devices so it really flies along on a normal PC or laptop.


Slow Acting Tablets

We have recently purchased an Archos 9 tablet PC with Windows 7 in order to play movies for our son whilst on long journeys and also to browse the Internet. The problem is that it is so slow and the touch screen is not as intuitive as you would expect but I guess that’s not something we can do much about. I have tried to switch off many of the unused programs but this has not helped much and I wondered if we could increase the 1Gb of memory or indeed if there was something else I could be doing to improve performance.

Daniel Crabtree, by email


Yet another warning of the dangers of being an early adopter. It always pays to wait a while and read the reviews and this model has been widely criticised for its sluggish performance and touch screen. The problem with this and several other Windows tablets is a slow processor, and upgrading the memory – even if it were possible, which it isn’t – wouldn’t make much difference. By the way, this model isn’t alone in that respect, and something else to bear in mind with most tablet PCs is that there’s no easy or cheap way for the user to replace the battery when they inevitably run out of puff after 3 or 4 years.



© R. Maybury 2011 2103


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