Houston We Have a Problem 11



Ask Rick 159 25/06/11


Notable Exceptions

As part of a childish prank I tried to scan a UK bank note. I was most surprised to get a message from my computer that it would not scan the note because it was illegal to do so. My curiosity about the ability of the scanner to recognize bank notes was aroused. I repeatedly folded the note, making it smaller each time, and I thought more unrecognisable but nothing would outwit my scanner. How does it recognize bank notes?

Alan Marco, by email


The best-known banknote copy protection feature is the so-called EURion constellation, used by more than 50 countries – including the UK -- and all Euro region notes. It’s a discrete pattern of dots or rings, usually coloured yellow, orange or green, in the shape of Orion star formation. They can be disguised as musical notes or made very small and repeated (as on the £10 note). Software in colour copiers and some PC image editing and scanning programs (Adobe PhotoShop, PaintShop Pro etc.), recognise the pattern and display the message you’ve been seeing. The other, less well-known but possibly more widely used method is the Counterfeit Deterrence System (CDS). This is an algorithm developed for the Central Bank Counterfeit Deterrence Group (CBCDG – part of the G11 group of countries) and is incorporated into the operating system of printers, scanners and copiers and PC scanning applications. For obvious reasons it’s precise mode of operation is a closely guarded secret but basically it looks for specific patterns in the fine lines that make up the design in most banknotes, which are replicated even in small areas of the note.



Stick Thin Projector

Our photographic group meets monthly and nominates a theme. Members then display and discuss the pictures they’ve taken at the following meeting. We use the projector setup at our local pub but it is really designed for football matches, TV etc. It only accepts camera memory cards and even then will not permit us to open selected files. Is there such a thing as a projector with a USB port, so that we may use memory sticks? We only wish to show pictures so do not require sound or the facility to show movies. It would also have to be portable in order to remove it each week. Are there any models that work without a PC or laptop?

D Wickens, by email


There are several ‘PC-Free’ projectors on the market but they tend to be pricey high-end models and mostly aimed at business users. One recent arrival that appears to tick all of your boxes is the Vivitek Qumi, which sells for under £500. It has it’s own built-in operating system, so there’s no need for a PC and it can display most popular image and video file formats directly from a memory card or stick. It is also HD compatible, 3D ready, has a built in monitor speaker, is only a little larger than a paperback book and surprisingly bright, capable of projecting images up to 90 inches across. 



Genuine Mistake?

I purchased a new Windows 7 desktop computer from a well-known store last November. After 5 months of regular use a message keeps popping up on the screen, which says: ‘This computer is not running genuine Windows. To resolve on line Click here’. The shops claims there is no way they would have sold a computer that was not running a genuine copy of Windows and they will look into the matter if I return the computer. This is inconvenient and clicking on the pop-up message simply offers to sell me another copy of Windows 7. Is it some sort of scam?

Hugh Foster, by email


A fair number of Windows users have been seeing this message recently and it seems to have been triggered by Microsoft Update KB971033. This contains a number of anti-piracy measures that detect programs that hack Windows Activation and flag up systems that are using stolen or leaked product codes for pre-installed copies of Windows. There doesn’t appear to be a single reason for it to be bothering legitimate Windows users and I recommend that you persist with the shop. There should be no need to return the computer and if necessary they can use Remote Assistance to check your copy of Windows online and possibly fix the problem. Otherwise you should be able to make the message go away by uninstalling KB971033 from Windows Updates in Control Panel.



Thunderbird To Go

I have a large number of important emails (some with attachments) on my PC that I am anxious not to lose in the event of a computer failure. I use Mozilla Thunderbird. How I can back-up my e-mail files on to some removable storage medium?

Jeremy Hardie, by email


Mozilla Thunderbird stores email messages and settings in one reasonably accessible folder, which you can easily copy to a USB drive or recordable CD/DVD. In Windows XP you will find it at:  C:\Documents and Settings\<yourname>\Application Data\Thunderbird\Profiles\xxxx.default\Mail. In Vista and Windows 7 the location is:  C:\Users\<yourname>\Roaming\Thunderbird\Profiles\xxxx.default\Mail



Strangers on Skype

Several other people have been using Skype using my computer. As a result when I log on I am shown four or five connection identities. I can see no way of eliminating the log-on names of the strangers using my machine. Is there anything I can do to delete these other users?

Ian Scott, by email


Needless to say there are lessons to be learned about PC security. In future, if you allow others to use your computer, make sure your own user account is password protected and set up a Guest Account for everyone else. To remove those rogue log on names close Skype, and make sure it’s not running in the background by right-clicking on the Skype icon in the System Tray (next to the clock) and select Exit. Now go to Run (XP) or Search (Vista & W7) on the Start menu, type %appdata%\skype and click OK or hit Enter. This opens Skype’s configuration folder and you can delete the named sub-folders of the Identities that you wish to remove from the log-on screen.



© R. Maybury 2011 0606


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