Houston We Have a Problem 11



Ask Rick 164 30/07/11


Student Roams

My student son is going to Venezuela for six weeks. What is the best way we can keep in contact, apart from email, as I don't think his normal mobile will work?

Jan Robinson, by email


There’s no technical reason why your son’s mobile won’t work in Venezuela but it’s a good idea for him to get it unlocked before he goes; this costs around £10.00 for most recent models.  He will then be able to buy a pay-as-you-go SIM card when he gets there, which should work out a lot cheaper than using his UK SIM card for local and international calls. If he can’t unlock the phone or wants to stay with a UK provider it’s important to check and compare the cost of overseas roaming and there’s plenty of information online. Have a look at moneysupermarket.com (http://goo.gl/C0qds). For more detailed country-specific advice on mobile phone services and travel tips try Wikitravel (http://goo.gl/f7Ac).



Recycling Routers

What can you do with old broadband routers? I now have three of them all complete with all cables, power supplies, installation CDs and so on. Is there a market for them or should I just take them to the council tip and chuck them in the electronics bin?

Richard Arnold, by emails


Save the trip to the tip for faulty hardware. Recycle if you can and your local Freecycle group (http://goo.gl/JRWM) will almost certainly be able to put you in touch with someone who can make good use of them. Some charity shops may be interested though I’ve found they can be fussy about electrical devices. They may have some resale value on ebay but with new wireless routers selling online for £25.00 don’t expect to get rich.



Lightweight Legend

I can't get BBC iPlayer on my HTC Legend. I get a message that says I need to download Adobe Flash Player from the Android Market but when I try to do so it says ‘Not Found’. The company who supplied the phone say it’s the BBC's fault and I should contact them. Is there any hope?

Geoff George, by email


Probably not and the BBC are not necessarily to blame. Although the Legend has the Android 2.2 operating system and comes with Adobe Flash Lite, it uses a relatively slow processor that is incapable of running Adobe Flash v10, which is needed by the BBC iPlayer app.


Remember, when it comes to smart phones and tablet PCs these are the early days. There are numerous incompatibilities and inconsistencies to contend with so if a particular app or feature is important to you, do your homework and check that it works on your chosen device before you buy. Equally early adopters can expect that some new features and apps may not work on first generation products that may be less than a year old..  



Staying in the Fast Lane

My new Windows 7 PC is a revelation and it starts-up within 60 seconds. My previous PC could take 10 minutes to boot towards the end of its four-year life. How can I maintain this as-new performance?

Barrie Franklin, by email


In short you can’t, but the inevitable slowdown that occurs with all operating systems (including Mac and Linux OS’s) is nothing like as bad as it used to be on Windows XP and Vista. The main problem is clutter and as you install new programs most of them try and grab a slice of your computer’s working memory and processor time. They do this by installing ‘Services’, which are small helper programs that operate in the background, and they tick away even when the host program isn’t running. You can help slow the aging effect by uninstalling software that you no longer use. Also make sure that you have the maximum amount of memory installed that your PC supports but in the end the best solution is to clone the hard drive once you have the PC set up to your liking then swap the drives and copy your data files over to the clone every year or two and it will be like a new PC once again.   



Silver Screen to Flatscreen

There are a variety of scanners on the market for converting negatives and slides to digital format but my searching has not revealed any such technology for doing same with my forty year old 8mm cine film. Am I wasting my time?

Leonard Horsley, by email


There are plenty of companies offering cine to DVD conversion services using professional telecine equipment. This is your best bet if quality is important but shop around for quotes, especially if you have a lot of film to transfer. A telecine machine is basically a projector fitted with a specialist video camera but they are horribly expensive and as it’s such a small market it is unlikely that there will ever be an affordable consumer product. Don’t be put off, though, if you are handy with a screwdriver and have a spare projector and an old webcam you can have a go at making your own from plans online at: http://goo.gl/aHTpE.


There’s also the old DIY method, which involves projecting the movie on to a screen or using a purpose-designed cine/slide transfer screen (http://goo.gl/JQhRP). The image is captured on a digital camcorder and uploaded to a PC for editing and burning to DVD. The quality isn’t going to be as good as telecine but with a little patience and a lot of trial and error the results can be very acceptable. If you use a normal screen make sure the camcorder is mounted as close to the centre-line of the projector as possible to avoid parallax errors. There may be flickering due to differences in the frame rate of the projector and the camcorder, though this can be minimised on projectors with variable speed control. Unless the camcorder has manual exposure controls you may need to use a lower wattage projector bulb.  




© R. Maybury 2011 1107


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