Houston We Have a Problem 11



Ask Rick 166 13/08/11


French Connection?

We had a short holiday in France staying with friends. When we returned home I found my credit card had been blocked and it was used twice without my knowledge. I never used my card while in France and it never left my wallet. I did have my laptop with me but it was not connected to the Internet. At one point I tried to connect using a dongle, to email some photos I had taken, but it didn’t work and it shut down with a blue screen. Is it possible that a hacker could have broken into my computer?

B. Elder, by email


Probably not, at least not while you were in France. Hacking into your PC through a mobile broadband dongle is nigh on impossible. It can be done through a Wi-Fi connection, via an insecure or spoof Hotspot, but since you say you never connected to the Internet while you were away we can rule that out. Your PC may be infected by a keylogger program, and the last time you used your credit card to make an online purchase the details were intercepted and passed to a fraudster. However, providing your security software is up to date and you regularly check for malware these scenarios are unlikely.


The fact is most credit card fraud is relatively unsophisticated. For instance, if, before you went on holiday you paid a bill using your credit card and it was taken away from you, even for a few seconds, the magnetic strip could have been very quickly copied. This would be used to create a clone card, which can then be used to make purchases in countries that do not employ Chip and Pin verification. Your credit card company should be able to tell you when and where it was used and providing you can satisfy them that you were not present, or negligent in its use, then those fraudulent payments should be refunded.



Some Sound Advice

I have just bought a new LCD television to replace my aging CRT TV.  The picture is pretty good but the sound is appallingly tinny, no matter what I do to with the various adjustments. I am told that this is because the slim design of the television does not allow for the inclusion of adequate speakers and that most people don't mind or do not notice. Is this so?

Stephen J West-Oram, by email


It is mostly true, I’m afraid, and as TVs get thinner, with narrower screen surrounds it gets harder for manufacturers to fit decent speakers. To be fair some of them don’t sound too bad but they are in the minority, and it highlights the importance of listening to a TV in the showroom, before you buy. Those who do care about sound quality normally connect their TVs to their hi-fis or better still, a surround sound system, to take advantage of the multi-channel audio encoded in many TV broadcasts and on DVD, Blu-Ray and video games. There are also a number of external amplified speakers or ‘soundbars’ specifically designed to improve the sound of flat screen TVs, though again, listen before you buy as some of the cheaper types won’t sound much better than your TV’s built-in speakers.



Wandering Icons

My desktop icons have a habit of changing position on the screen so every time it happens I have to drag and drop them back to their original place. Is there a way to eliminate this inconvenience?

Franco Cavallini, by email


Windows icons can go walkabout if you change screen resolution or graphics adaptor, and sometimes for no reason at all. In theory they should stay put if you right-click on the desktop and go to Arrange By (XP) or View (Vista and W7) and make sure Auto Arrange is unchecked.  XP has a built-in facility to lock the icons in place, but it’s not very good. For the record all you have to do is right-click onto an empty area of the desktop then go to Properties > Desktop tab > Customize Desktop button > Web tab and check Lock Desktop Items. However, this permanently highlights all of the icon labels and it looks really ugly. In the end, though, the best solution is a little freeware utility called Desktop Restore (http://goo.gl/AiUF) and this works on all versions of Windows from XP onwards.



Red Hot TV

I am about to buy a TV for a bedroom wall.  There is a new central heating radiator on the wall and the TV would go directly above it. The electrician is concerned that the radiator may affect the LCD. Is this correct?

Lester Fielding, by email


Most LCD TVs have an operating range of –10 to 50 degrees C and it is unlikely the air beneath your screen would ever reach anything like that temperature. However, hot air rising from the radiator will greatly reduce the efficiency of the TV’s own cooling system and it will be made worse by dust and dirt, carried on the hot air updraft, clogging the ventilation slots. Electronic gizmos do not like getting hot and many components are affected by excess heat. This can result in premature failure and over time the LCD can develop faulty pixels and the image may become discoloured or distorted, so you would be wise to find a cooler spot.



No Thank You Google

Is there a way to block suggestions when you type in a search on Google?  Most of them are not relevant and I find it annoying to have a stream of what they think you are looking for.

Jack Hynes, by email


This feature is called Autocomplete and it can be disabled by going to the Google home page. Click Settings, scroll down to Autocomplete and check ‘Do not provide query predictions…’ then click Save Preferences. Note that this only works if your browser is set to accept cookies. If you prefer to disable cookies and Google is set as your home page change it to the following address: http://www.google.com/webhp?complete=0&hl=en and the autocomplete suggestions will disappear. You can also use this adapted Google address on the Firefox Search bar with an add-on called Add to Search Bar (http://goo.gl/gT5OS).




© R. Maybury 2011 2507



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