Houston We Have a Problem 11



Ask Rick 168 27/08/11


Room of Doom?

I recently stayed at a hotel where the room card had a transmitter to work the door opening mechanism and switch on the lights. It also appeared to interfere with my photos on my SD memory card, which was in my hand luggage when I opened the door. First of all the camera displayed ‘file error’ for new photos I had taken. Then after a second trip into the room and back, it wouldn’t display any photos. When I viewed the memory card in the computer through the memory card reader, the card would not load. I took it to a specialist camera shop and they could not read it either.

David Philips, by email


I seriously doubt that the electronic locks on your hotel room were responsible and it was just a coincidence. SD memory cards have proven to be virtually immune to file corruption by the levels of electromagnetic radiation they are likely to encounter in normal use. This includes exposure to fairly intense fields inside mobile phones, and they pass unscathed through airport X-Ray scanners and metal detectors. There are plenty of other reasons why they can go wrong, though, from manufacturing defects to old age. As I have mentioned before, they have finite lives and may eventually fail after tens of thousands of read-write cycles. Hopefully it’s just a simple file system error in which case it might be possible to retrieve some or all of the images. The best place to start is a freeware utility called PC Inspector File Recovery (http://goo.gl/bEtbC).



Simplify Your Sockets

I have an ever-increasing number of devices, which have a USB lead that can either be plugged into the supplied mains plug charger or a computer. Would I be right to assume that these can all be plugged into any of the chargers without harm?  When travelling, it would be much more convenient just to take just one charger.

Stewart Thackray, by email


The short answer is yes but although the USB power connection is a standard 5 volts DC, some adaptors may not deliver sufficient current to charge some battery-powered gadgets. The same applies if you use a laptop or netbook’s USB port for charging, so test it before you leave to make sure it works.


You should also ensure that you have the right connectors, as there are now six different types. In addition to the standard Type A USB connector there is a square Type B connector, mostly used by printers and four miniature types commonly found on cameras, phones, MP3 players, tablets and so on. These are known as Mini A, Mini B, Micro A and Micro B. The latter has now been adopted as the EU standard for mobile phone charging. It’s unlikely that all of your devices use the same type and although Apple have signed up to Micro USB this doesn’t help with existing devices that use the proprietary Dock connector. Rather than end up with a rats nest of cables buy a USB travel adaptor kit with all of the different types of connector. Incidentally, there are now three USB standards but don’t worry, this only applies to data transmission speeds and devices can still be charged on powered USB 1.0, 2.0 and the new USB 3.0 sockets. 



Get it Right Google!

Having been totally misled by a Google Map of part of Southampton, which must be at least 20 years out of date, how can I persuade them to put it right?

Norman Brookhouse, by email


They don’t make it easy, and judging by comments on the web, even when you do alert them to a mistake it can take a while for it to be corrected. Data used by Google Maps in the UK is normally supplied by a company called TeleAtlas and you can contact them through Google Maps Help at: http://goo.gl/5yYIB or go directly to the TeleAtlas Map Insight page at http://goo.gl/rlaox where you will be asked to locate and describe the problem.



Router Reset Mystery

My Vista PC would not boot and I was forced to carry out a destructive reinstall.  After doing so, I then tried to reset my wireless Internet connection, but the router would not recognise my 10-character security code.  Eventually, I used the services of a computer engineer who reset the router, via a complex procedure, and re-installed the original security code.  He told me someone had hacked into my system and changed the setting. Is this possible and is there any method by which I could periodically check the code?  How can I reset the code, if I find it has been changed?

Edward Gregory, by email


This all sounds a bit odd. Once a Wi-Fi router’s encryption is enabled it’s very difficult (but not impossible) to access its setup program wirelessly; but the question is, why bother? If someone had gone to the considerable effort to change your router’s encryption you would have known straight away as your network and Internet connections would disappear. On the other hand resetting a router to its factory default condition so it can be re-configured is very straightforward. There’s normally a recessed Reset button on the underside or rear panel, and it’s there for the simple reason that routers sometimes lock up, mangle their security settings or users forget their codes. Of course it’s just possible that the engineer was right and you live close to a mischievous and very well resourced hacker, but it’s not unknown for this sort of explanation to be used to justify a large bill for what is essentially a very quick and simple job. Think plumbers charging hundreds of pounds to change 10 pence tap washers…


You can easily check your router’s encryption and security code through your web browser. Details of how to do this are in the manual, and the support section of the router manufacturer’s website. While you are in your router’s setup menu you might like to change the log-on details, so that only you can access it in the future.



© R. Maybury 2011 0808


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