Houston We Have a Problem 11



Ask Rick 173 01/10/11


Microsoft Cold Call Scam Revisited

I frequently receive telephone calls purporting to be from Microsoft advising me that problems have been identified with my PC, asking me to switch it on so that they can help fix the fault. The one time I did spend some time dealing with them, after about 15 minutes it seemed clear that the object was to sell me some software. Can you tell me whether these calls are likely to be genuine?

Ernest Short, by email


It is a scam, plain and simple! We last dealt with this issue a year ago and since it shows no signs of going away – if anything it’s getting worse judging by the number of emails we have been getting – it’s time for a reminder.


The caller usually claims to be from Microsoft and knows your name and that you have a Windows PC. It all sounds very plausible but your name and telephone number are almost certainly in the public domain or have been 'harvested' from  forms and documents and sold on to spammers and scammers. If you have a computer there’s a ninety percent probability that it uses Windows, and it has almost cerainly slowed down or developed a few quirks since it was new, so these cold callers get a very high hit rate. Sometimes you will be asked to check a file on your computer, which apparently lists lots of error messages. This looks alarming but in reality it’s a log file that shows Windows is working properly and fixing routine problems on its own. Users may be asked to grant the caller remote access to their computer. Don’t do it or you will end up with a nasty dose of spyware, a virus, trojans, keyloggers or a useless piece of software that you’ll have to pay to get rid of.


Microsoft never cold calls Windows users. Provided you keep your system up to date, you have adequate virus protection and you are not seeing any error messages it is almost certainly working properly. Windows PCs do slow down over time but this is normal and can usually be fixed without recourse to costly software. If you are feeling vindictive you can always waste their time and run up their phone bills by feigning ignorance. Simply leave them on hold as you pretend to go and switch on the computer. My current record is 45 minutes.    



Compression Sickness

When I send photos from my PC to other members of my family I always right click on the file and in the drop-down menu select Mail Recipient. A box appears asking whether I wish to make the photos smaller or keep original size. I always click on make smaller and the photos are sent very quickly. As I understand this method does not affect the quality or the resolution of the photos for the recipients? Is this assumption correct?


When I try to send them at the original size particularly several at once, they are returned stating that they have exceeded the server's space. Is this space on Outlook Express rather than my hard drive? As far as I can see I have masses of space on my C: drive.

T G Jones, by email


When you opt to make pictures smaller for emailing Windows compresses the file using what’s known as a ‘lossy’ compression scheme. It does affect picture quality as it discards data, however at lower compression settings it can be quite difficult to spot the differences. The lost data represent information that we tend not to notice very much, such as subtle variations in brightness and colour. At higher compression levels it does become apparent, though, and above 50 percent compression images begin to look coarser and contrasty, colours appear blotchy and edges start to look ragged.


The message you are seeing when you try to email too many large files is coming from your ISP and it’s their mail server, not your computer, which is complaining. The size limit varies but is typically between 4 and 10Mb per message; your ISP’s help or support should be able to tell you exactly what theirs is. To get around it you can either reduce the number of attachments per message, increase the file compression to stay within the limits, or try splitting your message into two or more smaller ones. In Outlook Express and Windows Mail go to Tools > Options, double-click your account, select Advanced and check ‘Break apart messages larger than…’ and enter the maximum size you are allowed to send in the box.



Request Denied

My Windows XP PC is operating very slowly and when I try to open a Word document it shows a message saying ‘Requesting a virus scan’. This takes a lot of time and the delay is annoying. How do I cope with this?

Colin Salsbury, by email


This is the work of an Office plug-in in your anti virus software and both AVG and Norton are well known for this sort of behaviour. In Norton go to Options > Miscellaneous and under How to Keep Office Documents Protected, uncheck ‘Enable Office plug-in’. There is no switch, as such, in AVG but you can disable or unregister the file that’s requesting the scan by going to Run on the Start menu and type (without the quotes) ‘regsvr32 /u avgoff2k.dll’ and click OK.



Dead Drive Dilemma

My three-year old Panasonic HDD/DVD recorder has developed a serious problem. The DVD part has broken down, and it is going to cost about 70 percent of the cost of a new machine to fix. The problem is how do I retrieve the contents of the hard drive, quite a lot of which we have not even seen.

Raymond Turner, by email


It’s annoying but personally I wouldn’t worry too much about those lost recordings. These days most TV programs and movies are either repeated or available for download from the Internet or on DVD.


Unfortunately the DVD recorder drives used in many recent Panasonic HDD/DVD recorders are not standard off the shelf items so replacements are unusually expensive. However, it may be possible to reduce the cost of a repair quite significantly if you have a teccy friend who can transplant the drive and control board from a second hand or dead machine of the exact same model number. It’s not an especially difficult job and machines sold for ‘spares or repair’ frequently appear on ebay and often sell for just a few pounds. If you go for a faulty one just make sure it’s nothing to do with the DVD drive...  






© R. Maybury 2011 1209


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