Ask Rick 176 22/10/11
Works in Progress
We have Vista Home Basic running Word 8. No one
is able to open our Windows Mail email attachments sent in Word. Why should
this be? We also have difficulty opening many of our in-coming e-mail
attachments, particularly those suffixed .doc. We do not have Microsoft Office
and don't plan to install it. Do you
have any ideas?
Graham Rumney, by email
I suspect that you are using Works rather than
Word. Works is a basic word processor and although it comes from Microsoft and
looks superficially similar to Word it uses a completely different file format
with the extension .wps, moreover it cannot open Word .doc or .docx files. Word
can open .wps files but only when selected on the Files of Type drop-down menu
in the File Open dialogue box. The simplest solution to your problem is to
install a Word-compatible word processor, like AbiWord, or OpenOffice.org,
which is a full office suite, compatible with Microsoft Office. They are both Open
Source and free and you will find links to the downloads at: http://goo.gl/yjheu.
Staying In Touch
I have a conventional desktop PC. If I want to
have a touch screen set-up can I just buy a new touch screen monitor or do I
have to buy a new PC?
Derek Francis, by email
Touch screen support was introduced for the
first time in Windows 7, so if you are using Windows XP or Vista you will
probably have to replace your computer. Older PCs can sometimes be persuaded to
run W7 but it’s rarely a happy combination. There have been a few touch-screen
monitors with XP drivers but as far as I am aware they have either been
discontinued or didn’t work very well.
Windows 7 touch screen features are okay but
it’s very much a first generation product and the smallish icons and menus can
be quite fiddly to use, especially on smaller monitor screens. If you are
planning to get a new PC then it’s worth waiting for the new Windows 8
operating system, due out next year. This has been designed from the ground up
to take advantage of advances in touch screen technology with larger,
finger-friendly icons and menus.
I have noticed that a number of banks use
drop-down menus to enter memorable information rather than using the keyboard.
I understand that this to get round key-logging malware. Would using a virtual
on-screen keyboard make entering sensitive information more secure?
David White, by email
Banks and building societies use a variety of
techniques for logging on to their websites. Usually it’s a two-stage process,
starting with the user entering their username and account number or password.
At this point it doesn’t matter if you use a conventional hardware or on-screen
keyboard as they share the same system resources, which key logging malware
monitors. The second stage of the logon generally asks the users to type in a
memorable name or place, or enter randomly selected characters from a password.
As this changes at each logon it makes it harder for fraudsters but it still
relies on the potentially vulnerable keyboard and after a number of logins a
determined bad guy could figure out the details. Some websites avoid this by
using the mouse to select numbers or characters from a drop-down menu. Mouse
movements cannot be easily logged so it is inherently more secure, but nothing
is infallible. Eventually I suspect more websites will move to electronically
encrypted logon systems now being used by a number of banks. This requires the
user to pop their Chip and PIN card into a pocket reader, tap in their PIN
number and a code from the website and use the code that appears on the reader
display to log on to the site or authorise a transaction.
I cannot seem to open some file extensions on
my PC, .pro files being an example. I am directed onto the web, where I am
offered cure-all downloadable packages, usually costing some $30 each. Can you
recommend an all-embracing solution or am I doing something wrong? I would be
happy to pay as required for a proper proprietary system.
Mike Kane, by email
It’s a con and there is no need to pay for
anything. This question comes up a lot, usually with regard to email
attachments that a computer cannot open, so let’s go back to basics. A file
extension tells Windows (and Mac and Linux PCs) the name or nature of the
program that created it and what to do with it when you click on it. Windows
knows how to handle most common types of data and media files (.jpeg, .wmv,
.mp3, .txt, .zip and so on). For example, if you click on a file ending with
.wmv or .mp3 it opens Windows Media Player and playback begins. Windows also
knows about the file extensions used by the other software installed on your
computer and launches the appropriate program when you click on the file.
Problems arise when Windows encounters a file
type it doesn’t recognise or hasn’t ‘associated’ with the program it belongs
to, usually because the program concerned isn’t on your computer. Since there
are tens of thousands of programs and file types this also means there’s no
such thing as a downloadable cure-all, so beware of scams. The simplest
solution is to ask whoever gave you the file what software they used, and
install a copy of it on your PC (or a compatible program or suitable viewer software).
Otherwise it may be possible for them to provide you with a version of the file
in a format that your computer does understand.
If you can’t find out the origins of a file you
may be able to track down the parent program using an online resource like File
Unfortunately it’s not much help in this case as the .pro file extension is a
common one. It usually refers to a project file, which many applications use,
so you will have to go back to the source.
© R. Maybury 2011 0310