Houston We Have a Problem 11



Ask Rick 183 10/12/11


Dipsy Dongle

When I try to connect to the Internet using my Three broadband dongle the computer shows No Network. However, I found that by turning off the computer and restarting, it connects. Can you explain and help?

N. Arundel, by email


Many of the problems with 3G mobile broadband dongles centre on the supplied dashboard programs that install automatically when they are used for the first time. These tend to be heavily branded and customised with crucial configuration settings either locked down or difficult to access. My solution is to use the dongle manufacturer’s generic dashboard program; these also let you use the dongle with other network SIM cards, once it has been unlocked. The majority of dongles are made by Huawei or ZTE and you will find the appropriate dashboard program for your dongle in the download sections of the manufacturer’s website. Otherwise check the software library at Unlocked Dongles (http://goo.gl/bQWnu). Configuration is usually very straightforward. Normally all you have to do is create a new connection file and enter the network’s name and APN (Access Point Name) and any other vital settings, which should be in support section of the network’s website.



High Definition Dropouts

I recently had my Virgin + HD cable box replaced with a Samsung model (the previous one was made by Scientific Atlanta). From day one it has suffered from an intermittent audio dropout lasting around half a second at intervals of between 30 seconds and 10 minutes. It is connected to my home cinema amplifier by a digital optical cable. Dropouts occur on both live and recorded HD programs. However, it doesn’t affect all channels and on recordings it doesn’t happen in the same place.

John Taylor, by email


Since the problem started when the new V+ box was installed it’s reasonable to suppose that this is the root cause, though you should first try reseating and swapping the connecting cable, in case it was disturbed or damaged during the changeover. There doesn’t appear to be an inherent fault with this particular model, though audio dropout, pixellation and momentary freezing of the picture are not uncommon with all flavours of digital TV. It’s the nature of the beast and any interruption in the flow of data, however brief, causes these highly noticeable glitches. Similar interruptions in analogue TV signals are much less obvious with just a small drop in volume or a slight increase in picture noise. You should ask Virgin to exchange your box, or despatch an engineer though intermittent faults like this one have an unfortunate habit of getting better as soon as the van draws up…   



Audible Annoyances

I keep getting sound breaking through when I am working on my laptop. At first I just muted the PC but after   listening to it, I realised it was coming from an advert on an open web page. How can I stop this happening?

Bryan Horstmann, by email


Blame it on tabbed browsers, which let you have several pages open at once. Sudden and unexpected sounds from adverts and auto-playing videos can be really annoying. It can be embarrassing too, especially if you are supposed to be working and can’t close the noisy page in time… These sounds mostly come from Adobe Flash Player, which is responsible for web page videos and animations. There is a web page mute option in Internet Explorer (Tools > Internet Options > Advanced tab, uncheck ‘Play sounds in webpages’) but it doesn’t always work on Flash sounds. In Firefox the simplest ting to do is install a free add-on like Flashblock (http://goo.gl/h5NFN), which is quite aggressive and disables all Flash content. Otherwise try Adblock Plus (http://goo.gl/0RrQ9, which is also available for Google Chrome (http://goo.gl/0stAN). In Opera go to Tools > Preferences > Advanced tab, under Tabs select Content and deselect Enable sound in web pages.



Dirty Discs

A few years ago I transferred a number of photos on to two CDs. They played back OK at the time, but now I cannot read them. There is something smeared over the surface of these discs and I think it may have come from the plastic envelopes they were stored in. Other CD's of the same age and stored in paper sleeves are OK. I have tried a standard CD Cleaner and it did seem to make a slight improvement, but not enough to be able to read the discs.  Any other suggestions gratefully received.

Keith Lawson, by email


For really stubborn deposits and light scratches I use Brasso metal polish. It’s a mild abrasive, and you try it at your own risk, but provided you apply it gently with a soft cloth and buff it up with another clean cloth, it generally works well. Just make sure you remove all traces before you play the disc.   



Roaming with an iPad

I will be replacing my old laptop before I go on my annual visit to my family in South Africa. Previously I used a locally purchased 3G dongle to go online but I think an iPad would be the right way to go as this would give me email, and allow me to download the Daily Telegraph. I would also like to use it to watch programmes on BBC iPlayer. How would I go about obtaining a dongle (or whatever) for iPlayer to work over there?

Sheryl Courtier, by email


You won’t be able to use iPlayer in South Africa on an iPad, or any other device for that matter as the streaming service is only available within the UK. There is a subscription-based global iPlayer app but this currently only works in Europe and is restricted to a limited range of programs. You shouldn’t have any problems with the iPad app for the Daily Telegraph and you can use it on the cheaper Wi-Fi iPad, provided you have access to a wireless network where you are staying, or are prepared to use hotspots in hotels and cafes. In theory the dearer 3G iPad lets you access the Internet in most large towns and cities, however, your UK airtime contract might not allow data roaming, or if it does it will be horrendously expensive. You might be able to use a locally purchased pay as you go micro SIM (try Vodacom), but you will need to ask a local resident to purchase it for you.




© R. Maybury 2011 2111


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