Houston We Have a Problem 11



Ask Rick 185 31/12/11


Freeview Failure

I get my Freeview signal from the Sudbury transmitter. A retune was required a couple of weeks ago and since then I have lost ITV 4, Film 4 and Yesterday. I have retuned daily but there’s no sign of the missing channels, any idea what is wrong?

John Chambers, by email


As part of the switchover to digital TV, changes at the Sudbury transmitter resulted in some multiplexes (‘muxs’ or groups of channels) being broadcast at very low power levels and this includes the mux with your lost channels. You may be able to get them back by upgrading or realigning your aerial but the process isn’t due to be completed until mid 2012. There may be more changes in the pipeline so it might be a good idea to wait until they’ve finished tinkering. See the UKFree website (http://goo.gl/9bdAk) for the latest information.



Auction Advantage?

I haven’t used ebay for some time but now I understand that there are programs that place bids at the last moment. Do you have any recommendations?

Thomas Naylor, by email


It is called ‘sniping’ and a website or program automatically submits your bid in the last few seconds of an auction. The obvious advantages are that you don’t have be at your PC to place a bid, and you stand a better chance of avoiding a last minute bidding war and bumping up the price. Although it isn’t strictly against ebay rules it is considered slightly bad form and there is no guarantee that you will win. Others bidders may be using sniping tools and it won’t help if there are proxy bids higher than your snipe bid. Sniping programs have to be running on your PC when the auction is due to end, and if you have a slow or unreliable connection your bid may not be registered in time. Some sniping programs and services are free whilst others charge a subscription or bidding fee. However, the most serious concern is that the online services require your ebay username and password to submit bids on your behalf, and there’s no easy way to tell which of them are trustworthy. The safest option is a proxy bid – simply enter the highest amount you are prepared to pay, plus 99 pence, to see off any even money bidders – placed in the last few hours of an auction. Proxy bids are private so rival bidders won’t know how high it is, until they beat it. The fact that they are being constantly outbid by your proxy is often enough to put them off increasing their bid.



Clip Conversion

I am preparing a PowerPoint presentation to illustrate a talk on my work as a puppy walker for Guide Dogs for the Blind. I would like to include some camcorder footage but I cannot find a way of transferring AVCHD files into PowerPoint.

Brian Holloway, by email


Basically you can’t, PowerPoint only supports .wmv, avi, asf, .mpeg1/2 and .mov video formats. You’ll have to convert your AVCHD clips into one of those first, and for the record .mpeg and .wmv usually give the best results. You should be able to do it with a freeware converter, like Format Factory (http://goo.gl/k3i3), Prism Video Converter (http://goo.gl/hkgU) or Super (http://goo.gl/YU5L). However, there are several variants of AVCHD and some converters have trouble processing some files so try them all. Otherwise use one of the commercial programs, such as iOrgSoft Converter (http://goo.gl/GVJNA) or MTS/M2RS Converter (http://goo.gl/rMVz8), but download the free trial version first, to make sure it works, before you part with any money.



Spanish Scam

My sister in law recently received an email, supposedly from her brother, which she passed onto her brothers and sisters.  Briefly it stated that he and his family were in Madrid, had just been mugged, credit cards, cash, etc. had been taken. The hotel would not let them leave to catch their flight, in a few hours time, and he needed 2272 Euros to pay the bill. It was so obviously a scam, spelling, grammar, and style gave it away. My question is how did the scammers get hold of my sister in law’s email address and what is the best way to safeguard against future scams such as this.

David Waller, by email


This one has been doing the rounds for a while and one of the easiest ways for the villains to get hold of email addresses, user names and their location is from unsecured PCs in Internet cafes. If your brother in law used one while he was in Madrid, to download his email using a webmail service like Gmail or Yahoo, he may have been observed when he logged on or he didn’t clear the browser’s cache/history when he finished. Either way all you can do is warn family and friends against this sort of trickery, and never, ever send money abroad without contacting the person concerned. If there’s any doubt a call to the hotel where they are known to be staying (don’t use phone numbers in the suspect email), should settle the matter.



Messenger for Mac

I currently use Windows Vista on a laptop and have Live Messenger web cam conversations with my family in France who use similar hard and software. If I switch to an Apple Mac will I still be able to do the same thing?

Rob Bradley, by email


Yes you will and Messenger for Mac 8 is included in all editions of Office for Mac 2011 or you can download it as a stand-alone program from Microsoft at: http://goo.gl/8UjL.



Clocking Out

My five-year-old laptop was working well until the clock stopped showing the correct time and the boot up screen started displaying  "CMOS checksum bad".  If I enter the current time and date in the setup program and resume boot up all is well. Believing the problem was due to the clock backup battery I had the local expert replace it with a new one, but it has not cured the fault.

Malcolm Johns, by email


It is possible that the replacement battery was a dud or fitted incorrectly so ask your expert to check it. Otherwise the Real Time Clock (RTC) module on the motherboard may have failed. It’s not repairable and a replacement will probably cost more than the machine is worth.  




© R. Maybury 2011 0512


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