Ask Rick Maybury 2012



Ask Rick 186 07/01/12


Neater Meter?

A friend of mine has a great app on his phone for showing the signal strength of the Wi-Fi around my house. Basically it looks like an old style meter with a swinging needle going from green though yellow to red, with optional beeping that gets faster the stronger the signal. Do you know of any comparable software for Windows 7 that I could use on my laptop?

Angus Gilmore, by email


That smartphone app sounds a lot like WiFi Analyzer, which is free from Android Market. And very good it is too, but as with most wireless monitors, without calibration or knowing a lot more about the characteristics equipment involved it’s more for show than go and cannot be used for making accurate measurements. Of course Windows 7 has its own built-in Wi-Fi signal strength meter and if you haven’t discovered it yet all you have to do is click on the Wi-Fi connection icon next to the clock in the System and it displays the name and relative signal strengths of all networks in range on simple bargraphs. Admittedly it’s not very dramatic but it does the job. There are also dozens of third-party signal strength meters for Windows but I’m not aware of any that have an analogue meter display similar to WiFi Analyzer. However, if you’re looking for a more lively and eye-catching indication of the wireless networks in your vicinity I suggest Xirrus Wi-Fi Inspector (free from, available as a stand-alone utility, or a sidebar Gadget. This has a fancy rotating radar type display showing relative strength and distance – but not direction -- as well as more in-depth information, including network name and type, encryption, make of equipment, channel frequency, IP address and much more.


Band Aid

I am a member of a local big band society and we usually perform five or six presentations a year, playing a tape (transferred from CDs). The society now has new music system, which is unable to play tapes. I was told that it is possible to copy CD to CD for future presentations. Is this true and if so how?

Alan Meaker, by email


Duplicating a CD is actually quite easy but as I am sure you know it is illegal to make copies of copyright material, especially for public performances. If that’s not a problem in your case then all you need is a really useful freeware utility called ImgBurn ( It’s a two-stage process, step one is to create an image of the original disc, which is stored on your PC’s hard drive, and step two is to write the image file to a blank disc. If you want to create a compilation disc then use Windows Media Player to ‘rip’ tracks from the various source discs, edit your selection then use the Burn to Audio CD option to create your finished disc.


Uncool Laptop

Since returning from India, my lodger has found that her Samsung laptop, which she took with her and used regularly out there, becomes very warm within about 20 minutes’ usage.  Obviously she used the correct adapters but we’d be really grateful for your advice and whether we need to get any possible repair carried out. 

Annie Marchant Perdoni, by email


Laptop overheating is often due to dust, fluff or hair clogging the ventilation ducts or collecting on the cooling fan’s blades. Sometimes it’s the fan, which can fail or slow down as the bearings wear or dry up. It’s usually possible to clear the airways with an Air Duster, which is basically a can of compressed gas. However, if it’s the fan then this will require expert attention.

Office Improvement?

I used to have Office 2002 on my old computer, which had an extremely useful option for typing frequently used words phrases and sentences.  I could add phrases such as ‘as soon as possible’, ‘Part No’ or ‘Yours sincerely’ to the list, which helped my poor typing abilities. I now have a replacement computer with Windows Vista and Office 2007 and I cannot find this very handy tool.

Chris Piper, by email


Changing to Office/Word 2007 (and later), when you have grown accustomed to an older version of Office or Word, can be a struggle. Fortunately users generally adapt quite quickly. Most of the popular features are still there they’ve just been moved or prettified. One notable exception, though, is AutoText, which is what you’ve been looking for. The new and allegedly improved replacement is Building Blocks but it is so fiendishly difficult to use that I really wouldn’t bother. You could try AutoCorrect, which automatically inserts a word or phrase when you type a short keyword. For example, to enter ‘as soon as possible’ simply type asap then a space. If you want to have a go click on the Office orb in the top left hand corner, then Word Options > Proofing > AutoCorrect Options. Enter your keyword in the Replace box, and the word or phrase that you want to appear in the With box.


Video With A Twist

I have just received by email a video of my grandchildren but on my Windows 7 PC it is sideways on and I cannot find a way of turning it through 90 degrees. With any photos that I receive there is always an option to turn them when I open them in My Pictures. Help, I am getting a crick in my neck!

Peter Taylor, by email


Assuming that the video is in one of the common formats you should be able to import it into Windows Movie Maker and spin it back the right way around. All you have to do is drag the video onto the timeline then either right-click on it, select Effects, scroll down to Rotate 90 and click Add. Alternatively click Effects in the Task pane, select Rotate 90 and drag and drop it onto the video. When that’s done go to Publish on the File menu or Task pane select This Computer and follow the prompts.




© R. Maybury 2011 1212


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