Ask Rick Maybury 2012



Ask Rick 189 28/01/12


Android Anxiety

I have a Samsung Galaxy Tablet and I have installed AVG Mobilation Anti-Virus Pro. Do I need to install a firewall as well?  The shop inferred that the tablet system does not need the same safeguards as PCs.

Stephen Terry, by email


In theory you don’t need a firewall. The Android system is based on Linux and is well protected against direct network hacking attacks from other tablet and smartphone users and via the Internet. There’s also a second line of defence and Android apps operate in what’s known as a security Sandbox. This basically means that they are not allowed to interfere or interact with other applications without explicit permission from the user, at the time of installation. This should also protect a tablet or phone’s operating system and the user’s personal and private data. However, this depends on the reading and understanding the warning messages and it only applies to apps downloaded from reputable sources such as the official Android Marketplace. It’s not foolproof and some phone and tablet users skip past these messages and in the past malware-infected apps have appeared on Android Marketplace, though supposedly they are now being screened much more thoroughly. Provided you follow simple precautions, like being careful where you download your apps from, reading the installation prompts and be suspicious if an app asks to access your personal data for no good reason, then you should be okay



Backup Basics

Can you tell me what is the difference between a System Image backup and a Factory Default backup and do I need to do both of these?

R. Tubb, by email


A System backup is a copy of the important and constantly changing configuration files that make your computer tick, like the infamous Windows Registry. The backup can be used to fix the sort of problems that can occur when a program installation goes wrong or following a serious virus or malware infection. System backups are carried out automatically, usually once a day or when you install new software, by Windows System Restore, so you don’t have to do anything. Installed programs and any files that you have created should be safe, but don’t let that stop you making regular backups of your irreplaceable documents, photos and media files on recordable CDs or DVDs, a second internal drive or an external drive. Similarly a Factory Default backup is not something you need to worry about doing for yourself, unless you are advised to make one on a brand new PC. You’ll only need the backup when there has been a catastrophic failure of the operating system. It’s used to re-install Windows and all necessary drivers to return the PC to its out of the box condition. The backup files are either stored on a protected partition of your hard drive, or are supplied (or you are asked to make) a set of CDs or DVDs. Restoring the backup usually wipes the hard drive so you will lose all of your programs and files, which underlines the importance of backing up your important data.



Subtitle Solutions

Our deaf son is looking for a video recorder, which would allow him to watch TV programmes along with their sub-titles. Can you help him please?

Pat & Bill Lunn, by email


Almost all of the current digital TV recording systems, including Sky+, Virgin+ and TiVo, Freeview and Freesat PVRs and BBC iPlayer on a PC automatically record subtitles, when present, as they are embedded in the media stream. There are exceptions and glitches, such as programmes being advertised as having subtitles when they do not, subtitles out of sync with the video or not being available on some ‘catch-up’ services but in general it works a lot better than the old analogue TV subtitling systems.



Li-ion’s Share

I have read that computer batteries are good for so many charges and discharges before failing.

Does this imply that if the laptop is used primarily in one place, on mains power except when moved to another location, the batteries will not discharge much and life will be extended?

Eric Brooks, by email  


Unfortunately not. The Lithium Ion (Li-ion) cells used to power most laptops, tablets PCs, phones and electronic gadgets have a number of limitations that cause them to gradually lose their ability to hold a charge, and this begins from the day that they roll off the production line. Irreversible chemical changes occur when cells heat up, either through charging, rapid discharge or when used in high ambient temperatures. A cell’s internal resistance increases with age and with repeated charge/discharge cycles, reduce its output voltage under load. It all happens fairly slowly but you’ll usually start to notice shorter running times after eighteen months or so, and after four or five years most batteries no longer hold a useful charge. Some types do better than others but you can’t stop the deterioration. You can slow it down, though, by avoiding leaving li-ion batteries in a discharged state, and if you are not going to be using your device for more than a week or two make sure the battery is fully charged.



Getting Personal with email

When I send an email letter out to a group of people on a mailing list, up to now I have headed the letter Dear Colleague or Hi. Is there a way of making the letter more personal? What I have in mind is that the letter each person in the mailing group receives is in their own name. Is there an existing programme that will let me set up mailing groups with this facility?

Allan Johnstone, by email


This is fairly easy to do if you have Microsoft Outlook and or Word, using a facility called Mail Merge. It lets you set up a template or form letter that you can personalise with each recipient’s name and other details from your contact list. There’s an easy to follow tutorial on the Microsoft web site at:




© R. Maybury 2012 0901


Search PCTopTips 



Digital Life Index

Houston 2006

Houston 2007

Houston 2008

Houston 2009

Houston 2010

Houston 2011


Top Tips Index

Windows XP

Windows Vista

Internet & Email

Microsoft Word

Folders & Files

Desktop Mouse & Keyboard

Crash Bang Wallop!

Privacy & Security

Imaging Scanning & Printing

Power, Safety & Comfort

Tools & Utilities

Sound Advice

Display & screen

Fun & Games

Windows 95/98/SE/ME








 Copyright 2006-2012 PCTOPTIPS UK.

All information on this web site is provided as-is without warranty of any kind. Neither PCTOPTIPS nor its employees nor contributors are responsible for any loss, injury, or damage, direct or consequential, resulting from your choosing to use any of the information contained herein.