Ask Rick Maybury 2012



Ask Rick 190 04/02/12


For What We Are About To Receive

My elderly mother who lives in Oxted, Surrey needs to replace her old analogue TV, which has been used with a Sky satellite box. She is not very technically minded am I am trying to ensure that she can watch TV or view a DVD as simply as possible, using a single remote. After some research, we decided on an HDTV with built-in Blu Ray player and Internet connection for access to iPlayer etc. Oxted is in a dip and the Crystal Palace and Reigate relay transmitters never provided a satisfactory analogue signal, hence the Sky box. We have been led to believe that with Freeview we would be fine. Now, however, there seems to be some debate. One website states categorically that she will be able to receive Freeview, whilst other suggest that she won’t. Can you advise?

David Tucker, by email


The switchover to digital TV isn’t going to dramatically improve reception in areas that have suffered in the past from a weak analogue signal and websites that purport to tell whether or not you can receive Freeview should not be relied upon. Postcodes can cover quite large areas and take no account of the effects that terrain and buildings can have on the signal. The best thing to do is consult a local aerial installation firm, who will have experience with conditions in the area and can carry out tests at the property. Incidentally, one remote is not necessarily easier to use than two, especially when it is for a high-end, multi-media, Internet connected digital TV; it will probably be smothered in dozens of tiny, badly labelled buttons…



The Dark Art of Colour Printing 

I have owned a Panasonic digital camera for some months and have taken some good photos and when enlarged, using HP Photosmart, they look excellent. The trouble is, that despite trying every variation of brightness, colour etc., the printout on my old Epson Stylus printer is always much darker than the original.  Should I now invest in a new printer/scanner?

Clinton Summers, by email


Maybe, but with so many variables it’s hard to say whether the printer, your software or even the photo paper, ink or monitor settings are responsible for the dark prints. However, I would start to eliminate the possibilities by switching to a brand-neutral photo-editing program as the one you are using is optimised for HP printers. Try Picasa (free, download link at:, and while you are at it experiment with a different make of photo paper. If the prints are still dark then I suggest copying a couple of test images onto a flash drive and pop along to your local computer store and ask nicely if you can compare some printers and papers.



Searching for a Replacement

I am two-thirds of the way through my doctorate studies and I use Google Desktop all the time to find quotes, files, sentences etc when I don’t know where I have filed something. I have recently discovered Google have discontinued this facility and not provided a substitute! I know that Windows has a search facility but it is nowhere close to being as good as Google Desktop. Can you recommend any other product?

Hannah French, by email


Google’s decision to drop Desktop Search dismayed a lot of users but it was getting on a bit – it dates back to 2004 – and was in danger of being overshadowed by improvements in the search facility in recent versions of Windows and the move towards Cloud computing, where documents and files are stored on the Internet, rather than on a PC’s hard drive. There are alternatives, though, and if you are using Windows XP or Vista try Windows Search 4.0 (, which is a free upgrade that works like the more advanced Search facility in Windows 7. Paid for, and generally better specified desktop search utilities include the venerable Copernic ( and the new X1 Pro (, and in both cases there are free trial versions so you can try before you buy.



Cable Conundrum

I can watch Sky Sports programmes on my laptop but I would like to connect it to my Samsung flat screen TV. Can you recommend a cable that will transfer the picture and sound to the TV? 

Alexandra Benson, by email


If your laptop is a fairly recent model and your TV is an HD or HD Ready type then you should be able to use a HDMI cable, which carries high quality picture and sound information from the PC to the TV as digital data. Otherwise you’ll have to use a two-cable analogue connection. For the video you will need a VGA cable that plugs into the laptop’s external monitor socket, and the corresponding VGA input socket on the TV. Most VGA cables are only a metre or so in length so get a longer one otherwise you’ll have to put the laptop right next to the TV. The PC and TV manuals will tell you how to enable the PC’s monitor output, and select the TV’s VGA input. The audio lead is a little more complicated. The PC end will be a standard 3.5mm stereo jack plug, which connects to the laptop’s headphone socket. The audio input at the TV end will either be a pair of pair of phono/RCA plugs (coloured red and black or red and white), a stereo jack, or a SCART socket, so you will have to consult the manual or ask a friendly dealer to make sure that you get the correct type of lead or adaptor.



Absent Icons

I have always used Outlook Express and recently the icons at the top of the page, for New Mail, Reply, Reply all, Delete, etc. have all disappeared!  Similar options can be found on the File, Edit, View menus but this is nowhere near so convenient. Is it something I have done or another one of Microsoft's irritating updates? Either way, I would like my icons back.

Kath Lloyd, by email


Most likely a careless click, rather than any Microsoft mischief and you have to do to get them back is to go to View > Layout and under Basic tick the Toolbar box, click Apply then OK.



© R. Maybury 2012 1601


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