Ask Rick Maybury 2012



Ask Rick 192 18/02/12


Character Building

Could you please tell me how to access Danish letters and accents on my Windows 7 computer? 

Ann Miller


Most special characters, including the Nordic characters not found on a UK keyboard (e.g. æ, ä, å, ø and ö) can be typed in Windows program, word processor, email, web browser etc., using either simple keyboard shortcuts or ‘Alt codes’ (Alt key plus a 2 or 3 digit code). For example, to type the æ ligature or ‘ash’, the shortcut is Crtl + Shift + &, a, the Alt code is Alt + 0230. Both methods work in Word, but for emails you need to use an Alt code. There’s a comprehensive list of foreign, mathematical, currency and scientific characters at: Incidentally, for Alt codes you need to enter the digits on the PC’s numeric keypad by pressing the Num key first. Many laptops do not have separate numeric keypads, instead they are integrated with the QWERTY keys with J, K & L doubling up as 1,2 & 3, and so on. To use a laptop’s nested keypad you normally have to press a function key or combination of keys first, it varies from one make to another but you will find it explained in the manual. 



iPlayer to Disc

I have the BBC iPlayer installed on my PC and would like to download the odd item to a CD or DVD but cannot seem to get anything to work. Is there a magic formula or has the BBC put a block on to stop further downloading?

F G H, by email


It can be done but I am duty bound to say that it is not allowed, not even for personal use or to bypass the feature in iPlayer whereby stored programmes are automatically deleted after 30 days. That’s because downloaded programmes are copyrighted and protected using Digital Rights Management (DRM) systems, which are designed to prevent unauthorised copying or viewing. The BBC would be understandably annoyed were I to tell you how to do it but suffice it to say it is hardly a secret and there are plenty of sites on the Internet discussing the ways and means to get around the restrictions. 



Open and Shut Case

Eighteen months ago I changed my PC to an HP Compaq running on Windows 7. Ever since, OpenOffice has been temperamental. On loading, it usually crashes within 10 seconds. Perseverance usually triumphs but I try so many combinations of entering, saving and closing that I am not sure what the successful combination is. Is it that Windows 7 just doesn’t like OpenOffice? My old Windows XP computer was quite happy with it.

John Jackson, by email


OpenOffice is getting a little long in the tooth and there have been concerns that it may be discontinued, but I'm not aware of any particular issues with W7, nor have I had any problems using it on a number of W7 PCs. You could try removing and re-installing the latest version or switch to LibreOffice. This is effectively a new version of Open Office from an organisation called the Document Foundation, which was set up by members of the OpenOffice project. It is also free Open Source software and can be downloaded from:



Unlucky Break?

I need to buy another computer for home use, but have been disappointed with the reliability of my present machine. The makers have repaired it a couple of times, but if it were a motorcar I would not touch that brand again. Have I just been unlucky? Is there a standard that people in commerce and industry use, or is it that businesses can afford to replace machines when they misbehave?

Geoff Purves, by email


Computer hardware is incredibly reliable and many key components have MTBF (mean time between failure) ratings of 30 years or more. Obviously that’s just a statistic and failures do occur but the parts that are most likely to go wrong are made by a relatively small number of manufacturers, so in that respect it doesn’t really matter who’s name is on the case. In fact the vast majority of faults are software related, but that’s no comfort when faced with a dead PC, so what really matters is the support provided by the vendor or manufacturer. As I have said before lazy and poorly trained engineers often take the quick and easy way out and replace perfectly functional hard drives, rather than spend time trying to fix software problems. The computers used by businesses are essentially the same as consumer models but they do tend to be more reliable and last longer simply because they are maintained by in-house IT departments who also keep a tight reign on the installed software and take security much more seriously than many home users.




I wonder if it is possible to connect a DVD player directly to a computer monitor? I don’t have or want a TV but I am fed up of watching my DVDs through the computer in my bedroom. Presumably it’s a question of suitable leads and sockets?

Paul Davies, by email


A single cable direct connection is possible, but only if both the DVD player and monitor have HDMI sockets. However, this is a fairly recent innovation and there is a good chance that you won’t have them on your setup, in which case you will have to use a box of tricks that changes the video or S-Video signal coming from the DVD player into a VGA signal for the monitor. Video to VGA converters are widely available online and prices start at around £20, though unless you go for a top end model, costing £80 upwards, you may notice a reduction in quality or have to compromise on screen shape and size. Converters only process the video signal, so you will also need a separate audio lead for the monitor, or connect the DVD player’s stereo audio output to your hi-fi system or a pair of amplified speakers.  



© R. Maybury 2012 2301


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