Ask Rick Maybury 2012



Ask Rick 193 25/02/12


Commercial Interests

Generally my Internet speed is quite acceptable but I find that on some sites there is so much advertising that it is takes a long time before I can scroll up and down easily. I think I've found a box in Internet Explorer that stops the adverts, but it also hides things on the page that I need, like graphs. Is there an easier answer?

Nick Tracken, by email


It’s a contentious subject, and whilst some ads can be irritating and a drain on resources, many websites depend heavily on the revenue they generate. There is an argument that widespread ad blocking could result in a lot of very useful websites disappearing, or switching to pay to view or subscription-based access.  


However, one easy way to dismiss more than 90 percent of ads is to switch to Mozilla Firefox and install a free add-on called Adblock Plus ( This has ad-zapping off to fine art, and if it removes something you want to see it’s easy to lift the embargo. Similar add-ons and plug-ins are available for Chrome, Opera and Safari, but in general they are not as effective. You should be alert for tick boxes, for unwanted toolbars and browser add-ons that could sneak in during installation. Internet Explorer’s built-in pop-up and filtering features are reasonably effective but they do require a lot of configuration so it’s worth trying a free plugin called Simple Adblock ( This works in a similar way to Adblock Plus, however, the free version only blocks 200 ads per day; the unfettered Pro version costs $30.00.



Monitor Malaise

I use a Viewsonic monitor and a strip roughly 70 mm wide at the bottom of the screen is prone to disappear. 

I have noticed that a tap on the side will often return the full screen, or at least induce activity in the darkened strip. Does this suggest a connection problem?  I have removed and replaced the cable.  Should I buy a new one?

Geoff Thomas, by email


We can dismiss the monitor cable as the cause; this is most likely due to an intermittent contact on the ribbon cable that connects the display panel to the circuit board inside the monitor. If so it should be a relatively easy problem for an engineer to fix. The cable simply has to be cleaned and re-seated, and it should only take a few minutes. However, if the LCD panel or circuitry is faulty it will almost certainly cost more to replace than the monitor is worth.



Free Speech

Analysing the calls we make with TalkTalk shows that my wife and I call a lot of 0844 prefixed numbers, which cost us money. If we dial only 01 and 02 our calls cost us nothing. We both prefer to talk to someone before ordering a product or service, instead of ordering from an Internet website, so is there a way to find a 01 or 02 number equivalent to a 0844 number?

Derek Armstrong, by email


In some cases you will find a standard geographical number for a company on its website. Otherwise try entering the name in the search box on the website, which maintains a growing list of alternative numbers.



Laptops, the Big Picture…

I am finally going to replace my ageing desktop PC and I initially thought of getting another desktop, but now I am veering towards a laptop. Certain things I do, however, would be easier on a larger screen, say 20 to 22 inches. I know that I can connect an independent monitor to a laptop, but I would appreciate your thoughts on the pros, cons and pitfalls to look out for.

Jeff Handrihan, by email


Dell is one of the few companies to make a laptop with a 20-inch screen, and Samsung has a model with a detachable 19-inch screen but they’re both quite pricey. Connecting an external monitor to a laptop is usually very straightforward and there shouldn’t be any problems utilising the screen’s maximum resolution, though you may have to download additional drivers. However, the big problem is what to do with the lid. It has to be open to access the keyboard, but it will inevitably obscure the screen. The solution is to close or partially close the lid and use an external keyboard and mouse, though you may have to go into Control Panel, Power Options menu and disable the sleep, standby or hibernate function, which is normally engaged when the lid is shut.



New Life for Old Routers

I live in an old house with very thick Walls, and my only live phone line enters the house right next to my PC. My Wi-Fi extends to the top of the stairs, but not into my bedroom, which I could really do with. Is there a way of extending my Wi-Fi range, without running cables and moving the modem from its current position?

Sam Wells, by email


We’ve dealt with this question several times and the usual advice is to connect a external high-gain antenna to the router and mount it as high up as possible, or consider buying a wireless repeater or extender, but here’s something else to try. Many popular wireless routers can be configured or adapted to operate as a remote repeater or access point. Often all you have to do is change a few settings, or download some new firmware.


It’s a neat way of recycling an old or redundant router, and if you haven’t got one they can be picked up cheaply from ebay and car boot sales where they often sell for £5.00 or less, though the latter can be a bit of a gamble. The precise method varies and the makes most likely to have this feature include D-Link, Linksys, Belkin and Netgear. It’s not a difficult job but you will need to do a little homework. There are detailed instructions for dozens of routers on the web, simply Google the make and model number, followed by ‘as repeater’.  




© R. Maybury 2012 3001


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