Ask Rick Maybury 2012



Ask Rick 196 17/03/12


Sky on a Stick?

My Freeview receiver has the facility to record programmes on to a memory stick. I also have a have Sky+ box with a lot of recordings. Is there any is there any way I can transfer them to a memory stick as well?

W Green, by email


You cannot export recordings made on a Sky+ box, at least not directly. The USB socket, which is fitted to some Sky+ boxes has no useful function (though it can be used to charge the batteries in media players and mobile phones…). You can re-record the analogue audio and video outputs from the Sky+ box on a PC using a USB AV input adaptor with recording software and then copy the files to a memory stick, however this will involve some loss of quality. The only way to get at the original recordings is to remove the hard drive from the Sky+ box and connect it to a PC with a USB drive caddy. You will also need specialist software to extract the files, and it only works on programmes broadcast on unencrypted, free to air channels.



Upstairs Downloads

The broadband in my Cotswold village is hopeless so I access the Internet via a laptop, using my 3G mobile phone as a modem. However, I can only get a reasonable signal upstairs by placing my phone (connected to the laptop by a USB cable) very close to a window. That is a little restrictive so could I leave my phone upstairs and connect it to my laptop downstairs in the study? The cable would need to be around 12 metres long. Is there another way of getting the signal to my study?

Robert Squire, by email


We dealt with the 3-metre cable length limit on USB cables a few weeks ago ( This can be overcome by stringing cables together using powered USB hubs at 3-metre intervals, but it’s not very elegant and I have doubts that it would work reliably on this type of setup. Alternatively you could upgrade to a smartphone with a wireless hotspot facility, or use a MiFi device, which is a 3G dongle with a built in wireless router. Most mobile phone companies have them and prices start at around £50.00.




I have burned numerous DVDs and CDs, which I am able to play back on my desktop computer but none will work on my DVD player. I have tried about seven different machines to no avail. I have used both RW+ and RW- discs. What am I doing wrong?

John Wade, by email


By the sound of it you are copying the data files to the disc, and in the case of your audio recordings, the disc may not be finalised so that it will play on any device (this option should appear when you eject the disc). In order for video files to be readable on a DVD player they have to be specially formatted. To do that you will need DVD authoring software, which organises the files and creates a menu structure. There are plenty of programs to choose from (see DVD editing and authoring products from the likes of Pinnacle, Roxio and ULead), but if you are looking for a simple freeware application then try DVD Author for GUI ( This is a no-frills program, maybe not for absolute beginners, but once configured (see this Boot Camp article from my archives:, it can give excellent results. 



Stuck On Safari

Last Autumn I purchased a new MacBook Pro to replace my old G4, as Safari kept freezing. Even the Apple people at Westfield Shopping Centre could not sort it out; they suggested that it was an out of date machine and not fixable! Now after 6 weeks on the new computer Safari is freezing again. The only thing I can do is press Command Q and then start all over. I don't think it has ever happened on Firefox. Any advice is welcome.

Mary Baker, by email


This problem has been vexing Mac users for quite a while and there are plenty of solutions doing the rounds, from a radical OS re-installation to removing updates but in many cases it is just due to Safari not getting on with the Adobe Flash multimedia content on many websites. To see if this is the cause or eliminate it from your enquiries, try a free Flash blocking plug-in called ClickToFlash ( This stops Flash content from being loaded, unless you choose otherwise, and as an added bonus it may even improve your laptop’s battery running times by reducing the CPU’s workload.


Suspect Sound

I have an Acer Aspire desktop PC, running Windows 7. The sound stopped working after my wife went onto a music site. I had just previously being using it logged onto You Tube, with no issues. I am assuming that the lack of sound after switching websites is just a coincidence and the sound card has failed. It has been suggested that the sound card is part of the motherboard. Is there anything I can do, apart from replace the motherboard?

Carl Brotherton, by email


Don’t jump to conclusions; it may be something really simple so check the obvious. If it makes no sound at all not even a hiss or the usual Windows bings and bongs, make sure that the speakers are connected and working, and the volume isn’t turned right down or muted. If it remains silent then audio driver may be corrupted, so try reinstalling it. Go to Start > Control Panel > Device Manager. Double click Sound , Video and Game controls, right-click on your audio adaptor and select Update Driver Software, or download the latest driver for your machine from the Acer website. If that doesn’t work then the audio adaptor on the motherboard may indeed be faulty, but all is not lost. You can either plug an external audio adaptor into a spare USB socket, or if the machine has a vacant PCI or PCIE expansion slot you can fit a replacement audio card, which will bypass the adaptor on the motherboard.




© R. Maybury 2012 2702


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