Ask Rick Maybury 2012



Ask Rick 198 31/03/12


Smart but not Flashy

I recently purchased a smart TV, which allows connection to the Internet. I have tried, unsuccessfully, to download Adobe Flash Player to enable me to use the iPlayer. The TV manufacturer’s support informs me that the set does not support Flash. I wonder if there is some way around this omission?

Robert Holme, by email


It’s an old, old story and you are paying the price of being an early adopter. Internet or web TV is still at an early stage of development and everyone is getting very excited. The various hardware manufacturers and content providers are all trying to steal a march on their rivals and products and services are being rushed into the market. The trouble is hardly anyone is talking so we’ve got the all too familiar mish-mash of competing and incompatible standards and protocols and confusion over licensing agreements. There will be much dithering, false starts and blind alleys but eventually one or possibly two systems will prevail, at which point it should be safe for the rest of us to dive in. Early problems like the lack of Flash support, which is affecting a number of smart TV manufacturers, may be resolved through firmware upgrades, but on past experience by the time a product has left the factory the company has moved on and is working on models a generation or two down the line, leaving those eager to explore new technologies high and dry.



Are You Receiving Me?

I recently sent an email to a Police officer and I need to know if it was received. I have asked for confirmation but they are not forthcoming. Is there any way that I can prove that this email was delivered?

John Davis, by email


No, at least not retrospectively. Many email client programs have a receipt confirmation facility that requests a message from the recipient’s email program when an email is delivered. However, this only works if both programs support the feature and it is switched on, which in a lot of cases it won’t be as many consider this to be an invasion of privacy or a discourtesy. As a matter of interest there are a number of third-party email tracking systems that work covertly by embedding hidden code in email messages. This instructs the recipient’s PC to send a receipt message when the email is opened but these too can be blocked by security software, firewalls, email programs set to only receive messages in plain text and programs like E-Mail Tacking Blocker (free from However, in the end even if you had been sent a receipt confirmation there is still no way of knowing if the email was opened or read by the intended recipient, or that it wasn’t automatically deleted or flagged as spam.



Costly Connector

I have a Compaq mini laptop and wish to connect it to an external monitor. The problem is I cannot find a VGA port. There is a long flat connector, marked with a small monitor Icon, but it does not appear to be an HDMI socket. Do you know what it is?

Roger Bettinson, by email


This is the VGA output you are looking for, but Hewlett Packard, who make Compaq laptops, have used a proprietary socket design. You need an HP Mini VGA cable, part number FY828AA and normally I would suggest that you get one from HP directly but it is quoting a price of £49.00 and they do not appear to have any in stock at the moment. Unfortunately they’re not much cheaper elsewhere; ebay and Google products list a number of suppliers and prices start at around £40.00.



Vanishing Video

We have a Samsung Notebook with Windows 7 Starter Edition. On our last trip we were unable to use Skype video calling, although we could receive images normally. There was a message from Skype saying, in effect, it was unable to send video as the camera was in use by another application. We were unable to find any other program open, but running Cyberlink YouCam showed it to be working.

Steve Long, by email


Other applications operating in the background may be preventing the camera from working with Skype so make sure that there are no instances of Windows and Yahoo Messengers, Google Chat etc., running in Task Manager (Ctrl + Alt + Delete), and if they are, close them down. Once that is done open Skype and go to Tools > Options > Video Settings and check to see if a live image from your webcam is being displayed. If not follow these steps, and check Skype’s Video Settings after each one. Uninstall and re-install the latest version of Skype. Update your web cam driver from Device Manager (Winkey + Break). Check that DirectX is working properly by typing ‘dxdiag’ in Search on the Start menu. Even if no errors are reported update to the latest version of DirtectX at: Finally, if all else fails, download and install a free utility called SplitCam (, which has a feature that forces a webcam to be shared by several applications at the same time.



Outline Answer

Is there a simple free program that can produce traced line drawings from a photo? I am using Windows 7.

John Lamb, by email


Indeed there is and this is just one of the many features available in Photofiltre (, one of my favourite freeware image editing programs. Open the picture in Photofiltre and go to Filter > Edges > Black Pencil. You can then print and save the modified image file, but don’t forget to give it a new name, to preserve the original.



Cracking the Code in Windows

How can I read QR codes using a webcam on my laptop?

Bernard Powell, by email


Those boxy QR or Quick Response barcodes are everywhere and usually contain web links for smartphone users but there are a number of scanner programs for Windows. Try QuickMark for PC (, it’s free and very easy to use, and as an added bonus you can use it to generate your own QR and Quick Codes from phone numbers, web, email and SMS addresses. V-Cards and text. 




© R. Maybury 2012 0503


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