Ask Rick Maybury 2012



Ask Rick 199 07/04/12


Part Time SatNav 

I recently purchased a Satnav for my car, however it seems to spend most of its time looking for a GPS signal. The retailer replaced it, but the problem seems to persist. We have tried re-starting it etc. but to no avail. When it is working, it does exactly what I want it to do, but if it only works for less than half the time, it is not really much use.

Gareth Owen, by email


The fact that a small box can pick up unimaginably weak radio signals coming from satellites orbiting the earth at a distance of more than 20,000km (12,500 miles) never ceases to amaze me. However, since the GPS system and your SatNav clearly work together, albeit only for brief periods, suggests that you have a reception problem. One common cause is a heat reflective coating or heating elements embedded in some car windscreens, which can attenuate the signals. The solution is an external antenna, which are available for many models. Otherwise, you should try mounting the unit in different locations, making sure that the antenna module, which is usually mounted on the rear of the case, has a clear and unobstructed view of the sky. It should also be well away from the rear-view mirror, and obviously not in a position that obscures your view of the road. Avoid placing it below the top of the dashboard. I sometimes find it helps to remain stationary until the SatNav has a solid lock and found your position, before you move off, and this can take a while if there are high buildings or other obstacles blocking the signals.


Two For One

I have two desktop PCs running Vista and Windows 7 but I only have one monitor. My problem is that I cannot transfer two programs from the Vista computer to my Windows 7 computer, as they are quite elderly and not compatible with W7. Both of these programs are financed based, use for my business, so every time I need to input any data or print an invoice, I have to swap over the cabling from my printer etc, and then undo the monitor connector from one computer to another. I have tried using a KVM switch but it does not work as I use a wireless keyboard and mouse. Do you have any other suggestions?

Don Cook, by email


Several KVM (keyboard, Video, Monitor) switches claim to be able to work with wireless keyboards and mice but the reports I have read are not encouraging and I suspect they may be more trouble than they are worth. The simplest solution would seem to be to use a KVM with a wired keyboard and mouse. However, rather than trying to juggle with two computers, there may be ways to get your old programs to run on one machine. Firstly check with the program’s publishers to see if there are any updates, or newer versions available that do run on Windows 7. Failing that the programs may be persuaded to work by running them in compatibility mode. If they can be installed on the W7 computer click on the desktop icon, select Properties then the Compatibility tab and try the various options available. If they still refuse to run you could create a new partition on your W7 machine’s hard drive and install a copy of Vista. Alternatively install Virtual PC software on the W7 computer, which lets Vista, and your programs run inside W7. This has the added advantage of letting you quickly switch between the two operating systems. If you are using W7 Professional or Ultimate there’s a free Virtual PC download from Microsoft at, otherwise try another free Open Source offering called VirtualBox at



Bluetooth Blues

I have a problem with the Bluetooth connection between my wife's, recently purchased Sony Ericsson phone and a new Parrot car kit. The kit works fine with my Sony Ericsson phone (a different model to my wife), but it refuses to pair with my wife's phone. I have had several exchanges of emails with both Sony Ericsson and Parrot, which have not produced a solution. Parrot basically says that despite considerable efforts they have been unable to get their kit to work with this phone because of its unusual operating system. I was under the impression that Bluetooth was a standard interconnection system and not dependant upon operating systems.

Derek Oxbrough, by email


Bluetooth, like most other connection systems is an agreed standard. However, it is effectively transparent, and only deals with how data is transmitted and received between devices, not what the data represents, or how it is processed at either end, that’s up to the device manufacturers. I don’t hold out much hope of a resolution, which underlines the importance of checking compatibility before you mix and match devices from different manufacturers.



Streaming Nuisance

I use a laptop connected to a large monitor to view BBC iPlayer. Occasionally the picture freezes and a message appears ‘insufficient bandwidth’. Can you explain what this message means, what causes it and how it can be resolved?

H Chalk, by email


Think of your Internet connection as a pipe, but instead of water, it’s carrying digital data. Your pipe is too narrow and the data it carries is not coming through fast enough. The iPlayer tries to maintain a steady flow by buffering data in your computer’s memory; continuing with the earlier analogy it’s like the water tank in your loft, but it’s being emptied faster than it can be filled, resulting in the frozen pictures. In short you need a wider pipe, which generally means upgrading to a faster broadband service. Streamed video needs a download speed of 2MB/sec or faster; you can check your actual speed, rather than what your ISP claims it should be, with the BBC’s on-line bandwidth tester at This page also has some useful advice on how you can optimise iPlayer to work with slower Internet connections.




© R. Maybury 2012 1903


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