Ask Rick Maybury 2012



Ask Rick 200 14/04/12


RAW Ambition

I run a digital camera group for U3A using Photoshop to manipulate photos. As some of the group now use RAW our existing computer (5 years old) struggles to cope and takes a long time to respond.  Could you please advise as to what specification to look for in a replacement?

Alan Bishop, Ambleside


RAW file mode, available on many mid-market and high-end digital cameras, is often compared to unprocessed film, meaning that virtually no changes are made to the data produced by the camera’s image sensor, which can affect quality and cannot be undone. However, since RAW files undergo little or no compression they can be very large and put a real strain on a PC’s resources. Even new high-spec models can find them hard going. There are no magic numbers or must-have brands; the simple rule of thumb is to get a machine with the fastest CPU, the most RAM and the biggest hard drive that your budget allows. Of course, you could always ask your group to stick with conventional, best-quality JPEGs for general photography and routine editing, and save RAW mode for special occasions or where the extra information contained in the files might make a visible difference to the end product.  



Pop Up Puzzle

I live in a block of flats and connect to the web using a wireless connection. My router is security enabled but can someone in another flat utilise my signal via their laptop? If so, is this legal? The reason for asking is that for some time now when I am on the web, I get a mystery pop-up message that states ‘I am now connected’.

David Main, by email


That pop-up is almost certainly nothing to worry about. It usually means the connection is being interrupted, possibly due to poor signal strength, congestion or interference from other wireless networks in the vicinity. This forces your router to channel hop, resulting in a brief loss of connection. The security systems used on home wireless systems can be hacked but it’s not an easy matter and requires a fair amount of technical expertise and determination. Provided you are using the highest level of encryption (usually WPA2), with a long passphrase of 25 or more characters, you should be reasonably safe.


Hacking into a computer network is illegal (Computer Misuse and Communications Acts of 1990 and 2003). One easy way to check if it is happening to you is to observe your router’s activity lights when your PC is switched off. An occasional blink is normal but if it is flashing constantly then you should be suspicious. You may be able to identify the intruder with a small freeware utility called ZamZom (, which shows the IP address, MAC address and the name of the computers and devices connecting to your router.


Incidentally, you can stop wireless hackers in their tracks using a feature on most routers called the DCHP Client List. This lets you specify the unique MAC address of the PCs and other devices that you want to allow to access your network and Internet connection. You should find details of how to use it in your router’s manual or on-line help.



Card Conundrum

On two occasions recently my credit card has not been recognised by a website. The card provider says there is no problem at their end and no attempt was made to take money for the sale. They say it is a website problem. Can you give me any further information and suggest how to avoid this in future?

B R Colbourne, by email


Assuming your card is okay and works normally in shops and petrol stations and so on then it is probably something quite simple. You can obviously expect a rejection for any error when entering your card number, security code and expiry date, but these days the extra measures taken to prevent fraud has resulted in online payment forms becoming painfully pedantic. The information you enter has to perfectly match the details held by the credit card company – double check your postcode -- and even something as innocuous as a space in a card number or a full stop after an initial can cause problems.



Time for New PC?

The time and date on my computer are no longer accurate. I think this suggests that there is a problem with a battery on the processor board. The computer is only 4 years old so I am a little surprised by this. My question is should I start to think about a new computer or replace the processor board? If I choose the latter what issues am I likely to encounter such as BIOS problems?

Roy Ward, by email


You are almost certainly right and the clock backup or CMOS battery, which keeps the motherboard clock module ticking when your PC is switched off, has almost certainly expired. They don’t last forever, 4 or 5 years is fairly typical, but there’s no need to replace your PC or the motherboard. Clock batteries are widely available; they only cost a pound or two and normally only take a few minutes to fit. It does, however, entail removing the lid, and on some machines the battery in awkwardly placed, or hidden behind a rat’s nest of cables, so if you are not confident of your abilities have it seen to by an expert. If you fancy having a go yourself there are plenty of tutorials on the web or take a look at this YouTube video (, which gives you a good idea of what is involved.



Canadian Specifics

I will shortly be visiting Canada and taking my iPad for communications and games etc. How do I charge it whilst there? They have 120 volts mains, whilst we use 240 volts; as the voltage is lower do I need a special piece of kit to make it work?

Hazel Barnard, by email


Don’t worry, nowadays virtually all adaptors/chargers are universal and designed to work on a 100 to 240 volt, 50/60Hz supply. There should be a label or markings to that effect on the charger and all you need to take with you is a North American mains plug adaptor.



© R. Maybury 2012 2603


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