Ask Rick Maybury 2012



Ask Rick 203 05/05/12


Cottage Connection

On my farm I have three holiday cottages where I plan to offer Wi-Fi access to guests using a router located in the building's roof. Not all guests are interested in using the Internet or checking email while on holiday, but an increasing number are so, to cover the cost of offering the service and any surcharges, which may arise due to excess downloading etc., I want to levy a nominal charge. Is it practical? Are there any snags that I should be aware of?

Ron Racher, Sherborne, Dorset


Even though you are proposing a very small-scale system you can’t simply install a wireless router and allow your guests to access the web willy-nilly. There are a number of legal implications to be aware of, as detailed in the 1998 Data Protection Act and the Digital Economy Act 2010, and there are hefty fines for transgressors. The key issues are that you have to be able to identify and keep a record of your guest’s online activities in case they are involved in downloading illegal content, copyright infringement and so on. There’s a summary of the pertinent regulations on the Cyberair website at


Hotspot management software packages and services are widely available, which provide the mandatory user logging features. Other features include the facility limit your guest’s bandwidth, filter content and ‘brand’ your connection; just type ‘hotspot software’ into your favourite search engine for ideas and suggestions.


As for charging for web access, numerous surveys and travel industry research has shown that the provision of free Wi-Fi can be a big selling point when it comes to booking accommodation. It can be a deal breaker for business travellers, but it is becoming increasingly important for holidaymakers. Web access can be genuinely useful for finding out about local attractions, booking restaurants, travel news and weather, not to mention keeping the kids quiet and socially networked. Considering the relatively modest outlay involved, weighed against the benefits to your guests, and the competitive advantage it can give to your business, absorbing the costs, or building it into your rates, would appear to make good commercial sense.



Address Shortcut

Reading your recent advice on entering Danish characters, reminded me of my frustration every time I have to type my email address. Is there some way to reprogram a key, to automatically enter a word or string of characters?

Clive Trapmore, by email


It can be done but it’s unwise to assign a function like that to a single key. Whilst there are unused and infrequently used keys on most keyboards, they may still be needed, or used in combination with other keys for shortcuts. This is exactly how a small freeware utility called PhraseExpress ( works. It uses simple user-programmed hotkeys to enter words, phrases and even large blocks of copy into any word processor, email program or text entry field. It can also enter common phrases, salutations, the current date and time, annoying buzzwords and quotations with just a couple of mouse clicks.



Relative Dangers?

My granddaughter and my niece have iPod/Pad gadgets. Recently, on separate occasions, they have asked me if they could use my wireless router to access the web. At first I agreed, but they both said they would have to put my password into their devices. I am afraid to say that on the assumption that the password would be stored, I refused. If for example one of their gadgets were stolen then the thief would have access to my provider and all that goes with it. Needless to say both youngsters were upset at my refusal to divulge my password. Was I correct?

Henry L, by email


Of course you should always be cautious about divulging any password or PIN but in this case the risk to you is comparatively small as the wireless password only allows access to your Internet connection. If one of their devices were to be lost or stolen the thief would need to know where you live as it could only be used within range of the router, which is typically less than 100 metres. Even if they had your address they still wouldn’t be able to hack into your computer, unless you have enabled network access and they know your PC’s logon password. In any event stolen devices are usually quickly reset or wiped, removing all traces of the previous owner so they can be resold. However, if you want to take a belt and braces approach why not just ask them to delete your connection details, which contains the password, before they leave? You could also tell them to inform you immediately if either of them is robbed, so you can change your password.



Sound Advice

Recently I bought a Toshiba 42HL833B flat screen TV. I've turned the bass up to maximum but I'm still disappointed with the tinny sound of the speakers. This TV has a surround sound setting and I've kept the surround speakers from my previous Sanyo TV. However, each speaker has a twin-wire cable that fits into spring-loaded terminals on the old TV but my new television hasn't got these connectors. I downloaded the Toshiba manual but I can't find how to connect the speakers.

A Maguire-Taylor, by email


The short answer is that you can’t connect your old speakers to the new telly. Your old TV had a built in surround sound decoder with a multi-channel amplifier to drive the speakers directly. The new TV only has Virtual Surround Sound, which is basically a spatial effect that mimics surround sound through the on board stereo speakers. Unfortunately there is nothing you can do to improve the sound coming from the TV but this model has analogue stereo and digital audio outputs. That means you can connect it to a ‘soundbar’ type device, hopefully with better speakers, which sits underneath the TV, or you can hook it up to surround sound amplifier or home cinema system.



© R. Maybury 2012 1604


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