Ask Rick Maybury 2012



Ask Rick 208 10/06/12


Rural Readings

I want to be able to read the electricity meters in my holiday home from my main residence. However, I foresee two problems: there is no mobile phone signal at this remote location, but I do have ADSL broadband by telephone line at the property. If the solution involves using a PC at that end, I would not want to have it switched on continuously.


There are three meters. One is a very new digital meter and has some sort of optical port. The other two are of the older type with rotating discs.  I suspect that getting the electricity supplier to upgrade the old meters might prove expensive but I would consider doing it if it’s the only answer.

Geoff Stephens, by email


No problem, all you need is an IP network camera or ‘netcam’, which connects to your broadband router, either directly via a LAN cable, or wirelessly, so there’s no need to keep the PC running. You will be able to log on and remotely watch the camera from anywhere in the world over the Internet on a web browser or viewer program supplied with the camera. Many netcams can also be viewed on smartphones with a suitable app. The lack of light won’t be a problem; a lot of netcams have built-in infrared illuminators so they can effectively see in the dark. If the meters are mounted close together you may be able to read the display and dials on a simple fixed camera, otherwise use a netcam with a PTZ (pan tilt zoom) facility, which can be controlled remotely from your PC or smartphone. This arrangement has the added advantage that you can steer the camera away from the meters to keep an eye on other parts of your property. Cameras of this type usually have motion detection, which sends an email alert with a still image attached of whatever triggered the alarm. Most models also have a microphone, so you can listen in on your property, and some of them have two-way audio, so you can give an intruder a nasty scare. Netcams with all of those features are readily available on ebay and from Amazon, and they are suprisingly cheap with prices starting at under £50.00.



iPad Storage Solutions

I am going on a ten-day research trip and expect to take a significant number of photographs. To save weight I am only taking an iPad (series 1, 32Gb). Is there a way to add external storage to the iPad, which would enable me to back up high quality RAW images, transferred to the iPad from my camera, or should I resign myself to shooting jpegs to save space?

Chris Ould, by email


The limited amount of internal memory and lack of provision for simple and inexpensive external storage used to be a big problem for iPad owners but it’s getting easier. You can of course backup files to the iCloud, though you will need access to a web connected PC or Mac running iTunes. Otherwise you can upgrade your iPad to iOS 5 so it can upload to iCloud independently of a PC. However, there is now a growing number of purpose-designed portable storage devices for the iPad, including the AirStash, iFlashDrive, Segate GoFlex and Kingston WiDrive, but be warned that some of them are quite pricey.



Truculent Toolbars

I find it infuriating that the toolbars in IE8 disappear whenever the cursor moves onto the main part of the screen. How can the toolbars be made to remain permanently in view, as they do in Firefox?

Andrew Miller, by email


It sounds as though you have inadvertently enabled Internet Explorer’s Full Screen display mode. To toggle back to a normal display just press F11.



Canon Clean Up

My Canon Pixma MP130 no longer prints and tells me the waste ink reservoir is full. Both recommended repairers are in the South, I'm in Yorkshire and they want £60 plus carriage for the repair. Can I do the job myself?

Derek Needham


You can easily reset the counter, which decides when the waste reservoir is full, based on the number of pages printed. As this is only a guessimate, you can usually get away with one or two resets but eventually you will have to clean the pads as they will be saturated, but we’ll come to that in a minute. First the reset procedure: press Menu > Scan > Copy > Scan to enter Service mode. Now use the ‘>’ key to select NVRAM then press OK. Next, set ABS-M and ABS-P Levels to 0 then press Stop to exit.


Cleaning the pads can be a messy job and it will void your warranty but if you want to have a go at it disconnect the printer from the mains and prise off the front panel. You’ll need a screwdriver to release a small latch in the opening where the paper comes out. Remove the screws holding the right side of the case; take it off and you’ll be able to see the print head, which is parked over the waste ink reservoir pads. Move it gently out of the way and using a pair of tweezers lift out the tray containing the pads. Carefully take them out of the tray and rinse them through using methylated spirits. When they are clean and dry replace and reassemble.



Visual Aids

I have a friend who is registered blind but has some residual vision. Can you suggest any programs to enable him to use a computer for emailing and web browsing?

Richard Munford, by email


Both Windows PCs and Apple Macs have a good assortment of built-in accessibility features in that can help those with sight problems, so he or she shouldn’t need any extra software. These include large character and high contrast colour schemes, on-screen magnifiers, speech synthesisers and voice recognition utilities. For a summary of what’s available in Windows go to:, and for the Mac see: The RNIB also has some useful advice and a guide to third-party applications on its website at:




© R. Maybury 2012 2105


Search PCTopTips 



Digital Life Index

Houston 2006

Houston 2007

Houston 2008

Houston 2009

Houston 2010

Houston 2011


Top Tips Index

Windows XP

Windows Vista

Internet & Email

Microsoft Word

Folders & Files

Desktop Mouse & Keyboard

Crash Bang Wallop!

Privacy & Security

Imaging Scanning & Printing

Power, Safety & Comfort

Tools & Utilities

Sound Advice

Display & screen

Fun & Games

Windows 95/98/SE/ME








 Copyright 2006-2012 PCTOPTIPS UK.

All information on this web site is provided as-is without warranty of any kind. Neither PCTOPTIPS nor its employees nor contributors are responsible for any loss, injury, or damage, direct or consequential, resulting from your choosing to use any of the information contained herein.