Ask Rick Maybury 2012



Ask Rick 209 17/06/12


No Earthly Reason

My hobby is metal detecting and I have been trying to print a copy of a Google Earth satellite image of a farm I want to visit to get permission to detect on. I click on the Print icon but all I get is a totally black half page. I have tried it several times but the result is always the same

Peter Minshall, by email


The Google Earth display is a complex mixture of layered images, graphics and toolbars so it’s not as straightforward as it seems. There is a simple solution, though, and that’s to go to the File menu and click Save > Save image and the image or map display will be saved as a high quality jpeg in a folder of your choice. You can then open and print it in the normal way from Windows Paint or your preferred image editing or viewer program.   


Playback on iPad 

I have a 1Gb video, in VOB format, on my computer, which I want to play on my iPad1.  Can you recommend a free download, which will let me watch the movie on my tablet?

Ian Hansford, by email


VOB, which is basically the file format structure used on DVDs, isn’t supported by the iPad so you will have to convert your movie, preferably to mpeg4 or avi format. As always it’s helpful to know something about your PC, not least which operating system you are using, but if it’s Windows the All Free iPad Converter from: is the place to start. If you are a Mac user the freebie options are more limited but there is an open source utility called Handbrake (, and versions are also available for Windows and Linux systems.



Predictable Results

Is it possible to change the order in which words are offered to you in predictive text on an Android phone? I find it infuriating that some words I use a lot are towards the end of the queue, and their position never changes to reflect frequency of use. 

Fiona Buckley, by email


Android’s predictive text system should eventually learn to give more prominence to frequently used words but it can take a while. You can’t change the algorithm that controls how it works but you can sometimes speed up the process by repeatedly tapping in the word and selecting the predictive text suggestion, however, you might have to do it a dozen or more times before it takes effect. Editing your phone’s User Dictionary can also help. Add your chosen words to the list if they are not already there and remove any misspelled or junk words. To do that go to Settings > Language & Keyboard > Touch Input > User Dictionary.



ebay Descriptions

I have occasionally purchased vinyl records on ebay, and am now planning to sell part of my own collection. When you select a vinyl item for sale on the ebay, it will usually be accompanied by a highly detailed description of the artist and of the record in particular. As I don't believe that anyone types this out

manually and individually, I was wondering if you know where this information is sourced?

Brian Dingwall, by email


It’s a free service and when you create an auction listing one of the first things that you do is enter the item’s title or keywords that help to describe it. ebay then offers suggestions that help you to specify the category and format plus a box with the pre-prepared additional information, which you can choose to include with your description. It’s origin and any additional copyright notices are shown at the top of the box.


Family Ties

I am trying to open ftmb and ged files with no luck. Microsoft via the web suggested downloading SpeedyPCpro, which I have but this hasn't helped at all. All it keeps telling me is to start a scan, but at the same time it is telling me my computer is running perfectly!

Les Oxborough, Madeley


Are you absolutely sure the suggestion to install that particular program came from Microsoft? I find that puzzling, as this appears to be a very simple problem with file associations. Whenever you install a program Windows adds to its database of known file types and this is how it knows which program to open whenever you click on a file.


The ftmb file, this contains backup data for the genealogy program Family Tree Maker, so you need to have this installed on your computer in order to use it. Similarly ged or genealogical data files are also used by Family Tree Maker to store and exchange family trees, so the first thing to do is make sure that you have FTM on your computer. If you do, it is possible that the file associations have become corrupted or lost. You can easily reset them from the dialogue box that opens when you click on the files concerned; simply select FTM from the list of suggested programs. Otherwise you can set up the association manually. In Windows XP open Windows Explorer and go to Tools > Folder Options and select the File Types tab. In Vista and W7 go to Start > Control Panel > Default Programs and select ‘Associate a file type or protocol with a program’. If none of these steps work FTM may be corrupted so remove and reinstall it; your saved data should be safe.


Tube Training

I should like to copy the sound from YouTube railway videos to a disc to use as background sound on a model railway. I should be grateful if you could let me know the best way of doing this on my Windows 7 desktop PC?

Nigel Bartlett, by email


This is a simple two-stage process involving recording the video’s soundtrack and then burning it to a CD and I was a little surprised not to have found any utilities that can do the whole job but it’s not a problem. There are plenty of general-purpose PC recording programs but I would try a freeware offering called YouTube to MP3 Converter ( This makes life very simple and all you have to do is copy and paste the YouTube link into the program’s window and it gets on with the job of creating an MP3 file from the soundtrack. When that’s done open Windows Media Player, select the recording you’ve just made, pop in a blank CD and click the Burn button.   



© R. Maybury 2012 2105


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