Ask Rick Maybury 2012



Ask Rick 214 21/07/12


Floppy Sockets

I give a lot of presentations using a video projector. My new laptop does not have the screw holes

that old laptops used to have to ensure a secure VGA connection. Can I buy a different type of lead? If so what do I do at events where the venue has a hidden projector and just a protruding VGA lead?

Richard May, by email


Surprisingly it’s a health and safety issue. The lack of screw lugs on VGA sockets is to allow the heavy cable to detach easily from the PC if it is pulled or someone accidentally trips over the lead. To be fair it has also saved a lot of laptops from an untimely death, crashing onto the floor. I am not aware of any VGA connectors with a more secure fit and other video connector systems, like HDMI and DVI -- if your laptop has them -- are only useful if the projector is similarly equipped. There are a number of wireless adaptors that get around the around the problem of a long, heavy trailing lead putting a strain on the socket. Direct VGA to VGA senders tend to be rather expensive, but there are several models that use a USB wireless dongle to stream video to a receiver module with a VGA output socket. Have a look at the TruLink Wireless USB to VGA range (prices start at around £150.00 online) and IOGear USB to VGA kit (£190.00). Check to make sure they can handle the resolution and aspect ratio you are using, and be aware that some models are video only.



Joining The Dots

May I use your column to suggest that some enterprising genius develops ink, which can be used in any cheap printer attached to a PC so that the print, when exposed to heat, expands and produces simulated embossed Braille characters. Braille may then be printed for pennies rather than the extortionate cost associated with dedicated Braille embossing printers, which typically cost between £4000 and £8000.

Frank Hall, by email


What a brilliant idea so get your thinking caps on! To get you started I did some digging around and came across a US patent dating from 1975 (, for Intumescent toner. This expands when exposed to heat, so in theory an ordinary laser printer, which uses heat to fix toner particles to the paper, could do the job in one pass. If anyone knows of an alternative solution or an economical way to print Braille characters please let me know and I will pass it on.



Chained To Apple

I have an Apple laptop and the biggest bind when using it is that I am constantly being asked for passwords.        If I only had to remember one password I could manage, but of course life isn't that simple. I live alone and nobody else uses the laptop. Is there any way I can have a password-free laptop?

John Jenkins, by email


Passwords and PINs are a necessary evil these days, to protect our privacy and security and the stronger they are, the harder they are to memorise. The advice to never use the same passwords for different services or applications doesn’t make things any easier. It’s tempting to jot them down on a piece of paper or store them on a file on your PC but that’s just asking for trouble. Laptops are especially vulnerable to being lost or stolen, and although the risk of hacking is very low on a Mac, it can be done. Fortunately you have a useful password manager program on your Mac, called Keychain Access. You may have noticed it asking if it can remember a password when logging on to web sites. It stores all of your passwords and PINs in a highly encrypted form, but you only need one master password to get at them, or add new ones like ATM PINs and so on. You’ll find Keychain Access in the Applications > Utilities folder. Windows doesn’t have an equivalent facility but there are plenty of excellent freeware password managers to choose from, including KeePass (Mac and Linux versions also available from: and PasswordSafe (



Holiday Entitlement

Having recently downloaded a lot of digital holiday photographs onto my computer, I would now like to put titles on the bottom of the photographs so that I am reminded of where they were taken. Is there a way of doing this so that the title shows on printing? I would also like to transfer the pictures to a disc, with captions, so that I can play the disc on my television. What is the best way to achieve this?

John Martin, by email


You can superimpose text onto photos using almost any image-editing program, including Windows Paint, which should be on your PC (Start > Accessories). Otherwise try Photofiltre (, which is free and arguably one of the best picture editing programs available. I recommend that you save the titled images with a different file name in a new folder so that the originals are preserved free of text, as you won’t be able to remove it later if it obscures important detail. If you have a DVD player that supports jpeg playback all you have to do is copy the titled images to a blank disc, and if you want them to play in a specific order they will have to be renamed or numbered, i.e. walesholiday001, walesholiday002 etc. If your DVD player lacks this facility then try one of the many commercial DVD slideshow authoring programs or follow this Boot Camp guide, which uses freeware programs ( Incidentally, many recent LCD and Plasma TVs have USB sockets and multimedia players that can display jpeg images stored on flash drives. Also, if you have a laptop you should be able to connect it to the TV’s VGA input and display your photos directly from the PC.



© R. Maybury 2012 0207

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