Ask Rick Maybury 2012



Ask Rick 219 25/08/12


Google Grumble

iGoogle is displaying a message that it will not be available after 1 November 2013. I am sure I am not the only one who hasn’t got a clue about what to do next, to enable me to continue to use the Internet.

Sandra Hancock, by email


Introduced in 2005, iGoogle is a highly customisable web home page or dashboard and one of more than 30 services that Google is in the process of retiring, or spring-cleaning as they call it. It’s essentially a Cloud service, so you can use it wherever you are, on any web-connected device. It was popular and will be missed; there’s an online petition if you want to join the protest


Of course you will still be able to access the Internet and your favourite web pages and services, it just won’t be as easy or convenient. There are alternatives, though none of them have quite the same range of features. Protopage (, and Netvibes (, come fairly close, score well for ease of use and access to social media and news feeds. My Yahoo ( isn’t too bad either but if you want to avoid ads and banners try myway ( Finally there’s the Google Chrome browser. Surprise, surprise, this is where it would like homeless iGoogle users to go, and, I suspect part of the reason for iGoogle’s demise, with web widgets and features optimised for users logged on with tablets and smartphones



Nexus News Flash

When I try to watch BBC iPlayer (and some other videos) on the new Google Nexus 7 tablet I am told to download Flash Player 11. However when trying so to do I get a message that the Nexus 7 is not compatible with Flash Player 11 as it does not support the Android 4.1 operating system. Is there an alternative download, which will overcome this problem?

Tony Parsons, by email


This is a very clear illustration of the Android operating system’s strengths and weaknesses. Unlike the closed and tightly controlled environments of Apple products, Android is collaborative effort, which is good, but it also means there’s a lot of buck passing when things go wrong. Asus, who make the Nexus 7 say it has nothing to do with them and it’s Google’s responsibility to handle software issues. Adobe who produce Flash Player do not seem to be interested and the BBC tweets that it is working on it. Fortunately there’s a large community of users who can usually sort things out quite quickly and there is now a simple workaround. All you have to do is manually download the iPlayer and Flash .apk files (there are links at:, then go to Settings > Apps, install them both and iPlayer and most other video services that rely on Flash should now work.


Pound Wise

I was rather stupid and bought an Acer Aspire Laptop in Singapore. It has no pound sign, which I find very inconvenient and is driving me mad! Can I do anything to overcome this problem?

Jean Long, by email


It’s a bit of a nuisance but there are ways around it. The simplest method, and this works on any word processor, email or web page, is to hold down the Alt key and press 0163 on the numeric keypad (you may have to press the NumLock key first). The only problem, for you, is that on most laptops the numeric keypad is incorporated into the keyboard (look for numbers on the U, I, O, J, K, L and M keys) and you will have to activate it by pressing a combination of Function keys, check the manual for details.  For a more permanent solution you can reassign the £ sign to an infrequently used key on your keyboard (AltGr or the one to the left of 1) with a simple little freeware utility called Keytweak (



Field Survey

I help organise point-to-point races, which are held in fields, far away from mains power supplies. The current system requires that information cards are made out by hand and given to starters, judges and stewards etc. In order to improve the running of events I would like to computerise the race. Can you recommend a portable printer that could be powered by a generator, or is the power output not steady enough?

Malcolm Dickins, by email


Generators are noisy and smelly so I suggest that you use a gadget called an Inverter. This converts a 12-volt DC supply from a car battery into 230 volts AC mains, so you can use an ordinary printer and power your laptop at the same time. They are silent and effectively cost little or nothing to run, when powered from a car’s accessory socket. Inverters come in a range of power outputs and it’s a good idea to choose one that’s rated for at least twice the combined power consumption, in watts, of your printer and laptop (this information should be on a label on the printer and the laptop charger). I would do a dry run at home, to find out how long the battery lasts; you may find that you need to run the engine from time to time to top up the charge.


Regional Difficulties

Is it possible to set my American family's PC to play DVDs that have been compiled from home videos, the next time I visit? If that isn't possible, is there any way for me to convert the DVDs from Area 2 to Area 1?

Harry Fox, by email


There shouldn’t be a problem. Regional Coding only applies to commercial recordings, for enforcing licensing and copyright restrictions. Home made DVDs are region-free and should play on any PC. For future reference it’s not possible to remove or convert the regional coding on DVDs, at least, not easily, but it’s not a huge problem as many DVD players, especially the really cheap ones, have multi-region playback, or the feature can be enabled by entering a hack code into the handset.



© R. Maybury 2012 0607


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