Ask Rick 222 15/09/12
The Case For File Synching
Due to an unavoidable family and work split, I
have to maintain two desktop PCs in different homes on either side of the
Channel. Apart from using the Cloud or lugging a laptop back and forth (both of
which I regard as insecure), how can I keep the two machines in sync?
Essentially I want to be able to transfer changes, made to files and folders in
My Documents on one computer, to the other. Are there any programs that be
carried on a USB stick, that detect the changes being made on computer A and
then, when plugged into computer B, update only those changes?
Peter Mahaffey, by email
A special folder, called Windows Briefcase
should do the trick. All you have to do is copy the files and folders that you
want to keep synced into the Briefcase, copy it to a USB flash drive and when
you plug it into the second PC the changes you’ve made will be automatically
updated. It works on all versions of Windows and there’s a simple tutorial on
the Microsoft website at: http://goo.gl/TVIt6.
iPad Disobeying Orders
a collection of holiday photos on my PC, carefully numbered thanks to your
recent item on ordering photos for slideshows. When syncing with my iPad, the
photos transfer totally jumbled up. How can this be avoided, and the photos on
the iPad appear exactly as arranged on the PC?
Rawson, by email
Mac owners can set the order in iPhoto but it’s
not so easy for PC users. Apple iOS has some idiosyncrasies when it comes to
file handling and it doesn’t help that that there are differences between the
various versions. For example, iOS 3 sorts image files alphanumerically, whilst
iOS 4 and 5 arranges them by the Date Taken tag, which is stored in the photo’s
embedded Exif (Exchange Image File Format) data. There are a number of ways
around this and one reasonably straightforward method is to edit the photo’s
Date Taken data on your PC using free utilities like Irfanview (http://goo.gl/tzGI) or ExifEditor (http://goo.gl/hh0pq). It’s not too difficult on
a handful of images but if there’s a lot of them and you want to avoid moving
your images back and forth between the iPad and PC there are apps that can
create custom slideshows and set the order pictures are shown. The best known
is Photo Slideshow Director HD, which costs £2.49 from the App Store.
Licensed To Annoy
I have a hard drive, which came from a scrapped
PC. It is loaded with W7 Home Premium with an Acer product key. I put this into
a Dell PC, which had suffered a hard drive failure. It installed itself,
automatically downloaded the necessary drivers, and works perfectly. However, it says the product key is invalid,
and won't activate. It seems unfair to have to purchase a new key from
Microsoft, as this copy has already been paid for. Is there any way to avoid
having to pay Microsoft twice for the same product?
Denis F, by email
Unfortunately it’s all there in the small
print. The OEM copy of Windows 7 on the Acer hard drive was purchased as part
of a package, only licensed for use on that one machine, and is unsupported by
Microsoft. This is controlled through the BIOS on the Acer PC’s motherboard, which
contains a signature file or SLIC (software Licensing description table) that
authenticates that copy of Windows. It would be different if you were
re-installing a retail copy of Windows, which you are allowed to move to
another machine. You may come across sites on the web that purport to show ways
of bypassing the SLIC but be warned that they mostly don’t work, or are
fiendishly complicated. Even if you did get it to activate you wouldn’t be able
to download updates and you’ll get irate messages from Microsoft saying that
your copy of Windows illegal or pirated.
I am trying to access my friend’s broadband via
her Wi-Fi router. When I used her password I received the message ‘connected
with limited access’. Then searching web I get ‘server not found’ on all sites.
Can you help?
David Swift, by email
There are several possible causes and usually a
simple solution. Low signal strength is a common problem so make sure that your
laptop is close to the router, preferably within a few metres, and try again,
re-booting your PC and entering the password. Once the connection has been
established you should be able to do so again when the PC is back in its normal
location. If that doesn’t work ask your friend to switch off the router and all
PCs and devices that connect to it. This should clear and reset any settings
that may be causing conflicts. Your PC should also be switched off at this
time. She can then switch the router back on, wait for the lights to stop
blinking and the Internet light to be permanently on. Her PC should be next,
wait for it to reconnect, and then it is your turn. Once again make sure that
your PC is close to the router, showing at or near maximum signal strength.
What is your opinion on buying a second hand
laptop, as it is considerably cheaper than buying new? I am only going to use
it for emailing, Skype, the odd online booking and Word, Excel etc. I am not
especially concerned about future proofing or gaming but reliability and a
reasonable speed are important.
Peter Matthews, by email
Buying second hand is always risky for the
simple reason that you usually have no idea about the machine’s past history.
The guarantee, if it has one, is bound to be short-lived and limited, and if
you buy privately you may have no comebacks at all. Any savings could be easily
wiped out if the hard drive or screen fails soon after the warranty has
expired, and unless the drive is reformatted and Windows reinstalled serious
problems could be lying in wait, or worse. It might be infected with malware,
spyware or viruses, some of which can be difficult to detect and remove.
© R. Maybury 2012 2707