Ask Rick Maybury 2012



Ask Rick 225 06/10/12


Moving On From MiniDisc

I have used my Sony Micro Hi-Fi daily to record Radio 4 plays onto MiniDisc, which I play in the car or on a Walkman whilst pottering in the garden. Sony appears to have given up on MiniDisc, and mine seems to be heading for a breakdown. Is there any other system on the market, which will let me make timer recordings and then playback on a mobile device?

Graham Trundley, by email


You are spoilt for choice, so let’s begin with a totally free solution. Assuming that you have a PC, broadband and an MP3 player then try an excellent freeware Internet radio called Radiosure ( This has over 17,000 stations stored in its memory, including of course Radio 4. It also has a built-in MP3 recording facility. If you want to make unattended recordings from Radiosure then look no further than our old friend Audacity (, a free audio editor with a timer facility. How about a high-end DAB radio? Several models have timer recording options and files can be transferred or copied to an MP3 player using a memory card or USB connection, via a PC. However, the simplest and most portable one-box solution is a tablet PC or smartphone. There are several iPhone/iPad options but Android devices are particularly well served in this respect. I suggest a web radio app called TuneIn, which costs just 61 pence from Google Play ( It has more than 70,000 pre-programmed stations, access to 2 million podcasts and on-demand recordings, including Radio 4 material, plus a really easy to use timer.  



Kindle Kaput

Help, my Kindle has frozen. The only thing on the screen is an etching of Hercules, with a black section at the bottom. I can't switch it on or off, charge it, or do anything with it! As always, the guarantee has just run out!

David Kinloch, by email


The latest Kindles and tablet PCs defy the sort of tinkering that can often revive a dead gadget and even something as simple as removing the battery, forcing the device to reboot, isn’t possible anymore without major surgery. There are a few things that you can try. First put it on charge for at least 3 hours then carry out a ‘hard’ reset by holding the slider switch on the base in the On position for a full 30 seconds. Don’t give up, try it two or three times and be patient between tries. It can take 20 seconds or more before anything happens after a full reset. We’re scraping the barrel now, but several users have reported dead Kindles coming back to life after connecting it to their PC by the USB cable, and there’s at least one report of a miracle cure being affected by plugging in headphones…


Since the warranty has only recently expired, you should still contact the retailer or Amazon. This problem appears to be fairly common so you may have grounds for seeking a replacement on the basis that there is a manufacturing fault.



Word to PDF

My computer runs Windows XP and I have Word 2003. I can read PDF files, but I need to be able to convert Word docs into PDF format, and vice versa. There seems to be a bewildering array of downloads on offer, and I'm a bit wary of trying them.

Mary King, by email


Look no further than a freeware program called PDF Creator ( and it works with any Windows application that uses the printer. To create a PDF all you have to do is go to Print on the program’s file menu, select PDFCreator on the list of installed printers and click OK. A few seconds later your newly-created PDF appears in your default viewer. Going the other way, i.e. converting PDFs into Word documents is even easier. In your PDF viewer select Text or Edit mode, highlight the text you want to import and press Ctrl + C (copy). Open a blank Word document and press Ctrl + V (paste). This may not work if the PDF has been protected or if your PDF viewer doesn’t support text capture, in which case try Foxit Reader; it’s also free and you’ll find a link to the download at:



Smarter Than GPS

Can you suggest a GPS device that I can take on a touring holiday so that at any time I will be able to get an online guide and information about the place I am visiting? There are plenty of GPS maps but I want more of a tourist guide for the different areas  

Stanley Canning, by email


Forget GPS and get a smartphone. Even models without on-board GPS can pinpoint your location to within a few hundred metres, less in built-up areas, using cellphone mast triangulation. Your position will be displayed on Google Maps or your preferred mapping app and depending on which options you’ve enabled, places of interest, attractions, restaurants and so on will be clearly marked. You’ll also be able to search for addresses and navigate to them, use the browser to find out more about the places you want to visit, even make bookings, which are sometimes cheaper when made online.



AIM To Displease

When I'm on line, every so often, for no particular rhyme nor reason, there’s a sound from my PC speakers like an old wooden door creaking open and after some time the door slams shut. When I first heard it I had my back to the computer and it made me jump! What is it and can you help me get rid of it?

Lin Thomas, by email


That sounds suspiciously like AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) telling you that someone on your Contact list is signing on and off. If so you can switch it off or, if you want to keep it, change it for something less intrusive by going into AIM’s Settings and Sound Options menu. 




© R. Maybury 2012 1708

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