Ask Rick Maybury 2012



Ask Rick 233 01/12/12


Mac To School…

It has been said that Mac users need not bother with anti-virus software because there are so few viruses that affect the Mac operating system. My son has been advised by his university computer department to install free software from Sophos for his MacBook.  What's your view about the current situation with Mac viruses and anti-virus software?

Gareth John, by email


It used to be the case that the chances of the average Mac catching something nasty was very small indeed but there has been an big increase in the number of malware infections doing the rounds and Mac owners can no longer afford to be complacent. However, I would put student PCs, of all types, into a special high-risk category. Students are far more likely to exchange files, media and software from unknown and possibly dubious sources, connect to wireless hotspots, networks or share connections without checking their status, allow others to use their computers and lose or have their PCs stolen or damaged. I still don’t consider it worth splashing out on expensive Mac security software, though. Programs like Sophos Free Anti Virus provides a good basic level of protection against current threats and any Mac user would be well advised to use it. Students need to give security a much higher priority, though, and take extra precautions. At the very least they should be encouraged to make frequent backups of coursework, which should be kept physically separate from their PC or stored on a reliable Cloud server. Identity theft is a special concern so password security should be taken very seriously, and remind him that unwise social network postings can come back to haunt him…



Spanish Sky

I intend to buy a flat in Spain or Tenerife and stay for some months at a time.  I will need basic English TV but I don’t want to pay for an all year contract from Sky, as most of the time it would be wasted. Is there a short-term alternative, even if it means buying a laptop?  Will the BBC iPlayer function in Spain?

Richard Carroll, by email


Sky won’t provide you with any sort of contract as for various copyright, licensing and rights management reasons UK broadcasters are not permitted to allow reception of their channels outside of the country. However, satellite signals spill far outside of national borders and can be received across much of Europe, albeit only on a large dish. The restrictions are enforced by limiting availability of Sky viewing cards outside of the UK but there is a thriving ex-pat black market for illicit cards, and many second homeowners simply take their UK registered cards with them when they go abroad. The Internet also defies international boundaries and if you try to access iPlayer (or any of the other catch-up and streamed services) on a laptop or tablet PC outside the UK you will be politely told that BBC TV programmes are unavailable at your location (though you will be able to receive BBC Radio channels). Again there are ways and means to flout the rules including VPN (virtual private networks) and proxy servers that make it appear as though your PC is in the UK. There is also plenty of dubious advice and snake oil remedies online, so be careful. A device called Slingbox, which costs around £100, occupies a legal grey and it can stream live or recorded TV from your home television or DVR, over the Internet, to a web connected PC or TV anywhere in the world. However, this depends on the equipment in your home being left permanently on plus a reasonably fast and preferably uncapped broadband connection at both ends as TV streaming uses a lot of data,



PowerPoint Projection Problem

I give illustrated lectures using PowerPoint, on my U3A branch’s digital projector. For a recent talk I included short .wmv format videos with the slides. The videos are OK when the presentation runs on my laptop, however when using the projector the slides are fine, but the videos do not show.

John Hart, by email


It is probably a simple configuration issue so here are a few things to try. First when you switch the laptop to external VGA output choose the option that blanks the laptop screen, so the presentation is only seen through the projector. In XP, Vista or W7 reduce or disable graphics hardware acceleration. To do that right-click the desktop, select Properties or Personalise > Settings or Display Settings. Click the Advanced tab, then the Troubleshoot tab and move the Hardware Acceleration slider to the left. If that doesn’t help go back to the Display Properties/Preference dialogue box and on the Settings tab, change the Primary Monitor from the laptop’s LCD panel to the projector. Lastly, try updating the video driver from the laptop manufacturer’s website. 



Kodak Flashback

How can I convert Kodak Photo CD picture files to jpeg format, as Windows 7 doesn't want to know?  I had no problems with XP or Window 98. That's progress I suppose.

David Broughton, by email


I think you are being a little unfair to Microsoft and there’s really no reason for it to support the long abandoned Kodak Photo CD system, which was largely ignored by consumers and employed a proprietary file format called .pcd. Fortunately for you it hasn’t been entirely forgotten and you can open .pcd files and save them as jpegs in my favourite freeware picture editing program, Photofiltre ( This does a pretty good job, but for near professional results that preserves all of the detail and colour information contained in .pcd files, try a free Open Source utility called pcdtojpg ( Be warned that this uses a command line interface so it’s not for absolute novices or those accustomed to point and click Windows programs.


© R. Maybury 2012 1211

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