Ask Rick Maybury 2013



Ask Rick 239 12/01/13


Web Free Windows?

My Vista laptop is used for web access, shopping and e-mail and I keep no personal data on it.  I also have an XP desktop PC that I use for correspondence, spreadsheets and personal data storage. It is not and never has been connected to the Internet. If I want anything on it from the Internet I copy it across on a CD. Now the desktop has expired after 10 years of faithful service and I am now looking to get a new one. I imagine any new purchase will come with Windows 8 and wonder if that will allow me to continue as I am?  Does Windows 8 work effectively without being connected to the web?  Would I be better getting a PC with Windows 7 while I still can?

Graham Wilburn, by email


Windows 8 is more reliant on an Internet connection than previous versions, in particular the animated and constantly updating Metro interface, and Cloud storage options, but otherwise it works perfectly well offline. On the plus side not connecting to the Internet means your computer will be largely immune to web-borne viruses and malware. The downside is that it won’t receive updates and Service Packs. These can be important, especially in the early days of a new operating system. This is when unforeseen bugs and glitches are most likely to be discovered, which could affect the PC’s operation or stability. If you do decide to take a chance and go off-grid Windows will pester you with pop-up warnings but you can stop them by switching off automatic updates. All you have to do is press Winkey + Break to open the System Dialogue box and click Windows Update > Change Settings. Some of your programs may also object, but in general these types of update are less frequent, and unlikely to be security related or of a critical nature. Incidentally, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, it is very easy to make W8 look and operate like an XP, Vista or W7 PC with a free utility called StartMenu8 ( This enables the conventional desktop at startup, with the familiar and Start button and menu.



Mystery Symbols

My keyboard has several keys with what appears to be three functions. For example holding shift and the 4 key produces the US dollar sign. This key also has the Euro symbol, but I can’t see how to access it. I suspect it involves a combination of two keys, but which ones? The IT experts I have asked profess no knowledge of word processing.

F Comrie-Smith, by email


That’s a little worrying and I wouldn’t go bothering these so-called experts with anything complicated. Even if they didn’t already know how to access third-level symbols they should at least be able to look it up on Google. Anyway, the trick in this case is to hold down the AltGr key (Alternate Graphic) which is normally to the right of the Spacebar), then press the 4 key. There are a number of extra third-level symbols but these are not shown on most keyboards and it also depends on the word processor, program, language setting and version of Windows that you are using but on UK keyboards AltGr + a vowel key gives an acute accented character and AltGr + C and T normally produce the copyright ‘©’ and Trademark ‘™’ symbols respectively.



Skype on Chromebook

I've bought a Chromebook only to find that I cannot get Skype on it. I'm rather disappointed, as I wanted it for my travels to keep in touch.

Andrew Clayton, by email


Currently there isn’t a version of Skype for the Chromebook but apparently they are working on it. In the meantime there are a couple of workarounds now and in the pipeline. The simplest one is to use a web-based service called imo instant messenger, which should already be on your Chromebook (otherwise This lets you log on with your Skype account and exchange messages with your contacts, though at the moment you can’t dial out and make voice calls but you can use video chat, (you may need to install a plugin). Microsoft’s new Hotmail replacement (, is promising Skype integration in the very near future, possibly the next few weeks. There is also Google Hangouts (, which is an alternative to Skype for audio and video chatting. Whoever you are calling also needs to be using Hangouts but the advantage over Skype is that up to 10 people can join in; you can also share documents and images and it is completely free.



Where’s My Wireless?

I have a desktop computer happily running Window XP Professional with broadband through a wired router. I am stopping this service very shortly and now have a Sky wireless router. In their instructions it says to connect the desktop I need to click on the wireless icon but I cannot find this at all. Am I simply missing a trick or is it not possible with this setup.

Peter Graham, by email


Could it be something as simple as your PC not being fitted with a wireless adaptor? It is unusual for them to be installed as standard, especially on older desktop computers. It’s not a problem, though and you can find Wi-Fi dongles that plug into a spare USB socket selling for under £10 online. Just make sure that it comes with a suitable driver for Windows XP. Once installed the wireless icon will appear in the System Tray (next to the clock) and you should be able to connect and log on to your Sky router. On the off chance that your PC does have a Wi-Fi adaptor card, then if it is working the icon may simply be hidden, in which case just click on the show more icons arrow. Otherwise it may have stopped working, the driver software is corrupted so reinstall it, or the card has become unseated, but as this involves removing the lid it is advisable to seek expert help if you are not comfortable poking around inside your computer.




© R. Maybury 2013 2412


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