Ask Rick Maybury 2013



Ask Rick 242 02/02/13


Ocean Going iPhone

Could you please tell me if the iPhone and iPad is using a GPS aerial to establish its location? Or is it using a triangular system of telephone masts? If it is GPS, I would like to use it as an emergency backup for the navigation equipment on my boat, even in the middle of the North Sea.

Henrik Bessermann, by email


All iPhones from the 3G model onwards and 3G iPads have what is known as assisted GPS or A-GPS and this works in several ways. Firstly it uses phone mast triangulation and Wi-Fi hotspots to obtain a quick and dirty fix on your location, normally to within a kilometre or less. This is then used to help speed up the acquisition of GPS satellite signals, to provide a more accurate position, this time to within a few tens of metres. The GPS function does work without a network connection but it can take a minute or more for it to lock on to the satellites and work out your position.


The network connection is also used update map information and provide extra detail, though clearly you are not too worried about finding the nearest McDonalds or Post Office bobbing around on the North Sea. As a matter of interest iPhones and iPads send details of your location to Apple. This is used to maintain a crowd-sourced database of phone masts and Wi-Fi hotspots, which is supposed to help refine the initial location fix. Apple is keen to make it clear that this information is encrypted and anonymous, though a bug discovered in 2011, now fixed, revealed that an unencrypted file on iPhones stored a year’s worth of time-stamped location data. This data is still retained, but now only for 7 days. 



Controlled Study

Our youngest son is in his first year of the A Level syllabus and is adamant that he requires Internet access for his studies. The only issue with this is that he gets distracted and ends up playing computer games when he should be studying.  Is there anyway to control his Internet access? A challenging task when your son is bigger than you!

George Gray, by email


In the past I would have suggested one of the many PC programs that block or limit access to the web but that’s impractical now with so many different Internet connected devices. The solution is to manage access through your wireless router, and you will be able to keep an eye on who is online through the router’s setup menu. Many recent models have a facility called MAC filtering, which lets you create rules, such as timed access, for specified devices. Many models also let you block access by keywords or web domain. You will have to consult your user menu to see what is available and how to set it up.



Mounting Concern

For some unknown reason my desktop PC crashed with an ‘unmountable’ error message. It is few years old but has served me well. I have been quoted a repair cost of £160.00, which breaks down as £60 for the new part plus £100 to retrieve the data. I am seriously thinking of purchasing a new tower PC with Window 7 but I still need my data. What is the best solution?



The Unmountable Boot Volume error message normally means that the Windows XP file system is damaged or corrupted. Most repairers take the easy (and profitable) way out and simply replace the old drive, re-install Windows and charge you to copy over the data that you want to keep. To be fair some system faults can be tricky and occasionally impossible to repair but you might be lucky and could save yourself £160 if you have the original Windows XP installation disc. It includes a number of tools and utilities and there is a simple to follow guide to using it to fix this specific problem in Microsoft Knowledgebase Article 555302 at:


If that doesn’t work or you decide to go ahead and buy a new PC, remove the drive from your old machine and pop it into a USB drive 'caddy'. They cost under £20.00 online; make sure you get the right sort for your drive, which will be either an EIDE or SATA type. They are easy to tell apart, EIDE drives have a wide (50mm) connector for a flat ribbon cable whilst SATA drives have two much smaller connectors for data and power approximately 12 and 20mm wide. You will then be able to connect your old drive to the new PC and copy your files and folders to the hard drive on your new computer.



Stubborn Stick

My computer, which runs Windows 7, only intermittently recognises my memory stick. When it does work and I try to copy photographs it will transfer a few and then stop and say the item no longer available. It has mentioned a code 10 and also code 43. The USB port works fine with other devices.

Chas Jewell, by email


Code 10 and 43 error messages usually point to a problem with the device driver used manage communicated between your memory stick and the PC. The first thing to do is delete the driver and let Windows automatically reinstall it. Unplug all USB devices except your memory stick, open Device Manager by pressing Winkey + Break and click the Device Manager link. Double click on Universal Serial Bus Controllers to expand the list. Scroll down to find your memory stick, which should be listed as a USB Mass Storage Device, right click on the entry and select Uninstall. Remove the memory stick, exit Device manager and reboot the PC. When Windows has finished booting plug in the memory stick, the driver will be reinstalled and hopefully this time it will work properly. 



© R. Maybury 2013 1413


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