Ask Rick Maybury 2013



Ask Rick 249 23/03/13


Creepy Congratulations

A few days ago, on my birthday, I noticed the usual Google logo had been replaced by one personally wishing me ‘Happy Birthday’. I thought this was pretty creepy because as far as I know I have never signed up for any Google extras such as GMail or Chrome, nor have I knowingly disclosed my birth date to Google.  What is going on? 

Hugh Searson, by email


Google knows a lot about you from what you tell it or reveal through your web searches, browsing habits, and the devices that you use to connect to the Internet. Information, stored as cookies by your browser are used to create a profile that can include your likely age, sex and lifestyle. You can see how much it knows, or thinks it knows, by going to Google Ad Preferences at: Specific information, such as your name and birthday, which is used to generate that personalised birthday ‘doodle’, would normally have been provided by you when you sign up to a Google service, so how it happened in your case is a bit of a mystery.


One possibility is that someone has created a Google Account in your name as a prank, to hide their own identity or for more nefarious purposes. It is not difficult to do, nor is your birthday a state secret and if you believe someone has set up a fake account you can report it at:


Otherwise you may have signed up without realising or simply forgot all about it. This is also easily done. Google owns or controls dozens of products and services. In addition to GMail there is iGoogle, Buzz, AdSense, Google Drive, Picasa Web Folders, Google Voice and You Tube. You will also have set up an account if you have an Android smartphone or tablet. To find out if Google knows you go to the Accounts page ( enter your email address and any commonly used passwords. If it doesn’t sign you in follow through on the forgotten password or username links. If it transpires that you have a forgotten account you can delete it, change your settings and review the stored information through Google Takeout (, which compiles a downloadable file detailing all of the services that have access to your data.



Sky No-Go

I have an iPad 3 on which I have Sky Go and Sky Sports and these can be watched readily on the tablet’s screen. However when I connect the iPad directly to my TV using an HDMI cable or via Apple TV, which is also connects to the TV by an HDMI lead, there is no picture. What is going wrong?

Warren Starr, by email


According to Sky its decision to disable the HDMI output on the iPad when using the Sky Go app is due to contractual agreements imposed by rights holders. Interestingly this only affects iPad users; the Sky Go HDMI output works perfectly well on other portable devices, such as laptops, but only because there is no way for Sky to switch it off. Various workarounds have been suggested but they all involve Jailbreaking the iPad, and installing unapproved apps that circumvent Sky Go’s jailbreak detector and enable the HDMI output. This requires a fair amount of faffing around, some risk of damaging the iPad, and it invalidates the warranty, so on balance it’s probably not a good idea.



Baffling Bits and Bytes

I am confused by jargon!  A recent test of my BT broadband download speed is stated to be 2.78 Mbps. Is this megabits or megabytes per second, as I believe there are 8 bits to a Byte? I am sure there must be many other confused users out here.

John Robinson, by email


The various ways units of computer data can be expressed, the lack of consistency and marketing shenanigans puzzles a lot of people, but here is a quick explanation. The speed at which data moves from one place to another and over the Internet is fairly straightforward and measured in bits per second. Bits are represented by a lowercase b, so for example, the average broadband download speed in the UK is currently 6.3 million bits per second or 6.2Mb/s.


When we refer to quantities of data, the capacity of a hard drive or memory card, for instance, we talk about bytes, and you say there are 8 bits to a byte, and this is denoted by an uppercase B. Thus a million bytes can be shortened to 1MB. Now this is where it gets a little tricky. Due to compromises made in the early days of computing, to accommodate the way the binary system works and make the most efficient use of memory devices, there are actually 1024 bytes in a kilobyte, and 1048576 (1024 x 1024) bytes in a megabyte. This results in some annoying discrepancies. Hard drive manufacturers often use the standard decimal interpretation of mega (million) and giga (billion) to specify drive capacities, so what they label as a 500GB drive the computer reports as being only 465GB, or around 7 percent less.



Printing Pad Poser

I intend buying a 3G iPad but I don't have a computer or broadband connection in my home at present. Can I print from the iPad to an AirPrint Compatible wireless printer, or do I have to have Wi-Fi?

Norman Reid, by email


I have come across reports of it working with AirPrint compatible printers that also have a feature called Wi-Fi Direct. This enables Ad-Hoc network wireless connections to devices like the iPad. I also found a reference to setting up a peer-to-peer network connection to a supported printer but this requires a PC for configuration. It seems to be possible, but it is a palaver and depends heavily on the make and model of printer so if you can, get a broadband connection. It could even save you money, depending on the 3G data plan you choose or if you go for the cheaper Wi-Fi only iPad. .



© R. Maybury 2013 0403

Search PCTopTips 



Digital Life Index











Top Tips Index

Smartphones Tablets & ebooks

Windows 8

Windows 7

Windows Vista

Windows XP

Internet, Email & Network

Word Processing & Office

Folders, Files & Backup

Desktop Mouse & Keyboard

Crash Bang Wallop!

Privacy Security & Environment

Imaging, Scanning & Printing

Power, Safety & Comfort

Tools & Utilities


Display & screen

Fun & Games








 Copyright 2006-2013 PCTOPTIPS UK.

All information on this web site is provided as-is without warranty of any kind. Neither PCTOPTIPS nor its employees nor contributors are responsible for any loss, injury, or damage, direct or consequential, resulting from your choosing to use any of the information contained herein.