Ask Rick Maybury 2013



Ask Rick 250 30/03/13


Quality Control

I have set my Sony digital camera to 5M pixel resolution. It claims this allows good quality to 10 x 8 prints, which it does. However, I only have the option within the camera of ‘Fine’, ‘Coarse’ or no compression. The Fine selling produces picture files sizes of around 2MB, but I do not understand how my PC or its picture software (Windows Photo Gallery) recognises the degree of compression. When I want to print or display a compressed image on a large screen TV I really want the full resolution decompressed back, but I have no control over this.

Michael J. Shilling, by email


It is easy to get into a tangle with picture file compression but the important thing to bear in mind is that it is a ‘lossy’ process. In other words the amount of data in a file is reduced by sacrificing fine detail and subtle variations in colour, contrast and brightness. At lower compression settings it is hardly noticeable but at higher levels the picture visibly degrades. The point is, though, that once removed, lost detail cannot be restored, which brings us to one of the most important rules in digital photography. Whenever you can, shoot at the highest resolution and lowest compression settings available. Whilst this results in large files sizes the images will be the best possible quality, giving you the greatest flexibility when it comes to printing and editing. If you need to make compressed copies, make sure that they have a different filename so the original is preserved. In any event there really is no need to compromise on quality, assuming that you place a high value on your photos, memory cards and hard disc storage is reusable and comparatively cheap.



Crack Down on Phoneys

I recently purchased my first smartphone, a Nokia Lumia running Windows Phone. I've been looking for an app or software for virus protection but haven't found anything suitable?  There seems to be a lack of smartphone security apps, why is this? With increasing use of mobiles for all sorts of uses I'd have thought this feature would be a priority?

John B, by email


Your vigilance is commendable but as yet there hasn’t been any real threats to Windows smartphones. They are still relatively new with a tiny market share, which makes them much less of a target for viruses and malware. Like the iPhone, Windows Phone is protected by a ‘walled garden’ App Store with a tight screening process designed to weed out apps carrying a malicious payload. That is not to say that something won’t slip through the net and security loopholes will be uncovered in the future but for the moment the biggest threat to Windows Phone users is fake alerts and scams that scare you into thinking that your phone is infected and trick you into parting with your credit card details for useless, and usually non-existent anti virus software.



Navigating The Amazon

Amazon seems to be incommunicado and I find there is no way of contacting them. I have been trying to order a DVD for over a week but the website will not accept my password.  I had a similar problem some time ago and was asked to change my password, which I did. This time I seem to go round in circles, typing in my password and being asked to decipher higgledy-piggledy letters!

Beryl Weatherley, by email


They don’t make it easy but there are a couple of ways to talk to a human who will hopefully help to sort out your password problem. On the Amazon login page click the ‘Skip Sign In’ button and this takes you to the Contact Us page. Answer a couple of simple questions and you’ll get the option to email, phone or have an online chat with a help person. You can also go direct to the Contact page at: Otherwise there are two Customer Service numbers to try (0800 496 1081 & 0870 744 9979), though it is probably best to avoid using these at peak times, unless you enjoy listening to on-hold music…



Lost In Translation

I use Facebook regularly with friends all over the world, I used to be able to right click on a comment text and left click on Translate, but it doesn't work any more. Instead I see a message that says ‘the translation failed because of a server error, try again’. Do you have any tips to rectify the problem?

Thierry Obitz, by email


If you are using the Chrome browser update to the latest version, as there was a compatibility issue with Google Translate, which has since been fixed. On other browsers try disabling or removing any add-ons or plug-ins that block Flash content. A modem plugin called Motive has also been implicated and it is quite possible that others may be involved so if all else fails disable add-ons and plugins one at a time to see if any of them are causing the problem.



Patchy Performance

I recently changed my ISP, to a fibre optic cable service. Previously my wireless router used WEP encryption, the new one doesn’t seem to like it and is set up to use WPA-PSK. The problem is that although my Windows 7 laptop copes with this arrangement, my XP desktop does not. It does not acquire an IP address and consequently does not connect to the Internet. The technical literature supplied with the new router suggests that a Microsoft update, included in Service Pack 3 may fix this problem though this was installed some time ago. Unfortunately, as I cannot get onto the Internet via my desktop, I cannot download and reinstall this update.

Colin Hughes, by email


You are on the right track though the SP3 update you mention is a WPA (wireless protected access) security patch and I suspect the one that you need is KB81585, which provides Windows XP with WPA support. All you have to do is download the patch on your laptop from:, save it to a USB flash drive, copy the file to the hard drive on your XP computer and run the installation program from there.




© R. Maybury 2013 1103


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