Ask Rick Maybury 2013



Ask Rick 272 31/08/13


Picky iPad

I have come up against a brick wall trying to find out if I can play .mkv format movies on my iPad. Some web sources say it is can’t be done; others reckon it is possible but only by converting the files, whilst others suggest that I need a special app that costs £5.00. Can you give me a definitive answer?

Roger Fielding, by email


Playing non-Apple approved media formats is a constant source of irritation for iPad owners but there are almost always workarounds. In this instance I suggest an excellent free media player called VLC, which has recently returned to the Apple App Store after a complete rebuild. It can play .mkv files, and many other formats not native to the iPad, but one of the most useful features is Wi-Fi upload. This makes it incredibly easy to transfer media files from your PC (or Mac or Linux computer) to the iPad. All you have to do is switch on the feature in VLC on your iPad, it displays an IP address, usually something like: Enter this into the address box on your PC’s browser and simply drag and drop the media file you want to transfer onto the newly opened window. The only thing to watch out for is that the file transfer will fail if you iPad is set to Auto Lock so temporarily disable this from the iPad’s Settings menu until the transfer has completed.



Update Uncertainty

Our Windows 7 laptop spends a lot of time updating Windows. Is there any way in which we can turn off automatic update? Sometimes they seem to go on interminably, which doesn't seem right.  Is there any actual advantage in Windows being constantly updated?

George Mercer, by email


Yes, you can turn off automatic updates but it is not advisable. Many of them will be minor tweaks and fixes for problems that probably won’t affect you but in amongst the routine updates there are usually important or critical security patches. These are meant to plug newly discovered loopholes and vulnerabilities that could be used to infect your machine, or allow hackers to get at your data, and those you do want. To take charge go to Control Panel menu and click Windows Updates. The opening page shows you the number of updates waiting to be installed, their relative importance, whether or not they are optional, and what they are for, so you can determine which ones you want. If you click the Change Settings link you can decide whether or not to install them automatically, without consulting you, install them manually, at your convenience, when and how often to check for updates, or turn automatic updating altogether.



Key Suspect

Some years ago following your recommendation and installed a very useful program called SuperKeys, which provided for shortcuts to any phrase, numbers or combination that one wished. A few weeks ago I had to reinstall Windows and also tried to reinstall SuperKeys, but found that a virus had corrupted the download. Do you know whether there is a clean version of this program available or can you suggest another similar utility?

Terence Graham, by email


Of course an infected download is possible but I suspect that the program has been wrongly flagged up as malicious by your security software. SuperKeys interacts with and changes the way the keyboard works. This similar behaviour to a type of malware called a keylogger, which monitors keystrokes looking for PINs and passwords, and passes them on to fraudsters. To avoid the possibility of downloading an infected file get the program direct from the publishers website (   



Conversion Therapy

There are times when I want to convert an Adobe Acrobat document into a Word document, but it seems the technology for this costs money. Is there a free and easy method?

M Seager, Essex


Acrobat documents, more commonly known as pdfs (portable document format) come in a variety of styles but if the ones you are interested in originated as text documents then it is often possible to highlight the part that you want and use your pdf reader’s Text Copy function to copy it to the Windows Clipboard and from there Paste it into a Word document. You may find this easier with an alternative pdf reader called Foxit (free from, which has the Text copy option on the toolbar. However if the document’s author or publisher has locked or protected it, preventing simple copy and paste functions. Assuming that copyright infringement is not an issue then there are several workarounds. The simplest (free) one is to print the document then scan it using OCR (optical character recognition) software and convert what is essentially an image of words on paper, into editable text. This trick also works with pdfs that have been created from scanned images, providing the print is sufficiently sharp.  



Stingy Service

I recently purchased a new printer, which I have successfully installed on my Vista laptop. When I tried to install it on my XP desktop a message appeared telling me that I needed to install Service Pack 3. I tried to do this via Microsoft Updates but was unsuccessful. I contacted Microsoft and they told me they could perform the installation by remotely accessing my PC and that this would cost  £65. As this was more than the cost of the printer it didn't seem a very good deal. Is it possible to download SP3 for free?

Barry Boughton, by email


Yes it is and that Microsoft advisor should have their knuckles rapped for not pointing you to the free manual download, which is available from the MS site at:



© R. Maybury 2013 1208

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