Ask Rick Maybury 2013



Ask Rick 274 14/09/13


Firefox Flaw?

I have just discovered that all of my password precautions have been completely pointless. In Firefox > Tools > Options > Security > Saved Passwords > Show Passwords, every password I use is displayed on screen! If someone walks off with my computer they have access to everything I thought I was protecting. I have never come across any mention of this glaring loophole. Any idea why not?

Terry Irwin, by email


It is not quite as bad as it seems. If you look again at the options on the Security tab you’ll see a check box for ‘Use Master password’. If you tick this box you will be invited to create a single password to protect and encrypt your list of saved passwords and PINs. It uses a powerful encryption system, though if you use a short or easily guessable password it can be cracked. To prevent this happening take heed of the built-in strength meter bar graph when you create your master password.   



A Picture Contains A Thousand Words…

I have digitised my family photo collection and use Picasa to manage them and the Caption option to describe the who/what/where facts about each photo. Now want to add more extensive descriptions so that I can pass on the stories behind the pictures to future generations. I have found reference to inbuilt comments used by photojournalists but I cannot find any software that will allow me to easily add them, and neatly display them underneath each photo.

Arthur Pinder, by email


There are many ways to embed text and data into image files but the two most widely used systems are known as EXIF and IPTC, and are the best options if keeping the information safe for posterity is a concern. EXIF (Exchangeable Image File Format) may be familiar to owners of digital camera; it records such things as the file name of a photo, the time and date it was taken and various technical details (exposure, shutter speed, resolution, file size and so on). EXIF has a Comments option, which is normally used for titles or captions but it has the capacity to store more than a thousand words. IPTC (International Press Telecommunications Council), which sounds like the one you have read about, uses a metadata format called IIM (Information Interchange Model). It is mostly used by professional photographers and news organisations, to store information about the image in a more organised way, with fields for title, caption, headline, category, credits, copyright and so on. It also has a Comments section that can hold large volumes of text. EXIF and IPTC metadata can be displayed by a number of image viewer and picture editing programs but the best one-stop solution is our old friend Irfanview. This lets you add, edit and show your text, either from Information on the Options menu, or simple shortcuts (I + C for EXIF Comment and I + I for IPTC metadata). Irfanview is free and there’s a link to the download at:



Staying In Charge

As a silver surfer I can use the technology but probably do not understand the finer points. We have Kindles, Kobos, iPods, smartphones and tablets all of which will charge from the computer using a USB cable.  However, each has its own mains charger. I would like to know, may I use one of these to charge all our devices or do I have to use their dedicated charger and lead?

Viva Lloyd, by email


You can certainly try, and you cannot normally damage a device by connecting it to a USB mains charger designed for something else (unless it is faulty or very badly designed). But as usual there are a few ifs and buts. Some chargers, and the USB ports on some computers and laptops cannot supply sufficient current, or they do not work because the device only functions with manufacturer-approved chargers. There are two styles of USB device connector in common use, Mini plugs, and the newer and slimmer Micro plugs, which have become the industry standard. They are not compatible so never force a plug if it doesn’t fit. The other fly in the ointment is Apple, which uses proprietary ‘dock’ connectors on its products. There are issues with the way lithium-ion batteries are charged when at or near to being fully discharged. For best results and to prolong their lives they should be trickle charged to begin with, before going on to receive a full charge, so if you regularly flatten your gadget’s battery it is a good idea to stick with its own charger. Your best chance of finding of finding a mains charger that will work with as many devices as possible is to check its current rating and 1.5 amps (1500mA) is usually enough for most pocket size gizmos, cameras, smartphones and so on. Tablets, iPads and power-hungry devices like external hard drives generally need something with a bit more oomph, typically 2.1A or higher.



Getting The Green Light

I have a fairly new HP Pavilion tower PC. After shutting down at night I notice there is a green light on the back of the case, which I assumed indicated that the power was on. But even after switching the computer off the light still shows and, I find, never goes out. I occasionally go away for up to a week and it seems that this light could drain the battery. Is this correct?

Harry Hignett, by email


That green light is a power and status indicator. It glows for as long as your computer is plugged into a live mains socket. It will eventually go out if you switch off the socket or remove the mains plug. The only time you need be concerned is if it doesn’t come on or it starts blinking, which may indicate a fault. In short, green is good and the only battery inside your PC, is a small button cell, which keeps the internal clock ticking when it is unplugged, and this normally lasts for between 3 and 5 years.


© R. Maybury 2013 2608

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