Ask Rick Maybury 2013



Ask Rick 278 12/10/13


Going Mobile Stateside

I am visiting the USA later this year and want to use my (unlocked) iPhone 5 for calls within the USA. I’ll need to use it on arrival. Can I buy a prepaid SIM card online and have it shipped to the UK so that I can use it straight away?

John Van der Vord, by email


Yes you can and there are plenty of sellers on ebay and Amazon, both in the UK and US, with prices starting at around £5.00, but it can be a bit of a minefield. There are a number of technical issues concerning which version of the iPhone 5 you have, and how it was unlocked and these can determine which networks you can use and whether or not some features or apps will work. There is also the question of network coverage but providing you are not going too far off the beaten track the safest option for most iPhone users is a pre-paid SIM card from AT&T. It is the USA’s second largest provider and airtime vouchers are very widely available from retail outlets. However, whichever network you decide to use there are a few things to be aware of. Some US SIM card deals require hefty up-front payments for airtime, which you may not want or need if you are only visiting for a short time. Check the tariffs carefully especially if you expect to make or receive calls or texts from the UK or make use of your phone’s data or mobile broadband facilities. Make sure you read and understand what is involved in activating the card online and how you go about buying credit or top-up vouchers when you are there. The setup for some cards can be fiendishly complicated, and you may not be able to test if it is working until you arrive in the US. Print out the instructions and any numbers you may need to call if you encounter problems. Aim to activate the card a week or so before you leave and this will give you plenty of time to give your new phone number to anyone who may need it and finally, get used to calling your mobile phone a ‘cell’,



Google Home From Home

I am from the USA but I have been living in the UK since 1982. I spend a considerable amount of time in America and frequently want to research products on sale in the US. Even though I put US in Google I still get mostly UK companies. How can I get mainly US suppliers?

Bill Harrell, by email


Google, in common with many websites, knows which country you are in from your IP address and tailors its search results or content to suit. You can, however access the US Google home page simply by adding a NoCountryRedirect (NCR) code to the .com address, so that it looks like this:



Wi-Fi Off The Rails

I live right next to the West Coast Mainline Railway and have had problems with slow and intermittent broadband access for some time. My phone line comes into a spare bedroom upstairs, which is where the wireless router is situated, but I assumed the poor performance downstairs was due to the thick stone walls. Because of this I tend to use my wireless laptop on the landing, and have noticed that when trying to establish a connection ‘Virgin Trains’ sometimes appears as a network in range, and disappears fairly quickly. I have recently been given an Internet radio and notice that the radio station is lost temporarily when a train goes by. Could the appearance of another Wi-Fi signal shut down the router? Missing about 30 seconds of cricket commentary during an exciting match is really annoying! Short of stopping the trains, have you any ideas?

Pat Andrews, by email


Mr Branson’s trains come in for a lot of stick but I doubt that they are directly responsible for your generally slow Internet speed, or the weak signal but they may well be contributing to your problems and could be causing the intermittent connection. Moving the router to a new location, fitting a more efficient external aerial, installing a repeater or installing cable connections can all help improve access to your broadband connection and you can get a good idea of your typical download speed from online bandwidth testers such as Bandwidthplace -, Speedtest -, and Broadbandspeedchecker -- . Try at least two of them at several different times throughout the day, to get an average, and if it is significantly and consistently below what you are paying for then contact your service provider. You should be able to at least minimise, and possibly eliminate the jumpy connection by switching to another channel on your wireless router. You need to access your router’s setup menu and the exact procedure should be explained in the user manual or from the support section of your ISP’s website.



Excel Off Colour

I recently upgraded to Windows 7 and I notice that with Excel, if I use a Fill Colour (yellow, say) to highlight a cell, when I print the document it does not highlight that cell, although Print Preview clearly shows that it should show up. What’s the secret?

Mike Davison, by email


There are several possibilities, first the obvious, and easily overlooked one. Go to your printer’s Settings or Setup menu and make sure it is set for colour printing. Otherwise go to Page Setup/Layout, select the Sheet (or Sheet tab) > Sheet Settings and make sure Black and White and Draft Quality are both unchecked. Other things to try are the printer’s resolution setting. If it is set to 300dpi or below change it to another higher value and last, but not least, if you are using one of the Windows High Contrast colour schemes, disable it before you print your spreadsheet.



© R. Maybury 2013 1609

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