Ask Rick Maybury 2013



Ask Rick 283 16/11/13


iPhone Finger Foible

I read of a chump who got hold of a light bulb before switching it off. The result was he burnt his finger and thumb quite badly. With his fingerprints thus disappearing, how will he be able to access his fingerprint-locked device?

Peter, St.Austell


Could you be referring to the fingerprint scanner on the iPhone 5S and new iPad Mini?  It has certainly raised some interesting questions and enlivened a small army of hackers, the fastest of whom took only two days to crack the system. There is no denying that fingerprint recognition is a quick and convenient method for opening a phone and authorising transactions, but only in conjunction with other user details. Unlike PINs and passwords fingerprints are unique and cannot be cannot be guessed, but they are not completely effective as a single-point identification technique. As you have indicated loss and damage to fingers can be a problem and we need not go into the less savoury workarounds used by villains in Hollywood movies, (or whether or not they actually work…). The point is Apple accepts that the system is fallible and not a substitute for the conventional iPhone/Pad Passcode, which remains in place and allows an owner to access their phone if the scanner is damaged or their fingerprint is unavailable. 



Smelling a RAT

My brother is with Virgin Media and needed to send them a message regarding his TV service. Being very busy he asked his wife if she would do it. When she tried to log in she was told she wasn't my brother and was denied access. She had not indicated in any way who she was. The only thing they can think of is that Virgin had been able to see her with the onboard web camera on the laptop! Spooky! They were not signed into Skype. Is this possible? If so, do we all have to tape over the camera lens? One other quick question; can you tell me how to remove the multiple greater than (>) arrow symbols that appear on every line in forwarded emails?

Richard Shaw. N Yorkshire


Whilst it is possible for hackers to covertly access a laptop webcam (and microphone) you can be reasonably certain that Virgin Media does not employ such nefarious methods to identify their customers. It is far more likely that your sister logged in with an incorrect password, used another computer or another network that hadn’t been previously used to access that Virgin Media account or the cookies the site uses to recognise customers had been deleted from the browser.


Webcam hacking is not that common and recent browser updates and improvements in security software have made it much more difficult, but the threat remains. There are several techniques but they mostly depend on the victim downloading malware onto their PCs and exploiting a utility called a Remote Administration Tool or RAT. These can be used quite legitimately to set up remote access to a computer, for sharing information or diagnosing problems. If your brother or sister in law are concerned about unwanted RATs or malware infestations then they should make sure that their security software and browser are regularly updated and periodically check their computers using an effective anti-malware tool, such as Malwarebytes; there is a link to the download at:


To get rid of those pesky email re-forwarding arrows try a freeware utility called Stripmail (; simply copy and paste the affected message into the program’s window, click the Strip button to delete the unwanted characters then copy and paste the cleaned up email into a new message window.  



Making Tracks

When making an audio CD from a cassette, how can I arrange it so that on playback, the CD player recognises the track numbers.  At the moment I am using Audacity and songs on the tape are being read as a single track.

Ashok Sharma, by email


You can split tracks quite easily in Audacity. Simply place the cursor at the start of the first track on the recording, on the Project (or Tracks) menu select Add Label at Selection and enter the track name and number. Repeat this procedure for each subsequent track and when you have finished go to File > Export Multiple, click Export and they will be saved as separate tracks. You can semi automate the process of locating the beginning of each track using the Silence Finder option on the Analyze menu.



Stop Start Skype

I have been trying to stop Skype opening when I start up my PC. I have checked within Skype and removed it from the Windows Startup list but it still launches itself. Is there a cure?

David G Dudley, by email


Skype can be a tricky customer when it comes to automatically launching with Windows, so let us run through the various options. First from within Skype, whilst logged on, go to Tools > Options > General Settings and uncheck ‘Start Skype when I start Windows’. You have already attended to the entry in the Startup folder, which for the record is on the All Programs list, on the Start menu. In Windows 8 open Task Manager (Ctrl + Shift + Esc or look in Apps under Windows System), select the Startup tab and if Skype appears on the list right-click the entry and select Disable. In earlier versions of Windows type ‘msconfig’ in Search or Run on the Start menu and click the Startup tab. Once again deselect Skype if it is on the list and reboot. Finally, it may also launch from the Windows Registry. As regular readers will know the Registry is strictly off-limits to novices but you can safely remove stubborn Startups using an excellent freeware utility called CCleaner. This option is on the Tools menu. CCleaner is free and there’s a link to the download at:




© R. Maybury 2013 2810


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