Ask Rick Maybury 2013



Ask Rick 288 21/12/13


IPhone 4S, Received Wisdom

I have an iPhone 4s and in many respects I find it very good but reception quality is poor. In many areas of the country I find there is little or no signal, whilst other less sophisticated phones belonging to my wife and our friends, have good reception. It is not, as frequently suggested, a network problem since all the phones use Vodafone. Are there differences between Android and Apple phones or between phone manufacturers?

Gordon Leadbeater. By email


First generation iPhone 4 suffered from the so-called ‘death grip’ whereby user’s fingers could interfere with the operation of the antenna, which is on the outside of the case. Apple acknowledged there was an issue and initially told owners that they were not holding their phones properly before relenting and issuing a free ‘bumper’ case. The antenna was redesigned on the 4s but in spite of that a lot of users are still having difficulty making or receiving calls, especially in weak signal areas. Apple has a list of things to try ( and these include toggling Airplane Mode on and off and changing or checking various settings. You may be lucky, but most of the suggestions seem to be in the clutching at straws category. However, in the end this problem is unlikely to go away. It is mainly a consequence of the relentless drive to design slimmer, lighter and smarter phones. This leaves less room for the antenna and diverts battery power away from radio frequency circuits to processing and display functions. The only sure fire solution is a new phone and for the record it also affects some Android models, so ask around and get one that you know works in your locality.



Off The Cards

My practice for storing and viewing photographs has been to download them to my PC from the camera, and after judicious editing, transfer them to an SD card for viewing on a digital picture frame. I can do this no longer. When attempted the display tells me I must ‘Remove write-protection’. I have no idea what this means. I have consulted a number of friends and grandchildren, and after some time fiddling they have given up. Any ideas?

John Davies, by email


SD cards have a tiny, and by that I mean almost microscopic, write-protection switch about one third of the way down on the left hand edge (when viewed from the label side). This may have been nudged into the Lock position when you inserted the card into the picture frame, though normally this wouldn’t be a problem as it is meant to stop files being added or deleted, and not something that most picture frames do. SD cards do not last forever and your might be faulty. Manufacturers typically quote MTBF (mean time before failure) figures of more than 100,000 read/write cycles. However, they can and do fail long before that, especially if they have been exposed to static discharge, excessive heat or humidity, or they are a cheap or inferior type. Dirt on the contacts is another possibility. A gentle wipe with a cotton bud might help, otherwise try another known good card and see if that works. If you still see the same error message then there is a good chance that the fault lies with the picture frame.



Police Warning

I read your recent item on the Cryptolocker Ransomware program and have installed CryptoPrevent, just in case. However, a pal of mine recently contracted the Ukash virus, and had to go to his local PC expert to remove it, at some expense. Is there any way of blocking this particular infection? I've scoured the web but not found anything so far.

Tom Levinson, by email


Ukash, sometimes known as the Metropolitan Police Virus, as it purports to come from them, is another devious malware program that locks and encrypts files on your PC and does not release them until a fee has been paid. There is no easy way to block it as it masquerades as a legitimate program. It normally only infects a PC when the user voluntarily clicks on files or downloads, and ignores warnings about running potentially unsafe software. Therein lies the answer. Ukash can only get onto your PC whilst visiting an infected website, and it is fairly obvious which ones pose the highest risk. Do not download software from unknown sources and if your PC or security program tells you that you are about to do something that might harm your computer, stop clicking and shut it down! 



Home Alone

My new house is in a complete dead spot for TV reception through an aerial. I hate satellite dishes and wont have one. My digital radio can't get a signal. Oh, and my mobile phone can't either. The good news is I have fast broadband available. Can you suggest how I can cheaply access the usual BBC/ITV channels via broadband and is there anything I can do about the digital radio/mobile phone issue?

Mike Knowles, by email


By cheaply I suspect that you mean not having to buy a new Smart TV, with the ability to stream live channels over the Internet. The alternative is to stream them through your PC, using BBC iPlayer and the ITV and C4 web players, and connect the computer to your PC by VGA and audio cables, or, if both TV and PC are suitably equipped, a single HDMI cable that carries high quality digital picture and sound. Providing your broadband speed is above 10Mb/s picture quality should be fine. You can also stream radio channels in the same way, using the BBC Radio Player or one of the scores of web radio players. Don’t forget that even though you may not be receiving live TV programs through an aerial or dish you will still need a TV Licence.


Talk to your neighbours, to see if they can get a phohe signal using a particular network or make or model of phone and it is  worth asking  your current network provider  what plans it has, if any, to improve coverage your area. Otherwise check to see if  they can supply a signal booster, though these may only be available to business customers. 



© R. Maybury 2013 0212

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