Ask Rick Maybury 2014



Ask Rick 294 01/02/14


The Last Word On XP?

I have a 9-year old Dell running Windows XP SP3 using it for email, Internet shopping, spreadsheets and Word. I see that in April 2014 Windows XP will no longer be supported.  What does this mean?  Do I really need to get a new PC as Microsoft suggest?

David Kendall, by email


Rest assured that on April 8th your PC and those belonging to the estimated 20 to 25 percent of PC users still using XP, will not suddenly stop working. There will be no new updates and patches issued after that date and whilst this does have some security implications, it need be no more than a minor inconvenience. Incidentally, there are indications that Microsoft may make an exception in the event of a highly critical security flaw being discovered, but hackers and crackers are much more interested in finding loopholes in later versions of Windows. Even so, XP users should still review their security and backup procedures.


Users of Microsoft Security Essential will need to take action as no new virus signature and definition updates are being released for the XP version. Fortunately there are still plenty of free and paid for alternatives to MSE (AVG, Avast, Avira, Bitdefender, Zone Alarm etc) and provided you avoid risky behaviour your PC should be safe. There will also be no new updates or releases of Internet Explorer for XP but again IE won’t stop working and both Google and Mozilla have pledged to continue to support XP with their Chrome and Firefox browsers.


PC repairers and engineers will continue to ply their trade and there are very few problems that you cannot find a solution to simply by Googling the error message or symptoms. You will still be able to carry out new XP installations and although many new programs and peripherals do not work on XP, this is nothing new and not really a problem if your present setup does everything that you want it to do. Looking ahead, and being practical, whilst XP can keep going almost indefinitely, your hardware is almost certainly on borrowed time. It wouldn’t hurt to start to thinking about a replacement so you can make a smooth transition, rather than be forced into one by a major breakdown. Under the skin Windows 7 and 8 are not that different and with a little tweaking can be made it look and behave a lot like XP so the changeover need not involve too much upheaval.



Silent Skype

I am a non-technical silver surfer and I love using my iPad, but lately I have had no sound when Skyping my son in the US. Could updating the iOS software have affected it?

Christine Booth, by email


Usually it is something fairly simple so check the volume settings first. With Skype open press the round Home button twice to display the Multitasking bar, swipe that to the right and make sure the sound isn’t muted (there will be a line through the speaker icon) or the volume slider isn’t set too low. The other possibility is the notification mute switch. This is next to the volume up/down rocker on the side of the case and it should be set to off, (red dot hidden). If all else fails try resetting your iPad by holding down the Home and Sleep buttons until the Apple logo appears then release them. Incidentally, if the person you are calling cannot hear you, on the Home screen go to Settings > Privacy > Microphone and check the setting for Skype.



Taking Credit

My wife and I have lost nearly £40.00 of credit from our two phones, which are with two different providers.

We only use our phones for emergencies when travelling and never switch them on. Recently we checked our balances to find that both were showing zero. Is there a PAYG provider who will not rob us?

Dudley Grant, by email


It is a minefield and most PAYG SIM deals are riddled with clauses and get outs that allow the operator to cancel unused credit, or the card, after a period of inactivity. This can be as little as 30 days though most of the major network operators now quote 180 days. Usually this can be extended indefinitely, provided that you make at least one chargeable phone call or send a text message in that period. There are exceptions and it is worth checking what the virtual network operators have to offer. Companies like Asda, Tesco, Virgin etc, who use the major network operator’s phone masts, sometimes buck the trend with more generous offerings but be warned that all phone company’s terms and conditions can and do change, often without warning. However, in the end the best way to avoid this sort of thing happening again is put a note in your diary and make a short and timely call on your mobile to keep the card and its credit active, but do not forget that even if your SIM card has run out your phone can still make 999 Emergency calls.  




Can you tell me if there is any way I can get rid of a continuous buzz or hum on my PC’s external speakers?

Keith Rawlings, by email


Mains hum is notoriously difficult to track down but step one is to move all of the wires going in to and out of the speakers well away from any other mains powered devices or cables. Reseat all of the plugs and sockets as dirty contacts can also cause hum. If you plug a pair of headphones into the PC’s line audio output or headphone socket you can determine if the hum is coming from the PC or generated by the speakers. If it is the computer use another mains cable and failing that, another mains socket as there is a very small chance the one you have been using is wrongly wired. If the hum is coming from the speakers once again try another mains socket, and if it uses an external mains adaptor, substitute it with one that has the same voltage and current rating and connector type and polarity as the one that came with it. In the end, though it may just be due to poor design, especially if they were cheap and the only safe solution it to upgrade your speakers.




© R. Maybury 2014 1301

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