Ask Rick Maybury 2014



Ask Rick 296 15/02/14


Free iPhone Unlock? 

Following an upgrade I now have an iPhone 4S going spare, which I plan to pass on, or sell, I haven’t decided yet, but either way I understand that it would be better if it was unlocked, so that it can work with any SIM card. I looked online for advice and found several YouTube videos that showed how to do it with a free app. They made it look quite easy but does it really work, and is it safe?

Katie Howard, by email


The app is called SAMprefs but do not get too excited. The iPhone has to be jailbroken first and the network lock is only partially removed so that the phone can work on just one other network’s SIM card. However, this is largely academic since Apple recently blocked this method and it only works now on iPhones that were unlocked by SAMprefs before the plug was pulled. If you want your iPhone to be useable on any network then it needs what is known as a Factory unlock. The best option is to ask your phone provider. Some of them will put in the necessary request to Apple for free, providing you are still a customer; others like EE make small charge (currently around £20). In most cases it takes around a week to ten days to process and you have to connect the phone to a computer running iTunes to complete the operation. The alternative is to use one of the high street or online unlocking services. Most of them offer Factory-type unlocks but prices vary widely, typically between £50 and £100, so shop around. The procedure is generally fairly safe but it will not be Apple or phone provider approved, the phone’s warranty is voided, and there is usually no guarantee that the unlock will not be undone following a full reset or future iOS update. Beware of other ‘free’ online unlock offers; they are generally scams or very risky.



Tablet Transfer

How can I load DVDs onto my newly acquired iPad? I have a library of DVDs but I don't seem to be able to put them into iTunes for transfer.

Martin Ogden, by email


Leaving aside copyright, licensing and copy protection issues, in order for an iPad to play a DVD it has to be converted into a format that the device supports. There are several ways to do that but a good place to start is a free Open Source conversion utility called Handbrake. Windows (32 and 64-bit) and Mac versions can be downloaded from: It is easy to use and there is a step-by-step tutorial at: The only problems with this method are that it is fairly slow, and the iPad’s limited storage space fills up quickly. If you mainly want to watch movies at home then you would be better off streaming them from your computer to your iPad, via your home wireless network. To do that try free apps such as Air Video and VLC Streamer, available from the App Store.



Organising A Replacement

I use a Sharp ZQ-570 with 256KB that I have owned for about 20 years. I use it for taking notes, phone directory and diary. Could you recommend a something to replace it? I don't want anything that links to the Internet, so I am finding sourcing a replacement difficult.

D. Pratt, by email


All of the functions of electronic organisers and PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants), and a lot more besides, are now incorporated into modern feature phones, smartphones and tablets so, not surprisingly, those older devices have all but disappeared. You can still find ‘as new’ old stock organisers and PDAs on ebay and Amazon. However, it really would be easier, and probably cheaper to move on and buy a contract-free Android smartphone. These cost from around £40 from supermarkets like Tesco. The phonebook, notebook and diary functions work without a network connection, but if you change your mind about the Internet, or using it as a phone, it can connect to your home wireless network or a free Wi-Fi hotspot, or get a pay-as-you-go SIM card, which is the cheapest option for light and infrequent phone use.



Telly Troubles

I have a Sony KDL 40 HX803 TV and want to use it to watch videos, which have been transferred from tapes onto an external hard drive. The TV has a USB port but there seems to be no way to open the files on the drive.

Alan Coles. By email


There are several possibilities but the ones that spring immediately to mind are that the USB port on the TV is only designed to connect USB memory sticks and self-power media players and cannot supply enough power for an external hard drive. If the drive has the option of an external mains adaptor try using that. The other possibility is that it doesn’t recognise the video file format you are using. According to the specs it supports MP4, MPEG-1 and the proprietary Sony/Panasonic HD camcorder format, AVCHD.



Troubled Dutch

I am Dutch, live in England and therefore correspond, surf the web and email in both languages. Sadly my Windows 8 laptop thinks he/she has a better grip on the Dutch language than I, and constantly corrects any word that does not also exists in the English language. It also Anglicises words, and adds capital letters to certain words. I tried switching the language to Dutch, but then everything is in Dutch, which is also confusing. I am sure there must be a way to switch off the spellcheck, but I don't know where to find it?

Reinardina Arreman, by email


Click or tap Settings on the Charms Bar (move mouse pointer to top right or bottom left corner, Winkey + C or swipe right) then PC Settings > General and under Spelling set Autocorrect misspelled words to Off.



© R. Maybury 2014 2701

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