Ask Rick Maybury 2014



Ask Rick 298 01/03/14


Magnetic Distraction

I recently purchased a Samsung Galaxy smartphone and want to buy a protective case for it for when I'm out and about.  Most of the cases I have seen have a magnetic button to keep the phone securely inside the case. However, I am concerned that it is not safe to have a magnet that close to the phone, and have found conflicting advice online. Do you have any advice as to whether a magnetic clasp would be safe?

Johanna Coulson, by email


It is not a problem, insofar as damaging your smartphone is concerned, but a magnetic clasp could have other, unexpected consequences. To begin with I would keep it well away from any credit or debit cards with magnetic strips as it could erase or corrupt the data they contain. Almost all smartphones and many tablets have a tiny built-in magnetic sensor; some have two. The most common type is a magnetometer or Hall Effect device that is used by compass apps to point the way towards magnetic North. The other type, fitted to some Android tablets and Apple iPad 2 onwards, works in conjunction with a tiny magnet embedded in the case. This turns off the display and put it into sleep mode when the cover is closed. Clasp and case cover magnets are generally quite weak but when bought in close proximity to the phone or tablet may affect compass readings. So be warned, if you plan to use a compass app for some serious navigation, remove the case and keep your device well away from any magnets.  


Chromebook Fails To Shine

My daughter has recently started a degree course at the Open University. I have bought her a Samsung Chromebook to support her studies. She now tells me that she is unable to download the zip files from the OU containing her work, feedback etc. Although the OU has been helpful they say that they only support certain operating systems, but not Google Chromebook. Samsung technical services say it is all the fault of the OU for using outdated technology.

Liz Lovering, by email


I am sorry to sound harsh but if you are buying a computer for someone, always check that it will be suitable. This is vitally important if it is going to be used for education or a specific application. Schools, colleges and university IT departments are usually happy to advise and this information is often on their websites. In the case of the OU it can be found at, which has very clear guidelines. As a matter of interest Chromebooks, which use a variant of the Linux operating system, can be persuaded to open and display the contents of a .zip file, in a browser windows or by using the Google Docs viewer. However, extracting a zip file can be tricky and requires additional software or specialist knowledge, but in any event these fairly basic machines have limited processor power and memory and are not really up to anything more demanding than web browsing, emailing, simple document handling and multimedia display.


Past Presentation

You recently answered a query regarding giving PowerPoint presentations using a tablet computer connected to a digital projector.  I need to visit various schools and hotels to give presentations using their equipment. I find that most of them are still using older analogue projectors fitted with VGA video and phono audio connections. Can a tablet be adapted to cope with this? I fear it may be some time before much of this equipment is updated!

Peter Harrison, by email


Yes, it can be done, assuming that your chosen tablet has an HDMI output socket. If so all you need is a HDMI to VGA cable adaptor, which cost around £10 from online suppliers like Amazon and ebay. Just make sure that you get one with the correct HDMI plug. Most tablet computers are fitted with Micro (Type D) connectors, though a few models use the slightly larger Type C socket. For the audio connection use a 3.5mm jack to phono lead.



Key Facts

I want to reinstall Windows on a computer but the label on the case is too worn to able to read the product key. Is there any way that I can find out what it is?

Peter Coleman


Yes, but this information is encrypted so you will need help from a free utility called Belarc Advisor, which you can download from: Not only will this decrypt and show your Windows Product key, and those of any other MS products you might have, it reveals a vast amount of information about your computer’s hardware and software, which it displays in a browser window. By the way, be aware that you are only allowed to install a copy of Windows on one computer at a time. Also, if you are using an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) version of Windows, supplied with a computer, it may not be possible to install it on another machine, or you may run into difficulties getting it activated. 



Seconds Out

I recently added another hard drive to my PC. When I switch it on it on it goes for a few seconds and then shuts down. I have not had this trouble before as I previously had a different second hard drive. The computer is custom built by my son, but has been working fine for about 4 years. Could the problem be too many hard drives for the 500 watt power supply?

Philippa Mitchell, by email


This does not sound like a power supply problem and my guess is that the computer cannot boot from the original ‘Master’ drive because the power or data cable has come adrift, or the latter is connected to the wrong socket on the motherboard. It should go to the one marked SATA 1. If your system is using older EIDE type drives (fitted with a wide 40 pin socket), the second drive should have a small ‘jumper’ connector on the back panel; make sure that this is set to the ‘Slave’ position.   




© R. Maybury 2014 1002

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