Ask Rick Maybury 2014



Ask Rick 299 08/03/14


Rural Broadband Roulette

We suffer from very slow broadband speeds. The line has been checked and supposedly fixed by BT. Our internal wiring has been simplified and cleared of crackles and we have a newish wireless router. We live in a rural area about 0.9 miles from the exchange but of course, there is no fibre connection. The net result is that we have gone from about zero to between 1 and 3.5 Mb/sec for downloads. We have been with our present ISP for many years but I am about to change as they have become expensive for old and loyal customers, despite protests, and customer support is terrible. Other providers offer an 8Mb/s service but of course can’t guarantee any particular speed. The average download speed in our village is about 7Mb/s. Until a few months ago we too were getting this but it has dropped off markedly. The village has not increased in size and the number of users has remained fairly static for several years. My question therefore is, do some providers give better speed than others? 

Stephen Wessel, by email


Yes they do and whilst it appears that the connection between your system and the exchange is as good as it can be there are numerous external factors that influence broadband speed. These include the age and performance of the DSL equipment used by the various ISPs, the speed and capacity of their connections to exchanges and the wider Internet, and how they manage traffic on their networks. Whilst the population of your village has not changed significantly, other communities, served by your local exchange, may have expanded and increased the burden on the equipment and connections. The recent slowdown can also be due, in part, to rapid changes in the way we use the Internet, like the dramatic increases in Cloud storage and computing, media streaming and multiple devices per household. Why not take a straw poll amongst your neighbours to find out which ISP is currently giving the best service? The situation may well change, though. ISP speed and reliability inevitably varies over time. As you have discovered your loyalty carries relatively little weight with most suppliers these days so be prepared to switch again in the not too distant future. You can make changing providers a lot easier by registering a domain name and using that for your email address, so it remains the same whichever ISP you use.  

E-Reader Security

Do I need any sort of security software on my Nook e-reader when buying books online?

Barry Ellis, by email


Nook e-readers from Barnes & Noble use the Android operating system and providing you only download e-books and apps from official sources, such as B&N’s own website or Google Play, the chances of picking up an infection is very small. However, if you do not want to take any chances then AVG has developed an antivirus app specifically for the Nook, which costs $1.99 from


The Parent Trap

My parents who are both in their seventies have finally connected to the Internet via a rather elderly laptop. As the keyboard has several missing keys they have another keyboard connected plus a mouse. Both are far less dextrous than they used to be; my Father has Parkinson’s. My brothers and I were thinking of clubbing together and buying something that is easier for them to use and here we are divided. One brother thinks we should be looking at a tablet computer, whilst the rest of us think that it will be just too small as their eyesight is also not very good and a touch screen could be difficult for my father to use. They will probably only be using it for email, very limited web browsing and Skype. We have a budget of £350.

Clare Whitfield, by email


Problems with screen size and touch screen sensitivity on tablets can be overcome but I think that in the end a modern laptop, with a 15 or 17-inch screen, would involve the least upheaval and remain within your budget. I would shortlist models that come with Windows 7, which is not radically different to XP or Vista and there are some attractive deals at the moment on recently discontinued models. More importantly, W7 has a very good assortment of built-in accessibility options, designed to help those with a wide range of visual and physical impairments.


Diary Enquiry

I keep a hand written diary for my own amusement, and to aid an imperfect memory. It might be more useful if it was electronically recorded, especially if it were then possible to recall previous entries by searching with individual words such as holiday, by date or the name of person or place. Usual diary features, e.g. calendar, ability to enter future events, editing, and so on would also be needed. My own search of the Internet merely confused me. Could you advise what hardware or software is necessary. I have an Aspire 7540 with Windows 7

Derek Taylor, by email


The highly personal nature of diaries, and the ways in which they are used means that there is no one-size-fits-all solution but for a simple no-cost option, try using a word processor. Microsoft Word, if you already have it, or Writer, which is part of the free Open Source LibreOffice suite (, meets virtually all of your criteria. Both programs have powerful Search facilities, but you will have to create a diary or calendar template to organise your jottings. It is not difficult and there is some useful guidance and links for Word users at There are plenty of stand-alone diary programs to choose from but of the free, no-frills offerings one stands out, and iDailyDiary Free can be downloaded from If you need extra facilities, such as the option to allow others to read it, or for you to be able access it from anywhere, on any device, have a look at web-based offerings like FreeDiary.Me ( and My Dear Diary (


© R. Maybury 2014 1702

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