Ask Rick Maybury 2014



Ask Rick 300 15/03/14


Never Too Old

Coding, or programming, is to be introduced into the National Curriculum later this year. This is the foundation of all that we see and do on the Internet, but it is a total mystery to me. Where can I find simple but detailed teaching instructions for an absolute beginner?

Fred Parsons, by email


Good for you and hopefully you will quickly discover that it is nowhere near as mysterious or difficult to grasp as you may think. In fact you are already more than halfway there, simply by being able to understand English, which is the basis of most computer code and common programming languages. The web is awash with tutorials and instructional videos but for a good basic grounding, which assumes no prior knowledge, I suggest that you try Codeacademy ( It is completely free and presented as a series of short, easy to follow lessons. You can progress rapidly from the fundamentals to creating simple games, web pages and applications. You are encouraged and rewarded along the way with points and badges for completing exercises. If you see it through you should be ready to tackle the slightly more challenging follow-on courses that will lead you towards designing and building real world applications. 


Desire For Smaller Bills

My HTC Desire smartphone costs have risen hugely over the last month. I only make very limited use of text messaging and maybe a couple of brief UK calls per month. I only upgraded to this phone to get Bluetooth compatibility with my car. So what are the likely causes of the cost increase and how do I correct it?  Is my phone is somehow, and unknown to me, connecting with the Internet, which I do not need? 

Alan Dundas, by email.


You should contact your network provider, ask them to give you a breakdown of the bills and make sure that you are on the most appropriate tariff. However, assuming that you are not making more phone calls or sending text messages than usual then it is almost certainly due to data charges. Your new phone and some of the applications installed on it are busily accessing the Internet, downloading and uploading data, without you doing anything. Unless you have set up your phone to check for emails then these will be relatively small amounts of data, checking for updates, establishing your location, displaying weather reports and so on, but it is going on all of the time and soon adds up. To disable the data connection got to the Settings menu then Wireless & Networks and uncheck Mobile Network. You will still be able to use the phone and send text messages as normal and if you want to use your smartphone to access the Internet you can still do so, using a Wi-Fi connection. If you do through your home network or on a free public wireless hotspot it will not cost you anything.


iTunes For The Privileged

I am unable to open iTunes and get the message ‘…cannot start because MSVCR80.dll is missing from your computer’. I have tried reinstalling iTunes but it won’t let me. I have looked on the Internet and there are lots of suggestions, including sites that say they can solve it for a price. What is the safest way to get iTunes back?

Jackie Thomas


This has been bothering a lot of iTunes users recently and in most cases it is due to the program not being allowed by Windows to install the necessary updates. The trick is to uninstall iTunes and all of its components then re-install, giving it administrator privileges. If you are unsure how to do this there are some step-by-step instructions in Apple Knowledgebase article 5376 at



Doc Lock Block

I have lost the password to a long and important Word document. Is there any way to get around this?

John Campin, by email


Yes, and it is worryingly easy, especially on documents created on older versions of Word (2003 and earlier) A quick web search reveals a very wide range of free and paid for programs and services that claim to be able to unlock, decrypt or neutralise Word password protection, which should come as a warning not to rely on this facility to keep your documents safe from prying eyes! Rather than list the options have a look at these articles on ( and TechRepublic (, which review some of the most popular products. Be careful, though. You should be reasonably safe with free and trial programs that reveal just the first two or three characters of a password and hopefully this will be enough to jog your memory, but you may want to think hard about giving your credit card details to companies, which may be on the fringes of legality, and are in the business of cracking security systems! 


Frozen Firefox

I have a problem with my laptop, which seems to stem from Mozilla Firefox, which will now not work at all.

When I try to load it, I get the message ‘cannot load XPCOM’. I have tried uninstalling Firefox, and I have rebooting the system without success.

John Wood, by email


XPCOM or Cross Platform Component Object Model, and since you ask it is a library of files that lets Firefox access and interact with various web services. Occasionally it stops working or becomes corrupted and you have to carry out a clean reinstall. Step one, using Internet Explorer, download, but do not install the latest version of Firefox. Next, uninstall your current version of Firefox, and make sure that the option to remove your personal data is unchecked otherwise you will loose your personal settings and bookmarks. Open Windows Explorer and navigate to C:\Program Files and delete the Mozilla Firefox folder. Finally, install the newly downloaded version of Firefox. In the unlikely event that it does not work see this tutorial ( for removing all traces of Firefox from your PC, before reinstalling.


© R. Maybury 2014 2402

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