Ask Rick Maybury 2014

  

 

Ask Rick 301 22/03/14

 

Tinny Tablet

My son bought me a Nexus 7 but I can hardly hear it. I am faced with either looking at the screen or pressing my ear to the speaker. Is there a way to increase the volume?

Alfred Simcox, by email

 

The tiny speakers used in many tablet computers are surprisingly efficient but assuming that you have the volume set to maximum then that is as loud as it is going to get. For personal listening try headphones or earphones but if you prefer to listen through speakers there are several options. You can connect it by cable to a set of amplified PC-type speakers, or your home Hi-Fi system. There are compact active speakers specifically designed for tablets but if you want to avoid messing around with wires and small boxes you can link it by wireless to a Bluetooth speaker system; prices start at around £20 from online retailers such as Amazon.

 

 

PC Mac Drive Sharing

Are there any external hard drives that are compatible with both PC and Mac computers? I want to be able to back up and transfer data between my two laptops.

Maggie Good, by email

 

The vast majority of external hard drives are formatted using NTFS (New Technology File System), which is used by Windows PCs. Macs running OS X can read but not write files to an NTFS formatted drive, at least not without additional software. The best known and most reliable program is Paragon NTFS For Mac (http://goo.gl/HRhQ), which costs around £12.00. Conversely PCs cannot read drives formatted using Apple HFS Plus (Hierarchical File System), also known as Mac OS Extended, but again there are software solutions. A free Open Source program called HFS Explorer (http://goo.gl/42Pks) lets Windows PCs read and write to HFS Plus formatted drives.

 

There is some common ground, though; PCs and Macs can read drives using FAT32 formatting, but it is a rather clanky old system with a 4GB file size limit and it is not as reliable as NTFS or HFS Plus. Given the various options, formatting the drive with HFS Plus and using HFSExplorer on your Windows PC is the most straightforward. Formatting the drive on your Mac is actually quite simple, and there is an easy to follow guide at: http://goo.gl/nbMghM.

 

Android Bluetooth Bungle

My girlfriend has a Google Nexus 4 phone, and what a brilliant device it is, or at least was, until she upgraded to the latest version of Android. Her phone will not now pair with her Bluetooth car kit, and it seems that a lot of people are having similar problems. What makes it worse is that Google appear to be doing nothing about the problem.

Will Statt, by email

 

This is a long, sorry tale and follows the recent over the air (OTA) release of the Kit Kat version of Android. For most Android users Bluetooth works well but for a significant minority these updates cause all sorts of problems, especially with devices that worked previously. For a lucky few simply deleting and re-pairing the Bluetooth device from the Settings menu does the trick. For others more drastic action is required, such as resetting the phone to its factory condition and once again this option can be found on the Settings menu. However, be warned that it wipes all data on the phone so only do it after everything has been safely backed up. However, in the end the only fix that stands a better than even chance of success is to restore the previous version of Android, using what is known as a Factory Image. This is a fairly advanced procedure and not for novices, but if you are feeling brave several sites, including Android Central and XDA-Developers, have tutorials at: http://goo.gl/xCtm5 and http://goo.gl/LVsMY3 respectively.

 

Be Smart With Your TV

I have of course antivirus and malware software on my PC and Android tablet, but I sometimes find it handy to access the Internet on my Smart TV. Does this also need protection?

C.A. Lane, by email

 

Smart TVs, in common with all Internet connected devices, can be vulnerable to attack. There have been several well-publicised proof of concept demonstrations that have allowed ‘white hat’ hackers (i.e. the good guys) to gain access to various parts of some TV’s operating software, including configuration menus, firmware, attached USB drives and most worryingly, secure storage. However, there is not as yet any easy way for hackers to distribute or infect Smart TVs, or enough of them to make it worth their while. The diversity of the operation systems used by these TVs, generally variants of Linux or Android, makes it difficult for software and app developers to devise non make or model specific security programs. At the moment, though, the threat is very low and you can easily avoid it becoming a problem simply by not using your Smart TV’s Internet connection for anything that involves personal or private information, banking and on-line transactions or any secure site that requires PINs or passwords for access.

 

 

Tethering A Tablet

I cannot get my Hudl tablet to work with my Virgin Mobile Broadband 3G dongle which works fine with my Windows 7 laptop. Using an OTG connector, the dongle displays a flashing green light, which suggests a signal is being detected.

Mike Coulson, by email

 

In theory it can be done but it will involve rooting the Hudl's operating system and delving into its inner workings. It is a tricky procedure that will void the warranty and risks 'bricking' your tablet if something goes wrong. In short it is not worth the effort and the easiest way to connect your Hudl to mobile broadband is to use a Mi-Fi dongle, or tether it to a smartphone, via a USB cable or portable hotspot app.

 

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© R. Maybury 2014 0303

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