Ask Rick Maybury 2014



Ask Rick 303 05/04/14


All Star Cast

I have been reading a lot about Google Chromecast in the past week and I am thinking of buying one, to stream Netflix movies from my Samsung tablet to my TV but I haven’t been able to find out if I can also transmit movies stored on the SD card, or how to get it to work with my Windows 7 computer. Can either be done?

Geoffrey Henderson, by email


Yes they can, but first, for those unfamiliar with Chromecast, it is a small ‘dongle’ a little larger than a USB memory stick, costing around £30, that plugs into the HDMI socket on a TV. Media, including movies, photos, music and games and even remote control commands from smartphones, tablets and PCs can be beamed to the TV via your home Wi-Fi network. Setup is easy but you have to install the free Chromecast app on your smartphone or tablet and have the Google Chrome browser on your PC. The growing list of Chromecast apps, which currently includes BBC iPlayer, Netflix and YouTube, stream whatever is showing to the TV simply by tapping the ‘Cast ’ button. To send videos, photos or music stored on your Android tablet you need another app and I suggest Avia, with the Chromecast add-on, which costs £1.80 from Google Play. On your PC you need the Chrome Cast and Videocast add-ons for the Chrome browser, which are free and you can get them by going to Control > Tools > Extensions. Incidentally, on a PC setup there’s a little-known feature that lets you mirror your monitor display and send audio to the TV. Just click the Chromecast icon, then the tiny, greyed-out down-arrow and select ‘Cast Entire Screen’. It is a bit clunky for video but it works well for most programs with static displays.


Obsolete Office?

You have made several references to the free LibreOffice suite. I have in the past used OpenOffice, which would seem to be very similar. Can you tell me the difference and whether one should download the LibreOffice suite as well as the Open Office?

Peter Peterzan, by email


They are indeed alike because LibreOffice is a development of OpenOffice (OO), which was discontinued in 2011. Members of the teams working on the application formed separate groups, spawning three very closely related offshoots known as Apache Office, LibreOffice and NeoOffice, which is a Mac OS X only version. OpenOffice is now effectively frozen so bugs and glitches will no longer be fixed and it can be difficult to find help if something goes wrong as most users have switched to LibreOffice or one of its close relatives, which are functionally very similar; they continue to be developed and are very well supported


No Going Mac

I own a iMac OSX computer but strangely, I don't like it very much so I would like to give it to one of my children, who would keep it, or maybe sell it on. Is it possible for me to wipe it, on a DIY basis, deleting personal details like electronic banking data etc. or should I pay a hopefully trustworthy professional computer technician to do it?

Peter Opperman, by email


No, you can do it quite easily yourself but first make absolutely sure that you have safely transferred all of your irreplaceable data and files as once the process has started, there is no going back. If you have been using iCloud, sign out before you begin and make sure that you deselect  ‘Find My Mac’. This is important because details about you and your PC are stored in a non-volatile RAM (NVRAM) that will not be erased. This is in part a security feature that allows stolen Macs to be traced, even after the drive has been wiped. Next, boot your computer from the original installation disc by restarting whilst holding down the C key and select Disk Utility from the installation menu. On the Erase tab select Security Options then choose an erasure option. 7-Pass Erase is more than sufficient, unless your drive contains state secrets. Once the drive has been erased run the Installer again to load a fresh copy of OS X and when it has finished, quit at the Welcome screen and you can leave it up to the new owner to complete the setup, enter their details and download updates. 


Laptop’s Last Gasp  

I have a Dell Inspiron 6400 laptop, bought new in March 2007 and running on Windows XP. Recently I started getting warnings to the effect that I should replace the rechargeable battery. I mentioned this to a local computer expert who said that the age of the computer, the cost of a replacement battery and the fact that Microsoft will cease support of XP in April all add up to it simply not being worth the expense. Have I been well advised?

L.M.O’Brian, by email


Those statements are all true but I would argue with the conclusion. Providing XP and your laptop are behaving themselves, and you have up to date security software installed, it can go on for years, even without a new battery, powered by the mains charger. Genuine Dell batteries can be expensive but there are plenty of compatible types available at a fraction of the cost. Whilst they may not last as long as an original battery, you should get a year or two out of one, which is more than enough time to shop around for a replacement computer, rather than rush into buying something that you later regret. You will be able to transfer your files and data, get to grips with the new operating system at your leisure, and your old machine will be on standby to act as a backup if something goes wrong. 



© R. Maybury 2014 1103

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