Ask Rick Maybury 2014



Ask Rick 312 07/06/14


Remotely Helpful

My mother suffers from dementia and can no longer operate her TV remote control. Members of the family receive phone calls most days where the volume is blaring out or she is watching snow etc. If you try and help her over the phone she pushes buttons on the phone handset. At present she does not have Internet access. Is it possible to install a system where the controls for the TV can be operated remotely?

Malcolm Taylor, by email


It is certainly possible though I fear that adding another layer of technology means that there will be more things to go wrong that can only add to your mother’s confusion and frustration. Why not go back to basics and prepare an easy to understand troubleshooting crib sheet for the most frequent problems. For example: ‘No picture?’ Check the TV, digibox/DVD player/VCR is plugged in and switched on. ‘Still no picture’? Press channel button 1 on the TV/digibox remote. ‘Too loud’?  Press this button to make it go down, and include drawing of the appropriate button symbol. Better yet, put numbered sticky labels on the most frequently used keys, and maybe tape over the ones she should avoid, like Source Select, Text, Menu and so on. Finish off with the most useful tip of all, which is that you can get out of most tangles simply by switching the TV and digibox off and starting again.   


If you must go down the technology route then your mother will need an Internet connection as all of the systems to remotely control TVs depend on it. There are a number of proprietary solutions, designed for specific makes and models of smart TV that can be remotely operated through smartphone or tablet PC apps. Samsung have been particularly busy in this area; it is also possible to remotely control some DVRs and digiboxes, but assuming that her TV is an older or simpler model that does not support these features then a gadget called Slingbox  (, is worth investigating, though it is actually designed for streaming TV to a remote location. An Internet connection would open up a number of other possibilities. This is a long shot, but see how she gets on with a tablet PC. With some one-to-one tuition most people pick them up quite quickly. If she takes to it then you and the family can provide her with more friendly, face-to-face help using video calling apps like Skype and Facetime, and the tablet’s camera may make it easier to see what she is doing. It would also allow you to set up a webcam or remote video monitoring, if or when her condition worsens and you feel that she may need a more watchful eye kept on her. However, before you get bogged down with gadgetry I strongly suggest that you try the human approach first.



Volume Victim

I expect you have been asked this before, but is there any way to keep TV volume constant? We always have to reach for the remote when the adverts come on as they seem to be broadcast at a much higher volume than the programmes and it is really annoying.

Carolyn Bushby, by email


Some recent TVs have a built in volume-levelling feature. It can usually be found on the Audio setup menu and will be called something like Auto Volume Levelling or Control, Dolby Volume or Tru Volume. At the moment it is mostly confined to higher-end TVs but it should eventually filter down to mid-market models. If your TV does not have it, or you have no plans to upgrade this feature is available on several TV Soundbars, which bypass the TV’s built-in speakers and usually sound a lot better. Prices start at around £80, but deciding which one best suits your needs will require some homework. A good place to start is a roundup of recent models at Top Ten Reviews ( and if possible, try to listen to one or two of them at your local home cinema showroom.



Time For Change

I have recently purchased a Sony Experia L smartphone with a 16GB card for storing photographs and documents. When I open the card on my laptop photos are in the right order, but they are wrongly ordered when they appear on the phone screen. I have tried changing the file name and number but this doesn’t work. Sony says that the order is dictated by the original date/time set into the photo when it was taken or scanned. Is there any way around this?

Peter Cope, by email


Yes, the image file’s origination date is stored as embedded metadata called Exif (Exchangeable image file format). The easiest way to change it is to use a small freeware utility called Time Stamp Modifier ( In fact that is all that it does; the program is simple to use and does not have to install it on your computer.    



Don’t Blame The Duck  

Some time ago you suggested DuckDuckGo as a search engine as it guaranteed not to track you on the web. I decided to try it, but ever since then it seems to take over the computer. It changes DNS settings and seems to be linked somehow to searchdial, all of which I hate! I cannot find DDG in Programs, Add-ons, etc. It appears to have hidden itself well and keeps coming back to haunt me.

A Maxwell, by email


This has nothing to do with DuckDuckGo. SearchDial is a pernicious browser toolbar that has somehow found its way on to your PC, possibly after clicking a pop-up advert or it was contained within a program download and you did not uncheck the option to install it. Fortunately it is usually fairly easy to remove. It should be listed as Mysearchdial in Programs and Features in Control Panel (Add/Remove Programs in XP). You will also need to reset your home page and in Firefox it may be on the list of Search Engines, in which case remove that reference as well. I also suggest running a full scan with Malware bytes, which is a free malware cleaner, available from:



© R. Maybury 2014 1205

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