Ask Rick Maybury 2014



Ask Rick 317 12/07/14


Watts In The Wild

My wife and I are planning a number of short hiking and camping holidays in the UK later in the summer. We are not glamping, but we not want to be without a few home comforts, such as my mobile phone and iPad, and my wife’s Kindle Fire. The problem is how to keep all of the batteries charged. We probably won’t be staying in well-equipped campsites so access to mains power is likely to be intermittent. I have looked into the possibility of a solar-powered charger but they look bulky and I am doubtful that they will be much use, given the British weather. Are they any good or is there an alternative?

Jason Welford, by email


Lightweight solar panels can be built into or attached to rucksacks and can provide enough power to trickle charge a smartphone, even on a gloomy day, however, the smaller and cheaper ones, or those rated at less than 3 watts are likely to struggle keeping multiple charged. Portable hand-crank generators, selling from around £10 online, can keep your phone battery topped up, and can be handy in an emergency, but it is hard work and charging an iPad from flat would be a major challenge for your wrists. Providing you can get to a power socket every few days then a power bank could be one answer. Basically these are compact and lightweight rechargeable battery packs with one or more USB ports; some of them also have solar charging panels. Prices start at under £20 but you should shortlist models with a capacity of at least 20,000mAh, which should be enough to keep all of your devices going for a day or two. Lastly, if money is no object, have a look at the BioLite Camping stove, which costs around £150 online and in camping equipment shops. This uses a thermo-electric generator, powered by burning a handful of twigs, pine cones and so on. A small fan, powered by the generator increases the combustion efficiency and it can boil a litre of water in less than 5 minutes. Excess power from the generator is diverted to an internal storage battery, or it can be used to directly power or charge your gadgets via an USB port. The manufacturers claim a 20-minute burn will produce enough power for an hour’s talk time on a typical smartphone.



Quick Fix

I have been using Quicken for nearly 20 years but no longer because it will not transfer to Windows 7 or 8.   The present solution is to keep a computer on Windows XP, which is most inconvenient.

John Bennett, by email


With a little tweaking Quicken’s basic non-web reliant accounting features run perfectly well on Windows 7 and 8 computers, using XP compatibility mode. Simply right click on Quicken’s desktop icon, select Troubleshoot Compatibility and follow the prompts.



Google Snail Mail

In addition to our Windows PCs, my wife and I use Nexus 7 and 10 tablets computers.  I would have expected a tighter link between Gmail, Android and the Nexus tablets, which are all Google products, compared with our normal PCs, but the reverse is the case. Google Mail is, surely, a single source and accessing it from any PC or device should be an identical experience but it is not. We have sent Gmail messages from our PCs and they have not registered on our tablets for minutes or even hours later. When sent from our tablets, they appear immediately on our PCs. What might be the reason for this anomaly?

John Maioha Stewart, by email


In theory your Gmail should be the same, however and wherever you access it, but a PC or device can lose synchronisation if it becomes disconnected from the network, a rogue message clogs the works, or auto sync is disabled or misbehaving. Check both tablets Gmail Outboxes for stuck messages and if you find one either delete it, or fix the error; large attachments frequently cause problems. Check that the device has a good network connection and make sure that auto sync is enabled, and even if it is, try turning it on and off a few times. You can do this on Nexus tablets by tapping the menu icon in Gmail, then Settings, tap your email address then Gmail Sync. On other Android devices go to Settings > Accounts > Google, tap your email address, in both cases toggle the Gmail sync option on and off two or three times.



Nikon By The Numbers

I used to have a Nikon Coolpix 885 and it auto-numbered photographs DSCN0001 and so on. I now use a Nikon Coolpix S800, which uses the same auto numbering system so problems arise when I save the new photos on the computer, which tries to overwrite the files shot on the old camera. Is there any way of changing the new camera's numbering system to avoid the conflict?

Paul Coomber, by email


Although some Nikon models have this facility it is not available on the S800 but there is an easy workaround. All you have to do is manually save the files from your new camera into newly created folders, which are named according to the date or event and so on. Separated in this way the new image files will not clash with any other identically named files but if you want to avoid further confusion you can rename and sequentially number all of the files in a folder using a little known Windows utility. Open the folder in Windows Explorer, highlight all of the images you want to renumber, right click on the top one, select rename, type in the new file name and press Return. This is a fairly crude method, however, and for more advanced options I suggest a versatile image viewer program called IrfanView (free from This has a more advanced batch Conversion/Rename facility on the File that lets you specify the numbering range, and there is a Test mode so you can check the new file names before you commit to the change.



© R. Maybury 2014 2306

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