Ask Rick Maybury 2014



Ask Rick 327 20/09/14


Viewing On Vacation

We are just back from an apartment holiday on the Costa del Sol where we were unable to get a proper TV service. The TV supposedly has Sky, via satellite dish, but neither of our two viewing cards could produce other than a smattering of channels. Communication with the apartment owner is difficult and it may well be that he doesn't have a Sky subscription in place but our Sky cards should work, should they not? We are going back later in the year and wonder how best to get the UK terrestrial channels?

Clive Elson, by email


Sky viewing cards have to be paired with the receiver they are being used with and this can only be authorised by Sky. However, they will not oblige, as you will be outside the UK, where they do not have the necessary broadcasting rights for the main UK channels. Even if you took your home satbox with you, it is unlikely that you would be able to watch anything. The transmission footprint of the Astra satellite now carrying the UK channels no longer extends as far south as Spain and to get any sort of signal you would need a dish at least 3 metres in diameter. Your only other option is to access TV channels over the Internet and for a stutter-free picture you will need a broadband connection with a minimum speed of 5Mb/sec. Even then you still have to overcome the blockade imposed by broadcasters on streaming live TV outside of the UK. There are several methods, including expensive set-top boxes of questionable legality and reliability, to VPN (virtual private network) and Smart DNS services that spoof your location, making it appear that your PC, laptop or tablet (which you connect to the TV) is in the UK.


The cost of watching your favourite UK TV channels whilst abroad varies considerably. Set-top boxes start at around £100, and there may also be additional monthly or annual subscription charges. There are scores of VPNs and Smart DNS services to choose from, including several that are free but only the paid-for and subscription-based ones come close to being reliable, though occasionally they too are blocked. Prices start at around £10 a month but it is a fast changing market and you should check with the ex-pat community, via their on-line forums or wait until you get there, to find out which ones actually work



Taking Notes On A Tablet

You recently mentioned using a Tesco Hudl tablet computer to take notes, how do you do this? I 'm stuck on bringing up a blank page and would like to know how you save a note when it's written?

Dave Brown, by email


Straight out of the box the Hudl, and many other Android tablets and smartphones have only limited note-taking abilities, or you have to mess around setting up Google Drive, which maybe what you have been doing. However all you need is a free app from the Play Store called Colour Note. It is styled like a large Post-It not but it has near unlimited capacity, a facility to create lists and your jottings can be encrypted. If you need something a little more sophisticated then look no further than another free app, called WPS Office, which is a full office suite and compatible with Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint.



Being A Good Host

I run a non-commercial website with fewer than 300 visitors per month.  My annual hosting fee is £80.00 and I was wondering if there was a better deal to be had or whether I could somehow host the site myself?

Kevin McLoughlin, by email


You should be able to cut your hosting and domain registration fees by between half and two thirds by switching providers, and if you plan ahead your site need not be off the air for more than 24 hours during the changeover. For a comparison of some of the latest offers have a look at the Hosting-Review website at


Self-hosting a website on your own computer is technically possible but in most cases it is not a practical or economic option. The problems are legion; to begin with it may be prohibited by your broadband supplier’s terms and conditions, but even if it is allowed you cannot guarantee that your IP address will not change and if it does your website will disappear. You can pay extra for a business service with a static IP address but you would have enormous problems achieving the same level of reliability as a commercial hosting service, and the site could crash if there is a sudden spike in visitor numbers. There are also security issues and visitors are likely to experience slow page downloads, unless you invest heavily in equipment. If you still need convincing, keeping even a modest home web server running 24 hours a day, 365 days a year could easily add at least £100 to your annual electricity bill.



Smart Solution

My husband has an old Palm Zire which he uses all the time as a diary, calendar and for reminders etc.  He does not want a smartphone but would like to update to something more modern and possibly have Wi-Fi connectivity. Does such a product exist?

Jennifer Howells, Malaga, Spain


Why not get a smartphone? If he buys one without an airtime contract there will be no ongoing costs. Prices start at under £50 for the less glitzy models, from supermarkets and online. If later on he wants to use it as a phone he can simply buy a pay as you go SIM card, or use the Wi-Fi facility with a VoIP utility like Skype. As a bonus most smartphones also have built-in cameras, media players and can be used as an e-book reader, compass, map reader and so on, none of which require a mobile phone or Wi-Fi connection.  



© R. Maybury 2014 0109

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