Ask Rick 330 11/10/14
We have a six year-old Dell laptop with Windows
7. As we only use the computer to surf the net and send and receive e-mails
using Google Chrome and gmail, we don't need to use Windows and all its
applications. Is it possible to delete it and, if so, how?
Robert Cotterill, by email
You can, but your computer would stop working
because Windows is the operating system, the software that makes it tick and
provides a platform for programs, like your web browser, to run on. Without an
operating system your laptop is just a box of bits that do not know how to
communicate with one another, or you. Windows is by no means compulsory but it
is usually the simplest option for most users because it is pre-installed on
most computers, relatively easy to use, and Windows 7 is quite well behaved,
but there is nothing to stop you from exploring the alternatives.
The main contenders are Mac and Linux, though a
Mac system is only an option if you buy a new computer. Linux is a large family
of operating systems; it is Open Source software, which basically means that it
is mostly free, and being constantly refined and developed by its users; this
also means that there are lots of different versions, or ‘distributions’, which
is where it can become a bit of a minefield for novices. However, several
popular distributions have a Windows-like appearance – I would definitely
shortlist one called Zorin -- and a there is a very good selection of specially
adapted versions of the most popular programs and applications, including
Google Chrome and excellent office suites, like LibreOffice. However, be warned
that Linux is not an easy alternative to Windows and there can be fairly steep
learning curve but it is well worth the effort and it has a number of
advantages, including a very high immunity to viruses. It also runs faster and
more efficiently than Windows on many PCs and can give older computers a new
lease of life.
Rather than dispense with Windows altogether I
suggest that you install Linux in free space on your hard drive, in a specially
created partition; it is a fairly painless procedure, most popular Linux
distributions will do this for you during installation, and it means that you
can still use Windows, by selecting it at boot up. If you want to see what is
involved have a look at the Getting started with Linux guide on the Lifehacker
website at: http://goo.gl/opqJA.
Radio 5 Squeezed
I have just bought a Logitech UE Squeezebox
Internet radio, for my wife to listen to The Archers whilst abroad and myself
to listen to Radio 5 Live Sports Extra for Test Match Special. However,
reception of this channel is effectively barred due to "Rights
Issues" though I am in the UK (Bristol) and reception via the Internet on
my PC and laptop is fine. Why is this please, and is there a workaround?
Geoff Hill, by email
Part of the problem is that the Squeezebox
servers are in several different countries, all of them outside of the UK, so
if the location setting for the radio app that you are using has been left on
its default, it can appear to the streamed service that you are in a country
where it does not have the necessary broadcasting rights. It is worth trying an
alternative receiver app, which you can download from the Mysqueezebox.com
gallery. TuneIn Radio is generally very reliable, as far as sorting out your
location, as is the BBC iPlayer app (not to be confused with the basic BBC
radio app), and if you already have it, try installing the latest version by
going to Settings > Advanced > Applet Installer.
Stamp Out Symbols
Formatting symbols have suddenly appeared on
all my Word documents. What did I do?
I've tried Help and Wizard but haven't found a way of hiding them.
Christine Highmoor, by email
It sounds as though you have accidentally
switched on the option to display non-printing characters, which includes dots
between words and the paragraph break symbol, which looks a bit like a
filled-in backwards ‘p’. Do not feel bad about it, it is really easy to do,
without realising, and usually happens when entering asterisk symbol. All is
explained when you know (and now will never forget) that the keyboard shortcut
for showing, and hiding the symbols is Ctrl + Shift + 8.
I use encrypted Excel 2007 documents to store
some sensitive financial information on my Windows 7 laptop. To give me access
to these off site I'm thinking of attaching a copy to an email message. How
secure is the encryption?
Secondly: on opening the laptop I occasionally
get a red tinge on the screen, which disappears when I move the screen
slightly. Am I right in assuming that this is probably something to do with the
flat cable that connects the screen to the body of the laptop?
Leo Dunwoodie, by email
Second question first, and yes, it sounds a lot
like a connector problem. It will probably only get worse so it is worth
getting it seen to ASAP, in case you lose the display altogether. If it is just
a loose connector it should be a fairly quick and easy fix for an engineer; I
would not attempt a DIY repair, though, as dismantling laptops, without the
right tools and skills, can be a tricky and risky business.
Up to Excel 2000 encryption was weak and could
be broken in a matter of seconds using widely available utilities on the web.
It was strengthened significantly in Excel 2002/3, and changing from the
default encryption method made it even stronger. Further improvements followed
in Excel 2007 and the default settings, in conjunction with a long (9 or more
alphanumeric characters and symbols), should be sufficient to keep your files
safe from all but the most determined hackers, with access to powerful
computers and a lot of time on their hands. Even so, you might want to rethink
how you are going to access these files, especially if it is going to involve
connecting to the Internet through potentially insecure public wireless
networks and hotspots.
© R. Maybury 2014 2209