Ask Rick Maybury 2015



Ask Rick 350 28/02/15


Lead Astray

I have had a Nikon S800 Coolpix for the past five years. It always takes fantastic pictures but the lead used to charge the battery and send pictures to my computer is now unreliable. I have tried to find a replacement but local shops tell me it is not a standard USB plug, they are no longer made and I should buy a new camera. Surely my brilliant little camera should not be discarded just because of a faulty lead?  Do you know where I can get one?

Christine Hayward, by email


You can ignore those blatant attempts to sell you a new camera. It is true the Coolpix S8000 is getting on a bit and uses a proprietary 8-pin connector at the camera end, called a UC-E6 but replacement leads are readily obtainable. Quick searches on ebay and Amazon turned up scores of them with prices starting at under £2.00. There is rarely any need to discard an electronic gizmo simply because a cable, battery or accessory has failed. Common spares are often available for 5 years or more after a product has been discontinued. There are also usually plenty of options when it comes to transferring data from older or obsolete digital devices. In the case of your camera, you can copy photos to a computer by popping the SD memory card into the card reader slot on your PC or laptop, if it has one, if not you can use a multi-format memory card reader. These plug into a PC’s USB socket and cost less than £5.00. You could even give your camera Wi-Fi connectivity with a wireless SD memory card. This turns the camera into a short-range wireless hotspot, which you log on to on your PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone. Images are downloaded to the computer using an app or a web browser. There are several to choose from; the best known types are Eye-Fi, ezShare, FlashAir and Transcend; memory capacities range from 4 to 64GB and they are not expensive either and 8GB cards typically sell for less than £20 from online suppliers.



I Spy With My Little GPS

I have just returned from a family holiday to the US and we rented a mid-size car for the duration. Although I declined the GPS option, I prefer to use my own, a unit was fitted in the car. The rental car assistant was adamant that all cars had them now, and I only had to pay for it if I used it. It turned out be an absolute pest and even though I switched it off, it came back on every time I started the engine with an annoying jungle. If it was left switched on it displayed adverts. It also had what looked suspiciously like a camera fitted to the top of the screen. Were they spying on me, and for future reference, is there a way to switch these things off, permanently?

Adrian H, by email


This would be the controversial Hertz NeverLost system, an increasingly common sight in US rental cars, and not just from Hertz. Some recent NeverLost terminals do indeed have built-in cameras, pointing at the vehicle cabin and apparently it will only be used for video chats with rental company reps, should you seek assistance. They can also be used to track the user’s whereabouts, locate stolen vehicles, monitor speed and driving technique as well as doing quite useful things like navigating and route planning. You cannot switch it off, disconnect or remove the unit though, but it seems unlikely that the camera (and microphone) are constantly monitored or recorded and this would be potentially illegal in some States. If you are concerned about privacy the device’s eyes and ears are easily neutralised with some strategically placed sticky tape or chewing gum.



Classy Memory Cards

I need to get a memory card for my new Samsung smartphone, but which one? There seems to be lots of different types to choose from.

Charles Prescott, by email


Samsung phones use Micro SD cards and when it comes to capacity and speed or Class, then the general rule of thumb is, more is better. These days 16GB is a good starting point but if you plan to take a lot of snaps or record video then get a 32GB card; better yet, 64GB if your budget, and your phone supports it. Speed, or how quickly data can be read from and written to the card can have a big influence on smartphone performance, and it can be critical for video recording, so again do not skimp. A Class 6 card (data transfer rate 6MB/sec) is a realistic minimum for most smartphones but if yours has HD video recording then get one with a Class 10 rating. 



Unwanted Extras

I am always careful only to download software from reputable sites. However, somehow, what started out as a look at additional music playback facilities for my new Windows 8 laptop, ended up a frustrating waste of an afternoon trying to rid my laptop of a number of irritating programs. All I did was download foobar2000 audio player (from the foobar site). How the other programs were also loaded I do not know. Why is Microsoft still so susceptible to these intrusions, and why is McAfee spectacularly useless at trapping or removing them?

Derek Cottrell, by email


The answers to all of those questions is simple; you effectively gave permission for the unwanted programs to be installed by not unchecking the ‘Optional Extras’ boxes when the program was loading. To be fair the foobar2000 installer is not very forthcoming about the true nature of those extras, but you can usually take it as read that if a freeware program describes an additional piece of software as an option, it is probably not necessary in order for the main program to function. If it turns out that you do need it, you can usually get it by running the installer again, but only after you have Googled the name to make sure that it is benign.



© R. Maybury 2015 1602

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