Chateau Keyboard mailing for Monday, 20 November

Dr Keyboard writes:

Chateau Keyboard is still unheated, although the plumber has promised that, even as you read this, he'll be installing the new boiler. Although it may not work until tomorrow, and in any case he refuses to come into the house on his own for fear of breaking something else (he turned off our fridge-freezer last time and ruined the contents, and is now disputing the list of spoiled food we gave him on the grounds that 'No one keeps chocolate in their fridge'). This one will run and run, as should our Landlord for inflicting all this grief on us.

Meanwhile I'm here in unheated and unfriendly London where it's raining and freezing cold and bus drivers get out of their vehicles to abuse me on the pavement. I am not making this up.

 

In this week’s Dr Keyboard column:

Q: I am trying to download a Chinese font with Internet Explorer so that I can view  Chinese website pages. I logged onto yahoo.com and found that I have to download the file before I can proceed any further. But the File Download dialog box kept saying "Getting File Information" for couple of minutes and then the Microsoft Internet Explorer dialog box appears with the following message: "Internet Explorer cannot download.....Internet Explorer was not able to open this internet site. The requested site is either unavailable or cannot be found. Please try again later." What is stopping the download?
A: IE isn't hugely clever at dealing with FTP (File Transfer Protocol) downloads of the type you're looking for, and there's a few things you can do. First, visit http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com and click on 'Product updates'. Let the applet run to check out your machine and download anything it recommends as essential. Also, browse down towards the bottom of the listings and you'll find a whole section devoted to fonts of the type I think you're looking for. If these aren't enough, go back to the original download site and see if the updates to IE have solved your problem. If not, take careful note of the exact address which appears in the dialogue box and then use a 'proper' FTP program to download it. I use and recommend CuteFTP, which you'll fine on numerous download sites like Tucows - http://www.tucows.com.

 

Q: While browsing the internet with Internet Explorer I regularly get the message that "This program has performed an illegal operation and will shut down". What am I doing that's illegal? What laws have I  broken?
A: The law that says programmers require you to be as knowledgeable about what they're saying as they are. The only 'illegal' thing you've done is run a program which has fallen over - and by 'illegal' programmers mean 'You shouldn't have done that'. It just means that the program has tried to do something which it's not allowed to do by the operating system (Microsoft Windows, in this case). As for a solution, you'll be pleased to know that you're not alone with this problem but most people I know have managed to solve it by visiting http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com, clicking on 'Product updates' and allowing Microsoft to determine how best to fix what they've done wrong in the first place.

 

Q: While on a website my cursor just disappeared completely, so I lost any form of control.  I got out of it by unplugging the phone line and was thrown back to the opening page of AOL. I then did Ctrl-Alt-Delete and when the window came up with choices, my cursor was back. My question is, how can I get the cursor back if this happens again? CTRL+M with arrow keys rang a faint bell but it didn't work.  Is there something I could have done?

A: If this doesn't happen regularly there's probably nothing to worry about. If it happens regularly but only on the one website, it could be something wrong with that site - some try to install clever programs which take over your mouse cursor and change it from an arrow to something else, and this doesn't always work properly. Politeness dictates that they should ask before doing something like this but there's not a lot of politeness around in many places on the internet these days. If it's happening regularly, it could be a problem with your mouse drivers or the drivers for your graphics card. Check with the respective manufacturer's websites that you have the latest drivers for your specific operating system, e.g. don't try to use Windows 98 drivers on Windows ME. And if it does happen again, try hitting Alt-Tab to move to another program window and see if the cursor comes back. You can also minimise your browser window by hitting Alt-Space and then N.

 

Q: When opening e-mails in Outlook 97 (Word is the e-mail editor) I keep getting this message: "Insufficient memory for this font" I and am unable to open them.
A: This is probably happening because of 'memory leaks' in your version of Microsoft Word. When you start up a program its files are loaded by your computer from your Hard Disc into your RAM (Random Access Memory). Typically, you'll have several gigabytes of hard disc space (a gigabyte is, for discussion purposes here, a thousand megabytes) but only a few tens of megabytes of RAM - say, a four gigabyte hard disc and 64 MB of RAM. RAM is much faster to access than your hard disc - orders of magnitude faster - but also equally more expensive, which is why you don't have so much of it. So, your programs run in your RAM according to instructions from your CPU (Central Processor Unit - a Pentium II 400, for example) and your operating system (OS - e.g. Windows 95). Now, when you've finished with your program or even an individual document, Windows should remove it from your RAM to make room for something else to be loaded in. Unfortunately, Windows 9x is based on the now venerable DOS which wasn't designed to cope with anything like this much memory. There are a large number of kludges sitting on top of Windows to help, but ultimately Windows loses track of what it's doing and forgets to unload something from RAM. This process goes on until you get a message like the one you're receiving - even though it may appear that you've plenty of room to open your document. The short-term solution is to simply re-boot Windows - click Start/Shutdown/Restart. This will clear out your RAM and allow you to start over again. Microsoft have also provided an update for your version of Office which goes some way to clearing up these memory 'leaks' - go to
http://officeupdate.microsoft.com and look for the Service Pack updates.

 

Q: I've bought a cable to connect my mobile (GSM) telephone to my computer and installed all the necessary software. But no matter what I do I can't make a connection - what could be wrong?
A: Assuming that the software and so on really are set up correctly and that you have the appropriate drivers for your OS (e.g. you're not trying to use Windows 98 drivers on W95) the most likely impediment is your telephone service provider. Many - most - differentiate between voice and data calls, making you pay an extra subscription for the latter. Check with them that your account has been 'data-enabled'.

 

Q: I've a long flight coming up soon but can't afford to fly business class where the seats have power points to keep my laptop going. Is there any alternative?
A: I'd guess that the airline staff won't be too keen on you trailing extension flexes up the aisle so you could try a trick I've used in emergencies: take your laptop into the toilet and plug into the shaver socket for a quick recharge. You probably won't be allowed to stay in there for the whole flight, and it wouldn't be that comfortable anyway, but you may be able to suck up enough juice to work for a while longer. Remember that your laptop's battery will probably charge more quickly if you've turned the machine off, and to power down and restart it while still plugged in to the mains for maximum battery life. And you could always buy a spare battery or two - they're cheaper than flight upgrades in most cases.

 

 

Quick bites

Q: When I fire up Internet Explorer it freezes trying to find something called 'www.cache.freeserve.net'. How can I stop this?
A: Click Tools/Internet Options/Connections/LAN Settings and uncheck the 'Use a proxy server' box.

 

Q: I keep being asked for a password by something called 'Content advisor'. How can I stop this?

A: You need to ask Microsoft Support about this. It involves editing your registry and also isn't a publicly available fix to stop young eyes getting round bans imposed by parents.

 

Q: I used to have a Font Listing programme that fitted into MS Word 97 (also giving visual appearance of fonts on drop-down list). I've lost it and have forgotten where I found it. Can you remind me?
A: Word 2000 does this automatically now - do any readers know of a way to do this with earlier versions?

 

Q: I enjoy reading your daily diary at http://www.chateaukeyboard.com. Are there any other like this?
A: You can read Mrs Keyboard's daily diary at http://www.mostxlnt.co.uk/wendy, and I heartily recommend the other members of the Daynotes Gang - http://www.daynotes.com.

 

For Absolute Beginners - buying a printer

The only real revolution that's happened in the world of computer printers in the past year or two is on the price front - you can now buy for under £100 what would have cost you double that a year ago, and four or five times that two or three years before that.

There are any number of potential alternatives: lasers, inkjets, LED, dye-sublimation, dot-matrix…the list goes on, but if you apply and slightly modify my 'How to buy a computer' maxim about working out what you want to do and then choosing the software and hardware to match, you'll be well on the way.

It's tempting to just add whatever you're offered by whoever sells you your computer to the package, but a little thought could save you lots of money and a heap of time.

With printers, you need to consider whether or not you're going to print in colour or just black and white, how many copies you're going to want to print over a given period, and - as always - how much money you have.

If you need to print in colour, inkjets are the only reasonable alternative at the moment - there are colour laser printers, but only at very high prices. Unfortunately, many inkjet manufacturers work on the razor blade selling principle - you buy the printer itself for a hundred pounds or so and then spend a fortune on ink cartridges. So look at the total cost of owning the machine - the maintenance price as well as the initial buying cost. The same principle applies if you decide you can manage without printing in colour and will buy a laser. The initial purchase price may be higher than for an inkjet - although not necessarily so these days - but you need to look at the cost of toner cartridges. However, you will get many more prints from each toner cartridge than from an ink cartridge in an inkjet printer.

Indeed, you may come to the eventual conclusion, as I have, that you should use a cheap laser printer for day-to-day black-and-white printing and have a good-quality inkjet for when you need colour prints.

With inkjets, go for one with as many individual ink tanks as possible. Most work on the principle of mixing three primary colours plus black. If these are all in one tank, when one colour's finished you have to replace them all. Canon now, for example, have four individual tanks - one for each colour plus black - which can save you a fortune. Equally, avoid those which make you replace the inkjet's print head when you replace the ink. This adds to the price and, generally, the head should last for many refills.

The same principle applies to laser printers - some make you replace various parts of the mechanism when you buy a toner refill, others don't, so take that into account when buying.

There are many brands available, and you'll find reviews of many machines most months in one or other of the computer magazines - have a browse. Personally, I've always used Canon laser and inkjet printers and never had a problem. Others swear by Hewlett Packards and Epsons.

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