Ask Rick: WiFi worries, sleepy PCs and more

 Ask Rick: WiFi worries, sleepy PCs and more

a faster speed with a non-wireless router or is there no hope for me?

Garry Slark, by email

I think quite a few broadband users would argue with that figure but

without knowing what type of Wi-Fi system you are using and the speed

your broadband provider claims you could be getting, it’s difficult to

say what’s wrong in your case. However, assuming that your service is

supposed to be 1Mbs or faster, say, then there may be a data

bottleneck at the exchange end of the connection or there are problems

with the copper wire ‘pipe’ through which your service is delivered.

The three most commonly used Wi-Fi protocols (802.11b, g & n) have

theoretical top speeds of 11, 54 and 200Mbs respectively. In the real

world actual data transfer speed between wireless routers and PCs will

be a fair bit slower but it should still be faster than most broadband

connections. There is an easy way to find out if Wi-Fi is slowing

things down and that’s to bypass it by connecting your PC directly to

the router using an Ethernet cable. this type of connection has a

nominal data transfer speed of around 100Mbps, so if your online

broadband speed tester (try Bandwidthplace at

indicates that it is significantly slower than what you are paying for

– and you should check it at several different times throughout the

day – then it’s time to have a chat with your ISP.

Catnap Conundrum

I’ve recently bought a new laptop with Windows 7. I am getting on with

it, but wondered if it is possible to do something about the feature

that locks the computer after what seems an irritatingly short period

of time? I tend to leave my machine on all day, just occasionally

checking my emails or web browsing, but I’m finding that after just a

few minutes of inactivity, Windows has locked me out and I having to

re-enter my password. Can I disable this feature or extend the period

before I’m locked out?

Linda Rudge, by email

The first stop for anything that affects the way your PC looks or

behaves is Control Panel, which you will find on the start menu. Click

on the Power Options icon (if it’s not displayed click the link next

to ‘View By’ and select Large or Small Icons), then Change plan

Setting. Here you can adjust the times it takes for the PC to do

things whilst on battery power or when plugged into the mains. While

you are at it click Change Advanced Power Settings and uncheck

‘Require a password on wakeup’.


I have recordings stored on the hard drive of our Virgin V+ box and I

want to convert some of them into DVDs. There is a facility on the V+

box to enable this but what else do I need? I have a Windows 7 laptop,

with a DVD recorder drive, could this be used?

David Bush, by email

For various copyright and rights management reasons Virgin V+ and Sky+

hard disc drive recorders won’t allow you make direct digital copies

or clones of stored programs but there’s nothing to stop you recording

the analogue video (and audio) outputs. By far the simplest method is

to connect your V+ (or Sky+) box to the AV input on a DVD recorder

using a SCART cable.

If you want to do it on your PC you will need an AV input module,

which plugs into one of your laptop’s USB sockets and takes care of

the analogue to digital conversion. You will also need some suitable

recording, editing and DVD authoring software. There are plenty of

free and commercial programs to choose from but if you want to keep

things simple then I suggest a bundled hardware and software package

like the ClimaxDigital VCAP302 VHS to DVD (around £17.00) or Roxio’s

Easy VHS to DVD (around £60) – both available from Amazon. By the way,

whichever method you use to make your DVDs, the conversion from

digital to analogue and then back again to digital means that there

will be a small but noticeable drop in picture quality.

Delinquent Dongle?

When away from home I use a Vodafone 3G Mobile Connect USB dongle. I

find that I can receive my emails but cannot send them and it shows

system error. my laptop operates Windows Vista.

M G Wood, by email

In most cases incoming emails are stored on your home Internet service

provider’s POP3 (Post Office Protocol) mail server and you can access

them from anywhere using any type of connection. Outgoing mail, on the

other hand has to be sent through the SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer

Protocol) mail server of the service that you are currently using,

whether it’s a 3G mobile network or a wi-fi hotspot. There are two

solutions. You can change the SMTP address in your email program, or

do what many travellers do and access their mail through an Internet

browser using a webmail service like Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail and so

on, and most of them can be set to pick up your POP3 messages.

If you want to continue using your email program then you need to find

out the service’s SMTP address. There is a list of the main UK 3G SMTP

servers here. at Wi-Fi hotspots and in hotels etc.

you’ll have to ask whoever is in charge for the SMTP address.

To change the SMTP address in email programs like Outlook Express and

Windows Mail etc., go to Tools > Accounts, select your account, click

Properties, then the Server tab. make a note of the existing SMTP

address then replace it with the right one for your service, which in

your case should be Don’t forget to change it back

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