Computer Active (UK) - - Reader's Tips Special Issue - Brian Perry

Use black card when scan­ning to avoid ghost images

When scan­ning news­pa­per pages and the like, the cap­tured im­age of­ten has the ‘ghost’ of the printed con­tent on the re­verse of the page, and even of the page above it.

Try plac­ing a sheet of black card be­hind the page to be scanned. With no light-dark con­trast on the re­verse of that page, the print on the re­verse will no longer be vis­i­ble or at the very least will be min­i­mal.

If the scanned im­age looks a bit dull, use the ba­sic ad­just­ments in a free photo-edit­ing pro­gram like Photofil­tre ( www.photofil­tre-stu­, see screen­shot be­low) to tweak it.

H J Hill

Keep USB sticks cool us­ing a heat sink

I have no­ticed that when trans­fer­ring large files to a USB stick the sur­face of the stick be­comes very hot. I have cre­ated a heat sink from a piece of scrap cop­per pipe as shown in the photo above right.

The method is sim­ple: saw a suit­able length of 22mm cop­per pipe then crush it in a vice so that the USB stick fits into it. You can get the right shape by al­ter­nately squeez­ing the wide and nar­row edges in the vice. Now the USB stick never be­comes more than luke­warm.

Ray Sun­ley

Au­to­mat­i­cally back up data to a sec­ond USB stick

Here is my tip for au­to­mat­i­cally back­ing up the data on a mas­ter USB stick to another USB stick. The clever thing here is that af­ter the first time the backup is run, only changed or new files are copied.

Typ­i­cally, when I plug in my two USB sticks the mas­ter is recog­nised as drive G: and the Backup as H: - this might be dif­fer­ent on other PCS so make a note of the drive let­ters as­signed to your USB sticks in File Ex­plorer.

Next, cre­ate a batch file in Notepad called ‘BACKUP.BAT’. The contents of this file is one line of text that reads: ‘XCOPY %1:\*.* %2:\*.* /S/M’ (you can copy this from paste­bin: Type (or paste) the com­mand, click File, Save As, change the ‘Save as type’ drop­down menu from .txt to All Files, then type BACKUP.BAT into the ‘File name’ field. Se­lect the C:\users\You­ruser­name folder as the save lo­ca­tion, then click Save.

Open Com­mand Prompt (click Start, type cmd, then press En­ter), then type BACKUP G H (change the G and H de­pend­ing on the drive let­ters as­signed to your USB sticks, mak­ing sure the mas­ter USB stick is the first drive let­ter and backup stick the sec­ond).

The only lim­i­ta­tion of this method is that any files you re­move from the mas­ter will not be re­moved from the backup. I sug­gest you tidy up the contents of both mas­ter and backup from time to time.

Alan Craw­ley

Find old prod­uct man­u­als on­line

There seems to be a trend away from hard­ware man­u­als, but I don’t know why. Per­hap Per­haps man­u­fac­tur­ers see them as an ex­pen­sive waste of time (or paper). Yet to peo­ple of my gen­er­a­tion (I’m in my sev­ent seven­ties) man­u­als are re­as­sur­ing to have, even if they of­ten seem to be writ­ten by peo­ple with no grasp of English.

I’ve lost many man­u­als over the years, so I’m thank­ful for the web­site Man­u­al­son­line (­u­al­son­, which is a huge data­base of man­ual man­u­als (700,000 it claims). I’ve used it to find man­u­als for old Len­ovo mon­i­tors and Bl­black & Decker lawn­mow­ers.

It also has a fo­rum where you can ask any ques­tion. Oth­ers will usu­ally re­spond by sug­gest­ing a man­ual that can help.

Jonathan Bushey

Scan down­loads us­ing 40 an­tivirus pro­grams

My friends al­ways tell me I’m a bit para­noid, which is prob­a­bly why I’ve switched be­tween nu­mer­ous an­tivirus pro­grams over the years (Kasper­sky, Bit­de­fender, Avira, F-se­cure and many more). I al­ways sus­pect that I’m not get­ting the full pro­tec­tion.

One of my long-suf­fer­ing friends sug­gested I use the Chrome ex­ten­sion Me­tade­fender ( When you down­load some­thing, Me­tade­fender scans it us­ing the an­tivirus engines of more than 40 se­cu­rity com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing those men­tioned above. It feels like I’m be­ing pro­tected by 40 body­guards, each with a par­tic­u­lar skill.

You can right-click the ex­ten­sion to man­u­ally run a scan, but I’ve set it to do this ev­ery time I down­load some­thing (did I men­tion I was para­noid?). You can do this by click­ing the Me­tade­fender icon at the top right of your browser bar, then tick­ing the ‘Scan all down­loads’ box (see screen­shot be­low). Gareth Thomas

Cut and paste mul­ti­ple web ar­ti­cles

I love scour­ing the in­ter­net for great things to read later, and use a bril­liant Fire­fox ex­ten­sion to add mul­ti­ple ar­ti­cles to my clipboard. It’s called Text Mul­ti­copy (, and is very easy to use. You sim­ply high­light the text you want to copy, right-click it, then click Save Se­lec­tion in the menu. Once you’ve added all the ar­ti­cles you want, click ‘Copy Saved to Clipboard’ (see screen­shot be­low), then paste it into a doc­u­ment (I use Li­bre­of­fice Writer). Phil Tyler

Go di­rectly to the web page you want when search­ing on­line

Google’s search en­gine is great, but I’ve dis­cov­ered a faster way of go­ing di­rectly to what I want on­line us­ing a dif­fer­ent search en­gine – Duck­duckgo. None of my friends have heard of this, so I don’t know how pop­u­lar it is, but it de­serves to be used more widely.

It uses a sys­tem of what it calls ‘bangs’ to cre­ate short­cuts. To use this sys­tem you need to type your search query pref­aced by an ex­cla­ma­tion mark – !ama­zon screw­drivers, for ex­am­ple (see screen­shot above right), then press En­ter. In­stead of then see­ing a page of search re­sults (as with Google), you jump straight to Ama­’s screw­drivers page. Duck­duckgo says it has 9,980 ‘bang’ com­mands you can use, in­clud­ing for sites like BBC iplayer, Face­book and ebay. There’s more in­for­ma­tion at https://duck­ Sheila Reynolds

Mute all noisy web­sites

There may be some­thing more ir­ri­tat­ing on­line than web­sites that au­to­mat­i­cally play noisy videos, but I’ve yet to find it. I know that Google says it will mute them from next year, but for the sake of my san­ity I can’t wait that long. I’ve taken mat­ters into my own hands by tweak­ing Chrome’s ‘Au­to­play pol­icy’ to pre­vent some HTML5 videos from play­ing au­to­mat­i­cally.

Type chrome:flags into your browser bar to open Chrome’s ex­per­i­ments, then press Ctrl+f and type au­to­play pol­icy into the search field. You’ll be taken to the ‘Au­to­play pol­icy’ tool, where you change the drop­down menu from De­fault to ‘User ges­ture is re­quired for cross-ori­gin iframes’ (see screen­shot be­low). Next, press the Restart Now but­ton that ap­pears at the bot­tom. From now on you’ll be given the op­tion to play videos, which is much more civilised!

Ac­cess vin­tage maps for free

I’m go­ing to bet that there are a lot of Com­put­er­ac­tive read­ers who, like me, love study­ing old maps. So I hope they’ll en­joy the web­site Oldmap­son­line ( www. oldmap­son­, which lets you ex­plore his­toric maps from around the world. If you have a lo­ca­tion in mind, click ‘Find a place’. For a more gen­tle rum­mage, click ‘Browse the old maps’. Once you’ve found a map you’re in­ter­ested in, click ‘View this map’ (see screen­shot) to see where in the world it’s kept (Bri­tish Li­brary for ex­am­ple). Ian Martin

Bring life to dull images by tweak­ing them us­ing Photofil­tre’s edit­ing tools

Place your USB stick in a heat sink to keep it cool

Tick ‘Scan all down­loads’ for max­i­mum pro­tec­tion from Me­tade­fender

Duck­duckgo’s ‘bangs’ send you straight to a web­site, by­pass­ing search re­sults

Use Fire­fox ex­ten­sion Text Mul­ti­copy to cut and paste mul­ti­ple on­line ar­ti­cles

Browse vin­tage maps at Oldmap­son­line, then find out where they are kept

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