Tech Q and A: The Case of the Deleted DVD Drive

Every other week or so, tries to solve your most vexing technology-related problems. Send your questions to and we'll reply to selected ones in our next installment.

The Case of the Deleted DVD Drive

Q: I purchased a new Hewlett-Packard laptop, with Windows Vista, in February. I tried to download iTunes, but it seemed to disconnect my DVD Writer program. I could not use the drive. Do you know if there is a solution, as I would like to have iTunes?

A: There appears to be some sort of conflict between the iTunes software and certain Vista USB drivers from Logitech and HP.

Try disconnecting all USB devices (your printer, Webcam, etc.) and see if the problem goes away with iTunes installed. That will, at least, confirm whether this is the problem.

Also, keep checking the Apple Web site and make sure you have the latest version of iTunes (I believe it's currently up to 8.01). Apple's fix will be the permanent solution.

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Laptop Will Not Start

Q: I have an HP laptop about three years old. The battery doesn't work so well and will only hold a charge for about 10 minutes.

I was at the coffee shop, the one that offers totally free Wi-Fi, working on an important document. Suddenly, the shop's power went out! Sure enough, about 10 minutes later, my laptop went into hibernate mode.

Now the computer will not start either on battery or on AC power. The little blue power icon lights up when I plug it in. It flashes rapidly if I plug it in without the battery inserted.

Is my work gone forever?

A: First, don't worry about the report being lost. If worst comes to worst, any competent IT professional will be able to remove the hard drive and recover your important data.

The fact that you have power lights greatly encourages me. It tells me that the motherboard circuitry is probably OK. Motherboard replacements are expensive in terms of parts, labor and the amount of time your trusty computer is in the shop.

Try this: Remove the battery, unplug from AC power and then hold the power button for 30-60 seconds. Plug it back in and see if the problem is solved.

Sometimes, little power glitches like the one you describe are nothing more than capacitors in the power-supply circuitry stuck in a negatively charged state. Holding the power button without a power source has the effect of discharging those capacitors.

Let me know how this works.


John in Arizona writes:

Regarding your answer to the political robocall question and the 'Do Not Call' list, I beg to differ.

Almost all political call lists come from the voter-registration lists that counties provide political parties. This is public data where people can, but do not have to, put down their phone numbers. As a political consultant, I get this complaint every campaign.

The answer that you gave makes no political sense. Why would a campaign call numbers randomly (albeit in order)? We would have no clue whom we were calling.

We call our likely voters first (depending on party), then Independents, then squishy voters from the opposite party. Having worked four election cycles (including the current one), we would be wasting our efforts if we did it your way.

A: I speak from experience. A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far away, I had a part-time job in a telemarketing center.

We were told that all the names came from contest entries -- the kind you encounter in a shopping mall or a home show or a movie theater, and there's a car being given away. (Check the fine print on the back of the entry form and you'll see that the contest is sponsored by a vacation timeshare of some sort.)

But I soon realized something else was afoot. Many times, I was told by the voice on the other end of the line that the person who'd allegedly entered the contest within the last 6 months had actually been dead for 10 years.

I've also worked with raw, county-provided voter-registration data. I know how easy it is to merge those lists with reverse-phone-number lists.

While I do not doubt that your clients call voters in the exact order you listed, you still have the problem of (1) how they get the telephone numbers in the first place (the original question came from a person who does not give out his phone number -- even, presumably, on his voter registration form) and (2) how you know if a voter is "squishy." Do voter registration forms in Arizona have checkboxes for "Squishy Republican" and "Squishy Democrat?"

Heads Up!

This isn't so much an answer to a question as a personal observation: I've had several clients call about an e-mail they've received. It informs them they've "received an eCard" and need to click on the link within the next 30 days.

The link points to an executable program (as indicated by the last 4 characters of the link: "...ecard.exe").

This version of the postcard/greeting card virus has been out since August.

Please remember to practice safe computing, people! This includes never clicking on attachments or links which are executable programs.

Guy R. Briggs is a member of the Nerds On Site international IT service team and is based in Los Angeles.

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