COMPUTER NEWS NVPCUG Annual Holidays Potluck Party

COMPUTER NEWS  NVPCUG Annual Holidays Potluck Party
Napa Valley
Personal Computer
Users Group
P.O. Box 2866
Napa, California 94558
Volume 23, No. 12
Inside This Issue:
2 President’s Message
2 Special Interest Groups
2 Calendar
3 Officers List
4 Practice Good “Netiquette”
5 Think About Camera Gadgets
6 Great Games for the Holidays
8 E-mail: Be Less Annoying
10 Changing Hard Drives
11 Freeing Up Desk Space
12 The New, Best and Worst
14 Windows XP: Remote Assistance
16 Happy “Gadgetholidays”
The Napa Valley Personal Computer
Users Group has served novice and
experienced computer users since
1983. Through its monthly meetings,
newsletters, online forum, special interest groups, mentor program and community involvement, it has helped educate people of all ages. The NVPCUG
provides opportunities for people to
find friends who share common interests and experiences. Through its
Computers-to-Schools program, members refurbish used computer equipment for donation to local schools.
Since January 2003 the NVPCUG has
donated 536 computers and 136 printers. Additional equipment has been
given to charitable nonprofit organizations and disadvantaged individuals.
December, 2006
NVPCUG Annual Holidays Potluck Party
Wednesday, December 20, 2006, 6:30-9:00 p.m.
Peterson Family Christmas Tree Farm
1120 Darms Lane, Napa, California.
This month the Napa Valley Personal Computer Users Group will not
hold their usual regular meeting, but will gather at Dick and Sandy Peterson’s Christmas Tree Farm for their annual holidays party—an evening of
food, music, festivity, and fellowship. This event is for NVPCUG members, their spouses or partners and guests.
Four special activities will highlight the event: a potluck dinner, the introduction of new officers, an award for the outstanding member of the
year, and a silent auction.
The evening will begin at 6:30 p.m. with setting up of tables for food
and the silent auction. For the potluck, please bring your favorite hot dish,
pasta, salad, appetizer, or dessert to share. Our group will provide soft
drinks, coffee, and other nonalcoholic beverages, as well as plates, cups,
eating utensils, and ice for cold drinks. If you want alcoholic beverages,
you may bring your own. For suggestions on what food to bring, contact
Dianne Prior by calling (707) 252-1506 or e-mailing [email protected]
For the silent auction, bring whatever you think will be of interest to
NVPCUG members and guests. You can either enter items for sale in the
auction, or donate them to the group for the auction. Many new and used
items will be offered, including computer software, disk drives, printers,
speaker sets, modems, and keyboard trays. Bid sheets will be provided.
This auction will be an opportunity for you to get rid of your white elephants and buy items you need at bargain prices. For more information
about the silent auction, contact Orion Hill by calling (707) 252-0637 or
e-mailing [email protected]
The award presentation to the outstanding member of the year, selected
by the board of directors, will occur around 7:30 p.m. Immediately after the
presentation the new officers will be introduced. Afterward there will be
time for more socializing and bidding on the silent auction items. The auction will run until about 8:30 p.m., when each auction item will be sold to
the bidder having written the highest amount on the item’s bid sheet.
Plan to attend this party; it’s your best chance to see old acquaintances
and to meet new ones.
NVPCUG Computer News, December 2006, Page 1
President’s Message --HAPPY HANUKKAH! MERRY
NVPCUG Special
Interest Groups
In SIG meetings you can learn about a
subject in greater detail than is feasible at
NVPCUG general meetings. SIG meetings are
open to everyone. Meeting times and locations
occasionally change, so for current meeting
i n f or m a ti on , s e e o u r W e b s i t e ,, or contact the SIG leaders.
Digital Photography SIG
Meets: Monthly, second Wednesday
7:00 to 8:30 p.m
Piner’s Nursing Home,
Conference Room
1800 Pueblo Ave., Napa
Leader: Susy Ball
(707) 337-3998
[email protected]
Investors SIG
Meets: Monthly, second Monday
5:30 to 7:30 p.m
Jerry Brown’s home,
23 Skipping Rock Way, Napa
Leader: Jerry Brown
(707) 254-9607
[email protected]
Macintosh SIG
Monthly, second Thursday
6:30-8:30 p.m.
Napa Senior Activity Center
1500 Jefferson St., Napa
Leader: Jim Gillespie
(707) 252-1665
[email protected]
END OF TERM: This is my last message to you as president of Napa Valley P. C.
Users Group. It’s been a good year. Thank you to the 2006 Directors and all who helped
and participated in our group’s activities. I want to mention a few people who stand out
for their special efforts and contributions this past year. Susy Ball has done a tremendous
job as Programs Director, lining up speakers well into 2007 and procuring door and raffle
prizes; she also facilitated the Photography SIG. Orion Hill and the CTS committee have
done an outstanding job picking up donations, refurbishing equipment and donating more
than 145 computers and 27 printers. John Moore was always ready to help out, both with
CTS and as facilities coordinator; he updated our inventory list, set up our meeting room
and attended outside meetings. Jim Stirling’s work on the newsletter has made it a valuable resource. Jerry Brown’s joyful demeanor helped both as Random Access facilitator
and as Investors’ SIG leader. I couldn’t have done anything this year without the help of
Julie Jerome (Secretary) and Ron Dack (Vice President and Web Master); both were
always there to lend a hand and help with advice. Ron took over as Publicity Coordinator
when John Simcoe had his accident and has been invaluable in our connections with the
Internet. Roy Wagner, as our Treasurer, has an important job – thank you, Roy, for keeping up with the expenses and revenues. Thanks also go to Bill Wheadon (Recycling),
Mike Moore (Computer Tutor), Bob Simmerman (Badges & Greeter), Dean Unruh
(Librarian), Jim Hearn (Newsletter Circulator) and Marcia Waddell (Product Review).
There are a lot of things we would like to have done, but some things take more time than
others; maybe next year there will be enough hands to do some of the extras. The new
Board of Directors, Officers and Member-of-the-Year will be announced at our Holidays
Party on December 20.
DOOR PRIZE: In January the winner of the door prize drawing will be
able to choose between a copy of CASPER or ZONE ALARM Internet Security Suite (Vista ready). Only those whose dues are paid up by the
January meeting will be eligible for the drawing. Please check your
mailing label for your expiration date. Checks may be sent to
NVPCUG Membership, P.O. Box 2866, Napa, CA 94558.
RADIO SHOW: Susy Ball and I were interviewed on “Computer Outlook,” an Internet streaming radio talk show (not available on traditional radios) hosted by John Iasiuolo.
He praised our Web site and newsletter extensively, and he generously gave us a copy of a
digital photography book instead of adding it to his normal Christmas raffle. To listen to
the show go to, click on “audio archives,” click on
“play” for December 4, 2006.
Peace and All Good,
Dianne Prior
NVPCUG Calendar
December 20
January 3
January 8
January 10
January 11
9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
6:30-9:00 p.m.
7:00-9:00 p.m.
5:30-7:30 p.m.
7:00-8:30 p.m.
6:30-8:30 p.m.
Computers-to-Schools work parties. To volunteer, contact Orion Hill, (707) 252-0637.
NVPCUG Annual Holidays Party, Peterson’s Christmas Tree Farm, 1120 Darms Lane, Napa
Board of Directors meeting, Piner’s Nursing Home, 1800 Pueblo Ave., Napa
Investors SIG meeting, Jerry Brown’s home, 23 Skipping Rock Way, Napa
Digital Photography SIG meeting, Piner’s Nursing Home, 1800 Pueblo Ave., Napa
Macintosh SIG meeting, Napa Senior Activity Center, 1500 Jefferson St., Napa
NVPCUG Computer News, December 2006, Page 2
Napa Valley Personal Computer Users Group
Officers for 2006
Board of Directors
Dianne Prior
[email protected]
Vice President
Ron Dack
Julie Jerome
[email protected]
[email protected]
Roy Wagner
[email protected]
Other Directors:
Susy Ball, Orion E. Hill, Jim Gillespie, Bob Kulas, John Moore,
Come to the NVPCUG
General Meetings
Dick Peterson, James Stirling, Dean Unruh
7:00 to 9:00 p.m.
Appointed Officers
Computer Equipment
Sales Coordinator
Computer Recycling
Computer Tutor
Program Coordinator
Facility Arrangements
Greeter Coordinator
Membership Director
Mentor Program
Newsletter Circulator
Newsletter Editor
Product Review Coord.
Product Review Coord.
Programs Director
Publicity Director
Random Access Moderator
Special Projects Director
Held the third Wednesday of each month
Napa Senior Activities
(Volunteer Needed)
Bill Wheadon
[email protected]
Mike Moore
[email protected]
Orion E. Hill
[email protected]
John Moore
[email protected]
Bob Simmerman
Dean Unruh
Dianne Prior
Dick Peterson
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
Jim Hearn
James Stirling
Susy Ball
Marcia Waddell
Susy Ball
(Volunteer Needed]
Jerry Brown
Bob Kulas
Ron Dack
1500 Jefferson Street,
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
*All telephone numbers are in Area Code 707.
NVPCUG Computer News
Computer News (ISS 0897-5744) is published monthly by the Napa Valley Personal Computer Users Group, Inc. (NVPCUG), P.O. Box 2866, Napa, CA
94558-0286. Subscriptions: $30 for one year (12 issues ). Editor: James Stirling, [email protected] The material in Computer News is intended for
noncommercial purposes and may not be reproduced without prior written permission, except that permission for reproducing articles, with authors properly credited, is granted to other computer user groups for their internal, nonprofit use only. The information in this newsletter is believed to be correct.
However, the NVPCUG can assume neither responsibility for errors or omissions nor liability for any damages resulting from the use or misuse of any
The NVPCUG is an IRC 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit educational organization (EIN 68-0069663) and is a member of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG), an international organization. Donations to the NVPCUG are tax-deductible as charitable contributions to the extent allowed
by law. Copyright © 2006 by NVPCUG.
NVPCUG Computer News, December 2006, Page 3
Practice Good “Netiquette” – Be a Good “Netizen”
By Ira Wilsker, APCUG Director; columnist, The Examiner, Beaumont TX; radio & talk show host Iwilsker(at)
There are many unwritten etiquette rules that
apply to internet usage. These etiquette rules are
commonly referred to as “netiquette”. Likewise,
there are rules of being a good online citizen, often
given the moniker “netizen”. If more people practiced good netiquette, and were better netizens, we
would likely have more online satisfaction, and improve our throughput while on the net.
E-mails are a common source of irritation.
While there is little that we as individuals can do to
stop the torrent of spam e-mails which typically
come from unknown sources, we can ask our known
e-mail correspondents to practice good netiquette
when sending us e-mails.
Despite repeated protestations from me, I still
receive several hoaxes and urban legends daily, all
sent by some well-intentioned friends who desire to
warn me about some potential pseudo-threat, or to
solicit my assistance in forwarding e-mails for some
sham charitable purpose or imaginary sick kid. According to the urban-legend-busting Web site,
Snopes (, no one is really putting
leaflets on rear windows of cars at the mall parking
lot, carjacking the car when the driver stops to remove the paper. The Make-A-Wish Foundation is
not paying seven cents for each e-mail forwarded
about some terminally ill child. For the thousandth
time, Marshall Fields is not charging $250 for its
chocolate chip cookie recipe. A father did not really
foil the attempted abduction of his son at a local
movie rental store, despite the allegations in the
widely circulated e-mail. Hillary Clinton was not
named after famed mountain climber Sir Edmund
Hillary. The artificial sweetener aspartame was not
originally developed as an ant poison. Entering your
PIN number in reverse order at the ATM machine
will not really summon the police. These and countless other e-mails, all typically containing wording
that it is imperative to forward to everyone in your
address book, are commonly circulated hoaxes and
urban legends.
Good netiquette demands that the potential forwarder of these reports should check them out first
by doing a search on any of the major urban legend
Web sites, such as Snopes. Avoid the embarrassment of being connected with hoaxes by checking
these things out before sending. By not forwarding
hoaxes and urban legends you may also be contributing to public safety, as there are a handful of cases
where the urban legend actually incited the act to
occur. What might not be such good netiquette, is a
practice I have been known to participate in, which is
clicking the “reply to all” icon, and sending the
sender and his victims the truth about the hoaxes, in
a hope to put an end to one tentacle of this spreading
mass of lies. Someone has to step in to halt this
waste of bandwidth; conserving bandwidth by minimizing the hoaxes and urban legends being forwarded en masse is good netizenship.
Since the topic of the moment includes forwarding e-mails, whether hoaxes and urban legends, or
the often more common jokes or prayer requests,
good netiquette demands proper behavior in e-mail
forwarding. It is a waste of bandwidth and space to
receive an e-mail that contains multiple headers.
This occurs when multiple senders forward the same
e-mail without editing out the headers. This results
in an e-mail that may be a spammer’s delight if received by a miscreant, in that it may contain hundreds of valid e-mail addresses. It is also an irritant
to have to scroll down pages of useless headers just
to get to the message. If forwarding an e-mail, strip
off the useless headers by painting them (hold down
left mouse button and drag over the useless headers,
then “delete” or “cut”). Now if forwarded, just the
body of the message will be sent. This is good netiquette. Another common faux pas is the fact that
many e-mail programs add the “>” (greater-than)
symbol to the first character of each line in a forwarded e-mail. If this e-mail is forwarded, and forwarded again several times, each line will begin with
something like “>>>>>” which makes reading the
now poorly formatted e-mail difficult. Fortunately,
there is a free utility available, e-mailStripper, which
can be downloaded from This small utility is very easy to
use. Simply copy the body of the e-mail by painting
it (hold down left mouse button and drag over the
text), then “copy” it (right click on the painted area
and click “copy”, or press CTRL-C); then open emailStripper, and paste (CTRL-V) the message body
in the window. Click on the “Strip it!” button, and all
(continued on page 13)
NVPCUG Computer News, December 2006, Page 4
Think About Those Camera Gadgets at Gift Time
By Susy Ball, Programs Director, NVPCUG
Once upon a time, it was easy to give the
photographer on your holiday list a roll of film, but
with today’s digital cameras film is not an option.
If you think of giving a memory stick, you must
know what kind of stick a particular camera takes.
You could give a USB multi-card reader and not
worry about any one kind. One I got at Fry’s for
about $20 reads 53 types of cards. Why have a
reader for so many different cards? Well, if you
have company and everyone is taking photos, this
reader will handle them all right on the spot. The
only thing that you might have to do is some photo
editing of the originals.
Speaking of photo editing, why not give a
photo editing program for doing just that? There
are programs from simple and inexpensive to very
elaborate and costly, there are even free ones to
download. Someone on a limited budget might
even take the time to download and burn to a CD a
program for a friend. Sometimes a free program
has an upgrade and so you could even give the free
version and a gift certificate to cover the price of
the upgrade. An example would be Corel’s new
Snapfire, with an upgrade to Snapfire plus for only
about $29.95. Or you could get a mid-ranged product such as Adobe Photoshop Elements. For the
more advanced photo editor, Paintshop Pro and
Photoshop CS2 are available at a little bigger price
tag. Or think about purchasing Corel’s Graphic
Suite that includes both a drawing program and
photo editing program.
So what are some of your other options?
First you have to decide how much to spend. For
those with a smaller budget there are things like
mini-tripods, some even with flexible legs. For
more money, one could invest in a full-size tripod
or even a monopod. (but remember when traveling
by air, it is not the best idea to carry tripod and
monopods in the carry-on luggage.) A headband
flashlight for photographers who carry a large
camera bag and have trouble seeing into it might be
a nice thought. One might get rechargeable batteries, perhaps with a charger as well. Maybe someone has a camera bag with a narrow strap—why
not get them one of those wide rubber shoulder
protectors to add to their existing set up? There is
a company (Delkin) that makes a universal removable, pop-up shade for the viewer for about $20. I
saw several different sizes of the product available
both at CompUSA and Radio Shack. What about a
case for media storage, a new camera bag, or even
a subscription to a photo magazine? You could
even give a new digital camera or a video camera. And because you can edit video film and even
print out one frame at a time, and many digital
cameras take small video’s, one could give a video
editing program. Another item is a small lens
cleaner. I have seen the one that is a combination
brush and lens cleaner. Why not give a frame for a
picture or a gift certificate to a store to have those
holiday memories printed on someone else’s paper,
or give a new photo cartridge so the budding
photo-enthusiast can print their own pictures?
And here is something for both the photo
enthusiast and the TV buff. If you that want to invest a little more, you could get a mobile projector to show pictures, and guess what, that mobile
projector can often be mounted and hooked to the
stereo and TV. (I have mine mounted and it acts as
our TV, running DVDs as well as the Television
and TiVo.) The picture is great, it is 5’ x7’ and
shines directly on the wall, (therefore the 14 ft.
room is not dominated by a large screen TV box or
even a large screen). You should see it on high
definition, and with the right connection wires it
could also hook up to the video on a desktop computer or laptop.
Susy Ball is leader of the Digital Photography SIG at the Napa Valley Computer Users Group
in Napa, California.
NVPCUG Computer News, December 2006, Page 5
Great Games for the Holidays Are Here:
Changes in Industry and Technology Overcome
By Timothy Everingham, member of TUGNET, California
We are now in the time when most of the computer
and console games get released, right before the holiday
season. This year it even gets more complicated because of
Windows Vista coming out in January, and we are in the
early stages of a transition to the next generation of game
consoles. What makes it even worse is the collapse of the
computer game industry’s major trade show, E3. Game
developers have had to revamp their marketing strategies
for the future, yet at the same time prepare for this holiday
season. This should add to consumer confusion on what to
buy and when, and hopefully this article will reduce that
“Increases questions”
Microsoft’s new operating system, Windows Vista,
increases questions for those uses of 3D- oriented applications, especially games. A great part of this is DirectX 10,
which is a major rewrite of DirectX and has much higher
capability than current and past versions. DirectX 10 will
be available only for Windows Vista and can be used only
if you have a video card that supports it. (Those cards that
do not have DirectX 10 support will be running DirectX
9.0L under Windows Vista). DirectX 10 cards based on
Nvidia chips will start to come out in November and those
based on ATI chips will start to come out in February.
There will be few games with additional enhancements if
you are running Vista with a DirectX 10 card when Vista
launches, such as Microsoft Flight Simulator X and Crysis.
It will probably be at least until mid-2007 when significant
numbers of DirectX 10-enhanced or DirectX 10-only titles
will arrive. So for giving gifts to 3D gamers who are going
to be first adopters of Windows Vista you might want to
consider giving gift certificates.
Microsoft’s next generation console, the Xbox 360,
has been out for about a year. It has been well accepted by
the marketplace and has a good number of quality game
titles. Sony’s Playstation 3 is more powerful and will be
able to play high definition Blue-Ray disk movies, but it
has been delayed by technical problems until November
17, and even then will have limited supply in the US. With
the decision to allow Blue Ray Disk movies to the higher
level 1080p High Definition TV instead of the former
720p only should help sales. It will also have some very
good games available at launch. There will be 2 versions,
the standard costing $499 and the deluxe costing $599.
Nintendo’s Wii next generation console will launch on
November 19. It is not as powerful as its two rivals, especially in the graphics area (Maximum Video Resolution:
Wii-480p, Xbox 360-720P, PS3-1080p). However, it has a
unique gyroscopic controller, shaped like a TV remote
control, that could make some very innovative gameplay
(actions are evoked by your physical movement of the entire controller). The Wii’s retail price will be $249. The
safe bet for buying a console now is the Xbox 360, but I
would advise waiting on your decisions until the initial
opinions on the PS3 and Wii consoles come out. (These
will probably be found online on the video game review
Web sites before the end of November). Remember, when
buying a console it is like buying a computer. First you
determine what games/applications you want to run, and
then you see which console has the games/applications you
want to run now or in the future.
“For the holiday season”
Here are some of my game picks for the holiday season: If you are looking a simulation, Microsoft Flight
Simulator X (Windows XP or Vista) is a great visual experience. It is greatly improved from the last version,
2004, with great scenery and other graphics plus good missions. Be aware that to get good frame rates on this you
will need a mid to high performance PC by current standards. This is the first game that can take advantage of
Windows Vista-only features, including DirectX 10 capabilities if you have a Direct X 10 graphics card. Comes in
both standard and deluxe versions.
I you are looking for a first-person shooter, Call of
Duty 3 (Activision; PS3, PS2, Xbox 360, Xbox, Wii) is
third installment of the extremely successful World War 2
team-based first-person shooter series. This time it centers
on the campaign from Normandy to Paris. Additionally the
number of concurrent online/network players has been
raised to 24. Battlefield 2142 (Electronic Arts, PC) is Battlefield 2 set in the future in the middle of a new ice age.
Since Battlefield 2 is such a great multiplayer combat title,
this is a good thing. Like the previous members of the Battlefield series, it is usually played team vs. team online or
at a LAN Party. Be aware that this game has in-game advertisements, and spyware is installed when you install the
game that analyzes data on your PC to determine which
ads to display in the game. So if you don’t like such things
on your computer you may want to pass on this game.
If you have dreamed of firefights using automatic
weapons in the glamorous Las Vegas Casinos, this is for
you. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas (Ubisoft; PC, PS3,
PSP, Xbox 360) is another in the successful Rainbow Six
series about the adventures of a US antiterrorist commando
team. This time a large group of terrorists are attacking the
NVPCUG Computer News, December 2006, Page 6
Las Vegas Casinos and plan to burn them to the ground,
and your object is to stop them. Tom Clancy’s Splinter
Cell: Double Agent (Ubisoft; PC, Xbox 360, Xbox,
PS2, Gamecube) is another in the great Splinter Cell
series where you work as a spy/ mercenary for the National Security Agency. However, this time you act as a
double agent within a terrorist cell, so things get more
complicated. This also has a multiplayer mode. This
series is great for those who like to sneak up on the bad
guys, take them out and steal or blow up their stuff.
As for adventure games, The Elder Scrolls IV:
Oblivion (2K games; PC, Xbox 360) has extremely
beautiful and high-level graphics. It is considered an
outstanding title and one with which all other adventure
games are compared; but you need a high performance
PC to play it. Gothic 3 (JoWood, PC) is a single-player
adventure game in a land where humans have been enslaved by orcs. There is an evil mode where you side
with the orcs, but for most of the game play you are on
the human’s side. The game is much more open-ended
than most games, so if you get lost in non-structured
game play this title is not for you. For those who enjoyed the fantasy role playing game Neverwinter
Nights, there is Never Winter Nights 2 (Atari, PC).
Half-Life 2 (Electronic Arts) has moved to an episodic
model, and so now has Sam & Max (Lucas Arts). Sam
& Max Episode 1: Culture Shock is the first of seven
episodes to come out on a monthly basis with an estimated 4-6 hours of game play each. Each episode will
cost $8.85, but you can subscribe to the entire set for
$34.95. This is an off-the-wall humor-ridden adventure
game with a dog and rabbit team of freelance police as
its heroes.
“Sport games”
As for sport games, try Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07
(Electronic Arts; PC, PS3, PS, Xbox, Xbox 360, Wii).
It is extremely similar to the previous two versions, but
is still a great game. For those who love golf games this
is probably your best bet. Need For Speed Carbon
(Electronic Arts; PC, PS3, PS2, PSP, Xbox 360, Xbox,
Wii, Gamecube, Gameboy, DS), is the next in the successful Need For Speed street racing series. Its graphics
are excellent and smooth, and there is a lot of game
play and various options/paths to explore in the way
you play the game.
In the good, but not expensive category look at
GTR 2 (10tacle Studios, PC). This is a GT car racing
game that has gotten good reviews and has a lot to offer, and you can find it for less than $20. It was released
on Sept 26; it is a new game too. For sports games,
Electronic Arts has most of the best ones.
If you are into building rather than destroying I
would recommend Sid Meir’s Railroads (2K Games,
PC). In this empire-building game you have 15 historical and fictional scenarios to choose from. Up to four
players can even compete online or over a network. The
detailed graphic animation of the environment/world is
impressive, but because of this it is recommended that
you have a significantly better computer than listed in
the minimum requirements.
“Total War”
If you are looking for a real-time strategy game,
look at Company of Heroes (THQ, PC). The detail in
both the game play and the graphics makes this World
War II game set in France in 1944 superior to other
similar titles. You play either as the allies or the axis
and control small units on a battlefield to accomplish
objectives. You can play against another player or players online. Because of the graphics, low-end PCs are
insufficient for this game. Also you need to look at Medieval 2: Total War (Sega, PC), the fourth in the Total
War historical combat real-time strategy series. The
graphics and animation are so good that the game’s engine is used to create animated visualizations of largescale actual battles for documentaries shown on the
History and Discovery channels. The graphics have
been updated, making them even more real than in any
of the previous versions and in what you even saw in
the TV documentary visualizations. The game takes
place in Medieval Europe, and you command one of the
historical factions/countries that vie for power. Look at
Warhammer: Mark of Chaos (Namco Bandai, PC) too;
a real-time strategy game with fantasy creatures and
units, part of the excellent Warhammer series.
“Something usual”
If you want something usual you may want to look at
Bully (Rockstar Games, PS2). This is a boarding school
simulator where you work your way up in this kid-dom.
Last year’s best unusual was Destroy All Humans, a
spoof on the 1950’s alien invasion movies. Now Destroy All Humans 2: Make War Not Love (THQ; PS2,
Xbox) has arrived and is set in the 1960’s. It is not quite
as good as the original; but with the original being so
good, especially in the rolling on the floor laughing department, it still makes for a very good game. There
are new consoles and a lot of new games for this holiday season, too much to cover here. For additional information go to (part of CNET),,,,
May your games be happy and bright.
The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal
Computer User Groups has provided this article.
NVPCUG Computer News, December 2006, Page 7
E-Mail: Be Less Annoying
by Steve Bass, PC World; Author, PC Annoyances.
Everyone -- including Bill Gates -- can use e-mail more
efficiently. And learn how not to do really dumb things.
I've come to the conclusion that everyone needs to
take a test before being able to use e-mail. No, I'm serious.
You have to take an e-mail test. If you pass, you get an email license. Proudly hang it on the wall. Screw up--send
lots of messages with blank subject lines, say--and your
license is pulled. You go on probation and attend mandatory remedial e-mail training.
Why am I being so hardnosed? I have a laundry list
of ways people drive me wild with e-mail. I wrote about
a few in "Get Relief From Annoying E-Mail," my July,
But I ran out of room in the print column, so here
are some more tips, including how to stop being obnoxious with your e-mail.
$ To Whom Am I Speaking? Sometimes I have
absolutely no idea who's sending me an e-mail, and this
is a problem. I mean, I'll say something to another guy
that I wouldn't dream of uttering to a lady my mother's
age. [Sorry, Mom.]
* Don't share. If you and your live-in (spouse, significant other, whatever) use the same e-mail address,
stop it. Extra e-mail addresses are free and consolidating e-mails into one mailbox is confusing the dickens
out of me because I never know who I'm writing to.
$ Use a signature line. Make life easier for me:
Add a signature line with your name and e-mail address
using the hot-linked mailto:[email protected]
format. It's easier to reply just to you if your e-mail was
sent to many people; it's also great for when I forward
your e-mail--the new recipient doesn't have to cut and
paste your address.
$ Use your real name. Don't get me wrong, I love
your [email protected] The problem is, I
haven't a clue who you are. Be a champ and add your
real name in the signature line. And a favor? Don't use
$ Do I Need to Read This Right Now? Look, I'm
a very busy man (or so I tell my wife and editor), and I
get tons of e-mail every day. I need to do e-mail triage-you know, scanning the inbox for the hottest messages
and reading them first. But honestly, I can't do this with
most e-mail I get. So here's what I recommend:
$ The subject is... Tell me, clearly and briefly,
what your message is about in the subject line. I delete
all messages with vague subjects--Hi, Hello, or worse,
an empty subject line (oh, do I hate that!). And make
sure you don't trigger my spam filter by using all capital
letters, exclamation points, and words you typically see
in junk e-mail, like "free," "spam," "mortgage," or
$ Exec summary. Give me a one- or a twosentence overview at the start of your e-mail. "I have a
complicated issue," you might start out, "involving a
Dell, memory cards, and SP2. If you have time to help,
I've provided details below.'
$ Save time. Use [NM] or [EOM] (they stand for
"no message" or "end of message") in the subject line as
a shorthand way of responding with a simple "thank
you" or an acknowledgment. This helps reduce the
number of e-mails I need to open; many of the people at
PC World use the trick and it's increased everyone's
$ And Your Point Is? Once I actually open an email, I need to get the point quickly so I can reply to the
sender if necessary, then move on to the next one. But
lots of the missives I get are, how to say it? a mess.
$ Use paragraphs. Obvious, right? Nope. I get emails with one long paragraph the length of the Gettysburg Address. Break it up into three or four smaller
ones. By the way, my limit is three or four paragraphs;
after that I start dozing. [Editor's note: I noticed.] And
send a test message to a buddy to make sure your e-mail
program isn't removing paragraph returns.
$ By the numbers. If you have more than one
question or point, number them. It makes replying a
whole lot easier if I can refer to the numbers.
$ Subject shorthand. When you reply or forward
an e-mail, it's helpful if you stick one or two descriptive
words in front of the original subject so the recipient has
an idea of what's in store. For instance, I use tags such
as "Update," "Confirmation," or "Really Dumb."
Miscellaneous Gripes
Think I'm done kvetching? Nope, no such luck.
$ Attachment don'ts. Don't attach anything executable--period. If on the off chance I've asked you to send
a program, stick it into a zipped file.
$ Keep it private. Don't reply to a mailing list with
"great idea" or "I agree." Reply privately instead. Select
NVPCUG Computer News, December 2006, Page 8
a small part of the original message for context's sake.
$ Stay plain, Jane. Avoid fancy formatting, gaudy
colors, and flowery backgrounds. Two reasons: first,
what's cool on your monitor looks like hell on mine; and
second, that extra coding increases the download time
for folks with slower connections.
$ Dear [InsertName]. Private note to PR flacks: If
you can't use mail merge properly, don't try.
Be Less Annoying on Mail Lists
I really struck a nerve.with readers of my newsletter
when I talked about annoying e-mails. My inbox was
flooded with a bucket of e-mail (most of it not very annoying). So I figured I'd follow up with advice on good
mail list etiquette. But before I do, here are some e-mail
gaffes that drive readers crazy.
"Stop sending chain e-mails to me--no matter what
the cause (little Timmy needs your old Christmas cards
to live, canola oil is poison, tell someone you love them,
whatever...). While I find them annoying in general,
they are even worse when they are the only time you
contact me. I'd rather be dropped from your little list.
Think for a minute: Do I ever send you such drivel, or
respond to it?" --Chuck
"Always use the subject line. I automatically delete
any e-mail without a subject line." --Linda
"Check spellings. Don't mix subjects in one e-mail."
"Phone home. For conversations that require significant two-way dialog and do not require documenting,
use a phone or IM. Do not send an e-mail asking me to
lunch in 30 minutes." --Jack
"Stop using those fancy script fonts! They are near
impossible to read. And please, no more purple, orange,
green font colors. It’s an e-mail, not a work of art!" -Mark
Now, on to some mail list etiquette. If you're new to
mail lists, or even if you're not, you can learn how to
make your messages easier to read, more useful, and
definitely less annoying to others.
When Replying to Messages
1. Don't hit Reply All for every message. Avoid
responses the entire list won't find useful. For instance,
don't reply to the entire list with "thanks," "good idea,"
or "I'll try it!" Instead, reply directly to the person who
just helped you.
Unfortunately, on many lists it's easy to inadvertently reply to everyone instead of an individual. Take a
sec and check the return address before hitting Send.
The sender's e-mail address is usually near the top of the
Another tip: Insert OFFLIST at the start of your
subject line when replying to an individual. That way
the recipient will know you're not replying to the entire
2. Remove the extra stuff. When replying, it takes
seconds to snip extraneous junk and leave only essential
portions of the previous message. There's rarely a need
to repeat the entire thread, and doing so often discourages people from reading your message.
No matter what you do, get rid of the stuff that's
automatically inserted at the bottom of every message-the "how to unsubscribe" junk--that clutters up every
3. Keep the subject line short. If you're viewing
messages in digest form, the subject is something
lengthy, like, "[Computing] Digest 07-13-06, 16 messages." When you reply to a message, it's essential
(mandatory, really) that you change the subject to the
message topic. Then remove everything from the digest
message except the topic and your response.
4. Restrain yourself. It's not necessary to weigh in
on every topic, especially on very busy lists. Consider
limiting yourself to one or two messages a day.
When Starting a New Thread
1. Brevity is the soul of wit. Just as with e-mail,
consider tackling just one topic or issue per message,
and keep your messages short. Long messages (more
than, say, three or four paragraphs) are difficult to read;
long paragraphs are equally difficult to plow through.
2. Use an informative signature line. Keep your
signature line short, say, two or three lines. Usually
your name is adequate, though some lists (such as one
I'm on about camper vans) want a city and state. The
point is to avoid sticking in anything nonessential.
3. Stay on topic. If it's a computing list, send messages about computing; ditto for a cooking list, or any
other special-interest group. Most importantly, avoid
political messages and jokes.
This column originally appeared in Bass's PC World newsletter, Tips and Tweaks. Copyright 2006 Steve Bass and PC
World. Read Bass's blog at and his
p r e v io u s n e w s l e t te r s a n d p r in t c o lu mn s a t : Subscribe to his weekly newsletter at
Steve Bass is a Contributing Editor with PC World, a 23
year veteran of PIBMUG, and a founding member of APCUG.
He’s also the author of PC Annoyances: How to Fix the Most
Annoying Things about Your Personal Computer, O’Reilly
Press. It’s available on Amazon at dirt cheap prices.
The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal
Computer User Groups has provided this article.
NVPCUG Computer News, December 2006, Page 9
Changing Hard Drives
By Richard Kennon, Newsletter Editor, Amador Computer Users Group, California, drtrdguy(at)
The time came when the bearings in my hard
drive began to sing a little after running all day. So,
being the wise person I am, I decided to replace it as a
preventative measure. It turns out a job like that requires planning. I am not a planning person. I don't do
planning. I am more spontaneous. That is a euphemism for “lazy.” My grandmother used to tell me,
“Lazy people work the hardest.” Oh, how true.
First, I thought I was covered because I had a
backup by Acronis True Image 8.0 – wrong! I had
one main hard drive with one partition, “C:” and I
had never dreamed of running with more than one
partition. So, I bought a second hard drive to use for
the backups. After the new main hard drive was installed by a professional, I brought it home and tried
to restore the backup. It was then I learned you can't
restore an Acronis backup to the active partition.
When I tried, it wiped out everything. Back to the Pro
for a new XP reload with two partitions on the new
hard drive. It has gigabytes to spare. The two partitions were named “C:” and “F:” for whatever reason.
The spare hard drive was renamed “D:” and the CD
drive was renamed “E:”. Go figure. I was able to restore my old C: drive contents to the new F: drive. So
now I have everything on the new F: drive but my
machine boots up on the new C: drive and I can't figure out how to utilize the new F: drive. Of course,
real men don't ask directions, so I decided to slug it
out on my own. I thought I saw a bright side to this as
the old C: drive was cluttered with years' accumulation of garbage. I would start afresh!
The first thing to do is get back on the air, the
Internet. So, I went to Outlook Express. First I had to
call the ISP to find out how to reconnect. A nice lady
walked me through the process, no sweat. Then I discovered I had no address book. Of course, it is on the
F: drive. How to find it? After some searching on the
web, I found out the address book is in files named,
*.wab. Cinch! Just search the F: drive for *.wab files.
Not there. Then I noticed the fine print that says it
does not find hidden files. A click on “Advanced” led
me to a box that allows finding hidden files. It turns
out the hidden files are in a hidden folder so it was
doubly challenging. It was relatively easy to copy
these files and paste them in the same hidden folder
in the new C: drive. Whaddayu know? It worked. The
message files are empty, but I can't think of a good
reason to try to repopulate them.
Now, if I am on the air, it seems the next urgent
step is to reestablish some protection. But, first, I
downloaded SP-2 and a host of other Microsoft updates. I think I saw a note flash across the screen that
said they sent 60 updates. Then came Microsoft Windows Defender (beta). However, apparently all it does
is look for spyware. I am not clear on this so, since I
subscribe to McAfee firewall and virus protection, I
went to their site and downloaded all that. Now, I feel
I did do one bit of smart planning, Ta-Da! I had
simply copied all my Documents and Settings files
and subfolders to the backup drive. Copying all this
back to the new C: drive was a cinch and it saved all
my valuable writings and pictures. Now if I could just
find that great picture of Aunt Edith from two Christmases ago. If you ever transfer to a new computer or
hard drive, do lots of this copying. Disk space is
cheap and copying it back is so easy.
Finding the original software disks that were
loaded years ago was not so easy. They were tucked
here and there in many different convenient places.
That is, convenient until you want to find them. I was
mostly lucky and had to purchase a newer version of
only one program. You see, I am neither a planner
nor an organizer. You wonder how I have survived
these many years? I am very lucky.
One other aspect of “afresh” I decided to try was
going to Open Office instead of Microsoft Office.
This is another ungood idea. Doctors warn against
experiencing dual traumas like retiring and immediately moving to a retirement community. Adding this
stress to the disk change stress was probably not a
good idea. Besides, Outlook Express won’t use the
Open Office dictionary. I did find the old MS Office
disk, but I decided to try this as an experiment. So far
so good, but there are a number of features I don't like
because I am used to the other features. I will keep
with it for a while.
NVPCUG Computer News, December 2006, Page 10
In conclusion, you will be faced with changing
computers and/or hard drives. As the weatherman
and some politicians are fond of saying, “It is not if
but when.” I do not recommend my approach. I have
spent many hours on it. Plan, plan, plan. Talk to
some knowledgeable people and perhaps even search
the Internet for help. Good luck.
simply place the new drive in the place of your old c:
drive and it becomes your new c: drive. This feature
of True Image would have had your old hard drive
replaced in just a few minutes and with one easy
step. Next time you need to do something with hard
drives, send me a note and I'll try to help you do it
quickly and with the least work possible.”
PS. I sent a copy of this to Gene Barlow, who
had sold me the Acronis program, and this was his
Maybe the next time I will ask before! But, that
would have transferred all the garbage, as well.
“Acronis True Image has a cloning function that
will copy your entire hard drive to the replacement
hard drive in one easy step. When you are done, you
The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User has provided this article.
Free Up Megabytes of Disk Space
by Vinny La Bash, member of the Sarasota PCUG, Florida vlabash(at)
Look in your Windows folder and count how
many folders you have that start with
“$NtUninstall". They are all related to various
patches, updates and service packs for XP. Those
$NtUninstall folders are created when you install a
Microsoft Service Pack, a hot fix, or certain security
updates. Some of these folders could date back almost to the day you first installed your computer.
Their names are in blue, and they are all marked
as hidden and read only. If you don’t see them in the
Windows folder, open the Tools menu, and select
Folder Options from the drop down menu. After the
Folder Options dialog box appears, activate the
View tab, then left-click the Show hidden files and
folders radio button. Click OK to close the dialog
box and the hidden folders should appear. If nothing
happens, close down Windows Explorer and restart
it. You don’t need to restart your computer; simply
open Windows Explorer again.
Why should you do this? If you’re getting low
on disk space and the usual remedies haven’t freed
up enough space, these folders could be the culprits
that are chewing up valuable storage area. If you
have had Windows installed for more than a year and
you are conscientious about keeping your system upto-date, these useless folders are probably tying up
gigabytes of data. Enough of them can have the unfortunate side effect of noticeably slowing down virus and spyware scans. It also takes longer to defrag
your disk drive. An accumulation of unnecessary or
extraneous data on your system will eventually af-
fect system performance and in extreme cases cause
drive errors.
The files within the $NtUninstall folder provide
instructions on how your computer uninstalls a Windows update. Each folder has a specific name ending
in the name of a particular Windows modification. If
you were to go to add/remove programs and select a
Windows update to uninstall, the information on how
to run this process would come from the corresponding $Ntuninstall folder.
You can safely delete all these folders if you
have no plans to uninstall any of the related patches.
As updates and patches accumulate, these types of
folders will continue to grow and take disk space.
One solution is to delete only those folders older
than three months. Chances are, if you haven't uninstalled a Windows update after three months, you
won’t ever do it.
Alternatively, once you've made a backup or
disk image of any "$NTUninstall" files, you can delete the files from the hard drive immediately, because you can always restore them from backups.
One thing Microsoft should have done is tuck these
folders away in a subfolder someplace so you don’t
have to scroll through them every time you want to
locate something in the Windows folder. I’ve seen
machines with over a hundred of these folders. Then
again, you could always mark them as hidden.
The Editorial Committee of the Association
of Personal Computer User Groups has provided
this article.
NVPCUG Computer News, December 2006, Page 11
The New, the Best, and the Worst
Collected by Pim Borman, Website Editor, SW Indiana PC Users Group, Inc.
No one, fifty years ago, could have foreseen or
even imagined how the advent of ever more powerful
computers would revolutionize science, technology,
commerce, and communications. Vastly improved
algorithms and architectural structures have been important, but the crucial factor has been the ability of
manufacturers to cram ever smaller and more complex circuits on a semiconductor chip. That ability is
now approaching a limit posed by atomic size and
increasing influence of quantum effects. We may
have to learn how to do more with what we already
have if we want to further improve computers so that
they'll be able to predict the weather or model the Big
Bang, to mention just a few challenges.
From an electromechanical standpoint every digital computer, no matter how primitive or advanced,
consists of on-off electrical switches connected in a
circuit. In semiconductor-based systems the binary 0's
and 1's are represented by electrons that carry a negative charge, and missing electrons, called “holes,”
with positive charge. That is simple and straightforward enough. But wait, there is more...
There can be no electricity without magnetism.
They are like heads and tails, yin and yang, up and
down. Electrons, the elemental carriers of electricity,
also are elementary magnets. You can, very much
simplified, think of them as spinning spheres of electricity, tiny electromagnets., in other words. Depending on the direction of spin, the magnetism points up
or down. Technology making use of the magnetic
properties of electrons is often referred to as
“spintronics.” So far, computers ignore the magnetic
state of the electrons, but what if we learned to use it
for additional information storage?
About 50 years ago scientists learned how to manipulate and record the magnetic properties of electrons and certain atomic nuclei to examine the composition of substances, using a technique called nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). Eventually that
technique was extended to examine the characteristics
of human tissue. The name was changed to Magnetic
Resonance Imaging (MRI) to avoid the term
“nuclear” with its negative connotations, although it
has nothing to do with damaging radiation or nuclear
energy in this case.
More recently, in the late 90's, scientists at IBM
learned how to use spintronics to make very small,
highly sensitive read-heads for use with computer
hard drives. The sensors consist of a microscopic
sliver of semiconductor sandwiched between two thin
magnetic layers. The top layer is a permanent, “hard”
magnet, but the bottom layer is a soft magnet that
changes magnetic orientation easily as it passes over
the magnetic regions on the disk. If both magnets in
the head are oriented in the same direction, electrons
align magnetically in the same direction and move
easily through the semiconductor. If the magnetic layers point in opposite directions, the electron spin is
reversed as it moves through the semiconductor, affecting its mobility and therefore the amount of current. Clever, isn't it? Practically all newer hard drives
use that technology now.
If computers could be designed to use both the
electrical charge and the magnetic state of electrons,
each unit of information could have four different
quaternary values (0,1,2,and 3) instead of the two binary values (0 and 1) currently used, resulting in
greatly increased performance. But the semiconductors must be magnetic to recognize the magnetic 'up'
or 'down' state of electrons. Magnetic semiconductors
are few and far between, and so far none remain magnetic at room temperature.
If the material problems can be solved, we may
be looking at future computers that are not only more
powerful, but also easier to use. Because magnetic
semiconductors retain their logic states without
power, systems could be instant-on and use less
power. Also, principal functions of a computer, such
as logic operations, communication between circuits,
and data storage, could be integrated in a single material, resulting in smaller and faster computers with
high data-storage capacities and fast performance.
Making spintronic computers possible depends on
chemists’ formulating magnetic semiconductors able
to support the technology. Much progress is being
made, but it will take a while longer. Not surprisingly,
this article was based on an article in Chemical and
Engineering News, Aug. 28, 2006.
Cookies With Gas?
Would you believe Internet via the gas meter? A
NVPCUG Computer News, December 2006, Page 12
San Diego-area start-up company, Nethercomm,
claims to have developed technology to send broadband and TV services through the underground natural gas pipes. A converter box attached to your gas
meter receives the signals and sends them to your
computer or TV set. The headline of the article in
USA Today (9/11/06) says it all: “Gas-line broadband a pipe dream?”
A Linux Epiphany
I wasn't going to mention Linux this month,
but... James Derk, our local computer guru known
for his syndicated weekly computer columns for
Scripps-Howard News Service, has been poohpoohing desktop Linux for years. Guess what. His
column in the Evansville Press and Courier of September 18, 2006 is headed “It may be time to give
Linux another try.” He specifically mentions the Ubuntu Linux distribution which, he writes, is
“...painfully easy to get up and running ... without
spending a dime.” Derk keeps his columns at You can also find
them on the Scripps Howard Web site at under Columns...Business, Finance,
and Technology...Compute.
Reap What You Sow!
I've been getting bored with being a one-man
Linux SIG in the SW Indiana PC Users Group. I suggested to our new Region 6 Advisor of the Association of PC User Groups (APCUG), Jerry Gillette,
that APCUG might be able to sponsor a way to exchange news and information between Linux aficionados scattered amongst its member Groups. He
passed the word, and the suggestion was accepted
with enthusiasm. APCUG now carries a new Conference (section) on its Web Board, APCUG.linux.
Of course, the Conference requires a moderator, and
who do you think got “volunteered?” Right, “c'est
moi” said the fool. Oh well, one must reap what one
sows. Access the APCUG Web Board at and leave a message!
The Editorial Committee of the Association of
Personal Computer User Groups has provided this
Practice Good Netiquette
(continued from page 4)
message may then be restored to its original formatting. Finally, click on the “Copy” button, and paste
back into the e-mail program for sending, with the
“greater-than” symbols all removed. This is good
Now that digital cameras are nearly universal,
we are taking billions of digital photos. Just because
a digital camera has a maximum resolution of several megapixels does not mean that all photos should
be taken in that high resolution, unless they are to be
printed in a larger than snapshot format. I sometimes appreciate receiving photos of cute kids, cats,
dogs, and family photos, but please do not send me
photos taken in multi-megapixel resolution that have
not been resized, or otherwise cropped and edited to
make them smaller. Consider that a one-megapixel
digital photo will totally fill the screen on a
1024x768 resolution monitor, and be about a megabyte in file size. A four megapixel image will typically be 2048x1536 pixels in display size, meaning
that only a corner of the image, consisting of onefourth of the image, will appear on my monitor.
This means that I have to do a lot of scrolling to
view the image, as it is four times the maximum image size that my monitor can display, and be about
four megabytes in file size.
Please save me and your other correspondents
the download time and inconvenience of trying to
view an oversized image by either taking the image
in a more reasonable resolution (such as one
megapixel), or using imaging editing software to
reduce the size of the image, and crop if necessary.
Almost all image editing software included with
most digital cameras can easily perform the task of
resizing the image. Alternatively, use the free image
utility IrfanView, my personal favorite, available for
download from If you do not
want to alter the original image, simply save the edited or reduced image under a different file name.
The smaller image size will relate to a smaller file
size, meaning faster uploads and downloads. This is
good netiquette.
These are but a few tips that can contribute
much to your being a good netizen. Practice good
The Editorial Committee of the Association .of Personal
Computer User Groups has provided this article.
NVPCUG Computer News, December 2006, Page 13
Windows XP: Remote Assistance
By Dick Maybach, Member of the Brookdale Computer User Group, New Jersey
Because of our interest and experience with PCs,
many of us in BCUG are asked for help by friends and
family. Often, those seeking help live across town or
across the country, and it is inconvenient to visit them.
Fortunately, Windows XP (both the Home and Pro version) provides a solution. Using its Remote Assistance
feature, a tutor can see a student’s Windows desktop and
operate his or her computer over the Internet. This allows you to assist someone almost anywhere in the
world. Remote Assistance supports an audio link and
live file transfers. During the session, you can speak
with the person you are helping and exchange files between the two PCs as easily as you can move files between directories.
To use Remote Assistance, both parties must be
using Windows XP, either Home or Pro. The operation
will be smoother if both have high-speed Internet access, but this is not required. Also, both parties should
have microphones or combination microphoneearphone headsets, which are available inexpensively
from many computer hardware dealers. Without this,
you will have to juggle a telephone during the whole
session or use text chat, both of which are inconvenient.
Finally, Universal plug-and-play must be enabled on
your hardware router, if you have one. This appears to
be the default for those used in homes, but if you are
behind the firewall of your company, college, or some
other organization, you may not be able to use Remote
Assistance. UPnP does entail a small security risk,
which many organizations won’t tolerate.
It will also be helpful to use MSN Messenger to set
up the session. Without this, you will have to use email, which will slow down the dialog immensely. (As
a bonus, Messenger will allow you to make free audio
or video calls anywhere in the world.) Both the Messenger software and service are free. You can download the
software from Microsoft. (The fastest way to find the
correct download page is to do a Google search for
“MSN Messenger.” During the installation process, you
will be led through the process of obtaining a Messenger account.)
XP enables Remote Assistance requests by default;
however, check to be sure that this is so. The error message if it isn’t is not helpful. (Right-click on My Computer, select Properties, select Remote, check Allow
Remote Assistance invitations to be sent …, select Advanced, check Allow this computer to be controlled …
While you are here, reduce the time that requests are
active to something like four hours; the 30-day default
is far too long.) Allowing Remote Assistance requests
does add a small security risk; I recommend that you
disable it when you aren’t using it.
Use the following procedure to start a session. (It
assumes you use MSN Messenger.)
$ Both parties start MSN Messenger and sign in.
$ The student requests assistance (Start » Help and
Support » Invite a friend to connect to your computer
with Remote Assistance » Invite some to help you »
select the friend from the Messenger list » select Invite)
$ The tutor accepts the request.
Both can now see the student’s desktop, but only
the student can control it; that is, the tutor’s mouse and
keyboard do not affect the student’s desktop. For many
problems, this is all that is needed.
Once the session has begun, you can control the
$ If you are using a high-speed connection, tell the
program so. (Click Settings and check High Quality
$ To start a voice conversation, click Start Talking. Again, one party requests and the other accepts the
link. This, of course, requires a microphone or a headset
at each PC. You can use instant messaging for conversations, but this is much slower than talking and can be
$ The tutor can request control by clicking Take
Control. If the student accepts, both now control the
student’s desktop. This allows the tutor, for example, to
demonstrate the correct procedures and to make changes
in the student’s configuration.
$ Either party can send a file, by clicking Send a
$ Hitting Esc allows either party to revoke control,
kill the voice link, or stop the session.
Remote Assistance provides a valuable tool that
allows PC users to help each other without leaving their
homes, but it hasn’t received the recognition it deserves.
The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal
Computer User Groups has provided this article
NVPCUG Computer News, December 2006, Page 14
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General discussion of computer-related topics:
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G Yes
G No
G No
If you do not want your preferred phone number and/or e-mail address
published in the NVPCUG Directory, which is for the exclusive use of
NVPCUG members, check the appropriate box(es):
947 Lincoln Avenue
Napa, CA 94559-5066
(707) 299-1000 • • [email protected]
G Do not list phone number
G Do not list e-mail address
Family members whom you want to sponsor as Associate Members:
(Associate Members have the same membership rights as their
sponsors, except for receiving newsletters)
Full Name
E-mail Address
Annual Dues (check appropriate boxes):
Q $30
Q $20
3148 Jefferson St., Napa, CA 94558
707-257-6260 • 800-550-6260 • fax: 707-257-8741
[email protected] •
Regular Member - an individual who is not a full-time student
Student Member - a full-time student who is not eligible for Associate
$10 Associate Member - a family member of a Regular or Student
member. Associate memberships run concurrently with sponsors’
Make check payable to Napa Valley Personal Computer Users Group.
Mail application/renewal to: Napa Valley Personal Computer Users Group,
Attn.: Membership Director, P.O. Box 2866, Napa, CA 94558-0286.
The NVPCUG is an accredited IRC 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Your
dues payment may be tax-deductible as a charitable contribution.
* To request a Corporate Membership Application/Renewal form, e-mail:
[email protected]
Revised 11-6-06
Offering Financial Services throughout the
Napa Valley, with offices in Napa, St. Helena
and Yountville
800-869-3557 •
For more information about the NVPCUG, visit our
Web site:
NVPCUG Computer News, December 2006, Page 15
Happy "Gadgetholidays!"
By Berry F. Phillips, Member of the Computer Club of Oklahoma City
Have many of us become "gadgetholics”? Do
we like drunken lemmings, especially during the holidays, rush en masse over the cliff of technology only to
fall even deeper in debt as we race to upgrade or acquire the newest and the coolest gadget? The Associated Press reported that a poll says Americans are
showing early signs of addiction to their gadgets.
Fifty percent say they could not get along without a
computer and mobile telephones, and 40 percent say
the same for broadband use. The Associated Press article also quotes a psychologist who is an authority on
Internet Addictions, so there must be truth to this new
addiction. Those who are addicted broadband users are
fortunate, since "they can get help online."
Is gadget addiction generic? You might be a neophiliac if you are constantly upgrading with the latest
technical gizmo. Media Life magazine reports neophiliacs are people addicted to the new. A study conducted
by Yamagata University School of Medicine in Japan
reports some people may be genetically predisposed to
wanting the newest things. Their study suggests the
cause may be a mitochrondial enzyme called monoamine oxidase. However, a University of York sociology
professor disputes the findings of the study, pointing
out that "people were far more suspicious of change in
the past – so the urge to constantly move on is sociological, not genetic."
Do you suppose gadgetmania may be gender related? Reality checks suggest that males, far more than
females, are gadget-addicted to various degrees. This
finding has been a boost to wives who often receive the
blame for compulsive overspending while shopping.
Jean Chatzky, author of "Make Money Not Excuses"
gives this advice to spouses of gadgetholics: "They get
excited in anticipation of their next purchase. They get
a little higher when they are making it. And they feel a
huge letdown when it is over.
“Compulsive shoppers also put their own families
at risk by racking up bills they can not pay. If you
think he is simply over-shopping, he needs your help.
Offer to be his shopping buddy, which may contain his
urge to splurge. And help him find new ways to avoid
falling into that new-tech trap by getting off the e-mail
and mailing lists that are tempting him or by finding a
new hobby to occupy his time."
(I am sure glad that I am a single male so nothing
will interfere with my gadget shopping during the holidays!)
Why, I even understand that Mrs. Claus is having
problems with Santa this year. Some say that Santa has
global navigation installed in his high-tech sleigh and
no longer relies totally on Rudolph, the lead red-nosed
reindeer, for navigation. The elves in Santa's workshop
have been upgraded and some even replaced by robotics as more high-tech gifts are being manufactured than
ever before for children of all ages. Mrs. Claus is also
concerned about Santa's belly that you recall "shakes
like a bowlful of jelly," for fear he will get stuck in a
chimney and not make his deliveries on time, disappointing millions globally. Don't worry, Santa has
been working out daily in his high-tech gym loaded
with all kinds of the newest and coolest gadgets. Santa,
who is male, of course, apparently seems to think that
today's addictions are tomorrow's necessities.
Happy Holidays from the Computer Club of
Oklahoma City and the Association of PC User
Berry Phillips is a regular writer for the CCOKC
Web site and the eMonitor.
The Editorial Committee of the Association of
Personal Computer User Groups has provided this
Napa Valley Personal Computer Users Group
P.O. Box 2866
Napa, CA 94558-0286
Address Service Requested
Return to NVPCUG
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NVPCUG Computer News, December 2006, Page 16
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