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iFun For Your Car
Each month, Sandy Berger pairs
up a couple of products to show
you how to make the most of
what’s on the market.
Volume 17 . January 2006 . Issue 1
Tech Diaries
Our Smart Computing columnists spent some quality time
with computer and computerrelated hardware and software
to get beyond the benchmark
scores, statistics, and marketing
hype. Find out what they liked
and disliked about their choices.
22 It’s All Relative
If you’re in the market for a
low-cost database program,
here’s the place to find reviews
of the most popular programs
in this field. Whatever your
needs, we’ll tell you how these
programs compare and which
one is the better option for you.
Type This!
Troubleshoot Word Processors
Make It All Add Up
Solve Spreadsheet
Software Problems
Play It Like You Mean It
Tackle Media Player Irritations
Light My Fire
Make Your Disc-Burning
Drives & Applications
Burn Brightly
Fix Up Your Fixer-Uppers
Hammer Out Troublesome
System Utilities
Drive Utilities: Backup4all
Professional Edition 2.3.3
Security: CyberScrub
Privacy Suite 4.0
Side-By-Side Review
Fix-It Utilities 6
vs. System Mechanic 6
Keep your PC clean and tidy
with a system utility suite.
Pictures Of Perfection
Straighten Those
Software Curves
Software Reviews
Graphics: Microsoft
Digital Image Suite 2006
Impulse Items
Each month, we take a look at
several useful gadgets and programs
you can get for $25
or less.
Control Your
Computer Cops
What To Do When
Security Programs
Aren’t Secure
Copyright 2006 by Sandhills Publishing Company. Smart Computing is a
registered trademark of Sandhills Publishing Company. All rights reserved. Reproduction
of material appearing in Smart Computing is strictly prohibited without written permission.
Printed in the U.S.A. GST # 123482788RT0001 Smart Computing USPS 005-665 (ISSN
1093-4170) is published monthly for $29 per year by Sandhills Publishing Company, 131
West Grand Drive, P.O. Box 85380, Lincoln, NE 68501. Subscriber Services: (800) 4247900. Periodicals postage paid at Lincoln, NE. POSTMASTER: Send address changes
to Smart Computing, P.O. Box 85380, Lincoln, NE 68501.
Windows Tips & Tricks
Tech Support
Windows XP: Tabula Rasa
Simplify your life with an empty Desktop: It’s more appealing
than it sounds.
Windows XP: Stay On Task With Windows XP Task Manager
Windows: Turn Off Unneeded Windows Services
Our computers are equipped to do more than many of us
need them to do. Turn off some of those unnecessary
programs to make your computer safer and faster.
Examining Errors
Fast Fixes
100 Q&A/FAQs
You have questions. We have answers.
The Smart Computing staff responds to
your queries.
General Computing
How Did They Do That?
Flex Your Display
In the not-so-distant future, you may have a display you can roll up and
stick in your pocket. Check out how such a device will work.
42 Alternative Input Devices
Mice and keyboards are far from the only means to communicate with
your computer.
What To Do When . . .
Microsoft Word’s Save As Dialog Box
Opens Very Slowly
Not much is more frustrating than a
slow dialog box. Work this kink out of
Microsoft Word.
Learn what the Task Manager is all about—aside from ending
frozen programs.
106 Action Editor
Can’t seem to get a response from a
vendor or manufacturer? If you need
help, we’re here for you.
PC Project
Inkjet Cartridge Refills
Double Your Pleasure
Mix things up a bit with a dual-monitor
setup, or connect two PCs to the same
Reusing a printer cartridge helps save money and the environment.
Plugged In
Quick Studies
Mr. Modem’s Desktop:
Web Sites For Fun & Frolic
In which Mr. Modem, author of several
books—none of which has won the
Pulitzer Prize—and co-host of the weekly
“PC Chat” radio show, presents his
favorite fun Web sites.
Cable vs. DSL
High-speed connections are indeed a
wonderful thing. Learn which kind of broadband access is best for you.
Site Guide: Park It Here
Remember spending every Saturday night watching a double-feature and
eating lots of buttered popcorn at the local drive-in? Drive-ins.com can help
you relive those memories and make some new ones.
Web Tips
Microsoft Excel 2002
Moving Around Within Worksheets
Jasc Paint Shop Pro 8
The Art Of Cloning
Fuzzy Addressing For Gmail
Corel WordPerfect 11
Main Word Lists & The Spell Utility
Adobe PageMaker
Export Documents To HTML, Part II
Quick Tips
Motherboards 101
Learn about motherboards and their
nooks and crannies.
Find It Online
Each Month
Technology News & Notes
Tech Support
Quick Studies
Editorial License
Editor’s Note: The Cost Of Sophistication
ack in the “olden days,” applications were pretty simple, at least from the user’s perspective. Installing
them basically meant copying them to a drive or even running them directly from a floppy diskette.
Once the app was installed, we simply typed the name of the program, and it just ran. Rarely did we run
into hardware or software conflicts, largely because . . . well, there just wasn’t much in the way of other
hardware and software: There were no antivirus programs running in the background because we didn’t
need them. There was no always-on Internet connection to worry about—in fact, there was no Internet.
Ditto for email. We didn’t need scads of memory so we could run multiple programs at one time because
we had no multitasking operating systems; the idea of running multiple applications concurrently was
foreign to us—why would we even want to do such a thing?
Hardware conflicts? Not a problem because we didn’t have any hardware. At most, we had a dot matrix printer
and a keyboard. No USB printers, scanners, or mice, and no wireless gear of any sort. (If you wanted a network, you bought a copy of Novell NetWare or Lantastic and started draping ugly cables all over the room.)
But times have changed. We can complain all we want about hardware and software conflicts, “bloated”
software, and complicated, confusing applications, but the fact is that we demand more nowadays. We
want to run multiple applications, and we want them to be able to exchange data. We want networks in
our home, always-on Internet access, and instant email. We want sophisticated desktop publishing features
at our fingertips and we want scanners, color printers, wireless mice, digital cameras, and all the rest.
We have more power and functionality on our desktops than on any mainframe from “back in the day,” but
that sophistication comes at a cost. Software glitches and conflicts seem—at least for now—to be a frustrating
part of the package, but we can help: This issue of Smart Computing provides solutions to the problems you’re
most likely to encounter in over a dozen of the most popular software applications. From email to antivirus
software, and from photo editors to firewalls, we can help increase your productivity and lower your blood
pressure. Just think of the time you spend reading this issue as an investment in your health and well-being.
Now Available On Newsstands …
Computer Power User * ATI R520: The Next Big Thing In Graphics
The wait is over; ATI’s R520 graphics processor has arrived in the form of a new
family of video cards. Find out what they have under the hood—and how they
stack up—this month.
PC Today * Troubleshoot Connection Problems
Everyone has connection problems now and then; the January PC Today’s first
cover story articles help you solve Wi-Fi and cellular connection issues. In a
second set of cover story articles, we discuss why Web email is so handy; we also
compare popular online email services.
CE Lifestyles * 2006 Style & Design Guide
What better way to ring in the New Year than with 2006’s hottest accessories?
And we don’t mean the new Louis Vuitton clutch or a turquoise cashmere shrug.
We love the increased focus on style and design in 2006’s consumer electronics
devices, and in this month’s issue of CE Lifestyles, we’ll tell you what the hottest
trends and coolest looks will be for your CE gear.
Reference Series * PC Novice Instant Answer Book
We answer hundreds of common computing questions and solve all kinds of annoying PC problems in this comprehensive Reference issue. Don’t waste time and
money calling a manufacturer for help—use the Instant Answer Book to quickly
get your computer running smoothly again.
Customer Service
(For questions about your
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order or change an address.)
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131 W. Grand Drive
Lincoln, NE 68521
January Web-Only Articles
Smart Computing subscribers may read the following articles at SmartComputing.com.
For all the latest product reviews, visit the Hardware Reviews & Comparison Charts
area at SmartComputing.com (www.smartcomputing.com).
PC Operating Instructions
Linux: Get More From Your GeForce Video Card
Help Linux to play nicely with your graphics card.
Quick Studies
Microsoft Word 2002
Crank Up Columns For Better Design
Intuit Quicken Premier 2006
Introducing Quicken Premier 2006
Ronald D. Kobler / Rod Scher / Kimberly
Fitzke / Sally Curran / Corey Russman /
Christopher Trumble / Calvin Clinchard
/ Katie Sommer / Katie Dolan / Blaine
Flamig / Raejean Brooks / Rebecca
Christensen / Michael Sweet / Nate
Hoppe / Jennifer Suggitt / Trista Kunce /
Sheila Allen / Linne Ourada / Liz Dixon /
Joy Martin / Marty Sems / Chad Denton
/ Nathan Chandler / Kylee Dickey / Josh
Gulick / Andrew Leibman / Vince Cogley
/ Sam Evans / Jennifer Johnson /
Brian Weed
Web Staff:
Dorene Krausnick / Laura Curry /
Kristen Miller
Broderbund Print Shop 20 Deluxe
Organize & Find Projects
Customer Service:
Microsoft PowerPoint 2002
Photoshop CS
Becky Rezabek / Lana Matic /
Lindsay Albers
Subscription Renewals:
Microsoft Access 2002
Design A Cover Page For Your Report
Connie Beatty / Matt Bolling / Patrick
Kean / Charmaine Vondra / Miden Ebert
/ Kathy DeCoito / Stephanie Contreras /
Nicole Buckendahl
Adobe Photoshop CS
Six Steps For Photo Corrections
Roxio PhotoSuite 7 Platinum
Make Your Own Calendar
Editorial Staff:
Art & Design:
MS Works
Lesa Call / Fred Schneider / Aaron D.
Clark / Carrie Benes / Ginger Falldorf /
Sonja Warner / Aaron Weston / Lori
Garris / Jason Codr / Andria Schultz /
Erin Rodriguez / Lindsay Anker
Microsoft Works 2005
Look It Up With Dictionary
See The Web Through Opera’s Glasses
Garth Lienemann / Jeff Schnittker
Keep Tabs With Google Desktop’s
Advertising Sales:
Grant Ossenkop / Cindy Pieper /
Brooke Wolzen / Eric Cobb
Create Quotes, Use Inserts & Retain
Formatting For Blocks Of Text
Mark Peery / Liz Kohout / Marcy Gunn /
Kelly Richardson / Jen Clausen / Scot
Banks / Ashley Hannant / Luke Vavricek /
Travis Brock / Jeff Ashelford
How To Cope With Software
Compiled by Christian Perry
Illustrated by Lori Garris
They Don’t Come Cheaper Than This
f you think prices of notebooks
are dropping now, wait until you
hear what MIT Media Lab Director
Nicholas Negroponte has in store
for the platform. Negroponte is
working on plans to produce a
sub-$100 notebook that can give
children in developing nations a
chance to work with computers on
a regular basis.
According to Negroponte, these
cheap machines will do everything a
$1,000 notebook can do, except
store massive amounts of data.
Aside from the lack of a huge hard
drive, these notebooks will be
missing something else: a Microsoft
presence. Linux will be the OS (operating system), a choice that seems
inevitable for Negroponte, who said
in a recent presentation that software designed to run on Windows
has grown “so fat, so slow, so obese,
so unreliable that’s it time to start
over with skinny Linux.”
For 100 bucks, you might expect
a computer that’s downright laughable compared to other modern
machines, but the specs of this proposed notebook aren’t as bad as
you might imagine, and there are
even a few innovations in the mix.
A 500MHz processor will power
the notebook, and reports indicate
that flash memory will be used for
storage instead of a hard drive. A
dual-mode LCD (liquid-crystal
display), similar to those found
in inexpensive DVD players,
will provide color during normal conditions, and high-resolution black-and-white will display
during sunny conditions. Whereas
the LCD significantly drives up the
cost of other notebooks, this LCD
will represent only about $35 of
this notebook’s cost.
Amazingly, these computers also
will have Wi-Fi and mobile phone
capabilities (try finding those in a
sub-$100 handheld) and plenty of
USB ports. Plus, they’ll connect in
a peer-to-peer mesh network directly out of the box with similar
notebooks using technology MIT
developed. Also included is a
hand-driven crank that will provide power when no power supply is available. Rubber casing on
the outside of the notebook
protects the machine from
harsh conditions, and the carrying strap converts to an AC
adapter and a cord.
Negroponte’s nonprofit One Laptop per Child
association plans to have as many
as 15 million units ready for shipment by the end of 2006 or early
2007, with the eventual hopes
of shipping 100 million to 150
million every year. According to
Negroponte, the $100 price tag will
help developing nations purchase
the notebooks in bulk, with the
first shipments slated to arrive in
Brazil, China, Egypt, South Africa,
and Thailand. ❙
This $100 notebook prototype
features a radical design that
includes a hand-driven crank
to provide juice when
power isn’t otherwise
Smart Computing / January 2006
System-On-A-Chip Boosts Portable Storage
“Miniature drives using our TrueStore CE chip can deliver gigabytes in the double digits, enabling portable
devices to store feature-length movies, video games,
and other applications not economically possible using flash,” says Joe O’Hare, vice president of Agere’s Storage division.
The new chip uses existing ATA
(Advanced Technology Attachment) and CF (CompactFlash)
technology to provide support
for both MMC (MultiMediaCard) and the new CE-ATA
specification, which addresses elements inherent in devices with small
form factors, including the need for low
pin count, low voltage, power efficiency,
and cost effectiveness. ❙
erpendicular recording, which enables storage
devices to far surpass the data densities of
devices using traditional longitudinal recording, is in the news again, as Agere
Systems recently announced a new
SoC (system-on-a-chip) designed
for miniature hard drives used
in portable CE (consumer
electronics) devices.
As demand for smaller
devices skyrockets, manufacturers continue to look
for ways to provide adequate
storage in perpetually shrinking
environments. Agere hopes to meet
that challenge with the TrueStore CE
SC1200 SoC, which the company says delivers nearly 10% more capacity than competing SoCs. This equates to an impressive
12GB of storage on a 1-inch drive, or three times
the capacity of today’s most powerful flash memory.
The new TrueStore CE SC1200 chip
supports perpendicular recording, which
allows for huge storage capacities in tiny places.
Graphics Get Physical
hen it comes to manufacturers of consumer video
card technologies, NVIDIA and ATI rule the roost
and constantly compete to introduce the fastest, most powerful chips. But there’s a new player in town, and unlike
companies who attempted to climb the video hill in recent
years, this one has something up its sleeve that could truly
help it stick around.
AGEIA is entering the video card arena with hardwareaccelerated physics, a feature currently lacking on cards
based on technologies from other manufacturers. The company claims its PhysX processor can help game developers
create environments and effects we have yet to see in games,
along with a greater depth of physical interactivity.
In a GameSpot (www.gamespot.com) interview earlier
this year, Tim Sweeney, the respected founder and developer of Epic Games, said that hardware physics modeling is
“an idea whose time has come” because the current software-based physics technology has been in use for five
years. However, ATI recently said that its GPUs (graphics
8 January 2006
/ www.smartcomputing.com
processing units), including the Radeon 9700, already can
process arrays of vertices, similar to the operations that
AGEIA’s PPUs (physics processing units) can perform.
What does all of this mean to you? If you’re a gamer who
wants cutting-edge technology at any cost, it could represent a significant shift in your video plans, but it’ll be a
costly one because you’ll still need your regular graphics
card in addition to a physics card. ❙
Upgrade Your Geek Wardrobe
f you’re always on the go with your laptop or handheld
device but hate being limited by a keyboard that requires
a flat surface, you can now strap the darn thing to your
arm. With the WristPC keyboard from L3 Systems, you get
a fully QWERTY keyboard that not only slides onto your
arm, but also can operate in harsh conditions.
The WristPC ($249 and up; www.l3sys.com) comes in
black, anodized aluminum, or ABS plastic housing. (The
standard ABS plastic housing comes in solid black, but seethrough colors also are available in blue, green, and smokygray.) Other options include an adjustable backlight for use
in the dark and a choice of a USB or a PS/2 interface.
Thanks to its completely sealed housing, you
can even use the keyboard in rain or excessively
humid conditions, though it’s not rated for underwater use, so forget about typing emails while
swimming in your pool. But if you’re going on a
trip way up north or way down south, the WristPC
could be just what you need.
“Last week we actually received an order from
the South Pole—I assume for a scientific application,” says Larry Bateman, founder of L3 Systems.
“Previously it had been used on a North Pole exploration expedition.” ❙
If you’re tired of your friends and relatives out-geeking you,
strap a WristPC keyboard on your forearm and get cracking.
Give A Boot To Slow Boots
f you can grind your coffee beans, brew a pot, and pour a
cup in the time it takes your computer to boot, you’ll be
elated to hear about Intel’s new Robson technology, which
promises far faster boot times in future computers.
Using traditional architecture, a PC must wait for the
hard drive to spin to retrieve boot information, including
the launching of applications slated to open when the computer starts. Although Intel hasn’t released many details on
its new Robson technology, we do know that the company
plans to use flash memory in the form of an add-in card to
store boot data, which could decrease boot times from minutes to seconds.
Intel unveiled a notebook using Robson technology at
Taiwan’s Intel Developer Forum in October and compared
it to a non-Robson notebook using identical hardware. The
Robson notebook booted instantaneously, whereas the
non-Robson notebook required several seconds. The
Robson notebook also could open applications more
rapidly, launching Adobe Reader in 0.4 seconds (compared
10 January 2006
/ www.smartcomputing.com
to the 5.4 seconds the non-Robson notebook needed) and
launching Quicken in 2.9 seconds (compared to 8 seconds
for the non-Robson notebook).
Intel hasn’t set a timeframe for when the technology will
begin appearing in retail computers, but it did hint that it
will likely emerge in enterprise computers first. ❙
Is Your Printer Spying On You?
nifying glass or microscope. The yellow dots are less than
olor laser printers sure are nifty, but they might be a
1 millimeter in diameter and usually repeat over each page
little more nifty than you bargained for because certain
of a document.
printers made by manufacturers such as Canon, Epson, HP,
“It shows how the government and private industry
Lexmark, Xerox, and others place tracking dots on every
make backroom deals to weaken our privacy by comprodocument you print. Why are they there? Ask the U.S.
mising everyday equipment like printers,” says EFF Senior
Secret Service.
Staff Attorney Lee Tien. ❙
Manufacturers place the dots on printed documents as
part of a deal with the Secret Service, which the EFF
(Electronic Frontier Foundation) says is ostensibly to catch
counterfeiters. Although this practice hasn’t always been a
secret, the information that’s placed on the documents was
unknown until the EFF recently conducted research to
break the code that’s used in at least one of the printers.
“We’ve found that the dots from at least one line of
printers encode the date and time your document was
printed, as well as the serial number of the
printer,” says EFF Staff Technologist Seth
Color laser printers, such as the
David Schoen.
Xerox DocuColor, place tracking dots
According to the EFF, you won’t even
on all printed pages that can give
notice the dots unless you look at a
the U.S. Secret Service clues
printed page with a blue light and a magabout the pages’ origin.
Help Yourself To Affordable Help Files
egardless of what language or development system
you’re using, if you’re writing an application (or even
a complex spreadsheet or other document meant for corporate use), you’re going to want to include Help files
with your program.
There are several good Help file generators on the
market, the most well-known of which may be RoboHelp, a
program now owned by Macromedia. However, because of
all of its power and sophistication, RoboHelp will cost you
$1,000. What’s a poor developer or IT geek or geekess to
do? Check out Fast-Help, a downloadable Help file creator
that you can buy for $299 (www.fast-help.com). Fast-Help
is easy to learn, easy to use, and easy to buy.
Fast-Help will let you create files in multiple formats, including PDF (Portable Document Format), HLP, Word,
and PocketPC. Perhaps best of all, the people at DevHost
seem to embrace that whole customer service thing: They
actually answer emails and solve problems. Fast-Help can’t
do 100% of what the
Fast-Help gives you an easy,
bigger, pricier Help
affordable option for creating
file generators do,
Help files, complete with features
but it’ll do 90% of
you’d expect in significantly
it—and it’ll be about
more expensive generators.
100% easier to use. ❙
Smart Computing / January 2006
Rumors Making The Rounds
When Google and Sun
Microsystems announced
they were holding a joint
press conference in early
October, speculation ran
wild that Google was
preparing to distribute Sun’s StarOffice suite or possibly
release its own version of StarOffice. What we received
was a huge letdown with the announcement that the two
companies “have begun a strategic relationship to promote and distribute their trailblazing technologies.” But
don’t underestimate this partnership because word is still
circulating that Google has big plans for office software in
the very near future.
A bunch of companies are interested in
buying a stake in AOL, according to recent reports, though all of the seemingly interested parties are remaining
tight-lipped. The Wall Street Journal
reported that Yahoo! was recently
in talks with AOL, apparently
hoping that a deal could help attract AOL users to its search
engine. Other parties rumored to be interested in a piece
of AOL include Microsoft, Comcast, and—who else?—
Google. Despite all the hubbub, a Reuters report said that
Time Warner Chief Executive Richard Parsons called the
news “market rumor.” The report also noted that potential
deals for the AOL stake could be worth up to $5 billion.
After the announcement of the
Windows Mobile-powered Treo,
rumors began circulating that Palm
has plans to release Linux-based
phones. Linux phones sell well in Asia; in fact, Gartner reported that Linux-powered smartphones far outsold phones
using Windows Mobile worldwide in the first quarter
of 2005.
On the heels of Apple’s
Video iPod comes rumors
that the company will use
the machine as a launching
ground for a full-fledged
gaming device in the future, similar to the Sony PSP
(PlayStation Portable). The Video iPod already has a decent
chance of cutting into Sony’s reign over the portable video
market, but Sony executives claim they’re not worried
about the threat.
Is there any company
more rumor-worthy
today than Google? Not
really. After all, the
search engine giant is
quickly building an impressive track record when it comes
to getting its hands on everything under the sun. Rumors
continue to swarm around the company’s interest in entering the online payment arena, particularly since
ChannelAdvisor CEO Scot Wingo made a reference to a
Google Wallet payment service last summer. Also, some astute folks found a page on Google’s site called Google
Purchases, and other reports point to Google registering a
new entity in California called Google Payment Corp. And if
that isn’t enough to worry eBay, which now owns PayPal,
another rumor should: Bizjournals reported that unnamed
sources claim Google is planning to launch Google Auctions
after setting up a new location in the Phoenix area.
“At the end of the day, I would have been prosecuted, but I wouldn’t
have been held in solitary confinement for a year for the fear that I
could launch nuclear missiles by whistling through a pay phone.”
— Convicted hacker Kevin Mitnick explains how blown-out-of-proportion news
reports portrayed him as a supremely crafty menace. (Source: CNN)
12 January 2006
/ www.smartcomputing.com
Palm Makes Move To Windows Mobile
f the Apple-Intel partnership wasn’t
enough of a groundbreaker to fulfill
your year, perhaps the new partnership between Palm and Microsoft
will rock your world. Palm announced that a future Treo smartphone will use Windows Mobile
5.0 instead of Palm OS, making
good on rumors circulating for
years that precisely such a move
could (or would) happen.
“This is a landmark alliance that
will help businesses remain on the
cutting edge of competitiveness,”
says Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates.
New Products Hardware
Compiled by Kylee Dickey
EZ Bus 120GB
Apricorn • $329
Griffin Technology
Image Moments
Digital Foci • $299
ProVista TB801 USB
Drawing Tablet
UMAX • $99.99
Rechargeable Wireless
Desktop Mouse
Targus • $39.99
Archetype MBA
Func Industries • $39.99
Skooba Satchel
RoadWired • $99.95
TuneCast Auto
U10 512MB
UniXpress USB
Port Replicator
Addlogix • $179
14 January 2006
/ www.smartcomputing.com
“Demand for accessing information on mobile devices is soaring,
and businesses want a low-cost, scalable solution.”
Although the Treo already offers
email, messaging, Web access, organizational software, and other features,
Palm says the smartphone will take
advantage of the Windows Mobile
platform by integrating Outlook
Mobile, Office Mobile, and Internet
Explorer Mobile, along with direct
access to Exchange Server 2003. In
addition, the new phone will support
Verizon Wireless’ BroadbandAccess
Quick takes on the latest hardware and software to hit the market at press time. Manufacturers'
and publishers' release dates are subject to change, so some products may not be available when
you read this. (Logos indicate products are compatible with either Windows or Macintosh only.)
(800) 458-5448
(858) 513-2000
(615) 399-7000
A portable 4,200rpm hard drive that
weighs only 6 ounces
Add FM radio to your iPod and control
your iPod remotely
(310) 763-9100
View your photos with this digital
picture frame
(214) 342-9799
8- x 6-inch digital tablet with a wireless
pen and 12 programmable buttons
(877) 482-7487
(714) 765-5555
Wireless RF mouse with an extension
port for easily connecting the
charge cable
[email protected]
Large mousing surface with aluminumalloy base and nonslip feet
(877) 435-5679
(585) 697-3444
(800) 223-5546
(310) 898-1100
Notebook bag with multiple compartments and air-pouch protection
An iPod FM transmitter that draws
its power from your car’s 12V
power/cigarette-lighter outlet
(800) 399-1799
(408) 635-8000
Portable media player with 2.2-inch
display, FM tuner, and a built-in
voice recorder
(800) 344-6921
(949) 341-0888
Connect devices such as monitors, mice,
and printers to this hub instead of a
proprietary docking station
service, which provides high-speed
wireless access.
Although details on the Treo were
slim, Palm indicated the phone will
use an Intel processor and join Palm’s
family of other Treo smartphones, including the Treo 600 and Treo 650.
During the press conference for the
phone, a demonstration brought the
Palm-Microsoft collaboration to life,
with the new Treo being used to contact someone immediately from the
Today screen via home, office, or mobile numbers—or even email and SMS
(Short Message Service).
Photo speed dials appear as a band
of images on the Today screen to let
users quickly reach often-called contacts, and when they receive calls that
they can’t take at the moment, they
can respond with a friendly SMS
message. The new phone also lets
users rewind, delete, or fast-forward
through work or mobile phone voicemails using familiar on-screen icons.
Even though the new Windowspowered Treo is certain, the future of
Palm OS is not. A general sentiment
among IT professionals is that if
Windows is going to start appearing
on more devices, Palm OS will
quickly lose ground in both innovation and market share. The collaboration is particularly attractive to
business professionals, who can plan
to more easily integrate desktop
business applications with those
running on mobile devices. In fact,
Gartner issued a recommendation
after the announcement that corporations “make no further investments in Palm OS Treo devices for
enterprise applications.”
The Windows Mobile Treo is expected to arrive in early 2006. ❙
New Products Software
Wizard 2.0
Home Bookkeeping
Keepsoft Software
(individual license)
I’m InTouch
Desktop 5.0
01 Communique
Panorama Factory 4.0
Smoky City Design
Personal Knowbase 3.0
Bitsmith Software
PestBlock 2.5
Realtime Landscaping
Idea Spectrum
Sitespector 2
[email protected]
Rescue files after drive formatting,
accidental deletion, system crash, or
other event
[email protected]
Analyze your financial situation and
improve your budgeting skills
(800) 668-2185
(905) 795-2888
Access your desktop computer using
a Pocket PC
[email protected]
Combine digital images to create
(510) 724-1821
Create, organize, cross-reference, and
search notes
[email protected]
Detect spyware, adware, keyloggers, and
other security threats
(866) 894-4332
Plan your landscaping by experimenting
with the placement of decks, fences,
plants, and other elements
[email protected]
Receive automatic notifications
when the content of selected Web
sites changes
Smart Computing / January 2006
T e c h M a t e s
iFun For Your Car
n this fast-paced world,
it seems we are always
on the go, so I’m going
to give you two products
that will allow you to be entertained no matter where
you go. Usually, we talk
about a hardware/software
pair in this column, but this
hardware combo was too
perfect to pass up.
Although the use of this
word may date me, I can
only think of one word to
describe the first half of today’s TechMates duo . . .
cool. Apple’s newest digital music player, the iPod nano, exudes coolness. The nano is about the size of an open book of
matches, yet it has amazing sound quality, excellent battery
life, and remarkable extended functionality.
Even with the miniscule size, the nano retains the solid iPod
feel. It comes in the traditional iPod white and a sleek-looking
black. On the black model, the constant fingerprints and
smudges are a minor irritation. The fact that the screen
scratches very easily is a more serious shortcoming. Yet, after
using the nano for a while, I was willing to buy a case to keep
the screen protected and make a commitment to handle it
with kid gloves as the nano’s pluses far outweigh its minuses.
It’s amazing that Apple was able to fit so much into such
a small device. The nano retains the easy-to-use Click
Wheel that has made the iPod so popular. Its flash memory
can hold 500 songs in the 2GB version and 1,000 songs in
the 4GB version. The nano sports a crisp and clear 1.5-inch
color screen. You can use the screen not only to choose
songs, but also to view photos that can be shown in
slideshows complete with special transitions and music. If
your eyes are better than mine, you can also use it to play
solitaire and several other included games. The nano also
lets you store text files and Outlook, Outlook Express, and
iCal contact information. It has a built-in calendar, a stopwatch, and a world clock. You can even use the nano to
move files from one computer to another.
About the only thing that this iPod lacks compared to its
predecessors is the remote control. Because the remote plug
is absent, any accessories that used that plug will not work
with the nano. Other than that, it has everything you could
want in a digital music player. You can use it with the included earbuds to listen to podcasts, audio books, jazz, or
your choice of music genre at home, in the gym, and during
your morning walk.
16 January 2006
/ www.smartcomputing.com
iPod nano
$199 (2GB); $249 (4GB)
(800) 692-7753
iCarPlay Wireless Plus
(415) 840-2000
If you add a Monster
iCarPlay Wireless Plus to
your arsenal of gadgets, you
can also make your iPod sing through your car radio. The
iCarPlay is a wireless FM transmitter. Plug one end into your
cigarette lighter and the other into your iPod. The threebutton control switch has a red light indicating three preset
stations. Press one of the buttons and tune your car radio to
the same station, and you will hear your iPod’s audio over the
car speakers. If the preprogrammed stations have radio transmissions on them, you can easily reset the iCarPlay to any stations that are not in use by a strong local FM radio station.
The iCarPlay lets you preset three stations for your transmissions. If you are traveling and go into an area that uses the
FM station you happen to be using for the iCarPlay, simply
press the button on the iCarPlay: Press the button on the
radio (if you preset the radio), and you’ll hear your iPod’s
tunes over the new clear station .
This Monster unit is pretty powerful. Most times, it could
overtake a weak signal and produce a clear transmission. Also,
the iPod recharges while you are using the unit, which is important on long trips or when you forget to recharge it. The
last impressive feature of the iCarPlay is that it uses the iPod
dock connector rather than the headphone plug so you can
control the volume from the car radio and you don’t have to
play with the iPod Click Wheel while your are driving.
So get ready to sing the blues, bop till you drop, or jazz
up your life. The iPod nano and iCarPlay will make those
car rides much more enjoyable. ❙❙
Sandy Berger is a nationally respected technology author and
computing expert. Sandy’s aim is to convey to others in easy-tounderstand language what they need to know to take advantage of
today’s technology. Visit her at www.compukiss.com or email her
at [email protected]
Tech Diaries
Back To The Future
Document Your Family History
For Future Generations
Kylee Dickey
Send your comments to
[email protected]
ost of us have at least one relative we
wish we had known better. Although
many details of our relatives’ lives may be
lost, we can do our part to ensure that future generations know who we are and
where we came from. I recently used two
programs that can help you record your
history. The first is RootsMagic 3, which
helps you research, document, and present
your family history. The second is Personal
Historian, which helps you write your own
personal history.
Time Traveling
RootsMagic 3.0
(800) 766-8762
(801) 489-3102
Personal Historian
(800) 766-8762
(801) 479-4943
RootsMagic has been one of my favorite genealogy programs because of its
excellent features that help you maintain
organized genealogical records. Version 3
provides even more features to help you
record a family story that spans many
You can import GEDCOM (GEnealogical
Data COMmunications) files, the standard
file format for genealogy software, into
RootsMagic. The new version also supports
files from PAF (Personal Ancestral File) 2.x
and later and Family Origins 4 and later. It
also supports backup files from Family
Origins 5 or later.
RootsMagic 3’s most intriguing addition
is shareable-CD creation. These CDs include a view-only copy of RootsMagic, as
well as your family file so that you can
easily share your genealogical research
with others.
RootsMagic 3 also has a new feature
which can omit events and notes of your
choosing from printed reports and exported
files. You can use this feature to record your
own thoughts, even if they have no place in
a published family history. I also used this
option to record facts about family skeletons while respecting relatives’ wishes that I
not make these stories public.
Get Personal
RootsMagic provides a way for you to
record your ancestral history. However,
you may also wish to document your own
personal story either for your own benefit
or the good of future generations. Personal
Historian can help you write your life story,
even if you have no writing experience and
don’t have large blocks of free time to
pursue such an endeavor.
Personal Historian is a very convenient
writing aid because it prompts you to write
about individual events so that you can use a
few spare minutes to write just one anecdote
at a time. The program organizes all of the
events you write about in a timeline format.
Some people know they have important
stories to tell. However, some of us have
writer’s block when it comes to our own
lives. It is difficult to think of stories to
write about our own experiences. Personal
Historian includes LifeCapsules to help jog
your memory. LifeCapsules is a library of
historical events, cultural fads, and other
events to help you remember events in
your own life. By placing your experiences
in a historical context, you can add considerable depth to your personal history.
Although I’ve focused on using Personal
Historian to write your own history, there
is no reason you couldn’t use this software
to guide your biography of a favorite relative. In fact, you can import a genealogy file
into Personal Historian. The events in your
genealogy file will automatically appear in
Personal Historian’s Timeline.
Preserve History
There are other genealogy programs you
can use to assemble your family history. I
focused on RootsMagic because it’s one of
the most advanced programs that is still
easy to use. Also, RootsMagic recently acquired Personal Historian from Blue Scroll
Software. At press time you could save $10
if you ordered both programs together. I’m
not an especially organized person, and I
find it difficult to set aside time for large
projects, such as recording my family and
personal history. Both RootsMagic and
Personal Historian helped me start recording this information for myself and for
future generations. ❙❙
Smart Computing / January 2006
Tech Diaries
Laser Power
For The Home
Konica Minolta PagePro 1350W
Chad Denton
Send Chad your opinions at
[email protected]
o me, printers are boring. They are only
there to handle one mundane job:
It’s not very exciting, but it’s necessary, and eventually, you have to say goodbye
to that old inkjet printer.
My old HP inkjet hasn’t printed in color
correctly for years, and with the cornucopia
of wedding documents my fiancée and I
needed to print, it was time to ditch the old
inkjet and upgrade to a laser printer.
Laser printers have come down in price
considerably. Color laser printers are available for around $300—black-and-white
laser printers run about half as much. Sure,
it’s nice to print color copies, but it’s not a
necessity. We’d rather spend 19 cents for a
4- x 5-inch print at Sam’s Club than pay
extra for consumables. No, black and white
is all we really needed, so we settled on
Konica Minolta’s PagePro 1350W.
with the printer. You can customize what
events cause the window to pop up, but
there doesn’t seem to be a way to keep the
status window from appearing when you
boot Windows.
For the most part, the printer worked well
for us. It was fast and relatively quiet, but we
did run into problems when printing multiple pages. While printing a stack of wedding
programs, we tried running through a batch
of 50 sheets. The first three or four pages in
the stack came out clean, but the rest of the
pages were smudged. We tried several things,
including shaking the toner cartridge to distribute the toner, but we ended up having to
run sheets through a few at a time.
We also ran into print jobs that would
never end. We’d send a job to the printer,
and it’d print correctly, but the print job
would never terminate, thereby holding up
any jobs queued after it. Normally, turning
off the printer and turning it back on would
solve the problem, but it’d be pretty inconvenient if you were printing over a network.
Quality, however, looked good, although we
haven’t tried to print any images. (But again,
why waste consumables at home when online and retail services are so inexpensive?)
PagePro 1350W
Konica Minolta
(800) 523-2696
(251) 633-4300
I don’t want to dwell on specs, but I have
to mention them briefly. According to
Konica Minolta, the PagePro 1350W prints
pages up to 21ppm (pages per minute) with
an FPO (first page out) time of around 13
seconds. The 1350W supports resolutions of
up to 1,200 x 1,200 dpi (dots per inch) and
can handle a workload of about 15,000 pages
per month. In addition to a parallel connection, the 1350W also supports USB 1.1.
I thought the included software was a bit
too obtrusive. The status window lets you see
the printer’s status at a glance, which is nice.
However, the software feels a need to open
the status window every time you boot
Windows, even if there isn’t a problem with
the printer. Once you close the window, it
will only open again if there’s a problem
18 January 2006
/ www.smartcomputing.com
I do like the printer overall, but the consumable situation is ridiculous. The included
cartridge is roughly half the size of a full cartridge. (It’s rated for 1,500 pages instead of
3,000 pages.) Research also indicates that
Konica Minolta has placed a microchip that
slows down print speeds dramatically if you
try to refill your existing cartridge or use a
third-party cartridge. Replacement cartridges
sell for roughly $130. I understand the whole
razor/razor blade strategy, and I’m sure the
printer would be a little more expensive if
Konica Minolta didn’t rely on revenue from
toner cartridge sales, but I hate this tactic. At
least Konica Minolta hasn’t taken anyone to
court yet. (I’m looking at you, Lexmark.)
So, print speed and quality are good, but
I’m not crazy about the included software
or the consumable situation. But I am
happy to dump that old HP. ❙❙
Tech Diaries
Protect Your
Digital Valuables
Western Digital’s External Hard Drive Backs Up PCs
Joshua Gulick
Send your comments to
[email protected]
hanks to the cyber-thugs who create
viruses, spyware, and spam, even casual
users are learning to protect themselves. My family members rarely call anymore for help removing a virus because most
of them have antivirus software. However,
many PC owners who protect their systems
from digital invaders ignore another, equally
dangerous threat: a broken hard drive.
Hard drives, which store everything from
your OS (operating system) to your documents and pictures, sometimes break
down. Old drives and new drives alike
break without warning, and the value of the
documents often outweighs the warranty.
So, how can you protect your data against
hard drive failure? Buy another hard drive.
Sure, you can back up data to CDs or DVDs,
but you’ll waste time loading your files onto
multiple discs. You can use a flash drive if
you don’t need to back up many files, but if
you want to back up your entire hard drive,
including the OS, you’ll need a large, fast device. The external hard drive fits this bill, and
it doesn’t require users to open their PCs.
button on the front of the hard drive, which
also sports a backlit power button. Setup is a
snap: Install the software, attach the drive via
a USB or FireWire cable (the drive package
includes both), and press one of the drive’s
buttons to start the appropriate backup
wizard. You’ll only need to run the wizard
once per backup mode. After that, the
Automatic Backup runs according to the
schedule you selected, and the Backup On
Demand feature runs when you press the
drive button.
When you run either wizard, you’ll face
two backup styles: All Files and Documents
Only. If you want to back up your entire operating system, you’ll select All Files, but if
you simply want to protect your text documents, photos, music, and similar files, you’ll
choose Documents Only. The drive handles
the rest, and when you restore your files, it
returns files to their original locations.
Below The Surface
I’m glad that most users will never need to
dig deeper than the initial setup wizard because the rest of the program is complex and
a little clunky. But enthusiasts who have big
plans for their backup drives and some patience will find real gems in Retrospect. You
can configure the Combo drive to pull files
from multiple hard drives. If you store documents on two internal hard drives, for example, the Combo can pull data from both
drives. Another feature is the Backup Set,
which lets you back up to multiple devices.
Easy As Pie
250GB Dual-Option Combo
Western Digital
(877) 934-6972
(949) 672-7000
Western Digital sent me the 250GB version of its Dual-Option Combo external
hard drive (model WDXB2500JBRNN),
which also includes Dantz Retrospect
Express backup software. The software turns
the drive into more than just a hard drive:
It’s a backup machine. The Combo drive
supports Window’s drag-and-drop feature
(you can open the hard drive through the
My Computer window and drag files or
folders into it from your own hard drive),
but thanks to Retrospect Express, it can also
save certain file types or your entire OS.
The Combo drive offers two backup
modes: Automatic Backup and Backup On
Demand. Each mode has a corresponding
Choose Your Protection
Western Digital offers the Combo in three
other capacities: 320GB ($259.99), 160GB
($179.99), and 120GB ($159.99). All of the
drives act as USB 2.0 and FireWire hubs.
(Each drive has two extra FireWire and two
extra USB ports.) I recommend buying a
drive that’s larger than your computer’s hard
drive if you plan to back up the OS. Retrospect stores the backed up data in a special file
format, which means you can’t restore individual files without using the software. If you
have a large external drive, you can back up
the hard drive and then also drag and drop
your favorite files into the Combo so you can
reach them again easily. ❙❙
Smart Computing / January 2006
Tech Diaries
Ravages Of E-Waste
This Year, Resolve To Fight Unnecessary Pollution
Nathan Chandler
Send insights and insults
to Nathan at
[email protected]
he incredible pace of digital innovation
means that products have even shorter
Thus, we consume products and
their related accessories and components at
a startling rate that often strains our budgets, harms our health, and endangers the
environment, too.
Sad Statistics
It’s a vicious cycle—manufacturers use
more and more resources to create new
products, and slightly slower or less advanced products often meet an early end in
landfills. In the same vein, when a complex
device malfunctions, it’s often not costeffective to hire someone to make even
minor repairs, so instead, we just toss it
and start over again. That’s one reason
electronics-related waste constitutes as
much as 5% of garbage across the country.
These products don’t disappear after
they’re thrown into a landfill. They slowly
begin to disintegrate, exposing their contents to the landfill, and sometimes, to the
area’s soil, air, and groundwater, too.
Consider that manufacturers may need up
to 3 quarts of oil to make a single inkjet cartridge and that the cartridge itself needs
millennia to decompose. And the contents
of electronics aren’t benign, either. A single
PC, for example, might be made up of 1,000
different materials.
Computer monitors and televisions contain several pounds of lead apiece, as well as
smaller amounts of other heavy metals and
chemicals that some states categorize as hazardous materials, meaning that landfills can’t
accept them. The Computer Take Back
Campaign (www.computertakeback.com), a
program dedicated to responsible electronics
production and disposal, estimates that this
year, more than 160,000 PCs and televisions
will become obsolete every day, and many of
them are destined for landfills across the
country. And it’s not just monitors that contain hazardous materials. Cell phones,
20 January 2006
/ www.smartcomputing.com
printers, keyboards, and other devices contain mercury, flame retardants, arsenic, cadmium, barium, silver, selenium, chromium,
and lead.
As if that’s not bad enough, The Christian
Science Monitor and Greenpeace report that
many old computers consumers drop off for
recycling are actually exported to poorer
countries, where workers, including children,
are paid almost nothing to pull apart these
products to salvage various components.
Chemical sampling of these work areas reveals carcinogen levels thousands of times
higher than in normal indoor spaces. Why
are electronics exported for recycling? Because they’re difficult (read: expensive) to
disassemble, and they contain so many of
those aforementioned hazardous materials.
E-wasted Opportunities
There is some good news about e-waste.
Most old products are still simply gathering
dust in storage spaces and warehouses,
meaning that it’s not too late to recycle these
products. Check out Earth 911 (www.earth
911.org) for a database that will point you to
organizations that reuse or recycle products.
Be sure to research your recycling options
before you drop off your goods to make sure
the recycler isn’t exporting your machine to
another country and ultimately contributing
to environmental woes. Check out the EStewards list (www.ban.org/pledge/Locations
.html), which posts names of reputable recycling organizations.
You can also donate many older products.
Send old PCs to the Salvation Army (www
.salvationarmyusa.org), Computers For Kids
(www.c4k.org), or Computers For Schools
(www.pcsforschools.org). If you’re getting
rid of a PC that’s more than five years old,
it’s best to skip donation and have it recycled. You can also donate used inkjet and
laser printer cartridges to school fundraisers
and send old cell phones to social programs.
And remember, buying recycled products
and recycling them again when you’re done
isn’t just good for the environment—in
many cases, it will save you money, too. For
more information about the many issues regarding electronics waste and pollution,
check out the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition
site (www.svtc.org). ❙❙
It’s All Relative
The Base Analysis Among
Low-Cost Database Programs
their corporate counterparts, today’s
and small-business computer users
plenty of reasons for using a relational
database (a group of data records the user
can link together in a variety of ways). They
might need to track inventories or maintain
a record of existing customers, for instance.
Or maybe they simply want to catalog a collection of CDs or recipes. Whatever the
reason, these users have two options for obtaining such a database: either hire a programmer, who will build a customized
database from scratch at $100 or more per
hour, or invest in a database program.
The database programs featured in this
month’s roundup combine the robust capabilities of a SQL (Structured Query Language; the report language IBM developed for
building databases) database application
with the intuitive handling of user-friendly
software. They’re not for the timid—that’s
for sure. But competent computer users who
are willing to invest a little time in the effort
will soon learn to develop and maintain
databases that suit their purposes.
Access 2003
In many software categories,
the cheapest program is often
the worst; not so when it
comes to database software.
Don’t dismiss the reasonably
priced DataBase Professional if
you have basic database needs.
22 January 2006
/ www.smartcomputing.com
Like other productivity applications
bundled with Microsoft Office, Access 2003
is typically viewed as the de facto database
solution for home and small office users. It
certainly merits consideration. The program is stable, secure, and stacked with features. Moreover, it’s priced reasonably at
$229—and even more reasonably when
bundled with Microsoft Office Professional
Edition 2003 ($499) or Office Small
Business Management Edition 2006 ($499,
available as upgrade only).
Unfortunately, Access also is an intimidating program to anyone creating a database for the first time. The program lures
users in with an effortless installation, a variety of database templates, and several
handy wizards that guide inexperienced
users step by step through the process of
creating a database. For example, creating a
table was as easy as filling in a spreadsheet.
Creating relationships among multiple tables, on the other hand, demanded an advanced understanding of database concepts.
Indeed, such an understanding is crucial
if the user wants to take full advantage of
everything Access has to offer. This is a developer-grade program packed into a consumer-oriented package. Access lets you set
data validation rules, import data from
other databases and Excel spreadsheets,
draft queries and VBA (Visual Basic for
Applications; an austere version of the
Visual Basic programming language that’s
typically used for coding simple routines
within a program) macros, and link to other
data sources through its ODBC (Open
Database Connectivity; programming interface that allows disparate database programs to communicate with one another)
interface. It also supports automatic error
checking, smart tags, XML (Extensible
Markup Language; a platform-independent
formatting language that allows users to define the contents of a file), sorting based on
as many as four fields, and the ability to
merge content with Microsoft Word. It
even features integrated NetMeeting capabilities for online meetings in real time.
The fact is that once a database is established, there is almost no end to what
Access can do with it. Whether the typical
home or small-office user needs such capabilities is questionable. And without a
hard-copy users manual as a convenient
source of additional guidance, inexperienced users will have a hard time learning
how to take advantage of those capabilities.
For this reason, we recommend Access only
to users who have complex data management needs, as well as the skills to build
and manage a database that meets them.
Alpha Five 7
The highest compliment we can pay the
latest version of Alpha Five is that it builds
on the successes of its immediate predecessor: Alpha Five 6, which served (and still
serves) as an all-in-one solution for users
Think twice before upgrading
from one database application
to the next. Database programs have been around since
the beginning of the PC era,
which generally means that the
worst kinks have been worked
out and the best features have
been added in. Make sure that
new version is worth the
money before you splurge.
needing databases that support desktop and
Web applications. Alpha Five 6 delivers its
own Web server, includes a project control
panel for managing online databases, provides support for HTML (Hypertext Markup
Language) coding, and has the ability to
accommodate ActiveX components.
Alpha Five 7, which we reviewed as a beta,
continues that tradition admirably, adding
support for navigational toolbar menus and
the Authorize.Net credit card payment
gateway service, among other things. Once
the database is posted online, authorized
users can log in to the proprietary Web
server to view and modify its content from
any computer that has access to the Internet.
The program’s qualities extend beyond
the Web, of course. Alpha Five was designed
to appeal to a broad audience, so it features
an effortless installation, point-and-click
design forms, and an array of intuitive wizards (called genies) and sample templates.
The program doesn’t quite achieve the
ground-level simplicity of FileMaker Pro,
though, and it took us awhile to get the
hang of things. A hard-copy users manual
would have helped greatly in this regard.
But once we learned the ropes, the program
became easier to use.
For instance, the Query Genie turned the
query process into a simple matter of selecting criteria from a drop-down menu,
and we used one of the program’s templates to build a simple image catalog with
minimal effort. Experienced users will appreciate Alpha Five’s ability to accept
custom coding and scripts written in the
proprietary XBasic programming language.
And everyone gets free phone-based tech
support for installation problems.
On the downside, Alpha Five 7 generated
some cryptic errors, which we hope the developer will resolve before the final release.
The program also has a relatively high price
tag, so we recommend that prospective users
take advantage of the free 30-day trial period
to evaluate the program before purchasing it.
FileMaker Pro 8
It’s a bad omen these days when a user
has to refer to the manual just to install a
program, but that’s what happened when
we installed FileMaker Pro 8. The latest
version of this venerable database software
launched an installation window containing three icons, none of which had an
accompanying label to describe its purpose.
We assume the program’s developers
omitted text labels from this window as a
means of enhancing FileMaker’s intuitiveness, but the strategy didn’t work in this
case. However, that’s about the only time
this type of strategy didn’t work.
Everything about FileMaker Pro is designed to simplify the database experience.
The program comes equipped with dozens
of templates spanning a variety of common
business, educational, and home database
Software Information
Contact Information
Access 2003
(800) 642-7676
(425) 882-8080
Alpha Five 7
Alpha Software
(800) 451-1018
(781) 229-4500
FileMaker Pro 8
(800) 325-2747
(408) 987-7000
Professional 1.5
(formerly Elibrium)
(800) 325-0834
(925) 474-1701
Ease Of Use
Overall Score
Access 2003
Alpha Five 7
FileMaker Pro 8
Perfessional 1.5
Smart Computing / January 2006
Look into volume discounts
when shopping for extra
licenses for your database
program. You may be able
to save significantly by
purchasing several licenses
at the same time.
needs. But the most remarkable thing about
FileMaker isn’t the collection of templates
but the fact that first-time users may not
need them. A fill-in-the-blank dialog box
leads users through the process of creating or
importing tables into a database, creating
and arranging various field types—including
text, date, time, and containers (for photos
and audio files)—for each table, and establishing relationships among tables. And if
you get confused (which isn’t likely to
happen very often), the hard-copy users
manual is close at hand. Plus, free phonebased tech support is available for installation and configuration issues.
For a typical home and small-business
user, it’s hard to find fault with the latest
version of FileMaker Pro. Its rather stiff
price is a significant negative, however, especially considering that it’s missing many
of the advanced features found in other
programs. The program lacks the extensive
customization and coding options that
come standard with Access 2003, for instance, and it fails to provide Web-based
database capabilities like those in Alpha Five
7. FileMaker users with fat wallets can get
developer-grade features by investing in
FileMaker Pro Advanced ($499), but again a
stiff price makes this package unappealing.
DataBase Professional 1.5
The least expensive program in the roundup, DataBase Professional, may be the most
attractive to inexperienced database users.
The software certainly delivers great value
for the money. After a pain-free installation,
the program presents its various features
and functions in a straightforward, intuitive
manner that even the greenest user can
figure out with little effort. It offers 30
sample templates, including several unique
ones such as Music Collection and
Recipes. And users who opt to create a
custom database simply need to fill in
the blanks in an on-screen dialog box.
This dialog box doesn’t include an option for adding fields that support
multimedia content, as FileMaker
does, but its fields support just about
anything else, including currency, ZIP
codes, and calculations.
When data entry is complete, DataBase Professional lets users sort and
24 January 2006
/ www.smartcomputing.com
filter the data, as well as create custom forms
on which to output the data. Creating a form
is as easy as creating the database: All it takes
is a point and click to specify form size, the
location of the fields, and add graphics. Users
who are comfortable with their PCs will
quickly learn how the process works; everyone else can refer to the included manual.
The program also includes a built-in email
client for sending messages to addresses in a
database. Plus, DataBase Professional comes
with two user licenses, so users can install
it—legally—on a pair of computers in a network. Additional licenses are available for as
little as $16.95 each.
You won’t find any advanced features in
DataBase Professional, though. Forget about
forging relationships among tables, coding
in SQL, crafting secure Web-based databases, or performing any other sophisticated
database functions. In that regard, you get
what you pay for. And phone-based support
will cost you $24.95 for the first 10 minutes
and $2.95 for each minute after that. But
DataBase Professional has everything the casual database user would want, so because of
that reason, the program is a bargain.
A Database Draw
In many ways, the best database program
is a matter of perspective. What makes
Access the ideal choice for an experienced
SQL programmer is the same as what makes
it a terrible choice for a first-time database
user. But for Smart Computing readers,
DataBase Professional 1.5 offers the best
combination of novice-level features and
usability at a price that can’t be beat, so that’s
why it earns our Smart Choice award. ❙❙
January 2006
Smart Choice
Avanquest’s DataBase
Professional 1.5
Software Reviews
Microsoft Digital Image
Suite 2006
Digital Image
Suite 2006
$99.95 (before rebates)
(800) 426-9400
Performance 4
Ease Of Use 3
Installation 4
Documentation 4
Price 5
Overall Score 4 / 5
26 January 2006
/ www.smartcomputing.com
n an effort to solidify its position in the
consumer digital image manipulation and
category, Microsoft has jazzed
up its Digital Image Suite product. The new
release uses nearly the same interface as before, which will please current users of the
product. However, Microsoft has made
quite a few enhancements.
DIS 2006 is a combined digital image
management package that makes short work
of optimizing, organizing, and sharing your
digital photographs. DIS 2006 is actually
three separate programs: Editor, Library,
and Photo Story. As the names imply, Editor
helps you manipulate your images, while
Library helps you organize and manage
them. Photo Story is a slideshow creation
utility that lets you create multimedia (stills
and audio, but no video) presentations.
Each product works independently of the
others, and you have to open each one to access it. Realistically, it would be nice if Editor
and Library were more closely integrated.
Both programs give you a one-button method
to launch the other program. However, in a
perfect world, you could open both Library
and Editor inside a single tabbed interface that
would let you switch quickly from one to another, thereby minimizing CPU and memory
loads. With that said, there is some interaction between the two. You can open them side
by side and drag and drop images from one to
another. For example, you can drag a Library
image to the Editor window, and it will automatically open for editing.
Editor lacks the sophistication of professional image editors, but its feature-filled interface will appeal to novice and intermediate
users. Its Common Tasks pane gives you
quick access to popular touch-up operations
(red-eye removal and exposure correction),
corrections (straightening and cropping), plus
a big palette of extras such as Edges (create
artistic edge effects) and Add Something (add
text, lines, or other images). You can
straighten and crop in a single step, and
Editor will recommend a crop.
Editor includes advanced options, as well.
It features an array of special effects filters,
and its Touchup palette offers the ability to
adjust levels and curves.
Library is similar, letting you import images in a variety of formats, archive images
straight to CD or other media, and jump into
Editor or Photo Story with a click. When you
first run Library, DIS 2006 automatically imports all images in your My Documents and
My Pictures folder. Fortunately, it gives you
more control over the remainder of your
image store, letting you choose between an
automated search for more images or a
manual import process. This means you can
get up and running right away instead of
waiting while hundreds of images you may
not want to import load into the program.
DIS 2006 has a few navigational oddities
that surprise us, given its developer. The
Undo command we all know and love doesn’t
function when you are working on an imageediting palette. Instead, you must click the
Reset or Cancel buttons to undo work you
have done so far. After you complete the task
(click Done) and exit the pane, CTRL-Z will
undo your efforts.
Additionally, unlike the task panes in Word
and other Microsoft programs, Editor’s tool
palettes lack back buttons and don’t have Xs
in the upper corners that let you close the
palettes. This may sound minor, but it requires users to relearn the standard Windows
navigational strategy. DIS 2006 also does not
offer floating palettes, so you cannot have
multiple adjustment tools open at once and
toggle among them as you work.
Overall, DIS 2006 is a nice suite for the
price, and it includes thousands of images and
templates. Sweetening the deal is $40 in total
rebates ($30 with purchase; $10 with digital
camera purchase through October 2006).
Nevertheless, given its navigational quirks, we
recommend you test drive it (Microsoft offers
a free, 30-day trial) before you buy. ❙❙
Software Reviews
Professional Edition
[email protected]
Performance 5
Ease Of Use 5
Installation 5
Documentation 4
Price 5
Overall Score 4.8 / 5
Drive Utilities
Backup4all Professional
Edition 2.3.3
f you are searching for a backup utility, give
Backup4all Professional a look. At $45, it’s
priced and offers some features
not found in more expensive apps.
The program installs in seconds, and it
takes a colorful, icon-based approach that
makes it easy to understand. Its interface is intuitive, and its backup wizard makes creating
even multiple backup sets almost child’s play.
Best of all, Backup4all can store backups in
compressed Zip or native file format.
When you open the New Backup Wizard,
the program prompts you to name your
backup set, select an icon, provide a helpful
description, and then select files to back
up. Rather than opening to a Windows
Explorer-style interface, Backup4All starts
with a blank slate and then lets you choose
the folders or drives that will show up in the
selection interface. Once you’ve selected a
subset, Backup4All will display it in the
main interface for future selection and will
also let you see which files in that group
have changed since the last backup.
Backup4all has some nifty writing features,
too, including the option to erase the destination medium before creating the backup. You
can back up to networked computers or local
drives, and Backup4all can span multiple optical or removable drives.
Backup4all can create full, differential, or
incremental backups. The program also includes powerful filters that let you restrict or
expand your backup set.
Backup4all’s scheduling feature ensures
you won’t have to sit through backup sessions. (If you are spanning multiple drives,
you will still need to intervene manually.) ❙❙
Privacy Suite 4.0
(888) 350-3436
Performance 4
Ease Of Use 5
Installation 5
Documentation 3
Price 4
Overall Score 4.2 / 5
CyberScrub Privacy Suite 4.0
hile many of us realize we are storing
sensitive data on our PCs that could be
dangerous in the wrong hands, few of us
relish the thought of running yet another
protection program. Into this void comes
CyberScrub Privacy Suite 4.0, an easy-touse data protection and erasure program.
CyberScrub erases files and folders from
permanent and removable drives. You can
also store personal or sensitive materials in
the encrypted CyberScrub Safe where they
will be protected from prying eyes both locally and over the Internet.
The CyberScrub interface is clean and
simple—when you open the program, it
presents you with a Quick Start screen. (You
can disable this feature if you wish.) From
this screen, you can perform four operations: wipe out evidence of Internet-related
activities, erase specific files and folders,
erase previously deleted files, or start with
the full-featured Privacy Suite interface.
Close the Quick Start Screen, and you
have access to the standard CyberScrub interface, which includes button options to
perform the same tasks presented in the
Quick Start screen, as well as one-click options. This interface also affords access to the
password-protected CyberScrub Safe.
CyberScrub’s scheduling feature lets you
automate important erasure tasks, and the
program uses the latest erasure protocols to
ensure total and permanent removal of desired data. Overall, it’s a handy little tool.
However, we have two gripes. First, you
cannot easily select specific files to exclude
from erasure. Second, given its elemental interface, CyberScrub will appeal to novice
users. As such, more detailed explanations of
the importance and consequences of file erasure, plus an automated setup wizard or tutorial, would be nice. ❙❙
Smart Computing / January 2006
You wouldn’t think of driving your car for 50,000
miles before changing the oil and doing a bit of routine maintenance. Likewise, you shouldn’t use your
PC for 5,000 hours without any upkeep. An easy way
to maintain your system is to use a one-stop system
utility suite. Fix-It Utilities 6 ($49.95; www.v-com
.com) and System Mechanic 6 ($49.95; www.iolo
.com) are two utility products. While both suites will
clean and maintain your PC, Fix-It Utilities 6 includes
antivirus software, a one-stop solution center, and
General Maintenance
The Fix-It Utilities One Stop Solution center is convenient when you
need to speed up, clean up, and fix up your system.
Repair errors on your hard drive or Windows Registry and run Windows
and Fix-It Utilities updates using the Fix menu.
Run a SMARTCheck on your system to detect an imminent hard
drive failure.
Keep an eye on your system resources using the SystemMonitors gauge
that resides on top of all other windows.
The Recover menu includes tools to recover previously deleted files, capture hard drive information, and create a system checkpoint.
Another way to maintain your system is to keep it clean using the hard
drive and Registry cleaning tools in the Cleanup menu.
Fix-It Utilities’ JETDefrag will defragment your hard drive to optimize
For Best Results
Your hard drive isn’t the only PC component susceptible to fragmentation; use the RegistryDefrag tool to optimize and defragment
your Registry.
If you have Fix-It Utilities, there’s no excuse for being late to an appointment: The ClockSync functionality synchronizes your PC’s time to a
known time source, so it’s always accurate.
If you’ve ever wished your computer would maintain itself while you’re
sleeping, the Fix-It Scheduler has just what you need to get the job done.
If you’re feeling brave, tackle the Registry on your own using the
RegistryEditor. Be careful, however, as one wrong move can cause big
problems. Be sure to back up your Registry before you start.
28 January 2006
/ www.smartcomputing.com
by Jennifer Johnson
SMARTCheck to detect and notify you of hard drive problems before any data loss occurs. System Mechanic 6
comes with a memory defragmenter, duplicate file inspector, and an easy-to-read PC system status report on
the opening screen.
General Maintenance
The System Mechanic home screen provides gauges to graphically
indicate the overall health and security of your system.
PC TotalCare combines all of the functions of System Mechanic into
an easy-to-use wizard.
Clean your system using a junk file removal tool, Internet cleanup and
privacy tool, duplicate file inspector, and uninstall tool.
Fix any errors with your system’s Registry, hard drive, and shortcuts via
the Repair menu.
The Maintain tab contains system report information, an update
manager, the ability to relocate software, and more.
Keep System Mechanic up-to-date using the update manager.
Enjoy surfing the Web at faster speeds when you let System Mechanic
configure your connection settings.
For Best Results
If you’re tired of waiting for unnecessary programs to load when you
boot up your computer, System Mechanic can whittle this list down
with its Manage Windows Startup tool.
Use the Speed Up Hard Drives option to defragment your computer
and increase your PC’s performance.
Customize your system to make it fit your every desire using the
System Customizer tool, which lets you change more than 100
settings in Windows.
The Manage Running Programs tool is a more detailed version of the
Windows Task Manager that shows running programs and processes.
Prevent unwanted pop-ups from loading
while browsing the Internet.
Improve the performance of your PC’s memory with the Memory
Smart Computing / January 2006
Compiled by Joshua Gulick
See it, like it, buy it.
Impulse Items are
products that
quicken your pulse
and capture your
attention but won't
Cool Stuff For $25 Or Less
Thanks to digital cameras, we store our pictures in multiple
places. We print out some and put them in traditional
photo albums and then put our digital copies on computer
hard drives and CDs or DVDs. If you often store your photos on disc and would prefer to keep the disc with your
album, take a look at 5inch’s new gel disc hubs (www.5inch.com).
Once you attach the self-adhesive end of the hub to the inside cover of
your photo album, you can add a CD. Simply push the CD (which has a small hole at
its center) over the flexible hub until it sticks. You can buy a 32-pack of these nifty
hubs for $14.40. 5inch offers the hubs in black, blue, clear, and white.
make you dig too
deep into your
wallet. Check these
pages each month
for the latest
interesting and
computing items
we've run across.
Whether you want to adjust your Apple iPod’s backlight or
organize your digital music collection in Apple’s iTunes, you’ll
find the answers in Brian Tiemann’s new book ($19.99; www
.samspublishing.com). The guide assumes that you have a very
basic understanding of computers and walks you through
numerous iPod and iTunes-related tasks. Although experienced
iPodders probably know most of the book’s tips, newbies will
keep it on the desk next to the iPod’s charger. To find the book,
click the Bookstore tab on the main page and then click Series
in the navigation bar that appears just below it. Next, click Sams
Teach Yourself and browse the list of books to find “iPod + iTunes For Windows
And Mac In A Snap.” If you’re looking for a shortcut to the book, enter its name or author in
the search bar at the top of the main page.
If you’re looking for a small gift for a puzzle fan, you may want
to check out WinSudoku, a program that brings the Sudoku
puzzle game to your PC. You’ll learn the rules in a snap—keep
the number sets in three areas (row, column, and highlighted
region). WinSudoku (www.winsudoku.com) can generate a
variety of Sudoku board sizes, ranging from 4 x 4 to 16 x 16
tiles, and it offers several difficulty levels, so new players can
learn the game without facing the same challenges experienced Sudoku players take on. The game isn’t graphic-intensive
at all, but it offers some great features that your newspaper
can’t: It provides hints, saves and prints puzzles, and can even solve Sudokus from newspapers. The trial version
offers 10 free tries, and the full version is available for $14.95. WinSudoku supports Win98/Me/2000/XP.
30 January 2006
/ www.smartcomputing.com
Do you dream of your baby
growing up to be a gadget
geek? We can’t promise that
the iPod My Baby onesie
($15.95; www.ipodmybaby
.com) will do the trick, but we
think popping him or her into
this cute baby-case is a step in
the right direction. The outfit
includes a picture of the iPod’s famous Apple Click Wheel, the navigational feature
that makes the iPod so easy to use. iPod My Baby’s creator, Kevin Muoio, cooked up
the idea for his business partner’s baby and decided to bring it to the masses when
the stylish apparel caught people’s attention. You can dress your baby in black, blue,
pink, or white versions. The black onesie is Nano Black, as in Apple’s latest (and
slimmest) iPod, the nano. We got a kick out of the iPod My Baby Web site: Whereas
Apple’s site promotes the iPod nano as “impossibly small,” Muoio’s site notes that
the Nano onesie is “impossibly cute.”
If you like to customize the Windows
Desktop and display settings but share
your computer with other family members, check out the latest version of
Intrepix Desktop management software
(www.intrepix.com). UIFriend 2.0 sits in
your System Tray (the area in the lowerright corner of your screen that also houses the clock), so you can easily find it. The program lets you reach various display
settings (such as the display resolution, which affects the size of icons and other
images) quickly and without traipsing through Windows menus. UIFriend also
keeps track of your Desktop’s icon layouts and lets you revert to previous layouts
with a couple clicks. You’ll find this feature particularly helpful if you group icons
on your Desktop by task: If someone moves your icons around, you won’t need to
manually reorganize them. Try the program free or buy it for $19.98. Intrepix supports Win9x/NT/Me/2000/XP.
Although some people use
PDAs (personal digital assistants) and computers to schedule tasks, many of us still rely on
good ol’ wall calendars. If you
prefer the pencil to the stylus,
check out Skerryvore Software’s
Simply Calenders (www.skerry
voresoftware.com). That’s right:
The title has “Calenders” instead
of “Calendars,” and the publisher
makes no apologies. Spelling
aside, Simply Calenders is a neat
little program. The software lets
users put together customized,
printable calendars. Simply
Calenders lets users select and
add various holidays. It also
offers several page layouts,
which means you can customize
your calendar to fit your needs.
You can add text to any calendar day and pictures to any calendar month, but you’ll need to
supply your own photos. Try
Simply Calenders free or buy it
for $21.
Text messaging your overseas friends is passé, thanks to audio chat features that have
merged with many text chat programs. If your computer has a microphone, you can talk
to your contact while your fingers rest (or while you type messages to other friends—it’s
tempting), but many new PCs don’t include one. Enter the Logitech Premium Stereo
Headset ($24.99; www.logitech.com), which includes both headphones and a mic, a
combo that lets users talk without hovering over a desk-mounted microphone. The
chrome-colored microphone has noise-canceling technology, which reduces sounds other
than your voice. According to Logitech, the large earpieces seal around your ear to provide better sound. You can plug the headset into any standard 3.5mm jack.
Smart Computing / January 2006
Tabula Rasa
or most users the Windows XP Desktop doubles as
convenient ad-hoc file storage and a canvas for personal expression. And in most cases, it’s not a good mix.
Plop 40 or 50 program and shortcut icons over a picture
of your kids and dog, and good luck finding anything.
Microsoft understands that Desktop icon proliferation is a constant problem and has built a Desktop
cleanup tool that automatically removes icons you
haven’t used in a while. We’d like to suggest a simpler
and more permanent approach to the problem: Wipe
the Desktop clean and keep it that way. And display
your favorite photos another way.
Prepare For An Icon-Free Desktop
Before you can abandon your Desktop icons, you
have to give yourself an easy way to access the shortcuts
you use most often. Our recommendation is to put
them on the Quick Launch toolbar, where you can get
to them just as easily as you can on the Desktop.
Make sure your Quick Launch toolbar is displayed:
Right-click any blank area of the Taskbar, choose
Toolbars, and then make sure there is a check mark
next to Quick Launch. The Quick Launch toolbar will
appear just to the right of the Start menu with at least
one button on it: the Show Desktop button, which automatically minimizes all your open windows to the
Taskbar and reveals the full Desktop when you click it.
Next, drag your most-used Desktop icons to the
Quick Launch bar. When dragging from the Desktop,
you don’t have to hold down the CTRL key—Windows
automatically copies, rather than moves, when you
drag. You can also drag any frequently used document
shortcuts from the Desktop to the Quick Launch
toolbar. If you drag the wrong item to the Quick
Launch toolbar, you can easily remove it: Just rightclick it, select Delete, and click Yes to confirm.
Depending on the number of Desktop icons you drag
to the Quick Launch toolbar, things on the Taskbar
Before hiding Desktop icons, copy your most frequently used
Desktop shortcuts to the Quick Launch toolbar (shown here with
the Show Desktop button selected).
32 January 2006
/ www.smartcomputing.com
could get crowded. To make more room, make the
Taskbar a little bigger. Right-click any blank area of the
Taskbar and make sure Lock The Taskbar is deselected.
Place your pointer on the top edge of the Taskbar so it
turns into a double-headed arrow and drag upward.
Sweep It Clean
Now that all those icons and shortcuts are accessible
from the Quick Launch toolbar, you can wipe the
Desktop clean. The simplest and safest way to do this is
to hide the Desktop icons. Right-click any blank area of
the Desktop, choose Arrange Icons By, and then select
Show Desktop Icons to uncheck it. In a few moments,
all your Desktop icons will disappear.
Why not delete or move the icons instead of just
hiding them? Several of the icons, such as My
Computer, Recycle Bin, and My Network Places, can’t
be deleted because they’re central to WinXP’s functionality. They shouldn’t be moved, because Windows needs
to know where to find them. Hiding them gets them out
of sight, but leaves them otherwise unchanged.
Once you start hiding your Desktop icons, you may
have to change your work habits. For example, if you
typically download files from the Web to your Desktop,
you’ll have to download them to some other location,
such as the My Documents folder. If, after hiding your
Desktop icons, you need to find one, you can view them
all without redisplaying them. Just open any Windows
Explorer window, such as My Documents; click the
arrow next to the Address field at the top if the window;
scroll to the top of the list; and click Desktop. And if you
want your Desktop icons back, right-click any blank
area of the Desktop and choose Arrange Icons and then
Show Desktop Icons. They’ll reappear in a few seconds.
Lose The Background
If you stop here, you’ll no doubt notice how much
more efficient it can be to work from the Quick Launch
bar rather than from a cluttered Desktop. However, you
might want to consider going a step further and removing your Desktop background picture if you have
one. It is most often covered by application windows and
doesn’t make the world’s greatest reading background.
Right-click any blank area of the Desktop, click
Properties, and click the Desktop tab. Under
Background, choose None. Under Color, choose a
background color that’s easy on the eyes and contrasts
with your Windows color scheme. Click Apply to see if
you like the color; if not, choose another color. Once
you find one you like, click OK.
Hide the
Taskbar, and
you have the
Desktop space
possible at your
drill down further into folders on the All Programs
menu.) With the right mouse button, drag it to the
Quick Launch toolbar and click Create Shortcuts Here.
A hidden Taskbar is not for everyone. If you’re not a
careful mouser, you may find yourself displaying the
Taskbar whenever you work near the bottom of the
screen. But it is the ultimate in Desktop neatness, and it
wins back some extra space for your programs. ❙❙
If you miss your
old Desktop
turn it into a
screen saver.
Hide The Taskbar
When you get those icons and that background out of
the way, the Taskbar is suddenly an eyesore, interrupting what would otherwise be a totally clean screen.
You can hide the Taskbar so that it appears only when
you need it. Right-click any blank area of the Taskbar and
choose Properties. On the Taskbar tab, select Auto-Hide
The Taskbar, and click Apply (to have a look before you
confirm). The Taskbar disappears, but you can display it
when you need it by hovering your pointer over to the
bottom edge of the screen. Until that point, however,
your screen is completely blank. Click OK.
With the Taskbar hidden, it now takes an extra step
to access any programs in your Start menu or All
Programs list. If this bothers you, you can copy a
shortcut for the most frequently used programs from
either of these locations to the Quick Launch bar.
Display the Taskbar, click Start, and if necessary, click
All Programs. Find the icon for the program you want
to move to the Quick Launch bar. (You may have to
Express Yourself
Through Your Screen Saver
f you remove your Desktop background as part of
the clean-up program described in this article, and
if you subsequently miss that background, you can
bring it back—much less intrusively—as a screen
saver. Better yet, you can set the screen saver to sequence through several of your favorite pictures,
something your Desktop background can’t do.
To start, click the Start button and choose My
Documents. In the left side of the window, click Make
a New Folder; when the folder appears, name it
ScreenSaver. Next, navigate through your folders to
find the picture or pictures you want to use as a
screen saver and copy them into this new ScreenSaver
folder. (If you want to use one of Windows’ photo
backgrounds as your screen saver, you’ll find them in
the C:\WINDOWS folder; be sure to copy, not move
them, to your new ScreenSaver folder.)
Right-click your new blank Desktop, click
Properties, and click the Screen Saver tab. From the
Screen Saver drop-down menu, select My Pictures
Slideshow and then click Settings. If you have only one
picture in your ScreenSaver folder, you may want to
set the How Often Should Pictures Change? interval
to something longer, such as one minute; otherwise,
leave it be. Under How Big Should Pictures Be?,
choose the appropriate setting. (Choose 100% if your
old background pictures covered your entire
Desktop.) Then click Browse, select your ScreenSaver
folder, and click OK. Finally, make sure that Use
Transition Effects Between Pictures is selected and
that the other three options aren’t. Then click OK.
Back on the Screen Saver tab, you’ll see a preview of
your screen saver in the small sample monitor. If you
have only one picture, you’ll have to wait a minute to
preview the transitional effects. Either way, the pictures will disappear when you move your mouse or
touch your keyboard. ❙
Smart Computing / January 2006
Stay On Task With Windows XP Task Manager
indows’ Task Manager is one of those OS (operating system) features you’d rather not have to
use. Most times, the Task Manager is only called upon
to force unresponsive programs to quit. However,
there’s more to the Task Manager than damage control.
Its various tools can help you avoid problems and stay
productive, as well.
The Task Manager has been around since Windows
3.1 and NT, though Microsoft has expanded its responsibilities through the years. It’s always been more robust
than people realize, though. Even early versions did more
than just close down unresponsive programs. Press
CTRL-ALT-DELETE or right-click an empty section of
the Windows Taskbar and select Task Manager from the
context menu to launch the tool. Task Manager’s primary
purpose is still managing running programs, but its
metamorphosis in Windows XP offers more flexibility for
controlling applications and processes, more monitoring
options to keep track of system performance, and management tools to control who has access to your system.
Applications & Processes
The Applications tab is probably the area of Windows’
Task Manager you know best. It displays a list of programs currently running. You can review the status of
each and close, switch, or launch programs with the End
Task, Switch To, and New Task buttons along the
bottom. Check for programs with a Status of Not
Responding if your machine is acting sluggish or if specific programs freeze up. Use the End Task button to
force the application to quit. (Click End Now to confirm
if a dialog box informs you that the program is, indeed,
not responding.) Doing so may destabilize the system,
though, so be prepared to reboot after an End Task. For
more detail on a particular application’s resource usage,
right-click the program’s name and click Go To Process.
You’ll jump to that application’s entry under the Processes tab.
This tab provides even
greater detail about what’s
running on your computer.
Close unresponsive programs
under the Task Manager’s
Applications tab.
34 January 2006
/ www.smartcomputing.com
Many processes run in the background and don’t show up
on the Applications list. But as you can see under the
Mem Usage column, they still consume plenty of resources. Some processes are important Windows system
utilities and shouldn’t be touched. Others are clearly spyware or nuisance applications that run constantly. Many
are clearly labeled while others are not. Programs such as
Real Player, Adobe Acrobat, and QuickTime are notorious for background operation—you can often improve
system performance by using the End Process button to
force them to stop. They’ll start up again next time you
launch the program (and next time you reboot), but you
can free up resources in the meantime.
You can even adjust the priority of various processes to
give more importance to applications you’re actively
using. Right-click a process, select Set Priority from the
context menu, and choose
an option from the expanded list of options. To
find out what common
The Processes tab lets you
ferret out resource hogs
and sneakware.
processes are important and
which aren’t, check out the
Answers That Work site at
/Tasklist_pages/tasklist.htm. As a general rule, don’t click
End Process for any process you aren’t sure about. If your
system is sluggish or freezing up and you can’t find the
problem under the Applications tab, check the Processes
list for items that are using significant resources but aren’t
being used. Using End Process to shut down resource
hogs can often help improve performance.
Performance & Networking
Improving system performance isn’t all about reactive measures, however. Task Manager’s Performance
and Networking tabs help you keep track of which
programs create the heaviest burdens and plan accordingly. Performance tracks both CPU Usage and Page
File Usage over time. CPU Usage is pretty straightforward—how much of your processor’s capacity you’re
currently using. Page File is your virtual memory—the
portion of your hard drive space allocated to acting as
supplemental RAM. For ongoing monitoring, open
and then minimize the Task Manager. You’ll see a
small icon representing CPU Usage in the System Tray:
Keep an eye on the monitor as you launch and use key
applications to see which create the heaviest load.
Then try and avoid using those demanding programs
together or close other applications when you need
to free up some power.
The running charts under
Performance and Networking
help you keep track of resource
utilization and see what programs
create the heaviest loads.
The Networking tab has
a similar function to help
you monitor your network or Internet connections. The
area at the bottom of the Networking tab lists each active
network adapter and connection. The rolling graphs
track utilization for each connection type, so you may
need to scroll down the graphs to find the active connection. Track bandwidth-heavy applications to see which
create the peak loads and which don’t play nice together.
The Users tab shows you each user connected to or
logged on to your system. In WinXP Fast User Switching
can leave several users logged in. If you see several people
listed under Users and the computer isn’t running well,
select each of the other names and click the Logoff
button. If you’re running in a networked environment
and sharing folders, files, printers, or other resources,
you may find that other users slow down your system. If
someone’s logged in and hogging all your system resources, select the user’s name and click Disconnect.
Menu Bar
Task Manager’s menu bar provides some useful, if
often ignored, options. The
Options menu includes
choices to maintain the
The Task Manager’s
Users tab provides an easy
way to see who’s connected
to your machine and
control their access.
Task Manager’s visual position as Always On Top of
other applications.
Under View, the Update Speed option controls the pace
of the charts in Performance and Networking and the frequency with which the Mem Usage category in Processes
refreshes. Both are helpful to fine-tune your tracking and
to lessen the Task Manager’s burden. Select Paused under
Update Speed to freeze Task Manager’s monitoring.
The Shut Down menu offers easy access to each of
your system’s shutdown options. Rather than relying on
the Start menu to stop computing, the Task Manager
provides a plain menu with options (depending on your
configuration) to Stand By, Hibernate, Turn Off, Restart,
Log Off, or Switch User.
Task Manager has come a long way. Beyond closing out
the occasional uncooperative program, it can help you
manage your system resources, track bandwidth usage,
and keep an eye on visitors—all from one dialog box. ❙❙
Tiny Footprint
indows XP’s Task Manager includes a littleknown feature that can be, by turns, very
helpful or very confusing. Tiny Footprint mode removes the menu bar and tabs from the Task Manager
dialog box and lets you resize the dialog box in ways
that standard mode doesn’t.
It can be useful for changing the window’s dimensions to assist monitoring or free up screen space. But
it can also frustrate attempts to navigate between
parts of the Task Manager (such as the Applications
and Performance
tabs), especially if activated unknowingly or
by accident.
Tiny Footprint mode
removes tabs and
menus while letting
you resize the Task
Manager window.
So how do you turn
Tiny Footprint mode on and off? In standard mode
double-click in the empty area surrounding the Task
Manager’s tabs. They’ll disappear along with the
menu bar and summary data at the dialog’s bottom.
To restore the tool’s standard mode, simply doubleclick the top border of the Task Manager window. ❙
Smart Computing / January 2006
Turn Off Unneeded Windows Services
ost Windows users know (and if they don’t,
they’re likely to find out soon enough) about the
myriad problems posed by spyware—various forms of
stealth software that can worm their way onto systems
and cause unexpected behavior, loss of performance, or
even data theft. Although not nearly as insidious as spyware, many Windows computers suffer from another
hidden potential menace in the form of unnecessary
services that can negatively impact system performance.
Services are a special category of software that run on
Windows 2000 and Windows XP systems (but not on
Windows 9x/Me). They’re usually installed as part of
Windows and are designed to handle a variety of
common operating system features and functions,
though they can also be part of third-party software, as
well. Services differ from regular applications in that
they’re designed to run automatically, in the background, and without the need for any user input.
Unlike spyware, services don’t usually pose a threat
to security or privacy (although in some instances,
they can), and in most cases, a single service won’t
have a significant impact on system performance. But
a typical system might have dozens or even scores of
services running, and in the aggregate, they can consume enough system resources to bog down your system’s performance or even affect its stability
(especially on computers with a relatively slow CPU
or a limited amount of RAM). Because a lot of the
services that run automatically in Windows ultimately prove to be unnecessary for many users,
turning off the dispensable ones can be a good way to
give your system’s performance a boost and even plug
a few security holes.
You can find the
list of installed
services in
Windows 2000
and Windows XP
by launching
from the Start
menu’s Run
36 January 2006
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Service Without A Smile
As it turns out, locating and identifying services isn’t
quite as straightforward as finding, for example, startup
applications (most of which are easily visible in the
System Tray or in Msconfig’s Startup tab). Launching
the Windows Task Manager (by pressing CTRL-ALTDELETE) and consulting the Processes tab isn’t the answer either—although most running services do appear
there, they’re seldom explicitly identified by name.
Rather, you’ll typically see them listed as multiple entries of Svchost.exe. (Services are often DLL [dynamiclink library] files, which can only be launched in the
guise of an executable program.)
The best way to find the services on your system is to
launch Services.msc from the Start menu’s Run command, which will bring up a dialog box displaying the
name, a brief (and often overly technical) description,
and status of each installed service. As you’ll see from
the display, the presence of a service on a system doesn’t
necessarily mean that it’s actually running; in fact, each
one can be configured with one of three Startup Types.
For example, Automatic means the service will be
started each time the system starts up. A Manual service,
on the other hand, doesn’t start automatically when the
system does, but it can be launched when called upon
by the OS or an application that needs it. Finally, a
Disabled service is inactive under all circumstances and
can’t be started unless its Startup Type is changed first.
So now that you’ve found the services on your
system, you need to figure out whether a particular service is unneeded. The truth is that there is no absolute
list of good or bad services, and the difference between a
critical service and an extraneous one ultimately
depends on how your
system is configured and
how you use it. It’s also
important to note that not
all systems will have an
identical list of installed
services, because although
most services are common
across multiple versions
of Windows, the specific
list of services installed
on your system and the
port is always on the lookout for
default settings for each will depend
other infrared-capable devices to
on your specific Windows version and
connect to. If you don’t use your inwhich service packs, if any, you’ve infrared port to transmit data or synstalled (as well as what third-party
chronize with a handheld device,
software you have installed).
you can switch this service off.
Generally speaking, it’s not a good
Messenger. This service is not reidea to fiddle around with Windows
lated to the MSN Messenger IM apservices, as many of them are critical
plication, but rather is used to send
to proper system or application funcadministrative alerts between nettion. What follows, however, is a list
worked PCs. It’s not important for
of a dozen standard services that
stand-alone PCs or even those on
Win2000/XP users are likely to find
To turn off a service, select it, click Stop,
home networks, so it should be disconfigured to automatically start on
and then set the Startup Type to Disabled.
abled. (Messenger can be exploited
their systems and should be able to
to generate pop-up ads, so starting
disable (subject to the caveats prowith WinXP SP2 this service is disabled by default.)
vided with each). To disable a service, double-click it,
Remote Registry. This service is found on Win2000
stop the service if it’s already running, and change its
and WinXP Professional and is useful on corporate netStartup Type to Disabled.
works for tasks such as software distribution and system
auditing. On a home system or home network, however,
The Dirty Dozen
it’s unnecessary and may even pose a security risk.
Secondary Logon. This service (known as the RunAs
Computer Browser. The Computer Browser service
Service in Windows 2000) allows you to run a program
lets you use My Network Places (Network Neighboror start a software installation process using an account
hood in Win2000) to browse the network for other sysother than the one currently logged in. This can be
tems that have shared resources available. If you only
useful when you want to install a program for someone
have one system or you don’t share folders or printers
with a limited account without logging them off the
among multiple systems on a home network, you don’t
system first. Most people don’t use or need this feature,
need this service. (Disabling this service won’t affect
though, so you can probably do without it.
your ability to access the Internet.)
Server. This service lets you share files and printers
Error Reporting Service. When you suffer an applion your PC with other systems on the network. If you
cation error, this service is responsible for the dialog
don’t share your system resources, this is a service you
box that pops up asking if you want to send an error recan easily do without.
port to Microsoft. If you never say yes and don’t intend
System Restore Service. This service is what lets the
to in the future, you can do without this service.
System Restore feature undo changes and roll your
Fast User Switching Compatibility. Windows uses
system configuration back to a particular point in time.
this service to improve the operation of applications in
This feature can certainly come in handy, but it also
Fast User Switching mode (which lets multiple users on
carries a lot of overhead. If you don’t use it, turn it off.
the same PC be logged in at the same time). If you don’t
Task Scheduler. This service schedules tasks to be
have multiple user accounts set up, you don’t need this.
performed on specific days and at specific times. It’s
Indexing Service. This service is the underpinning of
used by built-in Windows applications but may also be
Windows’ (much maligned) search feature. It can be
used by third-party software, as well (for example,
quite a resource hog, so if you don’t use the built-in
backup or antivirus utilities). If you don’t use this kind
search feature, you should turn off this service. This is especially true given that free Desktop search utilities from
of software, or you perform these tasks manually, you
companies such as Google and Yahoo! do a better job
can turn this service off.
with less system overhead. Before you disable the service,
Wireless Zero Configuration. This service, which
clear the check box next to Allow Indexing Service To
starts automatically on both WinXP Home and
Index This Disk For Fast File Searching on each of your
Professional, looks for Wi-Fi networks and configures
hard drives. (You can find it by going to My Computer,
wireless hardware. If you don’t use your system to access a wireless network, deactivate this service. ❙❙
right-clicking each drive icon, and selecting Properties.)
Infrared Monitor. If you have a notebook equipped
with an infrared data port, this service ensures that the
Smart Computing / January 2006
Find Solutions
an’t find the answers to your
Windows questions? Just search
the Tech Support Center at Smart
Computing.com. Here you will find
answers for many common problems
and frequently asked questions, all
with helpful translations and solutions.
You’ll also find Basic Troubleshooting
articles and information from our
editorial archives. Simply log on to
SmartComputing.com and find the
answers you’re looking for.
Head to www.smart
computing.com and click
the Tech Support Center link.
In the Enter A Subject To
Search By field, enter your
operating system, such as
Windows 98 or Windows XP,
and click Search.
Browse articles from various
sections including Solutions
Knowledgebase, the Q&A Archive,
and much, much more!
38 January 2006
/ www.smartcomputing.com
How Did They Do That?
Compiled by Sally Marek Curran
Graphics & Design by Jason Codr
Flex Your Display
OLEDs Light Up The Future
magine having the ability to access up-to-the minute news and
information (à la that copy of
USA Today in the movie “Minority
Report”), or perhaps reading your
favorite book on-screen, and then
being able to roll up the device on
which the data displays and stashing
it in your coat pocket. In the not-sodistant future, this could be a reality,
thanks to flexible displays. OLEDs
(organic light-emitting diodes),
the technology that allows for
these bendable devices, provides
a cheaper (an inkjet printer can
create one—no need for a vacuum)
and tougher (they are flexible, after
all) alternative to LCDs (liquidcrystal displays).
Eastman Kodak created the first
OLEDs in the mid 1980s, and currently, you’ll find OLEDs in all sorts
of devices, including digital cameras
and cell phones. With a 160-degree
viewing area, they’re ideal for notebook computer displays. The future
shines bright for flexible displays,
as well: Imagine gigantic televisions
that are only a quarter of an inch
thick, billboards with crystal-clear
images, and the aforementioned
display that’ll tuck into your backpack—all with images that refresh
many times faster than LCDs. And
there’s no backlight, so OLEDs emit
more vibrant colors while using
very little power—often as little as
25% of their potential maximum
consumption level.
The Root Of The Matter
The substrate portion of an OLED is what determines whether it’s rigid or flexible. A glass substrate
would obviously be rigid and more prone to damage,
whereas a plastic or foil/metallic substrate provides
more malleability. The emissive and conductive layers
are referred to as the organic layers and are made up
of organic molecules and/or polymers. The anode is
transparent, but the cathode isn’t necessarily so—it
depends on the type of OLED in question.
Emissive Layer
Conductive Layer
40 January 2006
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An electrical current, or flow of
electrons, provided by the device in
which the OLED is housed, flows to
the anode from the cathode through
the emissive and conductive layers
of the display. The cathode deposits
electrons in the emissive layer, while
the anode removes electrons from
the conductive later.
Where the emissive and conductive layers meet, there are
holes. Basically, these holes are
atoms that need electrons in
order to fulfill an energy level.
When an electron comes across one
of these holes, it fills it and releases
energy that produces light. The type
of organic molecules in the emissive
layer determines the color of the light,
while the light’s intensity depends
on how much electricity is flowing
through the OLED.
Smart Computing / January 2006
Input Devices
Play Ball Or Take A Tablet
fter more than 40 years (the
first prototype mouse appeared
in the mid 1960s; the first computer keyboards much earlier), the
basic form and function of the standard
PC mouse and keyboard remain largely
unchanged. However, developers have
released a slew of alternate input devices—hardware that enables us to
communicate with and feed data to our
PCs. These include souped-up mice
with trackballs, graphics tablets, and
digital pens. Whether you need one of
these depends on your computing
habits and personal tastes. Follow along
as we explore the world of alternate
input devices.
pointer moves the same direction and
distance on the screen.
Using a trackball for the first time is
like learning to skate. It’s a very freewheeling experience, but it’s easy to go
flying across the territory (in this case,
the screen) a little faster than you intend and bump into things on the far
side. Once you learn to use it, a trackball can be an incredible time-saver if
you navigate around your screen a lot.
Furthermore, because a trackball eliminates the need for a computer user to
move his mouse around the mousepad, it helps the user avoid the type of
motion that some studies associate
with muscle fatigue and repetitive
stress injury.
Mice On Steroids
In addition to the old standby twobutton mouse, you can now purchase a
three- or four-button mouse with or
without a scroll wheel. Have a look at
your current mouse—it might offer
buttons and wheels you don’t use. In
most cases, the buttons on multibutton
mice are programmable, letting you decide which clicks do what. The scrolling
wheels on these mice let you move the
mouse pointer up or down quickly with
a flick of your thumb or finger.
However, for many, the true super
mouse is the trackball, which replaces
the tiny scrolling wheel with a pingpong-ball-sized rolling ball. Spin the
ball in any direction and your mouse
Drawing tablets let you write or draw on a flat
surface and transfer that data straight to your
PC. (Shown is the Wacom Technology Graphire4.)
42 January 2006
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Who’s Playing Ball?
Kensington (www.kensington.com),
Logitech (www.logitech.com), and
Microsoft (www.microsoft.com) are
all popular trackball manufacturers.
Like standard mice, trackballs come in
wireless or wired versions and in optical, as well as mechanical, variants.
Optical mice are a wonder of technology. A tiny camera replaces the
standard rolling ball inside the mouse,
which means you’ll never have to clean
the ball or internal wheels. Instead, the
camera takes around 1,500 pictures
per second to determine which way
your hand is moving the mouse.
The biggest decision with a trackball
is where you want the ball to sit.
Logitech made its reputation offering a
left-sided trackball mouse; the ball
conveniently sits directly under your
thumb. This configuration is easy to
master because your thumb is strong
and can exert a significant amount of
control. We liked Logitech’s $49.95
TrackMan Wheel Trackball Mouse,
which combines a left-oriented trackball with a two-button, scroll wheel
configuration on the right.
However, you may discover you
prefer a trackball positioned in the
middle of the mouse, where you
move it with your palm (we found
this awkward), or at the top of the
mouse, where you can use your palm
or a finger. Microsoft’s Trackball
Explorer mouse (quoted at $41.99
from CompUSA on the Microsoft
site) places the trackball at the top
in position for you to scroll with
your middle finger. The two-button
Trackball Explorer places one mouse
button on each side of the trackball
and the scrolling wheel in the middle
of the left button.
Pop A Tablet
Another popular choice in alternate
input devices is the drawing tablet (also
called a graphics tablet). This device
pairs a flat drawing pad with a pen-type
stylus. If you are working in a graphics
program such as Adobe Photoshop or
Corel Painter, drawing on the pad with
the stylus will create the same drawing
in the file you have open. Adjusting the
downward pressure of the stylus on the
pad adjusts the intensity of the pen or
brushstroke, as well.
In the early days of drawing tablets,
to perform a standard mouse click outside a drawing program, you tapped on
the tablet with the stylus (and slid the
stylus across the tablet if you wanted to
move the pointer or an object). Some
users found this impractical. Consequently, while most tablets still offer
the tap-and-slide feature, many also
now come with an integrated mouse.
With this configuration, the tablet doubles as a mousepad, making it easy to
switch between the two.
Tablets Today
Originally, mainly professional
artists favored drawing tablets, which
gave them the creative freedom to
create original digital illustrations
without being chained to a mouse.
Today, many photo junkies have discovered the power of drawing tablets
for easy image retouching. They are
also great for adding handwritten notes
(digital ink) to documents or creating
sketches and diagrams.
Drawing tablets have traditionally
been very expensive, but prices have
come down in recent years. Nevertheless, a decent-sized one will set you
back $100 or more. For that price, you
should get the tablet, mouse, and an
assortment of programs.
We were particularly impressed with
the 6- x 8-inch Graphire4 from Wacom
Technology (www.wacom.com).
Priced at $199.95, it offers a sleek, battery-free pen with two programmable
“mouse” buttons on the clip, a cordless
mouse, a USB-based tablet with a
plastic cover/pen holder, and graphics
programs (Adobe Photoshop Elements
and Corel Painter Essentials), plus digital ink (Justwrite Office 4) and notewriting (Evernote Plus) software.
A more thrifty solution—the Hyper
Pen—comes from lesser-known manufacturer Aiptek (www.aiptek.com).
For $119.99 (on sale for $89.99 at press
time), you’ll get a 6 x 8 USB-based
tablet in a jazzy holder paired with a
cordless mouse and a battery-powered
pen (one AAA battery), plus Ulead
PhotoImpact 5 and PhotoExpress
(graphics programs), Office Ink (digital ink software), and Free Notes
(note-making software). The Aiptek
tablet offers the bonus of having the
entire set of keyboard function keys
marching across the top of the tablet
for easy access, but we found its bulky
pen a bit cumbersome to use.
Good Penmanship
If you need the freedom of a trackball or a drawing tablet, but like the
idea of using a stylus to handwrite
and digitize notes, consider a digital
pen such as NexConcepts PC NoteTaker ($49.95; www.nexconcepts
.com). The product incorporates a
nifty stylus with a clip-on digital
reader that transfers notes or sketches
you write on ordinary paper straight
to your PC. Phone numbers, notes, or
drawings you capture can become
sticky notes on your Desktop or annotations to emails and documents
created in a number of programs.
A hybrid of the drawing tablets mentioned above is the ACE CAD’s DigiMemo 692 ($99; www.acecad.com.tw).
It uses a special magnetized notepad
that resembles a tablet. However,
rather than writing on the notepad,
you write on paper lying on top of it,
leaving a paper copy of your notes,
as well. NoteTaker stores your notes
Logitech’s popular TrackMan
Wheel Trackball Mouse puts the
trackball on the left side of the
mouse right under your thumb.
Microsoft’s Trackball Explorer
Mouse places the trackball on the
right side with a scroll wheel and
the main mouse button integrated
together on the left.
for subsequent transfer to your PC.
That means you can leave the laptop
behind, take your DigiMemo to meetings, and transfer your notes to the PC
at your leisure.
Last Notes
Overall, these devices can be frustration savers if you perform the type of
work at which they excel. Both trackball and tablet manufacturers offer
scores of testimonials stating their devices reduce repetitive motion injuries.
Many trackballs offer ergonomic designs. Tablets offer the benefit of letting
you switch a portion of your mousing
activities to a totally different set of
muscles. Nevertheless, if you are looking at these devices for their ergonomic
benefit, it’s important to remember
that any repetitive motion, whether
you are tapping, clicking, or rolling,
can still cause muscle fatigue and even
stress injury. ❙❙
Smart Computing / January 2006
Inkjet Cartridge Refills
Are They Worth The Hassle?
f you see dollar signs every time
you use your inkjet printer, you’ve
probably wondered about inkjet
refill kits. With most kits providing
enough ink for multiple refills at a
significantly lower cost compared to
manufacturer brands, refill kits are
certainly appealing to price-conscious
consumers and businesses. But are refill kits worth the time and trouble?
And what about print quality and
other potential problems?
time. If you decide to order a refill kit
online, also be sure to check out the
company’s service record, shipping
costs, and return policies.
An alternative that’s becoming
more common are ink refill services.
Several retail stores that specialize in
refilling inkjet and laser printer cartridges are cropping up in strip malls
and shopping centers.
Where To Get Refills
Low cost is the number one benefit
of an inkjet refill kit. Most do-it-yourself kits contain enough ink for three or
more refills. For comparison, we priced
an HP 99 three-color photo cartridge
for an HP PSC 1610. The retail price
from HP was $24.99 with free shipping.
We paid $14.95 for a InkTec refill kit at
4inkjets plus $3.95 for shipping, for a
total of $18.90.
The refill kit contains 25ml of each
color for a total of 75ml of ink. The
original HP 99 cartridge supplies a
You can purchase refill kits online
or at an office supply store. We found
much more variety online. The office
supply stores stocked fewer types of
refill kits, and most of the kits used a
universal ink that may not match the
ink in the OEM (original equipment
manufacturer) cartridge.
When shopping online, of course,
it’s best to order before your printer
runs out of ink to allow for shipping
Our refill kit, designed
for a three-color HP photo inkjet
cartridge, resembled a collection
of surgical implements.
44 January 2006
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The Advantages
The syringes
inject the ink into
the cartridge, and
you can rinse and
reuse them with
kits that include
multiple refills.
Our kit also
included a sticker
that we placed
on top of the
cartridge to mark
where to insert
the syringe.
total of 13ml of ink. The ink price
comes to slightly more than 25 cents
per milliliter for the refill kit (including
shipping) and a whopping $1.92 per
milliliter for the HP cartridge.
Refilling inkjet cartridges is environmentally friendly. You can reuse
the same cartridge, on average, four
to eight times before it wears out.
Although most refill kits contain a fair
amount of disposable materials, you
will use them multiple times to refill a
single cartridge.
Potential Pitfalls
Spilling or leaking ink, overfilling the
ink reservoir, and damaging the print
nozzle are potential problems. These
problems are less likely to occur if you
follow the instructions that accompany
the kit. Lower ink quality and poor
printing results are the primary concerns after you refill a cartridge. By law,
manufacturers cannot void a printer
warranty based on the brand of ink you
choose. An additional challenge comes
from changing technology. Some
Epson cartridges contain a built-in chip
that can detect a re-used cartridge and
block the printer from using it. You
can, however, purchase chip-reset tools
that work around this problem.
The Refill Experience
For the best results, refill cartridges
as soon as the ink runs low and handle
To clean the
cartridge nozzle
and improve print
quality, our kit
instructed us to
use the supplied
suction syringe to
remove 0.5ml of
ink through a
hole in the
bottom of the
cartridge holder.
We couldn’t get
this step to work.
After removing the cartridge from
the refill holder, we were instructed to
dab the nozzle part of the cartridge on
soft tissue to remove excess ink. We
then inserted the cartridge in our
printer and ran the cartridge nozzle
cleaning cycle several times.
the cartridge according to manufacturer recommendations. This usually
means taking care not to touch the
print nozzle or metal contacts. Of
course, your cartridge must be in good
shape in order for you to refill it. If
you don’t print anything for a month
or two, for example, the cartridge may
dry out and become unusable.
Our refill kit consisted of three ink
bottles, three syringes for injecting the
ink into the cartridge, a cartridge
holder, a suction syringe, an injection
inlet sticker, and disposable gloves.
After inserting the cartridge into the
plastic holder, we placed the inlet
sticker on the top of the cartridge. The
sticker marks the places to insert the
injection syringes. Because our cartridge was low on one color, we worked
with one syringe and ink bottle.
We inserted a syringe into the ink
bottle as instructed. We removed 2ml
of ink from the bottle and inserted the
syringe into the designated spot on the
top of the cartridge. This required a
surprising amount of force. The ink
went in quickly, even though we tried
to inject it slowly as instructed. We
learned it’s best to minimize the
amount of air that mixes with the ink
to get good quality prints right away.
After injecting the ink, the refill kit
guide instructed us to attach the supplied suction syringe to a rubber hole
on the bottom of the cartridge holder
and suck out about 0.5ml ink from the
cartridge. We could not get this part
of the process to work. Failing that, we
removed the cartridge from the holder
and dabbed the nozzle on tissues to
remove excess ink.
Surprisingly, we did not spill ink
during the refill process. After running the clean nozzle cycle on our
printer a few times as recommended
by the refill kit instructions, we printed photos,
text, and test pages to
compare to prints from
our original cartridge.
The refill prints contained light, but perceptible, lines. The next day,
however, the lines were no longer present. Most likely, we introduced air,
and it vented out overnight.
The Bottom Line
We found the refill process to be
moderately simple There was no mess,
and with familiarity, we think the
process would require about 15 minutes to complete. After our cartridge
settled overnight, our print results
were comparable to the original ink.
It’s important to choose a refill kit
designed for the cartridge you’re
working with. If you’re interested in a
refill kit, our advice is to order one
from an online supplier and try it. And
if you want to save some money
without the hassle, check out an inkjet
refill store. ❙❙
Refills While You Shop
he newest trend in inkjet cartridge refills is retail stores that specialize in handling
the process for you. Island Ink-Jet and Cartridge World are two such operations
that are opening stores and kiosks in malls and shopping centers. Both companies
carry more than 100 inks designed to match the properties of OEM products. To find
the nearest location of either service, check the companies’ store locators online.
Island Ink-Jet | www.islandinkjet.com | (877) 446-5538
Island Ink-Jet got its start as a refill kit supplier. As the company grew, according
to its president, Armin Sachse, customers began asking for help with the refill
process. Five years later, Island Ink-Jet has 87 inkjet refill stores and kiosks in the
United States and about 250 locations worldwide. Although it still sells refill kits, the
bulk of Island Ink-Jet’s business is refilling cartridges. “A certain skill set is necessary
for refilling cartridges today,” said Sachse. He explained that Island Ink-Jet has built
its expertise through past experience and ongoing research.
For our HP 99 photo cartridge, a local store representative quoted a refill cost of
$11.99. She suggested allowing 30 minutes for the refill service, but noted that the
process often requires less time. The company has a no-hassle return policy, and cartridges are tested after refilling. In addition to inkjet cartridge refills, most locations
provide a variety of paper, printer supplies, and laser toner services.
Cartridge World North America | www.cartridgeworldusa.com | (510) 594-9900
With plans for more than 300 U.S. stores in operation by the end of 2005,
Cartridge World hopes to become part of consumers’ everyday life. As an alternative
to refill kits and OEM supplies, Cartridge World provides refill services in its small retail stores. “What Cartridge World is all about is offering consumers and businesses a
choice,” said Burt Yarkin, CEO of Cartridge World North America. The company’s
goals are to provide quality and convenient refill services at a reduced price. And
Yarkin predicts that OEMs will become more creative in circumventing the refill
process, making it more difficult for consumers to refill cartridges themselves.
Our HP 99 photo cartridge cost $13.99 to refill at Cartridge World. Because it is a
three-color cartridge, the store representative quoted us 20 minutes to complete
the refill and testing process. In addition to inkjet refill services, Cartridge World sells
supplies, such as specialty paper and prefilled cartridges, and the company offers
businesses pickup and drop-off services for laser printer cartridges. ❙
Smart Computing / January 2006
M r .
M o d e m ’ s
D e s k t o p
Web Sites For Fun & Frolic
s I lay under my pyramid, seeking inspiration for this month’s vitally important New Year’s column, it
occurred to me that we’re inundated with
negative news these days: war, the economy,
gas prices, hurricanes, healthcare, global
warming, the ozone layer, the plight of the
pup fish, and our ongoing grief over the
loss of “Everybody Loves Raymond.” I
therefore decided to start 2006 off on a
lighter note by sharing a few vintage selections from my private-label Web cellar.
By way of introduction, in January
1994, I reluctantly set aside my aluminum
foil collection and began collecting, profiling,
and cataloging Web sites. Today, this carefully selected, continually updated, musty archive consists of thousands of perky, but not insouciant; bold, but not overbearing;
elegant, yet understated Web sites. The following gems celebrate fun, frolic, and frivolity. I hope they’ll put a smile on
your face as we careen headlong into the New Year.
Amusing Facts (www.amusingfacts.com)
An eclectic collection of relatively useless-but-amusing
information. Did you know that a cat has 32 muscles in
each ear? That astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s mother’s maiden
name was Moon? No, wait. Maybe it’s Buzz Aldrin’s mother
who has 32 muscles in each ear. I’ll get back to you on that.
Guess The Google
An interesting game that displays 20 images from a search
query. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to
guess the search term used to create the 20 images.
How Fast Do You Read?
So, you think you’re a pretty fast reader? Well, let’s put the
pedal to the peepers and find out. Follow the simple instructions and press the Start button, then begin reading. You’re
not trying to impress Evelyn Woods, so no skimming.
Mensa Workout (www.mensa.org/workout2.php)
Mensa’s members have IQs in the top 2% of the population—so clearly Mr. Modem has no firsthand experience
with the organization. If you think you’re a candidate for
membership, try the Mensa Workout by solving 30 problems in 30 minutes. Typical problem: “What number is
one half of one quarter of one tenth of 400?” I could figure
that out, of course, but my slide rule is in the repair shop.
After automatically tabulating your score, the Workout
46 January 2006
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will tell you if you’re Mensa material or if you
should leave the Web site immediately
and never return.
Name That Candybar
A low-fat, high-cyber Web game
that challenges you to identify nougatstuffed, peanut-laden, caramel-coated
cross sections of candybars. (And you
thought the Internet was a waste of time.)
Perpetual Bubble Wrap
Don’t ask. Just check it out.
Test Your Geography (www.lizardpoint.com/fun/geoquiz)
Start by selecting a continent. When the map appears,
you’ll be asked to locate a specific nation or state. I selected
Africa. What was I thinking? The question appeared,
“Where is Chad?” Clutching my mouse with trembling fingers, I selected a country. “No, that’s Ethiopia!” came the
reply. I was immediately transported back to fourth grade,
when Miss Kingsley glared at me and muttered, “Idiot!”
under her breath. Years of therapy down the drain, thanks
to one Web site.
Typing Test (www.typingtest.com/index.asp?go=typetest)
By typing a short paragraph as quickly and as accurately
as you can, you’ll find out your typing speed, accuracy and
net speed—no pun intended. You can view your results immediately or have them emailed to your former typing
teacher. Click the Begin Test link to start the festivities.
WordZap (www.wordzap.com)
Also known as the “addictionary” game, this is a fastpaced word game you can play online with others or (gulp)
against your computer. There are several iterations of the
game: EasyZap, LongZap, WordZap, MatchZap, and
Zappity-Doo-Dah. Well, OK, I made the last one up. With
EazyZap, you race to assemble small words. The first person
to create seven words wins.
May the coming year be your best yet! ❙❙
Mr. Modem (Richard Sherman) is an author, syndicated
columnist, radio host, and publisher. “Mr. Modem’s Weekly
Newsletter” provides personal responses to subscribers’ computer
and Internet questions, plus weekly computing tips, Web site
recommendations, virus alerts, hoax warnings, and more.
For additional information, visit www.MrModem.com.
Cable vs. DSL
High-Speed Heavyweights Duke It Out
t’s time to make the switch from dawdling
dial-up to mind-bending broadband, and if
you’re searching for a way to rev up your
Internet access, you’ll generally choose a
cable modem or DSL (Digital Subscriber
Line). These technologies work differently and
provide varying results, and depending on where
you live, one of these options might work much,
much better than the other.
The problem with selecting a high-speed ISP
(Internet service provider) is that marketing
spiel and technical jargon often make it hard to
determine which service best matches your
needs. In reality, though, choosing cable or
DSL service doesn’t take much guesswork—you
just need to do a bit of research before you make
your leap into high-speed heaven.
High-Speed Distinctions
Cable and phone companies have been battling
to provide high-speed Internet services for years,
and although the war isn’t yet over, cable is currently winning the fight. In 2005, there were
more than 19 million cable service subscribers
and around 14 million DSL subscribers across
the United States. Though they’re both touted
as high-speed alternatives to dial-up Internet access, cable and DSL don’t work the same way.
As the name implies, a cable Internet connection
works through the same kind of line that provides
cable TV access. The fact that existing cable wiring
provides an infrastructure for Internet access is one
reason that cable ISPs are so popular. In order to use
your cable line for Internet access, you need a cable
modem and an Internet account with the local cable
service provider. Once it’s set up, a cable connection
offers a maximum potential data transfer rate (also
known as bandwidth) of 30Mbps (megabits per
second). Real-world speeds, however, are generally
much slower, at about 1.5 to 3Mbps.
DSL doesn’t use cable wiring to supply your
Internet access. Instead, DSL flows through the
copper telephone lines already installed in your
48 January 2006
/ www.smartcomputing.com
home. This technology works by utilizing a large range of frequencies that
go unused by voice communication, a
fact that means you can carry on a long
talk with your cousin on the phone at
the same time you’re downloading
photos from his Caribbean vacation via
your DSL modem. With a typical DSL
connection, you can anticipate an optimal data rate of somewhat less than
6Mbps, but most customers find their
best speeds top out at around 1.5Mbps.
Technological Tangles
You might take these numbers and
think that cable Internet access automatically means you’ll get the best
possible speeds. After you take a closer
look at the specifics, though, you’ll realize that a number of other factors affect overall connection quality.
Distance affects DSL speed. That
means that the closer you are to the
telephone company, the faster your
connection will be, and if you’re several
miles away, well, that fast connection
Qwest is one of many companies that
offers significant discounts on high-speed
Internet access when you order other
products and services.
Using a router, such as this one from D-Link, will let
you share your high-speed Internet service
among PCs in your home.
might be very sluggish by the time it reaches your
home. Some companies install repeaters that amplify weakening signals
to increase the service’s range.
In addition, if there are components,
such as loading coils (used to amplify
voice signals), on the service lines between your home and the central telephone company, it might not be
possible for you to order DSL. And because different phone companies use
different copper wire in their systems,
the wire’s gauge (i.e., diameter) also
may affect speed. In some areas, 26gauge wire is common, but other companies use 24-gauge wire that sends a
DSL signal farther before it begins
weakening. No matter which kind of
wire your ISP uses, in many cases,
DSL’s speed is more consistent than
cable because you have your own direct
line that provides a constant data rate.
Cable broadband connections have
speed limits, too, but for different reasons. When you connect to a cable
line, you’re plugging into a network
that includes your neighbors who use a
cable connection. As more people flip
on their cable televisions and surf the
Web, the more likely it is that you’ll encounter slower transmission speeds
due to the fact that
you’re sharing bandwidth. Because results
vary greatly depending
on cable network traffic, many cable service providers
don’t advertise data transfer speeds as a
selling point.
As you research your Internet service options, keep in mind that both
DSL and cable providers often impose
speed caps. They may do this so that
their networks can offer service to
more customers in the area or so that
they can provide varying levels of service and then charge more for higherspeed connections.
Networking & Security
Speed aside, there are other issues
that will affect your decision in
choosing between DSL or cable service.
Most notably, you’ll want to know the
details about how easy or difficult it is
to use these services for home networking and about how to secure these
connections from outside threats, such
as viruses and hackers.
You shouldn’t experience any problems sharing a cable or DSL connection
between multiple computers in your
home. Connection sharing software or
a router will make the setup easy.
However, be sure to look at your terms
of service contract to make sure it’s
kosher to distribute the connection
throughout your home because in
some areas you have to pay a small
extra fee to do so.
As far as security goes,
you won’t find a huge
benefit from choosing one
service over the other. It’s
true that cable service
Check out company ratings from
independent sources, such as J.D.
Power, which provide service scores
for major Internet service providers.
works through an expansive LAN
(local-area network), but the cable
modem you receive from your ISP integrates hardware-based security capabilities that shield your PC from the
worst kinds of attacks. DSL direct line
does provide a slightly more secure
setup, but you’ll still need to use software, such as a firewall and antivirus
products, to keep your data safe.
Costs and service. There’s always
the issue of cost. Cable modem service typically costs more than DSL,
and that trend should continue as
cable providers often boost their
prices, even as phone companies slash
the cost of DSL. In late 2005, a survey
from research firm SG Cowen indicated that cable service was up to 75%
more expensive than DSL. Keep in
mind that prices vary and that bundled communications deals may reduce your overall costs.
Customer service and reliability are
also factors in deciding between DSL
and cable. Before you choose, talk to
your neighbors about their experiences.
If they’ve had consistent nagging problems with a specific service, heed their
warnings. For more information, check
out the J.D. Power Consumer Center
site (www.jdpower.com/cc/telecom
/ratings/isp_highspeed/index.jsp) for
detailed information on ISP ratings.
The Center breaks down ISP ratings
into eight categories, and the ratings
will give you a better picture of what
you can expect from companies.
You Can Still Switch
If you’ve already ordered one connection service and found that it’s not
meeting your needs, consider switching
to the other technology. Yes, you’ll
have to pay another installation fee,
and you’ll be stuck waiting for the service provider to activate your connection, but the money you spend might
reduce your frustration levels and
make your Internet experiences a lot
more fun. ❙❙
Smart Computing / January 2006
Park It Here
Drive-ins.com Has Featured Attractions
For All Types Of Audiences
so you can make a note of the event’s
date and other details.
Headlines. Below the scrolling announcements, you’ll see links for recent news items. A headline, date, and
newspaper is listed for each item, and
if you’d like to see more than the four
news items listed here, click the All
News link.
Daily stats. Now look on the home
page’s left side for a section labeled
with the current date. At the time of
this writing, the section heading was
For October 26, 2005, and the data
below gave us a current tally of the
site’s content: 4,880 theaters; 13,938
photos; and 1,491 media entries.
From The Menu
ertain events from our youth
hold great meaning for us, and
many of us enjoy visiting a particular location again and again, so we
can somehow relive those special
times. Drive-ins.com (www.driveins.com) is a Web site that caters to
this need by reminding us of what it
was like to spend warm summer nights
outdoors watching movies with our
friends. At the same time, it spreads
the word about the hundreds of driveins still in operation throughout the
country—just in case we’d like to visit
them for old times’ sake . . . or to
create some new memories.
Drive Up To The Gate
When you visit Drive-ins.com for
the first time, it might disappoint you
to see that most of the home page’s
background is black, making its text
somewhat difficult to read. If you can
get past this initial setback, however,
you’ll find that the site has a lot of fascinating details to share.
The home page is packed with content—so much that we don’t have
room to cover it all, but we’ll point out
some of the highlights. Many of the
links you see in the middle of the
home page are the same links you’ll
find if you click the various categories
from the menu on the left. So instead
of covering the links here, we’ll discuss
them in the From The Menu section.
Welcome. Each time you access the
home page (or click Welcome from
the menu), you’ll see a different photo
and product listing display along the
right side of the page. Click a photo’s
link, and Drive-ins.com will present a
page full of information about the
drive-in in the photo. If you click the
product’s links or snapshot, you’ll be
introduced to the money-making side
of Drive-ins.com: selling memorabilia.
Events. Toward the middle of the
home page, you’ll notice a section
that has scrolling announcements.
When you see an event you’d like to
attend, simply click the tiny square
icon on the right to stop the scrolling,
Drive-ins.com provides visitors with several
ways to search for information, including
the use of a clickable map within its
Search Database section.
50 January 2006
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As we mentioned, the first menu
item, Welcome, just takes you back to
the home page. Other menu items—
Owner Resources, Open A Drive-In,
and Online Store—are primarily
geared toward those interested in purchasing or building a drive-in or collecting memorabilia. Instead, we’ll
concentrate on the remaining menu
items that include content for Web
surfers who are just browsing for the
sake of browsing.
Drive-In Museum. The Interactive
Statistics link at the top of the page
leads to some interesting, and even
surprising, data. For example, the
stats show that there are currently 419
drive-ins in operation, but there were
only 417 drive-ins in 2004, which
makes us wonder why there’s an increase (albeit a slight one). But when
we look at the next set of graphs, we
notice that seven new drive-ins
opened in 2005 and three drive-ins
reopened, whereas only one new
drive-in opened in 2004 and no driveins reopened that year.
Below these graphs, you’ll see which
states have the most and the fewest
drive-ins. The surprise here is that
you’d expect a warm, populated, and
large state such as California to have
one of the higher numbers (24 driveins), but you may not expect a cooler,
Throughout the site, you’ll find numerous
photos, such as this rundown drive-in from the
White Mountain region of New Hampshire.
less populated, and smaller state such
as Indiana to have nearly as many (23).
As you probably noticed, the
Interactive Statistics page shows that
drive-ins originated in the 1930s. If you
ever wondered what started the whole
trend, go back to the Drive-In Museum
page and click the Hollingshead’s Story
link. According to the article, many believe Richard Hollingshead invented
drive-ins primarily to sell automobiles,
but then the trend took on a life of its
own. Hollingshead opened the world’s
first drive-in in June 1933 in Camden,
N.J. The second drive-in, Shankweiler’s
Auto Park of Orefield, Penn., opened
its gates in April 1934, and amazingly,
it’s still in operation today. The article
estimates that there were 4,063 driveins in 1958 throughout the United
States and Canada—but daylightsaving time, televisions, and VCRs
soon took their toll, and attendance
started to decline.
Reference Library. The very first
link, Finding Long Gone Drive-Ins,
accesses an article that explains how
to use various resources and a GPS
(global positioning system) device to
find the locations of former drive-ins.
The Drive-In Dictionary is another link that leads to some useful
information. For example, another
menu item we’ll cover in this article is Ozoner Central. So, what’s an
ozoner? According to this dictionary, it’s “an outdoor movie theatre
in which the patrons view a film
from their automobile.”
The Media Indices link opens a
page that reveals how rich in detail
Drive-ins.com really is. Here, you’ll
find links to all sorts of resources, including TV coverage of drive-ins
(Television link), photos of drive-in
marquees and murals (Marquees and
Murals links below Photo Indices),
and lists of which drive-ins no longer
exist (Torn Down link below General/Status). Plus, this page has links
to every U.S. state (as well as International and Canada links) below its
Open Theaters, Closed Theaters, and
All Theaters headings.
Search Database. In this area you
can conduct a ZIP code search, a city
and/or state search, as well as several
types of keyword-related searches, including searching for media and images. At the very bottom is a clickable
map you can use to see where all of
the open and closed drive-ins are
across the United States.
Regular Features. If you’d like to
read about other people’s memories
T i p s For Using Drive-ins.com
New and improved
After you become a regular at
Drive-ins.com, you’ll probably want
to periodically check out its What’s
New section. Along the right side of
the home page, you’ll find links to
updated drive-in records, recently
posted photos, and theaters that
Drive-ins.com has added to its site.
The complete picture
If you ever become overwhelmed
while browsing the many pages at
Drive-ins.com or are just curious
about how many areas the site has,
look on the left side of the page and
click the Site Map link below the
Shortcuts heading. (The same link is
at the bottom of most of its pages.)
n 1995, when Kipp Sherer and his
sister Jennifer Sherer Janisch set
out to research all things drive-inrelated, they were simply compiling
information so they could open
their own drive-in. But as their findings accumulated, they later decided
to share it with others interested in
memorabilia and the drive-in industry, so they created Driveins.com to serve as, in their words,
“The Definitive Resource for DriveIn Information.” ❙
of drive-ins, you’ll need to check out
some of the stories featured in this
section. Click the Stories link to find
one of our favorites, “A Yankee in a
Texas Drive-in,” which gives readers
an account of what it was like to work
at a drive-in in 1964.
Ozoner Central. The Ozoner Card is
free, but it requires you to fill out an
online application with some personal
info, including your name, address,
and email address. You’ll receive discounts and special offers you can use at
participating locations.
Press Kit. When you click Press Kit
from the menu, Drive-ins.com presents a virtual smorgasbord of treats
and trivia—all organized and easy to
browse. Curious about where the current startup projects are? Ever wonder
which drive-ins are on Route 66?
Trying to remember which movies included scenes filmed at drive-ins?
You’ll find the answers to these questions and more in this section.
At A Theater Near You
The last item in the menu, Links,
leads to a multitude of sites where you
can continue browsing and quenching
your thirst for knowledge about driveins. And if that doesn’t work, head for
the nearest concession stand. ❙❙
Smart Computing / January 2006
Enhance Your Time Online
Name That Process
Download New DLLs
Problem: My Windows
XP system is a bit sluggish.
My virus-checking software says the PC is clean,
but I still feel like there’s
a problem.
Solution: A great free and
(relatively) easy troubleshooting tip for Windows
is to check out your
processes. Sure, you can
easily see all the programs
that are currently running
on your machine, but in
addition to those obvious
ones, 20 to 30 miniprograms are usually running
behind the scenes. They are
strange little things such as
Csrss.exe and Svchost.exe.
Before you go tweaking
your system, find out
what is what by looking
up these invisible files at
ProcessLibrary.com (www
.processlibrary.com). This
way, you can discover if the
culprit is a necessary system
process or a nasty piece of
spyware. If you’re not all
that familiar with this kind
of under-the-hood work,
be sure to take this site’s
virtual tour.
Problem: I keep getting this
annoying pop-up message
that says something about
not being able to find a
DLL file. What’s a DLL,
and where did all mine go?
Solution: DLL stands for
dynamic-link library.
These files are very similar
to the invisible .EXE
processes described in the
previous tip. While
ProcessLibrary.com can
tell you what is what,
DLL-files.com (www
.dll-files.com) can find
you a replacement. At this
site, you will find the most
common files that could
be missing or corrupted
from you system. Download a new file for free
and say goodbye to that
error message.
Take A Load Off
Problem: Google’s Gmail
boasts more than 2GB of
storage, but I can’t send an
attached file larger than
10MB. What are my filetransfer options?
Solution: Online storage is
becoming more and more
Get an invitation for a
free Gmail account.
widespread. Streamload
(www.streamload.com) offers you a place to upload
and store your files. You
can email someone a link
to your stuff and bypass
the 10MB limit of Gmail
(although Streamload has
a 100MB download limit
for its free service).
Interestingly, if you store
audio or video files at this
site, it will let you stream
them without first downloading them to your hard
drive. Too bad you can
store up to 10GB of your
music files, but only
stream about two CDs
worth per month for free.
Gmail Invitation
Reveal the system processes under the hood of your computer.
52 January 2006
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Problem: I don’t care about
email limits—I want a
Gmail account. But I don’t
know anyone who can send
me an invitation.
Solution: Ah, the dilemma
of not having any wellconnected friends. Fear not,
dear readers, for a Gmail
invitation is yours . . . if you
have a cell phone that can
receive text messages.
Google has a special page to
get this invitation
/SmsMailSignup1). Just
enter your mobile number
and wait for the good news.
Sorry, Canadians: Google’s
cell phone invitation is only
good in the United States.
Find The Best
Cell Service
Problem: My cellular
contract is up, and I’m
exploring my options.
Solution: If you’re cell
phone shopping, you know
that you are looking for
three things: the best carrier/coverage, the best
phone, and the best plan.
How to maximize all three?
Head on over to Wirefly
(www.wirefly.com). Yes,
Wirefly is an online retailer,
so if you choose Shop By
Phone or Shop By Plan,
you’ll see Wirefly’s deals.
But if you select Shop By
Carrier, you’ll see the available carriers in your ZIP
code, rated by their local
coverage quality, plan costs,
and customer care. All of
which are good to know, no
matter where you choose to
purchase a new phone.
Letters, Envelopes
& Stationery,
Oh My!
Although some of us switched from
the pen to the keyboard and never
looked back, many others still prefer to
write missives by hand, especially if
they’re writing to friends or family. If
you’re a pen-and-paper fan when
writing personal notes, check out
FineStationery.com’s decorated paper
and cards. The online shop has plenty
of cards for popular occasions, such as
Wedding, Baby, and Holiday, but
letter-writers can skip these and head
straight to the Stationery section. Try
looking into categories you would normally ignore—chances are, you’ll find
paper treasures in every section.
seems to have an Internet connection.
Thus, many people find rumor emails
in their inboxes every day: letters that
provide misinformation about house
products, celebrities, and even natural
disasters. Some rumor-mongers also
add pictures to their emails to make
them more believable. If you read an
email that just doesn’t sound right
and you want to see whether someone is trying to dupe you, check
out Hoaxbusters, which is affiliated
with the CIAC (Computer Incident
Advisory Capability; www.ciac.org),
part of the U.S. Department Of
Energy. Hoaxbusters offers articles
that help users spot hoax emails, and
it also lists hundreds of hoaxes.
Thanks to the hoax database, you can
quickly check to see if you’re looking
at a known rumor.
Hallmark’s huge Web site offers
much more than cards. Savvy Web
surfers, for instance, can tunnel
through the site’s maze of features to
the Free Templates section, which
lets them create printable greeting
cards and stationery (click Cards
& Stationery, Stationery & Invitations, Free Templates, and Stationery
Notes). So long as said surfers don’t
mind using their own printer ink,
they’ll have plenty of fun choosing
and printing colorful stationery. If you
prefer to send greetings electronically,
check out the free ecards. (A link is on
the site’s main page.) The site has tons
of themed ecards and ecards that feature our favorite animated rabbit-like
characters: Hoops and Yoyo.
Joon New York
You’ll find plenty of gifts for the
friend or family member who pens
her letters at Joon New York’s Web
site. This luxury pen store (which has
several real-world store fronts in the
United States) boasts expensive but
gorgeous pens from a variety of wellknown pen makers, including Cross,
Faber-Castell, and Parker. Visitors
shopping on a budget should head
straight to the Pen Search tool, which
lets them shop by price. (The store has
plenty of pens in its least-expensive
category, $25.) Window shoppers will
get an eyeful by simply clicking any of
the brand names in the Pen Directory.
Primary Games
Need a last-minute gift for a school
teacher? Head on over to Primary
Games and print out some stationery
There are some very bored people
out there, and every last one of them
54 January 2006
/ www.smartcomputing.com
that will wow her students. The
education-oriented site, which bills itself as The Fun Place To Learn, has
several templates that cover such
themes as Back To School, Dinosaurs,
Hanukkah, Stormy Weather (for
writing to parents of particularly rambunctious students, we suppose), and
Ice Cream. To find this online treasure trove, type stationery into the
main page’s search box. Keep in mind
that although the templates are free,
your printer ink isn’t—run a test page
before you commit to 50 pages of
your new stationery.
Why write your own letters when
you can read other people’s missives?
Rivertrout.com is an ever-growing
online collection of hand-picked letters (handpicked from submissions to
the site, that is). As if a database of
letters isn’t entertaining enough,
Rivertrout.com’s main page features a
partially wrapped fish. You’ll need to
run the cursor over various parts of
the fish to find the database’s categories. The head, for example, links
to the Letters Of Reason category.
Weird? Yes. Fun? Very.
U.S. Postal Service
If you still stand in long lines at the
post office, check out the mail carrier’s
Web site. You can schedule pickups,
print shipping labels, buy supplies,
and even print stamps, all from your
home computer and printer. If you’re
planning to move, visit the Receiving
Your Mail section, which lets you put
a hold on your mail delivery or change
addresses. If you’re looking for a lastminute gift, check out the NetPost
CardStore section, which features gift
cards from more than a dozen popular
stores. And if you want to print your
own postage, click the Print Online
Postage link on the main page. This
section lists several online postage services and offers some tips.
To You
Finding the appropriate Usenet discussion group to match your interests
can be a monumental task. So each
month, we scour tens of thousands of
newsgroups and highlight ones that
delve into popular topics. If your ISP
(Internet service provider) doesn’t
carry these groups, ask it to add the
groups to its list. This month we hunt
for pen pals.
You won’t find many discussions
about writing letters in the world
of Usenet, but if you also enjoy
writing stories and articles, you’ll
find plenty of friends here. This
group’s users also discuss books
about writing. Of course, some
threads occasionally wander
completely off-topic, but most
users keep the group clean and
Sure, many of this group’s users
live outside the United States,
but what is the Internet if not a
tool that crosses borders? These
group members discuss a wide
range of writing topics and
sometimes cover related topics,
such as self-publishing.
If you’d like to trade emails with a
stranger, post a message to this
group. You’ll find that there
are plenty of users who
post irrelevant messages
here, but many
potential pen pals
also read (and
respond to)
pen pal postings.
Some of the best apples in the online orchard are the free (or free to try)
programs available for download. Each month we feature highlights from
our pickings. This month, we add a personal touch to our envelopes.
Those who pass up the standard stamp roll in favor of the U.S. Postal
Service’s special edition stamps will get a kick out of the new online stamp
service, PhotoStamps. Instead of cooking up new stamp art, the service lets
you step into the designer’s shoes: It will print your digital images directly
onto legitimate stamps. For example, you can put your newborn granddaughter’s smiling face on every envelope. Who knows? Maybe the folks at
your car insurance agency will be too distracted by your granddaughter to
notice that the bill is late. It’s worth a try.
You kick off the fun by uploading a digital picture from your computer’s
hard drive to the site’s server. (You don’t need to bother with an account
until you’re ready to pay.) The process is simple: When you click the
Browse button in the site’s Upload Your Photo area, you’ll see the standard Choose File box that lets you navigate your hard drive. Select your
picture, click the Open button, and then click the Upload button.
The site then displays an image of a stamp that includes your photo,
complete with a solid border. Tools below the picture let you choose a
border color and make minor adjustments to the picture. (You can rotate
it and zoom in or out.) Keep in mind that these tools only help you position the picture on the stamp—if you want to remove the red dots from
Uncle Joe’s eyes, you’ll need to adjust the picture in your own photoediting software before you upload it. This page also lets you choose the
type of stamp you want to buy and displays the price per sheet. (A standard sheet contains 20 37-cent stamps for $16.99.) PhotoStamps mails the
sheets of stamps to you. You can pay a little extra to speed up delivery, but
the standard processing and shipping method should put the stamps
in your mailbox in about a
week to a week
and a half.
Spice up your outgoing mail with
customized stamps. We were
surprised to find that the pictures in
our test stamps were as beautiful as
the original photos.
Choose a border color and tweak
your picture in PhotosStamps’
online stamp editor. You can
load multiple pictures if you buy
additional sheets.
Smart Computing / January 2006
Make It All Add Up
Solve Spreadsheet Software
Play It Like You Mean It
Tackle Media Player Irritations
Light My Fire
Make Your Disc-Burning Drives
& Applications Burn Brightly
Pictures Of Perfection
Straighten Those Photo-Editing
Software Curves
Fix Up Your Fixer-Uppers
Hammer Out Troublesome
System Utilities
Control Your Computer Cops
What To Do When Security
Programs Aren’t Secure
56 January 2006
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Troubleshoot Your Software
Your word processor may conflict with one of the programs that
loads automatically each time Windows starts. You can use
the System Configuration Utility to determine which one.
ord processing is,
without a doubt, one
of the simplest tasks
you can perform on a
computer. You press
keys on the keyboard, and alphanumerical characters appear on-screen . . .
and that’s usually all there is to it.
Unfortunately, computers don’t always
work as they should, even when executing the most elementary functions.
General Problems
Different Word processors generally
experience the same set of problems:
They won’t start, they won’t open files,
they won’t save files, etc. In most cases,
they experience these problems for different reasons. Of course, there are always a few exceptions.
Word processor won’t start. A
conflict with another program or
component on your system may prevent you from starting your wordprocessing software. Certain updates
for McAfee VirusScan Home Edition
7.0 are known to conflict with the latest
versions of Microsoft Word, for instance, while the Novell Client for
Microsoft Networks has a tendency to
clash with WordPerfect 10. You can
eradicate some of these conflicts by accessing the System Configuration
Utility and disabling the programs that
launch at startup.
Do so by opening the Start menu,
selecting Run, typing msconfig in the
Open field, and pressing ENTER. From
the System Configuration Utility, access the Startup tab, click the Disable
All button, and click OK. Reboot your
PC. After Windows restarts, try to run
your word processor. If it starts without a hitch, the diagnosis is indeed a
conflict between the word processor and one of the programs
identified in the System Configuration Utility. But if the
problem persists, you’ll know the cause
lies elsewhere, so you’ll need to look for
another solution. (See the Word and
WordPerfect sections in this article for
program-specific recommendations.)
Word processor won’t respond
to input. The most likely cause of
input problems is an improperly connected mouse or keyboard. If your
word processor fails to respond to the
keys you press and buttons you click,
make sure the mouse and keyboard
cables are securely connected to the
proper ports. For best results, reboot
the system after reconnecting the cables. (If you’re using a wireless mouse
or keyboard, don’t forget to check the
batteries in both devices.)
the updates provided at the Office
Downloads page (office.microsoft
.com/en-us/officeupdate). Others, like
those listed below, require a do-ityourself solution.
Word won’t launch. Microsoft
Word will refuse to start if it encounters a conflict with a add-in or
template. You may be able to resolve
this issue by eliminating extra bits of
code from your system. To do so, open
My Computer and locate the PROGRAM FILES\MICROSOFT OFFICE\
<YOUR OFFICE VERSION NUMBER>\STARTUP folder on the Windows drive (the drive where Windows
is installed). Cut and paste the contents
of this folder into the WINDOWS\
TEMP folder. Do the same with the
contents of the DOCUMENTS AND
WORD\STARTUP folder. Close My
Computer and then restart Word to see
if it opens correctly.
(NOTE: The Application Data folder
is a hidden folder. To view it, open the
Tools menu in My Computer and select
Folder Options. Select the Show Hidden
Files And Folders option on the View tab
of the resulting dialog box and click OK.)
Word processor won’t let me edit a
file. You can’t edit a document file
that’s write-protected or currently open
on another computer in the network. If
you receive an error message indicating
that a file cannot be changed, you either
must wait for it to become available or
try to disable the write-protection. You
may be able to accomplish the latter by
closing the document file, opening My
Computer, locating the file on your
system, right-clicking it, selecting Properties from the pop-up menu, choosing
the General tab, deselecting the Read
Only option, and clicking OK.
Microsoft Word
Microsoft Word, which is the most
popular word processing application in
use today, has its share of issues. You
can resolve many of them by installing
The Normal.dot file is corrupted.
Normal.dot is the document template that appears within Word each
time you open a new file. The template
remembers your personal settings, including formatting preferences and
customized toolbars. If this file becomes damaged or corrupted, an error
will appear and Word will not start.
Smart Computing / January 2006
Troubleshoot Your Software
The easiest solution to this problem
is to read the full text of the error message and follow the corresponding instructions. In many cases, you can fix
the problem by allowing Word to create
a new Normal.dot file. You also should
scan your system for the presence of
macro viruses, which are known to infect and damage the Normal.dot file.
Another possibility is renaming the
Normal.dot file to prompt Windows
into creating a new Normal.dot file and
restoring several program options to
their default settings. Locate the file on
your system (it’s typically located in the
and right-click it. Select Rename from
the pop-up menu, type Normold.dot,
press ENTER, and then reopen Word.
You’ll know the solution worked if
Word opens as it should. Complete the
process by restoring your preferred
program settings and deleting the
Normold.dot file.
The Getting Started task pane
appears each time Word opens.
The latest version of Word is set by default to display the Getting Started task
pane each time the program starts. You
can disable this pane by opening the
Tools menu, selecting Options, deselecting the Startup Task Pane option
on the View tab of the resulting dialog
box, and clicking OK.
key, select Delete from the pop-up
menu, and click Yes.
Word won’t open a file. If an error
message prevents you from retrieving an existing document file, you
can try several workaround solutions.
The first is to update your antivirus
utility. A compatibility issue exists between the latest editions of Microsoft
Office and several antivirus programs.
Retrieving the latest updates for your
antivirus utility may rectify the situation. While you’re at it, scan your
system for malignant code that can
damage your document files and prevent them from opening properly.
Next, you should determine whether
the problem lies with the program or
with the file. You can do so by opening
the Run dialog box and typing the following string (including the quotation
marks) in the Open field (if necessary,
replace c with the appropriate drive
letter; replace OfficeFolderName with
the name of the folder that corresponds with your version of Office,
such as Office10 or Office11):
“c:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\
OfficeFolderName\Winword.exe” /a
This command tells Windows to
start Word without loading related
add-ins or templates. When Word
starts, try to open the file again. If
you’re successful this time, you’ll know
that the problem lies with Word. Refer
to the instructions outlined in the
You can address many other Word-related issues
with help from the program’s built-in Support Template .
If that doesn’t work, you can edit the
Registry (after backing it up first, of
course). Close all programs, open the
Start menu, select Run, type regedit in
the Open field, and click OK. When the
Registry Editor appears, locate the
DoNotDismissFileNewTaskPane key at
COMMON\GENERAL. Right-click the
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“Word won’t launch” section we covered previously to remove add-ins and
templates. If you can’t access the file,
however, the document is damaged or
corrupted, so try to open a backup
copy of the file instead.
A third step is to strong-arm Word
into opening the document file. To
do this, access the Open dialog box
through the File menu and locate the
To delete unnecessary add-ins and templates
in Word, you must set Windows to display the
Application Data folder. Do so by selecting the
Show Hidden Files And Folders option in the
Folder Options dialog box.
You may be able to work around problems
with the Normal.dot template by renaming it
as Normold.dot and restarting Windows.
document on your system. Highlight
the file, click the arrow on the Open
button, and select Open And Repair.
You also can try to open the file
in WordPad, which comes bundled with all recent editions of
Windows and is located in the
Accessories submenu portion of
the Start menu. You may lose
some formatting by using WordPad,
but it will save your data.
Other problems. You can address
many other Word-related issues
with help from the program’s built-in
Support Template. To install the template, open the Control Panel and click
Add Or Remove Programs in Windows XP or Add/Remove Programs in
Troubleshoot Your Software
Windows Me. In the resulting dialog
box, locate your Microsoft Office installation and click the corresponding
Change (or Add/Remove) button.
From this point, the process varies
depending on whether you have Word
2002 or 2003 and WinXP or WinMe.
In any case, you can safely proceed by
following the on-screen prompts to indicate that you want to add or remove
Office features. Specify that you want
to choose the advanced customization
of applications (if prompted) and then
burrow through folders dedicated to
Microsoft Word and Wizards And
Templates. Next, opt to run the More
Templates And Macros option from
your computer. Finally, click the
Update button to install the advanced
templates and macros, including the
Support Template.
To run the Support Template, open
the Run dialog box and type the following string (including the quotation
marks) in the Open field (if necessary,
replace c with the appropriate drive
letter; replace OfficeFolderName with
the actual folder name):
“c:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\
OfficeFolderName\Winword.exe” /a
“c:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\
If Word refuses to open a
document, force the issue by
exercising the Open And Repair
command in the Open dialog box.
The Support Template will display
when you click OK. Next, click the
Troubleshoot Utility option and
follow the on-screen instructions to
address several of the most common
Word problems.
Corel WordPerfect
Like Microsoft Word, Corel
WordPerfect is prone to occasional
glitches, some of which are resolved
by fixes contained in the latest
WordPerfect service packs. You can
download and install the latest updates for your copy of WordPerfect
by visiting the Support Services page
at www.corel.com/support.
WordPerfect will not start.
Assuming you have the latest
WordPerfect updates and have ruled
out a conflict with another application, startup problems in WordPerfect may be the result of a corrupted default template.
The easiest way to resolve these
types of problems is by locating
the template on your system and
deleting it. You can find the default
template, which has a unique name
that includes the version number
and an abbreviation representing a
region or a language, by searching
your system for a file that matches
this format: Wp<version number>
Interestingly, problems with the
printer also may prevent WordPerfect from opening properly. You
can resolve these printer-related
hang-ups by updating the printer
driver, deleting offline printers from
the Printers And Faxes folder (the
Printers folder in WinMe) in the
Control Panel, selecting a new default printer, and possibly even
disconnecting and then reconnecting the default printer.
Simply insert the installation disc
and indicate that you want to
modify or add components to the
current installation. The exact procedure varies with each WordPerfect
version, so just follow the on-screen
WordPerfect won’t open
files. Two reasons most
likely explain why WordPerfect
won’t open a particular file: Either
the file is corrupted (in which case,
you should try to replace it with an
uncorrupt backup file copy) or
WordPerfect doesn’t recognize the
file format. Fortunately, you can
configure the program to recognize
additional file formats.
Renaming and then deleting the
Odma32.dll file is the typical solution
when WordPerfect refuses to print.
instructions to install all conversion
file types or filters on your system.
WordPerfect won’t save files.
If WordPerfect crashes when
you try to save a document, the culprit may be a superfluous Odma32.dll
file. You can eliminate this problem
by renaming the file (typically located
in the WINDOWS\SYSTEM folder
and necessary only if your PC is
running a document management
system) to Odma32.old.
Beyond The Basics
Both Microsoft and Corel maintain extensive online databases for
users to find solutions to problems
that may affect their various word
processing programs. Consult these
resources (at support.microsoft.com
and support.corel.com) if you experience a problem we didn’t have
room to cover in this article. ❙❙
Smart Computing / January 2006
rustrating problems can crop
up in spreadsheet applications
from time to time (and perhaps more often than that in some of
them). Regardless of whether you receive an error message, your computer freezes, or you just can’t get the
application to open, these problems
can really throw a wrench in your
workflow until they’re solved. We
are going to tackle some common
problems seen in three of the most
popular spreadsheet applications:
Microsoft Excel, Corel Quattro Pro,
and Lotus 1-2-3.
Tools menu and click the Save tab.
On this tab you can adjust how often
AutoRecover saves your workbook.
(10 minutes is the default.)
You also can change the location
where Excel will save these files. The
default location is C:\DOCUMENTS
EXCEL, but all you have to do to
make a change is type another file
path in the designated field. Keep in
mind that any files you retrieve
through AutoRecover won’t reflect
the edits you made since the last
Excel is the spreadsheet component
of the Microsoft Office Suite, the
most recent version of which is Office
2003. Excel is the most commonly
used spreadsheet application in the
United States, so that’s why we’re
covering it first.
Your computer crashes while you
have an Excel workbook open.
Excel 2003 uses an AutoRecover function to save temporary copies of your
files as you work on them. To access
this feature, select Options from the
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You receive an error message
while saving an Excel file. When
Excel saves a file, it initially creates a
temporary file and moves that file to
the same folder as your original file.
Excel then deletes the original file
and gives the temporary file the original file’s name. If Excel is interrupted during this process by a
network failure, a computer crash, or
the removal of media, a “Save” error
may occur.
If you see a “Document not saved”
error message, it means that an interruption occurred during the creation of
a temporary file. Chances are your
Microsoft Excel
AutoRecover save. For this reason it’s
important to choose a recovery interval that makes you comfortable.
If all goes well, a list of AutoRecover
files will appear the first time you
open Excel after a computer or program crash. If this list doesn’t appear
or if you accidentally close it before selecting the file you need, you may still
be able to find the file on your computer. Check your AutoRecover settings to find the temporary file
location and see if your file is in that
folder. If it is, it will likely be a hidden
file. To display hidden files, open
Windows Explorer, select Folder
Options from the Tools menu, click
the View tab, select Show Hidden Files
And Folders, and click OK.
Change the interval at which AutoRecover
saves files to a time frame that ensures
you’ll have a speedy recovery if the Excel
program or your computer freezes in the
middle of a lengthy process.
Troubleshoot Your Software
around for quite awhile and has developed many loyal users. The most
recent release of the office package is
SmartSuite 9.8.
Nonalphanumeric characters in paths and
file names can cause errors when inserting
or using hyperlinks in Excel.
original file is still open, looking as if
you hadn’t even tried to save it. Because any changes you made since your
last successful save are still in your
open document, just try to save the file
again but in a different location. If you
see a slightly different error message
that states “Document not saved. Any
previously saved copy has been deleted,” it means an interruption occurred during the deletion of the
original file or the renaming of the
temporary file. Although your original
file has been deleted in this case, the file
in which you’re working is still open so
you can save it in a different location.
When you add or open a hyperlink to another Excel file, an error
message appears. You may see an
error message similar to: “Microsoft
Excel could not open this file or could
not parse a file of this type” or
“Cannot open the selected file.” These
errors occur when the path or file
name contains nonalphanumeric
characters (such as {}) or characters
that Excel uses to indicate sheets and
cells (such as !$). Rename the file or
path to alleviate this problem. In addition, the total length of a path and a
file name in a hyperlink used in Excel
cannot exceed 218 characters.
Corel Quattro Pro
Quattro Pro is the spreadsheet
component of Corel’s WordPerfect
Office, and the most recent version of
this productivity package is WordPerfect Office 12.
Quattro Pro only allows 256
columns in a spreadsheet, but
you need more. By default, a Quattro
Pro spreadsheet has 256 columns. But
You have no backup of a corrupted 1-2-3 file, and you need
to retrieve its information as soon
as possible. One way or another, files
can become corrupted. But you
shouldn’t give up on recovering that
data until you’ve exhausted all your
options. Here are a few things you can
try before throwing in the towel.
First, try combining the corrupted
file with a new file. Start by creating a
new file in 1-2-3. Please note that this
new file needs to have at least one more
worksheet than the corrupted file; otherwise, you may receive the error message “Cannot move or copy data
beyond worksheet boundaries” when
trying to combine the worksheets.
Then, highlight the upper-left cell
(A:A1) in your new spreadsheet and
select Open from the File menu.
When the dialog box opens, select the
corrupted file, select the Combine
With Current Workbook checkbox,
if you are opening a larger spreadsheet from another application or
need to enter data in column 257, the
default amount isn’t enough. Don’t
worry, though; it isn’t difficult to add
as many columns as you need.
To do so select Settings from the
Tools menu to open the Options dialog box. In the navigation area on
the left, click the plus sign (+) next to
WorkSpaces and Application, select
Compatibility, and review the default
options listed for workbooks (called
notebooks in Quattro Pro). To increase (or decrease) the number of
columns, change the number in the
Columns field below Notebook Sizes
to any number between 1 and 18,278.
You sent a Quattro Pro file to
someone who has an earlier version of WordPerfect Office
and can’t read the file. It’s
frustrating to be the first
person to have the newest
software release only to realize that no one else can access your data. Quattro Pro,
however, can save files in
various formats so that
people with different versions can read them. To save
your file in an earlier version
of Quattro Pro, for example,
select Save As from the File
You can adjust the number of columns available in a Quattro
menu, select your recipient’s
Pro spreadsheet to any number between 1 and 18,278.
version from the File Type
drop-down menu, type a file
name in the File Name field, and click
and click the Combine button. In the
Save. Your file will now be readable in
Combine 1-2-3 File dialog box, select
the Quattro Pro version you selected.
Entire Workbook in the Combine area
and select Replace Current Values in
the Values From The File area. Click
Lotus 1-2-3
OK to combine your workbooks.
1-2-3, the spreadsheet component
Formatting from the corrupted file
of IBM’s Lotus SmartSuite, has been
may not transfer to the combined
Smart Computing / January 2006
Troubleshoot Your Software
Corel’s Quattro Pro lets you save files in
several different formats and versions.
Select the format you need from the File
Type drop-down menu.
workbook. Also, if you receive the message “Error unimplemented,” the file
may be too damaged
for 1-2-3 to extract its
data through the file
combination method.
If that’s the case, see the
following paragraph.
The second option
you can try is to link to the corrupted
file from a new file. Open Lotus 1-2-3
and link a cell to another cell in a
different 1-2-3 file. When you make
these links, any noncorrupt cells in
your corrupted worksheet will transfer their data to your new file. If the
file (or the particular cell you’ve selected) is too corrupted for this method, the linked cells in your new file
will display “ERR” instead of the data.
(This also is a way to determine which
cells are corrupted, thereby allowing
further investigation of the corruption source.)
To try this method, you must
first open a new 1-2-3 workbook.
Then, in the upper-left cell (A:A1),
type +<<path\filename>>A:A1 (substituting the actual path for path and
replacing filename with the name of
your corrupted file). You can now
copy and paste this cell to other cells
in your new file. When you use a regular copy/paste function, the formula
will paste to the new cell, but 1-2-3
will adjust it to reflect its new location. Thus, copying the formula in
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A:A1 and pasting it in A:D56 will result in a formula that ends as A:D56.
After you have copied and pasted
the formula, the data in the corresponding cells of your corrupted file
will appear in your new file. Although
the data that now appears in your
new file looks like values, they are actually links to corresponding cells in
your corrupted file. So, in order to
manipulate the data you see, you’ll
need to paste only the values.
Highlight and copy the cells you have
just linked and then highlight a cell in a
new worksheet (or a cell in an empty
area on your current worksheet). Select
Paste Special from the Edit menu. In
the dialog box that appears, select the
Formulas As Values checkbox and click
(or perhaps another app). Spreadsheet
applications may be able to retrieve
some of the formulas and the formatting of your spreadsheet instead of just
the data values you can retrieve through
a viewer or a word processing program.
The Lotus 1-2-3 application in
your SmartSuite version 9.8
crashes when you open it in Windows XP. When installing the Lotus
SmartSuite office package, the installation program may direct 1-2-3 to start
in a compatibility mode in Windows.
This compatibility mode is what may
cause the program to crash when you
launch it. To deactivate the compatibility mode, go to the Start menu
and find the Lotus 1-2-3 shortcut.
Right-click the 1-2-3
While using Lotus 1-2-3, you can link a new
icon, choose Propercell to a corresponding cell in a corrupted file
ties from the pop-up
by typing this formula in cell A:A1 (substituting
menu, and click the
your own path and file name, of course).
Compatibility tab.
You want to deactivate all the compatibility modes, so you’ll need to deselect
OK. The values visible in your corany of the selected options. When you
rupted file will now appear in your new
finish, click Apply and
file as values instead
OK. You can now sucof links.
cessfully launch 1-2-3.
If the aforementioned options don’t
work and you need to
All Is Not Lost
try our third option,
As any user knows,
begin by opening the
a number of probfile using another
application. Other aplems can occur while
plications may be
you’re working on a
able to read a corcomputer, but losing
rupted file (at least
numerical data can be
partially). For exespecially frustrating
ample, Lotus Smartbecause it’s nearly
Suite comes with a
impossible to piece
You need to deselect all the
file viewer that may
together again from
options on this Compatibility
be able to read your
tab to prevent Lotus 1-2-3 from
If your problem
file. You can print or
crashing when you launch it on
among the solcopy your workbook
a Windows XP computer.
utions and workfrom this viewer.
arounds we covered
Lotus Approach
here, take advantage of online user
and Lotus Word Pro (also in the Lotus
feedback areas and troubleshooting
SmartSuite) also can open 1-2-3 files.
tips via software developer sites. ❙❙
The most promising choice, however, is
to open your corrupted 1-2-3 file in
Microsoft Excel or Corel Quattro Pro
hen you sit down in front
of your PC to watch a
video or listen to music,
you expect to be entertained, not frustrated. And when there’s a problem
with a media player, it’s all the more
aggravating because this should be
your time for enjoyment and relaxation. The following troubleshooting
tips can help get your media player
back on track.
General Problems
The following tips apply to all
media players. But keep in mind that
although some of the other tips are
written for specific applications, the
same general principles may apply to
multiple programs.
I’m trying to open a file, but it
opens in the wrong media player.
It’s common to use more than one
media player on a PC, and you may
wish to change which one is the default
player. Finding the appropriate option
differs for each media player, so we’ll
cover the most popular ones. In WMP
(Windows Media Player), open the
Tools menu, select Options, and click
the File Types tab. In RealPlayer, open
the Tools menu, select Preferences,
click the plus sign (+) next to Content,
and click Media Types. In QuickTime,
open the Edit menu, select Preferences,
select QuickTime Preferences, and
click the File Types tab. In Winamp,
open the Options menu, select Preferences, and select File Types below
General Preferences.
A friend emailed a song to me,
but I can’t play it. Different
media players support different file
types. Check your player’s Help file
for supported file types or try opening
the file in a different player. Also, be
aware that some music files have
some type of copyright protection
that prevents users from playing them
on a third-party system.
64 January 2006
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which video card you have installed
and then visit the manufacturer’s Web
site to download the latest driver.
Windows Media Player
Almost every new PC running
Windows comes equipped with this
multifeatured media player, so that’s
why we are covering it first before
moving on to other players.
The audio sounds terrible when I
try to play a CD. If the audio
sounds like Rice Krispies (it snaps,
crackles, and pops), take advantage of
the built-in Error Correction tool.
Open the Tools menu, select Options,
and click the Devices tab. Highlight the
CD drive, click the Properties button,
select the Playback area’s Use Error
Correction checkbox, and click OK.
I can’t play a DVD at all. If you
know your drivers are current, and
you have the latest versions of Windows
and WMP, it’s possible that the trouble lies with the DVD decoder. By default, WMP doesn’t have a Windows
XP-compatible DVD decoder (which
would make WMP a full-featured DVD
player), but you can download compatible DVD decoders from www
Use the Compact Database option to speed
up your RealPlayer library.
Video playback is very choppy.
Distorted playback can have several causes, but one general solution
is to make sure your drivers are upto-date and not corrupted. Determine
Troubleshoot Your Software
Use the Error Correction tool
to fix audio problems in
Windows Media Player.
The radio station
I am listening to
keeps cutting out. It’s
likely that the streaming
media files, including those that originate from WMP’s radio stations, need
to buffer before they play. That is, the
sources need to send some content to
your PC before the files begin playing.
If you experience several interruptions,
manually increase the amount of buffer
time. In the Options dialog box, click
the Performance tab, select Buffer,
enter up to 60 seconds of buffering
time in the field, and click OK.
WMP isn’t syncing correctly to
my portable device. WMP isn’t
compatible with all portable devices (a
list of compatible devices is at www
.playsforsure.com), but even when
you’re syncing to a compatible device,
you may not be able to copy or play a
file. Make sure you aren’t syncing a
copyright-protected file and you have
an up-to-date decoder on your PC.
I paid my money, but I can’t
get any of RealPlayer’s premium
features. Once you pay for premium
services, you need to identify yourself
by signing in. Go to the Help menu,
and if you see Sign In within the menu,
you need to log in; if you see Sign Out
within the menu instead, you should
reset your cookies. Go to the Tools
menu, select Preferences, click the
Connection plus sign, select Internet/
Privacy, select the Enable RealPlayer
Cookies checkbox, and click OK.
The library is extremely slow.
Over time, as you add media
files and delete numerous clips, the library may develop a bad case of
lethargy. To pep it up, open the Preferences dialog box, expand My Library,
click Advanced My Library, click the
Database button, click the Compact
Database button, and click OK.
RealNetworks RealPlayer
A worthy rival to WMP, RealPlayer
was recently given Smart Computing’s
Smart Choice award when reviewed
among other popular media players.
I get an error message that RealPlayer cannot open “an audio device.” RealPlayer cannot function if
another application is using your
sound card. If you try to launch the
software in that situation, you’ll receive an error message. First of all,
make sure the sound card driver is
current. Then, press CTRL-ALTDELETE to open the Task Manager,
so you can close any other programs
that are using the sound card.
I’m trying to receive streaming
content, and I don’t have a
firewall, but Winamp thinks I do so I
can’t receive the content. If you’re
using WinXP, it’s possible you do have
a firewall that’s blocking content,
causing Winamp to display a firewallrelated error message. Each WinXP PC
comes with Windows Firewall. To turn
it off, open the Start menu, click
Control Panel, click Network And
Internet Connections, select Windows
Firewall, select Off, and click OK.
Nullsoft Winamp
Winamp is one of the hippest media
players around, but you may need to
do some troubleshooting periodically
to make sure it doesn’t lose its groove.
I can’t watch WMV (Windows
Media Video) music videos in
Winamp. Winamp is designed to play
files that have the .WMV extension
(which represents a Microsoft format),
but if WMP is installed on your PC, it
might interfere with Winamp’s ability
to play these files, and the use of both
players may cause the files to become
corrupted. One possible solution is to
reinstall both pieces of software.
Apple QuickTime
QuickTime started out as a program
designed for another OS (operating
system), but now it works well on
Windows PCs, too—most of the time.
I’m watching a movie via the
Internet, but it’s stuttering.
QuickTime automatically adjusts to
your Internet connection speed, but
the technology isn’t infallible. To manually configure the Internet connection
speed setting, open the Edit menu,
click Preferences, select QuickTime
Preferences, choose the Streaming tab,
open the Streaming Speed drop-down
menu, choose the appropriate speed,
and click OK.
I can’t install QuickTime 7 for
Windows. If another QuickTime player is open on your PC, you
won’t be able to install QuickTime 7
for Windows. Log out of other users’
accounts on your PC (after closing
QuickTime) and restart the PC.
For Future Reference
Following these tips can help ensure
that your media player brings you pleasure, not pain. But if playing your
video and audio files now seems a little
too easy, just use the player to play a
teenage relative’s favorite CD . . . odds
are good you’ll soon be immersed in a
state of confusion again. ❙❙
Smart Computing / January 2006
eeling burned by your CD
burner? The bad news is that
these devices are tricky to properly configure and use, but the good
news is that the vast majority of problems are solved by adjusting just a few
settings. Sometimes Windows is to
blame, sometimes it’s your recording
software, and sometimes it’s the drive
itself, but these simple fixes should
take care of most of the trouble you’ll
face during recording sessions.
General Problems
You can avoid most CD-burner
problems by keeping everything upto-date with the latest patches. This
includes installing patches for Windows using Windows Update, installing the latest patches for your
disc-recording software, and keeping
your CD burner in peak condition by
installing the latest firmware updates
available from manufacturers. (Firmware is software permanently stored
inside the CD burner that controls the
drive’s operation; upgrading firmware
can fix bugs and add new features
to the drive.)
CDs won’t play on my car or
home stereo. Check the documentation that came with the equipment to see if it says the stereo(s)
can read CD-R (CD-recordable) or
66 January 2006
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CD-RW (CD-rewriteable) media. If
it doesn’t, you’re out of luck. But even
if the documentation does confirm
support for CD-R/-RW media, that
doesn’t mean the stereo(s) can read
all the file types you recorded to the
discs, especially if they are compressed digital music formats such
as MP3 or AAC (Advanced Audio
Coding). Again, look at the documentation to see if the stereo(s) can read
these formats.
If everything checks out, make sure
that the disc is “closed” at the end of
the recording session. This option,
which finalizes the disc so that a
different CD or DVD player knows
where the music files begin and end, is
available in all CD-recording software.
My recording software doesn’t
“see” my recordable drive. All
disc-recording software developers
maintain a detailed list of the drives
their products support, and if your
drive isn’t on the list, you’ll need
to find software that supports your
hardware. However, if your drive is
on the list, you should reinstall the
drive according to the users manual’s
instructions and use the latest drivers
from the manufacturer.
My recorded CDs have a lot of
errors. Many factors may be responsible for the types of errors that
ruin recordings. First, check the disc
because if it’s scratched or not rated
to record at the drive’s maximum
recording speed, you’ll need to find a
suitable replacement. After that, open
the recording software to make sure
that the recorder’s integrated memory, called a buffer, is enabled because
it smoothes out the data transfer
during recording. If you are copying a
CD from one drive to another, check
the recording software for an option
that copies the data to the hard drive
before it goes to the CD or DVD
recorder, as this also helps to ensure
a smooth flow of data during the
recording process.
If these suggestions don’t work,
consider reducing the maximum
recording speed of the drive. Sometimes it’s necessary to go all the
way down to a speed of 1X to make
a pristine copy, but on most modern
computers, your drive should be
able to operate at full speed with
no problems.
Windows won’t let me erase files
from a CD-RW. The recording
software built into Windows XP is extremely basic, so if you want to reuse
a CD-RW, you’ll have to erase the entire disc to reuse its space. If you want
to delete individual files, use a more
robust software package, such as
Roxio Easy Media Creator 8 ($99.95;
Troubleshoot Your Software
To decrease the probability of
experiencing recording errors,
lower the drive speed to give
your computer more time to
feed data to the disc.
www.roxio.com) or Nero 7 Ultra
Edition ($99.99; www.nero.com).
Nero Burning ROM
Nero Burning ROM is the core
component of the company’s CDrecording suites, including its latest
Nero 7 Ultra Edition. When you burn
a CD with these products, you’re
likely using the Burning ROM component, and here are a few simple
ways to fix the most common problems with this software.
I installed Burning ROM on my
Windows Me PC, and I constantly see an error message indicating that the NeroApix.vxd file is
missing. WinXP users don’t need to
worry about this error, but for other
Windows users, a quick software
download will solve the problem.
Use your Web browser to visit ww2
.nero.com/enu/ASPI_Driver.html and
download NeroASPIen.exe. Doubleclick the file, follow the installation
prompts, reboot your PC, and the software should work better afterward.
Nero Burning ROM won’t let my
recorder operate at its maximum
speed, even though I’m using discs
rated for that speed. Not all discs are
manufactured to the same standards,
regardless of the maximum speed
printed on the marketing materials.
Nero Burning ROM has a database of
discs that it matches against your drive,
and it may reduce the drive speed
based on the drive manufacturer’s
recommendations. After all,
if Burning ROM let the disc
record at full speed, the
recording would be worthless, so this is actually a
useful feature and not just an annoyance. You may need to experiment
with discs from different companies to
find a good match for your hardware.
Roxio Easy Media Creator
Now in its eighth major release, Easy
Media Creator does just about everything you can do with a CD burner,
but it isn’t flawless. Here are solutions
to the two most frequent problems
users experience with this software.
In WinXP open the Start menu,
click Control Panel, double-click Add
Or Remove Programs (from the category of the same name), select Easy
Media Creator on the list, and click
Change/Remove. In other Windows
versions, open the Start menu, choose
Settings, click Programs, double-click
Add/Remove Programs, select the
entry, and click Remove. When you
finish this step, double-click the
Roxiozap.exe file you just downloaded, and it will clear out the rest of
the software files.
I use Easy Media Creator 7 in
WinXP, and when I launch various components of the software, a
Windows Installer window appears.
This is nothing to worry about—it
just means that a portion of the software that Windows needs was accidentally uninstalled or was never
installed in the first place. Follow the
prompts and let Windows Installer do
its work, but be prepared to insert the
Easy Media Creator CD-ROM during
and/or after the process to correct this
installation issue.
For troubleshooting purposes, I was told
to uninstall Roxio
Watch Out
Easy Media CreaFor Upgrades
tor before reinstalling or upAlthough patchgrading it, but the
ing your existing
software doesn’t
recording software
fully uninstall.
is always a good
This is a big probidea, you may want
lem because many
to wait awhile beof the troublefore purchasing an
shooting tips proentirely new vervided at Roxio’s
sion of that appliIf you don’t enable buffer underrun
site require users
cation. Easy CD
protection on a drive (or it isn’t enabled
to completely unCreator 5.0, for exby default), errors may result during
install the softample, didn’t work
recording sessions.
ware. You need to
with WinXP until
download a proRoxio issued spegram called Roxizap that clears out the
cial patches. That’s why it often pays
files Windows can’t access. With your
to wait for reviews and user reports,
Web browser, go to tools.roxio.com
so you can be sure about a product’s
/support/tools/roxizap.exe, download
compatibility before committing to
the software, and remove Easy Media
an upgrade. ❙❙
Creator using Windows’ Add/Remove
Programs tool.
Smart Computing / January 2006
hoto-editing software lets you
work magic on your photos.
Simply load your photos into
your PC, and with a high-quality program, you can adjust color anomalies,
fix the dreaded red-eye that sometimes appears, and burn photos to a
disc to share them with friends and
family members, among other things.
You can only do so, however, if the
application works as it’s supposed to.
But if that isn’t the case, you don’t
need to rush out and buy a newer version or a competitor’s offering; taking
some simple troubleshooting steps can
help you ensure your photo-editing
software is doing all that it can.
General Problems
No matter which photo-editing application you use, a few issues tend to
affect all of them from time to time.
I can’t transfer photos from my
digital camera to my PC. With
some programs all you need to do is
connect your camera to your computer (typically with a USB cable) and
open the software and then the
program automatically detects the
camera. But if you run into a problem, you can try several fixes.
First, make sure the problem isn’t
with the USB port by plugging another device into it or connecting
68 January 2006
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your camera to another available
port. Then, turn your camera off and
on again and make sure it’s set to
the proper transfer mode. Also, check
the camera manufacturer’s site for
any updated drivers. And, if none of
these things work, reinstall all related
software, including your camera’s
software and your
photo editor.
My colleague emailed me a
photo, and the “wrong” software
is trying to open it. Along with recognizing file formats, programs are associated with particular file formats.
That is, instead of opening a program
first and then opening the file from
within the program, if you were
to double-click a
file to open it, the
file would automatically launch in its
An associate
associated program.
emailed me a
Clicking the file,
photo, but my softhowever, may cause
ware can’t open it.
a photo to open (or
Each photo-editing
attempt to open)
program recognizes
in a program other
common and prothan your primary
prietary file forphoto editor.
mats. Save a file in a
You can fix this
program such as
by opening your priCorel Paint Shop
mary photo-editing
Pro, for example,
Associate all photos in a particular
software, accessing
and it’s possible
file format with the photo-editing
its Preferences or
that you’ll only be
program you specify.
Options dialog box
able to open the file
(exact instructions
in Paint Shop Pro
vary by program), and adding or re(depending on the file format in
which it was saved). Contact the
moving file format associations. Or,
person who emailed you the photo
you can go through Windows to
to find out what program she used
change the association for each file
to save it. Then, ask the person to
format. To do this save the file and
save the photo in a more common
locate it via My Computer. Rightfile format, such as JPEG (Joint
click the file, select Open With, and
Photographic Experts Group) or GIF
click Choose Program. In the Open
(Graphics Interchange Format).
With dialog box, highlight the desired
Troubleshoot Your Software
make sure the Include In The Organizer and Save In Version Set With
Original checkboxes have check
marks. Click Save. The file is now a
lower-resolution version of the original, and it will act as a placeholder
in the Organizer.
program, select the
Always Use The Selected Program To
Open This Kind Of
File checkbox, and
click OK.
I want to create
I saved a photo from the Editor
a VCD (Video
via the Organizer, but the softCD), but Photoshop
ware didn’t create a Version Set. This
Make sure you can view large photos
Elements keeps disis a known bug in version 3 that
in the Adobe Elements Organizer by
playing error mesAdobe has fixed for version 4. If
creating a lower-resolution version.
sages or freezing.
you’re using version 3, one fix is to
There are multiple
perform a catalog recovery. In Organreasons why you
izer open the File menu, choose CataAdobe
may not be able to create a VCD, some
log, and select Recover.
Photoshop Elements
of which lie in the discs themselves.
Adobe Photoshop is the premier
Version 3 requires CD-R (CD-recordCorel Paint Shop Pro
image-editing software for profesable) or CD-RW (CD-rewriteable)
sionals, but with a $599 price tag, it’s
Formerly from Jasc Software, Paint
media; version 4 requires CD-RW or
generally too much for the average
Shop Pro offers sophisticated imageDVD-RW media (and, of course, the
consumer’s budget. Adobe’s conediting tools, including the ability to
appropriate drives). Also, check the file
sumer-oriented program, Photoshop
work with layers, masks, and ensize and the disc capacity to make sure
Elements, offers solid image-editing
the file doesn’t exceed what the disc
hanced text. The following tips apply
capabilities and a friendly $99 price.
can hold. And in version 3, choosing a
to versions 8 and 9.
lower write speed also
These general system errors are
might fix this problem.
driving me crazy. Photoshop
In the Make VCD dialog
box, select a lower speed
Elements version 4 users running
from the Write Speed
Windows XP on their PCs may endrop-down menu.
counter an “illegal operation” error
message, various other types of error
messages, or simply experience froI can’t see a large
zen screens or blank dialog boxes.
file’s thumbnail in
One of the most common reasons is
the Organizer, even
that the user is trying to use the softthough it appears in the
ware on a system that doesn’t meet
File Browser. ThumbPhotoshop Elements’ minimum renails of images that are
quirements. Check out Adobe’s recmore than 12 megaommendations to see if your PC is
pixels don’t display in
When you create a VCD (Video CD), verify that you’re burning
capable of running the software, and
Organizer, so all you’ll
it to a disc format that Adobe Elements recognizes.
make sure your video card driver is
see for those graphics
is an hourglass. From
Background applications also may
within Organizer highlight the image,
I’m using a variety of editing
interfere with Photoshop Elements,
click the Edit icon, and select Go To
tools, and depending on the
so close and disable any other unStandard Edit. In the Editor go to
photos I’m editing, either all of the
necessary programs while running
the Image menu, choose Resize, and
tools work or none of them work.
it. In addition, it may help to use
select Image Size. In the Image Size
What’s going on? Some of Paint Shop
the Windows’ Disk Defragmenter
dialog box, type 72 in the ResoluPro’s effect and correction commands
utility to clean up your hard drive.
tion field and select the Resample
work only on photos that have 16
From the Start menu, select All
Image checkbox. Go to the File menu,
million colors (known as 24-bit
Programs, Accessories, System Tools,
select Save As, and select JPEG from
depth). If a photo’s color depth is
and Disk Defragmenter.
the Format drop-down menu. Also,
less than that, you have the option of
Smart Computing / January 2006
Troubleshoot Your Software
Increasing a photo’s color depth
may provide access to a wider
range of Paint Shop Pro tools.
increasing the color depth, so you can
use these tools. Open the photo, select
Increase Color Depth from the Image
menu, and then select the highest
possible value.
There’s a funky tint to my photos. Apparently, what I see on my
monitor is dramatically different
from my printer output. Windows 98
and later Windows versions have a
tool called Color Management that
attempts to improve color consistency
across different devices, such as a PC
monitor and a printer. If there’s a
large discrepancy in what you see
from these devices, activate Color
Management by launching Paint
Shop Pro, opening the File menu,
clicking Preferences, and selecting
Color Management. Select the Enable
Color Management checkbox and
click OK.
However, please note that this
overrides Paint Shop Pro’s Monitor
Gamma setting, which adjusts how
your monitor displays colors in Paint
Shop Pro. Therefore, if you notice
that colors display improperly in
Paint Shop Pro, you should turn off
Color Management and reset the
Monitor Gamma setting. Go to File,
Preferences, and Monitor Gamma
and then click the Reset button.
I saved a photo in Paint Shop
Pro as a GIF file, and now I
can’t edit its layers. If you think you’ll
70 January 2006
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want to edit a photo later,
your best bet is to save the
file in Paint Shop Pro’s proprietary format (PSP or
PSPIMAGE). When you
save it to a format such
as GIF or JPG, layers are
merged, and you cannot edit
them separately. We recommend you save all your
photos in the PSPImage
format first and then use Save As to
save copies in other file formats.
I’ve chosen new colors for my
text, but these colors revert
back to the original ones when I try
to use the text tool. In the Materials
palette, where you chose the colors,
make sure the All Tools checkbox is
selected. Then, when you open the
Text Entry dialog box by clicking the
Text tool icon in the Tools toolbar, be
sure to select the Remember Text
checkbox, as well.
Roxio PhotoSuite 7
The Roxio PhotoSuite program—
sold as a standalone application or
as part of the Easy Media Creator
suite—has some quirks of its own.
I can’t open a TIF file. Yes,
PhotoSuite recognizes TIF (or
TIFF; Tagged Image File Format)
files, but it doesn’t recognize all of
them. The TIFF image format has
multiple versions, and not all photo
editors recognize all flavors of TIFF.
You can try opening the file in
another image editor or use a program such as Easy Graphic Converter
to convert the file to a format that
PhotoSuite will recognize.
I’m creating a few projects. I
can see templates for them,
but when I choose one, I’m prompted
to insert a disc. I don’t want to reinstall the program. You don’t have to;
the PhotoSuite application includes
both a program disc and a content
disc. If you decided not to install the
content when you first installed the
PhotoSuite application, you actually
installed what is similar to a table of
contents for templates, themes, and
other features—but you didn’t install
the templates themselves. When
prompted, simply insert the Content
CD that came with your software and
follow the on-screen instructions.
I saved a production, but
when I try to burn the project
to CD, I get an error message stating
that the production is missing files.
The Production Editor acts as an
index to photos on your hard drive,
and it contains such details as where
the photos are located on your hard
drive. If you delete or move these
photos, their thumbnails will still appear in the editor, but the tool cannot
access them. Go to the File menu and
select Browse For Missing Files to locate them, and then move the files
back to the original location. (Or you
can simply delete the missing photos
from the Production Editor.)
Time To Print & Frame
Unfortunately, many things can go
wrong while using photo-editing software, and although these are the most
common problems you’re likely to
encounter, they aren’t the only ones.
But just as fortunately, each of the developers of the programs profiled here
has sites that contain online support
forums, plus other users have posted
experiences and solutions to a wide
range of issues. So, if you run into another mysterious glitch, we recommend that you head to one of these
forums—you’ll soon be back to
working a little photo-editing magic
of your own. ❙❙
ystem utility programs may
promise to help keep your
computer problem-free—and
in some cases, they live up to this
claim—but who are we kidding?
These are still computer programs,
and like all other computer programs,
they don’t always play well with
Windows, your hardware, or your
existing applications.
General Troubleshooting
The first order of business is to
keep any system utility you use up-todate by applying the latest patches
whenever they are available. Check
the manufacturer’s Web site once a
month or so, or see if the program
comes with an automatic update feature you can use to simplify things.
The software stalls or crashes
while you’re using it. Many system utilities access your hard drive for
long periods of time, utilize 100% of
the processor or system memory, or
otherwise make demands of your
computer that other programs don’t.
The key here is patience. Give the
computer 10 minutes (or longer if
you have an older system) to become
accessible again before pressing the
reset or power button.
If you are forced to reset the computer because it freezes for long
72 January 2006
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periods of time, other programs runsometimes are too aggressive in what
ning in the background—while the
they seek out and destroy, and they
system utility is trying to do its job—
may accidentally delete a critical file.
are likely to blame. When running a
Before using a tool like this, check
system utility, you should temporarily
to see if it has an undo or recovery
shut down all other software, espefeature that lets you restore files after
cially antivirus software, antispyware
a utility deletes them. If no such feasoftware, and Internet firewall softture exists, don’t use the software.
ware (which, of course, means
you should disconnect your
Internet connection, too).
Antivirus software, antispyware, and firewall applications
are designed to watch out for
some of the changes system utilities make, so that’s why they
may prevent a utility from running properly. In addition, they
may change information on
your hard drive while the
system utility is performing a
scan, causing the system utility
Don’t use system utilities that won’t let you undo
to start over from scratch reany changes the software makes.
peatedly and eventually resulting in a computer freeze.
Just be sure to reboot and restart those protective applications after
This is especially important if you
the system utility finishes its tasks.
use a utility that deletes Windows
Registry entries or otherwise messes
The utility deleted files that I
with the Registry.
didn’t mean to delete. Many
system utilities come with tools that
I installed the antivirus program
scan your hard drive for unnecessary,
that came with my system utility
duplicate, or other extraneous files and
suite and now Windows and other apthen delete them automatically to free
plications crash frequently. Never, ever
up storage space. Unfortunately, they
install two antivirus software packages
Troubleshoot Your Software
as TuneUp Utilities, but it comes with
nearly every system utility a person
would ever need. In addition to comprehensive disk tools, users also get a
firewall, antivirus software, antispyware, and a Recovery Commander
tool that’s used to fix Windows when
it refuses to boot. Unfortunately,
Windows doesn’t work seamlessly
with this suite’s contents, but there
are fixes available.
Some utility suites include security
applications. Before installing these
extras, keep in mind that you should
never have multiple antivirus and/or
firewall programs on one computer.
on the same computer; they’ll interfere with each other and cause
system instability, perhaps even
making Windows inaccessible. We
also don’t recommend installing
multiple firewall programs on the same
computer, although doing so isn’t
nearly as dire as installing multiple antivirus programs. But feel free to install
more than one antispyware program
because they tend to cooperate better
with one another.
TuneUp Utilities 2006
TuneUp Utilities 2006 is a popular
system suite from TuneUp Software
that clears junk off of hard drives,
streamlines the Windows startup
process, permanently deletes files, and
performs a number of other useful
tasks. The latest version is very stable
and has a terrific user interface, but it
isn’t without its potential problems.
TuneUp Shredder doesn’t work
or isn’t available. Shredder permanently deletes items from your
hard drive for improved security, and
its shortcut should appear in the context menu whenever you right-click a
file’s icon. If you upgraded to TuneUp
Utilities 2006 from a previous version
and uninstalled the previous version
before installing the new one, this
menu entry is sometimes missing.
The first thing you can try is to
make sure Shredder is enabled using
TuneUp Utilities’ options. Click the
icon that looks like a pair of gears, click
Settings, and choose the Integration
tab. Make sure that both checkboxes in
the TuneUp Shredder section have
check marks and click OK. The option
should appear in the right-click context menu from now on.
If that suggestion doesn’t fix the
omission, there is one other possibility: Uninstall TuneUp Utilities 2006
and then reinstall it from scratch. In
Windows 98 and Windows Me, click
Start, choose Settings, click Control
Panel, and double-click Add/Remove
Programs. In Windows XP, click Start,
click Control Panel, and double-click
Add Or Remove Programs. Select the
TuneUp Utilities 2006 entry to highlight it, click the Remove button, and
then follow the prompts. Reboot the
computer, reinstall the software, and Shredder should
now be available via the
context menu.
I used the Registry Fixer tool,
and now when I launch Adobe
Photoshop CS2, I see an error telling
me my serial number is missing or
invalid, and Photoshop is refusing to
load. Registry Fixer apparently has a
bug that makes it fail to realize the
importance of the Photoshop CS2
registration key in the Registry, causing it to delete the key by default. To
restore the registration key, you’ll
need to uninstall and then reinstall
Photoshop CS according to the instructions included with the software.
When I use UpdateWizard to download the
latest patch for TuneUp
Utilities 2006, an “Entry
Point Not Found” error
message appears as I open
certain program modules
after the patch installation.
If this happens to you, uninIf Shredder is missing after you install TuneUp Utilities
stall the software using the
2006, you might have to remove and reinstall the
procedure we detailed in
software suite to correct your current installation.
the previous paragraph and
download the latest trial
version of the software from www
After you complete that step, you
.tune-up.com/download. Double-click
can still run Registry Fixer, but you’ll
the downloaded file, follow the onhave to protect the Photoshop CS2
screen prompts to install it, and enter
registration key so this problem isn’t
your registration key if necessary.
repeated. To do this, launch the software, click Fix, click Registry Fixer,
and click Next to perform the scan.
SystemSuite Professional 6
It may take a long time to finish,
VCOM’s SystemSuite Professional
but be patient. When the list of po6 may cost more than products such
tential fixes appears, click Protect
Smart Computing / January 2006
Troubleshoot Your Software
Keys, select the Uninstall folder, and
a red lock icon should appear next to
the folder (if it doesn’t, select the
folder and click Lock All). Click OK
and click Apply to clean out everything in the Registry except for the
keys that affect such applications as
Photoshop CS2.
SystemSuite installed a firewall
and an antivirus application, but
WinXP keeps displaying messages
telling me there is no firewall installed and my antivirus software either isn’t installed or isn’t current.
WinXP’s integrated Security Center
(included with SP2 [Service Pack 2])
only recognizes a limited number of antivirus and firewall programs. If you installed the firewall and antivirus software that
came with SystemSuite, you can
turn off these alerts by clicking
Start, clicking Control Panel,
and double-clicking Security
Center. Next, click Change The
Way Security Center Alerts Me,
remove the check marks from
both the Firewall and Virus
Protection checkboxes below
Alert Settings, and click OK.
recent version of LiveUpdate. Go to
www.symantec.com/downloads, select LiveUpdate from the Product
Updates drop-down menu, and click
Browse. (If you don’t find it there,
go to www.symantec.com/techsupp
/nsys/nsw_2006_tasks.html and click
LiveUpdate Issues.) Next, click the
Lusetup.exe link to download the
program and then double-click the
file’s icon to begin the installation.
Click Yes when the LiveUpdate Installer box appears and follow the
on-screen prompts to complete the
installation. LiveUpdate should work
properly after you manually install
the newest version.
protected by System Mechanic to
the point that it won’t go away even
after a user removes the System
Mechanic package. To get rid of it,
you must reinstall System Mechanic,
run it, click the Protect button, and
click the Securely Delete Files tool.
Click Uninstall, and when Incinerator is removed, you can then
uninstall System Mechanic.
I used NetBooster, and now I
can’t use WebUpdates to automatically patch System Mechanic.
NetBooster is the software’s Internet
optimization tool, but it sometimes
gets too aggressive and prevents you
from accessing certain sites, including iolo’s WebUpdates tool.
The best way to work around
this is to restore the original
Internet settings by opening
System Mechanic, clicking Optimize, and clicking Increase
Internet Speed. Select NetBooster Internet Optimization
Wizard from the drop-down
menu, select the Restore Original Settings radio button, and
then click Next. Restart the
computer, and WebUpdates
should work again.
Norton SystemWorks 2006
Protect the keys in the Uninstall folder while working
Symantec’s Norton Systemwith SystemSuite to avoid problems with applications
Works 2006 is one of the most
such as Adobe’s Photoshop CS2.
popular and powerful system
utility suites around. It includes
Norton AntiVirus, Norton Utilities,
System Mechanic 6
as well as new tools that clean up the
hard drive, check for spyware, and
System Mechanic 6 from iolo techmuch more. The primary problems
nologies can whip your hard drive
that most users of this suite experiinto shape, help you recover from disence seem to stem from the product’s
asters, optimize and monitor your
LiveUpdate application.
Internet connection, and make Windows load faster, among other things.
I did a complete installation, but
It also causes a few headaches that are
when I try to run LiveUpdate to
easily fixed.
automatically patch the software, I
see an error message telling me that
I uninstalled System Mechanic 6,
the module isn’t installed or isn’t inbut the Incinerator icon is still
stalled properly. The best way to get
on my Desktop and I can’t delete it.
around most LiveUpdate problems
Incinerator is System Mechanic’s seis to download and install the most
cure file-shredding program, so it’s
74 January 2006
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Use Responsibly
System utilities are extremely
powerful: They access, modify,
and rearrange a variety of things
that aren’t typically disturbed, and
they can cause major computer hassles if something goes wrong. If you
are ever unsure about the effects one
of your software’s modules has, don’t
use it—that goes double for modules
designed to make changes in the
Registry. After all, there are some
minor computer problems and slowdowns that are better left untouched
if you don’t want to deal with bigger
trouble down the road. ❙❙
oday’s security applications
include a bevy of intuitive
tools built to prevent intruders
and malicious code from damaging
your computer. What they don’t include, however, are the bottles of aspirin you’ll inevitably reach for when
the programs don’t work as designed.
Like other software, antivirus and
firewall applications have their share
of problems, but unlike your media
player or browser, the last application
you need to break down is the one
that will protect your system from the
latest devastating worm. With this in
mind, we assembled many of the most
common problems users encounter
with popular security applications,
along with steps for remedying them.
If your system calendar is set to the wrong date, AVG
Anti-Virus will consider its internal virus database
out-of-date and turn off its virus monitoring.
76 January 2006
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Antivirus Applications
For the most part, antivirus applications run silently and effectively,
but when they hit a snag, they’ll usually bombard you with warnings or
other notifications that something’s
amiss. Although it’s certainly good to
know when something is wrong, the
warnings generally don’t include solutions to the problems; or if they do,
the solutions provided don’t always
work. The following suggestions will
get you back on track when using any
of these popular antivirus programs.
Grisoft’s AVG Anti-Virus
Program indicates definitions are out-of-date. Even if
you regularly download the most
recent virus definitions from
Grisoft, AVG Anti-Virus could
indicate that it’s out-of-date if
your system calendar isn’t accurate. First, close AVG; then,
double-click the date in the
System Tray to launch the Date
And Time Properties dialog box.
If the date and time don’t appear
in your System Tray, click Start,
click Run, type timedate.cpl in
the Open field, and click OK.
Confirm that the date and year
are correct, click OK, and open
AVG Anti-Virus again.
Update requires constant reboots. If AVG Anti-Virus Free
Edition indicates that you must reboot your computer after updating
the program—even after you already rebooted—you’ll need to poke
around and delete a few files. Rightclick the My Computer icon on the
Desktop, click Explore, browse to
your AVG Free folder (the default
location is C:\PROGRAM FILES\
GRISOFT\AVG FREE), and delete the
WAIT4SD file.
If the file doesn’t appear, open
the Tools menu, click Folder Options, choose View, find the Hidden
Files And Folders heading, select
Show Hidden Files And Folders,
and click OK. Next, browse to C:\
and delete all the files in this folder.
Reboot your PC and update AVG.
Symantec’s Norton AntiVirus
Installation fails. When installing or uninstalling Norton
AntiVirus, you might encounter the
following error message: “Norton AntiVirus 2005 installation
has failed. Do you want to try to
install again?” If you click Retry,
Troubleshoot Your Software
By going online and updating your computer’s
VeriSign root certificate, you can avoid installation problems with Norton AntiVirus.
the message often appears again.
This problem can occur if required
services aren’t running, your computer’s VeriSign root certificate is
out-of-date, or if there are issues
with the Windows installer.
First, reboot your PC. To update
your VeriSign root certificate in
Windows 98 or Windows Me, click
Windows Update from the Start
menu. In the pane on the right side,
click Scan For Updates, install all the
critical updates, and reboot. Open
Windows Update again (or just skip
to this step if there are no critical
updates), click your Windows version
in the left pane, and then click Add
under Root Certificate in the right
pane. (If Root Certificate doesn’t
appear, the update is already installed, so you can skip to the update
procedure discussed in the next paragraph.) Click Review And Install Updates, click Install Now, and reboot
if prompted.
Next, open your Web browser and
go to https://getca.verisign.com.
Click the Click Here link and then
click Accept, Open, and Install
Certificate. Next, use the Certificate
Import Wizard to complete the installation and click OK. If you’re
using Windows XP, only use our
previous step to update your VeriSign certificate.
In WinXP, you’ll need to make
sure that the necessary Windows services are running to support Norton
AntiVirus. Click Start, click Run, type
services.msc in the Open field, and
click OK. Scroll down to the Task
Scheduler service, double-click it, and
make sure that the Startup Type is
Automatic and the Service Status
is Started. If the service isn’t started,
click Start. Or if Task Scheduler
doesn’t appear at all, open the Start
menu, click Control Panel, doubleclick Scheduled Tasks, choose Advanced, click Start Using Task Scheduler, and close Task Scheduler. Next,
repeat all of these steps for the Event
Log service.
Finally, you’ll need to reinstall
the Windows Installer. To do so, go
to Google (www.google.com), type
2001112111324439 in its search field,
and click Google Search. This will
direct you to the Symantec support
Norton AntiVirus can encounter
installation problems if the Windows
Task Scheduler service isn’t started or
isn’t set to start automatically.
page that provides detailed instructions for reinstalling the Windows
Installer on all Windows versions.
LiveUpdate doesn’t connect. If
Norton’s LiveUpdate can’t connect
to the Internet or the LiveUpdate
server, the feature might need updating. Of course, you can’t update
it without connecting to the online
component, so you’ll need to perform
a few troubleshooting steps on your
home base.
If you use Windows Firewall or a
third-party firewall such as ZoneAlarm,
disable it and try to connect to the
LiveUpdate server. If you can connect,
you’ll need to configure your firewall
to allow all LiveUpdate connections
by permitting Lucomserver.exe or
LuComServer_2_6.exe (file name depends on your version of LiveUpdate)
to access ports 21, 80, and 442 using
TCP (Transmission Control Protocol).
The default location for these files is
Still can’t connect? If you use a
dial-up connection, make sure that
Internet Explorer is properly configured, even if you use another browser
such as Firefox (because LiveUpdate
uses some IE settings). Launch IE,
open the Tools menu, click Internet
Options, and choose the Connections
tab. In the Dial-up And Virtual Private Network Settings area, select
your dial-up connection, select Always Dial My Default Connection,
click the Set Default button (if available), click Apply, and click OK.
Another potential problem could
be that your LiveUpdate files are
damaged. To remove and replace
these files, type 2004030908410213
in Google’s search field, and click
Google Search. This will direct you
to the support page at Symantec’s
site that explains how to find the
relevant files, remove them, and restore new versions. This page also
provides instructions for uninstalling and reinstalling Norton
AntiVirus, which might be necessary
if the previous steps didn’t fix your
LiveUpdate problem.
McAfee’s VirusScan
PC seems slow after installing
VirusScan. Although it’s a good
idea to scan your entire hard drive
when you run a virus scan, slower
computers will become noticeably
Smart Computing / January 2006
Troubleshoot Your Software
bogged down during these types of
scans. If this is the case with your PC,
force VirusScan to check only program files and documents. Right-click
the McAfee icon in the System Tray,
click VirusScan, click Options, and
then click Advanced. In the File Types
To Scan box, select Program Files
And Documents Only, click OK, and
click OK again.
PC won’t shut down. If you recently installed VirusScan and
now your computer won’t shut
down, there might be a conflict with
other installed programs—particularly packet-writing software. If
you use IBM’s DLA (Drive Letter
Access), Veritas’ DLA, HP’s DLA, or
Stomp RecordNow, visit the software
developer’s site to see if there’s an
update available. If there is, download and install it and then check
to see if the update fixes your shutdown problem.
If one of these programs is installed
on your PC but you don’t use it, you
can uninstall it, but first you’ll need
to temporarily disable a service if
you’re using WinXP. Click Start, click
Run, type services.msc in the Open
field, and click OK. Scroll down to
McAfee.com McShield, right-click the
entry, click Properties, and change
the Startup type to Disabled. Next,
uninstall the DLA program, reboot,
and then re-enable the McAfee.com
McShield service.
If you’re using a dial-up connection to
go online, you’ll need to double-check
your Internet Explorer settings if you
are having trouble connecting to
Norton LiveUpdate.
update functions, and this online
scanner will help you locate potential pests, after which you can visit
the company’s Virus Encyclopedia
encyclo) for instructions on removing
such vermin.
Other known troublemakers include previous versions of Trend Micro
products, so if this problem occurs in
PC-cillin 2005, be sure to uninstall any
previous PC-cillin versions, including
PC-cillin Internet Security 2004.
If you’re still having problems, try
manually triggering the PCClient.exe
file. Right-click My Computer, click
Explore, and browse to the PC-cillin
Internet Security folder (the default
2005). Double-click PCClient.exe and
then open the PC-cillin Internet
downloading them. If you’re using
Internet Security 2004 and you’re
tired of the program asking if you
want to download new updates, click
the Update icon on the main console,
click the Update Settings icon, select
the Automatically Update Without
Alerts option in the Update Alert
section, and click Apply. In Internet
Security 2005, you can find this
option by clicking Updates And Registration and selecting the Do Not
Require Confirmation Before Updating checkbox under the Update
Schedule heading.
Firewall Applications
When dealing with firewalls, most
troubleshooting doesn’t stem from
bugs in the programs; instead, configuration issues are typically the cause
of most problems encountered after
installing a firewall. Even so, determining how to address those configuration issues can be a challenge
because firewalls include a dizzying
array of options that let you allow or
disallow traffic across your network.
Sygate’s Personal Firewall
Connection is slow after the installation. An improperly configured firewall almost always leads to
connection problems, but one of the
most difficult issues to troubleshoot is
a slow connection. If you experience
slowdowns after installing
Sygate’s Personal Firewall,
When dealing with firewalls, most troubleshooting doesn’t stem from bugs in the programs;
open the main console
instead, configuration issues are typically the cause of most problems encountered after installing a firewall.
and click the Applications
button. Make sure your
browser is set to Allow in
the Applications lists, and if you use
Security console to confirm that
Trend Micro’s PC-cillin
an NTS (Network TeleSystems; now
PCClient.exe will now allow updates.
known as Efficient Networks) PPPoE
Update doesn’t work. A broken
Click the Update Components button
(Point-to-Point Protocol over EtherUpdate button in PC-cillin could
to start the update process.
net) application with a DSL (Digital
be the result of any of a variety of
Subscriber Line) connection, also enproblems, but you can start the
Continually reminded to update.
sure that the app is set to Allow.
troubleshooting process by visiting
PC-cillin Internet Security does
In addition, Sygate recommends
HouseCall (housecall.trendmicro
a great job of automatically checkthat you create advanced rules to per.com), a free online virus scanner.
ing for new updates, but it can get a
mit incoming and outgoing traffic to
Certain viruses can disable antivirus
little pushy when it comes to actually
78 January 2006
/ www.smartcomputing.com
Troubleshoot Your Software
and from all hosts, and then apply
these rules to all of your network
cards. To do this, you’ll need one rule
that allows UDP (User Datagram
Protocol) remote and local ports 67
and 68, and another rule that allows
TCP remote and local ports 67 and 68.
To learn how to set these permissions, click the Help button in the
main console, choose the Search tab,
type advanced rules in the keyword
field, and press ENTER to retrieve a
list of topics on the procedure.
Medium. To prevent nontrusted
computers from accessing resources
on your network, set the Internet
Zone security level to High.
Symantec’s Norton Personal Firewall
& Norton Internet Security
A program stops working after installing the firewall. If a
program can’t access the Internet after
you install Norton Personal Firewall
or Norton Internet Security, doublecheck that the firewall is properly
configured to accommodate the
Zone Labs’ ZoneAlarm
program in question. Open Norton
IM (instant messaging) proPersonal Firewall or Norton Internet
grams don’t appear in ProtecSecurity, click Personal Firewall, and
tion Status. If you open the Protection
click Configure. Locate the applicaStatus table on the IM Security panel
tion on the Programs tab and change
and don’t see your IM program even
its Internet Access status to Autothough it’s currently running, there
matic. Click OK and close the firewall
could be a problem
with ZoneAlarm recIf the program in
ognizing the program
question still can’t
if both the firewall and
access the Internet,
the IM program are set
use the Log Viewer to
to launch when Winwatch the firewall’s
dows starts. To avoid
activity and determine
this problem, change
what is happening.
the settings within
Open Norton Internet
your IM program so
Security or Norton
that the program only
Personal Firewall,
starts when you launch
click Statistics, click
Your IM (instant messaging)
it manually.
View Logs, click Fireprogram may not appear in
wall, and then close
ZoneAlarm’s IM Security panel
Cannot share
the problematic proif it’s set to start automatically
files or printgram. Click Clear
when you start Windows.
ers on local network.
Logs (indicated by the
One of the most comwhite square with a
mon problems involving firewalls ocred X on it), open the problematic procurs when users attempt to connect to
gram, click Display New Entries on the
another PC on the network in order to
Log Viewer, and look for new entries. If
share files or use a networked printer.
you see an entry related to the program,
Most software-based firewalls, inexamine it to see why the firewall is
cluding Zone-Alarm, won’t allow
blocking the program. From here, you
sharing unless you specifically instruct
might be able to locate a program rule
them that such activity is acceptable.
that’s preventing the program from
To configure ZoneAlarm to allow
going online.
sharing, add the IP (Internet Protocol) address of each computer with
Microsoft’s Windows Firewall
which you’re sharing resources to
your Trusted Zone, and then set
Program in exceptions list isn’t
the Trusted Zone security level to
working. Windows Firewall lets
you place programs in an exception list
so that incoming connections can
access them. However, because some
programs rely on others to work properly, those that exist in the exception
list may not run properly (or at all) unless you also place other corresponding
programs in the exception list.
First, start the program that’s causing problems. (If it won’t start, turn off
Windows Firewall and then start it.)
Click Start, click Run, type command
in the Open field, and press ENTER. At
the command line, type tasklist /m and
press ENTER. Search for the program
in the listed results and write down all
executable files (files with an .EXE extension) listed after the program you’re
evaluating. Next, open Windows Firewall, choose the Exceptions tab, click
Add Program, choose an executable file
from the list, and click OK. Repeat this
process for any other executable files
that you wrote down.
Can’t share files or printers. If
you can’t share resources on
your local network, chances are you
simply need to enable file and printer
sharing in Windows Firewall. Open the
utility, choose the Exceptions tab, select
File And Printer Sharing, and click OK.
Proceed With Caution
Depending on the problem you’re
troubleshooting in your security application, it might be a good idea to disable your Internet connection until you
solve the problem, particularly if the
problem means that your antivirus program or firewall isn’t working at all. (Of
course, if the problem lies with an antivirus update or a firewall rule, you’ll
need that connection to be active in
order to troubleshoot various options.)
In addition, remember that most
developers provide free support on
their Web sites, so if you don’t see
your problem covered in this article,
you should see if the developer addresses it online. ❙❙
Smart Computing / January 2006
efore you make your next software purchase, make sure
you take a look at our Software Reviews section for an
expert opinion. You’ll find all sorts of great articles on
topics ranging from mobile computing and media players to operating systems and printers. You’ll
find articles not only from Smart
Computing, but also from PC Today
and Computer Power User. From the
home page, click the Software
Reviews link. Check out this great
information to help keep your software running smoothly.
Head to www.smart
computing.com and click
the Read Software Reviews link.
Click any of the links to search
by product category. You can
also search by subcategory or
simply click the Show All link to
view all articles under that heading.
To enter a keyword search,
scroll to the bottom of the page
and customize your search to fit
exact terms.
Subscribers, be sure to add these
articles to My Personal Library, so
you can keep all of this information
in one convenient location for
future reference.
80 January 2006
/ www.smartcomputing.com
P r o j e c t :
Your Pleasure
Two Monitors & One PC Or Two PCs & One Monitor
f there’s one thing every Windows user wants, it’s a
bigger monitor. Imagine taking notes from a Web page
using a word processor or working on a large spreadsheet while still keeping tabs on your Internet chat program, all without having the two applications overlap.
Once the video
card is installed,
connect both
monitors to it,
reboot the
computer and let
detect both
82 January 2006
/ www.smartcomputing.com
Larger monitors—especially widescreen models—make all of this possible, but there’s a catch. Monitor
prices rise exponentially with size,
putting the largest models out of reach
for most of us. However, there is a solution for those of us with at least a
little bit of budget flexibility: Buy two
monitors and use them at the same
time. It is cheaper than purchasing one
very large monitor, you get dramatically larger viewable area than any
single monitor could provide, and
thanks to LCD (liquid-crystal display)
technology it’s easy to use multiple
monitors without covering your entire
desk. All you need is the right hardware
and a little setup know-how, and you’ll
never return to a one-monitor world.
Selecting & Installing Hardware
Sending a video signal to two monitors requires two video outputs, and
there are two ways to achieve this. One
is to install an additional video card in
your computer, and the other is to
purchase a video card that comes with
multiple video outputs and can power
both outputs at the same time.
One problem with installing an additional video card is that it takes up
one of the expansion slots inside the
computer. If you have a very old or
inexpensive computer with a video
processor that is integrated onto the
motherboard, you will need to buy
two video cards, because you won’t be
able to use the integrated video port if
you use more than one monitor.
Another problem is that most computers have only one AGP (Accelerated
Graphics Port) or PCI (Peripheral
Component Interconnect) Express slot,
which are technologies designed for
video card usage. PCs have several PCI
slots, which also accommodate video
cards but not with the same efficiency
an AGP or PCI-E slot has. The final
problem is that even if you do get video
cards that use the appropriate slots,
there’s no guarantee they will work together. If you want to go this route,
however, just purchase a video card
that supports the maximum resolution
and refresh rate of the monitor you intend to use with it (those specifications
are in the monitor’s manual), and
make sure you have an available AGP
or PCI slot to accommodate the new
card. Install the card according to the
instructions it comes with and proceed
to Windows Configuration.
Arguably the best way to send video
to two monitors is to purchase a video
card that uses your computer’s fastest
video expansion slot (generally AGP
or PCI-E) and that has multiple video
Two PCs,
One Monitor
Once the video card is installed, connect both monitors to it, reboot the
computer and let Windows automatically detect both monitors. When
making the connection, always use the
best one for the monitor you will use
most often (called the primary display).
For example, if you are connecting two
digital LCDs but the video card only
has one digital output and one analog
output, connect the primary display to
the digital output and connect the
other monitor to the analog output.
(Digital displays accept analog input,
but image quality suffers.)
When purchasing a video card make sure
it has two outputs, such as this Sapphire
Radeon X1300. Connect digital LCDs to the
DVI output whenever possible.
Windows Configuration
Most video cards come with tools for
setting up two monitors in various
configurations, but none that we’ve
outputs that can be used simultaneworked with is as flexible or easy to use
ously. If you use analog monitors, your
as the tools that come with Windows.
best bet is a video card that has two
The two main settings you need to
analog video outputs. If you use digital
adjust here are the resolution and reLCDs, get a card that has dual DVI
fresh rate. Resolution tells the monitor
(Digital Visual Interface) outputs. Some
how many pixels to display at once;
low-end LCDs are actually analog dishigher resolution settings let you see
plays, so check the manual and the inmore on the screen but make everything smaller. CRT (cathode-ray tube)
puts before making a purchase.
monitors work well at a variety of resoAs for the monitors, getting a
lutions, but LCDs look their best when
matched set looks nice but you can mix
operating at their maximum supported resolution.
Refresh rate represents the number of
times per second the
display updates itself,
measured in hertz. A
setting of 60Hz is fine
for an LCD, but causes
the screen to flicker on
a CRT, where a setting
Use your best monitor as
Windows lets the secondary
of 75Hz or 85Hz genthe primary display, and be
display use a different resolution
erally works best.
sure to adjust it to its optimal
than the primary display, so you
To make the adresolution.
can mix and match monitors.
justments in Win98/
Me/XP, right-click an
and match. The dual-monitor software
empty area of the Desktop, click
built into Windows 98, Windows Me,
Properties, and select the Settings tab.
and especially Windows XP lets you esClick the box with the “1” in it (this
tablish separate settings for each monrepresents the primary display) and
itor, so don’t worry if they are different
use the screen resolution slider to sesizes or use different technologies.
lect the resolution you want to use.
ave two computers at the
same desk but don’t have the
room for two monitors? Not a
problem—you can easily connect
two PCs to a single monitor.
With any luck your monitor has
multiple inputs, so you can simply
connect cables to all of them, use the
monitor’s menu settings or frontpanel buttons to switch input
sources when necessary, and you’re
set. Things get a little trickier (and a
little bit more expensive) when the
monitor has only one input, however. In this case, you need a monitor
switch or a KVM (keyboard/video
/mouse) switch to make it happen.
We recommend a KVM switch, such
as Tripp Lite’s 2-Port All-in-One USB
KVM Switch ($74.99; www.tripp
lite.com), because it will let you
use both computers with only one
mouse, keyboard, and monitor. This
particular model even lets you share
computer speakers between the two
PCs and uses keyboard shortcuts to
let you easily switch between the
two computers. ❙
Click Apply, confirm the new setting,
and then click Advanced. Select the
Monitor tab and use the Screen
Refresh Rate drop-down menu to select a refresh rate before clicking
Apply again, and the primary display
is set up. Return to the main Settings
tab, click the box with the “2” in it, select the Extend My Windows Desktop
Onto This Monitor box, and click
Apply. Now set up the secondary display the same way you set up the primary display (but not necessarily
using the same settings if they are different monitors).
Explore Your Options
Enjoy all that extra Desktop space,
and once everything is set up, check
out the special features supported by
your video card to see if they work
better in your situation. ❙❙
Smart Computing / January 2006
Microsoft Excel 2002
Quick Studies
2002 for
Moving Around Within Worksheets
here are many ways to get from cell A1 to cell
IV65536 and every cell in between in an Excel
worksheet. In many cases, one way’s not much
better than another, but don’t try telling that to a
lot of Excel users. There’s a surprising level of passion tied up in some people’s navigational choices.
Plenty of keyboard-command junkies reach for the
mouse only as a last resort—and disdain anyone
who clings to the mouse. As long as you don’t work
around these keyboard loyalists, you can navigate
your rows and columns however you like.
the scrolling wheel down so it clicks like a mouse
button. Your pointer turns into a multiheaded
arrow. If you drag the mouse slightly downward,
your screen begins slowly scrolling downward.
Drag the mouse farther downward, and the screen
scrolls faster. If you’re skimming a large worksheet,
you can set the screen to scrolling like movie
credits. The same process should work for automatically scrolling up or to the sides. Just move the
mouse in the desired direction.
Head For Home
Scroll Call
Ready to try
Excel’s version of
a transporter
beam? If you
know the
reference of
the cell you’re
heading for, press
F5 and enter
the reference.
84 January 2006
Among the most familiar navigational tools are the scrollbars along
the bottom and right side of the active window. To go up or down,
click the block on the right scroll
bar and drag it up or down. You
can also can click the arrows at the
top and bottom to move around or
click the space above or below the
block in the scrollbar to move up or
down a full screen at a time. The
same rules apply to the horizontal scrollbar at the
bottom of the screen.
Prefer the keyboard? Press one of the directional arrows to move around one cell at a time.
Press the PAGE UP and PAGE DOWN keys to
move a full screen at a time. Move one screen
right or left by pressing ALT-PAGE DOWN or
ALT-PAGE UP, respectively. Hold CTRL down
while pressing PAGE UP or PAGE DOWN to
switch among worksheets within the workbook.
If you never use the scrollbars, you can get rid of
them, creating more on-screen space for actual
data. Choose Tools and Options and click the View
tab. Deselect the boxes for Horizontal Scroll Bar
and Vertical Scroll Bar. If you change your mind,
you can bring them back by reversing the process.
If you have a mouse with a scrolling wheel between the two buttons, you really can do some
smooth scrolling. The exact performance will vary
by brand of mouse, but in general, the following
tips should apply. To move up and down in a
worksheet, roll the wheel up or down with your
finger. One click of the wheel is equal to about
three clicks on the vertical scroll bar. Ready to look
really smug as you review quarterly figures? Push
/ www.smartcomputing.com
The heart of most worksheets is in the upperleft corner. Key pieces of data and column and
row headings usually appear in this “home” area.
If you find yourself wandering around in some
far land like the neighborhood of cell N287, press
CTRL-HOME to fly back to cell A1. To jump to
the outer rim of your worksheet (the last used
cell), press CTRL-END. Jump instantly to the active cell by pressing CTRL-BACKSPACE.
Here’s a trick that will really wow your coworkers because most of them probably have no
clue it exists: To jump to the last cell in a column,
double-click on the bottom border of any cell in
the column. To go to the top cell, double-click
the top edge of any cell in the column. You also
can use this move to hop between the extreme
ends of rows. Just double-click the left or right
edge of a cell. (If you’re one of those aforementioned keyboard loyalists, pressing CTRL and one
of the keyboard’s directional arrows accomplishes the same thing.)
You can jump directly to a cell reference if you
know the one you’re heading for. Press F5 and
enter the cell’s reference, such as F120.
Protect Your Range
Finally, we’re glad to clue you in on the use of a
key that mystifies most users: SCROLL LOCK.
Let’s say you’ve highlighted a range of cells and
pressed PAGE DOWN or an arrow key to go check
a figure. When you return to your range, you’ll see
it’s no longer highlighted. To prevent this, press
SCROLL LOCK before pressing PAGE DOWN or
the arrow keys. ❙❙
Jasc Paint Shop Pro 8
Quick Studies
The Art Of Cloning
Image Processing
8 for
NT 4.0/2000/XP
(NOTE: Corel
acquired Jasc
Software, so
the most recent
version, Paint
Shop Pro 9, may
list Corel as
the developer.)
ention cloning, and the reaction you get
may include references to a sheep named
Dolly and futuristic armies of troopers a la “Star
Wars.” But cloning also is a useful tool in the Paint
Shop Pro arsenal. The Clone Brush lets you copy
part of an image onto another part of an image,
thereby seemingly adding or removing elements.
For example, take our sample photo of a young
girl learning how to balance on a surfboard. It’s a
satisfactory photo, but a raft floating in the background is distracting. We considered cropping the
photo to remove the raft, but cropping would either cut into part of the surfboard or chop off part
of the subject’s head. Instead, we decided to use the
Clone Brush to paint over the raft with a section of
the water, essentially making the raft disappear.
In The Laboratory
We open the photo in Paint Shop Pro and make
sure the Tools toolbar is showing (via the View
menu, Toolbars, and Tools). The eighth icon down
contains the Clone Brush and the Scratch Remover
tools. If the Clone Brush, which looks like two
people with an arrow, is visible, click it; if not, click
value of 1 makes the brush as small as possible, and
a value of 500 makes it as large as possible. To determine the appropriate size, place the Clone Brush
over the area you’d like to cover and increase or decrease its size by typing a new value in the Size field.
For our example photo, we use a value of 50.
Hardness refers to the sharpness of the brush
edges. This value can range from 1 to 100, and because we want the edges to blend softly, we choose
a value on the lower end: 25. The Step value is less
intuitive; it’s measured as a percentage of brush size
and refers to how frequently the brush touches an
image during a stroke. So, if the Step value is 100%,
the brush tip is clearly defined. As this value decreases, the brush makes more impressions and
smoother strokes. We choose 25 for this value, too.
Density refers to the amount of paint the brush
applies. A low Density percentage means that just a
few pixels of paint appear, whereas a high Density
percentage means that the paint covers the area
more. Because we want the cloned area to fully
cover the raft, we choose a Density value of 100%.
You can experiment with other characteristics,
such as Rotation and Opacity, but for now, we’ll
leave them at their default values. The other key
characteristics are Aligned Mode and Sample
Merged. If you want to paint from the point of the
source area that’s relative to the first point you click
in the target area, select the Aligned Mode checkbox. If you’re working with a layered image, select
the Sample Merged checkbox to clone data from all
of the layers, not just the current layer.
Start The Experiment
Use the Clone
Brush tool to
erase distracting
objects from
a photo, as we
did in these
“before” and
“after” images.
the arrow next to the icon that is visible and then
select the Clone Brush tool.
Next, we must configure the Clone Brush, so it
has the desired size, shape, and other characteristics. Make sure the Tool Options palette is visible
by opening the View menu, choosing Palettes, and
selecting Tool Options. If you’ve used the Paint
Brush tool, you’ll recognize this familiar palette.
In the palette under Shape, we can choose a
round or square shape. Because we want the cloned
area to blend in well with its surroundings, we
choose the Round shape. Under Size, we can make
the brush incredibly miniscule or quite large. A
OK, now we’re ready to place the brush on the
source area (the image portion you want to copy),
right-click, move the brush to the target area, and
click once to place the cloned portion over the
target area. You can move the brush around within
the target area and click as many times as is necessary, or you can click and drag over the target area.
Within seconds, our distraction no longer appears in our photo; it has been replaced by a cloned
area that’s almost impossible to detect from its surroundings. Although we used cloning in this case
to eliminate an object, you also can use the same
technique to duplicate objects in an image. ❙❙
Smart Computing / January 2006
Quick Studies
Fuzzy Addressing For Gmail
ast month we covered disposable email sites
that let you create quick email addresses you
can use and forget. That works great for most site
registrations or other one-time uses, but sometimes
you want to both protect your email account from
spam and yet keep commercial email from a particular source easily accessible. Google’s Gmail (www
.gmail.com) supports “fuzzy” addressing that can
be turned into a spam-reducing, or at least a spamrecognition, tool. Fuzzy addressing means that the
system will deliver messages to you even if the
email address in use has some specific variations.
For example, Gmail ignores periods in the username section of an email address. If your address is
[email protected], your friends and
other correspondents don’t need to type the period
(or capitalize any letters, for that matter). Email addressed to [email protected] reaches
you just as well. This system also works if your
friend includes the period but types it in the wrong
spot. So, [email protected] is fine,
or even [email protected] is OK
with Gmail. You can insert or omit several periods.
an email address to do business with you. Although
you want to be able to receive email from the retailer without visiting another site to pick up those
messages, you’re also concerned that your email
address might eventually be used for ads or other
email you don’t want clogging up your inbox. So,
when you fill out the registration form, you provide an address such as [email protected]
.com. As far as the online merchant is concerned,
that’s your email address, and that’s what it will use
to contact you. Messages from the store will arrive
in your standard Gmail inbox, where you’ll see
them (and respond, if you wish) without logging
on to a different service. If the day ever comes,
however, when unwanted messages start arriving
with that modified email address, you can quickly
set up a filter to keep them out of sight.
You also can use this system as a type of tracking
tool. If you provided [email protected] to
Acme Products, and spam starts showing up addressed to this Acme version of your email address,
you’ll know who introduced you to spammers.
Dot Dot Dot
Plus This
To Gmail, all
of these email
addresses lead to
the same inbox.
86 January 2006
More interesting is Gmail’s support for the plus sign (+). Let’s assume that your address is [email protected]
gmail.com. A message sent to
[email protected] is automatically directed by Gmail to the
[email protected] inbox, where it
shows up with the “+work” section of the email address intact. All
characters following a plus sign are
essentially ignored and passed
along by the system. Our fictional
Bob can receive messages sent to [email protected]
gmail.com, [email protected], or any
other variation he might dream up.
If you’ve ever played with email filters, you can
see where this is going. Yes, you can provide different correspondents with customized versions of
your email address, and when your correspondents
use those addresses, the messages enter your inbox
with a built-in way to filter them as you see fit.
With regard to heading off potential spam, the
system might work like this: You decide to order
merchandise from an online retailer who requires
/ www.smartcomputing.com
Although the extra words allowed after a plus
sign helps you create more descriptive addresses,
you also can play around with periods. You might
put a period after the first letter in your email address at shopping sites, a period after the second
letter at online bulletin boards, or use some other
arrangement that’s meaningful to you. Then, set up
a filter to catch email that’s addressed to you with
periods in particular places, and it will be easy to
sort, move, or delete such messages.
Of course, these techniques won’t be foolproof
in the long run. Other email systems are beginning
to make use of the plus sign in the same way as
Gmail, and a wily spammer will eventually write
code that’s able to strip away such descriptive sections within email addresses stored in his database.
Knowing that Gmail ignores periods, a spammer
also might delete them, leaving you with an incoming message that may not trigger your filter.
But for now, fuzzy addressing can help in the
fight against spam, as well as assist you in the fight
against disorganization. Try it out the next time a
customized email address might prove useful. ❙❙
Corel WordPerfect 11
Quick Studies
Office Suites
Main Word Lists & The Spell Utility
ast month, we talked about the two word lists
you can edit from within WordPerfect: the
User Word List and the Document Word List.
This month, we turn to the Main Word List and
WordPerfect’s Spell Utility.
List Basics
Spell Utility
shows existing
words as
you type.
The Main Word List is the primary dictionary
source for your chosen language or professional
field. In addition to the User Word List and
Document Word List, WordPerfect’s Spell Checker
reviews the Main Word List when it scans your
document for errors.
Each version of WordPerfect, such as the
English or French versions, has its own Main
Word List. The Main Word Lists are stored in
files with an .MOR extension. For example, the
Main Word List in WordPerfect 11’s English language version is WT11EN.MOR. Languages other
than English would have similar file names, with
the “EN” replaced with that language’s abbreviation. You may also purchase additional Main Word Lists that
reflect the knowledge of a particular professional field.
To make any changes to these
Main Word Lists, you’ll have to
head outside WordPerfect to its
Spell Utility. There you can add
words to existing lists. If you don’t
want to monkey with the existing
Main Word List or you don’t want
to lay out cash for third-party software, you can use the Spell Utility to create entirely
new lists to accommodate your specialty vocabulary. The new lists carry the .LEX extension.
List Additions
Close WordPerfect and open the Spell Utility.
Click the Start menu and choose Programs. Go to
WordPerfect Office 11, choose Utilities, and click
Spell Utility.
The Spell Utility dialog box opens with the Add
tab on top. Click its Browse button to locate the
Source File. As mentioned above, the English language file is WT11EN.MOR. It is typically located at
SHARED/WRITING TOOLS/11. Select the file and
88 January 2006
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click Open. This returns you to the Spell Utility dialog box with the Source File field now filled in.
Click Open. (If you receive an error message along
the lines of Unable To Open Source File, you probably haven’t installed WordPerfect Office 11 Service
pack 1 yet. Download it at www.corel.com.)
Enter the word you want to add in the New
Word text box and click Add. Once you’ve finished adding words, click Save. The Spell Utility
will not add a word or phrase that already exists
in the Main Word List. You’ll notice as you begin
typing in the New Word box that existing words
appear in the unnamed box immediately below.
If you have a curious nature, you can browse existing words through the Spell Utility’s View tab.
You’ll have to locate the source file again, select
it, and click Open. Enter the word you’re looking
for in the Word box and click Look Up.
Spell Utility won’t let you delete anything from
the preinstalled lists, but you can delete words
that you’ve added through the Delete Words tab.
Browse for the source file and click Open. Enter
the word in the User Words box. When it appears below, double-click it to include it in the
Deleted Words box. Click Save.
List Creation
There may be times you want to create your
own Main Word Lists. To create a Main Word
List, create the file in WordPerfect. You must have
at least one word in this document to continue.
Open the Spell Utility and click the Convert tab.
Choose the corresponding conversion type from
the Conversion Type list. Browse to the source file
you created and click Open. When you return to
the Spell Utility main dialog box, click Browse beside the Destination File Name to launch the Open
dialog box. In the File Name box, enter the name
of the Main Word List you want to create, including a .LEX extension. Click Open. Back in the
Spell Utility main dialog box, click Convert.
After you create the new list, let WordPerfect
know it’s there. From the Tools menu, choose
Spell Checker. Click Options and then Main
Word Lists. Click Add and browse to the new
.LEX file. Click it and then Open. Now misspell
to your heart’s content. ❙❙
Adobe PageMaker 7
Quick Studies
7 for Win98/
Me/NT 4.0
(service pack 5
or 6)/2000/XP
New Document
dialog box lets
you type the
document title,
as well as assign
pages to be
used in the
exported HTML
Export Documents To HTML, Part II
e provided an overview of the HTML
(Hypertext Markup Language) export
process last month. Now we will wrap things up by
looking at how to perform the conversion.
Open the document you want to convert and
click File, Export, and HTML. The Export HTML
dialog box opens. This is the headquarters for performing actions that affect how the document will
be exported.
Click New to bring up the Export HTML: New
Document dialog box. Give the
document a name. There are
two ways to determine how
the document will be created
in HTML. Click Assign PageMaker Pages to use the layout
you created in the program.
Click Assign PageMaker Stories
(Ignore Layout) to create an
HTML file containing only the
text of the document.
Select an unassigned page or pages and assign
them by clicking Add or assign them all by clicking
Add All. Remove pages from the assigned list by
clicking Remove or Remove All. See the highlighted page by selecting it in the unassigned or assigned list and clicking View. Choose a background
for the generated pages by clicking Background.
Click Done when you have made all your selections
in the Export HTML: New Document dialog box.
Select the HTML Document Title and click Edit if
you want to make changes later.
Select the HTML document title and click
Document in the Export Files To Location area to
name the document and identify where you want
it stored. Check the Save Images Into This Folder
box to put them in the same folder as the HTML
document. Click the Graphics button to set which
folder you want the graphics saved in, if you
didn’t choose to have the graphics placed in the
same folder as the HTML document. Click OK.
You haven’t yet converted your PageMaker
document to HTML. That will come last.
Click Options to bring up the Options dialog
box. The first decision you have to make here is
whether to have PageMaker try to generate an
HTML file that approximates the layout of the
PageMaker document. PageMaker does this by
using HTML tables. Next define how wide you
want the exported page to be. A safe width is 800
pixels because most of your audience will have at
least that resolution on their PCs.
Now it’s time to define how you want PageMaker styles to match up with the HTML elements. Do this by clicking the HTML Style on the
right for each PageMaker style on the left. A dropdown menu will open with the available HTML
options. For example, for the PageMaker Body
style, you will probably want to choose the HTML
Style Body Text. For Company Address, choose the
HTML Style Address.
Check Preserve Character Attributes to maintain the type attributes you used. The only attributes that will transfer, however, are bold, italic,
underline, and reverse.
There are several options to set in the Graphics
area at the bottom of the dialog box. Selecting All
To GIF will convert any non-GIF (Graphics
Interchange Format) graphics to that format.
GIFs are restricted to 256 colors, so this will help
give your generated HTML pages the smallest
possible size, leading to short download times for
viewers. Charts, screen shots, and technical drawings are examples of graphics that lend themselves to the GIF format. Use JPEG (Joint
Photographic Experts Groups) images, which use
24-bit color compared to the GIF’s 256 colors, for
graphics such as photos that you want to maintain this high color depth. The third option is to
let PageMaker decide the conversion process.
The File Names area gives you the option to
allow long names, which are supported by the
majority of Web servers. Check with your Web
hosting service if you think you may need to restrict file names. Finally, choose Downsample To
72dpi to create graphics with the optimal resolution for download speed. Click OK when you are
done with the Options dialog box.
Now you are ready to export your document to
HTML. Click Export HTML to begin the process.
The HTML Warning dialog box will appear if you
have content within the PageMaker document
that isn’t supported by HTML. Examples are
shapes such as boxes, ovals, and polygons.
Open the HTML file in a Web browser to see
how things turned out. Import the file into
HTML-coding or Web-authoring software to
make further adjustments. ❙❙
Smart Computing / January 2006
Quick Tips
Secrets To Succeeding In Common Tasks
Laser Printers
Question: Every page I print with my laser printer
seems to have a faint ghosted image of parts of
the previous page I printed.
Answer: There’s a problem with the light-sensitive
drum in your printer. Ideally, old residue from previous pages is scraped off the drum before it’s
Question: I sometimes check my portfolio online
and a few hobby sites during lunch—is there a
way to prevent my boss from tracking my offtime surfing?
Answer: Whether at work or at home, you can
easily obscure your surfing tracks by simply
clearing out temporary files and cookies from
your Web browser. In Internet Explorer click
Tools, Internet Options, and the General tab. In
the Temporary Internet files area, click the Delete
Cookies and Delete Files buttons. In the History
area, click the Clear History button. Click OK.
This simple process will clear those records from
your local PC, but remember that deleted files are
Question: Should I turn a PC off or leave it on
when I’m not using it?
Answer: PCs used to contain a lot of individual
chips that all got hot. Turning these old PCs on
and off caused a lot of temperature fluctuations
that sometimes resulted in thermal stress fractures in circuit connections, which lead to erratic
behavior and PC failures. The solution was to
Browsers such as IE make it
easy to clear the numerous
temporary files.
90 January 2006
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Word 2003 lets editors
work with URLs without
launching them.
recharged for a new page. It may be that the printer
isn’t properly removing residual. However, the only
way to fix that is to replace the EP (electrophotographic) cartridge. In some printers the toner and
EP assembly are the same thing. In other printers
the two are separate. Check the documentation for
your printer for specific replacement instructions.
not necessarily erased: Simple undelete tools can
potentially recover deleted files. If you really need
to cover your tracks, a utility such as Webroot
Software’s Window Washer ($29.95; www.web
root.com) can scrub those deleted files do that
they’re unrecoverable.
Note that corporate IT departments typically
maintain their own logs of employee Internet use.
So while a few quick mouse clicks can cover
tracks from nosy colleagues, visiting questionable
sites can still get you in trouble. It’s a good idea to
check your company’s Internet-use policies before visiting nonwork Web sites.
simply leave the PC on, allowing the circuitry to
stabilize at a warm temperature and avoid such
thermal problems. Today, PC designs are radically different. Powerful systems require only a
few chips, and only the processor really gets hot.
As such, many users opt to leave their PCs on all
the time, allowing the systems to enter a powersaving mode after some idle period.
If AIM tries to reconnect when you
close (or lose) a dial-up connection,
just tell AIM not to reconnect.
Adjust your battery alerts
using the laptop’s Power
Management dialog box.
Quick Tips
Word 2003
Question: I edit documents that include a lot of
URLs, and I usually wind up launching the URL
when I try to select or edit it. Is there any way to
keep URLs from launching spontaneously
in Word?
Answer: Older versions of Word made it nearly
impossible to edit URLs without first removing
Question: I use passwords to restrict access to my
PC, laptop, and applications (such as Money).
But I’m always worried that others won’t be able
to access my files in an emergency. Any advice?
Answer: More of our information is winding up
on PCs and online, all guarded by passwords and
access codes. If we become injured or ill, it may
be difficult or impossible for others to help us
with banking and bill paying. It’s important that
you share all password and account-access information with your spouse, children, parents, or
anyone who may need to help you if the situation
arises. You don’t have to make them memorize
your passwords: Just tell them where they can
AOL Instant
Question: I always forget to stop my AIM (AOL
Instant Messenger) utility before I close my dialup connection, and it constantly tries to reconnect. How can I stop this?
Answer: The easiest way is to disable the autoreconnect feature. Right-click the AIM icon in
your System Tray, select Preferences from the
Question: Why do I hear so much humming in my
PC speakers?
Answer: Humming can occur when your speaker
volume (the speaker’s volume knob itself) is turned
up to a high level, usually because the component
sound levels or the master sound level are set too
Question: My laptop alerts me only moments before it goes dead. How can I buy myself more time
to save files or switch to AC power?
A n s w e r : In WinXP click Start, Control Panel,
Performance And Maintenance, and Power
Options, and click the Alarms tab. You’ll see two
the hyperlinks, a cumbersome process that defeated the benefits of hyperlinking in the first
place. Word 2003 allows users to edit URLs
without launching the associated hyperlink. With
Word 2003 running, click Tools and Options and
then select the Edit tab. Select the Use CTRL +
Click To Follow Hyperlink box and click OK.
find the information. In many cases a lockbox
under the bed or a safe in the cellar is an ideal
place for password records.
The idea of writing down your passwords may
seem counterintuitive. After all, what’s the point
of having passwords if you’re just going to write
them down? The point is continuity—banks and
most other institutions will NOT grant access to
your accounts without the proper logon credentials. For example, if your spouse handles the online banking and bill paying and suddenly
becomes incapacitated, you may find yourself
without access to your own money.
menu, and then click the Sign On/Off option.
Deselect the box that says Reconnect Automatically. Click OK. Here’s another hint: If you don’t
want AIM to automatically launch your Web
browser (for AIM Today) each time you start the
application, just deselect the Show AIM Today
Window At Startup box.
low in your PC’s mixer applet. Try turning down
the speaker’s volume knob; then (in Windows XP)
click Start, All Programs, Accessories, Entertainment, and Volume Control. Make sure that each
component sound level is turned up to about 80%
and also that the master volume (or Play Control)
slider is turned up to 80% to 90%.
sections: one for Low Battery Alarm and one for
Critical Battery Alarm. Make sure that both alarms
are activated by selecting the Activate Low Battery
Alarm When Power Level Reaches: boxes. Move
both sliders to a reasonable level. In most cases
setting 10% for a low battery alarm and 3% for a
critical battery alarm should yield adequate results.
Smart Computing / January 2006
Compiled by Sam Evans
Graphics & Design by Lindsay Anker
Where It All Comes Together
he motherboard, also known as a main board,
system board, or mobo, is the foundation of a computer. It houses parts such as the CPU (central processing unit), RAM (random-access memory), chipsets,
expansion slots, and more. Everything connected to your
PC must ultimately connect to your motherboard.
Rear Panel
CPU Socket/Heatsink Mount
This is where you will find your CPU (sometimes referred to
as a processor). It’s very important to know what CPU type
and socket configuration your motherboard will support if
you’re looking to upgrade your system. For instance, you
don’t want to buy an AMD processor that has a 939-pin
configuration if your motherboard was designed to support
an Intel processor with 775-pin configuration.
The rear panel, which is accessible from the rear of your
computer when the case is closed, is basically a hodgepodge of connections. Generally, a rear panel will have PS/2
connectors (the standard mouse/keyboard connections)
for both your mouse and keyboard. Also included in virtually all rear panels is a parallel port for a printer or other peripheral, a serial port, and an Ethernet port to connect to
the Internet or other network. You may also find audio
ports for microphones and speakers, as well as USB ports.
See the diagram on the next page for more details.
Expansion Slots
Motherboards have numerous expansion slots that let
you broaden the capability of your computer. These slots
come in a number of forms including PCI, PCI-E (PCI
Express) x1, PCI-E x16, or AGP (Accelerated Graphics
Port). The slots facilitate data transfer between the CPU
and a peripheral and are easy to use because of their plug
and play capabilities (as soon as you plug them in and reboot your computer, your system should recognize
them). Expansion slots provide a simple way to add video
and sound cards to your PC.
The chipset is a group of microchips that work together to perform a single task. Generally,
a chipset will have a northbridge and a southbridge component. The northbridge typically
directs traffic among your system’s CPU, system memory, and graphics controller. It is connected through a PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) bus to the southbridge. This
controller chip directs the traffic flow between a computer’s storage devices and the peripherals installed in the expansion slots and rear panel.
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Rear Panel
Parallel Port
LAN Ports
PS/2 Mouse
Serial Port
SPDIF (Sony Philips Digital
Interface Format) In
USB Ports
Memory Sockets
The memory sockets hold the memory modules in place. Oftentimes, motherboard
manufacturers color-code socket pairs (in our case, our pairs are purple and orange).
Though our motherboard has socket pairs grouped together, some boards will stagger
the sockets in an attempt to keep the modules cooler. As a rule of thumb, fill one color
of memory socket before inserting memory into a different color socket. Remember to
buy the correct size of module: 240-pin memory sticks won’t fit in184-pin slots.
Power Connector
This is the socket your power supply plugs into in order to provide power to your
motherboard. Most new power connectors have sockets for 24-pin cables, while
older or Micro-ATX (Advanced Technology Extended) boards may have 20-pin
sockets. Ideally, a 24-pin power connector should be connected to a 24-pin power
supply and a 20-pin power cable should go with a 20-pin power connector, but it’s
OK to mix and match. As long as your power supply can sufficiently (a 350-watt
power supply is more than enough to power most systems) power your motherboard, don’t lose too much sleep over it.
SATA Connectors
Also known as ATA, your motherboard should have two IDE
ports, one primary and one secondary. If you don’t have a SATA
hard drive, your hard drive is probably connected to your motherboard via an IDE (Integrated Drive Electronics) connector.
Optical drives also often connect using the IDE interface.
SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) is a fairly new
technology that debuted in 2002. These connectors are quickly
gaining popularity for hard drive connectivity because they offer
faster transfer rates than ATA connectors. SATA cables are also
considerably smaller than their ATA counterparts. This promotes
better airflow and keeps your hardware cooler.
Smart Computing / January 2006
What To Do When . . .
Microsoft Word’s Save
As Dialog Box Opens
Very Slowly
he Save As function is one of
the more important options
in any menu bar. For Word
documents you frequently
move from one place to another, the feature is essential. So what
do you do if nothing happens when
you click the File menu and select Save
As from the drop-down menu? Or
when the Save As dialog box opens so
slowly you might as well retype the
document from scratch? We present
several potential causes (and their corresponding fixes) in the order we suggest approaching them.
Cause: Full or fragmented hard
drive. Preparing to save a document
can be a resource-intensive process.
Word requires hard drive space, free
memory, and processor speed just to
open the Save As dialog box. If your
drive is too full or your system overburdened, Save As may drastically
slow or even crash the application.
Fix: Perform drive maintenance.
Close other programs (check your
System Tray) and try again. Second,
run Disk Cleanup (in Windows XP,
access it via Accessories and System
Tools in the Start menu) to clear out
temporary files and clutter. If that
doesn’t resolve the problem, try running the Disk Defragmenter, accessible
via the same route.
Cause: Unresponsive or disconnected network drives. Network drives
can be convenient ways to easily access
shared network locations. They can
also create major security vulnerabilities and, in this case, can bog down the
Save As function. Word has to find
and scan each network drive every
time Save As launches in order to populate the list of drives and destinations
under the Save In drop-down menu at
the top of the dialog box. This can
slow things down and even cause the
program to hang or crash if any drives
are unavailable
Basic drive maintenance, such as clearing
up hard drive space and defragmenting
the drive, can help speed up Word’s Save
As functionality.
Mapped network drives can bog down
Word’s Save As functionality. Remove them
to speed things up.
Fix: Unless your network drives are
absolutely essential, you should remove
them. First, check to see if you have any
network drives mapped. Open My
Computer from the Start menu and
look for drives with the “connected”
network icon or that are labeled with
server and location information. Rightclick each network drive and select
Disconnect. If you need to save or
transfer files to a network location
quickly and easily, consider adding network destinations to the My Network
Places list (in WinXP). You can even
navigate to your My Network Places
list from the Save In drop-down menu
without slowing the dialog box. If removing network drives isn’t an option,
make sure you’re connected, logged in,
and your network drives are available
before working in Word.
Cause: Conflicting applications.
Some users report, and Microsoft’s
tech support forums confirm, that
Norton’s AntiVirus Office plug-in can
conflict with Word’s Save As function.
Fix: You can disable the Norton
Office plug-in without compromising
overall antivirus protection. Right-click
the Norton AntiVirus icon in the
System Tray and open the program.
Click the Options button and select
Miscellaneous on the left. Deselect the
Enable Office Plug-in box and click OK
and Exit to close Norton AntiVirus.
Fixing a slow-loading Save As doesn’t
have to be difficult. Just a few clicks and
a couple minutes of trial and error
should be enough to get you zipping
around Word again. ❙❙
Smart Computing / January 2006
Examining Errors
Problem: A reader periodically
receives an error message when
opening email messages in
Microsoft Outlook. His PC runs
Windows Me and has all of the latest
software updates. The reader also
described his system configuration
in detail and presented us with a
system summary obtained from
WinMe’s System Information utility.
Error Message: “Can’t open this
item. Out of memory or system
resources. Close some windows or
programs and try again.”
Problem: A reader complains about
an error that has affected his Media
Center PC since updating to Windows
XP SP2 (Service Pack 2). The error occurs whenever he attempts to watch
TV content on his computer screen.
He contacted his computer manufacturer and Microsoft but has received
little assistance and lots of fingerpointing from both parties.
Error Message: “Some of the files
needed to play radio or video are
missing or corrupt. Try restarting the
computer. Go to Help for additional
troubleshooting information.”
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Solution: When Outlook hits a snag,
such as a conflict with another program or a corrupted data file, it’s likely
to present this error. The reader should
try to resolve these issues by repairing
the Outlook installation. He can do so
by opening the Control Panel and selecting Add/Remove Programs. In the
resulting dialog box, he should locate a
reference to Microsoft Office and click
the Add/Remove button. He then
should follow the instructions presented in the Office Setup Wizard to
repair the Outlook installation. When
the repair is complete, he should reboot his PC.
Hopefully, this suggestion
will work. If not, we recommend that he return to the
Add/Remove Programs Properties dialog box and look for a
reference to the PGP email encryption
program. Certain versions of this program are known to conflict with
Outlook, so the reader should remove
any PGP version he has installed on
his computer.
If all else fails, we suggest that he reevaluate his system memory configuration. The reader indicates in his
message that his PC came equipped
with 128MB of RAM to which he later
added another 256MB for a total of
384MB of RAM. Yet, the System
Information summary he submitted
specifies a total physical memory of
only 127.26MB. We advise him to
verify that the newer memory module
he installed is compatible with his
system and then reinstall it. If that
doesn’t work, he should remove the
newer module from his system.
S o l u t i o n : The release of WinXP
SP2 was both a blessing and a curse.
On the one hand, it promised to resolve hundreds of known issues and
add several new features to Microsoft’s latest OS (operating system).
On the other, it was widely reported
to conflict with many popular programs, including several of the company’s own products. Even if we had
a complete list of the software installed on the reader’s system, we
may not be able to detect the source
of the conflict. For this reason, the
best solution may be to reformat the
hard drive, reinstall WinXP, and not
reinstall SP2. Nevertheless, we suggest that the reader try a less invasive
maneuver first.
This particular problem can occur
if the reader installed WMP10 (Windows Media Player 10) prior to installing WinXP SP2. To fix the
situation, the reader first must uninstall SP2. He can do so by opening the
Control Panel and clicking the Add Or
Remove Programs icon. In the resulting window, he should locate the
WinXP SP2 entry and click its Remove
button. The reader then can follow the
on-screen instructions to complete the
process and reboot his system.
When the PC restarts, the reader
should test the Media Center TV console to see if it works. If it does, he
should revisit the Add Or Remove
Programs utility and click the Show
Updates option near the top of the
window. He then should peruse the
list for a reference to WMP10. Once
he finds it, he should click its Remove
button and follow the on-screen instructions to complete the process.
Again, he should reboot the PC when
the uninstall process is finished.
Finally, the reader can reinstall
WinXP SP2 and, after a reboot, reinstall WMP10 (both are available
through Windows Update at update
.microsoft.com). Hopefully, his PC
TV will be functioning properly after
following our advice.
Problem: A reader is having trouble
setting up a local network for his
three home computers. The
computers are able to share a
common Internet connection, yet he
receives an error message whenever he
tries to access the network through
My Network Places.
Error Message: “Workgroup is not
accessible. You might not have
permission to use this network
resource. Contact the administrator
of this server to find out if you have
access permission.”
Solution : WinMe and WinXP include home networking wizards that
guide users through the process of
setting up small area networks in
their homes or offices. The wizards
present their information in a clear
and concise manner, but they leave
out a very important step: How to
specify which system resources can
be shared with others.
To share a drive or folder in WinXP,
the reader should open My Computer
and locate the drive or folder he wants
to share. He should right-click it and
select Sharing And Security from the
pop-up menu. On the
Sharing tab of the resulting dialog box, he
can locate the Sharing
And Security heading
and select the Share
This Folder On The
Network option. The
process is similar in
WinMe. After rightclicking the folder or
drive to be shared,
he should select Sharing from the pop-up
menu. On the Sharing
tab of the resulting
dialog box, he should
click the Shared As
option and specify
whether he wants to
limit access. Either
way, he should click
OK to save his changes
and repeat the process
for each drive or folder
he wants to share.
(NOTE: The reader
may receive a warning message if he tries
to share a drive in
WinXP. He simply
needs to click the If
You Understand The
Risk link to continue.)
If the problem persists, the reader
needs to take a different approach.
That means enabling the NetBIOS
(Network Basic Input/Output System) Over TCP/IP (Transmission
Control Protocol/Internet Protocol)
setting on each WinXP computer in
the network. He can do so by opening
the Control Panel, selecting the
Network And Internet Connections
category, and clicking the Network
Connections icon. He should rightclick the Local Area Connection label
in the list of available networks and
select Properties from the pop-up
menu. Next, he should highlight the
Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) option
in the This Connection Uses The
Following Items field and click the
Properties button.
On the General tab of the resulting
dialog box, the reader should click
Advanced to access the advanced
TCP/IP settings. He should choose
the WINS tab and select the Enable
NetBIOS Over TCP/IP option under
the NetBIOS Setting heading. He
then should click OK a couple of
times to save his settings and close
the dialog boxes.
Next, the reader needs to activate
the Computer Browser service (a
background application built into
WinXP for tracking computers on a
network). He can do so by rightclicking My Computer and selecting
Manage from the pop-up menu.
When the Computer Management
window opens, he should doubleclick the Services And Application heading and click the Services
heading that appears below it. In
the list of services in the right pane,
he should locate Computer Browser
and right-click it. The final step is to
select Start from the pop-up menu
and close the Computer Management
window. That ought to take care of
the problem.
Have questions about an error message you've seen? Send us your message ([email protected]), and
we'll try to decipher it. Tell us what version of Windows you're using, give the full text of the error message,
and provide as many details in your explanation as possible. Volume prohibits individual replies.
Smart Computing / January 2006
Fast Fixes
Direct X 7.0 For Windows 2000
Problem: Microsoft identified a
problem with DirectX 7.0 for Windows 2000 that could let a hacker
access your PC and take control
over it.
Solution: Download and install this
779KB update to prevent a hacker
from damaging or stealing your
data. To download the update, type
the URL (uniform resource locator)
we listed below in the Address field of
your browser window. After Microsoft’s Download Center page loads,
type KB904706 in the Keywords text
box and click Go. Click the link
named Security Update For Windows
2000 (KB904706), and on the next
page, click Download. When the file
transfer is complete, double-click the
file (Windows2000-KB904706-x86ENU.exe) and follow the on-screen
prompts to complete the installation.
Windows XP Update
Problem: Microsoft discovered a
problem in Windows XP in which an
attacker could tamper with the file
transfer location on your computer
when using the Microsoft Windows
FTP (File Transfer Protocol) client.
The attacker could then potentially
steal data from your PC.
Solution: Download and install this
558KB update to shield your computer
from attacks that could damage your
data. To download the update, type the
URL we listed below in the Address
98 January 2006
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field of your browser window. After
Microsoft’s Download Center page
loads, type KB905495 in the Keywords
text box and click Go. Click the link
named Security Update For Windows
XP (KB905495), and on the next page,
click Download. When the file transfer
is complete, double-click the file
(WindowsXP-KB905495-x86ENU.exe) and follow the on-screen
prompts to complete the installation.
Fix Of The Month
Media Center Security Update
Problem: You’ve neglected to install
one or more updates for Microsoft
Windows XP Media Center Edition
2005. As a result, your PC might be
experiencing a variety of problems.
Solution: Download and install this
Solution: Download and install this
507KB update to thwart potential attacks. To download the update, type the
URL we listed below in the Address
field of your browser window. After
Microsoft’s Download Center page
loads, type KB905749 in the Keywords
text box and click Go. Click the Security
Update For Windows 2000 (KB905749)
link, and on the next page, click
Download. When the file transfer is
complete, double-click the file
(Windows2000-KB905749-x86ENU.exe) and follow the on-screen
prompts to complete the installation.
cumulative 2.7MB update, which
will fix a number of problems with
the program. To download the file,
type the URL we listed below in the
Address field of your browser
window. After Microsoft’s Download Center page loads, type
KB908250 in the Keywords text box,
and click Go. Click the link named
Update Rollup KB908250, and in the
Validation Required box, click
Continue. On the next page, follow
the instructions to validate your
copy of Windows. On the next
page that appears, click Download.
After the file transfer is complete,
double-click the downloaded file
and follow the on-screen prompts to
complete the installation.
Microsoft also posted a second
update rollup for Media Center
Edition 2005. You should install
this update, too, to update your
copy of the program with improvements such as better program stability, and for a feature that lets you
connect to the Xbox 360 to stream
music, photos, recorded TV, and
video. To download this 29MB file,
type KB900325 in the Keywords
text box and click Go. Then use the
instruction for the other Media
Center update to complete the installation process.
Windows 2000 Plug And Play
Problem: Your Windows 2000-based
PC has a flaw in the Plug And Play
capability that could let an unauthorized person take control of your
system. In order for the person to
take control of your PC, he will have
to use valid logon credentials and also
be able to sit down at your computer,
meaning this flaw won’t make your
PC vulnerable to remote attacks conducted via a network.
Need help with your hardware or software? Looking for simple
explanations on technical subjects? Send us your questions!
Get straight answers to your technical questions from Smart Computing. Send your questions,
along with a phone and/or fax number, so we can call you if necessary, to: Smart Computing Q&A,
P.O. Box 85380, Lincoln, NE 68501, or email us at q&[email protected] Please include all
version numbers for the software about which you’re inquiring, operating system information,
and any relevant information about your system. (Volume prohibits individual replies.)
I have Windows XP Home Edition, and I
have tried to “teach” myself, via the Internet,
the use of the command line and some of its
commands. I have found that some of the commands I try aren’t recognized. Am I doing something wrong or doesn’t WinXP Home Edition
support the use of commands to the extent that
WinXP Pro does?
Although there are some differences beA
tween WinXP Home and Pro, we don’t
think that the command line utilities are vastly
different between the two OS (operating
system) versions.
You didn’t mention which commands
weren’t being recognized on your WinXP
Home PC, but when using the command line,
we have three strategies to minimize the
time we spend deciphering the appropriate
I am writing to ask a question concerning my
Dell OptiPlex GX1 computer. I purchased
this PC second-hand from a company called
This Old
Second Wind PC. Because I’m not the original
owner, Dell’s techs won’t discuss anything with
me. The CPU speed is currently 500MHz, and I
would like to know if there’s a way to upgrade the
processor to increase the overall speed. There isn’t
any room to add RAM, but I would like to get a
DVD burner and edit my home movies in a DVD
format. Everyone keeps telling me that my system
is too slow, though. What do you think?
Even if Dell’s techs won’t help you, there
are still users guides and service manuals
for several OptiPlex GX1 models at Dell’s Web
site that you can access. Go to www.dell.com
and search for “OptiPlex GX1” using the
Search field in the upper-right corner. When
we did this, we found the appropriate link
about four items from the top within the list of
100 January 2006
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First, we frequently use the HELP command,
which lists approximately 75 commands with a
short description after each one. This isn’t a
comprehensive list of all the commands available, but it serves as a good starting point.
Next, we use the HELP <COMMAND
NAME> function to display more information
about a particular command. For example, to
learn more about the CONVERT command,
you would type help convert at the prompt.
This would display the full syntax of the CONVERT command.
Finally, when in doubt we turn to Microsoft’s
Web site. At www.microsoft.com/resources
/en-us/ntcmds.mspx, you’ll find a comprehensive list that includes the commands that are
available to WinXP users, as well as the syntax
guides for using each command. This is a valuable (and free) resource that will serve you well.
results; the link’s title is “Contents: Dell
OptiPlex GX1 Systems.” Among other items,
this link leads to instructions on how to upgrade the processor.
However, having pointed you in the right
direction, we’d suggest that you get some help
from a local computer store. The OptiPlex
GX1 systems used Intel’s BX440 support
chipset. Its limitations, combined with the
BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) and the design of the OptiPlex motherboard, may further
confine your choices for upgrading the
processor. Although the BX440 could theoretically handle faster Pentium III processors, indications within Dell’s manuals suggest that
your system cannot be upgraded beyond
600MHz, and that still won’t satisfy your
power requirements, even assuming you could
find an appropriate processor. Alas, it may be
time to consider a system replacement instead
of a system upgrade.
While Web surfing, instead of seeing a picQ
ture or an animation, I only get a tiny
square that contains a red square, or a red X, or
a green circle with a blue triangle. Sometimes,
right-clicking the red X and clicking Show
Picture will work, but this tactic never works
with the other symbols I mentioned. How can I
set my browser so it shows me these pictures
and animations (or whatever I’m missing)? I’ve
reset Internet Explorer and ZoneAlarm to their
default settings, but that didn’t seem to matter.
You don’t say whether you’re in a corporate
environment or at home, but we’re going to
assume it’s the latter. Otherwise, if it’s the
former, this is an issue you might want to ask
your system administrator(s) about after you’ve
made sure that it isn’t a company policy set to
discourage employees from doing things that
they shouldn’t instead of working. You also don’t
say which IE version you’re using, so we’ll give
you the instructions for the more recent versions.
Launch IE, open the Tools menu, click
Internet Options, choose the Advanced tab, and
I’m using WinXP Pro with Microsoft Word
2002. Each time I open Word, I have to reload the Drawing and Picture toolbars. Is there a
way to save my toolbar preferences so that I see
the same toolbars every time I open Word?
To show or hide toolbars, regardless of
whether you’re using Word 2002 or the
newer Word 2003, you have two choices. One,
you can right-click an empty portion of the existing toolbar docking areas at the top or
bottom of the screen and then select or deselect
the toolbar(s) you wish to use or hide. Two,
you can select Customize from the Tools menu,
choose the Toolbars tab, and then select or deselect the toolbar(s) you want.
I’m having trouble getting Scheduled Tasks
to run the Disk Defragmenter program automatically on my WinXP system. Scheduled
Tasks opens Disk Defragmenter automatically,
but it won’t run it. Please tell me what the parameters are that I need to input so the program
starts running on its own.
Scheduled Tasks offers users an excellent
way to manage repetitive tasks on their
computers. After all, many of us probably
forget to run a utility as often as we should.
scroll down the list of options until you see the
Multimedia section. Enable the options you want
by selecting the checkbox next to each choice to,
for example, Play Animations In Web Pages, Play
Videos In Web Pages, Show Pictures, and so on.
Doing this should solve most of your problems.
If you notice that there are still some animations and/or images you can’t see, perhaps they
were written using Java or JavaScript. If this is the
case, look at the Microsoft VM section (directly
above the Multimedia section) and select the
checkbox next to JIT Compiler For Virtual
Machine Enabled. If selecting this option still
doesn’t help you see Java and JavaScript items,
choose the Security tab. At the bottom of that
tab, click the Custom Level button. When the
Security Settings dialog box appears, exercise
some caution in your choices. For example, if
you want to be able to run ActiveX controls (near
the top of the options list) and other scripts (near
the bottom of the list), you may want to select
Prompt instead of Enable in those instances
where the setting is currently set at Disable.
If you start your documents using the global
Normal.dot template, which appears whenever
you start Word without selecting a document
first, the toolbars will always appear where you
left them when you last exited the program.
(Once they appear, you may move them to the
top, bottom, or either side margin, as well as
simply leaving them to float over your documents.) The only reason we can imagine that
the toolbars in question disappear when you
reopen Word is because you’re using a custom
template that was saved without the toolbars
present. If this is the case, open the custom
template, invoke the toolbars, and then resave
the document as a template with the toolbars
present. That should fix your problem.
Plus, it’s convenient to have your PC perform
system maintenance tasks during a time frame
when you’re not using your computer.
The simplest way to schedule a defragging
utility is to open the Control Panel, click
Performance And Maintenance (in Category
view), and then click Scheduled Tasks. Next,
double-click Add Scheduled Task and select
Command Prompt from the list (you may
need to scroll down). Click Next and name
your task by typing Defrag Drive in the field.
Choose when you want your computer to
Smart Computing / January 2006
perform this task and click Next. Select a
starting time and date and then click Next
again. Enter your password in the appropriate
fields and click Next. Select the Open Advanced Properties For This Task When I Click
Finish checkbox and click Finish.
Click Browse and then click My Computer.
Navigate to WINDOWS\SYSTEM32\Defrag.exe
and click Open. You’ll need to specify which
drive you want to defrag, so simply append the
path that appears in the Run field from
C:\WINDOWS\system32\defrag.exe (or something similar) to C:\WINDOWS\system32\defrag C:\ (by replacing “.exe” at the end of the
path with “C:\” or whichever letter is assigned
to the drive you want to defrag).
When you finish these steps and click Apply,
the Disk Defragmenter will start to defragment
your drive at the time you specified. If you’re at
your computer when Disk Defragmenter starts,
you’ll see a Command Prompt window open as
the utility goes to work.
I have an ongoing battle with Microsoft
Passport and my ISP (Internet service
provider), Verizon. I use several services offered
Verizon, it’s often hard to tell who’s at fault.
Instead of trying to assess blame, we recommend a different strategy.
Although you use Verizon for your email,
there’s no reason you can’t use a different email
service to receive the confirmation message
from Microsoft. There are numerous free email
services that you can use for this purpose, but
because you’re trying to subscribe to groups
that Microsoft offers, we suggest that you use
Hotmail, Microsoft’s free email service. Simply
go to www.hotmail.com and click the Sign Up
button. Next, subscribe to the Microsoft services that you were having trouble enrolling in
due to the “missing” confirmation messages,
but instead of using your Verizon email address, use your new Hotmail address. If the
confirmation messages still get lost in the ether,
it’ll be easier to point the finger at Microsoft
and ask one of its representatives for assistance
in solving this problem.
by Microsoft that require the use of Microsoft’s
Passport. However, when I attempt to enroll, a
confirmation message is supposed to be sent to
me. I never receive this message; therefore, the
transaction isn’t completed. Microsoft says that
Verizon’s email filters are stopping the message,
but Verizon says this isn’t true. I have my Verizon
“safe list” set to accept messages sent from
Microsoft’s site, and there are no such messages
in any of my Verizon folders, including Inbox,
Blocked, or SpamDetector. I don’t think this
problem is unique to me, and I suspect that many
people using Verizon have the same problem.
In this age of spam, one of the collateral efA
fects of ISPs’ aggressive spam countermeasures is that legitimate email often is blocked.
With companies as large as Microsoft and
My PC is running WinXP SP2 (Service Pack
2) with a 40GB hard drive, and I have 25GB
of free space and 512MB of memory. So, why
can’t I install GoBack 4.0? All seems to go well
until the GoBack installer starts creating the
Gobackio.bin file; the installer gets about 75% of
it completed and then just stalls. I don’t receive
any error messages when this happens, either.
After waiting a couple of hours, I end up just canceling the installation and rebooting. I wrote to
Symantec’s Online Technical Support several
times, but all its representatives told me was to
do the following: Optimize your system resources, run ScanDisk, run Defragmenter, perform
a clean boot, and then install GoBack. I did all of
this and still get the same results. Can you help?
We’re not sure when you last contacted
Symantec, but the problem you described is
addressed in the company’s online knowledge
102 January 2006
/ www.smartcomputing.com
base (www.symantec.com/techsupp/ngb/ngb_
2005_tasks.html). Symantec now suggests that
the problem is caused by changes taking place
on systems while the Gobackio.bin file is being
created. The knowledge base’s article suggests
that in addition to stopping all of the other programs that may be running, including your
screen saver, you also should temporarily disconnect any broadband Internet connections
(such as cable or DSL [Digital Subscriber Line]).
Furthermore, in addition to performing a
clean boot, Symantec suggests that WinXP users
should start the Task Manager (by right-clicking
an empty portion of the Taskbar and selecting
Task Manager or pressing CTRL-ALT-DELETE)
to check if anything is running in the background. Stop all running programs listed below
the Applications tab, and then check the list
below the Processes tab; here, you should stop
all the processes except Csrss.exe, Explorer.exe,
Lsass.exe, Services.exe, Smss.exe, Spoolsv.exe,
Svchost.exe, System, System Idle Process, and
Winlogon.exe. When you finish, exit the Task
Manager and try to install GoBack 4.0.
I recently installed Comcast Internet. The
modem I’m using is installed on my Mac G5
computer using OS X 10.3.7, but I also want to
and select Sharing. You’ll need to click the lock
icon to make the needed changes. Next, select
Internet and select the Built-in Ethernet
checkbox. If you’re using a dial-up modem, select Internal Modem from the Share Your
Connection drop-down menu. If you have a
cable modem connected to your G5 via an
Ethernet cable, select Built-in Ethernet from the
drop-down menu. Click the Start icon, and your
G5 will now serve as a gateway to the Internet.
You’ll now need to configure your WinXP Pro
PC so it uses the G5 as its gateway. Click Start,
Control Panel, Network And Internet Connections, and Network Connections. Then right-click
the Local Area Connection icon, click Properties,
select Internet Protocol (TCP/IP), and click the
Properties button. When the next dialog box appears, enter the IP address that Comcast assigned
in the appropriate field. The subnet mask should
be the same one used on your G5. Also, set the
default gateway to the IP address assigned to your
G5, as well as the DNS (domain name system)
servers it uses. Click OK twice, and your connection should successfully connect to the Internet
through your G5’s connection.
connect it to my PC running WinXP Pro. What
do I need so I can use the same modem for both
Despite running entirely different OSes, as
well as residing on different chip architectures, WinXP Pro and Mac OS X can behave
nicely in a joint network. You didn’t mention
whether you’re using a dial-up modem or a
cable modem, but you can configure either of
these devices in the same way.
First, contact Comcast to obtain a usable IP
(Internet Protocol) address for the Windows
computer. The easiest and most affordable way
to share your Comcast connection is by connecting your WinXP computer to the Mac via
an Ethernet cable. (You don’t need to purchase
a crossover cable because your G5 will automatically detect the cable connection.)
After you’ve physically connected the two
computers, you’ll need to enable Internet
Sharing on your G5. Launch System Preferences
Every time I update my iPod, I receive an
error message telling me that the file that
contains the information about the number of
songs and amount of time is corrupt and that I
should run ScanDisk. But when I run ScanDisk, it
comes up clean. This problem started about a
month or two ago, and other than receiving the
error message, the iPod works fine.
A great way to understand iPod problems is
to visualize it as a removable hard drive with
a few extra options. Like any hard drive, the iPod
is susceptible to file damage, corruption, and (occasionally) deletion. With this in mind, there are
three things you should do.
First, make sure you have the most recent software for your iPod. Even if your iPod is an older
model, Apple routinely releases updates. Visit
www.apple.com/ipod/download and download
the latest iPod Updater. Follow the instructions
on how to install the update and see if this helps.
Second, treat your iPod with kid gloves. When
you remove your iPod from its dock, be sure to
properly unmount it, regardless of whether
you’re connecting the iPod to your PC via a USB
or a FireWire connection. The safest way to unmount the iPod is by launching iTunes, finding
your iPod under the Source column, and clicking
the Eject icon on the right or right-clicking your
iPod model and selecting Eject. When you eject
your iPod via iTunes, both iTunes and Windows
make sure that any open files safely close, which
prevents files from becoming corrupted.
Third, if you continue to receive a message
about running ScanDisk, you may want to restore
the iPod’s software; this reinstalls the iPod’s software to a pristine condition and wipes out any
problematic files or settings that have become
corrupted. Be forewarned, though, because it
also will wipe out the songs you’ve copied onto
your iPod. Fortunately, it won’t wipe out the
songs stored in the iTunes Library on your PC.
Follow the restore instructions at docs.info
.apple.com/article.html?artnum=60983. When
the restore process is complete, the iTunes
Setup Assistant will guide you through the
process of setting up your preferences. When
you finish configuring your iPod, it will sync
itself to your iTunes Library, and you’ll be
able to use it again.
Smart Computing / January 2006
settings, and you can tweak those settings if necessary to
optimize your system’s performance.
Answers to users’ most common questions about
I’m confused. What’s the difference between
CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor)
and BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) are closely related.
The BIOS is firmware (software instructions permanently
recorded on a chip located on your motherboard). BIOS
checks and initializes the PC hardware each time your
system powers up or restarts before handing off control to
your OS (operating system).
The problem is that your PC can have a large variety of
configuration options, including CPU speed, bus settings,
and so on. All of these system variables are stored in the
CMOS RAM, which is a small area of very low-power RAM
(also located on the motherboard). When a PC starts, the
BIOS code starts to execute, and it needs to read the contents of your CMOS RAM to learn how the particular PC is
configured; the BIOS won’t be able to start your PC
without valid CMOS RAM contents.
I’m getting a “CMOS battery” error on my
laptop, but because my laptop is plugged into
a wall outlet, it’s not even using the battery. What’s up?
The battery error that you’re seeing isn’t related to the
laptop’s main power source. Remember that CMOS RAM
is basically just memory, so it would lose its contents when
the power is off if not for the fact that engineers include a
small battery (usually a lithium coin cell) to power the
CMOS RAM while the PC’s main power source is off. The
CMOS’ battery can last for years. Even so, when a CMOS’
battery dies, the CMOS RAM contents are lost, so the BIOS
no longer knows how to configure your PC and can’t boot
your system until the settings are restored. The solution is
to replace the CMOS’ battery. Don’t panic: Any documentation that accompanied your laptop will show you which
small panel to open to do this. Then, with a new battery,
most modern PCs will initialize with a default set of CMOS
104 January 2006
/ www.smartcomputing.com
My co-worker says that I can improve my PC’s
performance by changing some of the settings
in its “Setup menu.” Where is the Setup menu, and what
settings should I change?
There’s a “Setup” feature that’s only accessible in the first
few moments before the OS starts loading; it’s when you
see a small text message, such as “Press DELETE To Start
Setup,” displayed at the bottom of the screen. This is often
called the CMOS Setup, and it’s a small routine in BIOS
that lets you check and change the contents of your CMOS
RAM. For example, if you wish to tweak the AGP
(Accelerated Graphics Port) bus or memory bus characteristics of your system, you’ll need to make those changes
through the CMOS Setup routine.
Yes, you certainly can tweak some settings to optimize
your system’s performance. Some examples include CMOS
clock speeds and multipliers (which users increase to overclock the CPU so it runs faster than rated by the manufacturer), as well as memory timing settings. However, most
contemporary CMOS Setup routines will severely limit the
number of settings that are available to end users. And even
then, your options on how to change settings often are restricted. This is because today’s PCs are much more intelligent about detecting installed hardware, and most potential
timing and configuration options are selected accordingly.
If you wish to tinker, refer to the documentation for your
particular system or BIOS version. In many cases, PC
makers will document the most important BIOS features
and make those documents available from their Web site.
I really messed up. I started tinkering with my
CMOS Setup, and now I can’t get Windows to
boot. Is there any way that I can fix this?
When you change settings in the CMOS Setup, you’re
overriding the default settings and telling the BIOS that the
hardware should work in a particular way. If something
can’t work according to a setting you changed, the system
won’t work properly—and as you found out, it often won’t
even boot. Chances are you messed with a critical timing
parameter. A common example occurs when users try to
overclock their CPU or memory by pushing clock rates past
recommended limits. Fortunately, you can usually recover
by returning to the CMOS Setup and restoring the original
settings you may have changed. Then, save your changes
and reboot. If you undo your changes correctly, the system
will spring back to life. If you don’t know (or don’t remember) which settings you changed, look for an option in
the main CMOS Setup menu labeled something similar to
“Restore CMOS Defaults.” After selecting this option, save
the changes and reboot. Doing so will return each setting to
a factory default state, but it should get you out of trouble.
AOL Won’t Go &
Counterfeit Windows XP
Are you having trouble
finding a product or
getting adequate service
from a manufacturer? If
so, we want to help solve
your problem. Send us
a description of the
product you’re seeking
or the problem you’re
having with customer
service. In billing disputes, include relevant
information (such as account numbers or screen
names for online services) and photocopies
of checks. Include your
phone number in case
we need to contact you.
Letters may be edited for
length and clarity;
volume prohibits individual replies.
Write to:
Action Editor
P.O. Box 85380
Lincoln, NE 68501-5380
Or send email to:
[email protected]
Or fax us at:
(402) 479-2104
106 January 2006
When I ordered my Gateway
notebook two years ago, it included
a free one-year subscription to AOL. I
canceled my AOL account before the
end of the yearlong trial period. Since that
time, I have been trying to remove AOL 8.0
without much luck. When I try to remove the software using Add/Remove Programs, I get a message saying Windows is preparing to remove
software and then nothing happens. I contacted
Gateway for assistance and have had no luck. I
tried starting the system in Safe Mode and even let
Gateway try and remove the software via remote
access without any success. Gateway concluded
there must be components missing from the application and suggested I contact AOL for further assistance. AOL claimed it no longer supported AOL
8.0, and I’d have to set up an account to install
AOL 9.0 on my system. I have no desire to pay
AOL just to get its software off my system.
Diane Rea
Pioneer, Calif.
We thought it seemed odd that AOL
would tell Diane she had to pay before she
could install AOL 9.0. According to AOL,
software installation and account setup are
distinct processes, so users can install the
latest version, close out of the software when
it asks for billing information, and remove
it. We passed Diane’s contact information
on to AOL, and its techs contacted her to get
the software uninstalled.
I bought a computer and discovered it had a
pirated version of Windows XP Pro. I requested a
few additional upgrades from the same individual and asked him to install an official version
of WinXP Pro at that time. He didn’t do so because the version I had was outdated compared
to the version on my system. Because the version
on my system is newer than the one on the install
disc, I’ve had a difficult time installing the new
version while keeping my personal data. Is there
/ www.smartcomputing.com
any way to get the older version installed without
wiping out my personal information?
Ed Henderson
Calgary, Alberta
Undoubtedly, Ed isn’t the only user who
finds himself in this situation. Microsoft recently began cracking down on piracy by requiring that users validate their version of
Windows before downloading certain
Microsoft software. If you try to validate
your OS (operating system) and discover
your version of Windows isn’t legitimate,
Microsoft may be able to offer some help.
If you unknowingly purchased a counterfeit CD or received a counterfeit CD with
your system, Microsoft will trade an official
version of Windows for your counterfeit CD.
You’ll also need to provide a detailed confidential report to Microsoft detailing where
and when you purchased the counterfeit software. You’ll also need to provide proof of
purchase. This can be a purchase order or
some other receipt so long as it contains the
retailer’s name and address and a reference to
Windows. If you’re able to go this route,
Microsoft will mail you a free replacement
CD with Service Pack 2 included. Users will
need to reinstall the new version, but it should
be an easy upgrade for most users and
shouldn’t require reformatting the hard drive.
If you didn’t receive a CD with your computer, but discover WinXP isn’t genuine, you
have another alternative: an electronic key
from Microsoft. WinXP Home users will need
to pay $99 while WinXP Pro users will need to
pay $149. Nonetheless, this option might be
better for those who are thinking of buying a
replacement version anyway. The electronic
key includes software to help you change the
license key to make your software genuine
(and allow you to download and install updates). Once again, customers will need to
submit an online counterfeit report.
Manufacturer Index
eed to contact a manufacturer for tech support
but can’t find its information? Look no further: Smart
Computing.com’s Tech Support
Center provides an entire list of
manufacturers from Adobe to
Yahoo!. You’ll find all kinds of
useful information, including
phone numbers, street addresses,
and Web site links.
Head to www.smart
computing.com and click
the Tech Support Center link.
Scroll down to the bottom
of the page and click the
Manufacturer Tech Support Index
link under the Other Helpful Tech
Support Tools section.
Manufacturers are listed
alphabetically, so you can
find contact information quickly
and easily.
Smart Computing / January 2006
E d i t o r i a l
L i c e n s e
Being Alone Together
ome time ago, the wire services
ran a human interest piece about
a young man who never went
anywhere without being connected to
his buddy via cellular phone. Like those
irritating folks you see talking to no
one as they wander the malls and stand
in line at stores, his wireless Bluetooth
headset was semipermanently attached
to his left ear; wherever he went, he and
his pal carried on a running conversation. Regardless of whether he was
shopping, taking a walk, driving, at
work, or in class, this fellow was linked
to his friend.
I might’ve thought that this was a
fluke, but then I ran across the story
of Steven, a Scottish teenager who
lost both his job and his girlfriend
and had to be referred to a counseling center (in Scotland, I
suppose that would be a centre) because of his addiction.
And what was he addicted to? Young Steven was addicted
to communication: He often sent as many as 300 emails
per day to his girlfriend and was spending about $8,000 per
year on text messages. The boy communicated himself
right out of a relationship and into the hospital.
Then there’s Chris Claypool, a salesman who hails from
Post Falls, Idaho. He’s the latest in a long line of people
suffering from “BlackBerry Thumb,” a repetitive stress injury resulting from typing on the tiny keyboards common
to BlackBerries, Treos, and similar devices. (Note to the
folks at Research In Motion, makers of the BlackBerry: It
can’t be a good thing when a disease is named after your
flagship product.)
An awful lot of us seem compelled to communicate
constantly: We have house phones, cell phones, Treos,
email, instant messaging, online forums, newsgroups, and
chat rooms—all of which enable us to be constantly in
touch. Basically, we live in a society in which no one ever
has to be alone.
Yet, at the same time, fewer and fewer of us are making
actual personal contact. (A young New Jersey girl who participated in a No Phone Day exercise found herself seated
next to someone at a school assembly and noted, “I had to
actually take time out to physically communicate with
them.’’ Ohmygod!)
How ironic that all of these communicative technologies—as useful and as effective as they are—can also isolate
us. The young man wandering the mall speaking into thin
air, Steven frantically sending text messages, Chris tapping
108 January 2006
/ www.smartcomputing.com
away on his BlackBerry, all of them—
while certainly communicating with
someone at the time—were at that
moment also excluding other forms
of communication: a friend waving
from across the street or a relative
walking nearby, a glance from an asyet unmet potential friend, a phone
call from a parent or schoolmate.
But there are definitely times when
one wants to be alone; certainly there
are times when I want to be alone,
free from the constant chatter, the
noise, the chaos, the need to be on all
the time. There are days when I want
no “happy talk” television news
people yammering at me, no radio
hosts haranguing me, no phones
chirping, Treos buzzing, doorbells
ringing, or email beeping. All I really want, on days like that,
is a good book, a fire, and a dog. (But the dog has to be calm
and well-behaved. Also, it can’t shed. And it would help a
lot if he could fetch coffee and pour it into a cup without
spilling any. “Cream, please, and no sugar. Good boy.”)
These days, though, that sort of quiet is hard to arrange.
One must work and one must interact with one’s friends
and family and with the rest of the world. And with so many
communicative technologies surrounding us, it’s not always
easy to escape. Maybe we’re in danger of becoming, as
Thoreau once said, the tools of our tools.
Or maybe that’s a cop-out. They’re just tools, after all—
and our tools, to boot. We own them, not the other way
around. Perhaps subscribing to Thoreau’s famous dictum is
just a way of avoiding responsibility for our own actions:
“Oh, it’s not my fault I’m dependent on technology; it’s the
technology’s fault.”
I can remember when The Phone Company was a huge
monolithic entity, endlessly urging us to reach out and
touch someone. Well, we did. And we did it so well that
now we need a button to push that says, “Hey! Stop
reaching out and touching me. Leave me alone for a bit.
Don’t worry, I’ll be back. When I’m good and ready. Check
with me once I get the dog trained.” ❙❙
Rod Scher is a former software developer and a recovering English
teacher. He's also the publication editor of Smart Computing and
will no doubt continue in that position until such time as his boss
reads this column. Contact Rod at [email protected]
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