Don Edrington's  PC Chat   nct-3.gif
PC Chat appears twice weekly in San Diego's North County Times & in Riverside County's The Californian.

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Year 2000 aro-grn.gif Click Here for Complete Listing of 2000's PC Chats
Year 2001 aro-grn.gif Click Here for Complete Listing of 2001's PC Chats
Dec 2, 2001 Another Virus Alert
Dec 4, 2001 Tips on Printing Multipage Documents
Dec 9, 2001 PopUp Ad Killers - Worth the Trouble? - What is "Web" Email? - Why Did My Picture Icons Change?
Dec 11, 2001 Navigating Without a Mouse
Dec 16, 2001 Getting Animated Graphics to Move - Tips on Book Formatting
Dec 18, 2001 Printing Web Pages + Working with Tables
Dec 23, 2001 Finding Things on your PC + Some Keyboard Shortcuts for the Mac
Dec 25, 2001 Cookies - ScanDisk - Internet Device - iMac
Dec 30, 2001 More on Cookies + Selecting Multiple Files for Moving, Deleting, Etc.
Tuesday
Dec 30
More on Cookies + Selecting Multiple Files for Moving, Deleting, Etc

     When I recently suggested creating a Desktop Shortcut that leads to the "Cookies" folder I got a number of interesting responses. Some asked what Cookies are and what they do.

     Well, Cookies are small text files that Internet retailers place on our hard drives when we visit their sites. While visiting a site, activities such as which buttons we click on are recorded in order to create a profile of what we might be interested in buying. This info is then placed in our Cookies folder so that when we visit that site again the retailer might be better prepared to lead us to areas we previously expressed an interest in.

     My "Shortcut" instruction was to make it easier to access the Cookies folder, for the purpose of deleting them periodically. However, Lacey Hood told me she buys books at Amazon.com from time to time and that she feels the Cookies make her shopping there easier.

     Some folks consider Cookies to be an invasion of privacy and prefer barring them in the first place. This can be done, but doing so can make certain sites totally off-limits. However, the choice is yours.

     Internet Express users can go to Tools, Internet Options, Privacy and choose the level of "cookie avoidance" they want.

     Netscape users will find these choices at Tasks, Privacy & Security, Cookie Manager.

     In any case, it's important to understand that your Cookies folder is a "system" folder and cannot be deleted. However, the "contents" of this folder can be deleted. The same holds true for other "system" folders such as the Recycle Bin, My Documents, and Temporary Internet Files.

     The easiest way to empty one of these folders is to double-click its "yellow folder" icon to open it. Then go to Edit, Select All (or do Ctrl+A). Hit your keyboard Delete key and you'll be asked if you are sure you want to perform this action. Click Yes and the files will be gone.

     However, you may see a message saying that certain files are "system" files and that they can't be deleted. No problem. Ignore these files and continue deleting those which can be deleted.

     Selecting Multiple Files

     Tom Streeter said that when he followed this procedure, over 800 files still remained and asked if there was a quicker way than deleting them one at a time.

     Yes, there is. After you've deleted all you can with Select All, the remaining ones can be "marqueed" with the mouse and deleted all at once. To "marquee" a group of contiguous files, depress your left mouse button and "draw" a rectangle around them. They'll all turn dark. This means they are "selected" and can be removed by hitting your Delete key.

     Another way of selecting multiple contiguous files is to click on the first target file while holding down your Shift key. Click on the last file while still depressing Shift. This will cause the first, last and all files in between to be selected. Once selected, the target files can then be Deleted, Cut, Moved, Copied or "Sent To" another folder.

     To Select multiple non-contiguous files, just hold down Ctrl while you point and click each target file.

     The "Shift key trick" described above also works in word processing documents where you want to Select a large block of contiguous text. If you have trouble controlling your mouse after clicking a block's beginning and then trying to make the selection end in a precise spot, just set the mouse aside and expand the selected area by clicking your Arrow keys or your Page Down or Page Up keys. This makes text selection fast, easy and precise.

     The Difference Between "Delete" and "Cut"

     I find that some folks are confused about the difference between "Deleting" something and "Cutting" it. Well, the former means sending text, graphics, files, folders or whatever to your Recycle Bin, from whence they can later be removed permanently. The latter means removing a target item from its current location and placing it on the "Windows Clipboard" from whence it can be "Pasted" into another location, or even into multiple different locations.

Tuesday
Dec 25
Cookies - ScanDisk - Internet Device - iMac

     Lenora Anderson wrote to ask if there is any reason not to delete the "cookies" that various Internet sites send to her hard drive. There is no reason not to delete them, and I have a Desktop Shortcut to take me to the Cookies folder for just this purpose. This easiest way to create this Shortcut is to go to Start, Find (or Search), Files & Folders, and type in Cookies. When the Cookies folder is found, just drag its icon on to your Desktop. A message will pop up saying, oddly, that you can't do this and will ask if you want a Shortcut on your Desktop instead. Click on Yes.

     Linda Wooley wrote to ask what I thought of Incredimail. Well, I haven't used the program at length to test its reliability and stability, but I must confess to being quite impressed with what I've seen on the surface. In case you haven't heard about Incredimail, it's an e-mail client that comes with all kinds of built-in graphics features, which include animated cartoons and a variety of colorful backgrounds.

     My objection to it when first sent a beta copy about a year ago was that it had no "Blind Carbon Copy" feature, but this has been fixed. Incredimail looks and behaves very much like Outlook Express, and will automatically pick up all your existing OE folders and saved e-mail. There is no charge for the basic program, but the sender sees a small ad box, while the recipient sees a small ad for Incredimail at the bottom of each incoming e-mail. However, for $30, you'll receive a version without the advertising. Other advanced graphics features are available for additional costs. Check out www.incredimail.com for details.

     I get mail almost daily from folks who have trouble running ScanDisk and Defrag. Well, a full explanation of all the alternate ways of running these programs can always be found at www.pcdon.com. At least one of them will work for you.

     Beverly Layton had resisted getting a computer for a long time, insisting that her typewriter filled all her needs for writing letters, invoices, and the like for CableTronics, the Vista firm owned by Bev and husband Bob. But when a friend gave her a vintage Macintosh, she quickly discovered the advantages of doing these things with a computer. Later, when a grandson joined the Air Force and went to Okinawa, she wanted to exchange e-mail with him, but her old Mac had no modem, nor was it really powerful enough for Internet browsing even if it had one.

     So when Bob saw an "Internet Device" at the local Radio Shack he brought it home for Bev to try out. Well, the Compag iPaq does do Internet, e-mail and even IMs (Instant Messages) and its price is very low to anyone who signs up for two years of MSN as part of the purchase. But after giving the iPaq a two-week workout, they took it back. Why?

     Well, the device has no hard disk, so one is restricted to using only what can be done online. E-mail must be created online, and it is saved on MSN's server. The only way you can save a copy for yourself is to print it out.

     Beyond all its various limitations, it meant that Bev needed deskspace for both her Mac and the iPaq. That's when she decided to get an up-to-date real computer. Naturally, I was hoping she'd get a PC, but she found a good deal on a recent-vintage iMac. However, she now had another problem.

     The iMac came with no built-in 3.5" disk drive, and all the files Bev had created with the older Mac were on these kinds of disks. So she bought an add-on drive. The bottom line is that Bev can now do e-mail, IMs and all her bookkeeping with MSOffice. Furthermore, I can help her learn how to use MSWord and Excel, because of the similarity between the Mac and PC versions, and the fact that all their files are compatible and interchangeable.Bev and I are now both happy campers.

Sunday
Dec 23
Finding Things on your PC + Some Keyboard Shortcuts for the Mac

     Dan Baumbaugh wrote to say he uses Ctrl+F to Find specific text on a lengthy Web page. Yes, this is a very useful command, and it works for many other documents as well; such as spreadsheets, database pages and word processing files.

     Additionally, the command normally offers options such as narrowing the search to only words in upper or lower case or to whole words only. "Whole words" means that if you're searching for "sent" the command would ignore "consent" and "sentiment."

     When using Ctrl+F on a spreadsheet or database page, selecting a row or column's header will look for the specified text only in that row or column. With nothing selected, the whole page or document will be searched.

     High-powered word processors, such as MSWord, also include options for finding special characters (such as Enter or Tab) as well as things like Any Digit. Web page Find commands also include searching Up or Down from the cursor location. Many programs also offer Find & Replace, which can be activated with Ctrl+H in Microsoft documents.

     Beyond this, these various commands can be activated by going to the Edit menu in most programs.

     In Outlook Express, the Find command can ONLY be activated from the Edit menu, and it comes with some interesting variations. (Doing Ctrl+F brings up the "Forward" command.)

     Let's say you're looking for a recently received e-mail and that you think it's still in your Inbox. Click the Inbox button. Go to Edit, Find. You'll be presented with options for seeking a Message or a Message in this Folder, as well as options to Find Next and Find People. Find Text In This Folder will be an option when looking within any of the sub-folders or messages.

     I won't give examples for all of the above options, but Find Text In This Folder covers a lot of possibilities. If the e-mail you're seeking included a holiday greeting of some kind, you might enter "Christmas" in the search box.

     To look for data on your entire hard drive, go to Start, Find or Start, Search. There are many options here, including searching between two specific dates. If you don't find what you're looking for, make sure the Look In box indicates your C drive (or C & D if you have two hard drives). "Look In Document Folders" often pops up by default, and limits your search to just a few folders.

     More advanced options let you tell your PC to look only for specific types of files, such as WordPerfect or Lotus 1-2-3 documents. When specifying certain text to be found, placing, say, "Happy Holidays" in double-quotes will ignore all documents containing just Happy or just Holidays. Another option that can be used for finding things in Outlook Express is to sort the various columns of data. For instance, if you're looking for an e-mail that came in very recently, clicking the Received header will put all Inbox letters in order of date received. Another click will reverse the order of the dates. If you know the sender's e-mail name, clicking From will sort the letters alphabetically by name.

     Likewise, clicking Subject will sort the letters alphabetically by whatever appears in the subject line. Again, a second click reverses the order of the sort. The ways of sorting these columns to your advantage is limited only by your imagination.

     Getting back to Ctrl+F, a whole page of Keyboard Shortcuts can be found on this web site. Return to the Home Page for info.

     I get asked periodically why I don't offer Macintosh tips in this column. Well, I love the Mac, but only have so much space for each column, and feel compelled to write for the larger audience, which we all know is the PC user. However, many of the tips offered here do apply to many Mac commands. For instance, most of the Keyboard Shortcuts mentioned above work on the Mac simply by substituting the "Apple" or "Command" key for the "Ctrl" key.

Tuesday
Dec 18
Printing Web Pages + Working with Tables

     A number of people have asked why the animated drawings they've downloaded from the Internet (such as the waving US flags on this web site) don't move after they've been saved on their hard drive.

     I continue to get questions about doing print-outs of Web pages. The obvious answer is to click your browser's printer icon when the desired page is open. However, doing so can use up a color ink cartridge pretty quickly.

     If you have MSWord 2000 or MSWord XP, it's better to Copy and Paste the Web page into a blank Word document, where you will have all kinds of editing options available. Go to Edit on the Web page's Menu bar and choose Select All. Then do Edit, Copy. Create a blank Word document and do Edit, Paste or choose Edit, Paste Special, HTML. (Unfortunately, this doesn't work in WordPerfect or the MSWorks word processor.)

     The end result should be an exact duplication of the Web page, or something very close to it. Now you can mouse-select any text and/or graphic you want and Paste it into another blank document for printing. However, you can also select individual components from the open Web page. Do a right-click on any graphic and choose Copy or Save Image or Save As (depending on your browser). As for text, just mouse-select the part you want to print. Do Edit, Copy and then Edit, Paste it into any open word processing page.

     Text that's been copied and pasted like this can be edited in all the usual word processing ways, such as changing the text style to suit your own preferences.

     A lot of what you Copy and Paste from a Web page may be laid out in "tables." For instance, if you use MapQuest.com or Switchboard.com to get turn-by-turn driving directions from one place to another, the information will always be in a table made up of columns and rows. Some of the information may be more than you want to print out, such as accumulated mileage from one turn to the next.

     In MSWord, just click anywhere in the table and go to Table, Convert, Table To Text and choose Tabs or Commas for the separators. This will make it easier to delete the stuff you don't want, as well as to edit what remains for better legibility. When I print these instructions, I use extra large type so everything is easier to read while driving.

     Another thing that can make tables easier to read is to reduce your page margin widths, in order to get more text on a line. Go to File, Page Setup, Margins and set the Left and Right margins to .8" or so. If everything is still too crowded, click on Landscape, rather than Portrait, for a "sideways" print-out.

     Speaking of tables, they can be created and used very easily in MSWord. Go to Table, Insert, Table. Choose how many rows and columns you think you'll need and punch in the numbers. Click inside any cell and begin typing. If the line of text is too long to fit, it will "wrap" itself onto as many lines as are needed to make it fit. The row height will increase accordingly.

     The row height will also change if you make the text larger or smaller, and will always be tall enough to accommodate the cell with the most or largest text.

     To change the width of any column, just position the cursor above its top cell. When it turns into a down-pointing arrow, grab the right or left edge of any cell in the column and adjust it to suit your needs. Individual cells can also be widened or narrowed by clicking inside one to create a black bar along its top edge. Finally, grab an edge to adjust the cell's width.

     A table can also be created by going to Table, Draw Table. Your cursor will turn into a "pencil" and you can move its point to draw the table you want. A "drawing toolbar" will also appear that provides an "eraser" and other tools to simplify your table creation.

Sunday
Dec 16
Getting Animated Graphics to Move - Tips on Book Formatting

     A number of people have asked why the animated drawings they've downloaded from the Internet (such as the waving US flags on this web site) don't move after they've been saved on their hard drive.

     The answer is that animated GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) files will only move when viewed within certain types of programs. The most frequently used programs are Web pages and email clients.

     WinXP comes with a built-in program called the Windows Picture and Fax Viewer, which does display these drawings in full motion. Just double-click an animated GIF's icon to see the action. However, previous versions of Windows don't have this feature.

     So how can you get a graphic to move in pre-WinXP operating systems?

     If your email client is of recent vintage, you can send yourself a letter that has an animated GIF enclosed. Use the Insert or Attach command, and the drawing will move when you open the letter. Older email programs, such as AOL 5.0, will only display a still shot of the drawing.

     If you have an HTML editor, an animated GIF can be inserted in the Edit mode, and will be seen moving in the Preview mode. HTML editors are used to create Web pages, and my favorite is 1st Page 2000, which can be freely downloaded from www.evrsoft.com. A graphics program which displays animated GIFs in action can be also be freely downloaded from www.irfanview.com.

     Another recent question is: "How can I reduce the noise my modem makes when I go online?" Pre-WinXP users can go to Start, Settings, Control Panel, Modems, General, Volume Control and adjust the sliding lever. WinXP users will find the lever at Start, Control Panel, Phone & Modem Options, Modems, Properties, Modem, Speaker Volume.

     A recent question about using Headers and Footers for page numbering in MSWord and MSWorks is: "How can a Header be removed from the first page of a multi-page document?" An author will often use the first page as a title page or table of contents, and will not want it numbered as Page 1. Well, the Headers & Footers feature lets you UNcheck "Show Number on First Page" and then tell the second page to be designated Page 1. Thus, a Header/Footer on the first page can be made to display nothing, but it can't be removed.

     However, pages preceding Page 1, such as a dedication or whatever, can be saved as a separate file. This is what I did with the computer book I wrote earlier this year.

     Speaking of writing a book, the mechanics of preparing a document for a publisher have changed dramatically since the pre-computer days of submitting a double-spaced, typewritten manuscript, which would then be manually copied and typeset. Nowadays a publisher expects a manuscript to be submitted as a computer file. But which program should be used?

     Since MSWord is the world's most-used word processor, I assumed it would be accepted as a document's format by any publisher. Not necessarily. If your manuscript is plain text, with no illustrations, its file format may not be an issue. However, if your document includes drawings or photos it's another matter.

     The first thing to consider is: Are you going to place the images where they are wanted in with the text, or are you going to supply the graphics separately and just indicate to the publisher or printing company where they should be placed? Well, as long as you have a computer, why not do the whole thing yourself?

     The problem is that not all publishers will accept all file formats. One may accept MSWord, while another wants QuarkXpress, and others may insist on an Adobe Acrobat PDF (Portable Document File) format. What I did with my book was write it and place the illustrations using MSWord, but then had to convert the files to PDF to meet the specs of the bookbinder my publisher had chosen.

     Finally, I must acknowledge that, as much as I love MSWord, it can be very unstable when graphics are inserted. A dedicated desktop publisher like QuarkXpress, PageMaker or even MSPublisher is much easier to manage.

Tuesday
Dec 11
Navigating Without a Mouse

     Marilyn Gramwall called to say her mouse had died and that when she tried to install a new one, the computer wouldn't recognize it. She asked me to come to her office to see if I could fix things. The challenge was to get the PC to recognize the new mouse as well as to install its driver software - all without having a mouse pointer to do things with.

     Believe it or not, there was a pre-mouse time when everything was done from the keyboard. And most things still can be. Let's take a look.

     Let's say you need to find a file. Well, pressing the "Windows" key is the same as clicking the Start button. The "up arrow" key can then be used to reach the Find or Search button. Pressing Enter will activate this button and bring up the next menu, where again using the "arrow" keys can take you to the next step.

     Press Enter to activate Files & Folders and then type in the name of the target file. Press Enter to begin the search.

     Back on the Desktop, the "arrow" keys will move the cursor from one icon to another. If the arrow keys don't seem to take you where you want to go, try the Tab key. Using Tab and Shift+Tab can be alternated with the "arrow" keys to take you most places your mouse would go.

     Once you've landed on a Desktop icon of your choice, pressing Enter will activate it. If you press the "Right Click" key, a menu will popup with choices like Copy, Cut, Rename, etc. The "Right Click" key is on the bottom row and has a symbol that resembles a document with an arrow pointing to it.

     When you see a list of Menu items on a Toolbar (File, Edit, View, etc.) notice that one letter in each word will be underscored. It's usually, but not always, the first letter (as in F for File). When you are mouseless, pressing your keyboard F should open the File menu, where the up/down "arrow" keys can then be used to select the File item you want. If pressing F doesn't work, then pressing F while holding down Alt will do it.

     To help Marilyn get her new mouse installed, I needed to get to Device Manager. The textbook way of getting there is to go to Start (Windows key), Settings, Control Panel, System, Device Manager. However, a quick way to get there is to press your Insert/Pause key while holding down Ctrl.

     Another keyboard shortcut is Alt+ F4 to Close any open file, folder, window, or program you happen to be in. Additional Alt+F4 actions will eventually take you to Shut Down Computer.

     When all else fails, Ctrl+Alt+Del will always give you the opportunity to End Task or Shut Down.

     Ctrl+PageUp will take you to the top of any open document or Web page, while Ctrl+PageDown will take you to its bottom. The up/down "arrow" keys can be used to scroll open pages one line at a time (once the cursor has reached the top or bottom of a document). The left/right "arrow" keys do likewise when moving from one side to the other.

     I won't itemize all the steps I used to get Marilyn's mouse operational, but suffice it to say it was all done from the keyboard. However, the most common cause of a mouse not working is that its connection to the PC has become loose. Try reconnecting it before you take any other steps.

     I recently wrote about reinstalling a previously used image-editing program to fix graphic file icons that had changed to icons used by a more recently installed program. This fix would cause the pictures to be opened in the older image-editor.

     Jim Fix wrote to say that right-clicking any file will display the "Open With" option and let you choose the preferred program from a menu. Well, this works with WinXP, but will work with Win98 only if the target filename has no "three-letter extension." Of course, the extension can be removed from any filename by right-clicking it and choosing "Rename."

Sunday
Dec 9
PopUp Ad Killers - Worth the Trouble? - What is "Web" Email? - Why Did My Picture Icons Change?

     Terry L. Newman wrote to say he downloaded "PopUp Stopper" and that the program not only works well, it works too well.

     For example, Terry pointed out, TV Guide allows you to click on a program to get details, but PopUp Stopper blocks the descriptive popup from appearing. The program does let you bypass this by hitting a combination of keyboard keys; but that's more trouble than it is worth. The bottom line; Terry uninstalled PopUp Stopper.

     This is why popups don't usually bother me; it only takes a second to click them off. However, if you get one of those devious popups that generates endless additional popups, just log offline to make them stop.

     What is "Web" Email?

     I continue to get questions about the differences between "web" email and "regular" email, such as Outlook Express. Well, the former means that the email program, such as Hotmail, is somewhere on the Internet, rather than on your computer. Beyond that, email that you save for future reference is likewise on someone else's computer and you have to go online to retrieve it. However, you can copy and paste it into a folder on your own hard drive.

     Conversely, Outlook Express and other "regular" email programs exist on your hard drive, along with any mail you choose to save. Netscape offers both platforms, using "regular" email that comes with the Netscape browser, while anyone can sign up for Netscape's "web" email service.

     Some of us use both types of email. Why? Well, I use OE for most correspondence, but I like being able to access my Hotmail messages when I'm away from home and using a friend's ISP to get online.

     "!000" Phony Email Address - Worth the Trouble?

     Speaking of OE, the ever vigilant Tom Inglesby sent me some information regarding the pros and cons of using the "!000" trick to keep the program from sending viruses to your Address Book contacts. Click this link for details: http://www.snopes2.com/inboxer/virus/quickfix.htm

     Why Did My Picture Icons Change?

     Another question I often hear goes something like this: "When I used to click on my JPG photo files they would come up in Windows Paintbrush. Suddenly they all have a new icon, and clicking one makes the photo come up in a program I've never seen before, and whose editing tools I don't understand. How can I get back to my previous way of editing pictures?"

     Well, Paintbrush always comes with Windows and will be the default image-editor if you don't have another graphics program on your hard drive. However, if you install a new "painting" program it will change the settings in your Windows "INI" (initialization) files to make the newest program the default image-editor. What? You don't remember installing a new image-editor? Keep reading.

     If you buy a new printer or a scanner or a digital camera the device will come with a CD containing its driver program. However, these CDs normally have an image-editing program onboard as well. Click on a few "install" prompts and, before you know it, you'll have a brand new image-editor whose icons will replace the ones you're used to seeing.

     How can you avoid this? Well, installing the CD's painting program is normally optional, and you can uninstall it at any time. Or, you can leave the program in place and reinstall your other image-editor to make it the default program again. But before you do, try out the newer program. It may have some features you prefer over the older software.

     I happen to do a lot of graphics work, so I have several painting programs onboard, and alternate among them, depending on whose features are most helpful on a particular job. Since I use Corel PhotoPaint most often, I make sure it's the most recently installed software.

     Yes, you can go in and manually edit the INI instructions, but it's much easier to reinstall your preferred image-editor.

Tuesday
Dec 4
Tips on Printing Multipage Documents

     Jody Ann Mealer called to say she had prepared a multi-page document in MSWord and wanted to know how she could print out just the last page, after having done some last-minute edits. Well, when you click the printer icon on your toolbar, most programs will automatically print the whole document. The trick is to go to File, Print, where you'll find a number of useful printing options. Here are just a few:

     To print just one page out of many, there will be a box that invites you to type in whichever page number you want. Or you can simply click on any page and choose Print Current Page.

     Typing the page numbers of multiple pages, when separated by commas, will print just those pages. Here's an example: 2, 7, 9, 10. To print a group of sequential pages, just type in their range: 2-13, for instance.

     To print out just a paragraph (or any array of sequential text) highlight it with your mouse and choose Print Selection. This also works if you highlight a graphic, or a graphic with adjacent text.

     Other options are printing your document in reverse order, thus eliminating the need to manually collate the pages to make them go from the first to the last.

     Some programs give you the choice of printing only odd-numbered or even-numbered pages. This is helpful if your document displays page numbers with, say, all the odd-numbered pages having their numerals in the lower right corner, and vice versa for the even-numbered ones; and if you plan to take the finished printouts to a copy center for front and back printing.

     Beverly Layton called to ask if there is a shortcut for switching from single to double line spacing in MSWord. Yes; Ctrl+1 will cause selected text to be single-spaced while Ctrl+2 will switch to double-spacing. Ctrl+5 will cause the selection to have spacing of one and half lines. This trick also works in Wordpad and the MSWorks word processor.

     Doris Sherk wrote to ask why she can't delete her "Cookies" folder. Well, one can delete the contents of this folder, but the folder itself is part of Windows and can't be deleted. If you'd like to clear out your Cookies folder, double-click it to open it. Inside the folder do Ctrl+A (Select All) and then hit your Delete key.

     You may encounter a few .DAT files that can't be deleted, so just ignore them. They are harmless. If you aren't sure how to get into your Cookies folder, just go to Start, Find/Replace, Files & Folders and type in "cookies."

     A question I get periodically goes something like this: "How come I'm getting a 'Low on Memory' message when I have 70% of my hard drive free?" This is a classic example of comparing "apples to oranges" in this case, comparing the amount of free space on a disk to the amount of electronic RAM (random access memory) available to work with while the computer is turned on.

     A "Low on Memory" message indicates that the computer has more programs running than there is RAM available to keep track of them all. The short term fix is to close some of the open programs. The long term fix is to add more RAM to the computer.

     Most of today's computers need at least 64 MGs of RAM (a.k.a. DRAM and SDRAM) with newer ones needing 128 or 256 MGs. Since many of us don't feel comfortable opening a PC to add components, most computer stores have technicians who will suggest how much additional memory is needed, and who will install it for you. RAM has become very cheap, and adding some to your PC can be one of the best investments you'll ever make.

    

Sunday
Dec 2
Another Virus Alert

     There is a new variation of the Sircam virus that's been spreading very rapidly this past week. As usual, it arrives as an attachment to an e-mail. The return address will be that of someone to whom you've recently sent an e-mail, thus making it appear to be a reply to something you've written.

     Well, it's a reply all right, but not one sent by a friend or relative. The "reply" is generated by one's Outlook Express Address Book and is sent out with a virus attached to it. However, the virus is very easy to spot and should be deleted immediately.

     The clue that the attachment is infected is its "double extension." For instance, here are just a few of the attachments I've recently received: ME_NUDE.MP3.SCR, YOU_ARE_FAT!.MP3.SCR, FUN.MP3.PIF, and IMAGES.DOC.PIF.

     However, there is a catch to spotting these double extensions; if you haven't changed Windows' built-in "Hide extensions." feature, then IMAGES.DOC.PIF will be displayed as IMAGES.DOC, thus appearing to have only one extension.

     Here's how to keep this from happening; get into Windows Explorer (right-click Start, Explore) and do the following: Win98 users go to View, Folder Options, View, and UNcheck the box in front of "Hide Extensions for Know File Types."

     WinME and WinXP users will find this option by going to Tools, Folder Options, View. Win95 users go to View, Options, View.

     Why Microsoft has always burdened us with having to make this fix is a mystery to me. If you don't make the fix, most of your filenames will be displayed with no extension, thus making it harder to figure out what kinds of a files they are.

     Beyond making this one-time fix, the best advice I can offer to avoid opening an infected file is to simply not open any e-mail attachment unless you are absolutely sure it's something you're expecting.

     This current strain of the Sircam virus is said to be able to infect a recipient's computer even without the intended victim opening it. Well, I've received many of these attachments this past week, and deleted each of them without any problem. Also, in each case, I wrote to the person whose Outlook Express sent the attachment, advising him or her of what happened.

     So how can OE users avoid sending out these infected files? Well, I avoid it by not using my OE Address Book at all. I put all my addressees' names in a Word file and then simply copy and paste them into outgoing e-mails.

     Another way that is said to prevent OE from sending out these potentially deadly emails is to put a "phony" address in the Address Book. Numerous people have sent me this tip, which says to create a name called !000 (an exclamation point followed by three zeros) and then to leave the Address line empty. The theory is that this name will be the first in your OE Address Book, by virtue of the fact that it begins with a symbol which, alphabetically, always precedes the letter A.

     Since the rogue program can't send an infected file to this non-existent address in the Address Book, it can't go any further. Also, I've been told, you will receive an error message advising you of this fact, which alerts you to the fact that you have a virus in your computer. You can then take steps to remove it.

     The first thing I'd suggest is to go to www.housecall.antivirus.com where you can have a free online scan of your system. This Web site will also "clean" certain infected files and give you information on deleting others.

     You can get more information at the following web sites:
     Symantec/Norton Anti-Virus Information
     Trend Micro Anti-Virus Information
     PC-Cillin Anti-Virus Information

     Don't forget to keep your anti-virus program updated regularly.

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