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Welcome to Times Talkback for Personal Tech issues. Readers can submit questions and comments about tech news and events, as well as topics such as digital photography and computers. We hope the exchange can be diverse, so some questions related to Solutions will be passed on to John Torro for possible inclusion in the column that appears in the Times on Mondays. We also realize that tech support questions are of primary concern, so we also will post occasional answers from John and Site Seeing columnist Jules Allen here as well.

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Latest questions and answers:

Q: Since installing OS 10.4.1 (Tiger), my iTunes program has not been working properly. I keep getting the pop-up saying that iMovie cannot run because "file xxxx cannot be found." This little pop-up crashes iTunes, stopping whatever you are doing at the time, i.e. burning a CD, listening to songs, importing, etc. I have trashed everything I can find relating to iTunes several times, and I have even reinstalled the latest version of iTunes several times, all to no avail. Can you offer any suggestions? I have been considering a cold install of Tiger.

Jules Allen: iTunes 4.8 organizes movies as well as music. I suppose it's Apple's intention to start selling music videos or maybe even films in the future. I think this should address your problem: click here.

Q: What is the difference between Ad-aware and Spybot?

Dave Gussow: Both help rid your computer of unwanted and potentially dangerous spyware and adware. We recommend both, as well as Microsoft's beta antispyware software, because no one program finds everything. Ad-aware and Spybot can be found at www.download.com, and Microsoft's at this webpage.

Q: Can you tell me how to put SPTimes as my home page on my computer?

Dave Gussow: In Internet Explorer, click on Tools then Internet Options. Under the General tab, you'll see Home page. Type in the address in the box, click Apply, then OK.

Q: Can you recommend any software that would allow a person to track an incoming hurricane? I'm thinking an overlay map of Florida, southern United States, enter the longitude/latitude numbers US, you enter the long/lat #'s then, like a graph, it prints the path over the map. Any thoughts? It would be a great way to keep a record of each storm.

Dave Gussow: The easiest thing to do is go to the National Hurricane Center Web site and keep tabs on its work. However, if you want to do it yourself, one of our in-house weather experts suggests checking weather.rudis.net/megatrack/ or cirrus.sprl.umich.edu/wxnet/software.html. Let's hope we don't have a repeat of the '04 hurricane season.

Q: I have been trying for months to get a user manual for Microsoft Publisher 2003 without results. Stores don't seem to carry anything, and even Microsoft has not responded. Can you help?

Dave Gussow: According to the Microsoft Web site, the program has a built-in Help system, as well as access to the Office support system and Microsoft.com. If you go to Amazon.com, you also will find books that cover the software.

Q: In trying to e-mail my U.S. senators and district representative, I ran into a problemI am not familiar with: Web forms. Only eight of the U.S. senators have an e-mail address. All of the rest have Web form addresses. What is it? How does it work? And where do you go to use it? Trying a search on it resulted in more confusion.

Dave Gussow: A Web form works just like e-mail, though the sender may have to provide some personal information in order to use it. By using the Web form, elected officials can determine whether messages are from real people and, I would think, avoid at least some of the spam that can clutter in-boxes. If you go to this website, you can click on the e-mail address provided or the Web form address. For the Web forms, just fill out the information, put in your question/comment and submit.

Q: Is there any way for reviving old Kodachromes for CD/DVD/print. The Nikon (Coolscan V) I use does not do much for them.

Dave Gussow: The Coolscan does only the first part: scanning what you have into your computer. You need good photo editing software for touchups and improvements. You could try a program such as Adobe Photoshop Elements 3.0. It has a number of tools, including the excellent self-healing brush, that can work magic.

Q: Before donating a computer to one of the groups you listed, what is a good way to first clean off personal data? Is there any software to assist the cleanup?

Dave Gussow: John Torro recommended the free SDELETE (www.sysinternals.com) in his column April 4. There are others around, and it's important to do before donating the computer.

Q: If we don't use Internet Explorer, which just about everyone does, what does one use? I hate to sound so dumb, but I'm clueless.

Dave Gussow: You have a number of choices. Firefox (www.mozilla.org) has become a popular alternative, and the new version of Opera (www.opera.com) is getting some good reviews, too. Be aware that some Web sites work only with Internet Explorer. If you find some sites balk with Firefox or Opera, you may have to do a quick peek with IE.

Q: With just a little more research, you could have found the Florida statute (www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=Ch0634/ch0634.htm) that regulates extended warranties (Apple Computer story, April 4). It states that the company must also maintain a minimum $100,000 deposit with the state. If you're going to publish an article, you should at least publish all the facts.

Dave Gussow: If you check the sixth paragraph of the story (www.sptimes.com/2005/04/04/Technology/Despite_claims__Apple.shtml), the statute is cited by number. Are you suggesting $100,000 is a financial burden for Apple? Why isn't it a problem for others? The fact remains that Apple won't sell extended warranties to consumers in the fourth-largest state. Apple's previous explanation that the state won't allow it is not true, and the company won't talk now.

Q: On March 14, you published an article that said Verizon will reimburse victims only for the first modem hijacking. You said that while the agreement was made in Pennsylvania, company spokesman Bob Elek in Tampa said it was a companywide policy change and that Verizon said the refunds would be available to all its long-distance customers - even those who never previously complained or are no longer Verizon customers. I'm a Verizon customer and a victim of modem hijacking and have been fighting these fees for over a year. I've contacted every state agency you can think of as well as politicians. Everyone passed the buck.

Dave Gussow: To make a long story short, we sent his e-mail to Verizon, which says it resolved the problem. The lesson here is that if you don't think computer security is important, then you are opening yourself to more than just technical problems. It really can cost you money and time.

More tech support sites: Tweaks for Geeks (www.tweaksforgeeks.com/) has some good info for keeping your system humming. Then there's Simplicity (aigia.net/simplicity/), which describes itself as an information and tutorial site for computer infestations. Also, don't forget to scroll down to see other nominees from our One-click Fixes feature.

Q: I read about legislation that is trying to ban drivers from using mobile phones while driving. I have also heard a lot of car advertisements touting their Bluetooth wireless car kits that allow you to talk on your phone while driving. How exactly do they work? And are they a safe remedy for the distractions associated with cell phone usage while driving?

Dave Gussow: I once saw a man driving a manual transmission car, smoking a cigarette, holding a soft drink can and cradling a cell phone. That seemed a bit extreme. Studies so far indicate that talking on a cell phone may not be any more distracting than other extracurricular activities behind the wheel. With Bluetooth phones, you set it up in the car. Usually, there's a button on the steering column or dashboard. Push it, and you can tell the phone what number to call. You can talk without holding the phone, called hands free. Is it safer than holding a phone and driving? That's for you to decide.

Q: I read in the Times that RealNetworks will let people listen to 25 music tracks for free each month. The Rhapsody Web site does not have that offer. When I called RealNetworks, no one heard of that deal. What's the story?

Dave Gussow: Go to the RealNetworks' site (www.real.com) and click on Download Rhapsody Free. There you will see the free offer, which includes the 25 songs a month. Obviously, Real would like you to sign up for more -- and pay for it. But you can use just the free portion.

Q: How do I convert 35mm slides to a CD? To view on my PC? To view on a DVD player connected to my TV?

Dave Gussow: A number of scanners from companies such as Canon, Epson and HP handle slides. While low-end ones usually require you to do one at a time, some recent models can handle multiple slides with one scan. Once scanned into your PC, software that comes with the scanners will let you view them on the PC and burn them to a disk to view on a TV with a DVD player.

Q: Thinking of getting a small digital camera. The one I lean to is the Pentax Optio 5Si. Is this a good camera or is there a better one this size?

Dave Gussow: The point-and-shoot category is getting crowded with good choices. Steve's Digicams (www.steves-digicams.com) likes the Pentax, which we have not tried. We have played with the Olympus C-7000, which is 7 megapixels and a 5X zoom lens but which costs more. I suggest you check review sites such as Steve's, www.dpreview.com and www.pcworld.com.

Q: What groups accept donated computers?

Dave Gussow: This is a list of local organizations that accept donations of used computer equipment. Please check the specifications and whether the group requires machines to be working. Other nonprofit groups that accept similar donations can submit their information to personaltech@sptimes.com in this format.

Computer Acquisition and Placement ProgramGene King, president
Address: P.O. Box 79169
Tampa, FL 33619
Phone: (813) 244-8704
Web: cappinc.org
E-mail: Board@CAPP-inc.org
Accepts: PCs (no earlier than Windows 98) or Macs; should be working.
What it does: Refurbishes and donates to community centers, recreation centers, schools, needy individuals based on need, etc.

Computer Mentors Group Inc.Ralph Smith, director
Address: 2802 E Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Suite F
Tampa, FL 33610
Phone: (813) 236-1191
Web: www.computermentors.org/
E-mail: mentors@computermentors.org
Accepts: Pentium III, prefer working machines but will consider machines in good shape.
What it does with donations: Inner city teenage students refurbish PCs and get to keep the machines.


Computers for KidsHillsborough County Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department
Address: 1101 E River Cove St.
Tampa, FL 33604
Phone: (813) 903-2246
E-mail: prc@hillsboroughcounty.org
Accepts: IBM compatible system, including monitor; must be working.
What it does with donations: Goes to recreation centers.

Pinellas Braille GroupVilma Spector, president
Address: Care of Temple Beth-El
400 Pasadena Ave. S
St. Petersburg, FL 33707
Phone: (727) 347-9836
E-mail: Brlwagner@aol.com
Accepts: PCs (Windows 98 or above); must be working.
What it does with donations: Transcribes books into Braille for children in Florida schools.

SecondByteBud Cole, president
Address: 2690 68th Ave. S
St. Petersburg, FL 33712
Phone: (727) 867-2239
Web and/or e-mail: secondbyteusa@juno.com
Accepts: Pentium or above, preferably in working order.
What it does with donations: Donates complete computer systems to severely handicapped and terminally ill persons.


Q: I do not put my credit card numbers on the Internet or my bank info. I searched for about 30 minutes for an address or phone number (for www.computercops.biz) because I would like to purchase CW Shredder. Can you help?

Dave Gussow: First, CWShredder is a free download (www.computercops.biz or www.download.com). Second, while you should be cautious with whom you do business on the Internet, using your credit card online is no more risky than using it anywhere else if you do want to buy something.

Q: I have several PCs, a laptop, a printer and stacks of computer books. Are you aware of any charity that would like these items? Or can you make a suggestion as to what I can do with them?

Dave Gussow: Your choices locally are getting more and more limited. Charities such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army no longer take computers, neither do most schools and Computers for Our Community in St. Petersburg folded. If you have a favorite nonprofit, you might want to check with it to see if it can use the equipment. The books might be useful for a computer user group, library or community center with a computer lab. Computers for Kids in Hillsborough County (813-903-2246) accepts donations, but call to make sure your PCs meet its requirements. For recycling options, you can check the Computer TakeBack Campaign (www.computertakeback.com) or the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (www.dep.state.fl.us/waste/categories/electronics/). If anyone else has suggestions, please send them to personaltech@sptimes.com. We'd be happy to share the information.

Q: I have attempted to remove all parts of WildTangent from my computer, but continue to get an error message stating a WildTangent file can't be found each time I start my HP Pavilion. I have run searches including hidden files and still can't find any WildTangent component on my machine. How do I find this file?

Dave Gussow: We have had a number of items in our Solutions column about removing Wild Tangent. Check www.sptimes.com/2004/10/11/Technology/Unwanted_add_ons_inst.shtml and www.sptimes.com/2004/12/13/Technology/Deleting_program_remn.shtml.

Q: Is there a local Mac users group?

Dave Gussow: There are several. You live in Pinellas, where the Bay Area Mac Users Group meets (e-mail mousebytes@knology.net, visit www.bamcentral.com or call Virginia Chilcote at (727) 796-2929. The West Pasco Mac Users Group meets in New Port Richey (e-mail wespasmug@aol.com or visit hometown.aol.com/wespasmug/).

Q: Exactly what is a blog?

Dave Gussow: A blog, or Web log, is a personal Web page. They range from diary-type entries on very personal matters to news and political opinion, where they have received more attention during last year's elections. A Google search will turn up lots of places to look for information, such as www.blogger.com/start, which gives info on how to start a blog, to www.blogwise.com, which is a directory of blogs.

Q: My question might seem to be ridiculous but I still don't know! I have a laptop, and I need to know how to click on my C drive. Where do I find it?

Dave Gussow: Double-click the My Computer icon on the desktop. That will open a window with the drives listed.

Q: I will be donating my iMac 9.1. How do I remove all my personal information and know it will be gone?

Jules Allen: My advice is to zap the whole drive with Burn (www.thenextwave.com/burnHP.html) and then reinstall the operating system.

Q: Thank you for Personal Tech. First, I'm done with Windows. Hello, Mac. My granddaughter will be starting high school this year so I am buying her an eMac. Then I will purchase an iMac for me. Will the eMac get her through high school without many updates? And is there a program for advanced math for the Mac? One last question, is there such a thing as a reliable Internet server?

Dave Gussow: The working life for computers has greatly expanded, so one bought this year should last at least through high school. I'm sure updates will occur, and she'll have to decide which ones are necessary and which she can ignore. There's a substantial amount of educational software available for the Mac. Do a Google search or better yet ask a math teacher. As for a reliable Internet provider, the best thing to do is talk to family and friends to see what they use and what their experience has been.

Q: I am a 74-year-old neophyte trying to learn how to use a computer. So far I have mastered how to turn it on, read the news, send e-mail and instant messaging. It stops there. Is there a book that will teach me how to cut and paste, send pictures with my e-mail and other things that I can do on the computer? Something that will spell out in layman's terms the different procedures?

Dave Gussow: There are lots of books around. But the best thing to do is check out a computer user group in your area. From my experience, people seem to pick up technology tips better when they have someone to show them and to talk to, rather than read about it.

Fun with photos: This site (astronomy.swin.edu.au/pbourke/stereographics/ipodphoto/index2.html) combines 21st century technology in the form of an iPod with stereoscope, an old photo projection system. The results are fascinating.

Learn about spyware: Download.com has an excellent resource for people who are interested in keeping up with spyware (www.download.com/spyware-center/2001-2023_4-0.html). It includes tricks and tips, downloads and other information. It's worth a bookmark.

Q: Regarding your Buzz item (Feb. 21) on a safer version of Internet Explorer. We are gray-haired PC neophytes (really!). We have Microsoft Windows and utilize AOL for our Internet provider. Can you very simply explain what Internet Explorer browser is, what it does and how it interfaces with America Online? Do they do the same thing?

Dave Gussow: Simply, a browser is a software application that you need to access and use the Internet. Internet Explorer is Microsoft's version, which dominates the market but which has had major security problems. America Online has sort of a two-step process. When you sign on, you see the AOL service through its proprietary browser. But using AOL 9, a second window opens for specific Web sites outside of AOL. That's Internet Explorer. You can close the Internet Explorer window if all you want is AOL.

Q: Your Personal Tech section seems to publish very little informative articles related to Apple Computer. For example, Apple recently released an upgrade of its iLife suite of creative digital tools and a new iWork software package that includes Pages, which could become a valid alternative to Microsoft's Word processor. Unless I missed it, I can't recall reading about either of these software suites. I think competition is ultimately good for the consumer and that if a newspaper chooses to publish a personal tech section then it should be nonpartisan as to the products it reviews.

Dave Gussow: This is familiar territory. We receive at least one such comment a year. As a general trend, we have been doing fewer software reviews. Much of what is coming on the market is simply upgrades and tweaks from previous versions. With limited space, we look for things that will be of interest to the most people, and many stories don't apply to a specific operating system. However, Windows-related stories are going to be more frequent, based on market share and the number of our readers who use PCs. Apple has been and will continue to be represented, as our recent centerpiece on the iPod indicates.

Q: What are the rules for using the defrag on your computer? I am of the opinion that this should be done frequently to keep the computer clean.

John Torro: I think defrag is something that should be part of your regular PC tuneup. However, I think people tend to overemphasize defrag. Defrag becomes more important as your free space becomes smaller and your system needs to work harder to move file fragments around. But with the speed of hard drives today and the large amounts of memory on modern PCs, I think the performance payback is not always noticeable. I'm sure this will draw some heated response, but I think people are better off becoming expert on what is loaded and running on their system. Controlling spyware and process bloat are much bigger factors in maximizing a PC's performance.

Q: I need to get either DSL or cable, but the few that I know of are very expensive. Is there a Web site that lists them, along with prices?

Dave Gussow: One of our favorite sites for such information is Broadbandreports.com. Simply type in your ZIP code, and it will show what's available in your neighborhood. The reviews also are useful.

Q: A few months ago you published instructions on how to block automatic downloading of cookies. Would you please repeat the instructions?

John Torro: From Internet Explorer, click Tools, Internet Options, Privacy tab and then the Advanced button. Select Override Cookie Handling and set First-party Cookies to Accept and set Third-party Cookies to Prompt. Enable "Always allow sessions cookies." Click OK and then OK again. Now, whenever you browse to a site that tries to set a third-party cookie (like Data Miner), you will be prompted to allow it or block it. You also can select to always block third-party cookies from that particular site so you won't constantly be asked.

Q: I upgraded to Window XP Home Edition and cannot save my documents created in Lotus Word Pro into My Documents. If I create a new document in Microsoft Word, no problem. Is this some more MS proprietary shenanigans?

Dave Gussow: That's only if you define Windows XP's compatibility with older programs as "shenanigans." Your problem with Lotus Word Pro has been shared by others, based on a Web search. One solution, posted at a Word newsgroup (comp.os.ms-windows.apps.word-proc), suggests creating a standard subdirectory in My Documents for your Word Pro files.

Reader reacts: Dave Dockery of the Tampa Bay Computer Society passed along a fascinating article on antispyware software (windowssecrets.com/050127/#story1). It's a must read.

Q: Whenever I forward an e-mail to anyone, the picture or attachment doesn't appear in my forwarded mail. What am I doing wrong? I have downloaded Windows XP Service Pack 2.

Answer by John Torro: There are many things that can cause this behavior. Here a few that are easy to check: Try using the Message, Forward as Attachment command from the Outlook Express menu bar. Also, check to make sure your recipient is seeing the normal SP2 behavior of blocking picture attachments. In this case they should just be able to click on the "Some pictures have been blocked . . ." bar at the top of the e-mail to enable the picture.

Q. When I run Spybot, something always shows up: DSO Exploit. Spybot deletes it, but the next time I run it, there it is again. I've removed it more than 30 times. This is the only thing that recurs.

A. The DSO Exploit is a security gap in Internet Explorer. If you had the latest Microsoft updates and security patches, this will not be a problem. So get thee to the Windows update site and make sure your PC is up to date. You also need to update Spybot to version 1.3 with the latest definitions file. Go to www.safer-networking.org and get the update.

Q. I've run both Ad-aware and Spybot, but can't get rid of whatever keeps changing my default browser (Internet Explorer) to the about:blank search page. I've also got .tmp files in my temp folder in Windows explorer.

A. First, make sure you are up to date with all Microsoft updates and security patches (www.windowsupdate.com) Next, go to www.computercops.biz and search, download and run the HIJackthis and CWShredder programs.

Question: I am not able to open Web links that are included in mail to me in Outlook Express on my desktop. I do not have this problem on my laptop using Outlook. Is it the difference between Outlook and Outlook Express, or do I need to change a setting in the latter?

John Torro: Maybe another program has registered itself as the default application for opening Web links. Try this: Through the Internet Options menu, click Tools, Internet Options, then the Programs tab. Make sure the "Internet Explorer should check to see whether it is the default browser" checkbox is checked. If not, click it. Close and reopen Internet Explorer, then try your e-mail links again.

Disk.sys problem may be cause of bootup error

Question: I am having trouble with the system locking up. When on the Internet, the system will lock up and has to be rebooted to continue. Sometimes it has to be rebooted two or three times. The system also is slow looking up some sites.

Answer from John Torro: This could be numerous things. Always start with a system tuneup. Right-click your C drive, select Properties, click the Disk Cleanup button. When it completes, click the Tools tab and then click the Check Now button under Error Checking. Now the hard stuff: If you don't already have them, download and install Ad-aware and Spybot (www.lavasoft.de and www.safer-networking.org respectively. After you run both of these programs, one at a time, also make sure your regular antivirus program is active and up to date with the latest definitions. Run the MSCONFIG program (Start, Run, type MSCONFIG and click OK). Check the Startup tab. Find out what each process is. Two sites that have extensive information on helping you determine friend from foe are www.answersthatwork.com and www.liutilities.com They also each have a for-purchase application that automatically identifies all your running processes. Liutilities Wintask5 program is one I've tried and I can recommend. The Times archives (www.sptimes.com) also has a lot of this information from past columns. Lastly, consider upgrading to Windows XP if you haven't already. While spyware and process bloat are problems there also, system freezeups are infinitely less likely.

Feedback:
We began a list Sept. 27 of Web sites where people can get free advice, answers and tech help. Since then, we've collected some more from Personal Tech readers. If you have a favorite site, you can nominate it at www.sptimes.com/talkback.

www.langa.com -- Fred Langa is a freelance computer/web author who offers tips and tricks, as well as a free newsletter.

www.computercops.biz -- John Torro calls this "the best overall anti-spyware site. This is where I've picked up some of the hardest to find fixes for the toughest problems."

www.spywareinfo.com/merijn/ -- It provides access to, among other things, CWShredder, which gets rid of a particularly nasty hijacker called CoolWebSearch.

www.doxdesk.com/parasite/ -- Here's another definition of a parasite --"a shorthand term for unsolicited commercial software." The site lists various spyware and how to remove them.

davebytes.com: Computer user groups can be a great source of information, and this site offers good descriptions of useful free software, as well as downloads.

www.5starsupport.com/ -- Volunteer techs offer help, and the site has an extensive FAQ library.

Q: I have Mac OS X and most mornings when I turn it on I get the word "disconnecting' that keeps running instead of connecting as it should. The only way I can get it working is to shut it off and reboot. It also happens sometimes after I run it for a while. All of the settings seem to be in order.

Jules Allen: It sounds like you're talking about a message from Internet Connect, the front end bit of OS X that tells you the status of how your computer is connected (or not) to the Internet. You didn't mention if you're on a dialup modem, cable modem, or a wireless network. But if you're seeing such a message, your computer is more than likely trying to do something with a dialup connection. If you don't have dialup connectivity, you can make these messages goaway by going into System Preferences and picking the Network area. The easiest thing to do is to create a new Location and only turning on the type of connectivity you have. So, for example, if you have Road Runner and an ethernet cord plugged into your Mac, you'd turn off the Airport and anything else except Built-in Ethernet. The other thing you might want to contemplate is calling your ISP. If it doesn't support the Mac, you might want to consider switching to an ISP that does. Finally, if you're close to the Apple store in Tampa you might want to haul the machine in there for a consult with an Apple Genius. They're really good at solving this kind of thing.

Q: I'm not computer savvy and just bought an Apple G4 to try to make it simple for me. I would like to get a digital camera for an upcoming trip to Alaska. Can you offer any guidelines on how to select a good one. I have the iPhoto software on my Apple. Will I need anything else to get and share these photos?

Dave Gussow: If you scroll down this feature, you'll see our recommendations from previous questions. As for iPhoto, it does a good job for basic editing and sharing. If you want to do more, make sure the software you want is compatible with the Mac.

Q: I have an SLR film camera and want to make the move to digital. I like the Canon S1 IS because it has the 10X optical feature and image stabilization. It's only a 3.2 megapixel, however, and I'm not sure that 3.2 will be enough. It also seems to have a better video feature than many other digital cameras. I probably wouldn't be making photos larger than 8 X 10 but I want my enlargements to look as good as possible. The other cameras I have been considering are the Canon Powershot G5 and the Nikon Coolpix 5700. Of course, the Canon Digital Rebel appeals to me too because I could use my current lenses with it, but I'm afraid the cost is just too steep. What do you think?

Boyzell Hosey: You ask some very good practical questions. I'll start by saying that 3.2 megapixels will produce good quality photos. If you stay true to your word and not make any prints larger than 8x10, you should be fine. If the majority of your photos will be the standard 4x6, you will be extremely satisfied. The video feature on the SI IS is intriguing just because it can shoot up to 60 minutes of video. (Of course you would be wise to explore the small print that says: Depends upon CF card size, speed and movie mode.) You're going to determine if the video feature is something you want to use. Personally, I love playing with video modes on digital cameras. However, I don't think I would need 60 minutes worth. If that were the case, I would just pull out my digital video camera and do it right. I still think technology needs to be improved before you have reliable all in one cameras that handle both still and video exceptionally well. Now I have to challenge you about one aspect of your question. You said you wanted your enlargements to look as good as possible. In my mind if that is important to you, then I think you should consider the EOS Digital Rebel. At 6.3 megapixels, you will erase all doubt about your image quality. And what if one day you nail that image that is just crying out to be poster size? I guarantee you'll wish you had the juice to do it. Another reason you should consider the Rebel is the fact that you already possess some Canon lenses. I know spending an extra $400-$500 is a leap. But if you can find a way to do it, I'm sure you'll be glad you did. I can tell you're a photographer at heart. Don't shortchange your creativity.

Q: How can I determine if spyware or adware has been installed in my Windows XP operating system?

Dave Gussow: Check out our April 26 report on spyware here and here. In addition, John Torro had a good explanation in the June 21 Solutions column.

Q: I noted your reference to the program iPhoto for the Mac. One option on this program is to arrange your photos into a book and send it to iPhoto, and they will put photos in a hard-covered album with your choice of photo on the front. Do you know of any program for Windows that will do this?

Dave Gussow: Check out MyPublisher (www.mypublisher.com). Its free software called BookMaker lets you design your digital album and then order. Hardcover versions cost $29.95 for 10 pages ($2.95 for extra pages), and it offers a $9.95 version with 20 pages that are smaller than the hardcover version.

Q: I am interested in buying a digital camera. It is just my husband and myself now, though we have 15 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild on the way. I do not want a camera for professional reasons, just personal. I usually take about 3-4 rolls of film on any family vacation. Please help me find the digital camera that will fit our needs. I just want one to take pictures, then be able to e-mail all over, and print maybe no bigger than 5x7. What is your suggestion?

Dave Gussow: The first thing you have to decide is how much you want to spend. From your description, it sounds as if a point-and-shoot model with 3 or 4 megapixels of resolution will do fine for your needs. If you want a zoom lens for closeup shots of all those grandchildren, make sure that it's an optical zoom. Some models also offer digital zoom, which is more of a tech feature and not a true photo enhancer. Unfortunately, camera companies are confusing the zoom issue even more by combining the optical and digital zoom numbers to make it sound as if you're getting more zoom for your dollar. (A 3X optical and 3X digital might be touted as a 9X total zoom feature, for example.) You'll likely want a built-in flash for indoor shots. Now for the choice: There are many, and we recommend that you check Web sites such as Consumer Reports (www.consumerreports.org) and PC World magazine (www.pcworld.com) for their ratings.

Q: My husband and I take long backpacking trips where electrical outlets are not around. We love to take photos, and so far we have been doing so with a compact Olympus camera. Now we want to be able to still take photos but on a digital camera so we can send them to friends and news magazines. But we also want the possibility to have them on paper. Battery life is a priority to us, and it seems to be a difficult answer to get from the manufacturers. Are there cameras with longer battery life? What is the average battery life? Can the life of a battery be counted in minutes that would include time to take the picture and time to view them and delete some of them? Is it best to have a camera with rechargeable battery or with the throw-away batteries? Which ones would last longer? Keeping in mind most of the time we are not near an outlet! Which brand might be the easiest to handle keeping in mind also that we are not technologically inclined?

Dave Gussow: I recommend you look for a model that uses AA or another type of disposable battery. You don't want to be in the middle of nowhere when the rechargeable runs out of juice, and AA is light enough to pack extras for your hikes. Manufacturers have improved the life of their proprietary rechargeable batteries, and there are ways to prolong life (keeping the LCD use to minimum, for example). But based on your description, I wouldn't want to take a chance on missing a great shot because I couldn't recharge the battery.

Q: A few years back, I took several hundred old photos and scanned them into digital format. These I then downloaded onto floppies. Well, I have moved around quite a bit since, including the Peace Corps, and have now settled down in Florida. The problem is that although I still have all the floppies, I have not kept the software that allowed me to read them. I am assuming it was proprietary and not one of the formats in common use today.

The company that made the scanner, I believe, started with the letter V. All of the files names end with .MAX. I will be totally (almost) indebted to you if you can tell me how to extract these valuable (to me) pictures. The picture originals are spread from Florida to California via Louisiana and Michigan.

William Lampkin of Personal Tech: It looks like you discovered one of the unfortunate things about using proprietary formats and not a standard format such as jpeg or tif to save your photos. Check out these Web sites (www.tek-tips.com/gviewthread.cfm/pid/335/qid/34514 and www.scansoft.com/paperport/viewers/) for explanations.

Q: My brother signed up for DSL, so he needs antivirus and related programs. He also has MS Office Pro for Windows XP Home. But should he use Outlook, or another mail client like Mozilla? I know Outlook is full of holes. His main concern is security, not bells and whistles. So if Mozilla's mail client (whether Mozilla or Thunderbird, the stand-alone mail client) is more secure, he'll use it. Of course, he won't use IE unless he has to. (I use Mozilla Firefox for Mac and love it). Also, can you recommend a program that times PC use so kids don't fight over who's been on longer than the other?

Dave Gussow: There's no question that Outlook and other Microsoft products have a bulls-eye on them for virus writers, hackers and other high-tech vandals. I use Mozilla as my main browser but have had problems using it as a mail client. My experience with the Opera browser and its mail client went well. Jules Allen, our Site Seeing columnist, really likes Mozilla Firebird, and suggests keeping an eye on Thunderbird for e-mail. As for the timer, you can do a Google search for PC timer and come up with a variety of products. I have not tried any, so I can't vouch for effectiveness.

Q: I have scanned in 1,000+ photos and slides. I'm looking for a program that will enable me to index each one under any number of headings for later recall as a one-time slide show on a given subject.

Dave Gussow: Of the half-dozen or so photo organizing programs I've tried, I like Adobe's Photoshop Album and Jasc's Paint Shop Photo Album the most. Each has a free trial available from its Web site, so you can try before you buy.

Reader soundoff: One of the key things I noticed missing in the paper is information letting people know what they need to do when they buy a new PC off the shelf that is preloaded with Windows XP. Just this past weekend I set up three brand new PCs for people who didn't have a clue about Windows or viruses, one additional person who bought a PC and set it up on their own only to have it hit 191 times by the Sasser virus. Needless to say that PC was the worst one to deal with because it had to be reset to factory defaults the set up from the beginnning. Please notify your readers that the very first thing that they need to do when buying a new PC is to set it up with their personal information, then go straight to the Microsoft Update page (http://v4.windowsupdate.microsoft.com/en/default.asp) and install all of the latest securty patches. Then next they need to update the version of Norton or McAfee that came with the system.

I am a senior systems hardware/software analyst who does this for a living along with doing it for friends, family and relatives for no money. Boy, the money I could make if only I could charge them for this.

Q: While visiting Clearwater this past winter, I enjoyed reading your feature articles. One such article said something about removing Gator from the computer but didn't say why. I followed your advice but am wondering ... why? Is Gator bad? I first heard of Gator on Good Morning America and always enjoyed the ease of the program. Did it do any damage to my computer?

Dave Gussow: It's spyware, which indeed can do a lot of damage. For our report on spyware, check the Personal Tech archives here and here. By the way, Gator changed its corporate name to Claria but its software apparently will continue to be called Gator.

Q: How about giving a rundown on the several leading antispyware programs, with comparative features of each? Is any one sufficient, or should one use more than one for comprehensive anti-spyware coverage? Indeed, can one run more than one such program, or will this lead to trouble? How do you compare Ad-Aware with SpyBot, for instance?

Dave Gussow: We have consistently and strongly recommended Spybot Search & Destroy as the most effective antispyware program. We also like Ad-Aware, and run them both since each seems to pick up pieces the other may miss. Both are free, though we encourage donations to keep Spybot going. Most major security software companies such as Symantec and McAfee also offer antispyware components in their security suites. For a comparison of others, I'll refer you to PC World magazine. I think the main thing to remember is that security these days requires antivirus software, a firewall and antispyware software.

Reader soundoff: Wonder if you know of any products designed for those who DON'T care to learn the inner workings? Want a computer, Palm Pilot, video/audio capacity, etc., which I can operate pretty much like a new car -- spend 20 minutes with its differences from previously owned item, then turn the key and go. Or perhaps you could forward this to those policymakers who would like to get money from me but don't accommodate my needs? With dependable income, college bills paid, and the mortgage vastly reduced, I could buy a new computer every six months with NO effort at all. In fact, I usually don't buy one more than every 5 years, because the whole process is much worse than going to the dentist (with pre-fluoride teeth!). Would love to have some of those devices which would let me e-mail, Web surf, etc., with portability; would love to get this behemoth off my desk -- and know there are products I'd be interested in, but I can't find ANY entry point into the market. I go to shops or search the Web and I find people who know nothing or people/reports which immediately move into a level of technical detail which I just don't want to care about. Just about EVERY thing I read about new products seems to me to be starting at Chapter 3, with 1 and 2 nowhere to be found but vital to my understanding. If I have to become a fulltime engineer to operate new products, I'll just muddle along with my old dinosaurs. VERY stupid of them to ignore the market I'm part of -- but they're not the first businesspeople who'd rather lose business than meet women's needs!

Q. I keep getting returned mail, which I never sent in the first place. It appears somebody is using my computer without my authorization. Since only my wife and I have access to my computer, and since she has her own computer and never comes near mine, I just don't understand how this is happening. I'm using an iMac with OS X, version 10.2.8. I am using the mail application which comes with OS X.

Q. AOL sends back most of my mail with the followinng info: Diagnostic code: smtp;554-: (htm:B1 AOL has received many member complaints regarding the sender of this mail and/or the mail content itself. AOL will no longer accept e-mail from this sender. How can I resolve this problem? I know of no objectionable e-mail sent by me to justify this action.

Dave Gussow:
Spammers don't follow any rules, and too often innocent computer users get burned. I suspect a spammer is forging the address from the first writer. Check here for a good explanation. For the AOL problem, you can call customer service (866-628-8708) to try to straighten things out.

Q: I understand Microsoft has an update disk for security patches on Windows 98 and Windows XP. I can't find this on its site.

Dave Gussow: You can order the free disk at www.microsoft.com/security/ protect/cd/order.asp but be aware that it will catch you up only through October. You'll need to go to the Windows Update site for more current patches. The disk covers Windows 98 and later versions.

Q: I have two e-mail addresses in Outlook Express, with the same server. How can I access them individually? I use Mac 9.2.2.

William Lampkin of Personal Tech: It sounds like you want to set up separate identities for your two e-mail addresses. First, copy down all of the server settings for your e-mail accounts (look under Tools, Accounts, Mail tab, then double-click on the account name to see the settings).

Go to File, Switch Identity. You should be asked, "Are you sure you want to close all connections and windows for the current identity?" Click "Switch." A new window will appear where you will be able to create new identities. Before you click "New..." put a checkmark in the "Show this list at startup" box. This will prompt you to decide which Identity you want to use when you start up Outlook Express. Now, click "New..." and follow the steps, referring to the settings you jotted down.

If you're still receiving both e-mail accounts at your original Identity, you can go back to the e-mail accounts setting (Tools, Account, Mail tab) and deactivate the one that duplicates the Identity you just created by opening clicking to check the box "Include this account in my "Send & Receive All' schedule" or by deleting it.


Q: Hacker stories are frightening. I understand that it's unlikely, but is it POSSIBLE for a less than honorable, but very knowledgeable, person to obtain access to one's e-mail, either in transit or from one's own computer hard drive?

Dave Gussow: The short answer is yes, it's possible. It's one reason encryption is used for sending sensitive information by e-mail.

Q: I was a WebTV subscriber and had a site to visit where questions were posted regarding problems. Is there such a site for computer users to visit regarding serious questions?

Dave Gussow: WebTV was renamed MSN TV, though you can still find information at www.webtv.com. I couldn't find a Web site as you describe, but its toll-free customer service number is (800) 469-3288.

Q: I use Road Runner. I saw information regarding Verizon's DSL and that it allows faster transfer of data. How do these two compare in speed and reliability?

Dave Gussow: Verizon's comparison, at least on its Web site, is with a dialup modem. Cable generally is faster than DSL, but its speed can be affected by how many people are on the network. DSL has tiered pricing, so the less you pay, the slower the service. Reliability is in the eyes of the beholder. Check out the FAQ section and reviews at www.broadbandreports.com for more information.

Reader soundoff: I just finished reading your article about the spam e-mail. I can fully understand anyone's discontinuing use of the e-mail system due to clutter created by unsolicited e-mail. I have no sympathy for the porn industry. I am now on the edge of discontinuing even my DSL service. It seems that popups are now doing their own dialing and I am getting long-distance phone calls charged to my DSL account with no comment from the provider except "you have to pay.' Spam blockers, popup blockers, I am even getting loads of junk in my fax and my fax at work. I guess I have to pay for a fax blocker. I wish I could spend less time and money buying software to stop all this. This is more than annoying. I am ready to go back to snail mail and the telephone.

Q: I opted to use a basic landline for my Internet connection. The highest bit per second rate I get is roughly 50 BPS. Understanding that that is as high as I may venture in the world of speed, why do basic landline ISPs bombard myself and other consumers with advertisements promoting the idea that we may go five times faster? This seems misleading to me and others because I was under the impression that a basic landline connection will only allow no more than 56K. Are ISPs preying on the layperson's knowledge?

Dave Gussow: It's offering another choice, though the speed is not the same as a broadband connection through cable or digital subscriber lines. These enhanced dialup services use technology to compress data, as well as "cache," or store, elements of frequently visited Web pages in the computer's memory. That makes the pages load faster, though reviews suggest that the images are grainy. It's not actually going any faster than a 56K modem and phone line will allow. All that said, some people might like that technique rather than spending more money for a true high-speed connection. In a review of three of these services, Walter Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal (ptech.wsj.com) said: "If you're not ready to pay for broadband, these accelerated dial-up services are a good alternative."

Q: What is the difference between Windows XP Home and XP Professional? Except the cost?

Dave Gussow: Well, about a $100 difference is a significant chunk of change. Essentially, Windows XP Professional has more networking capabilities, the Encrypting File System and a better System Restore function. You can read Microsoft's explanation at www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/whichxp.asp. For most home users, the less-expensive Home edition will do just fine.

Q: Could you recommend a good book for XP Home. When I had Windows 98 I found the book MS Practical Windows 98 published by Que to be very helpful. I haven't seen a similar book for XP. There are so many new issues that I like reading a book rather than having to search online for a particular answer to a problem.

Dave Gussow: You have a number of choices. PC Annoyances, How to Fix the Most Annoying Things About Your Personal Computer ($19.95, O'Reilly) is by Steve Bass, PC World magazine contributing editor. Degunking Windows ($24.99, Paraglyph Press, www.paraglyphpress.com) was mentioned in our Buzz column recently. Windows XP QuickSteps ($16.99, McGraw-Hill/Osborne, www.osborne.com) is aimed at beginner and intermediate users.

Q: Are laptop computers allowed in hospital rooms? Will they interfere with the medical machines?

Dave Gussow: I was told that laptops are okay for use in a hospital. You may want to make sure that an electrical outlet is available for recharging the battery, and Internet access may not be available.

Q: I had Verizon digital subscriber line in my apartment complex, but they are pulling out. I was paying $20 a month and liked the setup that I could use the phone while being online. I haven't really checked but understand the cable Internet service providers are around $50 a month. Where could I go to locate something like I had for around the same money?

Dave Gussow: I assume you mean that the special deal at your complex is ending. Finding high-speed access for $20 a month will be a challenge, and cable in this area starts around $42 a month. You can check a site such as www.broadbandreports.com for other options.

Q: Is there such a thing as a cleaner for the Canon BC-21e color cartridge that uses BCI-21 black amd color ink cartridges

Dave Gussow: Canon has a head and nozzle cleaning function, which you can use through its software, but nothing as you describe.

Q: I am curious as to why more coverage (articles and technology information) isn't given for iMac computers and Mac users. Today's articles on virus protection and spam information all use PCs as a reference. I would like to believe that your paper would print articles that would address both platforms. I am quite adapt at using both PCs and Macs, and their applications. My husband, though, uses an iMac exclusively and we would love to see information on both. I am sure other readers would benefit from more iMac coverage too.

Dave Gussow: We do keep the Macintosh in mind for coverage. Not all tech stories have a Mac or specific operating system angle, and in fact viruses are almost exclusively a PC problem (as Mac enthusiasts generally point out). We've had recent stories about Macworld, the Mac's 20th anniversary, the iPod Mini, as well as items in Site Seeing and an occasional Mac Q&A. We will judge stories based on their merits and interest. Windows-related stories are going to dominate, based on market share and the number of people who use PCs.

Q. Do you know what is going on with Dell's tech support? I think they route the calls to India now, but the support and customer service are awful.

Dave Gussow: You don't seem to be alone in that opinion. Recent surveys, including one from Consumer Reports magazine (www.consumereports.org), indicate that Dell's ratings have slipped in recent years. Michael Dell has acknowledged that the company's support did not keep up with its growth, and he vowed to fix it. Dell moved some of its call center operations out of India last year after customer complaints.

Q. Could you give the telephone number of the FTC's National Do-Not-Call Registry?

Dave Gussow: Call (888-382-1222) or go to www.donotcall.gov.

Q. Is WiFi and Bluetooth compatible within the same machine?

Dave Gussow: Yes. WiFi (wireless fidelity) is becoming the trendy choice for home networking to connect multiple computers. Bluetooth has a much shorter range, maybe 30 feet, and is used to wirelessly sync things such as notebook computers, handheld organizers, cell phones and even a growing number of computer peripherals, such as printers and scanners.

Q. In the course of sending informative e-mails to a group, my name was unfortunately not recognized by all recipients, nor was the Subject. Consequently I have been labeled as spam by AOL, and can now not get e-mails through to any of the above AOL users, or, for that matter, my mother. What, if anything, can I do?

Dave Gussow: You're not the first, nor will you be the last, person caught in the spam nets being used by Internet service providers. You'll have to call AOL's customer service (866-628-8708), explain the situation and hope they'll give you another chance.

Q. Has anyone else had the horrors with AOL 9.0? My Gateway laptop is being reloaded, and the first question the tech guy asked me was did I load 9.0. When i said yes, he said they found 9.0 to be incompatible with older Windows systems, such as 98. My modem ceased to function after 9.0 loaded and neither AOL tech help or online Gateway could get it to work.

Dave Gussow: I don't think we've received any messages about such problems. A Google search for AOL 9.0 and Windows 98 turned up some comments. A check of the tech specs show that AOL 9.0 should work with Windows 98. You also might check this article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base.

Q. Using iMovie on a Mac OS X: How do I edit a clip to remove small parts of a clip? For example, if I had a great clip and right in the middle of it a car ran through the scene, is there a way to cut only the part with the car out?

William Lampkin of Personal Tech: Say you want to edit a section out of Clip 01. Select Clip 01 in the clipviewer or the Timeline viewer. Then move your Playhead pointer to the spot you want to start removing, go to the Edit menu at the top and select Split Video Clip at Playhead (or press Apple-t). This will create shorten Clip 01/1 and create Clip 01/2 with the remaining video. Now move your Playhead cursor to the end of the section you want to remove, then select Split Video Clip at Playhead again. Now you will have Clip 01/1, Clip 01/2 and Clip 01/3. Clip 01/2 should contain the video you wanted to remove. Now when you assemble your video clips in the Timeline, Clip 01/1 should be followed by Clip 01/3, thereby removing the unwanted video. IMovie has a very good Help section that covers this and other editing questions.

Q. Do you have a phone number for Symantec where I can talk to a service rep? They cashed my check on 1-12-04, but my subscription still expired on 2-1-04.

Dave Gussow: Go to the Symantec Web site (www.symantec.com) and click on Support. Then click on the Subscription troubleshooter, which will walk you through the process. If the online system doesn't work, the site says "you will also be presented with the option of contacting Symantec." The cold, hard fact is that phone tech support is expensive, and companies are doing all they can to avoid it, including making consumers jump through hoops when there's a problem.

Reader soundoff: Dave Dockery of the Tampa Bay Computer Society recommends Spybot to handle spyware problems, but he has come across a problem. In his words:

Recently, a couple of people I recommended this to told me that they had downloaded a program called SpyKiller instead. At first, I assumed that they had just been sloppy when they went a'searchin'.

When I decided to check on this, I realized that the problem is one of deception. Various search engines are accepting paid advertising from the purveyors of competing spyware products. Since SpyBot has successfully become one of the most recommended downloads, their competitors have purchased links, then used the term "spybot' on their sites to make themselves look like the Real McCoy.

SpyKiller says they will scan your disk for free. Weeell, they do scan your disk for free, but they charge you $30 to remove the spyware that they find. I heard that at least a couple of these look-alike programs are spyware themselves.

Please pass the word not to reward these jerks for misleading advertising. I sent a NastyGram to Google asking them to drop paid links that practice deception. SpyBot's full name is SpyBot Search & Destroy. If you google "spybot search,' you will get the correct product found at www.safer-networking.org/.

Q. On Jan. 19, you ran a paragraph in Digital Life about sending spam to uce@ftc.gov. We have sent hundreds of spams to them and we are wondering if you have any followup info on what is happening to all the spam that we and others have sent to them. If we are typical, they must have received a ton of it.

Dave Gussow: That's putting it mildly, and don't get your hopes up. The Federal Trade Commission receives more than 40,000 spam complaints a day. And while we encourage people to continue to report spam, don't expect a lot of action. The FTC has reported suing more than 60 people for sending fraudulent spam, but it's a mere drop in the ocean. Initial reports on the new federal spam law show that less than 10 percent of the messages sent comply with its provisions. Interestingly, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates thinks technology and systems will develop by 2006 that might get a handle on spam, which is approaching 70 percent of all messages sent.

Reader soundoff: Now, I KNOW that the three e-mails I received are not just spam but probably a virus/worm. Is there nothing that can be done to track these things down and break the senders' kneecaps? Just curious.

Dave Gussow: See the spam note? If it were easy to track, we would have less of these electronic vandalism outbreaks.

Q. My sister sent me this information on protecting your address book from the worm (by adding a new contact to your address book with a fake screen name, AAAAAAA@AAA.AAA).

Dave Gussow: Clearly, people are frustrated with spam, viruses and worms. But before passing along such items and adding to the clutter, please check a site such as Hoaxbusters (hoaxbusters.ciac.org). It has a wonderful archive of these myths that keep floating around the Internet. It might save you some time and bandwidth.

Q. My Olympus C4040 digital camera uses Smart Media flash memory cards. I see ads every day for sales on other types of cards (Compact Flash, etc.), including 256 MB, but never do I see a mention of Smart Media for sale. When I check the Internet, I find them readily but never larger than 128 MB. What"s up with that? Are they phasing them out?

Dave Gussow: The 4040 uses only SmartMedia, which tops out at 128 MB. Newer Olympus cameras can use an xD card that has larger capacities, but the 4040 takes only SmartMedia. One of the frustrations and confusing elements for people about digital photography is the different storage cards used by various manufacturers.

Reader soundoff: Reacting to a favorable review about Adobe Photoshop Album 2.0 from Walter Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal (ptech.wsj.com), a reader sent us this note:

"In addition to your giving Adobe "credit for improving' the earlier version, I'd like to give 'em discredit for introducing version 1 and then come out within a few months with version 2. That is a despicable trick to play on people (me included) who believed they finally had a good organizing program from the so-called "premier' photo-manipulating company. And even in this second edition, they've left several shortcomings, which you have nicely enumerated in your penultimate paragraph. In short, I feel "manipulated' by Adobe, which apparently does not care enough about individual digi-photo enthusiasts to offer them good software right from the start."

Q. I've heard rumors about Microsoft developing a new Internet browser or a new issue of Internet Exployer above issue 6. Is there any information as to when it will be available and anything about it's features and content?

Dave Gussow: It will be part of Service Pack 2 for Windows XP. As mentioned here last week, it will include a popup blocker. John Torro is working with the beta now, and he will do a preview of it before its release.

Q. I bought an IBM ThinkPad with Windows XP. Immediately upon startup I got a popup message. I've been getting similar popups every few minutes whenever I go online, and it's driving me crazy. So much so, that when I have serious business to attend to I have to go back to my IBM desktop with Windows 98, where I seldom have a spam problem. What can I do?

Dave Gussow: It could be a number of things. You might try a browser such as Opera (www.opera.com) that has a built-in popup blocker. You could get Spybot Search & Destroy from download.com to see if spyware made it on to your PC. And you can try turning off the Windows Messenger function, which was intended for use by network administrators but which has been co-opted by the popup pests. To turn it off, go to Start, open the Control Panel, click Administrative Tools and then Services. Scroll to Messenger and click to stop the service. Change the startup type to Disable and click Apply at the bottom. Click OK to exit window.

Previous questions and answers:

Q. I cannot open https sites using Internet Explorer. Since I can open https sites using Netscape, the problem is obviously with IE. I also cannot get Windows updates, as I get an error message: ox800A138FRunning IE Version 6.0.2800.1106 Xpsp2.0304-1633 Cipher-Strength 128 bit Update Version: SP1, Q828750, Q330994, Q824145, Q811383 Settings:[Unchecked] Do not save encrypted pages to disk [Checked] SSL 2.0 [Checked] SSL 3.0[Unchecked] TLS 1.0 (also tried checking this box, no change). I am not running a firewall program. I am running Norton antivirus, but disabled it and the problem persisted. I am also unable to open the Windows Update site, get error message 0x800A138F. What I have tried to correct the problem, besides checking the settings 1. Uninstalled and reinstalled Internet Explorer 2. Checked date and time 3. Ran spyware program, results negative; spyware program was installed after problem developed! 4. Ran antivirus program, no viruses found 5. Cleared temporary Internet files and cookies. Any suggestions?

A. From John Torro: If you're using Windows XP, go to the Tools menu in IE. Then click on Internet Options, go to the Content tab, and click the button called Clear SSL State. Then close the browser and reopen it. Next go to the Downloaded Program Files folder (it should be under the Windows folder, but, depending upon which version of Windows, it may be located somewhere else. You would need to do a file search). Once in this folder, find Update Class, right-click and choose Remove.

Q. I'm a health care supply chain IT/business process redesign consultant and am on the road five days/(almost) 52 weeks each year. I have a personal laptop that I bring to conduct personal business since I'm away from home so much, and a business laptop for my livelihood. I don't want to mix personal and business software and data files on one machine. But I don't want to carry two laptops. Does it makes sense to have a second laptop hard drive (with separate operating system, software and data files and swap it in and out of one laptop? I don't want any traces of my personal activities on my business laptop or cache. Does this sound like a good idea?

A. From Jules Allen: I like the way you think. Keeping personal data away from business data is a great idea. The easiest way to do this is to create two logins on one of yourlaptops. You have one login for personal and one for business. This doesn't stop the personal side from running the business side's software, but one would hope your personal restraint would help sort that out.

You also could try an external hard drive. But a lot depends on your laptop and if it has a USB 2 or IEEE 1394 (or FireWire) interface. The older USB 1 standard is just too slow to be practical. This might work, but see if you can borrow somebody else's external hard drive to test that it's not too slow before you commit.

Q. I want a wireless connection through my Netgear router from my iMac to my iBook. I have my cable modem hooked up to the iMac. I have an Airport card in my wife's iBook. Must the TCP/IP numbers all be the same?

A. From Jules Allen: I'm a tad confused by your network description, and your network mightbe the same! You might want to plug your cable modem into the Netgearrouter's wide area network (WAN) port, and then plug your iMac and iBook into the local area network (LAN) side. And don't forget to power cycle your cable modem and Netgear router.Hopefully that'll fix your woes.

Q. How can I switch identities in Outlook 2000 so that I can access different e-mail accounts without having to log off and go back on again? In Outlook Express it was easy.

A. Well, you can set up different profiles, but it's not the same, nor as easy, as Outlook Express. You're going to have to log on under the different profiles for it to work. You can check out a detailed explanation at www.slipstick.com/outlook/olshare1.htm, which includes a link showing how to set up the profiles.

Q. After capturing from my digital camcorder to my computer through USB, the playback is not near as well as through the camera itself. Parts appear choppy and it seems to skip a frame here or there. Camera isn't a cheapie. Would the results be better through a dedicated capture card? System is Windows 98 SE, 128 MB DDR, Athlon XP1700.

A. A couple of things jump out about your system that would seem to explain the problem. Video requires a lot of horsepower. Your PC has only 128 MB of RAM, which isn't enough. That is easily upgraded for less than $50. But a machine running Windows 98 probably doesn't have the speediest processor, and how much memory does your video card have? If you're serious about using your PC for video, you may want to consider an upgrade to a new PC.

Q. Does the current Internet Explorer 6.0 have a pop-up blocker? If so, how is this accessed?

A. The current version of Internet Explorer does not have a popup blocker. However, Microsoft apparently will include one in its next service pack for Windows XP due this summer.

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