September 06


Are CRTs Still Better than LCDs?

Hi Rick, I have bought a new PC and plan on doing a lot of work with digital photographs. A few years ago, I heard that CRTs were better than LCDs for working with images (due to better colour range, resolution etc). Is that still true now or are LCDs as good as CRTs?

Ian Connerton


A. It’s difficult to say, there are lot of parameters you can scientifically measure but in the end image quality is subjective. LCD screens have improved in leaps and bounds in the past five years and personally I would find it very difficult to go back to a CRT display.


Apart from the obvious benefits of taking up less room, using less power and not attracting the dust, for me one of the biggest benefits is the complete lack of flicker. Even when CRTs are set to the highest refresh rates I am still aware of it and I suspect it was responsible for some quite severe headaches, which stopped the moment I switched to an LCD display.


I am also aware of line ‘whistle’, generated by a CRT monitor’s high voltage and scanning components, even though at my great age I’m not supposed to be able to hear it. I’m sure that in lab tests high-end CRT monitors can still do better than CRTs on colour purity and fidelity, and they have the edge with contrast ratio but these differences are now quite small, and I doubt very much they make any difference in the real world.


LCDs can only get better and cheaper and with more PCs having digital monitor connections there’s no longer any need to convert the digital signals coming out of a PC into an analogue form, which does introduce noise and degrade picture quality but in the end only you can decide. So pop down to your local PC vendor and let your own eyes make the decision, and I wouldn’t mind betting that LCD comes out on top.



Free Firewall Suggestions

Hi Rick, could you recommend a good free firewall please? I am an OAP using internet banking. I have Norton AntiVirus software but not a firewall (except Windows).

Sue Ambrose


A. You are spoilt for choice and programs like Kerio Personal Firewall, Comodo and Agnitum Outpost all come highly recommended but in my opinion the best all-rounder is ZoneAlarm. It’s one of the oldest and still one of the most effective and easy to configure firewalls, and you can’t argue with the price…



Picasa 2 Duplicating Pictures

Rick Hi, I have Picasa 2 on my laptop, which stores identical folders of the pictures I’ve taken over last few years. If I delete a picture from one file it automatically deletes itself from the other. Is there any way I can clear the My Pictures files without removing them from Picasa?

Julian Delbeke


A. At first glance Picasa’s file management system does seem a bit odd but it is one of the program’s key features and the idea is that it leaves your original image files intact. In other words you can use the tools to make changes to an image, but this won’t affect the original.


On early versions this was actually a bit of a nuisance as there was no easy way to export an edited image from Picasa but this has since been fixed. Unless you are desperately short of hard disc space I would leave Picasa to get on with it. If you want to delete Picasa’s picture files your originals will be okay but if you do it the other way around -- delete images in your My Picture folder - then obviously they will also disappear from Picasa’s library.



Lost Connection on an IBM Laptop

Hi Rick, I have two desktop computers, one on XP Pro & the other on XP Home, connected together on Broadband. Both are working fine. In addition I have an IBM 360E laptop, which has a serial port that I use with VAG-COM, which is some diagnostic software I can use with the Engine Management System on my VW.  Serial Ports on laptops are now like hens teeth.


When I got the laptop about 4 years ago the dial up connection worked fine. I have tried on a number of occasions to connect to my Broadband but without success.  In the process I have lost the dial up connection to IE & OE.


OE and IE both open when clicked and the dial up connection box comes up but neither of them will connect. I would really like to connect to my Broadband ISP. What do I need in term of a card to plug into the laptop? Have you any ideas where the problem might lie in relation to the dial up connection?

Richard Haute


A. Since you have two PCs sharing a broadband connection I presume you have set up a simple network, in which case you can connect the laptop to it using a cable to your router or you could set up a wireless connection, though the latter would involve buying a Wi-Fi router (costing around £40 - £50), and an adaptor (PC Card or USB adaptor -- both around £20 - £25).


It’s difficult to say at this distance what’s wrong with your dial-up connection but rather than mess around trying to repair it I would start over. Delete all of your existing Dial Up Connections from My Computer then uninstall the modem from Device Manager, and do the same with any modem utilities that appear in Add/Remove Programs in Control Panel. When you reboot you should be asked to reload the modem driver from the utility disc that came with your PC and you can then set up a fresh dial up connection.



Uninstalling Unstable Updates

Hi Rick, every time I boot up the computer I get a message telling me there are updates ready for my computer (from Microsoft?). When I try to download or install them I eventually get a message telling me the installation failed only to go through the whole process next time I boot up. It seems to originate from a small, yellow shield in the task bar. The downloads are KB920103/KB920907 and KB921566. I have tried Search to find and delete them, but with no success.

Gwen, Derbyshire


A. Microsoft updates, if they’ve installed, or partially installed on your PC can normally be found in Add/Remove Programs in Control Panel. They’re towards the bottom of the main programs list (not Windows Components), and you remove them like any other piece of software, by highlighting the entry, and clicking Remove. However, not all updates can be uninstalled. The three you are having problems with are all for MS Office 2003 and Office components and they should be uninstallable but if the worst comes to the worst and they start to cause you real problems then I would backup all of your data, reinstall Office and start over.



Right Click Too Quick…

When I right click anywhere on the all programs list the right click menu disappears so fast that I cannot see anything on the menu.  I was trying at the time to use 'Sort By Name'. Can you help please?

Andy Norman


A. Right-clicking into a blank area of the All Programs list doesn’t bring up any ‘context menus, but it does make the parts of the list blink, which may be what you are mistaking for a menu. To get to the Sort by Name option you have to right-click on an actual item, it doesn’t matter which one.



Trouble With Dell Drifting Mouse Pointer

Rick, I have a Dell Inspiron 4000 running Windows ME. I work with the integrated touchpad.  For some time now I have had a problem with a wandering cursor.  When I boot up, quite often the cursor will make random uncontrollable movements across the screen, sometimes just zooming off to the top right hand corner of the screen and staying there.  At other times it will just freeze in the middle of the screen and refuse to move, and on other occasions when I use the touchpad it will just make jerky movements, usually in the opposite direction to where I have tried to move it.  This is extremely irritating,  not just because I can't work, but I also cannot shut down correctly.   At other times it works perfectly.


I have anti virus and anti spyware software running.  Recently I deactivated the little tracker button in the centre of the keypad, which seemed to help a little, but I have never been able to find anyone who can explain why this is happening and how to cure it.

Peter Reynolds


A. So-called ‘Dell Mouse drift’ is a known problem, as a Google search will reveal. There seems to be several caused but in your case I suspect it’s due to wear or a fault in the tracker button or joystick. Disabling it usually fixes the problems but I have seen reports that installing a new driver for the touchpad, or replacing it with one from Synaptics, can also help. For further reading I suggest gimbo.com and Rick Strahl’s Weblog



Removing ‘Corrupt’ ntuser files

Hi Rick, I have used a disk cleanup program and then performed a Defrag, however at the end of the Defrag, the computer states that 3.38mb of data cannot be deleted. These files are shown as red fragmented files on the Defrag scan bar. I have tried navigating to them via Explorer and deleting manually, but an error message states the two files are in use by another piece of software.


The files are ntuser and ntuser.dat. I believe that are corrupted files from Nero - the burning software. I have ensured that Nero was closed at all times. Please can you advise how I can remove these files as they are taking up valuable space on my limited hard drive?

Mark Williams


A. I think it very unwise to use disc ‘cleaner’ programs unless you know them to be reliable, and I would never do so without making a backup of essential files and the Registry first. This concern is illustrated by the two files that your program has flagged up as needing to be deleted.


They are both essential Registry files that store user profiles and settings and on no account should they be deleted or your system will almost certainly be trashed or inaccessible. I think the only way out of this problem is to uninstall the cleaner software and use System Restore to return your PC to a date before you used it. With luck you’ll be back to normal. If you are running short of hard disc space manually delete unwanted programs using Add/Remove Programs in Control Panel, but it’s going to keep on happening so I would think about installing a second ‘slave hard drive. If your PC is slowing down then take a look at Boot Camp 355 XP Tuning Tips. 



Archiving Printed Documents

Rick, do you have any suggestions for software for archiving printed documents?  I'd like to scan seldom used printed documents (without OCR - just imaging) and save them with some tags or keywords - so I can throw out the paper copies.  I'm thinking about old bank statements, receipts, letters etc.

Jonathan Shaw


A. Almost any database program can be used to organise your archives and if you have Microsoft Office then you need look no further than Access. However, since you are dealing with images why not use a picture viewer program? I’m thinking in particular of Picasa, which has excellent search facilities, and of course you’ll be able to categorise and view your scans with minimal effort. 



Closing Internet Explorer Freezes Windows

Rick, can you please? When I return to Desktop after surfing the net, but still remain connected to the net, often my PC freezes and I am unable to move the cursor. I am using Windows 98SE and Internet Explorer 6. I access the Internet using a Dial up Modem. My Firewall is Agnitum Outpost Firewall Pro and my antivirus is Norton Symantec.


When I first boot up I have no problem surfing the net, however, whenever I close down open web pages, it often does not respond (or occasionally takes a few minutes). Often everything freezes I have to press the reset button. When rebooted I can then always connect to the Internet and continue surfing.

Ron Briggs


A. You’ve got plenty to choose from with this one but the top suspect is a malware program or service running in the background that objects to the connection being closed, so begin by carrying out a full malware scan using cleaner tools like AdAware and Spybot S&D. IE could be faulty so try a Repair, install, from Add/Remove Programs in Control Panel, and if that doesn’t work, or is unavailable uninstall then reinstall the latest version. Finally, it’s possible that buggy software has damaged Winsock, which is a program that handles communications between the Windows and applications on your PC that use the Internet. A freeware tool called LSP-Fix  should put it back on track.



Scanning Multiple Photographs

Dear Rick, I have a Canon N670U scanner and also a lot of 6" x 4" photos to scan. Is it possible to scan (and save) 2 or 3 photos at a time? I have XP Home, Elements 3, and Photoshop CS2.

Ron Sutton 


A. It certainly is and you can capture as many images as you can squeeze onto your scanner’s glass platen, but they will be combined into one image. Whilst it is a simple matter to separate them out again using your picture editing program’s Selection Tool and the copy/paste functions, the quality of each image will be reduced, possibly quite significantly, depending on the resolution setting of the scanner, and here comes the inevitable Catch 22 Situation. If you increase the resolution of the scan, to minimise the quality losses the time it takes to scan and process the image will also increase, so by the time you add on the time it will take to split the images in your photo editing program, it would probably be just as quick to scan the photographs one at a time.



Why can’t I see GIFs on my PC?

Ahoy there Rick, I have XP home, and my gif files seem to have stopped working.  No one locally knows why. I need them to show animated knot tying for demonstration purposes.  I know they still work on the web site as others confirm they do on their

PCs, but not on mine!  Any ideas?

B. Fitzpatrick


A. And a yo-ho-ho and splice the mainbrace to you.. GIF or Graphic Interchange Format image files are not native to Windows, in fact it’s a comparatively ancient lossless compressed file format originally developed by CompuServe back in 1987.


Nevertheless, Gifs can be viewed by a number of programs, including Windows Paint but my guess is there’s a problem with ‘file association’, which is the way Windows knows which programs to use to open a particular type of file. To fix the problem open Windows Explorer and go to Tools > Folder Options and select the File Types tab. Scroll down the list and click to highlight ‘GIF’ then click the Change button and you will be shown a list of programs that you can use to view your Gifs, the default is usually Microsoft Photo Editor but you can use Paint or any other image editing program you have on your PC.



Connecting Sharp ViewCam to a Laptop

Hi Rick, I have a Sharp VL-E30 ViewCam and I want to transfer the contents of the tapes to DVD. However. I cannot find anybody that has the necessary cable for a direct connection to my laptop. Any suggestions?

Colin Dixon


A. I had to dig deep into my archives to find this machine, back to the mid 1990s in fact, so I have to say that I’m impressed that you have one and that it is still in working order. Anyway, being a ‘high-band’ analogue machine means that it has two video outputs: normal composite video, and S-Video or ‘Y/C’. Neither is particularly unusual and phono-to-phone cables for composite video and 5-pin mini-DIN leads are still very widely available.


What you probably won’t find is a corresponding socket on your laptop. That’s because the analogue video signal(s) from your camcorder have to be converted into a digital format, before they can be downloaded onto your PC. Your best bet would be to use a device like the Terratec Grabster, which costs around £50 and plugs into your PC’s USB socket. It comes with some simple recording, editing and DVD authoring software so it’s virtually ready to use straight out of the box.  



Setting up a Family Video Conference

Dear Rick, we would appreciate you advice on the following: The family is spread around the world.  The idea is that we agree certain time of the day and I "broadcast live" to the family the latest news and gossip of the family in this part of the world.  Also we would like to be able to have questions/answers.  Which would be the best webcam system, and not too expensive?

Maria Ines


A. You are spoilt for choice, and I don’t think you will have to spend a penny as there are several freeware video conferencing programs available. However, I would begin with Skype, and although it doesn’t support multi-way video conferencing, it can be done using an add-on called Festoon. The advantage of Skype is that you can use it to call up the members of your family, so there’s no need to worry about them being on line at a particular time. It is a cross-platform system, so it doesn’t matter if some of your relatives are using Mac or Linux PCs, and it works.


Other possibilities include SplitCamera, a purpose designed freeware video conferencing application, and iVisit, which is a paid for program, but this should ensure that you get help and support, if you run into difficulties.



Repairing A Cracked Window

Hi Rick, I have a problem with the Windows XP Home installation CD for my laptop. Whilst trying to carry out a Repair Install I inadvertently shut the drawer without checking the disc was properly inserted. I pressed too hard and it cracked the edge of the disc and now it refuses to work. The trouble is the company that made the laptop is no longer in business and Microsoft it will not replace the disc because it is an OEM copy. The crack is only about half a centimetre long, is there any hope?

Elaine Farrow


A. There’s always hope but a cracked CD can be a tricky customer and it may well be that the cure is more expensive than a replacement Windows CD. The first thing I would try is a program called Badcopy Pro. It can repair damaged files on CD (and other media) but there’s a lot of ifs and buts, so I recommend trying the free demo first. This will tell you if it can recover any files. If so you can pay the licence fee ($40) and it will carry out the repair by copying the files to your PC’s hard drive and you can use the files to create a slipstreamed installation disc (see Boot Camps 428 & 429). There’s a money-back guarantee if it doesn’t work, so in theory you have nothing to loose. There are a number of companies who can repair damaged CDs but the charges are likely to be quite a bit more than the cost of a new copy of Windows, so I think that in the end you will probably have to cough up, and take as a lesson to handle your discs carefully.



Syncing Folders and Emails

Dear Rick, my PC and Laptop are networked and I have folders and emails (OE6) on each machine and I would like to be able to synchronise them on a regular basis. I have SyncToy but I have no idea if it would work by using this software. Or would you suggest tackling this task in some other way?

Ergin Gulgec


A. Synching your emails should be easy, simply set up the same accounts on both PCs and in each Accounts Properties, on the Advanced tab, check the option to  ‘Leave a copy of message on server’. Emails will accumulate in your server’s inbox but you can periodically cull them using a browser mail client like mail2web.


For the rest of your folder syncing needs I suggest using the good old Windows Briefcase. This little-used facility will do everything that you want, and with a bit of fiddling around, could even be persuaded to handle your email synchronisation. Basically you would have to set up OE Store Folders on both PCs and place them inside the Briefcase. You’ll find more about the Briefcase and Windows other syncing utility, Offline Files, in Boot Camps 378 and 379 .


By the way, great name Ergin, and I'm ashamed to say that I suspected it was an anagram so I ran your name through an on-line solver but the best it could come up with was Cure Legging and Runic Egg Gel…



Mystery Program blocked by Zone Alarm

Rick, over the last few days I have been getting Zone Alarm pop-ups telling me that jview is trying to contact the Internet.  I'm not computer literate and a search for an explanation of jview that I can actually understand has been fruitless. I should be grateful for your advice about allowing or denying access to jview.

John Brigham 


A. I’ve not had much luck with it either. The ‘jview filename is used by a variety of applications, plug-ins and services and I’ve found a fair number of references to it but none of them are very helpful so the first thing I would do is block it, and if your PC or any of the programs you use regularly doesn’t complain then you obviously don’t need it.


Make sure your PC’s security is fully up to date. A ‘jview Profiler’ vulnerability was addressed by Security Bulletin MS05-037 last year and this includes updates for Internet Explorer v5 and v6, which you may not have. I would run a full virus and malware scans using AdAware, Defender and Spybot, plus HiJack This or X-Ray PC, for good measure.



Rogue Program Trying to Install at Startup

Hi Rick, my computer has developed an annoying little foible. Every time I boot, Windows tries to install a program called PhotoGallery. It then stops with a message that it needs to access the source CD, which I do not have. I have used a sledgehammer to stop this happening- a bit of an inelegant solution - in that I have disabled Windows Installer in the Services section of msconfig. Is there a better way of sorting out this problem? Thanks for your articles and site - invaluable.

John Stephens


A. You were in the right area with the Windows Configuration Utility (msconfig) and I suspect you’ll find the rogue installer lurking on the Startup list (click the Startup tab).  Unfortunately I can’t be more specific as I have found at least half a dozen programs and plug-ins called PhotoGallery but if you uncheck any likely looking items, and they turn out to be innocent, you can always re-check them after a reboot. Better while you are on the Startup list take the opportunity to clear out the clutter, I’m willing to bet that at least three quarters of the entries you’ll find there are just wasting your PC’s resources, and maybe even spying on you. You find a very comprehensive list of Startup entries, what they do, and whether or not you need them on the Sysinfo website.



Thumbnails, but no Images

Rick, an oddity seems to be occurring with my pictures. I have downloaded photos from my camera and when viewing them in Windows Explorer you can see the thumbnails.  However, if I try and open up the picture into any program (have tried Windows Picture Viewer, Paint Shop Pro and Photoshop Elements as well as Paint) it says it cannot open the picture or that there is no picture there to view. Is there any way I can copy the thumbnail image so that at least I have something? I wondered if you have any ideas, as they are some rather special pictures that I thought I had safely copied!

Charlotte O'Kane


A. I think the first thing to do if check whether or not you have actually downloaded images from the camera and the easy way to tell is to look at the size of the file. A JPEG image should be somewhere between 0.5 and 2.5Mb (500kb - 2500kb), depending on the camera, picture quality and so on. Thumbnails are generally only a few tens of bytes in size, so if Windows Explorer isn’t showing full size image files (in the Details View) then you need to go back and run through the procedure and or software you use to transfer images from the camera. If the picture files have been copied across to your hard drive and they cannot be opened in any of your picture viewer programs then they may be corrupt, which could mean that there is something wrong with your camera. If the files are damaged try a program called Zero Assumption Recovery, the free demo will tell you if it’s possible to extract anything viewable from the files.


If the image files are corrupt and the only thing you have left is the thumbnails all you can really do is make a screen grab of the folder (make sure the Explorer title bar is illuminated and press the PrtScn key) now past the resulting Bitmap image in PaintShop Pro and use the selection tools to copy and paste images one at a time, so they can be viewed using the magnifier however, once you go past x2 or x3 magnification the quality will be very poor indeed.



Recover Data from Dead PC

Hi Rick, my PC has packed up with probable diagnosis of motherboard failure. The hard disk is fine and I have connected it as slave to another PC.  How can I recover my email and address book and contacts, which are in Outlook?

Chris Lambert


A. If it is just a motherboard failure then you should be able to connect up your drive to its replacement and reboot into your old system, even if it’s a different make or model of motherboard. You will have to install drivers for the new mobo, and Windows (if you are using XP) will need to be reactivated but you should be back up and running again within the hour.


Outlook data is actually very easy to move form one PC or drive to another. Email messages, your address book and settings are all stored in a ‘pst’ folder, which you will normally find in: C:\Documents and Settings\<yourname>\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook. Simply use Outlook’s Import command on the File menu to copy the data into your new system.



Sent To, Send Picture Via Email Missing

Hi Rick, the "Send To" option used to offer a very useful option to reduce the file size of the picture being sent, but it has now stopped giving me this option - it just adds the attachment to an email at any size!. I have tried all ways to find how to restore this option but cannot! Can you help?

Colin Baker


A. This handy little facility was removed by a recent security patch, or perhaps you did it manually and forgot about it. Either way following the discovery of the so-called Windows Meta File (WMF) Exploit, one of the suggested remedies was to switch off of disable the Windows Picture and Fax Viewer, and the picture re-sizing component you see when you click Send To Email Recipient was part of it. Provided your PC’s security patches are kept up to date there should be any problem switching it back on again, and to do that go to Run on the Start menu and type REGSVR32 SHIMGVW.DLL then click OK.


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