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May 2007

30/05/07

Global Warnings

Hi Rick, I followed your very useful advice and turned off the annoying User Account Control in Vista. However, I now get another annoying message telling me that the UAC is turned off and it really should be turned on! Can you advise how to get rid of this second unwanted annoyance?

Ken Scott

 

A. Yes I can, but be warned that this is a global setting and if anything else is upsetting Windows Security Centre – such as your anti-virus or firewall programs not working -- you won’t see a pop-up alert.

 

To do the deed double-click the Security Centre icon (the little shield in the System Tray, next to the clock) and in the Tasks pane on the left click ‘Change the way Security Centre Alerts me’ then click the item ‘Don’t notify me, but display the icon’.

 

28/05/07

When Windows Won’t Go Away

I find that sometimes Windows XP will not close down, but hangs on the closing system down screen. Is there any way I can prevent this?
Bernie Victor

 

A. When Windows won’t go away the usual reason is there’s a program or ‘Service’ running in the background that has either frozen, or is not responding to instructions from Windows to shut down. Most of the time you can find out what it is simply by pressing Ctrl + Alt + Del and select the Applications tab, which should be clear. If anything is showing, and it’s the same program every time, you should go through the usual routine of checking the support section of the manufacturer’s website for clues, and where applicable downloading any updates, patches or drivers. Failing that try working through the suggestions on the Windows XP Shutdown & Restart Troubleshooter

 

25/05/07

Who is this Asp Net User?

Hi Rick, out of curiosity I checked the user accounts in the Control Panel on my PC. There is an entry shown as 'asp.net machine A....Limited Account - Password Protected', with an icon of a yellow sports car. I did not configure this user account and I've no idea what it is. I'm using Windows XP Home SP2 with automatic updates.  Do you think that this user account is something that should be removed or is it normal?

David Fitzpatrick

 

A. You can relax, it’s nothing sinister and is due to a Windows Update. I have heard from a number of people recently who have stumbled across this entry and are naturally concerned about the appearance of this unknown ‘User’.

 

It actually dates back to a Windows update released in September 2004, and followed the installation of Service Pack 1.1 for the .Net Framework. This is basically a set of utility files used by some recent Windows programs, there’s more on the phantom User in Microsoft Knowledgebase article 555299, but the bottom line is you can leave it alone, it’s doing no harm and your PC’s security hasn’t been compromised.

 

23/05/07

Printing, without Paper

I have an application I am testing, which needs a special printer. In the office this is fine, but at home I don't have the printer and it’s tricky to test without it.

 

Do you know of a utility, which will take the 'print' output and display it on screen instead of sending it to the printer? Ideally it would install as a Windows printer but display instead of printing. Or is this not possible?

Charles Tomalin

 

A. Basically what you are looking for is a ‘Virtual Printer’, and the simplest method is to create a pdf or portable document file, which can be viewed on any PC using Adobe Reader or a similar pdf reader. There is now a good selection of PDF authoring software and I suggest that you try PDF Creator, which is freeware, and very easy to use. You might also like to have a look at Polestar Virtual Printer, which can create BMP, JPEG and Tiff images from common document types, it is commercial software, costing $30, but you can try before you buy with a 30-day free trial.

 

21/05/07

Wandering Wi-Fi Woes

I have a problem with Wi-Fi. My laptop has an integral 11g Wi-Fi adaptor with 128-bit encryption, which I use at home, but when away I cannot logon to any unsecured network nor my son's 128-bit protected net, although I have entered his WEP code so many times in so many manners that I can now remember it. I've checked his setup for anything odd, but all seems quite conventional.  I've checked your articles, both old and new, but without success.  Is there anything obvious, please?

David Palmer

 

A. I wish I could give you a simple one-shot solution but Wi-Fi can be a tricky customer, when it works it is great but changing networks is sometimes akin to black magic. The only tips I can give, especially when trying to log on to home networks, is to first disable the firewall and any other Internet/network monitoring software on your PC, then reboot the whole network. Switch everything off, including any other PCs connected to the router, then go through a sequenced re-boot, starting with the router, then one PC, and if that's okay move onto the next one. If that doesn’t work try a sequenced reboot, this time with encryption switched off on the router (and your PC). In both cases don’t forget to re-enable the firewall and encryption as soon as possible. Otherwise try this trick, for flushing out old network settings, from the Internet section of my PCTopTips website

 

18/05/07

Random Thoughts

Hi Rick. As you know the Display section of Windows XP Control Panel has a screensaver,  which, after a preset time of inactivity will display a random selection of pictures stored in the PC.  I find it quite fascinating to see pictures I had often forgotten about leading me to reflect on their history.  The thing is I would very much like to reproduce as many as possible of my pictures together on to a DVD.  Can this be done?
Don

 

A. There are lots of ways of doing this, however, since this is first time you’ve tried it I suggest that you keep it simple and copy some pictures to a CD using my all time favourite freeware picture viewer/editor, Picasa. This has a feature called ‘Gift CD’, it’s really simple to use and creates a slideshow disc, with a built-in viewer that plays on just about any DVD player.

 

16/05/07

Lost Inbox and Sentbox

I hope you can help Rick. Recently the contents of both my Inbox and Sentbox disappeared.  My local computer expert was sure that he could resurrect them but was unable to. Everything is working normally since.

Ron Rodgers

 

A. Unless you or your local expert have done anything drastic those message folders are still on your drive, though there is a high probability that they, or the indexing file that looks after them, are corrupted. It may be possible to recover them and normally I would suggest a freeware utility to do just that, however, I’m not aware of any, so why not try the Repair Tool for Outlook Express or Scandbx; free trial versions of both programs are available and will tell you which, if any, files can be recovered, if so you can pay the licence fee *£15 - £20) and the files will be restored.

 

14/05/07

CD and DVD Speed

Hi Rick, what is the significance of 4X 16X and 32X CD's and DVD's? I have a recordable Philips DVD and a Dell computer. Which one should I be using?

Henry Weiner

 

A. The ‘X’ numbers on blank discs is the certified maximum ‘burn’ speed. To make sense of that we have to go back to the original audio CD specification, which is for data to read off a disc at around 150kbs or roughly 9Mb per minute. This is the standard speed for CD operation, designated 1X. When CD audio and data recorders first started to appear they all operated at 1X speed, but as the technology improved, drive manufacturers started to increase writing speeds and by the mid 1990s we were seeing 4X, 8X and 12X ‘burners’. Now, as you know, you can get 48X and 52X CD drives, though the race for ever faster CD and DVD drives now seems to have settled down.

 

However, getting there was tricky business and in the early days there were a lot of problems getting blank discs to work at speeds higher than 2X and 4X, let alone the speeds we are used to today. Needless to say disc manufacturers eventually got it sorted and blank discs are now marked with the maximum burn speed. The idea is you should only use discs that are as fast, or preferably faster than the maximum burn speed of your drive. In practice the faster you burn data the more chance there is the disc will be toasted so for important recordings it is usually better to select the slowest burn speed you can live with. By the way CD-RW discs work differently, and drives have separate burn and erase speeds for re-writeable discs, so find out what your drive is capable of, and check the blank disc labels carefully.

 

11/05/07

Internet Go-Slow

Hi Rick, in the last few days, access to web pages has been significantly slower; even your page took a little while to load just now. I put this firmly down to my aged home PC with its modest 256Mb RAM. However, an office colleague and I noticed the same thing on our work PCs. A co-incidence - or is the new rush for downloadable TV programmes and DVDs overloading the network?

Hugh Sawyer

 

A. It is unlikely to be your PC and I don’t think it’s necessarily anything to do with TV downloads but Internet data transfer speeds do vary throughout the day. It is affected by the amount of traffic, plus there are numerous local and regional influences, everything from breakdowns at your ISP’s end to sudden surges caused by major events and so on.

 

Download speeds can also be affected by how many other people in your street are using their broadband connection, in short it could be anything, but the thing to do is check the speed at several times in the day using a bandwidth test website. In fact I would use a couple of sites such as: http://bandwidthplace.com/speedtest/ and  www.pcpitstop.com/internet/bandwidth.asp then average out the results to get a better idea of what is happening. If the results are consistently and significantly slower than the service you’ve been paying for then you should check with your ISP. 

 

09/05/07

Forbidden Google?

Rick, I have run FireFox 1.5 happily for some time. A couple of days ago at the behest of my son I used the link to update to version 2 and at the same time I accepted the invitation to update Google.  After this nothing worked.  Every time I tried to visit a website either by typing a new address or using the bookmark list I had a message reading:  FORBIDDEN The website you have just visited has tried to provide you with search results from Google. The site violates our terms of service so your search could not be completed...........  

 

If I use Internet Explorer with Google I get the same response to typed addresses.  Using MSN works but it is painfully slow.  What has happened?  Can I reinstall FireFox 1.5?  I run Windows XP with automatic updates. Please please help.

Ron Barrack

 

A. I’m still not exactly sure what is happening but I wouldn’t mind betting that you are using OnSpeed, the Internet accelerator. If so disabling it will make the message go away. So far I’ve been unable to track down anything definite but it seems like the problem is at OnSpeed’s end and for some bizarre reason it doesn’t seem to affect searches using Google Ireland (http://www.google.ie/).

 

07/05/07

Errant Epson C66

Rick, we exchanged emails some time ago when I advised you that I used to try and understand your articles in a computer magazine -- my fault not yours -- you remarked that I might be as old as you -- I am 82!

 

I have an Epson printer and so also does a friend who uses me as advisor. Both our printers recently ceased to display the amount of ink in the cartridges though we can find out via Control Panel >  Printers and Faxes > Epson C66 (my printer) Printer > Properties > Advanced > Printer defaults > Maintenance > Status Monitor. but this is a little prolonged!

 

I have heard that some manufacturers install a life-expectancy program, my burglar alarm has one, which I could install, and at the date entered it prevents the alarm working. I have not installed it as it seems open to abuse. Do Epson also have such a feature?

Anthony Bateman-Jones

 

A. Okay, you win on the age thing, but I’m really not that far behind – at least it feels that way some mornings… Back to your problem, and there’s a number of reasons the Status Monitor has disappeared into the background, and I’m happy to say, none of them to do with any dodgy self-destruct software. In no particular order the possibilities are that you’ve been poking around in the Microsoft Configuration Utility (msconfig) and pruned a startup item or ‘service’ (it may be called something obscure like ‘EPS’ ‘Epson Status Monitor’ or listed as e_srcv03.exe. Otherwise I would try uninstalling and reinstalling the software that came with the printer and this will replace the old monitor, or the link to it, which may have become corrupted.

 

04/05/07

Disc Activity Dilemma

Hi Rick, I am sitting at my PC. I am the only user logged on, and no applications are running. Yet the disc light is flashing and from the sound generated there is some pretty intense activity going on. Windows Task Manager indicates that processes MsMpEng.exe and System Idle Process are very active and using significant amounts of memory. This happens quite regularly. Disc indexing is off. Is this a known issue that is readily resolved, or are there diagnostic packages available that would identify the problem?

Ken Hogg

 

A. It’s Windows Defender, the anti-spyware program, running a full scan, and these can take hours. My guess if you have it set to continuously run full scans, which really will gobble up your PC’s resources. The solution is to schedule it to run a Quick Scan, once a day, and then if it detects anything, run a manual full scan.

 

I’ve also come across another Windows Defender anomaly with PCs that have ‘Hyper Threading’ enabled in the BIOS. Disabling it may solve the problem, though possibly at some cost to performance, but it’s worth trying, and hopefully MS will sort it out in future releases.

 

02/05/07

Partitioning an old PC

Hi Rick, I would like to create a new drive on my XP PC where I can store all my documents, etc. so making it easy when I come to back-up (i.e. just back-up everything on drive E:\, for example).

 

How does one partition a new drive and can this only be done on a new PC before it has been used (my PC is several years old now)?

Mark Smith

 

A. Partitioning is best carried out before the operating system is installed and both XP and Vista (and Linux) have tools that let you do this, before the OS in loaded. Once a PC has been used for a while it gets increasingly tricky. Files are not neatly stored on a single partition drive and the free space that you want to use to create the new partition is not in contiguous chunks. This means a lot of data has to be shuffled around.

 

It can be done, using a commercial program like Partition Magic, and there are a number of freeware utilities too, but personally I wouldn’t do it. There is a risk -- albeit only a small one with Partition Magic -- that you’ll trash the lot. It’s far better to install a second slave drive and use that. It’s also a better bet as far as backup security is concerned; if your partitioned drive suffers a catastrophic failure, you’ll lose your backup files as well. 

 

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