BOOT CAMP ARCHIVE 2002

  

 

BOOT CAMP 233 (09/07/02)

 

WINDOWS XP TIPS, Part 1

 

Windows XP hasn’t been the instant runaway success that Microsoft probably hoped for; for most PC owners the benefits of upgrading to XP are not as significant as they were with previous Windows upgrades. Nevertheless, there’s a lot to be said for having XP installed on a fast new multimedia PC, it is definitely more reliable and it has been generally well received so it is starting to have an impact. That means it’s time for some Boot Camp Top Tips that will hopefully make XP a little more responsive and easier to live with. Here’s this week’s batch. By the way, these tips should work on both the Home and Professional versions.

 

We’ll begin with some of XP’s irritating little ways, and how to switch them off or get rid of them. Shortly after you have started using your new XP computer you will receive messages telling you that your password will expire, usually in 14 days. If you are happy with your passwords and do not want to change them go to Run on the Start menu and type ‘control userpasswords2’ (without the quotes of course) and on the dialogue box that appears select the Advanced tab then the Advanced button. Double click the Users folder and right click the user name whose setting your want to change and select Properties then check the box ‘Password never expires’.

 

You half expect the Tellytubbies to come waddling over the rolling green desktop and where would Windows XP be without little balloons appearing every five minutes, telling you about something or other it has just done? Some find the cutesy design theme quite endearing; others would like to have a few words with the designers but the good news is that almost everything can be changed, and the dreaded ‘Balloon Tips’ can be banished forever using XP version of our old friend Tweak UI (see Jargon Filter). As regular readers will know Tweak UI is part of a suite of tools called Power Toys, which are unsupported by Microsoft but don’t let that worry you, they’re usually very safe to use. PowerToys are free and can be downloaded from: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/

pro/downloads/powertoys.asp and the Tweak UI utility is only around 500kB. After it’s installed you’ll find it on the Programs menu, double-click the Taskbar option and in the Setting Window deselect ‘Enable Balloon Tips’ then OK.

 

While you are at it have a look through some of the many other useful things Tweak UI can do, including an auto log-on facility, which is useful if you are the only user.

 

Windows XP is very stable but it’s certainly not immune to crashes and when it does you are presented with an offer to report the error to Microsoft. It’s well meant and should, in theory, help Microsoft to identify bugs and glitches a lot faster, but it can become very annoying when you are trying to install a piece of hardware or software and the message keeps popping up. To switch it off go to Control Panel and click System, select the Advanced tab then the Error Reporting button at the bottom and check the item ‘Disable Error Reporting’ and click OK.

 

Generally speaking automatic updates are quite a good idea and it means you PC will always have the most up to date security patches and bug-fixes but a lot of people don’t like the way that Windows automatically decides for itself when to search and download updates and for those with slower dial-up connections it can be inconvenient. To switch off automatic updates completely, or tell Windows to ask permission before accessing the Internet go to System in Control Panel, select the Automatic Update tab, change the Notification Settings as appropriate then click OK.

 

Microsoft are keen for us all to start using MSN Messenger (.NET Messenger) for chatting and video telephony but a lot of people still prefer the much friendlier NetMeeting program. The good news is that it is included with XP but it has been buried away; to get it up and running all you have do it go to Run on the Start menu and type ‘conf’.

 

For some reason best known to Microsoft Windows Explorer in XP opens on My Documents, which can be incredibly frustrating if you’re trying to access the contents of your C: drive. Fortunately there is a solution, the first step is to create a desktop shortcut to Windows Explorer, so go to Start > Programs > Accessories and right click on the Explorer icon and select Send To > Desktop (Create Shortcut). Return to the desktop and right-click on the new Windows Explorer icon and select Properties. In the Target line, after explorer.exe, add the following ‘/e,c:\’, so it should now read … explorer.exe /e,c:\

(Note the space between .exe and /e, there’s a comma after the /e and it’s a backslash, not forward slash after c:). You might also want to put a copy of this shortcut onto the Quick Launch toolbar, under the Start button, to do that hold down the Ctrl key (to make a copy) then drag and drop the new Windows Explorer icon.

 

You probably know that you are using Windows XP and may not want to be reminded every time you boot up, in which case why not disable the XP opening screen? This is easy, just go to Run on the Start menu and type ‘msconfig’ then select the Boot.Ini tab. Check the item ‘/NOGUIBOOT’, click OK and when prompted restart your PC. This time it will go straight from the opening white progress bar or a blank screen to the XP desktop. You may get a warning message from the System Configuration Utility telling you the PC is in Selective Startup Mode, this is not a problem though and you can safely tick the ‘Do not show this message…’ check box.

 

Next week – more Windows XP tips

 

JARGON FILTER

 

SECURITY PATCH

Program or files designed to fix a problem in Windows that makes your PC vulnerable to virus attack or allows unauthorised access to your system

 

TWEAK UI

UI stands for user interface, and the ‘tools’ in Tweak UI can be used to make changes to the way Windows looks and behaves that would otherwise involve tinkering around with the Registry.

 

VIDEO TELEPHONY

Two-way video phone connection over the Internet using inexpensive ‘web cam’s

 

TOP TIP

Here’s yet another Google tip, this time for anyone who has spent ages trying to find something on the massive Microsoft web site. Google has developed a search engine specifically for searching Microsoft.com, using the usual fast and friendly Google interface. The address is http://www.google.com/microsoft.html, and don’t forget to add it to your Favourites menu.

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