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Atlanta Journal & Constitution

Files, folders, hard disk storage part of understanding Windows
Family Tech: Chasing koalas provides lesson in online research
Personal Web page travels with you
New slide/film scanner can turn out sharp work
Spring Cleaning as good for your computer as it was for Aunt Vera
I'm seeking good employment Web sites
I get a message that say's it's "possibly not a picture file
Working From Home Resource Guide
Upgrades, repairs easier than before
Use Windows resources when crash occurs
New PC revolution likely to come from the young
Is it possible to open e-mail once you delete it?
Awhile back you gave advice about disabling cookies
Safeguards can help keep data out of the wrong hands

 

Files, folders, hard disk storage part of understanding Windows

Lou Dolinar - Newsday

Sunday, March 4, 2001

 Time was, you had to understand files and folders to work with a computer. You had to memorize, and correctly type, cryptic commands like ''tree'' or ''dir'' or even ''pip'' to find the files you needed to work with.

Well, you don't anymore. You can usually wing it by using the Windows Start menu, along with the Documents listing of most recently used files. Unfortunately, many people never learn the underlying principles of how Windows is set up.

That's what we'll deal with here --- files and folders, also called directories. A file can be data, like "The Great American Novel," or a file can be a program, such as the word-processing program you used to create the novel. Folders, meanwhile, hold files and other folders, and are used as organizational tools. Let's start with some of the more technical stuff:

Physical organization

Mostly you can ignore this aspect of files and folders. The file that contains "The Great American Novel" exists on your hard disk drive in the form of binary data, i.e., ones and zeros. The data are organized into groups called sectors, and something called a file allocation table (FAT) tells the computer which sectors constitute which file, and where on the hard disk drive those sectors are located.

The ''where'' part is tricky. Your hard disk drive can write data anywhere on its surface. It prefers to write data in sequence --- for example, so that Chapter 1 of "The Great American Novel" precedes Chapter 2. However, depending on its needs, your computer is perfectly happy to erase Chapter 1 when you rewrite it, and rewrite Chapter 3 in its place. In fact, it doesn't even have to keep chapters intact: It can break files, whether they represent programs or data, into random pieces and distribute those pieces wherever it has room.

There are a few reasons to learn geek-grade disk details.

Reason 1: When you delete a file (throw it in the Recycle Bin), you don't really delete the data. All that is deleted is the information about where the data is located. The file is still there, and as long as it's in the Recycle Bin, its location is protected from use by other files. Thus, within reason, you can resurrect deleted files by opening up the Recycle Bin. When you empty the Recycle Bin, the space occupied by the file is made available to newly written files. Right-click on the bin to adjust how it treats deleted files.

Reason 2: Sometimes --- usually due to damage of the disk drive --- your computer loses track of its FAT, or of individual chunks of files. The Scandisk function (it runs automatically when your computer restarts after crashing, or you can start it manually) tries to put Humpty Dumpty together again. If it can't figure out where to place a chunk of file, it mends things as best it can and prompts you to save the piece. You may be able to salvage it if it is a text file --- otherwise, forget it. If a system file from Windows is involved, this can bring your computer to a crashing halt. You may be able to recover it by running the System Information utility: Go to Tools/System File Checker. This determines whether part of Windows has been corrupted and allows you to restore that part from your original Windows CD.

Reason 3: Your disk is hashed. Older systems with full hard drives that have been rewritten repeatedly can have file fragments scattered randomly and widely. You can put the pieces back into contiguous order by running the Disk Defragmenter utility.

One last note here: Your computer prefers to write information to the inside of your hard disk, rather than the edge. That's because it takes longer to access the outside rim of a platter than the inside. In general, a hard drive that's less than half full will seem more snappy than a drive that's completely full.

DOS directories

We know all your files and folders are stored on your hard disk drive. But don't let anyone tell you it is like a filing cabinet. A filing cabinet usually has only one level of folders, and a folder usually contains only files.

On your computer's filing system, you have a set of folders and files in the so-called root directory, the top level of the C: drive. Additional folders and files are nested inside that set of folders, more are inside that level, and so forth. Overall, the structure resembles a Christmas tree.

But you knew that, right? Because you know enough to click My Computer, open a folder, drill down to the next folder, and so on.

And of course you know enough to click on the drop-down directory at the top left of the window and display the hierarchy of what's in that particular folder. Thus, inside My Computer you have a floppy disk, a control panel, printers, dial-up network and so forth.

Except that ain't how it really is. The way directories are displayed in Windows 95/98 is fabricated by Windows. It does not precisely correspond to the organization of directories at the level of DOS and the file allocation table on the disk.

One major example is the Desktop. It is the first thing you see when you turn on the computer. While it is a folder in that it can contain files and other folders, its appearance is unique, and you are limited in how you can display files and folders. But if you doubt that it is indeed a folder, just search your hard drive for Desktop, open up the folder, and you'll see what I mean.

AJC Newspaper Online brought to you in partnership with AccessAtlanta

2000 Cox Interactive Media

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Family Tech: Chasing koalas provides lesson in online research

Smart ways to make home life easier

Anne Y. Meyers - For the Journal-Constitution

Sunday, March 4, 2001

 In second grade, I played hide and seek, jumped rope and chased butterflies with friends. I attended Sunday school, public school and participated in Brownies.

My claims to fame were successes in spelling bees and the State Fair's longest-hair contest. The highlight of my school day was playing hockey during recess. After school I played or watched television. I rarely studied spelling or any other topics.

The library used a musty-smelling card-catalog system. Our crockpot was a high-tech device.

Home life is different now.

The library's card catalogs were replaced by computerized systems. We have no crockpots, but we own a collection of remote controls.

School is different also. My second-grade child has homework each week. She learns things I either forgot or maybe never knew.

This semester her project is a research paper. Her task is to conduct research on the Internet and write a report about koalas to share with her class. She recently missed two days of school because of a family emergency. During the time she missed, the other students in her class received research instruction from the school librarian.

Since she missed out on the lesson, my job was to give that lesson myself. I am not sure how the librarian taught the lesson, but I had to approach it in my own way.

I research a variety of topics each week. Current frequently researched subjects include car prices (new and used), travel deals, and hotel and casino technologies.

For children's searches, many sites cater to their level. I also wanted to aim for a range of sites including the endings .org (organization), .edu (education) and the standard dot-coms.

I also showed her how to determine whether the site was Australian. The Australian Web sites use .au. I watched her click around to different sites and helped her make decisions about the site's ability to present solid facts.

Many sites were created by young children with a fascination about koalas, companies selling koala merchandise and adult koala fans.

The typos and contradictions in some earned them easy elimination from our list.

I started our search with kid-friendly sites including www.bess.net, www.searchopolis.com and www.yahooligans.com. Each site specializes in reaching a young audience. The search took us to university sites, foundations for koalas and Australian zoos. (www.zoo.org.au).

I especially enjoyed www.enchantedlearning.com and www.studyweb.com, with its 140,000 research-quality URLs. Another of my favorites is www.bigchalk.com, which allows you to select the age range of the researcher before you name the topic.

National Geographic (www.nationalgeographic.com) is one of many online sites offering information and possessing a history of offline reliability.

She clicked to an Australian wildlife federation, the Save the Koala Foundation, the Koala Sanctuary, World Book Online and various university Web sites.

Credibility, offline and on, is an important criteria. Barbara Feldman is a syndicated columnist, specializing in surfing the Net with kids (www.surfnetkids.com).

She says, "Although the Internet can be viewed as one giant encyclopedia, one important difference is obvious: The bulk of the Internet is written by sources with dubious credentials. When you need background information for a school paper or a research project, you not only need it quickly, you need to trust your sources."

Feldman uses a system of up to five stars to evaluate Web sites. Here are her recommendations for trustworthy (and free) online encyclopedias:

Encarta Online (encarta.msn.com/), a four-star pick.

Encyclopedia.com (www.encyclopedia.com), a three-star pick.

Funk & Wagnall's Knowledge Center (www.funkandwagnalls.com), a five-star pick.

Information Please (www.infoplease.com), a five-star pick.

I let my daughter click through and browse each page. I advised her to select five pages to compare facts. She methodically printed the pages and organized them. Next, she highlighted important facts.

She has written a rough draft. Next, she will type her paper and I will show her how to use spell-check. Her excellent spelling skills failed her when she needed to type the word eucalyptus.

This was her first independent experience (with me looking over her shoulder) searching the Internet for a school project. I asked her what she thought of the experience and she responded, "It's cool. Now can I go to zoogdisney.com?"

AJC Newspaper Online brought to you in partnership with AccessAtlanta

2000 Cox Interactive Media

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Personal Web page travels with you

Lou Dolinar - Newsday

Sunday, March 4, 2001

You need a home on the Web.

 However carefully you've configured your home computer, there will still be times when you need to work elsewhere. Maybe your computer crashes when you need to send e-mail. Maybe you forgot to take your laptop with you and you need to look up a phone number. Maybe you're visiting a friend and want to look up a favorite bookmark.

Fear not. You can use the Web in lieu of PC-based applications most of the time or as a backup for your home system. The solution: a custom home page on the Web that lets you control e-mail, store files and run an address book, calendar, chat and more.

Since all this stuff is stored elsewhere, any computer or Web-access device can view it.

Let's look at one of the so-called portal sites, Yahoo, which has most everything you need. There are other sites you can use as well, such as Excite, AltaVista and America Online, but for now let's focus on the industry leader.

Portals are one of the more useful innovations of the Internet. The idea is that you'll make the portal your home on the Web, the first page you turn to every day, one you revisit frequently. This lets the owners sell space to advertisers, as well as goods and services to you. At first most portals focused on providing information, customized to your needs. More recently they've been incorporating various applications to further suck you in.

They peddle stuff, and you get free stuff in return. You'll get a free home page, with custom news, weather and stocks. Yahoo, for example, lets you put headlines from many local newspapers on your front page, along with the usual national and international wire service fare from Reuters. You can also get weather customized to a local reporting station and business news for specific industries, such as aviation or construction.

A particularly useful feature, NewsClipper, allows you to save keyword searches, so that if you follow news about supercomputers, for example, you can start each day with a summary on that particular subject. And, of course, you can display the price of your stocks and the value of your portfolio.

You'll also get free e-mail and an address book. One of the nicer features of Yahoo, however, is its ability to import your address book from the program you use to access e-mail on your PC. This gives you both an excellent backup system and a way to use the address book online.

In Outlook Express, all you need to do is save the address book as a .csv (comma separated variable) file (File/Export/Address Book). You then upload that file to Yahoo from a menu on the address book pages. Once you install this file, you can use another option, synchronize, to make sure the content of PC and Web address books stays the same. You can even synchronize address books with Palm devices.

The site also includes a free calendar. Lots of business people find electronic calendars indispensable for managing day-to-day affairs. You can do things with electronic calendars --- particularly when they are linked to e-mail --- that are impossible with paper. For example, you can input all the crucial birthdays and anniversaries in your daily life, and set the calendar to e-mail reminders well in advance.

You can make these things permanent, e.g. send a note a week in advance of your daughter's birthday from now until forever. As with the address book, it can be imported or synchronized with PC-based time management systems, and you can either make it public or share with family members.

The ability to save your favorites online is a major lifesaver. If you have Web sites you visit regularly that you've saved as favorites or bookmarks, you can upload these to a special section of Yahoo and display them on your home page.

Those are the highlights. There's lots of other stuff on Yahoo that's worth a look, so take the time to set up your own page.

AJC Newspaper Online brought to you in partnership with AccessAtlanta

2000 Cox Interactive Media

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New slide/film scanner can turn out sharp work

Pros' technology now available for half the price, thanks to Pacific Image Electronics.

Kevin Washington - Baltimore Sun

Sunday, March 4, 2001

Dedicated slide and negative film scanners have cost $400 or more in the past.

But Pacific Image Electronics has broken that price barrier by offering a scanner for $200 that will turn your old-fashioned media into digital media.

The device (which comes in several colors) connects to your computer through a USB port and has an optical resolution of 1,800 dots per inch with 36-bit color. CyberView scanner software comes with the PrimeFilm 1800u.

You can use the software or simply hit the one-touch scan button on the front of the unit. It works both with PCs and Macs.

You'll need to spend time experimenting with this scanner to determine which settings work best for you. And the process, as with most consumer-level scanners, isn't lightning fast. I measured the best scans at 55 seconds, although Pacific Image Electronics claimed 35 seconds at 1,800 dpi.

If you're an amateur photo enthusiast, skip the ''simple mode'' that automatically adjusts the settings. It doesn't give you enough control over the scan to make the image pop from the screen.

In the advanced mode, you can change the settings --- playing with color, sharpness and other variables --- to get a good digital image that can be tweaked in an image-editing program such as Paint Shop Pro 7.

Professional photographers should spend more money on a dedicated film scanner for better color rendition and sharper focus, but if you're a consumer or own a small business and want to invest a small amount of money into digitizing your slides, the PrimeFilm 1800u is a good investment.

For more information about the scanner you can call (this is not a toll-free number) 310-618-8100 or check on the Web at www.scanace.com.

AJC Newspaper Online brought to you in partnership with AccessAtlanta

2000 Cox Interactive Media

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Technobuddy: Spring Cleaning as good for your computer as it was for Aunt Vera

Bill Husted - Staff

Sunday, March 18, 2001

Forget Thanksgiving and Super Bowl Sunday. Don't give another thought to St. Patrick's Day or your 25th wedding anniversary. The biggest yearly occasion that I remember from childhood in the tiny Arkansas town of Arkadelphia was Spring Cleaning.

Life came to a standstill as furniture was moved in a relentless search for dirt, dust, mold and earrings that had been placed under couches by cats. Windows were left open, and the smell of Lysol drifted out onto the street where husbands and small children hid in fear that they would be pressed into service. No able-bodied family member or dust ball was safe at that time of the year. My Aunt Vera could hunt down a kid like a German short-haired pointer after quail.

Spring is coming, and you can join me in a high-tech Spring Cleaning day for your computer. When we are done, your computer will run better, you'll type easier and life will be springtime sweet.

We'll list our high-tech Spring Cleaning tasks, with the easiest ones at the top. I know that many of you get quivery inside at the thought of opening up your PC. So take this list and perform as many of them as seem comfortable to you. If something seems too complicated or frightening, just don't do it. After all, my Aunt Vera isn't around anymore to enforce Spring Cleaning rules.

1. Clean your monitor screen. If you don't do this on a regular basis, or not at all, you'll be shocked at the dirt you find and at the clarity of the screen after you finish. You can buy special cleaning tissues at the computer store. It's also fine to simply spray some window-cleaning fluid on a clean cloth and use that.

2. Check your keyboard. If keys stick, the easiest method is to simply replace the keyboard itself. There are all sorts of ways to clean a keyboard. The only thing they have in common is that none of them work very well. I recently purchased an IBM keyboard with a metal frame for $34. Besides having a keyboard that no longer requires me to come up with words that do not use the letter "a," the metal keyboard itself feels more comfortable than my old plastic one.

3. Clean that mouse. If you have an old-style mouse, cleaning it will set your cursor free. Simply remove the retaining ring around the rubber ball. Moisten a cotton swab with alcohol and clean the gunk around the rollers the ball rests on. Then wash the ball with soap and water and dry it. Replace it, put the ring back on and you'll really be pleased with how it performs. (If you have an optical mouse, no cleaning is required).

4. Run ScanDisk and Defrag. You'll find these two utilities by going to the Start button, selecting accessories and then System Tools. We devoted two entire columns to these programs recently.

5. Remove old programs. Click on the My Computer icon on your screen, double click to open the Control Panel and go to Add/Remove Programs. If there are programs on the list that you no longer use, select and remove them. That'll free up space on your hard disk.

6. Check connections. Turn the power off to your computer and check the connections (mouse, monitor, speakers, modem, etc.) at the back of your computer. Make sure everything is attached securely. For those connections that use thumb screws, tighten them.

7. Clean the exhaust fan. While you are back there, take a look at the exhaust fan opening. If you see any dust or dirt, remove it --- either with a vacuum or a brush. (The brave can remove the cover of the computer and do a better job checking for dust and dirt.) Here's why it's important to keep the exhaust opening clear: Without the cooling of the fan, your computer can overheat, and that shortens its life span.

I'm already feeling a little tired now. It's time for the last step in Spring Cleaning. Pour a tall glass of homemade lemonade and be glad that you were able to do all this without moving the refrigerator.

e-mail: tecbud@ajc.com

AJC Newspaper Online brought to you in partnership with AccessAtlanta

2000 Cox Interactive Media

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Techsavvy: Many sites let you post resumes free

Sue Cleere and Jacki Rudd - Staff

Sunday, March 18, 2001

I'm seeking good employment Web sites

Dear Sue and Jacki: I'm seeking good employment Web sites. What are typical fees?

--- Jim Parks, Savannah

Sue: Looking for a job can be one of the most stressful times in your life. Fortunately, the Internet makes it easier. We found sites that were specific regarding job type, by state or by country or origin. Amazing.

Jacki: For a good site listing, go to directory.netscape.com/Business/Employment/Careers/Directories. Most of these let you search for jobs and post your resume for free. We liked some of the more popular ones. Point your browser to monster.com, headhunter.net, hotjobs.com or careerbuilder.com.

Sue: You can create an online resume, control the privacy of your resume, set up automatic job search agents, track your job applications or view resume statistics. Many sites will let you build your resume online, or you can import your resume or cut and paste it into their system. Look for sites that let you pick career level.

Jacki: Sites such as monster.com offer services for comparing cost of living if you're moving to another state. They help you locate a place to live and evaluate mortgage rates, plus give guidance on moving companies.

Sue: If you surf job options while at work, headhunter.net has the Boss button. If the boss shows up, click the button to get an HTML text page that looks like you're doing heavy-duty company business.

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I get a message that it's "possibly not a picture file

Dear Sue and Jacki: For several years, family members have sent JPEG photos that opened with picture viewer with no problems, but I've been unable to view them lately. I either click on the file in the download folder and nothing happens, or picture viewer opens but is blank, or I get a message that it's "possibly not a picture file." I've downloaded software recently, and the people sending photos have new computers. Help!

--- Judith Axtell, Alpharetta

Sue: With all the changes to the family computers, it may be best to start fresh with a new picture viewer. Fortunately, you're swapping JPEG images, so finding a viewer is easy. JPEG is a common picture format, and the majority of viewers support it. There are many freeware and shareware viewers available. For a complete list of PC-downloadable viewers, go to zdnet.com, click Free Downloads, then select PC Downloads. Search for picture viewer. Once your results appear, choose a viewer that works with your operating system. For Mac users needing a picture viewer, do the same, except choose Mac Downloads.

Do you have a question for TechSavvy? If so, please e-mail it to techsavvy@ajc.com. Be sure to include your full name, a phone number and where you live.

e-mail: techsavvy@ajc.com

AJC Newspaper Online brought to you in partnership with AccessAtlanta

2000 Cox Interactive Media

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NetWatch: YOUR WEEKLY ONLINE GUIDE

Staff

Sunday, March 18, 2001

Working From Home Resource Guide

Worx From Home: This site contains gobs of information, links and resources to help visitors start a business or move a current job from workplace to home. Along with Web site development and a free online business reference library, there's loads here to make a business more profitable.

> www.worxfromhome.com

You Can Work From Anywhere: Know those commercials where someone has a laptop at the beach and takes a conference call from the cabana? This site provides tips, tools, articles and other resources to make it so. (Tip No. 1: Don't swirl your umbrella drink while your boss is on the phone.)

> www.youcanworkfromanywhere.com

Start-up Biz: This site offers resources and assistance for entrepreneurs, start-up companies and people who want to develop an idea. The link to the 2001 Venture Capital Directory offers contact information, including Web site URLs and e-mail addresses for 775 venture funds. We also liked the timesaving application templates.

> www.startupbiz.com

Telework: Anyone who has ever telecommuted (fancy word for ''worked away from the office'') can testify that the lack of drive time is what makes the whole thing worthwhile. But don't just take our word. The U.S. Department of Labor offers this report on ''Telework and the New Workplace of the 21st Century.''

> www.dol.gov/dol/asp/public/telework/main.htm

Free Agent: So, you can't feel like Derek Jeter on a baseball diamond. But you can in the workplace by becoming a ''free agent'' consultant, free-lancer or independent contractor. This site offers a few suggestions about how to do just that.

> www.freeagent.com

Homeworking: Working from home can be a challenge of self-motivation and finances. (Not to mention the fact that everyone thinks you're just home lounging around in your skivvies.) Homeworking offers resources, information and links for those working homebodies to plunder. Perhaps the site's most valuable info: tips on avoiding home-business scams.

> www.homeworking.com

Telecommute Inc.: Those who work from home know that access to resources are key to keeping efficient and productive. Telecommute Inc. provides advice, information and links to books and work-from-home resources on the Web. Be sure to click on the offer for free e-mail advertising, so you can sell your product or service for free.

> members.spree.com/business/ausbiz/

Home Business Central: You want to work from home. But which business should you choose? Home Business Central helps you find the area that's right for you and then shows you the best ways to market and promote your new biz.

> www.home-business-central.com

Work at Home: This smart site links to some of the best resources, services and job opportunities for folks working at or running businesses from home. Our personal favorite: a link to a handy downloadable application that will double your Internet speed.

> work-at-home-dot.com

IBiz Tips --- Home Office: This newsletter offers ideas, news and information for telecommuters, professionals and entrepreneurs working from home. There's also tons of advice from the sources who know best --- online business operators. Our pick to click: the Atomz application that helps you install a search engine on your Web site.

> www.ibiztips.com

OFF-BEAT REFERENCE SITES

Atomica: Ignore most of the screen. At the very top it says, ''Try Atomica Now!'' Type a keyword, or the term you need defined, and you get a dictionary definition, an encyclopedia entry, Web links and other relevant information.

> www.atomica.com

The Elements of Style: William Strunk Jr.'s simple, classic 1918 text for English usage is one of the reference books online at Bartleby.com, which also offers dictionaries and thesauri, plus classic works of poetry, fiction and nonfiction. Excuse us while we bone up on Einstein's ''Relativity: The Special and General Theory."

> www.bartleby.com/141

Webopedia: All those computer terms that drive you crazy --- TCP/IP, WAP, etc. --- are defined in layman's terms here. Into power cycling? Here, that only means exercising your finger as you turn the computer off, then on, to fix a crash. What's a crash? ''A serious computer failure.''

> webopedia.com

Acronym Finder: Sort out an acronym here. Let's see: Does DOD stand for Department of Defense, Director of Development or Drink or Die? Actually, it can stand for all three, and about 20 other things as well.

> www.acronymfinder.com

Anagram Genius: Have a computer rearrange the letters of your name into something clever. George Bush becomes ''He bugs Gore.'' And William Shakespeare delivers, ''I am a weakish speller.'' The results come by e-mail, unless you buy the software.

> www.anagramgenius.com/server.html

Oxford English Dictionary: Full online access to the venerable dictionary is available only by subscription, but its Web site features an exhaustive entry each day on a different word.

> oed.com/cgi/display/wotd

BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY

More Palm: This site goes beyond the normal review formula for new hand-held devices. There's a good bit of advance info on products in the pipeline, such as the Handspring Visor Edge and Palm's m505. There's also a good bit of news about software and hardware, as well as Palm-related links.

> www.morepalm.com

Rummage Crawler: Got a garage sale you want to tell people about but don't want the hassle of stapling signs to every telephone pole in sight? This site offers a database of regional garage sales and estate sales. You get a map drawn to your location as well --- a pretty cool feature, we say.

> www.rummagecrawler.com

Start-up Lynx Career Network: Why get a job at a Blue Chip/Fortune 500 corporation when you could gamble on a start-up company and win big (or lose big, as some dot-com employees have learned). Start-up Lynx places people at high-tech start-ups and high-growth small companies. Be sure to read the section ''Why work for a start-up?'' before making the plunge.

> www.startuplynx.com

Independent Traveler: Online travel sites tend to assume you know how to book that Caribbean cruise or expensive trip to Europe. We liked Independent Traveler not only for the bargains and travel resources but for the expert online planning tips section that takes visitors through the sometimes harrowing process.

> www.independenttraveler.com

E-Land USA: There are plenty of real estate Web sites, and this one's kind of puny. But its concentration is what makes this site interesting --- land just waiting for you to build your dream home or business on. Search for land to buy, sell land you have and find plenty of worthwhile advice here.

> www.elandusa.com

International Business Resource Connection: There just isn't enough global trade among small businesses. At least that's the position of the University of Kansas School of Business, which built this site to encourage such practices. The Trade Database link is an invaluable tool for connecting U.S. firms to those overseas.

> www.ibrc.bschool.ukans.edu

All Mac: Got a Power Mac G4 that needs a little tuneup? Maybe you could use a pile of RAM to make your Apple fly. This site offers upgrade appliances, as well as repair tips and parts that are difficult to find.

> www.allmac.com

The PDA Vault: Some PDA sites pay attention to the big boys --- Palm, Handspring --- and ignore the rest. Not The Vault, which acts as a resource for buyers looking at everything from Compaq to Casio. The site has a beautiful design as well.

> www.homestead.com/palmhaven/The_PDA_Vault.html

AJC Newspaper Online brought to you in partnership with AccessAtlanta

2000 Cox Interactive Media

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Upgrades, repairs easier than before

Jeff Levy - Los Angeles Times

Sunday, March 18, 2001

Taking a computer in for repairs or upgrades ranks right up there with a root canal. Costs can spiral out of control and the box can get stuck in the shop. If you have to take your computer in for upgrades or repairs, here's what you should know.

Upgrades aren't really rocket science anymore. Adding RAM, a 3-D graphics card or a hard drive can be done at home. Each successive version of Windows does a better job of helping you to install ''plug-and-play'' hardware. In most cases it's as simple as sticking the new hardware in the proper slot, loading software and letting Windows do its thing.

Repairing your own computer presents a separate set of challenges. If your computer develops a problem after you load a new program or the error occurs only when you run certain programs, you've got a software glitch. The same is true for problems that surface after you download or install a new driver.

A failed hardware part can be replaced. It's best to replace the bad device with a new one.

The Internet is an excellent source of hardware and software fixes. Checking a computer product manufacturer's Web site often can pinpoint and provide fixes for common problems. If you do take your computer to a shop, talk with the tech about the problem you're having. Get a written estimate for the cost of diagnosing and fixing the problem and the time the repairs will take.

AJC Newspaper Online brought to you in partnership with AccessAtlanta

2000 Cox Interactive Media

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Use Windows resources when crash occurs

Diagnosis: Weeding out unnecessary items that load at start-up can also alleviate problems.

Lou Dolinar - Newsday

Sunday, March 18, 2001

Sometimes, even the most expertly configured computer develops problems. Fortunately, all versions of Windows have built-in utilities that can give you some idea of where your problems lie.

Let's start with a problem that generates a couple of letters each week. You're using the PC for a while, and it begins to misbehave and finally it crashes after a couple of hours of operation.

Being the cynical sort, I'll tell you right now 90 percent of the time, you can deal with this issue by getting rid of the last program or hardware device you installed on your PC.

Even so, it's often better to have a more nearly complete idea of what's going on in case it should happen, and just because the old trial-and-error method can be a time burner.

The first thing you might want to check is your resources, largely because it's pretty simple to do.

Go to Programs/Accessories/System Tools and load the Resource Meter at the start of your session. You'll get a little display. Ideally it looks something like my system, with 70 to 80 percent of the resources ''free'' at start-up.

Resources are a tricky concept in Windows. They're roughly analogous to the amount of main memory, or RAM, you have. As with memory, the more programs you load, the more resources you use. And adding memory typically gives your computer more resources to work with.

But this is true only up to a point. It's entirely possible to have scads of free memory and still use up all your resources.

Programs can be graceless and unpredictable in their use of resources. When a program generates a pop-up window, for example, the resource meter will show how it uses up resources. When you close the window, those resources are supposed to be released.

Well, you know computers --- sometimes they're not released, and sometimes when you open and close a lot of windows, you can burn up your resource stash pretty quickly. So when your trusty computer misbehaves, load your resources meter. If resources chronically dip below 15 percent free, something in there is acting up. Weed out unnecessary items that load at start-up, and see if that helps.

System Monitor, which is also located in the System Tools folder, can give you additional clues when you have a problem, although it usually yields more information than you need or, frankly, even understand.

It covers about two dozen variables that relate to system performance and maps them into continuous charts --- in effect, offering you an electrocardiogram for your computer. Two of those variables are ''processor usage,'' which basically tells you how busy you are, and ''allocated memory,'' which tells you how much RAM is available to your system.

Both are useful insofar as they can indicate when something is overloaded --- for instance, when it's showing that your processor is 90 to 100 percent utilized, even if you're not doing much.

At that point, once again it is time either to weed out some programs or to get a more powerful computer.

Another important troubleshooting aid is called System Information. As with System Monitor, it is thinly documented and difficult for beginners to use, but I'll give you a couple of common problems it will help diagnose.

If your computer misbehaves after you've installed new hardware, open up System Information and take a look at Hardware Resources, which are listed in the left column. Then double-click to expand the subheads beneath it.

Under Conflicts/Sharing, you'll get a description of how the computer is using its so-called IRQ resources. IRQ stands for Interrupt Request.

The basic idea here is every hardware device --- your disk drive controller, your network card, your video card, etc. --- is associated with a different IRQ, numbered 1 through 14.

Once upon a time, DOS demanded only one hardware device be associated with a given IRQ.

When two devices intermittently tried to access the same IRQ at that point, the computer would freeze or crash, leading to seemingly endless efforts at manual troubleshooting.

Windows was supposed to fix all that. It does this by detecting and assigning available IRQs via its Plug and Play system.

It is also supposed to allow some sharing of IRQs via a little gimmick called PCI steering. What you need to know is this does not always work: Experience tells us some devices coexist nicely on one IRQ, and some don't.

Take a look at the list generated by System Information/Hardware Resources/Conflicts/Sharing, and you'll see a list of IRQs that are shared.

Don't worry about the ones that list a piece of hardware and have a second item with the phrase ''PCI Steering.''

If you have hardware problems, what you're really looking for are major devices that are used almost constantly and that share an IRQ.

For instance, anything that isn't graphics-oriented that shares an IRQ with your graphics adapter is trouble --- network cards and sound cards in particular.

In some cases you may be able to reassign the IRQ manually via Control Panel/System, but the best method is to move the card physically to another slot, where it should link to a different IRQ.

You also use System Information to control what loads into your computer at start-up via the System Configuration function. I've written about this fairly recently, but I've received enough letters to know that many of you still find it confusing.

So here's the deal:

Your computer loads lots of stuff at start-up that it does not absolutely need --- for example, anti-virus utilities, advanced sound functions, CD-ROM burning utilities. This kind of stuff has to load during the boot process --- you can't just open and close it like a regular program.

But very often these items conflict with one another and make your computer less stable. One strategy for dealing with this is to turn off as many as possible and turn them back on only as needed.

Then, you can restart the computer.

A couple of warnings here: I've probably been computing a lot longer than you have, and I still can't identify what half of the stuff is that tries to load itself on my machine at start-up.

So don't write me a note asking what foo.vxd is.

While some of the functions are self-evident, in many cases you have to experiment and see what quits working when you turn off an item.

Second, there are a couple of items you do need: Explorer and Taskmon. Let them merrily go along their way, and you can merrily go along yours.

AJC Newspaper Online brought to you in partnership with AccessAtlanta

2000 Cox Interactive Media

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COMMENTARY: New PC revolution likely to come from the young

Gary Chapman - Los Angeles Times

Sunday, March 18, 2001

The revolutionary zeal of the PC revolution is rapidly fading, and it's not just because of slow sales or the downturn in the economy. There's a growing sense of malaise in the industry, as people wait for the next big thing. Meanwhile, despite impressive new features and gadgets, the industry is getting boring and routine.

The situation today resembles a quarter-century ago, just before personal computers were introduced. Back in the early to mid-1970s, computing was dominated by a handful of large, mature companies, including IBM, Hewlett Packard and Digital Equipment Corp. They were --- in the eyes of the young and long-haired microcomputer revolutionaries --- boring, conservative, stuck in a rut, no fun. They built computers that most people couldn't understand. Their leaders were graying, middle-aged, conservative men.

Sound familiar? Today there are a handful of PC makers, most of them selling machines nearly identical to one another. These companies are mature. Though they've absorbed the rhetoric of ''revolution'' from the early days of the PC era, real revolution is the last thing they want. Only Steve Jobs and Apple seem to be trying to keep the old flame alive --- but Apple has always been an odd yet fascinating company.

The current leaders in the PC industry must surely remember what happened in the late 1970s and early 1980s when the PC revolution burst upon the scene. The gray monolith of corporate computing was assaulted by young hippie zealots who seemed motivated by something other than money (Bill Gates excepted, perhaps). There was an explosion of new companies --- Apple, Microsoft, Lotus and eventually Adobe, 3Com and many others that would be consigned to history, such as Atari, Aldus, Ashton-Tate and Digital Research.

The PC industry's woes are due to a curious blend of success and shortcomings. Success has come from the sheer ubiquity of PCs and the fact the PC has become a common household appliance. Indeed, many people think we're close to market saturation.

The industry's shortcomings are its machines are still too complex, too prone to problems and too vexing for most users.

Big computer companies now --- there may be even fewer of them soon --- are not likely to be the leaders of a new revolution. Young people --- those with the potential for upending the order of things --- are commonly fueled by passions different from simply making a big pile of cash, and that's likely to be true the next time around too.

AJC Newspaper Online brought to you in partnership with AccessAtlanta

2000 Cox Interactive Media

 

 

TechSavvy: Sometimes deleted mail can be saved

Sue Cleere and Jacki Rudd - Staff

Sunday, March 11, 2001

Dear Sue and Jacki:

Is it possible to open e-mail once you delete it?

--- David Nelson, Blairsville

Sue: If you're running an e-mail client that's pulling e-mail to your desktop every time you log in, you can use Norton Utilities, one of the most popular disk utilities for both PC and Mac. It does a thorough job of scanning for deleted files. It gives you your chances (poor, good, excellent) of getting a complete undelete. Cruise to www.symantec.com/nu/. It's $49.95.

Jacki: You have other file recovery options, too. It doesn't hurt to check out shareware. Gobs of it are available. ZDNet (www.zdnet.com) is a fine resource.

Sue: If your e-mail resides on your ISP's server and does not get downloaded to your desktop, it's best to contact the ISP to see if backups are available.

Jacki: While we're on the subject of undeleting files, Gary Lehnertz of Boynton Beach, Fla., and Alan Mitchell of Atlanta say we needed to give file recovery utilities such as Norton more respect in a recent column about erasing personal information from a PC hard drive. Reformatting a PC hard drive isn't necessarily the ticket if you want to keep someone else from ferreting out files from a computer you've passed along.

Sue: Gary and Alan recommend that a more foolproof way of deleting personal stuff from a PC would be to FDISK the drive before reformatting. FDISK stands for Fixed Disk Setup Program, and it comes with all flavors of DOS and Win9x operating systems.

Jacki: Running FDISK will search and destroy, that's for sure. It's a powerful disk-partitioning tool, and using FDISK to delete a disk partition(s) does the job pretty darn permanently.

Sue: PuterGeek.com has good step-by-step information on FDISKing, although there is a fair amount to sift through (www.putergeek.com/disk_partitioning/index.shtml).

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Awhile back you gave advice about disabling cookies

Dear Sue and Jacki:

Awhile back you gave advice about disabling cookies. I followed it, and it worked great. I lost that information, however, and I'd like to share it with a colleague.

--- Evelyn R. Babey, Atlanta

Sue: It's a good time to give a little cookie refresher. Browsers have preference settings to let you pick between always accepting cookies, getting a prompt before accepting cookies, or blocking them.

Jacki: The newer the browser version, the more options there are for cookie control. Be aware, though, some sites won't let you visit if you disable cookies.

Do you have a question for TechSavvy? If so, please e-mail it to techsavvy@ajc.com. Be sure to include your full name, a phone number and where you live.

e-mail: techsavvy@ajc.com

AJC Newspaper Online brought to you in partnership with AccessAtlanta

2000 Cox Interactive Media

 

 

Technobuddy: Safeguards can help keep data out of the wrong hands

Bill Husted - Staff

Sunday, March 11, 2001

When I was a kid, much of my family's life and history was stored away in hatboxes, file folders and dusty corners of the attic.

Half my life is stored away, too. But times have changed. Mine is stored digitally. Family pictures, my income tax, personal letters, what passes for a budget, home repair records, Aunt Vera's recipe for banana pudding --- it's all squirreled away on a hard disk or on the Internet itself.

You're probably in the same boat. The PC and the Net have become a dust-free version of the attic for most of us.

Just as you wouldn't live in a house without locks, there are compelling reasons to protect the digital part of your life.

Let's start by admitting that no amount of security can create a perfectly safe fortress.

Hackers have penetrated the networks or Web sites for most of the corporate giants, including Microsoft itself.

That shouldn't intimidate you. After all, a determined burglar can break into your home, no matter how elaborate the security system, no matter how good the locks.

That's the bad news.

The good news is --- unless you have piles of money or Monets --- good security will probably cause a burglar to look for an easier target. It's the same with your PC. There are enough PCs that are easy pickings to keep the world's supply of hackers busy for the next century or two.

Let's take a look at your Internet security in the same way a security expert would evaluate the risks at your home. We'll make a list of what you should do, and we'll talk briefly about how to do it.

Locks: The cyber equivalent of a lock is a password. Avoid using your telephone number, the name of a family member or pet, or the numbers that represent your birthday. Use a password that is made up of letters and numbers.

Burglar-proof fence: In this case, we're talking about firewalls. Earlier columns looked in detail at these software programs, which serve as a strong line of defense between your computer and hackers. For most people, a free firewall program such as Zone Alarm (you can download it free at www

.zonelabs.com) will do the trick.

Know your neighborhood: Some parts of cyberspace are seedy. If you hang around there you need to be aware crime is more likely. So if you're often hanging in the chat areas, or get a kick out of visiting the Web sites maintained by hackers, or even if you just attract a lot of attention by posting public messages --- be aware that you are a more likely target than someone who is less public.

Don't talk to strangers: One of the oldest cons on the Net (this is especially true on AOL) is to send an official sounding e-mail or message saying that you need to furnish your password because of a data disaster at the Internet company. Or you may get an e-mail saying that you have won first prize in some contest. You'll be directed to a Web page or AOL page that looks just right, even to a good pair of eyes. Once there, you might be asked to fill out a form that includes your private account information. In almost every case, the mail is bogus. If you must reply, check first with the Internet provider using an e-mail address or phone number you know is correct.

Watch whom you invite in: A friend lost a lot of personal information recently from a tiny hacking program called a Trojan horse. Like its ancient namesake, these are programs that sneak into your computer by hiding inside some program that looks legitimate. Once inside, it e-mailed his password information and breached security. Anti-virus software --- look to Norton Anti-Virus from Symantec as one good choice --- can flag and eliminate these programs.

Prepare for fire: Not all data losses are caused by hackers. Fire, tornadoes and hard disk crashes can destroy your information. Make a good backup copy of your most precious information (read/write CDs make this easy, but you can also use tape or even floppy disks) and keep it away from your home --- perhaps at work, or at a relative's house. That way, if your home is destroyed, the backup will be safe.

That should do it. While you're at it, you might think about checking your real-world door locks.

And clean up that dusty attic, pal.

e-mail: tecbud@ajc.com

AJC Newspaper Online brought to you in partnership with AccessAtlanta

2000 Cox Interactive Media

 

 

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