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 Charlie Paschal

The State Home Page
Copying data to second hard drive is one protection option
Some steps can save your Windows 98, PC
Computer users have their own language
'Write Protect" safeguards files, programs
Make sense of computer jargon
Insurance against a brush with disaster
What you need to know about file compression
Computer file tree is limitless filing cabinet
Parents should be involved when kids surf the Web
Free Applications Available To Help You Build Your WEB Sites
Communities can form own Net access group
Ask questions before upgrading to new operating system

 

 

Copying data to second hard drive is one protection option
By CHARLIE PASCHAL - Special to The State

Having a backup (copy) of your system is one way to take out "insurance" against a possible disaster in the future.

But with the size of hard drives these days, can you reasonably expect to make a copy of your entire disk? Hard drives have gotten so huge (20 gigabyte is common) and inexpensive that making a backup of an entire drive is a big undertaking.

Years ago, tape drives that held 250 megabytes were the rage. The cost was low, about $99, and they were easy to install. The tapes cost about $25, though, making backups an expensive process.

Today, I wonder whether using a tape drive and buying cartridges to back up an entire hard drive is the best way to go.

In searching for an answer, I've found another possible solution for many users, especially those adept with their hands, to ensure themselves against disasters.

What if you could just back up your hard drive to another hard drive?

In one of last week's advertisements, I found a 30-gigabyte hard drive for less than $100. Buying two of those and using a device sold by Promise Technologies (www.promise.com) offers a high level of security.

With a Fastrak66 ($55) and two hard drives of the same size, you can "mirror" drives, meaning all your information will be on both drives at the same time. If one fails, your information is safe on the other one. A by-product of this will be an increase in speed. Promise reports up to a 40 percent increase in performance.

This doesn't solve the problem of replacing your operating system if it gets scrambled, but if you've got important data to protect, this might be one way.

Another way you can protect your system is to buy a utility such as PowerQuest's (www.powerquest.com) Drive Image ($69.95). This will work especially well if you have a second hard drive.

Drive Image allows you to create and store images of your entire hard disk or individual partitions until you need them. This software allows you to clone precious hard disk data quickly and easily.

Galen Manapat uses Drive Images to create backup images of his entire hard drive to another drive. Since he does test some software, he has been able to successfully restore his entire hard drive after having a problem.

"It has worked flawlessly for me for two years," he said, noting that it is taking his version longer to work on his new 60-gigabyte hard drive. "I'm not sure if that's because of the size of the drive or if I need a new version," he said. Even though the program takes longer to initialize, it still works flawlessly, he said.

Power Quest also makes Partition Magic ($29.95 upgrade), a wonderful utility. The company lists a new product at its Web site, EasyRestore, but didn't list any pricing information. EasyRestore allows a user to create a backup of their operating system to a CD- ROM. When a computer user experiences an operating system crash, they insert the EasyRestore CD-ROM and click a button, and it restores the original working system.

If you can't afford any of these solutions, here are some things you can do to protect yourself and your system:

  • Copy any files you create on floppy disks or a Zip Drive. Do it to more than one disk in case one of the disks fails.
  • If you have a Zip Drive, go to www.iomega.com and download its Zip protection program. This free utility allows you to save your Windows system to a Zip Drive so you can restore it if you have problems. It also creates a floppy disk that starts your computer and your Zip Drive to restore the system.
  • Keep all your program disks nearby in case you have to completely restore your system.
  • Keep copies of serial numbers of programs you've downloaded from the Internet somewhere other than the computer.
  • If you have a CD drive that allows you to make copies, copy those programs to a CD. If one CD has enough space, copy your entire Windows directory to a CD. That way, any missing device drivers will be on that CD.
  • Download a small utility, Cop 2.2 from www.bootdisk.com/cop.htm that allows you to back up your Windows registry and system files, usually the trouble spots when Windows begins to run poorly.

All content 2001 THE STATE and may not be republished without permission.
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Some steps can save your Windows 98, PC

By CHARLIE PASCHAL
Special to The State

It can happen to any of us: We turn on a Windows computer, see that "Starting Windows 98" and then nothing; it just sits there. After a considerable amount of time, you turn off the computer and try again. Nothing.

So what do you do now?

If this hasn't happened to you, it might. Because of that, there are some things you should do ahead of time to prepare for such a disaster.

Some of them are:

  • Have a backup (copy) of your system on tape or CD.
  • Use Norton's Zip rescue program to get a minimum version of Windows.
  • Have a startup disk.
  • Use a program such as "Go Back" or "Second Chance" to restore your system.
  • Learn to use the "scanreg" program that comes with Windows 98.

A startup disk gives you the ability to use the scanreg program that comes with Windows. By using that program, you can restore the Windows registry to a previous working copy so you can get your computer back.

Here are the steps to make a startup disk:

Go to Start Settings Control Panel And/Remove Programs, click on the tab "Startup Disk" and then "Create Disk." You will need one floppy disk. You should label this disk Windows Startup Disk and put it in a safe place.

(If you're still using Windows 95, find a buddy who is using Windows 98 and get him or her to make you a couple of these disks. They're much better than the 95 version because this floppy disk also starts your CD-ROM player, a must if you have to reinstall Windows.)

If Windows does not start as it normally does, put this disk in your floppy drive and restart your computer. It will only give you a DOS startup but you can get to the scanreg program in the Windows folder from a DOS prompt.

To get there from the floppy (a:) prompt you'll get, first type C: and enter. This puts you on the hard drive. Then, type CD Windows and enter. This will put you into the Windows folder. Once there, type scanreg and it will load the registry restore program. Follow directions from there to restore a previous version of your registry that worked.

(If you have this disk, it can be very important if you decide to call technical support. This disk often helps the technician on the other end of the telephone get your computer up and running.)

If you don't have a startup disk, it's still possible to get your computer started if you'll use "quick" fingers and the F8 key.

After turning your computer off and on, quickly press the F8 key when you see "Starting Windows 98." (On some computers using Windows 98, if you hold down the left control key, you'll get the menu I'm getting ready to describe.) After this, you should get a menu of options in starting Windows.

Two of them include Safe Mode and Command Prompt. First, attempt to start in Safe Mode. If that works, you can then invoke scanreg from there. It doesn't make sense but sometimes I've started a computer in Safe Mode, then shutdown, restarted and have Windows run normally.

But by using this menu you can use the directions above to get into the Windows folder and use the scanreg program as a possible way to repair your computer.

Another possible avenue you can explore is the Norton Disk Rescue program, if you have a Zip Drive. This is a free program that you can find at www.iomega.com. You'll need one floppy disk and a Zip Disk. Again, you follow directions to make this disk in the hope that it can rescue your crippled PC.

You should "update" this disk occasionally because by installing programs your configuration changes; keeping these two disks updated is crucial, especially if you want your computer's configuration as up-to-date as possible.

The other programs I mentioned, Go Back and Second Chance, are programs that keep backups of your entire configuration on a timely basis and give you some of the same choices as above, plus some additional options beyond the scope of scanreg or the Zip disk rescue.

If you have a backup of your system, you need to become familiar with the backup program's interface. To do this, make a backup of some small portion of your system and then restore it so if you have an emergency as I've described, you'll know how to answer and execute the backup program.

Microsoft's next copy of Windows, code named Whistler, is supposed to make some of this easier but I wouldn't depend on it. Use the tips I've mentioned above to prepare yourself when that dreaded "Starting Windows 98" screen comes up and just hangs there.

By the way, that new version of Windows is supposed to make installing it on more than one computer more difficult since you have to register each time before Windows will run. Microsoft is hoping to stop "casual copies" such as several computers in one household. Since I've already seen "hacks" on the Web, one printed by the respected news organization www.zdnet.com, I wonder if that copy protection will work at all. Time will tell.

All content 2001 THE STATE and may not be republished without permission.

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Computer users have their own language

By CHARLIE PASCHAL

Special to The State

A cousin of yours who's a computer ``expert'' comes over to your house and starts talking about computers. You think he might as well be talking in tongues because you don't understand a word he's saying.

In an effort to change some of that, we'll talk about some of the more common terms and/or mistakes you might make in talking about computers in the next few columns.

Memory and hard-drive space are two different things.

When you're talking about memory (i.e. RAM: Random Access Memory), you're referring to a storage area for programs that disappears when you turn off the computer. If you want to run Windows 95, you should get at least 16 megabytes of RAM. A megabyte is a term for storage space. A 1.2 gigabyte hard drive is a large one; a 540 megabyte hard drive is about half as large.

Hard-drive space is a storage area inside your computer that doesn't disappear when you turn the computer off. It holds your data and programs.

When you ``execute'' (i.e. start) a program, the program loads itself in memory from the hard drive. If you start a word-processing program, such as Microsoft Word, and load a document and make changes and ``save'' it to the hard drive, the changes will be there the next time you look at that document. If you don't ``save'' the changes to the hard drive, the changes will be lost when you turn off the computer.

An ``operating system'' is the guts of the computer. It does much of the work in the background and allows programs to run.

The two most common are for IBM-compatible computers and Apple computers. The two are not compatible, and programs written for one will not run on the other. Many applications, though, have versions for both systems. Microsoft Word and Excel and Freehand are examples of this.

Floppy drives are the drives that have removable media, such as a floppy disk that you buy at office stores.

The most common is a 3 1/2-inch floppy disk that holds about 1.4 megabytes of data. This size is standard on both PCs and Macintosh computers.

A newer version is the ``Zip'' drive by Iomega that holds about 100 megabytes of information. These drives are much more expensive than regular floppy drives.

These floppies have to be ``formatted,'' meaning they have to be initialized to be used on the system you're using.

Apple computers easily can read IBM floppies, but the reverse is not true. You have to use a special program on an IBM computer to read disks formatted for Apple computers.

A modem is a device that allows your computer to communicate with other computers over a telephone line. Common modems are 14.4 and 28.8. Those numbers denote the speed of your communication.

You want 28.8 if you're buying a modem. However, you can limp along with 14.4 on the Internet (and other on-line services), but it's not as good as 28.8.

Having a modem, though, is not enough. You must have a ``communication'' program to talk to that modem.

Many modems (both Mac and PC) come bundled with some sort of communication program. PCs with Windows have a communication program built into the system.

A modem must be connected with a telephone line to work. And, yes, your telephone will be busy while you're on line.

Most new modems also come with fax capability built in. Using the fax portion is easy because most fax programs install themselves as a printer driver. When you want to fax a document, you just pick the fax printer driver, and the program will hold your hand the rest of the way.

All content 2001 THE STATE and may not be republished without permission.

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'Write Protect" safeguards files, programs

By CHARLIE PASCHAL

Special to The State

QUESTION: What does "write protect" mean? How do I do it, and what good is it anyway?

ANSWER: "Write protect" means a disk, usually a floppy, cannot be written to by another device, such as an operating system.

If you hold up a floppy disk, turn it around so you're looking at it from the back (where you can see the metal portion in the middle), you'll notice two holes on the edge on one end of a high-density floppy. One of those holes has a sliding mechanism to open or close that hole.

When you can see through both of those holes, that disk is "write protected." This means that if you accidentally tried to write information to this disk, the operating system wouldn't be able to do so.

This is a protection method put into the hardware for a number of reasons, such as one of the disks from a program you have that you don't want to overwrite. It also can be used to protect valuable files you don't want erased or to keep a virus from writing to a rescue disk you've created for such an emergency.

The operating system has a further protection it puts on its system files, although most viruses know how to get around them. These files are not only read-on; they're also hidden and system files.

This is where the program attribute.exe comes into play. This program is used to change those attributes so you can either see those programs or write to a protected file. Usually, you change these attributes temporarily, changing them back as soon as you're finished. System files will not work in Windows unless those files are tagged as read-only, system and hidden files. The two key files in Windows 95, system.dat and user.dat, have these designations.

"Write protect" can be an important factor in your computing. For example, whenever I get a new program on floppy disks, I immediately make a copy of those disks and install that program from those disks.

With more and more programs coming on CD-ROM, this is not an added layer of protection, but if you do have any programs on disks, you should make a backup copy of the floppies.

To make a copy of a floppy, go to My Computer on Windows 95, right click on Floppy A and pick Copy Disk, This brings up a Windows program that allows you to copy a floppy. Because 95 is more advanced than 3.1, you can do this with only one switch of floppies, copying the master first and then rewriting the information to the target disk.

Once you copy all of the disks associated with the program, be sure to label them correctly and put the master floppies away for safekeeping.

If you have a virus checker that makes a rescue disk for you, you should use the same methods to protect it.

Some virus checkers ask you to make a "bootable" floppy. Use the same method as above, except pick Format and then Copy System Files only, to make a bootable floppy. Then allow the virus program to make the rescue disk.

After that, move that slider on one side of the floppy until you can see through the hole. This means that no program can write to the disk.

This floppy should be put away in a safe place for use should you get a virus. When you get a virus, it infects the system files that start the computer and then loads itself in memory, and there is no way to "clean" the system once that virus is in memory.

By using that "write-protected" floppy to start up your system, you're starting a "clean" system for the virus checker so it can then find the infected files and clean them. This is the only way a virus checker can clean your system.

By the way, this "protected" floppy can help you protect your most valuable files. Do you have a letter or document that would make your life miserable if you lost it? If so, copy it to a floppy, then "write protect" that floppy. If you accidentally try to write information to that disk, the operating system will tell you it is "write protected."

All of this protection system, though, depends on your "write protecting" that floppy and labeling it correctly. If months go by before you see that floppy again, the name you used for the file probably won't mean anything to you.

All content 2001 THE STATE and may not be republished without permission.

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Make sense of computer jargon

By CHARLIE PASCHAL

Special to The State

One reader is put off by the jargon used in computer ads and wants some help in making a decision on buying computer upgrades.

It's easy to get put off by all the terms flying around, such as SDRAM and DRAM. In case you're wondering, SDRAM is the better of these two. WRAM is short for Windows RAM, a type of memory that allows a graphics card to fetch the contents of memory for display at the same time that new stuff is being pumped into memory.

Consumers can expect some good prices in the next few months because of the increased competition between AMD, Intel and Cyrix in the central processing unit war.

The CPU is the "brains" of a computer. Add in a price war for hard drives and memory, and it means better prices for consumers. The magic figure of $1,000 seems to be the goal of all vendors and seems to be within reach.

Most of these terms can be found identified at different sites on the Web, and if you're confused about the terms in any advertisement, don't hesitate to e-mail me for a clarification. Meanwhile, the jargon does get heavy at times but if you'll remember these few tips, it will be easier:

There is not much difference between EDO memory and non-parity memory. Just try to buy memory of the same type in use in your computer, although I've seen the two mixed and the computer run just fine. Pick EDO if you have a choice.

Try to outfit your new computer with at least 32 megabytes of RAM (random access memory). Since it is so cheap, if you can afford 64 megabytes, do so. I've seen memory on the Internet for as little as $40 for 16 megabytes (pricewatch.com).

Outfit your video card with at least two megabytes of memory, more if you want to do high-resolution graphics - for example, if you're going to play a lot of games or run at a resolution of 1280x1024 with a refresh rate of 72 HRz.

Don't know what resolution or refresh rate mean? The bottom line for resolution is that it allows you to put more information on your desktop because your desktop will be bigger. Refresh rate stops monitor flicker. The higher numbers for both of these are better. Dot pitch for monitors is important, too. Get at least 28 dot pitch; the lower the number here, the better.

Remember, this is a two-phased problem. Your video card and monitor go hand-in-hand with this. The choice of a video card should not be taken lightly. Number Nine and Matrox make good cards. Matrox has a good Web site and even has a questionnaire on how to pick the correct card for your use.

Current video drivers also are important, and you should get the latest for your card from either a Web site or from the company's bulletin board. Almost all of them have Web sites where the latest drivers are posted.

Get at least 512k cache with your new system or upgrade. This is special memory on the motherboard that increases speed and performance. It's memory that the CPU uses to pre-load information it thinks you'll need next.

'Virus alert' is phony. Another reader has been duped by the "virus alert" in e-mail. Just like the urban rumors about a child getting bitten by a snake at a fast-food restaurant, the legends about e-mail viruses never seem to go away on the Internet. (I'm not making fun of this reader; it's better to be safe than sorry.)

And, this time it's a slightly new one: "Join The Crew." Along with e-mail about this one from a reader, she also included warnings about the "Pen Pal Greetings." I repeat, again, that you cannot get a virus by opening a piece of e-mail. Never.

What you should leery of, though, is if you get a piece of e-mail with an attachment. That attachment can contain a virus - even if it's a document. There are viruses that can lurk in document files, and these viruses invoke a word processor's macro language. It then attacks other documents on your hard drive.

Should you be concerned about getting a virus from the Internet? Yes, it's possible because it's possible to get a virus from anywhere - including software you buy in stores. The rule of thumb is to trust no one or anything. Check everything for viruses.

Now that the Internet is worldwide, this kind of thing is going to happen more and more. Still, you can't dismiss it out of hand. It's better to be safe than sorry about such a serious thing as a virus, many of which can wipe your hard drive clean or scramble your files.

All content 2001 THE STATE and may not be republished without permission.

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Insurance against a brush with disaster

By CHARLIE PASCHAL

Special to The State

Now that you've played with your computer for a few days after finding it under the tree, have you "bought" your first piece of insurance against a brush with disaster?

If your computer came with Windows 98 pre-installed, chances are you don't have a rescue disk, something you should never be without.

Windows 98 is particularly good at making a rescue diskette, but it doesn't do it on its own. You have to make an effort to create and save the disk as insurance against disaster.

Why should you care?

A call I got recently helps answer that question. An upset person couldn't get her computer to run and didn't have one of these little jewels handy.

She had bought a new computer running Windows 98, but needed to get to some financial files off her old computer. She was frantic when the old one wouldn't start, but by using a rescue disk from her new one and some editing of her config.sys, we got it running. However, it took some special effort.

This disk is important even if you have to call technical support for extra help. The disk can "open the door" to your computer so it can be repaired. If your computer won't start and you don't have a rescue disk, you may have to take it to a shop, which can be costly. With it, you might be able to make the repairs yourself and save that money.

You'll need one blank floppy disk for this operation.

To make one in Windows 95/98, go to Start, Settings, Control Panel, Add/Remove Programs and click on the tab that says "Startup Disk." After making the disk, put it in a safe place. It should be write-protected (move the little slider on one side until you can see through the tiny hole there).

Now, when your computer hangs up on startup, put this disk in your floppy drive, turn on the computer and let this disk take over.

It contains all kinds of diagnostic tools, such as scandisk, that might fix your problem. At the worst, it gets your computer running so a technician can help you fix your problems over the telephone.

(This disk also can be made from a command prompt. Once at a DOS prompt, type cd windows\command and hit enter. Then type bootdisk a: and hit enter. This also makes a boot disk.)

While we're on the subject of new computers, did you remember to pack away all the essentials in case you have other types of problems?

Before you install any new piece of software, use Windows 98's new tool, Registry Checker, to make a backup of your crucial configuration files.

You can start this tool by going to Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools and then System Information. Once there, click on Registry Checker and follow the directions. This backup can be used to restore your computer to its present state in case you install a piece of software that mucks up your system. I wish Windows 95 had this safety feature.

Be sure you have the sales receipts tucked away in a safe place in case you either have to return the unit or need proof of your warranty later. You also should keep the boxes the computer was shipped in just in case you're asked to ship it somewhere for repair.

You should have received several pieces of software and you should tuck all that away, too, in case you need to reinstall one or more pieces of your setup.

A good idea is to thumb through your manuals until you find the telephone numbers and hours of technical support and write them down somewhere else.

Also, run a new computer day and night for the first couple of weeks. If it doesn't give you any problems during that time, it probably won't later. Usually, a computer will fail early if it has a weak part.

Enjoy your new computer and use it so your investment doesn't go to waste. Have fun.

All content 2001 THE STATE and may not be republished without permission.

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What you need to know about file compression

By CHARLIE PASCHAL

Special to The State

Two things that frequently cause confusion among novice computer users are compression and downloading (or copying) a program or file from the Internet or another source.

Compressing, or zipping, a file or program is done to save space. Most programs use the same methods to squeeze or compress the contents of a program into a smaller space.

There isn't a serious contender to beat out Winzip (www.winzip.com), which does a lot to insulate the novice from the "dirty" business of zipping and unzipping a file.

When you see a program or file you want on an Internet site, it's probably zipped in one of two ways: an executable, with the extension of "exe," or as a zipped file, with the extension "zip," such as cp.zip.

In the first example, the file is compressed, but it can be unzipped (or extracted) by double-clicking on it. In the second example, you would need a program such as Winzip to unpack the file and its contents.

Compression is necessary because of the savings in space and bandwidth. It makes the program or files you plan to copy to your computer smaller, therefore taking less time for you to make your copy. It also consumes less space on the computer where it resides.

Quite often, programs can be zipped down (compressed) to about one-third of their expanded size. You'll save even more space when you download graphical (picture) files, because they can be compressed more.

Many of the files that are zipped contain all the files necessary to install the program you copied from the Internet. Once you've got it on your computer and unpack it, the process is not complete until you run the setup file within the program to install it on your computer. Usually, this program will be named setup.exe, although it could have a different name, such as install.exe.

Another problem novices often run into is losing track of the file once they've downloaded it. Before you download the file, you need to write down its name and where you plan to put it.

All browsers, such as Netscape or Internet Explorer, give you a chance to store the file and display the file name before you complete the download. If you write down the name and somehow lose the file, then you can search for it using Windows 95's searching button.

Remember the steps:

Find the file on the Internet.

Download (or copy) it to a folder on your computer.

Make sure you write down the name of the file and the folder you put it in.

Uncompress or unzip it using Winzip or some other similar program

Run the program's setup file to install the program on your computer

A nice add-on to Winzip is its plug-in for both the major browsers, Netscape and Microsoft's Internet Explorer. This program needs Winzip 6.3 installed (that's available from the same site) to work. This feature automatically unzips a file you've downloaded from the Internet and gives you the option of where to install it.

I find this feature a nice touch, because once the file is on my computer, I can go ahead and unzip it to a directory or just save it on my hard drive for a later installation.

Another key feature of Winzip is its ability to "span" disks. For example, if you have a file that's larger than a 1.4 megabyte floppy and want to give it to a friend, Winzip can fit that program on several floppies, with the user having the ability to reassemble the file on his computer.

Recently, at a computer club's programming class meeting, leader Doug Sigman had downloaded the latest version of a Java Virtual machine, a necessary ingredient to write and test Java programs.

Other members of the group brought blank diskettes for a copy of the program, which was nearly 10 megabytes. By using Winzip's disk spanning feature, he was able to give members a copy of the program, although it took seven disks for each of the copies. (Because some of the members don't have Internet access or have problems with this "download process," this allowed members of the group to get a copy of the program necessary to learn how to program in Java.)

Although Zip disks (and larger drives by others) are becoming more common, the good, old floppy exists on nearly every computer and has no compatibility problems. By using the span feature, it gives you the ability to share larger files with others.

Should you be concerned about getting viruses on the Internet from dowloaded files? Certainly, but you should temper that with the knowledge that most of the viruses you could catch probably won't come from the Net.

In most cases, you're more likely to get it from a friend's disk or from commercial software. In fact, most of the major places on the Net to download files are careful to make sure no viruses lurk among the programs.

And, as I've said many times before, you cannot get a virus from reading e-mail. You can get a virus from an attachment (a file attached to a piece of e-mail), but not the e-mail itself. And, the attachment cannot give your computer a virus as long as you do not open the file or double-click on it. View all attachments with skepticism, and accept them only from people you know.

All content 2001 THE STATE and may not be republished without permission.

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Computer file tree is limitless filing cabinet

By CHARLIE PASCHAL

Special to The State

QUESTION: I purchased a PC and am running Windows 3.1. I have read books and taken some computer classes at the local vocational school. My main hang-up seems to be how to organize files. Also, when I am ready to upgrade, would you suggest my going to Windows 95 or 98? - Donnie Dean

ANSWER: The file question is a tough one to explain in print - and sometimes even with pictures! But here are several ways to think about files in just about any computer, regardless of the platform or operating system you're running.

Files are organized in folders and sub-folders. For example, the Windows folder has sub-folders underneath it, such as the "command" folder and the "system" folder. These same sub-folders can contain more sub-folders and files.

Think of the file tree as a file cabinet you see just about anywhere. The top drawer is your "C" drive (or hard drive). When you pull open the drawer, it has folders inside of it.

Those folders have names. Inside those folders are pieces of paper (files) that have names themselves. You can even have folders within those folders.

When you hear someone talk about the "root" of a hard drive, it means the area where loose files can reside without being inside another folder.

For example, in the "root" directory of your "C" drive you probably have two files named config.sys and autoexec.bat. These two files are "startup" files that Windows uses to communicate with the hardware so it sets up the operating system correctly.

One way to imagine the file system is to think of a tree turned upside down. The "root" area is the very bottom of the tree, with the branches representing folders. Each branch can have smaller branches (folders) of its own.

Some of the confusion about files and their arrangement could be created because of the different types of files. Files with the extension (the three or four letters after the period in a Windows file name) of exe, com or bat are executable, meaning they "start" a program when you double click on them. Other common files have an extension of doc, meaning they're document files. Also, you can have files with the extension of htm or html (Internet files) or txt (text files).

One way you might extend your knowledge of files is to search for a very old book on the DOS operating system. You might try the library or the "bargain" books at a used book store. Often these out-of-date books will contain the information you need.

Organizing your files is just an extension of this knowledge. For example, I've created a "download" folder where I place all files I download from the Internet.

Just as you would organize folders (such as 1998 taxes) in a file cabinet, organize them on your hard drive. Another example of a good folder is one titled "letters." Underneath that folder, you could have one with your name on it and one with your wife's name on it, such as Charlie and Geanie. In those sub-folders, when I write a letter, it goes into the Charlie folder.

Before you download a file from the Internet or install a new program, decide where you want to put it. Windows 95/98 programs want to install in a folder called "Program Files" but I always change that to a folder named for the program, such as MS Office. But that's the way I organize folders and another method might suit you better.

On upgrading to Windows 95 or 98, I think the more important information is what type of hardware you own. If you don't have a Pentium processor with at least 16 megabytes of memory, I wouldn't consider upgrading to Windows 95.

As far as Windows 98 goes, the memory requirements go up to 32 megabytes (for better performance) and I'd recommend at least a Pentium 133 or better.

Since computers have dropped so much in price lately, I'd consider upgrading to a new system if your old one doesn't measure up. Good systems can be purchased for less than $700 these days.

If you wait a few days, you also might want to consider the eMachine, which is supposed to go on sale in Best Buy and Office Depot soon. For $399, you can get a good starter system and use the monitor from the system you now have. It comes with Windows 98, by the way.

A better way. I recently wrote about file associations and how some programs will wrestle them away from your preferences, opening files with "their" program rather than the one you want.

Changing that association involves a lot of steps, unless you use a tip I learned about recently using the right mouse button.

First, click once on a file name you want to open. Hold down the shift key and right-click on that file name. You'll be presented with a menu, one of which is "Open With."

Make that selection and it'll bring up a menu of programs, giving you the option of choosing which program you want to use to open the program. On the far left is an unchecked box that says "Always use this program to open this type of file."

Here, you make your choice of whether you want to just open this file this one time with a program or always. If you want to reassociate the file type with a certain program, select that program and then check that box.

(If your program isn't listed in the box, click on the "Other" button to find the program you want to use.)

All content 2001 THE STATE and may not be republished without permission.

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Parents should be involved when kids surf the Web

By CHARLIE PASCHAL
Special to The State

In case you missed it, the U.S. Supreme Court has repealed the Communications Decency Act, an act that deals with pornography on the Internet. The court ruled, among other things, that the act was too vague and infringed on the rights of adults.

You can bet this fight is not over. Congress will attempt to rewrite the law in another effort to get it by the courts. But in the meantime, what can you do to protect your children on the Internet?

The quickest - and most effective - answer is to surf with your children. There is nothing like being an old-fashioned parent to help protect your young ones.

I know this takes time (and we're all busy these days), but it's something you need to do.

The Internet is like nothing we've ever seen before. It's not like radio, television or a newspaper. It has a life of its own and is still evolving.

It's a big poster board where anyone, once they have access, can publish their thoughts and feelings. Where else could you reach millions for just pennies?

This brings me back to children and ways to protect them. Although not perfect, some "blocking" pieces of software on the market could possibly protect your children. Here are a few of them and ways to get in touch:

* Cyber Patrol: (800) 828-2608; www.cyberpatrol.com. It's $49.95, including a six-month subscription to the CyberNOT block list. Subscriptions are $19.95 for six months' lists after that.

* Cybersitter: (800) 388-2761; www.solidoak.com. It's $39.95, and free updates are available.

* NetNanny: (800) 340-7177; www.netnanny.com/net nanny. It's $49.95; free updates are available.

* SurfWatch for Windows: (800) 458-6600; www.surfwatch.com; $49.95; site updates $5.95 a month.

Although these blocking techniques are not perfect, they do offer some controls for parents to monitor the content their children see.

In addition to having lists forbidden for children to visit, some of the programs offer filtering programs with lists of certain phrases and words that can block children from visiting sites that contain those keywords.

This can get difficult because some words, such as "breast," could lead this software to filter out some important sites, such as ones that discuss breast cancer.

Although I've never used any of these filtering and blocking programs, I'd suggest that you go to Yahoo and search for the words "dirty stories" and see what turns up. These two apparently innocent words can turn up sites with content that will amaze you.

Then, try the same words with the products above or ask the maker of the software what turns up on such a search.

Along those lines, I'd like to say something to the folks who're shoveling this filth in front of us: You better start putting this stuff behind a firewall or the government's going to try to do it for you.

It would be much simpler if you guys (or gals) just used an age verification process as one of the safeguards to keep children from seeing this type of material.

If our government gets involved in what we can see or read, then we're only going to have further problems. It's a difficult task for anyone to draw a line in the sand; the problem with government is that it keeps moving the line.

It's sad to be so concerned about government intervention, but we have a right to be suspicious because our government has proven in many ways that it can't be trusted to exercise censorship. Our founding fathers thought it was so important that they wrote in safeguards in the constitution. Thank goodness for that

All content 2001 THE STATE and may not be republished without permission.

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Free Applications Available To Help You Build Your WEB Sites

By CHARLIE PASCHAL
Special to The State

Now that some new domain names are going to be allowed on the Internet (aero, coop, museum, pro, biz, info and name), is it time you or your business decided to grab your own spot on the Web?

Last week, I explained how to get a domain name, but once you do that, how do you put together information to fill that space? What should you put there, and how difficult is it to do yourself?

If you plan to put up a business site or already have one that you want to enhance or overhaul, in next month's Columbia Business Journal I'll have a review of Dreamweaver UltraDev Studio, which not only handles some of your graphical needs, but also makes it easier to build interactive Web pages that connect with databases - the direction the Web is pointing next. Some expertise is needed, but if you only plan to do interactive forms on your network, this still is the application you need.

If you have a small business that's getting started on the Web or you are just someone who wants his own personal Web site, then this column is for you because I plan to help you do that with all free applications.

This will require some learning on your part, but if you have a connection to the Web, your best teacher is the Web itself. And if you operate a small business, you should not have to pay thousands of dollars to get a small, informational-type Web site going. Shop around before you pay that kind of money.

Before we give you some of those links, here are a few definitions to get you started:

HTML - Hyper Text Markup Language. This is the language Web pages are written in. You can write pages in any editor, such as Windows Notepad. The commands inside this page are interpreted by a browser (Internet Explorer, Netscape, Opera, etc.) and then displayed to the user.

Tags - The name for HTML commands. Each command opens inside the less-than and greater-than signs and then closes inside less-than and greater-than signs with a regular slash before the tag. For example, h1My Page/h1 will display the words My Page in the biggest headline size on the Web.

Home Page - This is the first page in your Web. It is usually named index or default, followed by the extension of HTM or HTML.

Gif or Jpg - These are the two types of images (or graphics) you can use on the Web. Gifs can be animated (have movement) or transparent (the background shows through). Gifs are better for images with fewer colors, such as logos, while jpg should be used for photos or images with lots of color.

Browser - Internet Explorer, Netscape or Opera. This is the application that interprets the HTML tags to display a page inside the window of the application.

Below are several links to teach you how to do Web pages. Because links sometimes have problems in transmission from one system to another, all of the links below will be displayed at www.askcharlie.com along with links to the applications mentioned later in this article:

* http://www.pagetutor.com/pagetutor/makapage

* http://www.davesite.com/webstation/html

* http://www.mcli.dist.maricopa.edu/tut (which also includes links to some sites to help you with designing pages)

* http://www2.utep.edu/kross/tutorial

* http://www.mcli.dist.maricopa.edu/tut/lessons.html

* http://www.htmlprimer.com

* http://hotwired.lycos.com/webmonkey/teachingtool

To write your HTML pages, you're going to need an editor, although I'd recommend that you use Windows Notepad or SimpleText on a Mac to do your first few exercises at one of the sites above.

Not only does this teach you the code, but it also gives you a leg up when you have to troubleshoot some of that code.

Code editors:

http://www.evrsoft.com/1stpage

http://freeware.acehtml.com

www.lockergnome.com has a newsletter I subscribe to, and one of the sponsors, Sausage Software, has made its Hot Dog Professional 5.5 version free to subscribers to the list. If you want this excellent editor, go to the address above, join and then go to back issues and click on the Jan 5 issue and look for the link there. You have to register, but this tool is free. (My pick: AceHTML.)

Graphical Editors:

The later versions of Netscape include a free graphical editor named Composer. In version 4.72, for example, you can access it by going to Communicator on the toolbar and then Composer.

Also, Windows 98 bundles a slimmed down version of FrontPage called FrontPage Express, but it's hard to find. If you don't see it on the toolbar, go to Start, Find and search for Frontpage. Once it's in the search window, double click on it to open the application.

AOL also has a free graphical editor, but it's no longer supported or being upgraded. You can download it at http://www.aolpress.com.

Photo editor:

There's only one good free one, Photoplus by Serif. You can get it at:

http://www.serif.com/photoplus5. You have to register, but that's no big problem for most of us. It includes a wizard to squeeze gif and jpg files.

The last piece of the puzzle is an FTP (file transfer protocol) program. A free one is WS-Ftp LE, and you can get it at:

http://www.winsite.com/info/pc/win95/netutil/ws-ftple.exe

If you want your pages to be viewed by both Netscape and Internet Explorer, then you need to have both those browsers on your computer so you can test your pages in both. It's a necessary evil.

All content 2001 THE STATE and may not be republished without permission.

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Communities can form own Net access group

By CHARLIE PASCHAL
Special to The State

Sometimes, to get something done, you have to take matters into your own hands.

That's what happened in Laramie, Wyo., a city of 26,000, when residents tried to get high-speed Internet service from the local telephone company.

Former InfoWorld columnist Brett Glass is the chairman of a local organization, LARIAT (Laramie Internet Access and Telecommunications), which includes high-speed Internet access service for a fraction of the price of most services in the United States. Residents started the networking business in 1995 in an effort to bring everyone in the area online after various problems with the area's telephone company (now Qwest).

What kind of prices? These will knock your socks off: normal dial-up service for $5 a month, or $20 to $30 a month for high speed (10MB/second). Businesses can now get T1 wireless or SDSL (symmetric DSL, which provides the same bandwidth up and down stream) for a monthly fee of $125.

"Anyone can do this. People are just afraid to, or don't know it's possible to do it as a community effort rather than going to a private company," Glass told The Register, an online tech newspaper.

In an effort to help others do the same thing, the group's Web site, www.lariat.org <http://www.lariat.org>, invites groups to contact it about "cloning" their efforts. The site also offers to help steer a group into doing this on its own.

According to the site, LARIAT is a nonprofit mutual benefit organization organized under Section 501(c)(12) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code with the purpose being to "teach, promote and facilitate the use of the Internet. We serve as a 'user group' for the Internet, conducting regular meetings which include speakers and classes on Internet topics. Our lectures, classes and events are free and open to the public."

If you visit the group's FAQ (frequently asked questions) pages, you'll find this is truly a community-based organization with meetings on how to configure your computer or how to access and use the Internet.

According to Glass, the initial cost was around $3,000, with many residents donating their own PCs. Equipment was put on private land, and copper wire was bought from Qwest for areas that couldn't get wireless.

LARIAT invites schools, libraries and community groups to duplicate their efforts to bring Internet literacy and Internet access to local residents, students and businesses.

"We'll show you how our hardware is configured and how to obtain similar equipment cheaply (or, in some cases, for free)," according to Glass on the Web site.

He says that an existing community organization -- such as a Boy Scout troop, a Rotary Club, a fraternal lodge, a Masonic Temple, a senior center or a library -- can "host" the network, providing inexpensive or even free access to residents.

I've also read about a movement in some areas that use wireless equipment to share connections with neighbors, giving them an almost free connection. It is not inconceivable that someone could get a high-speed connection and share it with neighbors. Whether it's legal or not is another question.

But LARIAT proves that you can form a legal nonprofit organization that can provide high-speed access to the Internet. If you live in a community where a telephone company refuses to provide the service, you can take matters into your own hands and follow the lead of LARIAT and provide your own service.

Frankly, I can't understand why any company can't see this is a new stream of revenue it can access to fatten its coffers. New streams of revenue don't come around every day, which makes it all the more confusing. Of course, some are saddled with old equipment that needs to be upgraded, but the ultimate profits will be there.

Access to the Internet will eventually become a "must-have," not a luxury but a necessity, like a telephone or television. As a child, my family didn't get a telephone until I was a junior in high school. I didn't view it as a problem because many of my classmates didn't have telephones either. Today, it's hard to find someone who doesn't have one. One day, it'll be the same with Internet access.

Hacking has become an increasing problem on the Web, with such high-profile companies as Intel, H-P and the New York Times pages being defaced recently.

The Times said that its servers were not compromised but that it was an outside vendor. What's surprising to me is that it took The Times three hours to discover the page had been defaced. Shouldn't they be looking at their own pages more often than that?

Joining my list of "bad" vendors of late is Compaq. I've been critical of H-P recently for the company's failure to put drivers and utilities on its Web site, instead forcing users to order it on a CD. Well, it appears that Compaq is either doing the same thing or making it so difficult to find you give up.

I really can't understand the reason behind this. This user had a Compaq that had problems and needed drivers for its modem and video card. He legally bought the system but couldn't find the CD (if he ever had one) containing all the drivers. Alas, we couldn't find the drivers on the company's Web site.

What reasoning -- if any -- can be behind these companies' not having this software available for their customers? Even when this person called Best Buy about repairing the system, it said it needed the CD, which is not unreasonable on its part. I could understand if it was a program (such as Word) but in these cases, the software is no good without the hardware.

Computers have problems, and getting your hands on the software is extremely important. If you get any disks with a new computer, be sure to put them in a safe place. And, when you're making a buying decision, remember these problems with Compaq and H-P before you buy. It just might make you switch to a different vendor.

All content 2001 THE STATE and may not be republished without permission.

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Ask questions before upgrading to new operating system

By CHARLIE PASCHAL - Special to The State

 

Not too far in the future, you're going to be asked to sign on for a new operating system, whether you use a Mac or a PC, since both companies plan major upgrades to their present systems soon.Should you bite or not?

The new Mac system is due near the end of this month and could be missing several features, although Apple is expected to fill those gaps by this summer, according to a story on Zdnet. This will be the first major upgrade for Macs in many years.

Mac users are eager to get their hands on OS X, which is based on a version of BSD Unix. It promises to include many new features (--) and a new look (--) such as protected memory and multitasking. Additionally, users could restart their machines and use the current OS 9.1, if necessary.

Mac users are enthusiastic about their operating system and hotly defend any criticism of it. The Zdnet story, pointing out possible gaps in the system, drew sharp comments from Mac users, with some accusing the writers of being employed by Microsoft. Unfortunately, Windows users also took the opportunity to weigh in with their criticism, even though they don't use Macs. It's a shame that something as basic as an operating system can draw such "flames" and heated discussion.

(The story, "Mac OS X: Promise without the polish," can be found at www.zdnet.com/zdnn/stories/news/0,4586,2691847,00.html.)

Over in Microsoft land, the second beta of Windows XP (--) how does MS choose such lame names anyway? (--)is due about the time you read this, with the public release of the operating system sometime this summer.

Upgrading to either one can be painful, especially if you choose to do so as it's released. Despite the best plans of everyone involved, some computers aren't ready for a new system, many from a hardware standpoint.

I don't doubt that both of these systems are better, especially since the Mac system is rewritten from the ground up. Still, I'd urge caution on everyone's part. Just because there's something "new" out there doesn't mean we all have to immediately grab it.

Because of the possible problems you could encounter buying and using a new operating system, here are some basic questions to ask yourself.

(box) Do you really need a new system?

Neither of the systems will have many applications written especially for them, so unless you have specific problems or needs, you can afford to wait until the system has been on the street for a few months.

(box) Check your hardware and software.

Look at the requirements of the new system to see if your system qualifies. A tip: Whatever the memory requirements, you should double it. For example, if Windows XP requires 64 megabytes, bump that up to 128 megabytes before buying.

Pay particular attention to software that won't be supported in the new system, Windows in particular. If it's a program you can't do without, then you need to wait.

(box) Are you considering a new computer?

This might be a good path for either operating system. When you buy a new computer, it will come with hardware especially optimized for the new system. This doesn't solve your problem of a program that won't work with the new system; only an upgrade by the company making the application can solve that problem.

Apple isn't planning on making the new system its standard installation on Macs until this summer, probably because more programs will be available for the OS X editions.

In the case of Windows, I'll always recommend a "fresh" installation rather than an "upgrade." This "fresh" installation is probably out of the reach of casual computer users (or novices), so if you fit in that category, opt for a new system rather than doing an upgrade.

Because Windows XP is based on the more secure NT kernel, for best performance you need to install it fresh on a clean disk. If you upgrade over a previous version, you're asking for trouble because some of Windows 98's problems could migrate to the new system.

Microsoft will release XP in two versions, one for home and one for business.

For those of you who want to keep up with what's happening with the new Mac system, I'd recommend that you visit www.macintouch.com often. If there are any early glitches, you'll read about them there. And if the new system shines, as I think it will, you'll find plenty of praise there.

Since Windows XP's second beta is due soon, I'll keep you posted by testing it myself. I expect it to be an improvement, but whether it's enough to go out and buy it remains to be seen.

Tip of the week: It's no secret that I like the www.lockergnome.com newsletter, but I've found that another one, recommended by Buster White, has become a favorite. Travel over to www.langa.com/newsletters/2001/2001-03-01.htm and read how you can back up all your system files and restore them if you have a glitch.

It's only one of many valuable tips I've gotten from this list. If you're a Juno user, you'll learn shocking news about the agreement you signed with that company. By the way, the newsletter is free. You can't beat that.

All content 2001 THE STATE and may not be republished without permission.

 

 

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Last modified: June 22, 2002