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November 2005 - Ask the Geek Ask the Geek

Archive for November, 2005

My computer won’t shut down!

Brook says: “My computer won’t shut down; I have to use the power button. I’m running Windows XP. Please help!”

The Geek replies: Brook, there are many possible causes (see Problems Shutting Down Windows XP) for your problem, but the most common one I see on computers like yours is a thing called the “nVidia Driver Helper” service. Neither I, nor my fellow Geeks, know exactly what it is supposed to do, but it sure can cause shutdown problems. And turning it off doesn’t appear to hurt anything. Here’s how to disable it:

Go to Start > Run and type services.msc. Locate the nVidia Driver Helper item and right click it. Select Properties. Set the startup value of the service to “Manual” or “Disabled”.

Your computer should shut down normally now. Still won’t shut down? Try this.


Outlook saves images only as bitmaps (.bmp)

Q. When I save pictures received in email while using Outlook, they are always automatically saved as Bitmap files. I wish to save them as received, either JPG or Gif. This problem does not exist when I employ Outlook Express. I’m running Windows XP Home with SP2 and all updates are current. I have Microsoft Office 2003 Student & Teachers Edition installed. I have been unable to locate the setting(s) to enable pictures received in email using Outlook to be saved in JPG or GIF or the option to control what file type of they will be saved in.

A. The funny thing about Outlook is that it’s not Outlook causing your problem, it’s Internet Explorer. All of the picture and web display work for Outlook is done by IE, so it’s there we have go.

According to Microsoft Knowledge Base article 810978 there are several things that could cause your problem, but let’s address the most likely cause first: “a damaged program file…is downloaded to the Downloaded Program Files folder on your hard disk.” Here’s how to fix it:

1. Start Internet Explorer (if it is not already started).
2. Empty the contents of the Temporary Internet Files folder. To do so:
a. On the Tools menu, click Internet Options.
b. Click the General tab.

c. Under Temporary Internet files, click Delete Files.
d. When you are prompted to delete all temporary Internet files, click OK.
3. In the Downloaded Program Files folder on your hard disk, remove the files that are listed as either Unknown or Damaged. To do so:
a. On the Tools menu, click Internet Options.
b. Click the General tab.
c. Under Temporary Internet files, click Settings.
d. Click View Objects.
The list of program files that are downloaded to the SystemRoot\Downloaded Program Files folder on your hard disk appears in the Downloaded Program Files window.
e. In the Status column, note the files that are listed as either Unknown or Damaged. Remove these files. To do so, right-click the file, and then click Remove.
f. When you are prompted to confirm the removal, click Yes.
g. Close the Downloaded Program Files window, and then click OK two times.


Christmas toys for geeks

Christmas is right around the corner and you’re wondering just what kind of toy to buy for that special geek in your life. You DO have a special geek in your life, don’t you? If you don’t, SHAME on you! Find one, NOW! My dad always knew about the latest geek toys (even though we weren’t called “geeks” back then). He was an intellectual, a chemist, interested in everything; he fit the definition of geek perfectly. One of the best geek toys he ever got for me was the DigiComp-1, the world’s “first real operating digital computer in plastic.” You can see a picture of DigiComp-1 here and a closeup picture here. I learned about computers from that toy; to this day, I can do “computer” math with 1’s and 0’s. Unfortunately, DigiComp is no longer available, but there are plenty of other geek toys out there. I have two favorites in the “stocking stuffer” category: Sonic Sound Sizzlersâ„¢ noise-making magnets; and, a “forever” flashlight.

The Sonic Sound Sizzlersâ„¢ is a pack of two two-inch long, cigar shaped magnets that make a perfectly cool buzzing noise that sounds something like zzzzzzzzZZZZZZZZZZZT! Well, it’s cool to geeks; it’s positively irritating to almost everyone else, especially female spouses. To make the sound, you put the pods in the palm of your hand and hold them apart with your thumb. Then, you toss them straight up. As they come together and spin, they vibrate, making the sound. I’ve had my set since yesterday evening and I’ve already discovered at least four different “throwing” techniques to make different sounds. My favorite isn’t a throw at all; rather, it’s more of a roll in the palm. It makes a short high-ptiched burst that sounds like “jeep” (yes, just like the character of the same name in the old Popeye cartoons). I got mine at Dollar General for two bucks. If you don’t have a Dollar General store where you are, you can find them online at ThinkGeek.com under the name Uber Orbs.

What self-respecting geek would be without a flashlight–or several–for looking into those dark corners of the gadgets he loves or navigating the treacherous twists, turns and tangles of video, audio, and computer cables? But flashlights use batteries and batteries eventually wear out. Not so with the “forever” flashlight: It never needs batteries, you just shake it up and down a few times and the built-in generator gives you enough juice to power the flashlight for a few minutes. There’s even a crank-up model. You can find them easily enough, along with a description of what makes them tick, at ForeverFlashlights.com. You don’t have to spend between $16.99 – $39.99, though; you can find a made-in-China knockoff at Walgreens for $5.99 or 2/$10. It’s not listed in the online catalog, so you’ll probably have to do some legwork.

Filed in: Fun Stuff

So, what IS the best glass cleaner?

Curiosity got the best of you, eh? I knew that blurb about washing windows all day to find the best cleaner would make you wonder. People hate cleaning windows and I think it’s because you can never get them clean; that is, not if you use that stuff you buy at the store (begins with a W). It always leaves streaks, no matter what you do. That’s because it has a wax in it that’s supposed to make the windows sparkle, but really just forces you to wear your arms out trying to polish the glass. Forget that! I want to spray, spread, squeegee and be done with it.

The best window cleaner is 1/8 to 1/4 tsp. Dawn (regular) brand dish liquid per quart of water. Use the smaller amount for normal cleaning, the larger for tough, greasy or nicotine-stained windows. Believe me, it cuts through everything. It’s all I use. And you’ve probably heard this before, but newspaper IS the best thing to use on windows. If you spray the cleaner on, use newspaper to spread it. Then squeegee and touch up by polishing with a dry sheet. You’ll get some ink on your fingers, but you’ll have sparkling clean glass.

Filed in: Answers, Questions

Kool Tool: Clipmarks

In response to my article, “Don’t bookmark it–Furl it!”, Wally wrote to say I should try Clipmarks. So, I went to the site and watched the demo. Unlike Furl and Spurl, which store entire web pages that you have bookmarked, Clipmarks lets you select and save snippets of text, photos or other graphics off a web page; you clip and save just the stuff you want from any web page. I’ve been saving clips and quotes into notes for years, but it’s cumbersome to manually copy-and-paste the stuff and I still have to either type in or copy-and-paste a link to the source. Clipmarks automatically stores the source URL with your clipping.

Like the other services, Clipmarks lets you add tags (keywords), comments and share your clipmarks with friends. Your clipmarks are private unless you choose to share them. There’s a Public Clipmarks section where you can search and see what others are clipping and who the clippers are. You might soon find some of the stuff I’m clipping because I’m off to sign up. See ya on Clipmarks!…K

Filed in: Computers, Links, Reviews

My emails are gone!

Q. Please help me! All of my emails are gone. My computer died. The computer guy replaced the power supply and that fixed it, but when I go into Outlook, all of my old emails are gone; all I can see are the emails that came in today. They were all there just a few minutes ago on the laptop I used to log into Outlook.

A. Ah! There’s the problem. You can relax; your emails didn’t disappear, they’re just where you can’t see them. The laptop you logged onto was set to use “Personal Folders” as the mail destination. When you logged into Outlook, all of your emails were downloaded into a special file on the laptop’s hard drive. They are no longer on the server, so you can’t see them. If you ever have to access your email from a machine other than your own, the safest way is to log into the Outlook Web Access; that way, all of your email stays on the server.

[I fixed her problem by logging onto the laptop and copying the emails from the Personal Folders back to the Mailbox on the server.]

For some excellent tips on Outlook, log into Outlook Daily Tips.


Don’t bookmark it–Furl it!

I consider myself a fairly organized person. And I usually am, except for those times when I’m not, and I’m definitely not organized when it comes to keeping track of things I find on the web. Sure, I have URLs bookmarked in my browser, but I also have them scribbled on sticky notes, listed in “sites” files and stored in Palm Pilot memos. I email site links to my web mail accounts so I can get to them from anywhere. If I need a bookmark that’s stored on my browser at work, but not on my home PC, or vice-versa, I’m out of luck. Oh, and did I mention all the URLs I have highlighted in various magazine articles, e-newsletters and e-mails that I’ve printed out?

It’s a mess, completely disorganized and essentially useless. I have to look in so many places to find anything that by the time I’ve found it, I’ve forgotten why I wanted it. As a writer, when I need information, I need it now or the entire writing process grinds to a halt. This is not a good thing. But I think I found the answer: Today I stumbled across Furl.

“Furl is a free service that saves a personal copy of any page you find on the Web, and lets you find it again instantly by searching your archive of pages. It’s your Personal Web… Each member gets a 5-gigabyte personal archive, large enough to store tens of thousands of pages… When you want to find something again, enter any word or phrase you remember from it… Even if a page has disappeared from the Web and other search engines, you’ll still have a personal copy.”

Yes, I know about del.icio.us, and spurl, and I’m sure there are others, but Furl caught my attention while I was surfing LookSmart’s www.findarticles.com. I signed up and immediately became a Furl Freak. Now, I save everything I think I may ever need using the Furl It! button I installed on my browser toolbar.

Maybe I’ll finally get organized…

Filed in: Freebies, Links

Strange header & footer prints on every page

Q. I just started using a web based application to submit my payroll to our home office. Now, every time I print my emails from Outlook, “Payroll Statement” appears as a header and the date is printed as the footer on every page. I don’t see anything in Word or Outlook that is causing this. What’s going on?

A. Well, it took some digging on my part, but I solved it. Oddly enough, Outlook uses the Internet Explorer page setup when printing HTML mail. If you printed plain text email from Outlook, you probably would see a normal page. I bet your web based payroll application has inserted the header and footer into IE’s Page Setup properties. To fix the problem, in IE, go to File–>Page Setup. In the dialog box, you’ll see the Headers and Footers options in the middle. You can set these to just about anything you want, or leave them blank if you don’t want any headers or footers to print. IE’s Help is actually helpful on this subject. Go to Help–>Contents and Index then click the Search tab and enter the word “header” (without the quotes). Select “Change how a Web page looks when it prints” from the topics list.

Filed in: Computers, Windows

Web pages load very slowly

Q. Some web pages I try to load are slow and give me a time out error. They used to load fine. I have moved the security settings to the lowest and to default. I’m running Windows 98 First Edition.

A. I suggest you upgrade your computer, since you’re not even running Windows 98 Second Edition. That is probably the main problem. It’s not your security settings; more likely it’s a problem with cached files. In Win98, when your Temporary Internet Files folder gets full, your pages won’t load properly. IE uses this folder as a cache to make pages load faster. In theory, most web pages don’t change very often, so once it’s downloaded and placed in cache, IE can simply compare the web page to the cached page and load whichever one is the newest. If the one in the cache is still current, IE loads that page. It’s much faster than transferring everything over the Internet. This works fine except that Windows makes the default size of the folder 10% of your hard drive. This is way too much; you don’t need more than 10MB.

To clean the excess files in IE, got to Tools–>Internet Options–>Delete Files. Then, go into the Settings and set “Check for newer versions of stored pages” to “Every visit to the page.” Finally, set the “Temporary Internet files folder” setting to 10MB. Then, defrag your hard drive and you should be good to go…K

Filed in: Computers, Windows

AOL has detected an error with your connection to the internet

Q. When connecting to AOL I get the following pop-up: “AOL HAS detected an error with your connection to the internet. Please exit the AOL software, restart your compuyer, and then sign on AOL again.” Cannot connect to IE thru any links on AOL. Can receive and send emails.”

A. Thanks for your question. I have not used AOL since 1995, though I have friends who still insist on using it. I have seen this problem before and it is related to the “AOL Adapter” that AOL uses to communicate with its services. It usually means that the AOL Adapter is not properly installed or has gotten corrupted. You may have tried to go into AOL System Information–>Utilities–>Uninstall AOL Adapter, but you get an error message:”The AOL Adapter is currently not installed.” Fortunately, there is a fix. Go to http://www.dslreports.com/faq/8437 and follow the detailed instructions there. That should take care of your problem.

Filed in: Uncategorized
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