I used to be able to open my Outlook Express mailbox by selecting Read Mail from Internet Explorer's Tools menu. Now IE provides access only to Outlook, not Outlook Express. How can I undo this?
Go to IE's Tools menu, select Internet Options and click on the Programs tab to switch your e-mail program from Outlook back to Outlook Express. If that doesn't work, go to Plan B: From the Start menu, select All Programs and choose Set Program Access and Defaults. Click the Custom button, then look under the "Choose a default e-mail program" heading.
Why two different ways to control the same thing? Microsoft added the second as part of its deal to settle the government's antitrust lawsuit. The Set Program Access and Defaults option can make it easier to designate your favorite programs, but it also largely duplicates what's offered in the Internet Options window.
(Apple is not much better: Its last update to Mac OS X removed a simple "pick Web and e-mail applications" control panel; these settings can now be changed only through the separate preferences windows of Apple's own browser and mail programs.)
Most of the WiFi access points I see are not encrypted. How safe is it to check credit card and bank information online without that protection?
Your bank and credit card issuer's sites should themselves be encrypted (look for a lock icon in your browser window), so your visits will be safe, even on a wide-open access point. This encryption scrambles data sent between you and the site, ensuring that an eavesdropper (whether around the corner or across the Internet) would get only gibberish.
Your bigger risk while banking via WiFi is of a much more humdrum sort: Make sure nobody's looking over your shoulder as you log in.
-- Rob Pegoraro
Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or email@example.com.