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Managing Desktop Shortcuts

Sunday, January 2, 2005; Page F09

Every time I link to my banks for account info, Microsoft Money puts shortcuts to ING Direct and BankOne on my desktop -- even though I'm already an ING Direct customer. Can this be stopped?

Go to Money's Tools menu and select Settings. Click the "Program Settings" link, then click the checkbox labeled "Turn off sponsorship and shopping links." Money should now refrain from dumping these items on your desktop.

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The failure here is not in the way Microsoft hid this option relatively deeply in Money's interface -- it's that users need to find it at all! A program (least of all one people pay to use) should never treat a user's desktop like a billboard without at least asking permission first.

Microsoft's competitors at RealNetworks learned this lesson when they tried to turn the RealPlayer program into a marketing vehicle for other services sold by the company and its partners. Some users who found their desktops so thoroughly vandalized by RealPlayer uninstalled the program and vowed to avoid any other releases from Real; others just quietly seethed. The company has since brought its program to heel, but many other firms appear willing to repeat its mistake.

Why doesn't my modem ever run at the advertised speed of 56k? I'm always cleaning and defragmenting my hard drive, but I can't get my modem to run faster than 48k.

No "56k" modem will run at a full 56 kilobits per second (kbps); federal regulations on power usage by telephone hardware limit them to a maximum speed of about 53 kbps. Other conditions -- noise on the phone line, the circuitry in the nearest switching station, the wiring in your house -- can slow downloads further.

Tinkering with your computer's hard drive won't affect this at all. A software upgrade from your modem's manufacturer might allow a small boost in speed, but the odds are against that. Realistically, if you can get 48 kbps, you're already doing as well as anybody might reasonably expect.

-- Rob Pegoraro

Rob Pegoraro untangles computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or rob@twp.com.

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