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Fast Forward's Rob Pegoraro
Tech Support Friday

Friday, April 7, 2000, at 1 p.m. EST

Is your computer making your life difficult? Again? Do you not feel like waiting on hold to talk to the manufacturer's tech support? Take your question to the Fast Forward staff instead! It's a repeat engagement of "Tech Support Friday," in which Rob Pegoraro takes your queries, scrambles madly to get answers to them from the collective Fast Forward brain trust and replies within mere minutes. Bring your questions to Friday's discussion.

You can continue the discussion among yourselves on the new Fast Forward message board.

Rob Pegoraro: Greetings and salutations... we've got questions on everything from Mac disk defragmenting to picture file formats. And a few on Web browsers too.

As usual, though, any question is welcome, no matter how "simple" or complicated (well, if I get a query that's particularly obscure, I might have to punt with some lame joke. If the guys on Car Talk can get away with that, why can't I?)

But I digress. On with the show!

Rosslyn, VA: I don't fully understand the differences between bitmap and JPEG. When saving a photograph from the Internet, I am often given the option of saving the photo in these two file types. I notice that a photo saved in bitmap fills up a 1.44 diskette, while saving in JPEG allows many images to be put
on one diskette. I have the software to read both images. Which format should I use and why?

Rob Pegoraro: JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) is a compressed format, where the computer throws out redundant data. So, for instance, if you've got a shot of the Washington Monument surrounded by blue sky, it could simply say "draw this chunk of the sky in this shade of blue" instead of individually designating every pixel (picture element) as X shade of blue. Bitmap files are completely uncompressed--every single pixel is individually described, or mapped, in the file. Hence, bitmap.

So you might as well stick to JPEG. The other reason to avoid bitmap files: This format is Windows-specific, so you may have file-translation problems opening a bitmap file on another computer.

laurel: A friend of mine has a Macintosh that needs hard drive maintenance. I'm not familiar with the Mac, so I'm not sure how a Mac's hard drive can be cleaned up as I do with my PC using Scan Disk. Could you tell me how these functions are done for the Mac?

Rob Pegoraro: Two ways: For basic disk repair--to clean up simple file corruptions--use the built-in Disk First Aid utility. If things are in bad shape, or you want to defragment the drive, you'll need to buy a third-party program, such as Symantec's Norton Utilities for the Macintosh or Alsoft's DiskWarrior.

Chevy Chase: I post pictures on the Web that are 640 X 480 pixels in size, but the images are so small that they are really difficult for people to see. Would you know of any program or equipment that would change the resolution from 640 X 480 to some higher resolution?

Rob Pegoraro: I'm a little puzzled by your question, Chevy Chase; 640 x 480 pixels will max out a 14-inch monitor and fill up more than half of a 17-incher (depending on monitor settings).

But anyway, you really can't do that without losing some resolution, making the image look grainier. It's like painting something on a balloon, then putting more air in the balloon--suddenly, the image looks crummy.

Arlington Virgina: My C:-WINDOWS-SYSTEM folder has 845 files and takes up more than 82 megabytes. I think this directory is growing. What can I safely delete?

Rob Pegoraro: Not much, Arlington. I would bet that most of these files are DLLs (dynamically linked libraries) installed by other programs. DLLs are a mix of barnacle and land mine; they are often not removed after you uninstall a program, but trying to remove them by hand can have bad results--thanks both to their inscrutable file names and the unknowable way they can interact with other programs and Windows itself. ("Licking the third rail" is another image that comes to mind here.)

The one thing you can (usually) safely do is clean out temporary system files, for which there's a shortcut in Win 98, I believe under Accessories off the Start Menu.

Springfield, VA: Netscape email provides either a text format or HTML. Does AOL, Lotus Notes, Hotmail, and other ISPs and software use HTML or do they simply recognize text? Tks.

Rob Pegoraro: You're best off with text unless you've already successfully exchanged HTML e-mail with the correspondent. In many cases, that won't be possible--IIRC, AOL doesn't use HTML in its e-mail, while Notes (at least in version 4.6) stupidly separates the HTML-coded text into an "ATT.HTM" attached file. Hotmail and most other Web-mail services should read the HTML without a problem (since they're already browser-based) and Eudora and Outlook also speak HTML more-or-less fluently. But older versions of each can react unpredictably, as do Unix programs like pine and elm.

More concisely: Stick with text.

Wash, DC: How many times per day do you reboot your Win2000 machine? and, the same question for your Win98 machine?

Rob Pegoraro: I'm done testing Win 2000; at work I use a Windows NT box. I haven't rebooted that in weeks, but individual programs--well, actually, Internet Explorer and Word--crash on their own fairly often, albeit without hosing the rest of the system.

At home, I use a strangely upgraded Mac clone, which crashes maybe every other day, sometimes going as long as a week between crashes. This performance is considered "good" for some reason...

Tina in Falls Church: I intsalled Netscape Communicator 4.5 with the help of my ISP- Erols-a few months ago. I am annoyed by the advertisement and web links for Netscape that automatically are displayed when I open the e mail feature. I called Erols but they claimed no knowledge of this! I would like to get it off, delete it or bypass it -do you or the Brain Trust have any ideas? Thanks alot

Rob Pegoraro: Hello again!

Just fired up the copy of Netscape on this machine; do you mean the ad that appears in the message-preview pane, at the bottom right of the window? I can't find a way to turn it off either, although I can minimize that pane to nothing (at the cost of losing the ability to preview messages).

However, I don't use Netscape, so I'm prolly missing something here. I'll throw this one out to the folks in the "room"--anyone with experience of this problem?

washington DC: In Microsoft Word, when I choose open from the File menu, Word defaults to a folder called My Documents. I also have subfolders within My Documents. After I open a file from one of my subfolders and I want to open another file from the same subfolder, Microsoft Word always opens back into My Documents by default. Is there a way to make Microsoft Word look in the folder I last opened when I execute the Open command?

Rob Pegoraro: I don't think that's possible, D.C. Word will allow you to set the default location to save your files (stupidly enough, this is set not under the "Save" tab in the Options dialog box, but under "File Locations"), but it doesn't offer a "last folder used" preference. This is probably fixable with a third-party utility, but I confess I haven't looked at that. (Hmm... a possible story idea...)

DC: In my temp folder, I have a lot of cookies. I deleted them, but I don't know if this is harmful. Are cookies necessary, or do they just take up a lot of room? How do I program the PC not to accept cookies? Thanxs

Rob Pegoraro: My answers are: kinda, sorta; no; depends on the browser. Many cookies only store site preferences and basic logins--for instance, the NY Times site stores your user ID and password in a cookie. Washingtonpost.com uses a cookie to store your portfolio data.

Problem is, a lot of cookies are sent and stored by ad networks to track viewership patterns. A while back, one such network, DoubleClick, said it was going to start linking these previously anonymous records with the names and addresses involved, earning the company a lasting place in the Big Brother Hall of Shame before it backed down from this plan.

You can shut off cookies from within your browser, but viewing the Web this way is *enormously* annoying. I really don't recommend doing that unless you're willing to click through about six million "this site requires cookies" dialog boxes a day.

Bethesda, Md: I am in the process of buying a new computer -with Windows 2000- and giving my old one to my parents -Windows 95- who are getting rid of their really old one -Windows 3.11-. I want to get data from the Win3.11 machine to the Win95 machine. I bought an LPT cable male - male- that will hook into the backs of all of them in the printer port to transfer data but am not sure how to make the data available in Windows 3.1. I have tried Disk, Share As..-Suggested by help- in File Manager, but this option does not exist! I am pretty sure I can use Direct Cable Connection to get data from my Win95 to Win98 using the cable. However, is there any way to get data shared on Windows 3.11 so I can move personal files off the Win3.11 onto the Win95?

Rob Pegoraro: Quoth FFWD's tech guru Daniel Greenberg:

"This process is actually far more complicated than it ought to be. Win 3.1 does not cooperates with file-sharing protocols of later editions.

If there is not a lot of data, I recommend the reliable sneaker-net- put the files on a few floppies.

If you have AOL, or an actual Internet service on the 3.1 system, you can upload the data to your other machine. That's what I did when I had the same problem.

If all else fails, look into file-exchange software, like Laplink, which also provides proper cabling. The price has recently come way down, and I think there is a free crippleware version on their Website. There is also a shareware file translator. If none of these help, I'll look up the name for you."

(That site is www.laplink.com. Good luck...)

Washington, DC: I'm sick of my Dell, which has broken down all to hell, and thinking of using it as a boat anchor now.
I suppose that isn't a "question", technically.

Rob Pegoraro: Well, we usually don't address marine recreation issues in this discussion. But I'm willing to try!

Seems to me that the key issues in properly utilizing the computer as a boat anchor are 1) figuring out how to securely attach the anchor chain, and 2) making sure the computer has the necessary weight to hold the boat. (Which begs the question, what size boat are we discussing here?)

If the machine is a laptop, you're probably out of luck, but those huge tower-sized desktops might work, especially if you've installed an extra hard drive or two.

Alexandria, VA: Question about modems. I've had great difficulty over the last week using dial-up networking to connect with my ISP or to access email from a different provider.

At various times, the computer has been unable to detect the internal modem or I would be disconnected while the computer was "verifying username and password" or I would get an error message saying the computer could not make a connection using specified protocols. It has been hit or miss as to which message will pop up, and I have made no changes to modem configuration, etc.

I have had better luck in making connections by trying a variety of access numbers, but this has not been fail safe.

Any thoughts on trouble shooting?

Rob Pegoraro: Trial and error is the right way to go about this, although it lacks the immediate emotional satisfaction of, say, plunging the offending hardware into the Potomac at the end of an anchor chain (see previous question).

From your description, it sounds like the problem is isolated to the modem itself. Three things could be at fault, then: the modem hardware itself, the firmware (its own built-in basic software code) or the modem driver. For the first two, try looking for updates to both at the manufacturer's site (um, if you can stay online that long). For the third, you'd probably have to get a new modem, which would involve some time spent on hold, as well as "proving" to tech support that you'd tried everything else first. Good luck...

Alexadria va: I am a Mac user of a dozen years and my current computer is a Macintosh Performa 6400. My current computer came with a lot of preloaded stuff but is used primarily as a word processor for records and now the Internet. I signed on in December after upgrading the Mac from OS 7.5 to 7.6.1. The first message told me that Netscape Navigator 2.0 was out of date and I should immediately
download Netscape Communicator 4.7. I obediently did that. Then came the task of making the latter my default Web browser, and that is when my problem began. I have not been able to find Communicator despite the fact that its icon appears on my screen each time I turn on the computer. Netscape 2.0 is performing adequately, but I'd like to know if 4.7 is better. If so, I would prefer using it.

Rob Pegoraro: Netscape 2.0 for the Mac is bad news, IMHO. I remember this as possibly the least stable non-beta release Netscape ever shipped (and this is on a baseline going back to version 0.9 beta, circa October 1994, when it was still called Mosaic Netscape).

Have you tried doing a find file for the Netscape 4.7 file? If you downloaded it and installed it, it's gotta be somewhere on the machine. Its folder ought to be in the first level or two of your hard drive as well. Assuming it's there, yes, it is better than Netscape 2--but, personally, I think even 4.7 is now vastly inferior to Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.5 or 5.0. (collecting payola check from Bill Gates now... :)

Blacksburg, VA: My computer keeps telling me that I have run out of memory when I try to print in WordPerfect 8. When I delete some files in WordPerfect 8 and empty the recycle bin I'm able to print OK. I am tempted to get rid of WordPerfect 8 and use the word processor in Microsoft Works. It would release a lot of space on the hard drive. Is the alternative to get another computer ? Would it help to remove programs that are not really needed? I have several. When one saves a file in a word processor is a certain sector reserved for that file and if so would it save space by combining some files? If I were to use the Microsoft Works word processor would attachments be received in it rather than in WordPerfect 8? Why are attachments sometimes received in Works instead of in WordPerfect 8?

Rob Pegoraro: Unless you're actually at the physical limits of storage space on your hard drive, the number or size of the files stored on it shouldn't be a factor (but then again, maybe it is! Anything's possible in Windows). Does this happen even when you have no other programs open? Do you have a lot of stuff running in the background?

Finally--and this might be a solution--are there any bug-fix upgrades to WordPerfect or your printer driver? Either piece of software could have a bug in it that could cause this problem.

Springfield,VA: For Bethesda, another way to tranfer data files from a WIN3.11 machine to a WIN95 machine is to attach the data files to an email to yourself from the 3.11 machine and receive the mail on the 95 machine and detach. Good luck.

Rob Pegoraro: Advice for our file-transferring friend. One thing to watch out for: If the attachment is too big, the e-mail might get rejected by the Internet provider in question. (If this is a really large file, you'd be better off using one of the file-storage Web sites to do the transfer--idrive.com, xdrive.com, etc.)

Tina- follow up: You found it too! It is most annoying,however there are worse things going on in the world. When I ran Navigator there was no such ad that ran.Also annoying is that it sometimes takes a long time to load since it is filled with so many promos etc.

Rob Pegoraro: More on Netscape advertising. It is true that, say, ethnic violence in Rwanda is a bigger problem. But I don't think that lets the NSCP (oops, no such stock symbol anymore!) folks off the hook. There might be a hack for that, but not one that I've heard of.

(See the next message for more on this subject)

Springfield,VA: Re: Tina. I think Tina is referring to the Netscape advertising that appears when you click on the email icon. While Netscape is getting your email off your ISP server, it always displays the Netscape ad; and no, I do not know how to turn it off. Good question.

Rob Pegoraro: OK, so it is, in fact, a "feature." Dismaying-yet-true anecdote about the Netscape 6 preview release: It involves a two-stage download process, in which you first download an installation-manager program and then pull down the components you want--but while the download ensues, there's an ad in the little progress window!

I found this particularly amusing on a Mac, where I had no way of using the NetZip program being flacked in that ad.

I don't recall any of this nonsense being included in Netscape's programs before AOL bought the company. Coincidence? I think not.

Washington, DC: My Internet service provider is Infinet 4.11 using Netscape Communicator as the browser. My question deals with e-mail. When I delete an e-mail item it is placed in trash; from trash I delete it and to remove it farther I go to file and click "empty trash folder." A window comes up saying "compressing folder Inbox." Has my message now been completely removed from the computer? If not, how do I completely remove e-mail messages?

Rob Pegoraro: First, a request for help, then I'll get to this question:

Has anybody here been spammed on their AT&T cell phone lately? I've just now gotten my third report now of people getting sent a text message from "plugout.com" right to the screen of their phone. We'd like to hear from anybody else who's gotten this spam. (mail to rob@twp.com works, or call me at 202/334-6394)

Now: Your e-mail should be gone. Netscape, like most e-mail clients, deletes mail in a two-step process; the first step marks the e-mail as being ready to be deleted, while emptying the trash actually sends the "delete this" command to the server. The "compressing folder inbox" message is something local to your copy of Netscape--it does this to save disk space on your computer. Eudora works the same way.

wdc: If I upgrade to Win 98, is it best to pay the extra money to upgrade from DOS, or does it really matter and should I go ahead and pay less for the 95 to 98 upgrade?

Rob Pegoraro: Going from DOS straight to Win 98? That could be ugly, WDC. As you note, you'll have to buy the full version of Windows 98 Second Edition, $209 at shop.microsoft.com (I've heard from one of my colleagues in the tech-journalism biz that it's very hard to find the full, Win 95-not-required version in stores).

But if you already have Win 95, you can buy the 95-to-98 upgrade for $100 or so. Actually, I'm a little confused by your question: Do you have Win 95 now, or are you just at DOS and wondering if you should upgrade to 95, then 98? If so, I'd say go with the full 98 version. *Two* Windows upgrades in one day is more than mere mortals should have to suffer without being paid for the privilege.

washington, dc: What is a service profile? When I open either Netscape or Internet Explorer, a pop-up window titled "Connection Manager" says, "The service profile is damaged. Reinstall the service profile." I have searched in the help for Netscape, Internet Explorer and dial-up networking but can find no help. So, I have to manually use the "My Connection" icon to dial up. How can this be solved?

Rob Pegoraro: Um, I can't find it my IE help file either :) (I tried looking for it in the Win NT help file, but it just told me that it is "unable to display the Find tab." Snort.) This sounds like it should be referring to your dial-up networking connection--but if that were damaged or corrupted, you wouldn't be able to connect by clicking on its icon either.

There's gotta be something I'm missing here, I know--but what is it? Anybody more fluent with this able to help?

Arliington, VA: Netscape Navigator 2.0 for Macs is bad news? It's news to me. I used it for over 3 years on my old 68030 Mac with only the occasional glitch. Finally moved up when I got a Power Mac. 3.0 was the real monster - a sluggish, memory-hugging beast.

Rob Pegoraro: You've had better luck than me. 2.0 was crash city on both my old PowerBook and the Power Macs at work. 3.0 was a little better, but it wasn't until 4.5 or so that they really squashed most of the crash-causing bugs. (In that time, Netscape also hired a few really good Mac developers--e.g., Steve Dagley, the author of the FreePPP Internet dialer--which must've helped).

Tina follow up 2: Thanks for the info Springfield, glad someone can accuratly describe the ad.There may be more than a kernal of truth in the AOL-NETSCAPE observation! Those devils.

Rob Pegoraro: More fan mail for AOLscape...

Manning the pallisades: I have a cd burner in my computer, but have some analog source material I'd like to transfer. I know that they sell audio only burbers that can do this fairly simply. Is ther a simple solution for hooking say your stero into your computer to transfer stuff onto disc? What hard ware and software would be required?

Rob Pegoraro: Howdy, Palisades (and I do believe I know who this is...)

You'd probably need some software to process and clean up the analog signal a bit. Also depends on what kind of audio input your computer has. See http://resource.simplenet.com/primer/analogu2.htm for possibly excessive detail on the subject.

wdc: re: 98 upgrade. I had heard that the 98 install would be "cleaner" if it were to be done from DOS instead of 95.

Rob Pegoraro: That sounds about right to me--95 installs some stuff that isn't used under 98. Likewise, a clean install of Windows 2000 gives you a much cleaner desktop and hard drive than an upgrade from NT or 98. However, the other thing that will be cleaner after buying the full version of 98 will be your bank account :)

Rockvile: I have a syquest paralell port disk, I have a dual boot machine with 98lite and corel linux how do I get my linux os to see it. PS I can already see my windoze files. But I can't access the syquest drive? Any ideas?

Rob Pegoraro: Your query is pretty well beyond my competency here. I did check the Syquest Web site (after getting through the FAQ about "We're out of business. Now what?") and couldn't find *any* drivers to download for Linux. That doesn't mean somebody else hasn't written them, but you'd have to check the newsgroups, Web sites, etc. There is a distinct possibility that you're hosed, given that Syquest augured in some time ago.

The 5th Floor: I just spilled ginger ale on my Mac G4 keyboard. Is there any way of fixing it, or should I go ask nicely for a new keyboard?

Rob Pegoraro: No, ask for a new computer instead. You never know if that ginger ale hasn't percolated up into the motherboard off the USB connection. I'll take that old G4 off your hands, OK?

(The keyboard is probably cleanable, but you might have to pop the keys off or do some other really tedious cleaning, none of which I've tried myself.)

Rob Pegoraro: And that's about all the time we have for today, folks! As ever, thanks for stopping by with your browser/computer/hardware/networking/boat-equipment questions. Hope I was of some help; I had fun. Let's talk again soon...

- Rob

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