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Fast Forward's Rob Pegoraro
Tech Support Friday

Friday, December 3, 1999, at 1 p.m.

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.

Rob Pegoraro: Hey all - welcome back to our biweekly experiment in tech-support services. That is, you all send in your questions and conundrums, and we desperately scramble to sound like we know what we're talking about.

Bethesda, MD: The woman who sits in the cubicle next to me is constantly bringing in holiday goodies such as cupcakes, almonds, cashews, and other mixed nuts. My problem is that while eating her goodies yesterday I was unknowingly busting nuts and getting the remains inside of my zip drive. Although it is still functioning, I can see some of the remains inside. Is it possible that it will damage my drive? What should I do. HELP!

Rob Pegoraro: Our first question of the day is an appropriately holiday-themed query. While I have not personally tested a Zip drive in this manner (my keyboard here at work is definitely crumb-tolerant), those nuts may not a healthy diet for the drive if they come into contact with the drive heads. If, on the other hand, the food particles have just settled into the far corners of the drive housing, you could very well be OK. (Or not.)

What you should do: Shake it upside down, or take a vacuum to the front of the drive (computer stores sell specialized mini-vacuum things to scour out computers' insides, and see what you can get out of the machine. What you should not do: Dismantle the drive to clean out every last crumb.

Also: Try not to eat at your desk so often!

Culpeper, Va: Please provide the best method to send Analog Video over the internet to family and friends.

Rob Pegoraro: To cut to the chase: There is none! To send video, or any other kind of media, across the Internet, you *have* to digitize it in one way or another. The resulting ones and zeroes are the only kind of cargo the Internet can deliver.

The broader answer, though, is that unless you and the recipient have some super-fast Internet connections, even highly compressed digital video will take awfully long to download unless it's some short clip. I'd FedEx the videotape instead.

Alexandria, Virginia: I have a Mac Performa 550 -not power pc'd- with 32 MB of RAM and a small hard drive, 155 MB, that is nearly full and OS 7.5. I just purchased an Epson 740 color printer and it is extremely slow, even in the draft mode. Also, the printer will not allow me to to do a page set up -the computer locks up and I have to reset-. Is this a problem with a new printer and an old OS or what? Should I try to find an older HP printer that was made for OS 7.5 or should I try to upgrade?

Rob Pegoraro: What version of System 7.5 are you running, Alexandria? The releases before 7.5.3 had some really buggy serial-port software built-in. (If you happen to be running 7.5.2, please, for God's sake, upgrade immediately. That was the biggest piece of junk Apple ever shipped.)

A few other thoughts:

1) Have you cleaned out the hard drive? Every time you print something, the file will be spooled onto the drive, then spoon-fed to the printer. If the drive is severely fragmented, this process could slow down.

2) The amount of memory you have could also hold you back.

3) In color mode, and with your processor, I would expect that printer to run a bit slow anyway.

Bottom line: I'd consider upgrading to System 7.6. Shouldn't take up that much more hard-disk space, and it should improve your system's stability. Good luck!

Washington, DC: Is there a difference between Web Page, Web Site, or Home Page?

Rob Pegoraro: Yes, there is. (I was going to be a twit and click the "submit" button after that sentence, but... better not.)

A Web page is just that--any page on the Internet, such as the one y'all are looking at right now.

A Web site is the collecton of Web pages that make up one particular site, whether it's Washingtonpost.com (probably several thousand pages, for all I know) or a three-page site somebody put up on GeoCities to show pictures of their cats.

A home page is the front door to a site--the first page you should see when you arrive, such as the front page of washingtonpost.com.

Just to confuse things, if your site consists of only one page, then you can use all three terms interchangably.

MCLean VA: Finally, I got my 2 computers networked using a starter kit. I installed 2 PC Network boards using 10 Base T lines and a hub.

Can I connect the two computers directly without going through the hub.

Rob Pegoraro: Uh... maybe. (I am contractually required to use that word in any discussions of networking.) You could get what's called a crossover cable to connect the two computers directly... however, Ethernet hubs have gotten to be pretty cheap, from what I've seen lately. You might need the hub later on, for instance, to use a DSL connection (Covad's home ADSL can require this, for instance), and the hub also gives you the opportunity to plug, say, a printer directly into it.

Those in the audience who have actually twiddled with this stuff at home, please speak up now!

Takoma Park, MD:
I have a DSL question, on the advanced side of things. I am about ready to order a DSL line into my home, but it seems that the Bell Atlantic gives you only a dynamic IP address for their home and businesss DSL. Do you know anything about this? Ideally I wanted two IPs - one to share, using a DHCP server, for all the computers that people surf on in the house and another IP address for a personal -static- server.

I figured that anytime a person would get a dedicated data line into their house, a permanent IP was the default.

Any clues as to how someone can get affordable multiple IP addresses in their house over fast data lines?


Rob Pegoraro: And speaking of DSL... what our friend in Takoma Park is asking relates to Internet Protocol addresses, the numbers-only IDs of everything that's plugged in to the Net. Humans don't need to know this, because we have "domain name service" to map things like www.washingtonpost.com to the right IP address.

All of you logged in now have an IP address, but when you log off somebody else at your provider will get that address--this is what "dynamic addressing" is called. If you keep the same IP address after you log off, you have a static address. The main reason to have a static IP address at home is run some sort of server--Web, mail, file-transfer protocol--off one of your own computer. Otherwise, it's of no real utility.

In this case, I think our reader will need to shop elsewhere--not so much because BA only gives out IP addresses dynamically, but because, last I checked, BA.net doesn't let their customers run servers off a home DSL connection. I would investigate competing DSL providers such as Covad, and I would also check out our directory of Internet providers, available at the Fast Forward home page. .

Phew... next question, please!

Mc Lean, VA: My daughter's computer gets an error message from her Ultimate Creative Writing Center word processor, when she tries to print Graphics-prints text fine-. Basically, a message appears that there is an execution error in the KERNEL32.DLL. She has a DAEWOO computer with Windows 98. I have tried it on other Window 98 computers and I don't get this message. How can I fix the problem. The computer was bought in Italy.

Rob Pegoraro: Aw, crud. This sounds like a mess. Kernel32.dll is a dynamic link library (see our feature on how Windows slows down today) that's part of the core install of Windows. My guess would be that something has gotten scrambled on your PC--as you note, this program works fine on other computers.

So now that Win 98 has become evil for you, what do you do? I would try uninstalling, then reinstalling this word processor. I would *not* try poking among the system DLLs--that's the computing equivalent of using your big toe as a land-mine detector. If nothing else works, reinstalling Win 98 (which will also mean reinstalling every other application) ought to fix the problem. Can't say that it will be fun.

Any clicksters encounter problems of this nature?

Bethesda, MD: Family in England has finally gotten on-line. We're all planning to buy some of the display-top video cameras to try some basic videoconferencing over the net. Any tips in setting this up? Is it important that they are on PCs and we've got a Mac?

Rob Pegoraro: One of two internationally-themed questions (the next is coming up)...

The most basic thing to check is the available bandwidth at each connection. Two-way videoconferencing eats bandwidth like few other things; with a 56-kbps modem, you'll be looking at some fairly choppy postage-stamp sized video. But, I admit, it sounds like a fun thing to try.

The PC/Mac angle should not be a problem if you use the right software--there are standards out there to allow this kind of cross-platform communication. But you both will need to make sure you're using the appropriate settings, and it might simplify things a lot if y'all use the same software--CUSeeMe, for instance, the granddaddy of video conferencing apps, comes in Mac and Windows versions.

Good luck!

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: Rob,
I like to check once in a while to see how much hard disk space I have left. Ever since I got a new HP pavilion 8580C, when I go to "my computer" and look at the hard disk, it has shown no change in empty disk space. I know this is impossible, because I've downloaded a lot of programs. Why is it stuck at nearly empty? Thank you. Susan Akyurt

Rob Pegoraro: And here's that other international question...

Well, I took a moment to search Microsoft's "Knowledge Base" and it, oddly enough, had nothing to say on incorrect reports of hard drive size in Win 98.

Let me ask you this, Jeddah: Are you selecting the C: drive in My Computer and see what number shows up at the bottom frame of the window, or right-clicking the C: drive and selecting "Properties" from that pop-up menu? The latter should always give you the right number.

Gaithersburg, MD: Rob, what should I do to make sure all the unnecessary files -old dll's, tmp, etc.- are cleaned out. I read in the Post this am that these can really slow down processing time. The article suggested 2 software programs, I'll get one, but what about defrag and other windows cleanup utilities. How frequently should I run them? Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: Defragging the drive is a different matter--that's about moving around existing files, *without* deleting any, so that the drive's space is arranged as efficiently and as orderly as possible. Purging old DLLs is a lot trickier, but also more likely to yield concrete benefits.

Rockville, MD: I was trying to download Internet Explorer 4.01 SP 2 from Microsoft's web site. Shortly after initial setup I got the error message
"IE4WZD.EXE caused fault #c0000005 in -unknown- at address.... Access Violation".
I searched TechNet for this message and came up empty-handed. Any ideas what happened?

Rob Pegoraro: What a wonderfully informative error message you got there. IE4WZD.EXE sounds like the Internet Exploder, I mean, Explorer setup wizard. (When is Microsoft ever going to stop using these stupid 8.3 DOS file names, anyway? I thought we were supposed to be past that by now. But I digress...)

Did you try running the installer again? Did you disable virus-checking software before running the installer? IE 4's installer doesn't get along at all with antivirus utilities; I've lost an entire hard drive that way.

Herndon, VA: My computer whiz 11th grader wants us to build a new computer system - ordering separate components at the best prices available, and him assembling. He's smart as hell, knows far, far more about computers than I, BUT is this a good idea?? Thanks

Rob Pegoraro: I would say yes. Building your own computer can be done, and you can save some real bucks that way (the Capital PC User Group has classes on this subject, in fact: www.cpcug.org). Does he have a guru he can turn to if he gets stuck anywhere? If so, tell him to go for it. Someday, he may become an Internet zillionaire and remember you fondly for this :)

Rockville, MD: Rob, I have a Pentium pc which runs fine except lately on shutdown, it hangs up, displaying a very odd screen which has thousands of white dots on a black field, with a blinkning cursor. No key works at this point, so I have to manually shutdown. When powered back up, the pc seemingly shows no signs of problems. I'm stumped. Help!

Rob Pegoraro: Groan. Now that's just weird. I suppose you could never shut it down.

First: Yanking the power cable out of a computer usually causes bad things to happen, like disk errors. ScanDisk isn't going to catch all of them.

My (wild-ass) guess: Do you have any oddball utilities running in background mode, and possibly not quitting properly when you shut down? Look in the "tray"--the row of icons at bottom right, next to the system clock, and click or right-click on each to see if they can be turned off. Try shutting down with all of them disabled and see if that helps. Then you'll have to try each one until you find the one that's locking something up.

My caveat: The problem could be something else entirely--maybe a problem with the power supply, for instance. Your only effective trouble-shooting solution in cases like this is the scientific method: Change one variable at a time until you get a different result. In short, this is why I spend so much time cursing at computers!

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: Rob,
I was just looking at the numbers at the bottom left corner, but now I right clicked on C Drive, then clicked on properties, and it showed the same thing as always....1.25Gb used. Thank you. Susan Akyurt

Rob Pegoraro: Now that's just weird. I would try some of the included utilities in Win 98 (Start Menu/Programs/Accessories/System Tools, I think) and see what they report. If they're still giving that figure, you might want to contact H-P tech support (which I really, really hope is available online for your sake).

Arlington, VA: Rob-
My grandparents just got WebTV, only they have no idea what to do or where to go online. Any suggestions for great sites for seniors, or good books for them to get started? Is it best to just send them to one site at a time -Yahoo- or go with a shotgun approach and give them a long list of sites to choose from? Thanks!

Rob Pegoraro: That's a really good question, Arlington. I'd start with what interests them offline--cooking, art, music, whathaveyou. Find a few sites in those categories and point them in that direction.

I wouldn't send them to a general-purpose site like Yahoo; the immensity of the portal sites seems likely to intimidate a first-timer.

Columbia, md: What about using Microsoft's REGCLEAN to clean out your registry? Benefits- shortcomings compared to Fix-it or Norton's?

Rob Pegoraro: We looked at the Fix-It and Norton products because they're more consumer-friendly; also, they come as part of bundles that include other tools that consumers are likely to need sooner or later.

RegClean is a utility (disclaimer: haven't used it myself) that Microsoft released a while back for developers to use to debug their systems. See http://support.microsoft.com/support/kb/articles/Q147/7/69.asp for info on this.

And that, dear readers, is all the time we have for today. Thanks for stopping by; if I missed a question, please e-mail me at rob@twp.com and I'll see what I can do. Enjoy your shopping, and I'll be back here in a couple of weeks.


- Rob

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