Q: What is the cheapest way to make my Pentium 166 Y2K-compliant?
A: Go to www.unicore.com and download a utility called Millennium/Pro Check test. Then run it and it will take you through a quick test of your machine. There are no firm rules in this game, but I would guess that machines with Celeron or later microprocessor chips won't have a Y2K hardware problem. Our reader's Pentium 166 just might need a new BIOS, a chip that stores basic information about a computer's operations.
Don't be fooled by small applications called TSRs--terminate-and-stay-resident programs--to fix Y2K problems. You don't want to bet your data on a single file that could get damaged.
Once you are satisfied that your BIOS is up to snuff, go to www.microsoft.com and find the updates necessary for Windows--even Windows 98, it turns out, has some minor Y2K issues that benefit from an update. The next step is to take a look at the application programs that run under your operating system. In most cases, the software developer will have Y2K patches for you at its Web site.
Another thing to think about: Many computer users make life easy by creating mini-programs called macros within their application programs. If you have macros, you should test them for compliance.
If your computer is connected to a network, you have a whole set of issues that you must take up with your network administrator. But if the administrator is on the ball, work on that is already underway or finished.
Q: A friend of mine told me about a picture that was in my local newspaper. But I can't find it on the paper's online version. How come?
A: Web masters at newspapers have many concerns when they choose to put a photograph on a Web site. It may surprise you to know that many of them design their pages with the assumption that most viewers use old 28.8K bit-per-second modems. Photos are digital hogs; if there are too many of them, it will take the 28.8K folks all day to download a page.
There's also the fact that the print and online versions of a newspaper are often edited by different people. An editor for the digital paper may simply choose illustrations that an editor for the traditional newspaper does not. In fact, newspaper sites sometimes put up galleries that contain photos that the paper does not. It's generally done on separate pages so that the user can choose whether to invest the download time.
So you generally won't find an exact copy of a newspaper on your computer screen. With luck, you'll find something better!
Q: I live in St. Louis and use America Online. I am about to take a laptop to Florida for an extended stay. How do I transfer my AOL addresses to my notebook?
A: Before heading south, you must "brand" your laptop, transfer a specific data folder and buy some suntan lotion.
AOL has a folder (not a file) called "organize" that you must move. Let's say you have a normal-size file, around 1 megabyte. Using Windows Explorer, you can go to the AOL subdirectory, where you'll find the folder. You transfer its contents to a floppy.
Now unplug your desktop and plug in your laptop. Get your AOL 4.0 CD out and install the program on your laptop. When you sign on for the first time from the laptop, you will have "branded" the machine, meaning it's set up to take you into AOL under your own sign-on. Now take your floppy with the "organize" folder and transfer the data to the same subdirectory in your laptop that you got it from on your desktop. You're done.
Now, if you're a real Web-head and your "organize" folder is too big to fit on a single floppy, all you have to do is send it to yourself from the desktop as an e-mail attachment. Then plug in the laptop, sign on, and move the file to the sub-directory that you got it from.
John Gilroy of Item Inc. is heard on WAMU-FM radio's "The Computer Guys" at 1 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month. Send your questions to him in care of The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.