Q: How is Novell's DigitalMe going to affect my holiday online shopping?

A: Not much this year, but DigitalMe and similar Internet tools may have a big impact in the future.

Many users are reluctant to trust Web sites with personal information, fearing they may be bombarded with unwanted e-mail called spam, or that credit-card numbers could be misused or fall into someone else's hands.

Novell's DigitalMe is a central repository of real or fictitious identities, a variation on its Novell Directory Services. If you need to enter personal information at a Web site and you're uncomfortable with the site's security policy, you can have Novell provide whatever information you wish on a protected basis. Novell claims it will store the information securely and will not sell it to others.

DigitalMe is not the only game in our virtual town. Lucent Technologies has a product called ProxyMate, and soon we will see a product called Freedom from Zero-Knowledge Systems. They operate on similar models.

Q: After putting in a new network card, I keep getting a message saying that the "DHCP" is not configured in my machine. What gives?

A: Let's take a trip to the car lot to understand this somewhat imposing abbreviation.

When you take a test ride in a new Taurus, the salesperson grabs a temporary license plate and attaches it to the back of the car. It would be foolish for the dealership to buy 1,000 new license plates; it temporarily assigns a license to the potential buyer. If computer geeks ran automobile dealerships, they would call that "dynamically" assigning licenses.

Large organizations often want to do the same thing with Internet addresses. Perhaps they have 500 addresses and 600 people. A set of rules, or a protocol, was developed to allow large organizations to host addresses in a loose manner--the dynamic host configuration protocol, or DHCP.

Windows 98 Second Edition has a terrific option called Internet Connect Sharing. If you have two machines at home, both can share the same dial-up connection. How? Through a simplified version of DHCP. Our reader has placed a network card in a machine that someone previously set up to work with this flexible protocol.

Q: One of my desktop icons doesn't look right. What can I do about it?

A: Back in the days of Windows 3.1, you could just re-install the whole shebang on top of itself and you could correct little icon problems.

When Windows 95 was released, the folks who wrote the code wrote a small utility called Tweak UI that included a rebuild for the icons. Oddly, Microsoft treats Tweak UI like a weird uncle--sometimes it admits it is there, other times it ignores it.

Microsoft did not like it enough to include it with any of the three versions of Windows 95, but did make it available on the Web as an unsupported utility. When the first edition of Windows 98 was released, this little group of utilities was buried in the CD and you could dig it up and use it.

But Microsoft did not include this little package at all in Windows 98 Second Edition.

But no problem. David Karp has put the code on his Web site and has made it available for us. Point your browser to www.annoyances.org/win98/features/tweakui.html.

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. 20071-5302 or via e-mail at jgilroy@iteminc.com.