Saturday, July 26, 2008

Dell’s solid midsize laptop

As middle-of-the-road as a laptop gets, Dell's Inspiron 1525 is an excellent go-to choice for basic computing, especially if you take the time to configure a system to your needs via Dell's online configurator.
This $649 fixed-configuration version, called the Inspiron 1525-121B, has a low-end 1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T2390 CPU, and is cheaper than the $729 T5750 version we reviewed, but it also knocks the RAM down to 2GB from 3GB, and the hard drive down to 160GB from 250GB.
The system trades some performance for the price cut, and may strain under a heavy collegiate workload of writing papers and encoding MP3s, but its battery life is actually better--on par with the 14-inch Dell Inspiron 1420.
When you add the 1525's touch-sensitive media control buttons and an HDMI output, you get a not wholly unreasonable package at the lower end of the price scale.
If your planned course of study will not include running demanding graphics or scientific applications, the In
f your planned course of study will not include running demanding graphics or scientific applications, the Inspiron 1525-121B should get you from initiation to graduation. If you can spend a bit more, the Gateway P-6836 offers better performance for only $150 more.
Dell has managed to shave a little bulk off its previous 15-inch Inspiron model, and this version is even thinner than 14-inch Inspiron 1420, although its bigger footprint is not as well suited for lugging around campus all day.
The keyboard is the same full-size model found on Dell's other Inspiron laptops, and it feels solid and responsive. Above the keyboard sits a row of media control buttons, which you won't find on the Sony VAIO NR430, a brand more commonly associated with multimedia endeavors than a jack-of-all-trades Inspiron.
The media controls are of the touch-sensitive variety we're partial to, and the Inspiron 1525 has helped make these the industry default, even for budget-minded laptops. This version lacks the 2.0-megapixel Webcam found on the $729 configuration of the 1525.
The 15.4-inch wide-screen LCD offers a 1280x800-pixel native resolution, which is standard for budget-minded mainstream systems, but on a screen this big, text and icons can look a bit big and unwieldy -- we generally prefer 1,440x900-pixel resolutions on screens of this size -- that's an option on the configurable version available on the Dell Web site.
There are plenty of USB jacks for all your accessories and even FireWire, which we're seeing less frequently, but no Bluetooth. Adding an HDMI jack is a nice high-end touch, even if you never use it.
Unlike the Inspiron 1525-122B, this 1525 uses a 1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T2390, which sits at the low end of Intel's' current CPU lineup. The system is no speed demon, we ran into occasional sluggishness while multitasking -- Web surfing, working on office documents, and playing media files -- but it's still adequate for basic academic work.
The system finished first or second on CNET Labs' benchmarks among the five entry-level back-to-school laptops we tested this summer. For an extra $80, however, you can trade up to a faster T5750 CPU, 3GB of RAM and a 250GB hard drive (plus a Webcam) -- which seems like a reasonable set of upgrades for the price, although we saw minimal benefit in this price range from adding that third GB of RAM on our tests.
The Inspiron 1525 ran for 3 hours and 10 minutes on our video playback battery drain test using the included six-cell battery, which is a nice improvement over the more expensive 1525, which lasted only 2 hours and 15 minutes on the same test -- perhaps because of its more powerful CPU. There's a pretty obvious trade-off to consider: slower performance and longer battery life versus faster performance and shorter battery life.
Dell includes an industry-standard, one-year parts-and-labor warranty with the system, and the Dell Web site has a robust collection of support tools, including online chat, a Flash-based question widget, and 24-7 toll-free telephone support.

Build an XP SP3 Recovery Disc yourself

Steps 1-2

Step 1: Take Stock

To prepare a recovery CD, you'll need only three things: a Windows XP install CD (any edition), a valid Windows product key, and about 1.5 gigabytes of free space on your hard drive. Of course, as with many recipes, procuring the ingredients is often the hardest part.

The install CD can be any version, including Service Pack 2, Service Pack 1, or the original release from 2001. If you already have a disc labeled "Windows XP with Service Pack 3" (as opposed to merely an SP3 update disc), then you don't need this procedure.

The CD can be difficult to come by if you bought your PC with Windows preinstalled, mostly because so many manufacturers omit Microsoft's installer CD these days in favor of some sort of customized "express install" recovery disc. (This is done for a variety of reasons, including to simplify customer support and also, in the penny-pinching tradition, to reduce Microsoft licensing fees.) Some PC manufacturers are service-conscious enough to send a true XP CD to any customer who asks for one, but if you're not so lucky, you can get a genuine disc on eBay for as little as $10.

The 25-digit key, of course, you should already have handy if you own a legal license to the software. If XP came with your PC, it's printed on a sticker somewhere on the PC case; if you bought XP, it's on a sticker on the CD sleeve. (You may also have been compulsive enough to save the hologram-laden Certificate of Authenticity, which should have the key as well.) If you can't find it, contact your PC's manufacturer or, barring that, Microsoft for a proper key. You might also try the simply awesome (and awesomely named), open-source Magical Jelly Bean Key Finder, a tiny little utility whose sole purpose is to find the registration keys hidden away in your Registry.

Step 2: Slipstream Service Pack 3
To create a slipstreamed XP SP3 CD, first create a new folder called XP in the root folder of your hard drive. Insert your original XP CD, start Windows Explorer, and then navigate to your CD drive. Highlight everything in the root folder of the CD, and copy all of it to the C:\XP folder you just created.

Next, create a second new folder alongside C:\XP, and name it SP3. Go to, type sp3 network install into the search box, and click the link for Windows XP Service Pack 3 Network Installation Package for IT Professionals and Developers in the search results. Download the 324MB file, WindowsXP-KB936929-SP3-x86-ENU.exe, and save it to the new C:\SP3 folder.

From the Start menu, select Run (or press Windows key-R). Type the following command at the prompt and click OK:

c:\sp3\WindowsXP-KB936929-SP3-x86-ENU /integrate:c:\xp

Type the entire command on one line with only a single space between ENU and /integrate—there should be no spaces surrounding the colons.

If all goes well, the process should take a minute or two and then conclude with a simple "Completed" message box. Otherwise, if you see an error, here's what it means:

Failed to copy some or all of the files necessary for integrated install: This can happen for any number of reasons, most likely because you mistyped the /integrate command. But do make sure you have plenty of free hard drive space, and that all of the files from your older XP CD are present in the C:\XP folder.

…is not recognized as an internal or external command: Either you mistyped the SP3 update filename, or you didn't save it in the C:\SP3 folder.

…is not a valid Win32 application: This error usually means the file you downloaded is corrupt, or has not finished downloading. Delete the file and try downloading again.

…not the correct version: You're trying to slipstream the U.S. English version of the SP3 update with a non-English copy of Windows XP, or vice versa. Just return to the Microsoft download page, choose your language from the Change language list, and download the correct file.

Steps 3-4

Step 3: Automate the Install

Now if you want to be really slick, you can set up what Microsoft calls an answer file to enter your product key automatically so you don't have to type it manually later on. On your original Win XP CD (Professional Edition only), navigate to the \Support\Tools folder, double-click DEPLOY.CAB, and then double-click Setupmgr.exe to open the Windows Setup Manager Wizard. When prompted, choose Create a new answer file and then Windows Unattended Installation. For the User Interaction Level, choose Provide defaults, and when asked about the Distribution Folder, answer No. Finally, you'll see a new window, into which you can specify defaults; select Providing the Product Key on the left and then type your product key in the text fields on the right.

When you're done, save the file Unattend.txt into your C:\XP folder. For additional information, open the Setupmgr.chm file, also found in DEPLOY.CAB.

Step 4: Bootstrap and Burn
You're not done with your old XP disc yet; you still need to pull the boot loader off the old disc so you can make the new one bootable.

The easiest way to do this is using ImgBurn, available free from Install ImgBurn, start the app, and click Write files/folders to disc on the first screen. Choose the Advanced tab, followed by the Bootable Disc tab, and from the Extract Boot Image list select the drive containing your XP disc. Click the Save icon and save the BootImage.ima file to your C:\SP3 folder.

Now it's time to burn a new CD. You'll need CD-burning software capable of creating a bootable CD, such as ImgBurn, Nero Burning ROM (part of Nero 8 Ultra Edition, or Roxio Media Creator, and you'll need to customize the burning settings carefully.

If you're using Roxio or Nero, choose Bootable CD or CD-ROM (Boot), respectively, from the list of project types. Or, if you're using ImgBurn, choose the Advanced tab, followed by the Bootable Disc tab, and turn on the Make Image Bootable option.

Next, use 0x7C0 for the load segment, and 4 for the sector count. Make sure you're using the Joliet file system, and if prompted to choose a bootable disc emulation type, select no emulation. Specify the BootImage.ima file you just created as the boot image; copy the CD volume label from your original XP CD, and paste it as the disc label for your new project.

Drag the entire contents of the C:\XP folder into your CD project and burn the CD. For good measure, use a Sharpie pen to write your XP key right on your CD, and then put the disc in a safe place for that rainy day.

Vista Tips

Can I stop reporting problems to Microsoft?
Q: Each time that Vista finds a problem it wants me to report the problem to Microsoft. Can I stop this from automatically prompting me?

A: Yes you can. Here's how:
Go to Start>> Control System and Maintenance>> Problem Reports and Solutions.
Select Change Settings.
Place a checkmark in the checkbox titled: Ask me to check if a problem occurs checkbox.
Click OK.

How can I reverse "Full Screen Mode" in Virtual PC?
I've found that if you hold down the right ALT key and press ENTER, this will toggle the Full Screen Mode and Windowed Mode back and forth.

Can I use XP Themes with Vista
No, Vista uses a different file extension for themes than XP.

Can I sync my PDA with Windows Mail and Calendar?
Yes, go here for more information:

Windows Mobile Device Center

How can I change the Numlock key to default ON?
Q: I have the BIOS set to the On position, but when I reboot Vista, it will turn it back off. How can I make it default to the ON position?

A: Follow the instructions outlined below:
Go to Start
In the Search box, type in: regedit
Find the Registry Editor in the list and open it.
Navigate to the following registry key:

HKEY_USERS\.DEFAULT\Control Panel\Keyboard

Left click once on the Keyboard entry to empty its contents in to the right pane.
In the right pane, locate the entry titled: InitialKeyboardIndicators
Right click the above titled entry and select MODIFY
The value should currently be 0 (off). Change the value to 2 (on).
Close the registry editor and reboot your system.

How can I get Vista to Automatically log me on?
Q: Is there a way to bypass the login screen so Vista just boots up and takes me right to my desktop?

A: Yes. Follow the instructions outlined below:
Go to Start
In the Search box, type in: netplwiz
Press Enter on your keyboard
Uncheck the entry titled: Users must enter a user name and password
Click Apply
Click OK twice to exit.
From now on, when you reboot, you will not see the login screen.

My Weather Gadget Keeps Moving
Q: Can you tell me why my weather gadget keeps moving to the left? It isn't a big problem but it is kind of annoying.

A: Yes, there is a bug in the weather gadget. When it is detached from the sidebar on to the desktop it will slowly, over the course of many reboots, make its way to the center of your desktop. I'm sure that the bug will be fixed in time. Keep checking here and I will post it when Microsoft releases the fix.

How can I change the order of the sidebar gadgets?
Q: I would like to reposition some of the gadgets in the sidebar. Can you tell me how to do it?

A: Sure, all you have to do is drag and drop them wherever you would like them. Even when you reboot your machine, Vista will remember that last placement of each Gadget.
Note: In some cases you will find that the Gadgets will not remember your settings and will replace the gadgets back their default order. This is a known bug and hopefully will be fixed when SP1 comes out.

Where is Vista's User Start Menu?
Q: In Windows XP I used to modify the start menu items in:

C:\Documents and Settings\Default User\Start Menu

I can't seem to find where the default user settings for the start menu is found in Vista. Can you help?

A: Sure. Here's how:
To access your user accounts start menu settings, go to Start.
In the Search field, type in:

shell:start menu

Press Enter
If you would like to access the 'All User' start menu, it is located here:
C:\Users\Default\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows \Start Menu

Logon to Desktop Without Password
Q: I am running Vista Basic and every time I startup my system I am asked for a password in order for my desktop to show. Is there a way that I can bypass the password and go directly to my desktop?

A: Yes, you can have Vista boot directly to your user account(s). Here's how:
Click Start
In the Search filed, type in:

control userpasswords2

Press Enter
Uncheck the entry titled: Users must enter a password
Click Apply
You will be prompted for the User that you would like to auto-logon. Once you've selected the User, you are given a password box. Simply leave the password field blank.

How can I get a program to automatically start?
Q: I have configured the program to automatically start when Windows starts, but Vista will not start it for some reason.

A: You will need to configure the program with Admin privileges, here's how:
Go to Start
Find the program you would like to auto-start
Right click the program
Select "Run as Administrator"
Now, configure the program to run automatically when Windows starts.

Narrator keeps running at Startup
I have a laptop with Vista Ultimate installed. Every time I start my computer, Narrator runs automatically. I can't seem to find the setting that would stop this. Can you help me?

I'm pretty sure your problem is that Narrator is starting at you logon page. Here's how to stop that from happening:
Go to Start
Select Control Panel
Select Ease of Access
Select Ease of Access Center
From the left pane, uncheck by clicking the "Apply all settings to the logon desktop" checkbox.
Select Save

Will TweakUI for XP run on Vista?
Yes. You have to run it in compatibility mode. Here's how:
Download the proper TweakUI program for your particular Vista architecture (eg: 32bit, 64bit)
Once the program has installed, right click the program shortcut
Select Properties
Select Compatibility
Run as administrator and in XP Compatibility Mode

How can I change the screen font size?
Q: I'm using Vista Ultimate and the default screen font size is too small for me. I can't seem to find where this setting is at. Can you help?

A: Sure, here's how:
Go to Start
Select Control Panel
Select Personalization
From the left pane, select the desired font size
Click OK

How do you turn the Vista sidebar back on?
Q: I turned off my sidebar because a game I installed was flickering in that area. After turning it off, the problem went away. However, I can't find how to turn the sidebar back on. Can you help?

A: Sure, there are a few things that you can do:

Go to Start>> All Programs>> Accessories>> Sidebar

Once you've found the sidebar in your programs menu, you can drag it out on to your desktop as a shortcut.

Or, you can access Windows Sidebar properties from Control Panel (Start>> Control Panel) and have the sidebar startup when Windows starts. This will require a reboot.

Can I use an HTML background image in Vista?
No. Vista doesn't support this feature as Windows XP did. I suppose it is due to Vista being much more security minded and that feature was viewed as a potential security risk.

Resuming After Screensaver Mode displays Login Screen
Q: When my system goes in to screen saver mode after being idle for awhile. I move the mouse to reenter Windows, but when I do that I am taken to a login screen that displays the word "Locked". How can I bypass the login screen and make Vista reenter directly to my desktop?

A: To make Vista bypass the login screen:
Right click an empty area of your desktop
Select Personalize
Select Screensaver
Remove the checkmark from the checkbox titled: On resume, display logon screen
Click OK

Can I make Vista's Start Menu like XP's was?
Sure, here's how:
Right click an empty area of the Taskbar
Select Properties
Select Start Menu
Select Classic Start Menu

Where do I go to change Vista's appearance?
Q: I would like to change things like my font size, icon spacing and such. Where do I go to find these settings in Vista?
A: Here's how to find the settings you require:
Right click an empty area of your desktop
Select "Personalize"
Select "Window Color and Appearance"
Select "Open Classic Appearance Properties"

How can I change the "Organization" field?
Q: When I purchased my computer, it came already pre-configured. When I download something, it has the company that I purchased it from listed in the organization field. How can I change that setting to reflect my organization?

A: This will involve editing the windows registry. Please make a backup copy of the registry or create a restore point prior to making any changes to it.
Navigate to the following registry key:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion

Single left click once on the "CurrentVersion" key. This will empty its contents in to the right pane.
In the right pane, locate the entry titled: RegisteredOrganization
Double click RegisteredOrganization and fill in the organization that you would like to use.
Exit the registry editor

How can I change the screen resolution in Vista?
Right click an empty area of your Desktop
Select Personalize
Select Display
Adjust the resolution to the proper setting for your monitors screen size.
15 inch monitors: 1024 X 768
17 - 19 inch monitors: 1280 X 1024
20 inch monitors: 1600 X 1200

How can I disable the notification window?
Q: I keep getting a popup notification window that tells me that I have some programs turned off each time I start my system. I have these programs turned off to increase my load time so I don't need Vista's constant reminder. How can I disable this?

A: To disable the Notification Balloon tips, follow the instructions below:

Note: This method requires making a change to the Windows registry. I recommend manually creating a restore point prior to making any changes in case an editing error is made.
Go to Start
Select Run
With the run command window open, type in: regedit.exe
Press Enter on your keyboard or click OK
In the Windows registry, navigate to the following key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Curre ntVersion\Explorer\Advanced

Single left click the "Advanced" registry entry to empty its contents in to the right pane.
Right click an empty area of the right pane and select New>> DWORD Value.
In the DWORD textbox, type in: EnableBalloonTips
Once this new REG_DWORD is created, double click it.
In the "Value data" textbox, enter the number 0.
Click OK
Exit the Windows Registry
You may have to reboot your system for this to take effect.

Can I keep Vista from automatically defragging my system?
Q: I would like to control when Vista is defragged. Is there a way that I can disable this feature and perform a system defrag when I would like to?

A: Yes, here's how:
Go to Start
Select Control Panel
Select System and Maintenance
Select Performance information and Tools
Select Advanced Tools
Select Open Disk Defragmenter (continue through any UAC prompts)
Untick the radio button titled: Run On A Schedule (Recommended)
Select OK

How can I change the Registered Owner information in Vista?
Q: When I purchased my PC, it has the Registered owner information as the company that I purchased it from. Is there a way that I can change the Registered Owner information to reflect my companies name?

A: Sure, here's how:

Note: The information provided below contains Windows Registry changing information. Be sure that you create a restore point prior to making any changes. This will create a backup of your registry.
Go to Start
Select Run. Type in: regedit [Enter] or click OK
Navigate to the following registry key:

HKEY_Local_Machine\Software\Microsoft\WindowsNT\Cu rrent Version

Single left click the "Current Version" entry to empty its contents in to the right pane
In the right pane, locate the entry titled: Registered Owner
Right click the Registered Owner entry and select Modify
Edit the "Value data" textbox to enter your personal Registered Owner name
Click OK and close the Windows Registry
What is Aero Glass?
Windows Vista has a new high performance graphical experience built in to its Aero User Interface (UI) called Aero Glass. If you have a graphics card that meets with Aero's requirements, then you will be able to experience Aero Glass. The translucent elements of the dynamic windows allows users to continue their focus on the underlying content. Having this effect also allows users to keep track of the windows that are displayed.

Which Windows Vista editions include the Aero feature?
• Windows Vista Business
• Windows Vista Enterprise
• Windows Vista Home Premium
• Windows Vista Ultimate

Aero no longer works after running a registry cleaner
If the Aero feature stops functioning after running a registry cleaner utility, here are a couple of things you can try to restore Aero's functionality:

[1] If the registry cleaner you ran has an "Undo" feature, use that to set your system back the way it was. Then, run the utility again being selective on what it is trying to delete.

[2] Try restoring your system files back to original, here's how:
1. Go to Start
2. In the Search field, type in cmd.exe
3. Right click the Run Command and select "Run as Administrator"
4. At the command prompt, type in: sfc /scannow
5. Press Enter
[3] If neither of the above works, try running System Restore to restore your configuration to a time when Aero worked. Here's how:
1. Go to Start
2. In the Search field, type in: restore
3. Click System Restore at the top of the list
4. Select the option that will allow you to run System Restore to a previous date.

Can I personalize Aero Glass?
Yes, to personalize this experience:
1. Go to Start
2. Select Control Panel
3. Select Appearance and Personalization
4. Select Personalization
5. Select Visual Appearance
From here, you can select from a number of predefined color schemes. If you would like to enable the Transparent Glass feature, simply place a checkmark in the checkbox titled: Enable transparent glass. If you would like to play around with the colors of your display, you can open the color mixer.

How can I disable Aero?
1. Go to Start
2. Select Control Panel
3. Select Appearance and Personalization
4. Select Personalize

Alternately, you can right click an empty area of your desktop and select 'Personalize' from the resulting menu.

5. Click the link near the bottom of the page titled: "Open classic appearance properties for more color options"
6. Under the Color Scheme category, select "Windows Vista Basic" from the menu options.
7. Click Apply

My Aero features suddenly stopped working
Q: I purchased a new computer with Vista Home Premium installed. All my Aero features seemed to be working properly until yesterday the suddenly stopped working. How can I fix this?

A: I have seen this happen before when an installed program blocks Aero or it pushes the graphics card to the maximum so Aero is forced to shut down. A couple of things you can try are:
• Use the Task Manager (Ctrl+Alt+Del) to End Task on some suspected processes
• Use System Restore to restore your computer back before the problem started.
Icon is missing from Desktop
Q: I don't know what has happened, but suddenly my Windows Media Player icon is missing from my desktop. Any idea how I can replace that back to my desktop?

A: Sure. Go to Start>> Programs. Right click on Media Player. Select "Send To", then "Desktop Shortcut".

I accidentally deleted my Recycle Bin. How can I restore it?
Q: I accidentally deleted my Recycle Bin. How can I restore it?

A: No problem, here's how:
1. Click the Windows button.
2. Type the following in to the Search text box: control desk.cpl,,@Web
3. Press Enter on your keyboard.
4. In the Desktop Icon Settings window, place a checkmark in the Recycle Bin checkbox.
5. Click OK.
Alternately, to access the Desktop Icon Settings, right click the Desktop and select Personalize from the resulting menu. From the left pane, select Change desktop icons.

Blocked Program Popup Notification On Restart
Q: When I disable a program using MSCONFIG and then I restart my computer it returns a popup notification that I have a blocked program. Is there any way to disable this notification?

A: The best way to accomplish this is to go back in to MSCONFIG and turn the program back on and then reboot. Go in to your Programs (Start>> Programs) and locate the actual program that you would like to disable. Try right clicking the program and select Properties. In there, you should find an option for disabling this program from automatically starting when Windows is started.

Remote Desktop to Vista Home Edition
Q: I have a machine with a new installation of Vista Home on it. I would like to be able to remote desktop with my other XP Pro and Vista business machines to this Vista Home machine. I can't seem to find out how this is done.

A: Vista Home does not support the Remote Desktop feature. You would need either the Business or Ultimate versions.

I can't find Windows Fax
Q: I just purchased a new computer that has Vista Premium on it. I can't seem to find Windows Fax. Can you please tell me where to find it?

A: I'm sorry, but Vista Home and Premium do not offer Windows Fax. You would have to either purchase a 3rd party software to accomplish this or upgrade to either Vista Ultimate or Business edition. It is unknown at this time if Microsoft plans to incorporate this in to any of their Service Packs at a later time.

DreamScene is not working in Vista Premium?
DreamScene is only available in the Vista Ultimate edition as an Ultimate Extra.

Taskbar area changed after defrag
Q: Yesterday I did a defrag of my machine and now my taskbar area has shrunk and only two of the icons are now showing. I can drag the dotted line out to view the others, but when I reboot it goes back to only showing the two icons. How can I get the taskbar back to the way it was before the defrag?

A: No problem. Here's how:
1. Right click an empty area to the left of your taskbar icons
2. Uncheck by clicking the option titled: Lock the Taskbar
3. Now, drag the dotted line out to the desired size to show all of your icons
4. Right click again in an empty area inside your taskbar
5. Click the "Lock the Taskbar" option once again

Virtual PC 2007 won't open on desktop
Q: I have been using Virtual PC 2007 for the last few days without any problems. However, this morning when I booted my machine, Virtual PC came up briefly for a moment and then minimized to my taskbar. I can open Virtual PC from the taskbar but I would like it to open automatically on the desktop as it once did. Is there any setting that can be changed in order to make it open on my desktop?

A: Virtual PC will remember the last position it was in when your system is shut down and will restart in that position. So, just open Virtual PC to your desktop, then restart your computer. It will now open to your desktop.

What is the difference between Remote Assistance and Remote Desktop?

Remote Desktop:

Remote Desktop allows remote access to a machine without a user being present at the other end. Remote Desktop uses an account the pre-exists with a user name and password and is set up in the list of Remote Desktop users. When attempting a remote connection in this method, you will need to know the IP address or if on a local area network, you will need to know the computers name and password.

Remote Desktop only works between the following Windows Versions:
• Windows XP Professional
• Vista Business
• Vista Ultimate
Remote Assistance:

Remote Assistance allows remote access to a machine but in this method both users must be present. If Remote Assistance is needed on one end (usually for troubleshooting purposes), the user sends an invitation to connect via instant message or e-mail to a trusted person who can help. For security purposes, all sessions are encrypted and password protected.

Remote Assistance works for all XP and Vista versions.

Background on Vista is black
Q: I used to be able to set background pictures as my background on my Vista Premium machine. However, when I attempt it now all I get is a black screen. My Gadgets still show up on the desktop but no image is shown. How can I get the background image to show again?

A: Apparently this happens when one of the following changes are made to your policy settings:
• Hide and disable all items on the desktop on a domain controller
• Disable all items in Windows Vista
A Hotfix is available for this issue. Click the link below for the contact information for the Hotfix:

The tabs have disappeared in my Task Manager
Q: When I press CTRL + ALT + DEL, it brings up my Task Manager. I used to have an assortment of tabs at the top of the window but they are gone. How can I get these tabs back?

A: Somehow, you have placed you task manager in 'tiny footprint mode'. To toggle back and forth between tiny footprint and regular mode, simply double click the border (next the to "End Tasks" button).

Why do my desktop icons disappear?
Q: At random times, when I click one of my desktop shortcuts, I am taken to the program and then my desktop icon goes missing leaving only the name of the shortcut on the desktop. A reboot will fix the problem, but how can I stop this from happening.

A: I have heard of others having the same issue. I'm not quite sure why this is happening, but in most cases just single left click an empty area of your desktop and then press the F5 key on your keyboard to refresh the desktop.

DreamScene makes my computer run very slowly
Q: Can you tell me why my DreamScene makes my computer run slowly?

A: There are a few reasons why DreamScene could cause computer performance issues:
1. You may not have a good enough video card installed in your system to achieve peak DreamScene performance.
2. The size of the video file may be too large.
3. You may not be using the correct file format for your video file. It is recommended that you use the MPG file extension for optimal performance. The WMV file extension is also supported in DreamScene. Even though an MPG file format tends to create a larger file size than WMV, it takes less resources to run an MPG file.

How can I create a Show Desktop shortcut on my Quick Launch Bar?
1. Go to Start
2. In the Search field, type in: Notepad
3. Press Enter on your keyboard
4. With Notepad open, copy and paste the following:


5. Select File>> Save As
6. Open the "Save as type" menu and select "All Files (*.*)"
7. In the "File name" textbox, type in: Show Desktop.scf
8. Select the Browse Folders button
9. Select Desktop
10. Select Save
11. With the Show Desktop icon now showing on your desktop, press the Shift key on your keyboard and right click your Show Desktop icon.
12. Select "Add to Quick Launch" from the resulting menu. Alternately, you can simply drag and drop the Show Desktop icon on to your Quick Launch bar.

How can I disable the Sidebar?
Q: I'm not happy with Vista's sidebar from taking up the space on my desktop. Is there a way that I can disable this feature?

A: Yes, you can. Here's how:
1. With Windows Vista Booted to your desktop, right click the Sidebar
2. Select Properties
3. Click inside the "Start sidebar when Windows starts" checkbox to uncheck this option
4. Click OK and reboot your system
What are the chances that my printer will function in Vista?
Q: I've got an older Canon printer. The Canon folks say that they will not create a special Vista driver for this printer. So, what are my chances that this printer will work in Vista?

A: The best thing to do is run the Upgrade Advisor to be sure that it will run in Vista. Click the link below:

For additional help finding and how to download drivers, check out this article "Finding Drivers For Windows Vista":

When will SP1 for Vista be released?
Rumor has it (don't hold me to it) that it will be released at the end of the year after Windows Server 2008 is released.

Is it possible to boot Vista from a USB drive?
Q: I would like to know if it is possible to load Vista on to a removable drive and boot from there?

A: No. This is not a supported function. If you were able to do that, you might be able to boot to a different system. Microsoft only allows Vista to be installed on one machine per license.

What is Microsoft Update Catalog?
The Microsoft Update Catalog was developed for corporate networks where finding software updates, updated drivers and hotfixes can be found in one convenient location. For non-corporate scenarios it is recommended that users update their computers via Automatic Update or by using the Microsoft Update website.

The Update Catalog can be located here:

Microsoft Update Catalog beta

Can I run Office 2003 on Vista?
Yes, Office 2003 will work fine with Vista. In fact, here is a list of Office products that are supported under Vista:
• Office 2000
• Office XP
• Office 2003
• Office 2007
Microsoft no longer offer fixes for Office 2000 and Office XP issues that occur under Windows Vista. Office 2007 is the most current Office product and was designed to run under the Vista platform.

Can I change the language in Vista Premium?
Q: I currently am running Vista Home Premium in the Spanish version. I would like to change the language to English. Can this be done?

A: No. Sorry. Care must be taken when purchasing Vista in any certain language when purchasing any Vista version other than Ultimate or Enterprise. In these two versions you are allowed to download the language packs for free. In your case, you will need to either live with the Spanish language version of Premium or you will be faced with purchasing the full version of Premium in the English language and then performing a Clean Installation.

How can I contact Microsoft if I have some feedback regarding the Vista operating system?
Here is a link just for this purpose:

Windows Vista Feedback

Sharing One Monitor with Two PC's
Q: I just recently purchased a computer with Vista Ultimate installed on it. I use older programs on a Windows 2000 system that I cannot get to work on the Vista machine so I thought it would be best to see if I can share the monitor, keyboard and mouse between the Windows 2000 and Vista machines. Can you tell me how to go about doing this?

A: Sure, all you need is a KVM (keyboard, video and mouse) switch. You can pick one up at your local Circuit City or Best Buy. Be sure that you get a switch with the proper inputs for your keyboard and mouse connection (USB or PS2). Also, make sure that you get a switch with enough bandwidth for your monitor. A cheap switch probably won't be able to handle the kind of data stream that a high resolution monitor would require.

Tablet PC drop down menus open to the left
Q: I have Vista Ultimate installed on my tablet PC. I am used to my drop down menus opening on the right side and I think once I applied the last update to my PC they started opening to the left. This makes it more difficult to navigate as I have to move my cursor much farther. Is there a way that I can get my drop down menus to open normally on the right?

A: Yes, here's how:
1. Open your Control Panel
2. Select Tablet PC Settings
3. Under the "Handedness" category, select the appropriate entry by clicking inside the radio button.
4. Once you've made your selection, click OK.

Does using Sleep Mode drain my Laptops battery?
When in Sleep Mode, Vista only uses approximately one to two percent of the laptops battery power per hour. If the laptop sleeps for an extended period (which is determined by your sleep and hibernate settings), Vista saves any open documents to include any program information that was in use to your hard disk and will shut the system down.
By default, once the lid is closed on a laptop, the computer goes in to Sleep Mode. This setting can be changed from sleep mode to hibernate mode, completely shut down or do nothing at all.
Won't accept validation code after second install
Q: I upgraded my PC to Vista Premium, but the installation didn't load very well so I decided to do a "Clean Installation" of Vista. Now, when I get to the point to where is asks for the validation code, it says that it is in use. I realize that it is in use by me, but how am I supposed to get it validated?

A: You are correct when you stated that the validation code is in use by you. You will need to call the phone number that is listed in the installation wizard. The process will only take a few minutes and then you will be back in business! If the installation wizard is unable to get it activated, just stay on the line and a human will come on the line to assist you.

Do I really need to backup all of my files before upgrading my PC?
Yes, please do not ignore the warnings given by any installation instructions. It is insurance in the event something should go wrong with your installation. So, if your data is important to you, be sure to back it up.

Upgrade from XP Pro to Vista premium won't activate?
Q: I just purchased Vista Premium and went through the steps to upgrade my PC. When I get to the activation screen it tells me that the "key" is already in use or that it is invalid. Can you please tell me how I can activate this installation?

A: Unfortunately, upgrading to Vista Premium from XP Professional is not supported. A proper upgrade path from XP Pro is to either Vista Business or Ultimate editions. However, you can use the version that you've purchased by installing it using the "Custom Installation" method. Here's how:
1. Boot Windows Vista from the Installation DVD.
2. When prompted to enter the Key Code, do not enter the code and click Next to continue with the setup. This will setup Vista as a 30 day trial.
3. When the setup is complete, run the Installation Disk again. This time enter the key code to activate your installation.
Note: It may be necessary to call the phone number listed to activate your installation since it was already attempted. The process only takes a few moments.
If you need help with the Custom Installation Procedure, click the link below:
Perform a Clean Installation of Windows Vista

Will installing additional RAM cause activation issues?
I have read at many places that people are installing more RAM without having any activation issues. Not having done it myself, I can only inform of what I've read. Good luck!

How can I activate Vista Home Basic without accessing the Internet?
Q: I just purchased Vista Home Basic to play games with on my custom built system. I don't have an Internet connection. So, how am I supposed to activate the installation?

A: You can call the phone number that is on the installation DVD. The activation wizard will guide you through the activation process. If you are still unable to activate, just stay on the phone and you will be connected with a human that will ask you a few questions and then issue a code for you to enter. The whole process only takes a few moments.

I can't get a program to install on Vista
Q: I have a program that I have been using for a couple of years that is very important to my company. I would like to know what I can do to make this program function correctly on Vista?

A: While most programs will run fine on Vista, some of the older programs may not. You have a few options for making the older programs function in Vista:
1. Find a "Compatibility" tab in the program to change the programs compatibility settings. Usually you can right click the programs icon, select properties and then select Compatibility. Then, try installing the program with the new compatibility settings.
2. If you cannot find the "compatibility" settings in the program, visit the program makers web site to see if they offer an updated version of the program.
3. If a program update is not offered, you can try running Vista's Compatibility Wizard. Here's how:
a. Go to Start>> Control Panel>> Programs
b. Select "Use an older program with this version of Windows"
c. From here, just follow the on-screen instructions
4. If none of the above tips did not help, then you may need to either:
• Try dual booting your XP and Vista operating systems
• Try running XP in a VPN (virtual private network) by installing Virtual PC 2007 (free program)
• Keep an extra PC running XP with the needed program installed

How can I recover my Vista product key?
Q: I purchased a new computer that had Vista Premium originally installed. I need to reinstall the operating system but since I don't have the product key, how am I supposed to install it? I know that there is a separate recovery partition on this computer, but I will still need the key code to start the installation. Any ideas?

A: Yes, the product key should be an the computer somewhere affixed to the side or bottom. Look for a bright orange sticker. If you are unable to find it, you may still be able to locate it by using a free tool called the Belarc Advisor. It is a free tool that scans your system for various hardware and software configurations. If you still cannot locate the key code, you will need to contact the maker of your computer for help. Many computer manufactures do not keep product key records on file, but it is still worth a try.

What is the difference between the Product ID and the Key code?
The Key Code is what you must enter during the installation process. The Product ID is generated during the installation process to identify the version of Vista you are installing. The product ID is for Microsoft's Tech Support.

If at any time you should need the Product ID or you can't find your Key Code, you can install a free program that will list these two items along with many other configurations of your system. The program is called: Belarc Advisor

Where can I check to see my activation status?
1. Right click an empty area of your desktop
2. Select Properties from the resulting menu
3. The activation status will be located at the bottom of your screen

Can I use my current Vista installation on a new computer?
Yes, currently Microsoft has relaxed their stance on the Vista license and are allowing users to uninstall a Vista installation on an older system and install it on a new one. As long as the Vista installation is uninstalled on one computer, you can transfer it to a new system anytime you like.

Did You See The New Motorola.....Cool...Cell Phone

Friday, July 25, 2008

Microsoft for FREE Virus Removal

Microsoft, whose popular Windows software is a frequent target for Internet viruses, is offering a free security program to remove the most dangerous infections from computers.

The program, with monthly updates, is a step toward plans by Microsoft to sell full antivirus software later this year.

Microsoft said that starting today, consumers could download the new program from the company's website - - and updated versions would be offered automatically and free each month.

Also being offered is a free program to remove "spyware", a category of irritating programs that secretly monitor the activities of internet users and can cause sluggish computer performance or pop-up advertisements.

Microsoft said the virus-removal program would not prevent computer infections and was not intended to replace the need for traditional antivirus software, such as flagship products from McAfee or Symantec.

But a senior Microsoft executive confirmed the company's plans to sell its own antivirus software, which would compete against programs from McAfee, Symantec and others.

Microsoft bought a Romanian antivirus firm, GeCAD Software, for an undisclosed amount in 2003. Industry rivals expect Microsoft's formal entry into the market as early as March.

"We will have a stand-alone antivirus product that is one of the things you can buy from Microsoft, but we're not announcing anything today," said Rich Kaplan, vice president for Microsoft's security business and technology unit.

The offers of free virus- and spyware-removal tools were intended to convince consumers that Microsoft was working to improve its software's security, Kaplan said.

Microsoft and other companies have occasionally offered separate programs to disinfect specific viruses.

Microsoft is sensitive to criticism about the susceptibility of its Windows operating system software to computer viruses.

It has responded by tightening security for its popular Outlook email software and improving the protective firewall utility for Windows.

But its reputation has largely hinged on consumers' effective use of antivirus products and other security programs outside Microsoft's control.

50 Megapixel Camera

Hasselblad has announced its new H3DII-50, a monster of a camera whichever way you measure it.

The new flagship model features a 50MP, 36×48mm Kodak sensor, which is twice the size of a full frame 35mm DSLR sensor. Confusingly, the product page says that the camera captures 300MB files, but the downloadable pdf says that the RAW files are just 65MB. Even at that size, you’ll only squeeze 30 frames onto a 2GB (Compact Flash) memory card.

Otherwise, the H3DII-50 is built for comfort, not speed. With a top shutter speed of 1/800 sec, an ISO range of 50 to 400 (boostable to ISO 800 with the included Phocus software) and a capture rate of one frame per second, this is clearly a studio camera.

The price and release date are still unknown, but don’t expect it to be cheap. The next model down in the range, the H3DII-39, is listed at just shy of $40,000.

Featuring Kodak’s 50 Mpixel 36×48mm sensor, which measures, twice the physical size of the largest 35mm DSLR sensors, the H3DII-50 camera system has been specially designed to meet the most exacting demands of high-end commercial photographers who require the ultimate in both image quality and performance.

Big Just Got Bigger
Providing a hereto unseen level of image detail, the H3DII-50 camera system provides unprecedented resolution, making it ideal for commercial shooters who demand ultimate image resolution or for any extremely discerning photographer who demands both creative flexibility and ultimate image quality.

In addition to the increased resolution, the new sensor also provides the foundation for the development of advanced lens performance and optical corrections. By providing a true integrated DSLR experience in a Medium Format camera, the H3DII-50 enables photographers to combine the full benefits of professional medium-format digital capture with the ease-of-use found in the best 35mm DSLRs.

Setting a new standard for digital photographic quality
The H3DII-50 represents the 4th generation of the Hasselblad H-system, the ultimate high-end DSLR camera system. The H3DII-50 brings all the advantages of a truly integrated DSLR to the large sensor format, enabling all photographic parameters to be optimized and resulting in an unsurpassed level of image quality. The H3DII-50 provides improved controls and functionality, better sensor cooling, a new and more intuitive user interface, and a bright, 3” display.

Achieving superior image quality with modern digital photography means finding a way to get the most from camera hardware, advanced optics, massive sensors, processing software, and the computing power of today’s computers. The H3DII’s unprecedented interaction between the various system components combine with increased lens performance and an unprecedented level of image sharpness to outperform any professional digital camera system on the market today, delivering outstanding pixel resolution, better colors, and improved detail rendering.

Your Vision, Your Choice
The H3DII-50 camera system is made for the high-end commercial photographer with high demands on both ultimate image quality and flexibility. With the H3DII-50 you can choose between eye-level and waist-level viewfinders, the choice of combining point–and–shoot and tilt/shift functions, the ability to work tethered and un-tethered to get the most of your camera system both on location and in the studio, choice of storage medium and image processing system, and much more.
With its unique large and bright viewfinders, its wide range of HC and HCD lenses, matching the best of Hasselblad icon lenses from Carl Zeiss, and its wide choice of accessories the H3DII-50 is an ideal camera choice for a professional photographer.

Never Settle for “Good Enough”
The H3DII-50 combines the advanced digital communication and optimization of the best DSLRs with the quality and versatility of the Hasselblad system. The H3DII-50 represents the combination of decades of photographic expertise, a keen understanding of digital photography, and the experience we gained from developing the world's most advanced camera system. Hasselblad has always been motivated by a true passion for photography. Our tradition has always been one of innovation, advance, and unflagging dedication to quality. At Hasselblad, we will never settle for “good enough”. So photographers won’t have to do so either.

Ultimate DSLR Advantage

Integrated 50 Mpix capture units with 3” display

Ultra-Focus: integral optimization of digital lens performance

Hasselblad Natural Color Solution

Integrated CCD cooling sink for lower noise

Direct ISO/WB control

Thumbwheel control of digital menus

GPS accessory option

Full Digital APO Correction for improved image sharpness and detail

Ultimate Flexibility

Market’s most versatile lens program

Choice of eye-level or waist-level viewfinders

Field FW upgrade of H3D camera

Choice of media: CF card - Image Bank II

Easy sensor cleaning

View camera option

Un-tethered and tethered operation

Hasselblad 3FR raw - or DNG export

KingsTon DaTa TraVeLLeR 400 hits 16GB

Kingston has just released its 15GB DataTraveler 400 USB flash drive, and this model comes pre-loaded with MigoSync data synchronization software. You will be able to work with different computers simultaneously by directly synchronizing files, e-mail and Internet browser settings onto the drive. With 16GB of storage space, rest assured you won't run out of capacity anytime soon if all you deal with are regular office documents. Other features include the integrated SecureTraveler software that enables a Privacy Zone, where a password-protected area helps keep your data sae. Each $196 purchase is backed by a 5-year warranty and round the clock technical support.

3 Simple Steps to Transfer Microsoft Outlook

Maybe everyone has faced with a problem of transferring data to a newly-bought computer. It's not a problem to copy files and documents from one PC to another. But moving a specific program together with all its data and settings becomes a rather complicated task. Especially when the program stores its data in uncommon way, like Microsoft Outlook does.

These days Microsoft Outlook became a corporate standard used for business correspondence among email clients. Almost every company uses it for its email purposes but not all of them can afford themselves to use an exchange server to store their messages. So when your Outlook data is on the hard drive of your computer you will have to copy certain data files and numerous registry entries to move all your Outlook stuff to new computer. And this transfer process becomes a real headache for people without appropriate technical knowledge and with a lack of time.

That's when special backup and transfer tool comes into play. Such tool knows exactly where your data is stored, how to save it correctly and, what's the most important, how to restore your stuff without any data loss. The utility I've found - ABF Outlook Backup does this all quickly and easily. The program saves backup copies of all important Outlook data including email messages, address book contacts, settings, accounts, message rules, junk email lists, signatures, and even your Internet Explorer favorites. And what's also important, using ABF Outlook Backup you can easily transfer your Outlook stuff between computers in a 3 simple steps.

First you need to download and install ABF Outlook Backup to your old computer (a computer which you are going to transfer information from). When installation process is complete run the program and prepare to backup. Choose Outlook items you want to move to another PC (data files, options etc.) and select the place on your hard drive where the program should save the backup file to. Please note that MS Outlook have to be closed during the backing up process. Also do not try to back up directly to CD/DVD or removable device.

The next step is to copy the backup file you've just created to your new computer. If both computers are connected via LAN you can move the file using your network. Another way is to transfer backup file using recordable CD/DVD or some flash drive. You can even try to move backup archive by sending it on your email (that depends on backup file size) or using FTP or some public file sharing service like But I do not recommend you to commit your personal data to public service.

Finally, when you get backup archive to the new computer, install and run ABF Outlook Backup on it. Go to Restore tab and browse the file you've just moved. Select Outlook items and restore you data. Ensure that MS Outlook was already installed and run once on the new computer.

When restore process is over run MS Outlook and enjoy your good old messages, contacts, settings etc. This transfer method can also be used to transfer Outlook between different Windows users or even between different Windows version, for example 98 and XP.

How to Access Blocked or Restricted Websites

Blocking access to undesirable Web sites through the use of Internet protocol filters has been a common government tactic since commercial Internet access first became available here in 1995. China and Saudi Arabia are believed to extend greater censorship over the net than any other country in the world under the pretext of information control.

Most of the blacklisted sites in Saudi Arabia are either sexually explicit or about religion, women, health, drugs and pop culture. They even block access to websites about bathing suits. So if you want to buy something to swim in, they seem to treat that as if it were pornographic in Saudi Arabia.

In China, webites containing sexually explicit content were among those blocked, but they also included sites on sensitive topics such as Tibet, Taiwan, and dissident activity. China also blocks access to Google News, Typepad and Blogger hosted blogs.

But what if an innocent website is accidentally blocked by your ISP or your government. There are always legitimate reasons to visit these blocked websites. We have listed a few methods to help you access blocked websites in school, college, office or at home.

Approach 1: There are websites Anonymizer who fetch the blocked site/ page from their servers and display it to you. As far as the service provider is concerned you are viewing a page from Anonymizer and not the blocked site.

Approach 2: To access the blocked Web site. type the IP number instead of the URL in the address bar. But if the ISP software maps the IP address to the web server (reverse DNS lookup), the website will remain blocked.

Approach 3: Use a URL redirection service like or These domain forward services sometimes work as the address in the the url box remain the redirect url and do not change to the banned site.

Approach 4: Use Google Mobile Search. Google display the normal HTML pages as if you are viewing them on a mobile phone. During the translation, Google removes the javascript content and CSS scripts and breaks a longer page into several smaller pages. [link] View this website in Google Mobile

Approach 5: Enter the URL in Google or Yahoo search and then visit the cached copy of the page. To retrieve the page more quickly from Google's cache, click "Cached Text Only" while the browser is loading the page from cache.

Approach 6: A recent Oreilly story on accessing blocked websites suggested an approach to access restricted web sites using Google language tools service as a proxy server. Basically, you have Google translate your page from English to English (or whatever language you like). Assuming that Google isn’t blacklisted in your country or school, you should be able to access any site with this method. Visit this site via Google Proxy

Approach 7: Anonymous Surfing Surf the internet via a proxy server. A proxy server (or proxies) is a normal computer that hides the identity of computers on its network from the Internet. Which means that only the address of the proxy server is visible to the world and not of those computers that are using it to browse the Internet. Just visit the proxy server website with your Web browser and enter a URL (website address) in the form provided.

This page has a long list of proxies. You can either choose one yourself or let the service choose a random proxy for you. Also bookmark the DMOZ directory of free web-based proxy services and DMOZ directory of free proxy servers

Update: China appears to have moved beyond simply blocking access to a Web site with IP filters and may now be employing packet filters to scan individual packets for undesirable information, said Duncan Clark, managing director at telecommunication analyst BDA China Co. Ltd.
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