educational

50 Fixes, Facts & Finds: 2

Kurt von Behrmann
In our first installment, we looked at tips for making the most of your web browser. Today, we'll wrap up with some handy tips on Instant Messaging, media applications, and more:

Instant Messengers

25. Windows Messenger has been a real irritant for some. There is no proven safe way to actually remove the program from Windows XP, but you can stop it from running. Look for article 302089 at Microsoft.com.

26. Do you like AOL Messenger but tire of its frequent ads? Dead Aim provides an elegant answer on how to kill them once and for all so you can enjoy commercial free online conversations.

27. ICQ has been popular overseas, but not so much here. Feature wise, it is almost overkill for most users. As good as it is, however, it has lately been stuffed with pesky ads. You can remove them in ICQ, both before and after installation. Visit www.overclockinghq.com for instructions.

28. Sometimes you get the feeling that Windows Messenger just likes to hang around and start up whenever and wherever it wants. It just won't seem to go away! To prevent Windows Messenger from starting up every time you open Outlook Express, go to Tools, Options, General, and deselect “automatically log onto windows messenger”.

29. If My History and Preferences are not being saved in ICQ, check to see if you have chosen Private or Public Modes. If you select Only Myself, then your preferences will be saved. If you select Public, they are not saved as a protection of privacy move.

30. Concerned about losing your contact lists and other information when upgrading ICQ? To be safe, back it up first. Even though later versions save some of this info online, better safe than sorry. Details here.

Media Applications

31. If updating iTunes has caused problems, chaos, confusion and endless error messages, quit the program, delete “iTunes 4 Music Library” and then relaunch iTunes. Allow the conversion to finish and you should be back in business again.

32. For Mac and Windows users, remember to update QuickTime along with iTunes. Failing to do so may prevent iLife applications from using music purchased through the iTunes program. In any case, keep them updated together to prevent problems. This is also true for Windows users.

33. If you see iTunes error 214735242, the cause is often related to incorrect spacing between songs. Setting the gap to two seconds between songs should fix the problem and keep the error message from appearing.

34. Logitech has produced a camera that auto-matically follows you as you chat with friends online — it's called the Quick Cam Orbit.

35. By default, RealPlayer checks to see if it is online. Should this feature fail, the program can go offline. If you have connections that are always on (DSL or Cable), you can force it to stay online. Go to Tools and Preferences. In Category, click Connection, then “Assume I am online”, then hit OK and restart.

36. Would you like to take timed photos with your web camera and then download them to your website, or anywhere, for free? Webcam Timershot is one of Microsoft's Power Toys for Windows, a set of utilities that add increased functionality to windows and IE explorer.

Anti-Virus Software

37. Although Windows XP has a built in firewall, it is basic at best. The most comprehensive protection is in a dedicated firewall. Time after time, Zonealarm wins high marks for ease of use, quality and simply operation. As a close second, McAfee's Personal Firewall is not too shabby either.

38. A good defense is essential, which is why antivirus protection is so important. Norton Anti-Virus remains a favorite. Scanning email, downloads, and even within zip files, this is the consistent well designed Rolls Royce of anti virus protection. As a free alternative, check out AVG Anti Virus.

Etcetera

39. Do you ever miss one of your old programs? Is the new version just not as good, or as stable? Sometimes, “new and improved” doesn't necessarily mean better. To find older, even discontinued applications, visit www.olderversion.com> .

40. Acrobat files are ubiquitous on the web. The new Reader and Pro version of Adobe Acrobat are bigger and somewhat sluggish. To speed it up, locate the plug_ins sub-folder, rename it plug_ins_disabled, create a new plug_ins folder, and move EWH32.api, printme.api and search.api from plug_ins_disabled to plug_ins.

41. Calling over the Internet promises to make your long distance phone bill irrelevant. Companies like Vonage are making VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) a reality. However, you will need a broadband connection and some extra equipment.

42. Do you want to know how fast your online connection actually is? To see if things are moving well, and if you're getting what you paid for, check out this free utility: www.dslreports.com/stest.

43. Having problems removing file-sharing programs? First, try to reinstall the application. Often, uninstall files are damaged, and reinstalling can allow you to use the Add and Remove feature of Windows. If that does not work, try Aladdin Systems' excellent utility, Spring Clean 3, to remove stubborn programs and clean temp files.

44. Believe it or not, cordless phones on a 2.4 GHz radio frequency can interfere with an 802.11b wireless network. Move the phone base as far away from the network gear and computer as you can. If this does not work, try using an external WiFi antenna.

45. Having trouble saving an image online because it's locked? Tech Smith's “Snag It” is probably one of the best screen capture utilities out there. If you can see it on your monitor, this program can capture it intact.

46. Surfing can be demanding. Providing the most feature-rich, and ergonomically designed “mice” available, www.logitech.com has some of the best solutions on the market. Microsoft is also getting in on the act with mice that are colorful — even '60s retro looking — with a much longer battery life.Mac users should hit www.kensington.com.

47. Downloading large files on a dial-up connection is a slow pain. Sadly, IE 6 does not have a built-in download manager. To help receive large downloads, and to make your life easier, get FlashGet.

48. Seeking a decent program to upload files? Cute FTP Pro is a good upload client for placing your web pages online. Having used many, this one consistently gets it right. Despite the precious name, this is a powerful application that is also easy on the eyes. If “cute”really isn't your thing, give SmartFTP a shot.

49. If you have children, programs like CYBERsitter, CyberPatrol, NetNanny, and McAfee Parental Controls can help to keep those prying eyes from seeing what they shouldn't. America Online and MSN also have filters, as do many ISPs.

50. Are your downloads too slow? If you can't get answers from your ISP, check out PC Pitstop. Armed with a slew of utilities, this is one resource worth looking into if things get sluggish on the net. Or try Speedbit's Download Accelerator.

We hope that these helpful tips will add to your computing enjoyment!

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