NEWSLETTER ISSUES

 
 03-02-2002

 02-14-2002

 01-31-2002

 01-17-2002

 More Back Issues

 Please Subscribe

 
 
 
 
OTHER LINKS

 
 The Forums

 Product Reviews

 Let’s Fight Sp@m!

 NetBEUI and Win XP

 PayPal Donate

 Letter Mail Donate

 
 
Scot’s Newsletter

Windows and Broadband Information You Can Use!

Get free email delivery of this newsletter!

Recommend Scot’s Newsletter to a Friend!

February 14, 2002 - Vol. 2, Issue No. 21

By Scot Finnie

IN THIS ISSUE

  • The Trouble with Email Software
  • In the News: @Home Migrations, BlackICE, Jim Allchin
  • Word 2002 Under Win98 Hotfix
  • How to Make NTFS Go Faster
  • Windows and Broadband Q&A
  • More on StarBand and Pegasus
  • Link of the Week: Jason's Toolbox - Script Sentry 2.5
  • Tip of the Week: Create Custom Word 2002 Templates
  • Announcing Scot’s Newsletter HTML Beta Test!
  • Subscribe, Unsubscribe, or Change Your Address


    The Trouble with Email Software
    I would pay real money for an email program that actually did its job without using up gobs of Windows system resources, leaking memory, displaying ads, refusing to make hyperlinks clickable, being impossible to move from one computer to another, or chintzing on power features. Some of the power features I care about include managing multiple accounts with "identities" or "personalities," detailed and deep user options, fast efficient message searching, and powerful email rules with long lists of conditions and actions. I'm not looking for a lightweight freebie that does part of the job sorta well. And I don't think I'm alone. As time goes by, I'll be even less alone.

    Email has become a huge business and personal tool. Reading and writing email is sucking up increasing amounts of everyone's time. Yet both corporate and personal users are stuck with substandard email products like Outlook Express, Outlook, Eudora, Netscape Mail and Messenger, Lotus Notes, CC:Mail, and a large cast of lesser lights.

    Although the corporate solutions cost money, most Internet email solutions are freeware, shareware, or have a freeware version. Is that the problem? Well it sure wasn't the case with browsers. Internet Explorer has been a great product since its 4.0 release. But Microsoft clearly made the browser an important strategic goal. Although the company has developed Outlook Express at the same pace, more or less, that it developed Internet Explorer, the emphasis has never been on its Internet mail and newsreader product. The result? Outlook Express has lots of good features and is relatively easy to use. But it's just not a very reliable product. It's not extensively tested. It also stores many of its files and settings in arcane ways that make it difficult to move items like your settings, address book, and even your folders and messages from one computer to another.

    — Eudora Email —
    There's a reason why many smart, experienced Windows and Internet people steer clear of the Microsoft, Netscape, and many other common solutions. A lot of us have wound up adopting Eudora Email.

    Eudora does everything it does in simple text files. You can literally copy the C:\Program Files\Eudora directory from one computer to another and just double-click the Eudora.exe file and it will run just fine on that second computer. Most of the settings are handled the old fashioned way, in the Eudora.INI file. That may sound archaic, and it probably is, but there's a lot to be said for quiet simplicity.

    My boss, who also happens to use Eudora, recently asked me for copies of all my email correspondence with an outside company. Stretching over about six months time, that represented literally hundreds of messages. Although I had placed some of these messages in a folder under the company's name, I didn't have them all. The way I use Eudora, I rarely ever delete any email. Most messages are automatically routed to folders. (The packrat approach, I guess, but this orientation has saved me more than once. Knowledge is still power.) So, for example, my day job work email goes to one folder. My Scot’s Newsletter email goes into another series of folders. I have many, many email accounts. Most of those have their own folders. My email is compartmentalized so it doesn't overwhelm me. By doing that, I spend no time at all deleting messages.

    So anyway, it was an easy process for me to run a search for all messages received from or sent to the outside company's domain name. Eudora has powerful search capabilities that let you search across every folder (or folders you choose) in your mail store. My store is over 1GB in size and has more than 900 folders. The search took only a few minutes, and I simply moved the results into the appropriate folder -- and presto -- six month's worth of correspondence.

    But that wasn't the cool part. Sending that folder of messages to my boss was incredibly easy. Each Eudora message folder has two corresponding files in the Eudora program directory. One ends in .TOC and the other ends in .MBX. All I had to do was to ZIP up the two files for folder I'd just populated and send them to my boss. He unzipped them into his Eudora program directory, and they were immediately available to him. Don't try that in Outlook Express.

    So if Eudora is so cool, why am I complaining about it with all the rest? Eudora is by no means perfect. It's riddled with interface flaws that have been there for years, it's nearly impossible to learn to use, and it has reliability issues. For example, Eudora uses over 14 percent of the system resources on my primary machine, which is still Windows 98 SE, just to load. (For comparison, Outlook Express uses only 8 percent.) The longer Eudora is running on my system without rebooting, the more likely it is the program will freeze or crash. Memory leak? That could be. The way I have Eudora configured, it opens a lot of windows automatically though. I think it just siphons off memory over time as part of its normal operations.

    Those criticisms of Eudora aren't new though. What is new is that Eudora doesn't seem to be being supported by Qualcomm, its maker, the way it once was. The last update to this product was version 5.1 released almost a year ago on April 13, 2001. I have found this build to be less stable than some others. In the past, Qualcomm has released incremental bug-fix updates on the order of twice a year (my estimate). Qualcomm Inc., which is primarily a digital wireless communications products and services company, has its hands full in other areas of its business. Eudora Email barely registers in its plans at all.

    — Lotus Notes —
    When it comes to email market share, Lotus and Microsoft dominate the corporate space and Microsoft dominates the home user market. Eudora and Netscape trail. And the rest lag even further behind. I spent eight long years while working at two different companies as a Lotus Notes user. Notes was primarily designed to provide access to corporate data via email and communications protocols. It does a pretty good job of that part, and for a long time nothing could touch it. But in the process it handcuffs the entire corporation with the worst email program imaginable. It's become a corporate right of passage to kvetch about this product. What businesses don't seem to realize is that a solid secure intranet or extranet is as good or better a sales-support, HR, or private trading database as Lotus Notes will ever be. Corporations are losing millions of dollars of employee productivity to Lotus Notes the email package. Outlook is a much better email client than Lotus Notes. I could argue all the merits on the servers too, but that discussion would also net out in preference for Exchange.

    — Outlook —
    What about Outlook? What about it? I think it's pretty well built underneath but has the worst interface under the Sun. Each new version seems to bend, fold, and mutilate the interface and user options in new ways -- almost as if Microsoft wanted to require IT managers to spend hours hand-holding their users. But Microsoft would convert me if they did these things:

    1. Graft Outlook Express's interface onto Outlook. A lot of the extra features in Outlook are hopelessly complex and mostly unusable. So, while you're at it, Microsoft, lose features liberally.

    2. Preserve Outlook's way of doing everything under the covers.

    3. Turn off all the bloatware modules -- the Contacts, Calendar, and Outlook Today stuff. Or make them an add-on module.

    4. Windows Address Book, Contacts, Email Address book. End the confusion. One simple address book that should have nothing whatsoever to do with Windows. Period.

    5. Throw out Outlook's rules, and start with Outlook Express's rules. Drop the entire notion of building rules with a step-by-step wizard. Make sure that your new rules facility has the superset of every single rules option available in Outlook, Outlook Express, Netscape Messenger, and Eudora Email.

    6. URLs should always be clickable in email messages. Outlook Express sometimes has trouble in that department. Make sure that's fixed.

    7. Make sure the darn thing works.

    — Outlook Express —
    Meanwhile, Outlook Express has a huge installed base that's still growing. OE benefits from the same distribution mechanisms that have benefited Internet Explorer. You don't hear this talked about the way you hear about Microsoft having "killed" Netscape, and so forth. But it's a reality.

    Much of what I wrote in a series of articles about Outlook Express during the first quarter of 2000 in Windows Insider is still true today. Outlook Express is like that pretty sports car that you need two of: One to drive around in, and one that's always being repaired. Several years ago I was sure Outlook Express was going to be my new email package, but I just had too many problems with it to make it a go. I've given up trying to solve the problems of the zillions of readers who write me with Outlook Express problems.

    Before you send me mail, I'm already aware that thousands, millions of people out there use OE everyday and they really like it. It's not giving them problems. Well, A-OK. I'm glad you're not having problems. But they're there. A package like Outlook Express is designed for light duty. When you use an email package like I do -- pressing it to within an inch of its life -- you learn some things about it. OE doesn't stand up. You know what else? Microsoft doesn't defend it. There isn't really even a product team at Microsoft you can contact about Outlook Express. They view it as throwaway code. And they tell their corporate customers they'd be better off with Outlook.

    For me, the final problem with Outlook Express is that its message rules don't allow me to handle mail the way I need to -- without having to constantly delete messages. It just doesn't have the variety and flexibility of message rules that Eudora does. This is also true of OE's big brother Outlook, whose message rules and the interface for them (even in the "Rules Wizard") are lame.

    — Get Fighting Mad —
    Sometimes capitalism just doesn't work. As a corporate tool, email software's profitability isn't measured by sales of the razor blades (client software) but by sales of the razor (email server). So that's no help to the end-user. No one in the transaction cares a whit about the user experience.

    In the personal use area, no one is making any money on Internet email client software. Is that Microsoft's fault for giving away Outlook Express? Outlook Express has only been a contender for about five years. The same zero-revenue conditions obtained before OE burst upon the scene. Of course, email use has grown exponentially since then. What would happen if Outlook Express were pulled from the market now or if Microsoft started charging $39.95 for it? If competitors weren't competing against "free!" perhaps they'd have some incentive to improve their products. There's certainly no incentive for Microsoft to improve Outlook Express in any material way.

    Microsoft has part of one of its mighty toes pressed over the insignificant Internet email market, pinning it in place like a gnat just because it wants to dominate every software market by being the tool of record in each space. Well, it has achieved that. Meanwhile literally millions of email users just don't know any better because the product they're using -- the Volkswagen Beetle of email programs -- has put all the others out of business.

    It was hard to get mad about Microsoft's domination of the browser marketplace when they turned out a seriously good product. But that isn't the case with email. And it's long past time we got fighting mad about it.

    Back to the Top


    In the News: @Home Migrations, BlackICE, Jim Allchin
    Stories from people who are undergoing cable-modem transitions from Excite@Home are downright nightmarish. The latest debacle is Comcast's email outage and the eye-opener that the company had been collecting customer information about Web sites visited without their knowledge. Additional pains for those converting from Excite@Home include significant performance drop-offs, loss of the ability to use standard VPN technology without having to pay business-class prices (like upwards of $100 a month), and no usenet newsgroup services. This is unacceptable, in my opinion. No company can call itself an ISP that does not deliver newsgroups. It's an essential part of the Internet experience. And preventing standard PPTP and IPsec VPN services so you can price gouge people is inappropriate because it may force some users to reduce their security levels.

    Cox customers have also been beset by problems in converting to the Cox servers. In some areas, Cox issued new software and 12-digit ID numbers to its customers that were supposed to allow them to convert their Windows configuration for the new service. What many people ended up with was a royal mess, and the resulting tech support melee swamped Cox. Some users still haven't figured out how to get their email.

    Tell me about your experiences with your @Home migration, good or bad

    — Change Your @Home Subscription to Scot’s Newsletter! —
    Time is running out. Are you still subscribed to Scot’s Newsletter with your @Home address? Excite@Home will pull the plug entirely on February 28. Please visit the Scot’s Newsletter subscription center to change your address. Or if you need help, send me an email directly. Make sure to include the subject line: COA_@Home. And in the body of the message, please type your old @Home address and your new email address.

    — BlackICE's Security Hole, and Firewall Shoot-Out —
    SFNL reader Jeff Brown kindly wrote almost two weeks ago with a link to a Wall Street Journal story about the security vulnerability discovered with in BlackICE Defender and BlackICE Agent. This only affects Windows 2000 and Windows XP users. If you use BlackICE on either of those OSes, get the patch. Thanks, Jeff.

  • BlackICE Defender Patch Release 2.9.car

    As it happens, I'd stumbled across this issue on my own because I contacted Internet Security Systems (the new owners of BlackICE as of last April) about reviewing BlackICE in an upcoming issue of this newsletter. You'll be happy to know that the plan is still to do a three-way personal firewall shoot-out between Norton Personal Firewall (from Norton Internet Security 2002 Pro), the next version of ZoneAlarm, and the next version of BlackICE Defender. It'll be a little later this year.

    In the meantime, I'm running the latest Norton Personal Firewall on my primary machine right now -- and plan report on it on in an upcoming issue.

    — Jim Allchin Speaks About XP, .Net, Product Activation —
    Jim Allchin is Microsoft's Mr. XP. More than anyone else at Microsoft, Allchin is the guy who is responsible for Windows XP. CNET recently carried an interview with him that's worth a read, especially if you're interested in XP and .Net (which Jim is working on now). There are also some interesting comments about Product Activation.

    Back to the Top


    Word 2002 Under Win98 Hotfix
    Speaking about software that needs fixing, I am happy to report that Microsoft has fixed a problem with Word 2002 (the version of Word in Office XP) that Scot’s Newsletter first identified back on June 12, 2001.

    The problem affects anyone who installed Office XP or Word 2002 under any version of Windows 98. It's a quirky little bug. If you launch Word 2002 from the Quick Launch area of Taskbar and then open any Word file or dialog box, the file window or dialog box minimizes spontaneously and both the Word program icon and its title bar begin to flash.

    I've been working with Microsoft on this problem since last June. I went through three separate fixes for the problem, each of which required installing a new version of the main Word program file, Winword.exe. The first fix didn't work for me. The second two did. But I liked the third one the best, and that's the one Microsoft settled on. The fix was finalized too late to make it into Office XP Service Pack 1, so it was recently released as a Hotfix. I'm told it will be rolled into Office XP Service Pack 2, if and when that's ever made available.

    The Hotfix isn't freely available as a download. You have to request it from Microsoft's tech support area -- something that's a whole trip in and of itself. Once you request the fix, a tech support rep will approve your request and send you an FTP URL to download the patch in a zip archive. You'll also be given a password needed to unzip the file.

    I'm going to give you some tips about the above in a minute. But first, here's the Microsoft Knowledgebase (KB) article that addresses the problem and gives you some more info about the patch: Dialog Box Does Not Open After You Start Word from Quick Launch Taskbar (Q286857).

    — Getting the Hotfix —
    A lot of you don't need this information because you're not trying to run Office XP on Windows 9x. But the steps that I'm going to detail will help anyone trying to contacting Microsoft online for tech support service. Microsoft makes it very difficult to get their attention. But once you do, in my experience you get excellent support.

    If you look at the KB article, you'll see that you need to install the Word 2002 Update dated June 21, 2001. The link in the KB article isn't the best one, in my opinion, to start with. Microsoft maintains an Office XP site that's similar to Windows Update. Use it to check whether you have the June 21 Word 2002 Update installed already. If not, you can download it here. If you've already installed Office XP Service Pack 1, you already have this update.

    Next, you'll notice from the KB article that the Hotfix installs as an MSP file, which means it requires the Windows Installer to be present as a service on your system. The Office XP disc contains the 2.0 version of Windows Installer. It's the Instmsi.exe file in the root directory of the CD. Install that, but check out the information about Windows Installer in the last issue of SFNL.

    As a final caveat for you, Microsoft has promised me repeatedly that they will update the KB article I keep referring to reflect the needs of Win98 users to have Windows Installer onboard before they try to install this patch. In my tests, I found that you need the 2.0 version of Windows Installer, in fact. I had an older version installed. So perhaps some of this will be better explained by the time you get to the KB article.

    Last but not least, the KB article unceremoniously dumps you off into the main Microsoft Tech Support area with the pay-off link that's supposed to lead you to the Hotfix. But it's nearly impossible to find where to do this, and then even if you do, you could wind up paying for it. But I've done it myself for free. And I'll explain how.

    You'll need two annoying things to make this work. The first is a Microsoft Passport account and the second is the Product ID number for your copy of Word 2002. That's not the product key on the back of the CD cover, but the number that Microsoft assigns to your copy of the program. You'll find that number on the Help > About screen.

    Start here. In the navigation column on the left side, under the "Support Menu" heading, choose Contact Microsoft > Online. Sign up for Passport if you haven't. (You'll find a text link on this page that helps you do that.) I don't trust the privacy of this service at all, so give them as little info as possible and use a throwaway email address.

    Once that's done, click the green arrow after "Get help from a Microsoft Support Professional." On the next page, click "Ask a Microsoft Support Professional for help." On the following page choose these items from the three drop downs:

    1. Your country
    2. "Applications and Games"
    3. One of these four: Office XP, Office XP Pro/FrontPage, Office XP Pro/Publisher, or Word 2002

    Click Next, and select "No-charge Support" unless you don't have a Product ID number. Click Next and enter your Product ID number. The next screen is the business end of things. Just describe your problem and I would specifically mention the KB Article Q286857. Request access to the Hotfix. Microsoft's response is relatively fast. Usually within a few hours, certainly within 24 hours.

    Back to the Top


    NTFS Part III: How to Make NTFS Go Faster
    In the last two issues of this newsletter I've run one of my inadvertent series -- this one on Windows XP's NTFS file system. I had no idea I was about to touch off an avalanche of questions and reveal a large problem for Windows XP users. Or even better, that I was about to publish an NTFS performance solution.

    I explained about cluster sizes in NTFS in the first in the series. In short, Windows XP's NTFS file system is even more storage efficient than Win98's FAT32. And it can be at least as fast as FAT32. It's also more reliable. But there is one very big problem. When you install Windows XP as an upgrade of a previous version of Windows running FAT16 or FAT32 and convert to NTFS as part of setup or after the fact, in most cases you end up with tiny 512-byte cluster sizes. This occurs because of the way the data is aligned on the disk and the NTFS conversion process as carried out by Microsoft's Convert utility. PowerQuest's PartitionMagic 7.0 uses the Microsoft utility, so it has the same issues.

    The surprising truth is that some new PCs also arrive with 512-byte cluster sizes. So if you've got a new Windows XP box that runs slow, you should definitely check out what I'm about to explain.

    In the last issue, I alluded to a possible solution. A little-known program called Paragon Partition Manager, created by a group of Russian programmers working for Paragon Software, has in its latest version, 5.0, added the ability to dynamically adjust cluster sizes.

    Paragon Partition Manager isn't generally marketed in the U.S., although you can purchase it on the Internet, where it sells for about $40.

    None of the popular disk utilities marketed in the U.S. is capable of pulling off this feat yet. But Partition Manager does it, and does it well.

    To prove the point, I acquired a copy of Paragon Partition Manager 5.0 from the company and configured a test system. I had an existing drive containing a clean Windows 98 Second Edition installation on my trusty Compaq Armada 700 (the best Compaq product I've ever worked with) notebook PC. I ran a standard Windows XP upgrade installation, which took a while, but completed just fine. I also converted to NTFS. When all the files were copied and the changes made, it was immediately apparent to me that my performance eroded markedly. It took Windows forever to load, and disk-intensive tasks ran like molasses in January. In fact, I was surprised by how slow the machine became. I had been led to believe that 512-byte clusters slowed the machine down incrementally, but the reality was much worse.

    Next I used Windows' Disk Defragmenter to check the cluster size on my hard disk. To do that, you open Disk Defragmenter from Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > Disk Defragmenter. Right-click the appropriate drive and choose Analyze. When the analysis is complete, click the View Report button. There you see a line that reads Cluster Size = XX KB. In my case, it showed 512-bytes, the smallest, slowest cluster size NTFS allows. The optimum size is 4K clusters.

    I was ready to try Paragon Partition Manager. I'll tell you upfront that there are two problems with this product. The first is the user interface, which needs help. But it's usable. The second is that before you make the cluster size change, block out several hours of time for your PC. Overnight might be a good idea. You may save yourself some time by running a defrag before you run the cluster-size conversion, but you'll find that Disk Defragmenter also runs very slowly when your cluster sizes are 512-bytes.

    The time factor thing is variable. While it took me four hours to convert the cluster size on a 12GB notebook drive, it took one SFNL reader only a few minutes and another one over six hours. I asked the Paragon people about that and they wouldn't commit to even a range of time you can expect this process to take. Reading between the lines, this large difference from PC to PC in the time it takes to run the conversion is normal.

    The user interface issue comes into play when you do the cluster conversion because nothing says "Convert to 4K Cluster Size." But I can save you that pain. Once you have Paragon Partition Manager running, select the NTFS drive whose clusters you want to convert. From the program menu, choose Partition > Modify > Change cluster size. Dial the "Sectors/Cluster" spinner up to the number 8. Press OK. (If you select 4 in this scroll box, you'll get 2K clusters -- not the desired outcome.) The conversion process requires that Windows XP reboot.

    Maybe you'll be lucky and have the fast-track conversion. If not, I can promise you this, it'll be worth the wait. As soon as the conversion completed for me my performance was back to FAT32 levels. All that was left to do was run Disk Defrag again, both to check the cluster size and also to defrag the disk. Do both things.

    A couple final notes on NTFS this week. First, I've received a ton of email about NTFS that I haven't had time to get to. Many offer interesting info or questions deserving response. I will continue to cover NTFS in future issues.

    The other point is that Microsoft is continuing to investigate issues people have had with slow NTFS performance on new Windows XP PCs. The company is working with some of SFNL's readers on that point. I hope to get some sort of report back from Microsoft -- and if so, I'll publish it in a future issue. My take though? The steps in this issue will probably fix your problem, assuming you're willing to shell out for the Paragon product.

    I'd like to thank SFNL readers Jerry Bass, Tom Synder, Tom Duda, and literally scores of others who volunteered excellent information, donated hours of their time, and asked smart questions. Many of the best things in this newsletter come not from me, but from its readers. And for that I'm eternally grateful.

    Back to the Top


    Windows and Broadband Q&A
    Three questions this week that will test your mettle. Well, okay, hopefully they'll intrigue you. ;-)

    — Office XP on Windows 98, and Reinstalling Win98 —
    Question: I tried to install Office XP in a Win98SE environment. I have come across mixed comments since then about doing this. At any rate there were problems right away, so I uninstalled Office XP and went back to Office 2000 Professional. I had run the installer removal program and even went through the registry to remove every trace of Office XP I could find. I imagine there still may be some conflict with the DLLs because, although Win98 is running, it's run poorly ever since. I even tried installing Win98 SE over itself again, but it hangs in the latter stages of the installation.

    I hate to rebuild everything from scratch. Any suggestions on how to resolve this? Is there any easier way to reinstall the operating system without having to reinstall the 75 or so programs I use? --Mike Reisman

    Answer: Before I get into your installation problem, let me just comment that I am running Office XP over Windows 98 Second Edition. As you may have noticed from the earlier topic, I ran into some problems myself. But by and large I have found Office XP works fine over Windows 98 Second Edition. And I prefer it to Office 2000. Microsoft didn't extensively test Office XP with Win98 because most people get Microsoft Office the same way they get Windows -- when they buy a new PC. And few new PCs come with Win98 these days. I'm not defending Microsoft though. I think it should test its applications with every current version of Windows. Other application makers have to do that. Windows 98 still has the largest installed base of any version of Windows out there.

    Back to your problem. This reinstallation thing is a bit of a black art. Were it my machine, I think I would first try this: Uninstall Office 2000. Reinstall Office XP. Uninstall Office XP. Reboot the machine and test it for stability. If there were still issues, I would try reinstalling Windows 98 Second Edition over itself. You said you had problems with that though. I'd be interested to get more detail about where and how it hangs in the late stages of installation. The fact that you can't reinstall could be because you have Active Desktop turned on or because your antivirus program is running -- which causes a problem on some machines. Whatever the problem, that's what I would focus on first.

    Another thing you can try, but this will cause some additional problems, is to install Windows 98 again from DOS. When you do this, you sometimes lose long filenames. So longer than 8.3 names may be truncated with the XXXXXX~1 -style names. Windows is supposed to be able to right this problem on its own after it successfully installs. And I have seen it do so. I have also seen it unable to do so.

    Reinstalling Windows from DOS is pretty drastic, and it's something I only recommend as a last resort -- before you would wind up turning to a clean install anyway. It will probably work, but you could wind up with driver problems, or you could end up with a big mess. But you already sort of have a big mess.

    In my opinion, everyone should always be ready to do a clean installation. In other words, you should be prepared to install all 75 apps again. Many times by uninstalling them first (but leaving behind their program folders), you save yourself some of the pain of reconfiguring them. I usually counsel that people do a clean install of Windows 9x this way (note: these steps do not apply to Windows NT, 2000, or XP; and they only partially apply to Windows Me):

    1. It's not necessary to reformat your disk unless you suspect a problem with your hard drive. By reformatting, you add a lot of extra work to your process. If you have made a backup of your entire hard drive or your Windows installation with your applications, you don't need these steps. Then you can wipe your disk and reload your backup. But personally, I find that backups take me back to a specific point in time, and it's never the point in time that I actually wanted. Besides, it's good to figure this stuff out on your own. [Editor's note: Ah! That explains those mysterious long disappearances ... --Cyndy.] The gist of this process is that you'll install Windows from your hard drive, not from a CD. And instead of wiping your drive, you'll just obliterate your Windows folder and some Microsoft programs (like Internet Explorer).

    2. Copy your Windows Setup files from your Windows 9x CD to a folder on a second hard drive on your PC, such as D:\Options. You should have all the files from the CD's \Win98 folder on your hard drive. Taking the other folders is optional, and I recommend against it. If you don't have a second partition or hard drive, put them in C:\Options. If you don't have a Windows CD, read the instructions on your PC manufacturer's "Recovery" disk thoroughly. You may already have the Windows .CABs somewhere on your system, unbeknownst to you. Also, you might want to consider buying a upgrade Windows CD (while you can).

    3. Run Scandisk. If you don't have a Windows boot floppy disk, make one now. Control Panel > Add/Remove Programs > Startup Disk, and follow the directions.

    4. Uninstall all apps, leaving behind their folders in Program Files. This is a purist step. Many experienced computer users skip this one. But I have found that some applications work better if you uninstall them before reinstalling them. If you're going to all this pain, don't introduce a new problem.

    5. In the Program Files folder, delete all (or most) Microsoft program folders -- especially Internet Explorer, and other things IE installs. Exceptions: If you use Outlook or Outlook Express, leave their program folders intact. Unless you intend to install a different version of Microsoft Office, I would also leave that behind. (In your case, Mike R., you might want to delete the Microsoft Office folder.) Any program you know you're not going to reinstall, kill its folder. Be ruthless. Windows 98 doesn't run well with 75 programs installed. Dump the ones you really don't use.

    6. From Windows, copy your entire Windows directory and all the folders it contains to Drive D: or burn it to a CD. If you're copying it to your C: drive, rename it. The reason for doing this is to save hardware specific drivers and related files that you may need later. You can delete the folder once you're sure you no longer need it. Remember not to select the WIN386.SWP file if that's found in your Windows folder. The easiest way to handle this chore is to create your target folder. Then open your Windows folder. Find the WIN386.SWP file and select it. Choose Edit > Invert Selection from the folder menu. Then simply drag and drop any highlighted file to the target folder.

    7. Delete your Windows folder. You can delete much of it with Windows running, and it's faster to delete it that way. The rest can be accomplished when you reboot to DOS. When you delete the Windows folder while running Windows, your computer may start acting funky. If worse comes to worse, shutdown and reboot to DOS. (Hold down the Ctrl key for the Windows Boot Menu and choose "Command Prompt Only.")

    8. If you know your Windows files in the root directory, this is the time to prune out files from the previous Windows installation that might get in your way. If you're not sure, skip this step. Most of the time it doesn't matter much whether you remove these leftover files from your previous Windows installation. Leave Autoexec.bat, Config.sys, Msdos.sys, and Io.sys.

    9. Reboot your computer to DOS again. If you have trouble booting to DOS on your hard drive, use the Windows boot floppy disk and opt NOT to initiate the CD-ROM drive and RAM disk. Use DOS to navigate to the directory where you placed the Windows setup files. Run Setup.exe from there. Be sure to choose "C:\Windows" as your destination folder if prompted. Setup may find your copied Windows folder on Drive D: or wherever you put it, and you don't want to install Windows to that folder.

    10. Once Windows is properly installed, reinstall all your applications. Do this slowly, one or two at a time (you can gang up simpler apps), rebooting between each one. That's a pain, but if there's an issue caused by an installing app, that way you'll know which one caused it.

    11. Visit Windows Update and download the patches you feel you need. Most of the patches Microsoft offers on this site aren't all that necessary. There may be some that your computer truly does need. In particular, I would stay away from upgrading Internet Explorer to IE 5.5 or 6.0. Not because they're really bad, but because they're just not good enough to bother. The SP2 versions of IE 5.01 and IE 5.5 are preferable though. Personally I still like IE 5.01 SP2 the best. I would also steer clear of DirectX and Windows Media Player, at least until you're sure your system is stable. About "critical updates," I do think you should probably install these mostly for security reasons. But you are unlikely to see any differences in the operation of your PC because of them. When you do see changes from Windows Update patches, they tend to be negative changes. In my opinion, you should err on the side of going slow with patches.

    12. ScanDisk and Defrag your drive(s).

    Hope this helps. --S.F.


    — Creating an Ergonomically-Sound PC Workspace —
    Question: I'd be interested to know exactly what kind of desk and chair you have, since you were describing what sounded like the perfect computer desk. I work from home, and my current setup still just doesn't cut it. I don't have wrist pains, and I use a natural keyboard, but my chair/desk combo aren't comfortable enough. If you don't want to give out brands, do you know of an ergo-centric resource that can provide this kind of information? Thanks. --Philip Cleckler

    Answer: The brand I have was made by a company called Globe. I purchased it from Staples in 1995, so I doubt this particular model is still available. Even if it were, I'm not sure I would buy it again. What's perfect about it are the arms, which have a padded rubber covering, and whose shape and height provide excellent arm support. I've actually begun looking for a replacement because, while the arms are great, the base is wobbly. Besides having supportive armrests, make sure whatever you buy is height adjustable.

    The secret is in the desk, though. Instead of hunting for chairs to fit my desktops, I make my desks from scratch, building them to a height that matches the chair. That way the armrests and the desktop are the same height. After years of messing with this, I've hit upon a formula that works for me. I start with a 30-inch or 32-inch hollow-core door. You can get these at any lumber yard and most large building-supply stores. I mount a piece of half-inch (or less) plywood the height and width of the door on one side using wood glue and one-inch sheet-rock screws. The screws go in around the edges where there's wood bracing on a hollow-core door. (The middle is just shored up with cardboard bracing, so it's pointless to screw in there.) Then I sand, stain, and polyurethane the door. [Editor's Note: He lies. That boy never stained a thing in his life. I'm the one who does the staining and polyurethaning. And painting is an option, although it doesn't hold up as well. --Cyndy.]

    For legs, I buy folding metal-tube table legs, which you'll find at any building-supply store for $20-$25 a pair. I use a hack saw to cut the legs to length. The legs come with plastic feet that you pop into the cut hole. The trickiest part is measuring and marking the legs so that you'll wind up with the table top at the same height as your armchair armrests. Remember to adjust your chair height before you take this measurement. You'll probably wind up with a fairly low table height while your chair's height will be maxed out (which is why mine is wobbly). The space between the top of the chair seat and the bottom of the desktop will also be cozy, but workable.

    In my office, I also make this table height match pretty closely with other office furniture I have, like two-drawer file cabinets and the like. It's a bit more complicated, but I also cut the length of the hollow-core doors to match the office space. That way I can create wrap-around desktops without have to do built-ins. --S.F.


    — Corporate Windows Update Site and Win2K —
    Question: At my workplace we run a complete Windows 2000 network, from servers to clients. We take advantage of the corporate Windows Update site to update all our clients using active directory to roll out the MSI packages. It gets the job done like a charm. Recently Microsoft disabled access to corporate updates for Windows 2000 users and will only allow these kinds of updates to occur if you are using the Windows XP operating system. Our company sees no reason to update to XP. Windows 2000 offers everything we need. Also, we strongly discourage the use of product activation. I wanted to know is there any way of working around this "problem" or are we just being pushed into Microsoft's trap to move corporations to XP? Thank you for any advice you can offer. --Robert Sweeney

    Answer: Robert, I don't know the answer to this question, but it's a good one. Anybody reading this know the answer? --S.F.

    Send your burning question to the newsletter and look for an answer in a future issue.
    Back to the Top


    More on StarBand and Pegasus
    I have several smaller updates on the StarBand and DirecWay/Pegasus two-way satellite head-to-head review I published in the last issue of this newsletter.

    First, StarBand formally launched Windows XP support this week. I haven't spent much time checking this out yet, but thought you'd want to know. There's no new software, but there are some new instructions on the StarBand website.

    Next, several people, including longtime SFNL reader Dick Hamilton, who is an ex-radar technician, wrote to tell me that I made a mistake when I wrote: "Placing your head near the dish while it's receiving data can actually be harmful to your eyes." It's not receiving data that's the problem, it's sending data. Unlike a satellite TV dish, a two-way satellite dish transmits data up to the satellite, and it's those transmissions that are considered to be dangerous. Both the Hughes and the StarBand dishes have stickers on them warning about this. Consequently, if you're going to mess with your dish (though you probably shouldn't do that), make sure your satellite modem is turned off.

    Since the review last time I have had contact from seven different people in four separate StarBand departments: Marketing, tech support, documentation, and customer service. In each case, people were trying to understand problems I ran into. I consider that to be a very good sign that StarBand is serious about improving its service.

    For example, the customer service folks called me the very next morning after the review appeared anxious about the comment I'd made that the Web-form-based email I'd sent to them entered a black hole. Because this system has an automatic confirmation response that I never received, we all agreed that something went wrong when I sent my message. Hard to say what caused the problem -- but it was probably an anomaly.

    Both marketing and documentation folks contacted me about the following part of my review where I explained the problems I had getting the StarBand USB driver to install:

    [StarBand overnighted me] a disc with a slightly newer version of the software on it. It also came with a revised Quick Start Guide. Guess what? The directions were wrong, not the software. Once I reversed the order of two steps, the driver installed right away, and the rest of the installation went quickly and easily. For StarBand, it's the USB driver that's the killer.

    In case it wasn't clear (and when I re-read what I wrote, I don't think it was) the "slightly newer" 7.05 version of the StarBand software comes with an updated version of the StarBand Model 360 Installation Quick Start Guide that includes the correct order of steps for installing the USB driver and StarBand software. The original version of the StarBand 360 software's installation guide had an incorrect order of steps that was guaranteed to frustrate people who played by the rules. So, anyway, this problem is fixed. I'm not going to reprint the correct steps here, but if you're struggling with getting your StarBand 360 USB driver installed feel free to ask me.

    There's been some confusion about the latest StarBand software version. In the retail box, the latest version of the StarBand software is labeled as 7.05. If you go to the StarBand.net website though, you'll find that the latest versions called 2.1.0.16 and 2.1.0.17. Those are the Engineering designations for the same software as 7.05. Version 2.1.0.16 designates the software from the CD. Version 2.1.0.17 is the online updater. The only difference between the CD load and the updater is the CD has IE6 on it. If you're downloading the software from StarBand, choose 2.1.0.17.

    — Internet Connection Sharing and StarBand —
    I got some snotty reader emails (as well as some nice ones) about my statement that Windows' Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) service doesn't work under StarBand. And the folks doing the complaining had a point: StarBand and ICS can co-exist on Windows 2000 and XP machines. StarBand verifies that this use of ICS is supported. But the company also says that ICS use is not supported under Windows 98 or Me.

    I probably should have stated the following in the review. I used the same PC to test both StarBand and Pegasus Express. It's a Dell Pentium II 450 with 256MB of RAM. It's running Windows 98 Second Edition and Internet Explorer 6.0. I tested the use of ICS with StarBand on this testbed PC, and it would not work there. Even when I removed the Deterministic shim from the LAN side, as some readers have written me to suggest, it would not work there. Perhaps there's more to the story, but at this point, I have no additional information.

    I was also informed that Starbandusers.com has instructions for using ICS under Win 98 to share a StarBand connection with other PCs. But that's not what I found on Starbandusers.com. What I read there was pretty plain: The version of ICS that comes with Windows 98 SE and Windows Me does not work with StarBand. The only caveat I'll give is that I'm not a Starbandusers.com subscriber, which means I don't have access to the Forum or Knowledgebase. I've looked through the Knowledgebase before it was placed behind a membership firewall, though, and most of what was in it at that time pertained to the Model 180.

    But what about the original version of Windows 98, which Starbandusers.com doesn't mention? The version of ICS that comes with the first Win98 installs a little differently than later versions do. (For one thing, you have to have two network adapters present in your PC before you'll even see the option to install ICS under Add/Remove Programs > Windows Setup.) It's possible that the original Win98's ICS does work with StarBand.

    — More Data on Pegasus Express/DirecWay —
    After I sent the last newsletter, I continued to monitor my Pegasus Express performance for several days. Two or three times each day, I used PC Pitstop's Bandwidth Test and Inch.com's Speedtest. I chose these tests because StarBand recommends PC Pitstop (and the entire site is a past SFNL Link of the Week) and Pegasus's tech support recommended the Inch.com test for their service. The PC Pitstop test shows more dramatic results because it uses a larger file, and the larger the file, the better a satellite-broadband service performs.

    The Pegasus results over the 10-day period bore out my comments in the review. I had one day where performance was absolutely stellar. I saw tested throughput over 1,600kbps. And there were a couple of days in the 300-400kbps range. But most of the time my Pegasus/DirecWay connection was under 200kbps, and there were a couple of days when it was under 100kbps. Anything less than 200kbps is unacceptable given the price charged for this service.

    One additional note: I mentioned that I've been trying to contact Hughes Network Services, the company behind DirecWay, in an effort to evaluate their version of the DirecWay service, which includes newsgroups and other things Pegasus lacks. I sent an email in mid-January (my latest effort to contact Hughes) to someone identified as being in DirecWay public relations. Early this week I got a read receipt from that January message. But no response.

    Back to the Top


    Link of the Week: Jason's Toolbox - Script Sentry 2.5
    Fellow ex-Winmagger and developer Jason Levine helps out with the .CGI scripts for Scot’s Newsletter. He has a website and a newsletter called Jason's Toolbox, which I wholeheartedly recommend. He also has a security program called Script Sentry, which prevents inadvertent opening of executable files you might receive via email that could give you a big bad surprise. I've been waiting to point out Script Sentry until Jason came out with an update that vastly improves protection for Eudora Email users. Well, he's done that in Script Sentry 2.5. Script Sentry is free for personal use. But if you use it and like it, he accepts donations. He's a good guy. Check out his code.

    Have you discovered a relatively unknown Windows- or broadband-oriented website that everyone should know about? Please send me the URL, and let me know why you liked it.

    Back to the Top


    Tip of the Week: Create Custom Word 2002 Templates
    In keeping with the accidental Office XP theme running throughout this issue, this week I'm offering a Word 2002 tip:

    — Create Your Own Custom Word 2002 Templates —
    If you don't like the default font, you never need to use it again, even when writing a new document in Word version 2002. You can create a template of your favorite font styles and sizes and use it whenever you want. It's nearly as easy as creating a new document. For example, you can create a document template in which Verdana, not Arial, is the default font. Follow these steps to create a custom template. (Note: Word 2002 is the version of Word that comes in Office XP.)

    1. On Word 2002's View menu, select Task Pane.

    2. If the New Document task pane is not visible, select it from the drop-down menu in the upper right corner of the Task Pane.

    3. In the New Document task pane, click General Templates.

    4. In the Templates dialog box that appears, select the General tab, and click Blank Document once to select it (this will be the base for your new template).

    5. Under the Create New section at the lower right corner, click Template, and then click OK. This will open a new instance of Word 2002, where you'll carry out the rest of the steps.

    6. In the new template, add any text and graphics you want to appear in all new documents that you base on this template, and delete any items you don't want to appear.

    7. Make the changes you want to the margin settings, page size and orientation, styles, and other formats. For example, change the font to Verdana.

    8. On the File menu, click Save, give your template a name, and then click Close on the File menu. Your new, customized template will then be available as a choice under General Templates in the New Document task pane.

    — A More Permanent Change —
    Forget Arial and Times Roman forever. Follow the same steps but in step 8, instead of saving the file with a new name, save it with the name:

    Blank Document.dot

    By doing that, you permanently change the default document template to your font (or other formatting) of choice.

    Do you have a Windows or broadband tip you think SFNL readers will like? Send it along to me, and if I print it in the newsletter, I'll print your name with it.

    Back to the Top


    Announcing Scot’s Newsletter HTML Beta Test!
    If you're interested in receiving an HTML version of Scot’s Newsletter in your mailbox, read on. Otherwise, you can skip this part. Just for the record, the text version of Scot’s Newsletter will continue to be available for as long as Scot’s Newsletter is available. But I am considering an HTML version, and I'm testing it right now. You can take part in that test if you're interested.

    There's really only one reason: Pride. SFNL is extremely long. It's almost like a biweekly magazine (I'm somewhat embarrassed to say). It also has a double focus: Windows and Broadband. Many people would prefer that I covered either Windows, or Broadband, or both in separate newsletters. If I were independently wealthy, I would be writing two weekly newsletters. Because I'm not and I have a day job, the newsletter's current form is a compromise.

    So, the main advantage of subscribing to the HTML version is simply that it's navigable. Each of the headlines at the top of the HTML version is clickable, and there's a "Back to the Top" link at the end of every section. That means you can browse the newsletter in your mailbox, easily skipping the parts you're not interested in. So you only have to scroll through anything you're actually reading.

    About privacy issues: There are none. I'm not tracking anything at all with the HTML version. Period. Remember, I'm not a corporation. It's just me and my editor, my wife Cyndy.

    That's a brief introduction to the HTML Beta-Test version of SFNL. There are several caveats and qualifications. Before you sign-up, I want you to read about them. You'll find all the details on the HTML Beta-Test Sign-Up page.

    Back to the Top


    The Fine Print
    If you like this newsletter, I need your help spreading the word about it. Please share it with friends and co-workers, and encourage them to sign up! It's free.

    Visit the new Scot's Newsletter Forums.

    Subscribe, Unsubscribe, Change Email Address or Message Format
    You can unsubscribe at any time; I don't believe in captive audiences. The website subscription center is the easiest way to manage your Scot’s Newsletter subscription. Changes take only a minute or two. You must select your message format — Text or HTML — even for address changes or unsubscribes.

  • Unsubscribe
  • Unsubscribe Help and Options
  • Subscribe
  • Change Email Address or Message Format (HTML or Text)

    Contributions
    To help with the cost of creating and distributing the newsletter, I accept contributions via PayPal and Letter Mail. For more information on donations:

  • Sign-up for PayPal (if you don't already have it)
  • Option #1: Donate via PayPal
  • Option #2: Donate via Letter Mail

    Contact
    Send comments, suggestions, or questions about this newsletter. Don't be bashful about telling me what you like or don't like. Send emails related to editorial content (only) to scot@scotsnewsletter.com.

    Please address advertising inquires (only) to: sales@scotsnewsletter.com



    Sign-up for PayPal.

    Support this Newsletter by Donating Today.
    Or donate via Letter Mail.

    How to Link to Scot’s Newsletter

    Copyright © 2001-2007 Scot Finnie. All Rights Reserved.
    Ten Myths About Copyright Explained.


    You are subscribed to Scot's Newsletter HTML EDITION as: $subst('Recip.EmailAddr')