Readers' Forum - April 2004

by Rob Zorn
from the April 2004 Newsletter

If you'd like to ask a question or request some help on any Actrix or Internet-related matter. Simply send me an e-mail with the word "forum" in the subject line. I'll try and answer your question by return e-mail, and will also post the answer here for the benefit of others who may have a similar question or problem. By the same token, if you read something here and think you may have something to suggest, please feel more than free. Please also note that questions and answers may turn up under the Helpful Tips section on the Actrix home page (www.actrix.co.nz).

I'm really grateful to the Actrix Support Team, too, for their input here when some of the questions also have me a little stumped.

Jeremy writes: Hi; I run XP Home edition as an operating system. I haven't updated it for a long time and now I have to update 26Meg to be up to date. My problem is that this takes far too long on dial-up and invariably something goes wrong in the 4-6 hours it takes before I can download the service pack, and I have to start again.
I have a broadband connection at work on a different PC. Can I download the service pack from there, write it to a disk and then install it on my home PC? How can I do this?

Hi Jeremy, I am doubtful that this will work in the main. The reason would be that a typical download from a Windows Update site is customised for the machine in question. Whatever updates you downloaded would be for the operating system of the work machine and not the home one. Unless your work machine had exactly the same operating system, and then the same needs as your one at home, you couldn't be sure the downloads would be the same.

Microsoft has recognised your problem and is now issuing updates on CD. There's an article about this at http://zdnet.com.com/2100-1105-5162660.html. I gave Microsoft a call, and it was pleased to be informed that New Zealand has now been added to the list of countries where the CD is available.

You can order it free at www.microsoft.com/security/protect/cd/order.asp. Microsoft will even pay for the postage!

Barbara asks: Hello there Rob, Are you able to tell me why some pictures come through to me okay and others do not? They just leave a square box with a small red cross in left hand corner. Many thanks.

Hi Barbara; Pictures come with e-mails in various ways. Sometimes they are just attachments to the e-mail. If they come this way, you should have no problem seeing them, or at least being able to open them.

The box with the "little red cross scenario" occurs when the code behind the e-mail is saying an image should be in that position, but the image can't be located for display. Your e-mail program does the best it can by displaying the size and position information it has for the image, but not the image itself.

Sometimes people insert an image into their e-mail. It looks fine to them, but behind the scenes, the code for the e-mail only has this information: <img src="c:\myfunnypics\funnypic.jpg"> This code means - "Display an image here that is located on my hard drive at c:\myfunnypics\funnypic.jpg." Unfortunately, when the e-mail arrives, the recipient doesn't have the image on their hard drive at the location c:\myfunnypics\funnypic.jpg. So all their e-mail program can do is display something that indicates an image should be there - the "little red cross scenario".

For this reason, it is best, when sending images inserted into an e-mail, to link them to a copy of the image somewhere on the web. That way, when the e-mail is downloaded to the recipient, the recipient's e-mail program can easily get the image and display it. It doesn't have to try and find the sender's hard drive (which of course it is not likely going to be able to do). When it can't find the image it's left with the "little red cross scenario". Normally, once the recipient's e-mail program has downloaded the image, it will remember it and continue to display it, even when the recipient is offline.

Sometimes, though, web pages change or become unavailable, and then the recipient's e-mail program still can't find the image, and we get the same problem again.

If you're sending images, it is always best to send them as attachments. That way they come through with the e-mail itself and the whole problem is avoided.

Steve writes: Hi Rob, I was wanting to know your thoughts on SpywareGuard 2.2 as in if it is a worthwhile protection instrument to download. Can it be deleted if it becomes a nuisance? How secure is using Paypal Donate, and what would be an acceptable donation to the program developers? Your thoughts and advice would be gratefully appreciated.

Hi Steve, I hadn't heard of SpywareGuard before and I don't know anyone who's used it.   However, I did find a discussion forum at http://www.wilderssecurity.com/index.php?board=34. Maybe you could get some feeling for the program by reading about others' experiences. Other anti-Spyware programs we are familiar with include the following:

Ad-Aware: http://lavasoft.element5.com/software/adaware/
SpyBot (Search and Destroy): http://www.safer-networking.org/ 

Yes, PayPal is a good way to donate. I use it frequently for overseas purchases. It is used by millions of people as a very convenient and generally safe way of doing things.

What an acceptable donation would be is a harder one. The SpywareGuard developers have decided to leave that over to you, so in that sense any amount is appropriate. I am sure they would appreciate any payment, as thousands of people will download and use the program and never pay them anything. Try the thing for a couple of weeks. Does it work well? Is it easy to use? If so, then the developers deserve to be rewarded.

I hesitate to say this, but my standard donationware payment for a program of this size (it's less than 2 Megs) would be $20US, but that's me and that's completely arbitrary. If you think it's worth paying more then please do.

John writes: Hi Rob, Sorry to bother you, but you may be able to help me. This month the link to the Actrix Newsletter show as a purple colour, whereas your other links are in the usual blue. Most importantly I cannot open the link to the Newsletter. I had the same trouble last month, but I think I managed to open it after an awful lot of trial and error. Needless to say I cannot now remember how I did it. Are you able to explain or help, please?

Steve Trayhorne from the Actrix Help Desk responds:

Hi John, The different colours of hyperlinks actually relate to your browsing history. When your Internet Explorer goes to a particular web page it records this in its history logs. This means the hyperlink will be a purple colour indicating you have already visited this address. Links to pages you have not visited will be in blue. This will be for both Outlook Express and Internet Explorer. If you clear the history (Internet Explorer\Tools\Internet Options\Clear History) the history logs are wiped and all links will show as blue until the web page has been visited.

Below are four possible solutions for you to try in order to access the Actrix newsletters.

  1. Right-click on the link and select copy shortcut; then open Internet Explorer and paste into the address bar. Then press enter or Go.
  2. Go to the Actrix web site at www.actrix.co.nz. On the lefthand menu you will see Actrix Newsletters. Click this link and then select the month you wish to view. All of the Actrix newsletters are available from this link. You may find it interesting to look through some older issues.
  3. It is possible that you have security software on your computer restricting Outlook Express and not allowing it to open Internet Explorer. Check any security programs.
  4. Outlook Express won't respond to a Hyperlink. In Windows Explorer go to /Tools/Folder Options/File Types. Scroll down the list and highlight URL:MailTo Protocol. Click the Advanced and then the Edit buttons. Under Application used to perform action it should read: "C:\Program Files\Outlook Express\MSIMN.EXE" /mailurl:%1.