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Leo’s Answers #1 – November 18, 2005

Leo's Answers
A Weekly Newsletter From
Ask Leo!
Leo Notenboom

Hello!

Welcome to the very first issue of the Leo's Answers newsletter, from Ask Leo!

Wow. Starting up a newsletter is a lot of work. I want to thank everyone who gave me feedback on various issues helping me to craft this newsletter into something that I hope you'll find useful, informative, and even occasionally entertaining.

You can continue to help! I'm always interested in your feedback and thoughts on how I can make this newsletter, and Ask Leo! itself, more useful to you. Drop me a line at leo <at> ask-leo.com. I only give that email address to newsletter subscribers, so I'll know it's from one of my loyal readers. I'll be honest: I'll try to respond, but because of the sheer number of emails and questions I get every day (you'd be surprised how many), I can't guarantee that I'll be able to. Rest assured that even if you don't hear from me directly, I read every email I get.

On with the show...

*** Contents

Instructions for unsubscribing are at the end of every newsletter.

*** New Articles of Note on Ask Leo!

How can I identify this blank taskbar item?

Hi, I am running XP2 Home Edition. I am getting an icon indicating an open application in the taskbar with no identity. The background of the rectangular part is like any normal one. There is a white folder icon with a blue top border within the rectangle. Right and left clicking only cause the color of the rectangle to go from lighter to darker and back again. The "phantom" has no association and when I open Task Manager it shows no applications running. I have been told that I might have to stop processes one at a time and reboot each time as well as use msconfig to do the same with services and startup. I assume this process could be risky as well as extremely time consuming and I hope it can be avoided.

Time consuming? Certainly. Risky? You bet. Done improperly, I believe you can render Windows unbootable. The result would replace a small problem with a huge one.

The good news is that I don't think we need to resort to anything like that at all. In fact, we'll use one of my favorite free tools ... the Swiss Army Knife of diagnostic tools, and see if we can't at least begin to narrow down the possibilities.

But it will take a little investigation by process of elimination.

Continue reading: "How can I identify this blank taskbar item?"

* * *

What's "Msocache"?

I have a hidden file called MSO Cache on my E drive. Windows XP is installed on the C drive. Msocache is about 200 megabytes but it looks kind of important. I'm sure I didn't make it nor anybody else. Is it a system file or spyware? What does it do and can I delete it safely?

Msocache is another of those "magical" directories (not a file) that somehow just appears one day. Since we're not looking for this kind of thing constantly it's easy to miss exactly when it showed up.

Here's one clue, though - MSO stands for MicroSoft Office.

Yep. Microsoft Office is trying to be helpful.

Continue reading: "What's "Msocache"?"

* * *

How do I control which email accounts Outlook tries to download?

I use several different email addresses that all get automatically forwarded to my one "real" account. I have each defined in Outlook as a different account, so that I can send "from" the appropriate account just by selecting the account I want to use in the account drop-down list. When I go to send/receive, each account is checked for new mail - the problem is that since they're all the same "real" email account, only the first will actually get any email, the rest are just wasting time checking that same account. Can I get Outlook to only check one account for new email without wasting all that time on the others?

I have the exact same situation here. I have many "logical" email addresses that all forward to my "real" email account. The good news is that Outlook does have a way to control what accounts are checked, and when. It's not obvious, and not terribly simple, but it is there.

First let me explain the situation in a little more detail.

Continue reading: "How do I control which email accounts Outlook tries to download?"

* * *

Just how secure is email, anyway?

My business requires the emailing of some sensitive information on a regular basis. I have spoken with my boss and co-workers about all of us using an encrypted email system but no one seems to think there is a significant threat or danger out there to require these extra steps in security. Can you offer any data to help me to convince them that this is a good idea?

Actually I don't have hard data to say one way or the other. The risk varies too much on too many factors to really present data that'll apply in a specific situation.

But we can definitely look at some of the specific factors.

Continue reading: "Just how secure is email, anyway?"

* * *

So just what *is* the I386 directory anyway?

I've seen you talk a lot about the I386 directory, particularly for folks that don't have an installation CD for their system. But I'm still confused ... not every machine has this I386 directory, or if they do, it doesn't seem to have what you say it does. What is it, really? Should I have it? What if I don't? Do I want it?

Whoa ... seems my answers around the I386 directory have been generating lots of additional questions as well. Let's see if we can clarify they "I386 mystery".

Let me start by answering a question you didn't ask, because it's related, incredibly important, and the reason that I386 appears in so many of my answers: In my opinion, you should never purchase a pre-installed operating system without also getting the CD-ROM of the operating system that came pre-installed.

Never.

Clear enough? Now, let me tell you why I feel so strongly, and how it relates to I386.

Continue reading: "So just what *is* the I386 directory anyway?"

* * *

*** This Week's Podcast

Each week I produce a three-minute podcast - an audio segment recorded as an MP3 file - with news, commentary or answers to some of the questions I get on Ask Leo!

This week I ask: Is free software a viable alternative? There's tons of free and open-source software out there. Is any of it any good?

*** Popular Articles from the Ask Leo! Archives

This week: my take on free email services. So many of my questions relate to free email services. Some are real heartbreakers with people losing all their contact information, years of personal email or worse. I really wish more people would read this article I wrote almost exactly a year ago:

Are free email services worth it?

I've been receiving a lot of reports of problems with Microsoft's HotMail free email service lately, and it really begs the question: are free email services like HotMail, Yahoo Mail and GMail worth the cost?

My position: Yes.

And: Absolutely Not.

As always, it depends on your needs, and your expectations.

Continue reading...

*** Interesting Sites and Useful Resources

Microsoft Support, also known as The Knowledgebase, is one of the most overlooked resources on the internet for users of Microsoft software. There's a ton of information out here that addresses hundreds of thousands of issues from the simple, to the complex to the obscure.

The only problem with the Knowledgebase is that there's so much information, it can sometimes be difficult to find exactly what you're looking for. But be patient and hone your searching skills. If you like, you can use Google to search the Knowledgebase by including "site:support.microsoft.com" in your Google query.

You'll note that my answers will often include a link to a Knowledgebase article - it's one of the places I turn to frequently for issues with Microsoft products.

*** Newsletter Administration Department

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Till next week!

Leo Notenboom

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