Leo's Answers #147 – October 7, 2008

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

I will be 81 next June & I enjoy reading your letter very much!


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*** Contents

*** This Week's New Articles on Ask Leo!

Do I need a new computer to keep up with my faster internet connection?

I just upgraded my internet service from 1.5 mbps to 7.0 mbps. I called tech support because I felt my computer is still running slow. The tech support says I may need a get new computer to be compatible with the 7.0 mbps.

I purchased my computer in July 2004. How often should one buy a new computer?

I heard that company A's service is faster than company B's. What do you think about that?

With all due respect to tech support - they're wrong.

Your four year old computer should be able to keep up just fine with a 7 megabit connection. Heck, 10 or 15 years ago it wasn't uncommon for slower computers on a faster 10 megabit Ethernet connection without problems.

Let's look at what might really be happening.

Continue reading: "Do I need a new computer to keep up with my faster internet connection?"

* * *

I have an old, old program I need to run in Vista, but it won't. Is there a way?

We use Visual BASIC for DOS, ver 1.0, to compile BASIC programs on Win 98SE and Win XP computers. The compiler doesn't work in Vista. Is there some way in which we can get the compiler to work under Vista? If the programs are compiled in XP, the programs run on Vista.

Boy, now there's a blast from the past. It's quite possible that you might actually be using software that I had a hand in creating, many years ago.

I can't guarantee that this will work for any specific program (like VB-DOS), but Vista does include some compatibility tricks that may be able to help.

Continue reading: "I have an old, old program I need to run in Vista, but it won't. Is there a way?"

* * *

Is a backup an alternative to having no Windows installation CDs?

I took your advice and purchased an external hard drive and Acronis backup software. Now, as a novice, I bought my desktop with Windows XP Media Edition pre-installed (no CD's). Since I am now backing up my whole Hard disk, am I safe if something bad happens with the operating system? (Referring to a recent question on missing or corrupt windows file.)

First, let me say "good for you" for having a backup solution, regardless of what solution you chose. That already puts you ahead of the game compared to most other computer users.

A full initial backup is an excellent safety net and can cover for not having installation CDs in many cases. However, from the way I worded that you can probably guess that there may be issues, but the good news is that they're rare.

Let's review the best way to use a full backup in a case like this.

Continue reading: "Is a backup an alternative to having no Windows installation CDs?"

* * *

Am I stealing someone else's IP address by resetting my router?

I'm using DSL and I have a router, and I have a static IP. So one day I restarted my router manually by pressing a button on the back. Now my IP address has changed. I told my friend I had done this and he says I've made a huge mistake. He says I'm essentially stealing another person's IP address on the ISP. Is it true that I am committing a crime by changing my IP address by simply restarting my router?

No, you're not.

What your friend fails to realize is something very fundamental to how IP addresses work.

You don't take an IP address; an IP address is given to you.

Continue reading: "Am I stealing someone else's IP address by resetting my router?"

* * *

How do I recover a corrupt system file if my Windows was pre-installed?

I have Windows XP home media edition. The message reads: "Windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt - <windows root>system32ntoskrnl.exe Please re-install a copy of the above file." The computer came with pre-installed Windows. All I have is recovery disks. I already lost all of my data once and I can not afford to lose it again. Please advise. I also spent hours looking for an answer on the internet. I saw nothing that could solve my problem.

I've addressed this and similar questions here several times before, but I want to revisit this because there are two important reminders that arise out of addressing this situation.

The first, of course, is that even if Windows is pre-installed you should always get the installation, not recovery, CDs when you buy a new machine.

Why manufacturers think it's a good idea not to provide them automatically is beyond me.

Continue reading: "How do I recover a corrupt system file if my Windows was pre-installed?"

* * *

Does a sandbox or virtual machine help protect your privacy?

I've been very interested in your articles on what a website can learn about you when browsing, cookies, and passwords etc. I wonder if you would like to comment on the pros and cons of using a sandbox (I use Sandboxie). Does using one overcome some of the issues you have discussed?

I'm going to add virtual machines to the mix that this question opens up, since the answer is (roughly) the same.

And the answer is that age old trio: yes, maybe and no.

The problem is that while sandboxes and VM's can help, they can help only in some ways, and that help comes at a cost.

Continue reading: "Does a sandbox or virtual machine help protect your privacy?"

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*** Featured Comments

A sampling of some of the comments that have been posted recently on Ask Leo!

* * *

Can I remove a link from Google using robots.txt?

Habteleul Wubayehu writes:

I post my CV to http://expatjobs.com. This site in turn posts my CV on google search engine. I really feel bad. My name is Habteleul. If you searched this name using google, you will get my CV. How can I remove it from this page. Thanks.

The short answer is that you probably can't. Once something is out on the internet it's copied and mirrored and archived in so many places that removal next to impossible. Check out this article: How do I remove myself from the search engines?
- Leo


How else can websites get my information?

Matthew Mapleton writes:

Leo: One thing I've noticed looking at cookie files is that they feature your windows login name in the file name itself. Do websites see your windows login name by virtue of their cookies? If so, do they record it or correlate it with other data, such as IP addresses?

Excellent observation. No they do not. That's simply the filename used by the browser.
I believe the username is an artifact of an old approach to identification used by websites that required a particular type of login. If a website required a particular type of login you used to be able to go to http://username<at>somerandomservice.com/ (replacing <at> with @) and be logged in as username (or be prompted for a password). Cookies would then be tracked separately for that username. For sites not requiring authentication I believe this is ignored. This approach is no longer supported in Internet Explorer, as it was being exploited by phishers.
- Leo


What can a website I visit tell about me?

Rondi Phillips writes:

In a previous newsletter, you challenged your readers to google themselves and see what they find. Well, I did, and I was shocked! There was even a reference to a response I made to one of your newsletters! The problem is I have an unusual name, and when I want to post a comment on your website, it asks for my name (required). I take it I can't use a fake name, so what should I do?

It depends on what you want to accomplish.
I too have a unique name - unique enough that all the results of searching on it are related to me somehow. Things like commenting on websites like this one don't bother me, and I use my real name. Doesn't matter to me if that shows up in a search result.
If it's some place I do care, I do use a fake name. Even here, while it asks for your name you can still make one up if you want. Just means that if I contact you I'll call you by that fake name.
So in general, use a fake name, or no name at all, when you think it might matter. The most important point of all is to be aware that what's posted online stays online for a long, long time.
- Leo

*** This Week's Most Popular

The ten most popular articles in the last 7 days on Ask Leo!

  1. How do I make a new MSN Hotmail account?
  2. How do I delete history items from my Google tool bar?
  3. How do I put a picture in a comment on myspace.com?
  4. My desktop Recycle Bin has disappeared - why, and how do I get it back?
  5. Why is my Task Manager disabled, and how do I fix it?
  6. Can I send text messages between a computer and a cell phone?
  7. I accidentally deleted my Recycle Bin in Vista - how do I get it back?
  8. How do I change my MSN Hotmail password?
  9. What are the POP3 and SMTP settings for Hotmail?
  10. How do I delete my Hotmail account?

*** Leo Recommends

What Security Software do you Recommend?

What anti-virus software should I use? How about a firewall? And what about spyware? Should I use one of the all-in-one packages that claim to do it all?

As you might imagine, I get these questions all the time. As a result, I do have recommendations in various articles on the site.

Here's the short version that sums it all up.

Continue reading: "What Security Software do you Recommend?"

I recommend it.

Each week I recommend a specific product or resource that I've found valuable and that I think you may as well. What does my recommendation mean?

*** Popular Articles from the Archives

This seems particularly relevant once again as the United States heads towards its presidential election in a few weeks...

Why are internet petitions a bad idea?

A mailing list I'm on encouraged all its readers to go to a web site and sign an internet petition supporting some legislation we care about. I mentioned that to a friend of mine, and his opinion was that I'd been duped, and that it was a scam. Is he right? Are internet petitions a scam?

Some are. Some aren't. But they do, in my opinion, share a common characteristic:

Most are ineffectual.

And that can actually cause more harm that good.

Let me explain why that is...

Continue reading...
Why are internet petitions a bad idea?

*** Thoughts and Comments

In last week's newsletter I mentioned that there were some "changes a'brewin", though not related to Ask Leo!

Last Wednesday we announced that my wife's business is closing after 14 years in business.

For us, that's big. Dolls and Friends has been a big part of our lives, but it's finally time for my wife to retire and for us to have a little more flexibility and free time. Ask Leo! can happen anywhere (I've often joked about "Ask Leo! World Headquarters" actually being my laptop - wherever it is, there I am), but a retail business selling and shipping dolls isn't nearly as portable.

A big decision, but we're looking forward to what comes next.

If you're curious, there's a FAQ, of course.

* * *

'till next time...

Leo A. Notenboom

* * *

A selection of Leo's articles are available for free re-use at http://articlesbyleo.com.

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Some of Leo's other sites: The Ask Leo! Store, Leo's Online Business Card, Forwarded Funnies, Taming Email, MovableType Tips, Leo's Blog, Buy Leo a Latte (or a Beer), A Letter To Myself, Dolls and Friends, Corgwn.com

*** Newsletter Administration

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Newsletter contents Copyright © 2008, Leo A. Notenboom & Puget Sound Software, LLC.

Posted: October 7, 2008 in: 2008
Shortlink: https://newsletter.askleo.com/3524
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I'm Leo Notenboom and I've been playing with computers since I took a required programming class in 1976. I spent over 18 years as a software engineer at Microsoft, and after "retiring" in 2001 I started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place to help you find answers and become more confident using this amazing technology at our fingertips. More about Leo.