Leo's Answers #175 – April 21, 2009

Leo's Answers
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Leo Notenboom

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*** Contents

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

How do I get a new IP address?

What is the most efficient way to generate a new external IP address from my ISP?

I get variations on this question often. I'll tell you what to try, but I'll also point out two things:

1) It might not be possible.

2) It likely won't solve whatever problem it is you're trying to solve.

That being said, here's what you can try...

Continue reading: "How do I get a new IP address?"

* * *

What's a browser cache, how do I "clear" it, and why would I want to?

The browser cache comes up a lot in answers, more than questions, but in doing so it probably causes even more questions. Even when following instructions to clear it, it's not at all clear what this piece of magic really is, and why clearing it would do anything at all.

Let's review the browser cache; what it is, and why it exists. Along the way we'll review the steps to clear it, in both Internet Explorer and Firefox, and try to dream up some reasons why that sometimes helps.

Continue reading: "What's a browser cache, how do I "clear" it, and why would I want to?"

* * *

How do I find a file on my computer in Windows XP?

This is actually a composite of many questions I get where people are unable to locate a file on their computer. Most common is Microsoft Outlook's PST file, which can be buried in a non-obvious place, but I also get this question relating to everything from downloads to pictures do documents that took hours of work, were saved and then apparently vanished.

In many cases, the tools you use can tell you where the files were placed (for example, you can use Outlook to tell you where its PST file is located). On the other hand, for various reasons, you can't and just want to locate the file yourself.

So, we'll search.

Continue reading: "How do I find a file on my computer in Windows XP?"

* * *

How should I share my home network with a visitor?

If you have a wireless network and your friend brings over his computer, how do you let them on your network as a guest without giving out your wireless encryption key?

Time for my most popular ... no, my most common, answer:

It depends.

It depends on how much you trust your friend.

And since you don't want to share your wireless encryption key, I'm going to assume that while you probably trust your friend to a point, there's clearly a limit.

Continue reading: "How should I share my home network with a visitor?"

* * *

Why can't I change user-specific folder and variable names?

Is there any way to modify or delete a 'user variable' on XP Pro without login to the account?

The story is this. I got a laptop repaired but the OS (together with defective speaker and audio board) was re-installed. The problem is the Windows was installed with a username which I would like to replace. Doing through Control Panel-> User Account was successful.

However, %USERPROFILE% and %HOMEPATH% still point to the wrong folder. I managed to modify %HOMEPATH% through "Local Users and Groups" -> Users, but %USERPROFILE% remained not pointing to the new folder under C:Documents and Settings. Then I decided to add USERPROFILE in 'user variable' to override the value used by XP. Now I can not login any more through regular reboot or safe mode. I still can login as Administrator.

How do I delete USERPROFILE that I created? From regedit, it seems I can only access Environment Variable (user variable) defined by Current User.

This gets complicated, as we'll see in a moment. But for now, the answer is actually pretty clear: you can't. At least not easily, and in any way that I would recommend.

In Windows, user names are special, and that means changing isn't as easy as you think.

Continue reading: "Why can't I change user-specific folder and variable names?"

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*** Featured Comments

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

* * *

How do I remove myself from the search engines?

Joanne writes:

[reputation management company redacted] worked and only took 3 weeks! It was fairly inexpensive, after I called the rest of these companies and when I Google my name now, the negative results are pushed back to page 3. Good luck!

Note that "page 3" is not the same as "removed". Your potential employers, friends, contacts can still find this information. If page 3 or even page 30 is good enough for you, so be it, but it is not being removed, only buried where it can still be found.



How should I set up my home network?

Damien writes:

I am going to let my son have his own PC. It will have a wireless connection to our wireless router which is also used by two other computers. ROuter has a hardware firewall. All computers have up to date virus s/w. If my son downloads something he shouldn't, could that compromise my other two computers 'inside' our home network?

Absolutely. Have a look at this article: How do I protect myself from my children?



Are free email services worth it?

Mark writes:

I read here that somebody closed their Yahoo account down and wondered why their friends' emails weren't bouncing back. Well, that's the least of their problems. Once your account closes then your email address name is up for grabs. What if someone who has your old address writes you at that address. It will go to the new holder of that email address. I have a yahoo account that I don't use. An old friend whom I hadn't contacted in years wrote me there. I was so glad I checked it once every 2 weeks or so just to keep it alive. Once you've closed it the only solution to that would be to write to your old yahoo address every so often to see if someone has taken the name and if so ask them if they would kindly forward any email addressed to you and hope that they will be helpful. Bottom line, in stead of closing an account, inform all of your contacts you've closed the account and wait at least a year before actually closing it, checking weekly and informing any one who writes about your new address.


I don't have an installation CD for Windows XP - what if I need one?

Steve Kanne writes:

Another related question. I'm want to buy a refurbished IBM laptop. It doesn't come with a Windows XP Pro reinstallation disk. Instead, its specs state the following: "Windows XP Professional Restore Partition on Hard Drive". Do you think that the partition has on it whatever is required to reinstall XP if the copy on the laptop goes south on me?

Maybe. There's no standard, so I can't really say. However ... if the hard drive goes bad, all partitions could be lost, including that recovery partition. That's why I harp on always having original installation media.


*** This Week's Most Popular

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

  1. I accidentally deleted my Recycle Bin in Vista - how do I get it back?
  2. How do I change my MSN Hotmail password?
  3. How do I delete my Hotmail account?
  4. Can I send text messages between a computer and a cell phone?
  5. How do I make a new MSN Hotmail account?
  6. How do I delete history items from my Google tool bar?
  7. How do I uninstall Windows Messenger?
  8. My desktop Recycle Bin has disappeared - why, and how do I get it back?
  9. How do I put a picture into the caption of a picture on myspace.com?

*** Leo Recommends

FastStone Image Viewer - An easy to use tool to view, organize and manipulate images

After the demise of Firehand Ember, my previous favorite image viewing program, I began searching for a suitable replacement. Window's built in "Picture and Fax Viewer" just doesn't cut it for me.

After much experimentation with various products in this class, I've settled on FastStone Image Viewer.

FastStone includes not only basic display and print ability, but also a number of simple modification tools, a slideshow creator, a contact sheet creator and more.

At it's heart, FastStone, like many similar products, is much like a Windows Explorer tailored for viewing photos. Fire it up and you'll get the familiar navigation tree on the left, and images on the right:

Continue reading: FastStone Image Viewer - An easy to use tool to view, organize and manipulate images


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

Ever move a window "off screen" so you can't even click on anything that would let you move it back? Me too.

My window is too large and wider than my screen. How to I resize it back?

Something was downloaded to my computer while I was away this week. (My husband probably thought it was ok.) Now when I open an email thru Outlook it's huge - it goes way off the screen to the right. I don't know how to resize this or fix this.

Can you please tell me in simple one and two syllable words just what to do?

Oh, those husbands. Can't leave 'em alone for a minute, much less a week.

The too-wide window could be the result of a download, but it's also possible that it's not his fault. Even though it's not supposed to, sometimes it can happen for other reasons. Fortunately, it's fairly easy to fix.

Continue reading...
My window is too large and wider than my screen. How to I resize it back?

*** Sites of Interest

I'm going to initiate this new segment with a couple of reader sites:

CallMyPcDr.com - Helping Small Business to Cure Headaches and Relieve Frustration with Their Computer Systems.

I'm a Small Business IT Consultant in Battle Ground, WA just south of you. I've read your newsletter for years and wanted to drop you a note and say Thanks for the great advice! This morning I added your link to my site. The site is a basic tool for my clients--always under construction and not anywhere near complete.


Thanks Rusty!

Ask Leo! is all about tech support on a global scale, but when my answers include the phrase "you're going to need to have someone look at that machine", it's local support consultants like Rusty that are the folks in the trenches, getting hands-on with all sorts of issues.


Neat Net Tricks - a twice-monthly ezine that carries with it the slogan "No Screwdriver Needed," meaning its focus is on the fun and easy things one can do with the computer and Internet without being a technical whiz.

I can't imagine why I haven't discovered your newsletter before now, but I just ran across it and enjoyed my first read.

On an added note, I wondered if on occasion you mention other publications? My little effort has been in existence nearly 14 years now, and if you have a spare moment you can read about Neat Net Tricks at http://www.NeatNetTricks.com; or, if you care to be even more gracious, urge your readers to subscribe at http://www.neatnettricks.com/subscribe. I'll certainly be glad to return the favor.


14 Years!? And here I was getting all cocky that I'm coming up on 6 years of Ask Leo! in August.

Yes, I do mention other publications. I just subscribed to the free edition of NNT, so I haven't seen the free or premium publication just yet, but if the web site and Jack's blog are any indication it looks like it could be a useful and fun resource.


Sites of Interest are just that: sites I find interesting and just want to share. (Not an endorsement or guarantee.) If you have a suggestion or a website of your own that you think might be interesting use the regular ask a question form to suggest it. (Of course I can't guarantee I'll use your suggestion, I simply get too many.)

*** Thoughts and Comments

OK, so I'll admit it; the new Sites of Interest section in the newsletter is, in part, an excuse for me to be able to share your sites without going through the work that a formal "recommendation" might require. Yep, you read that right: your web sites. Of course I won't limit it to just subscriber sites - I have interesting things to list as well - and I'm certainly not going to publish anything that I think would be offensive or totally inappropriate. On the other hand, I do know that a number of you have, well, interesting sites.

Doesn't have to be tech, just has to be interesting - to me, which means that I think it'll be interesting to my readers. Smile

It's an experiment. If it turns out not to work, it'll quietly fade into the sunset.


A couple of weeks ago Hotmail went down (and almost took Ask Leo! with it!), rendering inboxes inaccessible for a couple of hours. Naturally people were panicking and looking to Ask Leo! for help.

Watch my Twitter feed.

Even if you don't subscribe, the three most recent "tweets" are displayed on almost every page. Even though I was traveling at the time, I was able to note that the problem was with Hotmail itself and would certainly be resolved if people would simply wait a while. I used Twitter to post that information, making it quickly available not only to my Twitter followers but on almost every page of Ask Leo!.

Twitter's an interesting tool, and even more interesting are the ways we might turn to using it.


(And speaking of interesting sites, if you want to really waste some time: TwitterVision.)

'till next time...

Leo A. Notenboom

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*** Newsletter Administration

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Newsletter contents Copyright © 2009, Leo A. Notenboom & Puget Sound Software, LLC.

Posted: April 21, 2009 in: 2009
Shortlink: https://newsletter.askleo.com/3711
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