Leo's Answers #199 – October 6, 2009

A Weekly Newsletter From
Ask Leo!
Leo Notenboom

Hello {!name_fix}!

Do you have a question for me? Don’t hit reply! Head instead for the Ask Leo! home page and search the site first – seriously, around half the questions people ask are already answered there. You can also browse the archives, past newsletters and more. If you still can’t find the answer you’re looking for then by all means ask your question here (it’s the fastest way).

*** New Articles

What is cloud computing?

So what on earth is cloud computing? Is it beneficial? We all know virtual machines can be useful, but cloud computing?


If you search for “cloud computing” you’re likely to find a number of definitions, mostly from vendors trying to sell you services somehow related to what they think it is.

Rather than parrot those definitions verbatim, I’ll give a shorter definition, and my spin on it.

I’ll start by saying that while the term might seem new, what it represents is nothing new at all.

Continue reading: What is cloud computing?

* * *

How do I type in characters and symbols that aren’t on my keyboard?

Can you tell me how to access the many odd characters and fractions etc. that are available? I used to know how but forgot. I remember it had to use a combination of numbers or characters to access them.


Sure. It’s actually pretty simple, and very easy to do.

The problem is that many of the codes you might type in may not display the same character in all places. In most, cases the set of characters is fairly consistent, but you might run into a case or two where what you see is not what you expect.

Continue reading: How do I type in characters and symbols that aren’t on my keyboard?

* * *

Why is downloaded email disappearing immediately?

I have a problem with Outlook Express. Ever since I renewed my anti-virus subscription my Outlook Express mail rule no longer works. I had all my contacts highlighted in specific colors. When the emails are being received the colors show and then after revert back to the default which is of course black. I have Outlook Express 6 and Internet Explorer 7. Any suggestions as to why this is happening. Could it be my anti-virus provider? Or a setting in Outlook Express? I’ve tried everything until I’m blue in the face.


I get variations on this question all the time. The symptoms in this example are actually rather mild – much more common are mails that are downloaded and then immediately disappear. It can also happen across a wide variety of email programs as well.

There is a common thread, though. In fact, the question above alludes to it. (And it has nothing to do with the color of your face Smile.)

Continue reading: Why is downloaded email disappearing immediately?

* * *

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 everything? Anything else I need?


As you might imagine, I get these questions in various forms all the time. As a result, I do have recommendations in various articles all over Ask Leo!.

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

Continue reading: What Security Software do you Recommend?

* * *

What do I do with incremental backups when restoring?

What do I do with incremental backups? Do I have to apply those separately? Yesterday my full backup was 25+ GB and today the incremental backup is 1.2+ GB. Do I restore both?


I actually received a couple of questions in this vein after posting the video Restoring An Image Using Acronis TrueImage Home.

It’s clear that exactly how incremental backups are used come restore time is … unclear. I’ll run through a conceptual example of how they’re used that’ll hopefully make things a little clearer.

Fortunately, you actually don’t need to do anything all that different, or even think about it that much. Yes, you restore both, but it’s all done in a single step.

Continue reading: What do I do with incremental backups when restoring?

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*** Comments

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

* * *

Getting all worked up over IP tracing

Ryan Pogue writes:

What does law enforcement typically need in order to get a court order to provide the ISP provider? I have a handful of gmail accounts (blocked of course through Google without a court order) that were intentionally created to slander and defame me and my wife… I know it is a specific person, I know, through our ISP provider that it occured in the “general vicinity” of the offender, but I have not the proof to show it is this person – otherwise he would sign his name, right? I want to provide law enforcement with enough information to “suspect” or “assume” or more of a “coincidence” to get that court order to seize this person’s computer to verify the gmail accounts in this person’ name… any thoughts or suggestions? I do not wish to spend thousands of dollars to retain an attorney to figure this out – I should be able to fight this myself no?

Unfortunately the system is generally difficult – in part to prevent people from abusing it. So I’m not sure just how realistic it is to “go it alone”. I’m no lawyer, and I’m not in law enforcement, but I would speculate that what law enforcement wants is simply proof that a crime has been committed, and that it’s serious enough to warrant diverting their already thinly-spread energies to investigate it. But ultimately only they can tell you what they need with any specificity.



What are Root Certificates, and why do I need to update them?

Gabe writes:

I notice they are not mandatory downloads. Are they ever mandatory and if not, why? This seems as critical an update as any security update.

I’ve never seen them as mandatory. Microsoft seems to restrict mandatory to only critical security updates – the kind of things that could cause crashes, compromises etc, if not updated. (OK, and WGA updates, and a couple of other things apparently on Microsoft’s agenda.) Not taking an optional root certificate update would, at worst, simply throw warnings when you visit a site that required a cert you didn’t have. In general it’s a fine thing to take them, but not a security issue if you do not.


*** Leo Recommends

The Internet Tourbus
A free weekly tech newsletter

Once again, you might find it surprising that I’d be recommending what looks very much like competition to Ask Leo!. I’ll say it again: the internet’s a big place and there’s room for all of us. I’m happy to point you to yet another resource that I know might help you get useful information about technology and the internet.

The Internet Tourbus is a free email newsletter published roughly weekly, with a supporting website full of useful internet related information and tips.

To quote their site:

Continue reading…
The Internet Tourbus – A free weekly tech newsletter


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

I know it seems silly to many, but this remains an exceptionally popular article. The screens have changed since I first wrote it, but the important concepts remain the same – including the one thing that apparently many people overlook: step 1.

How do I make a new MSN Hotmail account?

Here’s the part that’s so “obvious” to some, and not so obvious at all to many:

Continue reading…
How do I make a new MSN Hotmail account?

*** Thoughts and Comments

If you’re a long time Ask Leo! subscriber you may have noted that a few articles are looking a little familiar. I’m actually in the process of updating some of the more important – and sometimes out of date – articles relating to security. This week’s article What Security Software do you Recommend? is an article I point people to frequently, and while only a year old has already had some updates and changes in that time.

You’ll probably see more of the internet security articles updated in the coming weeks as I prepare to revise my Internet Security ebook. You do know that as a newsletter subscriber you’re welcome to a copy, right? It’s right here: Internet Safety Keeping Your Computer Safe on the Internet. I expect to release a major revision later this year or early next.

One of the benefits to subscribing to the Ask Leo! newsletter, and for that matter reading this far, is that when it’s available you’ll find out about it before everyone else Smile.

’till next time…

Leo A. Notenboom

This helped me tons. Keep up the work!
– Jemma

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Posted: October 6, 2009 in: 2009
Shortlink: https://newsletter.askleo.com/3886
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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.