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 Windows Tips & Tricks

Windows XP
February, 2002

Bill Beverley is a retired U.S. Army Colonel and intermediate computer enthusiast. Early in his military career he was on the ground floor in the development of the U.S. Army's Field Artillery Tactical Fire Direction System (TACFIRE), a forerunner of subsequent digital computers / communications within the army.

Windows XP (WinXP) is Microsoft’s newest operating system and biggest upgrade in several years. It already has a reputation for being easier to use than Win2000 and less crash prone than WinMe. Following on the heels of WinNt/2000, MS improved WinXP’s ability to have a secure and stable core. From Win9x/Me, MS enhanced WinXP so it has greater compatibility with hardware and software along with features for working with digital images, video, and audio.

Burning CDs
WinXP handles the recordable CD drives built into most new computers. To copy any file(s) to a recordable CD drive, right-click on the file(s), choose Send To from the menu that appears, and select Writable CD. A little window pops up with the message that you have files waiting to be copied to the CD. Insert a writable CD into the drive, click the Start button, and choose My Computer. Open your recordable CD with a double-click and select Write these files to CD to copy them to your CD.

WIN98/Me/NT4.0/2000 were Windows versions that one could use to run older, Disk Operating System (DOS) based software or even earlier versions of Windows. WinXP is meant to replace all of the current Windows platforms, so it has extensive resources to ensure compatibility with older problems. However, if one of your programs won’t run under WinXP, try the built-in compatibility support by right-clicking the program, choosing Properties, and clicking the Compatibility tab. Now select the platform that was previously able to run the program and check off any pertinent display settings. Finish by clicking OK and then try to run that program. If you still have a problem running it, use different settings. If all of these steps fail, you can then use the Application Compatibility Toolkit by inserting the WinXP CD-ROM, navigating to the Support\Tools folder, and launching Act20.exe. When the toolkit is installed on your computer, run the QFixApp applet. This utility contains about 200 fixes to resolve compatibility problems.

By default WinXP has only one icon on the Desktop, the Recycle Bin. If you miss seeing My Documents, My Computer, Internet Explorer, etc., on the Desktop, as with previous Windows versions, you can revive them by right-clicking on the Desktop, choosing Properties, clicking on the Desktop tab, and then the Customize Desktop button. Now check any of the icons for the aforementioned items that you want on your Desktop.

In WinXP the computer is programmed such that the Start menu recognizes frequently used programs and puts them at the top of the quick list, bumping less frequently used programs to the bottom or off the menu. To keep a favorite program at your fingertips, right-click the link to the program on the Start menu and select “Pin To Start Menu.” Your program then moves to the top of the lists below your browser and e-mail programs. The program remains on the Start menu and can not be bumped even if you use other programs more frequently than that one.

Firewall software sits between your computer and the Internet. It acts as a door that lets you decide what software can access your computer, and when. WinXP comes with a built-in firewall. To install it, open the Start menu, right-click My Network Places and choose Properties. Right-click on the connection you want to protect and choose Properties. If using a dial-up account right-click on that icon. If using a network in your home or office, right-click on the Local Area Connection. Either way, choose Properties and then click the Advanced tab and activate the firewall. Click the box to activate the WinXP firewall. If you're running a network and using the Internet Connection Sharing to let all the networked computers share the modem, the firewall should only be activated on the host computer, which is the computer that's actually connected to the Internet. It doesn't need to be activated on the client computers, which are the computers that share the host computer's modem.

Inactive Icons
Hiding inactive icons is a new feature with WinXP. This option lets you hide those little icons like the volume control, printer button, RealPlayer, the desktop cleanup program, etc., that appear by your clock. Click the Customize button to choose which icons you want to hide or appear on the taskbar. For example, you can click the Customize button and choose Restore Defaults to hide everything except the sound volume. Choose Always Show for that one.

Internet Clock
To set up Internet time synchronization in WinXP, right-click the time display on the taskbar, choose Adjust Date/Time, click the Internet Time tab, and check Automatically synchronize with an Internet time server. Now choose one of the servers on the drop-down list, click Update Now, and finally click OK. WinXP will synchronize with the time server automatically once a week. If your Internet connection is intermittent, XP will try to sync at regular intervals until it succeeds in this task.

Menu Changes
Every 60 days WinXP checks for icons that you haven’t used on the Desktop during that period of time. Subject to your approval, it will move those icons from the Desktop to a folder. If this feature gives you a problem, disable it by removing the check next to “Run Desktop Cleanup Wizard every 60 days.” You can click the Clean Desktop Now button to invoke the wizard manually should you change your mind.

Click the Shop for Music Online hyperlink in the Music Tasks section of the My Music folder navigation pane to look for new albums and videos online. After clicking this link, Windows connects you to the MSN Windows Media.com Web site. Once there, you can search for audio and video clips that can be downloaded and played on Windows Media Player.

Remote Assistance
WinXP has Remote Assistance (RA) which lets you control another computer on a network (LAN or Internet) and interact with the remote machine’s user. The two RA connected personal computers (PCs) are the Expert and the Novice. The Expert can see and take control of the other PC. The Novice loads only the tools that let the two users communicate. Once the connection is established, each party can then type messages, exchange files, and converse using microphone and speakers or headsets. The Expert PC can take full control of the Novice PC and seek solutions to his computer problems. On connection the RA interface appears on the Expert’s desktop and a smaller RA window appears on the Novice PC. Both function as chat windows and central controls for file transfer, voice chat, and disconnecting the session. You can start an RA session in three ways: through Windows Messenger (WM), e-mail, or by sending a file. WM is the easiest way, but both parties must have it installed on their computers. WM installs with WinXP and replaces MSN Messenger. Using WM, either party can invoke the RA session by right-clicking on the other person’s name in the contact area of the WM window, or by selecting “Ask for Remote Assistance” from the Tools menu. In this latter case, the Novice can request an RA session from anyone on WM’s contact list or by choosing Other and specifying the e-mail address of another MSN/Hotmail/Passport user. The expert can ask an MSN/Hotmail user to allow an RA session by using WM’s “Invite” menu or by clicking Tools/Send an Invitation. The Expert can also send a request to an MSN/Hotmail user who’s not on the contact list.

You can invoke RA through e-mail or file transfer by using the “Help and Support” screen. Click Start, Help and Support or press F1. Under the “Ask for Assistance” heading, select “Invite a friend to connect to your computer” with Remote Assistance to initiate an RA request. If you invite someone to help you, the next screen gives you the option of selecting a WM contact or typing an e-mail address and sending it through your default e-mail program. Once you’ve typed in the e-mail address for your helper, click Invite this person, fill in the e-mail message form, and click Continue. The final screen lets the Novice set an expiration date for the invitation which can remain open for up to 99 days. The invitation is a file attachment (RAInvitation.msrcincident) with an incident number appended in parentheses. This same file is created if the Novice invokes RA by saving the invitation as a file, but then the Novice must send it to the Expert. In either case, the Expert opens the file in order to launch the RA session.

Screen Tips
WinXP extensively uses “ScreenTips” to provide a way of adding commentary or footnotes to features. When you run your mouse pointer over a certain part of the screen, a little black-outlined, pale-yellow rectangle pops up with some more or less informative text. In a few cases, such as with some Internet search results, this text can amount to a paragraph's worth of context-sensitive material.

Silence New Programs
WinXP displays a dialog box when you install new software. It’s a distraction when you’re logging off or shutting down your computer. You can prevent the box from appearing by clicking Start, right-clicking at the top of the Start menu, where your name is displayed, and then clicking Properties. In the “Taskbar And Start Menu Properties” dialog box, click the Start Menu tab and Customize. Now click the Advanced tab and clear the “Highlight Newly Installed Programs” check box. Finally click OK twice.

Startup Menu
As with previous Windows’ versions, WinXP includes a Startup folder that launches applications or utilities. Each application takes time to launch, which lengthens startup time. So, go to the Startup folder, click Start, All Programs, and highlight Startup. The menu then expands with all entries in the Startup folder. Now remove or delete unnecessary programs. When you restart your computer, the disabled applications won’t load thereby reducing startup time.

System Restore
Like WinMe, WinXP includes a feature that lets you set restore points in the event of a botch installation or major system problem. To create a store point, open “All Programs” in the Start menu. Select Accessories, System Tools, and click System Restore. In the System Restore window, click Create A Restore Point and click Next. Now enter a descriptive name for the restore point and click Create. To revert to a particular restore point, open the “System Restore Wizard” and select Restore My Computer To An Earlier Time. Click a date to see a list of restore points created on that date. Select the one you want and click Next twice to restore your system.

XP Readiness Test
To find out if your computer’s hardware and software can be upgraded to WinXP, run the XP Readiness Test .

WAV To A Relative
To send baby's voice to a loved one or a personalized email with a voice message, you can use the “Windows Sound Recorder,” that's located in Start, Programs, Accessories, Entertainment and finally, Sound Recorder, for this task. You should use the buttons on it just like a tape recorder to save the file and then attach it to an email message.

Win98/Me/NT4.0/2000 users can all use the XP Professional upgrade. However only Win98/Me users can use the WinXP Home Edition upgrade.

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