Top Tips




Generally speaking I avoid computer games like the plague; I’m easily distracted and end up wasting hours playing the damn things, but Word Craft I can just about justify because it really makes you think, so it’s probably quite good for my aging and increasingly befuddled  brain; that and the demo version is time limited to an hour’s playing time.


As the name implies it’s a word game, but with a difference. Your job is to make words -- three letters or more, from a grid of letters but you have to be quick. When you make a word the letters heat up and change, but if you allow them to cool, by not using them, eventually they become frozen and when they’re all frozen it’s game over. It’s really addictive and now that my hour has almost run out I’m seriously thinking of shelling out $20 for the fully registered version to keep exercising the old grey matter.



Avert your eyes now if you are an aficionado of the Windows game Minesweeper because I am about to reveal a hidden secret that will allow you surreptitiously see where mines are located on the grid. All you have to do is open the game, move the mouse cursor to the game panel, type the following code: xyzzy then press Shift > Enter > Enter. You should now notice a small white dot -- 1 pixel in size -- appear in the top left hand corner of your monitor screen. If you now move the mouse pointer to the game grid every time it passes over a mine the pixel will turn black.


It’s okay, you can look now, we’ve finished…



Windows XP is not supposed to have any Easter Eggs. These are extra little features hidden away by programmers with time on their hands.


The story goes that Microsoft agreed not to include any secret or undocumented features in Windows in order for it to be used by US Government Agencies. In fact there are several and here’s one, possibly two, that slipped in through the back door, carried over from earlier versions of Windows. The definite one is a way to brighten up the 3D Pipes screensaver, changing the pipes to stripy candy canes.  To try it out select the Screensaver tab in Display Properties (Start > Control Panel > Display). Select 3D Pipes from the list then click the Setting button. Under Pipes select Multiple, under Pipe Style Joint Type select Mixed and under Surface Style select Textured. Click the Choose Texture button and it will open the Windows folder, just click Cancel, click OK on the 3D Setting button and fire up the screensaver by clicking Preview. Pretty…


The second, possible Easter Egg is a teapot, which on 3D pipes in earlier versions of Windows randomly appears in place of pipe joints. It should still be there but I gave up looking after 20 minutes. The teapot is quite small so it’s easy to miss, but if anyone spots it let me know. In case you were wondering the teapot is homage to the ‘Utah Teapot’. Back in 1974 it was the first computer graphics object to be designed and rendered as a sculptured surface (previously solid shapes were built up from lots of polygons) and you can find out more about it here.




Kids today, don’t know they’re born, I remember the days when a one megabyte memory module costs the best part of a weeks wages, and that was if you knew the bloke who’s mate drove the lorry they fell off of.


We’ve all heard the stories from parents and grandparents about the good old days, when you could buy a car for seven and sixpence and the average annual wage was tuppence ha’penny, but just how true are these yarns? Well, there’s an easy way to find out, just pop along to the EH Net website and have a play around with the Relative Value calculators. You can find out exactly what ten bob (50 pence) in 1922 would be worth today or compare the value of the pound against the dollar from 1830 to 2004, fascinating stuff.


Here’s a good one in 1985 a mid-range Dell desktop PC (75MHz CPU, 8Mb RAM 525Mb HDD) would have set you back almost £1900, which would be almost £3,800 at 2004 prices (the most recent year for calculations); it makes you feel quite humble…     



The Solitaire game in Windows must be one of the greatest time-wasters of all time -- it drives office managers crazy -- but even though it is so simple it can be highly addictive. If you're one of the millions hooked on it then you have probably figured out by now that the Draw 3 option -- selected by default -- slows the game down, increases the odds against you winning and makes it harder to play. Of course you could just switch to easy-peasy Draw 1 setting and play it that way but where's the fun in that? The next time you're in a fix try this simple little cheat. Press and hold down the Crtl, Alt and Shift keys, then click on the top card and you'll find that you can now select cards one at a time.




We know that the FreeCell and Minesweeper games included in almost all versions of Windows have a devoted following and some may consider what follows as heresy so if you're a purist avert your eyes now because we are about to reveal some simple cheats and enhancements.


In FreeCell you can win instantly by holding down Ctrl + Shift + F10, choose Abort from the menu that appears and drag any card to the top.


To switch off the Minesweeper timer, position the mouse pointer on any grey part of the game window, press and hold the right and left mouse keys and press the Escape key.

Finally, you can add some simple sound effects to Minesweeper by opening Windows Notepad (Start > Programs > Accessories) select All Files then open the 'Winmine.ini' file in the Windows folder (you might want to make a backup copy, just in case). Add the line 'Sound=3' to the end, Save and exit Notepad. If you add a subsequent line 'Tick=1', you'll hear a bleep as the timer counts up




'Easter Eggs' are diverting little features hidden away inside software applications, and another reason why programs take up so much hard disc space these days... This one is in both Windows 95 and 98. Open Display Properties in Control Panel, select the Screensaver tab, choose 3D Pipes, click the Settings button and check 'Multiple', 'Traditional' and 'Solid'. In Joint Type select Mixed, click OK then Preview and look out for Teapots... No prizes, but can anyone tell us what's so special about this particular teapot?




This next one can be found in Windows 98 and is quite challenging, calling for a very steady hand, and possibly an atlas. Double click on the time display on the Taskbar or click on Regional settings in Control Panel and select the Time Zone tab to display the world map. Hold down the Ctrl key and move the mouse pointer to Cairo, at the northern end of the Red Sea, click and hold the left mouse button then move the mouse pointer to Memphis Tennessee (above Florida) release the mouse button, then without moving the pointer click and hold and move the pointer to Redmond in Washington State (just North of San Francisco) release the mouse button, watch, listen and be amazed (well, mildly surprised...).  Don't give up if it doesn't work first time, you have to be very precise.




This Easter Egg is quite diverting and it lives in Excel 2000. It's a challenging driving game with excellent graphics; note that you will also need DirectX 6 or 7 on your PC, if not you'll find it on most PC magazine cover-mount CD-ROMs.


Pay attention, it's quite involved, but well worth the effort. Open Excel 2000, on the File menu select 'Save As Web Page' then check the items 'Save Selection Sheet' and 'Add Interactivity', click Save and a file called 'page.htm' should end up in My Documents (or wherever else you choose to put it). Exit Excel and open Internet Explorer and open the saved 'page.htm' file. Scroll all the way down to row 2000 and along to column WC, check the cell, highlight the whole line and use tab to select cell 2000 WC again. Next, hold down Ctrl + Shift + Alt and click on the Excel logo in the top left hand corner. The screen goes black and after a few seconds the game starts. Use the arrow keys to steer, the spacebar to fire your guns, H for headlights, O to spray oil and Esc to exit. Good luck!



Internet Explorer 5 has its own Easter Egg. On the Tools menu select Internet Options then the General tab and click the Languages button. Select Add and in the User Defined field type 'ie-ee' (minus the quote marks) then click OK. Highlight the entry and click the Move Up button to put it at the top of the list. Select OK to close the windows click on the Search icon and in the side menu you see a new set of options. Select Previous Searches and follow the links on to the Internet to see the guilty ones!




This is actually more of a curiosity and it concerns most versions of Windows 98. Try this: right click on the taskbar select Properties and the familiar Taskbar Properties dialogue box opens. Close it and this time hold down the Ctrl key and keep it pressed while you right click on the taskbar and select Properties. The same dialogue box opens but this time there's an extra tabbed item called Deskbar. If you click on it a new dialogue window opens but all of the options are greyed out. It's almost certainly an unfinished or deleted feature but what it was for or supposed to do is one of life's little mysteries...




Copyright (c) 2006 Rick Maybury Ltd.