Top Tips




If you want to see something scary take a look at the F-Secure World Map of Viruses. It’s just like a weather map but instead of fronts and anticyclones it shows waves of nasties like Netsky32 and Trojan Downloaders sweeping across globe, and heading for your PC. It shows in real-time the current threats, where they are coming from, and depressingly, where they are going to in an easy to understand colour-coded display. You can select hourly, daily monthly or yearly views and monitor the whole world, or just your part of it. There’s an Alert Level display -- graded from Quiet to Epidemic -- plus a regularly updated list of the day's top threats



This one is for residents of the UK, the United States, Uganda and anyone else living in an alphabetically challenged country. I don’t know about you but I get really ticked-off by drop-down menus on website forms, where you have to enter your country. Sometimes you strike lucky and we’re listed as Great Britain and you only have to scroll down to G but more often than not we’re right down the bottom, under United Kingdom. I just figured out how to beat the system. Most of these forms are based on fairly standard HTML scripts so all you have to do is click the box and tap the ‘U’ key. You should then be transported to the directly to Uganda, which is normally just two or three down cursor clicks from United Kingdom. It may even be possible to get to the UK directly with a two-letter entry but so far no luck; if anyone manages to crack the code let me know.



What can’t Google do? Well did you know it can calculate and convert? Try this, open Google and enter ‘20 + 4 =’ press Enter and up pops the answer. Clever huh? But there’s much more to come. It recognises all of the standard numeric operators, i.e. ‘+’ plus, ‘-‘ minus, ‘*’ multiply and ‘/’ divide, and it also knows about percentages, exponentials, roots, trigonometric functions, logarithms and lots of other mysterious mathematical thingys.


Google can also convert units and values. Let’s say you want to know how many dollars you would get for £30, just ask, e.g. type in ’30 pounds in dollars’ then press Enter. The magic word is ‘in’, it’s so simple. It works for a whole low of other things as well, including mass, length, volume, area, time, power, electricity and so on. Go on, give it a try!



Here’s a useful free extension for Firefox that tells you straight away if the website you are about to visit is in any way unsafe or annoying (i.e. riddled with malware or pop-ups etc.). Siteadvisor continually tests new and existing websites, checking the content, so when you tap in the address the Siteadvisor ‘safety button’ changes colour according to the level of threat.  A green button means safe, yellow suggests caution and a red means stay away!



Windows 98 has an invaluable little utility called ‘winipcfg’. It's a godsend when trying to make new wireless and network connections (it's the Windows version of the DOS utilility ipconfig). It displays your current IP address, with the facility to manually ‘release’ and ‘renew’ sticky settings that can prevent a new connection from working. To fire it up go to Run on the Start menu and type ‘winipcfg’ (without the quotes).


Although Windows XP usually manages to sort itself out it can still get into trouble, but there’s no equivalent to Winipcfg in XP (although you can use ipconfig). There is however, a MS utility included in the Windows 2000 Resource Kit that does more or less the same thing, called Wntipcfg. The download and full instructions can be found on the Microsoft website.



Have you ever wondered who is on the other end of that chat room your kids are using or where that web site offering bargain basement widgets is actually based? There are ways and means to track down the location of websites but most of them are fairly laborious. On the other hand a freeware utility called NeoTrace Express presents you with clear map showing both your location, and that of the website you are checking. Simply tap in the web address and off it goes, tracing the path between you and the site and displaying who the site is registered to.



The Favorites list in Internet Explorer seems to have a mind of its own. Much of the time it grows in an apparently random manner, as new entries are added but if you try to take charge, by sorting it alphabetically (right-click an entry and click ‘Sort by name’) then frequently visited sites end up all over the place. There is an easy way to bring order to the chaos and that’s to force your favourite Favorites to appear at the top of the list. It’s easy, just right click on the ones you want to see, select rename and type an ‘A’ plus a space in front of the name. If you want to sort them into a specific order then type a number after the letter, i.e. A1, A2 and so on.



Here are a few quick tips to tidy up the Outlook Express desktop and make it easier to use. You should know by now what all of the icons and buttons do, so switch off the text labels and use small icons and you get an instant increase in screen area for your messages and mailboxes. Simply right-click on a toolbar and select Customize and in the two drop-down boxes (Text Options and Icon Options) select No text labels and Small Icons respectively.  Click Close. There’s more savings still to be had. Click on the vertical separator bar on the far left of the Icon toolbar and drag it onto empty space on the menu bar (to the right of Help).


To round off, here’s a couple of quick time-savers, instead of mousing your way to the Send/Receive button a dozen times a day just remember the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + M for Send/Receive. You can also save mouse/wrist strain when switching between folders by using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Y



Buried inside the Outlook Express Address book there’s been a facility that for many years only worked if you lived in the US. Double click an entry, select the 'Home' tab, where you enter your contacts address, and at the bottom of the field is a button marked View Map. I had completely forgotten about it until a couple of day ago, whilst poking arounf the address book for something else, I absently mindedly clicked on it and was surprised to find that it works. Clicking on the button takes you the mapping page, which will take you to a fairly decent local map. It seems to be a bit hit and miss and may not get to street-level detail but it could prove handy if you need to find out roughly where someone lives



Google’s dominance of the search engine market is probably not in doubt but things change quickly in this business and you, (and they) might want to have a look at everyclick. In addition to being a darn fine search engine -- they know all about BootLog -- there’s an added bonus in that 50 percent of the revenues it generates from advertising goes to charity. If you make a purchase through one of the site’s sponsored links a proportion of it will also go to charity. Some really big names are involved, like ebay, Air France, Carphone Warehouse and Expedia, to name just a few. The AA, for example will donate up to £30 if you take out one of its motor insurance policies after clicking through to its website from an everyclick link. Go on, give it a try, it works really well and tell a friend.



Like buses you don’t see a Firefox tip for ages, then a dozen come along at once… Here’s a small selection of some really useful keyboard shortcuts that are worth committing to memory and will save you having to reach for the mouse when surfing with your favourite browser.


Ctrl + 1, 2, 3 etc. switches to an open tab

Ctrl + B opens Bookmark pane

Ctrl + F opens Find on page

Ctrl + H opens History dialogue box and list

Ctrl + N opens a new window

Ctrl + O open local file dialogue box

Ctrl + R refreshes current Page 1 of 1

Ctrl + S saves current page to disc

Ctrl + T opens a new tab

Ctrl + Tab steps through open tabs in sequence

Ctrl + U shows page source code

Ctrl + W closes open tab



Let’s suppose you‘ve just taken a load of photographs of a colleagues wedding and you’ve promised copies to ten friends, several of who live overseas. You could do a mass mail out, assuming that your ISP lets you send multi-megabyte attachments, but it’s going to take you forever, so here’s an easier way. Simply upload all of the photos onto a file-sharing site and email the web link to your friends so they can view and downloaded the images themselves. It’s really easy and there are plenty of free and paid for file-sharing sites to choose from, lke TinyPic, Photobucket and Imagehosting There are generally few restrictions apart from a maximum file size limit but since few things in life are really free, visitors can usually expect to see a few ads. It’s also worth pointing out that these are public sites, and the public being what they are means that on some of them there may be images of an adult nature so if you poke around looking at what others have posted you should be on the alert for warnings and signposts.



If you receive a lot of emails from the same people, or relating to the same subject then there’s a little used feature in Outlook Express that’s worth getting to know. It’s called Sort By and you’ll find it on the View menu. For example, if you want to group all the emails you received from one person, to make them easier to find, simply highlight one of their messages then go to View > Sort By and click ‘From’ on the drop down menu. Use the same procedure to group mails by Subject, Size, whether or not they’re flagged or if they have an attachment. It’s fast, easy and makes sorting through your mailboxes a whole lot easier.



No need to remind you that I’m a big Firefox fan and I keep finding ways to make it even better, like this really simple tweak. As you know Firefox opens on your chosen home page, but you can take advantage of the ‘tabbed’ windows and force it to open with multiple home pages. This is a boon if, like me, you always open the same two or three pages every day. It’s really simple to do, just go to Tools > Options and click the General icon. In the Home Page section, in the ‘Location(s)’ box put a space then a vertical separator (‘|’ shift - backspace)) after your current home page, then type in the URL of the next one, and so on. There doesn’t appear to be any limit to the number of pages, though obviously the more you have the longer it takes for them all to appear. Incidentally, there’s another, even simpler way to do it, just open the pages you want to see in tabs then go to Tools > Options and in the Home Page section click the ‘Use Current Pages’ button.



If you are feeling brave and fancy being an unpaid guinea pig then why not lend a hand and help to test the next generation Internet browser. Head over to the Microsoft web site and be one of the first to try out Internet Explorer 7, destined for inclusion in Windows Vista due out later this year.


Bear in mind this is ‘beta’ software and it may well contain bugs so you shouldn’t try it on your main PC or any PC without backing up all irreplaceable data. I have been using it for a while and my initial impression is that it is stable, it works well. it's easy to use and the multi page display ‘Quick Tabs’ looks very good, even if MS has been slow to catch up on this and several other ‘new’ features. There’s extra security options and several interesting extras, like an RSS feed reader but see what you think and if you have any comments or bug reports then Microsoft would like to hear from you so they can sort it out, before it is unleashed on the public.



You may have heard about address ‘spoofing’ where apparently legitimate internet sites are actually cloned by fraudsters in attempt to fool you into revealing passwords, pin numbers or credit card details. Well, if you ever find yourself on a web site and you are the slightest bit dubious on no account enter any details before you have checked it out, and never, repeat never enter your credit card details into a web page that doesn’t display the Secure Transaction logo (a locked padlock) in the status bar at the bottom.


As a double check you could also try this simple little trick. By entering a short line of text in the Address Bar of the page you are looking at you can reveal the actual host URL and this may tell you if it is connected to the site it purports to belong to. Just copy (Ctrl + C) the line (below in bold), click into the address box to highlight the displayed address then press Ctrl +V to paste the line, press Enter and a message box with the ‘Actual URL’ will be displayed:


javascript:alert("Actual URL address: " + location.protocol + "//" + location.hostname + "/");



Here’s a crafty little tip for concerned parents who want to keep tabs on their offspring’s Internet use, particularly if junior has an XP PC in his or her bedroom, and you have a feeling they are logging on after lights-out. This tip will let you restrict access to the Internet at preset times and in this example we’ll be imposing a ban from 10pm to 7am, Monday to Friday. Incidentally it won’t switch off the Internet if they are already online but it will stop them making a new connection during curfew time.


Go to Run on the Start menu and type ‘cmd’ (without the quotes). This will open a DOS-type window and at the flashing prompt type the following:


net user <username> /time:M-F,07:00-22:00


Simply replace <username> with the young person’s username; days of the week are represented by the letters: M, T, W, Th, F, Sa, Su and the times should be self-explanatory so tweak as required.



As you probably know I’m a huge fan of Firefox but there are still a few rogue websites -- like Microsoft Update -- that simply won’t have anything to do with it. At least MS has an excuse of sorts but it’s still very inconvenient to have to fire up Internet Explorer just to view a page but the good folks at Mozilla clearly hold no grudges and you can persuade Firefox to open IE and display the dissident website by installing an freeware 'extension’. It’s called IE View and when it has been installed and you get the dreaded ‘You need Internet Explorer to view this page’ message just right-click into an empty area of the page and select ‘View this page in IE’ and all will be revealed.



Over the past couple of years we’ve looked at several ways to make the already nimble Firefox browser go even quicker. This is possible because it is Open Source software and expert users are encouraged to delve into its inner works and fiddle around with the various config settings. Well, this go-faster tip is for everyone, it a small freeware utility called FireTune that takes all of the guesswork out of tweaking Firefox and automatically optimises performance according to your PC specs and broadband connection. It’s safe and any changes it makes can be easily undone using the configuration backup option. It works too and on my office PCs graphics-heavy pages and sites requiring password authentication definitely took less time to load after installing FireTune



This feature of Windows XP Home and Pro irritates a lot of users but the good news is that it can be easily switched off. There are two methods so let’s start with the simplest one. Download and install the Microsoft utility Tweak UI. It’s free and in addition to disabling the unread message announcement it can do a lot of other useful things besides but that’s something for another time. When Tweak UI is installed it will appear on your All Programs list under ‘Powertoys for XP’, select Logon then ‘Unread Mail’ and uncheck ‘Show unread mail on Welcome Screen’.


For those of you who know their way around the Windows Registry here’s another way, And don’t forget to backup the Registry first or create a System Restore point before you begin. Launch the Registry Editor by typing ‘regedit’ (without the quotes) in Run on the Start menu and if you are the only user make your way to:




If your PC is used by several people go to: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\



Create a DWORD key by right clicking in the right window can call it MessageExpiryDays then give it a value of 0. Exit Regedit and reboot and the message will be no more



Here’s another really useful add-on or ‘extension’ for Mozilla Firefox. This one adds a dictionary facility, just highlight and double-click on a word (or press Ctrl + Shift + D) and up pops the definition. The extension is called Dictionary Tooltip, it is small, installs automatically and is ready to run the next time you launch Firefox. You can change the size and shape of the dictionary pop-up and re-configure the mouse and keyboard shortcuts from the Firefox Tools menu (select Extensions and double-click Dictionary Tooltip.



If you still need a reason to switch to Firefox then how about this. Unlike Internet Explorer Firefox can be easily customised and given extra functionality with add-ons or ‘extensions’. There are hundreds of them and it would take forever to list them all but here’s one you should try if, like most people living in the UK, you are obsessed by the weather.


It’s called Forecastfox and it displays a small unobtrusive toolbar on the bottom of the browser window that tells you what your local is weather now, and what’s it likely to be in the next day or two. You can click on it for static and animated satellite weather images and you can call up extra details like humidity, visibility, dewpoint, wind speed and direction and so on. The download is small (361kb), it installs automatically it starts automatically when you launch Firefox



How well is your broadband connection working? There are plenty of web sites that will carry out a basic speed check on your connection for but this one, Tweaks from Broadband Reports conducts a non-intrusive test and based on the information you supply (type of connection, advertised speed, operating system)  suggests things you can do to improved speed and efficiency. Some of the suggestions are quite advanced but clicking on the links will take you to FAQs and tutorials that guide you through the procedures.



Here’s yet another Firefox tuning tweak but this one avoids the need to delve into the browser's complicated configuration menu and fiddle about with critical settings. Fasterfox is a freeware utility that includes a number of options to make Firefox run quicker and download pages faster, and for the adventurous there’s a selection of manual adjustments. If you experience problems then you can reset Firefox to its default condition with one click. Fasterfox is small, it virtually installs itself and the simple to use controls appear in Options on the Tools menu.



If you have a broadband connection and read a lot of PDF (Portable Document Format) documents you may well find that the Adobe Acrobat Reader plug-in can be a quite slow to open in Firefox, which can be quite frustrating. There is a way to speed it up and that is to have Firefox download the PDF file first and then open it in a compact Acrobat Reader window. (This tweak probably won't do much good if you have a slow dial-up connection).


All you have to do it go to the Firefox Tools menu, select Options then click the Download icon and then the Plugins button. Uncheck the line 'Adobe Acrobat Document', click OK to close the Windows and it's done.



If you’ve followed my advice you will be viewing this page using the most excellent Mozilla Firefox browser. Apart from being more secure than Internet Explorer it is also faster and easier to use with its tabbed browser windows and a host of useful features like the built in pop-up stopper, but did you know that it is also highly customisable?


This is one of the many benefits of Open Source software and hundreds of users have devised eye-catching ‘Themes’ that change the appearance and in some cases the functionality of Firefox, and they’re free. They only take a few moments to install (just reboot after the file has downloaded) and if you don’t like it you can easily try another one or switch back to the standard Theme from the Tools menu. There’s a good selection to get you started on the Mozilla websit



Further to Howard Galloway's query regarding backing up OE, I can thoroughly recommend Eazy Backup (  It backs up over 20 applications including OE (rules and all), Outlook, Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird, Eudora, My Documents, My Desktop on XP etc.  It’s not free, it costs $49.95, but I've been using it for a couple of years now and wouldn't be without it.  As its name implies, it is very easy to use and restoring applications is virtually idiot-proof.

Thanks to  Frances Cooper for that one:



Here’s another one of those useful keyboard shortcuts that can save you a few precious seconds every day. This one comes in handy when you are entering a web address in your browser and it works for on Internet Explorer and Firefox. Normally you have to reach for the mouse, click into the Address bar then tap in the address. Not any more, forget the mouse, just hit Alt + D, the cursor ‘snaps’ to the Address bar and highlights the current entry so when you type in the new address and it will automatically replace the old one. Don’t mock, all these little savings are adding up…. 



This quick and simple little tip will save several seconds each time you type in a dot com Internet address in your browser. All you have to do is enter the site name, e.g. ‘’ then hit Ctrl + Enter and the http://www. and .com bits of the address are added automatically. Unfortunately it only works with web addresses ending in .com but a lot of UK based companies and web sites, such as the BBC own both and .com domain names so you will find that it often works. 



You would be amazed how many mass emails and press releases I receive from individuals and companies in the IT sector -- who really should know better -- that bear the email addresses of everyone else it has been sent to. The problem is they’ve used the Cc (carbon copy) facility to send the email to lots of different people, so I get to see their addresses at the top of the message. Clearly this has privacy implications but it is very easy to avoid. If you want to send an email to a lot of different people simply address it to yourself then add all of the recipient’s addresses to the Bcc (Blind Carbon copy) list.  Incidentally, if you can’t see the Bcc option in a New Message Windows go to the View menu and click ‘All Headers’.



Here’s one for all you network teccies from Bruce Williams, and if you don’t know your MTUs from your MRUs  (see Glossary)  or how to tinker with your router settings then it’s probably best avoided.


I had a problem connecting via broadband with Microsoft - absolutely no problem with other sites.  After much discussion with local experts, I spoke with my very friendly ISP ( who came up with the answer.  My MRU was less than my MTU - it MUST BE GREATER if only by one - a little more to be safe. After reconfiguring my router, which had an MTU of 1500 and an MRU of 1499, I raised the MRU to 1520 and all is perfect and the Microsoft site is accessible. So, when configuring your router, MRU must be a touch HIGHER than MTU




Several sites on the Internet list the main Outlook Express error codes, usually with a short description of what they mean. Unfortunately these are not always very enlightening but some of the sites listed below have links to other sources of help or Microsoft Knowledgebase articles.


For more general help with OE problems have a look at the Kellys Korner site at:



If you are going to be out of the office for a few hours or the whole day you can easily let anyone sending you emails know that they may not get a reply straight away. Outlook Express has the equivalent of an e-mail answering machine facility built in that will automatically reply to any incoming email messages. (Note that the PC and Outlook Express both have to be running and online or connected to a network).


Start by creating the message that you want anyone sending you an email to receive, something along the lines 'Sorry I'll be away until …'. To do that click on New Mail, type in the text of your message then go to the File menu and use Save As to name and save the message in a location of your choosing. Next go to Tools > Message Rules > Mail and click the New button. In the first box select 'For All Messages', in the second box choose 'Reply With Message' and in the third box click on the underlined Message and direct it to your reply email. Click okay and it's done.



If you’ve tried Skype (, the free voice over Internet protocol (VOIP) program that lets you make and take ‘phone’ calls with other Skype users anywhere in the world then you are going to really like this free add-on. It’s called Pamela and it adds a number of useful features to a standard Skype setup, including automatic answering and voice greeting, a recording facility and text chat messaging. Pamela is highly configurable, it’s freeware (there is also a more sophisticated paid-for version) and it can be downloaded from:




There’s usually no reason why you have to use the broadband modem supplied by your ISP, however network modems work in a slightly different way to USB modems, which are normally set up using a configuration program that runs on the PC to which they are connected. A network modem will have its own local Internet Protocol (IP) address and is configured using an Internet browser. Once the address has been entered in the browser window (usually something like the modem asks for a password and PIN and then displays a set of web-like menu pages into which your broadband service name and password can be entered. 




Here’s a neat Outlook Express tip to make it easier to quickly find emails by colour coding messages from friends or colleagues. Go to Tools > Message Rules > and click the New button. Under Conditions check ‘Where the From Line Contains People’ then under Actions select ‘Highlight it with Colour’. Next in the Rule Descriptions box double click the underlined ‘Contains People’ and enter the sender’s name or email address then click the underlined ‘Color’ and make your selection (unfortunately the choice is fairly uninspiring). Click OK and to finish off click the Apply Now button. 




If Outlook Express mail folders are slow to open here’s something to try, but first a couple of words of warning. This procedure applies to Windows 98/SE/ME and OE5/6 and it’s for advanced users.  A common cause for a slowdown is corrupted Protected Storage Service files. To replace them you’ll need to load your Windows installation CD-ROM or know the location of the Windows ‘cab’ files on your PC’s hard drive. Shut down IE and OE and open Windows Explorer. Go to C:\Windows\System and rename (change the extension to ‘old’) or move the following files to another location: psbase.dll, pstorec.dll, pstorerc.dll and pstores.exe. Now go to Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools > System Information. On the Tools menu select System File Checker and click the item ‘Extract one file…’. Type the name of each file in turn and follow the prompts. Shut down and reboot.




Is your Outlook Express slowing down? If it is taking longer to start or folders are slow to open then it’s often because you have too many messages filling up your mailboxes. However, the first thing to try is OE’s Clean Up utility you’ll find it on the Tools menu, select Options then Maintenance. This will remove any wasted space in the message folders but it’ll only bring temporary relief if you have more than 5000 or so messages in any of your mailboxes in which case the only solution is to backup then delete old messages. 




Scam emails are usually very easy to identify and the first and most obvious give-away is that someone you don’t know is offering you something that you have not asked for. If you have any doubts don’t open it but check the address it has been sent from. In Outlook Express right-click the email message in your Inbox, select Properties then the Details tab and click the Message Source button. It will almost certainly be from an unknown or anonymous source. Check also your own details, quite often the address is wrong or it’s not specifically addressed to you by name. Delete the message immediately if it contains any attachments but if you feel the urge to read it you will notice that bank and lottery ‘officials’ and overseas royalty are not noted for their spelling and grammar or command of the English language…




Thunderbird uses a plain text format to store messages so they can be read using any text editor or word processor. This also means it is easier to move your emails to another PC, import them into another email program, or back into OE. Thunderbird email folders and settings are kept in a single folder, called a Profile. In Windows 9x (98/SE/ME) they are stored in:

C:\Windows\Application Data\Thunderbird\Profiles\

In Windows XP they can be found in:

C:\Documents and Settings\<yourname>\ApplicationData\


If you want to know more about Thunderbird or have any unanswered questions there are two excellent FAQs at:






Unlike Internet Explorer Mozilla and Mozilla Firefox do not keep a secret hidden file listing all of the web sites you have visited. It does store cookies though and there is also a page cache and a History file and Password Manager, but these are all much easier to control. In Firefox go to Tools > Options and click the Privacy icon where you will find details of everything Firefox stores, how long it is kept and buttons to clear the files. In Mozilla go to Preferences on the Edit menu and under Categories click Privacy and Security for a similar set of options.




You can print all or part of the contents of your Address Book in three different styles. Open the Address Book by clicking the Toolbar icon, if you only want to print selected entries click the ones you want include by holding down the Ctrl key, if there’s a lot of them hold down Shift and use the cursor keys or the Page Down key. When you have made your selection, or if you want to print them all click the Print button and choose the style (Memo – all information, Business Card – names, email address and phone number or Phone List – phone numbers only).  If you right-click on your printer and select Properties or Preferences you may be able to change the size of the printout, to fit your organiser or address book for example, otherwise click the Print button.




Some browser speed-up tips and tweaks may only yield relatively small improvements in the order of a few milliseconds, which can be difficult to assess given the many other factors that determine the speed of data flowing around the Internet. Nevertheless it is possible to measure the speed at which web pages load, so you can make accurate comparisons, before and after you’ve made changes using the web ‘stopwatch facility at: Just type in the address of a website, preferably one with lots of images or graphics, make a note of the time it takes to load, change a setting then try again an see if it makes a difference.




If you have several web sites on your Favorites list that require passwords to access, but you don’t want to them to be automatically remembered by IE here’s a trick to make them easily accessible, but hidden from normal view. Open your Favorites list, right-click on the entry for a site that needs a password and select Rename. Press the space bar a half dozen or so times to enter in some blank spaces then type in your password; you can jumble or reverse the order if you’re really cautious. Because of the width of the Favorites list your password won’t normally be visible but you can show it by dragging the Favorites list border a few centimetres to the right.




If you are taking a laptop, organiser or mobile phone with email access on a trip create a small document file containing important numbers, names and contacts that might come in useful in case of an emergency, such as your passport number and local telephone numbers for your insurance company etc. You can disguise or hide the numbers in an email or letter, so that no one else can understand them. Give the file an innocuous name – e.g. ‘trav126.txt’ -- and hide it in an unrelated folder. Before you leave send the file to yourself in the form of an email, so you can access it, from an Internet café for instance, using an email web server (e.g. if your equipment is lost or stolen.




If your phone is connected to a digital exchange and you have BT Call Waiting or Call Minder services you may experience problems with Internet connections. Windows 9xcan automatically switch the Call Waiting bleeper off before you connect. Open Modems in Control Panel and select the General Tab. Click on Dialling Properties and check the box marked ' To Disable Call Waiting Dial' (or 'How I dial from this Location') in the adjacent box enter # 43 # (hash 43 hash). You will have to manually switch Call Waiting back on again after you log off by dialling * 43 # (star 43 hash). Call Minder generates a 'stutter' dial tone to let you know you have a message waiting; this does not agree with a lot of modems, so before you go on-line pick up your messages by first dialling 1571.




Did you know that in Outlook Express (v5 onwards) you can attach a sound file to an email that will play automatically as soon as it is opened on the recipient’s computer? You can specify how many times it’s played, or even make it play continuously, if you really want to annoy someone, the possibilities -- for good and mischief -- are endless…


First record your sound as a *.wav file using Windows Sound Recorder (Start > Programs> Accessories > Entertainment) most PCs these days have a microphone input. Create your message as usual in the New Message window, on the Format menu make sure Rich Text (HTML) is checked, click anywhere in the message window and go to Background on the Format menu, select Sound and use the Browse button to locate your sound file, set the number of plays, click OK and send your message.




The right button on your mouse can do some interesting tricks when you're looking at Internet web pages. Click anywhere on the page and you'll see a number of options. The most useful one is to add the address of the current page to your favourite list. If you come across a background design, that you'd like to use as wallpaper on your desktop, right click on the pattern and choose the Set as Wallpaper option. Selecting Copy Background puts the image into the clipboard memory, so you can import it into a graphics program, or it can be filed away, as a .gif or .jpg image, in the file or folder of your choice, using the Save Background As… option.




One of the main complaints about the Internet is how long it sometimes takes to access and download pages. There's an easy way to speed things up and that is to just load text. Instead of all the pictures, graphics, advertising banners and sounds you will just see icons. If you want to see or hear an item just right click on the icon and you will get the option to load it. In IE5 onwards go to Internet Options on the Tools menu the Advanced tab, scroll down Multimedia and uncheck the appropriate boxes. A similar facility in Netscape Navigator is listed under Preferences on the Edit menu, click Advanced and uncheck the Automatically Load Images box.




There are probably at least one or two Internet web sites that you visit frequently -- search engines or a particular home page etc. Rather than waste time opening your browser, manually selecting the address from the favourites list and making the connection, just create a simple keyboard short cut - it's easy! Pressing the keys will take you straight to your chosen web site from within any application.


On the Start menu click Favourites, right-click the site you are interested in then select Properties and the Internet Shortcut tab. In the Shortcut Key box you will see 'None', click in a cursor and type a single letter -- choose one that relates to the site  you can easily remember, such as 'Y' for Yahoo, etc. -- the field will now display the assigned shortcut, i.e. 'Ctrl + Alt + Y'. Click OK and try it out. Internet Explorer opens automatically and takes you straight to the web site. (If IE is not your chosen browser you will have to open it and manually add the web site address to the Favourites list)




Web pages can often be difficult to read especially if text colours clash with fancy backgrounds and patterns. On Microsoft Internet Explorer there's a very handy feature that will allow you to make quite significant changes to the way web pages are displayed, and in particular the colours used for web site addresses that you have and haven't visited and the so-called 'hover' colour. The latter is the colour change that occurs when your mouse pointer passes over and highlights a web address. Open Explorer and on the View menu choose Internet Options, select the General tab and click the Colours button at the bottom of the window. To change a default click on the appropriate colour block and choose a new one from the palette which appears, or create your own custom colour. A similar feature is available on Netscape Navigator on the Options menu under General Preferences.




These days creating your own web pages couldn't be simpler and you can let your imagination and artistic inclinations run wild. Unfortunately some web page designers, and that includes professionals who should know better, sometimes make a right hash of it when it comes to displaying text on web pages. Coloured or patterned backgrounds and excessively light or dark text can make reading difficult, impossible in some cases, but here's a quick and easy way to make the words stand out. Just press the Ctrl + Alt keys and all of the text on display will be highlighted, making it much easier to read.




Heavy-duty Internet users, here's a way to save yourself several seconds a week by increasing the dialling speed of your PC and modem. It may not work with some modems or phone lines but it's worth a try. Go to Control Panel click on the Modem icon, then Properties and select the Connection tab and click on Advanced. In the Extra Settings field enter S11=50 then click OK. S11determines the duration of each tone pulse, in milliseconds, the second number specifies the gap between each tone, thus reducing the number to 45 say, makes it dial even faster, increasing the number slows it down. If the connection fails or becomes unreliable simply clear the Extra Settings field to return to the default values.




You can check up on your PC's connection speed to the Internet with a few simple clicks. Whilst on line a small double monitor icon appears in the System Tray, next to the clock: if you place the mouse pointer over it you will see a summary of bytes sent and received and modem connection speed. Click on the icon and the disconnect dialogue box appears, with the same information displayed. However, unless the modem has been properly configured the connection speed may appear impossibly high, at 115,200 bits/sec. This is the speed at which the PC is communicating with the modem, rather than the speed of data flowing down the telephone line. To remedy that you will need to program the modem with an AT command to display transfer speed in the dialogue box. Open Control Panel and double click on the Modem icon, make sure your modem is highlighted on the General tab, select Properties, then the Connection tab and then the Advanced Button. In the field marked Extra settings enter one of the following commands -- if one doesn't work try another. W2 (for modems with Rockwell chipsets), AT&F1 (3COM and USR models) or MR=2 (later Rockwell models and PCI cards). If you still see 115,200 bits/sec try your modem manual or visit the manufacturer's web site and look for the Report DCE speed (Data Communication Equipment) command line.  




One of the most annoying tricks web sites pull is to open multiple browser windows, and 'pop-ups' usually without so much as a by your leave. This can happen very quickly and in some cases they open faster than you can close them, or they open in 'Kiosk' mode, where there's no close or minimise icons to click on. The trick is to use the Windows shortcut Ctrl + W to close them quickly, one, by one. You could also use the Alt+F4 shortcut, but it's more of a stretch and there's the danger that if you get a bit careless you might shut another program down as well




In the previous Tip we mentioned the dreaded Internet 'Kiosk Mode', where a web site opens a browser window automatically but without any toolbars, menus, minimise or close buttons. In effect you are stuck with it, unless you know the Ctrl + W or Alt + F4 shortcut to get rid of it. Kiosk mode does have its uses however. For example, if you are using Internet Explorer to display web pages on a PC at an exhibition or AV presentation and you don't want all the toolbars and other gubbins taking up screen space. Here's how to force Internet Explorer into Kiosk mode. Go to Run on the Start menu and type 'iexplore –k' (without the quotes), followed by the address of the page or web site you want to display. If you just type 'iexplore –k' it will open on your selected home page.



A lot of people are naturally concerned that private files on their Windows PCs could be opened or ‘hacked’ whilst they are connected to the Internet. In practice this is extremely unlikely; however, you can reassure yourself and make sure it won’t happen by ensuring that no-one has enabled the facility that allows external access to your PC’s hard drive. From the Start menu select Settings then Control Panel and double click on the Network icon. Now click on the File and Print Sharing button and make sure that the item ‘I want to be able to give others access to my files’ is unchecked.




It can be incredibly frustrating waiting for Internet pages to appear, especially at peak times, you may even start wondering if you are still connected, or maybe your browser program has frozen?  Here’s a quick and simple test; whilst on-line with your browser open go to Start > Programs > MSDOS, to open up a DOS window. At the flashing prompt type ‘ping’ (without the inverted commas) followed by the Internet site address. This will call up the web site four times and measure how long it takes to reply, in milliseconds (ms), showing minimum, maximum and average times. Anything under 200 ms is normal, any longer and your connection is slow or the Internet is very busy and you should try again later.




Here’s a quick one for people who use Outlook Express to collect their email when away from home, on other people’s PCs, Internet Café PCs or laptops. By default OE downloads messages from the server to the PC, which can be awkward if it’s not your machine. To stop that happening go to Tools and then Accounts, highlight the account you’re using and select Properties. Click on the Advanced tab and check the item "Leave a copy of message on server". Now you can read your messages when you are away, and when you get home you can download them onto your main PC




This simple tweak that can help reduce the time it takes for your PC to make a connection to your Internet Service Provider, but only try this if it’s a stand-alone machine, i.e. not hooked up to a network. Open Dial Up Networking by going to Start > Programs > Accessories > Communications > Dial Up Networking. Right click on the icon for your ISP connection and select Properties and the Server Types tab. In Advanced Options uncheck 'Log on to Networks' and below that, under Allowed Networks make sure that only TCP/IP is checked. Click OK and give it a try, if all's well Internet Explorer (or your chosen browser) should log on and establish a connection a little faster than before. In the unlikely event that anything odd happens simply go back to Dial Up Networking and restore the default settings (i.e. Log on to Networks, NetBeui and IPX/SPX all checked).  




On Internet Explorer it is possible to open a second smaller browser window by clicking on a link, so you can still see, and quickly return to the original page without reloading it. Just hold down the shift button before left clicking on the link. Here are some more IE keyboard shortcuts. Ctrl + D adds the current web page to your Favourite list. Ctrl + H opens the History folder, Ctrl + N opens a new browser window, Ctrl + W closes the active browser window and Ctrl + R reloads the page you are viewing.




If you are using Outlook Express and you receive and send a lot of email then your Inbox and Outbox folders could be swallowing up a lot of valuable hard disc space. Get into the habit of regularly 'compacting' the files, this can also make them small enough to backup to a floppy disc. Click and highlight the selected Inbox or Outbox folder icon then go to the File menu, select Folder and Compact Folder.




This handy little trick can help make sending emails easier. It will put a new icon on your Start menu. When you click on it a blank email message window opens from where you can compose and send an email, without waiting for Outlook Express to open. Move your mouse pointer to the Start button, right-click on it and select Explore from the menu that appears. When the Explorer window opens, right-click in an empty spot in the right-hand pane and select New, then Shortcut. The Create Shortcut dialogue box should appear; under Command Line type in 'mailto:' (leaving off the quotation marks) then click on Next. Now you can give your shortcut a name, clear the highlighted default name and type in something like 'email' or 'messend', and select close. Now go to the Start menu and try out your new high-speed message system.




Using the same basic procedure you can create a personalised message window for anyone that you frequently send emails to, with their address automatically inserted. As before, right-click into an empty part of the desktop, select New and then Shortcut from the menu. In the window that appears, in the Command Line field, type, where the part after mailto: is the recipient’s email address. Click Next, give your new Shortcut a name then click Finish.




Here's a way to turn your Internet Explorer/Outlook Express email Address Book into a text file that can read by a word processor, or imported into other email programs. Open Address Book and on the File menu select Export, then Address Book. In the dialogue box that appears select 'Text File (comma separated values)' and click the Export button. Type in the path (where you want the file to be stored) and give the file a name, for example: C:\my documents\adbook.txt. Select Next, check the items you wish to export and click Finish. 




If you receive a lot of messages on the same topic, or from the same sender (maybe you print out a lot of emails) then there is a very convenient but little known feature in Outlook Express that allows you to combine messages into one document, for reading or printing. Open the mailbox containing the messages you want to combine and highlight them by holding down the Ctrl key and clicking on each one in turn. Now go to the Messsage menu and select Combine and Decode. You will be asked if you want to change the order of the messages, if not click OK and the new combined document will be created, use SaveAs on the file menu to save it as a new document.




Here is a way to send a photograph with an email, by inserting it into the actual message. This only works when your email client program – we’ll assume you are using Outlook or Outlook Express – is set to send HTML (Hypertext mark-up language) and the person you are sending it to can receive HTML messages. Click on the New Message icon, go to the Format drop-down menu and make sure ‘Rich Text (HTML)’ is selected. Now all you have to do is compose your message as normal and when you come to the point where you want the picture to go click on the Insert Picture icon (it looks like a postcard) then use the Browse button to locate the image file. It will appear in the message window, as the recipient will see it. Finish your message and send it as normal.




If you are using Internet Explorer (v5 onwards) and you haven’t tried Internet radio yet, there’s a radio tuner facility hidden away inside your browser. To enable it click on Tools > Internet Options and select the Advanced tab. Scroll down the list to the Multimedia heading and check the item ‘Always Show Internet Explorer Radio Bar’. Click Okay and exit the dialogue box, now right click into an empty area of the toolbar and select Radio from the drop-down menu. A new toolbar appears, click on Radio Stations and Radio Station Guide, which will take you to the Windows Media radio tuner home page. From there you can select a list of stations according to style, content, language etc. This will either take you to the station’s home page, and a live ‘listen’ button, which lets you hear what’s going on through Windows Media Player (Be patient, it can take a few seconds before you hear anything, as the data has to be ‘buffered’ in the PC’s memory to prevent breaks in sound caused by heavy traffic on the Internet).  Some stations may require you to have special player software but there is usually a link on the page to the appropriate download web site.




Some modems just won’t play ball and stubbornly refuse to work with Windows or do strange things, like randomly dropping the line, or operating at ridiculously low data rates. If yours is playing up it’s worth trying a standard Windows modem driver. Open Control Panel and click on Add/Remove Hardware, click Next until you get to the screen that asks you if you want Windows to look for new devices, select No, on the ‘Hardware Types’ list double-click the Modem icon, check ‘Don’t detect my modem…’ and click Next. Make sure ‘Standard Modem Types’ is highlighted under ‘Manufacturers’. In the right pane select ‘Standard 56000bps V90’ or the option that best matches your modem, click Next and continue to the end. To revert to your previous custom driver remove the Standard Modem entry in Device Manager (right-click My Computer and select Properties) re-boot and Windows will detect your modem and re-install the original driver (have your driver disc to hand).    




Here's an interesting freeware (to home users) utility that claims to be able to spot and zap those incredibly annoying 'pop-up' ads that appear whilst you are browsing web pages. Adsubtract also blocks cookies and in theory will speed up download times having removed all of the clutter. If you want to give it a try pay a visit to:




Are  there any adware or spyware programs lurking on your PC? One easy way to find out is with a program called Ad-Aware. It's freeware and the file is around 860kB in size so it should only take a few minutes to download. Once installed it is very simple to use and normally takes just a couple of minutes to scan a 10Gb hard disc drive. If it finds any adware files it offers to safely isolate and delete them. Ad-Aware is routinely featured on PC magazine cover-mount discs but I recommend that you use the latest version (v5.5), which is now available from:




You don't have to put up with the default toolbar in Outlook Express. You can add or remove icons by right-clicking into an empty area of the toolbar and selecting Customise. Scroll down the list in the left hand pane (Available Toolbar Buttons), select one that you want to use and click Add. Two that I find very useful are Mark Read and Preview Pane. The latter toggles the Preview Pane on and off; I have it disabled by default (the option is on the View menu, under Layout) as it clutters the desktop and can activate email viruses like Nimda, but it's useful to have occasionally, when working through long lists of messages. 




If you use Outlook Express and send your emails in plain text then you can make them much easier for others to read by changing the line length, which is set by default to 76 characters.  To do that go to the Tools menu and select Options and then the Send tab. Click the Plain Text Settings button and use the down arrow to change the 'Automatically wrap text at' value to 65. If OE is set to send text as Rich Text or HTML there's no need to worry, as it will automatically wrap to fit the recipient's message window.




Search engines are not noted for having a sense of humour but you can brighten up your Internet exploration if you use Google ( by changing the language. The next time you visit Google – and make it soon, it's still the best search engine around – click on the Preferences, next to the Search Field, then click the down arrow next to Interface Language. Try Hacker, it's surprisingly easy to read after a while, and Bork bork bork! might amuse anyone of a Swedish disposition but our favourite has to be Elmer Fudd. Whilst you are there you might also want to increase the number of displayed results from the default setting of 10 to 20, to speed things up a bit. Now where are awl wose wascally web pwages…?




Outlook Express, like most Windows programs, is a lot easier to use if you remember a few keyboard shortcuts. For example Ctrl + P prints the currently displayed message and you can view a message Properties (the identity of the sender, it’s size and even the route it took to get to you) by highlighting it and pressing Alt + Enter. There’s a full list of keyboard shortcuts in OE Help (select the Index tab and type ‘short’).




Just how good is your Internet connection? There are lots of web sites that can test your connection speed; however each can only give you a snapshot of what is happening at the time, moreover speed will vary according to various other factors, including the geographical location of the server doing the test. For a more accurate picture you should try several sites – see below -- at different times of day and average out the results. Remember, just because you have a 56Kbps modem it is very unlikely you will achieve anything like that speed; in real world conditions you are more likely to get between 30 and 40kbps.


General test sites


For ISDN and ADSL connections




Here’s a quick timesaving tip for advanced users. This simple Registry hack disables the Outlook Express ‘Splash Screen’ that appears every time you start the program. OE will then open more or less instantly. Don’t  forget, before you tinker around with the Registry always make a backup!


Open Regedit then go to: HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Identities

For OE 5 go below this to { -- ABC123XYZ….. long alphanumeric code } \Software \ Microsoft \ Outlook Express \ 5.0. Right click into the right-hand pane and select New > DWORD, rename the DWORD ‘NoSplash’ (without the inverted commas) and give it a Value of 1. Close Regedit and try it out, now all you have to do is think what you’ll do with all the time you saved…



Copyright (c) 2006 Rick Maybury Ltd.