Published March 31, 2009
Every other week or so, FOXNews.com tries to solve your most vexing technology-related problems. Send your questions to TechQuestions@foxnews.com and we'll reply to selected ones in our next installment.
Tomorrow, April 1, marks one year since the first Tech Q & A column. Thanks and a hat tip to all of you regular readers, all who have submitted questions and all who have responded with feedback.
A special thanks to my editor, who changes my words from "tear and strain to rhyme" to something resembling English.
Tomorrow is also the payload trigger date for the D variant of the Conficker worm. Make sure you have shields up and phasers set to considerably more than stun.
More importantly, make sure your OS is fully patched and your anti-malware programs are up to date. Otherwise, it might be a long day.
For more information on Conficker.D, see the Microsoft Malware Protection Center.
Knights in White Satin, Never Reaching the End
Q: Over the last year or so, I have been receiving e-mails from a friend and e-mailing notes to him. All of these e-mails are still on my computer. Now I need to copy and make a CD of all of them in some form of word-processing program that any computer can open and read.
I run Windows Vista Home Premium and all the messages are in Windows Mail. I've been able to export from Windows Mail to a new folder on one of my drives. But when they're copied to the CD to use in another computer, all get copied as Windows Mail. This is fine if the other computer has Windows Mail, but if it doesn't, is there a way to switch to a word-processing program that can be read by all programs ?
A: I have not used this program, so I can offer no opinion as to suitability, but there is a shareware converter available at www.processtext.com. Click on Windows Mail Converter in the left navigation panel. They're asking $20 for the software.
The makers claim it will convert Windows Mail to PDF, RTF, HTML, .doc and just about any other format you can think of. Let us know how it works for you, OK?
All of you who (1) use an e-mail client (such as Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora, Thunderbird, etc.) and (2) save e-mail for future reference — remember that regular backups are important. Find out where your client stores e-mail and attachments, and make copies on a regular basis.
Remember that they only make two kinds of hard disk drives: the kind that have failed, and the kind that are going to fail.
Some Knights Haven't Arrived Yet
Q: Since the middle of December, Gmail has refused to download messages to my Microsoft Outlook software. I have read many of their help suggestions and gone on Gmail forums to find other peoples' suggestions, but to no avail. From the comments I read, there are hundreds of others with the same problem.
I have managed to be able to download mail (but not upload) if I go into Google every single time and go to the captcha site. It does not stay corrected. I even had a friend who works in IT look into it and he cannot correct the problem either.
Gmail has to correct this problem, but its managers don't communicate with individuals. Any suggestions?
A: In Outlook 2007, go to "Tools" —> "Account Settings." Choose the "E-mail" tab, select your Gmail account, and click on "Change." In the "User Name" field, under "Logon Information," put "recent:" in front of your account name. The result looks like "recent:firstname.lastname@example.org".
The concept is the same in earlier versions of Outlook. You just need to edit the account name.
The good news is that it will start downloading all of your e-mail into Outlook. The bad news is that it also treats all of your sent mail as incoming mail. It feels kind of weird to get a copy of every e-mail you send.
Just treat the sent e-mail like spam and delete it. Better yet, create a rule to automatically move all mail from yourself into a separate folder. Delete it from there.
Wii Want to Hack the System, but It Might Not Be a Good Idea
Q: Recently, a co-worker of mine told me about how you can modify your Nintendo Wii game console into a DVD player, install modified software from Windows (namely Windows Media Player Mod for Wii) and download free games.
All of this can supposedly be accomplished by using "Zelda: Twilight Princess" as a catalyst for creating a new Wii channel, "The Home Brew Channel." This then opens the doorway to all of these downloads, uploads and installs.
What do you guys know about this, and can it be harmful to my Wii system?
A: The various Wii "homebrew" sites have more information. Search for them and ask the folks at one of them. They will be able to assist.
But be careful. As one of the sites says, "Go ahead and try it out, but don't forget that you are risking your Wii" — not to mention your warranty.
I think that about sums it up.
State of the DTV-Conversion Report
The 17 million of us who let our converter-box coupons expire may reapply. Thanks to the stimulus package, the government has been able to clear the waiting list that built up after the program ran out of funds last January, which now gives households with expired coupons a second chance. You can read about the update here.
Regarding my comments about a select few Network Administrators, Zach in Massachusetts writes:
Web and content control is necessary because as much as 40 percent of all user Web activity is non-work-related. When users are being paid a wage by a company, their time should be spent performing their job. It should not be spent browsing their Facebook and MySpace pages.
Controlling what Web content the end user can visit insures they are not misusing company time. It also insures they aren't allowed to visit sites that host malicious code which could compromise the corporate network, and/or explicit/offensive material.
Lastly, your comment about it taking a week to create a network login is a bit ignorant. Creating a "network login" isn't just creating a username and password.
E-mail accounts need to be created, the user's desktop needs to be imaged and their profile needs to be configured, their network resource access needs to be set, intranet sites such as sharepoint portals may need to be configured, home folders on file servers setup, print server access, logon scripts, etc etc etc.
So yes, it is much faster to add a single line of text to a Web-content security appliance than it is to create network credentials and the security context for a new user.
I think a network admin asking for a week's notice for all new users is perfectly reasonable. You clearly don't because you have no appreciation of the work involved.
Actually, it was five weeks to create a network login, and consisted of very little more than setting up a username and password.
If making a new employee productive from day one is an admirable corporate objective, how can five weeks on non-productivity be justified?
The example was admittedly extreme, but was real.
If it takes you one week to create one, I have one word for you: "scripting." You need to automate some of your administrative tasks.
And for heaven's sake, create some groups and give them proper privileges, so that new users can be granted most of the privileges they need by simply adding them to the group.
Finally, you have vastly oversimplified the concept of whitelisting, which you described as "add[ing] a single line of text to a Web-content security appliance."
You left out the part about being a good enough seer to know each and every Web site that each and every employee might ever visit in the course of doing the job they are paid to do — and adding all of them to the whitelist.
It might take you more than a week.
A better solution might be to use the logs in the security appliance to see which employees are going where — and for how long — and then discipline those who are abusing the privilege. That way, responsible employees don't suffer for the misdeeds of a few.
Here's just a tiny example of the over-control I'm talking about: In Internet Explorer, I jump to a new URL by using the "Ctrl-O" key combination and typing the URL in the Open dialog box.
That way, I don't have to reach over, grab the mouse and click on the address bar first. My fingers don't have to leave the home row.
Lack of the feature in Mozilla, by the way, is one of the things I hate about that browser. It saves perhaps a second, but avoiding all of those seconds makes me more productive, especially on a laptop.
Disabling the feature, in the name of network security, makes me less productive. Multiply that tiny bit of non-productivity by a great number of disabled features, and it makes me much less productive.
If you'll go back and look at the original article, you'll see that I had instructed someone to right-click on a desktop to bring up the display properties to get a more readable screen — which, presumably, makes him more productive. That's something that was disabled in the above corporate example.
And please remember that I'm only talking about a few network administrators. The majority of you guys do a great job without much in the way of thanks.
I recall an article by John C. Dvorak of PC Magazine a few years back. He wrote that the worst job he knew of was that of "Chicken Sexer," which he described, as I recall, as eight hours of turning largely incontinent baby chicks upside down to separate the pointers from the setters.
The only worse job, in his opinion, was Network Administrator.
Got questions about computers and technology? Send them to TechQuestions@foxnews.com and we'll answer selected ones in our next installment.
Guy Briggs is a member of the Nerds On Site international IT service team and is based in Salt Lake City.
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