Computer Guide

Aggressively “helpful” software?

by George Skarbek - 29 January 2008

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Aggressively “helpful” software

Q: When I insert a USB memory stick, or hook up my Blackberry and enable mass storage, Adobe Photoshop Album Starter Edition fires up on my XP PC. When one first inserts a memory stick, a menu pops asking for default behaviour - including "do nothing" (plus a "remember this" check box) How do I get this option back?

A: This is aggressive programming by vendors who think that their program will be the best action regardless of what the user wants to do, and I am aware that this is annoying many users.

You can reset the defaults by plugging in the USB drive, close Adobe and open Windows Explorer. Then right-click on the USB device, click on Properties and then click on the AutoPlay tab. At the bottom of that windows there will be an option to Restore Defaults or you can change the behaviour for what to do when the device has Photos, Mixed Media etc. 


Creating a one click screen saver

Q: Do you know of a shortcut, like the shutdown and restart ones a while ago, that I can use to launch a screensaver?

A: This can be done relatively easily by creating a shortcut to your desired screen saver. Using Windows Explorer and open C:\Windows\System32 folder and set the view to Details so that you will be able to find the screen savers more easily. Most of the inbuilt Microsoft ones start with ss and have the suffix .scr. Having located yours then right-click and select Send To and Desktop.

What is an XPS file?

Q: I have received an attachment with an XPS file and cannot open it. Can you tell me what program I need?

A: This is a relatively new Microsoft  open standard to compete with Adobe’s PDF format. It will have been generated from someone using Office 2007. My suggestion is that you contact the sender and suggest that for the next year or so they send out files in the PDF format until XPS is fully recognised.

If you are running Windows XP or Vista you can download a free viewer XPS from  

Icon spacing

Q: Can you please advise where I go to arrange the spacing between my desktop shortcut icons?

A: Assuming that you are using Windows XP, right-click on the desktop and select Properties then Appearance, Advanced. Now in the Item selection dialogue box you will find both the Icon spacing Horizontal and Icon spacing Vertical that you can adjust.


Making ACT portable

Q: I have a copy of ACT and I want to run it between a few computers, one at home and one at the office. Rather than buy a laptop computer, I am thinking of buying a USB Hard Drive and keep the program and data on the hard drive. Is this feasible and practical?

A: Keeping the data on a USB hard drive or a USB Ramdrive is possible. Unfortunately I am not familiar with ACT as the last version that I used was many years ago and looking at their web site the portable solutions are for PDAs and not for USB drives.

When you install almost all programs they place entries in the Registry and usually into Windows\System32 folder and some other folders.  This means that it cannot be installed onto an external drive. 

If you have ACT installed on both computers then you can configure ACT to have the data on the external drive. In such a case you must remember to backup that data onto a hard disk on the one of the computers in case the external drive is lost or damaged.

Having separate mail accounts

Q: I have a laptop and separated by about 10 metres is my wife’s PC. Both units I have connected with a router and modem at my end. Works fine but I would like for her have separate email /user address so we both don't get every incoming emails not destined to one or the other. We are using DSL with Broadband, and XP platforms, - can I arrange for her to have her own username /address without going to the extra expense of setting up a separate  account  with  Telstra ?

A: My suggestion is that your wife signs up for a free e-mail account such as Gmail (type gmail into Google to find it). This is a completely free account and they give 2 GB of space in the mailbox. It is accessed via your web browsers.

Other free accounts such as Hotmail or Yahoo mail are also possible, but due to the amount of junk mail that you receive in Hotmail, Gmail is better with good anti-spam filtering



To look at the e-book in PDF format, Computer Guide, based on these columns click here