Computer Guide

Red X instead of a picture

by George Skarbek - 9th September 2008

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Red X instead of a picture

Q: I occasionally receive email where part of the message, usually a picture, cannot be opened and instead appears as a small box containing a red cross.  How can I find which program was used to create the unreadable inclusion so that I can install that program and be able to open future inclusions?


A: Microsoft has an article on this problem that should allow you to fix the problem. The answer depends on the version of Internet Explorer that you are using. See: for all the details.


Is Microsoft spying on me?

Q: Recently my Hotmail accounts via Outlook Express were replaced by Windows Live Hotmail. When I read the Privacy Statements, I felt as if someone from Microsoft was going to stand over my shoulder for the rest of my life watching everything I did on my computer and telling others about my computing activities. Am I being unduly paranoid?  What are your thoughts on this service especially with regard to everything they can do with my personal information? Will Microsoft be able to read the contents of my POP3 emails delivered by my ISP?


A: I feel that you may be unduly paranoid as I am certain that Microsoft does not read your Hotmail or Outlook Express mail regardless if you live in USA, Australia or Afghanistan. However, if you are in Afghanistan then I guess that the military would be able to look at all mail if they so desire.

I would not be worried by the change to Live Hotmail. If you have really sensitive correspondence then you should install on both your and your recipient’s computers some military grade encryption software such as PGP.


Excessive cleanups?

Q: I perform a general clean up every three months of my computer which means uninstalling and re-installing the whole Operating System (Clean Install). After the task is completed Windows has to update itself again. Is there a way to keep the updates so we don't have to go through all that tedious downloading again?


A: I am surprised that you have to do this so frequently. Have you considered not installing so many products so often as to cause these problems, or analysed what software is causing your problems? This should be more beneficial than having to re-install the operating system regularly.

As to your specific question, it was possible to have all these patches in downloaded files but Microsoft has stopped this. With XP SP-3 most of the previous patches will be installed in the one hit. It is possible to create a slipstream package to incorporate new patches but this process requires reasonable experience and a lot of time and therefore it is probably not worth it. If you wish to follow up the slipstream procedures see: or


Links not working

Q: I have recently been unable to go direct to a linked website from an email. Even though the website is in blue, by clicking on the link, nothing happens. Perhaps I have, unwittingly, switched something off but have been unable to discover what. It is a nuisance to type the full web address into the address bar each time.


A: Firstly, even if the links do not work you should not have to type in the URL (Uniform Resource Locator and also referred to as the Web address) but you should just cut and paste. This is done by highlighting the web address and pressing Ctrl + c to copy it into a buffer somewhere in the computer memory, then opening the browser and highlight the current web address and press Ctrl + v to paste in the address from Outlook Express. Using cut and paste is a great productivity enhancing method for all users.

As for your specific problem, see the fix on the Microsoft web site at:


Compacting Thunderbird 

Q: Does the equivalent to the .dbx file in Thunderbird do you need compacting? - I can find no reference to the removal of deleted file bodies.


A: Yes it does, as the mail is stored in a database and it should be set to do this automatically in order to free up the deleted space.

To set Thunderbird so that it does this automatically click Tools, Options, Offline & Disk Space and then and tick ‘Compact folder when it will save over 100 KB’


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