Friday, 17 August 2001

Newsletter Issue 29, August 2001


Sam Young Newsletter

Issue 29, August 2001
Hi guys,
This time we are onto the third and final part of our fixer-upper knowhow series for when your PC gets sick. Check out Emergency Recovery Procedures Part 3 below.
We are also looking some tips for managing all that reading that you know you SHOULD get to in  You CAN Take it With You
TLAs for SMEs        Short & Hot Keys        Hot Linx
Don't forget, if you want to be taken off my mailing list, click here to send me a reply e-mail and I will remove your name.

Emergency Recovery Procedures Part 3

Last time we talked about being proactive - looking at system maintenance. This time we are looking at the problems themselves. 
All the following problems are found on PCs running Windows 98 OS (operating system), surprisingly enough!
Hung Sessions
A hung session is an active window that is locked (screen is frozen or won't refresh), a programme that is locked, when the computer is completely locked, or when the mouse doesn't work.
This usually happens when there is a driver file conflict (two programmes trying to access the same file at the same time), or one of the thousands of lines of code that makes your programmes work fails to run correctly. 
Even if you have only one active window that has locked up, it pays to back out and come back in again. Otherwise, sure as eggs, that same driver conflict will arise in the middle of something else that is REALLY important and you will lose a couple of hours of work. So, to fix just one programme or one active window that's hung;
  1. Exit the affected window (click the X at the top right) or Ctrl, Alt & Delete to bring up the Task Manager box, then highlight the programme (in the task list it should have "Not Responding" next to it) and select End Task
  2. Wait until the pop up box appears (may take up to two minutes). Select End Task
  3. Then close all other programmes normally
  4. Select shut down from the Start menu 
  5. Select Restart
When you get a more extensive hung session - the "gone to hell in a handcart" scenario ;
  1. Shut down from the Start button using Ctrl & Esc to bring up the Start Menu 
  2. Select Restart
  3. NB: if cannot shut down using the menu, Ctrl, Alt & Del to bring up the Task Manager box, then Select Shut Down; or if that doesn't work Ctrl, Alt & Del twice; or if that doesn't work turn off the power at the wall, wait 30 seconds and turn it on again)
  4. You will get a message stating "Windows wasn't properly shut down blah blah blah...". Let the PC run through scandisk, to look for drive errors
  5. Once up, select shut down and restart again. This is in case on the first restart after the crash, driver files etc didn't run properly. Some problems may take a faultless shut down AND restart to correct. 
If you are still not getting a faultless restart, run your virus checker or do an online scan at your provider's website in case you have a virus that is interfering with your PC.
Blue Screen of Death
The Blue Screen of Death is that blue DOS-type screen that pops up every now and again saying that you have had "A fatal exception has occurred..."  blah blah blah. Treat the same as for a hung session. 
This can be from a driver file conflict or any of the following;
  • HEAT: your computer may just be too hot. Ideally the tower should be low to the floor in a ventilated position, and the room temperature should not exceed 30oC. If the computer is in a dusty place, exposed to cigarette smoke or pet hair, it may need cleaning. Remove the case and gently blow dust out, or use a small air pump. Be careful not to touch anything inside 
  • FAULTY RAM: If you recently added some new RAM, try removing it 
  • NEED PATCHES: Patching software and drivers may fix BSODs that are happening regularly 
If blue screens occur more than once a week the problem needs more expert attention. 
General Protection Faults
General Protection Faults are minor Blue Screens of Death. They are Windows pop-up message boxes that say that Kernel32.dll has caused an illegal operation or a general protection error in blah blah blah. 
The usual cause is software conflicts, which are easily fixed. Treat the same as for a hung session.
However, if you keep getting illegal operation messages, click on the Details button and; 
  • Take a screen dump by holding down the Alt key and clicking the keyboard print screen button
  • Open Word and click the paste tool. An image of the message box will be pasted into Word
  • Save the document
  • Keep notes in the document on what programs are running when the problem occurs (this information may help any support person you contact for advice, or you can use the keywords in the screen dump to search for problems on the Microsoft website)
Now you have a record of what is going wrong. Fixes to try;
  1. If you've recently installed new software, uninstall it
  2. Uninstall the programme that keeps glitching and reinstall it
  3. Patch the programme
  4. Patch Windows (see windowsupdate.microsoft.com)
  5. Call a technician!
You may have to upgrade Windows (Windows ME is the latest version). If you do, ensure that you get SR-2 (Service Release 2) NOT SR-1.
Internet Connection Problems
You click There are a number of reasons why you may not be able to connect to the internet;
  • The connections to the modem, the PC or the phone socket may be loose
  • Your ISP may not have the capacity to cope with demand at the time you are calling
  • Your anti-virus may have changed your internet user (mailbox) name during an auto update
  • Your password may be incorrect
  • Your dial-up profile may have corrupted
  • Your web browser or email profile may be corrupted
So, these are the things that you need to do to check, detect and repair the problem
  1. Try redialling outside peak hours (8 am & 5 pm)
  2. Check that the phone jack is secure at both the computer end and the wall socket
  3. If you have an external modem, check it is connected properly and is switched on 
  4. Check your password and user name are correct in Start | Settings | Control Panel | Internet | Connections, highlight the connection you are trying to connect to and click the Settings button 
  5. Check your dial-up settings by opening windows Explorer | Dial-up Networking| [Your ISP connection] icon. Right-click the icon and select properties from the pop-up menu. Make sure the phone number, user name and password entered here are correct
  6. Dial up BEFORE opening your email or web browser software, by using the Dial-up Networking connection icon Windows Explorer | Dial-up Networking | [Your ISP Connection] icon. Then once connected open your software 
  7. Delete your existing connection in Dial-up Networking and create a new one; and try connecting as per item 5 again
  8. Ring your ISP for step-by-step instructions about how to check advanced dial-up settings, line faults (they will organise line tests for you) or identifying operating system faults
Internet Disconnects
There is nothing more frustrating than being on the internet and getting disconnects happening all the time. This is usually caused by;
  • Poor line conditions ("noise" causing the connection to fail)
  • Trouble with the ISP's network
  • Call waiting with no answering service
  • Persistent incoming phone calls 
  • Internet Properties settings (eg disconnect after 20 minutes or disconnect after checking email) 
For all phone issues, ask your phone provider how to get round this. Your ISP may get the line checked for noise, or get you to enter a line of code in advanced properties to slow your modem speed down.
If you get disconnected after checking email with Outlook or Outlook Express, go to the Tools menu: Tools | Options | Mail Delivery or Connections and ensure the "Hang up after sending, receiving or updating" checkbox is NOT ticked. 
Can't Read Discs
If you can't read the contents of a disc or open a file that you know is on there, there are a number of things it could be;
  • FLOPPY: scratched, dusty or corrupted. Check another disc to see if you can read that. If you can, the problem is with the disc. If you can't, the problem is with the drive
  • FLOPPY: Apple Mac formatted rather than IBM. Check another disc 
  • FLOPPY: Not have the appropriate software on the PC. Check another disc
  • FLOPPY: Can't save the file or save to disc. Lock tab on the disc is closed. Reopen & try saving again. If still won't work, go to Windows Explorer | A:drive | [File Name] and right click. Select Properties from the pop-up menu and ensure "Read Only" is unticked
  • FLOPPY: Drive letter not present. Go to  Start | Settings | Control Panel | System | Device Manager | Disc Drives and click the +. Highlight the appropriate drive and click the Properties Button. Check that it doesn't say disabled in this profile. If it does, seek expert advice from your supplier 
  • CD-RW: Wrong formatting type for your CD Drive. Go back to the original PC and write to CD-R
  • CD-R: Corrupted or mis-written CD. Chuck it out & start again
  • CD-R: Can't read any CD. Drive needs professional diagnosis
  • CD-R: Drive letter not present. Go to Start | Settings | Control Panel | System | Device Manager | Disc Drives and click the +. Highlight the appropriate drive and click the Properties Button. Check that it doesn't say disabled in this profile. If it does, reinstall the software that was supplied with it
Software Won't Install 
Make sure that;
  • The version of Windows that you are running is compatible with the software you are trying to install (check the minimum requirements on the box or in the help files)
  • Your computer has enough free HD space, and
  • Check the company's website in case there are patches that you need to install before installing the full programme
If you suspect the installation files are corrupted, ask the vendor for another CD or a later version of the software. If you downloaded the program from the Net try again from a different download site. 
Software Won't Run
When you have just installed new software try the following;
  • Ensure you have a "Clean" install by 
    • Closing all active windows
    • Closing any background running programmes (including Task Scheduler & your internet connection)
    • Disabling your antivirus (right click on your antivirus System Try icon and select Disable from the pop-up menu) 
    • Ctrl, Alt & Del to bring up the Task Manager box. End task on EVERYTHING except Systray & Explorer
  • Reinstalling over the top
  • Uninstalling then reinstalling
  • Reading the instructions (!) and make sure your computer is set to any specified graphics resolution (screen area) and colour-mode. Right-click on the desktop, select Properties | Settings tab to change colour and resolution. 
  • Checking the website and see if there's a fixer "patch" you can download 
If nothing works, take it back for a replacement or refund. Unfortunately anomalies exist - some programs just won't work on some systems, and it may be beyond you and the trader to find out why. 
Windows Won't Start Up
If you get a "Non system disk" message when you turn the computer on on the DOS screen, it usually means there's a floppy disk in the A:\drive. Eject the floppy and press any keyboard button for Windows to continue to load.
Windows failure could indicate an unstable hard drive or corrupted Windows file. To attempt a fix;
  • Use your startup disk to boot to DOS. Remove the disc once you have booted up
  • Key dir C: then Enter, to see if the computer can read the hard drive. If it won't, chances are the hard drive has failed. Get professional help. 
  • If You can access the C:\drive, take the opportunity to copy important files that you have not backed up yet (check out newsletter 27 for those old DOS commands!). You MAY be able to access your other drives (zips or CD-RWs) to do your backup, but don't count on it
  • After backing up, reinsert your startup disk and try diagnosing and repairing the problem using the tools 
    • Run ScanDisk to check for errors (type scandisk). If a particular file is corrupted it will tell you, so you know what to replace (get a copy from a friend or find it on your install disc)
  • Get a professional if this doesn't work, OR
  • You can reformat your hard drive and reinstall the operating system and all your software from your installation CDs. This will annihilate ALL your not-backed-up files, registration numbers, downloaded software, MP3s, emails, email addresses, favourites/bookmarks and Desktop shortcuts though, so beware...
Computer Won't Turn On 
In general, this is most likely to be a failed power supply. It shouldn't mean the data on your hard drive is lost. You'll need to get your power supply repaired or replaced. However, you should first check the following;
  • Check for a loose power cord/connection
  • Check that another appliance works in the power socket
  • If you have a friend with the same computer, borrow their power cord to check that it's not the cord that's spat the dummy
  • Then get professional help. If the computer is still under warranty ask the retailer to diagnose and repair it (sometimes they will help even if your warranty has expired). Make sure you give your techie full details of what went wrong, and when. Do screen dumps. Provide all the information that you can and it will save you money.
Excessive CPU Noise
This is most likely caused by;
  • The hard drive being continually accessed by a programme that has locked up. Shut down and restart, shut down and restart.
  • Problem with cooling fan bearings. If you're not confident about opening up your computer, or can't because it's under warranty, take it to your repair agent. Of you want to have a crack at it yourself, unscrew the case and examine the "case" fans. If any look full of crap or rattle when you try to turn them, you probably need to replace them. A new fan doesn't cost much and is pretty easy to fit. NB:  disconnect the power FIRST, and wear a static strap. Power supply fans (contained within a separate case inside the computer) should not be touched AT ALL. Only qualified techies should work with the power supply. 
Hope this lot helps!

You CAN Take It With You

Is your reading pile getting so high that you can barely see over it? If so, it's time to conquer that pile. Here are 10 simple ways to do so: 
  1. CREATE A 'TO READ' BOX. Create a TO READ box or folder to store all of your inwards reading material. It's much easier to see how much you have to read, when everything is stored in one place. It also makes your intray a lot less intimidating!
  2. SCHEDULE TIME TO READ. Schedule a specific day and time to read... maybe 15 minutes a day, scheduled as an appointment in your calendar. Keep that appointment, just like any other work commitment. Then reading will become part of your automatic daily routine
  3. TAKE IT WITH YOU. If you're spending your day out, put some of your reading into your appointment folder.  Then whenever you have the opportunity during the day... while waiting to see someone, for an appointment, in traffic or in the check out line... your reading material is right there for you
  4. BE REALISTIC. If your TO READ box is beginning to look like a mountain, then you may be trying to bite off more than you can chew. Don't allow your reading pile to go over the edge of your TO READ box. If it does, then it's time to weed it out. 
  5. HIGHLIGHT IT. When reading newspapers and magazines, read with a highlighter. Quickly skim through the publication, scanning each page and highlighting all headlines that are of interest to you. Then, go back and read only those highlighted articles. 
  6. TEAR IT OUT. If you don't have time right now to read those highlighted articles,  tear out the pages, put them in your TO READ box and schedule a time to read them later on. This way, you don't have to go back through the entire publication again to find that one article that you wanted to read
  7. AVOID JUNK. Since newspapers contain current events, those that are more than a day or two old contain OLD news. Get rid of the old stuff. Tear out the articles you still want to read and put put them in your TO READ box
  8. USE POSTIT NOTES. When reading a book, use Postit Notes to tag sections for later reference  or that you want to share with someone else. On your postit, write one or two words to help you remember what it was that interested you. This saves search time. 
  9. SPEED READ. If you have a large volume of information that you have to keep up with, consider speed reading. Check with your local learning providers, check the web or pick up a book (buying or borrowing one from your library)
  10. SET GOALS. If you're trying to get through a book, determine the date you'd like to finish by, then work backwards to determine how many pages you must read per day in order to meet your deadline. And then the tricky bit - stick to it..
TLAs for SMEs

Here are this newsletter's TLAs for you;
  • GPF, General Protection Fault. Runtime error in Windows or Office
  • BSOD, Blue Screen of Death
  • CPU, Central Processing Unit. Really the chip-set, but effectively taken to mean the desktop or tower box containing your Hard Drive
  • dl, or d/l, Download
  • lol, lots of laughs
  • asl, age, sex, location?
Please feel free to email me with any TLAs that you want to get the bottom (meaning!) of.

Short+Hot Keys... and now tips
Another Function key for you - this time it's all you can do in MS programmes with a straight F9
  • F9 in Access refreshes the contents of a Lookup field list box or combo box, or recalculates the fields in the active window
  • In Excel, F9 will calculate all sheets in all open workbooks
  • F9 in Publisher will move between the current page view and actual size view
  • In Word, it will Update all Fields in the active document. Useful for Q1 users wanting to update fields to check before printing.
Bit of a mixed bag, F9, as you can see.

Hot Linx
Want to get the latest & greatest on what is happening in the world of science & technology? Then you can't go past the New Scientist site. Check it out at http://www.newscientist.com/
And once you are up with science, perhaps you might want to get the latest & greatest on business and politics? The Economist is ready and waiting at http://www.economist.co.uk/
If you want to find out what building a knowledge economy really means, check out Knowledge Wave information at: http://www.knowledgewave.org.nz/ 
Want a full list of Windows shortcuts? Then go check out http://support.microsoft.com/support/kb/articles/q126/4/49.asp 
Having problems with HD space, full cache or running out of RAM? Then dl FreeMem Standard from http://www.meikel.com/en/products/freemem/PD33046D6-581F-4A19-93C2-4BB45C325FD6.php3  

                                Catch you again soon!! E-mail your suggestions to me here