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ComputeThisOnline Newsletter 2
Resize those pictures before sending!

If you've ever received photos through e-mail, you may have run into this weird phenomenon where the picture is so incredibly big all you see is the top left hand corner of the picture and to see the rest you have to scroll left and then down.

That's great if you want to look at a close up of someone's nose (just scroll around till you find it), but how do you "zoom out" so you can see the whole picture?

In order to do that, you have to take steps to save the picture then re-open it with another program.

Today I thought I would cover why this happens and how to cope with it.

When you open an e-mail and the picture is so big, it's important to keep in mind that it's not your fault. You aren't doing anything wrong at all. Your e-mail program is working properly it's just a matter of "what you see is what you get."

So what does that mean exactly? Well, quite simply that means whoever sent you the picture didn't take the steps (or didn't know how to take the steps) to "optimize the picture for e-mail."

In English that means that whoever sent the e-mail didn't take the time to shrink the picture first before sending it. They likely just attached the picture as is to the e-mail and sent it off.

So what do you do when you open an e-mail and the photo is so big you have to scroll from side to side and up and down to see it all? Wouldn't it be nice if your e-mail program automatically resized the picture for you? Well, it would be nice, but unfortunately, it doesn't.

What you have to do is save the picture to a folder on your hard drive and then open it with some type of picture viewer to see it in its entirety.

To do that (again, we're using Outlook Express in this example, other e-mail clients like Windows Mail have similar functions), click on the little paper clip that represents the picture that's attached to the e-mail and click "save as." That opens a standard "save as dialogue box" where you select the folder you want to save in and either change the name of the file or at least make a note of what it's called.

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I recommend saving pictures in the my pictures folder in your my documents folder. Once saved, either close out of or minimize your e-mail program, double click your my documents folder and then double click your my pictures folder. Then find the picture you just saved and double click it. With Windows XP, pictures will typically open with the Windows picture and fax viewer. This is a great utility that lets you step through each picture in a folder and, no matter how big they are, keeps them centered in the screen and resized to fit, ending the headache of having to scroll left and right and up and down to see everything.

But what happens if your picture doesn't open with the Windows picture and fax viewer? Easy. Try again, but this time, instead of double clicking the picture, click it once with the right mouse button, move your pointer down to open with and then (with the left mouse button) click Windows picture and fax viewer. That will give you the same results I just covered.

This issue is actually more common than one would think. Maybe in Microsoft's next email client, they will add resizing capabilities such as some other e-mail clients but for now, this is what we're stuck with.

Just keep in mind the simple fact that if you open an e-mail with a gigantic picture it's not your fault. Just save it and open it with something else.

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Is that "free antivirus" offer really safe?

Is it safe? That is a question that everyone needs to ask before downloading a piece of free anti-spy software that promises the world.

However, how does someone find out if something is safe before installing some piece of garbage onto her machine?

You could go by a friend's recommendation, "well so and so is running it and they aren't having any problems so it must be safe." But maybe your friend's machine is a wreck and he doesn't know it yet.

Some people install software assuming it's safe just based on what that software promises to do. It's an anti-spyware program, so it must be safe, right?

Just because the software you are about to install promises to keep you safe doesn't mean it doesn't come with its own bit of nastiness.

Determining if a piece of software is safe, based on what the download page promises, is one way many people are duped into installing harmful stuff onto their machines.

In fact, one of the most sinister ways spyware authors trick people into loading their junk is by throwing a pop up window onto the screen warning users that their "machine is already infected."

People fall for that all the time, only to find their machines infected by something that they thought was going to help.

Continue Reading >>>>

You could spend time looking at the end user license agreement looking for cryptic clauses saying things such as, "by clicking accept you are also allowing software by our marketing partners to be installed." This is a clause that should cause an alarm to go off in your head. Reading the end user license agreement is often difficult. It's a "legalese" document that can be hard to interpret. Unless you are a lawyer, you may not catch the wording where they trick you into accepting the "extra" garbage.

You'd be surprised how many of these programs get away with it. They know most people aren't going to read it, they're just going to click "accept" and that gives them all the permission they need.

Wouldn't it be nice to have a site to go to where you could check a piece of software before you install it in your machine?

There is such a site and its' list of malicious "anti" software is pretty extensive.

One of the first things you will notice is how many pieces of bad software are named in such a way as to fool the users into thinking they are downloading something safe rather than something deceptive.

Fire up the Web browser and go to and then click the "rogue/suspect anti-spyware" link. On that page you will find an extensive list of programs that promise to keep your machine safe, the domain the software originates from and comments as to why that software made it to the rogue list.

You will find one reoccurring comment and see that many of these programs use "false positives to goad users into purchasing."

In other words, it's a common practice for bad software to try to trick you into purchasing something by telling you that your machine is infected when it is not. There ought to be a law.

One recommendation I would like to give you is to open your "add/remove programs" applet in your Windows control panel and compare what's installed on your machine to the spyware warrior rogue list.

Should you find something on your machine that's on that list, remove it. That's one step I usually take when trying to clean an infected machine.

If you've read my column for any length of time, you will know that I frequently recommend "AVG Free" as an effective anti-virus (download it at and I am happy to report that  AVG does not  show up on the spyware warriors rogue list.

That fact just raises my confidence level for AVG one more notch.

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Safe mode?
Computers, just by the very their very complex nature, are prone to failure.

Ask anyone who has used a personal computer for any length of time, and you will hear stories of system lockups, general protection faults, missing .dll, blue screen errors and even more cryptic messages. Most of the error messages that pop up are so technical in their wording that even seasoned professionals have no idea what they mean. (Computer failure is also the No. 1 reason why it’s so very important to backup your system; problems occur all the time, and without your data backed up, you risk losing everything.)

Usually, a simple reboot will cure system lockups and errors, but Windows also has built into it a tool called “safe mode,” which is specifically for troubleshooting and correcting reoccurring problems. Perhaps you’ve seen it before; Windows will sometimes boot up (load) into safe mode after a power failure or an improper shutdown to give you the opportunity to correct whatever problem is going on. You can tell the system is in safe mode because the resolution and color depth is reduced (the icons all look bigger and the colors are all fuzzy) and the words “safe mode” appear in all four corners.

But what is it for? What’s the difference between booting a machine in safe mode versus a normal startup, and how does one get into safe mode deliberately?

Booting your computer in safe mode allows Windows to load with only the essential items necessary for the system to run. All of the “extra” stuff that loads on startup is ignored, and just the core operating system loads. It does this because nine out of 10 times, system problems are not caused by the operating system itself but by items or programs that load after Windows. By bringing the system up with minimal overhead, it makes troubleshooting a finicky system all the more easier. In fact, often all that is necessary to correct many problems is to bring the system up in safe mode and then do a normal shutdown to let Windows clean itself up and then boot normally.

When you click the Windows (Start) button, then Shutdown, Windows goes through a bunch of “housekeeping” chores that clean up its working environment, so the next time it boots up there is not a bunch of stuff left over from its last session. Temporary files (Windows’ notes to itself), open files and running processes all get closed during a normal system shutdown, meaning when the system comes back up, it’s not all cluttered with “yesterday’s stuff.” That’s why the system usually pauses a minute or two after you click “Shutdown” and before it actually shuts down. It’s also the reason your system may boot up into safe mode if you just hit the power button instead of doing a proper shutdown — the system didn’t have a chance to clean up after the last session, so it may come up into safe mode to clean up.

But cleaning up an improper shutdown is not all safe mode is for.

Continue Reading >>>>

Without all the extra overhead, running programs are possible in safe mode that just may not work after a normal startup. Programs such as virus scans, defrag, scandisk, spyware scans and other diagnostic utilities will often work better in safe mode because in safe mode, Windows does not have all the files it normally does in use; therefore, scanning tools are able to scan files without generating sharing violations and other problems. In other words, if the operating system does not have the files it normally has in use busy, then things like virus or spyware scans are more likely to succeed.

Bringing a system up in safe mode also allows you to uninstall or disable problem software. Let’s say you have a system that’s acting all kerflewey (that’s a technical term) and you can never get past the Desktop before the system crashes. Booting the system into safe mode will often allow you to regain control of the machine so you can disable or uninstall the problem program. In normal mode the machine may be unusable, whereas in safe mode you will usually have enough control to clean up or remove programs that are causing issues.

So, how does one deliberately enter safe mode? It’s easy, but timing is everything!

When you begin to boot up your machine, there is a short window of opportunity to hit the “F8” key on your keyboard. Doing this at just the right moment will bring up a menu allowing you to select safe mode as well as normal boot options. Use the down arrow on your keyboard to highlight “safe mode” and hit enter. That will cause the computer to boot with minimal overhead and let you regain control of an unruly PC.

The window of opportunity to hit the F8 key is so small; what happens if you don’t hit it in time? Well, that’s where the frustration sets in (there is always frustration involved somewhere!). You have to do another shutdown and try again. Usually, I will begin tapping the F8 key about twice a second as soon as the system starts to boot until either the safe mode menu appears or I miss it and Windows loads normally. Then, I try again until I get it.
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