Computer Users’ Group

October 13, 2004

 

Here are some of the subjects that we will cover in the next Pastfinder season.

 

What to do when things go wrong. They will, you know.

Don’t panic. Take a few minutes to think about it; we’ll offer some tips on how to proceed.

Windows XP service pack 2. Accumulated security patches and other enhancements.

This Service Pack cleans up many security problems with Windows XP. There is a CD that you can get to install it.

FamilyTreeMaker 2005. What's new.

FTM 2005 has several useful enhancements like improved publishing and the ability to open 2 files at once and transfer information between them.

Clean up what we started on email and Web Browsers.

We left a few loose ends and we need to pay a little more attention to Juno and AOL. We’ll also look at other browsers that can save you a lot of aggravation.

How to keep things from going wrong in the first place.

             By doing some planning and scheduled maintenance you can prevent some probleems.

Word processors, especially Microsoft Word and Wordperfect.

             Get the most out of your wordprocessor. Here are a few tips.

Spreadsheets like Quatro Pro and Excel.

There are several uses for spreadsheets beside finance. We’ll cover how to use them and then consider some genealogical uses for them.

Image processing. Getting your photos from your camera to your computer and cleaning them up.

We’ve come a long way since the brownie camera. Learn how to get the most from your digital camera or scanned image.

Security, security, security. Spread throughout the whole year.

             Self explanatory.

Streaming video and audio.

The Internet offers both radio and TV that provide streaming data. We’ll cover how to handle it.

And throughout the year we'll look at genealogy sites of interest and new releases of genealogy programs.

 

Troubleshooting Problems

When something goes wrong, my first inclination is to ask myself “what did I do wrong?” People don’t like to hear the terms “Cockpit Error” or “Operator Error” but they are the largest cause of problems with computers. You’ll save a lot of time if you troubleshoot yourself first and the computer second. Double check passwords, URLs and email addresses. Copy and paste entries; don’t try to retype them.

 

What did you just do before the problem occurred? Have you done that before? Have you changed anything since the last time that that operation was successful? Do you get an error message? Write it down and then try to get to a condition where you can operate by responding to the error message or by restarting. Then get on the Internet and type the unique part of the error message into Google or other search engine. Review each entry to see if it fits your situation.

 

Troubleshooting is a logical review of your problem. A few minutes thinking it out will save a lot of pain. For instance; Can’t print. Does it try to print but produce only blank pages? Clean the print heads. Can you print from DOS? If yes, printer is OK. If no, check printer cables, remove and re-install. Can you print with another computer? Is it on a network? Can any other network computer print with it? If it prints with other computers, try re-installing the driver on the computer that it won’t print with. Go to CONTROL PANEL, SYSTEM, (HARDWARE in XP) and DEVICE MANAGER and check to see if there’s a Yellow ! next to one of the ports. If so, delete and re-install the port.

 

If the system continually hangs or continually encounters the same problem, try starting the system in SAFE MODE. Restart the system and continually press F8 until you get a menu screen. Choose SAFE MODE.

 

If you’ve had problems getting the system to start, instead of selecting SAFE MODE you can select BOOTLOG and create a LOG file of everything that happens when the system starts. You can then open that file in Notepad or Wordpad (in SAFE MODE if that’s the only condition that will run) and use the FIND command to search for the word FAIL. That will tell you what failed to load and/or run properly. Don’t get to excited if the load failure was a font file; that’s not your problem. Press F3 to continue searching for another file that failed. Conversely, you can go to the end of the file. The last file is usually one of the culprits but a previous file failure may have caused the last file to fail to load and, in fact, the first one to fail may be the only bad file. Try replacing it first

 

There is a troubleshooting tool included with Windows that can help you locate a problem or provide information to a technician if it comes to that. The tool is called Dr. Watson and you have to start it in all Windows versions except 2000 and XP where it’s on by default. To start it,

go to START, RUN and type in drwatson and ENTER. An icon will appear in the system tray indicating that Dr Watson is running. You can right click on the icon and select OPTIONS to set up how you want it to work. After you experience a problem, double click on the icon and select OPEN LOG FILE.

 

There is a wealth of information in this file but most of it is useful only to an experienced technician. Nevertheless, if you look through the file, you may find a reference to the offending program, driver or DLL.

 

In XP go to RUN and type in drwtsn32 and you’ll find a list of error messages. The one on the bottom is the most recent. Click on it and then click VIEW. Proceed as above. If you find a culprit listed in the log, try to re-install it. If it’s a program, try re-installing it from the original disk. If you downloaded it, check your TEMP or DOWNLOAD file for the compressed version of the program that you downloaded. If the culprit is a program that you’ve just upgraded, check the program site on the Internet to see if there’s a fix for a bug in the upgrade. You may also find a Newsgroup (try Google and select GROUPS) that covers that program and where you can find help.

 

If the problem is with a driver, determine what hardware item the driver is for. Most drivers are located in WINDOWS, SYSTEM32 (in XP) or WINDOWS, SYSTEM in other Windows. You can go to the manufacture’s web site and see if a new driver is available. (Compare the version number of your driver with the one on the web site. Right click on the file and go to PROPERTIES to find the version number.) If so, download it and install it. If not, go to CONTROL PANEL and then SYSTEM, HARDWARE (in XP) and DEVICE MANAGER. Right click on the hardware item that the driver is used with and select UPDATE DRIVER first. If you still have a problem, try UNINSTALL and then restart your computer. Windows will find and install the hardware you just uninstalled. If it doesn’t, go to CONTROL PANEL, ADD NEW HARDWARE and let windows find it. If it can’t, you may have to select the hardware from a list.

 

There is another troubleshooting program in XP called "The Recovery Console‟. It has to be run by booting from the original Windows XP disk. To do this, you need to know how to boot from your CD drive. This is something you should know how to do in case you ever have to boot from a "Startup Disk‟ in case of failure to start normally. Start your system and look closely for messages on the start-up screen that refer to boot devices. Something like "Press F12 to alter boot sequence‟. Also note how to enter system setup. Write these down somewhere to make it easier to do in the future. If there is no reference to the boot sequence, you’ll have to enter System Setup and alter the boot sequence there. Make the CD the initial boot device.

 

Insert your XP CD and start the computer and press the appropriate key when advised to do so. Soon a menu will appear and you can select the Recovery Console from the list. You will be asked for a password. In the XP Home it should be blank and you just press enter. For the Pro edition, use the Administrator password.

 

If the password is invalid, then you will have to edit the registry. Use this advice anytime you need to edit the registry. Before you ever modify the registry, you should back it up. The easiest way to do that is to click on START, HELP AND SUPPORT and then click on SYSTEM RESTORE and then CREATE RESTORE POINT.

 

System Restore automatically creates restore points for you so if something doesn’t work you can take your system back to a time when everything did work. It’s completely reversible. Just select the proper Restore Point and go back.

 

Now you can go to RUN and type REGEDIT to edit the registry. We’ll take a few minutes to explore what’s in the registry and then we’ll navigate to

 

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\WindowsNT\CurrentVersion\Setup\RecoveryConsole

 

 and click on SECURITY DWord in the right pane and MODIFY the left and change the resulting 0 to 1 and then exit regedit. This eliminates the need for a password for the Recovery Console in both Home and Pro versions of XP.

 

Now there might not be too much here that you’ll find useful. There are a bunch of DOS commands and you can get to some files that you can’t get to in SAFE MODE. The COPY command in the Recovery Console allows you to find a file on the CD and COPY it to replace a corrupted file on your hard drive and it automatically expands it and will overwrite it if you tell

it to.

 

There is a program called System File Checker that can be run in 98, ME and XP. In 98 and ME got to START, RUN and enter SFC and press enter. In XP, put your Windows CD in the CD drive and go to START, RUN and type SFC /SCANNOW. (Leave a space between SFC and /).

The program scans for corrupted files and replaces them (XP) or asks permission to replace them (98 and ME). You can run it in SAFE MODE so if a corrupt file is your problem, you can get it repaired. In 98 and ME, SFC also allows you to enter a system file name and it will retrieve it from the CD and replace the one on your hard drive.

 

In XP there is an EVENT VIEWER. There are warnings and errors that appear on the list. Go to CONTROL PANEL and click on ADMINISTRATIVE TOOLS and then select EVENT VIEWER. There are three categories of events. Start with applications and if you see an error listed, double click it. You’ll get some details on the error. If it provides a link to Microsoft, click it and if Microsoft knows why that error occurs, you’ll be provided with the information with links to the Microsoft Knowledge Base for more information. Repeat for each category.

 

If your laptop hangs and won’t shut down, remove the power and then the battery for a few seconds.

 

Here are a few of the many useful sites on the Internet. More can be found by typing "computer help‟ into Google. There are 19,600,000 sites listed. Be more specific if you to shorten the list.

 

Computer Hope is a web site that especially caters to beginners and offers a wealth of free material with a lot of basic instructions. It has a long list of software that you can select from to learn more about.

http://www.computerhope.com/index.htm

 

Jim Foley calls himself the Elder Geek and his page on XP is detailed and very impressive.

http://www.theeldergeek.com/

 

Answers That Work offers many solutions to everyday problems. It covers the whole gamut of computers and software.

http://www.answersthatwork.com/home_page.htm

 

Pcpitstop will test your computer for you, offer details on what may be wrong and how to correct it. If you register (free) it will keep track of each performance check that you run so you can see if you’re going in the right direction.

http://www.pcpitstop.com/

 

I suggest you visit each site just so you’ll see what’s out there in case you may need help in the future. There are plenty of others worth your attention as well including www.pcmag.com and www.pcworld.com.