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December 2000

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All Play & No Work 4 December 30, 2000

The week between Christmas and New Year's is pretty slow, workwise (unless you work in retail and have to deal with returns -- ick). So in the event that anyone is out there reading tips today, we're sticking with the fun-and-games theme we started last week. 

In our last tip, we mentioned three Web sites packed with shareware and freeware games available for download: 

PC World - Games 
Soft Seek - Games 
Winfiles - Games 

Now, we're taking a closer look at using some old-time favorites. In today's final tip of this series, we'll look at Tetris. As you may already know, there are loads of Tetris clones out there. Point your Web browser at the PC World site referenced above, type 

Tetris 

in the Search FileWorld box, then click Search. Select any one of the 11 Tetris-type programs listed (we went for Tetris Jr. PC, downloading the Windows 95 version, tetjr95.exe), then open the resulting ZIP file using an unzipping utility (or in this case, run the EXE file to play the game). 

To play Tetris Jr. PC, right-mouse-click anywhere on the game and select Game 1 through 8. (Don't let those buttons fool you -- they don't work.) Then, right-mouse-click the game again and select Play. In case you haven't played Tetris before, the object is to fit the falling pieces into rows, completing the rows as you go. (Completed rows disappear.) Use your cursor keys to move a piece left or right. To rotate a piece, press the spacebar.

All Play & No Work 3 December 29, 2000

The week between Christmas and New Year's is pretty slow, workwise (unless you work in retail and have to deal with returns -- ick). So in the event that anyone is out there reading tips today, we're sticking with the fun-and-games theme we started last week. 

In our last tip, we mentioned three Web sites packed with shareware and freeware games available for download:

PC World - Games 
Soft Seek - Games 
Winfiles - Games 

Now, we're taking a closer look at using some old-time favorites. In today's tip, we'll look at Astrofire. Point your Web browser at 

PC World - Games - Astrofire 

and download Astrofires. Use an unzipping utility to open the resulting zip file, then run setup.exe. Double-click the Astrofire shortcut to start the game. Instructions are included in the introduction.

If want the Astrofire game in which you spin around, with asteroids coming at you from all sides, try the Arcade Superpack at 

PC World - Games - Arcade Superpack 

The only downside is that it's a bit small, and enlarging the window is not recommended.

All Play & No Work 2 December 28, 2000

The week between Christmas and New Year's is pretty slow, workwise (unless you work in retail and have to deal with returns -- ick). So in the event that anyone is out there reading tips today, we're sticking with the fun-and-games theme we started last week. 

In our last tip, we mentioned three Web sites packed with shareware and freeware games available for download: 

PC World - Games 
Soft Seek - Games 
Winfiles - Games  

Now, let's take a closer look at using a few old-time favorites. In today's tip, we'll look at Space Invaders. Point your Web browser at the following site (no point starting at winfiles.com if the link takes you here anyway): 

The Windows Games Quarter

Under Space Invader, click where it says "Click Here to Download." When it finishes, open the resulting siw9514.zip file with an unzipping utility, then double-click siw95.exe to start the game. Use your left and right cursor keys to move; the spacebar fires. (Optional: Extract the ZIP file's contents to another folder and place a shortcut to siw95.exe in a convenient location.)

All Play & No Work 1 December 27, 2000

The week between Christmas and New Year's is pretty slow, workwise (unless you work in retail and have to deal with returns -- ick). So in the event that anyone is out there reading tips today, we're sticking with the fun-and-games theme we started last week. 

Had enough of the games that come with Windows, but don't feel like shelling out big bucks to buy some new ones? The Internet is chock-full of games to download -- some shareware, some FREE. 

Point your Web browser at one of the following locations, select a game category, and start searching for the perfect entertainment: 

PC World - Games 
Soft Seek - Games 
Winfiles - Games  

In our next three tips, we'll show you how to download and install three old-time favorites -- Space Invaders, Asteroids, and Tetris

Let The Games Begin December 26, 2000

Let's face it, this is the time of year for not getting much done. So what better way to spend your time in the office than in front of a computer game? What's that? You say you don't have any? Ah, but you do. Windows 98 comes with four: FreeCell, Hearts, Minesweeper, and Solitaire. You'll find them in the Start, Programs, Accessories, Games folder.

You probably already know how to play Solitaire, but you might enjoy some quick instructions on one of the lesser known (and more addictive) of these games: FreeCell.

Open FreeCell and press F2 to start a new game. Looks a bit like Solitaire, but it isn't. See those four empty spaces to the right of the King? Just like Solitaire, the object is to get all your cards up there, by suit, Ace through King. But unlike Solitaire, this game is all strategy, not luck. In other words, you can win every game.

You play the game by moving cards around. As in Solitaire, you can move any uncovered card to another that's the next highest number, but the opposite color (for example, black 4 on red 5). Click a card, then click where you want it to go. Need to get a card out of the way of the one underneath it? Double-click it and it moves to a free cell--one of the four cells to the left of the King up top.

You can also move a sequence of cards to another row--for example, red 8, black 9, red 10 over to a black Jack. Again, click the bottom card, then click where you want it to go. But here's the catch: You can only move as many cards as there are empty free cells. So in the example we just gave, you'd need three free cells open.

Got it? Try a few games, and you'll get the hang of it. Happy Holidays!

Decorate Your Desktop - 2 December 22, 2000

In our last tip, we mentioned that there are lots of holiday-theme desktop enhancements -- wallpapers, screen savers, desktop themes, and so on--available for download off the Internet. We also pointed you to three appropriate Web sites: 

PCWorld.com - Desktop Utilities

winfiles - Shell and Desktop Tools

Softseek.com - Desktop Enhancements

If you're new to downloading, you're probably wondering what to do with the file you end up with after selecting an item to download. (When in doubt, look for a readme.txt file inside the downloaded ZIP file.) The following basic steps apply to most, but not all, downloads. 

Use an unzipping utility to view the contents of the resulting ZIP file, and then: 

+ For wallpaper: Extract *.bmp files to your Windows folder. You can now select them from the Wallpaper list on the Background tab of the Display Properties dialog box (right-mouse-click the desktop and select Properties). 

+ For screen savers: Extract *.scr files to the Windows folder. They'll now appear in the list of screen savers on the Screen Saver tab of the Display Properties dialog box. 

+ For desktop themes: Extract all contents (of the ZIP file) to the Program Files\Plus!\Themes folder. You can now select the desktop theme as you would any other, from inside the Control Panel's Desktop Themes dialog box. 

+ For startup/shutdown screens: Extract Logo.sys to the root directory; extract logos.sys and logow.sys to the Windows folder.

Decorate Your Desktop - 1 December 21, 2000

Looking to get in the Christmas spirit? There are loads of holiday-related desktop enhancements available for download off the Internet. Wallpapers, screen savers, desktop themes -- you name it. Here are three Web sites to get you started:

PCWorld.com - Desktop Utilities

winfiles - Shell and Desktop Tools

Softseek.com - Desktop Enhancements

In our next tip, we'll show you how to use the files you download.

Ch, Ch, Ch, Changes December 20, 2000

In our last tip, we showed you how to change the size of your caption buttons (the three buttons in the upper-right corner of every window): Right-click the desktop and open the Display Properties dialog box, click the Appearance tab, select Caption Buttons under Item, adjust the Size, and click OK. The thing to remember about this change, or any other change you make on the Appearance tab, is that it only sticks around until you switch to another scheme (or until you change it again). Switch back to the scheme in which you made the setting
change, and you'll find the setting undone.

The only way to make a setting a permanent part of a scheme is to save it as part of that scheme. Open the Display Properties dialog box, if it isn't already, and click the Appearance tab. Click the Save As button, type the name of the scheme to which you want to attach any changes -- such as Windows Standard -- then click OK. (If you don't want to overwrite the original scheme, just use a new name.)

Bigger Buttons, Please December 19, 2000

You know those three little buttons in the top-right corner of every window? They're called caption buttons, and they don't have to be that small. If you'd like a bit more button to grab onto, crank'em up a couple of notches.

Right-mouse-click the desktop, select Properties, and click the Appearance tab. In the drop-down list under Item, scroll up and select Caption Buttons. (Alternatively, click one of the caption buttons in the preview at the top of the dialog box.) Click the up arrow next to Size, watching the preview to see the effect of your change. Just going from the default 18 up to 21 makes a big difference. When you like what you see, click OK to apply the change to your desktop.

(Note: You'll notice the Taskbar will grow a bit, too. For some reason, caption buttons and the Taskbar are connected.)

Silent *.wav-es December 18, 2000

When you're playing an audio CD while you work, you certainly don't want some sound scheme interrupting your favorite songs. Does that mean you have to turn the sound scheme off altogether (that you otherwise really like)? Not at all. Just use the Volume Control dialog box to silence all *.WAV files while you're listening to the CD. That's what sound schemes are made of, after all.

Right-mouse-click the yellow speaker on your Taskbar and select Open Volume Controls. Or, select Start, Programs, Accessories, Entertainment, Volume Control. In the Wave box, click the Mute button, then close the dialog box. Now you can listen without interruptions. (Tip: When you want your sound scheme back, just repeat these steps to deselect the Mute option.)

See-Nothing CD-ROM Drives December 15, 2000

In our last tip, we showed you how to disable your CD-ROM drive's AutoPlay feature temporarily: Immediately after inserting the CD into your CD-ROM drive, hold down the Shift key for as long as it normally takes for the CD to start playing. If you find yourself using this trick more often than not, you're the perfect candidate for disabling the AutoPlay feature altogether.

Open the System Properties dialog box by holding down the Alt key as you double-click My Computer. Select the Device Manager tab, click the plus sign next to CD-ROM, then select your CD-ROM drive. Click the Properties button, and on the Settings tab, deselect Auto insert notification. Click OK, then click Close. Restart Windows (at your convenience) to make the new setting stick.

Sit There, But Don't Say Anything December 14, 2000

Want to insert an audio CD into your CD-ROM drive without playing it this very second? You can disable your system's AutoPlay feature on a one-time-only basis. (You have AutoPlay if, when you insert a CD in your CD-ROM drive, the CD Player or some other utility starts playing the CD automatically.)

Immediately after inserting the CD into your CD-ROM drive, hold down the Shift key. For how long? Well, about as long as it normally takes for AutoPlay to kick in. (Let's just say if the CD still plays, you didn't hold it down long enough.) When you're ready to play that audio CD, open a My Computer window, right-mouse-click your CD-ROM drive, and select Play.

 
Let The Pinball Begin - 2 December 13, 2000

In our last tip, we pointed out that the Windows 98 installation CD contains pinball.inf, a file that will install your old favorite, 3D Pinball, from the Plus! for Windows 95 CD.

If you're installing pinball from a CD-ROM drive other than D, or from Plus! floppy disks, you'll need to edit the pinball.inf to point to the correct drive before you can complete the installation. Assuming you've just copied pinball.inf from the Windows 98 CD to your hard drive and then inserted the Plus! CD or floppy disk: 

Right-mouse-click pinball.inf (on your hard drive), select Properties, deselect Read-only, and click OK. Open pinball.inf using Notepad, and under [Version], replace the letter D in the line: 

layoutfile = d:\pluslayt.inf

with your CD-ROM drive letter or floppy drive (depending on the location of the Plus! files). So for example, if your CD-ROM drive letter is G, this line would now read: 

layoutfile = g:\pluslayt.inf 

Save your changes, close Notepad, and reattach the read-only attribute to pinball.inf

Now you're ready to proceed with the installation. Right-mouse-click pinball.inf and select Install. (Click OK if asked to insert the Plus! for Windows 95 CD-ROM.) You'll now see a dialog box telling you the font.dat file can't be found. Type your CD-ROM or floppy drive letter, then click OK. 

Your pinball game is back.

Let The Pinball Begin - 1 December 12, 2000

P. Cheng and D. Wysocki ask, "How do I install 3D Pinball (part of MS Plus! for Windows 95) on my Windows 98 system?"

Assuming your CD-ROM drive is D, insert the Windows 98 installation CD in your CD-ROM drive, navigate your way to the tools\mtsutil folder, and copy the file pinball.inf to your hard drive (anywhere you want). Remove the Windows 98 installation CD and insert the Plus! for Windows 95 CD. (If necessary, click Cancel to close the dialog box stating that Plus! cannot be removed.) Right-mouse-click pinball.inf (now on your hard drive) and select Install.

Start, Programs, Accessories, Games, Space Cadet Table. Cool!

Note: If you're installing pinball from Plus! floppy disks or from a CD-ROM drive other than D, you'll need to edit pinball.inf before selecting the Install command. Details to come in the next tip.

Out, Darn Components! December 11, 2000

Are there some Windows 98 components you never use (and never will), such as the FAT32 Drive Converter or Microsoft FrontPage Express? Uninstall them to recover all that wasted disk space. You can always reinstall them later if you change your mind.

Inside the Control Panel, double-click Add/Remove Programs, click the Windows Setup tab, and wait as Windows 98 checks your system for installed components. Select a component category then click Details to display the components inside. For example, the FAT32 Drive Converter is inside the System Tools Component.

Very carefully deselect any component you want to uninstall. Click OK to close the details view of any component, then click OK again to proceed with the uninstall operation. Insert the Windows 98 Installation CD, when asked, and wait as all the necessary files are removed.

(Tip in a tip: Follow these same steps to install any component -- except, of course, you'll want to select, not deselect, these items.) 

Hot, Hot, Hot! December 8, 2000

If you have an application that you open all the time, stop wasting time finding its shortcut (or Start menu item) every time you want to open it. You can set up a keyboard combo to open that application from anywhere on your system, no matter how many windows you have open on screen.

If you haven't already, create a shortcut to the application in your location of choice. (You can bury it in a folder, if you want -- you'll only need it to set up the keyboard combo.) Right-mouse-click the shortcut, select Properties, and click the Shortcut tab. Click once inside the text box next to Shortcut Key, then type the letter you'd like to use in combination with Ctrl-Alt to open the application. (You'll notice that Windows fills in the Ctrl-Alt part for you.) For example, you might use "W" for Microsoft Word. Click OK, and your hot key is complete.

Now just forget about that shortcut (but don't delete it). Press the keyboard combo, such as Ctrl-Alt-W, and your application appears on-screen!

Eensie, Weensie Buttons December 7, 2000

Every Windows 98 window displays three little buttons in its upper-right corner. When clicked, these buttons will (from left to right) minimize, maximize/restore, or close that window. Anyone knows that, right? But here's a little secret for everyone who's tired of dragging the mouse all the way up to those tiny little buttons: There are keyboard equivalents for all of them.

To minimize the active window, press Alt-spacebar, N
To maximize the active window, press Alt-spacebar, X.
To restore the active window, press Alt-spacebar, R.
To close the active window, press Alt-spacebar, C (or even easier, press Alt-F4).

Who needs ya, mouse? editor's note: Don't forget those special keyboard Windows key shortcuts.

One-Step Floppy Access December 6, 2000

When you want to view the data on a floppy disk, do you open a My Computer or Explorer window and then double-click your floppy drive icon? You can cut this operation down to a single double-click: Create a floppy drive shortcut on your desktop. From then on, you can view the contents of a floppy disk by simply double-clicking that shortcut.

To create a floppy drive shortcut, locate your floppy drive icon in a My Computer or Explorer window. Right mouse click this icon, drag it out to the desktop, and let go. In the menu that pops up, select Create Shortcut(s) Here, then rename the shortcut to something appropriate, such as "Floppy Drive."

To try out your new shortcut, pop a floppy in the drive, double-click the shortcut, and the contents of the disk appear on-screen.

In Search Of Files December 5, 2000

Can't seem to remember where you stored that article you wrote about ant farming? As long as you know a piece of the text inside -- in this case, "ant farming" -- Find can track it down fast. With some handy new options for refining your search, the Windows 98 version of this utility can help you avoid needlessly searching your entire system.

Select Start, Find, Files or Folders, and next to Containing Text, type the text that you know is part of the file. Next, click the down arrow beside Look In and check out the new options. If you know for sure that this file is somewhere inside a desktop folder, select Desktop. Do you store all your important data files in the My Documents folder? Select My Documents -- it has to be in there somewhere. (Note: To search both these locations, select Document Folder.)

If you can narrow your search to a folder other than those mentioned above, close the drop-down list, click the Browse button, navigate to that folder, and click OK. Click the Find Now button, and in no time at all, you'll be reading all about ant farming!

When In Doubt, Readme December 4, 2000

In our last tip, we explained that when you start your system using the Windows 98 Startup disk, a number of files are extracted from Ebd.cab to a 2MB RAMDrive, which typically assumes the drive letter of your CD-ROM drive. We also mentioned that you can view the contents of this drive by typing

dir X:

at the command prompt and pressing Enter. ("X" is, in most cases, the former letter of your CD-ROM drive.)

Want to know what all these utilities are BEFORE disaster strikes? Pop your Startup disk in your floppy drive and view its contents in an Explorer window. Open Readme.txt and scroll down to the section entitled "EBD.CAB File." There you'll see a list of available utilities. For more information on using some of these diagnostic tools, scroll down even further to the section entitled "Using the Tools Available on the Startup Disk." (Note: In the event that you don't do your reading before you actually need to use these utilities, you can access this same help file while booting from your startup disk. When presented with the three startup options, select the last, View Help File.)

Shove Over and Let Me Drive December 1, 2000

In a previous tip, we mentioned that the Windows 98 & Me startup disk includes real-mode CD-ROM drivers, meaning that if you ever need to boot from this disk, you can still reinstall Windows 98 using the installation CD: Assuming you've opted to start the system with CD-ROM support, pop the CD in your CD-ROM drive and at the command prompt type

X:\setup

(where "X" is your CD-ROM drive PLUS one letter, in most cases). Then and press Enter.

Why does your CD-ROM drive letter change (in most cases) when you boot your system from this disk? After you choose a startup option, config.sys loads a 2MB RAM Drive that contains a number of tools useful in diagnosing common problems. (These files are extracted from Ebd.cab, and wouldn't otherwise fit on a 1.44MB floppy.) Typically, this drive assumes the letter that was used to represent your CD-ROM drive.

To view the contents of the RAM Drive, type

dir X:

where "X" is the former letter of your CD-ROM drive. (Note: Watch the screen during the startup process to confirm the letter used to represent the RAM Drive.)

November 2000