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In case of emergency: get notified
This public service web site will send you a notification when there is a local, regional or national emergency, to your pager, cell phone or email address. You can select which types of emergencies you want notifications for (severe weather, homeland security, cyber threats, missing children/Amber alerts, even organ donations). You can have the notices sent to your email address, cell phone, pager or fax number. You can also block non-emergency content during specific hours (such as when you’re sleeping or when you’re at work). Check it out here

How to change the location of the print spool folder
XP uses the spool folder on your hard disk to store queued print jobs. Without it, you’d have to wait until printing was finished to use other programs on your system. The spool folder is located on the partition where your Windows system files are installed, but if this partition gets low on free space, you can move it to a different location. This can also speed up performance. Here’s how:

  1. First, be sure you’re logged on with an administrative account.
  2. Click Start | My Computer.
  3. Select the drive where you want to store the spool folder.
  4. Click Make a New Folder under File and Folder Tasks in the left pane.
  5. Type a name for the folder.
  6. Click Start | Printers and Faxes.
  7. Click File | Server Properties, then click the Advanced tab.
  8. In the Spool Folder field, enter the path to the new folder you created in step 4.
  9. Click Apply.
  10. After any documents currently printing have finished, click Yes.
  11. Click OK.

How to make make audio CDs from MP3s.
If you have lots of MP3 music files that you want to put on a CD and your player doesn’t support the MP3 format, one way to create a compatible CD is by using Windows XP with Windows Media Player 10 or Vista with Media Player 11 (and a CD burner, of course). Here’s how:

  1. Open Windows Explorer (right click Start and click Explore) and navigate to the folder on the local machine or on the network that contains your MP3 files.
  2. Select the files you want to put on CD, remembering that .cda files are larger than .mp3 files and you can only get about 74 minutes’ worth of music on an audio CD. Hold down CTRL to select multiple files.
  3. Right click the selected files and choose Burn.
  4. Windows Media Player will open to the Burn tab. Note that the files have been added to the Burn List.
  5. Ensure that a blank CD is inserted in your CD burner. Click the Burn Now button.

That’s it! Windows will create a CD with your songs saved in CD Audio format, which will play on older CD players that don’t support the MP3 format.

Remove the Turn Off Computer button from the Start menu
Want to make it more difficult for other users of your shared computer to shut it down? You can remove the Turn Off Computer button from the Start menu (along with many other restrictions that can be applied using the local Group Policy). KB article 307882 walks you through the steps of creating a Group Policy Editor MMC and editing your local Group Policy object to remove the button.  Link here.

Sync information on multiple mobile devices
Do you have several handheld devices (such as Pocket PC and Windows Mobile phones)? Want to synchronize your files, contacts, calendar and email across all your devices? You can configure XP to do so, by following the instructions in KB article 314644 here.


Event Viewer gets a whole new look
If you use the Windows Event Viewer to view event log information for troubleshooting problems in Windows, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much more robust this administrative tool is in Vista. Accessed via the Administrative Tools applet in Control Panel, by typing “eventvwr.exe” at the command line or by simply typing “event viewer” in the search box on the Start menu, it now features a three-pane MMC with clickable Actions for performing common tasks in the right pane. There are many new application logs, and filtering the logs to find specific events is much easier and more precise. To see some screenshots of the new Event Viewer, click here.

When can we expect Vista and Office 2007 to be released?
The final release dates for Windows Vista, the next generation of Microsoft’s desktop operating system, and the next version of Office (2007) have been a moving target. We expected to get both before the end of the year, then Microsoft pushed release dates for both to sometime in early 2007. Now rumor has it that the two will debut together in January – but don’t hold us to that. Read the latest speculation here.

Vista coupons let you upgrade your hardware early
Been waiting to buy a new PC until Vista comes out? Now that the release of Vista has been delayed until 2007, you might think that means you won’t be able to take advantage of the 2006 Christmas holiday sales, but Microsoft and major computer vendors have found a way around that. They’re planning to sell PCs capable of running Vista with upgrade coupons that will let you get and install the new operating system at no extra charge when it’s released (whenever that turns out to be). See the story here.

Deb Shinder
Microsoft MVP