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Photoinfo_450x367New Add-on for Digital Photo Buffs
This week, Microsoft released a free add-on for Windows XP SP2 and Vista called Microsoft Photo Info. It lets you add, change or delete properties for digital photos from inside Windows Explorer. For instance, you can record information such as the author of the photo, descriptions, copyright notices and more (even technical info such as the aperature, shutter speed and lens focal length). It’s a 4 MB MSI file that you can download from the Microsoft web site here.

XP Support Life Cycle Extended
Last week Microsoft announced that they are extending the support life cycle for Windows XP Home and Media Center Editions to April 2009 for mainstream support (with extended support lasting five years beyond that, to 2014). Normally consumer products lasts for five years, meaning XP Home’s support would have ended December 31, 2006 under the normal procedure. Microsoft had already extended that. This is good news for consumers who don’t plan to upgrade to Vista anytime soon. Read more here.

Microsoft PowerShell fits the Bill for Command Line Lovers
The GUI is great, but some computer users never got over their first love: the command line interface. Sure, there are hundreds of tasks you can perform at the command line in Windows, but some want even more. For command line lovers, Microsoft has developed PowerShell (formerly known as Monad), which gives you a more power at the command line. It runs on XP, Vista, Server 2003 and Longhorn Server, and it’s a free download here.

XP Events and Errors Database
What does that error code mean? Unfortunately, sometimes they’re pretty cryptic, but you can search the Microsoft Errors and Events database to get more information and find out what your operating system is trying to tell you. Check it out here.

Free Wi-fi Access for Vista Users
T-Mobile has teamed up with Microsoft to offer three months of free wireless hotspot access for those with Vista on their laptops. The offers runs from January 30 to April 30, and includes the company’s hot spots in Starbucks, Borders and Kinko’s. There are thousands of T-Mobile wi-fi hotspots around the country. For more information, click here.

Vista Service Pack 1 is already in the works
We know many computer users whose rule of thumb is not to upgrade to a new operating system until the first service pack is released. Well, Vista goes on the market to consumers at the end of January (it’s been available to businesses for a couple of months), but Microsoft is already hard at work on Service Pack 1. Companies that have deployed Vista have been contacted, requesting that they volunteer as beta testers of SP1. Speculation is that the service pack will be released by the end of the year. Read more here.

Test Drive Vista without Installing It
Want to see all the new features in Vista before you make the decision about upgrading? Sure, you could go hang out at your favorite electronics store and play with the machines there, but if you’d prefer to do it in the comfort of your home, without eager salesfolk hanging over your shoulder, you can use Microsoft’s web-based Business Test Drive to log onto a virtual machine running Vista and explore the OS on your own.

How to Distribute a Custom Desktop Theme
If you create your own customized theme in Windows XP, you might want to share it with others or put it on another computer that you use so you’ll have a consistent desktop appearance. The theme contains information about your wallpaper, screen saver, icons, fonts, colors, mouse pointers and sounds. To create a theme:

  1. Click Start | Control Panel | Appearance and Themes.
  2. Click Display.
  3. Click the Themes tab and select an existing theme to modify.
  4. Through the Display Properties dialog box, make the changes you want. Then click the Themes tab and click the Apply button.
  5. Click Save As and type a name for the new theme.
  6. Click Save, then click OK.

Your theme is saved by default in the My Documents folder with the .theme extension. You can send this file to others via email or put it in a network share. To install it on another computer, once it’s on that computer’s hard disk:

  1. Right click the desktop and click Properties, then the Themes tab.
  2. Click the Browse button and navigate to the folder where the theme file is located.
  3. Double click the theme file and click OK to load the new theme.

How to force users to log off.
If you want to force users to log off (say, after an hour of no activity), you can use the Winexit.scr utility in the Windows 2000 Resource kit to do this (yes, it works with XP, too). It’s actually a screensaver file that logs the current user off after a specified time period. The resource kit tools can be downloaded here.

Locate the winexit.scr file on your hard disk, right click it and select Install. The Screen Saver tab of the Display Properties dialog box will appear. Click the Settings button and click Force Application Termination. In the Countdown For N Seconds field, type the number of seconds before the user is logged off. You can also type a message to appear during the logoff countdown. For more info, click here.

How to Prevent a Program from Being Displayed in Most Frequently Used Programs
The Most Frequently Used Programs list on the Start menu can be handy for quickly accessing your favorite programs, but if you share a computer with others, you may not wish for some of your programs to be displayed there. You can prevent a particular program from being displayed by editing the registry. For instructions on how to do it, see KB article 284198.

Remove User Account Name from Windows Messenger
If you log onto the .NET Passport service on an XP computer, your logon info is added to a list of user accounts that’s displayed when Windows Messenger starts. If you don’t want your account information stored here, you can remove your instant messaging account from Windows Messenger. Step by step instructions for both standalone/workgroup and domain computers can be found in KB article 310705.

Enable Automatic Completion for the Command Prompt
If you want to configure XP so it will automatically complete file and folder names when you’re typing at the command prompt, thus saving time and energy, you can do so in a single session by typing a control character, or you can activate it permanently by editing the registry. Find out how to do both in KB article 310530.

Deb Shinder, MVP

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