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HP rebates get easier – sometimes
We’ve often lamented the hassle factor and “game of chance” element involved in getting a manufacturer’s rebate these days, and we applaud Hewlett Packard for doing something to make it a little easier. They’re now allowing customers to redeem rebates online without having to mail in all that paperwork. The catch: it appears to apply only to products you buy at the Home & Home Office online store at We’d like to see the same courtesy extended to customers who buy HP products from other retailers. Still, it’s a start. Read about it here.

The Bill & Steve Show
And no, we’re not talking about Steve Ballmer, although he’ll be there, too. But the big news is that this week, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs will appear onstage together at the D: All Things Digital conference in California that’s put on each year by the Wall Street Journal. Will it be a replay of the Mac Man and PC Guy commercials? It’s an ad lib type event, without prepared speeches, and this one should be a good one. Videos of past conferences are available so we’re looking forward to seeing videos of this one.

Are you ready to give up on email?
An article in last week’s Washington Post claims that many people are abandoning email completely, declaring “email bankruptcy” and going back to the phone as their primary means of communication. I can’t think of many things more unpleasant than that. You can read my opinion on the subject (and get the link to the original article) in my blog post of May 25 titled “E-mail cop- out?”

How to assign a program to a processor in XP or Vista
In Windows XP Pro or Vista, if you have a computer running multiple processors or one with a dual core processor, you can assign specific programs to use a specific processor or core. First you need to open the program or run the process. Then do the following:

  1. Right click an empty space on the taskbar or press CTRL+ATL+DEL and select to start Task Manager.
  2. Click the Processes tab.
  3. In the left column, find the process you want to assign (for example, Winword.exe for the Word program) and right click it.
  4. Click Set Affinity in the context menu.
  5. By default, both CPUs will be checked. Check only the CPU you want the process to run on (CPU0 or CPU1).
  6. Click OK. This can be useful if you need to keep one processor free for use by a particular program, or if you’re running older applications that don’t work as well with two processors.

New Vista Start Menu
The Start Menu in Vista looks a bit different from the XP Start Menu, and provides a lot more functionality – once you get used to it. The Search box at the bottom can be used to find just about anything: email messages, document files, even programs. You’ll soon find yourself using it instead of drilling down through the All Programs menu. You can also use it instead of Run as a command line box to run executables; just type the command (such as gpedit.msc to open the Group Policy editor) in the box.

If you don’t like the new Start Menu, though, you can easily change it back to the Classic menu, like the one in Windows 2000 (and the one many of us used in XP instead of its default “bubble look” menu). Just right click the Start button, click Properties and choose Classic Start Menu. But note that this option doesn’t include the Search box.

How to get to the Vista Sidebar quickly

If you open up lots of programs at a time, as I do, sometimes your gadget sidebar and any gadgets that you’ve detached from the bar get covered up under layers of windows. Then if you want to use a view a gadget (for instance, you need to see the month at a glance on the calendar gadget), you have to move or minimize all those windows to get to it. Or do you? You could configure the gadget bar to always stay on top by right clicking it, selecting Properties and choosing Sidebar Is Always On Top of Other Windows but that eats up a lot of screen real estate and besides, I’ve found it doesn’t always work.

Luckily, there’s a way to quickly bring the sidebar and detached gadgets to the foreground: just press the Windows logo key plus the space bar.

New variety of Trojan escapes detection by AV programs
There is a new variant of a Russian Trojan horse going around the Web, and it’s able to capture information from secure SSL streams through keylogging capabilities. SSL, of course, is used to encrypt connections for secure transactions such as online banking and credit card purchases. The worst part is that this version of the Gozi Trojan can hide itself like a rootkit so that most antivirus programs can’t detect it. You may need to reboot into Safe Mode and run an updated AV scan to catch it.

Help! The drive letters on my XP computer changed!
During the night Windows did a security update and restarted my computer. Now my Maxtor storage is “G” instead of “F” and my External CD-Rom is “F” instead of “G”. I’ve been working with it that way and don’t see any problems. Is that okay? – Pete M.

ANSWER: It’s not a problem as long as it’s not a problem. If you have a shortcut that points to a path on one of those drives, or if you installed a program from one of them and then go back to update it, Windows will look for it in the old path and won’t find it. Of course, you can just browse to the new location.

But it’s easy to change the letters back to the way they were if you want to. Right click My Computer and click Manage, then in the left pane of the Management console find “Disk Management” and click it. It’ll take a minute to scan your disks and load the configuration information, then will display them in the right pane. You can change the drive letter assignment of a disk by right clicking it in the top pane and selecting Change Drive Letter and Path. Click the Change button and pick a new letter from the drop down box.

It won’t let you change it to a letter that’s already being used, so you’ll need to first change the Maxtor to some unused letter such as Z, then change the CD to G, then you can change the Maxtor to F. You have to be logged on as an administrator to do this. You can do it the same way in Vista, except that you’ll be asked for permission to continue when you try to open the Computer Management Console even if you’re already logged on as an admin.

Windows XP stops responding when you download Windows updates
If you try to download an update from the Windows Update site to your computer and get an error message labeled “Initialization Error 0x8007007e,” or the computer stops responding when you accept the end-user license agreement, it may be because of corrupted or unregistered system files. Find out what to do to solve the problem by reading KB article 831429.

Problems printing to a local printer from Office programs in XP
If you’re having problems printing to a computer that’s attached to your computer while using Microsoft Office on Windows XP, there are a number of possible causes and solutions. This troubleshooting article walks you through the steps of diagnosing and resolving the problems. See KB article 870622.

Until next week,

Deb Shinder, MVP