How to sort programs by using control panel

Ask Jim

Plugged In

November 16, 2006|By Jim Coates | Jim Coates,Cicago Tribune

The other day, I noticed that in my Add or Remove Programs listing on the control panel, there are about 35 items listed in alphabetical order down to one called MMSSTV, and then there is a huge blank area. I have to scroll for pages past MMSSTV to get to where programs resume, starting with Norton and going to the end. Is there a way to get this all back together?

- Larry Hinsdale, aol.com

There's a general fix when lists of things get messed up on computers, such as rows in spreadsheets or lists of icons arranged in a folder or elsewhere. Re-sort and then sort again.

If things go out of whack sorted one way, sort them another way and then sort them again, this time back to the way they were supposed to be.

To recap for other readers, an alphabetical list of all the programs on a computer can be found by clicking on Start, then Control Panel and then opening the icon called Add or Remove Programs. By default, the programs are arranged alphabetically.

But if you look to the upper right of the display, there is a Sort-by box. Click it and you can sort the list by file size or last date used. Pick one and do a sort. Then go back and select Name to sort alphabetically. This will close ranks and restore your list without those gaps.

I just bought a new Hewlett-Packard notebook and I am ready to throw it through HP's front window. It's not the computer but the preinstalled software some numbskull decided to include.

The program is called Vongo. For some reason, HP decided to forcibly install this program at all costs. There is no obvious or simple way around it. Vongo starts when the computer boots up, and there is no stopping it. It is not humanly possible to cancel the installation and hit logoff before the program begins to install again.

No matter what I do, it keeps reinstalling itself.

I found in message boards and blogs that I am not the only one who doesn't want Vongo. I am not a legal expert, but, if true, this sounds like extortion to me. Others called Vongo a virus.

- Jack McDee, aol.com

Just as you suspect, Vongo, a scheme for downloading Starz network movies for a fee over the Web, uses heavy-handed strategies similar to those encountered by victims of some spyware and adware.

But Starz software officials assured me that you are experiencing a glitch particular to Hewlett-Packard's laptops. New computers will not carry the bug, promised Richard Brownrigg, executive in charge of software at Vongo.

Some background: Starz uses Vongo to download a number of movies onto computers, and then users get charged if they pick one and play it. To monitor usage and assure copyright protection, Vongo works by scattering code about the hard drive and in the Windows System Registry of computer settings.

Because it uses encryption software to keep buyers from pirating the movies, Vongo must run at all times. That's why the software installs those ironclad anti-removal barriers that make it reinstall itself whenever a user removes it using the Add or Remove Programs Control Panel available under the Start menu.

Although Vongo can be removed, it can take substantial time and some possibly ruinous steps to get it out of the way.

At Vongo, Brownrigg said that most people can get rid of the software by starting the computer in Safe Mode, holding down the F8 key at bootup, and then using the Add or Remove Programs. But, he acknowledged, with some HP models, even starting in Safe Mode to do the removal won't work.

Judging from the howls among propeller heads in blog space who share my view about the difficulty of cleaning out a Vongo-infected machine, this is going to be a black eye for HP and Starz unless they relent and make removal easy for people who don't want the service. Meanwhile, Brownrigg assured me that the company's support staff at www.vongo.com will walk users through the removal.

jcoates@tribune.com

Jim Coates writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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