Laptop fix may be easy, but if it's not, `oh, my!'

Ask Jim

Plugged In

February 01, 2007|By Jim Coates | Jim Coates,Chicago Tribune

I have acquired from my son the laptop he used during his last year of college and for a couple years after that. He did a lot of online gaming, watching videos, downloading of stuff from the Internet, etc., that I do not do. I wanted to get rid of several programs and miscellaneous materials, but I have encountered a problem. When I open the control panel and click on Add or Remove Programs, that utility does not open. The hourglass shows for a few seconds, then disappears, and nothing happens. I have also tried right-clicking on the icon and clicking Open, with the same lack of results. How do I restore functionality to that utility? The laptop is a Dell Inspiron 8600 operating on Windows XP.

- John DePue,

If this is an easy fix, it will be sweet, but if not, oh, my! Most likely the problem is that the icon is corrupted on the Control Panel that is supposed to take you to the Windows tool for adding and removing programs.

If so, you can bring up the display without the mouse clicks by using the Run tool that is available when one clicks on Start. In the input box for Run, type in appwiz.cpl and click OK. This will bring up the window showing all of the programs on the computer, along with buttons to remove any or all of them.

If some slack-jawed, rat-eyed, drooling hacker got deeper into the Dell laptop's innards and corrupted the display setting for Add or Remove Programs, you probably can get around things by booting the computer up in Safe Mode, which starts the computer without running any of the background programs that could be your culprit.

Turn the laptop off and switch it back on and hold down the F8 key. In the display that comes up, click on Start and Control Panel again and click on Add or Remove Programs. You then can remove what you want and return to normal mode by restarting the computer.

Now we get to the "oh, my!" part. There is a chance that a vandal rewrote parts of the System Registry to stop display of each individual program. I don't think this is the culprit, but if it is, your only fix is to retrieve the recovery disk that came with the Inspiron and reinstall the operating system.

I am learning to work with digital photos, and I can't figure out how to compress the file size. At work, I have Microsoft Office 2003 Picture Manager, and it has a feature that compresses the file size. But I have Microsoft Office XP at home, which has Photo Editor, and that same compression feature isn't available (at least I cannot find it). Maybe this isn't even necessary, but I thought it would help manage the disk space on my hard drive. When I download the photos from the camera, the file size for each photo is about 1 megabyte, and all the files are JPEG format. Also, I want to back up my photos to a CD and thought the compressed file sizes would let me burn all the photo files on a single CD. Can you please give me a quick lesson?

- Dena Whitaker,

You almost certainly should not do what you want to do with those camera-created pictures. The Office Picture Manager doesn't compress files in the way that word usually is used by computer experts. Compression like the JPEG you are using removes unnecessary bits of information to squeeze a file down to the smallest it can be while retaining its resolution, which is the number of pixels or dots in the photo. This is done by cheating on things like shadows, secondary colors and other aspects of an image.

But Microsoft is using a different approach altogether. It is tossing out a great number of pixels to deliver images that are quite small but also quite tiny in terms of the information they hold. If you compress an 8 x 10 image, it remains 8 x 10. If you use the Microsoft compression tool, the 8 x 10 becomes much smaller, maybe 2 x 3.

This means lousy prints and visibly diminished quality.

Jim Coates writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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