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Vol. 19  No. 6 Supporting PC Platforms Newsletter:.November-December 2003 .


 Linux: Red Hat or Mandrake?

Feeling Annoyed with Your PC? Fight Back!

Final bytes



Linux: Red Hat or Mandrake?
By Bob Wallace

 Just a couple of newsletters ago we were briefly discussing RedHat´s Linux version 8, just recently installed on the used IBM ThinkPad 390X laptop computer purchased for this project .Installing Red Hat Linux v8 turned out to be very quick and easy, so who would have given any thought to the idea that Red Hat would be terminating its support of Linux versions 7.1 through 8by year´s end, and terminating v9 early in the year 2004? None of that thinking entered my head when installing the CD earlier in this year of 2003.

As is typical of computer software installations, Red Hat´s Linux comes with a working version of the usual software programs, including a browser for Internet use; an e-mail program that sets up almost automatically so long as you have access to a cable modem, meaning the Internet connect for browser and/or e-mail is always "on"; Open Office´s "office suite" set of programs, including their version of a presentation  and spreadsheet programs; and some number of programs provided by Red Hat to make their version of Linux about as user-friendly as a version of Linux can be.

According to the Red Hat e-mail message of Monday, November3, 2003, support for the laptop installed version of Red Hat will end at year´s end, December 31, 2003, support for their latest version, v9, will terminate at the end of April, 2004.

Not to worry, as Red Hat will "allow" current users of their operating system versions to convert to their Enterprise version of Linux, giving two years of support for the price of one year provided your editor and other Linux users purchase the upgrade by February 28, 2004. Gee, such a bargain, maybe?

On the other hand, might it be time to consider one or another alternative to Red Hat´s Linux?  Several ´flavors´ of Linux are out and about, including SuSE  (v9.0) and Mandrake (v9.2). A somewhat different version of Linux comes by way of Lindows and its Lindows OS v4.0. Perhaps the first consideration is what the system requirements are for either one of these alternatives to work on an IBM ThinkPad 390X laptop computer, or whatever computer you might install one of these operating systems on.

A quick check of Mandrake´s web site ( a link to their Linux page which covers one downloadable version (their ´base´ system) plus three versions available in stores:  Discovery,  Power Pack  and Pro Suite. Each of the boxed versions is designed for entry-level, home or business user, respectively. Mandrake´s "base" system lacks many of the add-ons available in their boxed versions.

At this point it would seem to come down to which of several choices is the most efficient for a specific user. First consideration is installing any version other than Red Hat´s is going to require backing up. Depending on how Red Hat´s migration has been put together might mean backing up all files on the computer prior to doing any install of another version from the same vendor. Changing from one supplier to another virtually guarantees that you´ll need to make specific file back-ups prior to installing a new operating system on your computer, particularly if you have any question as to whether that install will do any formatting prior to the installation.

On a personal note, time is almost too tight for making any change of this nature within the next few weeks, perhaps even prior to year´s end. A day job means spending anywhere from 8 to ten hours of commute and work time Monday through Friday, and genealogy research on the Internet and/or at the local LDS Reading Room takes away more of one´s time. We´ll not even talk about time needed at this time of year for football and hockey contests that happen to make it to television. That nearly takes care of the remainder of this calendar year. Next consideration is which of several alternatives to Red Hat´s Linux might be the best choice at the moment, taking into consideration the time element as laid out above, and the year-end ten days or so of vacation, already set to be spent in Southern California this year.  Hmm, wonder if one might be able to build a batch file to weigh the alternatives? As they´re fond of saying on the radio stations, stay tuned!

Feeling Annoyed with Your PC?

Steve Bass tackles six of his most irritating annoyances–from the dumb logos manufacturers plaster on screen during bootup to removing weird lines in Word.

By Steve Bass, Contributing Editor, PC World (and allegedly famous author).

My name is Steve Bass and I hunt down PC annoyances. What´s funny is that it doesn´t matter how many annoyances I fixed in PC Annoyances: How to Fix the Most Annoying Things About Your Personal Computer. More sit-in-the-corner dumb things keep cropping up.

Admittedly, most annoying things are easy to find–just boot up your system, spend a few minutes with Windows, and blammo, you´re annoyed. The challenging part, and the reason I wrote the book, is the thrill of finding fixes for the annoyances. I dug around and found solid solutions that work instantly and don´t require a degree in computer science to understand.

Oddly enough, as I wrote the book, I bumped into even more Windows, Office, Internet, email, and hardware irritations. I didn´t have time to include all of them in the book, but rather than waste them, I thought I´d share them with you. (Caution: shameless plug to follow.) And if you like what you see, well gosh, maybe you´ll be motivated to buy the book. Several copies of the book. Maybe a case of books (you know they´re ideal for gift giving...). You can get a copy here:

By the way, you don´t know me so this may come as a surprise, but I´m inherently lazy and will always find something to do other than meet a deadline. My favorite deadline avoidance trick is nothing new–I browse the Web; I´ll share a few time-wasting, funny, and occasionally weird sites I´ve discovered.

Six Irritating Annoyances–and Six Fixes

These are actual annoyances contributed by  annoyed  PC World readers.

System Restore on Your Desktop

The Annoyance: I took the advice in your book about creating a Restore Point every time I install new software or fiddle with my PC´s settings. The hassle is navigating through the Start menu to get to the buried System Restore dialog. There´s gotta be a quicker way.

The Fix: It would be handy if Microsoft already had prefab desktop shortcuts for many of Windows´ system functions. But it´s pretty easy to do it yourself. Dig around and find the System Restore icon and drag it onto the desktop and when the dialog appears, choose "Create Shortcut." Then answer Yes to the following dialog.

If you want to create a shortcut directly from the desktop, right-click any empty spot on the desktop and select New-->Shortcut. In the "Command Line" (98 and Me) or "location" (2000and XP) field, type %SystemRoot%\System32\restore\rstrui.exe.  Click the Next button, give your shortcut a name–like SysRestore, and click the Finish Button. Double-click the shortcut and up pops the System Restore dialog.

Kill Some Time: You thought duct tape was just for fixing leaky radiator hoses and covering wall holes under the kitchen sink?  Wrong. It´s good for decorative wall hangings. See

Remove Weird Lines in Word

The Annoyance: Whenever I enter underlines by themselves in a Word 2002 document, they´re automatically transformed into solid, thick horizontal lines. That´s not what I want. I think it´s a bug in Word and it´s driving me nuts.

The Fix: So you´re saying you don´t like Word´s overly ambitious AutoFormat feature that turns your lines into borders?  Because that´s exactly what´s happening–every time you type more than three asterisks, hyphens, underscores, or equal signs, Word applies a character or paragraph border style. It´s an easy--dare I say, gratifying--fix. From Word´s toolbar, choose Tools-->AutoCorrect, click the AutoFormat As You Type tab, and uncheck the Border lines box. (In Word 2000, uncheck the Border box.)

Stop Annoying Crash Reports

The Annoyance: I´m getting really tired of XP asking me if I want to send an error report to Microsoft every time a program crashes. I think the company should spend its time reducing crashes, don´t you?.

The Fix: I´ll bet Microsoft´s tired of taking all your reports, too, but that´s another story. Stopping these report prompts takes five minutes. From the Start Menu, click the Control Panel, then double-click the System icon. If Windows XP is in the Category View, click Performance and Maintenance, then double-click the System icon.

In the System Properties box, click the Advanced tab, then the Error Reporting button. If you want absolutely no notification about errors, check "Disable error reporting" and make sure the "But notify me when critical errors occur" box is unchecked .(FYI: I leave notification checked so I can see details of the crash, something that helps me troubleshoot system problems.) Click OK then OK again.

Kill Some Time: Looking for something to do besides worrying about underlining in Word?  Try the Snarg site. After the first few images flash on screen, click the tiny pound sign on the right, then click the "squeee" or "framina" link (To exit either, just close the window.)  Hint: Move your mouse around and click here and there until patterns emerge, or until your significant other walks in and asks how that defrag is going.

Big Hard Drive Corruption

The Annoyance: Ever since I upgraded my PC with a 160GB hard drive, hibernation has stopped working correctly. Every so often, my system annoyingly restarts rather than resuming from hibernation. I´ve run ScanDisk and defragged the drive, but the problem still occurs. What gives?

The Fix: Someone once said you can never have too much RAM or too big a hard drive. Unfortunately, without a fix from Microsoft, Windows XP will choke–and possibly corrupt data–onany drive that exceeds 137 GB. There´s a quick and easy downloadable fix at And if you´re interested in the background, check out Microsoft´s Microsoft Knowledge Base Article: 331958 at Some Time: Almost everyone gripes about Windows. If you want to file a complaint, however, you´ll have to take a number:

Stop Quick Launch Pop-ups

The Annoyance: Whenever my cursor hovers over the QuickLaunch toolbar, enormous yellow pop-ups appear with tons of text. It blocks the other icons, and besides, I already know what program the icon represents.

The Fix: The biggest offenders are–surprise, surprise–Microsoft applications. Word´s descriptive pop-ups are billboard size, and definitely annoying.

Rather than eliminate the pop-up, shrink it down to size. Right-click the icon in the Quick Launch Toolbar, choose Properties, and change–or remove–the text in the Comment field. Easy, eh?

Ban Annoying Boot Logos

The Annoyance: I just bought a new PC. When the system boots, all I see is the manufacturer´s irritating logo.

The Fix: IMHO, watching the logo screen is more than just annoying, it´s depriving you of valuable troubleshooting and diagnostic information that´s served up while the PC´s booting. This annoyance is pretty easily dispensed with, provided your system's BIOS allows you to turn off the logo screen.

As you´re booting up, tap the Delete or F1 key. (Pay attention during boot-up: The system usually displays the proper key onscreen.) Browse through the various BIOS options until you find something similar to "disable the Logo Screen," and change the setting to not show the logo.

Copyright © 2003 by Steve Bass and O´Reilly Press. Reproduced with permission. Steve Bass is a Contributing Editor with PC World and a founding member of APCUG. He´s also the author ofPC Annoyances: How to Fix the Most Annoying Things about Your Personal Computer, O´Reilly Press. It´s available on Amazon a at

Feeling Annoyed with Your PC?

Getting up early during the work week means catching Dave Ross on local radio station KCBS, 740 AM.  Dave has recently been talking about his own experiences with LindowsOS over a several week period. Links to those reports can be found at:

Final bytes

As is usually the case, this issue of the club´s newsletter has-been entered into WordPerfect 6.1 for Windows running under IBM's OS/2 Warp 4, printed on an HP DeskJet 693C, copied, collated and stapled at one of the local printer outlets. Depending on the printer´s schedule for Sunday, November  9,this issue should be in your mailbox by no later than Tuesday, November 11.


November 13: Open Forum, at Judy Oliphant´s residence in SouthS.F.

December 11: Open Forum, at Bob Wallace´s residence in SanMateo.