Some readers have reported a problem with the Windows 95 recycle bin. If it's empty, the icon shows that it's full, and vice versa. This frustrating problem is caused by a confirmed bug in Windows 95. If you uninstall the "desktop themes" module of Windows 95, the recycle bin icons will be reversed. The problem and a fix are described in Microsoft Knowledge Base article Q137591 at www.microsoft.com/kb/ articles/q137/5/91.htm.
E-mail snail mail
Q Our e-mail messages frequently take hours or even a day to reach a recipient. Where is the holdup? No one - neither the LAN administrator nor the ISP - is willing to accept responsibility. I often need an answer immediately and expect the message to be delivered in real time.
A Several factors can conspire to slow down Internet e-mail.
First, your e-mail may have to make many hops from machine to machine before it reaches its destination. If you use a typical Internet service provider (ISP), your outgoing mail goes first to the ISP's e-mail computer or SMTP server, which queues it up for delivery. When your message reaches the front of the queue (which can take a while on a busy service), the server tries to contact the post office, also called a "mail exchanger", at the remote site. From there, it's often one or two more hops to the addressee's computer.
If either you or your correspondent has a pro- prietary e-mail system (such as Lotus Notes or cc:Mail), its Internet gateway can be an especially time-consuming bottleneck.
How can you speed things up? If you're using standard Internet mail, you can reduce the number of hops the message must make en route. Most personal e-mail programs or mail-user agents require you to give them the name of an SMTP server that tries to deliver your mail for you. But you can sometimes bypass this "middleman" and connect directly to the addressee's machine (if it has a full-time feed) or mail server (if it doesn't). This cuts out one or two time-consuming stops.
This method has two drawbacks, though. First you may not be able to establish a direct connec-tion if either your network or the one at the other end is protected by a firewall. Second, your machine can only try to deliver the message as long as it's online. If you can't get through the firewall or don't have a full-time Internet connection, stick with your SMTP server.
One trick that can help you identify bottlenecks is to ask the recipient to send you back the message headers. Usually, each machine along the way will add its two cents to the headers, recording the time it got the message. You can also try requesting a return receipt. You may find the mail wasn't slow at all - the recipient just didn't read it right away.
But if there were long delays in transit, it could be that your Internet connection - or the recipient's - is poor. In that case, shop for a better provider.
Q This is about a seven-disc SCSI CD- ROM changer for use under Windows 95 and Windows NT 4.0. It works wonderfully except for one thing. These two environments, in their efforts to be user-friendly, like to display the volume label and icon for every disc. When I open Windows Explorer or the My Computer folder or even print from any application, I lose control of my desktop while the OS scans each of my seven CDs plus my three networked CDs. Is there any way to disable this behaviour? Not only am I experiencing long delays; I also fear that the changer mechanism might be suffering excessive wear due to all this shuffling of discs.
A I've experienced similar problems with my Pioneer six-disc CD-ROM changer. Windows NT 4.0 fails to notice that I've ejected the cartridge and replaced one of the discs in the changer. And both Windows 95 and NT will often scan every disc, refusing to do anything else until they're done. In Windows 95, multitasking is effectively turned off during the scan, so your Internet connections may be terminated and your mouse pointer may even freeze in place.
Microsoft Knowledge Base article Q123612 (www.microsoft.com/kb/articles/q123/6/12.htm) says that using real-mode drivers and a cache may increase stability and cause the changer to shuffle less often. However, I installed Microsoft's CD-ROM extension and Pioneer's low-level DOS driver and saw no change.
What to do? One approach not mentioned in Microsoft's document is to install a CD-ROM driver that gives the changer a single drive letter instead of multiple letters.
Only one CD-ROM in the changer is visible to the operating system at a time, and you must manually change the current disc via front panel buttons or a software utility. (I have searched without success for a driver for my changer; however, there may be one for yours.)OEM Service Release 2 of Windows 95 is reputed to shuffle the discs less often than earlier versions. In the meantime, I am using a very primitive work-around: I eject the cartridge that holds the CD-ROMs. The OS tries to access the discs, encounters several errors in rapid succession, gives up, and moves on.
Unfortunately, only the Pioneer six-disc drives have cartridges, so this is probably not an option for you. Unless you can find a single-letter driver, you may have to wait for Windows 98 to avoid losing potentially productive time while the discs shuffle.
Q You recently said that most Internet telephony programs will not work if your network uses IP masquerading to run several systems through one Internet connection. Do you know of any that will work?
A I've only seen one Internet telephony program that works well with SLiRP. It's called FreeTel (www.freetel.com). The authors of this free telephony application have gone to great lengths to make sure that this particular program works via the IP masquerading features of SLiRP, as well as some other masquerading programs - a trait that other vendors should emulate. See the FreeTel Web site for details.
Breaking the law
Q I have a Windows 95 laptop and need to encrypt sensitive corporate data on my hard disk in case the machine is lost or stolen. I understand that I'll be committing a US federal crime if I buy Symantec's Your Eyes Only in the US and carry my laptop out of that country. Is there a program that's legal for international travel?
A As you've discovered, the US government, in a quixotic attempt to limit the use of encryption by law-abiding citizens and criminals alike, has banned the export of even moderately secure cryptography programs.
These include Symantec's Norton Your Eyes Only (www.symantec.com), RSA Data Security's SecurPC (www.rsa.com), and McAfee Associates' PCCrypto (www.mcafee.com). The Clinton administration and the US Commerce Department have classified all such products as munitions, and they can land you in big trouble - quite possibly in jail - if you pass out of US customs with them in your possession.
"Crippled" versions of some programs, containing very weak encryption schemes, may be exported. However, programs capable of cracking this encryption have been published widely, so they won't protect your data from any thief who really cares to see it.
Ironically, although you can't take a US product abroad, there's no ban against taking in strong encryption products from other countries. So the rules don't really prevent anyone from using cryptography. They merely hurt US software companies by preventing them from selling their wares abroad.
Restrictions on strong encryption also are hindering the development of Internet commerce. Businesses, software vendors, and individual users of encryption software are besieging the government with requests to have the law changed.
For the time being, there's only one way to secure your laptop without breaking the law: don't buy US.
The non-US Windows 95 disk-encryption product for which I've received the most recommendations is Stoplock 95 from British software vendor PC Security (www.pcsl.com). It uses algorithms similar to those in the American products but can be carried out of the US legally.
Q Does the "dancing baloney" type of animation, popular on Web pages, consume processor cycles when a Web browser is minimised?
A This depends on the browser you're using, as well as the format of the animated image being displayed.
The latest versions of Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer don't spend time rendering animated GIFs when the picture is completely out of view. However, some animation plug-ins continue to run even when the image is not visible.
I've long wished for a browser that had the option of turning off animated GIFs, flashing text, and marquees displayed within Web pages; it would save CPU cycles and keep them from annoying and distracting me when I'm trying to work.
Unfortunately, neither of the leading browsers has this feature.
How about it, Netscape and Microsoft?
Letter to the editor
I was re-reading Vol 2, No 8 of Australian Reseller News, in particular the Help Desk section by Brett Glass and his response to a readers inquiry about Lan Internet access through a single modem.
While this advice was technically informative, I'm not sure it hit the mark. The article did not mention products like Artisoft's Lantastic 7.0 which does the job very well regardless of what the ISP thinks. WinGate is a shareware networking utility which also does the job, but cheap as chips.
Either of these solutions require substantially less technical know-how than suggestions offered by Brett Glass.
For what it's worth.
Mark Spence, Worldnet Systems