Displaying recently opened files

Displaying recently opened files

Q When you click the Documents item on Windows' Start menu, a list of recently opened files is displayed. Some applications, such as MS Project, do not record opened files in this menu, while others do. Can the menu be modified to include other applications' files?

AThere are several ways in which a file's name can find its way onto Windows 95's Documents menu. Any document you open by clicking on it on the desktop or in Windows Explorer is added; so are most of the files you open via Windows' standard Open File dialogue box (which is brought up by many applications). Some applications that use custom Open File dialogue boxes add the file to the menu on their own; others don't.

In all cases, though, what ultimately happens is that a shortcut to the document is created in the directory C:\Windows\Recent.

Each time you pass the mouse over the Documents item on the Start menu, the Documents menu is built, on the fly, from the shortcuts in that directory.

Armed with this "secret" information, you can easily create items in the menu - or remove them - on your own.

You can't change a pre-packaged application's behaviour with regard to the Documents menu, but you can use Windows Explorer to create new shortcuts in that directory.

If you're a programmer who's comfortable with the Windows API, you can also write programs that create new shortcuts in that directory.

Of course, you can also wipe the Documents menu clean by deleting the contents of this directory.

This knowledge is very useful because after you've opened many documents, the system frantically searches for every one each time you run the mouse up the Start menu.

If the documents are on network drives or on CD-ROMs or floppies you've removed from the system, Windows still tries to find them, slowing your work dramatically.

Most Windows guides will tell you that you can clear the Documents menu by right-clicking on the Taskbar, selecting Properties, selecting the second tab, and punching the appropriate button.

But I've found a faster way. Right-click on the Desktop, create a new shortcut, and make it run the command:


Give the shortcut the name Empty Documents Menu and adjust its properties so that it does not run a batch file (such as AUTOEXEC.BAT) when it starts and stays minimised. You'll then be able to clear the menu by double-clicking on the new icon.

Limiting user accessibility

Q We want to limit access to some pages on our Web server so that only our client companies can see them. How do we do this? We're using the Apache Web server that came with our Linux CD-ROM.

A Almost all Web servers follow the access- control conventions that have been established by the original National Computer Security Association (NCSA) HTTP daemon. The Apache Web server, by far the most popular on the Internet, was derived from the NCSA software and adheres to its conventions exactly.

These Web servers can restrict access so that users from certain domains, IP addresses, or ranges of IP addresses either can or cannot get through. However, there is little documentation on this feature.

Here's an overview of how the security system works.

Each server has a directory of configuration files. On many Unix systems, the directory is called something such as /usr/local/www/server/conf. In that directory is a file called access.conf. This file determines the access restrictions for various directories of Web pages and CGI scripts.

The contents of access.conf look very much as if they were written in HTML; however, the items enclosed in angle brackets are called "directives" instead of "tags". Each directory tree that's visible to the outside world is mentioned in the directory-sectioning directive, which looks like this:

This directive has a corresponding at the end of it. Nested within this directive is a directive, which lets you include or exclude clients. For example, the directiveorder deny,allowdeny from allallow from ourdomain.comallow from client1.comallow from client2.comallow from 192.216.48is interpreted as follows: the line beginning with the word order says that the server will first look atthe deny commands to see if a client is denied access. It will then look at the allow commands to see if the client is specifically granted access despite any deny commands processed earlier.

In the given example, we start by denying all access, so a client must match one of the specific allow commands to see files in the directory. If an incomplete IP address is specified, any address that starts with that address is considered to be a match.

The access.conf file does not provide a complete answer to the problem of access control. Each directive in this file covers an entire tree of directories, not just one directory, and changes don't take effect unless the Web server is restarted.

Therefore, the server provides a way to override access restrictions on the fly and on a directory-by-directory basis.

If you place the directive AllowOverride Limit inside the directive, you may place a file called .htaccess in any of its sub-directories.

This file contains a special directive just for that subdirectory.

You can also add other restrictions in the .htaccess file, including password protection for the directory.

I use these Web-access features to create private pages and to prevent pages from spammers who scan pages for e-mail addresses. Although these features are no substitute for a firewall and can be fooled by IP spoofing, they are secure enough for many applications, especially when combined with password protection.

For more information on Web server access control, check your local bookshop for a book on Web security.

More on limiting users

Q Does Microsoft's Internet Information Server 3.0 [IIS] Web server have the features mentioned in the previous answer? I can't find access-control files similar to those in other servers in IIS 3.0 and can only limit access by IP address.

A According to Microsoft's IIS support experts, Microsoft's Web server product has two nonproprietary methods of limiting access to a page: by IP address and by "basic" authentication (an insecure scheme in which passwords are sent across the Internet in the clear). IIS can't filter requests by domain name, nor does it support "digest" authentication (a more secure method that encrypts passwords before sending them).

IIS also has proprietary access-control schemes, but they're not useful on the Internet at large because they won't work with browsers other than Microsoft's own. For more information, see the documentation on your Windows NT Advanced Server CD-ROM.

Also, because many security holes have been found in NT and IIS, you should be sure to check the URL for information on the latest fixes.

No easy way to migrate a system

Q Do you know where I can find software, or a good set of written instructions, that will help me migrate a personalised Windows 95 setup to a new computer? I want to buy a new Pentium II to replace my ageing HP XU590C, but I shudder at the thought of reinstalling everything that I've worked so hard to personalise! Many of my applications have been downloaded from the Internet. Others have been upgraded several times. (I'd like to reinstall the programs, but I don't have all the original disks, and some of the upgrades check for previous versions that don't run on Windows 95.) Still others are shareware programs for which I no longer have the registration numbers. Finally, LapLink and other programs won't preserve my carefully arranged folders, menus, and shortcuts. What should I do?

A Migrating personal environments from machine to machine is not just a problem faced by individual users; IS managers and technicians deal with it daily when upgrading or replacing users' systems. No OS to date has built-in provisions to solve this problem, although some, such as Unix, have established conventions that make it easier to copy files and programs. Unfortunately, user portability was not a consideration in the design of Windows 95 or in the many applications that run on it. I, too, dread moving users from machine to machine in this environment, and I often spend hours doing it.

So far I've only come up with one "brute force" approach that sometimes works. I copy the entire contents of the hard disk from the old machine to the new one and then immediately reinstall Windows on the new machine. The catch: many new machines don't come with all of the included software on CD-ROM, so I'm often forced to make a set of 30 to 40 Windows diskettes, hoping that the manufacturer hasn't installed drivers or utilities that aren't transferred to the diskettes through this procedure. Sometimes I can't get everything to work after reinstalling Windows, because the manufacturer didn't provide everything needed to do so.

Work-around for installing older softwareQ We recently purchased a Gateway 166MHz Pentium with OEM Service Release 2 of Windows 95. We cannot load my Microsoft Office, Version 4.3, onto the machine; it gives an error message and stops the installation. Is there a work-around?

A Older versions of Microsoft Office expect the DOS driver Share.exe to be installed so they can share files and work across a network. If it isn't there, Office won't install. But OSR2 has a virtual device driver that makes the Share.exe DOS driver unnecessary. So unless you're willing to upgrade to a later version of Office, you must create a dummy Share.exe file to trick Office into installing.

Here is the easiest way to do this: open the Notepad accessory program and save an empty file as C:\Windows\Share.exe, or open an MS-DOS window and type Echo>Share.exe at the prompt. The Microsoft Knowledge Base article Q166673 ( gives a full description of the problem.

Degaussing can restore CRT clarity

Q After seven years' use, my venerable NEC MultiSync 2A monitor has developed a fuzzy picture for no apparent reason. Previously you wrote that monitors that "run all day without degaussing" might not show good pictures. I now wonder whether a need for degaussing may be the culprit. How do I degauss a monitor?

A Every time you move a colour monitor, or even point it in a different direction, it's a good idea to degauss it. Degaussing realigns the magnetic domains of the CRT's shadow mask, or aperture grille, with the Earth's magnetic field so that the tube's precisely aligned electron beam is not "blown off course" by that field.

State-of-the-art monitors have built-in degaussing coils that activate at power-up, so you won't need to degauss them manually. But some older models, including your MultiSync 2A, don't include them.

You can buy a degaussing tool at an electronic-parts supply house (like Tandy or Dick Smith Electronics).

To use the coil you must remove your monitor from the computer and plug it in as far away as possible from floppy disks, Zip and Jaz cartridges, and backup tapes.

Remove your wallet, too, so that your credit cards will not be erased.

Attach the tool to a long extension cord, hold it a few inches from the centre of the screen, and activate it by pushing the momentary contact switch on the side.

Move the tool gradually out to one side of the screen and then slowly and continuously around the edge.

Repeat the circular motion while slowly backing away from the screen.

When you are at a distance of about 10 feet away from the screen, let go of the switch. Degaussing won't improve the picture on monochrome monitors or even all colour ones, but sometimes it works wonders.

Relief for CD-changer shuffling

Q I have encountered the CD-changer problem you mentioned a while ago, and have found a possible work-around. The TweakUI utility, from Microsoft's unsupported PowerToys package, lets you select the discs that appear on your desktop. I eliminated all but the first disc on my four-CD changer. It still takes quite a while for the changer to run through all the drives when Windows 95 boots, but after that it cuts down on the shuffling.

A Many other readers also have recommended the TweakUI utility to prevent CD-ROM shuffling when the My Computer window is opened. Unfortunately, Windows still may shuffle the discs when you boot up your computer, and thereafter at any time that a program makes certain operating-system calls or takes inventory of your system's discs.

If a CD-ROM document appears on your Documents menu, the system may hunt for it every time you press the Start button and run the mouse past the Documents menu item. You can prevent this by right-clicking on the Taskbar, selecting Properties, selecting the second tab (Start Menu Programs), and clicking on the button marked Clear. This procedure also prevents Windows 95 from looking for documents on floppy drives when you pull up the Documents menu.

Other readers have found some relief by disabling the AutoRun feature, which starts programs automatically when either a CD or a floppy disk is inserted. But this, again, only helps some of the time. In fact, the AutoRun feature often fails to work when one adds a new disk to a cartridge drive, such as in the case of my Pioneer CD-ROM changer. In most cases, owners of these changers must start the setup programs on installation disks manually.

So far I've received word of only one product that might do a better job. A utility called SmartCD, from Smart Storage, in Massachusetts (+1 508 623-3300), supposedly can make any CD-ROM changer appear as a single drive. This package, as well as the special drivers provided with some changers, may be a good stopgap measure until Windows is modified to stop the CD shuffle.

Phantom port for Win95 problem

Q I recently installed WinFax Pro 8.0 on our department's server so that it can receive incoming faxes. Now the system's mouse pointer freezes in place after the system boots. I'm using a generic Microsoft-compatible serial mouse. What's wrong?

A This is one of the problems I encountered when I learned about Windows serial port configuration issues. Windows 95 sometimes lists the port used by your pointing device as an available communications port. When certain applications probe the ports for modems, they send a signal that causes the pointing device to lock up. If you have your computer set to receive faxes automatically, it will disable your pointing device each time you boot. Getting rid of the problem is tricky, because many parts of Windows 95 are not very keyboard-friendly.

Here's how to proceed: hit Ctrl-Esc (or the Windows key, if you have a Microsoft-specific keyboard) to bring up the Start menu. Use the up-arrow key to select Settings and then the right-arrow key to select Control Panel. Press Enter to bring up the Control Panel. Use the arrow keys to highlight the System icon and press Enter to open the System property sheet. Use the right-arrow key to select the Device Manager tab and the Tab key to get to the Computer entry at the top of the outline. Use the down-arrow key to get to the outline heading marked "Ports (COM and LPT)". Use the right-arrow key to expand that heading, and select the port to which your pointing device is connected. Press Alt-E to remove the port from your system. If you hit a wrong key at any point, you may need to start over.

Finally, reboot by pressing Ctrl-Esc again and selecting Shut Down from the Start menu. You should now get control of the pointer.

This procedure turns the serial port the device is attached to into a phantom port, removing it from the list of devices that applications will probe.

Brett Glass' Help Desk answers business computing questions and can be contacted at:

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