Help desk

Help desk

Docking stations are a liability during power outagesQ Our law firm has invested in several IBM ThinkPad computers and docking stations. Recently, the power flickered and the docked laptops in our office crashed, losing our work. Shouldn't the batteries have kept the systems running?

A This is an important issue to ask about when acquiring laptops for your enterprise. Some docking stations -- and virtually all small docking ''bars'' -- can run from the laptop's battery if the power is cut off.

But IBMs and some other brands do not; a loss of power will cause an instant crash for them.

Here are two ways to solve this problem that I've found work pretty well. First, you can pair each docking station with a small, uninterruptible power supply.

Alternatively, you can return the docking stations and invest in peripherals that are implemented as (removable) PC Cards. Although docking and undocking take a second or two longer with the latter approach, you'll have a wide range of peripherals to choose from and, most likely, fewer software compatibility problems.

Correcting bad e-mail addresses earns goodwillQ Recently, I have been finding more and more that people send me e-mail to which I cannot reply by pressing the ''reply'' button in my e-mail program. The return address is incorrect! Is the server set up incorrectly? Is the problem at our end or theirs?

A As more and more new users get online, it's becoming quite common to receive mail with incorrect from: addresses. This is especially frustrating for customer service departments that must respond to a flood of e-mail in a timely way. Most often, the sender was confused by the terse instructions in an e-mail program's setup dialogues. The most common problems are typos, omitted domain names, and doubled domain names (like The first received: header on the incoming mail should contain the correct return address. A courteous reply asking that the sender check his or her configuration will likely be much appreciated!

Trimming the fat

Q How do I upgrade a workstation to the FAT32 file system without buying an employee a new computer? We just installed a 7GB drive, and don't want to set it up with multiple disk partitions.

A IS managers and help desk staffers seem to confront this question almost daily. Unfortunately, Microsoft does not sell or license Windows 95 OEM Service Release 2 -- the version that has FAT32 -- for anything but a new computer.

So to get FAT32 on an older machine, you must violate the shrink-wrap licence. I haven't received my copy of the Windows 98 beta version from Microsoft, but I'm told that it will provide an upgrade utility.

Brett Glass has been working with PCs and networks and fixing their bugs for 15 years. To submit a Help desk query, send an e-mail to

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