Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Toolbar madness

The other day I was looking at this fella’s screen and noticed that his Internet Explorer looked quite a bit different than what I was used to seeing, and so I took a closer look. It was different–the whole top half of his browser window was solid toolbars. He had the Google toolbar, the Yahoo toolbar, his ISP’s toolbar, a Merriam-Webster dictionary toolbar, a Dogpile toolbar, Alta Vista, some kind of stockticker, a weather report…and about four or five others I can’t recall now. I guess he wanted to be “well-informed.”

I can see how a person might want more options than to rely on Google, and Google alone, for search results–as good as Google is at that task. And I can also see the advantage that some of these toolbars provide in the way of pop-up blockers, and some include anti-spyware capability. I use the Merriam-Webster dictionary toolbar (occasionally) because I cannot spell without help [as I’m sure my regular readers can guess]. I can also understand how a guy (or gal) would want to keep an eye on his investments. But, come on, when is “enough” really “too much”?

Well in this particular fella’s case, it was when the pop-up blockers started to overlap and conflict with each other. He couldn’t get certain email attachments, nor, sometimes even regular webpages to open. Not to mention his viewing window was teeny…

Tip of the day: If you use multiple toolbars that have pop-up blocking, and/or a pop-up blocking utility, such as PopUp Cop, turn all but one of them off. And if you want to search multiple search-engines with a single click, use a metasearch engine or “metacrawler” which look in multiple sources with a single click. (Dogpile is one of these…though our friend didn’t seem to know it.) There are many such tools/toolbars available — one of the earliest was WebFerret — and they’re almost all free.

If you use IE 7, and are reluctant to add a toolbar, you can add search engines to the built-in search window. Open IE and click on the down arrow next to the magnifying glass in the search window. Now select “add more providers”, and follow the steps. Now you’ll have the ability to select who (where) you want to run the search on, but it will not search more than one at a time…but, at least you won’t have to retype your search string.

If you want to employ the KISS Principal, and reclaim your viewing window size, and yet want the features a toolbar can provide, like pop-up blocking and metasearching, I recommend using an all-in-one toolbar like the one listed below.

Today’s free link: Advanced Toolbar. “The Advanced Searchbar is a FREE award winning toolbar that enables you to search over 100 search engines and is loaded with features that make searching and browsing the Internet easier than ever. The Advanced Searchbar has more features than the Google, Yahoo and MSN toolbars combined. No other toolbar has as many features.”

Copyright © 2007 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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June 18, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, IE 7, PC, tech, Vista, Windows, XP | Leave a comment

Google Gives Away Great Software

Top rated Anti-spyware Program Is Available From Google

One of this site’s more popular items is the Today’s free download link I post at the end of most articles. People like downloads.

Today I want to tell you about a “package” of downloads put together by Google. This “pack” of download includes some of the programs I have featured in my “Today’s free download”, and a couple that I haven’t yet.

The one (included) program that triggered me to write today’s article is Spyware Doctor. Spyware Doctor is a for-pay anti-spyware tool that has consistently ranked number 1, or number 2, on the Best Anti-Spyware lists. The full version is well-worth the $30 price, IMHO. (The full version includes antivirus.)

The Google Pack includes an effective, though non-AV, version of Spyware Doctor, (free!) as well as an impressive list of other applications.
gpackopts

The truly great features of the Google Pack is that you can pick-and-choose which of these programs to download to your machine. (You could, conceivably, download a “pack” of one.) The default selections are shown here, but I would do a little checking and unchecking before I clicked the “Download Google Pack” button.

First, uncheck the “make Google my Homepage” as you probably have already set your desired “Home” for your browser. Also, uncheck the box for Adobe Reader. If you must have a “reader” to open PDF files, use any other free reader (unless you enjoy being hassled while you compute, and prefer a slow boot, and having a security risk onboard), such as Foxit Reader. Do not check Real Player.
You probably don’t need another toolbar.. (see, Toolbar madness)

Those of you who are security conscious (hopefully all of you) should keep the checks in Norton Security Inspector (which includes antivirus and anti-spyware detection) and Spyware Doctor.

I have mentioned the others here before — except for Google Talk, which is Google’s Instant Messaging app, and Google Photos Screensaver. Those of you who want to take advantage of this unique download bundle (excuse me, “pack”) offered by Google, click here.

Today’s free download: (Yes. Another one!) Whenever you buy a new computer, it will come preloaded with all sorts of trialware (as it’s called) that most of us don’t want. If you have just purchased a new PC, download and run the wonderful PC Decrapifier and clean off that *stuff*.

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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October 18, 2009 Posted by | anti-spyware, antivirus, computers, Google, PC, software, tech | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Troubleshoot Runtime Error in Internet Explorer

Recent calls from clients has triggered in me a sense of deja-vu. There was an unusual number of people who were having their IE web browsing session crash, due to a “Runtime Error”.

When I looked at their machines, I kept being reminded of one of my earliest articles, Toolbar madness.

So, I would like to take a moment to reiterate: People, you neither want, nor need, 5 different “media players”, 4 accounting programs, 3 Peer-to-Peer apps.. and – most certainly not – a dozen “toolbars”!
(“Paul, why is my computer so much slower than it used to be?”)

I am not sure if it’s conditioning, simple human curiosity, or what, but people have a tendency to download and install every new thing they stumble across.. So they can “try it”, or “it looked kewl”…

In computing, less is more. You want lean. You want mean. And if you don’t use, remove it!
End rant.

Error message: Runtime Error!! Program: c:\Program Files\Internet Explorer\iexplorer.exe. This application has required the runtime to terminate in an unusual way.

Tip of the day: You can cure this malfunction by knowing that it is caused by a conflict with a (possibly corrupted) installed Add-on. In each and every of my caller’s instance, it was the Google Toolbar – so that’s the place to start your troubleshooting.
[Note: to be fair to the Google toolbar, the corruption probably occurred during an update, and was caused by these people having the Yahoo! toolbar installed also. One or the other, folks.]

The quick-and-dirty solution is to go into Add/Remove Programs and uninstall/re-install the Google toolbar, but the way to be sure – or, if you’re getting this error and don’t have the Google toolbar – is to disable add ons one at a time until the problem goes away.
add-ons.jpg

1) In IE, click on “Tools”, then select “Manage Add-ons”, and then “Enable or Disable Add-ons”, as shown above.

2) A list of installed Add-ons will appear. Start by looking for “Google Toolbar Helper”. Select it, and then click on the “Disable” button.

3) Close, and restart Internet Explorer, and surf normally for a while. If you no longer get crashes and error messages, you’ve found the culprit. An uninstall/re-install is now in order (if you want to keep the toolbar, that is).
If you continue to get crashes, repeat the Steps and disable one more Add-on.. until you find the right one by process of elimination.

Today’s free link: Create your own online newspaper at crayon.net (CReAte Your Own Newspaper). Get just the topics you want from the sources you want.

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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January 2, 2009 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, IE 7, PC, performance, software, troubleshooting, Windows | , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

IE’s Menu bar, Taskbar icons, and bad Updates*

Reader questions this week bring me back to IE 7 and the Taskbar, and a new topic: what to do when an Update causes crashes and other troubles. So today I will not post my usual Tip of the day, but the (hopefully) now familiar “Q’s and their A’s” format.

IE 7 Questions:   (you may want to review my post on IE7 Security zones, and Questions answered, as well.)

Q: My Explorer menu bar disappeared, how do I get it back?
A: In IE version 7, the old familiar menu bar (File, Edit, View, etc.) was removed from the default configuration to ‘streamline’ IE’s look, and quite possibly because Microsoft was aware that people were installing their own toolbars (see “toolbar madness“). To get it back, use a method similar to the one used for Windows’ Taskbar. Click on the down arrow next to the gray “gear” icon marked “Tools” and click on the Menu bar option. Now a checkmark will appear next to it, and your menu bar is back. To keep it there, hover your mouse over the option below Menu bar, “Toolbars”, and click on (select) the “Lock the toolbars” option.
While you’re there, you may want to play around with the “Customize” option and tweak which buttons appear on your bars.

Q: I can’t add a site to my Trusted zone:
A: I answered this in the previous answers post, but this detail is worth repeating: The person was on their personal machine and was running as an administrator, so there’s no problem there. The trouble was they hadn’t cleared the checkbox next to “Require server verification (https:) for all sites in this zone”.https.jpgThe difference is the “s” at the end of “http”, which indicates a special, secured Internet protocol. You will know if you’re on such a Website by the gold lock icon that appears in the URL window (and/or elsewhere on the page). It is an encrypted connection generally only used for electronic payment sites. A check here prevents you from adding regular websites.

Q: Can I make IE block sites when my child is browsing, but allow them for me?
A: This is a great question! And the answers are: yes, sort of, and … how many sites are we talking about? There are a couple of ways to go about this, but I want to spend more time on this topic than there’s room for here today. Protecting your children from the dangers of the Internet is a huge subject. Please see my page on this topic. 

Taskbar question:

Q: What happened to the icons in my Taskbar?
A: These “my icons disappeared” questions depend on if we’re talking about the Notification area (on the right, by the clock), or the Quick Launch area (on the left, by the Start button).
In the Notification area, an icon’s disappearance usually indicates that the “process” has gone idle and is not “running” at the moment.That means it isn’t needed, and hasn’t been needed for quite some time. It will run when it’s needed so, in this case don’t worry about it. In some instances, such as the speaker icon or the the two PC’s network icon,
speaker.jpg
a checkbox has become unchecked and you simply need to check it again. Click on Start >Control Panel >Speakers and Audio devices, and select (check) the “Place an icon in the Taskbar”.

If the Quick Launch icons have disappeared, right-click on a blank area in the Taskbar and select Properties. Click on the Taskbar tab, and place a check in the checkbox labeled “Show Quick Launch”. As I have mentioned before, these Quick Launch icons are simply shortcuts. You can add more shortcuts here by simple drag-and-drop, or remove the ones you never use.

NOTE: If your icons have always been there and then, suddenly, some (or all) of them are gone — you may have picked up some malware. I recommend that you run “deep” antivirus and an anti-spyware scans immediately.

Windows Update:

Q: An Update is causing BSOD’s, what do I do?
A: From time to time a Microsoft security Update will not be compatible with the software and/or device drivers on your machine and the instability will trigger the Blue Screen Of Death (for more on BSOD’s and what to do, see “When good computers go bad“). Usually, Microsoft will repair this and issue a new Update … eventually. In the meantime, remove the Update (If you’re not sure which Update is the perp, remove the most recent ones) by going to Add/Remove Programs in your Control Panel. (Start >Settings >Control Panel >Add/Remove Programs) Now look to the top area and place a check (select) in the “Show updates” checkbox. Now you will be able to see the list of installed Updates.

Click on the Update you want to remove, and click on the Remove button.

Today’s free link: I do NOT recommend uninstalling security updates unless they cause your machine to become inoperable. I am a big fan of security updates and want all my vulnerabilities patched. If you’re like me in that aspect, Secunia’s Personal Software Inspector is for you. While this software is still in beta, it is very good at scanning all your programs and reporting any missing updates and open vulnerabilities. (Thanks Ryan!)

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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May 20, 2008 Posted by | advice, BSOD, computers, how to, IE 7, PC, removing Updates, tech, troubleshooting, tweaks, Vista, Windows, XP | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Taskbar,blue screens,IE 7– Holiday Edition

It is my sincere wish that all of you are enjoying a long Holiday weekend. In that spirit, I am taking the day off and reposting an earlier article that answers reader questions and includes links to several important topics. I hope you didn’t miss yesterday’s article,.. and that you are staying warm. Enjoy.

Reader questions this week bring me back to IE 7 and the taskbar, and a new topic: what to do when an Update causes crashes and other troubles. So today I will not post my usual Tip of the day, but the (hopefully) now familiar “Q’s and their A’s” format.

IE 7 Questions:   (you may want to review my post on IE7 Security zones, and Questions answered, as well.)

Q: My Explorer menu bar disappeared, how do I get it back?
A: In IE version 7, the old familiar menu bar (File, Edit, View, etc.) was removed from the default configuration to ‘streamline’ IE’s look, and quite possibly because Microsoft was aware that people were installing their own toolbars (see “toolbar madness“). To get it back, use a method similar to the one used for Windows’ taskbar. Click on the down arrow next to the grey “gear” icon marked “Tools” and click on the Menu bar option. Now a checkmark will appear next to it, and your menu bar is back. To keep it there, hover your mouse over the option below Menu bar, “Toolbars”, and click on (select) the “Lock the toolbars” option.
While you’re there, you may want to play around with the “Customize” option and tweak which buttons appear on your bars.

Q: I can’t add a site to my Trusted zone:
A: I answered this in the previous answers post, but this detail is worth repeating: The person was on their personal machine and was running as an administrator, so there’s no problem there. The trouble was they hadn’t cleared the checkbox next to “Require server verification (https:) for all sites in this zone”.https.jpgThe difference is the “s” at the end of “http”, which indicates a special, secured internet protocol. You will know if you’re on such a website by the gold lock icon that appears in the URL window (and/or elsewhere on the page). It is an encrypted connection generally only used for electronic payment sites. A check here prevents you from adding regular websites.

Q: Can I make IE block sites when my child is browsing, but allow them for me?
A: This is a great question! And the answers are: yes, sort of, and … how many sites are we talking about? There are a couple of ways to go about this, but I want to spend more time on this topic than there’s room for here today. Protecting your children from the dangers of the Internet is a huge subject. I wrote a series of four articles on it, and to read it click here.

Taskbar question:

Q: What happened to the icons in my taskbar?
A: These “my icons disappeared” questions depend on if we’re talking about the Notification area (on the right, by the clock), or the Quick Launch area (on the left, by the Start button).
In the Notification area, an icon’s disappearance usually indicates that the “process” has gone idle and is not “running” at the moment.That means it isn’t needed, and hasn’t been needed for quite some time. It will run when it’s needed so, in this case don’t worry about it. In some instances, such as the speaker icon or the the two PC’s network icon, speaker.jpga checkbox has become unchecked and you simply need to check it again. Click on Start >Control Panel >Speakers and Audio devices, and select (check) the “Place an icon in the taskbar”.

If the Quick Launch icons have disappeared, right-click on a blank area in the taskbar and select Properties. Click on the Taskbar tab, and place a check in the checkbox labeled “Show Quick Launch”. As I have mentioned before, these Quick Launch icons are simply shortcuts. You can add more shortcuts here by simple drag-and-drop, or remove the ones you never use.

NOTE: If your icons have always been there and then, suddenly, some (or all) of them are gone — you may have picked up some malware. I recommend that you run “deep” antivirus and an anti-spyware scans immediately.

Windows Update:

Q: An Update is causing BSOD’s, what do I do?
A: From time to time a Microsoft security Update will not be compatible with the software and/or device drivers on your machine and the instability will trigger the Blue Screen Of Death (for more on BSOD’s and what to do, see “When good computers go bad“). Usually, Microsoft will repair this and issue a new Update … eventually. In the meantime, remove the Update (If you’re not sure which Update is the perp, remove the most recent ones) by going to Add/Remove Programs in your Control Panel. (Start >Settings >Control Panel >Add/Remove Programs) Now look to the top area and place a check (select) in the “Show updates” checkbox. Now you will be able to see the list of installed Updates.
add1.jpg
Click on the Update you want to remove, and click on the Remove button.

Today’s free link: How about playing some games today.. in light of the long holiday weekend. Hop over to Armor Games for a nice selection of time wasters. These Flash-based games are for kids of all ages.

Copyright © 2007 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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November 24, 2007 Posted by | advice, BSOD, computers, how to, IE 7, kids and the Internet, PC, removing Updates, security zones, System Tray, Taskbar, tech, Windows | , , | 7 Comments

How to block ads (updated)

I have to confess something to you, Dear Reader — I am not a fan of banner ads. Those of you who are loyal readers will remember my recent post on this topic (hint: laser hair removal. I am pleased to report that someone at Hotmail Command read my post and removed that omnipresent ad… or, those folks finally ran out of money). In twenty years of using computers and the Internet, I have clicked on (maybe) two of them.

Tip of the day: Fight back; take steps to eliminate (or reduce) advertisements in your web browser. First of all, I need to point out that there are a few different “types” of Internet advertising presented when you browse the web. The most well-known type is the “pop up” ad, which is relatively easy to block. And there’s an ‘imbedded’ type, which frequently uses Flash animation and is a type of ‘feed’.

To deal with pop ups (and “pop unders”) in IE, make sure the pop up blocker is enabled. Click on the grey gear icon’s (“Tools”) down-arrow and select (click) “Internet Options” and then click on the Privacy tab.
popup.jpg
Make sure there is a check in the checkbox labeled “Turn on Pop-up Blocker.” By default, this tool is set to “Medium” strength — which is designed to let you browse as you’re used to (ie: pages/tabs open when you click on links), and yet catch and eliminate advertisements. This is somewhat effective; if you want to crank up its power, click the Settings button.
settings.jpg
You can use the down-arrow to set the level to High. This will vigorously limit Java Script calls, and will be perhaps a little too effective… you will have to get into the habit of holding down Ctrl+Alt when clicking (hyper)links.

For those of you who have installed a toolbar, you probably have a pop-up blocker working here too. (See my post “toolbar madness”) The Google, Yahoo, and your ISP’s toolbars all have them. These can be “toggled” on and off, and some of them let you adjust the setting (High/Med/Low) somewhat too. That is one of the ‘selling points’ of these toolbars — “protection”. You may want to try one, if you’re not already using one.
But none of these suggestions work tremendously well (unless you set them too high, which quickly becomes annoying) at removing advertising, and do not even try to deal with imbedded ads, but are certainly better than doing nothing. If you have done the above, and are still getting pop-up ads, or if your machine(s) are in an area where the kids can use them, you should consider downloading a 3rd-party app dedicated to pop-up blocking — such as CleanMyPC Popup Blocker 2.1 (free).
For more on Pop-ups, click here.

The other (major) type is much more difficult to thwart, (which we geeks call “ad filtering”) which is understandable from an advertiser’s or marketer’s point of view. I know of no free program that does a good job of this for IE.* (If any of you, Dear Reader does know of one, please let me know.) Firefox user can download the Add on called “AdBlock Plus”. This gives a “blacklist” feature to block known ad servers (like ad.doubleclick.com), and the ability to right-click on an ad, and add it to the “block this” list. This embedded ad blocking is a big factor in Firefox’s popularity!

There are alternatives, if you’re willing to pay. Google (search) “ad filtering” to get some direction. There’s also a method that uses a “proxy”server to download your page request, strip out the ads, and then send it to your browser. For more on that, click here, and scroll down to “External Programs”.

Today’s free link(s): If you were expecting a listing here, you didn’t read the article! Please scroll up two paragraphs.
* update: at the time I wrote this, I wasn’t familiar with SelectView, which is a  free plug-in for IE that simply performs ad-blocking miracles. If you prefer to stick with IE, this tool is for you. It is configurable, and can enable/disable on either a page, or Site basis.

Copyright 2007 © Tech Paul, All Rights Reserved

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August 31, 2007 Posted by | advice, computers, how to, IE 7, PC, privacy, tech, Vista, Windows, XP | 6 Comments

Reposting: Reader questions answered

Due to prior obligations, I am reposting an previous article that, judging from the questions I receive, a lot of you missed. I will have a fresh topic to post tomorrow. This appeared on 7/26.

Reader questions this week bring me back to IE 7 and the taskbar, and a new topic: what to do when an Update causes crashes and other troubles. So today I will not post my usual Tip of the day, but the (hopefully) now familiar “Q’s and their A’s” format.

IE 7 Questions:   (you may want to review my post on IE7 Security zones, and Questions answered, as well.)

Q: My Explorer menu bar disappeared, how do I get it back?
A: In IE version 7, the old familiar menu bar (File, Edit, View, etc.) was removed from the default configuration to ‘streamline’ IE’s look, and quite possibly because Microsoft was aware that people were installing their own toolbars (see “toolbar madness“). To get it back, use a method similar to the one used for Windows’ taskbar. Click on the down arrow next to the grey “gear” icon marked “Tools” and click on the Menu bar option. Now a checkmark will appear next to it, and your menu bar is back. To keep it there, hover your mouse over the option below Menu bar, “Toolbars”, and click on (select) the “Lock the toolbars” option.
While you’re there, you may want to play around with the “Customize” option and tweak which buttons appear on your bars.

Q: I can’t add a site to my Trusted zone:
A: I answered this in the previous answers post, but this detail is worth repeating: The person was on their personal machine and was running as an administrator, so there’s no problem there. The trouble was they hadn’t cleared the checkbox next to “Require server verification (https:) for all sites in this zone”.
https.jpg
The difference is the “s” at the end of “http”, which indicates a special, secured internet protocol. You will know if you’re on such a website by the gold lock icon that appears in the URL window (and/or elsewhere on the page). It is an encrypted connection generally only used for electronic payment sites. A check here prevents you from adding regular websites.

Q: Can I make IE block sites when my child is browsing, but allow them for me?
A: This is a great question! And the answers are: yes, sort of, and … how many sites are we talking about? There are a couple of ways to go about this, but I want to spend more time on this topic than there’s room for here today. Protecting your children from the dangers of the Internet is a huge subject. I will start a series devoted to this tomorrow. (To read this series, click here.)

Taskbar question:

Q: What happened to the icons in my taskbar?
A: These “my icons disappeared” questions depend on if we’re talking about the Notification area (on the right, by the clock), or the Quick Launch area (on the left, by the Start button).
In the Notification area, an icon’s disappearance usually indicates that the “process” has gone idle and is not “running” at the moment.That means it isn’t needed, and hasn’t been needed for quite some time. It will run when it’s needed so, in this case don’t worry about it. In some instances, such as the speaker icon or the the two PC’s network icon,
speaker.jpg
a checkbox has become unchecked and you simply need to check it again. Click on Start >Control Panel >Speakers and Audio devices, and select (check) the “Place an icon in the taskbar”.

If the Quick Launch icons have disappeared, right-click on a blank area in the taskbar and select Properties. Click on the Taskbar tab, and place a check in the checkbox labeled “Show Quick Launch”. As I have mentioned before, these Quick Launch icons are simply shortcuts. You can add more shortcuts here by simple drag-and-drop, or remove the ones you never use.

NOTE: If your icons have always been there and then, suddenly, some (or all) of them are gone — you may have picked up some malware. I recommend that you run “deep” antivirus and an anti-spyware scans immediately.

Windows Update:

Q: An Update is causing BSOD’s, what do I do?
A: From time to time a Microsoft security Update will not be compatible with the software and/or device drivers on your machine and the instability will trigger the Blue Screen Of Death (for more on BSOD’s and what to do, see “When good computers go bad“). Usually, Microsoft will repair this and issue a new Update … eventually. In the meantime, remove the Update (If you’re not sure which Update is the perp, remove the most recent ones) by going to Add/Remove Programs in your Control Panel. (Start >Settings >Control Panel >Add/Remove Programs) Now look to the top area and place a check (select) in the “Show updates” checkbox. Now you will be able to see the list of installed Updates.
add1.jpg
Click on the Update you want to remove, and click on the Remove button.

Today’s free link: I do NOT recommend uninstalling security updates unless they cause your machine to become inoperable. I am a big fan of security updates and want all my vulnerabilities patched. If you’re like me in that aspect, Secunia’s Personal Software Inspector is for you. While this software is still in beta, it is very good at scanning all your programs and reporting any missing updates and open vulnerabilities. (Thanks Ryan!)

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Copyright © 2007 Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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August 17, 2007 Posted by | advice, BSOD, computers, how to, IE 7, kids and the Internet, PC, removing Updates, security, security zones, System Tray, Taskbar, tech, Vista, Windows, XP | 1 Comment