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Computer Central

Tech questions and answers
by James Derk
Scripps Howard News Service

January 26, 2005

Letters are in the box and I can't keep up with them all, but let's get to the most common ones.

Q: You mentioned turning off Instant Messaging within Outlook to speed it up. I can't find that setting. Where is it?

A: It's not in Outlook Express, only Outlook, and then only in certain versions of Outlook. I know of Outlook XP and Outlook 2002, but there could be more. To see if you can turn it off, open Outlook. Hit Tools, then Options, then Other. At the bottom, there is "Enable Instant Messaging in Outlook." Uncheck that.

If you missed the earlier column, this is for those who are seeing some delays and lags in the performance of Outlook. If you don't see that option, don't worry about it.

Q: Do you think the Apple Mini computer is a good value?

A: Well, at $499 it certainly is a low price point for an Apple product, but keep in mind that it comes with nothing (no keyboard, no monitor, no mouse) so your real cost will approach that of a normal sized Apple and exceed that of a Windows-based PC.

After the initial buzz wears off, keep it in mind as an option, especially if you already have the Apple keyboard, mouse and monitor. What Apple is doing right is design, support and sales. Apple stores are a work of art.

What Apple fails at, apparently, is manufacturing and its supply chain. The company tends to run out of every hot product it brings to market. That and battery design; the battery for my 40 GB iPod lasts about a minute and a half.

Q: How do you get Microsoft's new spyware tools?

A: One you get from Windows Update. It's called the "Malicious Software Removal Tool" and allegedly updates itself and works in the background. I suspect it does nothing, but it beats ramming your head into the hall.

The other is the Windows AntiSpyware Beta. You can get that free from the Microsoft Web site ( It's a beta product (meaning it's almost ready for market) and currently only works on Windows XP and Windows 2000 systems.

The first product has never found anything on my systems; the second isn't bad, probably worth adding to your tool belt.

Q: What is the free anti-virus product you recommend? Is it is good as the paid products? Why is it free?

A: AVG from Grisoft ( is free for certain users; check its Web site to see if you qualify. Home users get it free.

It's powerful, well-rated and easy to use. As Norton gets more expensive and Microsoft readies its own solution, this whole market is going to change dramatically. As for if it's as good as paid products, I refer you to the respected virus bulletin ( where you can judge for yourself what to buy based on test results. You also can check PC World, which also tests virus products.

As for why it's free, some companies give away products to gain market share, some do it to encourage business customers to buy the product and some do it to hurt competitors.

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James Derk is co-owner of CyberDads, a computer repair company, and a computer columnist for Scripps Howard News Service. His e-mail address is jim(at)


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