Network Productivity Group

... a computer consultancy


The tip...

There are really five tips here today but four of them may be of less than general interest.  Let's start with the one that might have the most interest.

Do you get dropped by your "ISP" or "Internet Service Provider" (AOL, Earthlink, MSN, NetZero), or get bust signals when you dial them?  There are generally two causes, a "dirty" phone line or a busy server at their end.  There is little you can do about a dirty phone line.  The telephone company's attitude is, "If you can talk on it then it is okay."    Besides re-dialing until you connect there are two things you can try.  If you have two phone lines, call the number on your "regular" phone and while listening to that screech and scream, try connecting with your computer.  The hope is that your "regular" connection will grab the bad line while your computer gets a better one.  The second idea is to connect to another number.  Most ISPs have list of local numbers you can try and if a bad line or an overworked server causes your poor service, perhaps another number will get a different phone line or a different server and better service.  Try it.

However, maybe you would like to make sure that your machine is okay.  You can test your modem.  There are several paths to this test but we will take the most obvious (and based on what we have seen of Windows ME and 2000, the one I think Microsoft is encouraging).  First you must stop any program that might be using the modem.  This can include your browser (Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator, AOL, etc.), your e-mail program (Outlook, Outlook Express, Netscape Communicator, AOL, Eudora, etc.), any fax software, ACT! dialer, etc., etc. When they are all stopped, go to Start>>Settings>>Control Panel>>Modems.  Hopefully there you will see just one modem.  At the top are two tabs, "General" and "Diagnostics".  Click on "Diagnostics" then the COM port that contains your modem and then "More Info".  If you have stopped all your modem-using programs and you get a ""Port already open" message, try a re-boot.  If you still get a "Port already open" message after the re-boot, you may have a "Trojan horse" type virus.  Try a virus scan.  If the problem persists, you may need help.

If you don't get the Port open message, the modem should test and, hopefully, test okay.  While this is not a 100% indication that your connection problems are with your ISP it is a pretty good start.

Now, a bit more esoteric.  If you are on a local area network and not connecting to the rest of the network you can also test your "network interface card" (NIC)'s basic functions.  To do this you need to go to the "DOS Prompt".  You should see that on your Start>>Programs menu.  If you don't see it there, try Start>>Run and type in "command".  If that doesn't work, call me.  From the DOS prompt, type in "ping".  The "127" thing is a special "IP" address dedicated to your "NIC".  The "ping" command will send the NIC four test strings and report back on the result.  If you get four positive responses it means your NIC is okay and the problem is more complex.  If you get a negative response (usually a "timeout") then you need to replace or reinstall your NIC card.  Try reinstall first.

A bit more esoteric still.  I know a few of you "bit twiddlers" out there have encountered this problem and this solution is so-o-o-o-o much easier than what I showed you before, I think you will love it.  Let us say that you have Publisher and every time you open a "jpg" file, Publisher started and opened the file.  Now you've installed Adobe Macramé (hey, I just made it up, okay!), and now when you try to open a "jpg" you get Macramé but you would prefer Publisher.  The previous solution involved opening Windows Explorer, etc.  An easier way to "fix" this: while holding down the SHIFT key, RIGHT click the file name.  The pop up menu that appears will have the item "Open with…".  LEFT click on that and a list of all the registered "exe's" on your system will appear.  If you can recognize Publisher (or whatever you want) you can then select it as well as "Always use this program…".  The last option means that until something else upsets this apple cart, Publisher and only Publisher will open your "jpgs".

Now, the really esoteric.  How to find "Publisher's" real name?  Follow Start>>Programs>>etc. to Publisher and RIGHT click that name or icon.  In the pop menu that appears, LEFT click "Properties" and in the dialog box that then appears select the tab "SHORTCUT" and look in the field "Target".  In there you should see the "path" to Publisher (the folders that the program resides in) and at the end  "xxxxxxxxx.exe".  The "xxxxxxxxx" is Publisher's "real" name.

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