Christmas is coming, and the columnist is getting fat: Let's get some last-minute questions out of the way.

Question: How common, or uncommon, is it that the new Internet Explorer 6 Service Pack 1 does not work on a particular PC? Last spring, when the update first came out, I downloaded it. After doing this, my entire desktop disappeared; including the taskbar. Not knowing what happened I took my computer to the shop, and they determined it was the Explorer 6 pack. They backed the computer up to the previous Explorer and everything was OK again. They said they have found that Explorer 6 sometimes affects some computers this way. I still keep getting these critical update reminders. Should I continue to ignore them or do you think it's safe to download it again?

Answer: I have one PC that IE 6 simply won't run on at all. If you have had bad luck, just ignore that reminder. A look at the IE support groups shows a good number of people are reporting issues, but given the millions of users it is likely that some element in certain computers is causing it.

Question: I would like to get my husband a cordless mouse for Christmas. What is your recommendation?

Answer: I like the cordless mice from Microsoft, especially the new ones. Access www.microsoft.com and select the hardware division, where you can see the offerings. They vary from $20 to $60 depending on your needs. Battery life is much better than before (lasting six months or more), and the response is excellent. There are warehouse clubs that offer the best pricing; next-best is online merchants.

Question: I have a new Dell computer. It has Roxio on it. I am having a problem using my read-write CD drive to back-up things. I can't seem to back-up to the CD like I could to a floppy disk. Do I need a special program to do this?

Answer: Use the "Direct CD" feature of Roxio that lets you drag and drop files. It is rarely necessary to back up the whole PC anymore if you have CDs of your applications. Also, make sure you have the latest patch to your CD software from www.roxio.com.

Question: I'm looking for a program that will alphabetize a list of items for me. Advice?

Answer: Easiest thing I can think of is Microsoft Excel, which is likely already on your PC. Put the data in one column, then highlight the column, hit Data, then Sort, then pick Ascending A-Z.

Question: Who do you think will win the DVD burner war, plus format or minus? If I can't get a dual-format burner, which should I go with?

Answer: I bought a minus format because the blank media was cheaper. I don't know who will win the format war, but I am betting on minus since it was first and has the largest installed base. For those who do not know, there has been a format war like VHS and Beta going on for years.

WEEKLY WEB WONDER: It's not Christmas everywhere, you know. For what you can do to help, you can check out www.amnesty.org.


James Derk is new media editor for The Evansville Courier & Press. He can be reached at his e-mail address, jderk@evansville.net.