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Hard part of Apple is unlearning Windows

Well, lots of mail filled the box (including more than 100,000 mails from Apple enthusiasts) over the last couple of weeks . . . let's get right to it.

Question: I hope you ended up finding your applications in your new Apple iBook. If you have not found them by now, try double-clicking on the hard drive icon in the upper right corner.

Answer: Yeah, I figured that out. The hardest part about learning the Apple is unlearning the Windows environment. Even tougher is I use both about 50/50, so now I am not truly comfortable in either world, at this point.

Question: After I installed a free screen saver program in Windows XP I found my PC was inundated with pop-ups. Is that program letting them in?

Answer: Probably. There is nothing free on the Internet. Everything you install, from that free solitaire game to that free screen saver to that free utility, probably has spyware or adware attached to it. What these nutcases are doing now is putting their wares into these "free" tools (need free smileys or emoticons?) and waiting for unsuspecting people to install them. Here is a quick rule of thumb: Never install anything cute from the Web. Never install anything free without checking with a knowledgeable person.

Question: Why doesn't someone invent something to remove all this spyware junk?

Answer: Well, there are dozens of utilities out there. The trouble is there is a war going on between the junk writers and the utility writers. As utilities are written, the scum writers come out with something that beats the system. As a rule it takes about a dozen utilities, used in the right order, plus some manual tinkering with the registry and file directories, to clean most Windows PCs. Many of these pests reinstall themselves even if you figure out how to get rid of them the first time. (And on a Mac? Rarely, if ever, infected with anything because of the way it is designed.)

Question: What is reasonable in terms of laptop battery performance? I am getting less than an hour for my laptop and it is driving me crazy.

Answer: Well, there are a couple of variables here. First of all, you can adjust the brightness of your screen while on battery power to preserve battery power. You also can adjust how long the hard drive stays spinning. Enter the Control Panel, then Power Options.

You also can see if you have a Ni-Cad battery (not as good) or a Lithium-Ion battery (better). Check with a battery store (like Batteries Plus) to see if there is a battery upgrade for your model. If you truly are seeing less than an hour, you may have a bad battery.

Also, some models (such as Dell Latitudes) can hold more than one battery so you can extend the battery life that way. In terms of what is "standard" or normal, most laptops get two or three hours.

Question: I am seeing an icon now for Microsoft Update now in my system tray. What is that for?

Answer: Microsoft is enhancing Windows Update with Microsoft Update, which is supposed to update not only Windows but also other Microsoft products such as Office at the same time. It's a good idea if it works.

(The last time I tried to update Office it wanted the original CD, which I never received because Office came pre-installed on my new PC.)

WEEKLY WEB WONDER: Obviously the tragedy with Hurricane Katrina has proved yet again how important the Internet has become. Some people even were rescued because of Web postings about their locations. Please give generously to the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Feed the Children or another charity to help the victims.

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