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Issue #246: April 8, 2012

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For the humor impaired among you, last week’s column was a JOKE (April Fools!).  I trust none of you actually went out and attempted to invest your life savings in Micr-Ap.  But enough of this frivolity!  Let’s try to solve a few problems, shall we?

Q: I activated Outlook Express to check on another browser I have installed. After I finished I Forgot about Outlook Express and left on the computer until I started getting a pop-up during boot advising me that Outlook Express could save disk space by compacting the file. No longer having any use for Outlook express I went to the folder, deleted all the e-mail I could find and removed Outlook Express. Since this is a part of Windows it is never completely removed from the machine and I continue to get the pop-up box. I cannot locate anything I forgot to remove but it appears that I did. Can you tell me why I’m still getting the pop-up and how to get rid of it? I am using XP Home edition.

Bill I.
Fort Walton Beach, Florida

 A: I hope you mean that you activated it to check on another e-mail client, Bill, because I don’t think OE would be very useful to check on a browser.  The issue of getting OE to quit asking about compacting has been handled in the column before, but it’s certainly worth repeating, as I know of quite a few people who are still chugging along happily on Win XP and have no desire to move to Win7, much less Win8 or beyond.

I can’t really put my finger on exactly why you’re still getting the popup except to repeat what you said – apparently you missed something in the uninstallation.  No matter – you can force it to stop asking with a simple registry modification.  The usual cautions and caveats of mucking about in the system registry apply here, so proceed with caution.

To edit the registry, click the Start button, and select “Run…”.  Enter REGEDIT and click “Ok”.  In the Registry Editor, use the tree control on the left side, and navigate through the various keys to find

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Identities\{GUID}\Software\Microsoft\Outlook Express\5.0

I cannot know how this will format or break across columns when it publishes in the newspaper displays in your browser, so locate it manually, rather than trying to do a search.  The part above that says “GUID” will actually be string of characters that are unique to your computer’s installation of OE.  Once you’ve found the key, open it, and locate value “Compact Check Count”.  Double-click to open it, and enter a zero where it says “Value data:” then click “Ok” and close the Registry Editor.  If you did it right, you’ve now told OE not to prompt you anymore.  You can see the original discussion on this issue on my website at ItsGeekToMe.co/2009/11/issue-120/.

Q: Recently I received emails purportedly from my son as they showed they were from his AOL email address.  They were obviously spam.   Other people received the same ones.  He has since changed his AOL password.  Should be not also change his AOL email address?

J. W.
Niceville, Fla

A: Things aren’t always what they seem when it comes to SPAM e-mail.  The e-mails may have been SPAM, and although your son may not have sent them, in a very important way, they were from him.  At least, they were from his computer.  You didn’t say, but I’m going to guess that he changed his AOL password, but that didn’t stop the SPAM.  He could change the e-mail address also, but that likely wouldn’t stop the SPAM either.  The problem here is that you’re employing tactics that assume his e-mail account has been hijacked.  That’s actually not a very common occurrence, especially among spammers, despite what people think.  What’s far more likely is that he has acquired a piece of malware that is utilizing his internet connection when he’s logged in.  Such malware doesn’t need to steal his credentials – he supplies them himself to log in to his provider.  As long as he’s connected, the malware is free to send all the e-mail it wants, and it is using the names from his contact list to do it.  Find the malware, and the problem will go away.  No need to change anything else.


 

Bonus Web-only Content:

You may have noticed the term “GUID” that was used in today’s column.  That word, commonly pronounced “GWID” or “GOO-ID” is an acronym for “Globally Unique Identifier”.  Although their name implies that they are unique, if you stop and think about it, there is no way they can be unique, because they are comprised of a finite number of computer bits, and therefore have a finite number of possible values.  GUIDs are 128-bit values, meaning there are 2128 possible values.  It is considered “globally unique” because the number of possible values is so astronomically large that the probability of the same two exact values being generated randomly twice is so small as to be statistically insignificant.

Being essentially numeric data, GUIDs can be represented in a number of ways.  Under Windows, GUIDs are represented as a 32-character hexadecimal (base 16) string, usually surrounded by curly braces.  It’s a reasonable compromise for a value as large as it is so that it can still be manually typed if necessary.

The GUID usage represented in today’s column is typical of the way that they are used in Windows.  When a program is installed on a Windows PC, a GUID is generated and stored in the registry.  Windows recognizes the program by its GUID rather than its name, and most configuration data stored in the registry for a program is indexed by the GUID.  That’s the key value that needed to be modified to fix Bill I.’s problem had a GUID embedded in it.

Perhaps you also now understand why tromping through the registry when you don’t know what you’re doing can be so dangerous.  There can be dozens, hundreds, even thousands of GUIDs in the registry, and it takes a computer to correctly index and process them all.  It can be quite difficult for a human to navigate that morass to make even simple changes in the registry.

Until next week – good luck and happy computing!

– Geek

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