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Issue #342: February 9, 2014

Q:   I LOVE YOUR COLUMN! I am a visitor to this area and look forward to it each week.  I am starting to get attachments that are .mime files and I am unable to open them. I get a message that there is no program associated with them. They open on my iPhone, but not on my computer.  Also, do you know why when I take my hand off my mouse to type, my entry screen disappears and reverts back to the desktop? All I have to do is wiggle the mouse and I’m back in business, but as soon as I let go, I lose the screen. This is s-o-o frustrating.

– Diana F.
DeFuniak Springs, Florida

A:  THANK-YOU!  I love my readers!  I hope you know that you don’t have to live locally to get my column.  Each week’s edition publishes on my website, usually at midnight on Sunday.  Check it out!

I get .mime files in my e-mail too, and I usually just ignore them.  They’re not really e-mail content so much as they are metadata (data about the e-mail message).  Not to be confused with similarly named non-speaking character actors who perform in white-face makeup, the MIME we’re talking about stands for Multipurpose Internet Mail Extension. It’s an Internet standard that extends the format of e-mail, which was originally designed to send plain unadorned text.  Mime allows e-mails to support multiple character sets, contain file attachments that are not text files, embedded images and more.  Most of the time you can simply allow .mime to do its job, and “pay no attention to the man (mime) behind the curtain”.

The reason you get the message that there is no program associated with mime files is that, well, there is no program associated with mime files on your PC.  Windows uses the file extension to do a lookup in the registry to see what program is associated with any given extension.  When it finds a match, it launches that program, and loads the file into it.  When it does not find a match, you get the error you mentioned.  If you absolutely insist on seeing the contents of a .mime file, you have a couple of options.  First, if they’re viewable on your iPhone, look at them there.  If you’d rather use your computer, you’ll need a piece of software capable of processing and displaying the contents of a .mime file (the actual extension could also be .mim or even .mme).  I suggest you start with a Google search for “mime file viewer for windows” and go from there.

The answer to your second question is yes, I am the Geek, and it’s my job to know these things.  But I suppose you actually want to know more than whether I know the answer.  Okay, fine!  The actual reason this is happening is because there is more going on here than meets the eye.  You aren’t just simply “taking your hand off the mouse”.  Go ahead, try it – move the mouse around, then carefully remove your hand.  See, nothing happened.  Now, take your mouse, and intentionally move your cursor all the way to the lower right corner.  Poof!  If you can still read this, wiggle it slightly as you described, and voilà!  Everything comes back.  What’s actually happening when your screen “disappears” is that without thinking about it, you have moved your mouse cursor down and off to one side to get it out of the way while you type.  In doing so, you’re inadvertently activating a feature of Windows 7 called “Aero Peek”, which is intended as a way to get a quick view the Windows Desktop.  You might even have noticed that a tooltip that says “Show Desktop” pops up when your cursor is over the rectangle in the lower corner.  Unfortunately (Thanks, Bill!) Microsoft decided to put this activation zone in a location that many people (including you and yes, me) commonly use to “park” the mouse cursor temporarily.  You can disable Aero Peek, and thus solve your problem, by right-clicking on the Windows taskbar, and selecting “Properties”.  Uncheck the box labeled “Use Aero Peek to preview the desktop” and click “OK”.

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