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Poor Leo's 2002 Computer Almanac — Daily Computing Tips

This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Tips, tricks, and solutions to your computer problems. Leo Laporte, high-energy host of TechTV's Call for Help and The ScreenSavers, shares his wit and wisdom in this entertaining book for tech enthusiasts. Poor Leo's 2002 Computer Almanac includes Windows, Mac, and Web tips each week; Leo's answers to viewer questions; "For Geeks Only" advanced projects; and advice for protecting the safety, security, and privacy of users and data.

LEO'S ESSAY: A LEVER TO MOVE THE WORLD

The ancient Greek scientist, Archimedes, once said, "Give me a lever and a place to stand and I will move the Earth." Today, you have that lever: the personal computer.

A lever amplifies the power of human muscle to accomplish otherwise impossible tasks. The computer amplifies the human mind to give it undreamt-of power and scope. With your computer you can converse with people all over the world. You can find nearly any nugget of information with just a few browser clicks. You can create works of art and enjoy the creations of others.

But nothing this powerful and complex comes without a price. In this case, the price is study. You wouldn't expect to pick up a violin and play it without practicing. You shouldn't expect to master the PC without spending some time learning how it works.

Fortunately, the computer is much easier to learn than the violin—and it doesn't sound quite so much like a screeching cat when you first start out. Begin by picking one program to master. New computers come with dozens of programs. Trying to learn them all at once would be like trying to learn a dozen foreign languages at the same time. Choose software in which you are interested and will likely use a lot, maybe a word processor or a home finance program. Start by skimming through the manual. Become comfortable with the basics, and then return to the manual to learn more advanced techniques. You might want to pick up a book or two to supplement the manual. You don't need to learn how to do everything. Just focus on the tasks you need the most. You don't have to know everything about the program; you just need to know how to use it to do what you want.

When you're proficient with one program, extending what you know to other programs will be easy. In time, you'll be a master of the computer, and with mastery comes power.

Reporters once asked Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams, coordinator of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, how she managed to make such a difference. She said that she couldn't have done it without e-mail. With the help of a computer, every individual has the power to change the world. Now go out and do your stuff.

FRIDAY, MARCH 1

LAPORTE SUPPORT

Q: How do I run Java files?

A: That's a simple question with a complicated answer.

Java is a programming language that is widely used on the Internet, chiefly because Java programs can run unmodified on nearly any computer. Java does require some support software to work on your system, but chances are good you already have everything you need.

All versions of Netscape Navigator and versions of Microsoft's Internet Explorer before 6.0 support Java right out of the box. You can run any Java program embedded in a Web page just by opening that page. All Macintosh computers come with Java support, too.

Unfortunately, Microsoft no longer provides Java support in Windows XP or versions of Internet Explorer 6 or later. If you're using XP and you visit a Web page with an embedded Java program, one of two things will happen. If the Web page has been updated to support the Java Plug-in standard, the browser will automatically download the files it needs. The Java program won't run on Web sites that still use the <applet> tag. In that case, you'll have to download the support files by hand.

You can get the necessary Java Runtime Environment, or JRE, for Windows XP free from Sun Microsystems at java.sun.com/j2se/1.3/jre/download-windows.html. It's a little over 5MB, but you need to download and install it only once.

The JRE also is required to run standalone Java applications on your computer. If you're using a program written in Java, it probably came with a JRE. If not, the program's documentation should explain how to download and install the additional files you need.

When the JRE is installed, you can run Java applications from the DOS prompt by typing java followed by the name of the java class file you wish to run. You also can use a program called Java Runner for Windows. It's free from www.programfiles.com/index.asp?ID=8050.

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