Q. The little speaker icon disappeared from the bottom of my screen. How can I get that back?
A. Piece of digital cake! Just click My Computer > Control Panel, then click the Multimedia icon (labeled Sounds and Multimedia in some versions of Windows). Check the "Show Volume Control" on the Taskbar box and click OK. Presto icono! The little speaker icon will once again appear in your System Tray -- the little area near the time display in the lower right-hand corner of your screen.
Q. I'd like to have my own Web site. How can I find out if the name I want for my address is available?
A. To determine if anyone has registered a particular domain name -- frequently referred to as a .com (dot-com) or .net, .org, etc. -- you can perform a search using the Whois Registry located at www.networksolutions.com/en_US/whois.
So what do the cryptic .com, .net, .org letters mean? These identifiers are called domain extensions, and each describes the type of organization or focus of a particular domain name. For example, the extension .com denotes a commercial organization; .net refers to a network; .org is supposed to be for nonprofit organizations (though it isn't always); .edu is for educational institutions; .gov for government related Web sites; and .mil for the military.
A number of new domains have been approved for use so you'll soon start to see .info, .tv, .biz, .name, and .ws -- for Web Site.
Q. What is a "flame" within the context of the Internet?
A flame is a hostile or negative response to an email message or newsgroup posting. Most flames are intended to be provocative. If you're at the receiving end of one of these digital diatribes, don't take the bait. The best defense against a flamer is silence: Simply ignore these juvenile attempts at provocation. It's only "fun" for the flamer if he or she can elicit a response. It's the online equivalent of a small child or Britney Spears "acting out" to gain attention.
Q. I have an older computer that's rapidly running out of hard-drive space. Windows 98 gives me the option of converting to FAT 32 to gain more space. I'm not sure what that means, but I would like to gain the space. Should I make the conversion or is that asking for trouble?
A. There's really no downside to converting unless you think there's a chance that you might be changing back to Windows 95 -- which would be highly unusual. If you switch to FAT 32, there is no turning back.
FAT stands for File Allocation Table, which is what Windows uses to remember how it stores your computer's files and other data. Because FAT 32 is more efficient than the FAT 16 version you're currently using, you could wind up with about 30 percent more hard-drive space once you make the switch.
To perform the conversion, click Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools >Drive Converter (FAT32), then using the Drive Converter Wizard, you'll be escorted through the rest of the conversion.
The Converter Wizard does an excellent job of warning you about possible problems, so be sure to read each screen carefully, and don't hesitate to cancel the conversion if you get the heebie-jeebies (term of art) during the process.
Mr. Modem's Web Sites of the Week:
As a native New Englander, this time of year always brings back memories of crisp fall air and spectacular leaves providing a colorful last hurrah before the bleakness of winter sets in. Here are a few sites dedicated to nature's Crayola's:
The Foliage Network
This network of "leaf spotters" file reports twice a week and provide accurate foliage information for various locations throughout the United States
Guide to Fall Foliage by StormFax
State hotline numbers and links to sites for up-to-the-minute information.
Why Leaves Change Colors
Brought to you by the good folks at AccuWeather, here you can find out why autumn colors occur, how weather affects the colors, what mysterious force triggers leaves to fall, when the best time is to see autumn colors, and as enjoyable as the colors are for we leafpeepers, what does this seasonal spectacular do for the tree?
(For prompt, personal answers to your computer questions, subscribe to Mr. Modem's weekly newsletter at www.MrModem.com. Read Mr. Modem's column each month in "Smart Computing" magazine. For a free issue, visit www.MrModem.com and click the "Smart Computing/Mr. Modem" logo.)