Jewish World Review June 2, 2004 / 13 Sivan, 5764


Certifiable e-mail receipt doesn't register; simple way to install firewall?; more

By James Coates

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | (KRT) Q. In my business I send lots of e-mails. Is there an easy way to use some sort of e-mail to tell me when my mail has been opened — sort of like registered mail?

—Dean A. Braly

A. The short answer, Mr. B., is not really. Nothing even faintly matching US Postal Service-delivered registered mail exists online.

The longer answer is that various programs can be set to allow the user to automatically verify receiving a message if the sender asks for a confirmation. Where I work, the bosses set our Microsoft Outlook e-mail to automatically confirm receipt when asked, and even to tell the sender whether we've opened the message.

I am not guilty of that kind of friendliness on the accounts I use away from the job because it gives me the creepy-crawlies to tell senders if and when I get a message, and, most particularly, when I opened it.

OK, I'm an urban paranoid, but if a burglar sent an e-mail on Monday and got a message back that I opened it, he could send me notes on Tuesday, and if I wasn't home to open them, the burglar could open my house.

Sending a confirmation also sort of promises that there will be a response, when it is a sad fact of the information age that almost none of us can find time to answer all the notes that arrive in our e-mail inboxes.

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Here are the mechanics of the limited receipt/confirmation tools in Outlook and Outlook Express:

To access the confirmation commands in Outlook, click on the Tools command while displaying your inbox. Then click on Options and select E-mail options in the next display. Click on the Tracking Options in the next box, and you will find a series of check boxes that let you ask for a confirmation with every note you send and let you order the software to send confirmation to those who request it.

In the popular Outlook Express, these same settings are made by clicking on Tools and then Options to display a menu with multiple tabs, including one marked Receipts.

Other e-mail programs have their own settings. AOL, for example, will let you request a notification from other America Online e-mail users only.

Any of this is a far cry from having a uniformed letter carrier obtain a signature under penalty of federal law, but it also costs far less. Meanwhile, I'm waiting for the day when they start sending subpoenas by e-mail — "confirmation requested."

Q. Is there a simple way to install a firewall? The systems I tried seemed awful complicated for a not-too-swift 84-year-old, but I am trying.

—Joe Glen, Plantation, Fla.

A. A lot of all-too-swift businesses and other folks also find setting up a firewall vexing, but there is some good news coming, Mr. G.

Sometime in the next few months, Microsoft will change Windows XP to automatically create a firewall as the default. This is among a raft of serious security patches included in what is called Service Pack 2 for Windows XP, a patch that users will download and install. Then your problem will be pretty much solved, unless you decide that the Internet Connection Firewall built into Windows XP is too promiscuous.

I recently reviewed a $150 box called AlphaShield (www.alphashield.com) that may be the ultimate answer to the firewall confusion.

You plug your Internet connection into the box and plug the AlphaShield box into your PC. By concealing your computer's IP address, it makes you invisible to all the outfits that seek out vulnerable open ports to launch attacks. It also deflects those that come in by random generators and other tricks, making AlphaShield a somewhat costly but bulletproof firewall.

Meanwhile, it's not all that difficult to set Windows XP's built-in firewall while awaiting Service Pack 2. Just open the My Network Places icon and right-click on the listing for the local area network or other port you use. Pick Properties and then look for the Advanced Tab in the next display. You will find a check box to activate the Internet Connection Firewall that shuts down the so-called UDP, or user datagram protocol, ports.

Q. I built a computer using Windows XP for my father. I installed a new disk drive to serve as the main C: drive. After getting the new system set up, I pulled his old drive out of the old computer and installed it as the F: drive.

How can he get his old mail messages out of Outlook Express off of his old drive and onto the new one?

—Collin McKahin

A. It's far easier to just point Outlook Express on the new drive to the data file on the old drive, where your father's past and current e-mail files are, Mr. M.

This is because Microsoft chooses some difficult codes for naming the folders used for Outlook Express, and it's difficult to accurately create a new folder on a new drive with the old Outlook Express material. The command for selecting a folder for e-mail and addresses in Outlook Express is summoned by clicking on Tools and Options and then the Maintenance tab.

There you will find a button for the Store Folder, where the data should go. Clicking that item lets you point the software to the old data on that second hard drive.

The trick to doing this kind of tweaking is to use the Search tool built into Windows to find the folder you need and then make a copy of its address to paste into the Store Folder tool.

For example, here is how the folder is listed on my machine:

It will take searching, but you'll soon have your dad's data where it needs to be.

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James Coates is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Let us know what you think of this column by clicking here.

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