Jewish World Review Dec. 23, 2003 / 28 Kislev, 5764


Special cable navigates USB, parallel ports; more on restoring backed-up files on CDs; getting rid of the Google tool bar

By James Coates

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | (KRT) Q. I have several DOS programs that I still use, running under the DOS prompt in Windows 98. One of them provides printer output, but only to the parallel port. My printer is connected to a USB port. Is there any way to have the operating system divert output being sent to the parallel port and redirect it to the USB port?

These are programs which I wrote myself some years ago, and they do things that cannot be done with any other available software, which is why I would like to be able to divert the output.

Fred Levit, Wilmette

A. The solution to getting a printer to work with DOS while using a new USB-driven printer is to acquire a special cable that plugs in to the parallel port on one end and the USB port on the other. These cables are much slower than the new USB devices, but they are wired so that the computer sees them exactly as though the old equipment were in use. Your DOS software will see the printer at LPT 1 through the USB port just as it did before with the parallel port.

Be sure to find USB/parallel cables designated as bidirectional, which is required for printers but not for some other devices. Suppliers include Belkin at Belkin.com and Buslink at Buslink.com. Computer stores offer these devices as well.

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And now, Mr. L., permit me some commentary:

Don't you just love the way progress in the technology world always means the new stuff isn't just better than the old stuff, but the new stuff also attempts to make the old stuff no longer useable?

It might be overlooked in the home environment, but huge inconvenience awaits businesses, particularly small businesses that got by just fine with DOS-based programs but need modern computers for things like Web browsing, graphics work and such. As part of the planned obsolescence, Microsoft and other leading sellers have designated the parallel ports and the accompanying serial ports as "legacy equipment" and have stopped including them on newer equipment.

This, of course, forces the majority of consumers to abandon their "legacy" equipment like perfectly good scanners, printers and even some digital cameras, and buy costly replacements.

Q. First I wanted to say that I love your column and have learned a lot of things that have been useful in my job in tech support. I wanted to comment on an earlier column. It was a situation where the user had backed up files using a CD, but when restoring them to the computer, they all came in as read-only.

You suggested right-clicking on each, then deselecting the "read-only" box. I wanted to share that I have been able to select as many files as I needed, then right-click, then deselect read-only. This changes the properties of all of the files in the group.

Roberta Levin, Evanston

A. How's the old joke go? Do you want a cup with that coffee, Mr. Coates?

As you and many other savvy readers pointed out, I left something out of my answer about fixing the vexing "read only" problem when storing files on CDs. To recap: When Windows saves a file to a CD, it automatically assigns a read-only attribute to the file. If you drag such a file back onto your computer and try to edit it, you won't be permitted to do so until this attribute is changed. I diligently described the process of removing the read-only attribute from files but didn't carry the thought to how to perform the move on batches of files all at once.

So here's the deal. You can select a stack of files by painting them all with the mouse; hold down the Control key and select them one at a time or use the Control + A keys to select them all if they are in a folder with no other type of files.

Then if you right-click any one of the icons and click Properties, you will get the box for removing the read-only attribute. Change that one file and all of the selected files will become writeable.

Q. My problem boils down to getting rid of the Google toolbar that I installed in Microsoft Internet Explorer to stop pop-ups from Web pages. Due to previous problems with pop-ups and porn sites taking over my computer, I changed ISPs and switched from IE to Opera.

I can't say enough good things about Opera. If there were any justice, they would eat away at Microsoft's market share (but I'm not going to hold my breath!). My machine ran pop-up-free (until Google's toolbar) and my browsing experience was much faster and much improved.

The problem is that pop-ups have returned worse than ever with the Google toolbar, about one a minute, although they seem to come in waves. The toolbar seems to be hooked into IE, because I get the IE icon on my taskbar at the bottom of the screen. Google does not seem to have any support for their new toolbar, but I sent an e-mail to them anyway, without getting a response.

Bob Sims, Mountain View, Calif.

A. Your question dramatizes the fact that folks who add that spiffy (for most of us) new Google toolbar to our Web browsers are using software that doesn't come with much technical support. I have written glowingly about the business-strength features gained by installing the toolbar plug-in on Windows versions of the Microsoft Web browser because it stops pop-ups and gives very quick access to breaking news, stock prices and such. It can be acquired at Toolbar.Google.com.

So let's start by emphasizing that I haven't heard of any other case of pop-ups increasing rather than ending with the new toolbar. Maybe there is a strange synergy where the ever-more popular alternate browser Opera nullifies the pop-up blocker on your one machine, Mr. S.

Google does admit that some other browser plug-ins create serious conflicts with the toolbar.

There are two ways to uninstall the Google toolbar, and they need to get far better circulation than they get from Google's staff. Easiest is to look for the little down arrow to the left of the search box in the toolbar. Click it and some options drop down, including one for Help. Pick it and you'll get an uninstall command.

Or, one can use the Add/Remove software command. Click on Start and Control Panel and you'll find an icon for Add/Remove software. Google toolbar should be listed among all the other programs there. It is on all of my machines, at any rate.

On my machines the toolbar works flawlessly, blocking pop-ups and streamlining my day's work. I'll continue to recommend it but keep an eye peeled for other tales of woe just in case.

Also, to avoid being reminded that I left something out of this answer, let me add that one can acquire the Opera Web browser at Opera.com. It now is in version 7 and costs $39; Internet Explorer is built into Windows, and Google's toolbar is free.

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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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