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Published 06-Feb-2003

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To answer all our "What's this program for?", "How do I...?" and "What does this mean?" questions, Windows has a help system. It's certainly been improved over the years to answer all questions, except the most technical, we all have at one time or another.

To start the new computing year, then, explore what help you already have on your system - the answer is more than likely just a click away. Try help's search feature and the index feature, too, if you can't see what you want under the main topic headings.

Windows not only has an overall help system but each program has its own. So you want to know what you can do with the Windows Media Player? Start it up and explore its help files. What use is WordPad? Notepad? Movie Maker? Start these programs and look through each program's help files to find what they do and how to do it.

  Something for nothing  

One aspect of exploring the help files of various program is that you'll begin to see that you have a lot of software on your computer that was installed as a part of Windows. You paid for these programs when you paid for Windows so you may as well get the most out of them. Further, knowing what they do may save you spending lots of extra money on other programs.

Everybody wants to have Word on their computers but what if you only occasionally set out a few pages? You'll probably find that WordPad suits your needs and you know everybody else with Windows has a copy of WordPad so there's no need to worry that others can't read your files.

What use is Notepad? Well, it's a handy text editor for saving simple, plain text or you might use it as a temporary place to copy and paste text from, say a web page, to an email. Most email programs use the plain text format for entering new messages, so you might use Notepad to prepare emails offline and then copy and paste the text to a new message when you go online.

Windows Media Player is another free Windows program you have on your computer. In webDotWiz's opinion, it has one of the best audio system for playing your CDs, allowing for your speaker setup. About the latter, if you have a stereo system, investigate whether you can hook it up to your PC for better listening pleasure.

Media Player not only plays your CDs but can write compressed music files to your hard drive, thus freeing up your CD drive for use to access clipart or whatever - you've got music while you work. Putting your music on your hard drive also means you can store away the original CD for safe keeping.

Once you've stored your music on the disk, build play lists of your favourites according to whatever criteria you want.

Media Player also plays videos. If you have a DVD player installed (a cheap option compared to purchasing one for your TV), Media Player will handle DVD movies as well. There is the proviso you need to install a commercial player (supplied when you purchase a DVD player but check) because the coder/decoder software part is not available without payment.

"What use is Movie Maker if I haven't got a digital camera or video?" Well, you may have a growing collection of photos, either those you've shot, scanned or been sent by others, which you can use to create a video. This form of presentation might be more convenient than clicking through lots of picture files. If you do have a digital camera, you'll know they can produce simple videos which you can then bring into Movie Maker to enhance into a video movie. Add opening and closing titles (Movie Maker's help takes you through the steps, using another free Windows program, Paint) and a music track (using either MP3s or Media Player WMA files).

Footnote to create a photo montage in Movie Maker: Start Movie Maker, then on the File Menu, choose New, Collection. Give it a name. From your My Pictures folder or elsewhere, drag some photos or images into the Collection. Now drag'n'drop photos onto the timeline, adjusting the timing handles so the display time for each photo is set. Drag each image, one at a time, to the left so each overlaps the previous one so there will be smooth transition when you play your new movies. Use an MP3 or Windows Media music file as background music by dragging it into the Collection and adding it as background music (you could use your own recorded narration). Save the movie. Done!

  Your Internet connection  

With different types of work going on in the local area, especially in Rushworth, some of you may be experiencing unusual behaviour with your Internet connection. If all was well up to a certain time, then start by checking with your local Telstra Countrywide office to see if they know of any problems with your phone line.

As well as that information, begin writing down your connection speed with date and time. Hover your mouse over the little icon that pops up in the bottom right of your screen when you connect if you're using Windows 95, 98 or Me. Windows XP users receive a little popup message when they connect.

The speed you connect at is only part of the story. After a while online, use the speed test at to see its result. Record the date, time and value given. Depending on the length of your time online for a particular session, you might check again with Bandwidth's speed test to see if there's any change.

To see how webDotWiz records his data, next time you're online look through his modem speeds for Decemeber 2002 and January 2003 at his site,