My desktop PC, an HP Pavilion p6000, crashed this morning and won't boot successfully, displaying an ominous "Boot Device Not Found" error instead. This used to be the kind of situation that would send me into a fetal position mumbling "why didn't I make a backup?" over and over to myself. But a few years ago, I burned to CD a free copy of Knoppix, a stripped-down version of Linux, that can be used in an emergency like this. I booted the computer off this CD and found all of my files are still accessible. Even if ... read more

I recently spent a week fixing my son's Windows XP computer after it was infected with a virus on the same day the machine's Norton 360 subscription ran out. As I was going from PC to PC in the house updating Norton, a virus infected a bunch of Windows system files and began sending out hundreds of Russian Viagra spams. Norton apparently stops protecting you from viruses the second the subscription ends. I expected it to stop offering updates, but I didn't know it would refuse to scan new files using its existing ... read more

I began a new book this week on Java programming for beginners. I haven't been doing much computer book writing for a couple years, so I no longer had an installed copy of Microsoft Word 97, the version of the software my publisher uses to draft manuscripts. Word 2007 can save files in 97 format, but it doesn't support the publisher's custom styles, so I decided to install Word 97 on Vista. Huge mistake. Word 97 appeared to install properly, but when I installed some other Microsoft software afterward, it removed ... read more