Help File: Best to dump IE6

Rob Pegoraro, agony aunt for the the digital age, answers computer users' questions

Q:
This e-mail says that adding a fake address-book entry at the start of the alphabet - AAAAAAA@AAA.AAA - stops viruses from sending itself to people in my address book.

A: Nope. For one thing, why would a virus stop if it encounters a bad address? Remember, the virus is using your computer and your bandwidth. It doesn't care about being efficient.

For another thing, any alleged fix this old (the myth-busting site Snopes.com dates it to 2001) would have been noticed by virus authors long ago.

Q: I've got some DVDs I picked up overseas that don't work in my DVD player. What's my cheapest fix for this problem?

A: If you haven't tried VLC media player, you should. This open-source program - a free download at videolan.org for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and other operating systems - has long been a useful video tool.

Among its other features, VLC will attempt to bypass the region codes embedded in most commercial DVDs, which allow them to work only in DVD players and computers sold in the same geographic region.

But its success at this task may depend on the computer you use.

In tests with British and German DVDs, VLC played both discs without complaint on two computers out of four, an old Dell desktop and a new Apple Mac mini.

On the other machines, it couldn't get past their title screens.

Even if you don't have a stash of DVDs from overseas, VLC is a handy program to keep around; if nothing else, it can be a good, free substitute for missing or malfunctioning DVD-playback software.

Q: I've used Internet Explorer 6 for many years, but some sites don't look right in that browser now.
Would you recommend IE 8?

A: Yes, you need to dump IE 6. That Microsoft browser was far behind competitors, in terms of utility and security, two years ago. Now, some popular sites are starting to make the same move.

YouTube has been suggesting that IE 6 users upgrade, although a spokesman for the Google subsidiary said they should still be able to view or upload individual videos.

Installing Microsoft's Internet Explorer 8 through Windows' automatic updates can be the simplest upgrade, but some readers have reported that this caused problems on their PCs.

Mozilla Firefox 3.5 (mozilla.com) runs faster and is less likely to conflict with Windows, while on slower machines Opera (opera.com) or Google's Chrome (google.com/chrome) may be better choices.

If a fossilised IT department limits you to IE 6 at work, you have my condolences.

Try running the Portable Edition of Firefox (portableapps.com) off a USB flash drive, although plug-ins such as Adobe's Flash Player can be tricky in that case.

Q: I plan to copy some VHS tapes onto DVDs with a combo VHS/DVD recorder. Are any DVD formats better than others?

A: Not really. On old players, DVD-R and DVD (plus) R may work better, but on newer hardware the format shouldn't matter. As for durability, the key thing is to take good care of the discs.

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