NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, February 2004
Still Annoyed with Your PC? Keep Fighting Back!
Steve Bass tackles another handful of his most irritating annoyances.
by Steve Bass
Contributing Editor, PC World (and allegedly famous author)

(click to email author)

You know the drill—readers send me the PC behaviors that annoy, irritate and aggravate; I spend countless hours finding fixes.

Here are another four egregious examples of Windows annoyances—and fixes. I’ll also provide a few time-wasting, deadline avoiding (and often weird) Web sites I’ve discovered.

The big collection of annoyances—over 100 of them—are in PC Annoyances: How to Fix the Most Annoying Things About Your Personal Computer. (Caution: another shameless plug to follow.) If these annoyances are annoying—and you like the fixes—well, maybe you’ll buy the book. You can get a copy here at: http://www.snipurl.com/annoyed

Boot Boring IE Icons
The Annoyance: Internet Explorer’s Favorite’s icons are nothing more than Microsoft’s dull, blue “e” emblem. I’d much prefer anything other than these tiny logos reminding me how much I’ve spent on Microsoft products.

Fix: This one’s easy (and if you like it, you really, really need to buy my book—there are dozens of fixes just like this one.) Start by right clicking on any icon, then on Properties. Choose Shortcut, select Change Icon, then Browse, and click on any file ending in EXE. You’ll likely see an icon (maybe not; not all EXE’s have icons). Find an icon you like and click OK and OK again.

If you have the time and inclination, poke around in other folders in \Windows and \Windows\System for other EXEs that have icons you can use.

Kill Some Time: You’ll find these images from the Hubble more than just incredible—they’re just stunning. Find them at: http://snipurl.com/hubble

Search Animations Begone
The Annoyance: I was annoyed with Office Clippy and your book showed me how to dump it. How about the irritating animation in XP’s Search feature?

The Fix: Start a search from the desktop by clicking F3 and then take one last look at the dumb animation. Click Change Preferences at the bottom of the Search pane, press “Without an animated screen character,” and say adios to the creature.

Zap Microsoft’s Passport
The Annoyance: I just bought a new PC and don’t plan to leave the country. So how in the world do I stop that annoying icon from asking me if I want to sign up for a Passport.

The Fix: By now it’s probably stopped—Microsoft’s perky Passport account.net Messenger appears the first few times you access try to connect to the Web. If it doesn’t—or you’re impatient—click the Passport message and when the window appears, select Cancel.

Kill Some Time: Almost everyone jokes that the number one way to fix any PC annoyance is to switch to a Mac. Before you do, check out their new iToilet, a little something that may change your mind. It’s at http://snipurl.com/i_toilet

Disable the CapsLock Key
The Annoyance: I keep accidentally hitting the durn thing on my notebook, and I’m getting mighty sick of typing things that look like a dumb ransom note. When I’m in Word, of course, AutoCorrect fixes the problem (usually), but in other apps, it’s a pain in the butt. Can the CapsLock key be disabled?

The Fix: Whenever I get a chance to circumvent something Microsoft should have built into Windows, I get a warm, content feeling. The fix will cost you ten minutes, including downloading “Disable the Caps Lock key,” an aptly named free utility. The utility works in Win 95, 98, SE, and XP (I haven’t tested it using NT or Windows 2000, but it’s benign and won’t do any harm if it doesn’t work.) Get the zipped files at http://snipurl.com/capslockoff. Unzip it to any folder using Windows Explorer.

Now you’ll need to create a shortcut on the desktop that points to the utility. Right-mouse-click any empty spot on your desktop, select New, and choose Shortcut. In the “Command Line” (98 and ME) or “location” (2000 and XP) field, type “C:\Windows\CapsLockOff.exe" /off making sure to include the quotes. (Substitute the location of the utility if it’s not in “c:\Windows.”) Click Next and you’ll see a new shortcut with the name “CapsLockOff” on your desktop.

Now it’s an easy task to drag the desktop shortcut over to the Start menu and hover until you see All Programs (Programs in Windows 98 and ME); continue hovering until the Startup icon appears and drop the icon onto that folder. “Disable the Caps Lock key” will now automatically run when you boot your system.

“I want to thank Bill Gates, his Microsofties, and the entire Redmond Empire. Without them, this PC Annoyances wouldn’t be possible (or even necessary)” —Steve Bass

If you’re an advanced PC user, pick up three REG files (small pseudo-programs that modify the Registry) that change the Capslock key to shift, completely disables it, and changes it back to normal. The files are available at http://snipurl.com/capslock2

Kill Some Time: Need something to do that doesn’t take creating a shortcut on your desktop? I have just the thing—it’s the “Specs of the Century” site. They present you with specs and you try to figure out who they belong to. Try it here: http://snipurl.com/specs

Copyright © 2004 by Steve Bass and O’Reilly Press. Reproduced with permission. Steve Bass is a Contributing Editor with PC World and a founding member of APCUG. He’s also the author of PC Annoyances: How to Fix the Most Annoying Things about Your Personal Computer, O’Reilly Press. It’s available on Amazon at http://snurl.com/annoyed

Click here to return to top