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Saturday, October 14, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Q&A

Select your pen carefully when marking CDs and DVDs

Special to The Seattle Times

Q: You recommend against using solvent-based inks to mark CDs and DVDs. What types of permanent marker are non-solvent- based? Do Sharpies work well for labeling?

— Jen Astion

A: You can recognize solvent-based ink by its characteristic solvent smell. And it's true that most permanent inks are solvent-based.

Sanford, which makes Sharpies, makes a line of solvent-based pens that it markets for marking CDs and DVDs. While it doesn't make any guarantees about not damaging the discs, the company's Web site says it hasn't encountered any problems in the limited number of years they have been in use.

I haven't tried them yet, but Memorex markets a CD/DVD marker that uses water-based inks.

Q: A friend in Alexandria, Va., e-mailed me recently that he had received a message I had e-mailed to someone in Nashville. Two weeks later the one in Virginia told me had received another message I had sent to a third person in Los Angeles. The recipient doesn't know either of the other two and had no way of knowing them. It seems to me that the fault was either in my computer or with my Internet service provider, which was Verizon at the time. I'm now with Comcast (Web mail). Have you ever heard of such a thing? If so, what caused it, and how can I prevent a similar event?

— Alvin Hattal

A: Is your antivirus software up to date?

Sounds to me like you've got some sort of virus on your computer that is using your address book to send out e-mails. There are a wide variety of viruses out there. Many of them are transmitted via e-mail. Many are downloaded inadvertently when you visit a Web site. And some of them access your address book and use your e-mail program to send out e-mails. They may do this either to further spread the virus or to send spam.

Q: I run Windows 98 SE on an old Gateway desktop. When I went into the control panel recently to access Add/Remove Programs, the panel was empty. No programs were listed to delete. Is it possible to rebuild this list, and if so, how?

— Ron de Lisle

A: I'd try reinstalling Windows over your existing version. That means you won't have to reinstall your programs or lose any of your settings. But it should restore any missing or corrupt files.

Q: I am using a Hewlett-Packard computer with Windows XP Professional, 512 megabytes of system memory, and a 100-gigabyte hard drive with 76 gigabytes available. I very often get the message "Run Time Error 200," sometimes with another number and "Virtual memory too low." Although I have raised the virtual memory to 900 megabytes, I am still getting the message. Everything is slowed down so much I must restart the computer. What is causing this and what can I do to fix the problem?

— Dick Lanzner, Redmond

A: I'm afraid I can't offer much specific help on this sort of problem since it would take hands-on troubleshooting. That said, it sounds like you might be low on memory, "real" as well as "virtual." On the other hand, the problem could be caused by a misbehaving program or a virus.

If it were me, rather than trying to track down the problem I would start from scratch by backing up my data, reformatting the drive, reinstalling the operating system (and making sure you've got the latest version and any updates) and reinstalling applications one at a time, checking to see if the problem recurs. If the problem recurs immediately you'd want to consider adding memory. If the problem recurs only after a specific application is installed you should check to see if you have the latest version.

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by e-mail to pmarshall@seattletimes.com or pgmarshall@pgmarshall.net, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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