By Richard Sherman
Senior Wire 

'How can I cheat at Solitaire?' (Really?)

Ask Mr. Modem


Q. I’ve heard there is a way to cheat when playing Solitaire. I hate to ask, but can you shed any light on this?

A. I don’t know why as many people ask about this as they do, particularly since Solitaire is a game you play against yourself, but Mr. Modem is here to answer questions, not to judge. Well, okay, I judge, too, but I keep my opinions to myself. Well, okay, maybe I don’t keep my opinions to myself, but I only share them with my cats. Here’s how to extricate yourself from Solitaire when you need a card, but it’s just not coming your way:

If you find yourself in that virtual pickle, hold down the SHIFT + CTRL + ALT keys and click the “draw” stack of cards. This forces the game to flip the remaining cards individually, as opposed to the traditional three at a time. Do this as many times as it takes to reach the card you need. You’ll amaze and astound your friends and family with how proficient you are at Solitaire. (Either that, or they will know instantly that you’re cheating.)

Q. When I purchased my computer two years ago, I also purchased an extended warranty for one year. It is time to either renew the extended warranty or let it lapse. Is it wise to renew the extended warranty for another year?

A. Statistically, extended warranties aren’t worth the dollars spent on them. Countless Consumer Reports studies reveal that while extended warranties are very profitable for the companies offering them, the return to consumers is minimal. I never purchase them myself, but some people feel more comfortable having them, so ultimately it’s a matter of how much value you place on the peace of mind (if any) you receive from having such a warranty.

Historically, the number of claims presented under extended warranties are far fewer than the dollars collected, so paying for repairs as needed is statistically more cost-effective in the long run.

That being said, there are certainly exceptions and stories of people who purchased a “lemon” product and were able to replace it at no cost because they had an extended warranty. But for a computer that you have been using for two years, presumably using it without any major problems, you will probably be fine proceeding without an extended warranty at this point. But there are no guarantees. (Oh, the irony.)

Q. A friend recommended checking for updated drivers by using a free Web-based service. I quickly discovered that checking is free, but it costs $29.95 to download any drivers needed. I’m not having any problems with my PC, so do I need to spend this money?

A. My often-expressed philosophy can best be summed up by the adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” As long as everything is working fine, you are not going to make it run finer by doing anything to your computer, so I would leave well enough alone.

If a printer, for example, stopped working at some point, I would go to my printer manufacturer’s Web site, locate the area where I can check for updated drivers and download them for free. There is nothing inherently wrong with a site such as Driver Agent (, which is one of the more popular driver-checking sites, but it is rarely necessary to pay for updated drivers. My recommendation: Save your money.

Q. How does one detect if a keylogger is installed?

A. A keylogger is a program or device that surreptitiously (Mr. M’s big word of the day) records (logs) every keystroke entered on a keyboard. Parents, employers, suspicious spouses and private investigators are the primary users of keyloggers, but criminals also use them in order to steal password and other personal information.

Now that we know what a keylogger is, unless it is a physical device that is attached to the keyboard – which would be easy to spot – there isn’t any definitive way to detect a keylogger. Keylogging software is designed not to be detectable, which is precisely why it is installed in the first place.

Mr. Modem’s DME (Don’t Miss ’Em) sites of the month


The Internet’s largest WebCam site featuring live, streaming video from hundreds of cities throughout the world.

FEMA Disaster Center

Learn about various types of disasters ranging from chemical emergencies to earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires and more. Each disaster provides a list of potential hazards as well as items you can do before, during and after disaster strikes. (Trust me, you will never sleep again.)


Similar to ShutterFly and Picasa (, but with a bit more flexibility for storing and editing photos online. At this free site, you can share photos, create albums, organize your pictures, search, create a slide show and even combine photos.


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