By Richard Sherman
Senior Wire 

Email freezeups and overheated USB hubs

Ask Mr. Modem


Q. Sometimes people I send email to tell me that when they open my message, their computer freezes. I’m sending you one of my emails that did this. Can you tell me what I’m doing wrong that might be causing this?

A. The email you sent me contains eight graphical animations, including four animated closings, “Goodbye,” “Adios,” “CUL8TR,” and “Sayonara.” While I understand that “cutesy” is in the eyes of the beholder, I would encourage some measure of restraint when it comes to email “enhancements” of this type for several reasons.

First, all those graphics and animations increase the size of your email exponentially, turning what should be a simple message into a bloated e-mess. For recipients with older systems or computers running a minimal amount of memory, opening your graphical extravaganza can be overwhelming to the system, resulting in a freeze.

Keep in mind, whether you’re using IncrediMail or some other email fluffer-upper, there are only so many graphics and related animations, and graphically inclined senders all tend to gravitate toward the same ones. Toward that end, you can’t go wrong if you extend the courtesy of asking your intended recipients if it’s OK if you include animations. If they decline, thank them and honor their request not to include them. If they do not respond, do not assume that’s an implied permission to continue sending cutesy. It is not.

In your case, remove the graphics and animations from your message and re-send it. Individuals who previously experienced a computer freeze will then be able to view your message without any problem.

Q. I notice that my 4-port USB hub feels warm to the touch. Is this normal or are flames about to leap out and cause me grief. Do you think I am worrying over nothing?

A. There are components within the hub that can get warm, so some amount of warmth is normal. If it is too hot to touch, I wouldn’t take any chances and I would replace it immediately.

My rule of thumb for something like this is if it makes me uncomfortable – rightly or wrongly – I replace it. It might not really need replacing, but if it’s going to drive me to distraction to that extent then I will just replace it and be done with it. I would keep the USB hub that was replaced as a spare. And if the replacement hub ultimately feels about the same temperature as the one I replaced, then I’ll walk to a mirror, look into it and say, “You moron! You replaced it for nothing,” though the peace of mind alone would be worth it.

Q. I would like to ask your advice and opinion about a software program called Driver Robot. It’s supposed to scan your PC and then list all the drivers that are out of date. It then provides a link you can use to download and install the most current drivers.

A. Personally, I wouldn’t touch a program like that with a borrowed ten-foot pole. It is of no consequence if drivers are old or outdated if everything is working properly. I have computers here that haven’t had new or updated drivers installed in years. It’s simply not necessary unless a problem arises, so this clearly falls within the advice category of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

If you are experiencing a computer problem, by all means, it should be addressed. Otherwise, just enjoy your computer. When things are running smoothly, you’re not going to make them run smoothlier by installing anything new.

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


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