How do I keep the kids out? YAU PC

by Alan Zisman (c) 1999. First published in Toronto Computes, November 1999

Richard Lionheart asked:

A friend of mine recently asked me if there was any way that he could keep his kids out of areas of his HDD on a win95 machine.  The only thing I could think of was to set the machine for multiple user logons... I'm not sure that I accomplished anything more than different desktop settings... Any ideas would be appreciated.

Alan answered:

Much depends on how sophisticated the kids are... do they fuss w. My Computer/Explorer, checking out the hard disk? Do they access a DOS prompt?

Multiple users allow different desktops and different start menus... this may be enough, if they issue is simply to keep the kids out of Dad's applications. To make it tougher, the System Policy Editor (PolEdit), which is hidden away on the Win95/98 CD can be used to give the user logons much more strength-- but it needs to be used very carefully... I've known several users who have locked themselves out of their computer, using PolEdit.

There are numerous shareware and commercial programs to beef up security-- $20 or so will buy a copy of Microsoft's Plus for Kids, which combines family-oriented security with a bunch of kid-oriented desktop themes.

Slawomir Leszko wondered:

I have a question regarding the ?print to file? option in Windows 95. There was no problem to create using this option. My problem is how to send the *.prn file back to printer. My printer spool manager does not have an option to open files.

Alan responded:

You've found a clever flaw in the 'easy to use' model... it's easy to create a Printer File... but there's no way, under Win9x to actually use one. To print the file you?ve created, it's back to DOS... from a command prompt, type:


This will copy the printer file MYFILE.PRN to a printer attached to LPT1 (the first parallel port)... the /B is important, specifying that it's a binary file-- otherwise, the system assumes it's an ASCII file, and first time it comes across the binary code that it thinks is Ctrl+D, it stops... typically, in mid-page.

Printing from a file works well, assuming you used the printer driver for the eventual target printer-- it lets you print a file, complete with graphics, fonts, etc-- on a printer that isn't physically attached to your computer-- even if it doesn't have the program that made the document.

Xin Yu Qiu wanted to know:

I remember that I saw an article in your paper about two years ago. One reader asked for a method how to turn NumLock key on when turning on her Windows 95 computer. The answer said it is not easy and the best way to turn on the NumLock light is simply pushing the key. However, the article did include a complicated yet do-able method to turn on the NumLock light when turning on a Windows 95 computer. I am really interested in the method introduced in the article.

Alan suggested:

The system Setup on some PCs allows you to set whether Numlock is turned on or off by default. If that?s not available on your PC, ever since MS DOS 6.0 (or perhaps even earlier), there has been a Numlock=ON or Numlock=Off command that can be added to the startup CONFIG.SYS file (using Windows Notepad or DOS Edit, not your word processor to make changes to this file).

Richard Sanford queried:

How can an amateur learn the essentials of windows programming? Preferably starting with Assembly, Basic, or Fortran.

Alan proposed:

You REALLY don't want to try to program Windows applications in Assembly language! Really.

Probably the best tool for an amateur to start with is Microsoft's Visual Basic... it adds drag-and-drop interface creation tools with a core of Basic-- a language that is much less fiddly than most other popular
programming languages-- C/C++ or Java, or Pascal/Delphi. If you?re already comfortable with Pascal, however, Inprise (aka Borland)?s Delphi is a good choice.

The Dummies books are OK ways to get started-- Visual Basic 6 for Dummies (for example).

Of course, you also need a copy of Visual Basic, to do this... Some of the books around include a limited-use version of VB... for example: Sams' Teach Yourself Visual Basic 6 in 24 hours by Greg Perry, includes a CD-ROM with "Visual Basic 5 Control Creation Edition". (about $30 CDN)

Alternatively, if you already have a copy of MS Word or Office, its macro-language, Visual Basic for Applications, is a quite powerful sub-set of Visual Basic, and makes a usable tool for learning VB programming, without having to spend extra money.

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan