Q. I am a snowbird and spend six months in Sun City, Ariz., and six months in Seattle. In Seattle I have a computer with a 2 gigahertz AMD central processing unit and two 80 gigabyte...

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Q.

I am a snowbird and spend six months in Sun City, Ariz., and six months in Seattle. In Seattle I have a computer with a 2 gigahertz AMD central processing unit and two 80 gigabyte hard drives. The computer is running Windows XP. In Sun City I have a 2 gigahertz Pentium 4 CPU with an 80 gigabyte hard drive also running Windows XP. The problem: I took both 80 gigabyte hard drives to Sun City, and when I installed them the computer setup recognized them, but XP did not boot. I had to format and reinstall all software. I thought the airport had zapped them. When I returned to Seattle it was a repeat of Sun City. I tried to transfer a working hard drive to the other computer but it was not recognized. When XP is on a hard drive, is it machine specific? How do I overcome this?


— Ray Crudo

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A. In the good old days, I used to be able to replace the clutch on my ’68 Saab by myself. No more. Everything is more complicated. And higher performing.

Likewise with Windows XP. Used to be you could take a Windows 98 boot drive, pop it in another computer and it would probably work just fine. That’s because when you installed Windows 98 it was using generic drivers for most of the equipment in your computer.

Windows XP, however, does a much more sophisticated job of configuring itself to the computer on which it is installed. When you install the operating system it detects your hardware and installs drivers specific to the hard drive controller card and other devices. The upside is generally better and more stable performance. The downside is that if you pop the boot drive out of one machine and into another it may or may not work.


Q.

My question involves an error message I get occasionally that tells me that “an error has occurred in the script on this page.” The message also says “error: unterminated string constant,” then code (zero), then a URL, and ends with a question: “Do you want to continue running scripts on this page?” It allows me to select yes or no. HUH?

First, what does this particular message mean? How can a non-geek know the right answer to the oracle’s question? Second, and far more important, why do those who write error messages (not just this one, but almost all of them) fail to understand that writing them in geek-language is less than helpful to the vast majority of their customers who are not geeks? Can’t they use language that explains the situation more universally?


— George Randels, Port Townsend


A.

Yeah, I know what you mean. I can’t make heads or tails of most of those messages either.

I assume this happens when you’re running a Web browser. Often, when you go to a Web page, it launches a script — a little program. If the script is poorly written or, perhaps, refers to a Web page or other object that no longer exists, an error message may occur like the one you ran into.

I guess it’s in geek speak because only geeks would be able to do anything about it. That is, it would require a programmer fixing the script on the Web site.

I agree that it would probably be a good idea if a more intelligible error message were displayed for the end user, even if there’s nothing you or I would be able to do about the problem.


Q.

I recently downloaded the Security Manager from Comcast and used its Spycatcher anti-spyware software. It found a lot of spyware on my computer that I hadn’t caught with Lavasoft. It identifies that I have an application running, ISTbar, that contains spyware but it does not allow me to delete this program. In doing some research on ISTbar, it looks like it came with some program that was downloaded. I can’t see that it is causing any problems with the computer and the Trojan that it came with was removed. I tried Spybot Search and Destroy, PestScan, free scan from Pest Patrol and Lavasoft Ad-Aware and none of them even alerted me to ISTbar let alone removed it. It doesn’t show up in Add/Remove programs so I can’t remove it there. Should I just live with this? Any suggestions for getting rid of this?


— Holly Monek-Anderson, Edmonds


A.

ISTbar is a piece of adware that installs itself as a toolbar in Internet Explorer. Once installed, it acts as a home page and pops up advertisements, including pornographic ads. There are a number of products that can be used to remove ISTbar, and some offer free trial downloads. Just search the Internet for remove ISTbar to find some products.

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.