Q: Last month, I upgraded my computer setup with a new Hewlett-Packard computer. Everything was great, but I couldn't get online. I reconnected my old...

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Last month, I upgraded my computer setup with a new Hewlett-Packard computer. Everything was great, but I couldn’t get online. I reconnected my old computer with the phone jack, and it worked fine.

I returned the computer to the store to have it checked; they just gave me a new one. Same problem.

After checking with several HP experts, the general opinion was that my house wiring was the problem. I started by connecting the computer directly to the outside distribution box, and it picked up the tone with no problem. Back in the house I disconnected all of my phones and found that with more than one phone connected, I lose the dial tone.

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Whereas this is one solution, I get in trouble with my wife because I forget to reconnect the other ones. Suggestions?

— Cy Varnum


The problem you describe certainly does happen on occasion. Electricity is tricky stuff. Here’s hoping the problem isn’t with the lines inside your house, but rather with one of the telephones, faxes or other equipment connected to those phone lines.

Try this. Disconnect all devices from your telephone lines. Then take a telephone you know works and plug it into each jack to make sure all work properly. Then start plugging in your equipment, one device at a time, checking for dial tone as you go. If you find a device that doesn’t work, you’ll know it is causing the trouble.

Of course, the problem could be with the lines in the house itself, in which case you’ll need to think about hiring someone to locate and fix what’s wrong.

The one thing I’m curious about is why your old computer doesn’t seem to have the problem.

Some modems are more “sensitive” than others, but that generally means they might drop a connection if the quality of the signal degrades to a certain point. Nevertheless, if you can’t locate the problem, you may want to try using your old modem in your new computer.


I use a Dell computer with Verizon DSL and Windows XP Home Edition. I have tried to set up and use Outlook Express. I set everything up the way my wife set hers except the name and password, and I cannot send e-mail. The error message says the server could not authenticate the sender.

I called Verizon; it said it was a Microsoft problem and could not help.

— Mike Morrell, Seattle


Well, it’s not exactly a Microsoft problem. If Outlook Express can’t authenticate with your mail server, it just means Outlook Express isn’t configured properly. Some Internet service providers, for example, use ports that are different from the defaults in Outlook Express.

Also, double-check the user name and password you entered, as well as incoming and outgoing mail-server addresses.

Finally, check with Verizon to see if there are any other requirements. For example, some ISPs require that the mail client log in to receive mail before mail can be sent. That’s to prevent the service from being used by spammers.


I am the sole user (owner) of an Hewlett-Packard Pavilion 553 with Windows XP (and SP2). When I boot up, a logon screen pops up with “owner” and a password screen. When I hit OK it finishes the boot. How can I eliminate this logon screen so that I can walk away on startup and come back fully booted?

— Irwin Chernick


There is a way to set up your computer to automatically log you on to your user account. Bear in mind, though, that setting your computer up this way would mean anyone could turn your computer on and have full access.

To set things up, you’re going to have to edit the Windows registry. First, make a backup copy, since any mistakes you make in editing could result in major problems.

To do so, load the registry editor. You’ll find it in the main Windows directory named “regedit.exe.” Before editing, save a copy of the registry by going to the File menu and selecting Export.

Once you’ve saved a copy, find the following key in the registry editor: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Micrsosoft\WindowsNT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon. Next, double-click on the entry DefaultUserName, then type in your user name and click on OK. Then double-click on the DefaultPassword entry, type in your password and then click OK. (If there is no DefaultPassword entry, you’ll have to create one. To do so, click on Edit, then New, and then click String Value. Type “DefaultPassword” and then press Enter.)

Next, double-click on AutoAdminLogon, type 1 in the Value Data field, then click on OK. (Likewise, if there is no AutoAdminLogon entry, you’ll need to create one.)

Close the registry editor, then reboot Windows. You should be in business.

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