Easy ways to enter cyberspace; Help Line

I'd love to get my mother on the Internet so we can exchange e-mail. But I'm reluctant to spend $1,000 on a computer, because she wouldn't really take advantage of it - in fact, she might find it intimidating. Is there another, less expensive option that doesn't involve buying, installing and setting up a PC?

Sounds like Mom is a good candidate for an Internet appliance -something that can get you on the Net but doesn't have any real computing power. The first one to hit the market in a big way has been the Netpliance i-opener. It consists of just a 10-inch flat display and a keyboard. You plug it in, connect it to your phone line and - bingo! -you're surfing the Web and using e-mail. Right now, you can get one for $99 at CompUSA or Circuit City stores. You'll also need to subscribe to the Netpliance Internet service, which is $22 a month.


Another alternative you might consider is WebTV, a combination Internet appliance and set-top box that delivers the Internet over your television. WebTV systems can be had for less than $200, including a wireless keyboard. They're also available at big computer and electronics stores. The basic WebTV Internet service costs about the same as the Netpliance service.

I lost the Start button on my Windows 98 desktop. The task bar was gone, too. I finally got it back, but I do not remember how I did it. Could you please go through the steps on how to get it back on my desktop if this should happen to me again? I don't remember how I lost it, either.


You probably inadvertently dragged it out of sight. The task bar is a movable object. If you click on an empty area of it and keep the mouse button depressed, you can drag it to the top of the screen or to either side. You can also make it deeper or shallower. And, as you discovered, you can also drag it too far toward the edge so it disappears. To get it back (assuming you had it at the bottom of the screen), move your mouse to the very bottom until the pointer turns into an arrow pointing in two directions. Then drag upward until the task bar reappears.

In the past two years, I've gone through several mice. They just seem to wear out to the point where even cleaning them doesn't help. Lately I've seen some ads for optical mice, which don't use balls. Any thoughts on how good (and reliable) they are?

By all accounts, optical mice are more accurate than conventional mice. And, theoretically, they should last forever because they have no moving parts. Instead of using a ball to determine the movement of the mouse pointer, an optical mouse uses a sensor that works with a digital signal processor. As you move the mouse, the sensor - a kind of miniature digital camera on the bottom of the mouse - tracks movement more than 1,000 times per second.

Another big advantage of an optical mouse is that it doesn't require a mouse pad. You can use any surface - a wood table, a plastic counter, even your pants leg. Although several companies offer optical mice, the most readily available one comes from Microsoft. Its IntelliEye Optical mice start at around $30.

If I right-click a file, then click on "Send to," I get several options. Is there any way to add some destinations to the send-to list?

There is. The destinations are kept in the Send To folder, which is inside the Windows folder on your hard drive. To add a destination, open Windows Explorer (right-click the Start button and choose Explore). Now locate the folder to which you want to send stuff, right-click it and drag it to the Send To folder. When you release it, choose the option to create a shortcut. That's it. The next time you invoke the "Send to" feature, your new destination should be on the list.

Tip of the week: Use the history feature on your browser to see links for every Web site you've visited in the past few days. The links are live, so you can use them to revisit the sites. In both Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer, press the letter H while holding down the Ctrl key to open the history.

Jim Coates, our regular Help Line columnist, is on vacation.