Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Windows XP Self-Help

I must be getting the hang of Windows. Tonight, I solved not one, but two problems with my computer that Dell Tech Support gave up on.

Problem 1: Can't set desktop background

I couldn't change my desktop picture or "background" as it's called in Windows. I'd right click on the desktop, click on the Desktop tab of the Display Properties dialog, click the Browse button, find and select a photograph that I wanted to use as a background and click Open, and then - nothing. Well, the file-selection dialog would close, but the file would not appear in the list of background options, the Apply button would not activate and basically, I'd be unable to make the change. I was able to select the default colors and textures that were already in the list. I just could not select a picture of my own.

This one took some determined Googling, but I finally found this page, which contains a link to this freeware library of registry fixes on a web site called Kelly's Korner. In line 142, on the right, there's a file named "Allow Wallpaper/Background Changes" which I downloaded, double-clicked and loaded into the registry - after first making a restore point using Registry Mechanic and saying a quick prayer to St Isadore of Seville. Prayer answer, problem solved.

Problem 2: Double-clicking an .fp7 file opens, um, Firefox

Can't say how this happened. Must have started when I installed the official 8.5 upgrade for either FileMaker Pro or FileMaker Pro Advanced, which is to say a couple of weeks ago. The problem wasn't so much that double-clicking an .fp7 file opened the wrong program, it was rather that I couldn't fix that problem in the ordinary way. The ordinary way - as I understand it - is to right-click the file, select Open With from the contextual menu, then "Select the program from a list," find FileMaker Pro Advanced (or whatever) in the Programs folder, check "always use the selected program....", and voila! it's fixed. But this one was like the problem with the desktop background. I could find get as far as selecting FileMaker Pro Advanced as the program to open .fp7 files - but then, nothing. FileMaker Pro Advanced would not appear in the actual list of programs to use.

I had also tried uninstalling FileMaker Pro 8.5, on the theory that perhaps Pro and Pro Advanced were fighting with one another. That didn't fix it either.

But I figured this one out on my own. I remembered seeing a list of file types in the Windows Explorer's Folder Options dialog (Tools > Folder Options > File Types tab). I went there, scrolled down a bit to the .FP7 listing, and tried to fix it using the Advanced button - essentially the same thing as using the Open With command described above. No go. But then I noticed the New and Delete buttons. So I deleted the entry for .FP7, and then created a new one. Selected "FileMaker Pro Database" as the file type, okayed my way out of the dialog. And that did the trick.

Who you gonna call?

Dell tech support has been good for me in the past, not so good this time. When I had problems installing Office 2003 a couple of months ago, the Microsoft tech support guy had a rather impressive bag of tricks to try. None of them worked, but he spent hours on the phone with me and I couldn't fault him for trying. And late last night, another Microsoft tech support guy actually took remote control of the new computer I was trying to configure and helped me install updates that I needed to have before I could complete the installation of the Windows Defender beta that goes with Windows Live OneCare. Now that was some good tech support.

Thanks to the generally anonymous expert users that I found through Google and whose suggestions led me to the solution for the first problem, and thanks especially to Kelly's Korner for the library of fixes. Yes, I've bookmarked it.

(Originally published 7/19/2006 on Typepad)

About Me

I am an event photographer living in Dallas, Texas.