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December 7, 2001

Tech Tips

By John Fritz, Director of New Media DevelopmentAs the semester and year wind down, now is a good time to make and prepare for some New Year's computing resolutions.Resolution 1—I will learn how to create a vacation messageWhat better way to close up shop for the holidays than an “I'm outta here!” message. It's easier than you think and you can then use it throughout the year—if you're lucky. JThe key is knowing what server your user account is tied to, and being willing to follow a few precise instructions for editing your mail configuration from a unix prompt. Don't worry, unix doesn't bite.Generally, faculty and staff hired before July 2000 will have “” (or “research”) accounts, and students or employees who started after July 2000, will have “” accounts. Armed with this information, you can follow the vacation message instructions on the Office of Information Technology website.Resolution 2—I will clean out my old email and filesResponding to others by saying you'll be away is fine, but their original email message will still be stored in your inbox—if you have room. If you don't want to be greeted by a “quota exceeded” message when you return to work, clean out your account files now. Better yet, make a habit of doing so at least every 2-3 months.In addition to cleaning out your old email, you may want to delete the many temporary files you gather while surfing the Internet. That's right, in order to make it easier to return to websites you visit frequently, your browser builds a “cache” or storehouse of Internet files—mainly graphics. Also, if you install or download a lot of programs, your computer gathers a lot of temporary files. But once you've installed the programs, you don't need them. OIT has a simple winter PC cleaning guide for deleting these files and generally making your PC work more efficiently. Just remember to empty your recycle bin on your PC's desktop after you delete all of your old files.Resolution 3—I will shop online securelyOkay, this may be more appropriate for end-of-year holiday shopping than a New Year's resolution, but you can still end this year on a good note. Apart from gauging an online vendor's reputation—or resources—for ensuring secure transactions, there's one thing you can always check when buying online: the padlock in the lower left corner of your Netscape browser; the lock appears in the lower right portion of Internet Explorer browsers. If the lock is closed (as it is below), you know your transaction is taking place on a site using a SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) connection, which encrypts all personal information including credit cards and passwords.For more information on these tips and other UMBC technology issues, contact the Office of Information Technology Help Desk at 410.455.3838 or

Posted by dwinds1 at December 7, 2001 12:00 AM