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Double Your Desktop.  Current notebooks running Windows XP let you expand your desktop space by connecting an external monitor.  The notebook LCD and external monitor work together, letting you view the same desktop on each, or different desktops, or an expanded desktop that stretches across the two displays.

First, connect the second monitor to your laptop.  Then right-click on your desktop and select the Settings tab.  You should see icons for two monitors.  Right-click on Monitor 2 and click on Attached.  Use the slider to adjust the resolution.

Right-click again on Monitor 2, click on Properties, select Monitor, and adjust the refresh rate.  It defaults to a flickery 60 Hz, the same as the LCD panel.  Try a higher refresh - say 75 Hz - then click on OK.  Finally, click and drag the Monitor icon to match how you have the notebook and monitor arranged.

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Take Your Files With You.  Work files are often stored on an office LAN.  Windows makes it easy to take files with you and make sure you are working on the most recent versions.

Click on Start | My Computer | Tools | Folder Options | the Offline Files tab | Enable Offline Files, and choose How and when you synchronize (for example, at log-on, at log-off, or hourly).  Choose a folder you want synchronized onto your notebook by right-clicking on it; click on Make Available Offline, then follow the Offline Files wizard.

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Maximize Battery Life.  Careful use of power management tools and decreasing screen brightness can stretch battery life by 30 to 45 minutes.  Go to the Control Panel and open Power Options.  You'll see half a dozen tabs (the layout varies slightly among notebooks).  Make sure that your notebook can go into Standby mode (in the Power Schemes tab), meaning that the system stops most activity and uses the battery to refresh system memory.
A computer in Standby loses 10 to 15 percent of its charge each day.  You should set your system to go into Hibernate mode after Standby, meaning that it writes an image of the memory contents to the hard drive and then shuts down.  (Windows 98 doesn't offer Hibernate.)  In Hibernate, there's no loss beyond the battery's own gradual discharge.

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Juggle Wi-Fi At Work And Home.  If you use wireless Ethernet in the office and in a second location, such as your home or a remote office, one configuration may work for both.  Windows XP usually auto-detects and connects to available wireless LANs.

If you need to enable the Zero Config Wi-Fi, click Control Panel | My Network Connections | View Network Connections.  Right-click on the Local Area Connection (Wireless) and click Properties | TCP/IP.  Under the General tab, make sure Obtain an IP address automatically is checked.  Then go to the Wireless Networking tab and check Use Windows to configure my wireless network settings.  Click on Advanced, and check for access to Any available network.  If you need specific settings for a second location, go to the Alternate Configuration tab to enter settings for that location.

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Beef Up Mobile Security.  Being mobile exposes you to additional dangers, especially if you use wireless networking.  Here are some pointers for improving your security.
In the Control Panel's Power Options menu, go to the Advanced tab and check on the box Prompt for password when computer resumes from standby.
Use a firewall (see the "Networking" section in this story).
Be cautious about enabling file and print sharing, especially if you have wireless networking turned on.  You can control sharing on a drive-by-drive or even folder-by-folder basis (Start | My Computer, then right-click on a drive or folder and select Properties | Sharing) or by user (look for and click on your user name in C:\Documents and settings to access file sharing).
Turn off wireless networking if you're not using it.  Go to the tool tray in the lower-right corner of the screen.  If there's a LAN (Wireless) icon, right-click on it and choose Disable.  This gains you an extra 10 to 20 minutes of battery life.

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Optimize Remote Desktop.  Remote Desktop is a very good remote-control application in Window XP Professional that lets you take over a Win XP Pro system from any other PC using Windows 95 or later.  (For a complete review, see "Remote Control" in our issue of July 2002.) To enable Remote Desktop, go to Control Panel | System, click on the Remote tab, and select Allow users to connect remotely to this computer.

Remote Desktop is very quick, but to get the best performance, go to the machine that will be controlling the Remote Desktop host and launch the Remote Desktop Connection client.  Select Options and click the Experience tab.  Then select the connection type that best matches the way you're attaching to the host PC.

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Using IR In XP.  Before Windows XP, getting your infrared port to work probably took its toll on even the most seasoned IT staffers.  Driver issues were many, and even when your IR was functioning, your coworker's IR probably wasn't.

With Windows XP, things have changed.  For the first time, many users are realizing that their notebooks have IR ports.  On a notebook, IrDA is a line-of sight connection that can work up to 2 meters away.  In most newer notebooks, it can transfer data at up to 4 Mbps.  Now that you have a working IR port, what are you going to do with it?
Sync.  Perhaps the most popular use is for syncing to Palm devices and handheld PCs without cradles.  It takes a little longer but gets the job done.
Print.  Some printers also have IR ports, letting you print files from your notebook without connecting over a network.  To set this up, use the Add Printer wizard, found by clicking the Printers and Faxes icon in the Control Panel.  Follow the wizard and choose your local IR port to load the printer driver.
Transfer.  You can use IR to transfer files between notebooks if you have no network to connect over.  Place the two notebooks so the IR ports are within sight of each other.  Then grab the files and send them from one to the other notebook.  As a security measure, the receiving notebook will ask whether the owner wants to receive the files.  Just okay the transfer and let it go.

Many of you may also be wondering about Bluetooth.  It's also a wireless technology; it has a longer range but a maximum throughput of 1 Mbps.  It most likely will supplant IR, but for now, IR is on just about every notebook, and Bluetooth is not.

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Ten-Digit Dialing.  In many areas across the country you now must dial the area code (but not the 1) for all local calls.  Making your PC do this is not as straightforward as you might expect.  If you don't use Locations and Dialing Rules, you can just specify the ten-digit number.  If you do use rules and locations, follow these steps.

In Windows 98 and Me, go to the Control Panel, then Modems.  Click on your modem and choose Dialing Properties | Area Code Rules | Always dial the area code.

In Windows XP and 2000, go to Control Panel | Phone and Modem Options and click on Dialing Rules.  If your location exists, click Edit; otherwise, select New.  Go to the Area Code Rules tab and select New.  Type in your area code, and place a check mark next to Include the area code.

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