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Choices few on worldwide e-mail

May 12, 2002

Q: My husband I are seeking a way to send and receive e-mail while traveling internationally. Are there any handheld computers that handle e-mail and work both here and abroad?

A: Using wireless telephones and devices while traveling internationally can be a problem because different regions of the world use different standards for transmitting calls.

A digital cellular technology called GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) has emerged as the standard in Europe, with parts of Asia and North America using it as well. Motorola makes a device called the Accompli 009 Personal Communicator that relies on GSM and GPRS (General Packet Radio Service, a related standard for delivering data like e-mail) networks in 171 countries, including the United States and nations in Europe, Africa and Asia.

The Accompli 009, which is about the size of a two-way pager, costs $649 plus a monthly charge for service from Cingular Wireless, currently the only certified provider. The device can be used to send and receive e-mail, to browse the Internet, and as a phone. More information is available at

The North American version of the Treo 180 Communicator by Handspring ($399 plus monthly service from VoiceStream or Cingular; can also be used in parts of Europe and Asia.

Another option: buy or rent an international GSM-based phone (sometimes called a tri-band GSM phone) that can also send and receive e-mail and browse the Web. Several companies, including Siemens, Motorola and Nokia, make such phones.

Q: I copied a favorite game of mine (including all the sub files) from my Dell Dimension L866r, running Windows ME, to my laptop Toshiba Portege 7200, running Windows 2000 Professional.

When I click the icon to play this game on my laptop, I get a pop-up window in which the main message is "Can't run 16-bit Windows program" and the body of the box reads "One of the library files needed to run C:DOCUME7/811/4msousa1/4Desktop1/4Wep1/4GOLF.EXE cannot load in the 16-bit Windows subsystem because it is a Win32.DLL."

A: You will need to find the original disc or installation file for the game (assuming you downloaded it from the Web) in order to get it properly loaded, reconciled with the Windows registry and working on new machines.

Those error messages are telling you that the computer is not finding a required file called a library that it needs to run. These libraries (called dlls) get installed when a program is set up during the same process that creates all of the associated icons and folders. When you moved what you thought were all of the needed stuff and sub files, there was no way for you to know how to find all of the dlls and other support files that get scattered at various places around a computer.

Q: What is the difference between 802.11b and 802.11a wireless networking?

A: The two technologies are part of a group of wireless networking standards that include yet another version, the nascent 802.11g. For a computer user, the differences mainly involve data transfer speed, the physical distance from the wireless base station (also called an access point) to the wireless-equipped computer, and the radio spectrum frequency on which the standard operates.

An 802.11b network operates on the 2.4-gigahertz band of the radio frequency spectrum and can transfer data at speeds up to 11 megabits per second.

The 802.11a standard can support data transfer speeds up to 54 megabits per second and operates on the 5-gigahertz band. The wireless range is shorter -- about 60 feet from wireless access point to PC, compared with 100 feet or more from access point to PC on an 802.11b network.

The 802.11g standard, still in the works, operates on the same frequency as 802.11b but can transfer data at speeds of up to 54 megabits per second.

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