Ask Mr. Modem: E-mail update has scary red side effect

After a recent update, I opened the Inbox of Outlook Express and discovered that red X's had taken the place of pictures. What's going on?

The red X's you describe, which are called "placeholders," are known to crop up in Outlook Express after the installation of the SP2 update on some systems. To fix the problem, click Tools > Options > Security tab. In the Virus Protection section, click to remove the check mark beside "Block images and other external content in HTML email." Click Apply > OK to save and exit, and you'll be all set.

On my last vacation, I took more than 800 photos that I'd now like to make into a screen-saver slideshow. Can you help? I'm using Windows XP.

Let's see, 800 photos, and if each one appears on screen for a scant five seconds, that's 4,000 seconds, so carry the naught, add the square root of 79, divide by the mean ambient temperature in Mozambique, and that works out to 66 interminable/glorious minutes of slide show.

Windows XP has a built-in screen saver that will display your pictures. To set it up, right-click a blank spot on your desktop and select Properties > Screen Saver tab.

In the Screen Saver window, click the drop-down list under the Screen Saver heading and select My Pictures Slideshow, followed by clicking the Settings button that appears to the right.

In the Settings window, you can customize a number of items to make your slide show extra special -- though with 800 slides, that might be special enough. You can change the number of seconds that pictures are displayed as well as the size of the pictures. In the cleverly named "Use pictures in this folder" section, select the location of your photos by clicking the Browse button. When you locate the folder containing your pictures, click OK twice, then sit back and enjoy the show.

I like Outlook, but it annoys me that I can't see the number of e-mails I have in each folder. Or can I?

Yes, Outlook does provide the ability to change settings for each of your mail folders. All you have to do is right-click a mail folder and select Properties > General tab, and look toward the middle of the screen. You'll see two choices for the folder: "Show number of unread items" and "Show total number of items." Click OK to save your selection. Bingo! Unfortunately, this only works with Microsoft Outlook, not Outlook Express. Bummer.

Mr. Modem publishes "Ask Mr. Modem!" each week, featuring PC tips, tricks and plain-English answers to your questions by e-mail. For more information, visit