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Virtual Secretary is on the Fritz

July 9, 2008

Q. I enter events into AOL’s calendar and program it to send me e-mail to remind me. Unfortunately, a few months ago, I stopped receiving e-mail reminders, and AOL has not been able to correct this problem. Do you know of any other software programs that will let me enter events into a calendar and receive e-mail to remind me?

A. Google Calendar will do exactly what you’re asking.

If you already have a Google account for e-mail, you have a Google calendar, too. Just click on the link for “calendar” at the top left of the screen, and a new window or tab will open to the calendar. If you don’t already have a Google account, go to calendar.google.com and click the button to create an account.

You can set a reminder e-mail at the same time that you’re adding an event to your calendar. Just look for the gray box titled “options.” Click “add a reminder” to schedule an e-mail or pop-up reminder from five minutes to one week before the event. By going through the “settings” link at the top right of the screen, you can set up your mobile phone to receive calendar notifications.

You also can set e-mail notifications through Yahoo Calendar, although I haven’t been able to get one to stick using Firefox.

When you’re adding an event in Internet Explorer, scroll down to the reminders tab to send a reminder to your e-mail inbox, mobile phone or Yahoo Messenger. You can schedule reminders from five minutes to two weeks before the event.

Q. I earn my living as a writer, and years of material I would love to retrieve is on floppy disks down in my basement. The problem is, the disks are 5.25-inch floppies. The only thing I can do, as far as I know, is print every page and scan it into my computer. Can you help me find an easier, quicker, high-tech fix? Everyone I have consulted about this problem has been stumped, including some world-class geeks.

A. The issue, as I’m sure you and the geeks you enlisted know, is that external 5.25-inch floppy drives don’t appear to exist nowadays. As a quick reminder, we’re talking about the large disks with holes in the middle that flopped when you shook them.

Even if you could find an external 5.25-inch drive, it’s far more likely to have a serial connection than today’s more standard USB port.

If the data were stuck on 3.5-inch disks, you could order an external 3.5-inch floppy USB drive for $19.95 from FloppyDisk.com. The store mentions on its site that it can’t find equivalent drives for 5.25-inch disks.

However, the California outfit does offer a solution that’s probably your best bet. For $5 per floppy, the company will transfer your data from your 5.25-inch disk to CD. The turnaround is two business days, and bulk discounts are available.

One caveat: The Web site warns that some data might be unrecoverable, and that you’re paying for the attempt, not necessarily the results.

By the way, there are higher-tech and possibly cheaper solutions to your problem that involve connecting an old computer with a 5.25-inch floppy drive to a newer machine, but that could open a number of cans of technical worms. However, if you want to consider those options, check out this message board: tomshardware.com/forum/156310-45-external-inch-floppy-drive.

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(Think you can stump the geeks? Send your high-tech question to stumpthegeeks@newsobserver.com. Please include your name, address and daytime phone number. Individual replies are not given.)

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