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June 24, 2012

GEEK TO ME: Administrating email accounts

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Q: My problem appeared several months ago and I’ve tried almost everything to correct it. I’m using Windows 7 with Microsoft Outlook. When I click on a link in an email I received, the following message pops up “This operation has been cancelled due to restrictions in effect on this computer. Please contact your system administrator.” If I copy and paste the link to my browser, it works just fine. I’ve gone so far as to reinstall Outlook with no results. As this computer is mine, and I am the administrator and logged in as such, I’m at a loss as to what else to do. I am also using Norton 360. Any help with correcting this problem will be deeply appreciated.

John T.
Niceville, Fla.

A: You are operating under a couple of misconceptions that I’ll be happy to help you correct, John. In the process, I think I can also steer you towards a solution to your problem. First of all, that error message presumes that you are on a computer in a business environment, since Outlook is primarily used in by businesses, where home users use mostly Windows Live Mail (and previously, Outlook Express). The “administrator” it’s talking about is someone in a corporate Information Technology department. So, let me offer a retranslation of that message that’s more applicable to you as a private user: “The operation has been cancelled because someone with the authority to do so has configured Outlook to not open embedded hyperlinks. This was probably done as a security precaution, because one of the primary vectors for the delivery of malware is via hyperlinks embedded in email messages. If you need to open hyperlinks directly from email, please ask whoever configured it to set it back the way it was.” In other words, the system isn’t trying to tell you that you don’t have the privilege to do what you’re trying to do, but rather, it’s telling you that it’s been programmed not to let you do it. This was done either by you, or a security update from Microsoft.

Your assumption that you are the “administrator” of your machine is not necessarily true and correct, even if you are running the “administrator” account, and have administrator privileges turned on. From a system security perspective, this is an absolutely terrible way to run your computer, since it allows every process you launch — including malware installers that inevitably slip past your scanner — to run with the highest level of privilege. For more information on this aspect of your problem, see I.G.T.M. Issue #211, available in the column archive at my website, ItsGeekToMe.co (not .com).  Anyway, to fix your problem, just visit the Microsoft Support board at tinyurl.com/3mjky4 and follow the instructions. You’ll find both automated and do-it-yourself solutions on the page.

Geeky News

This past week Microsoft announced their entry into the tablet computing market with the new Microsoft Surface. This is significant because it represents a swing on Microsoft’s part toward the business model of Apple, in which both hardware and software are developed by the same manufacturer.

The ink wasn’t even dry on the press release when I started getting emails asking me what I thought of the Surface, and whether I was going to get one, and would I offer my opinion, or a review. Well I’d be very happy to offer an unbiased, in-depth product review if anyone out there in the Geekdom can arrange for a product sample to be sent to me. Otherwise, you’ll just have to settle for an aggregation of what I read about it online.

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