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-- by Joel T. Patz
Sharing a PC with someone else is like sharing an apartment-privacy and security are paramount. IconHideIt 1.0 works with Windows 95's networking facility to let you become a landlord to visiting users. You can build security walls to control access to various portions of the system. Unfortunately, several huge problems make this program as much of an unwelcome guest as the users it protects against.
The person who installs IconHideIt (designated the Primary User) becomes the administrator, defining up to four additional user IDs. The Primary User is able to determine whether a user can execute DOS applications or save the Desktop, as well as specify a private folder for each user's exclusive use.
New users' desktops begin as the Primary User's clones.
Selecting which icons will be shown on the user's Desktop or in the Start menu is a tedious process. You can't select a range of icons or use Ctrl+click to select more than one at a time. The actual Save command was slow-it took 70 seconds to complete.
While there is no read-only option, you can specify which folders and drives are accessible, as well as control which COM and LPT ports are available. When logging in, the program asks for a log-in name and password; without them, you go no further.
One of IconHideIt's weaknesses is that it must be uninstalled before you can reinstall Win95. Furthermore, the uninstaller leaves your Registry littered with useless entries.
The most obvious security breach can occur when booting from a floppy. IconHideIt's Hard Disk Protection (HDP) option prevents this, but at great cost. When HDP was turned on and I tried to boot from a floppy, I got the message "Invalid Drive Specification" when accessing the C: drive. Turning on HDP also caused the program to note that it could not handle 16-bit and 32-bit drivers on the same IDE controller. In response, the program changed the hard disk drivers to the slower DOS compatibility mode without permission. Removing HDP did not restore my system to its previous state. The installation program also changed Windows' built-in networking features to require a minimum three-character password, which I could not reset. After 5 frustrating hours, I gave up, reformatted my hard drive and reinstalled Win95.
The only thing that causes more confusion than a shared living space is a shared computing space. Unfortunately, IconHideIt creates as much havoc as the guests it intends to control. Until the program is better designed, I can't recommend it.
Copyright (c) 1997 CMP Media Inc.