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In the News
Currently there are no taxes on Internet connections such as DSL and cable modems.
This however, is due to expire. The US House of Representatives has approved
making the tax ban permanent, but the Senate is still debating it. Joe mentioned
that nine states used to tax Internet access accounts and they wanted to be
grandfathered. Also, VOIP is complicating the issue.
EFF Launches Patent-Busting Campaign
by Matt McKenzie, Developer Pipeline
As the cost of books is rising and computers falling, a Texas school district
signed a deal with IBM to supply ThinkPads with all the textbooks stored
digitally in the computers. The schools are faced with a shortage of textbooks and
long delays getting new ones. Joe felt that reading a laptop screen was worse on
your eyes compared to a book. He also was afraid that this would decrease
library use by students. The books on the computers have been approved by the
Texas school board. The books in the library have a broader range of
opinion. Then too there are ergonomic considerations - excessive laptop use
might cause headaches, backaches, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Forgent Networks Sues 31 Major Companies Over JPEG Patent
InternetWeek.com April 23, 2004. Forgent Networks filed suit in Federal court against 31 companies for alleged infringement of Forgent's patent on JPEG image compression.
This weekend is the Trenton Computer Festival.
For shopping, be prepared ahead of time to know the prices of things you are looking for. Some price comparison web sites are MySimon, Pricescan, Pricegrabber. Hank is a fan of Epinions where you can read the opinions of total strangers. Michael pointed out that CNet and Amazon also have opinions. Everyone agreed that these comments are quite useful in making buying decisions.
Joe uses Copernic for his price comparison shopping. It's not a web site, but a free program you download and install on your computer. Copernic does a meta search, that is, it searches multiple search engines.
Joe asked listeners that use Instant Messaging software to let us know (via email) the software they use. Different Instant Messaging programs can not yet talk to each other and he is considering using IM while the show is on the air.
Bob asked how much difference does the memory (RAM) speed make to the performance of a computer? Hank responded that slow memory can slow down the processor. DDR (double data rate) memory should be matched to the speed of the front side bus. If it doesn't match, the processor runs slower.
He also asked about dual channel memory. This type of RAM requires two memory chips to be in the motherboard at the same time. They must be the exact same product from the same manufacturer. With dual channel memory, one memory operation can sometimes start before another has finished. l Theoretically this yields a 5 to 10 percent performance boost.
In the News
Tim Berners-Lee, credited with inventing the World Wide Web (not the
Internet, just the web) was awarded the inaugural Millennium Technology Prize by
the Finnish Technology Award Foundation. Mr. Lee did not cash in on the web, but
made the protocol (HTTP) freely available. In recognition of his contribution,
he will receive about 1.2 million dollars.
Nick Holonyak Jr. discovered light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. Today they are
used in everything from DVDs to alarm clocks to the NASDAQ stock billboard in New
York to traffic lights. He was awarded $500,000 by MIT. At the time he worked
for Bell Labs which was devoted to pure research. A discussion of who, if
anyone, is doing pure research now followed.
Earth day/week is coming up. In accordance with this HP is offering a sale on their computer recycling services. During April, if you recycle a computer with HP, they will send you a coupon worth up to $100 towards the purchase of new HP equipment on their web site. HP typically charges between $17 and $46 for its recycling services, depending on the product. Under this special offer, the company will arrange pickup at your home.
Dell also has a sale on their recycling, offering to recycle up to three items, weighing up to
50 pounds, for only $5. Dell normally charges $15 per 50 pounds. This offer is available for
"a limited time" and also includes a 10 percent discount on a purchase from
the Dell Software & Peripherals Web site.
After the show, Hewlett-Packard announced that they will offer a discount of $50 on the Pocket PC
if you turn in your old personal digital assistants.
Sunday, April 25th, 2004 will be the second annual Earth Day Event at Union Square North Plaza in Manhattan. Come and donate electronic waste from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. They even accept dead batteries! For more, see the Announcements page.
Lindows is in the process of changing their name to Linspire. As part of this, they are offering a free download of the Lindows OS which normally sells for $50. According to this story It's Official: Lindows Is Dead, Long Live "Linspire" from the LinuxWorld News Desk, you go to the normal Lindows order page and then enter the secret code which we mentioned on the air. The download however, requires you to have the BitTorrent peer-to-peer system installed on your computer.
Nextel started offering wireless broadband in North Carolina's Research Triangle. They took a trial, based on technology from Flarion Technologies called Flash OFDM, and extended it into a full service to be called Nextel Wireless Broadband. The coverage area is 1,300 square miles. The speed is said to be 1.5 Mbps with bursts up to 3 Mbps downstream and uplink speeds are around 375 kbps with bursts up to 750 kbps. Prices range between $34.99 to $74.99 a month. Nextel did not reveal future plans for the service. The network supports mobile users, so if you are using it a car, for example, it will automatically jump from cell to cell.
Tests by RCR wireless showed average network speeds of around 950 kilobits per second. In contrast, they found Verizon Wireless’ EV-DO network to run at 329 kbps on average. AT&T Wireless Services Inc.’s EDGE network runs at about 111 kbps. Sprint PCS’ 1x-based network runs at about 101 kbps.
Joanne Witt joined us by phone to report on the National Association of Broadcasters confab in Las Vegas. The NAB Show is an annual gathering of electronic media professionals showcasing: content creation, management, and delivery tools, trends, and technologies for radio, television, film, video, streaming media, telecommunications and the Internet.
Joanne has over twenty years of experience with information technology. She is currently consulting at HP, working with smaller companies and
John has an HP laptop with Windows XP. He has had to re-install Windows XP twice due to assorted crashes and re-apply all the patches each time. He asked if there was a way to back up the computer after he re-built it so that the next time he would not have to start all over from scratch. The answer is yes. John needs to backup the partition that Windows lives in. This can be done either using disk imaging software such as Ghost, Drive Image or True Image Deluxe or with partitioning software such as Partition Magic. Hank uses an external hard disk to hold the backup. You can also back up an entire partition to CDs or DVDs (but not with Partitioning software).
A caller ordered the Microsoft Security Update CD, which has all the bug fixes for Windows as of February 2004. He has heard that after applying some bug fixes Windows XP slows down drastically and asked if that was a problem with Windows ME also, which he uses. Michael said the slowdown issue only applied to Windows XP, not to Windows ME. Michael warned that before applying any patches to Windows you should disable your anti-virus program. After applying the patches, reboot and then re-enable your anti-virus program. This applies not only to the Security Update CD but also to Windows Update. Joe pointed out that this CD only gets you patches as of February 2004. After using this CD, you still have to use Windows Update to fill in the blanks, that is, to get the bug fixes (patches) released since February. Hank mentioned that before installing any software updates you should back up your most important files. Michael pointed out that prior to installing patches (bug fixes) was a great time to back up the Windows partition (see above).
Update: The Windows Security Update CD is no longer available for ordering. Instead go to Microsoft's Protect Your PC page where you can order a free CD with Windows XP Service Pack 2. November 11, 2004.
Harold asked about an email message that Microsoft will pay people to forward. This is a lie. A scam. It's done just to see how many people are gullible. This one is pretty old. Joe suggested www.snopes.com which tracks urban legends like this. There is no way for Microsoft to track your email. Any email message that tells you to forward it to everyone you know is almost definitely a fraud.
Richard can not open Word. Alfred thinks he has a corrupt "normal.dot" template. Search your hard drive for a file by this name and rename it.
Researchers have found security holes in the online virus scans of McAfee, Panda and Symantec. It was claimed that a buffer overflow problem could result in your computer being compromised. Panda has fixed the problem, Symantec denied there was a problem (they are the publishers of Norton Anti-Virus and Norton Internet Security). McAfee found the problem and fixed it. Trend Micro's online virus scan, Housecall, was not said to have any problems. It is available at www.antivirus.com.
Our guest was Dr. Rebecca Mercuri, an expert on electronic voting. Her web site is Notable Software which has a page dedicated to information on electronic voting. Dr. Mercuri was last on our show February 11, 2004. For some background see
VoteHere Inc has published their voting machine software on the Internet. Dr. Mercuri felt it was a publicity stunt. It is not really open source, you have to sign a licensing agreement to see the software. See for yourself. There is no guarantee that what you see on their web site is what is actually used in any of their voting machines. There could be problems in the compiler, even if the programs are perfect. The OS running the program can have problems. Michael pointed out that fudging can happen in the process of accumulating the data, even if the voting machine is perfect. She warned that their own company got hacked.
Dr. Mercuri will be the keynote speaker at the Trenton Computer Festival, May 1, 2004 and May 2, 2004.
Yesterday was the second Tuesday of the month and therefore the day Microsoft released the latest crop of bug fixes. There were 6 critical flaws fixed for Windows XP, 5 for Windows 98. Hank ran Windows Update early and only found 3 critical flaws for XP.
The cost of DSL is going to rise. There is a "surcharge" that the DSL companies have been eating up to now. They have now decided to start passing it along to their customers. Initially, the charge will take effect in June and only on the east coast.
A new study reported that 3 out of every 4 U.S. adults use computers. Two thirds of them use the Internet.
How much SPAM does AOL block a day? One and a half billion messages.
Apple Probes Reports of IPod Mini Static Newsday April 15, 2004
Apple Cuts Price on Entry-Level Macintosh Computer Boston.com April 13, 2004. Apple will upgrade the lowest-priced Macintosh computers, the eMac line of all-in-one machines. The $999 model will now have a G4 processor running at 1.25 GHz, an 80 GB hard disk and a DVD burner. The $799 model has a combination DVD reader/CD burner, 40 GB hard disk and the same processor. Both models have 256 MB of ram, USB 2.0 ports (which are fairly new on Macs) and FireWire ports.
Google is planning on offering a gigabyte of storage for a new web based email system, currently known as Gmail (the name is expected to change in the future). In return for this huge amount of storage space, they will read your email so they can present ads relevant to the content of the message. While this might be considered a fair tradeoff, as long as they are up-front about it, Joe pointed out that people who send you email have no idea the messages will be parsed for the purpose of serving up ads.
The big fear is that they can now associate your email address with your interests. Joe refuses to use it, even to send email to someone else who uses the Google Gmail system. Yahoo email also serves up ads, but the ads are not associated with the specific content of each message.
The Great Springtime Electro-Recycling: Sunday, April 25th, 2004 will be the second annual Earth Day Event at Union Square North Plaza in Manhattan. Come and donate electronic waste from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. They even accept dead batteries! For more, see the Announcements page.
Blake asked about copying a PowerPoint file from a Mac to a Windows XP computer. It did not fit on a floppy disk and there was a problem with incompatible formats when he burned it to a CD on the Mac. Alfred suggested emailing it to himself. Another option is to copy it using a USB keychain flash drive. Finally, it might fit on a floppy disk if the file is compressed. You can use Stuffit on the Mac to compress the PowerPoint file, but be sure to compress it using the zip format. Windows XP can read zip files directly. PowerPoint files sometimes compress by 60% to 90%. Another option is from DataViz which makes programs called Conversions Plus and MacOpener for opening files from one Operating System on another Operating System.
A caller asked about Norton Anti-Virus 2004. The story we mentioned earlier in the show was just about the online virus scans done from a web site. It did not relate to anti-virus software that you install on your computer. Still, Michael suggested checking is Computer Gripes web site for a heads up on the reported problems with Norton Anti-Virus 2004. Also, be sure to run Live Update manually after installing NAV and keep running it until there are no more updates.
Online virus scans are free and offered on the web site of many companies that make anti-virus software. The one often recommended here is Housecall from Trend Micro. The only problem with an online scan is that you can get infected with a virus five minutes after the scan shows your computer is virus free.
He also asked about purchasing extra RAM for his computer. Kingston is having a sale now. Alfred suggested buying it now as the prices for RAM are expected to go up.
Jeffrey wants to save web pages on his laptop computer so that he can read them when his computer is not connected to the Internet. He does not have a printer and Alfred suggested that he can print web pages at Kinkos as long as he has a printer driver installed on his computer. Better still, he would like to save the pages on his computer. In Internet Explorer you can save a single web page using File -> Save As. Jeffrey complained that this only save the HTML, he wants the pictures too. Michael said that IE has four options for how the "Save As" function works and suggested saving the web page in "mht" format (use the Save As Type drop-down list box). This is called a Web Archive by IE and it saves the web page as a single file, including all the pictures.
Kevin has a friend who purchased a new Dell computer with a Celeron processor. When someone told her the Celeron was a "garbage chip", she returned the computer. We all agreed this was a big mistake. A Celeron is just fine.
Shawn gets on the Internet using a hand-held PDA and pointed out that Barnes and Noble has free WiFi access in their stores (at least the ones he has been in). This was news to us. He asked if they can see what he is doing on the Internet. Yes they can. Also be aware that email is as secure as a post card.
The show was pre-empted this week.
During the week, Bill asked via email for a recommendation on a program to back-up his data files.
Michael replied: Look into Replicator by Karen Kenworthy at www.karenware.com. It does exactly what you want and its free. I have used it for quite a while. At run time though, it does not ask you about files that exist only on the backup medium. Instead there is a configuration option for how to deal with this situation that you can set for each backup "job".
Webmaster: Michael Horowitz Page Last Updated: May 21, 2004