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February 2004 Archive

Show Recaps on this page
  February 25, 2004  February 18, 2004   February 11, 2004   February 4, 2004 

For a full list of all archived shows, see the Archives page.

 February 25, 2004 Show

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In the News

The latest computer virus is MyDoom. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Hank suggested backing up your important files on a regular basis and installing an AntiVirus program and keeping up to date with its virus definitions. Joe also pointed out that the System Restore feature in Windows XP and Me might be able to help with a virus, but you have to insure it is taking checkpoints. Perhaps the most important defense is never to open a file attached to an email message unless you are 100% sure you know what it is. Be aware that the from address of an email message can be easily forged, so you can't be positive who sent any message. Joe said almost 95% of the problems are caused by people who do things by mistake. Michael, teaches a class on Protecting Your Computer

We recently posted a document on our web site about Backing Up Your Computer. It's on the Links/Downloads page and is a co-operative effort of everyone on the Personal Computer show. It's a 12 page document in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format.  

All throughout the country, hundreds of students who had enrolled in computer schools were left with nothing when the schools abruptly shut down. These are not large universities but instead are smaller schools. It is estimated that 25% of computer schools have closed in the last few years. 

The Dobbs Lists: Exporting America by Lou Dobbs of CNN. Hundreds of companies are selling out American workers by outsourcing American jobs to cheaper foreign labor. This is a list of U.S. companies that are exporting American jobs. The list is for your information purposes only. 

 Our Guest  

Our guest was Bill Bodin the Chief Technology Officer of the Internet Home Alliance at IBM who discussed the "home of the future". 

See the web site for Pervasive Computing from IBM. What Pervasive Computing? Getting data to the right people at the right time. His lab has an eFridge with a touch sensitive LCD display on the outside. 

Bill provides technology counsel and works with member companies to optimize collaborative technical efforts. He leads the research and prototyping efforts for the Pervasive Computing Division at IBM in Austin, Texas. He is currently involved in bringing key technologies to IBM's Pervasive Development organizations. The Pervasive Computing Advanced Technology Lab, which Bill directs, provides the conduit through which many of these technologies flow. He is also one of the original OS/2 architects. 
Do you want an iron that vocally reminds you to turn it off? Or what about an oven that cooks your family's dinner and has it ready by the time you get home from work? Your days of writing up a grocery list will be over once your refrigerator does the task for you. The Jetson age is here! IBM is making all of this possible today and is working on many exciting projects for intelligent homes and appliances. 
Many "futuristic" home appliances are already up and running and available to the public. Based in Austin, Texas, IBM's lab is the magic behind the company's many pervasive computing initiatives. The lab features a networked home, an Internet-enabled car with integrated voice-recognition technology, and a host of dynamic wireless applications. There, engineers and researchers have developed code that enables a variety of gadgets to share information in real-time, using a variety of new and existing gadgets and appliances. 

In the living room 

  • A wall dedicated to an entertainment center consisting of a Web-enabled television and other media devices. On the television screen, the Service Gateway Web page highlights the room devices you can control. 
  • Intelligent Web pad to control lights, ceiling fan and media center. 
  • The system can also be enabled to interpret the state of temperature-sensitive equipment. It can talk to weather repositories to determine whether or not to raise or lower the window blinds, to turn on the air-conditioning, or adjust the water heater in relation to a temperature reading. 
  • Through remote monitoring, you can increase the level of security in the home and manage the lighting in the front of the house. 
  • You can also communicate to the car out in the garage, or pipe The Eagles' Greatest Hits from your home system to the car stereo through an automotive port. 

In the kitchen 

  • A screen phone enables you to access the user interface of the network and collaborative Web browsing with relatives. For example, a two-way pager permits you to broadcast a health checkup. 
  • The Whirlpool Polara, a two-in-one oven/refrigerator unit, allows you to put a dish in the oven before going to work and program the oven to refrigerate, cook and cool the dish for a set mealtime in the evening. If the soccer game goes into OT or if the family decides to head out to dinner, you can change the cooking instructions via your cell phone, mobile tablet or Web-enabled entertainment/command center. 
  • On the refrigerator, you can write a message to your son and he can remotely check to see what you've said, as well as find out if you are connected to the network. Projected by a camera inside, the refrigerator can also display an image of its interior allowing you to browse the contents without opening the doors (which saves energy). 
  • An intelligent iron alerts users via voice, if the device has been left on too long or has not been turned off. It can literally say to you, "Turn me off!" 
  • The "smart countertop" can post a warning if two pill bottles on the countertop contain medicine that, if taken together, would lead to bad side effects. (In the future, the countertop will be able to tell you the nutritional content description that a manufacturer has encoded on a can or package, as well as other real value-added information, such as what's fresh and what's not. ) 

More than enabling mere gadgets, games, and ring-tones, wireless and pervasive technology works with service providers, enterprises and equipment makers to link devices from cell phones to handheld computers to cars with the vast amounts of information and transactional capabilities that already exist on servers and networks. It provides seamless and smooth access to portals, corporate information and databases using open standards, across any platform. 

Bill mentioned that they developed an iron that when left on for a long time will start to send out a signal via its power line connection. This signal is picked up by an intercom in the home which then talks to you to warn about the iron. 

IDF Report: Intel Imagines Digital Homes PC Magazine February 18, 2004

Caller Questions

Patrick wondered if he signs up for broadband Internet access in Manhattan how does he get online when traveling with a laptop computer and a modem. EarthLink partners with Time Warner in Manhattan for cable access and they have a large dial-up network that you can use when traveling. 

He also asked if there is a way to name a web site so it won't be spammed. There is not.  

Maddy called and suggested we take a look into VeriChip which is miniaturized, implantable identification technology. Perhaps pervasive computing can go too far. 

Bob can't install a hard disk into his computer. The drive is recognized but the computer won't process it. It's the only hard disk in the computer. The BIOS may protecting the master boot record from changes which would prevent formatting of the hard disk. This is done as protection from viruses. Even after disabling this feature however, the hard disk still was not usable. Fdisk and formatting both fail. One suggestion was to unhook the CD-ROM drive and try it again. 

A caller asked if you can get a virus just by browsing the Internet. Yes. You can certainly get a worm. There are hidden software installs known as drive-by installs. JavaScript errors are not viruses. If you get a pop-up window, never click on anything in the window, instead click on the X in the top right corner to close it. Also run a pop-up stopper and a firewall. It's a dangerous world on the Internet.  

A caller complained that on his laptop computer everything was too small to read. He used to run at a low screen resolution but after installing some software this no longer fills the entire screen. Alfred suggested running at the native resolution for his LCD screen (you have to check the documentation to see what this is) and using a program called LiquidView from Portrait Displays at There is a 30 day free trial. 

 February 18, 2004 Show

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Microsoft just started making available a free Windows Security Update CD (not even shipping charges). The CD includes critical updates released through October 2003, information to help you protect your PC and free trial anti-virus and firewall software. For dial-up users, this is a great thing - it can bring your copy of Windows to a reasonably recent state from which you should be able to run Windows Update and download the latest patches. The CD is for Windows XP, Windows Me, Windows 2000, Windows 98, and Windows 98 Second Edition (SE) and they claim it takes 2-4 weeks for delivery. Order it here

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. 

Microsoft Sending Security Patches on a CD on February 18, 2004 

Popular Science Magazine had an article on how to replace the iPods battery:,12543,588084,00.html
We discussed this on the January 21, 2004 show. Replacing the battery yourself requires about $50 to $60 in parts. Apply will do it for $99. Also, the Apple replacement battery lasts 8 hours, the one in this article is said to last 6 to 7 hours. 

 Product Review 

Alfred reviewed the N-Charge VNC-130 from Valence Technology. It is part of the N-Charge™ Power System, an external high capacity lithium-ion battery that works with many different laptop computers. There are two N-Charge models. One is $200, weighs less than 2 pounds and offers up to 5 hours of laptop run time. The other, which Alfred reviewed, is $299, weighs about 3 pounds and offers up to 10 hours of power. It can also be used to charge a Palm Pilot or a cell phone. 

There is no "memory" effect with lithium-ion batteries and the N-Charge should last for about 600 charges. Rather than replace the internal battery in your laptop computer, it connects to the same port used by the AC power cord. If you leave your laptop computer plugged into the N-Charge but with the power off, it will recharge the laptop battery so you can then leave the N-Charge behind if you want. 

The N-Charge measures about 1/2 inch high, a foot wide and about 9 inches deep. The vendor can be reached on the phone at 888-VALENCE. 

In Search Of A Better Battery Forbes Magazine February 18, 2004 

 February 11, 2004 Show

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We interviewed Rebecca Mercuri about computerized voting and the problems associated with it. 

To learn about the latest computer security bugs from the U.S. government, go to (the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team).

For the technical specs of WiMax go to 

When looking to purchase RAM for a computer, Crucial has an extensive database of computers and models. Find your computer and they have all the information about its RAM requirements. If your machine was hand built and you don't have a manual, Crucial also provides the Belarc Advisor, a program you can download and run on your computer to report on the installed memory. 

A searchable database that contains thousands of U.S. companies who hire H-1Bs is available from 


 February 4, 2004 Show


The show was pre-empted this week for fund raising. During the week, Joe found this very interesting article:
   Cable modem hackers conquer the co-ax  By Kevin Poulsen, SecurityFocus February 5, 2004 on The Register  

By email, a listener asked: How can I learn to use IRC channels?
Joe responded: Many books are available including "Online: the book" by John Dvorak who was on the show a few weeks back. But a good (and free) place to start is: Michael suggested the IRC Help Archive

RealNetworks, Inc. Releases Update to Address Security Vulnerabilities   

Webmaster:  Michael Horowitz            Page Last Updated:  March 15, 2004