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July 2003 Archive

Shows  (on this page)
  July 30, 2003  July 23, 2003   July 16, 2003  July 9, 2003   July 2, 2003 

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

July 30, 2003 Show     RETURN TO TOP

In the News

The Culture Ministry in France has banned use of the word "e-mail" and instead will use "courriel". The don't like English words in their language. The term comes from 'courrier electronique'. For e-mail, French read courriel CNN July 18, 2003 

Air France won a typosquatting lawsuit. Their web site is Someone had registered, an easy mis-typing. The ruling was made by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
  Air France wins 'typosquatting' case by Reuters July 30, 200

Hormel is trying to block trademark filings by the makers of SpamArrest software. They have no objection to the general use of the term "spam" to describe unsolicited commercial e-mail, but don't want "spam" in the name of other companies or products.
  Hormel fights to protect SPAM trademark San Jose Mercury News July 30, 2003 

The RIAA continues to go after people sharing music. Joe found the subpoena defense web site. The site is a resource for individuals on how to defend themselves if their identity has been subpoenaed by a private third party seeking to enforce their copyrights on the Internet. 

The trustworthy computing company (said Hank sarcastically) just announced two critical flaws. We seem to make this very same announcement week after week after week . . . One new bug is a buffer over-run with DirectX and Windows Media Player 9 when playing MIDI files. 

Speaking of bug fixes, Joe recently had to re-install Windows XP. Fifty Eight bug fixes (patches) needed to be applied to the base product to bring it up to current levels. How long does it take to apply these 58 bug fixes? If you are a dial-up user, days. Hank said it was about 170 MB of downloads. Only about 35% of Internet users have a fast broadband connection. You can buy the latest service pack on a CD from Microsoft for about $10 or so. Installing the latest service pack will decrease the amount of bug fixes that need to be downloaded.

The August 1, 2003 edition of Woody's WINDOWS Watch newsletter covered the latest security bugs in Windows. Quoting: "The Windows flaw that's the focus of concern is based on Microsoft Security Bulletin MS03-026.  It talks about a buffer overrun in the RPC interface in such a way as to induce deep sleep in even the most caffeine-stoked geek." The newsletter warns that the problem is described in a security bulletin and a bug fix and each has a different and unrelated number. It also has links to download the bug fix without using Windows Update.

A Gartner survey predicted that one out of 10 jobs in the computer services and software industry could shift to cheaper offshore labor by the end of 2004. Tech jobs moving offshore Reuters. July 29, 2003.

Adobe is trying something new in Australia, copy protection. The term "copy protection" is considered negative, so it is now referred to as Digital Rights Management or DRM. PhotoShop version 7 will incorporate DRM. If you are familiar with product activation used by Microsoft with Windows XP and Office XP, this is the same thing. This is only a trial for Adobe. Photoshop is thought to be one of the most pirated programs in the world. 

A listener forwarded an email message from the TechXNY show (which used to be called PC Expo) with information on free registration to the exhibits. The code to use when registering at the show's web site is MLDTX. A shortcut, with this code built into it is in this link. If you plan on attending the conference, this code also includes at 15% discount. The conference runs from September 15-17, 2003. The Exhibits are September 16-18, 2003.  

 Joe's CD Burner Problem

Joe purchased a refurbished Iomega external USB based CD burner. He used it on three different computers with different results in each. It worked fine on an HP machine, was flaky on a Dell machine and would not work at all on an IBM computer. After much debugging, the problem turned out to be with the power supply for the CD burner. IBM desktop machines are very sensitive to power fluctuations, Dell less so and the HP the least of all. A new power supply fixed all the problems. A word to the wise. 

 Paint Shop Pro v8

Hank reviewed Paint Shop Pro version 8 from JASC Software and gave it a 6 out of 10. The list price of the product is under $100 in unboxed form and under $110 in a pretty box. The prevailing street price is under $90. It is available for evaluation on their website. sells it for $90, but there is an upgrade rebate of $30 for owners of previous versions of Paint Shop and "select competitors' products". 

Hank was using the Paint program in Windows 2000 to view large pictures and found that it couldn't fit the image to a single printed page, a feature that does exist in the Windows XP version of Paint. Paint Shop Pro and it solved this problem for him. 

Hank has used many different image processing products. Up until recently he used three different products to just print digital images. Why? He had not found a single package that did all he wanted. 

Paint Shop Pro installed very easily. There was no serial number to enter, no digital rights management, no EULA. It was straight forward. 

Hank was an early convert to digital photography. His requirements are fairly simple. Like most people he needs to: 
  -Enhance or correct the color if necessary
  -Correct for under and over exposures
  -Sharpen the image if necessary
  -Rotate the image so that it is in a proper horizontal plane
  -Eliminate unwanted portions in the photograph

Paint Shop Pro can do all the above and more.

One feature he liked helps you to maximize the number of pictures printed on a piece of paper. You tell the software how many pictures you want on a page and it automatically resizes them to fit. Paint Shop Pro 8 can correct parallax, pin-cushioning (sides narrower in middle) and barreling (sides wider in middle). Hank liked the batch feature which lets you make the same changes to a group of pictures. 

Hank has used other products that offer photo stitching, a feature not available in Paint Shop Pro. Photo Suite, which sells for about $30 or $40 does offer this feature. This lets you merge multiple pictures into a seamless panorama.

Paint Shop Pro can not automatically resolve defects in surface dust and scratches, faded color, mold and grain that cannot be corrected with ordinary scanners (Nikon ICE - Image Correction and Exposure), reconstruction of colors, and grain equalization & management (NIKON ROC).  

Hank was able to pick and enhance colors on the blind, a feature he found impressive. That is, the color corrections made by the software automatically were excellent. Since he was using a flat panel screen, he could never be sure that he was viewing true colors. 

Hank now uses Paint Shop Pro 8 for almost all his digital processing. Adobe Photo Deluxe has wizards that make it very easy for new users to make changes. Paint Shop Pro does not have comparable wizards and for that reason Hank's wife will continue to use Photo Deluxe. Adobe no longer makes Photo Deluxe, their current low-end product is Elements and they did not carry over the wizards to Elements. 

All in all, Hank highly recommends the product. Elements retails for about the same price, but Hank prefers Paint Shop Pro. 

ZDNet also reviewed the product July 14, 2003. 

 Caller Questions 

Bud can't save web pages to look at off-line under Windows XP. He is not saving individual pages with File -> Save As, but instead is using the offline browser feature of Internet Explorer. When you save a web page as an IE favorite, there is an option to "make this page available offline". This is the feature that is no longer working. Many of use have used the manual File -> Save As approach, but the caller prefers the automated route because the web pages are available from within IE using the Favorites feature.  

On the air, Michael suggested deleting the IE browser cache. There are a number of IE related problems that are fixed by simply clearing the cache. This can be done with Tools -> Internet options -> Delete files button. There is a checkbox for deleting offline content. Delete everything and reboot.

Research after the show turned up two other possibilities. The same window has a Settings button. Click it to open a new window where you can control when IE checks for newer versions of stored pages. There are 4 radio buttons. Changing the settings here might fix the problem. Again, while in IE, go to Tools -> Internet Options -> Advanced Tab. There is a checkbox (its a long list) for "enable offline items to be synched on a schedule". Make sure this is on.

Terry is an EarthLink cable modem user via Time Warner and can't get to any web sites using Internet Explorer. Hank suggested calling EarthLink, their tech support is pretty good. The first thing to try in these cases is turn everything off and leave it off for a couple minutes. Then turn on the cable modem and insure the indicator lights are what they should be. Then turn on your computer. Another thing you can try is to reset the cable modem using a small hidden pinhole button on the modem. Time Warner has already sent people to his house, but the problem persists. Hanks suggested using the "ipconfig" command from a DOS/command window to inquire into the state of your Internet connection.

Griff has an HP laptop with Windows XP, but Windows fails to start up. When he called HP for help, they told him to get a USB based floppy disk drive and download something to get Windows started. Alfred suggested sitting on the F8 key at startup to get into Safe Mode. If the computer boots to Safe mode, then it might boot normally the next time. Michael suggested using the System Restore feature of Windows XP to restore a recent snapshot.

Ron asked about a mini-disc and we inadvertently gave advice for a mini-CD. Mini-CDs are 3" CDs that hold 180MB of data and fit in a normal CD-ROM tray. You can buy both Mini-CD players and recorders from a number of vendors, among them Sony. 

In contrast, a Mini-Disc is a magneto/optical media that can only be read/written in a Mini-Disc player/recorder. Sony is the only vendor of Mini-Discs which are identical in size to a Mini-CD. Mini-Discs are encased in a very thin plastic case and can not be used in a computer CD-ROM drive. You can learn more about them at or read the article The Sony MiniDisc

Following up on this next week, Joe mentioned that he has seen mini-CDs shaped exactly like business cards that play in a normal computer CD-ROM drive. The "card" has a demo of the person's product and information about their business. Alfred said the custom shaped ones are cut down from normal sized CD-R discs. Hank said that mini-CD-Rs are about 25 cents each and mini-CD-RWs about 30 cents each. This is three or four times the price of normal sized CD discs.

For a cheap music editing program, Alfred suggested Music Maker 2004 Deluxe from Magix which sells for less than $100. It has a full multi-track editor.

Ron asked if we were upgrading from Windows 98 SE, what would we upgrade to. Hank said Windows XP Professional, if you can afford it, otherwise XP Home Edition. Joe much prefers XP Professional. Michael suggested not upgrading an existing computer, but instead buying a new machine. Joe concurred. 

George finds that when his Office Jet printer is connected to his laptop computer via USB, the speed of his dial-up Internet connection slows down. He is using Windows 98 SE and USB 1.1. Hank suggested the problem might be that he is using a Windows only modem (a.k.a. Winmodem). These modems are cheaper than full fledged real modems, but they depend on the computers processor. If the printer puts a strain on the computer, there may not be enough power in the processor to drive both the modem and the printer. You can tell if this is the problem by using an external modem.

ICE stands for intrusion countermeasures electronics.

July 23, 2003 Show     RETURN TO TOP

In the News

In the last 12 years we have shifted about 500,000 IT jobs overseas. This is about 8% of all IT jobs. Then there are jobs in the USA given to people from overseas via the H1B program. IBM is exploring "outsourcing" even more.
  IBM explores shift of white-collar jobs overseas By Steven Greenhouse  The New York Times July 21, 2003 
  Outsourcing to usurp more U.S. jobs By CNET July 29, 2003
  Union: IBM jobs may go overseas By Jonathan Berr Bloomberg News July 23, 2003 
  Body Count Why Moving to India Won't Really Help IT By Robert X. Cringely August 7, 2003 

PC Magazine recently surveyed their readers to see how the computer vendors rank in terms of support. HP used to be near the top and Compaq was about in the middle. Now that they are one combined company, they both rank last. 

Boston College and MIT have objected to subpoenas issued by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) seeking the names of students suspected of music piracy. They say the subpoenas didn't allow for adequate time to notify the students, as mandated by the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act. A spokesperson for Boston College said they are not trying to protect their students from the consequences of copyright infringement. They intent to comply with the subpoenas however they find that two laws are conflicting in this situation. The RIAA has filed over 800 subpoenas in US District Court in Washington, seeking information from universities and ISPs about KaZaA users.The law allows the RIAA to ask for $750 to $150,000 for each illegally shared song.
  BC, MIT decline to name students in music-use case The Boston Globe July 22, 2003
  MIT, Boston College say subpoenas in music-piracy case violate privacy rules AP July 23, 2003 

After the show, Joe found the subpoena defense web site. The site is a resource for individuals on how to defend themselves if their identity has been subpoenaed by a private third party seeking to enforce their copyrights on the Internet. 

Kinko's case highlights Internet risks by Anick Jesdanun, AP Internet Writer. July 22, 2003. For more than a year, unbeknownst to people who used Internet terminals at Kinko's stores in New York, Juju Jiang was recording what they typed, paying particular attention to their passwords. He was an employee of Kinko's and gained access to usernames and passwords for many Kinko's customers. This sort of thing can happen to you on any public Internet computer. It also happened recently in Boston on a college campus. Hank pointed out that 13% of New Yorkers that use the Internet regularly do so at the public library. There is no way for you to know if this was happening at any public Internet computer. 

One suggestion was to never type your password because every time you hit any key on the keyboard it can be recorded. Instead use Windows copy/paste to copy your password from somewhere else and paste it into the input box. If need be, copy each character of your password one at a time from some other file or web page. In this case, a keystroke logging program will only know that you did a copy/paste operation, but it will not know what you copied or pasted. 

 Caller Questions 

William briefly used AT&T as his ISP and as a result his copy of Internet Explorer says "Microsoft Internet Explorer provided by AT&T WorldNet Service". He doesn't use AT&T any more and would like to get rid of this text at the top of each browser window. Uninstalling the AT&T software did not help. Removing IE using Add/Remove programs in the control panel did not help. Downloading IE using Netscape did not help. Joe did some checking after the show and came up with two articles from Microsoft: How to Change the Internet Explorer Window Title and How to Restore the Animated Internet Explorer Logo. Be careful before editing the registry to back it up, twice. 

Al asked about using a Spyware program to see what his kids are doing on the computer. For more information on these programs Joe suggested a Google search on: keyboard sniffer logger. 

A Macintosh user asked about building a Windows computer. He bought an MSI motherboard and Athlon cpu and installed Windows just fine. Then however, due a warning message, he updated (flashed) the BIOS on the motherboard. Now Windows XP won't boot. He gets the POST screen and can get into the BIOS configuration screens, but Windows XP won't boot to a desktop. He even got a new hard clean hard disk and tried to do a clean install of Windows XP, but the installation would not complete. Hank thought the problem was with XP product activation. Alfred suggested getting the old version of the BIOS from the vendors web site and re-installing that. 

Mel was downloading from KaZaa and now his computer can't get online. He even tried re-loading Windows 98 but can not get on-line any more. The computer can boot locally, but he can't do anything online. Hank suggested preventing KaZaa from running automatically when Windows boots up. You do this in Windows 98 with Start -> Run -> msconfig. Joe also suggested doing a full virus scan.  

Leanette has a broken Dell computer that worked for only two months. At first they had her do work on the machine but eventually they sent out a technician who replaced the hard disk in the computer. It still doesn't work, in fact, it did not work when the technician left her house. She can't even boot into Windows, the computer seems to be in a permanent sleep state. She wants to return the machine, but the shipping is too expensive. Eventually Dell agreed to send her another computer. Any files she might have had on the original machine are gone forever. Backup, backup, backup.

July 16, 2003 Show     RETURN TO TOP

In the News

Since July 1st, California requires that if your personal information resides on a web site that has been compromised, the company running the web site has to inform you of this. Often companies prefer to keep their mistakes or break-ins quiet. This applies to any company with a customer in California regardless of where the company is headquartered or where the web site resides. 
California's Two-Fisted Privacy Stance PC Magazine July 10, 2003 

The European Union wants the U.S to ban SPAM. So to does Joe. A law banning unsolicited e-mail messages goes into effect in the European Union this fall, but without a ban in the U.S., their ban would not accomplish much. 
European Union wants U.S. to ban spam  IDG News Service July 15, 2003

AOL has killed Netscape and almost all the people who worked there. There is speculation that this decision is related to an agreement recently between AOL and Microsoft. The last major release, version 7.0, of the Netscape browser and associated software was in August 2002. Internet Explorer is said to have 94 percent of the browser market. The remaining market share is split between Netscape, Apple's Safari, Opera and Mozilla.  
AOL axes Netscape employees, experts say browser's future is bleak July 18, 2003 
AOL layoffs take Netscape browser to deathbed InfoWorld magazine July, 16, 2003 


Our guest was Derrick Story managing editor of the O'Reilly Network and Mac DevCenter, who reported on the MacWorld show now running at the Javits Center in Manhattan. Just before appearing on our show, he wrote a weblog about MacWorld: Never Thought I'd Be Describing a MacWorld as Intimate

There are two big Mac shows every year, one on each coast. Steve Jobs usually attends each but this year he opted not to come to New York City. Derrick said it's like not having the host show up at their own dinner party. Many vendors pulled out of the show when they heard Jobs would not attend, so it's a much smaller show than in years past. 

The show marked the first public appearance of the new Power Mac G5, currently the fastest personal computer. It uses a new 64 bit processor from IBM and supports up to 8 GB of RAM. It also has a very fast internal bus, fast hard drives and seven fans. Michael, a non-Mac person, asked if the G5 will be sold to individuals or used as a server. Derrick said it is an end-user machine, the first 64 bit machine for personal use. He suggested that people considering buying a G5 get as much RAM as they can afford. No matter how fast the computer, if it has to read/write to the hard disk, it will run significantly slower than if the hard disk I/O can be avoided. Despite the 7 fans the machine is said to be very quiet. 

Derrick said there was no gee whiz, knock your socks off product, either on the hardware or software side. Adobe was at the show but with a smaller presence than in the past. Derrick pointed out that the big Adobe product on the Mac is InDesign, their professional desktop publishing program that competes with Quark.

Hank asked about documentation for Macintoshes. O'Reilly specializes in this, their consumer oriented books are called "The Missing Manual" series. Hank wondered if they have a Mac troubleshooting book, something akin to Alfred's book Troubleshooting Your PC. They have a Pocket Guide called the Mac Troubleshooting book by David Lerner and Aaron Freimark of Tekserve in Manhattan. They also have a Mac OS X Missing Manual. 

You can read every article Derrick ever wrote for O'Reilly. He is also the author of the Digital Photography and Digital Video Pocket Guides and coauthor of iPhoto 2: The Missing Manual.  

 LCD Screens

We also discussed LCD screens, a subject that Alfred is an expert in. 

LCD monitors are the skinny ones (a few inches thick), typically called flat panel monitors. CRTs are the fat ones that resemble a television set. They are the traditional computer monitor. All LCDs have a flat screen, some CRTs also have a flat screen.  

LCDs use less electricity than CRTs and have, what Alfred called, pretty good image quality that nothing else can match. 

In 2002 more dollars were spent on LCD monitors than on CRTs for the first time. It is predicted that in 2003, more LCD units will be sold for the first time. LCDs are everywhere, they can can be found in cell phones, PDAs, digital cameras and, of course, every laptop computer. On his web site, Michael has advice on buying a new laptop which includes some gotchas relating to the LCD screen. 

LCD monitors emit much less radiation that CRTs. Alfred estimated about 99% less. Most radiation from a CRT has historically come out of the back, but Alfred is not convinced this radiation poses any hazard. The important things to look for in an LCD monitor are the interface and the size. 

CRTs are analog, LCDs are digital. Almost all computers generate analog video output and this can be used with an LCD or CRT. Some LCDs also support digital input, but to use this you will likely have to get a new video card capable of producing digital output. Alfred said the analog interface on an LCD monitor now works just about as well as the digital interface (called DVI). It's probably not worth the extra money. 

In Alfred's opinion, LCDs are not good at video and editing photos, especially the large ones (19 inches and up). The reasons they are not good for photos is color balance and viewing angle. Brightness and color shade can vary based on your viewing angle, a problem that does not happen with CRTs. To edit a photo on a laptop, Alfred suggested hooking the laptop to an external CRT. They are not well suited for video because the LCD cells don't respond quickly enough, the image will not be as sharp as on a CRT. 

Back in 1995 Nokia made a free monitor testing program. It works with current versions of Windows and has a very useful feature for owners of LCD screens - the ability to display a single color over the entire screen. This is a great way to detect defective pixels. 

If you are familiar with zip files, you can download a zipped version of the program that includes a help file. If you are not familiar with zip files, you can download just the main executable file (ntest.exe). Both were virus scanned on July 16, 2003 with Norton AntiVirus 2003.

Using the Nokia Monitor Test Program
To display a full screen of a single color click this icon ==>
The Escape key gets you back to the main menu.
  To exit the program,
  click on this icon ==>

 Caller Questions 

Eddie wants to buy a new computer for playing games and asked about choosing Windows vs. a Macintosh. Derrick said there are more games available for Windows machines. Hank suggested keeping his existing Mac for word processing and buying a Sony Playstation 2. Alfred suggested looking in Computer Shopper magazine for PCs built specifically for gamers. 

George asked about extracting a video frame from a DVD recorder using Windows XP. Alfred pointed out that most video players can not be screen-captured with a normal screen shot utility. On the Mac, Snap Z Pro is a screen capture application that can both capture both still frames and also the movie itself as a QuickTime video. Snag-It was suggested, but you would first have to pause the video on the frame you wanted to capture. If the video is paused, the cheap way to capture it is with the Print Screen key and then paste it into any graphic capable program. Another caller suggested PowerDVD by CyberLink for capturing individual frames. It does not do video capture. 

Debra has two 3 year old computers she felt were obsolete (the have 800 MHz processors). She wants to use the machines for word processing, web browsing and web design. She is looking at buying a new computer and is overwhelmed with choices. Hank and Michael suggested adding more RAM and possibly increasing the hard disk space. Both felt there was no need to buy a new computer. 

However, she is running Windows Me and over time it has slowed down, something that very often happens. It was suggested that she back up all her important files and re-install Windows Me. Even better, install Windows 98 or XP. The upgrade to XP is much more problematical however because new drivers are likely to be needed for all hardware.  

Gary has a Windows Me laptop that won't boot up. Michael noted that Windows Me includes the System Restore feature, but it requires Windows to boot before it can restore anything. He suggested CPR from imagine LAN which boots your computer using Linux and lets you restore any of the available backups made by the System Restore feature. Alfred suggested restoring a backup copy of the registry.

July 9, 2003 Show     RETURN TO TOP

In the News

Adobe Premier, a video editing program, will no longer support Macs in its new release. In fact, it only runs on Windows XP.

The show that used to be called PC Expo is now called TechX. It will be at the Javits Center in Manhattan (as usual) from September 16 - 18, 2003. 

There is a PayPal spoof site that mimics the look and feel of the real PayPal web site. One indication that a web site is fake is an at sign in the middle of a very long URL. Another indication is a numeric URL rather than words or letters. Michael got an email that falsely claimed to come from CBS news. The web site it directed you to was something like "". He couldn't remember the exact URL, but the point was that it started with "cbs" but had nothing at all to do with the network that airs 60 Minutes.  

There are three more critical updates to Windows. Not that this is news. However, they are the 23rd, 24th and 25th serious Microsoft bug this year. 

Free Wireless in NYC

Our guest was Ben Serebin of NYCwireless, a two year old organization that coordinates the free access points around the city. He is also the principal at Reef Solutions. NYCwireless covers the greater metropolitan area, not just Manhattan.   

How can NYCwireless offer free WiFi access to the Internet when everyone else is charging for it?  Businesses and individuals donate the service. Businesses do it for the PR and to increase the number of people in the area. It helps restaurants for example. A number of parks in lower Manhattan provide free WiFi access to the Internet, such as South Street Seaport, City Hall Park and Bowling Green. Michael vouched for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial park by 55 Water Street, he tried it just before the show. These were done in co-operation with the Downtown Alliance. Tompkins Square Park is also "live" as is Bryant park. 

You can go to to see a map of the free WiFi networks in New York City. 

Security is a constant problem with wireless networks. The parks in lower Manhattan, for example, all run with no security at all. This makes getting on-line easy, but you think twice before sending passwords or sensitive information of any kind. Ben said that vendors of wireless equipment want users to have ease-of-use, so they default to running in an unsecured manner. Implementing security takes time, effort and understanding. Michael felt that avoiding security makes technical support cheaper for the hardware vendors. WiFi products are not expensive and providing technical support is.

Flight Risk How to Protect Your Privacy While WiFi'ing The Village Voice July 14, 2003 

WEP is the encryption protocol used by WiFi networks. It's not good encryption, but any encryption is better than none. WEP is due to replaced in the very near future by WPA. 

Michael was hesitant to get his email over a public WiFi network because it means sending a password in the clear.

  • One solution is to use a web based front end. Besides web based email services such as Yahoo email and Hotmail, many ISPs also provide a web interface to their email. Two that do are EarthLink and AOL. Ben warns however that many ISPs don't default to making a secure connection before you enter your password. Hotmail and EarthLink always make secure connections, Yahoo defaults to an un-secure connection. 
  • Better still, is to use your normal email program but have it send your password over a secure SSL link. The protocol used to send email is SMTP, the one used to receive email is normally POP3. Some email servers support running both SMTP and POP3 over a secure SSL link. SSL is the same protocol used on secure web pages. If the email server used by your ISP supports it, you have to turn on this security in your email program. In Outlook Express 6, for example, Tools -> Accounts -> Mail tab -> Properties button -> Advanced tab -> there are two checkboxes "This server requires a secure connection (SSL)". According to Ben, this makes your email program encrypt all data being sent to and from your ISPs email server and is very secure. This is highly recommended when using an insecure WiFi network. After the show, Michael checked with EarthLink and they do not support email over an SSL connection. 
  • Your email program may offer a security option called APOP. This is an encrypted way to send the username and password to a mail server for POP3 transactions (reading email). It only encrypts the username and password however, not your actual email messages. Also, it has nothing to do with sending email. After the show, Michael checked with EarthLink and they do not support APOP. 
  • Another email related security option you may run across is SMTP Authentication. Ben warns that this sends your email username and password as clear text. 
  • MSN customers and people whose email is served up by Microsoft Exchange (an email server program) have a security option called Secure Password Authentication or SPA. This option is available, for example, in Outlook Express.

How much does WiFi cost? Michael recently paid $80 for a package of a WiFi transmitter and a single PCMCIA receiver (network card). Hank recently found PCMCIA WiFi cards on sale for $22. 

The effective distance for WiFi varies depending on the environment. Ben said that it could range from as little as 10-20 feet up to a couple hundred feet. Hank's experience has been that he gets a good signal in one spot, moves five feet, and has no signal at all. Alfred, on the other hand, has not experienced on/off connection interruptions, but rather has found the signal slowly degrades. 

There are two types of access points (transmitters). A stand-alone access point is plugged into a router/switch using a standard Ethernet cable. Combination devices have the access point built into the router. Stand-alone access points are typically more expensive but also have more features. After the show, Ben mentioned that the combination devices tend not to be as good as a stand-alone access point. If range is important, he recommends using a dedicated access point. Using Linksys as as example, their BEFW11S4 model is a Wireless Access Point Router with 4-Port Switch, while model WAP54G is a dedicated Access Point.   

Ben pointed out that all WiFi hardware is not alike. It is not yet a commodity like an FM radio. There is a large difference in performance between a $20 and $50 WiFi network adapter. He suggests reading Getting Started with Free Wireless Networks NYCwireless' guide to setting up a node for public access. Ben recommends the Proxim ORiNOCO Silver PC Cards (network adapters). They offer the best performance for the money. As for access points, he suggests the LinkSys WAP11 and the ORiNOCO BG-2000, both offering solid signal strength. 

You can get a better antenna to enhance your signal. However, Ben warned that there are FCC rules regulating antennas. If you buy an antenna without knowing what you're doing, you might violate an FCC power regulation, and they could fine you.  

The most common type of WiFi (802.11b) uses the 2.4 GHz band. So too does the "g" flavor of WiFi. So too do many cordless telephones. Ben said that both devices are supposed to accept interference from each other. How well this works varies both with the brand of WiFi equipment and the brand of cordless phone. Hank has found that Panasonic phones are susceptible to interference from WiFi. 

Alfred asked who provides the Internet access for the WiFi hot-spots. Ben said that handful of ISPs in New York allow community wireless sharing. Among them: Bway.NetCloud9.NetACE DSL and Speak Easy. Road Runner does not allow it. 

NYCwireless is part of an umbrella group for free WiFi networks in a handful of cities.  

Wi-Fi wafts to RV parks, beaches USA Today July 11, 2003 As big players such as McDonald's bring wireless Internet to the masses, smaller companies are taking Wi-Fi technology to quirky spots

 Caller Questions 

Denise needed advice in buying a new computer. She wanted a flat panel but Alfred warned that they are not as good as CRTs for games, editing photographs or editing videos. She also needs some basic computer classes. Joe suggested the New York Public Library which sometimes has free classes. Learning PowerPoint, Excel and the like can be done at the Continuing Education division of most universities. Joe also suggested community colleges because they would be cheaper than NYU or the New School. Michael suggested that the City University of New York has Continuing Education classes that are cheaper than private schools. Also some high schools offers Continuing Education classes.  

Ted's call led to a discussion a Verizon's WiFi plans. If you are a Verizon DSL customer, you can use the WiFi Internet access they provide out of phone booths, for free. Joe said Verizon is working like heck to add WiFi to more and more phone booths. Michael found that they offered access in the same downtown park that NYCwireless did. 

James gets free dial-up Internet service from his company and has three computers. He wants to network them but didn't know if it was possible with dial-up as opposed to the normal broadband connection. Ben said that you can buy a WiFi access point with a built-in modem. One vendor offering this is Orinoco from Proxim. This can be a centralized modem and automatically dial-up for you and automatically share Internet access. His priority is saving money. To that end, Michael suggested the Internet Connection Sharing feature in newer versions of Windows. This can share an Internet connection over a wired Ethernet network and is probably the cheapest option. A good source for introductory material on home networking is Practically Networked. Also, read Beginners Guides: Basic Home Networking and File Sharing from PC Stats. 

Jose asked about sharing Internet access in a two family house. He lives upstairs and his father lives downstairs and wondered if it was possible and legal to share an Internet connection in this case. Hank does this now and felt it was legal. He uses two different network technologies - WiFi and HomePlug. HomePlug sends computer data over your electrical power lines and Hank has had a good experience with it. It can cover areas that WiFi can't. Another option is drilling a hole in the floor and running Cat5 Ethernet cable. The equipment cost for a wired network is cheap, but making the hole in the floor can be annoying. :-)  

July 2, 2003 Show     RETURN TO TOP

In the News

There was another court ruling this week regarding Microsoft and Java. A lower court had previously ruled that Microsoft had to distribute Sun's version of Java in Windows as a penalty to make up for Microsoft's past antitrust violations. A higher court this week confirmed that the lower court ruling by Judge Frederick Motz was correct as far as Microsoft being anti-competitive. They also confirmed his order that Microsoft not ship their version of Java in Windows. However, the higher court overturned the order requiring Microsoft to include Sun's Java in Windows. Sun has to negotiate with PC vendors to get them to include the latest Sun version of Java in new PCs. HP and Dell will do so. In the meantime, the determination of a remedy for Microsoft's antitrust violations was sent back to the lower court. 

  • Our webmaster, Michael, has a web site Java Tester where you can test the version of Java being used by your web browser. There are also links to download Sun's version of Java.
  • Microsoft Java ruling overturned Mercury News June 27, 2003 

Seventeen companies united to form the Digital Home Working Group. Among them HP, IBM, Microsoft, Gateway, Intel and Sony. Their goal is to make home networking easier by setting standards. Hank felt it works pretty well now using the current standards and that the real goal of the group was DRM (Digital Rights Management). Joe recalled how people took exception to copy control. So? Rename copy control to Digital Rights Management, abbreviate it DRM and fewer people object. They intend to set basic rules to protect music, films and other copyrighted material. 

NEC has demonstrated a laptop computer with an internal fuel cell battery based on methane. The current prototype battery has been described as "quite heavy" - a concern of Hanks. It has an operating runtime of up to five hours on a single cartridge. NEC plans for a battery that can last as long as 40 hours, a big jump from current technology which typically powers a laptop computer for only 2 - 3 hours. Fuel cell batteries are not recharged, instead you either replace a cartridge or refill it with methanol or methane. They take in hydrogen and oxygen and turn them into electricity without generating pollutants. Joe noted that this is the first major change in battery technology in the history of batteries, which were invented two centuries ago.  

NEC plans to release the battery in the fourth quarter of 2004. Toshiba has a methanol powered fuel cell laptop computer coming out in March 2004. It is expected to feature five hours of battery life. Hank wondered how big these batteries are. About 10 years ago, Hank and Joe tested an air cell battery for laptop computers. It provided eight hours of power but the battery weighed four pounds (too much) and got very hot. 

The Supreme Court ruled that libraries that get federal funding must use filtering software to block offensive material from children. Adults can ask the library to have the filters removed. Of the 143 million Americans that use the Internet regularly, a full 10% of them get their Internet access at a library. Joe said that no filtering software works perfectly, they can either over-filter or under-filter. For example, looking for breast cancer cures will be filtered out.

Netflix rents DVDs. Your order movies on their web site and they mail it to you. You can have 2 - 3 titles at a time. Whenever you return a movie, they send you the next one on your list and you can keep the movies for as long as you remain a member paying their monthly fee. They were granted a patent on their business model. Both Hank and Joe felt this was ridiculous. 

There was a transmitter problem at this point (about 8:20 PM) and WBAI was off the air. The station resumed broadcasting at about 8:55PM, just in time for us to sign off. The problem was at the Empire State Building. 

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