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June 2003 Archive
For a full list of all archived shows, see the Archives page.
The show was pre-empted this week for fund raising.
Why did Microsoft buy an anti-virus company last week? The
underlying reason was to make Linux less attractive in the marketplace. They
bought the leading supplier of anti-virus programs for Linux. Just after
Microsoft bought the company, they announced that Linux would no longer be
supported. Surprise, surprise, surprise.
Support for Windows 98 has been extended until January 2005. However, there will be no more security patches after January 2004.
Microsoft will stop making Internet Explorer for Apple
Senator takes aim at illegal downloads APOnline in USA Today. June 18, 2003.
During a discussion of methods to frustrate computer users who illegally exchange music and movie files over the Internet,
Senator Orrin Hatch asked technology executives about ways to damage computers involved in such file trading. Legal experts have said any such attack would violate federal anti-hacking laws.
His comments reflect a growing frustration in Congress over failure of the technology and entertainment industries to protect copyrights in a digital age.
Joe and Hank spent the day at CeBit America at the Javits Center. They were not impressed and regretted having gone. It was not clear who the show was for. There was no reason to go to the show. Joe had a technical question about Google, but the only Google employees at the show were there to sell advertising. But he did see an $80 wristwatch with 256 MB flash ram and a USB connector.
Both Joe and Hank were impressed with the new version of Nero,
the Ultra Edition (version 6). It does everything that Easy CD Creator 6.0 does,
plus comes with an audio editor, a video editor and a backup program. It can also rip CDs to
MP3 and supports multi-channel recording. It will handle MP4 conversions for
both quality and compression. If you buy Nero 5.5 from May 1st on, you get a
free downloadable upgrade to version 6.
Spotlight on CeBit by CNet news.com.
CeBIT Photo Tour By John C. Dvorak June 23, 2003 in PC Magazine
Richard asked about recovering data from a hard drive. He is on Long Island and needs to recover data from a 60 GB drive for a "reasonable" amount of money. Joe said that one of our listeners has used First Data Recovery (aka www.datarecoverybc.com) and wrote that he was satisfied. They charged $385 for PC hard drives. They can be reached at 877-460-3670 and they have a drop off depot in New Jersey. Joe has used OnTrack in New Jersey and found them reliable and considerably more expensive.
A couple callers were interested in new cheap computers. Recently on the show we discussed a new Compaq machine that was selling for $319, after rebate. Currently, the cheapest new Compaq machine (Presario s4000j ) is $349, after rebate.
A caller has a new Windows XP computer that won't start up (boot). The machine was purchased at a computer fair, so there is no vendor support. When the machine is turned on, nothing displays on the monitor at all. The problem is not with the monitor, the machine was hooked to a second monitor and the same thing happened. Power is getting to the computer, the caller can hear sounds from the machine. Hank suggested putting a hand by the fan to see if its spinning and getting power. Based on the noises, it was felt that the machine was failing the video portion of the power-on self-test.
At this point, the suggestion was to open the case and start tinkering with the internal components. Joe warned however, that running a computer with the case off is dangerous. If you touch the wrong thing, you can get a lethal shock. Keeps cats and dogs away. Hank suggested first making sure that the video connector wires were well connected. If there is a video card, make sure it is well seated. If that fails, then Alfred suggested taking everything out from the machine except for the graphics card. This way, you can tell which component is failing. Even disconnect the hard disk. The idea being just to get something, anything, to display on the monitor. As a last resort, Michael suggested moving the hard disk to another computer.
The same caller, asked about backing up large amounts of data, 3 to 4 GB. One suggestion was a second internal hard disk. This is the cheapest route, but there are problems that can knock out both hard disks in a computer and if the computer is stolen, you lose the backup too. A DVD burner should be able to fit 4 GB of data on a single disc, or for less money, use a CD burner and backup to multiple CDs (they're cheap). Another idea is to use an external hard disk. They vary in size from about 10 GB to 250 GB and can be used to back up more than one computer.
Patrick uses multiple browsers and asked about a way to keep track of the bookmarks in each one. Joe suggested Powermarks ($25) from Kaylon Technologies. It is a master list all your bookmarks and resides in your system tray. In addition to storing just the bookmarks, it also lets you add keywords to each bookmarks. Then you can search all your bookmarks by keyword. You can also upload your bookmarks to their web site from one computer and then synchronize the bookmarks on another computer with those you uploaded.
Alan needed advice about whether to buy a Windows computer or an Apple Macintosh to do home video work. He is not a technical person. Hank said that either machine would be fine. Michael suggested going with whatever your friends/colleagues/relatives are familiar with. Alan was under the impression that Macs were more geared to video and music. That used to be true, but is not true any more. Alfred said this is more of a religious issue rather than a technical issue and advised that you will probably get more for your money with a Windows computer.
Study casts doubt on keyboard ills MSNBC June 10, 2003. Using a computer does not appear to pose a severe occupational hazard for developing the wrist and hand ailment known as carpal tunnel syndrome. Joe mentioned that an OSHA study found just the opposite to be true.
Industry wary of Microsoft's AntiVirus play IDG News Service June 10, 2003. Microsoft will, in the future, offer its own anti-virus program. They bought AntiVirus technology from Romania's GeCAD Software. Joe compared this to Microsoft's dealings with Stac Electronics, which was driven out of business. Although he felt that tightly integrated AntiVirus software is a good thing, he feared that this is a way for Microsoft to misuse their monopoly power. Hank pointed out that all AntiVirus programs are not the same, they detect and miss different viruses. Alfred said that including more and more functionality in the basic Windows OS is a good thing.
There is a bug in Windows Update. To see it in action, set the date on your
computer to last year. Windows Update will then incorrectly tell you that there
are no available updates. This happens because a security certificate is not
valid and you are not told this.
Con Edison has been testing the use of their power lines to deliver Internet
access to the home. They found it worked. We can expect speeds to range from 500 kilobits per second
to 3 megabits per second. The service is expected to sell for $30 per month. Joe
and Alfred felt that the day after this service becomes available, Verizon DSL
will be $5 cheaper.
Broadband (for home users, this refers to either a cable modem or DSL) is
available in 88% of US zip codes. About 35% of Internet users have a broadband
connection, up from 10% a year and a half ago. Verizon DSL is now only $35 a
month, a typical cable modem connection is about $40 to $45 a month. Hank
pointed out that broadband can save you money is you are now paying $20 - $24 a
month for dialup access and also incurring the expense of a second phone line.
Over a Time Warner cable, both Road Runner and EarthLink allow multiple
computers to share the high speed connection. Verizon also allows this over
their DSL service. CableVision however, has a one time charge of $45 for each
additional computer that will share the Internet connection.
The EarthLink Tech Support web page that Hank mentioned for having excellent instructions for getting on-line. Currently, most cable modems have both Ethernet and USB outputs. A computer without a network card (a.k.a. NIC or network adapter) can still be connected to a cable modem via a USB port. For some people this is much better option than opening up the computer and installing a network card. Michael's experience has been that using the USB output of his cable modem required the installation of software drivers, however, the Ethernet output did not.
Hooking up multiple computers to share a single broadband connection requires either a router or a hub. A hub only creates a LAN, it does not offer the security that a router does. A router is usually preferable. After connecting the computers, modem and router together, you then need to configure the router. Usually this is done by connecting to a small web site built into the router itself. You use a web browser on one of the computers to connect to the web site in the router and carry out the initial router configuration. The address of the web site in the router may be http://192.168.0.1 or http://192.168.1.100 or something similar.
The Practically Networked web site was suggested on the show for having information about networking personal computers. For Linksys routers, Joe was impressed with the setup instructions on the company's web site.
The Extreme Tech home networking article by Bruce Brown that Alfred mentioned on the show is Home Network Technologies and Strategies (June 20, 2001).
A firewall is necessary whenever a computer is linked to the Internet. It gives you control over the data passing between the Internet and your computer. A good firewall offers controls both into your machine and out from your machine. Some firewalls, such as the one built into Windows XP, only offer inbound controls.
A firewall can reside in a box of its own, in which case it is referred to, somewhat incorrectly, as a hardware firewall. You can also run a firewall program on your computer - this is referred to (correctly) as a software firewall. The ZoneAlarm firewall runs on your computer and is universally well reviewed. A computer connected directly into a cable modem or DSL modem, needs to run a software firewall. Alfred prefers hardware firewalls.
Broadband is also available over the air, in wireless Wi-Fi networks. On July 9th, we will have a guest on the show to discuss this.
Lee asked about moving files from an old computer to a new one. Both machines are running Windows 98 SE, only one has a network adapter. Michael suggested using a keychain storage device. He has seen different versions of a 128 MB Lexar Jump Drive selling for $25 - $30. Alfred asked if the old computer has a CD burner - it does. Copying files to a CD on the old computer is an excellent method of data transfer. Hank suggested using Laplink with a serial or parallel or USB Laplink cable. A new version of Laplink also transfers files over Ethernet. Joe suggested a shareware program that emulates Laplink, probably called EzLink. If both machines had Ethernet adapters, Hank suggested a crosswire between the two machines and doing a peer to peer network. This allows for file sharing and copying in the future too, as opposed to a one time operation.
Joe also suggested searching for "Laplink" at www.download.com. One program this search turns up is FastLynx which sells for $45 and includes a USB cable. It lets you transfer files between PCs and also works with serial cables, parallel cables, infrared, or over the Internet using TCP/IP.
Still another option is the Direct Cable Connection feature built into Windows 98 SE and some other versions of Windows. The DCC software is free and does not depend on network adapters. It does however, as the name implies, need a special cable, one that connects to the printer (parallel) port of each computer (it may also work by connecting serial ports, but this will be slower). DCC does, however, require some setting up. Here are instructions for Windows 98 in PDF format and for Windows 95.
Roy asked about answering machine software. He wants his computer to answer the phone and record calls. After the show, Alfred found Advanced Call Center: Answering Machine Software with Caller ID and Telephone Call Recording. It sells for $40. Alfred suggested a search on Google for "answering machine" and computer. Later, a caller named John suggest HotFax from Smith Micro which is both a fax and voice mail program. Another such program is Call Soft Pro ($40), but we have no experience with it.
Andy asked whether he should also run a firewall on each of his networked computers if they are connected to a Linksys router that has a built-in firewall. Alfred said that the firewall capabilities in different routers are not the same and you may need to run a firewall program on your computer to fill in the gaps in functionality of the routers firewall. For example, a router firewall may offer no outbound security/control. ZoneAlarm does.
A caller complained that his Windows XP computer is now starting up three times slower than it used to. There have been assorted software installs/upgrades in the meantime. Michael suggested an XP specific tool for speeding up the boot process but he could not recall the details. The program he was referring to is BootVis, a free utility from Microsoft. BootVis does two things. First, it offers a a graphical view of boot time performance and shows you why starting your computer takes so long. Then it tries to fix the problem, by changing the way files are stored on the hard disk and by changing the order in which files are loaded at startup time. For more, read A Boot Full of Windows Wonders by Steve Bass from the March 2003 issue of PC World magazine or see the June 17, 2003 issue of the WinXPnews newsletter. Microsoft has a web page devoted to fast booting of Windows XP.
Bill asked about cleaning up temporary files. Joe's suggestion is to use Fred Langa's cleanup batch files. Batch files are batches of DOS commands. Joe strongly recommends reading the associated articles to get an understanding of what these cleanup programs are doing. Also, backup your data first. Quoting Fred Langa: "Any one of these six free batch files can scrub your hard drive clean of many junk files, freeing up (typically) anywhere from tens to thousands of megabytes of otherwise-wasted disk space ... the files are listed below in roughly-increasing order of cleaning power."
In the News
Cal Tech and Hebrew University have digitized the works of Albert Einstein. See www.alberteinstein.info.
The recording industry filed a lawsuit in California against StreamCast. After losing, they filed the same lawsuit in Tennessee.
A New Jersey company called Alyon Technology hijacks the phone line of dial-up Internet users. Using ActiveX technology, they turn off the sound on your modem, then hang up and re-dial their area code 201phone number for which the user is charged $5 a minute. This is not a new idea. Joe mentioned that the same scam happened back in 1985 or so. Read about this from the Bad Business Bureau and from the Wisconsin Department of Justice which notes that the scheme starts with a pop-up ad for a pornographic web site.
The latest virus/worm is called Palyh. As is typical, it spreads via a file attached to an email message. The subject of the email message varies all the time. The body of the message says that all the information is in the attached file, which just happens to be an executable file. Don't click on the attached file, doing so will infect your computer. Never ever click on files attached to email messages. Instead, detach the file from the email message and virus scan it before running it. To be protected from Palyh, get the latest virus definitions from your anti-virus vendor.
Email messages carrying Palyh seems to come from Microsoft. They say: "If you receive an e-mail from email@example.com that contains an attachment do not open the attachment. Delete the e-mail immediately. Microsoft never distributes software through e-mail." What You Should Know About the Palyh Worm.
Intuit announced that they will drop the use of product activation from Turbo Tax. It produced no increase in revenue and resulted in a slew of bad publicity. Joe pointed out that people who got annoyed at Turbo Tax and switched to Tax Cut, may never go back. Intuit Abandons Product Activation PC World magazine. May 14, 2003.
Last week Microsoft had to pull back a bug fix to Windows XP because instead
of fixing a problem it caused a new problem. After applying the bad bug fix,
your computer would freeze if you tried to get on the Internet. There are three
options with Windows Update (the software used to get bug fixes for Windows):
(1) Apply all updates all the time and don't tell me anything
about what is going on, (2) Notify me that there are updates available and ask
me whether to install them or not and (3) full manual control, nothing happens
Joe has some of his machines set to the second option (Alert Me) and others set to the third option (full manual control). He never uses the first option, fully automatic because all too often, bug fixes create new problems. He advised never installing bug fixes until they are at least a week old. With apologies to an old wine commercial: Install no bug fix before it's time.
Hank announced that there is a new cumulative patch for Internet Explorer version 5 and 6. A cumulative patch is like a bunch of grapes, lots of little bug fixes in one clump. No surprise, Joe advised not installing it for a week. Let other people find all the problems, if there are any. Two Critical Vulnerabilities in IE ENT News June 5, 2003
There is a problem with the new Centrino laptops. Centrino is an Intel marketing term that refers to a Pentium M processor and WiFi (802.11b) hardware. The problem is with the WiFi component, which does not work with a VPN (Virtual Private Network) that needs NDIS. Your computer may hang or it might cause the notorious Blue Screen of Death. The good news is that you can buy a laptop computer with a Pentium M processor and without the Intel WiFi hardware. This is a good way to go for a number of reasons. Joe called the Intel WiFi implementation in Centrino a gross error in judgment. See Michael's (our webmaster) advice on Defensively Buying a New Laptop Computer and Windows broken by Intel Centrino from The Register on May 30, 2003.
Palm just bought out Handspring. It is called a merger, but Joe and Hank referred to it as a takeover. At one point, Handspring was valued at $9.2 billion. Palm bought it for $192 million. The value of Handspring to Palm is thought to be their smart telephone product. Sales of PDAs are expected to be flat this year while sales of smart telephones are expected to triple. Palm, Handspring Go Hand-in-Hand Newsday. June 5, 2003.
The Organization for the Rights of American Workers is planning on protesting the Strategic Outsourcing Conference which will be held June 26 and June 27, 2003 at the Waldorf Astoria hotel. For more information email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You are encouraged to just show up for support and to voice your opinions to any media that may be present and demonstrate peacefully.
According to their web site: "The Organization for the Rights of American Workers is a grass-roots initiative demanding that U.S. jobs be preserved first and foremost for U.S. citizens. Off-shoring, near-shoring, H-1B, L-1 and many other Visa types, have displaced millions of American workers and students throughout the country. Decisions made via political policies which cater to corporate interests are not in OUR best interest."
During our time off the air, Hank was busy evaluating a couple products.
The GoldX PowerCore System is a multifunction electrical component base system. It allows you to integrate most electrical and computer interfaces. The purpose of the product is to eliminate electrical and computer peripheral wiring. It is a modular system. The base unit is a power supply with 4 AC outlets. It has an alarm that goes off when there is an electrical surge. Within it you can place two surge power interchangeable modules. Hank tested it with an Ethernet and Telephone surge modules. The modules stack on top of each other and they are electrically connected to each other so that you don't need a separate electrical cable for each module.
There are modules for USB broadband, USB hub, FireWire hub, USB port replicator, Ethernet switch, memory card readers, DSL router and more. Hank found that the unit does not run hot, but has a big problem. The AC outlets were clustered together. Some large transformers wont fit.
When the surge protector is blown, electricity is cut off to all the devices. Hank considered this a negative, but some people would consider it a positive because it protects your devices, they are never running without surge protection. The alarm is very loud and sounds like that of a smoke alarm.
The Gigafast Ethernet PE902-EB is a powerline bridge. It uses a standard called HomePlug, that runs a computer network over your AC electricity. It is about the size of a cigarette pack and runs warm. Installing the device requires that a 10/100Mbps network adapter is already installed on the computer.
Hank was annoyed that you need software to activate it as competing products did not need software activation. You need one device per computer and one for each peripheral hooked up to the network.
Hank wondered how one computer could be used to activate two units. The documentation was quite poor. It turns out you can plug in one unit activate it, unplug it, plug in the other unit and again use the computer to activate the second unit. There was a COL light and the manual does not say what it indicates.
Microcenter sells it for $69. Until June 14th there is a $40 rebate. Highly recommended. Although HomePlug networking does not get the attention that wireless networking does, Hank prefers it because there are no blind spots and it offers better security.
Ken asked about the legal issues in the news surrounding Linux. Hank said it is okay to go out and get Linux.
Jose ask about pop-up browser window ads. Joe uses ZoneAlarm Pro which includes a pop-up stopper.
Garvin just got a new computer and needed advice about choosing a broadband ISP. For cable Internet access, you choice is limited as the Internet access is provided by your cable TV company. However, in some areas you can get a cable from Time Warner but get your Internet access from either Time Warner or a couple other companies that have partnered with them. In Manhattan, for example, a Time Warner cable modem can be used with either Road Runner, AOL Broadband or EarthLink. Hank wanted to use AT&T for broadband over a cable modem, but it was not available in his area.
She could also get DSL from the phone company or another company. Joe recently had his Verizon DSL service upgraded to a faster speed while his monthly cost was lowered. He went from 384 Kbps to 1.2 Mbps for $5 a month less.
Steven is having problems trying to burn CDs using Nero. Hank said to be sure that the discs are certified for use at the speed you are burning them. If not, try burning the CD at a slower speed, even as slow as 1X. Also, the software should have an option to do a Test and Wright. Try this, as opposed to just writing without first testing. If copying from one CD to another, try writing the data to the hard disk first. The hard disk is faster than a CD and should therefore not cause as many buffer under-runs.
Anthony used the black-lining feature of Word 2000 very happily. Then his company changed to Word 2002 and the format has changed completely. He hates it and Joe hates it too. Joe has not found a way around it. Another caller, Mark suggested that Office XP has wizards to save settings as in Word 2000.
When Henry right clicks on the Start button in Windows 98 and chooses Explore, he gets an illegal operation. Also, when he runs Internet Explorer, it fails immediately saying just that it has a "problem". Microsoft won't tell you, but Internet Explorer 6 is known to have problems running under Windows 98 (see Michael's gripes). If it's not too late, stick with IE version 5. Hank suggested doing a recovery type of installation of Windows 98. Hopefully, this will restore version 5 of the web browser. However, it may or may not work. If not, then Hank said to give up and do a complete re-install of Windows 98.
Zei emailed us about a Windows 2000 problem: "When I click Start, click Shut Down, and then click Shut Down in the
Shut Down Windows dialog box, the computer begins to shut down but then stops responding (hangs). When this occurs, the computer has
closed all my open applications and other windows leaving my desktop visible. I then have to begin the shutdown process all over again so
that the computer will turn off. This always happens, regardless, if I have a clean desktop or one loaded with
web pages and applications. I always have to do it twice!!!! Love your show. Thanks for being there..
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