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March 2004 Archive

Show Recaps on this page
  March 31, 2004  March 24, 2004  March 17, 2004   March 10, 2004   March 3, 2004 

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

 March 31, 2004 Show

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In The News 

We may or may not be on the air next week. When we know for sure, it will be posted on our home page. 

The 9/11 Commission Hearings are available for free from as MP3s. 

Several recent variants of the Bagle virus can infect your computer when you view an email message. Normally, you have to open a file attached to an email message to get infected with a virus. No more. The message body can be completely blank, but there are instructions inside the HTML making up the email message that exploit a bug in Internet Explorer and cause it to download the virus to your computer. You would have no idea that this happened. The good news is that the IE bug (the Object Data vulnerability) was patched five months ago. The bad news is that anti-virus programs may not protect you.

You can test if your copy of IE is vulnerable to this bug at MS03-032: Object Data Vulnerability Test from Secunia. 

Just as we started discussing viruses, Joe got a virus laden email message that claimed to come from Symantec. It did not. The "FROM" address of an email message is very easily forged. Michael has examples of bad email messages on his web site that includes some of the scams used to trick you into opening a file attached to an email message. 

AOL is moving software development jobs to India. After having lost 2 million customers in the last few years, they laid off 450 software developers in California. See America Online sets up software center in India from the Mercury News. April 1, 2004. 

The Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), an industry trade association, said that Global Outsourcing Helps Software And Services Industry. The ITAA consists of companies that benefit from outsourcing such as Microsoft, HP and 

Joe read from this press release from the IEEE Offshoring study misses important issues 

ITAA Report: IT Outsourcing Benefits Economy By Keith Regan E-Commerce Times March 30, 2004. Not everyone buys into the premise of the report. John A. Challenger, CEO of job placement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, told the E-Commerce Times that jobs are being outsourced faster than they can be replaced by startups and expanding firms.

John W. Snow, the Treasury secretary, said in an interview with The Cincinnati Enquirer that the practice of moving American jobs to low-cost countries "is part of trade" and that "there can't be any doubt about the fact that trade makes the economy stronger." See Bush Administration Shows More Support of Free Trade in the New York Times March 31, 2004

Internet Security

Kraig Lane of Symantec was our guest to talk about the security of online tax filing and security measures needed to ensure safety when providing any information on line. Sending a social security number--the golden key to one’s identity--into cyber space can be one of the biggest security risks. As a group product manager, Kraig is responsible for the entire line of Internet Security products from Symantec that are designed for the consumer market. 

How secure is a secure web site? If it uses SSL, then information you type into the web page is encrypted while in transit between your computer and the web site. Also, the web browser does some checking to insure that the destination machine is what you think it is. 

How easy is it to spoof a web site? For a consumer, the point is that a web site can be spoofed (forged). Kraig noted that the address bar of Internet Explorer can lie to you. Due to a bug in IE, it may indicate that you are at web site 1, when you are really at web site 2. In the worst case, you might think you were filing your taxes with the IRS, but you are actually at a hacker web site. 

If you click on the yellow padlock icon in Internet Explorer (bottom right corner) it will display a certificate indicating (in geek speek) what web site you are on. You should also look in the address bar to see that the address starts with HTTPS (secure), as opposed to HTTP (not secure). 

Another IE bug relates to email. You might think that a link in an HTML formatted email message is taking you to web site A, but in reality, it will take you to web site B. The best way to be sure you are at the Citibank web site, for example, it to type "" yourself into the address bar. Not using IE should also be considered. 

You can read more about this at They also have a free online virus scan and a test of your online security (port scans). Start at and you will see choices for a Virus Detection and a Security Scan. The virus scan includes checks for Spyware. 

Caller Questions

Shawn asked this by email:  I have question about website hosting. If we want to move our website to another host -- how complicated is it? Does the old host hand us a CD with our website on it and we turn the CD over to the new host? Or do we have to start from scratch with the new host? Or is there some other way to preserve the existing website and just move it over to the new host? And, for example, if the old host is unhappy with us for changing, do we need their cooperation to effect the move without losing the existing work that has gone into the website? 

Michael responded: I've done this a couple times. It's not complicated per se, but problems are quite possible nonetheless. The new site always starts from scratch, but there is no need to lose anything. Whoever maintains your web site should have a copy of their local computer. Assuming this copy is in synch with the public site, it forms the basis for the new site. If you have no local copies of the web site, there is software that will download an entire site to a PC. 

  • Getleft is a free web site downloader that downloads complete web sites according to the settings provided by the user. It automatically changes all the absolute links to relative ones. Getleft supports several filters allowing you to limit the download to certain files, as well as options for resuming, following external links, sitemaps, and more. Getleft supports proxy connections and can be scheduled to update downloaded pages automatically. It is available at 
  • HTTrack is an easy-to-use off-line browser utility. It allows you to download a web site from the Internet to a local directory, getting HTML, images, and other files from the server to your computer. HTTrack arranges the original site's relative link-structure. HTTrack can also update an existing mirrored site, and resume interrupted downloads. 

After the new site is loaded, either your webmaster or the new hosting company changes the DNS servers registered to your domain. That basically flips the switch and causes people to go to the new site instead of the old one. For techie reasons related to caching, it might take a day or two until everyone in the world is using the new site. While the change is in-flight, you should probably suspend updates to the web site - makes things easier. Last time I did it, I put a small indicator on the home page of the new site that indicated it came from the new site. After a couple of days, I deleted that, but it made it easier to track which site people were seeing during the changeover period. 

You don't need any co-operation from the old hosting company. Only when everyone sees the new site do you even have to tell the old hosting company what happened and then, just to cancel your account with them. Finding a good web site hosting company has been difficult for me. I feel your pain

 March 24, 2004 Show

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Phishing refers to fraudulent email messages designed to trick you into providing personal information. This information is typically used to buy merchandise via credit cards and stick you with the bill. 

The European Commission has concluded that Microsoft broke European Union competition law by leveraging its near monopoly in the market for PC operating systems onto the markets for work group server operating systems and for media players. 

Intel to Change Chip Numbering System AP March 25, 2004

HP will, by the end of 2004, offer SuSE Linux on their desktop and laptop computers in the U.S. Michael thought this was big news. This builds on HP's recent announcement to sell Linux PCs in Asia with the TurboLinux distribution pre-installed. HP already supports SuSE Linux on their server computers, they will now offer it on some Compaq PCs. Novell, which owns the SuSE Linux distribution, signed agreements today with both HP and IBM to expand their support for SuSE Linux. IBM can now pre-install SuSE Linux on all six of their server computer lines. Also, a previously announced $50 million investment by IBM in Novell, has been finalized. HP is said to be offering Linux in response to demand from corporate customers. 

The web site with computer bargains that we mentioned was They do not sell anything, instead they report on sales and bargains from many different retailers. As their name implies, they report on computer hardware and software, digital cameras and other assorted electronic items. Today they had these bargains (among many others) 

  • BestBuy is selling McAfee Virus Scan Pro 2004 for free after rebates. If you don't qualify for the upgrader rebate, you can buy System Suite5 for free after rebates and use it to qualify for the McAfee Virus Scan Pro rebate. 
  • is selling an external USB floppy drive for $26 with free shipping 
  • Dell is selling a new laptop for $674 after a $250 rebate. An Inspirion 1100, it comes with 256 MB of RAM, a 20 GB hard disk, a 14 inch screen and a CD burner that can read DVDs. Shipping is free. 
  • Dell is selling a new desktop computer with a 17 inch flat panel monitor for $594. The computer has 512 MB of RAM, a CD burner, a DVD reader and a modem. There are no rebates but shipping is $99. However, you can get free shipping by adding another $49 of merchandise to your order. 

Would-be whistleblower indicted for keyboard tap SecurityFocus March 24 2004

The Opera web browser plans to embed IBM's ViaVoice program into a future version of the software, allowing users to navigate Web sites, request information and fill in Web forms using speech. 

Big Blue Stars in Opera Voice-Recognition Technology  from, March 23, 2004 

Caller Questions

A caller asked:  I am registered blind, and would like to find a good Natural Voice Screen Reader which could read ebooks, email, Word, web sites and also Instant Messenger. I know that there is TextAloud and I think ReadPlease but I don't know how good they are. I am unemployed and so don't have too much money... .Do you know any good application that has a good Natural Voice...

Joe responded: Contact Guido Carono at IBM's Accessibility Center. You can see what Guido is up to and learn a bit about him and the Accessibility Center, he has a blog at:  His IBM product is Home Page Reader which is primarily a web browser but he can also provide you with good information about JAWS produced by Freedom Scientific which is possibly the best selling screen reader in the states.

 March 17, 2004 Show

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In the News

HP is scheduled to start selling Linux PCs for consumers in Asia as of June 2004. The machines will come with the Turbolinux distribution and will include version 1.1. We had a show on Open Office last year; simply put, it is a free suite of software that competes with Microsoft Office. It can read and write files created by the programs in Microsoft Office. Turbolinux is a Japanese product and has been very popular in China.

Prove It's Secure Information Week March 15, 2004. Legislators want CIOs and service providers to show that customer data sent overseas is as safe as it is at home 

Senators target outsourcing of jobs Sacramento Bee March 10, 2004. Though California awards thousands of contracts every year, it has no central way of tracking how much of that work is performed in foreign countries. State legislators have introduced a slew of bills to restrict the growing trend of offshoring jobs and sending sensitive data such as medical and financial records for processing in countries like India, the Philippines and China.

Powell wades into debate over outsourcing in India  Seattle Times news service March 17, 2004 

Outsourcing means U.S. job creation is a must, Powell says March 17, 2004. IDG News Service. Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke at a news conference in India. 

Hank discussed his recent purchase of a Shuttle PC model SS51. The two major characteristics of a Shuttle system are that it is small and barebones. A barebones system consists of the case, the motherboard and the power supply. It omits the processor, RAM, the hard disk, CD-ROM, a floppy disk, etc. 

The appeal of a barebones system derives from the fact that there have been two problems with assembling your own computer. If the power supply is not properly connected, it will blow out (Hank says this has happened often). Manufacturers assume the assembler knows that black and brown are electrical standards for ground wires. However, with poor instructions, many people have misconnected the wires. Also, Hank points out that the manufacturers assume the assembler is familiar with current flow of diodes and LEDs. There are many wires to connect from the motherboard to the power supply, the processor fan, the temperature guardian, the reset switch, the on/off switch, and all the connecting wires from the motherboard to bring out to the FireWire, USB, serial, parallel, mic, inline, and Ethernet connectors. By including graphics, and other controller functions on the motherboard
compatibility between sub components has been eliminated. Simply put, if you want to build your own system, this is an excellent choice as opposed to starting completely, totally from scratch. 

Hank also pointed out that because you buy it without an Operating System installed, you avoid paying (in effect) a Windows tax. He liked that you can overclock the processor and that the machine can use a wide range of processors. Shuttle sold just under one million units in 2003 and is expected to sell three million in 2004. 

Building a Big Little PC PC World magazine. March 19, 2004. The best PCs don't always come in big packages. 

Electronic Voting

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. 

This subject has gotten a lot of press coverage. Some articles are below. Newsweek magazine will cover this issue next week. 

Dr. Mercuri will be speaking at Yale University on April 2, 2004 and at the Trenton Computer Festival on May 1, 2004. 

Caller Questions

James asked an interesting question via email: 

I have two computers one (HP) is equipped with a CDRW/DVD SBW-241. One (Toshiba) is equipped with a Toshiba DVD-ROM SD-R2412. The Toshiba plays the DVD-R I have been creating. The HP does not play them. Is this to be expected? Also, the playback on the HP is jerky, on the Toshiba it is flawless. I have tried all kinds of trouble-shooting on the HP based on email from the manufacturer, and nothing works. Is there some way to fix it? 

Alfred replied: 

It is entirely possible for one drive to not read DVD-R discs and another to read the same discs without problem. There are known compatibility issues,
and the older the drive, the more likely you'll have problems. You can try different media which may solve the problem - slower media may work better -
but it may not be solvable without replacing the drive itself. 

There are lots of reasons for jerky playback. Too many programs running in the background, not enough physical memory, and too slow a processor are all candidates. If you have a graphics adapter that includes hardware MPEG decoding, then a slow graphics adapter could make a big difference, while
the other computer components may not. But if your system uses software decoding - as many do - then the DVDs get buffered to the hard drive on
playback, and a fragmented hard drive could cause problems. Software decoding also puts a huge strain on the the CPU, which can also cause slowdowns.

 March 10, 2004 Show

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The book Joe liked was The Extreme Searcher's Guide to Web Search Engines: A Handbook for the Serious Searcher by Randolph Hock published by Cyberage Books. It is available in hardcover and paperback. 

The backup white paper written by the guys on the show is available here. Links to the online virus scans mentioned on the show are on the Links and Downloads page. 

Army to Gates: Halt the free software March 10, 2004 CNET Microsoft has been mailing free copies of its pricey Office productivity software to government employees, but CNET has learned that at least two federal agencies are warning recipients to return the gifts or risk violating federal ethics policies. 

Can I Answer My Phone Without Paying 100,000 Euro? by Michael Robertson of About how Microsoft sued them in assorted countries around the world to try and force a shutdown of the web site. Quoting: "Microsoft is trying to shut us down using any tactic possible. Because our website is our outlet to the world, Microsoft has focused their attack there. Two years ago, Microsoft asked a US court to shut down our website and, after a lengthy investigation and hearing, the court refused. Microsoft tried again in the US, and again they were denied. More than a year later, Microsoft snuck off to Finland and, with no notice to us, asked the Helsinki District Court to block the Lindows website ... The Helsinki court ... refused to block the website. At this point, Lindows did not know that they had filed papers in Finland so we were not able to oppose them. Microsoft then took this ruling to Sweden and asked the Stockholm City Court to block our website and sales. ... From there, Microsoft went to the Netherlands ... "

After Lindows lost the court case they put up a new website It says "Pending Lindows' appeal visitors from the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg are not permitted to access the website or purchase Lindows products."  A listener of the show in the Netherlands reported that he couldn't access this site, but it is available in the U.S. Interestingly, he also reports that is viewable from the Netherlands. 

The Daily News had an article on March 9, 2004 about donating used computers that suggested these organizations: 

  • Computing for the Disabled in Brooklyn accepts used computers in working condition, Pentium II and higher. They give them to children with disabilities, organizations that serve people with disabilities, as well as nonprofit groups, senior-citizens homes and homeless shelters. (917) 331-0234
  • Materials for the Arts accepts computers that are no more than four years old, as well as scanners, printers and fax machines. (718)729-3001
  • Per Scholas in the Bronx is a nonprofit organization that offers reconditioned computers to people for less than $300, trains community residents to become computer technicians and provides environmentally responsible computer equipment recycling. They accept Pentium II and higher models, as well as printers. (800) 877-4068.
  • Harlem Restoration Project accepts computers (Pentium III and higher), scanners and monitors for use in the community. (212) 622-8186
  • Non-profit Computing Inc. fixes used equipment and gives it to nonprofit groups and schools. (212) 759-2368.

 March 3, 2004 Show

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In the News

Broadband Internet access over power lines is now both doable and practical. The term for this is BPL  Broadband over PowerLine. Cinergy is about to start offering the service in Ohio. 1Mps will be $30 a month, 3 Mbps will be $40 a month. The required "modems" that plug into your electrical outlet are based on an industry standard called HomePlug, and cost about $30 wholesale. Cinergy will be handing out the modems to customers free of charge. BPL brings with it the possibility of making telephone calls over the Internet without a telephone.  

There is yet another virus making the rounds, the Netsky.D variation. This one comes as a file attached to an email message, the file type being ".pif" (Program Information File). The subject line varies; some of them are "Re: Word file," "Re: Excel file," "Re: your details" and "Re: thanks!" Never ever open an attached file in an email message unless you were expecting it. Be aware that the from address of an email message can easily be forged. 

Many computer companies announced that they will be adding new jobs, however, the jobs are overseas, not in the U.S. 

Bill Gates was recently in the news trying to convince students to go into computer science. The off-shoring of recent years has resulted in a decrease in computer science majors. Hank pointed out that Microsoft contributes to the problem with their hiring of H1-B employees and their own off-shoring of jobs.

For a discussion of this, see the May 27, 2003 edition of Woody's Office Watch newsletter which described how Microsoft is sending its technical support to India. The May 20, 2003 edition of the same newsletter linked to this article: Microsoft Pushing Support Jobs Offshore? By Mary Jo Foley. Quoting from the May 27th edition of Woody's Office Watch: 

Apparently it's true that all 353 remaining US-based Office tech support jobs, which were handled by a company called Software Spectrum, are headed to India. Rumor has it that Software Spectrum offered to match the Indian offer and Microsoft turned 'em down. MS Money, Works and the games are going to India in July. Outlook and Outlook Express are going around September. The others are headed out around then, too. By the time everyone's back in school, there won't be any front-line Office tech support left in the US. Convergys ( has the tech support contract for parts of Office as well as Windows XP, ME, and 9x. They moved Office support earlier this year to Canada, and Windows support has been in Canada for quite some time. Now all of that appears to be headed to India, as well.

 Our Guest  

Our guest was Scott Fullam the author of Hardware Hacking Projects for Geeks published by O'Reilly (January 2004).  

Alfred said the book was "fun" and that anyone with a modicum of mechanical skills can accomplish many of the projects described in the book. Each chapter starts off with an estimate of the cost, time and difficulty of the project it describes. Projects described in the book include: turning a Macintosh into a fish tank, hacking Furbys, extending your WiFi network (a fairly easy project) and turning an old PC into a Tivo like device - a personal video recorder. Projects are sorted by difficulty, starting with easy ones such as building an external battery pack for a laptop computer. 

Digikey is a big electronic parts supplier that Scott often uses. Radio Shack is also a good source. 

There are 2 WiFi projects in the book. One involves connecting a plain old ordinary soup can (about 3.5 inch in diameter ) to a the WiFi card in a laptop computer to extending the range of the network. The soup can directional though, normal WiFi operation is omni-directional. Another project uses an old satellite dish to extend a WiFi network possibly up to a mile. 

Scott was interviewed in Happy hacking! by Mike Langberg of the Mercury News February 6, 2004

Caller Questions

Tom wants to capture the streaming audio of this show over the net but it often times out and the connection gets lost. Hank pointed out that we archive the audio of the shows so anyone can download them at any time. Hank also suggested that his software might stop recording if there is a few seconds of silence. This might be an option in the software. Tom uses WinRip

A callers PC beeps "like crazy" when it gets hot. Alfred speculated that it was a warning sign from the computer that its too hot. You should clean out the fans and the entire inside of the computer. Computers accumulate dust which makes them overheat. Alfred also suggested running it for a while with the case off. There is software that can monitor the temperature inside some computers (not all motherboards support this). A later caller said he uses Hmonitor for this. 

Sarah asked if there is any reason for an email to be delivered a year after it was sent. The likely answer is that the date and time on the email message comes from the sending computer which simply has the wrong date. Emails can often be delayed by a day or so because one ISP regards the other as a spammer. 

Toby is having trouble connecting to our live audio streams. It may be that all the available streams are taken. There is a very limited number of audio streams available from WBAI over the Internet. During popular shows, it is likely that all the available streams are being used.    

Webmaster:  Michael Horowitz            Page Last Updated:  April 22, 2004