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November 2003 Archive

Show Recaps on this page
  November 26, 2003  November 19, 2003  November 12, 2003   November 5, 2003  

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

November 26, 2003 Show     RETURN TO TOP

WBAI is suffering financial problems. As a result we again offered our Gold Card for a year of technical support from the guys on the show. Normally, the Gold Card is only offered during WBAI fund raising drives. We thank those of your who pledged to WBAI during the show. The financial problems at the station could result in the show going off the air. 

There are five new bugs in Internet Explorer and there are no fixes available for them. The bugs were made public without Microsoft being informed first and apply to all current versions of Internet Explorer. As a result of these bugs, an attacker can run a program on your computer which would let them do anything they wanted to. The work-around is to disable "active scripting". Michael felt this was difficult to implement and would make the web browser all but useless as many web sites depend on these features. If you are familiar with the Security Zones feature of IE, it can be used to control which web sites are allowed to use "active scripting" and which are not. The best work-around for the time being is to use another web browser such as the free Mozilla browser. There is no date, or even an estimated date, as to when Microsoft will fix these bugs. 
  Internet Explorer System Compromise Vulnerabilities from Secunia November 25, 2003 
  New flaws reported in IE 6  CNET November 28, 2003  
  How To Disable Active Scripting in Internet Explorer  Net Security at 
  Toggle Scripting Quickly in IE PC Magazine January 15, 2002. A WSH script. 

Eugene Kleiner, founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and co-founder of the firm now known as Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, died Thursday of heart failure at his Los Altos Hills home. He was 80. 

Fuji is raising prices on CDs and DVDs on January 1st. Hank speculated that everyone else will follow suit and suggested stocking up on shiny round discs now. Joe offered another reason to buy discs now - newer discs may not work with older CD burners. He has an external USB 1.1 CD burner that needs 1x to 4x discs. 

The House and Senate both passed anti-spam bills. They are not the same and it is going to committee. Joe said the bill requires that the recipient of spam be able to opt-out of getting any more. In addition, spam messages will have to have something in the subject line to indicate that it is an advertisement. One big problem is that you have to opt out for each company that sends you spam and there are many many such companies.
  U.S. Congress Makes No Progress On Spam Forbes Magazine. November 26, 2003 
  Spam Bill Is a Turkey, November 26, 2003  
  Antispam Bill Passes Senate by Voice Vote New York Times November 26, 2003

Dell is moving some technical support for Optiplex desktop PCs and Latitude notebooks from India back to the U.S. The reason? The technical support stunk. In fact, in Ed Foster's Hall of Shame Dell is the company most complained about and the number one complain is "poor offshore support". These changes, for the most part, only effect corporate customers. Home users of Dell computers will continue to be supported out of India. This is a minor change however, it is not a change in the way Dell does business. They remain "committed" to India and are not reducing head count there at all. Currently Dell employs almost 3,000 people in India. ZDNet Australia reported that the reason for the switch was the volume of calls to India was greater than expected. All other reports however, said the reason was poor support and complaints by customers. 

Is Dell even an American company any more? They have 44,300 employees. 46% are in the U.S., 54% are overseas. Joe recently had a good experience with Dell's technical support. 
  Dell Sends PC Support to the States  Some customer calls will no longer be routed to India. ComputerWorld December 1, 2003.
  Dell drops some tech calls to India  CNET November 24, 2003
  Dell in India--too many calls, too soon  ZDNet Australia November 25, 2003

Update: The New York Times wrote about this on December 8, 2003. Learning Lessons About Overseas Support Quoting:  In Dell's case, some of its most coveted business customers complained to management that Indian technical support workers relied too heavily on scripted answers and were unable to handle more complex computer problems. While most questions phoned in by home computer users tend to be fairly straightforward ... greater expertise is needed to respond to corporate network problems." 

You can't make this stuff up:
Master' and 'slave' computer labels unacceptable, officials say CNN. November 26, 2003. Los Angeles officials have asked that manufacturers, suppliers and contractors stop using the terms "master" and "slave" on computer equipment, saying such terms are unacceptable and offensive.

 Listener Email

There were no listener questions this week. An interesting question came in from a listener named Gary via email: 

I recently received about 10 emails that all had large attachments, from 1.7 to 5.8 megabytes. The attachments were all saved to my desktop, then the messages that contained those attachments were deleted in Outlook Express. Then I emptied the items from the Deleted Items folder and there's nothing in there now. When I look in my Outlook Express folder "C:\WINDOWS\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook Express" the Deleted Items.DBX file is 42 MB. Why is this file still so large?

Alfred uses Outlook Express and responded: 

The problem is that deleting a message from a folder in Outlook Express does not get the entire job done, unfortunately. You need to choose File, Folder, then Compact All Folders. This will then free up the space that had been taken up by messages that you have since deleted. Some programs will do this automatically, while others force the user to do it as an extra step. Outlook Express is one of those programs that requires you to start the
clean-up process. 

November 19, 2003 Show     RETURN TO TOP

The show was pre-empted this week. All WBAI programs were pre-empted today for special fund raising. 

The issue of using Windows 98 with lots of RAM has cropped up on the show often. PC Magazine addressed this recently:
When Adding Memory Yields Out Of Memory  By Neil J. Rubenking 

A listener emailed:

I have an HP notebook computer that came with Corel WordPerfect. Somehow, I damaged the installation of WordPerfect and it won't run. It says it is missing PFP100.PFC and Wpwin10.dll. All I have is the system recovery CD. How can I reinstall just WordPerfect and not the whole system?
Joe replied: Download the wpo2002patch.exe from

November 12, 2003 Show     RETURN TO TOP

The Internet Tax Moratorium will expire this month. For more about this see

The product Alfred was impressed with for recovering files from a damaged CD-ROM disc was CD X Rescue from 321 Studios. He called it "a very cool product". It is a sector reader for CDs. 

The November bug fixes from Microsoft were just released 

After January there will be no more patches from Microsoft for Windows 98. 

Napster to give students music November 6, 2003, CNET The newly re-launched Napster music service announced a deal with Pennsylvania State University on Thursday to give students access to music funded by student fees, in an attempt to replace campus file swapping with legal listening. 
Penn State students blast Napster deal November 6, 2003, CNET Angry at what they see as a misuse of their funds, some Pennsylvania State University students are protesting their college's new deal with the Napster music service. 

 Internet Security

Our guest was Tony Vincent of Symantec discussing security on the internet. He is the lead global security architect at Symantec. Every six months Symantec analyzes data and issues the Symantec Internet Security Threat Report. The latest one came out in October 2003 and is 57 pages. Data comes from both corporate and home users. 

In a nutshell, things are getting worse on the Internet. In the first half of this year, attacks are up 19% vs. the previous six months. There are many types of malicious code such as back door programs. Attacks are getting more sophisticated, the term used is "blended" to describe an attack that uses multiple avenues of attack. They found 17 new back door programs in the first half of 2003 and almost that many since the report was issued.

In addition to an anti-virus program, Tony said you need a firewall and intrusion detection software. Instant Messaging and Peer-to-peer networks such as KaZaA are vulnerable to attacks. Both can used to transfer a file to your computer, with a peer-to-peer network the file transfer can be transparent. 

Hank mentioned that in addition to prevention, the remedy for Internet attacks is backups. 

The report is available from the Symantec Knowledge Library.

Symantec Internet Security Threat Report October 2003. This edition of the Symantec Internet Security Threat Report is the most comprehensive analysis of cyber security activities available. Its findings are based upon over 20,000 sensors worldwide monitoring network activity in 180 countries, as well as data from more than 500 Symantec Managed Security Services customers. This new report clearly shows that the risk of blended threats and attacks is rising. Other potential threats are identified, such as the rise in peer-to-peer attacks (including instant messaging), mass mailers (like SoBig), the general trend toward theft of confidential information, and the rapid increase in the number of Windows 32 (Win32) threats.

 Caller Questions 

What is an octet stream in an attachment? An octet stream is a type of attached file under the MIME standard and it is probably an executable program. 

A keystroke logger (a.k.a. sniffer) is a program implanted on someone's computer that tracks every key hit on the keyboard. Periodically it sends out this information to the person who implanted the program. It is often used as part of identity theft, to capture userids and passwords, but can also be used by suspicious spouses. 

Alley warned that KaZaA is full of Spyware but that you can also get a program called KaZaA Light that does not have Spyware. Also, be aware that an anti-virus program does not necessarily deal with Spyware or keystroke logging programs. 

VOIP = Voice Over IP where IP = Internet Protocol the standard for communication on the Internet. VOIP means talking over the Internet, normally using the speakers in your computer to listen and adding a microphone to talk into. Joe said it is not a good as a land-line phone call but in most cases it's adequate. Sometimes though, there is a latency. In a short period of time the phone company will convert many long distance calls to VOIP. Hank said that if a phone card is three cents a minute, then why bother with VOIP? 

Update: SBC offers businesses new VoIP service  November 21, 2003 San Jose Mercury News. SBC Communications jumped into the Internet phone business unveiling a service that will allow businesses to manage all calls through a Web portal. Available immediately in 18 markets, the service uses voice over Internet protocol technologies to carry calls over a data network, instead of traditional phone networks. 

Kirin was getting an error while installing Morpheus - that it was not a valid Win32 application. The advice was to download the program again. 

Robert complained that AOL blocks email from dynamically assigned IP addresses. He read this at where it is documented as part of their white list policy. AOL does this to prevent spam. They are a magnet for spam, blocking millions and millions of spam messages every day. Part of their fight against it, is only accepting email from known email servers. This is because spammers can and do run an email server program on their individual computer and send out millions of spam messages. If you send email through the email server of your ISP, this should not be an issue.

Rick downloaded Bonzai Buddy and now he can't open JPEG files. Bonzai Buddy is Spyware. In Windows 98 you can change the program used to open a file when you double click on it this way: 
Use Windows Explorer to navigate to a JPG file, then press and hold the Shift key and right click on the file name. In the pop-up window there will be an "Open With.." choice. Select that and chose the program you want to use for JPG files from the list of programs. Be sure to check the box that says "Always use this program to open this file". 

November 5, 2003 Show     RETURN TO TOP

We thank everyone who contributed to our fund raising show on October 29th. 

Hank and Joe felt that the patent on transmitting sound and video over the Internet was ridiculous. It is going to trial. 
Net video and audio to go to trial  November 5, 2003. The Register. 
FTC calls for US patent reform October 30, 2003 The Register.

Feds admit error in hacking conviction CNET October 16, 2003. Federal prosecutors asked a San Francisco appeals court this week to reverse a computer-crime conviction that punished a California man for notifying a company's customers of a flaw in the company's e-mail service. The one-time system administrator has already served his 16 month sentence. 

Microsoft sets up virus-hunting fund CNET November 5, 2003. Microsoft will work with law enforcement to track down writers of worms, viruses and other malicious code, and is ponying up $5 million to fund the search. This is the first time a company has offered money for information about the identity of the cybercriminals. The initiative's first two bounties will be for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the people responsible for releasing the MSBlast worm and Sobig virus, both of which wreaked havoc online over the summer.
Microsoft to offer bounty on hackers
November 4, 2003 CNET Microsoft will offer two $250,000 bounties for information that leads to the arrest of the people who released the MSBlast worm and the SoBig virus.  

China's Linux Plans Taking Shape November 6, 2003. AtNewYork.Com. A top Chinese official is indicating the government will invest in developing a domestic software industry based around Linux, a move that could minimize Microsoft's position in the world's largest market. 
China to invest in Linux-based software CNN  November 5, 2003. China would build a domestic software industry around Linux. 

The Xbox used to run on a processor from AMD. Now it runs on an Intel processor. Microsoft just announced that the next generation Xbox will run on the IBM PowerPC, the same chip powering the latest Macintosh machines from Apple. It is also used by Nintendo and is expected to be used in the next Play Station from Sony.  

Joe mentioned RoboForm. It is a password manager program that also fills in forms on web pages and generates passwords. The free version supports up to 15 passwords, the paid version is $15. If you are registered at a web site and can't remember the userid and password, RoboForm will. Joe found that it even worked when running off a USB keychain storage device (aka pen drive). Amazingly, it did not have to be installed to the hard drive of the computer. 

 Cheap Printers

Alfred spoke about the design of the cheapest printers. He coined the term "Win Printer" much in line with the existing "win modem" term. Win modems (or Windows modems) depend on the computer for their processing requirements. Regular modems include their own processor for handling incoming and outgoing data and thus are more efficient (from the perspective of the computer) and more expensive. 

The same is true with printers. Most printers include a processor for rendering pages based on instructions from the computer. However, the cheapest printers omit the processor and depend instead on the computer for the heavy lifting. The term used to describe this is "host based printing" and it uses a protocol called GDI. The rendering of the page image is done by Windows, not the printer. 

With host based printing, the image of the printed page is created and buffered in the RAM of the computer and then squirted across the wire to the printer. This a much larger data stream compared to a printer that has its own processor. In that case, the computer only sends commands to the printer in the language that the printer understands. 

Depending on your computer, you may or may not notice a slowdown when printing to a "Win printer". Alfred suggested that a computer processor slower than 1 GHz would probably slow down. 

One way to determine if a specific printer is "Win Printer" is to look at the printer command languages that it supports. A printer that supports PCL or Postscript is not a win printer, one that supports GDI only, is. Also, if the printer can be used from DOS, it is not a "Win Printer". Chances are that a printer with only a USB interface to the computer is a "win printer". 

Update: The main factor in determining if a printer is a "Win Printer" is its support of GDI. Like "real" printers, Win Printers include a processor and ram, however their processing and buffering needs are much less. For example, the Samsung ML1710 Black/White Laser Printer is a Win Printer. The specs show it to have a 90 MHz Samsung Processor and  8 MB of RAM. The give-away is that it is said to support the Samsung Printer Language via "Language Simulation". A check on the Samsung web site shows that the printer language is actually GDI.

 Caller Questions 

The free anti-virus program that was mentioned on the air is AVG from Grisoft. It is free for personal use only. 

Bill has an old IBM ThinkPad with two PCMCIA slots and USB 1.1. His Ethernet adapter is a PCMCIA card that occupies both slots leaving him only USB 1.1 to use with an external CD burner. He asked about options for using a fast external CD burner, which requires USB 2.0. One option is to get a USB 2.0 PCMCIA card that occupies a single slot. Then his Ethernet could either come from a single slot PCMCIA adapter or from an external USB 1.1 Ethernet adapter. Hank pointed out that everything advertised as USB 2.0 is not, some devices are just USB 2.0 "compliant". To be sure, check the transfer rate of the device. 

Paul has an HP 1100 printer with what he thought was a built in SCSI port. Every time he hooked it to a computer, the machine froze. Alfred said it is not a SCSI port at all. At one point HP tried to get people to convert from the standard fat parallel printer port to a different type of printer port. This different type of printer port is what Paul has and if he gets the right cable, it should plug into a standard printer port on a computer. 

Steven has a laptop computer and he would like to black out the screen while downloading large files. Alfred suggested using the Function (FN) keys on the keyboard to direct the video output to an external monitor. All laptops can send video output to either the built-in screen, an external monitor or both. This is controlled by special Function keys on the keyboard. It will not hurt the machine to send video output to a monitor that does not exist. He will have to check the manual for the computer to see which Function keys control this, there is no standard.  

A caller asked about buying the cheapest flat panel monitor. Alfred warned that the cheapest are not the best and advised against buying the cheapest models. They will be less bright and have more viewing angle problems. He also said not to count on using the speakers that are built into flat panel monitors. Even the cheapest ten dollar speakers at Radio Shack will sound much better. 

Webmaster:  Michael Horowitz            Page Last Updated:  December 24, 2003