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In The News
Microsoft is releasing the Starter Edition of Windows XP in more countries with Russia being the latest. This is basically, Windows XP Lite, a less functional and cheaper version of the operation system. It is only available on new computers, you can't buy it in a box. Microsoft charges only $36 for the Starter Edition as opposed to more than $70 it charges for other versions.
The Starter Edition is Microsoft's response to the piracy of Windows - it is estimated that in poor countries 70% to 95% of the copies of Windows in use are pirated. Microsoft would rather get some money rather than none. The Starter edition only lets users run three programs at once and home networking has been removed from it.
Verizon is expanding their high speed data network and it will now include parts of New York City. The network speed is 300K to 500K. Note that this wireless data network is separate and distinct from the WiFi networks provided by Verizon at many payphones. Access to the network requires a new modem and paying $80 a month.
The city of Philadelphia will raise $10 million privately and make the entire city a WiFi hotspot. Joe said something does not smell right. The city will be competing with existing ISPs such as Verizon.
In a move to force people to upgrade to Windows XP and thus generate revenue, Microsoft has decided to keep the new version of Internet Explorer exclusive to Windows XP. If you use Windows 2000, Me or 98 you are stuck with the older, less secure version of Internet Explorer. All the more reason to install the free Firefox web browser.
If you use Windows Update, you can get a bug fix (a.k.a. patch) just for the new JPG problem without getting all of Service Pack 2. This is not obvious from the web site, nor is it advertised. Both Joe and Hank suggested you get the Firefox browser, which is not vulnerable to JPG problem and in general is much safer than Internet Explorer.
JP Morgan Chase is no longer outsourcing their IT. They were going to, but decided not to, to gain back quality. They recently acquired Bank One and will use existing Bank One staff.
Windows XP SP2
If you install SP2, beware that the Install might hang in the middle (see the checklist below of last week's show).
If SP2 installs properly kick the tires. Try to get on the Internet to make sure you still can. If you have a wireless network be sure to test it. Also burn a CD. Easy CD Creator has a problem with SP2. Make sure you can run all your programs. Try your printer. Etc. etc.
If there is a problem, should you un-install SP2 or try to work around the problem such as by getting a newer version of the program that no longer works. Hard to say, there is no one right answer.
Frank reinstalled Windows XP. He downloaded all the patches and then lost Media Player. He could try Winamp instead of Media Player, many peopel prefer Winamp anyway. He could also try Windows Update to get a new copy of Media Player. He could also try to download it from the Microsoft download center.
Andrew wants make laptop a personal TIVO (a.k.a. DVR or PVR). He wants to capture TV shows and watch them on his laptop while traveling. There is lots of hardware for capturing TV shows as digital files on your computer from Hauppauge. You can do the capture on a desktop computer and then burn it to a DVD or video CD for use on the laptop. They also have a USB based video capture device that can be used with any computer.
Dave installed Windows XP SP2 and some of the programs on his computer no longer work.
This is to be
expected. In general you can either switch to a competing program that does the
same thing (but works well with SP2) or get a newer version of the broken
program (if one is available) that hopefully will be compatible with SP2.
In The News
Any copy of Open Office.org installed after April 1, 2004 is subject to a
lawsuit from Microsoft. This does not apply to Star Office from Sun.
If you want to get a copy of Service Pack 2 (SP2) for Windows XP you can order a CD from Microsoft. The CD is completely free, there is not even a shipping charge.
Hank has tried to install SP2 a few times with mixed results - about half the installs were fine but half were problematic. On his wife's machine the install failed.
There are a number of things you should do before installing Service Pack 2 for Windows XP
After installing SP2
If SP2 causes you problems
Update: David Pogue covered this exact topic in his newsletter
of October 28, 2004. He recommends un-installing both your anti-virus
program and your firewall program prior to installing SP2 and then re-installing
them afterwards. Ugh. Also, he later amended his list so that these are the
last things you do before installing SP2.
Chris has a Handspring Treo that she hot-synchs to two different computers. After one synch all her data disappeared on both ends - from the Treo and from the computer. Then she synched with the other computer and lost all the data there too. There was nothing we could suggest. Normally you can recover from files that are deleted, but in the case the files still exist they just were clobbered. GoBack would have restored the computer files. Alfred pointed out that you should never use your last backup without backing it up first.
call complained of a slow computer. This could be any of a number of things,
though these days Spyware and Adware has to be at the top of the list of
suspected reasons. Hank suggested System Mechanic to clean out the registry -
its a commercial product. Joe said to run Spybot and Ad-aware and Housecall
from Trend Micro, but first backup all your important files.
Alfred said there is a way to get around this but it was long. After the show he provided the following work-around:
Alfred recommended an alternative too. He suggests going to Digital Sound Planet and downloading
their free Quartz Studio four-track digital sound recorder:
Hank and Stevie were holding down the fort.
In The News
Yesterday was "Patch Tuesday", the day of the month when Microsoft releases all their bug fixes. There were some doozies this time around. A whole host of Microsoft software has a big bug regarding JPG files. In the old days JPG pictures were always considered safe. We're not in Kansas anymore.
So much software is affected by this JPG bug, that Microsoft had to write a program to scan your computer to see if you had any of their buggy software. Among the vulnerable software is Windows XP and many versions of Microsoft Office. Also Microsoft Picture-IT and the Word Perfect Converter. Be sure to set your anti-virus software to scan JPG files. Windows XP SP2 is not effected, but it may be running other software that is vulnerable.
Hank told of the installation of SP2 that ruined the computer of this brother-in-law.
The only good news here is that you can get the bug fix for the JPG problem without installing all of Service Pack 2. The new version of Windows Update has an Express and a Custom mode. If you chose Custom, you can skip SP2 and just get the current critical patches.
Two studies were funded by the Ford Foundation. Between March 2001 and April 2004, 19% of the technology jobs have vanished.
We have been big fans of the Firefox
web browser. It's fast, free and safer than Internet Explorer. A new version was
just released, v1.0 Preview Release. This version adds quite a few features and
fixes bugs but is still considered not finished (thus the Preview Release).
Interested in recording this show yourself to a CD?
One interesting option is to feed a radio into a VCR and record it using the timer in the VCR. The audio quality is pretty good.
Hank uses software called LP Ripper and LP Recorder from CFB. They are commercial products that cost under $55 combined. They came with a USB based sound converter.
A free wave file editing alternative is WavePad which you can download
at nch.com.au/wavepad. Despite the
name, it supports many audio file formats. It can convert, on the fly, to MP3
format from an audio CD. Hank likes it a lot. WavePad can also eliminate pops
and clicks from audio recordings. You can feed a radio into your computer and
WavePad will convert the sound to MP3 files.
Fergus asked about recording a live stream over the net. Hank said that both WavePad
or LP Recorder can record on the fly. Be warned however, not to use the computer
for other work. If your machine generates any noise, including error related
beeps, they too will get recorded. Fergus suggested the Scansoft Realspeak
screen reader which competes with ATT's natural voice. Realspeak has better quality
and is more natural sounding than ATT natural voice. It is used by Wordread.
A called asked about free anti-virus programs. Grisoft makes AVG. Avast is
Hank has just started using Audacity. It's a huge program with lots of features and Hank has yet to form an opinion about it.
A caller asked about exporting a list of names out of Excel onto Avery blank labels. Hank suggested using a word processing program as an intermediary. Export the data from Excel to a word processor first. Printing labels is a core competence of word processing programs. Excel can export data in many different formats, no doubt one of them can be imported by your word processor.
You can always listen to our show live via streaming audio over the Internet.
In The News
Microsoft said that as of April 12, 2005 Service Pack 2 will be required for Windows XP. Currently it is optional.
A study by Asset Matrix found that about 10 percent of PCs upgraded to Service Pack 2 experienced some problems. Windows XP Service Pack 2: The 10% Problem Information Week August 31, 2004.
How to remove Windows XP Service Pack 2 from your computer Microsoft Knowledge Base Article 875350
Problems mount with Windows XP Service Pack 2 by Brian Livingston September 9, 2004
IBM has recalled a half million power adapters for their ThinkPad computers because they might overheat or might cause damage to the circuit board.
Lexmark had to recall the power adapters on 40,000 laser printers. Some were branded by Dell and IBM.
There is a bug in WinZip that affects all versions of the program, even going back to the version used by Windows 3.1. The patch for version 9, the current version, is as big as the product itself.
The new Apple computers are all-in-one models. The computer is built into the back of the flat panel monitor. This is not something new. Joe has an IBM NetVista which is the exact same idea.
Bluetooth is one of many wireless connectivity standards. It works only over
short distances and can work with computers, telephones or any electronic gizmo.
The devices find other Bluetooth enabled devices in the vicinity and
automatically start chatting to each other.
Verizon Wireless is doing a pilot in a small town in Virginia that for $30 will provide wireless Internet access at 1.5MB. Perhaps a loss leader? They are also rolling out fiber optic connections to some customers. Fiber is much faster than either cable or DSL and Verizon is spending about two billion dollars on new fiber optic connections.
Tivo and Netflix are planning on working together to let you download movies from the Netflix library to your Tivo. Many cable TV companies offer Tivo like features - the ability to record TV shows digitally on a hard disk rather than on a video tape.
FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is used to transfer files. It is more efficient than email and has no limitations on files sizes. Normally FTP is used to maintain web sites, but Michael suggested also using it to back up your files to storage space provided by your ISP.
Now that responsibility for maintaining the audio archives of our shows has fallen to Hank, he spent time researching FTP programs. Hank used to use WS_FTP LE from Ipswitch, but it is no longer free. Joe suggested Core FTP and Hank also evaluated a bunch of others.
Michael did not like FTP Commander. Cute FTP is shareware and Hank found it no better than Core FTP which can be downloaded from www.coreftp.com. Hank and Michael both liked Core FTP.
We have published a document about backing up your computer on the Links and Downloads page.
Barbara asked if it is a good idea to buy a laptop on eBay. No. If you need to save money, better to buy a refurbished unit directly from the vendor.
Jose asked about people who need to carry their work with them as they travel. Everyone agreed that USB flash drives (a.k.a pen drive) are a great way to go. Just be sure to encrypt files on the device because they are easily lost or stolen. However, Alfred warned that in PC magazine labs they have had repeated incidents where a USB flash drive has failed.
Phoebe asked about using Go To My PC to access her computer while she is traveling for two weeks. Joe said to use a good firewall, get a good UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) and turn off your printer. Michael suggested turning off the monitor too. Be sure to plug the cable modem into a battery backed outlet in the UPS. Hank is concerned that Windows crashes or hangs so he suggested setting the BIOS to automatically shut down the computer and start it later. Joe and Alfred were wary of this. We disagreed over whether this was better than simply carrying your important files with you on a USB flash drive.
Webmaster: Michael Horowitz Page Last Updated: March 6, 2005