The Personal Computer Radio Show  WBAI-FM 99.5
New York City



April 2007 Show Summaries
April 25, 2007  April 18, 2007  April 11, 2007  April 4, 2007 
April 25, 2007 Show

Apple just released a ton of bug fixes to Mac OS X. There is a serious bug in QuickTime that affects both Macs and Windows. No fix yet however. To see if software on your computer is up to date, we like the Secunia software Inspector. It is a free online service whose only problem is that it requires a recent version of Java. Too see which, if any, version of Java you have installed, see Michael's www.javatester.org website.

Microsoft will sell Windows and Office for $3 in developing countries (no typo, that is Three Dollars). They will also sell it at that price to people they consider poor in the U.S.A.

When Vista was released, Dell changed all their consumer PCs to Vista and walked away from Windows XP (drank the Vista Kool-Aide they did). Now they are walking back and will make XP available on many consumer models. All the major PC vendors sell Windows XP on computers targeted to businesses. We suggest getting XP rather than Vista.

Dell brings back XP on home systems By Ina Fried at CNET News.com April 19, 2007.

Microsoft says it will stop selling Windows XP to large PC vendors by January 2008. However, you will still be able to buy machines with XP pre-installed even then - Microsoft will let smaller system builders sell XP until January 2009.

System Mechanic Professional from Iolo contains a rootkit according to three different anti-rootkit programs (from Panda, Grisoft and F-Secure). The regular version of System Mechanic does not contain the rootkit. The company says it is there to protect the product from attack by malicious software.

Specifically, one of the services installed by System Mechanic hides itself in such a way that its process is not visible in Task Manager. The service does show up however in the list of services (Control panel -> Administrative Tools -> Services) and the .EXE file itself is not hidden in the file system. Technically, it may live on the border of the "rootkit" definition.

While many programs require Internet access when installed (for registration or activation), Joe pointed out that System Mechanic Professional needs frequent access to the Internet to re-confirm that you are the legitimate owner of the software. If System Mechanic can not access the Internet, even after it has been installed and running for a while, it won't run.

Michael was impressed with the Panda anti-rootkit program - it was the only one that lets you submit a new rootkit for studying.

We discussed two programs that make text larger on a computer screen, Liquid View and Webeyes. Alfred was always a big fan of Liquid View and Joe just tried it and like it too. But it has been withdrawn from marketing. However, if you contact the vendor, Portrait Displays, they will still sell it. It's about $40. WebEyes was fine but only works with IE.

Wizmo is a very small program from Steve Gibson that some energy saving features. You can use it to immediately put your monitor into sleep mode or immediately put your computer into either standby or hibernate mode. It can also be used to force Windows to shut down immediately, a useful feature should Windows hang during shutdown. See all the free programs from Steve Gibson.

The last half of the show was the usual listener phone calls. On the show were Joe King, Hank Kee, Alfred Poor, Michael Horowitz and Danny Burstein.

 

April 18, 2007 Show

If you are using Windows Vista (which we don't advise) and iTunes and an iPod, then Vista might corrupt the iPod. This can happen when using the Windows "Safely Remove Hardware" feature. It's not so safe. Microsoft has a bug fix, but you have to get it manually. See An Apple iPod may be corrupted when you eject it by using the "Safely Remove Hardware" feature or by using Windows Explorer in Windows Vista. Also, be sure to use the latest version of iTunes. Finally, Apple suggests using iTunes to eject an iPod (chose Eject iPod from the Controls menu).

 

April 11, 2007 Show

Microsoft released eight bug fixes to Windows yesterday. Last week they released seven. The bugs are in Windows XP, Vista and 2000. Many of the fixes are to "critical" problems, meaning that a bad guy can take total control of your computer. And, with some of them, you can get infected just by viewing a web page or an email message.

So, should you have Windows automatically install new bug fixes as they become available? We don't think so. There are some "updates" that Microsoft will automatically install that we think are best avoided, such as version 7 of Internet Explorer and version 11 of Windows Media Player. Joe suggests having Windows automatically check for new bug fixes but then do nothing more than tell you they exist

There is a bill proposed in the Senate that would require employers to post H1B job openings on the website of the Department of Labor. We think this is a good thing. Write your senator (www.senate.gov).

To our surprise, Acer is the third leading notebook computer vendor in terms of units sold. HP is first, Dell second, Toshiba fourth and Lenovo fifth. Acer sells so many because their prices are low.

Comcast is copying Verizon in advertising unlimited Internet access that is not, in fact, unlimited. They will cut off their cable subscribers that use too much bandwidth.

If you have a dual-core processor on a machine running Windows XP SP2, it may very well be running slower than it should.We discussed a private hotfix from Microsoft to fix this. See a description of the problem (KB896256) and download the bug fix here.

It turns out that Service Pack 2 is needed in Windows XP to get support for multi-core processors. Some processors support a power management scheme known as Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) which, simply put, lets the operating system slow down the processor when there isn't much work to do and speed it up when things are busy (i.e. re-calculating a spreadsheet). Apparently Windows XP gets confused when dealing with ACPI on multiple processors. Thus it may slow things down when it shouldn't and your computer runs slower than it is capable of. The bug also affects single processors that support Hyperthreading.

But this bug fix is a "private hotfix" which means you are on your own. That is, it will not show up in Windows Update or Microsoft Update. Fortunately for us, a little birdie told Joe about this.

Grisoft, the company behind AVG anti-virus, just released a free anti-rootkitprogram that both detects and removes rootkits. The downside? No documentation. Hank mentioned some other free rootkit detection programs: Sophos has a free anti-rootkit program as does Panda Software. The web site antirootkit.com has a long list of anti-rootkit software.

Listener phone calls. Hank recommended a good book for learning the Excel spreadsheet.

On the show were Joe King, Hank Kee, Alfred Poor and Michael Horowitz.

 

April 4, 2007 Show

This show was recorded on April 4th but Podcast only. It was not heard over the air due special programming on WBAI. There were no listener phone calls.

Microsoft released a critical patch yesterday for Windows XP and Vista. The Student and Teacher version of Microsoft's Office suite is selling too well, they are suing a handful of retailers for illegally selling this version to non-students. What is RAID and why consumers should not use it in their PCs. The Department of Labor refused a request to post H1B jobs publicly. And, it was reported that thousands of H1B workers are underpaid. Differences amongst current processors. We debate building your own computer.

On the show were Hank Kee, Alfred Poor and Michael Horowitz.

 

 
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