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



February 2007 Show Summaries
February 28, 2007  February 21, 2007  February 14, 2007  February 7, 2007
February 28, 2007 Show

Everyone was in the studio tonight as Alfred was in town. No one topic this week, instead we covered many small ones.

If you are running Windows 2000 you have to subscribe to bug fixes from Microsoft, for $4,000/year to get the patch for the new daylight savings time. Or, just set the time on your computer manually. Apple and Cisco settled their trademark lawsuit regarding the name "iPhone". Did Apple use the name, which Cisco owns, on purpose for the free publicity? Joe thinks so. Did Apple's lawyers figure Cisco wouldn't bother suing them? That they could get away with blatantly violating a trademark? Alfred thinks so.

CompUSA is closing over half its stores.

If you want a free credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies, the legitimate web site is www.annualcreditreport.com (877-322-8228). The Federal Trade Commission has been after consumerinfo.com for fraudulently advertising free credit reports and has fined them twice.

Last week we mentioned the Kerio firewall and said the cost was moderate. A listener set us straight - there is also a free version of the firewall, which is now owned and marketed by Sunbelt Software. Joe recommended the firewall, Michael did not. However, they agree that it is targeted at a more technical audience than the free version of ZoneAlarm. Also, the firewall is not compatible with Windows Vista (which all of us suggest avoiding). For more see www.sunbelt-software.com.

Another listener provided more information on the maximum amount of RAM that Windows can use. Last week Hank suggested buying a computer with a 64 bit processor because they can address more RAM that 32 bit machines which are limited to 4 GB. When Vista is run on a 64 bit processor, the maximum RAM is 8GB for Home Basic, 16 GB for Home Premium and 128 GB for the Business, Enterprise and Ultimate editions.

A free version of Windows? No way. Way. Hank discussed a new Operating System called ReactOS which is free, open source and works just like Windows. But it's not Windows, it was developed from scratch. Needless to say, this could be very big. The OS is now in Alpha testing, which means its very buggy. See www.reactos.com

To go to Citibank's web site you type "www.citibank.com" into your web browser. Everyone knows this. Yet, it may not be true. All it takes to break this is viewing a web page. A malicious page that is, one containing a malicious JavaScript program. This huge potential problem affects broadband users with a router (dial-up users are safe). The malicious JavaScript program logs into the router and changes its configuration. Routers have dozens and dozens of configuration options, but the most dangerous change is one that you won't know even happened. 

If the program changed the DNS server settings, you can type in the name of your bank and end up at a fake web site run by people trying to steal your identity and/or passwords. Even worse, you could end up at your banks actual web site, but only after first going to a malicious web site that tracks everything you enter before sending you to the real web site. 

This attack can only work if the router is using the default Userid and password. If the router password was changed from the default value then you are safe. Other protections are changing the default IP address of the router and modifying the TCP/IP settings on your computer to use hard coded IP addresses for your DNS servers rather than getting them from the router. Michael has a long write-up on this on his blog.  

A caller had a program crash every time Windows starts up. Michael suggested the free Autoruns program which reports on all the programs that Windows runs automatically at startup time. There are many such lists and Autoruns is very thorough at reporting on all of them. The author is Mark Russinovich, formerly of Sysinternals, now with Microsoft. Autoruns does not have to be installed, you can run it directly from a thumb drive or other external media. 

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

Next week we will not be heard on the air as WBAI is running special programming. As usual, we will instead record a show at the station and will make the show available on our website and by Podcast sometime Wednesday night.

 

February 21, 2007 Show

The FDA warned about counterfeit prescription drugs purchased over the Internet.

A company called Slysoft is selling a HD DVD ripper out of Antigua. Soon they will also sell one for Blu-Ray DVDs. The copy protection on HD DVDs was broken - and legally too by a very smart techie. Basically, he watched data residing in RAM and eventually figured out the master password. 

On March 11th the clocks are moved up an hour which may screw up all types of computers. There is a bug fix for Windows to deal with this, but Alfred found it doesn't work. Even after applying it, his copy of Outlook 2003 is showing every appointment in the three new weeks added to DST twice, once on the real day and once the next day. 

Some schools are getting smarter about students stealing copyrighted music. First they get an email warning, then they get a written warning, then they get suspended. 

A new release of the free Virtual PC product was just released by Microsoft. This version, 2007, can run Vista as a guest OS, something the older version could not. But if you have Vista running on your real computer, then you need another license to also run it in a virtual computer/machine. 

For quite a while now Microsoft has been releasing bug fixes once a month, on the second Tuesday of the month. Techies refer to this as Patch Tuesday. They used to release bug fixes as needed but that generated too much bad publicity as there were always new bug fixes. Now the bad guys have learned to use Microsoft's avoidance of bad publicity to their benefit. They start exploiting newly found bugs the day after Patch Tuesday. This way, they get a full month to wreak havoc before Microsoft issues a fix. The bad guys exploit. Microsoft limits bad PR. Guess who loses in this arrangement? 

Steve Ballmer (head honcho at Microsoft) said Windows Vista is not selling as well as had been expected. No one on the show thinks there is any reason to buy or use Vista now. Alfred won't touch the package for at least a year. Won't let it in his office even. :-) Olivia pointed out a problem with being a pioneer - if you have problems, there may be no one to help you with it. Vista looks and acts much different than XP. 

And, despite the millions and millions in marketing being spent by Microsoft, you can still buy a new computer with Windows XP. In fact, you will probably be able to do so for quite a while. 

Some personal computers are marketed to consumers, other to businesses. 

In general those sold to consumers come with Vista, but there are exceptions. Lenovo offers both laptop and desktops for consumers with Windows XP. All the HP machines sold to consumers have Vista but in the closeout section of their web site you can still get an XP machine. Dell too sells nothing but Vista on their consumer machines, but Alfred pointed out that their outlet has many XP machines and he is a big fan of buying machines at a discount from the Dell outlet. 

Computers sold to businesses are an entirely different world. Most or all of the HP business PCs come with Windows XP. HP also offers machines with Mandrake Linux, Suse Linux and no operating system at all. Hank compared the price of a machine without an OS to one with Vista and found that Vista adds a lot to the price. Dell offers businesses machines with both Windows XP and Red Hat Linux. 

And to kick Vista while it is down, we pointed out that many new Vista PCs don't have enough ram. Microsoft recommends a minimum of a gigabyte of ram yet many machines are sold with only 512MB. Hank found that he needed 2 gigabytes of ram to make Vista run as fast as Windows XP. Olivia has tried to run Vista on a machine with only 512MB of ram - it's not good. 

In fact, Hank went so far as to suggest avoiding a 32 bit processor for use with Vista. The maximum ram on a 32 bit machine is 4 gigabytes, which some day may not prove to be enough. 64 bit processors support much more ram. 

In short, you can sum up Hanks' opinion as

"Ask not if you are ready for Windows Vista. Ask instead if Vista is ready for your applications."

 

February 14, 2007 Show

Back on the air. No more fund raising or preemptions. 

Computer stories in the news: Yesterday was "patch Tuesday" and there were a slew of bug fixes for Windows, Office and other Microsoft software. Hank's machine needed 19 bug fixes, Joe's needed even more.

Google's Gmail will finally, after three years, be available without invitation. You can use the storage space provided by Gmail as a poor man's offsite backup.

Hank reviewed three books about Windows Vista which generated a lot of discussion about the OS. In a nutshell, no one on the show thought buying Vista now was a good idea. Joe and Alfred don't plan to even consider using it for a year. Hank has been testing it on a machine he already had and that is not capable of running the new Aero interface which everyone knows is pretty. The only reason Hank came up with for buying Vista is that his wife thinks it's pretty.

Hank phrased the Vista issue thusly: "Ask not, if you are ready for Vista, ask instead if Vista is ready for your applications".

One listener is upgrading from Windows 98 machines that he uses in his business. We all suggested buying a new computer with Windows XP rather than Vista. While consumer oriented retailers are selling nothing but Vista, the business division of all the major computer vendors still sell machines with Windows XP. 

 

February 7, 2007 Show

This show was recorded on February 7th but Podcast only. It was not heard over the air due to WBAI fund raising. There were no listener phone calls. On the show were Joe King, Hank Kee and Alfred Poor.

On March 11, 2007 daylight savings time starts three weeks earlier and will end a week later. This may impact all sorts of electronic devices, not just computers.

Mikhail Gorbachov appealed to Microsoft not to prosecute a school teacher who bought a PC for use in his classroom that came with a bootleg version of Windows. The teacher might get 40 years in Siberia.

Kodak will introduce new printers next month with very cheap ink. Everyone was in favor of spending more up front for the printer to get the cheaper ink. In the long run, it saves money.

Joe told of a problem with Windows Vista that would destroy an iPod.


 
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