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



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

Flash ram prices are heading up. Samsung just released a 64GB flash ram based hard drive. No doubt more and more laptops will ship with solid state hard drives as opposed to the standard mechanical devices. They cost more but have many advantages. One is that flash ram is much faster than a hard disk, thanks to its not being a mechanical device. Moving the read-write heads and waiting for the platters to spin takes a huge amount of time when compared to other work inside a computer. 

Yahoo now offers unlimited storage for email. Cellphones don't interfere with airplane controls. Many cellphone companies are being sued for Bluetooth patent infringements. Can you boot to DOS and still access USB keyboards/mice? 

Samsung just released a computer monitor that attaches via USB rather than the standard video connection. Called the UbiSync LCD monitor it is 19" in size and uses a software graphics adapter instead of the usual hardware, thus it can work with any PC including the many whose video card only supports a single monitor. Due to go on sale in May it is expected to sell for $678. 

Listener phone calls. On the show were Joe King, Hank Kee, Alfred Poor, Michael Horowitz, Danny Burstein and Olivia Whiteman.

Next week we are pre-empted but will, as always, record a show that you can download from this site.

 

March 21, 2007 Show

The Commodore name, an oldie from the early days of PCs is back. A Dutch company owns the name and is releasing new high end "gaming" PCs targeted to compete with Alienware and Voodoo. The machines will include a Commodore 64 emulator and some games that ran on the old machine. In its day (the 1980s), the Commodore 64 was the most popular personal computer. The only relationship between these machines and the old Commodore machines is the name. The original Commodore company went out of business in 1994. 

Auction fraud made up 45% of the complaints received by the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center. Non-delivery of merchandise was 19%. The FBI did not say which auction sites were the worst. 

Another reason not to use Vista: Adobe will not issue upgrades to many of its current products so they run under Vista. To use Photoshop, InDesign and Dreamweaver with Vista, you will have to purchase an expensive new version. When they come out (they are expected to be released in the Spring). Adobe will update Acrobat version 8 to work well with Vista, some time in the next few months. 

Fujitsu is going to release a laptop with flash ram replacing the hard disk. No doubt this is the beginning of a trend. Flash ram makes the most sense in the ultra-light laptops. Flash ram is faster than a regular hard disk, but much more expensive. The machine will have a 32GB flash ram hard drive. 

Alfred ran into an interesting problem when running Vista and XP on the same machine and dual booting. If you set up a dual boot environment using nothing but Microsoft software then each Operating System can see the other one. That is, when Vista is running the files that make up Windows XP will be visible as the D or E or F disk. There is a bug however in Vista. It finds the Restore Points in the XP partition and recognizes them as invalid, so it deletes them. 

Michael suggested using partitioning software such as Partition Magic to completely hide each Operating System from the other. Alfred suggested removable hard disk cartridges. If you are dual booting on a machine with two hard disks, Michael suggested using the BIOS to disable one hard disk at a time to hide it from the other copy of Windows.

The main developer of the Fortran programming language, John Backus, died this week at the age of 82. Fortran was released in 1957 and was a huge step forward for computer programming.

Palm is expected to be sold very soon. Alfred said that Palm Pilot class devices (PDAs) are on the way out.

Symantec issued a report that said stolen identities are sold on the black market for $14 to $18 each. By identity they mean a name, address, Social Security number and either a bank account or credit card account. Of course, they have software to protect you. 

Researchers and Microsoft and UCLA investigated junk web pages, those specifically designed to get the attention of search engines so that ads can be displayed. Some call it search engine spam. The report from Microsoft is called Strider Search Ranger. Surprisingly they were able to trace the source of many of the junk web pages to a couple organizations and two website hosting companies. One of the hosting companies, ISPrime, is almost a stone's throw from the WBAI studios. 

Hank found a free program that's even better than Belarc to inventory a computer. It's called SIW, System Information for Windows and is available for free. In addition, the program does not need to be installed. You can copy it to a flash drive and run it directly from the flash drive on any Windows machine. See screen tour of SIW at LifeHacker

During the listener phone calls the subject of phony fraudulent web sites came up. There are two free web browser add-ons that you can install to provide some information as to whether you are looking at a reputable site or not. One is the Netcraft toolbar which shows you where, physically, the web site resides and reports a risk rating. The other is Site Advisor from McAfee. This web site gets a clean bill of health from Site Advisor. 

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

 

March 14, 2007 Show

The February 2007 edition of Computer Shopper magazine marked the last Computer Cures column written by our own Alfred Poor. The column ran for 12 years. To find previous Computer Cures columns, use the Search feature at computershopper.com.

Three branches of the Federal Government, the FAA, NIST and the Department of Transportation are not going to use Windows Vista. At least for a while. They found no compelling reason to upgrade and, like any large organization, are worried about application compatibility. We all agreed that it was the right decision. 

Best Buy is being investigated for bait and switching. In the stores, employees have access to an internal Best Buy website that looks exactly like the public web site except that the prices are different. The Connecticut Attorney General is looking into this.

SanDisk has released a hard disk that is not a hard disk. Rather than the spinning platters that make up a hard drive, the new SanDisk thing consists of 32GB of flash ram. Flash ram hard drives (for lack of a better term) are a great match with many laptops and physically the new thing is shaped exactly like a standard 2.5 inch laptop hard drive. Flash ram has a number of advantages over hard disks: no moving parts, weigh less, use less battery power, smaller, more reliable and more. The big down side is price. The new 2.5 flash ram drive is priced at half what the previous 1.8 inch format flash ram drive was. The 32GB model costs $350 in volume. 

MIT is putting more course material online, available to anyone for free. 

Visual FoxPro is being retired by Microsoft. 

On February 17, 2009 analog television will be discontinued. Analog and digital TV signals are now being sent over the air. On this date, the analog signals will be turned off. To continue using an old analog TV will require a converter box. If you get your TV signal from cable, this will not affect you. You can buy a monitor which is a TV set without a tuner. If your signal comes from a cable box, you don't need a tuner. 

The Gmail drive is a free program that can make a Gmail email account appear as a drive letter to Windows. Google does not endorse this or like it. Every now and then it breaks as Google makes changes to Gmail. Yesterday a new version of Gmail drive was released. It's a great way to transfer large files. You can get the program at download.com.   

 

March 7, 2007 Show

Recently it took Hank two hours to buy a Lexmark printer on the web. The Lexmark website said the printer was in stock, but after he ordered it, it turns out there is a for week wait. So Hank calls them on the phone, only to learn that other printers he was interested in were also out of stock. Then Lexmark referred him to insight.com. After filling out the new customer profile at Insight's website, it got kicked back for there being an error, but the site didn't say what the error was and erased all the data he had entered. Hank had to call them too. Turns out they insisted he lived in "Queens County" and would not accept "Flushing". But, his credit card said Flushing, so the order wouldn't go through.

The patent office is opening up patent applications to comments from the general public. The Supreme Court will hear the patent case of AT&T vs. Microsoft on the issue of speech recognition.

Not many people are using Windows Vista according to a recent survey of accesses to web sites which found Vista usage at less than 1%. If you feel you must use Vista (which we don't recommend) then it is better to buy a new computer with it pre-installed rather than upgrading a machine with an older version of Windows. Installing it yourself on an older machine is just asking for trouble.

Hank said a recent study analyzed web sites to see which authoring programs created them. The most popular program was Front Page which created 8% of the tested websites. Surprisingly, Word was used to create 2-3% of the websites.

Daylight Savings starts on Sunday March 11th and there is a patch from Microsoft for Windows XP Service Pack 2 - only. What about consumers with earlier versions of Windows? No patch for you. They also have a program for Outlook which must be used after the patch for Windows. The program will adjust pre-existing appointments. If you have an older version of Windows then tell it not to automatically adjust the time for Daylight Savings and change the time your self manually. Or, consider the Time Zone Editor program for Windows, a freebie from Microsoft. 

Cellphones should, in general, be OK except for T-Mobile whose customers have to change the time manually. Virtually all PDA phones need patches for Daylight Savings Time.

Apple just released a bunch of patches for QuickTime and iTunes. Firefox also has a new version with some bug fixes.

New York State has more identity theft than any other state in the union. Next is California and then Nevada (this is per capita). Wyoming and Vermont are the safest. Homeowners insurance may cover identity theft. Joe felt the coverage was useless, Alfred disagreed. The website www.consumer.gov from the Federal Government has good information on identity theft. So too does the FTC's site www.ftc.gov. Xerox all credit cards that you carry in your wallet, both sides (so that you have the phone number to call).

To check on whether your identity has been compromised, once a year the three major credit reporting agencies will give you a free credit report. See www.annualcreditreport.com. Avoid other websites with similar names.

We discussed some programs you should have on your computer before trouble strikes. Even before considering software, buy the necessary hardware to backup all the files you might care about. A Windows distribution CD is a good thing to have, but many PCs don't come with one. If your computer didn't come with one, see if you buy one from your computer vendor.

Hank suggested a registry cleaner, Alfred wasn't so sure. Alfred suggested insuring that there are available Restore points being made periodically. 

If you have to re-install Windows, you'll need to apply oodles of bug fixes. The patches may be just too big to download on a dial-up connection. Since Service Pack 2 for XP there have been 72 bug fixes for XP. Then, of course, there is Office too. 

And then you need an anti-virus program, an anti-Spyware program and a good firewall. There is good free software in all these categories. There are about 10 companies that offer online virus scans. 

www.freebyte.com lists free software in many categories. 

www.av-comparatives.org is run by grad students and tests various anti-virus programs. They found that Microsoft's new OneCare anti-virus program was the worst. Among the better programs was Kaspersky. In the anti-Spyware category they found Windows Defender, also from Microsoft, was pretty poor.

For firewall information, Joe suggested www.grc.com and said he likes the basic/free ZoneAlarm firewall.

 


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