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



March 2008 Show Summaries
March 26, 2008  March 19, 2008  March 12, 2008  March 5, 2008 
March 26, 2008 Show

Many laptop computers may go begging for a battery due to a fire at a plant owned by LG Chem. Hank said that only one out of three of the Asus Eee PCs are shipping with a battery. Some problems with Windows XP SP3 and Vista SP1.

Our guest was Jim Buckmaster, CEO at craigslist.org. The company has re-defined the classified ad. It started back in 1995 as nothing more than an email mailing list. Now they have 10 billion page views a month. You can think of craigslist as the Internet equivalent of the bulletin board in your supermarket. On eBay you can sell stuff to anyone in the world. In contrast craigslist is focused on the local market. Learn more about craigslist.

The show format was a bit unusual; we opened up the phones early around 20 minutes into the show and kept them open for the whole show. Also, we limited calls to just craigslist.

The company has only 24 employees (14 techies), all in San Francisco - nothing is outsourced or off-shore. They have websites for 450 cities, all 50 states many countries. More cities are coming.

The web site ain't much to look at, but that's on purpose. They don't make money on page views so there are no banner ads on the site (which is, after all, nothing but ads, albeit a different type). No Flash either. The flip side is that pages load very quickly and the site is easy to use. They are not interested in branding, there isn't even a logo on the website.

Most of the classified ads people post are free. This begs the question of how they make money. They don't make a lot, at least not for a website with sooooo many page views. One exception is that they charge for job ads in 10 cities. They also charge for real estate listings placed by brokers in some cities. All real estate ads placed by owners are free. The majority of ads they charge for are $25, the one exception is $75 in their home town of San Francisco.

They also keep their expenses low; recall the 24 employees. Because their web pages are simple, they can serve web pages with far fewer servers than the other most popular websites on the Internet. Jim said they have just over 200 servers, but that's soon to double. They also depend on free, open source software such as Linux, Apache, MySQL and the Perl scripting language which runs their application.

As for phony or malicious classified ads, Jim mentioned that they can trace the person who placed the ad based on their IP address and email address. While normally, this information may not point to a particular person, if the crime is serious enough, it can.

As craigslist has gone international, ads are now being written in Spanish, Italian, French and Portuguese among others. The company has no plans to branch out to new businesses in the future. The craigslist foundation serves small non-profits.

It has been said that craigslist did more good than the U.S. government after hurricane Katrina. Their New Orleans and other local city sites were used for missing persons reports. The Coast Guard used craigslist to find people who were trapped by floodwater in their attic. Thousands of offers came in on craiglist for free housing as well as offers of employment. The direct assistance to the victims of Katrina was dramatic.

 

March 19, 2008 Show

There is very dangerous spyware in digital picture frames. This was initially reported as a small contained thing. Here is a typical story from January 24, 2008: Best Buy issues security warning on Insignia digital picture frames. It turns out to be a larger thing and the spyware is very nasty and sophisticated. Quoting from State of Security: Chinaís Trojan Horse:

"The Trojan Horse was first reported by BestBuy as "old" and "easily removed from the picture frame by up-to-date anti-virus software." But that was not the case, nor the end of the story. Weeks later it came to light that the Trojan Horse was not limited to the Insignia brand frames, but Samís Club, Target and Costco products as well, all from China. The Trojan horse was also far more complex, "nastier" than once believed.

Computer Associates reported that we were dealing with a Trojan called "Mocmex." They said the virus "is able to block more than 100 types of security and anti-virus software from killing it, and bypasses the Windows firewall to download files from remote locations, spreading them randomly over your hard drive and any portable storage device you plug into your PC - like, for example, a digital photo frame."

For every H1B job created, it is said that 5 other jobs are created. This may be true, but 70% of the created jobs are outsourced and the others are minumum wage jobs. Bill Gates testified before Congress that we need more H1B jobs. No one on the show agrees with what he said.

Hank reviewed Windows XP Service Pack 3, he liked it, but couldn't find documentation on the new features. A listener sent us this link after the show: Windows XP Service Pack 3 Overview. The download is a white paper summarizing the new stuff in Windows XP SP3.

Alfred reviewed a thing that does TV on a USB flash drive. Officialy called the PCTV HD Ultimate Stick, it offers both a digital and analog TV tuner, includes software to make your computer a Tivo and video editing software. It comes with an antenna, as you might expect and costs under $100. See the product web page.

Alfred also discussed the Logitech G15 gaming keyboard, which is not just for gamers. Alfred loved the 18 extra function keys that can be programmed like macros. He finds it a step-up from what he was previously using to record keystroke macros, Robotask. If you tye the same series of commands over and over and over, you may find it a tremendous productivity booster. It costs under $100 and even has an LCD screen on the keyboard that he found displayed useful information.

Help us design an official T-shirt for the show. Arthur C. Clarke passed away. A listener called with a problem with Internet Explorer not being able to view web pages. Michael suggested trying Firefox to see if the problem was just with IE or not. Michael recently blogged about this; Web sites acting up? Try repairing Internet Explorer. You can read Michael's blog at defensivecomputing.info. Listener phone calls.

 

March 12, 2008 Show

Ziff Davis media, owner of PC Magazine filed for Chapter 11 bankrupcy. The New York Times had a scalding article that described the bigest of bigshots at Microsoft at their bad experiences with Vista. See They Criticized Vista. And They Should Know from March 9th. Two big dangers on the Internet are auction fraud and identity theft. Beware of malicious emails bearing Hallmark eGreetings cards.

You can file your taxes for free online if you grossed under $50,000 but be careful doing so. Don't file them on a wireless network or on a shared computer in places like libraries.

The $360 laptop running Windows Home Vista Basic that Hank mentioned last week is the Acer Aspire AS4315-2963 available at MicroCenter. It has 512MB of RAM, a 14.1" WXGA screen and a DVD-ROM/CD-RW Drive.

Joe reviewed Turbo Type and liked it. It is a $20 product fills in words. The vendor is Easy To Use Tools.

Alfred reviewed the second generation Sony eBook Reader, model PRS505. It is 5x7 inches and the black/white screen is the size of a standard index card, 3.5 x 5 or so. It costs under $300. The screen is not LCD, but uses eInk technology. There is no backlight, you can't read it in the dark. Once the screen is changed, it takes no power. It can view memory sticks and SD cards. Originally Sony Reader used a proprietary file format. Now it can read Adobe Acrobat PDF files and Microsoft Word documents. Alfred found that Word documents work better than PDF files. A big downside is that you can't change the battery.

Last week Hank mentioned that Goback, from Symantec is $30 but a listener emailed that he couldn't find it for that price. GoBack 4.0 was packaged into SystemWorks starting with version 5. Amazon is selling a new copy for $30 plus shipping. From the description of the contents in SystemWorks 5.0, it is not at all obvious that GoBack is included. GoBack v4.0 is still the current consumer version. Joe spoke to Symantec to confirm that GoBack is no longer sold as a stand-alone product and that it is included in SystemWorks. The off-shore person he spoke to didn't know whether GoBack was part of SystemWorks and told him instead to buy Ghost, a totally different product. Finally, Joe agrees with Michael, not to use Symantec products. Except, he still likes and recommends GoBack.

 

March 5, 2008 Show

Intel is working on new processors called Atom that consume less power and are cheap. They are targeted at low-cost wireless computers, such as the Asus EEE computer that Hank owns, uses and recommends. The chips are expected to start shipping in the second quarter. The EEE now uses a Celeron processor.

The very few people that buy Vista at retail are getting a price cut. No more Sony Trinitron TVs. Zapping the firmware on a router. Free SteadyState software for Windows XP from Microsoft can be used to roll back changes to the C disk.

Michael described a bad experience with a Lenovo tower computer. It was so bad, that he no longer recommends Lenovo computers. He didn't get to tell the half of it on the show. For many years all of us, Michael included, were big fans of ThinkPad computers. But, Michael says Lenovo has changed, for the worse.

The last caller had a problem with Windows XP, Device Manager showed no devices at all. A listener, Russ Bellew, emailed us after the show suggesting that perhaps the Windows Plug and Play service wasn't running. Joe confirmed this, finding this Microsoft KB article No Items Appear in the Device Manager List When You Open It. Another listener suggested that the reason the Plug and Play service is not running might be that the ImagePath of the service got corrupted in the registry. He suggests checking the registtry at HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services, looking for Plug&Play on the right side and then the ImagePath key.

 

 
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