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


May 2006  Show Summaries

Show Summaries Below
May 31, 2006  May 24, 2006  May 17, 2006  May 10, 2006  May 3, 2006 
 May 31, 2006 Show AudioArchives   TOP 
 

Just like last week: no fund raising but not heard over the air. Again we recorded a show in the studio which is available for you to download. No listener calls, just us. We discussed a handful of computer stories in the news this week. Among them: 

Windows Live OneCare just went live. Great name, huh. For $50 Microsoft gives you an anti-virus program that you can use on three different computers. Would you trust Microsoft? 

The price of LCD screens for TVs and computer monitors is falling and falling and falling . . .   

 

 May 24, 2006 Show AudioArchives   TOP 
 

Good news: no fund raising. Bad news: we were not heard on the air. But, we did record a show in the studio which is available for download. No listener calls, just us. 

Joe told about his experiences converting copy-protected WMA audio files, that he downloaded for free from the New York Public library, to another format. The software he used is Tune Bite. Quoting from their web site, Tune Bite "lets you record copy-protected music, audio books and video clips in WMA, M4P, AAC, M4B and MP4 formats by playing them and save them as unprotected MP3, OGG, WMA, WMV or MPEG4 files you can use anywhere!".  

Who plays computer games? More women than you might think. 

We discussed screens on laptop computers: square vs. wide and matte vs. glossy finish. One issue that always comes up is text size. Depending on the screen size and native resolution, text may be too small to comfortably read. While Michael mentioned that he lowers the resolution, Alfred suggested a program called Liquid View from Portrait Displays as a better solution. It enlarges text and icons while maintaining the screen resolution. 

Philip Zimmermann has released beta software to encrypt VOIP (Voice over IP) phone calls. It does not work with Skype, but will work with many open source VOIP systems. Mr. Zimmermann is the well-known author of PGP, Pretty Good Privacy. Skype has their own proprietary encryption scheme that, because it is proprietary, can not be evaluated.  

There is a serious bug in Word 2002 and 2003 that can be exploited simply by opening a Word document. Never accept Word documents from strangers. Your computer can be infected with malicious software just by reading a maliciously crafted document. There is no fix from Microsoft, which said they may get around to it by mid-June. Maybe.  What to do: 

  • Microsoft suggests running Word in safe mode. Who knew there was such a thing? This however, does not fully guarantee you will be safe. 
  • Install the free Word 2003 viewer from Microsoft. This is a totally safe way to read Word documents. 
  • Michael suggested opening Word documents first in Notepad to see if they are legit. Alfred, suggested that WordPad is a better choice since it honors some formatting.
  • Use the free Open Office or the not-free WordPerfect 
  • Get a Mac

We offered some tips on preventative maintenance for your PC.

Alfred offered advice on choosing the right screen size for your needs when purchasing a large screen TV. Alfred is also known as the HDTV Professor (like Clark Kent and Superman). 

 

 May 17, 2006 Show AudioArchives   TOP 
 

We said the show this week would be pre-empted. Despite this we were live, on the air. Go figure. 

Second week of fund raising. This is the price WBAI pays for total independence. The Personal Computer Show can criticize any company and product because we have no advertisers. 

Skype, and many other programs, have offered free voice communication between computers on the Internet for years. However, calling from a computer to a real (a.k.a. landline) telephone has always cost money. Skype calls this feature Skype Out and they charge in the vicinity of two cents/minute, the price varying depending on where in the world you are calling. But now, Skype Out will be free in the US and Canada for the rest of the year. Wow. Free phone calls (if you are willing to start from a computer). Skype works on dial-up in addition to broadband. However, don't expect to do conference calls or video on a dial-up connection.  

Joe liked small, folding speakers for a laptop. Michael told of problems with Optimum Online today. 

 

 May 10, 2006 Show AudioArchives   TOP 

This was a fund raising show, and as usual with fund raising, there were no listener phone calls. 

Joe discussed a bad experience with Dell technical support. In the past he had defended Dell, but this time a friend of Joe's got very poor service. Joe's previous good Dell experiences were when he was dealing with the business side of the house. However, his friend was a consumer and found that technical support was incompetent and not much more than a shill for additional paid services from Dell. Michael has been griping about Dell for quite a while. 

  • Dell's price cuts take their toll by Robert Walberg at MSN Money Central. An article about the recent fall in Dell's earnings and stock price. Quoting: "Dell, like GM, needs to fully understand what ails it before management can actually go about fixing the problem ... based on conversations Iíve had with many people since beginning to write about Dell for MSN Money a year-ago, I think the real problems are product quality and customer service. The perception is that Dell computers routinely have bugs and that the companyís tech support is maddeningly slow and increasingly uncooperative and unhelpful." 

Is you computer running slowly? It's a very popular complaint. We discussed some of the things us computer nerds look at to try and find the source of the problem. 

  • Alfred suggested checking that there is sufficient free space on the hard disk
  • Alfred also warned that insufficient RAM memory can cause a computer to run slowly
  • Joe suggested a Registry cleaning program 
  • Michael suggested a free program called Startup Control Panel from Mike Lin (who does accept Paypal tips). The program makes it very simple and easy to turn off programs that Windows is running automatically when the system starts up. Many programs set themselves up to run automatically at startup time. Almost always, this is not necessary. It makes the computer take longer to start up and decreases the amount of RAM available to Windows for running other programs. Startup Control Panel does not delete anything and does not un-install anything. It simply stops programs from running automatically when Windows starts up. If it turns out that a program really must run at startup-time, it is very easy to change things back with Startup Control Panel. Michael suggests the Control Panel applet version, as opposed to the standalone EXE version. This puts a new "Startup" icon in the Control Panel where, logically, it belongs. 


 May 3, 2006 Show AudioArchives   TOP 

If you are in the market for a new computer, should you buy one now or wait in January, when the next version of Windows, Vista, is scheduled to be released? Michael suggested not to wait, that Vista will inevitably be buggy as heck and will suffer from hardware and software compatibility problems for months. This was our, "I beg to differ" segment prompted by an article in the Wall Street Journal that said to wait for Vista.  

If you want to buy an XP computer now but have the option to upgrade to Vista when its released, Microsoft has guidelines on the necessary hardware. 

There is a very dangerous and new type of phishing (scamming you into providing personal information that can be used for identity theft). In the beginning, phishing consisted of email messages with links to web sites that appeared to be real, but were, in fact, scams. There are many technical tricks that can be used to hide the true destination of a link (see Links That Lie). The solution to that was to go to a web site manually, that is, by typing the URL directly into your web browser. However, malicious software that modifies the networking software on your computer can take you to a scam web site, even when you type "www.chase.com" into your web browser (or any URL). 

As if that wasn't bad enough, there is now a new wrinkle. Malicious software on your computer lies in wait until you are on the actual web site of American Express (they were only the latest victim, it could be any financial institution). Then it pops up a window asking for assorted personal information, which the victim gladly enters since they are, in fact, at the real American Express web site. However, the pop-up window came from a program on your computer, not from American Express. 

 

 
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