|The Personal Computer Radio Show||
New York City
May 30, 2007 Show
Has your computer been running slowly lately? Very slowly? If Task Manager shows that an instance of svchost.exe is using 99% of the cpu/processor then you may be the victim of a bug with Windows Update. Microsoft has released a bug fix for this which is available via, of all things, Windows Update. See How do I fix this high CPU usage svchost virus or whatever it is? by Leo Notenboom or go directly to the source and read Microsoft's description of the problem in KB927891: You receive an access violation error and the system may appear to become unresponsive when you try to install an update from Windows Update or from Microsoft Update.
There are new critical bug fixes for QuickTime, yet again. If iTunes is installed on your computer, then you also got QuickTime along with it. To see if you have an old version of QuickTime, you can use the Secunia Software Inspector.
Dell will begin selling computers at Wal-Mart on June 10th.
There is a new phishing scam that is not flagged by either the phishing filter in Internet Explorer v7 or by Norton 360. The solution? Use Firefox which is immune to this problem. Joe also suggested the Netcraft toolbar and Michael suggested the SiteAdvisor browser plug-in.
LG is closing one of its plasma TV factories. Does this mean plasma is on the way out? Alfred said no. Matshushita is constructing a new huge plasma factory. Also, Alfred just attended a trade show and learned there are new plasma screens on the horizon that will be 4 to 5 times more efficent and, at the same time, be cheaper to produce. In addition, there is another new technology that will make the pixels in plasma screen smaller, allowing for an increased resolution and thus a better picture.
Our guest was Rebecca Mercuri and the topic was electronic voting. Her web site is Notable Software. Florida is going to replace nearly all their touch-screen voting systems with optically scanned ones. Maryland is also replacing their electronic voting machines with optically scanned paper ballots.
A caller downloaded and installed the VMWare player and asked how to create a new virtual machine. The VMware player can't do this, it only plays existing VMs. You can download a pre-built virtual machine from vmware.com where they call them "appliances". The free VMware Server product can both create new virtual machines and play them. Michael also suggested the free VMware converter program which can make a virtual copy of an existing real copy of Windows.
On the show were Joe, Hank, Alfred and Michael.
May 23, 2007 Show
Due to the continuing membership drive at WBAI, the show was exclusively podcast this week. Because we were not on the air, this was not a fund raising show.
Microsoft released a patch to Windows XP for the very dangerous ANI cursor problem in early April. What they didn't tell you was that Vista had the same bug and they had no patch for it. Now there is a Vista patch. Without the bug fix applied, your computer can be infected with malicious software simply by viewing a web page.
A large test of anti-virus software was conducted by av-test.org and the results reported in PC magazine. Three products detected 99% of the malicious software: WebWasher, AVK 2007 and AntiVir. Frankly, we knew nothing about the first two. But AntiVir has been around a while and there is a free version! The next best products detected 98%: F-Secure, Symantec and Kaspersky. The popular AVG from Grisoft detected 96%. In the middle of the pack were three popular products: Trend Micro (91%), NOD32 (88%) and McAfee (87%). Microsoft has an anti-virus product, it scored a pretty poor 81%. The worst product was eTrust-VET (62% detection) from Computer Associates.
Ever do a Google search? Know those ads on the right side? They can be dangerous. Do a search now and hover the mouse pointer over the links in these ads. The target/destination is not shown in the status bar at the bottom of your web browser screen. In contrast, the ads shown for Yahoo search do show you the target website. There have been instances of the bad guys hiding behind Google ads and sending you to malicious websites that try to install all sorts of malicious software. Michael suggested using free SiteAdvisor a plug-in for both Firefox and Internet Explorer. Site Advisor, from McAfee, modifies the Google search results to indicate the safe and bad web sites. Safe ones have a green check. Bad ones are in red. Unknown ones have a question mark.
Google is not the only website to show dangerous ads, it also happened to Tom's Hardware. This is a safe website, popular with computer nerds. But, in this case, they showed banner ads that linked to malicious websites. The ads were not from Tom's Hardware and they removed them after being notified. Interestingly, the bug exploited by the malicious website was none other than the ANI cursor problem mentioned above. See ANI Trojan Sticks It to Popular Geek Hardware Site Visitors By Lisa Vaas in eWeek May 11, 2007. There is no such thing as a safe neighborhood on the Internet.
Could it be that Vista is not selling well? What else might explain the fact that Microsoft is now offering a free 30 day trial/evaluation version of Windows Vista? It is being disributed in the virtual machine format used by the free Microsoft Virtual PC and Virtual Server products. The download will vary in size from 232 megabytes to 1,632 megabytes, huge even for broadband. Before you can download it however, you have to register with Microsoft and answer a dozen questions. Get the software here: Microsoft Windows Vista 30-Day Eval VHD.
In response to listener questons, we discussed the free windirstat program that shows the hard drive space used by each folder and the limitations of the FAT32 file system. One listener wrote about a problem installing Flash. Macromedia has a Flash tester web page that reports if Flash is installed and provides the version number if it is installed.
Finally, we covered some steps you can take to save electricity when computing. Turn PCs off at night. Set the Power options in the Control Panel to stop the hard disk from spinning after a short period (perhaps 10 minutes) of inactivity.Also here you can set the comptuer to go into suspend mode after a period of inactivity (perhaps 45 minutes). Michael is a big fan of a free program called Wizmo from Steve Gibson. It can immediately put a computer into suspend mode, great if you are not going to be using it for a short period of time. Hank suggested disabling the internal modem if you use a broadband Ethernet connection for Internet access. Configure the monitor to go to sleep after a period of inactivity instead of running a screen saver.
There were no listener phone calls. On the show were Hank Kee, Michael Horowitz and Olivia Whiteman.
May 16, 2007 Show
Membership drive again. Like last week, there was a lot of regular show with only occasional interuptions for WBAI membership drive reminders. We thank the listeners contributing to WBAI to help keep the show on the air. We offered the same four premiums as last week: one year of tech support and three different CDs filled with tons of software. The premiums were only available while the show was on the air. There were no listener phone calls.
The Attorney General of the state of New York is suing Dell for "FALSE ADVERTISING,FAILURE TO PROVIDE SERVICES, AND DECEPTIVE BUSINESS PRACTICES". Some of the alleged crimes involved technical support, others are related to financing. No doubt many of our listeners have their own Dell Hell stories. Certainly Michael does. You can tell the New York Attorney General your story at this website www.nyagdell.com which also has the full details of the lawsuit.
We discussed a video describing open source software availabe at tinyurl.com/32ksmh.
Next weeks show may be live at 8PM as usual or it may be a podcast. If it's podcast, the show will be posted around 11PM Wednesday night. In case it is podcast, Joe asked listeners to email their computer questions. We'll answer some of them on the air, and may call you to talk about it. Watch the home page of this site for updates.
A slightly higher quality (24Kbps) show recording is available at pcradioshow2.org. On the show were Joe King, Hank Kee, Alfred Poor, Michael Horowitz.
May 9, 2007 Show
WBAI membership drive. Many thanks to our audience, which was generous with their pledges to WBAI to help keep the show on the air.
We were slightly late making the podcast available this week due to technical problems with two of the show recordings. We were down to our third copy of the show, an audio CD created in the studio. There is an important lesson in this: always have a backup for your backup.
We offered our usual Gold Card for a pledge of $150. It entitles you to technical support from everyone on the show for one year. Between Hank, Joe, Alfred and Michael there are over 150 years of experience with computers. We also offered three different software CDs, each for a pledge of $75. For more see the premiums page.
Yesterday was Patch Tuesday and Microsoft released the usual slew of bug fixes. Many were rated as critical so be sure to run either Windows Update or Microsoft Update. A critical bug is one that lets a remote bad guy take full and total control of your computer.
Denmark's Consumer Complaints Board found evidence of a design flaw in Apple's iBook G4. Turning the laptop on or off causes a solder joint to loosen over time, eventually leading to the machine not working. There were prior complaints about the iBook G4s but Apple denied denied and denied. A class-action lawsuit has been filed.
OWC released a Terabyte hard drive for under $600, a stunning price. It does Sata, Firewire and USB2.
Even at this late date, the current AOL CDs are not compatible with Windows Vista. Yet another reason, not to buy a Vista based computer.
And speaking of Vista, it turns out that the fancy Aero interface is a large drain on the battery life of laptop computers. Both HP and Lenovo had to come up with their own power management system to try and deal with this.
And the third strike against Vista comes from two of its biggest proponents: Dell and Intel. Both companies owe their fortunes to Windows. But they decided not use Vista internally until the first service pack. A service pack is a large collection of bug fixes known to work well together. Service packs are issued for Microsoft software when they get around to it. There has been no announcement from Microsoft about when the first service pack for Vista will be issued. No problem, Dell and Intel will wait. And so should you. Everyone knows the first release of a new version of Windows is not ready from prime time. Some of us on the show agree to wait for the first service pack before even considering Vista. At least one of us would wait even longer.
Thinking about adding ram to a computer? Or getting another memory card for a digital camera? Go for it. Prices are dirt cheap.
There were no listener phone calls. On the show were Joe King, Hank Kee, Alfred Poor and Michael Horowitz.
May 2, 2007 Show
The Supreme Court issued two rulings that narrowed the rules for granting patents. Dell is going to sell PCs with Ubuntu Linux pre-installed. Joe and Michael tried Ubuntu - Joe did not like it, Michael did. More on this to come. Dell is also negotiating with a bricks and mortar retailer to sell their computers in real stores.
There is a software bug in some Mac laptops that prevents the battery from being fully charged. Apple has a fix. And speaking of bug fixes from Apple, be sure to get the latest version of Quicktime which now includes a fix for a security bug.
At digg.com the owner took down the secret master AACS password/key for all high def DVDs after receiving a letter from AACS lawyers. Joe found that the co-founder of Digg was really a bad guy (black hat) hacker and the hypocrisy angered the website readers who then posted hundreds of copies of the password/key.
The computers at Business 2.0 magazine crashed and they lost all their work for an upcoming issue. They had a backup server but it had stopped working long ago and no one noticed.
As of December 2006 credit card receipts are not allowed to show either the full credit number or the expiration date. Many large companies are being sued for violating this law.
Some listeners complained of problems with a few recent podcasts of ours. We didn't screw up (at least not this time). WBAI maintains an automated podcast for each show and it often breaks (see the above story about Business 2.0 magazine). We have our own separate podcast that Michael maintains manually. To subscribe to our version of the podcast, see the orange XML at the bottom of every page on our website. Or, at the About page of our website there are some buttons that automate the subscription process for a handful of podcast sites.
Listener phone calls. On the show were Joe King, Hank Kee, Alfred Poor and Michael Horowitz.
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