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


November 2006  Show Summaries

Show Summaries Below
  November 29, 2006  November 22, 2006  November 15, 2006  November 8, 2006  November 1, 2006  
November 29, 2006 Show

The show was pre-empted by WBAI this week.

 

November 22, 2006 Show

We discussed Black Friday websites that list the store sales for the Friday after Thanksgiving well ahead of time. Best Buy didn't appreciate the publicity and made one of the web sites remove their ads. See bfads.net and dealspl.us/Black-Friday 

Michael likes a free alarm clock program called Kirby Alarm. Compared to Microsoft's Outlook: Kirby is free, Outlook is not, Kirby minimizes to the system tray, Outlook does not, Kirby runs on all versions of Windows, the latest versions of Outlook do not, Kirby is a simple small program, Outlook is a complex and big program, Outlook is only useful on one computer, Kirby is portable - you can copy it to a thumb drive and take it with you. Then plug the thumb drive into any Windows computer and run it.  
  
When an alarm goes off, Kirby Alarm can display a window with your message to yourself, just as Outlook does. In addition, it can play a sound of your choice, send an email message and run a program. The Windows scheduler can run programs too, but it does not run missed events. That is, if a program is scheduled to run at 7AM and the computer is not turned on them, the Windows scheduler will not run it when the computer is next turned on. Kirby Alarm does not throw away alarms, it tells you of those that occurred while the computer was off. 

Kirby Alarm is from Kirby Software, a one person company consisting of Ian Cook. Mr. Cook lives in Australia and called into the show.  You have to provide a valid email address to register the program. 

In addition to the free version there are two paid versions. The high end Professional edition does file backups, both local replication backups and remote FTP backups. All told, the Professional edition has 80 more features than the free version. Kirby Alarm is available at www.kirbyfooty.com

Joe took a first look at Cyberdefender.com which just came out with a free package of a firewall, anti-virus, anti-spam and anti-Spyware. It provides updates however using a peer to peer system which is unusual for this sort of program. The jury is still out. 

Update: This was our mistake - for a while. The give-away had ended by the time we announced it on the air. But it's back!! (as of December 2,2006). 
Get Acronis True Image Version 7 for FREE

Acronis is giving away a free copy of version 7 of their True Image disk imaging product. It's an old version, they are currently up to 10, but Michael said it was good enough. If run from a boot CD, it runs Linux and can write to a network drive or an external USB hard drive. It can not write directly to a DVD. You have to register to get a serial number. Then, to download the software, you need to login. The link to download the product is under "My Products" on the "My Account" page.

Windows Vista will have the "Windows Genuine Advantage" built in. This is a feature for Microsoft's advantage, it detects pirated versions of Windows.  

The Internet Society of New York will have their monthly meeting Thursday, December 21, 2006. See isoc-ny.org 

We are pre-empted next week. 

 

November 15, 2006 Show

A host of assorted small subjects and lots of computer news. Listener phone calls. On the show were Joe King, Hank Kee, Alfred Poor and Michael Horowitz.

More coming . . .

Next week, we'll talk a bit about Black Friday websites where you can learn ahead of time about Thanksgiving sales.  

 

November 8, 2006 Show

Microsoft and Novell entered into an agreement to make Novell's Suse Linux Operating System work better with Windows. Why? We're not sure. 

Samsung says there will be shortage of LCD flat panel displays. Alfred said that demand for 19 inch flat panel computer monitors is high and there currently is a shortage - thus prices are going up. The price of 32 inch LCD televisions are coming down due to softening demand. Wal-Mart just announced 30% price cuts. Best Buy just had a 37 inch LCD TV on sale for $1,000. Pretty darn low. 

We discussed stealing WiFi Internet access. Is it OK? Who does it hurt? 23% of WiFi networks have no security. 

Our guest, David Perry of Trend Micro had a shocking statistic: half of all PCs connected to broadband are infected with bots. And most of those are spitting out SPAM email messages.  

Our topic was Identity Theft

David noted that last year in the US losses from identity theft were $67 billion. Joe has been a victim of it. Alfred, who sells his book online, had a run-in with someone trying to buy his book using a bunch of stolen credit cards. David said that gangs that used to sell crack are instead now starting to steal laptops for identity theft. More profit, less risk.  

To protect his email, Joe's email reader is set to not display HTML or pictures; just plain text.   

 

November 1, 2006 Show

We thank everyone that pledged money to WBAI during the recent fund raising drive. Making up for last weeks pre-emption, we covered a lot of short topics. Among them was more on virtual machine software. Should you buy a new Windows XP PC at the end of 2006 or wait for Vista? Alfred, Michael and Hank said to buy now. 

Olivia will soon be reviewing Quicken Medical Expense Manager. If you'd like to contact her about it email olivia@pcradioshow.org

A caller asked about researching computer terminology. Joe mentioned that in Google you can learn the meaning of word by searching for "define:someword". He also suggested www.wikipedia.org


More on Virtual Machine software

There are three vendors of virtual machine software for PCs: VMware, Microsoft and Parallels. On September 14, 2006, Steve Gibson did a Podcast that compared Virtual PC from Microsoft vs. VMware workstation from VMware. 

Currently the only VM software for Mac users is from Parallels. Virtual PC used to run on Macs, but then Microsoft purchased the product. VMware has a Mac product in beta test. 

Virtual PC 2004  

  • Can create virtual machines 
  • Free 
  • Does not support USB 
  • Very small download 
  • Slow, too slow to run Vista according to Steve Gibson
  • Can run Linux, but you are on your own 
  • No pre-built VMs 
  • Supports XP Pro and Windows 2000 as host OS. However, in Fred Langa's Langa List a reader said it works with Windows XP Home Edition also. 
  • Two other observations from the October 9, 2006 issue of the Langa List
    • There is no sound when running Vista under Virtual PC 2004  
    • Installing the Virtual Machine Additions for Vista Beta 2 makes it run much faster 
  • Will soon be replace by Virtual PC 2007 which is now in Beta. VPC 2007 will support Vista as both a Host and Guest OS and will be free. 
  • Virtual PC FAQ from Microsoft

VMware Workstation v5 

  • Can create virtual machines
  • Costs about $200 
  • Preferred by Steve Gibson 
  • Does support USB
  • Can run Vista
  • Fast 
  • Large download  
  • Linux fully supported (some distros) 
  • Can run free, pre-built Linux VMs (appliances) 
  • Can run VMs created in Virtual PC

VMware Player 

  • Free
  • Intrusive installation 
  • Can not create new virtual machines
  • Can run free, pre-built Linux VMs (appliances) 
  • Can run VMs created in Virtual PC 

WMware offers many pre-built Linux virtual machines that you can download and use for free. Vedors use them as a great way to demonstrate products. The one that gets the most attention is the "browser appliance". It's a copy of Linux with Firefox and not much else. Browsing the Internet with this copy of Firefox is about as safe as safe gets.  

VMware and Virtual PC also come in server versions. VMware Server is free and can create VMs (and run VMs created in VPC). However, it does not support either USB or sound. It only supports server versions of Windows for a host OS. Likewise, Virtual PC Server 2005 does not support sound or USB. 

Downside to virtual machines 

  • To install Windows in a VM you need a Windows CD 
  • You need enough RAM to run both host and guest OSs
  • Support varies for SATA hard drives in either the Host or Guest OS
  • Not good for very high end graphics or video editing
There is another upside though that we didn't mention the show: virtual machines can be suspended. This functions much like the hibernate feature of Windows. A suspended virtual machine freezes right in its tracks. You can leave it suspended for as long as you like. When you eventually resume it, it will pick up exactly where it was. 

Creating virtual machines used to be very hard. For a long time VMware was the only company to offer it for Windows and Connectix was the only company offering it on a Macintosh. The most recent processors however include new hardware specifically designed for use with virtual machines. This extra hardware makes writing VM software easier, and thus we can expect more products in the future. 

In addition, hardware assisted virtual machines will run faster than those that are now fully created with software. 

VMware, the market leader in virtual machines has many high end products that are not targeted to PCs. Their first step up from VMware workstation and Server is a product called ESX Server. The big change with ESX server is that it doesn't need Windows. That is, it installs on a new computer (bare metal to us nerds) and it is the operating system running on that machine. All copies of Windows and Linux on an ESX server machine are virtual. When the real power button is turned on, the ESX server software runs. It, in turn, runs your VMs.  

ESX server is very expensive ($1,000 for 2 cpus) and can't even be purchased stand-alone. It's only sold with a suite of other high end software from VMware. 

Large businesses like virtual machines for reasons different than PC users: 

  • Running multiple VMs on one computer saves on both real estate and electricity 
  • For reliability, run only one application per virtual machine. 
  • Employees can get access to a new virtual server in minutes or hours compared to the days or weeks it takes to get a new real computer

 

 
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