The Personal Computer Radio Show  WBAI-FM 99.5
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September 2006  Show Summaries

Show Summaries Below
  September 27, 2006  September 20, 2006  September 13, 2006  September 6, 2006   
 September 27, 2006 Show AudioArchives   TOP 

There was no one theme for this weeks show. Instead we covered a multitude of short stories and issues. On the show were Joe King, Hank Kee, Michael Horowitz and Olivia Whiteman.

Be sure to run Windows Update ASAP. Microsoft just released a fix for a dangerous bug in Internet Explorer regarding VML graphics. Thanks to this bug, your computer can get infected with malicious software just by viewing a maliciously configured web page. In addition, Outlook and Outlook Express use Internet Explorer under the covers to display email messages. Thus, you can also get infected just by reading a malicious email message, even one without any attachments. Vulnerability in Vector Markup Language Could Allow Remote Code Execution (925486)

After living with the Drop My Rights program for a week, Michael had no problems using it with Thunderbird or Firefox. There were however, things that didn't work in Internet Explorer: Windows Update (at least there is an error message that explains the problem) and installing a new version of the Flash ActiveX control. The Flash install just hangs, there are no error messages. Finally, online virus scans should not be done in restricted mode; they need to read all files and also need full update authority to remove viruses. The F-Secure online scanner hung while removing tracking cookies.  
  

 September 20, 2006 Show AudioArchives   TOP 

Drop My Rights 

Drop My Rights is a free, simple program that makes Windows more secure by running programs with restricted rights even though you may be logged on to Windows as an Administrator class user. 

A big reason that Macs and Linux are safer than Windows is that people normally log on to those systems as restricted users. Thus any malicious software they run is limited as to the changes it can make in the system. With Windows it is not practical to run as a restricted user so everyone runs as an Administrator with full access to everything for both you and any malicious software that may be running. 

DropMyRights can be used to run any program with restricted system access, but it makes the most sense to use it with your Internet facing applications: web browsers, email clients, instant messaging, etc. 

DropMyRights is a single file (DropMeRights.exe) that takes the program you want to run in restricted mode as a parameter. For example, the command to run a restricted version of Thunderbird is

C:\DropMyRights.exe "C:\Program Files\Mozilla Thunderbird\thunderbird.exe"

Practically speaking, the best way to set up DropMyRights is to copy an existing desktop icon for the program you want to restrict. Then rename the new shortcut icon to "restricted Thunderbird" (for example). Finally, right click on the icon, get the properties, and modify the Target box as shown above. That is, scroll all the way to left of the target box and enter the path to the DropMyRights.exe file. It can exist anywhere on your computer. 

You end up with the original icon that runs Thunderbird normally, and another icon to run it in restricted mode. Use it in restricted mode all the time. When you come across something that doesn’t work in restricted mode, then simply run the program normally. One thing that won’t work without full Administrator privileges is Windows Update. Another is installing a new version of Flash - it hangs with no error messages. An online virus scanner needs to read all the files on your computer, so it should be run unrestricted. The F-Secure online scanner hangs when it starts to remove tracking cookies. 

Restrictions are inherited. That is, if you are running a restricted version of an email program, then click on a link in an email message and open a new copy of your web browser, the web browser will also run in restricted mode. Likewise, if on a web page, you right click on a link to open it in a new window, the new copy of your browser will be restricted if the original copy was. 

To protect against malicious macros, you may want to run Word with restricted rights. 

  • Browsing the Web and Reading E-mail Safely as an Administrator by Michael Howard November 15, 2004. This is the original source. You can download it here as an MSI file. Double-click on the file to run it and it installs DropMyRights. Like most installs, you get to chose the target folder. It installs 5 files, but the only one that is needed is DropMyRights.exe. The article is very technical in nature but it includes installation and use examples.
  • Reducing browser privileges an article about DropMyRights at Security Focus by Mark Squire October 2005  
  • Windows Users: Drop Your Rights by Brian Krebs in the Washington Post April 18, 2006

Hank discussed his experiences with VMware Server, free software from VMware that competes with the free Microsoft Virtual PC. He found that VMware runs Linux guest operating systems better, but Virtual PC runs Windows guest operating systems better. Despite its name, VMware server is not restricted to running the server versions of Windows. Microsoft has made the disk format for their virtual machines public. As a result, VMware can read in a virtual machine created by Virtual PC and convert it to run under VMware. 

Torpark is a free modified version of Firefox that runs off a USB thumb drive and provides anonymous web surfing. 

Our main topic was Paperport from Nuance and we spoke with Jeffrey Segarra a project manager at Nuance. Paperport includes Optical Character recognition software so that it convert scanned documents such as bank statements into searchable text. 

 

 September 13, 2006 Show AudioArchives   TOP 
 

On September 24th, New York City is collecting broken electronics for recycling. Go to Union Square North, 17th street and Broadway from 8AM to 2PM. You can also bring working, but old cellphones. There is a limit of 5 items per person. Verizon too, collects old working cellphones.  

Yesterday was patch Tuesday and, as usual, Microsoft issue a bunch bug fixes including some critical ones. If you run Windows Update manually, as Hank does, then you can avoid installing "patches" that aren't patches at all such as the WGA validation. 


The topic tonight was digital photography and cameras. Our guests were Daniel and Sally Grotta, authors of the book PC Magazine Digital SLR Photography Solutions.

Among the topics discussed were: the pros and cons of CCD vs. CMOS image sensors, different types of image stabilization (cheap and bad vs. expensive and good), optical stabilization (good thing), digital zoom (bad thing), anti-dust, camera cleaning and camera batteries. 

Olympus cameras and the Canon Digital Rebel have an anti-dust feature. Dust gathers on the image sensor which might result in a permanent white dot. These cameras have a vibrator that shakes the image sensor to clear out the dust. Don't try to clean a digital camera yourself, you may damage it.  

Two other points our guests made: Megapixels is not a measure of quality, only of quantity and the physically  larger the image sensor the better. 

They recommended the free Easyshare software from Kodak for simple photo editing. 

Sally is involved in a wordsmiths project, where she will photograph people behind the scenes in the publishing industry. This will result in a fund raising exhibit eventually. She is not photographing authors. If you know of an appropriate behind-the-scenes person, you can contact Sally by emailing us. 


A caller liked Picture It v9 for Windows. Next week our topic will be Paperport. 

 

 September 6, 2006 Show AudioArchives   TOP 


Alfred really like the book MusicTech Magazine Ten Minute Masters. It's about recording audio on a computer; for Podcasts, musicians and more. It's published by by PC Publishing, a division of O'Reilly.

Hank discussed Microsoft's free Virtual PC program. It creates virtual machines on your computer into which you can install any of thousands of operating systems. It's a great way to learn Linux. Virtual machines are also used by Parallels Desktop that lets you run Windows on an Intel based Macintosh. Virtual PC only runs on Windows XP Professional. 

The market leader for virtual machines is VMware. Hank tried one of their products, the free VMware player. Somewhat akin to the Adobe Acrobat Reader, this lets you run a pre-existing virtual machine. To create a new virtual machine however, requires their commercial Workstation product. Hank found that the VMware player screwed up the networking environment on his real copy of Windows. 

Joe played an excerpt of a song called Don't Download This Song by Weird Al Yankovic. It's a parody of the RIAA and the issue of downloading copyrighted music. 

Alfred pointed out that Amazon.com is a great source for free downloadable music. To find it, start at the music store and look for the "free downloads" link at the top of the page. 


Microsoft announced that as of October 10, 2006 they will no longer support Windows XP with Service Pack 1. It will continue to work, but any new bug fixes after that date will only be available to users running XP Service Pack 2. 

Another recent caller had a problem on a laptop with numbers appearing on the screen when he hit letters on the keyboard. Again it was a listeners email that came up with what is almost certainly the explanation. Many laptops can simulate the numeric keypad. You invoke this simulation mode with a certain combination of keys that, it turns out, is all too easy to hit by mistake. If your laptop has small numbers above a cluster of letters (not all the letter keys) then this probably represents the numeric keypad simulation. This is a totally different mode of operation than that invoked with the NumLock key. 

In another follow-up to last weeks show, a couple listeners asked about the 100GB of storage for somewhere around $50/year that Michael mentioned. This came up in the context of Olivia's computers being ruined in a flood and the off-site backups that saved her. There has been a lot of competition among web site hosting companies and the storage space and bandwidth allotments have been increased at many companies. Michael suggested signing up for web site hosting and, whether you use it for a web site or not, use the allotted storage for off-site backups. 

The company offering 100 Gigabytes of storage is GoDaddy, their deluxe plan is just over $6/month. Another web site hosting company, 1and1.com offers 50 Gigabytes of space for less than $4/month. This is not an endorsement of either company and there are many other web site hosting companies. 

A caller last week complained that Excel did not have sufficient capacity. After the show a listener wrote that the next version of Excel will, in fact, have what he wanted. The number of rows is going from 65K to 1,048,576. The number of columns is going from 256 to 16,384. See www.mrexcel.com/tip114.shtml. Hank pointed out that at some point, a database is more appropriate than a spreadsheet. 


The first caller tonight is partially blind and asked about enlarging text on the screen. We didn't plan it, but all the following calls were on the same theme, software that helps the blind use a computer.

One caller uses a screen reader called Windows Eyes. Another caller uses Zoom Text, a program that can enlarge a single word to fill the entire screen. 

IBM has a web browser that reads web pages called Home Page Reader. A caller mentioned a program called Jaws for Windows, that reads text out loud. A program called Magic also enlarges text on the screen and is designed to work with Jaws. 

Another caller suggested Lighthouse International as a good overall source for people with vision problems. They are on 59th street in Manhattan and their number is 212-821-9200. 


9/11 is next Monday and Olivia found these web resources dedicated to it 

  • 1) www.newyorkled.com/nyc_events_September11.htm Good source for upcoming events, including a dedication of a memorial from Russia that's taking place in Bayonne, NJ (I think), plus variety of faiths, variety of activities. The site maintains its own repository of old/historical information for people who want to look back over the years.
  • 2) www.911digitalarchive.org/websites  Is a list of links to other sites. Some obsolete, quite a few still live.
  • 3) www.trynova.org/remember-911/messages.html This site is a repository of people's written memorials. Stories of people affected by events of the day.

 

 
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