Issue # 47
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Only three more weeks til Christmas! For me that means that in about two weeks I get to take my three week vacation! I think that this year I really need it too.
() Software that you pay for again and again
One reader comment sums it up quite well. Subscriber D.G. wrote;
..."One must admit.... Rarely have so many paid so much for a being part of a
work in progress. If Windows had been a piece of hardware it would have
been taken off of the shelves a long time ago. But this is an unusual piece
of hardware. Rarely have people so enthusiastically decided to be part of
a rather experimental work in progress, and been so willing to pay for
I agree wholeheartedly. What do you think? If you knew back in 1995 what you know now would you change anything? Would you have rushed out to get the latest and ...ahem...
greatest version of Windows the moment it came out? Let me know at email@example.com
() "Puters on batteries
It been about a year since I've talked about this so I thought I'd bring it up again. You all know to use a surge protector to protect your 'puter from power surges, but have you ever
thought about power sags and drops?
The classic example of a power sag is a light bulb going dim for a moment. A power drop is when you notice that a light has just flickered. Have you ever thought about what power
drops or sags are doing to your 'puter?
Standard A/C voltage in the US is *supposed* to be 110 volts. Most power companies feel that anything under 120 volts is NOT a surge. Most power supplies found in your average 'puter
will fail to provide the correct D/C voltage ('puters use DC current, the power supply converts A/C to D/C) to parts in your 'puter when the A/C current falls below 108 volts. But that does not
mean your 'puter will shut off! Usually, it takes a drop down to 105 volts to shut a 'puter down, in the mean time that new $300 video card you have isn't getting the proper voltage! Over
time this can cause a drastic reduction in the lifespan of components in your 'puter.
Of course, a power drop will often cause your 'puter to shut down or spontaneously reboot. Can we say lost data here? Have you ever been 20 minutes into a letter or report only to
lose your work to a power failure? I have, and I type slow to boot!
Here are some common signs that you may have regular power sags. Light bulbs that dim often. Having to replace light bulbs often. Clocks on stoves or VCRs that lose time.
Gee, does that light over your 'puter go dim when the fridge kicks on? Bad sign!
Here's a quote from APC http://www.apc.com
The makers of the best battery backups around. "The effects of power problems include keyboard lockup, complete
data loss, hardware degradation, damaged motherboards, and more, making downtime inevitable."
So what to do about it? The easiest solution is to trade in your surge protector for a battery backup. When you use a UPS (uninterruptible power supply), if the A/C current
falls below a given voltage you're switched automatically to battery, then when the voltage climbs back to an acceptable level you're switched back to A/C current. All without any
problems! In the event of a power failure, you'd have enough time to save any work and do a proper shut-down.
A good UPS also provide better protection against surges than a surge protector! Does your surge protector have a thermal fuse? It is a wire that actually melts in the event of a
large surge, thereby physically disconnecting your 'puter from the electrical outlet.
I personally have a very bad power sag issue here at home. I go through more light bulbs than I care to think about. People that visit are rather surprised at how often my UPS' start
chirping ... usually multiple times per day. I've had network cards, sound cards, and other 'puter parts fail long before they should. After putting all my 'puters on UPS' (currently two
of them), my 'puter parts have stopped failing prematurely.
You don't have to get a really big UPS either. Even a small UPS will give you 3-5 minutes of battery backup to work with. I strongly recommend APC products! They even have one
the size of a fat surge protector. Prices start around $80 US.
() New Poll
() Website update
There's not too much to talk about here. Other than getting another website award
I haven't done too much. I'm working on a new step-by-step guide to setting up a home network. It should be done before Xmas. To tell the truth, A new RPG (Role Playing
Game) called "Wizards & Warriors" has been taking up a lot of my free time this last week or so.
() Now, on with the good stuff!
FLORIDA: If you think we can't vote, wait till you see us drive.
Subject: DADDY'S TEN RULES OF DATING
If you pull into my driveway and honk, you'd better be delivering a
because you're sure not picking anything up.
You do not touch my daughter in front of me. You may glance at her so
long as you do not peer at anything below her neck. If you cannot keep
your eyes or hands off my daughter's body, I will remove them.
I am aware that it is considered fashionable for boys your age to wear
their trousers so loose that they appear to be falling off their hips.
Please don't take this as an insult, but you and all of your friends
are complete idiots. Still, I want to be fair and open-minded about
this issue, so I propose this compromise: You may come to the door
with your underwear showing and your pants ten sizes too big, and
I will not object. However, in order to ensure that your clothes
do not, in fact, come off during the course of your date with my
daughter, I will take my electric nail gun and fasten your trousers
securely in place.
I'm sure you've been told that in today's world, having sex without
using a "barrier method" of some kind can kill you. Let me elaborate:
when it comes to sex with my daughter, I am the barrier and I am the
one who will do the killing.
It is generally understood that in order for us to get to know each
other, we should talk about sports, politics, and other issues of the
Please do not do this. The only information I require from you is an
indication of when you expect to have my daughter safely back at my
house, and the only answer I need from you on this subject is "Early."
I have no doubt that you are a popular fellow with many opportunities
to date other girls. This is fine with me as long as it is okay
with my daughter.
Otherwise, once you have gone out with my little girl, you will
continue to date no one but her until she is finished with you.
If you make her cry, I will make you cry.
As you stand in my front hallway waiting for my daughter to appear,
even if more than an hour goes by, do not sigh and fidget.
If you want to be on time for the movie, you should not be dating.
My daughter is putting on her makeup, a process than can take longer
than painting the Golden Gate Bridge. Instead of just standing there,
why don't you do something useful like changing the oil in my car?
The following locations are not appropriate for a date with my daughter:
Places where there are beds, sofas, or anything softer than a wooden
Places where there is darkness. Places where there is dancing,
holding hands, or happiness. Places where the ambient temperature
is warm enough to induce my daughter to wear shorts, tank tops,
midriff t-shirts or anything other than overalls, a sweater, and
a goose down parka zipped up to her throat. Movies with strong
romantic or sexual themes are to be avoided; movies which feature
chainsaws are okay. Hockey games are okay.
Old folks' homes are better.
Do not lie to me. I may appear to be a potbellied, balding,
middle-aged, dimwitted has-been. But on issues relating to
my daughter, I am the all-knowing, merciless God of your universe.
If I ask you where you are going and with whom, you have one
chance to tell me the truth, the whole truth and nothing but
the truth. I have a shotgun, a shovel, and five acres behind
the house. Do not trifle with me.
Be afraid. Be very afraid. The voices in my head frequently
tell me to clean the guns as I wait for you to bring my daughter home.
As soon as you pull into the driveway you should exit the car with
both hands in plain sight. Speak the perimeter password, announce
in a clear voice that you have brought my daughter home safely and
early, then return to your car. There is no need for you to come
inside. The camouflaged face at the window is mine.
"I voted for the Democrats because I didn't like the way the Republicans
were running the country. Which is turning out to be like shooting
yourself in the head to stop your headache."
Most Popular Names
Since 1998, the Office of the Chief Actuary has been publishing the most
common names in America. The source: Social Security Cards. Find out how
unique your name is!
Quickly: What year was the movie "Rocky" released? Who produced "Saturday
Night Fever"? Name all the films Steve Buschemi has been in.....need to
use one of your lifelines?
This site is the answer to every movie trivia buff's dream. You can search
by filling in the blanks to such questions as "Who starred in ______?", or
"List all movies directed, written or produced by _____.", or "Who played
________ in ________?"
REAL-WORLD NETSCAPE 6 EXPERIENCES
You would not believe the heartache Netscape 6 is causing on some
people's PCs. The experiences you sent me from the last issue of
Insider were far more heavily weighed toward the negative than
the positive. Probably half of the messages I've received are
about failed installations -- many of which mentioned a .DLL
error message. Before I go any further, I want to suggest that
you read my final review of the product, co-authored by John
Woram, called Netscape 6 Closes the Gap:
In particular, those of you with installation problems,
problems with Java, problems with file associations, problems
with uninstalling, should look at the Installation Pointers page
of this review:
Bottom line: Netscape 6 can be uninstalled successfully. In
fact, compared to other browsers, it's easy to uninstall. I
recommend strongly against installing the Sun Java option,
however. It's still problematic on some users' PCs.
There are so many issues with this release that I'm going to
give you a representative sampling of messages just a little
further down. But you should also check this newsgroup:
netscape.public.general. You'll find thousands and thousands of
messages posted there, and arguments raging.
Around the Web you'll find message posts and stories that
hint that Netscape was hustled into production well before
Mozilla.org delivered a 1.0 finished browser. But, then, this is
the problem with open source, in my opinion. A lot of these
people are working for free. You can't push them to deliver on a
timetable. And, as some people have suggested, I believe that AOL
couldn't wait any longer. It's going to be negotiating with
Microsoft over whether IE will continue to be AOL's built-in Web
browser. Having the option to include Netscape 6.x is definitely
something AOL needs. I can't blame them on that front.
Perhaps most disappointing is Netscape's current response.
Nevermind the rest of the Web surfing community, Winmag.com
uncovered problems with so many areas of Netscape 6, as reported
in our review, that Netscape needs to do patching and a bug-fix
incremental update right away, in our opinion. And we said that
in the story. I asked Netscape to comment on that point. This was
"Netscape is closely monitoring feedback to Netscape 6. Thus
far, the overwhelming response to the product has been positive,
and the downloads of the product have exceeded our expectations.
As part of our original roadmap, we plan to deliver a follow-on
release of the Netscape client that is based on Netscape 6, which
will offer new features and which will be based, in part, on the
feedback we receive to Netscape 6. We do not yet have a date for
this follow-on release as this is part of our ongoing development
THEY'RE KILLING WHISTLER'S SETUP BOOT FLOPPIES
This item was written in conjunction with Serdar Yegulalp, who
writes Winmag.com's Power Win2000 newsletter:
We think Microsoft is about to make a terrible mistake in
"Whistler," the next version of Windows (due out at the end of
2001). But it just might not be too late to do something about it
-- and you can help.
It's common knowledge among Windows NT and 2000 users that
those operating systems let you create a set of floppy disks that
initialize NT/2000 installation. So long as you have the proper
NT or 2000 CD, you can create a your own set of boot floppies,
which is especially useful for any PC that can't boot the Windows
CD to start installation. To create these floppy disk sets, you
insert your NT/2K CD-ROM, change to the CD's /i386 folder (the
location of the installation files), and issue the command:
WINNT32 /OX /F /C
If the machine is booted with DOS or Windows 9x, use the command
WINNT command instead of WINNT32. You need three blank, formatted
floppies for NT and four of the same for Win2000.
So, armed with such a floppy installation set, the NT/2000
user or administrator has a sure-fire way of booting up and
install NT or 2K on a system that's damaged or has a wiped drive.
For many machines that can't boot from the hard drive, the
network, or a CD-ROM, it's a great safety measure to be able to
resort to booting from floppy disk. That's probably going to be
especially true in the consumer environment into which Microsoft
intends to press Whistler.
But instead of continuing to extend this flexibility,
Microsoft plans to disable the feature from Windows Whistler -- a
fact that's already apparent in Whistler Beta 1. The only way to
get Whistler up and running in a complete clean disk installation
is by booting to the CD or across a network. There are too many
systems out there that don't properly support either of these
boot protocols, and yet are otherwise perfectly capable of
running NT, Win2K or Whistler. In fact, that probably describes
the majority of existing PCs today.
Most newer PCs (under two years old) support CD boot. But on
machines that don't, while it might be possible to make the hard
drive rudimentarily bootable, say, using a DOS/Win9x emergency
startup disk with CD-ROM support, that requires yet another
operating system license, and it's just not the right way to do
Microsoft has apparently decided that anyone who depends on
a floppy to boot into installation is just not worth supporting
anymore. And since Whistler is being billed as the next-
generation to Windows 95, 98, and Me as well, the effects of this
error in judgment could be bigger than they realize. Many people
will not be able to install Whistler "clean" because of this, and
may in fact abandon Windows entirely if given the incentive. For
some, this might just be that incentive.
What's worse, nowhere in Whistler is there any information
that this was once a supported option, or what a person can do as
a workaround. All of the information relevant to this subject in
the programs used to build the floppies no longer exists. This
isn't just bad customer relations, it's bad software design. Even
people who can boot to the CD might not think of it.
Microsoft is making the mistake of thinking that consumers
are all newbies. Corporations will figure it out. And all the
people in between are, well, what people in between? But that
just patently isn't the case. Over the last two years, Microsoft
has increasingly lost touch with the fact that there's a very
large and growing base of Windows users who aren't dummies --
who've taken Windows matters into their own hands. Maybe it's
because Microsoft doesn't hear as much from the non-dummies.
Maybe it's because it has more to lose with corporations and
newbies. But listen up! Newbies don't stay newbies for long.
Corporations are jam-packed with experienced users. Lots and lots
of people clean install Windows when they get in trouble.
What's more, as more and more people use PCs, more and more
are graduating into the middle and expert level areas. Microsoft
is taking away their tools in the name of either thwarting piracy
or reducing tech support costs -- neither of which is a customer-
focused reason. This attitude that people who've been using
Windows for two, three, four or more years are no longer the
target market for Windows will come back to haunt the giant
software company. Resentment is growing. The Whistler
installation boot floppy issue is just another in a long series
of Microsoft decisions that appear more self-serving than
customer serving. And there's nothing wrong with Linux that a
determined 21st Century Like-a-Microsoft company couldn't set
right fairly easily.
We want to hear from you about this. Maybe you think that by
the time Whistler ships this will be less of an issue because
more CD-booting PCs will be out there. Maybe you think most
people won't install Whistler, but will buy it preinstalled on
new PCs (a good point, because that's probably true). Or maybe
you're just as incensed about the whole thing as we are. Either
way, send us an e-mail and let us know what you think:
(Serdar will be receiving these messages.) We plan to forward
every message to Microsoft, so let us know at the top of the
message if you'd prefer that don't do that with yours.
--- Authoritative Source on Windows Shutdown Issues ---
Windows Me users, you are not immune to this problem. The best
site I know about Windows Shutdown problem's is one done by Jim
Eshelman. These are the best starting points over there.
Hint, hint - Peter :-)
OFFICE 2000 SERVICE PACK 2
Microsoft has just release a second package of update and
bug fixes for Office 2000. That sounds like a good thing,
but as regular WOW readers know, Office updates have never
been as good or easy as Microsoft makes out. The updates
for Office 97 have become bywords for ineptitude and the
first Office 2000 update also had problems.
Sad to say that things have not changed much with Office
2000 Service Pack 2. The information provided by Microsoft
on their web site is somewhat misleading and important
caveats are not given appropriate prominence. Worse still
the update was not given a broad test among the usual
testers, that fact combined with the poor track record of
previous Office updates leads us to advise extreme caution
in applying this update. On the other hand, Microsoft HAS
done some things well, and we'll let you know about the
good points, too.
In this issue of WOW we'll explain who can apply the Office
2000 update, what is in the update, how to apply it and the
very real downsides of this 'improvement' to Office 2000.
Along the way we'll correct some problems in the official
documentation and highlight some deficiencies in the
update. Most important: before you heed the Redmond
Siren's song and install SP-2, read "The Bottom Line"
WHO CAN USE THE UPDATE
Office 2000 Service Pack 2 (known as SP-2 to its friends)
is intended to be used with almost all the permutations,
variations and marketing options that are known
collectively as Office 2000. SP-2 works with Office 2000
Standard, Professional, Premium and Small Business plus the
stand-alone programs, Word 2000, Access 2000 (and Access
2000 runtime), Outlook 2000, Excel 2000, Frontpage 2000 and
NOT directly affected are Internet Explorer, Publisher
2000, Photodraw 2000 or the Office 2000 Language Pack
files. Project 2000 is not mentioned either in the list of
fixes or the exclusion list. Unless Microsoft advises
otherwise, it's reasonable to assume Project 2000 is NOT
part of SP-2.
Of course, whether SP-2 works with your flavor of Office
2000 is a totally different question from whether you
should actually go out and install it. As we'll show in
'The Downside of Service Pack 2' below, you may be better
advised to wait or miss it altogether.
Looking over the Microsoft web site for Service Pack 2
reveals some conflicting advice as to whether you need to
get this update or not.
On one web page the company says 'it is an optional release
and is not required to maintain the current functionality
of your applications'. It will be interesting to see if
Microsoft support staff abide by the optional nature of
SP-2. Based on past experience users with problems will be
regularly advised to get the latest update despite the lack
of an identified fix related to the users problem and
despite the inevitable downsides of any update.
The very next sentence on that web page turns the
supposedly optional nature of SP-2 on its ear by saying
'The Microsoft Office 2000 SP-2 update continues to be the
recommended minimum version'.
Elsewhere Microsoft says 'SP-2 is not a critical update to
either corporate customers of the single-license customer'.
So Service Pack 2 is optional, but also the recommended
version of Office 2000 but not a critical update. Go
FOR STAND-ALONE USERS OR NOT?
Is Office 2000 SP-2 meant for large corporate sites with
many computers, for stand-alone users, or both? Again
there's mixed messages from the people who should know ..
try this nonsense from the SP-2 web pages.
"Corporate customers are the main audience for Office 2000 SP-2.
The only updates included in Office 2000 SP-2 that would
benefit the single-license customer are the security
updates, which are already available on the Office Update
This paragraph is pure misleading nonsense. A look down
the list of bug fixes shows many repairs that are just as
relevant to all users of Office 2000 regardless of their
size of their operation.
Why does Microsoft say that? Who knows. The company
tried a similar and just as false line with the first
Office 97 update (remember the 'Enterprise Update'?). Why
they've returned to this tired old falsehood that's so
easily disproved is hard to fathom. Such actions only hurt
the company's already shakey credibility when it comes to
Getting a CD of SP-2
There's a CD containing both the Office 2000 Service
Releases (SR-1 and SP-2). For SP-2 it has both the
stand-alone and administrative updates. We've not seen
this CD but it is NOT a replacement for your Office 2000
CDs. Instead it apparently contains the same files you can
download from the web site.
There's no word on availability in other countries. You
could try calling your local Microsoft office, but based on
past experience it'll take them a week or two to get up to
speed. In the past the Australian and UK offices have
followed the North American lead and distributed the Office
update CD's at no charge. Some other Microsoft offices
insist on charging for the same CD. As Woody says ' your
mileage may vary'.
In any case the CD should be 'free of charge'. What that
means exactly remains to be seen, in some cases 'free'
turns out to mean postage and packing charges only, while
other times it means truly at no cost to the customer.
From Issue #5.51 Go to the website for the rest of the info - Peter
Testing AOL6 and MSN Explorer
Sweeping generalizations are often false. But this time I'm going to list
three related generalizations that I believe are absolutely true:
First: When set up and run properly, Windows offers satisfactory levels
of stability and security. Second: The key to system stability and
security often lies in avoiding needless complexity. And third: Few
Windows setups are done properly; those that are, rarely stay that way
Long-time readers know that many past issues and columns have focused
specifically on ways you can get your system running reliably; and how to
keep it that way. Once you achieve that state -- and it's really not that
hard, once you get the hang of it -- you'll achieve a level of stability
that is completely at odds with most people's experiences of (un-tuned,
un-optimized) Windows. Properly set up, your system will purr along day
after day after day -- perhaps even for weeks and months -- and will be
all but immune to hack-attacks from online sources.
Why am I telling you this in a item that's supposed to be AOL6 and MSN
Explorer? It's because of that second generality: The key to system
stability and security often lies in avoiding needless complexity.
Any time you add any new software to your system, you increase the
complexity of what your operating system has to deal with. Sometimes,
it's worth it: Even if a new program is (ahem) less than perfect, its
benefits may outweigh its drawbacks.
Other times, a new program adds so much complexity and/or creates so many
problems--- immediate or potential--- that the drawbacks overwhelm any
Like any other application, when you add either AOL6 or MSN Explorer to
your system, you'll increase your overall system complexity. But while
MSN Explorer's changes are minor, AOL6 makes an almost unbelievable
number of unnecessary and even dangerous changes to your system's
networking setup--- some of them so bizarre even AOL's own support
technicians are at a loss as to explain what's going on. (I know: I
called them.). At best, AOL6's changes are likely to make your system
less stable; at worst, AOL6 may render your system wide-open to hackers,
crackers, and other online miscreants.
Some of AOL6's changes can be remedied *if* you know exactly where to
look and what to do; other changes AOL6 makes cannot be undone at all
without fatally breaking the AOL6 installation.
I'll tell you everything I found out about both AOL6 and MSN Explorer---
including how I tested them and exactly what changes they both made to my
test system. I'll also tell you which of the adverse changes can be
undone, and which cannot. But it's a whole article in itself, and is way
too much to cram into a newsletter. Instead, I've made these tests the
focus of the new "Explorer" column that goes live around midday today
(Dec 04, 2000; UT-4) on the WinMag.Com site. The column will appear under
the "Explorer" heading on http://www.winmag.com/columns/
; if you arrive
early, you'll see the previous column "Automatic Update Services -- Yea
or Nay?" In that case, just try again a little later. If you want to try
a direct link, once the column is posted, it should be at
. (If you arrive
early, the link won't work.)
If you're using AOL6, or may someday do so, check out the column!
It would seem I'm not the only one deciding to take my business
Four New IE Security Holes
All versions of Internet Explorer 5.x have a pair of newly-uncovered
security holes in their "Browser Print Template," "File Upload via Form,"
"Scriptlet Rendering" and "Frame Domain Verification" subsystems. All
these problems potentially can allow malicious hackers access to your
system or files in one way or another.
You can download a single patch for all four problems at:
The patch requires IE 5.5 or IE 5.01 SP1 to install. Microsoft says,
"Customers who install this patch on other versions may receive a message
reading 'This update does not need to be installed on this system'. This
message is incorrect. More information is available in KB article
Modems, Modems, Modems (Tech Support Information)
Unearthed by Steven Groginsky
"The information you will find on this site is a combination of resources that I have collected in my last 5 years of professional technical experience with an Internet Service Provider. If you
are looking for links to your modem's manufacturer so that you can browse their technical information, find drivers or get other support, click Modem Makers. If you can't find the answer to your
questions from 'conventional' sources, check out my Personal Notes. Are you struggling with poor connections and need a good initialization string? Check out our Init Strings. Are you trying to find
another useful modem related Internet site? Have a look at the Other Resources."
FAQs & Highlights for Windows Media Player (Error Codes)
"When you are using Windows Media Player, error codes may be displayed if you are having trouble playing or using certain multimedia files. Find the error code that you want and click one of the
links below it to display information and troubleshooting steps about the error code. Included: Unable to download the appropriate decompressor, No combination of filters could be found to render the
stream, Invalid File Format, Please verify that the path and filename are correct and try again, You do not have access to the location or file, The server or proxy was not found, The protocol is not
known and no pluggable protocols have been entered that match, et al."
Hierarchical List of MICROSOFT.COM Newsgroups
"Thank you for participating in the newsgroups! We hope you will enjoy using the newsgroups as an area to exchange information, tips, and techniques regarding Microsoft products. To ensure a
smooth flow of information in the newsgroups, please note the Expectations of Service and Rules of Conduct for newsgroups. Microsoft does not offer any formal support in the public newsgroups.
Instead, Microsoft sponsors the newsgroups as a platform for participating in the global community of Microsoft customers and product experts. In addition, Microsoft may monitor the newsgroups to
ensure accuracy of information and assist MVPs as needed."
That's it for this issue!
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Last Revised: 12/04/2000