PuterGeek.Com News
Issue # 66
ISSN: 1533-1938

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                   The PuterGeek.Com News (PGCN)
                                date 06/14/2001
                                Issue # 66

 A casual newsletter that goes out 1-5 times per month.
 It contains excerpts and articles from all the newsletters I
 read condensed down to a manageable size. Plus info about
 PuterGeek.Com, as well as various tips and tricks I've learned.



Hello Everyone!

Welcome back to the PuterGeek.Com News (PGCN)!  I hope you haven't forgotten about me these last six weeks or so :-)  I am now slowly on the mend and hope to be getting back to work on the website in the near future.
Since March of this year I have been found to have severe sleep apnea, have had two bouts of Diverticulitis, and have had my ingrown toe-nails (two) worked on three times!  I guess this is payback for 12yrs of fairly good health (G).
I do plan to write a web page about sleep apnea.  This is something that many people have but don't know it!  This issue can badly affect every aspect of your daily life if not treated.  Anyway, I'll let you know when the page is done.
There is a new poll up at http://www.putergeek.com/index.shtml#poll  and that's about all that's been changed to date.  I have plans for a number of new pages as well as a new section called "PuterGeek Speaks".  As time permits I plan to flesh out the "Life On the Road" section as well with more info about trucking.
If you haven't taken a look yet, Amy and I are writing about our lives on the road as truck drivers.  Many people have enjoyed our casual (and short) newsletter on the subject.  Point your browser here to read more.  http://www.putergeek.com/trucking/
Do you have a website?  Would you like to show your support of PuterGeek.Com as well as help others?  Why not put the PuterGeek link button on your site?  It's quick, painless, and easy to do!  Simply go anywhere on PuterGeek.Com and click on the button to get all the info!
PuterGeek subscriber Hans S. wrote me this question:
"In Internet Explorer, how do I regain the option of saving a PDF? And prevent it from automatically opening in Acrobat? You know the little window that pops open and asks whether I want to save the file or open it?"
Well this is a problem that most of us are bugged by.  Here's what I wrote back:
"I too have the same complaint!  While I don't have the answer, I do have a work-around.  Instead of just clicking on the link to the file....right-click on the link, a menu will pop up, then simply choose the "save target as" option.  It's a pain, but I don't know of any better way to do this."
I have spent many hours trying to *fix* this issue.  What I didn't tell Hans is that I've tried registry hacks, changing the file association, all to no avail.  Now read his reply...hehe:
"I found it.  The solution is in Acrobat, not IE.

Open Adobe Acrobat Reader 4, on the File menu, click Preferences, and then click General.
Click to clear the Web Browser Integration check box, and then click OK.
When you click a link to a .PDF file, you are prompted to save the file in the File Download dialog box.  You can save the file, and then double-click to open it, which should open the file in Adobe Acrobat Reader.
If you choose Open file from current location, it should open the file within Adobe Acrobat Reader 4, and not in Internet Explorer.

Cheers, Hans"

Now, here is a classic example of trying to hard to fix a problem.  I don't know how many times I've told people to look at the options in a program, yet I missed this myself!  I was aware of this option, but it sounded like a good thing...hehe (no idea what it did) and is checked by default.  A simple answer to an annoying problem!
See, even the PuterGeek can miss one every so often (G).  So here's the fix (thanks Hans!) and it works in Adobe reader 4x and newer as well as in Acrobat itself.  Plus a lesson to be learned (or relearned...hehe)  check the options in a program FIRST, before looking elsewhere!
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This is one of those simple tips that's all over the web, but many people don't know about.  Subscriber David B. wrote to remind me of it and I thought I'd pass it on to you.
Thought I would pass this Window's tip along after the tip for resizing the columns in Explorer (I reprinted it below)...
"Most of us know that you can resize the columns in Windows Explorer.
You just grab the little black column separators at the top and drag them to the size you need.  Well, there's actually a better way.  If you double-click in the little space between columns, you'll find that the column automatically resizes itself so it shows the complete name of every item in the column.  Oh, this little trick works with most programs that use columns of information (outlook, excel, etc)."
If, instead, you press Control-A, all the columns will automatically resize to show the complete entry of every item in all the columns.  And, like the tip above, this works with most programs that use columns of information as well (outlook, excel, etc).
Thanks David for reminding me of this!
Now we all have our favorite web links, and friends tell us to look at this one or that one.  The same is true for me.  But "helpme" user Lee told me about a very cool link during a phone call to me about his networking problem.
How would you like to know about what 'puter parts are on sale in your neck of the woods (US only)?  Or lots of other stuff?  This is a "must see" website!  Thanks Lee!  http://salescircular.com/

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5)  THE FUNNIES  http://users.erols.com/hmmd
Signs that you live in the year 2001
1.  You just tried to enter your password on the microwave.
2.  You have a list of 15 phone numbers to reach your family of three.
3.  You call your son's beeper to let him know it's time to eat.  He emails you back from his bedroom, "What's for dinner?"
4.  Your daughter sells Girl Scout Cookies via her web site.
5.  You chat several times a day with a stranger from South Africa, but you haven't spoken with your next-door neighbor yet this year.
6.  You check the ingredients on a can of chicken noodle soup to see if it contains Echinacea.
7.  Your grandmother asks you to send her a JPEG file of your newborn so she can create a screen saver.
8.  You pull up in your own driveway and use your cell phone to see if anyone is home.
9.  Every commercial on television has a web-site address at the bottom of the screen.
10.  You buy a computer and 6 months later it is out of date and now sells for half the price you paid.
11.  Leaving the house without your cell phone, which you didn't have the first 20 or 30 years of your life, is cause for panic and turning around to go get it.
12.  Using real money, instead of credit or debit, to make a purchase would be a hassle and take planning.
13.  Cleaning up the dining room means getting the fast food bags out of the back seat of your car.
14.  Your reason for not staying in touch with family is that they do not have e-mail addresses.
15.  You consider second-day air delivery painfully slow.
16.  Your dining room table is now your flat filing cabinet.
17.  Your idea of being organized is multiple-colored Post-it notes.
18.  You hear most of your jokes via e-mail instead of in person.
19.  You get an extra phone line so you can get phone calls.
20.  You disconnect from the internet and get this awful feeling, as if you just pulled the plug on a "loved" one.
21.  You get up in morning and go online before getting to your coffee.
22.  You wake up at 2 AM to go to the bathroom and check your E-mail on your way back to bed.
23.  You start tilting your head sideways to smile.  :)
24.  You're reading this.
25.  Even worse; you're going to forward it to someone else!!!
Is Windows a Virus?

No, Windows is not a virus.  Here's what viruses do:
1.They replicate quickly - okay, Windows does that.
2.Viruses use up valuable system resources, slowing down the system as they do so - okay, Windows does that.
3.Viruses will, from time to time, trash your hard disk - okay, Windows does that too.
4.Viruses are usually carried, unknown to the user, along with valuable programs and systems.  Sigh...  Windows does that, too.
5.Viruses will occasionally make the user suspect their system is too slow (see 2) and the user will buy new hardware.  Yup, Windows does that, too.
Until now it seems Windows is a virus but there are fundamental differences: Viruses are well supported by their authors, are running on most systems, their program code is fast, compact and efficient and they tend to become more sophisticated as they mature.
So Windows is not a virus.
It's a bug.
6)  THE TIPS AND TRICKS! NEWSLETTER  http://www.chimneygod.com/
CREATE YOUR OWN WEB PAGE IN SIX EASY STEPS HOW-TO: It seems as though people who don't have Web pages are in the minority these days.  For those of you who don't have one: What's stopping you?  If you're technophobic or fear you don't have the know-how to build a page, fear not.  Wendy is here to give you the basics so you'll have a great page up and running in no time.
FREE Super Special Offer!  - Computer Rear View Mirror Does your computer face away from your office or cubicle doorway?  Do you hate the feeling when you discover someone has been watching you work?  Keep an eye on everything with this handy rear view mirror!
Mounts in seconds to either corner of your monitor with peel-and-stick hook and loop tabs.  The convex mirror gives a wide angle view.  Now you can relax -- and discreetly see everyone who comes to your doorway!
We are giving this great product away for FREE!  You only pay Shipping & Handling.  Limited Quantities.
Order Now!
(NOTE: hehe - Peter)
Want to build the perfect charcoal fire for your barbecue grill?  Try this neat trick: Get two or three (or more, depending on the size of your grill) empty CARDBOARD egg cartons and fill each slot with the charcoal briquettes.  Place them in the grill, light the cartons, and you will have the perfect charcoal arrangement (with no lighter fluid required.) What if your briquettes are still burning beautifully, but you're through cooking all the food?  Instead of letting the coals burn themselves out, rescue them and use them for the next cookout.  CAREFULLY scoop them into an empty can and smother them by placing in a nonflammable lid over the can.  They will be all ready for you when it's time to fire up the grill again.
Happy grilling!
7)  THE PCIN NEWSLETTER  http://www.pcin.net
Insurer Considers Microsoft NT High-Risk
"Microsoft's server software is easy to install, loaded with features and fairly reliable.  It may also be more costly to insure against hack attacks.
J.S.  Wurzler Underwriting Managers, one of the first companies to offer hacker insurance, has begun charging its clients 5 percent to 15 percent more if they use Microsoft's Windows NT software in their Internet operations.  Although several larger insurers said they won't increase their NT-related premiums, Wurzler's announcement indicates growing frustration with the ongoing discoveries of vulnerabilities in Microsoft's products."
For more info:
Hackers amass new zombie army
"The nation's government-funded computer security watchdog issued a warning Friday that computer intruders have taken control of hundreds of computers connected to the Internet.  The attackers are in a position to launch a serious attack, according to the CERT Coordination Center, which said that the situation 'poses a significant threat to Internet sites and the Internet infrastructure.'"
Also, Steve Gibson of GRC.com has written a very interesting article about how these 'zombies' work.  He has had hackers trying to block his site and he was able to find out how they did it.  But, this has angered a lot of hackers, and at the time of this writing, his site was unavailable.  If you can get through, his article on DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service attacks)
is fantastic.
For more info:
http://www.msnbc.com/news/460824.asp http://www.grc.com/
8)  THE MIKE'S LIST NEWSLETTER  http://www.mikeslist.com/
New Fridge Opens from Outside the House A British company called Home Delivery Access has invented a refrigerator that grocery-delivery people can open from outside the house.  The refrigerators (and the house) are protected by combination locks, as well as a feature that prevents both doors from being open at once.  A small computer built into the refrigerator dashes off an e-mail or cell phone text message to alert homeowners when a delivery has been made.
Rumor Monger Last week, I printed a rumor that Microsoft was working on a handheld version of the Xbox.  Here's another Xbox rumor: Microsoft may have negotiated for the exclusive rights to develop a game based on Speilberg's upcoming movie, A.I.
Return to Sender
IT'S NOT SPAM, REALLY, but it feels like spam.  I'm talking about those annoying chain letters people pass around by e-mail.
I get dozens of these vapid, annoying and weirdly out-of-touch e-mails every week.  They range from outright hoaxes, to sappy sentiments, from political or consumer-action diatribes to urban legends.
I think I know why people send them, too: writer's block.  People send generic e-mail messages because they want to converse, but don't know what to say.  So they send e-mail written by someone else.
Chain letters have been around longer than the Internet.  But e-mail-based chain letters spread faster and wider than paper ones.  And the same messages keep coming around year after year, with minor modifications.
If we all pull together, we can end the chain-letter e-mail virus.  If an e-mail message written by someone you don't know says, "Forward to as many people as possible," don't.  If you're tempted, do a little research first, and if someone sends you a chain letter, please reply with a request that they not do so in the future.
And most importantly: Forward this opinion piece to as many people as possible.  It will bring you good luck, wealth and a new car!  TRY IT!!  YOU WON'T BE SORRY!!!!  ; )
Here's a keyboard for people often kept in the dark -- the keys light up!
Twenty-First Century Technologies' Nite-Surfer isn't yet available.  The company is currently looking for computer companies and distributors.  Stay tuned.  I'll let you know when and where you can buy one.
9)  SCOT FINNIE'S NEWSLETTER  http://www.scottfinnie.com/
By now you've heard many times over that Windows XP will be formally released later this year on Thursday October 25.  Microsoft made that announcement about a week ago after dates like October 29 and October 26 leaked out to various newsgathering organizations.  I’m sure many large OEM PC makers were displeased by the news.  But for you and me, there's nothing more important than Microsoft getting this code right.  Bad enough we're going to have to put up with Product Activation in Windows XP.  We don't want to suffer from bugs that might have been prevented too.  So I say, it's good news that the new Windows won't be rushed out the door.
In order to place Windows XP on store shelves on October 25, Microsoft must still wrap up development no later than early September (and that would be cutting it pretty fine).  The company is giving itself about three and a half months to wrap up development of the new operating system.  Generally speaking, that's more time than two "release candidates" need, so whatever they're calling the end-phase of the beta development cycle, it would appear it's effectively a beta 3 duration.
Although the end of October comes late in the year for the holiday selling season, it's really not too late for the large PC makers -- who get the code as soon as it's frozen (late summer).  They would prefer more time to test and assemble the best hardware components for XP.  But they should have more than enough time to roll out Windows XP to all their model lines well in advance of Thanksgiving.
And corporate sales are more likely to occur in the late first or second quarter anyway.  The issue for us as PC buyers is that because the test and quality assurance cycle is compressed for PC makers, you might want to think twice about buying the first wave of XP machines.  But that's been true of virtually every consumer release of Windows I can recall, stretching back to before Windows 95.
-- Major Windows XP Beta 2 Review -- The Lycos Computers channel is the publisher of a detailed, Winmag- style Windows XP Beta 2 review called "Get up to Speed on Windows XP." The story was written by Serdar Yegulalp, Neil Randall, Dave Methvin, and me.  In addition, Winmag art and production staffers Heide Balaban, Jeanette Hafke, and Roma Nowak contributed to the article.  Lycos's Vito Valentinetti also worked on production.  A lead-in to the story was also picked up by Wired News.  Check it out:
Lycos - Get up to Speed on Windows XP:
------------------------------------------------------------------- Fascinating.  Eerie.  A wake-up call.  Must reading.  On May 4, Steve Gibson's GRC.com came under a distributed denial-of-service attacks from 474 bot ("zombie") PCs orchestrated by a 13-year-old with the handle "Wicked." I'm a big Steve Gibson fan, but this is the best thing Steve has ever published on his website.  He recounts in detail the attacks, which continued for several days, and what he did to thwart them -- including the infiltration of an IRC chat room from which unwitting IRC bot PCs were being directed.  It's the most interesting security story I've ever read.
About those 474 bot PCs?  They're the Windows PCs of people like you and me who have always-on connections to the Internet, but who aren't running a solid firewall like ZoneAlarm.  And there are thousands of PCs that are "zombies," and their owners don't know it.
(NOTE: This is must read stuff! - Peter)
10) THE LANGALIST  http://www.langa.com/
How Much Protection Is Enough?
Things like the Sulfnbk scare drive home the point that we all need protection from online trouble.  But how much is enough?
Almost any hacker, cracker or warez site offers tools that will make a law-abiding netizen's hair stand up.  For example, there are any number of "port scanner" tools available that can run through upwards of 10,000 IP addresses an hour, looking for any online system with an open and attackable port.  It's astonishingly simple for a malicious hacker to simply point, click, and let the software run until it finds a vulnerable system.
With tens of thousands of miscreants on the prowl for vulnerable systems, any PC --- even systems with dynamic IPs and intermittent dial- up connections (such as laptops and non-networked PCs)--- can be vulnerable to attack.
And even if your PC contains absolutely no sensitive or personal information, it may still draw the attention of hackers and crackers who seek to hijack innocent systems to use as staging areas, spam relays or to be "zombie/bot agents" in denial of service attacks on other systems.
(Example: http://www.msnbc.com/news/460824.asp?cp1=1 )
It almost goes without saying that any system, networked or stand-alone, containing sensitive data or not, needs some level of protection from hackers, viruses, Trojans and worms.  But how much protection is enough?
How much is too much?  Where, along the broad spectrum between complacency and paranoia, lies the perfect amount of protection?
At one extreme end of the spectrum, there are those who swear by single- layer defenses: They'll install a firewall running either on a connection-sharing server or on the local desktop and believe they're essentially immune to attack.  Or, they may similarly employ an external hardware or firmware firewall (such as in routers and gateways) and believe that systems on the protected side of the firewall are about as safe as they need to be.
And then there are those who inhabit the opposite end of the spectrum and load up their systems with multiple firewalls and intrusion- detection and back-tracing utilities, perhaps in concert with an email virus/attachment filter and a local antivirus scanner.  After all, if one firewall or antivirus scanner is good, then two or three or four in concert must be better, right?
Trouble is, both extremes can get you into trouble.
I think I've found a "safe middle" that provides as much protection as is needed (it's adjustable) without going overboard.  But it's a complex subject and running through it all takes far too much to include in this newsletter.  So, I've made it the focus of the new "LangaLetter" column available at InformationWeek's ListeningPost.  In that column, I'll run through the problems with the too-much/too-little ends of the security spectrum, and show you what I've found to work extremely reliably.
Check out the new column and then join in the associated discussion:
What security tools do you use?  Which ones would you recommend, and which would you warn others to avoid?  And if you could design an ideal security setup, what would it be?  Please share your thoughts and experiences!  Click to:
How Much Protection Is Enough?

Reader Blain discovered--- in a disturbing way--- how online security products can fail:
I've been using BlackIce [a desktop firewall] for around a year and a half.  It's quite interesting to see how often I am "hit" and what people will try.
[Then] I purchased a Dlink 704 firewall/router.  This model has a four-port hub built in and requires no extra software to install or change settings.  With a flick of a switch on the back of the unit, you're on or off the Internet.  Nice feature.
Last week, BlackIce on my primary desktop began flashing.  I had someone breach my firewall and hit my machine!  I'm glad I kept the BlackIce program installed.  The intruder was, as far as I can tell, unable to access anything.  --Blaine While it's possible that Blaine's attack was a false positive--BlackIce has somewhat of a reputation for false alarms--it's also entirely possible it was real.  Even an excellent hardware firewall can be misconfigured, spoofed, or otherwise made to fail.
In fact, security tools and techniques fail all the time, and that's a major, major problem for people who have just a single-layer defense protecting them from hackers, crackers, and other online miscreants.
With a too-shallow defense strategy, any single point of failure can fundamentally compromise your security, perhaps disastrously.  In contrast, with multilayered defenses, a problem with any one security layer won't necessarily affect the other layers.
This week's InformationWeek.Com "Langa Letter" deals with what I believe is the best blend of defenses: not too shallow, not too complex, but "just right." <g> Come check out the column and compare your defense strategy to mine, and then join in the ongoing, week-long discussion!
The column is available right now at http://www.informationweek.com/840/langa.htm and the discussion is at http://www.informationweek.com/forum/fredlanga
Oh No!  *Hardware-Based* Phone Home Apps!

It's true: Phoenix, the BIOS people (they make the Phoenix and Award BIOSes), recently launched PhoenixNet, which will work with an advertising-based phone-home app built right into the hardware of your PC.  Although the announcement is couched in careful terms, the gist is clear.  "...system builders and resellers...  can use PhoenixNet's services to distribute...  products and services to millions of users."
Millions of captive users, that is.  According to the PhoenixNet site:
The PhoenixNet Internet Launch System (ILS) is a patent- pending technology built into the firmware of your PC.
PhoenixNet's technology resides safely within ROM (Read Only Memory).  PhoenixNet is activated automatically at the initial launch of your new PC....
Once running, the PhoenixNet software will use your Internet connection to force-feed you downloads, advertising, "sites to see," and support services.  The PhoenixNet utility apparently integrates with Windows; it's controlled--- if that's the word--- via a system tray applet.
However, because at least some of this code is operating at the firmware/BIOS level, it's possible for this code to run "below the radar" of the OS or of local desktop firewalls.  It could be difficult to know just what this code was doing, or when it's doing it.
Why is Phoenix doing this?  The PhoenixNet site ( http://home.phoenixnet.com/about/index.html ) spins it one way:
New and experienced users alike face some tough hurdles when trying to get running on a new computer.  From connecting to the Internet to learning about and managing their PC.  How do they get started?  ...  Now, thanks to PhoenixNet, the solution is only a mouse click away.  Save time and effort by using PhoenixNet built into the PC....  PhoenixNet services can be individually customized to meet the needs of any user.  This service continues over the life of the PC.  And it's free.
But despite this happytalk explanation, to me this doesn't look like an impartial third-party advisor to end users, but rather an advertising vehicle.  The PhoenixNet site says, "...  we select the best providers of these products and enter into partnerships with them in order to provide these tools directly through our network," To me, this sounds like:
"Vendors pay us, or give us a cut of their action, to get their stuff listed on PhoenixNet."
PhoenixNet may be hard to avoid: A number of motherboard makers have already agreed to start using PhoenixNet: They include AOpen, Chaintech, ECS, EpoX, Giga-Byte, Jetway, Legend-QDI, MSI, Soltek and Zida.
For biased info on this, see the PhoenixNet FAQ at http://home.phoenixnet.com/about/index.html#fre ; for third-party, independent views, see Steve Gibson's GRC newsgroup on 'spyware:" Point your usenet/newsgroup reader at news.grc.com, and join the grc.spyware discussion.
(Special thanks to readers Brad Griffin and Michael Steiner, who were the first of many to sound the alarm about this.)
Free CD Rippers
Long-time reader and regular contributor Chet Kolar writes:
http://www.cdex.n3.net/ Cdex is a free CD ripper, and very, very good.  It uses the best algorithms available for ripping CDs and converting the resulting Wav file to an mp3 file.  Cdex also can insert track titles.  It is very simple to use, and as good as any CD ripper (probably better in most cases)
Recall, mp3's involve psychological acoustic filtering that is, two adjacent sounds, one following the other within milliseconds, with the second sound 3 dB or more down, means that the average ear can not hear the second sound, and so the second sound can be deleted.
This is why an mp3 is never as good as a Wav file, as those with "golden ears" can and will hear the difference.  It is also why and how a 30 Mb Wav file can be compressed to a 3 Mb mp3 file.  That is, in any given split second, many frequencies have simply been left out in the resulting mp3 file.  One thus can not re-capture the original Wav file from the mp3 file.
The algorithm for converting the Wav file into a mp3 file has varied over the course of time.  For some time, the Blade routine was considered the best and thus preferred.  Now, there is another routine preferred (believe it is the Lame routine ???).  Cdex was always very good and always used the best routine.
Exact Audio Copy is another CD ripper.  It supposedly is the best available.  One that is used and preferred by CD Traders.
Exact Audio Copy (EAC) will read a track up to 80 times to get it correct.  It often can read a damaged audio CD.  But it, of course is slower.  http://www.exactaudiocopy.de/ [EAC is "cardware;" there's no cost, but the software authors want to collect postcards from users all over the world!] I use Cdex.  When a track comes out bad, which is very, very rare, I then re-do the track with EAC Thanks, Chet.  I use my CDR heavily, but only for data.  Thus, my audio CD skills are, well, let's say "fallow." 8-) Nice to hear the opinions of an experienced audio CD maker.  Thanks for sharing!
Cool (and Free!) Tray Applet
"Dave J" says:
[Here's] a cool tool I discovered recently that many of the "gang" may enjoy.  Its called MrTechSysTray, and I think it has what it takes...  its small, powerful and free!  Check it out!!
http://www.mrtech.com/mrsystray/ It has too many features for me to elaborate on...  so I'll leave it up to Fred to see if it's up to snuff!
Thanks, Dave.  Mostly what "MrSystemTray" (yikes, what a name!) does is aggregate several normally-separate applets and functions into one convenient spot.  For example, it gives you easy access to all control panel functions, shutdown functions, system stats, and frequently-used tools (notepad, calculator, regedit, defrag...).  It also offers a series of one-click tweaks--- nothing earthshaking or that you couldn't do on your own; but gathered in a very convenient, semi-automated form.
Finally, it includes a nice toolkit designed to help you manage the MP3 files on your system.
For a total cost of $0--- that's zero--- it's hard to beat.  8-)
That's all for now!

Peter Crockett - webmaster
mailto: webmaster@putergeek.com
Need some 'puter help?
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Last Revised: 06/14/2001