Main Line Computer Users Group - March 2001 - Issue 226

VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY, ST. AUGUSTINE CENTER

MEETING STARTS - 09:30 - MAR 10 th

AN OPPORTUNITY TO SHARE & LEARN


THIS MONTH'S CONTENTS
MAIN LINE PC/128/64 USERS - Room 110

Last month, as announced, we began chewing over the topic of backing up (see notes on that discussion elsewhere in this issue). BY NO MEANS, did we finish; so this month will be a continuation, but with more hands-on.

We are planning a more-or-less 2-part meeting. For the first part, we plan to demo the installation of the newly acquired CD-RW ("CD burner") that we want to use on the club's demoing PC. This will involve opening the tower, inserting the new drive mechanism, connecting the cables; then powering up to confirm that the BIOS knows the drive is there, that our Win98-based boot disk is able to see the new device and that Windows 95 also knows that a new device is on- line and accessible. If this all goes well, then we can close up the tower and proceed.

For the second part, we want to demo the use of the CD burner as a storage medium for your files. BUT, there are a number of ways that one can use CD disks for this - both CD-R and CD-RW. We can't do it all in one demo; so this time we'll focus on using CD-R disks with the PowerQuest Drive Image backup application.

We can conduct our Q & A during some of the wait states in the above demo. That can be on problems or related to the backup topic itself.

[continued on p.2]


"FREE"MUSIC ON THE INTERNET ?

FIRST PEER-TO-PEER VIRUS HITS [InfoWorld Scoop, 2/28/01]

FILE-SWAPPING ON THE Internet (like MP3 music) hit a sour note Tuesday with the appearance of a virus that attacks users of the Gnutella file-sharing service, and several anti-virus vendors say it is the first virus to affect peer-to-peer communications.

Named W32/Gnuman.worm, or by the alias Mandragore, the malicious file poses as an ordinary, requested media file. This masked file, however, is actually an .exe file that infects a user's computer once the program is run, according to statements from a variety of anti-virus software vendors. [from the EPCC listserv]

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ANNOUNCEMENTS & COMMENTS
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OLDER COMPUTERS? - got a call from a Peter Stamos (610-892-7390 or pstms7@juno.com) who is refurbing older PCs (286/386), preferably PS/2 models, to give to disadvantaged folks. If you have such an older PC, or know of some, that can be donated, please contact him, directly.

WINDOWS STARTUP DISK - in previous newsletters and meetings, we dealt with the Windows startup (or boot) disk and the real need to have one. As many know, Windows 98 offers an improved version of it - that can be used with PCs running DOS, Win 3.x, Win 95 or Win 98 (probably work with ME, too, tho I did not yet test it).

To make it a bit more useful tool, a slightly updated version is now in hand. It offers the following improvements: includes a mouse driver, includes the DOSKEY utility and incorporates XCOPY into the suite of tools that the disk puts into a RAMdisk that it creates on boot up (how that appears was shown on p.6 last month). Copies will be available for $1 at the meeting - or if you paid a $1 for the previous distribution, just bring it in for a swap.

SOFTWARE or SPYWARE? - the February 19th issue of Newsweek had a piece on NBC Internet (NBCi) and a TV demo of "Quick Click", a program that "allows you to mouse click on any word, anywhere and get information about it". However, hidden away in the fine print is the info that when you use it, you get assigned a unique identifier that gets sent along with each of your query clicks. Hence, a database can be compiled of the things that interest YOU! Of course, they say you can't be truly identified with the identifier - but the article points out that all is not what it seems! And, your firewall won't protect you against this one!! Oh well, at least it's "FREE"!!! (I'll have the article at the meeting).

DIGITAL CAMERA RESOLUTION - the digital camera has been with us for more than a decade - tho only recently has it gained substantial public adherents. Back in 1986 the imminent demise of film cameras was being predicted. However, back then Modern Photography pointed out that the digital camera still had a ways to go before reasonable image quality would be perceived.

They made some comparisons of then-current films (which have much improved resolution since) with several digital cameras. While the specific cameras are not important, the numbers are, for example. Back then, a 35 mm frame of Kodacolor 100 had a pixel equivalent of 18 million (ASA 200 was 13 million and ASA 400 was 7 million). Today a good digital camera will have about a million pixels, while the kilobuck variety are cracking 6 million - just a the lower edge of not-very-good film of 15 years ago. We won't talk about what it takes to play digitally in the 18 million ball park!

So, like most everything else these days, it's hard to see the forest thru the hype!!!

LINUX CD - at the February meeting, we had a number of distribution CDs for the Corel Linux, Second Edition. One remains un-distributed. So, if you are interested in trying this version of Linux and would like it, please give Emil a call (610-388-1581) to reserve it for pick up.

LUNCH - some of us regularly adjourn after the meeting for lunch at the Villanova diner. Why not come join us - and continue the converse?


WIN 9x TIP OF THE MONTH

BACK UP STRATEGY

An aid to avoiding storing your precious data on your C drive, where it is most vulnerable is to redirect the storage of files in the "My Documents" folder to the D (or other) data drive and away from that C drive.

Just right-click the "My Documents" name, then click on "Properties" and a window will open. It will provide a box to enter a new target folder anywhere on your computer. The default is C:\My Documents; but you can just change it to D:\My Great Files (or whatever takes your fancy!). Now many Windows apps will open your redirected folder and you'll avoid putting stuff on C drive inadvertently.


A Matter of Courtesy

[The following was snipped from an email exchange on one of the listservs].

"Barry accused me of sending (email) in HTML.

Naturally, I felt I was innocent of such boorishness.

So I went to my address book and found out I had never checked the box to send in plain text only.

Verbum sap sat

Since such complaints are frequent, let's all check our email programs to be sure we took the step to send only in plain text. -- Verbum sapientas satis - Latin for "A word to the wise is sufficient."

Ray Schuerger, the Sauer Kraut skraut@ix.netcom.com"


Quick and Cheap

by Thomas Johnson

[At our February 2001 meeting, this application came up for mention and got a very brief demo. Do a re-read, you'll find it useful - ed.]

Did you ever desire a program to accomplish a certain task, but you were short on money or thought you would not use the program enough to make it worthwhile?

Many specialized programs can be found freely available for downloading from the Internet.

Be aware that there are two different types of programs offered on the Net. Freeware is free to download. There is no cost involved. Shareware can be downloaded; but the author asks to be paid a certain amount, if you use the program more than a few times. Some programs are free to test for a certain period of time before payment is due.

One freeware program I recently downloaded is 4Irfan View5, by Skiljan Irfan, a graphics viewing and editing program for 95, 98 and NT use. For the details, I quote the author from one of his pages: "Irfan View is a fast image viewer that supports animate GIFs and many other image formats....AIF, ANI, BMP, CAM, CLP, CPT, CUR, DCX, DIB, EPS, RLE, JPG, GIF (including animated GIF), PNG, PCX, TIF, IFF/LBM, LWF, PSD, TGA, RAS, ICO, AVI, WMF, EMF, PBJ, PBM, PGM, PPM, and PCD.

"Irfan View can convert images between most of the supported formats, either individually or in batch mode. Irfan View can also perform some basic image editing and processing functions, including cut, crop, resize, resample, change the color depth, adjust brightness and adjust contrast. It has command line options and it can display images in a slideshow and extract frames from ANI files, AVI movies and animated GIFs."

See its website: www.irfanview.com - many sites with more information can be found by using a search engine. Enter "freeware AND Irfan View". (Be sure to capitalize the AND.) One hundred plus sites are listed.

[originally published in issue #201]


Tech Support

In an effort to assist the Site Technical Support personnel, the following guideline has been established:

* When you call us to have your computer moved, be sure to leave it buried under half a ton of postcards, baby pictures, stuffed animals, dried flowers, bowling trophies and Popsicle art. We don't have a life, and we find it deeply moving to catch a fleeting glimpse of yours.


VIRUS ALERT!!!

[from Peter Whinnery]

Info on the virus I mentioned at the Feb meeting:

There have been numerous reports of the W32.Blebla.B (also known as W32/Verona.B) virus appearing on Penn's campus. This virus, although it is over 2 months old, looks like it is being spread rapidly to both staff and student machines. It arrives via an email attachment with filenames "xromeo.exe" and "xjuliet.chm," which users may tend to launch more often due to the proximity of Valentine's Day. (Pete provided many details in his BBS posting on the item).


Gem of the Day:

Chapter 1

The story so far: In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.


ANOTHER WIN TIP OF THE MONTH

[At a couple of local gatherings - otherwise known as computer meetings, I found that even quite experienced PC users are unfamiliar with the subject of this tip that I originally published in issue #201. It is very definitely a good item in your freebie toolkit!]

Recently, I have come to appreciate very much a relatively unmentioned feature in Windows Accessories, the NOTEPAD text editor, found in Win 3.x thru 98x.

For quite some time, I have tried to maintain a diary of things that I do with a system, problems encountered and solutions (if any) to those problems. I've usually done this with either the DOS text editor - called EDIT (edit.com - usually in your DOS directory) - or with the above-mentioned Notepad accessory. This has involved firing up the editor, opening the diary (text) file, then doing the editing. But, there is a nicer and more helpful way to do it:

1) start by firing up Notepad, then opening a new text file

2) begin the file by entering as the first line .LOG

3) save the file (say in a subdirectory called NOTES), as something brilliant like ThisPC or System or Charlie or whatever, then exit the editor

4) set up an icon on the desktop, which has for its command line:

C:\WINDOWS\notepad.exe C:\NOTES\Name.txt (or whatever directory and filename you chose)

5) now, whenever you wish to add to your diary, simply double-click the icon and your file will come up in Notepad.

But, it will also have a new line added to the end of the file which shows the DATE and TIME that you re-opened the file for editing. Just add your comments and save the file. Next time you open it a new date and time will be appended ready for you to add your new notes without consulting a clock or calendar.

The convenience and utility make it much easier to keep track of what happens on your system. Give it a try!

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LAST MONTH'S PC/128/64 MEETING
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Well, February turned out to be almost a total discussion meeting. As usual, we went around the table a couple of times to: 1) allow folks to pass on news and 2) try to deal with a few problems.

Then we turned to the subject of backing up and spent quite some time going over the lists that had been published last month on "hardware" and "software" tools to aid the backer-upper.

Most of the talk was spent on the hardware list as it had a lot of concrete stuff for folks to get into - and which many had relevant experience with.

We also began to tackle the much more varied subject of software tools, without covering the ground in any fullness. We will have future opportunity to cover more - including some starters in March.

Updates for both of the lists, based on the discussion at the main meeting, as well as the steering meeting, are posted on the BBS. Members can download them for their own reference. If the strength holds up, we'll post updated versions as we learn a bit more from discussion and, hopefully, real usage experience. Check the file library of our BBS. If you have questions about the postings, bring them up at the meetings.


Leveraging Our BBS

MLCUG still has a resource that is fading from many user groups - namely, a BBS. Many of these former services have been abandoned in favor of web-based systems. These have many advantages, in terms of "free" access (if you get your internet service for free!), or access from anywhere without long distance fees. However, a BBS still has its virtues, among which is speedy performance compared to most web access, and the fact that it is ours (not somebody else's system that it runs on); so we can manage it the best way we see fit.

However, in spite of its proximity, our BBS is a vastly underused asset! On a small portion of oour members use it with any frequency. We'd like to see more use made of it. For example:

If you have a persistent problem, or question, especially between meetings, that situation can be posted. You could seek input before a meeting or provide fore-knowledge of something you want to bring up at a meeting.

You could contact the BBS ahead of time to allow "brainstorming" prior to the meeting and those problems presented on the BBS could be sure of receiving exposure at the meeting(s). Having more folks aware of your problem should raise the probability of some useful advice!

Why not give it a try? You do not need any special tools for a PC - which comes with the "Hyperterm" emulator that works fine for the BBS (just follow the steps you are led thru by Hyperterm and its defaults should get you on in no time). And there are good tools for C= systems, too (as we demoed so many times in past years!).


BACKING UP - Part 2

Following on the February meeting discussion, I am offering some personal thoughts on computer organization aimed at easing back up problems and restoration of damaged operating systems. Feedback is strongly solicited- ed.!

Let's begin, and hopefully, we can generate some discussion and input from meeting attendees (and on the BBS, too) to guide us in developing recommendations that may be useful to our members. And to any others they may want to pass the gospel to.....

So, let's start with what. Conventional wisdom has it that one needs primarily to backup the data files that one creates or acquires as they use their systems. Whether it's that really neat "saved game" or the friendly image or the Y2000 tax return, or whatever. And, in the Commodore and DOS days of some of our members early experience, this was largely true. You backed up the data; so that when complete disaster struck, you could:

a. re-install DOS (a few minutes work) - your Commodore had its DOS in ROM; so no re-install was needed (or possible).

b. re-install your applications - which could take awhile, but was relatively straightforward.

c. restore your data from the backups.

d. go roaring off again!

However, for those who migrated to Windows, or started with it, the situation is no longer so clean and simple. For the following reasons:

a. re-installing Windows and getting it re-customized to your taste is time consuming and difficult to get back to "just the way you had it", especially if it has been a while since you had to do it. Most of us do not have any very good records of what we have actually put in place (see the tip on p.5 for an assist in this regard.)

b. re-installing applications and re-customizing is similarly tedious. Unlike DOS applications, the components of a Windows program are not neatly compartmented in their own folder, but distributed between that folder and the Windows folder (and sometimes elsewhere, too). Your data is very likely to be similarly divorced from the application, especially if you use the Windows defaults for data storage.

c. data is much more voluminous and, like the OS and the programs, no longer amenable to backing up to diskettes.

Given the above evolution and complexity, I'd like to suggest some approaches. These suggestions are based on the availability of some pretty good software and hardware tools that are real aids to cope with the growth in:

- OSes (the last full DOS took only about 5 MB of hard drive space, Windows 3.11 needed around 15 MB, Windows 95 wants around 50 MB, Windows 98 likes about 150 MB and Windows ME around 250 MB)

- applications (they like to take from multi-megabytes to multi-hundreds of megabytes)

- data (that word processing document has grown from a few kilobytes to hundreds of kilobytes -and when you throw in images, you go out the roof).

Oh yes, and storage has grown from the >1 MB diskette to the 80 GB hard drive, and is still growing.

So, the task can be massive!

Think about these suggestions:

1) keep your operating system and programs separate from your data - start by setting up a C: drive for your OS and programs and a D: drive for your data

[Note: member Layton Fireng uses a C:, D:, E: where C: is for the OS, D: is for the programs and E: if for his data. This keeps the OS partition more compact and easier to back up.]

- customize your programs so they do NOT store their data on the C: drive - but put it on your data drive

My main exception in this C:/D: recommendation is for very large programs; such as, many games that benefit by having the contents of one or more CD-ROMs transferred to the hard drive. That stuff is not needed on the C: drive and just complicates backing it up. Some big programs, like suites, if they will allow it, could probably benefit from a similar D: drive installation.

If you have a typical purchased PC, it likely has only a C: drive, even if it has a 40 GB hard drive! If you build one, you can set it up to have two (or more) drives. For the purchased one, you could achieve the desired result with a utility like Partition Magic (this change might be done, for example, after a club meeting, where you could bring in your computer and the work could be done. Note: this is a real time consuming task if you have a large hard drive).

BUT, with this change implemented, you will have taken the first step to disciplined backing up.....

[Part 3 - next time]

DIRECTIONS FOR ST. AUGUSTINE CENTER MEETING ROOM

Meetings are in the St. Augustine Center at Villanova University. The 8-bit and PC sessions will be meeting in Room 110.

[Map goes here]

Enter from the ITHAN AVENUE main gate, then proceed to the 2-level parking building adjacent to St. Augustine, on the Ithan Avenue side of the building.

NOTE: maps on our webpage - http://astro4.ast.vill.edu/mlcug/


64/128/PC/Amiga Meetings  2001  Steering Committee Meetings

                      March 10                          March 14 **
                      April 14                          April 18
                      May 12                            May 16

     * = first Saturday     ** = second Wednesday at Tom Johnson's home
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 EDITOR: Emil J. Volcheck, Jr.   1046 General Allen Lane   West Chester, PA
19382-8030
(Produced with C-128D/SCPU 128, RAMlink, HD-40/85, 1571, FD-4000, THE WRITE
STUFF 128, XETEC Super Grafix, Canon BJ-200ex, Swiftlink and Motorola 288
modem)
           MLCUG BBS: 610-828-1359 ( 300 --> 33600 bps ), 24 hr/day
                 WWW: http://astro4.ast.vill.edu/mlcug/
           PUBLICITY: Robyn Josephs 610-565-4058
         DISK ORDERS: Charlie Curran 610-446-5239
   VILLANOVA SPONSOR: Prof. Frank Maloney, Dept. of Astronomy

MLCUG STEERING COMMITTEE:

PRESIDENT: Emil Volcheck 610-388-1581 SECRETARY: Charles Curran 610- 446-5239 TREAS/MEMBERS: Dewitt Stewart 610-623-5145 SYSOP/AMIGA SIG: John Deker 610- 828-7897 INTERNET/Linux:Peter Whinnery 610-284-5234 DATABASE: Layton Fireng 610- 688-2080 AT LARGE: Tom Johnson 610-525-3440 AT LARGE: John Murphy 610- 935-4398