Main Line Computer Users Group


Feb 2003 Issue 249

VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY, ST. AUGUSTINE CENTER, ROOM 110

MEETING STARTS - 09:30 - FEB 8 th


THIS MONTH'S CONTENTS
MAIN LINE COMPUTER USERS After another successful networking demo last time, we have a hard act to follow! But, for a couple of months, we have been mulling over what to turn to, as a major topic, after our networking bout. The candidate is: "Images" or "Imaging" - all you ever wanted to know but were....

However, figuring out just how to tackle the subject has not been easy and is an evolving enterprise. Questions like: what are images, what kinds are there, are the differences important, how do you get them and what can you do with them, once you have them. Way too many to tackle at one time. So, we opted to try to explore the interests of tie group; and use that as a guide to what kind of future material should be covered.

Layton Fireng, our one true image guru (he uses Photoshop; sp that makes him one!) will show us some examples of the sorts of things you can do with imaging. He has recently been tackling some major image work; so he has some spectacular and interesting images to show us - to sort of whet our appetites. He will also cover some of the basic topics for the starter.

So, put on your thinking cap - have you got a new digital camera, a new powerful scanner, some fancy imaging software? What do YOU want to learn about? If you can tell us, mayhap we'll all have a chance to learn!


YOUR VERY OWN TROJAN HORSE !!

There has recently been quite some turmoil over the Turbo Tax 2003 software that has recently hit the market (and many of our mailboxes). The word was that Intuit, the vendor of the most popular tax preparation software in the world has included some interesting spyware in the product - sort of your very own Trojan Horse.

Initially, there was some question as to whether they really had done so. But, there is now no doubt - and it has caused a furor!! No less a publication than the Wall Street Journal has come straight out and advised that NO ONE should purchase and use Turbo Tax 2003. [continued]

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ANNOUNCEMENTS & COMMENTS
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THE EMAILING LIST - for those members who have provided an email address, we have subscribed them to the MLCUG listserver (operated most graciously by Pete Whinnery and the UPenn system). This is a way to catch early announcements, hear about problems (and solutions?) between the meetings. You can get (and give) help. A useful tool we feel; so when renewing, consider including your email address in that spot on the form.

CHARLES CURRAN - you may have noticed that Charles Curran, Club Secretary, has been missing from the meetings. He has been having a few medical problems and is more or less confined to the house. It would be very THOUGHTFUL, if you could give him a call @610-446-5239 and say 'HELLO'. He gave permission to invade his 'PRIVACY' to post this message :-) [Marty Caulfield, MAYO PRODUCTIONS]

REGULAR REMINDERS: - 1) attendees know that we have a very fast internet connection from the VU meeting room! So, if you have a very large download, you could bring along a zip disk (or a CD- R/RW) and get it done there, either before or after the main meeting.

and 2) a half dozen or so of the regular attendees, usually partake of lunch at the Villanova Diner after the meeting. Why not join us? It is a good time to get a little more help (or give it) and just to have fun talking about our common interests. The food is quite good, too!

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Networking Book

At our monthly steering meeting, Layton Fireng loaned me a book that he had picked up (cheap!) at MicroCenter - on networking. I started to read it after I got home from our meeting. It was so fascinating that I read it thru, cover-to-cover, finishing up sometime after midnight!! Very unusual for me!

If you are considering setting up an ethernet (wired) home network (or would just like to have a good summary of general networking stuff), hop over to MicroCenter and buy:


   BUILD YOUR OWN HOME NETWORK
   by Ron & Diane Gilster
   Published by Osborne, a division of McGraw-Hill
   Price $4.99 (soft cover)

My only warning is that you should NOT be intimidated by the first chapter, which is devoted to basic terminology and technology. It gives a good grounding, but the do-it-yourself stuff does not start until Chapter 2. The first one makes sure that you'll know what to buy and what you're buying!!

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YOUR OWN TROJAN HORSE!

[continued from p.1] That is such an unheard of step, that I thought you'd like to read their story; so here it is:

PERSONAL TECHNOLOGY
by Walter S. Mossberg

Of Top Tax Programs, One Has Developed An Insulting Approach

THE TOP TWO software packages for tax preparation have been largely static in their core features and user interfaces for years, but you'll notice a new attitude toward customers from one of the publishers this time around.

The programs are nearly identical, and in my annual reviews of H&R Block's TaxCut and TurboTax by Intuit I have mainly noted changes in ancillary features, and in the proliferation of various editions and versions that seem inspired more by marketing than by functionality.

This year, both publishers have thrown in planning features for retirees and investors, and TurboTax now comes in special editions for these groups. Still, the core tax functionality is the same in all these products.

However, Intuit, in an effort to curb piracy, now is forcing folks who buy TurboTax to jump through hoops to use it. Users must contact Intuit to "activate" the software, a process that limits full use of TurboTax to a single PC. To enforce this system, Intuit secretly installs third-party monitoring software on users' PCs.

By contrast, H&R Block is adding a "family license" to its top-of-the-line version of TaxCut, which explicitly allows the software to be shared with family members and to be used to prepare the returns of multiple people, all legally.

YOU CAN INSTALL the full-function TaxCut product on multiple PCs as long as they aren't used simultaneously. There are no activation requirements. TaxCut also costs less than TurboTax and offers free phone support, while TurboTax users pay for most such service.

So, this year I emphatically recommend H&R Block's TaxCut over Intuit's TurboTax. They both do the job of preparing any straightforward tax return. But Intuit has decided to treat all its TurboTax customers like potential criminals, and to limit the ways that even honest people can use the product. Why subject yourself to that?

For my tests, I chose the top Windows versions of both products, TurboTax Premier and TaxCut Platinum. TurboTax Premier costs $49.95 after a $10 mail-in rebate. TaxCut Platinum is just $29.95 after a $10 rebate. (Stripped down versions can be bought for as little as $10 for TaxCut and $20 for TurboTax, after rebates.)

These software products aren't a substitute for an accountant or other tax preparer. If you have any serious legal questions about your taxes, you shouldn't rely on these programs

I ran a simple sample tax situation througi both programs and both handled it fine. Both allow you to automate some of the data entry by downloading W-2 information, which saves a few minutes of typing. TurboTax was better at this, with information from more payroll providers.

I also tested a feature where, for $19.95, you can ask a tax expert a question. I e-mailed the same question through each program. TaxCut did better. The TaxCut expert e-mailed me back within an hour with a good answer. The TurboTax adviser insisted I phone her and when I reached her, her answer seemed too simplistic. During our conversation, I was interrupted by an operator demanding more money for a longer call.

Installation of TaxCut was easy and straightforward. By contrast, installing TurboTax was a pain, due to the new antipiracy requirements. I had to type in an 18-digit product key, then activate the product over the Internet, a process that generates a hidden code that mates each copy of TurboTax to one PC. I was informed that while my copy of TurboTax would run on multiple PCs, I could print or electronically file a tax form only on the PC on which it had been activated.

THE TURBOTAX installation process never revealed that Intuit was also installing on my PC an antipiracy product called SafeCast, from a company called Macrovision. This software includes a hidden folder called C-Dilla, the former name for SafeCast, and a hidden program that runs in the background all the time, monitoring your PC for the use of TurboTax. When TurboTax runs, the SafeCast product checks to see if the program matches the activation code on the PC. It also periodically checks to see that the code hasn't been tampered with. I have no evidence that SafeCast damages PCs or spies on users, and Intuit and Macrovision emphatically deny rumors that SafeCast sends reports on software use back to the company over the Internet. Macrovision even denies SafeCast can be called "monitoring" software, but the term fits because the product constantly watches for TurboTax activity.

Once SafeCast is on your PC, it remains there even when you uninstall TurboTax. Intuit said it adopted this policy because users might have other programs that rely on SafeCast that would be disabled if it were removed. But after a storm of criticism, Intuit posted on the Web a program to uninstall SafeCast.

I agree with Intuit that piracy is a problem, and I condemn it. But I don't think the answer is to treat all consumers like criminals by adding restrictions and hidden software to an inexpensive product used for a week or two each year. I also believe that the licensing of software to one PC or one person, while cherished in the technology industry, makes little sense in a world where honest families have multiple PCs and users.

If you'd rather be treated with respect than suspicion, shun TurboTax and buy TaxCut.

NOTE: if you'd like a little more detail about the potential downside of the Safecast/C-Dilla spyware, take a look at this article on the web:

http://www.smallbusinesscomputing.com /biztools/print.php/1574091

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Big AOL News

If you got any exposure to recent news, you heard that Steve Case, chairman of AOL Time Warner, will be stepping down from active management in May. Tho, he'll still be on the board of directors. But, with a little luck, they'll boot him off that too before long (we can hope).

Those of you who've been in the club for 10 years or more will be aware of the "dirty deeds" many of us got from that same Steve Case (way back in the hoary ages of long ago in 1994)! So, while he'll still be able to keep a lot in the bank, he may be unable to mess up too many more folks the way he has finally done for the AOL that he created.

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Tutorial videotapes

With the assistance of Mayo Productions (you ALL know who that is!) and Charles Curran, Inc., we have some tutorial videotapes for member loans. Each tape is a lecture on one of the topics:

They are all introductory presentations and not aimed for the experts. If you have an interest in any of them, let me know and I can lend them out at upcoming meetings.

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LAST MONTH'S MEETING

We began the new year with 16 folks at the January meeting. And, a treasury in good shape (per treasurer, Stew Stewart) - we had a year-end balance in better shape than a year ago. Primarily due to the reduced costs of publishing the newsletter. This allowed us to cover not only the cost of publishing, but the support costs for the BBS, too. In the coming year, with no anticipated postage increase; and, hopefully, no copy cost increase, we should end up in still better shape since the BBS cost is now gone (not a great way to save $$$, but that's the situation!).

Our presenter, John Murphy, for the third time in a row managed a successful demonstration of another facet of home networking, namely; wireless networking. This uime round, John had his laptop wirelessly linked to a router, which had an ethernet wired link to the club PC. A printer attached to the laptop was neatly used by the club PC to print test documents (using the wireless link in place of the ethernet link from the previous month's demo of printer sharing across a wired home network).

Our congrats to John - and he's earned a break from carrying the ball! So, next month we'll have a switch in topics. Hope to see all of you there...

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Install tidbit

Want to wander back in history a bit? I recently did a clean install of Windows Me, as well as a similar task about three days before with Windows 98 SE. After experiencing the process, I noted that installations of the OS software have grown a bit in the last 10 years, to wit:

That's a hundred-fold growth in just 10 years, or about 59% growth compounded annually. How'd you like your income to do the same?

Oh, by the way, for Windows XP, you'll need to allow 1-1.5 GB to install and much, much more to grow on!

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Worm/virus alert!

By now, you all have likely heard of the massive slowdown on the internet in late January. It was described in much of the press as a "virus" (likely the same on many TV newscasts). It was also described as an "attack". Interestingly, both those are wrong: iu is not a virus and it was not an attack. The beastie causing the problem is the: W32.SQLExp.Worm

Which, as the name indicates, is a worm (and a tiny one, being only 376 bytes in size!). And, the problems caused on the net were an unintended side effect!

It reminds me of the first ever (if I recall correctly) major worm to be unleashed on the internet in 1988 - the so-called "Morris Worm". It actually did bring the internet to a screeching halt!!! Almost every net server had to be disconnected from the internet, cleaned, patched, restarted and then reconnected. The net was pretty much unuseable for some days as a result. AND, this disaster was completely unexpected by the worm's author, Robert Morris (then a grad student at Cornell, if I recall correctly) - due to a little coding error.......

If you want more gory details, go to the Symantec website: symantec.com. Then click the security alert link on the left side of the page and go from there.

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John Fried FAQ

About a month ago, John Fried announced in his Inquirer column that he had set up his own personal webpage. On it he is posting 80-some FAQs derived from his regular column (Thursday and Sunday Inquirer).

The URL is: mywebpages.comcast.net/jjfried/

When I looked at it a couple of days ago, I found that it had morphed!! The URL is now:

http://go.philly.com/faq/

I queried John about the change. He told me, as I had suspected, his employer (the Philadelphia Inquirer) was!a little unhappy with his setting up that separate website! So, if you check his recent column(s), you see two URLs, one for ALL the last three months stuff, plus this special site where he is posting what might be called "VFAQs" (Very Frequently Asked Questions)! I'd keep an eye on both spots. He publishes much good advice.

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SIMPLEST HOME NETWORK!

This article is an updated version that is based on the demonstration at the November 9, 2002 MLCUG meeting, John Murphy showed us the simplest possible network arrangement: 2 computers (each having an ethernet card installed) and one length of ethernet cable.

For the system to work, each computer must have an ethernet card installed (or have the capability built into the motherboard, as many newer computers do). The only other need is a length of CAT5 CROSSOVER cable.

With the cable connected between the 2 ethernet cards, the next step uses the Network Control Panel:

  1. click Start, slide to Settings, click Control Panel
  2. double-click the Network icon to open her up
  3. make sure that the upper box lists these components:
    • Client for Microsoft Networks
    • your ethernet adapter
    • the TCP/IP protocol
    • File and printer sharing
    Note: click the "File and printer sharing" button and make sure there is a dot in the "I want to allow others to access my files".

  4. double-click the TCP/IP line for your network adapter
  5. in the resulting box, click the line that says "specify an IP address"
  6. then fill in an IP address suitable for your local network, for example: 192.168.1.1 and 192.168.1.2 for the two computers
  7. type the subnet mask: 255.255.255.0
  8. click OK and return to the first box
  9. click the Identification tab and fill in a UNIQUE name for your computer (anything will do, except the two computers have to be DIFFERENT
  10. then fill in the workgroup name. Again most anything will do, except that BOTH computers must have the SAME workgroup name.
  11. the third box is optional, but is a convenient spot to tell other network users something useful, like; "Computer in Dad's study".
  12. OK your way out of the control panel and restart your computer (you'll get a notice saying that it's needed). Both computers now know enough to start talking to each other. However, if you want to transfer files from one to the other, one more step is needed, namely; a shared resource.

  13. create a new folder (preferably on your data drive) and name it some- thing obvious, like; "Shared"
  14. right-click the new folder, click on Sharing and a box will open showing the folder properties. Click the "shared as" button and more boxes will open, the first with the default folder name. Then, since you are likely to want to share files both ways, you'll want to click on the "access type" full button.
You can then require a password or not, as you choose. Tie new folder will become immediately available on the network, without restarting.

Both computers should see themselves and the other computer in their "Network Neighborhood" or Windows Explorer, and the shared data folders can be opened and files transferred both ways.

DIRECTIONS FOR ST. AUGUSTINE CENTER MEETING ROOM

Meetings are in the St. Augustine Center at Villanova University. The regular monthly 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/


PC/128/64 Meetings  2003  Steering Committee Meetings

                      February 8                        February 12 **
                      March 8                           March 12 **
                      April 12                          April 15
     * = 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 LISTSERV: Members only...
                 WWW: http://astro4.ast.vill.edu/mlcug/
           PUBLICITY: Robyn Josephs 610-565-4058
   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