Main Line Computer Users Group


June 2003 Issue 253

VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY, ST. AUGUSTINE CENTER, ROOM 110

MEETING STARTS - 09:30 - JUN 14 th


THIS MONTH'S CONTENTS
MAIN LINE COMPUTER USERS

In the last couple of months, at the meetings and via our emailing list, we've been discussing the purchase of a new computer for use at our meetings.

The prime motivation(s) being the age and capability (actually, low capability) of our 1997-vintage Powerspec. It has served us in excellent stead and will be retained for now - as a networking demo part at meetings. But, if we are going to move into more demos related to image processing, we need both more horsepower and hard disk space. It is mainly the horsepower need that is motivating the new box.

So, after our opening round of questions and problems from the attendees, we'll review and get any final input on the new computer proposal. Then, member John Murphy will take us thru the purchase process - via an online assembler called "AccessMicro". We hope you'll all come to participate in the process.

Following the above, time permitting, we'll take another look and hear on the "Advanced Irfanview" tutorial CD. This part will take us beyond the simple intro to "what is Irfanview" and prepare us better for any future demos of the product, as we move more into the imaging exercises mentioned earlier.


SECURITY FOR ALL?

This last month has brought all kinds of news about security problems, identity theft, privacy, spam and copyright protection. And a fast moving new worm (SoBig.C), plus a newly uncovered spyware tool, your fancy, new TiVo VDR....

I can't show everything, but an article or two you may not have seen may be in order:

Report: Broadband Customers Not Playing It Safe

Most users think they're protected from cyber threats, but a look at their PCs tells another story. [continued]

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ANNOUNCEMENTS & COMMENTS
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COMMODORE HARDWARE & SOFTWARE - altho we have not published the lists for some time, we still possess a rather large inventory of Commodore stuff. We are in a bit of a quandary about it, as the items are getting older and therefore less reliable; but we have had little to no success in disposing of the items, beneficially. We will have to wrestle with this problem before too long; so we are soliciting member input on the problem. If you are still using Commodore systems, or know someone who is, then this may be an opportunity to acquire missing items at yard sale prices. Or- if you know of some other place that might be interested in these, please be sure to let us know about it.

SECURITY & PRIVACY - both of these topics are making the headlines almost daily, unfortunately! A couple of recently published articles are included in this issue - not as solutions, but to assure that you are alerted to the difficulties and can benefit. Or pass the info on to friends who are not necessarily tuned to the situation.

REGULAR REMINDERS: - 1) our email mailing list is run for the!member's benefit; so please do not hesitate to post notices or problems to it. If we can't solve the problem remotely, we can be alerted to it ahead of a meeting where hands-on may do the job.

2) 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.

3) a half dozen or so of the regular attendees usually partake of lunci 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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MLCUG's BTO PC

NOTE: I'd like to express special thanks to John Murphy for all the thought and effort he has put into the BTO choice question. That effort has made for very productive (in my judgement) discussions on the subject! --------------- As of June 5th, and as we are going to press, the recommended configuration for the initial purchase has the following choices, which will be open for discussion at the June meeting:

Missing from this list are two key items: the hard drive and operating system. However, we already have on hand a new 80 GB Maxtor 7200 rpm, ATA/133 hard drive (more than enough for our initial needs) and a new boxed copy of Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition.

After the computer arrives, we plan to install the hard drive and the OS as part of a regular meeting (in July ???). Since we will put XP in the machine, we should be able to demo the "product activation" step that is now required for the latest Windows OS (as well as all future ones, most likely).

Since all this will require some time and effort, it should be an excellent learning opportunity for all of us who have not yet had the pleasure of installing Microsoft's latest baby.....

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LAST MONTH'S MEETING

We only had 13 folks sign the attendance list for the May meeting. But, that did not reduce the vigorosity of the discussions. Actually, we had a bit too much of side conversations; so staying with the one-meeting-at-a-time approach will ielp make sure that all attendees can benefit from the learning and sharing experience.

In the announcements portion, the EPCC meeting talk by Gene Barlow of User Group Relations was covered. Several MLCUGgers attended and got the update on the PowerQuest products: Partition Magic 8 and Drive Image 2002. Order forms with the user group discount were available. If a MLCUG member would like to order, you can go to the website: www.ugr.com/ and place an order online. The critical thing is to provide the user group discount code in the right spot on the order form. The prices are very good compared to the retail industry (about 50% discount).

Ed Cohen had attended TCF 2003, the Trenton Computer Festival. He mainly described the outdoor flea market (quite large, but somewhat smaller than in previous years) and the vendor area (many vendors, as usual, but crowded, as usual). He reported that he saw essentially no signs of Commodore products of any kind. But, PC stuff was plentiful, huge variety and could be very cheap...

After a short Q&A, we took a quick look at the tutorial CD, I had brought, titled: "Advanced Irfanview". This image handling utility is small, fast, cheap (free) and versatile. Quite a combination. The CD has four video tutorials on it and we looked at the roughly 10-minute "Introduction". There was enough interest that we'll likely watch the other parts in upcoming meetings. In addition to tutorials, the CD has a customized version of Irfanview v3.75 that one can install and it takes care of essentially all the install options and adds some extra ones. Anyone who'd like their own copy can purchase it online at: www.netoffices.com/, click the "Tutorial CDs" link - price is $10 postpaid.

For those who'd like to try Irfanview, I've uploaded to the MLCUG web downloads area, a copy of the customized Irfanview itself. You can go to the site and get the file: "IrfanViewSetup.exe". It's 5+ MB; so the download may take a while (or you can bring a CD-R to the meeting and we can burn a copy for you).

We, then, devoted the rest of the meeting to discussing the "Digital Camera" checklist. A copy had been emailed to our list and a slightly revised version was handed out at the meeting.

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Those BIG Images!

At our last meeting, we again touched on the question of the arrival and/or sending of BIG images as email attachments.

We mentioned the common error of snapping a pix with your digital camera and emailling it with no further treatment.

A second offense was encountered since our last get-together with an email that had attachments of three pictures of, you guessed it, a grandchild! Each pix was exactly 352 KB in size, being about 400x350 files of type ".bmp". So, the message carried about a meg of attached baggage!

As an exercise - using Irfanview - I converted them all to files of type ".jpg". This brought them down to an average of 20 KB - a reduction of nearly 18-fold!! So, the baggage dropped to 60 KB, easily handled by even a pretty slow dialup connection. I emailed them back to the sender as an example for the proud grandfather for the future. Bet that made me popular with him!!!

But, the lesson is there. We should avoid overloads both from a speed and courtesy point of view. Oh yes, not to mention that you could overflow someone's email box and have your precious message bounced back!!!

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Recordable DVDs

As most of you likely know, there is currently no generally accepted standard for DVD-recordable or DVD-rewritable discs. Much like the VHS/Betamax or any number of other new technology areas (hey, how about those spinning color wheels on TV sets back in the 50's?), there is still disagreement on selecting one of the current contenders (or some other TBD).

A number of summaries have been published about the merits of the current ones, as an attempt to help folks who would like to get a DVD burner now. So, I'll bring a summary or two to the next meeting. We'll be discussing this a bit as part of our new "BTO" computer purchase.

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BOUNCING ATTACHMENTS !

More and more ISPs are screening email attachments for "potential" virus/worm threats. When something suspicious is found, the email is not sent to the planned recipient and the sender gets a message saying that the send was not done because of the suspicious nature of the attachment. NOTE: the attachment is not actually being checked - but, the filename extension is.

Last week such occurred and CCIL user was not able to email a resume to a proposed employer! While the filename was never disclosed, it did engender some exchanges on working around the problem.

Here's one piece of feedback that you may find useful:

"I ran into this problem at work, or a variation of it. A customer was trying to send me a .ZIP file that contained an .EXE file. Our corporate mail server (MS) was blocking the incoming mail since somehow it was looking in the .ZIP file and seeing that it contained an .EXE file.

The solution was to have the customer re-send the message and change the .EXE suffix to something else (.TXT) before zipping it and attaching it.

I'm passing this along, since simply zipping the file may not do the trick.

Another option might be to change the suffix of the ZIP file; so the mailer will not try to un-ZIP it.

Boy, between this kind of stuff and the SPAM problem, it's amazing that we can still use e-mail for anything useful anymore. [Pete Rossi]"

Another similar suggestion was:

Using odd file extensions to trick the browser into not opening the attachment, ie .3dg or .opb

If we find a more permanent solution I will pass it along [CCIL Help].

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SECURITY FOR ALL!

(continued from p.1)

Network World Fusion Staff Friday, June 06, 2003

Most broadband consumers are leaving themselves open to hackers via their always-on connections to the Internet, according to a new study.

What's more, most of these DSL and cable modem users don't realize how vulnerable they are or that their personal data may be at risk, according to the study, which was released this week by the National Cyber Security Alliance.

The group consists of dozens of high-tech companies and government agencies dedicated to online computer safety. The study involved interviews and system evaluations. It was conducted at the homes of 120 broadband consumers by technical experts from America Online, an alliance member.

Open to Attack: Only 11 percent of those surveyed were deemed to have securely configured systems, though 86 percent said they felt their computer is very or somewhat protected from online threats. The same number of respondents, 86 percent, acknowledged keeping sensitive health, financial or other personal data on their home computer.

Other findings included:

- 91 percent of users have spyware on their home computers, often placed surreptitiously by file-sharing programs.

- 97 percent of parents with broadband connections failed to use controls to keep their children safe from inappropriate contact or people.

- Although three-quarters of respondents have antivirus software, only half of them had updated it in the past month.

In a statement, AOL Chief Trust Officer and Senior Vice President for Integrity Assurance Tatiana Gau said: "A basic broadband connection without protection can be the equivalent of a high-speed sewage pipe into the home, flooding it with viruses, porn, spam and hackers. It is critical that every broadband user practice safe broadband with, at minimum, a properly configured firewall, updated antivirus protection and parental controls."

Anti-spam technology threatens e-mail: EarthLink wants senders to prove they have a pulse

NEW YORK (AP) -- It's being promoted as a surefire way to eliminate unsolicited e-mail: force senders to prove they are human rather than automated programs that inundate the Internet with spam.

Known as challenge-response, the technology obliges senders to verify their authenticity before electronic messages are accepted.

But the technique has consequences far beyond frustrating spam-spitting robots, and some leading anti-spam activists fear it could backfire and render e-mail useless if widely adopted.

EarthLink, a major Internet service provider, introduced challenge-response last week to its five million subscribers, which means legitimate senders of e-mail could face new obstacles to getting their messages delivered.

While the technique is not eotirely new, usage has been limited to the thousands. But EarthLink expects half its customers will turn to the free service by year's end, and other Internet providers a re weighing similar offerings.

"It's sufficiently tempting that people will use it and will not realize all the bad things that will begin happening," says Steve Atkins, an anti-spam consultant in Redwood City, Calif.

"Challenge-response is very, very unfriendly and rude to legitimate senders of e-mail."

It typically works like this: When a recipient gets e-mail from an unknown sender, software automatically returns a message -- a challenge -- requiring the sender to perform a task such as filling out a form. Presumably, spammers won't bother.

Supporters liken the technique to knocking on a door and asking permission for entry.

Recipients may pre-approve senders. But if recipients forget, e-mail discussion lists and the people who run them could be bombarded with challenges.

Worse, some of those messages could get broadcast to all of a list's recipients, some of whom might send back additional challenges, creating an endless "mail loop." (Early attempts at automated "out-of-office" messages suffered similar problems).

In light of EarthLink's announcement and the prospect of millions more users sending challenges, many list administrators already have vowed to ignore them, effectively barring recipients who employ the technique.

"They can get pretty overwhelming, is a nice polite way of putting it," said David Farber, a former Federal Communications Commission chief technologist who runs a 25,000-member list on technology.

Though Farber is sympathetic to the war on spam -- up to half his inbox is junk -- he considers challenge-based techniques too simplistic.

EarthLink's spam filter blocks up to 80 per cent of spam. But spam has increased sixfold over the past 18 months.

The company decided to offer its customers the challenge-response option because cranking up spam filtering would only cause more legitimate mailings to get tossed by mistake, said Jim Anderson, vice-president of product development.

"It's as close to a silver bullet as you're going to get," Anderson said. "We're simply providing a tool for customers to retake control of the inbox from spammers."

Others deem challenge-response a knee-jerk reaction.

"I'm worried people are going to implement systems like that too quickly because they are so desperate," said Eric Thomas, chief executive of L-Soft International Inc., a Swedish company that makes the popular Listserv mailing list software. "The cure might be worse than the ailment."

America Online now blocks up to 80 per cent of incoming e-mail -- more than two billion messages a day.

But company spokesperson Nicholas Graham says AOL won't adopt challenge-response because sending two billion challenges a day would tax the system and create unacceptable delays for subscribers.

(C)2003 The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon)

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.


                             [The 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/
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PC/128/64 Meetings  2003  Steering Committee Meetings

                      June 14                           June 18 **
                      July 12                           July 16 **
                      August 9                          August 20 **

     * = first Saturday     ** = THIRD Wednesday at Tom Johnson's home
***************************************************************************************
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