Main Line Computer Users Group


September 2003 Issue 256

VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY, ST. AUGUSTINE CENTER, ROOM 110

MEETING STARTS - 09:30 - SEP 13 th


THIS MONTH'S CONTENTS
UPCOMING MEETING:

At our last go-round, we successfully installed the third OS - Windows XP Home Edition - in the club's new PC. You may recall that we plan to have four (4) OSes in it before we're done (Windows 98, Me and a version of Linux, being the others). But, there is a bit more to it than just "installing" the OS - at least when Windows XP is in the picture.

So, it is the rest of that "bit" that is on the agenda for this month's meeting. Specifically, we plan to:

1) "activate" our copy of XP

Then, before going further, we'll provide some protection for our efforts so far:

2) imaging the new installation

We'll use Drive Image 2002 for this step. See my "editorial" on the subject of Drive Image, in last month's issue, regarding this backup choice.

Then, the final step for this phase will be to:

3) run Windows Update on the internet

We hope you'll be able to come and learn more of the ins and outs of Microsoft's Windows XP...


VIRUSES, TROJANS and WORMS!

Since our last get together, the computer world has been inflicted with not one, but two major malware infections. The first one burst on the scene August 11th, with the appearance of the W32.Blaster.Worm (also known as the Lovsan Worm) that spread very rapidly across the planet, bringing grief to all kinds of users. And, the efforts of those users to get the Microsoft patch to fix things were defeated by the worm's ability to knock them on and off the internet every 60 seconds!! We'll have more to discuss about this beasty at the meeting. But, that was not enough for us, as one week later, on Monday, [continued on p.5]

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ANNOUNCEMENTS & COMMENTS
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THE YEAR IS ENDING! - well, not really; but the "fiscal" year for MLCUG is over. So, it is time for you to review your experience with the club over this last year (or years) and decide whether to renew.

The Steering Committee has reviewed our financial situation - following the purchase of the new club PC. It looks like we are in good enough shape that we will be able to HOLD THE DUES AT $15 !

So, we hope you WILL pop out that checkbook, and write a check for $15 to MLCUG. You can use p.8 for your renewal (or copy & keep your issue intact).

There will be a lot more learning and helping next year, too. We're sure you'll find membership is worth more than $15; so you'll see it's a bargain!

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 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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MLCUG LISTSERV

Since the startup of our club's listserv last year, we've accumulated quite a bit of stuff. And, all of it was archived. Recently, Pete found a utility and used it to organize the info.

So we now have a web-accessible, sorted, indexed archive of the mailing list. Please check it out and send any feedback my way. The archive has no pointers to it; so it can only be reached by accessing its URL directly. That should help minimize non-members accessing any info there. Your club dues still hard at work [Pete Whinnery, webmaster]

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LAST MONTH'S MEETING

The August meeting was attended by 16 members (no guests this time round). I think that it was a very rewarding meeting, with more to come (this IS a commercial as folks were reminded that the new dues year is coming upon us)!

Speaking of the newsletter, a couple of you noted that it has a different look compared to previous issues. I responded that that was a future topic.

BUT, we did not get to that future topic; so I'll just say to "take a look on p.7 of the issue".. The secret of the difference is there - with a bit more amplification in that future. Oh yes, and I have to apologize for the error in the header on pages 2-7 (got the issue # right but slipped on updating the month, it's fixed for next time). That's what happens when you do your own proofing!

Now, back to the meeting - we spent about an hour and a quarter on a round table of announcements, questions and problems (three of them involved a color cast with digital camera images after they had been downloaded to the computer; selection of one of the myriad of very small USB/flash memory-based portable "drives"; and difficulties with a new V.92 modem). For those members who do not make the meetings, this is one of our most useful activities; but, far and away, the most difficult to report on. Maybe, after all these years, we could use a 'recording secretary". Two other clubs I belong to actually tape the Q&A discussions and try to capture and report on both the Q and the A (one has a diligent recording secretary!).

Our email list is a very useful adjunct to this activity - tho not a substitute. In that line, webmaster Pete Whinnery announced that we now have a searchable, on-line archive of all the messages that have flown back and forth since its inception (783 messages, Pete said)! It proved immediately useful, as we were able to jump to a message of a couple of months ago that related to a question that came up during the discussion period. Very timely, very useful and we thank Pete for his continued dedication and diligence in helping the membership. Or, as Pete told us, "your dues at work!".

After the discussion, we turned to the main program item for the month - installation of the Windows XP operating system in the new club computer.

You'll recall that in July, we partitioned the two hard drives (with Partition Magic 8) to provide spaces for four (4) operating systems, data, applications and backup - a total of nine (9) partitions, leaving around 10 GB of available, unallocated space on the 80 GB primary hard drive.

Between the meetings, Emil installed Windows 98 SE and Windows Millennium Edition in the two partitions we had made for them. He also installed Boot Magic to provide the ability to switch back and forth amongst them - and the OSes to come. He did a quick show of this - and we used the Win Me OS for some of the items mentioned above. As part of the activity, Emil had made images of the newly installed 98 and Me systems - and burned them to a DVD-R disc (which will also eventually have the other two OS images on it).

In the process of putting in drivers and such for the first two OSes, a new feature of the motherboard came alive - namely; a very small lady resides in the motherboard (presumably living off electrons!) and announces progress for the boot up happenings - or mis-happenings!! Helpful for all the stuff going on (on will go on for a while), but it will get old quickly. In fact, an almost immediate reaction from an attendee or two was "how do you turn it off?"!

We inserted the Windows XP Home Edition CD in the drive and restarted the computer. It came up, asked a couple of questions, did some scanning; then asked us which partition we wanted to use. It gave us a choice of any of the partitions on the 80 GB hard drive. So, we said use the 5 GB space that we had prepared for XP; and the installation proceeded. The process took less than 30 minutes and required very little action on our part. We had to enter the 25-digit Product key, and our time zone (and DST) and provide a name for the computer. That was about it. The install finished with no error messages of any kind, then she restarted, finished the install and restarted a final time to bring us into the "new look" of Windows XP. As we had noted earlier, this was a new experience for the attendees. None had actually done, or seen, an XP "clean" install. And, only one (Tom Johnson) had done an XP install into a Windows Me system (to give a dual booter). One thing Microsoft can take credit for is an improved install. One thing Microsoft did not need to do was change the whole look and feel of the OS, just for the sake of changing the look and feel. It leaves even an experienced Windows user with a somewhat helpless feeling.

And, since I started conducting a computer help session at our local senior center, I find that folks getting, or upgrading to, XP are incredibly confused by its "helpful" operations.....

At that point, noon was on top of us; so we deferred completion of the install to next time. But before we totally folded our tent, we did one more thing - restored Boot Magic to operation.

Each time you install a new OS, that process overwrites the stuff in the boot sector that turns Boot Magic on. So, we restarted from the Boot Magic "rescue" disk. It spotted all three OSes now installed on the computer and we reset it; so we can select any of them for future powerup or restarts.

There is still quite a bit to observe; so we hope that folks who could not make it this time will be able to in September (when most vacations are over?)!

See you all then?

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MORE SECURE LIVING?

Over the last few weeks, as part of my weekly stint at the West Chester Senior Center, I've been putting together some guidelines (plagarized from all kinds of sources, including the MLCUG gurus) for more secure living with your computer. Below is a distillation:

Please look them over and bring up any questions you may have. We'll be implementing most of them on the new club PC, in the form of meeting demos.

Just remember that the Windows OSes, Internet Explorer, Outlook Express and the Windows Address Book are prime targets for attack by the makers of viruses, worms and Trojan Horses! So, if you use them, exercise care!! (And, obviously, most of you are using Windows !!!).

First: practice "Safe Attachments" - the main malware payload carrier. Before opening ANY attachment sent to you, answer these questions:


   1) Do I know who the attachment is from?
   2) Do I know what the attachment is?
   3) Do I know what the attachment does?
   4) Did the sender CREATE the attachment?

ONLY, if you can answer "Yes" to ALL four questions, can you be assured that you may open the email attachment with impunity.

BUT, remember, if an attachment is part of a forwarded email message, the answer to 4 is "NO"!

Second: use a well supported anti-virus program that is regularly and automatically updated. Also, one that allows for email virus scanning.
Example: Norton Anti-virus 2002

Third: use a good 2-way firewall. Convential wisdom specifies this for folks with broadband net connections, but it is a very good idea for anyone who uses the net, even with dialup!
Example: Zone Alarm

Fourth: use spyware detection and removal software. This may be more of a privacy than a safety issue, but that does not make it less desirable.
Example: Ad-Aware

Fifth: use popup/popunder protection software. This may be more of an annoyance factor, but it can be indicative of trouble coming for you.
Example: PopUp Stopper Free Edition

Sixth: if you do have a BROADBAND internet connection, a hardware firewall is a superb protector. This is desirable to use even if you do NOT have a network in your home or home office!!

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SPYWARE/ADWARE?

All, I'm running Ad-Aware, PestPatrol, and SpyBot. All 3 seem to find something different, though some of their findings are common. I run the free versions of Ad-Aware and SpyBot, and have bought the commercial version of PestPatrol, which actively deletes spyware, as I browse different websites, including my bank site. I thought it important to point out that all 3 seem to be needed to identify ALL potential spyware. So, I suspect that some "spyware" eludes all 3 programs.

PestPatrol seems to be the most frequently updated, but did not fare well in PC Magazine's reviews. PC Magazine thought SpyBot to be the best value spyware detector. SpyBot does have a so-called "immunize" function which has detected "spyware" in real-time several times.

I've installed both SpyBot and Ad-Aware on my brother's computers. They're FREE. [John Deker]

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WINDOWS XP TWEAKS

Continuing from August, here are a couple more of the tweaks for XP from Fred Langa:

5) Control Your Trash: By default, both the Recycle Bin and Internet Explorer's Cache want to consume ridiculous amounts of your hard drive space. Right click on the Recycle Bin, select Properties, and on the Global tab, decide how much space you want the Recycle Bin to consume, either for all drives, or on a per-drive basis. (It's a percent of the total space. I adjust the slider way to the left, so I'm using "only" a few hundred megs of space for trash.)

Similarly, open Internet Explorer, and select Tools/Internet Options. Under Temporary Internet Files, click the Settings button and select a reasonable size for this cache area. Generally speaking, if you have a fast connection, 5 Mbytes to 10 Mbytes is adequate; 25 Mbytes or so is usually enough with a slower dial-up connection.

6) Rein In System Restore: Like the items in No. 5, above, System Restore is an incredible space hog. It might be worth it, if System Restore were a truly complete and foolproof form of backup, but it's not. At best, System Restore can and will get the core operating system running again after a bad crash, but it doesn't return all files to the pre-trouble state, and it can't remove all traces of a program that went bad. As a result, System Restore's usefulness is limited, and so should be its appetite for disk space.

Right click on My Computer, select Properties, and select the System Restore tab. Select your main drive (usually C:), click Settings, and move the slider to reserve a reasonable amount of disk space. With a good regimen of daily backups, you can even move the slider all the way to the left. (I do.)

If you have more than one drive, you may wish to turn off System Restore entirely for non-system drives. There's little, if any, benefit to be gained by having them monitored. And if you're really religious about making a full backup before you alter your system or install new software, you may wish to completely turn off System Restore for all drives.

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RESTORE OLD PHOTOS?

At the meeting in August, some of you expressed interest in the book that I brought in:

Restoration and Retouching with Photoshop Elements 2

I checked my book club and Amazon. The latter has the book at 30% discount or $17.50. If at least two copies are ordered, then shipping will be free. There may be sales tax ($1.05), but I'm not sure as I haven't ordered from them for quite a while.

So, if any want to get a copy, let me know. I'll handle the ordering, if at least two copies are ordered

As of this writing, I did get 2-3 interested folks; so this is your one, last chance before I place an order. Please let me hear from you. [Emil Volcheck]

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VIRUSES, TROJANS and WORMS

[continued from p.1]

August 18th, the latest variant of the Sobig virus (SobigF) burst on us and shortly became the most rapid spreading virus/worm seen so far. It was more easily contained by users, as it lacked some of the skills that Blaster brought with it.

The following article, extracted from Mercury News on-line (one of a zillion that were published after the 11th) provides an interesting insight on it all. Give it a read and we can mull it over come the meeting:

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Spamming Sleazebags Ruining E-mail

By Dan Gillmor, Technology Columnist

Last week, I called the organizer of an upcoming conference at which I'm scheduled to speak. I needed an answer to a question I'd sent him by e-mail a week earlier.

He told a tale of modern woe. His university's network had suffered a near-meltdown from the SoBig e-mail worm and other attacks that have afflicted so many systems around the world, and his own e-mail inbox was no longer accessible despite the best efforts of his technical support staff.

The SoBig worm was only the latest, if most annoying, pounding on a communications medium we'd come to consider essential. It won't be the last, and it almost certainly won't be the most damaging.

Like so many other people, I'm losing my patience. E-mail may be essential, but it's in danger of becoming more trouble than it's worth. I'm finding ways to work around it.

The responsibility for this debacle is everywhere: malevolent creativity by those who take advantage of lousy software and the Net's open nature, not to mention clueless users, systems administrators and Internet service providers.

Blame the sleazebags first, the spammers and virus writers.

They are utterly without conscience or scruple, and they don't care who they harm.

The spammers Those, who forge return addresses and otherwise cover their fraudulent tracks as they consume other people's resources for their scams, would go away if people would simply stop being suckers. It's simple: Don't ever buy anything based on an e-mail come-on. Unfortunately, there are enough people who do so that even the tiniest response rate keeps the spammers going.

We need laws, and more, to stop them. Yet the biggest legitimate companies on the Net, such as Microsoft and Yahoo, are fighting for permission to spam the world, even as they pretend to care about curing the plague.

Chances of fixing the spam problem anytime soon: next to zero.

More perpetrators The spammers are evil enough. SoBig and its brethren compounded the problem. Like spammers, the writers of worms and viruses have also disguised their tracks, and they threaten much more trouble ahead.

What's scary is the probability that the next variant on this worm won't just clog servers, inboxes and bandwidth, which was more than enough to cause havoc on the Net. Soon, one of these things will start deleting critical files, with more catastrophic consequences.

Chances of stopping worms and viruses anytime soon: just above zero.

But just as spammers rely on idiot users, the worm and virus writers rely on unintentional allies, too.

Among the most culpable, historically speaking, is Microsoft. No doubt, if another computer operating system had a 95 percent market share, that software would be a prime target, too. But the architecture of Windows and Microsoft's applications -- especially the company's e-mail software -- has been all too open to exploitation.

The Windows computing world is a monoculture. In biology, diversity brings protection from threats that can wipe out a monoculture. Diversity in computing would make us safer by definition, yet market power trumps all!

[final part in the October newsletter]

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 the St. Augustine Center, 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

September 13 September 17 ** October 11 October 15 ** November 8 November 19 **

* = first Saturday ** = THIRD Wednesday at Tom Johnson's homee ********************************************************************************* EDITOR: Emil J. Volcheck, Jr. 1046 General Allen Lane West Chester, PA 19382-8030 (Produced on a home-built PC: 233 MHz Pentium, 128 MB RAM, 20 GB hard drive, Epson Stylus Color 740 printer, HP Scanjet 6300C, CD-RW drive, DVD-ROM drive and 250 MB Zip drive, using Appleworks 5.0.3)

MLCUG LISTSERV: for 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/AMIGASIG: 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