Main Line Computer Users Group


July 2004 Issue 266

VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY, ST. AUGUSTINE CENTER, ROOM 110

MEETING STARTS - 09:30 - JULY 10 th


THIS MONTH'S CONTENTS
UPCOMING MEETING:

This month, we'll have a bit of a reversal of our usual agenda. That means that we will start out the meeting with our program presentation, then follow with the regular round table of Q & A.

The motive behind this is our mixup last month - then we had a very long round table discussion and left time for only the introduction to the external hard drive program. We did NOT actually get to see the action, so to speak.

So, our presenter, John Murphy, will pick up where he left off. He will entertain any questions about the material covered last month (Note: see p.3 & 6 for a summary of some of that discussion). But, this time, he'll get it all

He has assembled a "kit" of parts - many of them still in their blister packs or shrink wraps - that are needed for assembling an external hard drive.

John will put together a dual buss (USB and Firewire) external unit with a 160 GB Maxtor hard drive. Then, he will demonstrate just how the system operates (format, file transfer, etc.).

If you have any timidity about the task - come see how easy it all really is! See you there?


Live disc makes Linux operating system portable

Want to take the upstart operating system, Linux, for a test drive without risk to your PC? Mandrake, Knoppix, SUSE and Lindows all offer "live" distribution CDs for purchase and, in some cases, for free download. The live part means that the disc contains everything you need: the Linux operating system, system drivers for common hardware, basic utility, [cont'd on p.5]

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ANNOUNCEMENTS & COMMENTS
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PARTING NOTE - a couple of weeks ago, I learned that long-time member, Mike Bryne, is moving to the Harrisburg area to be nearer his job. For those who have not been at meetings, Mike is the Director of the Pennsylvania Securities Commission and has been in the headlines many times (unfortunately) in recent years because of all the chicanery in the investment business! Mike joined us way back near the beginning and hosted quite a number of the Steering Committee meetings where we deliberated the future of the club. Our best wishes to Mike - good luck with the bad guys!

OUR WEBSITE - just a reminder that thru the good offices of Mr. Rich Goldberg, operator of the Bee.net local ISP, the club has been provided with a new website host and a new (we hope, easy-to-remember) domain name - mlcug.org! So, now we can be found on the web at: http://mlcug.org

Remember to check it out regularly. Last minute meeting items may be posted there, in addition to coming to you via the MLCUG listserv.

Oh yes, our faithful webmaster, Pete Whinnery, will be most appreciative of ideas to improve the useability and value of this website; so don't hesitate to suggest (he says he's still learning!).

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 (recently we hit 800+ KBps, now that's really moving - tho past performance is no guarantee of the future!). So, if you have a very large download, you can bring along a zip disk (or a CD-R/RW) and get it done there, 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!


LAST MONTH'S MEETING

Well, we had 19 folks in attendance this June !!! Good, considering the vacation period is on us (the absence of students and CARS was quite evident!!). In the absence of our dependable setter-upper, Marty Caulfield, we struggled thru getting ready (by showing up early and working hard at it)!

We started off with questions/problems and announcements from the folks, as we went around the table. This presented quite a number of interesting items, some you'll see on the listserv, some in the newsletter. It's better live....

Here an apology is owed our presenter, John Murphy, as the discussion went for two hours!! And, it passed so quickly that yours truly did not realize that we had really cut down on the time available for the presentation! As a result, we'll have a little carryover to the next meeting.

A few of the many discussion items that I'd like to mention here are:

1. a question, from Tom Johnson, on a CD-RW drive giving signs that its useful life had come to a close. He wondered about what to replace it with and was advised to get either a CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive or a dual format DVD burner (which can handle most everything, see p.5). It was suggested he just keep on the watch for a good sale. When I got home, I looked thru the CompUSA flyer for their weekly sale stuff starting the next day. Lo and behold - they were offering an 8X dual format, dual layer DVD burner for $80 after rebates!! This is a fantastic price (maybe I ought to buy one!). BTW, the dual layer means it will write 8.5 GB discs.

2. John Deker mentioned that you have to upgrade Spybot S&D to the latest version or you will keep getting the message that no info updates are there. If you are using Spybot, we suggest doing that ASAP and checking for updates. So, we downloaded the upgrade and will do it next time.

However, I just did the upgrade on my own machine, then had it check for a definitions update - there was one. So, I got it, then had Spybot check my system. Note: it looks like Spybot has a set of info that it works from and progress on that set shows down in the lower left corner of the display. The previous version's latest definition set had 12,851 items. The newest set has 14,284 (an increase of 11%; so it seems spyware is a growth business, too - as if you didn't know!!!)!

3. a question came up about viruses et al being launched when you use Outlook Express to view your email. As a reminder, it is good practice to set OE up so that the preview pane layout is not used. If you have the preview pane showing your email, the appearance of a message there is enough to launch modern viruses. You can remove this setup by opening OE, click the "View" menu item, click "Layout", be sure the "Use preview pane" box is NOT checked.

4. that question brought up a suggestion from John Murphy that folks may want to use a small, neat application, called "PopCorn" that is a mini-email client, which goes to your email account and downloads only the HEADERS of your messages. You can then review the subject lines, etc. and delete the spam and questionable messages. These will be deleted from your email account and not be there any more when you access the account with your normal email client. You can get it at www.ultrafunk.com - there is a freeware version, that lets you use only one email account. The payware version will handle an unlimited number of accounts. Both versions will also let you send messages. John, who travels all over the place including outside the US, takes PopCorn with him on a CD and uses it to manage his accounts whereever he is. PopCorn does NOT INSTALL on your computer, it runs in memory and saves only a bit of initiation stuff. He downloaded, ran it and showed us how it works. Very neat!!

5. speaking of downloading, we needed to download another program that was about 8-9 MB in size. To get a feel for just how fast our VU connection (and the internet) can be, this one averaged 744 KBps (that's about 250 times faster than my home dialup connection - and almost twice as fast as the fastest my cable modem service can do (which is a bit under 400 KBps, still VERY fast)!

6. helpful books - I passed around a copy of a recent book called: "The Seniors Guide to PC Basics", published in 2003. It is quite useful to non-seniors, too . Altho the specific copy (loaned by Marty Caulfield) had been distributed by Gateway Computers, it is available in a regular edition from Amazon.com. If you think you might be interested, remind me to bring it next time for you to look over.

7. as a REMINDER - if you have questions about what happens at our meetings, or between our meetings, this listserv is the place to post them. You'll get a response!!


External Hard Drives

As I said earlier, after going thru these items and quite a few more, I unceremoniously turned things over to John Murphy, who introduced us to the subject of external hard drives. He reviewed the various types of hard drives out there (ATA/IDE, SATA and SCSI), then reviewed the many variants of these three basic types - with emphasis on how fast they are able to transfer data. Those speeds range from about 16 (original ATA) to 320 (ultra SCSI) megabytes per second!

Then, he reviewed the various buss connections that one can use to connect external hard drives to your computer - with emphasis on USB and Firewire. He gave us the benefit of some real-world data transfer rates, rather than the theoretical speeds that are usually gushingly quoted in the media. For the purpose at hand, he concentrated on USB 2.0 and Firewire, which give around 20-30 and nearly 40 megabytes per second (with the USB, for reasons he discussed doing much poorer than theoretical). You do not really want to buy an external drive that is not at least USB 2.0 (he prefers Firewire!).

He showed us one of the units he had assembled - from a 5.25" form factor case, which can accomodate either a 5.25" CD drive or a 3.5" hard drive (or a 2.5" laptop type hard drive, if you get the extra adapter that is needed for that size drive). Because of time constraints, his original plan to put one together from scratch was abandoned and he just showed us the final dish (like the cooking shows that do a slow oven pot roast in 5 minutes!).

The case he showed contained a 250 GB Western Digital hard drive and had both USB 2.0 and Firewire 400 interfaces. Such a combo will cost you around $50 for the case and whatever you can pick up a large hard drive on sale for... But, the order of $150 for this DIY system.

One factor to consider in picking the hard drive is what operating system you are using. He noted that for Windows 9x/Me, you'll be limited to a max of 127 GB; so a good 120 GB hard drive would be about ideal. If you are running Windows 2000 or XP, you can go to the largest on the market. That means - if you have a deep pocket - you can go to 500 GB (maybe, if you have not won the lottery, you'll settle for 250)!

As an aside, I brought in a couple of smaller form factor cases that will hold 3.5" drives but not optical drives. They are much smaller and are available with the same types of interfaces. One of mine uses a PCMCIA card interface that John had not mentioned, but might be an option, if you've a laptop that typically has this interface.

A look at their operation NEXT TIME, see you?

Oh, yes, John's info will be in the next newsletter (or available in a pdf file on the clubs download site, I expect). [Emil Volcheck]


Live Linux Discs

[continued from p.1] productivity and entertainment software, and a configuration wizard. You can be up and running with MandrakeMove, a free download from www.mandrake-soft.com in about 30 minutes.

Linux usually wants to create its own disk partition (an area of your hard drive marked off as if it were a separate drive) for installation. It also installs a boot loader - a small piece of software that allows you to pick from among two or more operating systems loaded to your hard drive.

A live disc, on the other hand, leaves little or no footprint behind. It is the equivalent of the floppies used to start PCs back before hard drives were common. It's safe, secure, and because it's a CD, you can't screw up anything. if you change a setting and something breaks, you simply reboot.

Live discs also allow you to carry your desktop anywhere. SLAX (formerly Slackware Linux) and Knoppix, among others, give you full access to the drives in a machine, or to external drives like USB keychain drives. With one CD and one keychain drive, you're mobile. By TOM GROMAK, Detroit News


The Big Image Problem!

Question: "I have Windows 98. I often scan images into my computer. Recently, I e-mailed a picture to a local newspaper, and I received a request to resend it in the JPEG format. What does this mean, and how is it done?

I posed this question to my Thursday group and asked how many could answer it. Less than 1/3 of those attendees indicated that they could. Think it over. Can you?

If you can't provide a quick answer, then ask about it at the next meeting. [Emil Volcheck]


Virus Designed to Steal Windows Users' Data

[The following tidbit is one of several notes relating to recent serious concerns about ever newer ways to penetrate Internet Explorer; ejv]

This has been on many Internet news sites. The blurb below is from Slashdot and references a Washington Post article. Looks pretty serious.

"According to this article: (http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=74&e=3&u=/cmp/20040702/tc_cmp/22103407)"

CERT recommends that Explorer users consider other browsers that are not affected by the attack, such as Mozilla, Mozilla Firefox, Netscape and Opera." Quite a statement from CERT - this is related to a fairly recent IIS or IE exploit that has already affected some high traffic web sites, such as the Kelley Blue Book website." [Peter Whinnery]


DVD Rewritable Drives

The latest breed of "burners" has an enormous suite of optical disc formats that it can recognize and read and/or write to.

Here's an optical disc format list, taken from the package of such a drive (a new 8X "dual layer"):

  1. Readable formats for DVD:
    DVD+R DL, DVD+R, DVD-R, DVD+RW, DVD-RW, DVD-ROM, DVD-Video Readable formats for CD: CD-ROM, CD-DA, CD-Text, CD-ROM XA, CD-I, CD-I Bridge (Photo-CD, Video-CD), Multi-session CD (Photo-CD, CD-Extra, CD-R, CD-RW, Portfolio), CD-RW

  2. Writable formats for DVD:
    DVD+R DL, DVD+R, DVD-R, DVD+RW, DVD-RW, DVD-Video and DVD-RAM Writable formats for CD: CD-DA, CD-Text, CD-I, CD-I Bridge (Photo-CD, Video-CD), Multi-session CD (Photo-CD, CD-Extra, CD-R, CD-RW, Portfolio) and CD-RW
Hopefully, I interpreted the box more or less correctly. In any case, you get the idea. It is diverse, complicated and makes the idea of "archiving" your information a VERY chancy operation, at best. Thoughts? [Emil Volcheck]


Disabling Windows Messenger Service

Pop up spammers are exploiting a feature of the Microsoft Windows operating systems known as Messenger Service. Despite the name, Windows Messenger Service does NOT have anything to do with instant messaging. It is designed to provide users on a local- or wide-area computer network with messages from the network administrator. For example, a company's network administrator might send a message to all its users that the company's network will be shutting down in five minutes. If your home computer is connected only to the Internet, you may not have any practical uses for Windows Messenger Service. If your computer is on a business or home network, however, shutting off Messenger Service might not be the best approach. Your network should be protected by a firewall.

Disabling the messenger service will prevent the possibility of pop up spam. To disable the messenger service (in Windows XP):

    * Click Start
	then click Control Panel 
	(or point to Settings, 
	and then click Control Panel).

    * Double-click Administrative Tools. 
	Double-click Services. 
	Double-click Messenger. 
	In the Startup type list, click Disabled. 
	Click Stop, 
	and then click OK.

MALWARE DEFINITION

Virus - a program or code that replicates; that is, infects another program, boot sector, partition sector, or document that supports macros, by inserting itself or attaching itself to that medium. Most viruses only replicate, though, many do a large amount of damage as well.