Main Line Computer Users Group


August 2004 Issue 267

VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY, ST. AUGUSTINE CENTER, ROOM 110

MEETING STARTS - 09:30 - AUGUST 14 th


THIS MONTH'S CONTENTS
UPCOMING MEETING:

While we switched things around a bit last time to make sure that our presenter got all the time that he needed, this month we'll start with the announcements then the Q & A time...

Unfortunately, I felt the need to devote a fair amount of meeting time and newsletter space to the subjects of security and privacy. And, we're not done yet, as this month's (and next's?) show.

With all the security holes that have been found and mostly patched in Windows XP (primarily) and Internet Explorer, many normally straight Microsofties have been suggesting that alternates to IE should be considered, even by businesses!

So, to aid that possible process on the part of our members, we will devote some demo time to one of the better alternate web tools - the internet package called: MOZILLA.

Like Netscape Communicator - it's progenitor - Mozilla is a multi-use application. It combines the functions of browser, email client, newsgroup reader and web page editor.

This time, we'll focus on the browser function, aiming to get interested folks off and running!!


Microsoft's XP SP2 Arrives

Service Pack 2 for Windows XP will NOT BE an unalloyed blessing. We can discuss it on 8/14.

"Early this afternoon (8/6), Microsoft announced the release to manufacturing of Service Pack 2 with Advanced Security Technologies, the company's long-awaited security [continued on p.5]

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ANNOUNCEMENTS & COMMENTS
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WINDOWS XP SERVICE PACK 2 - not to beat a dead horse, but we suggest that you do not plunge into this upgrade at least until we have had a chance to discuss it in our August meeting!

This is a very BIG step and every user of the XP should proceed with knowledge and caution!!

ANOTHER YEAR GONE BY? - yes, as Marty Caulfield reminded us a few meetings back, we entered our 23rd year of operation last April. But, the real change takes place when renewal time rolls around. For us, that time has become September - since we offer folks who join after that month, or any of the remaining months of the year, a membership term that includes all those months plus the next calendar year for the low, low price of $15 (which has not changed for many years). The Steering Committee has not decided on the new dues for 2005; but, as Treasurer Stew Stewart has noted regularly, our finances are in good shape; so we'll likely not feel any pressure to up them (tho, I must admit, the steering members have not had a big bash for a long time )!!

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!

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LAST MONTH'S MEETING

Well, after all the stragglers arrived, we had some 16 attendees - not bad for a summer meeting. Guess the program was a good drawing card! And, they were right - the program, continued from last month by John Murphy, came off without a hitch.

As we announced, to be sure we got the demo in this time, we had only a couple of quick announcements, then turned things over to John. Further on, I've attempted to summarize the key points of the demo.

I'd like to highlight some points from the discussion that followed the hard drive demo:

Computer glasses - came up, as several folks are using some form of special eyeglasses to help with reading the monitor screen. One suggestion was to buy a apir of 1.25X reading glasses from your local drug store. While that might work for some folks, those with significant astigmatism will find it better (necessary?) to have more sophisticated goggles! If you wear bi-focals, or any other "focals", you should seriously consider "computer glasses". The key parameter is how you (have to) tilt your head to read the screen. if you have to tilt it backwards, then computer glasses are for you. Remember, the ideal head position is looking slightly downwards, even level; but never upwards!

Browser security - some recent security incidents have again involved the Internet Explorer browser and its many, serious security holes. The latest have been so serious that the Federal Agency, CERT, has suggested (for the first time) that individuals, and especially organizations, should consider switching to another browser (like Operas or Mozilla or Firefox) that do not suffer from the problems recently uncovered. If you have not tried another browser, then an excellent candidate if the freeware, Mozilla. We will take a look at the latest version, 1.7.1, next time; so you can get a feel for how it looks and some of its limits. Mozilla is a bundle of apps - exactly like Netscape Communicator (it includes an email client and a webpage composer, among other things). If you'd prefer something less comprehensive, and massive, (along the lines of Internet Explorer), then its browser-only cousin, Firefox, may be your cup of tea. Oh yes, in case you had NOT noticed, I've generally been running Mozilla in recent meetings when there was need to access the net (but you DID notice, right???).

By the way, you can look over the CERT message, which I'll bring along to the next meeting. This is the first time that such a warning has ever been given!!

I reckon that's it, for this time round. Now, move onto the review of John's superb demo!

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BUILDING YOUR OWN EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE

Having given us the intro last month (that article can be downloaded from our ftp site at: http://astro4.ast.vill.edu/mlcug/downloads/), John started this time with show-and-tell. He let us all have a good look at the empty external hard drive case (a Model ME-320 Series from BYTECC), which John said could be got locally. It is a 5.25" mod case; so it can hold either a standard 3.5" hard drive, or a CD or DVD optical drive (Note: cases are available in smaller sizes that will take only the small 2.5" laptop-type hard drive, or just a 3.5" regular hard drive). It has both USB 2.0 and Firewire 400 interfaces, as well as a built-in power supply (no black box to plug into the wall, just a regular AC power cord). It includes all the needed cables, too.

Then, we got a look at the Maxtor 160 GB, 7200 rpm, hard drive, which he had picked up on sale (that is the best way to get them these days, as one of the high capacity hard drives - 120 GB and up - seems to be on sale somewhere locally every week. Just watch for the sales and grab the one you want). Nothing special about the drive, except the capacity, as all hard drives are built to the same external specifications, especially where the screw holes are! The hard drive comes with screws, cabling (which is not needed for the external use) and utility software (which is not needed if you are using XP as we have on the club PC).

It was only the work of a few minutes for John to hook the hard drive to the IDE and power connectors inside the drive case (with the jumper on the hard drive set to "master" per instructions). He screwed it in place and closed up the case and we were ready for the acid test! Would it work???

So, he attached the USB 2.0 cable and plugged that into the club PC, plugged the power cord into the power center and FLIPPED THE SWITCH! In a few seconds, Windows XP reported that a new USB device had been detected and successfully "installed"! So, we knew immediately that she worked and likely was functional. John could then move to readying the drive for use.

Since we were running XP, he opened the "Administrative Tools" control panel and selected "Computer Management", then the "Disk Management" option. In a few seconds, a listing of all the drives attached to the computer appeared - the main hard drive, the optical drives AND a new USB drive. The latter, the subject of our demo, showed as a 152.66 GB device (a question came up at this point - "where did the other 7 GB go", since it is supposed to be a 160 GB drive - for the answer to that question, see the note below).

Next, he used the XP disk management utility to partition the drive into a 16 GB NTFS partition (which he called "sysdisk" for use to have an operating system installed), then added a 16 GB FAT32 data partition - primarily for this demo. This left ~130 GB of "free space" available on the drive for future use. Finally, he copied some data to, then from the new drive to prove to us all that it really, truly did work!!

This was a flawless, no-gaff, performance. John is to be congratulated both on his skill and his luck (not being visited by his Murphy cousin!).

When our August meeting rolls around, I'm sure John will be willing to entertain questions and offer any advice related to this month's demo. Here is now an excellent example of a very good backup tool. It can be used to make backups from multiple computers and to be stored away from them for safe-keeping. [Emil Volcheck]

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THE MISSING GIGABYTES!

As noted above, a question came up as to why the new externeal hard drive had only 152.66 GB, instead of the Maxtor-advertised 160GB. Here's the reminder - and the numbers.

The hard drive platters hold 320,173,056 sectors (from the information printed on the case of the Maxtor drive), each of which will hold 512 bytes of info. So, the math goes like this:

Size = 320,173,056 * 512 
     = 163,928,604,672 bytes
So, here's your 160 (actually 163) gigabytes!! but:
divide by 1024 = 160,086,528 Kilobytes
divide by 1024 = 156,334.5 Megabytes
divide by 1024 = 152.67041015625 Gigabytes
(XP rounds DOWN to: 152.66 GB) - tah dah!!
Just remember that the divisor is 1,024 and not 1,000. The math is much quicker when a power of 2 is used (1024 is 210, whereas 1000 is not a power of 2). Use the same process to check all kinds of storage devices. [Emil Volcheck]

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Microsoft's XP SP2 Arrives

[continued from p.1] upgrade to Windows XP. It's been a long, hard slog for Microsoft, and now it's time for customers to feel the pain.

Analysts say that the customers must expect some drama when they install the service pack, which makes changes to the operating system itself.

"This is necessary. But it will be a little bit surprising if there isn't at least a minor backlash from consumers," said Stephen O'Grady, an analyst with RedMonk.

Peter O'Kelly, a Burton Group analyst, said, "Unlike other similar updates, this will break applications. Microsoft knows that and warned people, and there's nothing they can do about it. Some applications were built with the expectation that it's okay to drive around the Internet with your windows down."

The free security-centric service pack rolls the plethora of recent security patches into a bundle, establishes strong default security settings and adds new protection features to help safeguard computers from hackers, viruses and other security risks. "Service Pack 2 is a significant step in delivering on our goal to help customers make their PCs better isolated and more resilient in the face of increasingly sophisticated attacks," Bill Gates, chairman and chief software architect at Microsoft, said in a statement.

But Microsoft has warned ISVs and enterprise customers for months that some applications will break. It released technical previews so that customers and partners could test their own code against it, yet just this week, it warned that the service pack will break its own CRM 1.2 product.

It will take some education, O'Kelly said, before people understand that some of the software they have just won't work any more. More important, they need to understand that it's an acceptable trade-off.

Redmond will take a multi-channel approach to disseminating the code, including promoting it as a download and offering it on free CDs. Customers who have turned on the Automatic Update feature in the operating system will be prompted that it's available.

Approximately 100 million customers will receive the Automatic Update notification. Exactly when they get the prompt will depend on the customer's Internet usage, location, language and the level of Internet demand for Service Pack 2, because Automatic Updates uses spare Internet capacity to progressively download updates without interfering with daily PC use.

During the rollout, Microsoft will provide the update in 25 languages.

Microsoft warned businesses that they should be evaluating Service Pack 2 now and deploy it on their most critical systems as soon as it is practical.

"This will be a very difficult upgrade for many people," O'Grady said, "but you have to give Microsoft credit here. They're biting the bullet and doing what is right, whether customers recognize it or not."

Service Pack 2 establishes stronger default security settings and tools designed to help users manage their security settings via the Windows Security Center. The service pack includes drivers and updates supporting Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Redmond collaborated with ISVs and partners, including Symantec, AMD and Intel. It's rushing the code to PC makers in hopes of shipping it pre-loaded on machines beginning in September and October.

Although Microsoft refused to announce a ship date, the XP SP2 release has been rumored for months. Earlier today, news outlets reported that the service pack would be delayed anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

"It's become a spectator sport," O'Kelly said. "I think they had a go/no-go decision to make. They tested the waters, and said, 'Go.'"

The release is wise, O'Kelly said. "People are basing big decisions on this. There are probably a lot of companies who have frozen decisions on whether to go with Windows, because they're so nervous about security."

The effort to fix security problems in Windows has cost Microsoft plenty, he added. Redmond pulled developers off work on Longhorn, the next generation of the Windows operating system, to focus on SP 2.

"The stakes for Microsoft were huge," O'Kelly said. "These are not choices they're making lightly. [Susan Kuchinskas, 8/6/04]

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Those Unused Desktop Icons

Do you get annoyed when Windows XP offers to stash away the desktop icons that you've not used for some time (the default is 60 days)?

If you'd prefer to control your desktop, here's how to tell XP to quit.

	right-click on the desktop
	click "Properties"
	click the "Desktop" tab
	click "Customize Desktop" button
	uncheck the box "Run desktop cleanup wizard every 60 days"
	click OK
	click Apply
	click OK 
That's taken care of - see the next item.....

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HELP WANTED! - your faithful Steering Committee (see p.7) is always looking for suggestions for meeting topics. How about letting us have your thoughts, interests and suggestions? And, if you know someone who might make a good presentation - or if you'd like to do one yourself - be sure to get the word on that to the Committee, too!