Main Line Computer Users Group


January 2005 Issue 272

MEETING STARTS - 09:30 - JANUARY 8 th
THIS MONTH'S CONTENTS
UPCOMING MEETING:

And so, 2004 has moved off the scene and 2005 has arrived! With it, we embark on another year of help and support for the folks in MLCUG!!

We expect to start that year off with a rather special demonstration - sound and music.....

The meeting will begin with announcements, then move right into the program demo - so we have ample time allowed for the whole production. If there is time left after the demo, we can go for some Q&A round the table.

John Murphy, who did such a great job on the external hard drive demo and yeoman service on producing the Knoppix and MLCUG CDs will be showing us the way to music on our own!

Step-by-step, he'll show what items you'll need (like cables, software, etc.) to capture sound from various audio source. Then, he'll set up the AUDACITY software (it is on the MLCUG OpenCD) for capturing/editing, Then comes the actual capture of sound from tape, saving, converting and burning to a CD. Finally, the acid test - playing the newly created CD to show the results that YOU can expect when you try this on your own system!! See you at VU???


Thirteen (13) Years of Computing

This is a very thoughtful view of recent computing history (but, see my editorializing at the end)!

Thirteen years ago, this column was launched with the opening sentence: "Personal computers are just too hard to use, and it's not your fault." Since then, I have periodically stepped [cont.]

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ANNOUNCEMENTS & COMMENTS
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HAPPY NEW YEAR 2005! - the new year has indeed arrived upon us, but happily?. Times are very unsettled; and we have been visited by major disasters around the planet! Closer to home, as the article by Walt Mossberg (on p.1 and 5) indicates, the state of computing for the home and small business users has deteriorated in the last couple of years.

The activities of unscrupulous "hackers", as well as more than over zealous marketers (to use a kind phrase) has caused enormous amounts of computing resources all over the planet to be devoted solely to keeping these people under some semblance of control. And, many of us are losing that battle!! Those resources are making exactly zero progress at an uncalculable cost.

We will try to do our bit to make YOUR computing experience a bit more useful, interesting and, hopefully, more pleasant. But, we can not do it alone - every member should make a new year's resolution to help others in so far as they are able AND to make the effort to learn more; so you can do more...

We hope to see all our renewed members at the January meeting, which should be both educational and very useful to many of our members. I'll see you then ??? Emil...

OUR WEBSITE - just a reminder that our faithful webmaster, Pete Whinnery, will be most appreciative of ideas to improve the usability 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

If you were not one of the 22 folks who came to our December meeting, you missed a great time!

As far as I could tell (or get feedback on), every-body had a good time, enjoyed the vittles and, hopefully, learned something. Oh yes, and seven (7) of them were winners of the annual raffle that had eight (8) prizes (yes, one person won twice!) - including some very good items (a spindle of 50 CD-R disks, a 512 MB Sandisk USB flash drive and a pristine copy of Office 2003 Pro)!

Even if an attendee did not win a raffle prize, everybody got a copy of our first CD comp-ilation of useful stuff. That was the "MLCUG - Enhanced OpenCD V2.0M" (see further info elsewhere in this issue). For this our special thanks go to John Murphy, who assembled the software, produced the iso disc image, burned and labelled two dozen (24) copies of the CD (with the dogwork being done the night before!). For better than a week, emails and files flew around between John and chief helper, Pete Whinnery. We think you'll enjoy, and hopefully use, this disc. As I said at the meeting, we very much solicit feedback on the CD - what might you want added, maybe subtracted, maybe altered - just let us hear from you. I'd say that John and Pete gave us a Christmas treat!!!

Starting right on the dot, we covered some announcements and had a round table discussion of recent info, questions (mostly with answers), problems (and a few solutions - with expectations that all will get resolved off-line). A bit after 11 AM, we broke for vittles, of which we had a good supply: John Murphy had available (right from 9:30 on) coffee and other hot beverages; John Deker provided a variety of sodas; Emil Volcheck brought a generous deli sandwich tray; Jack Ryan brought Dunkin' Donuts, Ted Korlishin had some rich and tasty layer cakes and there were cookies and some other vital items. I know I have not given credit to all who contributed to the cause; so if I missed someone, please let me know; so the next newsletter can properly credit all who helped make this a fine time.

Then, around 12:15 PM, we had our raffle, that turned out to be the piece de resistance; and folks rapidly decamped with their winnings (or just decamped )!

As the round table turned, we picked up some items for future programs - example: the software and procedure for putting together a CD like the one John did. Any of you (myself included) who have a desire and/or need for that skill will appreciate a tutorial I'm sure. So, watch for it next year. And, Pete told us about "DSL Linux" - no that is not Linux running out of your broadband internet connection, but an amazing version of the Linux OS that can run out of your USB flash drive, or on one of those mini-CDs that fit in your shirt pocket (or purse?)! You, of course, guessed that this DSL translates to "D--- Small Linux", right? And, a few others.

Speaking of next year, we all hope that YOU ALL have renewed your membership. Also, keep your eyes peeled for folks who would be interested in joining the club. I understand from our treasurer, Stew Stewart, that we have four new members going into the New Year - a fine start! Hopefully, we can have a mutually beneficial time and help to keep the club alive for a while yet!!!

As a final word, if I missed a significant item from this account, please let me have the missing info. From my end of the room, I'm sure I must have missed something useful or interesting... [Emil Volcheck]

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UPCOMING PROGRAMS

To provide a preview of upcoming meeting programs, your Steering Committee continues to keep a bit ahead. Here's what it looks like for:

February - reviving an old photo (Fireng) March - a LINUX install on the club's PC April - making and using the MLCUG Open CD

Your input is always sought; so let us hear from you this meeting. [Emil Volcheck]

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A Bit of Relief From Computers!

[Courtesy of Joe Pizzirusso]

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The MLCUG Enhanced OpenCD V2.0M

At the December 2004 meeting, as mentioned in the meeting report, we gave every attendee a copy of the first "MLCUG OpenCD". John Murphy, who mastered it and produced the pile of copies to distribute, named it "enhanced" because it is built on the open source disc available on the net, the "OpenCD". It was dubbed V2.0 because it did go thru a version 1.0; but, only the day before the meeting, a new version of the OpenCD came out and John got it into the master by working overtime that night!!!

If you missed the meeting, then, of course, you missed the CD. But, there is good news! If you renew your membership for 2005, you will receive a copy, too. You'll just have to make arrangemnts to get it.

So, if you can't make the January meeting, call (610-388-1581), or email (emilv@ccil.org), Emil; so we will know that you need your copy; and we can work out getting that copy to you. [Emil Volcheck]

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SP 2's Installation CD

And, speaking of CDs, if you do not have one, you may want a copy of the installation CD for Windows XP Service Pack 2.

If you do so, we can crank out any needed copies of either the Microsoft CD or the Emil special (one that he prepared via downloading from the MS website). You can swap a blank CD-R disc for either of them.

Emil's version runs a bit (to a lot) quicker and contains the latest version of our suggested procedure for prepping for the installation.

The MS version contains some extras that I have not investigated; so perhaps you may ultimately want both. To order either, just pop an email to Emil (emilv@ccil.org) or call him at 610-388-1581, to get on the list for a copy.

If you use Windows XP, you should have a copy of the SP2 CD, even if you do not plan to use it rightaway. If you install it at some future date, you'll need your own copy to recover from a future disaster, where you need to re-install your XP OS!

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Thirteen Years of Computing

[cont'd from p.1] back to look at the progress of the technology industry in making computers easier to use.

Obviously, we've come a long way since 1991. Personal computers, software and peripherals are much more stable and far simpler to operate. New products, like digital cameras, PDAs and music players, have come along as welcome additions, often integrating with computers.

But for the vast part of the public whose computers aren't bought and deployed by corporate computer departments, things have gotten much worse lately. For these consumers and small businesses, the burden of using personal computers has grown dramatically heavier in the past couple of years because of the plague of viruses, spyware and other security problems that now afflict the dominant Windows platform.

To cope with this assault from an international criminal class of virus and spyware writers, hackers and sleazy businesses, average users have had to buy and monitor an arsenal of add-on programs. They have been forced to learn far too much about the workings of their PCs. And too many users have had to take drastic steps, like wiping out their hard drives and starting all over.

So instead of being able to view their computers as tools for productivity, research, entertainment and communication, consumers have been forced to devote rising amounts of time and money just to keeping the machines safe. The PC has, in many cases, gone from being a solution to being, at least in part, a problem.

A big reason for this slide backward is the failure of Microsoft to cope adequately with the security crisis. The software giant, which has reaped tens of billions of dollars from its Windows monopoly, first designed the operating system with too little attention to security. Then, it failed to move quickly enough or comprehensively enough to respond to the security problem. As a result, most of the gains in ease of use that the company delivered to users in 2001 with the sleek, stable Windows XP operating system have been reversed.

This year's big move by Microsoft was to release a massive security fix for Windows XP. This patch, called SP2, closed some of the holes in Windows that had been exploited by the criminals. But SP2 didn't include the capability to specifically detect, block or remove viruses, spyware and spam. Its firewall, aimed at barring intruders, is inferior to others on the market. And its built-in "Security Center" does almost nothing to enhance security.

So consumers and small businesses are still on their own, forced to buy programs from security vendors that still insist on designing separate remedies for each type of threat instead of an overall solution that will simply keep outsiders from invading PCs.

To be fair, Microsoft has made some contributions to ease of use in the past couple of years. Its Media Center interface, which allows a computer to be controlled with a remote from across a room, is beautiful and functional. Its new MSN search service can do things Google can't. And its OneNote program for organizing research is terrific. But the company's dominant Internet Explorer Web browser has fallen way behind smaller rivals in features and functionality. Its free Outlook Express e-mail program hasn't had a major upgrade in years. And it won't have an all-new version of Windows until 2006.

Meanwhile, the company's historic rival, Apple Computer, has been making giant strides in ease of use. The Macintosh, with its OS X operating system, is rock solid. It is elegant, and -- when you do a feature-by-feature price comparison with Windows competitors -- it's surprisingly affordable.

The Mac is also packed with extras that Windows lacks. It has a suite of easy, free, multimedia programs that can't be matched on Windows at any price. It has a better free browser and e-mail program than Windows. It can read and create PDF files without requiring the purchase of any extra software.

Apple upgrades its operating system far more often than Microsoft does. The company's new iMac G5 model is the single best desktop computer I have ever reviewed. And Apple is the only computer company whose business is focused on consumers and small businesses.

Best of all, the current Mac operating system has never been attacked by a successful virus, and almost no spyware can run on it. This is largely because the Mac's small market share presents an unattractive target for digital criminals. But it's partly because the Mac operating system is harder to penetrate. I'm sure there will eventually be viruses that afflict Mac users, but nowhere near the 5,000 new Windows viruses that appeared in just the first six months of this year. In terms of ease of use, Apple has opened a greater lead over Microsoft than at any time since the late 1980s, when the Mac was pioneering the graphical user interface and Microsoft users were stuck with crude, early versions of Windows.

Microsoft and the PC hardware companies that use Windows need to do much, much more to solve the security crisis and rescue the gains in ease of use they made in the 1990s. [by Walter S. Mossberg, Dec 2004]

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[Editorial comments: firstly, the bolded items in Walt's article are my own, hopefully highlighting his key points better. Secondly, he has totally ignored the Linux alternative. Linux systems are very stable and secure, like the Mac OS. If you are willing to consider switching to the Mac and buying a whole new system, you should plan on giving Linux a first try - you can use it on your existing hardware for the most part. And, it is free, or very cheap, to run that OS experiment!!!

So, before you run out and buy that Mac, come to our March meeting, where we'll have another round for you to take a look at Linux and some of what it has to offer.

Of course, if you do go buy that Mac, you're very likely not to regret the move!!! Emil Volcheck]

DIRECTIONS FOR ST. AUGUSTINE CENTER MEETING ROOM

Meetings are in the St. Augustine Center at Villanova University. The regular monthly sessions meet in Room 110.

Enter from the ITHAN AVENUE main gate, then proceed to the upper level of 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://mlcug.org/


PC/128/64 Meetings  2005  Steering Committee Meetings

			January 8  			January 26 *
			February 12			February 16 **
			March 12 			March 16 **

	* = FOURTH Wednesday	** = THIRD Wednesday at Tom Johnson's home
*********************************************************************************EDITOR:  Emil J. Volcheck, Jr.   1046 General Allen Lane    West Chester, PA 19382-8030
(Produced on a Powerspec PC: Athlon 2000+, 512 MB RAM, 80 GB hard drive, Brother HL-5170DN laser printer, HP Scanjet 6300C, CD-RW, DVD-RW and 250 MB Zip drives, using Appleworks 5.0.3)

          MLCUG LISTSERV: for members only...
                     WWW: http://www.mlcug.org/
               PUBLICITY: Position OPEN!
       VILLANOVA SPONSOR: Prof. Frank Maloney, Dept. of Astronomy

MLCUG STEERING COMMITTEE:

PRESIDENT: Emil Volcheck    610-388-1581  SECRETARY: Charles Curran 610-446-5239
TREASURER: Dewitt Stewart   610-623-5145  AMIGASIG: John Deker      610-828-7897
WEBMASTER: 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