Main Line Commodore User Group

Newsletter


August 2006 Issue 291

VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY, ST. AUGUSTINE CENTER, ROOM 110

MEETING STARTS - 09:30 - AUG 12 th


UPCOMING MEETING:

Bring your questions & problems for the chance to get it tackled by our dedicated attendees!

The lead item below has some more discussion of the Windows Genuine Advantage program from Microsoft. If you got it installed, either intentionally, or not, it may be possible to remove it, should you so desire. John M will show a tool (on our demo) that can be helpful.

Last time, we did not get to the reserve topic of "portable applications", programs that you can carry with you on a flash drive. Since then I've learned of a totally different portable technology, well developed with not much PR so far. I plan to demo not only the "Portable Apps Suite" approach, but also the new technique, called "U3 Launchpad". How to better use that big, new flash drive of yours!

After a break John M, in the Advanced session, will demo the Linux firmware updates for our Linksys Wireless router, that we canceled at our last advanced session. [EJV]


Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) - II

My front page item last month was devoted to the new approach the Microsoft is taking to reducing piracy of their Windows XP system. Unfortunately, they did not stop at just checking for a valid OS on your computer, but decided to do so behind your back. Not only did they decide to phone home about the validity, but also to phone home every day for further instructions from headquarters. The technique is hard to describe as anything other than spyware! And, because of the approach (under the guise of a critical security update), many folks (including yours truly) got pretty upset about it. My personal approach - recommended to the groups [continued on p.2]

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ANNOUNCEMENTS & COMMENTS
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WELCOME NEW MEMBER: we'd like to welcome our latest new member, Arlene Gostin from Philadelphia. We hope to see her at our future meetings.

NEW VIDEO DISPLAY: last meeting, we had the chance to try out the new overhead video projector that VU has been installing in their meeting rooms. It was a great success. It gives a full wall screen image. The image is bright enough to overcome the lack of room darkening shades that limited our portable projector. A real improvement in meeting conduct!

Why not attend the next meeting and give it a looksee? The program should be interesting and useful as well - and the viewing much better!!

WGA UPDATE - [continued from p.1] that I present to has been to minimize the spyware aspect of WGA. In essence I suggest to folks that they: 1) avoid installing the WGA spyware, as long as it is feasible or 2) preventing the spyware from phoning home as long possible.

The reason for the "feasible" hedges is that I suspect that Microsoft may intend to make the operation of WGA necessary for anyone to keep using their Windows OS. When and if that occurs, it may be necessary to make some much bigger decisions.

However, prior to that happening, I've been suggesting to folks that they make sure that they have set their Windows "Automatic Updates" control panel to the mode of "Notify me but don't automatically download and install them". You can then review the updates as they are announced (usually on the second Tuesday of the month), uncheck the update named "Windows Genuine Advantage Notification" and check the option to not be told about it again, when that is presented to you. This may delay the installation of WGA on your PC - at least until Microsoft decides to not give that option.

However, if WGA is already installed, you have two possibilities: a) remove it or b) contain it; so it can not phone home (without your permission, that is). Removal may be difficult, but our August session will provide some insight to how it may be done.

Otherwise, I suggest that you be sure to have a good 2-way firewall (like Zone Alarm) installed - and instruct it to not let WGA connect to the internet for its phone calls.

A further note, you SHOULD already have a good 2-way firewall working for the prevention of other spyware, Trojan Horses and such! So just give it one more chore to perform. [Emil V]

OUR WEB SITE (hosted by Bee.net) - a reminder that our faithful webmaster, Pete Whinnery, has been updating the web page format and will be most appreciative of feedback on it. Also, he'd like ideas to further improve this web site; so don't hesitate to suggest things you feel will help make it better.....

REGULAR REMINDERS

1) our email listserv 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 more hands-on may do the job. 2) attendees know that we have a very fast internet connection from the VU meeting room (we have hit 800+ KBps, that's really moving - tho past performance is no guarantee of the future!). If you have a BIG download, you can bring along a CD-R/RW and get it quickly done before or after the main meeting.

3) a half dozen or so of the regular attendees usually partake of lunch at the Country Squire Diner in Havertown at Route 3 and 320. So, after the meeting, why not join us? It is a good time to get a little more help (or give it) and just have fun chewing over our common interests.

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LAST MONTH'S MEETING

The July meeting was attended by only a dozen folks. but we had a good meeting in spite of the low turnout. A highlight was our first use of the new video projection system that was installed a bit over a month ago by VU. It worked like a charm, solving a couple of problems for us: 1) it provides the 1024x768 native resolution that we have wanted for at least the last year, 2) has a brighter image; so viewing is easier in the daylight, 3) has a large image so it can be viewed more easily from the "back" of the room and 4) has sound capability; so it replaces both the projector I've been bringing in as well as the speakers that we've had to hook up, too. Very fine improvement that should be beneficial no matter what out meeting programs cover. Hope you all will be able to attend future meetings and get the benefit.

Some news items and quickies included: a) quick showing of the "Foxit PDF Reader", a utility that can replace the usual Adobe Reader for pdf file viewing, printing and annotating. It loads almost in the blink of an eye! You might want to try it: http://www.foxitsoftware.com/. Download the freeware reader, then the single file is ready to use, no fancy installing needed.

b) I passed around the TigerDirect web page that describes the Logitech webcam/mike combo Prof. Maloney described and used in his Skype demo of a couple of months ago. It is on sale for about $35 which seems a pretty good deal (search for the Logitech Quickcam for Notebooks Deluxe).

c) uninstalling Windows Updates - should it ever be necessary, you'll want to uninstall updates in reverse chronological order until you reach the one that needs to be installed. To be sure of the exact order of installation, I showed a little batch file that gives you a text file listing the identity and install order of all the Windows Updates that are on your computer.

d) WGA or Windows Genuine Advantage, Microsoft's new spyware application that comes disguised as a "security update". This maneuver, aimed at finding folks using pirated copies of Windows XP, has been kicking up a bit of a storm. We talked about doing a bit of control on your part to minimize its spyware activity - one of your best tools, if WGA is installed on your computer is a good 2-way firewall. Keep tuned on this one as changes are possible!

On the round-the-table, Marty C brought up the latest news on the final cessation of support by Microsoft for Windows 98/98SE. July 11th is the reported date, per Fred Langa's newsletter; but Microsoft has postponed it before so it could happen again. But, a suggestion has been made to download all the Windows 98 updates from the Microsoft web site and archive on a CD for suture use by anyone still wanting or needing to run 98. We'll look into that proposition.

Ed M had a question about the absence of Microsoft Backup in his copy of Windows XP Home. I noted that MS had chosen not to install it by default, but it is available on the Windows XP Home CD. I sent out a separate email message to remind folks of how to get it, if it is not installed, or needs to be reinstalled.

MAIN MEETING

As a follow up to the WGA arrival on the scene, I decided to promote folks having a good working 2-way firewall to have a tool that can control when and whether WGA can contact the mother ship and report back on you. A very good, convenient and free tool for that is the Zone Alarm freeware firewall; so I had made it the topic for the first part of the program.

Since quite a few folks are using it - and time was not all that plentiful at the meeting - I opted not to go thru installing it, but concentrated, instead, on reviewing how it can be set up and managed once it is installed and running.

To help go thru this, I showed each of the ten (10) set up screens in the Zone Alarm "Control Center". You can access it by right-clicking the little icon in the tray and clicking the "Restore Zone Alarm Control Center" item.

On the left of the resultant window is a list of six (6) topics, clicking each presents a new window with one or more tabs at the top. Clicking each tab displays a new options window that provides information or settings.

I then showed each of these screens with settings where possible as I have used them for the computers that are running the latest version of Zone Alarm. If you are not using the latest version, then the screens will differ a bit, but the content will largely be the same. I'll send an email with copies of these 10 screenshots; so you can setup your ZA as I have done - or use the setting as a starting point for how you might want to do it.

Don't hesitate to ask about these settings, after you've had a chance to view the pix, or as your use of ZA gains some experience.

MAIN MEETING - II

After the questions had passed from the ZA review, the meeting was turned over to John M who covered the subject of the Microsoft Recovery Console (RC) in Windows XP. This is a utility that's available on your Windows XP CD-ROM that can be used for trouble-shooting and repair of various problems. You may have noted a reference to it, if you have installed XP from scratch, or done a reinstall using the CD. You will be offered the opportunity to use the Recovery Console early in the process.

Using a copy of Windows XP Home Edition (with Service Pack 2), John restarted the club PC with that CD in the drive and we observed the boot up and the actions that take place prior to the offer to fire up the RC.

When that chance came he pressed the "R" key that initiated the loading of the RC. With the RC there is no GUI, no graphics, just a command line (like your old DOS machine if you had one, or your Commodore before that, if you had one).

John used the "help" command at the prompt to show the range of commands that you can type in. He also showed how to get help on each of the commands (just by typing the command word, followed by a space, then a /? - which then lists the options available with the command - VERY helpful!

He described some of the limitations on the RC, primarily provided by Microsoft, to prevent your doing harm to the system. Tho there are ways to get around the limitations, John did not cover them - and they likely might be fodder for an Advanced Meeting topic in the future.

His next part of the demo was to run, so we could observe, a few of the commands that any of us might find useful for troubleshooting. The key ones being: chkdsk, fixboot, fixmbr and listsvc. He actually only ran the first and fourth of these, as the other two likely would mess up our PC with multiple operating systems.

Microsoft has published some pretty detailed information in its Knowledgebase. Here are two of the articles on today's discussion:

314058 - Description of the Windows XP Recovery Console 307654 - How to install and use the recovery Console in Windows XP

This sums up most of the discussion. One part that may be fruitful for a future meeting is to use some capabilities of the RC to avoid the complete reinstallation of Windows to cure some situations where Windows has been truly corrupted and does not want to run or to run properly. Stay tuned on that one! [John M]

ADVANCED MEETING

After a short break, we reviewed the situation - and recognized we were now down to only 3-4 folks. So, we decided to break completely - try to help Marty get a laptop accessory working - then head for an earlier than usual lunch!!

That's all for July - hope to see more of you in August! Cheers, Emil V

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MISS THE MEETING?

Remember that recordings of the meetings (made and worked up for the web by John M) are online for you to download and listen to. Go to our web site (http://mlcug.org/) and scroll a bit down the page to locate the audio files. As of this writing, these audio files from last August to July 2006, and they are accessible from the web site, as MP3 files. You can listen any time you choose! Thanks to John M for the yeoman efforts he puts in to get these files available very soon after the meeting itself (typically it's only a couple of days). [EJV]

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A Few More WORD Tricks

Outsmarting Word's Lists: I love the idea, but I can't stand using Word's list feature. You know the one--start a line with a number or bullet point and every time you hit Enter, the next line becomes part of the list. The problem is that I often want to stick in a couple of blank lines. I finally figured out how to do that: press Shift-Enter after a list item, and you get a blank line. Yep, it's that simple. When you're ready to continue the numbered or bulleted list, hit Enter.

Sort Me If You Can: I thought everyone knew how to sort with Word. Then, while I was walking the dogs, my neighbor started complaining to me about having to export to Excel... the story goes on, but here's how you do it: open your Word document and highlight the list--names, addresses, whatever. Then open the Table menu and select Sort. Make sure Text is highlighted, choose ascending or descending, and click OK. Easy, no?

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MICROSOFT BACKUP

At today's meeting, a question came up about how to get MS Backup for the person's Windows XP Home. As you may recall, if you have Win 98, Win Me, Win 2000 or Win XP Pro, you will find the MS Backup program installed.

But, for some arcane reason, MS chose to NOT have it install with XP Home Edition. In fact, a quick check of the club PC, running XP Home, showed that it was not installed on it.

So, here's the reminder of how to get it:

1. pull out your Windows XP Home install CD (or the recovery CD that came with your PC).

2. insert it into your CD drive (hold down the left shift key until the drive activity has ceased; so the Windows Setup does not autorun).

3. Open Windows Explorer (or My Computer), then drill down thru the VALUEADD folder > MSFT folder > NTBACKUP folder

In the last folder, you'll find the file named: "NTBackup.msi" - that's the one you want.

4. double-click the file, follow the prompts and Backup will be installed.

Then, you'll find "Backup" at: Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools

Remember that Backup can not save its files directly to a CD. To do that, save them to your hard drive, then burn them to a CD-R.

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SKYPE UPDATE

Skype is working exceptionally well. We use it to address two communications issues.

1) Pat in Paris is communicating with her trip leaders in Amsterdam, Belgium, London, Scotland, Ireland, Greece, Spain, Italy, her main office in the US, and soon to trips in Australia and New Zealand. It has saved us $Ks in long-distance charges and has relieved us of the confusion of country-specific telephone calling. The audio quality is better than conventional telephony, and requires only a small amount of coordination concerning the timing - both computers must be connected to the Internet.

2) Pat & I are free to call the US to keep in touch with our families and friends. We use the video option (thus far available only in Windows XP) to see our contacts.

Skype is a great service with great potential. [Frank Maloney]


MLCUG Meetings  2006  Steering Committee Meetings

			August 12 				August 16
			September 9 				September 20
			October 14				October 18

		* = SECOND Wednesday		** = FOURTH Wednesday
*********************************************************************************
EDITOR:  Emil J. Volcheck, Jr.   1046 General Allen Lane    West Chester, PA 19382-8030
Produced on a Compaq Presario: Sempron 2800+, 1 GB RAM, 40 GB hard drive,
Brother HL-5170DNLT laser printer, Epson 4490 scanner, CD-RW & DVD˝R/RW drives,
using AppleWorks 5.0.3, EditPad Pro 6 and pdfFactory Pro

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

MLCUG STEERING COMMITTEE:

PRESIDENT: Emil Volcheck    610-793-5156  SECRETARY: Position open              
TREASURER: John Deker       610-828-7897  DATABASE: Layton Fireng   610-688-2080
WEBMASTER: Peter Whinnery   610-284-5234  AT LARGE: Al Gottlieb     215-793-9725
AT LARGE:  Tom Johnson      610-525-3440  AT LARGE: John Murphy     610-935-4398