Main Line Commodore User Group

Newsletter


October 2006 Issue 293

VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY, ST. AUGUSTINE CENTER, ROOM 110

MEETING STARTS - 09:30 - OCT 14 th


THIS MONTH'S CONTENTS

UPCOMING MEETING:

Remember to bring your questions or problems for the chance to get it solved by our coterie of willing and dedicated attendees!

GOOGLE! is the basis for this month's main meeting, again. Last time it was the search engine; this time for some of the many extra that have expanded their online empire. Pete W will give us a look at the new Google Calendar app. It is part of the new Google Download Package; so Pete will give us a look at that multi-component source, too. If time permits, Tom J will give us an intro to the growing availability of eBooks. What's out there and how they can be got free! Come out and get some new skills.

After a break we'll have a bit different Advanced session. We will take this opportunity to discuss two topics: 1) how we might customize the Ultimate Boot CD for Windows (demoed last month) as our candidate for the MLCUG December 2006 CD and 2) our upcoming secure online database [EJV]


ADWARE and SPYWARE and ???

In recent months, I devoted a fair acreage of column space (in the widely distributed and read publication!) to Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) initiative - a premium example of the (very) big guys essentially putting spyware on your system. That followed the fiasco of the SONY-BMG music CDs that placed a 'rootkit' on computers that played the CDs a (a rootkit being particularly insidious bit of spyware)! Now we are seeing more and more of the big guys jumping on the bandwagon. For the sterling efforts of AOL, see the item on p.6. I'll have more next time.

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ANNOUNCEMENTS & COMMENTS
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NEW RECRUITING YEAR ARRIVES: not the calendar year, but the MLCUG renewal period - which started on October 1st. We hope that you'll be renewing your membership!! And encouraging other users to join.

Since our expenses have held at the expected level and we do have have any big treasury-tapping planned, the dues will remain at the $15 level of recent years. For the form see p.8!

NEW VIDEO DISPLAY: we're still very much appreciating the overhead projector that Villanova installed in our meeting room some months ago. I think you will feel the same way. 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!!

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

For the September Main meeting, member Al G showed off his expertise in using the Google search engine and its many associated capabilities. Al is an extensive user of Google, for his business work, and has delved into it much further than most. His presentation showed us all many of these capabilities - exemplified in his talk by immediate access to that feature on the Google web site.

Al had prepared a Powerpoint presentation which he used for the meeting. The club PC does not have PowerPoint installed, but he used the latest version of Microsoft's PowerPoint Viewer (the 2003 version). Altho he did not show this, the presentation module in OpenOffice.org (the "Impress" module) works excellently as well.

Check the MLCUG website (http://mlcug.org/) for the link to where you can download your copy of Al's presentation. Look it thru carefully - there is a LOT OF MEAT in it!!!

Our special thanks to Al for an eye-opener!!

ADVANCED MEETING

Our subject was bootable rescue or repair CDs to use with Windows XP based hard drives. The subject appears to have brought out more attendees than most advanced meeting! Many, if not all, of our old utilities that we've used for booting a computer that does not want to boot or has other serious problems, fail because the new NTFS disk operating system, now prevalent with XP, can not be written to by them; so repairs are not feasible. One of the approaches to provide a versatile tool for all of Microsoft's DOSes is a bootable CD, entitled "BartPE", created by Bart Lagerweij, that produces a so-called preinstalled environment (PE), hence the BartPE name.

As its popularity has grown, even more capable versions have been produced, notably the "Ultimate Boot CD for Windows XP", or UBCD4Win. And, more recently, a "live XP CD" version of Windows XP that runs wholly off a single CD has come on the scene.

All of these were demoed briefly by Emil V at this session. He started with the downloaded utility, "pebuilder.exe", from the BartPE website. Using this and a set of Windows XP installation files (which are available on a Windows CD, on your C drive, or possibly on the Recovery CD for your computer), he created a burnable CD image of the BartPE utility (called "pebuilder.iso"). This took only about two minutes on the club PC. Then, he burned this image to a CD-R to make the bootable BartPE.

Then,came a series of bootups with: 1) the freshly made "BartPE" disc, 2) a disc of "Ultimate Boot CD for Windows" and 3) the "XP Live CD". All successfully booted and we took a quick overview of some of their key components.

The first two products are freeware, while the live CD product is a download that costs $40 (which probably includes some amount of licensing fee to Microsoft for the Windows XP components that it obviously contains.

Want to try? Here are the web sites:

BartPE: http://www.nu2.nu/pebuilder/ Ult. Boot CD: http://www.ubcd4win.com/ XP Live CD: http://xplivecd.com/ [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 August 2005 to September 2006, and they are accessible from the web site, as MP3 files. You can listen any time you choose! Our thanks to John M for his continued efforts to get these files available very soon after the meeting itself (typically it's only a couple of days). [EJV]

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REGISTRY CLEANING

For a couple of months now, we've been trying to put together a meeting program on improving the health of the Windows Registry.

    The pundits generally divide that task into three steps:
  1. backing up the registry before doing anything
  2. "cleaning" the registry (that is getting rid of stuff that is not right, or fixing it)
  3. compacting (or defragging) the registry
Steps 1 and 3 seem not terribly controversial - a couple of freeware apps apparently can do them.

But, the cleaning step is another story - and there are a zillion registry cleaners out there. We'd like to get some experiences from folks on this.

Have you used a registry cleaner - freeware or payware? How about telling of your experience?

Did it noticeably improve PC operation? Did you have problems using it? Did it "damage" Windows XP?

We need YOUR input. Then maybe we can come up with a worthwhile, free or low cost, app that is noticeably and safely beneficial.

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HIBERNATION TRIPS UP DISK DEFRAGMENTER

Here's an interesting one - mainly for folks with laptops - which may, apparently have a problem with Disk Defragmenter. Unfortunately, that program is finicky. It must run on its own, without other programs operating. It can also get tripped up, if there are files it can't defragment.

Hiberfil.sys is one file that can stop Disk Defragmenter from defragmenting your drive thoroughly. It is created when your computer goes into hibernation. The contents of memory are written to hiberfil.sys. When the computer restarts, it picks up where you left off. Hiberfil.sys is no longer needed, but it stays on the hard drive.

So before you defragment your laptop, delete the Hiberfil.sys file. Click Start>>Control Panel and double-click Power Options. Open the Hibernate tab and deselect Enable Hibernation. Click OK. The file is deleted automatically.

After you run Disk Defragmenter, re-enable hibernation, if you want. Follow the above steps. Turn hibernation on by selecting Enable Hibernation.

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THAT SLOOOW SHUTDOWN!

Some of you using Windows XP may have noticed that it can take quite a while for the machine to make up its mind to shut down, after you've told it to - haven't you (all)???

Well I recently got a tip on how to speed that process up. The tip came from the Computing Journal of SWFPCUG (the SouthWest Florida PC Users Group). It was passed to me by a member of the PC Users Group (PCUG) in Wilmington.

The procedure goes like this:

a. give the 3-finger salute (that is, press the CRTL, ALT and DEL keys together), up will pop the Windows Task Manager.

b. click the menu item for ":Shut Down"

c. press and hold the CRTL key.

d. click the "Turn Off" item in the popup list.

You likely will experience a markedly shorter shut down time. It has down so on three PCs that I have tested it on.

Give it a try and let us know if you have similar results. [Emil V]

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THOSE BIG HARD DRIVES

We all get tempted by the huge capacity hard drives that go on sale for a song these days (like the 160 GB for sale for $40 or the 200 GB for $30). But if you do not have a very new PC, there could be a problem. Here's the note on a recent member experience:

"You all recall when you had to install a new hard drive, remember all that data you had to enter into the BIOS. Then, along came automatic recognition. Well there is a third way. I had a new 250 GB drive that my computer would only see 137 GB! Finally, I went to the BIOS after hours of testing and on the Internet, and the BIOS said "would you like me to recognize the hard drive?" I said, yes, and it said I now see 250GB. And that was that. Knock on wood, everything seems fine.

I got spoiled by automatic recognition :-!

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"FIXING "BUSTED" FLASH DRIVE

Sometimes your handy USB flash drive will refuse to behave. The following quicky shows a recovery, tho you'll lose all your data (but you had that backed up anyway, right?).

"I took the Memory Stick to Micro Center, hoping to get some satisfaction. They tried it on one of their machines with same result. With one exception, they reformatted it. Lo and behold the stick worked. To my inquiry they responded that something had reset it to new. It seems that a bit of static, or improperly removing it from a 98SE or 2K machine can also accomplish the same. It now works, without my data. I said I was concerned that perhaps it had suffered some mechanical damage. The response was that sometimes this can happen, but with my stick they were quite robust, and that without abuse was quite unlikely."

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SECURITY PROS PATCH OLDER WINDOWS VERSIONS

A group of security professionals has released a patch to repair a serious flaw in older Windows versions for which Microsoft no longer provides security updates.

The group, which calls itself the Zeroday Emergency Response Team (ZERT) created the patch so users of Windows versions that are no longer officially supported can protect their PCs against increasing attacks that utilize a recently disclosed Windows flaw.

Microsoft rushed out a "critical" fix on ~9/26 (2 weeks early), but not for its older operating systems. ZERT sought to fill that void. "A ZERT patch has just been made available for unsupported system versions," the group said on its Web site. The patch has been tested on Windows 98, 98SE, Me, 2K and 2KwSP3.

ZERT is made up of security professionals from around the world who volunteer their time.

Meanwhile, there are several other security vulnerabilities in Microsoft products waiting to be fixed. Some of these flaws are already being used in cyberattacks, though not as widespread as the recent flaw, according to security experts.

A word of caution is always warranted when it comes to third-party fixes, ZERT has noted. The group does test its fixes, but does not have the same resources Microsoft has when it produces patches. ZERT does provide the source code of its fix, allowing people to validate what it does. ZERT stresses on its Web site that its fix has no warranties.

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ADWARE & SPYWARE & ???

[continued from p.1] Here I pick up the next step in this saga of the big guys deciding that there is real money in tracking what you do with your computer and using that info to target you with adware, or worse! First, it is AOL's turn at bat - from a recent item in the technology column if the Sunday Chicago Tribune:

AOL scanner ignoring their own 'adware'

Q. I notice that after the America Online security center does a scan for spyware on my computer and I follow that up immediately with a scan by another spyware product, it discovers a lot of adware and a number of cookies that AOL left on my computer. I'm wondering if AOL parks its own spy- and adware on my computer and has its spyware scanner ignore it. If so, that is a breach of trust, don't you think? -- Nadya Krylov

A. "AOL is the kindest, most generous, most wonderful online service on earth," said the brainwashed columnist just back from a vacation in Manchuria.

I jest about brainwashing, N.K., because I have had an AOL account since before it was AOL and have covered the company for most of those years, and I am not worried about this issue, personally. I'm so low-key because I am all but certain that AOL now is feeling so much heat that it will purge the pests that are making your anti-adware alarms go off.

Still, a lot of folks with serious credentials are complaining about AOL's companion software being the source of several items placed on hard drives that qualify for designation as "badware" by StopBadware.org. That's a testing and advocacy group supported by the likes of Google and Sun Microsystems, as well as experts at Harvard and Oxford Universities.

AOL reacted to the condemnation by promising to fix any problems, and we're waiting for some results. Meanwhile, the issues raised by StopBadware.org are valid, but are nowhere near the kinds of stuff that mugs computer users with hijacked Web pages, keyboard loggers and such.

So, I'd say kudos to the StopBadware.org folks for finding this nasty stuff that AOL does that qualifies as adware when done by lesser outfits. But I'd also say that it's not dangerous to keep with AOL as you have it now. [by James Coates, 9/19/2006]


MLCUG Meetings  2006  Steering Committee Meetings

			October 14				October 25 **
			November 11 				November 15
			December 9 				December 20

		* = SECOND Wednesday		** = FOURTH Wednesday

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