Main Line Commodore User Group

Newsletter


Febuary 2007 Issue 297


UPCOMING MEETING:

This month, we'll open with a good opportunity for Q&A. Your unique chance to pass on news, ask questions or to get (some) problems solved.

One of the most remarkable products from the open source world is 'OpenOffice.org' - a complete office suite aimed directly at Microsoft's Office Professional. It has word processor, spreadsheet, database, presentation and drawing modules. Al G has been using it increasingly with his clients and plans to give us an introductory look at this remarkable suite. Next month Tom J will show us how he used the presentation module ('Impress') to do his fine talk on eBooks a couple of meetings ago. We expect that more will follow as this is a large and very impressive product - and FREE!!

Following the roughly noon break, we will have our next Advanced meeting. Following up on John M's sound demo last time, John D will bring in and demo his LAN-based sound setup. It is based on the Sirocco device. This should should prove an interesting comparison. [EJV]


The Coming of the WOW OS!!!

As I write this, it has been four days since the official release of Microsoft's latest Windows operating system making its debut to the retail trade. The ads that have appeared since then have heavily used the word "WOW!", as in the CompUSA ad to "Experience the WOW of Windows Vista"! However, I would venture to guess that this introduction has been a lot less wowey (my word) than Microsoft and the trade might have hoped for. This was not due to lack of hoopla, as there was an ample supply of that. There was also an enormous amount of [continued on p.2]

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ANNOUNCEMENTS & COMMENTS
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[continued from p.1] prerelease information. Many of us had access to both the beta and RC (release candidate) versions over the course of the last year or two.

There was also much, much published material by all kinds of gurus. Maybe that was part of the problem - too much prerelease information. So, there was a lack of novelty and mystery.

Perhaps more than that tho was the near total lack of exciting reviews. In fact, there was a goodly supply of downright adverse information. The gurus complained a lot, even of non-guru type things:

For example, the plethora of versions (at least five of them) and the fact that the "Home Basic" version (the equivalent of XP Home) had practically nothing special to offer. One guru described it as the $200 Service Pack for XP. Another noted that the dozen or so much touted new security features were only available in the highest cost flavors (Enterprise and Ultimate).

Over the course of the next month or so, some of us who got new PCs during the October thru January period (like yours truly did) will be getting our free (or nearly free) upgrade copies of Vista. Then, we may be able to get some local hands-on-based feedback.

But, if you did not get a new PC recently and decide to move now or in the near future, you will get your very own Vista. Just be sure that you check carefully for which one comes with that new box!!! Emil Volcheck, prez

NEW YEAR IS HERE: and the MLCUG renewal period has officially ended. Folks who did not renew received their last newsletter in December. We had nine members who did not renew. If you know any of them, I hope you'll remind them and urge them to join back in. We're glad that you decided to renew and think that you'll find another year of help and information to be worth the small investment.

WELCOME TO NEW MEMBER: to counteract the non-renewal loss a bit, we have our first new member of 2007! We'd like to welcome Kevin Valentine, of Philadelphia, to the club. We hope to see him at our future meetings.

NEW PRODUCT ANNOUNCEMENT: This one is actually a new publication announcement - namely; a Commodore magazine!! Yes, some of us still hark back to those earlier days and there are some diehards around still working the technology. Take a look at the web site: http://www.commodorefree.com/ They have just posted issue #4. However, the first three issues were pulled off the site for "copyright reasons". I did manage to download those three PDF files. So, if you like issue 4, then you might want the others. Let me know. BTW, the web site has some other bugs in it, too. [EJV]

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

Our January meeting had only 14 attendees, but we had a good meeting, starting with our round table session - a few highlights:

- Marty C described his first dabbling into Ubuntu Linux (becoming the 3rd or 4th member who is working with this increasingly popular Linux distro (more in future meetings). - Ed C recommended folks get their hands on the handy USB<->IDE adapter that lets you connect up a hard drive, CD drive or any other IDE device to a USB port. They can be had for $20-30 for parallel IDE or about $60 if you also want to use the speedier SATA drives. - John M noted that using one of these adapters with bare, unenclosed hard drives is a great way to use external hard drives for backups without paying the premium for the powered enclosures that you normally need. - Rich T reported on some problems with the standby/hibernate function on his system. - Al G described a problem with booting Linux live CDs with his new eMachines PC. That system's use of the SiS chipset was suggested as the possible culprit. - Euan H expressed some unhappiness with the new "ribbon" interface in the just released Office 2007. It was suggested that he get some help and solace from Walt Mossberg's January 4th "Personal Technology" column: http://ptech.wsj.com/archive/ptech-20070104.html

MAIN MEETING PROGRAM

The primary topic for this segment, by Emil V, was the increasing number of utilities to make "portable applications" more user friendly with your handy USB flash drive. Emil had delved into this subject a few months back, but more products have appeared.

He came to the meeting with four (4) flash drives each with its own set up for using portable applications. Today's objective was simply to briefly show them off; so flash drive users could go back home and try them out or try out the one they liked best.

The 1st drive had the so-called "Portable Applications Suite" installed by itself. It's about a 90+ MB download and installs a full set of John Haller's modified applications. Note: I'm not sure if this version of the suite is still available; I have the file archived, but see the 4th item below.

The 2nd drive was a so-called U3 which had similar applications (and a bunch more), but with the U3 Launcher that appears when you plug in the flash drive. It provides a convenient interface to install, uninstall, run and otherwise manage the apps on the drive. U3 modified apps are available in a wide variety so you can play with a lot as you like. http://www.u3.com/

The 3rd drive had the launcher described by member Al G in his posting to the listserv a couple of months back. It is just a launcher that lets you install your own pack of stuff - as long as it is an app that has been designed to run off a flash drive. http://tinyurl.com/r6rqn

Finally, the 4th drive had John Haller's portable apps launcher and a variant of the Portable Apps Suite that includes the launcher, which the original version (the 1st drive above) did not have. There is already a pretty big selection of apps that you can get from John's web site. http://portableapps.com/suite

So, if you have a decent sized flash drive (say 512 MB or larger), have a go at these portable apps! [Emil V]

ADVANCED MEETING

This is the first of two sessions demoing devices to provide sound (from the internet or your collection) to your home LAN and, thus, to wherever in your home the LAN can reach (like most everywhere with wi-fi). John M brought in his widget - the Roku Soundbridge M1001 - which he has been using for many months with great enjoyment.

He had the unit, a set of speakers and other items needed to set it up as he normally has it at home. John stepped us thru the MANY features of the system - too many for this writeup or my ability to document!

To get a better feel for what the system can do, give a listen to this month's recording that you can download from our web site. You can visit the vendor's web site and get the technical details and ordering info, check it all out at: http://www.rokulabs.com/products_soundbridge.php

Next time, John D will show us his sound device, the Sirocco. See you all then? [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 January 2007, and they are accessible from the web site, as MP3 files. You can listen any time you choose! Thanks to John for his continued efforts to get the files quickly available after the meeting. [EJV]

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DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME?

As you may know, the US Congress passed a law in 2005 that changes the dates for DST in the US. The following was posted by John D:

Here are the new settings for USA DST... Beginning in the spring of 2007, the start dates and end dates for daylight saving time (DST) will change to comply with the Energy Policy Act of 2005. DST dates for 2007 in the United States and Canada will start three weeks earlier (2 AM on the second Sunday in March), and will end one week later (2 AM on the first Sunday in November). You can read more at: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/928388/

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Using Firefox: Tips and Tricks - 2 Al Gottlieb

This month we'll get into some very useful and fun stuff - Extensions (or add-ons in FF2). Extensions are Firefox software plug-ins that add additional features to the Firefox browser. There are lots and lots of extensions (the Mozilla page listed below has over 1400 that you can search). I'll be discussing a small sample of those and tell you where to go to find many more extensions, mostly third party. You can get Mozilla extensions by going to the menu bar and clicking "Tools/Extensions" and when the dialog menu opens click on "Get More Extensions" at the bottom of the window. This will take you to the page http://www.mozilla.com/extensions/ where you can search or browse by category for extensions.

Some of my personal favorite extensions are:

McAfee Site Advisor (rates sites and codes the URLs according to whether or not they contain spyware, spam, viruses and online scams)

AdBlock (where you can block browser popup ads or not as you please)

Colorful Tabs (colors the tabs increasing their distinguishability for easier browsing)

Netcraft Toolbar (alerts you to phishing attempts by letting you know what site you're really on regardless of the name showing)

Tiny URL Creator (very useful - shortens messy URLs)

Tab Mix Plus (yields added tab functionality such as how links are opened, how tab events are handled (tab open, focus closing and other features, modifies right-click tab menus, sets events that occur on right, left and middle mouse click, how the browser session is handled, etc.)

Browster adds functionality to search engine URL displays. You can view sites without opening them.

Cookie Culler as mentioned in the last article lets you manage cookies

Google Toolbar adds functionality to the Google search engine

Two extensions that I consider must-have are "Firefox Extension Backup Extension" FEBE and "Compact Library Extension Organizer" CLEO. With FEBE you can selectively backup personal settings (e.g. bookmarks, preferences, user names and passwords, etc.) and then CLEO will package those settings in a Firefox installation file. You can use this package to regain your information if you do a clean reinstall of Windows or Firefox. If you want the same bookmarks, extensions, etc. on a new computer or any other computer for that matter, you just install FEBE and CLEO and then import the backup file.

There are many extensions. You should go up to the Mozilla.com site and just rummage through them to find those you might consider a help to your browsing. There are Extensions enabling RSS (Real Simple Syndication feeds), PDF operations supporting a choice to open or download a pdf file or to open it with HTML in the browser, Weather Forecasters, Password Manipulators, and on and on. Another great site to find extensions is http://www.firefoxfacts.com/ebook/FirefoxFacts.zip which simplifies to http://tinyurl.com/ykbe55 when using the Tiny URL Creator extension. And, of course, Google.

Okay, so now that you've found an extension that you like how do you install it? Well, there are several ways. The Firefox Extension installation file has a "xpi" (called zippy) extension which tells Firefox that it's an Extension file. You can double-click the xpi file, you can right-click the xpi file and then click "open" in the context menu, you can open Firefox and use the menu bar File/Open File and then drill down to the xpi file and finally, if the extension is on your desktop you can drag it with your left mouse button onto the Firefox icon. Firefox will decompress the file and install it to its proper location. After it's installed you will have to shut down and restart Firefox for the extension to be active. If you're installing several extensions you can shut down and restart after they're all installed. If you ever want to uninstall an Extension you open Tools/Extensions and in the Extensions dialog window there's an uninstall button. It's that simple. While in t he Extensions Manager you can double-click with your left mouse button to see options available for the Extension. If you right-click the Extension you get choices such as "visit the homepage", uninstall, find updates and other operations.

Finally, let me leave you with the idea that the Internet should be fun and informative and your browser should help you with both. I know it's done it for me. And remember, if you have any questions post them on the Club Listserv and I'll get back to you with an answer ASAP. Al G.

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TIP: VIEWING IMAGE FILES

When using Windows XP, have you ever double-clicked an image file, then have it either not want to open, or to open in something ridiculous like Internet Explorer? This can be annoying and a bit tedious, when you have to wait for some big app to load then go out to get that little GIF you wanted to see dance across your screen!!

By default, Windows XP uses a very neat and fast image viewer, called the "Windows Picture and FAX Viewer". It is great for all kinds of images - loads in a wink and the image usually appears quickly (unless it is some monster pix that has to be resized and rendered to fit your screen).

To get it back as your default, open 'My Computer', click the 'Tools' menu item, then click the 'Folder Options' item. Next, click the 'File Types' tab and wait a bit while XP assembles its vast list of file types and their associated applications. Scroll thru the list and pick the common image types (GIF, JPG, etc.) and change them to the Picture and Fax Viewer with the 'Change' button. Viewing will be much easier!!!


MLCUG Meetings  2007  Steering Committee Meetings

			February 10				February 14
			March 10 				March 14
			April 14 				April 25 **

		* = SECOND Wednesday		** = FOURTH Wednesday

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