Main Line Commodore User Group

Newsletter


March 2007 Issue 298

VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY, ST. AUGUSTINE CENTER, ROOM 110

MEETING STARTS - 09:30 - MAR 10 th


UPCOMING MEETING:

This month, as usual, we'll open with a Q&A to feed your insatiable thirst for knowledge and help you fight the good fight against the onslaughts of your computer and its contents! Who can pass up such an opportunity?

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. Last month, Al G gave us an introductory look at this remarkable suite. As promised, for this month, Tom J will show us how he used its presentation module ('Impress') to do his fine talk on eBooks a couple of meetings back. We think that these demos will whet your appetite for more, as this is a large and very impressive product - and FREE!!

Following the roughly noon break, we'll have our Advanced meeting. The tack this time will involve a discussion of recent Linux distros and how we might present them for member use in single and dual (or multiple) operating modes. You might want to sit in on this one. [EJV]


The Coming of the NEXT WOW OS!!!

No, I don't mean Vista! I'm referring to the next one after Vista - now targeted for introduction in about three years and the next one targeted for about three years later, which would take us out to about 2013. Yes, Microsoft is again trying to get back on the three-year track that preceded the out-of-sync Vista OS. I mention this because more and more folks are asking us about whether they should be converting to Vista. There are a couple of ways of thinking about [continued on p.1]

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ANNOUNCEMENTS & COMMENTS
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[continued from p.1] that question.

Firstly, the standard one that "unless you have an application that requires Vista, you might as well stick with XP until such a time arises".

Secondly, a slightly more novel approach is based on Microsoft's recent announcement that they will continue to provide support for Windows XP until the year 2014! That means that you can skip Vista and its next two successors and go for that wonderful, best of all OSes and the most secure yet, OS that will be introduced in 2013 or so!!

How's that for long range planning? And, besides unless you have a computer that is less than about two years old, it will probably cost too much to upgrade it to handle Vista.

Oh, yes. there is the third option - your trusty old computer finally croaks! Then you won't likely have any choice except to replace it with one running that most wonderful of all OSes, and the most secure yet (for that moment in time, you hope), whichever one it is..... [EJV]

DST WILL BE HERE: the morning after our next meeting will signal the arrival of the newly scheduled Daylight Saving time. You will want to know, this week, for whatever OS you are running (Windows, MacOS, Linux), whether or not it will recognize the new times. If it will not, then you will have to manage the switch on March 11th, and that it will likely add another hour in just a short three (3) weeks time!! And, if you are using any application that has date or calendar sensitivity, it will likely need to be managed thru the transitions by you, also.

This is not another Y2K, but it would be good for folks to watch out - and tell us about - anything interesting at our April 14th meeting, when both of the Daylight Saving Times will have passed thru. We'll be on the listen for your stories - come tell us then! OK???

SECURITY NOTE: there have been some security problems reported with the JAVA application (that provides the dancing girls on your web pages). It has been recommended that you upgrade to Java Run-Time 5 Update 6 or more OR go to Java Run-Time 6. However, I had Firefox 2.0.0.2 tell me that it does not like Java 6!! So, if you are a Firefox user (and who amongst us isn't?), then stick to Java Run-Time 5 and the latest update of same.

If anyone encounters any problems, how about passing the info on - the MLCUG listserv is a handy communication tool - remember? :-)

NEW PRODUCT ANNOUNCEMENT: at our last meeting, we had an initial report of the first convert to Verizon's FiOS Television service (in addition to the existing telephone and internet service) over fiber optic cable. Now, it is not only Comcast who can provide all three services on the same bill! It will likely be a very long time before any other competitor can do the same (unless Cavalier Telephone becomes even more aggressive!). [John M]

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

We had 16 folks show up for the February meeting, including our newest member Kevin Valentine. Hopefully, we can manage to garner a few more new members to make up for some of our losses. And, our errant coffee makers (Layton and Joan) were back; so we had some decent coffee (much appreciated) throughout the meeting!

Al G mentioned that OpenOffice is now using the Open Document Format (ODF) file type. This is the product of an international effort that aims to make documents more universally interchangeable. Microsoft is using a sort of ODF, but their own proprietary one, in the new Office 2007. The OpenOffice folks expect to shortly have available the ability to open and save in the Microsoft format, to continue their aim to be interchangeable with Office products. MS may also provide compatibility with ODF (when?). And, if you use Office 2000, XP or 2003, you can get a patch that will let those products use the Office 2007 formats.....

Pete W noted that the new Vista look (the Aero interface) has been emulated in the latest live CD from the Knoppix folks. You can enter the proper cheat code at boot time to call up the "Beryl" option. However, we did not have a computer with the right horsepower to show it off (we will one of these days, I hope).

Ralph H told us of a problem he was having with two systems that was cured by uninstalling the anti-spyware program, Windows Defender, from Microsoft on both machines. Ad-Aware or Spybot can fill that gap in protection.

John M told us about a new ability of the Windows XP OS - called "shadow copy" that, for the first time, allows programs like True Image to back up the Windows drive while Windows is running. Before this change, you had to run in DOS mode to back up this drive!!

MAIN MEETING PROGRAM

This part of our meeting was a reintroduction to OpenOffice.org 2.1.0, the open source (freeware) office suite that offers pretty direct competition to Microsoft Office Pro version. Our presenter was Al G (yes, the same guy who's putting out those Firefox articles). His objective was to give a broad overview of just what OOo, as it is dubbed, has to offer. This was done via several slides, available as a PDF file for downloading from the MLCUG's web site: http://mlcug.org/OOo_Introduction_Feb2007.pdf. so, head for the web, grab the file and get a look at what Al had to cover in this segment of the demo.

Then he fired up the OpenOffice program and stepped us thru some of the operations. It was evident that the authors had taken great measures to make the product familiar in both form and function to its huge competitor.

We'd like to hear from the members just what they might like to hear/see more about in the future. So, after the demo in March, we'll ask some questions along that line. With a word processor, spreadsheet, database, presentation, math-lab and web page editor, there is a lot of function that could be considered! [Emil V]

ADVANCED MEETING

This was the second 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).

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. Our presenter, John D, has provided his slide set that you can get from our web site at: http://mlcug.org/Sondigo_Sirocco.pdf

You can also visit the vendor's web site and get the details, check it all out at: http://www.sondigo.com/sirocco/overview

Next time - no extra sound, see you then? [EJV]

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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 February 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 mentioned earlier in this issue, the dates for DST in the US are changing. The following info was posted by John D:

In February, Microsoft issued a Windows Update patch to adjust for these new DST timings. Apparently, the original patch (see Knowledge Base article KB928388) needed some further patching. So, a new update has been issued. You can read more on the changes for this one at the new KB article and download: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/931836/

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Using Firefox: Tips and Tricks - 3 Problem Solving

This month, I'll discuss what to do if you have problems with Firefox. I don't like reinstalling Firefox at the first sign of a problem. Why? Because I don't know what caused the problem and by reinstalling I don't necessarily get rid of it. The first thing to do is to shut down Firefox completely and to ensure that the shutdown is complete by opening Task Manager/Processes and look to see if firefox.exe shows up there. If it does, click on it and then click "end process". By the way, if you click the Firefox icon and the browser doesn't open it's a safe bet that it didn't shut down correctly the last time you used it and you should check Task Manager as previously described. Restart Firefox and see if the problem still exists.

If the problem still occurs go to MozillaZine list of Firefox issues (http://tinyurl.com/24bwzd) and see if your problem is discussed there. If it is, then you can follow the directions for solving the issue and you're probably home free. If the problem isn't addressed on that site, you can try debugging Firefox using Safe Mode.

Safe Mode is a debugging startup mode. In Safe Mode all the extensions or add-ons you have installed are disabled but plug-ins are not. To start Safe Mode, click your Start button then click All Programs/Mozilla Firefox/Mozilla Firefox (Safe Mode). If, for some reason, Safe Mode is not on your Start menu then you can start Firefox Safe Mode using a command line by clicking: Start/Run and typing: "C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe" -safe-mode This will bring up a window with some troubleshooting options: Be careful in this mode because if you check mark any of the reset buttons and click "Make Changes and Restart" all of your settings will be reset to their default values. At this point you can make changes and restart or continue in Safe Mode. I usually continue in Safe Mode to see whether or not the problem still exists. If the problem still exists in Safe Mode, then I would consider reinstalling Firefox. If the problems do not occur when using Safe Mode, I might first suspect an Extension or Add-on running amok. The thing to do then is to click in "Disable all add-ons" and then click "Make Changes and Restart". After the browser has restarted you can enable Extensions or Add-ons one at a time and use the browser to see whether or not the problem recurs. If you find that an Extension is causing the problem, make sure you're using the correct one for you're version of Firefox. If version is the problem and you can't find an update then just leave the Extension disabl ed and Firefox will keep checking for an update and when it finds one will ask if you'd like to install the update. Al G.

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FLASH DRIVE TIP

If you have experiences with the nearly ubiquitous USB portable drives (variously known as flash, thumb, jump, travel, Cruzer, etc. drives), then you may be using one to do duty at more than one computer or location. For example, I use mine on at least four different computers for home, work and presentations.

Since none of the computers has the exact same drive layout, Windows XP assigns the flash drive a different drive letter for each one. They range from D: to O:! By itself this would not be a big problem, but certain shortcuts or the filenames/locations remembered by various programs don't always work they way you like.

A few days ago, I realized that there is an easy way to make things a bit less complicated - taking advantage of the Windows XP feature that lets you choose drive letters for essentially any device that you want to. And, as my regular flash drive is a Memorex "TravelDrive", I decided that it would be easy to remember the drive letter "T". So, over the course of a few days, as I moved the flash drive from one PC to another, I would ask XP to assign the drive letter T to it when it is plugged in (or is already plugged-in when Windows starts).

Here's how you can do that, too:

Insert the flash drive into a USB port on your indows XP computer, then wait until it is recognized and shows up in Windows Explorer.

Now, right-click 'My Computer', then select 'Manage' from the context menu.

Next, click 'Disk Management' in the panel on the left side. Wait a bit until the utility scans your computer and presents a list of recognized drives in the lower right hand panel.

Scroll down the list until you reach your flash drive's entry. Then right-click and select 'Change drive letters and paths'.

Click the 'Change' button. From the drop down list that opens, select the drive letter that you want your flash drive to have (T in my case) and OK your way out (you'll get a warning that changing the drive letter might cause some things to not work right, OK that). XP will immediately change the drive letter which will immediately be reflected in Windows Explorer.

Now enjoy a bit of ongoing similarity! It may take a little time to get some shortcuts or file lists to remember to look to your new drive letter.

So far, XP on all the computers has remembered the drive letter I assigned and done it as desired.


MLCUG Meetings  2007  Steering Committee Meetings

			March 10 				March 14
			April 14 				April 25 **
			May 12					May 16

		* = SECOND Wednesday		** = FOURTH Wednesday
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