Main Line Commodore User Group

Newsletter


July 2007 Issue 302

VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY, ST. AUGUSTINE CENTER, ROOM 110

MEETING STARTS - 09:30 - JUL 14th


UPCOMING MEETING:

This month, as usual, we'll open with a Q&A to feed your insatiable thirst for knowledge. We will try to deal with any computer-related items, for both problem solving and for learning. We hope there'll be a good turnout for this event.

As we users of the Windows operating system continue to learn, there are many folks out there who either want to do us direct harm or cause it indirectly thru their behind-the-scenes activities. John D will be showing us a utility to help make protection a bit easier. As a user of the program, "CCleaner" (originally known as "Crap Cleaner"), he will show us some of its many features. Also, and importantly, how to deal with its somewhat intimidating user interface! We think it's a very good tool to try out, soon.

Following the roughly noon break, we'll have our Advanced meeting. Some time ago, we had a few sessions devoted to "virtual machines" and VMware, a utility to use them. The technology has continued to advance; so John M will present an update of some of the enhanced features of the freeware version. [EJV]


MEETING CHANGES ARE A'COMING

Just before last month's meeting, a Villanova official stopped by to let us know that the Center's conference rooms (110, 210 & 310) will be renovated, starting with room 310. The renovations include removing the closets in these rooms; so we have to find a way to deal with the storage problem that will arise when we no longer have a closet available to us! When we learn more about our options, we'll pass the word to let you know what's coming.

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ANNOUNCEMENTS & COMMENTS
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Google With Care - the incredibly wealthy young men who run the Google enterprise have been making great strides in many areas. One of the more controversial is their increasing ability to collect personal information and increasingly assemble personally identifiable profiles. It seems that hardly a day goes by without more news of either: a) some new Google endeavor that increases data collection or b) an article criticizing them for past, current and/or expected future practices.

Another area that has got much less publicity is the apparently increased security risk with certain of their products. Here's a recent item that relates to the "Google Desktop Search".

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GOOGLE DESKTOP LETS HACKERS RUN PROGRAMS

The Google Desktop application has a flaw that lets hackers trick users into running any program that may be located on their local computer. This is accomplished by a "man-in-the-middle-attack."

The problem allows a hacker to spoof a Google search for a local .exe file. Such a file is displayed in the "Results stored on your computer" portion of the search results. When these results are clicked on, Google Desktop causes the local program to run with rights of the logged-on user.

As described here, this attack may seem very specific and orchestrated and would be very difficult to carry out. This may be true, but there's potential for other hackers to expand on it and make it easier to exploit than it sounds. If the hacker who developed the hack described above took the time to get it working, you can be sure there's yet another hacker who'll try to expand the technique into something even more dangerous.

What to do: the author highly recommends uninstalling Google Desktop until this issue is taken care of. Personally, he's always found this application to be way too invasive and too much of a resource hog to be of any use. However, if you simply can't live without a desktop search tool, the free Copernic Desktop Search is what he'd suggest.

NOTE: the desktop search page on Google had no mention of this vulnerability; so I'm not sure what its current status is. [EJV]

OUR WEB SITE (hosted by Bee.net) - a reminder that our faithful webmaster, Pete Whinnery, continues to update the web page 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 Broomall 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 a very low turnout, only 11 attendees at the June meeting. Hopefully, we can do better this time round. A few of the meeting highlights:

Tom J asked about computer upgrades as a result of hardware failure - when to repair vs when to replace with a new computer?

Ed C has a WinXP laptop that won't recognize shared printer from another WinXP - John M suggested double checking Workgroup settings

Ed C sometimes has problem connecting to Internet - he powers down all equipment - suggested leaving modem and router running or selectively starting modem then router then computer - again demoed use of WinXP IPConfig for troubleshooting.

Dewitt S has daughter migrating to Mac - wanted to know about issues of transferring MS Office docs. Since the Mac world has long had the ability to read and write to PC media, as well as many programs that have cross-platform use, there should not be a big problem here.

Ted M wanted to know how to xfer Open Office Calc to Excel. OO is able to save its files in Excel's file format, making transfers easy.

Marty C was trying to find device that would allow 2 computers to network using USB; such device would require drivers (and some dedicated devices have such capability without separate driver installs).

Marty C reported on a site describing how to make flash drives bootable: http://articles .techrepublic.com.com/5102-10877-6160062.html

MAIN MEETING PROGRAM

For the program, John M - covered burning CD's with iTunes and some other hi-lites: - how to toggle config settings to burn MP3 CD vs std audio CD - creating play lists - burning play lists in MP3 and std audio format (std audio requires more CD disk space) - how to sign-up for podcasts; listening to internet radio; purchasing music, music albums, movies; noted recent availability of non- DRM'd, higher quality music for 40% more $ - network sharing play lists

You may want to download and listen to the meeting recording to get more details on this comprehensive demo. Thanks, John!

ADVANCED MEETING

As announced in the newsletter, Pete W showed the second half of the DVD movie "Revolution OS". [notes provided by John D]

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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 June 2007, and they are accessible from the web site, as MP3 files. You can listen any time you choose! Thanks John for getting the files quickly available after each meeting. [EJV]

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TIDBITS 1

Customer: Hi, this is Maureen. I can't get my diskette out.

Tech support: Have you tried pushing the Button?

Customer: Yes, sure, it's really stuck.

Tech support: That doesn't sound good; I'll make a note.

Customer: No , wait a minute... I hadn't inserted it yet... it's still on my desk... sorry....

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USING FIREFOX: TIPS AND TRICKS Al Gottlieb

Do YOU Use eBay?

Do you need feedback about a person you're buying from or selling to? Well, Firefox has an add-on called "Feedbackfox" which is "a sidebar integrated feedback filter for eBay users." Input a username and get a colored list with up to 5000 feedback comments and filter the positive, neutral, negative or withdrawn feedback. Get Feedbackfox at: http://tinyurl.com/2wpn28.

MEDIA PLAYER PLUG-IN FOR FIREFOX

Have you ever visited a Web site using Firefox - only to find out that you can't view some of the site's content because it required the use of a Windows Media Player plug-in? Or maybe you noticed that your existing Windows Media Player plug-in had bugs that prevented it from working properly?

Those days are now over. In April, Microsoft released a new Windows Media Player Plug-in for Firefox! The new version works on 32- and 64-bit versions of Windows XP (with SP2) and Windows Vista, and it's downward compatible with Windows Media Player 6.4.

This is probably welcome news to all of you Vista users, since the plug-in wasn't included with the original distribution of Vista. And it's good news for XP users, too, since the former plug-in had various problems (which differ, based on the particular content you're viewing).

You can download the new plug-in at MS's Port 25 web site (http://port25.technet.com /videos/downloads/wmpfirefoxplugin.exe).

*************************************** ZONE ALARM FOR VISTA

After quite a wait, it seems that Zone Labs has finally released Vista compatible versions of its product line, including the top-notch 2-way free firewall "ZoneAlarm Free". However, they do not make it too easy to locate and download the new version. I think this way is fairly easy. First in your web browser go to: http://tinyurl.com/yt6yz3 When you get to this comparison listing, scroll right and click the link to download the free version for Windows 2K/XP/Vista.

On the resulting page, scroll all the way down and click the link "I only want basic ZoneAlarm protection". Good luck! [EJV]

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TIDBITS 2

Tech support: What kind of computer do you have?

Female customer: A white one...

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TOP TEN GRIPES ABOUT MICROSOFT (AND ONE HONORABLE MENTION) by Debra L. Schindler, MVP, WXP News

3. It almost always takes three times to get it right. Long time observers of Microsoft products notice a pattern: somewhere around version 3, most products start to come together. Somewhere around service pack 3, the operating systems become stable and get the bugs worked out. On the one hand, I commend them for being persistent and eventually getting it right, but it would be nice if we didn't have to suffer through versions 1 and 2 before getting to the "third time's a charm" stage.

4. Lately the company seems to be listening too closely to the open sourcerers. They're trying to make Windows more like *NIX - not just in good ways (such as more security) but in all ways, such as making new products command line oriented. The biggest complaint I hear about Exchange 2007 is that many of the tasks that used to be easily accomplished in the GUI now require you to go to the command line. The original point of Windows was that it provided a graphical interface. Most of the people who buy Windows do it because they don't want to deal with all that command line stuff. Sure, throw in command line support for us geeks, but give it to us in addition to the rich GUI, not in place of it.

5. The "tough love" approach. It's is great for rebellious adolescents, but it's no way to treat your customers. Most of the time, Microsoft works hard to give users what they want, but sometimes they get stubborn and decide they know what's best for you and they're going to give it to you whether you want it or not. The new Ribbon interface in Office 2007 is a case in point. I like it, but it seems a lot of Office users don't. It would have been soooo easy to build the Classic menus in as an option (as evidenced by the third party add-in that does it so seamlessly), so why didn't Microsoft do that, or at least provide it as a free download, instead of forcing you to pay thirty bucks to a third party on top of the already high cost of Office if you want to be able to go back to the "old look?" [Part 3, next time]

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RENAMING DIGITAL PHOTOS

I've been seeing a number of hints and tips on the subject of renaming large numbers of files. The most common need for this is the ubiquitous digital camera, which makes taking lots of images both easy and tempting. The larger memory cards for these cameras make it possible to take hundreds of pix without filling them up!

Unfortunately, the camera can not give the images (files) useful names. Hence, the need for help to the beleaguered camera owner.

Here's a very recent writeup on the subject:

"First thing, explore your camera's settings. Most cameras allow you to specify continuous numbering. The photos should be assigned numbers up to 999. The number is not reset until you've taken 999 photos. Otherwise, the file number resets to 1 when the memory card is filled.

This will prevent you from having photos with duplicate names. But DSC_001 is not very descriptive. So you'll still need to do some renaming.

If you use the software that came with your camera, consult the help file. It probably offers a way to rename the files when you import them to your computer.

There's also an easy way to rename your photos directly in Windows. In Windows Explorer, highlight the photos you would like to rename. Right-click the first one and select Rename. Type a descriptive name. Windows will rename all the photos. For example, if you named your file "beach," the second photo will become "beach (2)." It's a great timesaver! [Kim - 7/7/2007]

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WINDOWS XP AVAILABLE?

Some folks have been asking about whether they could still buy a PC that runs XP rather than the new Vista. Here's one Q&A about that: ----- Q: My friend claims that Dell has now decided to resume offering Windows XP as an option on its consumer model computers, instead of only offering variations of Vista. Is this true?

A: Yes, Dell announced last week that it is bringing back XP as an option on a handful of its consumer laptops and desktops. The models include the Inspiron 1405, 1705, 1505, and 1501; and the Dimension E520 and E521. A quick check of the Dell Web site shows at least one other consumer model available with Windows XP, the XPS 710 - Level 1. ----- There is another option that I recently encountered. It is NOT a cheap alternative, but Staple's (and, I presume, other big retailers) has new boxes of Windows XP right alongside the new boxes of Windows Vista!

All the prices for XP were list (or MSRP, if you prefer). But, they had both full and upgrade versions of Pro and Home (four offerings)!

In contrast, they also had 4-5 versions of Vista in full and upgrade. Around 8-10 boxes, also at MSRP pricing.

But, you do still have an option to use Windows XP, should the need be there. [EJV]