|August 2007||Issue 303|
VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY, ST. AUGUSTINE CENTER, ROOM 110
MEETING STARTS - 09:30 - AUG 11th
THIS MONTH'S CONTENTS
As usual, we'll open with a Q&A to feed your constructive desire for knowledge. We will try to deal with any computer-related items, both for problem solving and for learning. We hope there'll be a good turnout for this meeting!
We plan to devote the main meeting time to an item that got canceled some months ago due to car problems on the way to the meeting. The topic continues on converting older audio formats to digital files - this time working with your old records (or "vinyl" as they are called today). Layton F did get his fancy USB inter-faced turntable and reports it works very well! John M will demo its use to make vinyl into bits and bytes. Come see how it's done.
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 also present an update of some of the enhanced features of the freeware version. [EJV]
Having just passed the 25th anniversary for MLCUG (starting from June of 1982), I find that in August of 1982, we had the start of another phenomenon - destined to have a much greater impact on computing than our effort. That's a bit of a joke, but this new event was NOT! So, before you flip the page to learn more, how about making a guess as to what it was? OK, then continue to p.2
Yep, in 1982, the very first computer virus - called "Elk Cloner" - infected the Apple II personal computer. You may have thought that IBM compatibles were the first PCs to suffer, but not in the early years.
In fact, just a year or two before I retired in 1989, my employer - the Du Pont Company - was having more virus problems with its coterie of Macintosh PCs (many of which had been slipped in without the approval of the powers that be). However, in 1988, with the release of the first computer worm (the "Morris Worm") on the young internet, the marketplace for malware became broadly established. Now, that's something to celebrate, right?
Well, maybe not, but without malware, we would be lacking a multi-billion dollar business activity - the anti-malware companies!!!
And you can enjoy some of the fruits of all the hacker labor - just go to p.5! [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.....
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.
We again had a very low turnout, only 10 attendees at the July meeting. I sincerely hope that this is seasonal and that more folks will show up in out future meetings, which are a very congenial environment for getting (and giving) help. Here are a few of the meeting highlights:
Tom J mentioned a couple of incompatibilities with his new Vista powered laptop. We'll likely hear of more. Also, there's quite a bit of relearning with Vista - different ways to do things you've done before (Microsoft appears to have changed things just because they could!).
Ralph H has recently started using Verizon DSL. His older PCs work fine with it. But his new laptop has been having difficulties (see the advanced meeting for more about this).
Marty C told us about his discovery and introduction to the newly housed Villanova Technology Department. It's in a renovated (?) building right off Route 30, near Spring Mill Road. He introduced himself and got some free assistance on a problem bugging him!!
Layton F spoke glowingly of the Silverfast scanning software that he's using with his new, top-notch Epson 4990 scanner.
That's about all I have room for. Sorry you may have missed the show and comraderie. [EJV]
MAIN MEETING PROGRAM
After a short break, John D took the witness stand, plugged his flash drive into the laptop and launched an extensive look at the utility program "CCleaner" (formerly known as "Crap Cleaner"). This program has the ability to clean out a vast array of stuff that can, and does, accumulate all over your Windows operating system. CCleaner has a very useful feature that lets you select a particular type of file (say cookies), then click its "Analyze" button and you will be shown exactly what will be removed, if you actually tell it to clean. Using this route, he covered most of the options that CCleaner can clean, with more explanation of the less familiar file types and why you might or might not want to get rid of them.
After sitting thru this very well done review, I found myself amazed at how poor a job the highly paid programmers do in generating and leaving behind "CRAP"! Oh, yes, and this was MY LAPTOP being used for the demo.....
Thanks to John for a very thorough and illuminating presentation. I reckon I'll have to use it on the laptop to make it a better place to demo things, too!!
Because the attendance was so low, we postponed John M's VMware demo and instead did a hands-on setup of Ralph H's new Vista laptop for net access with his new router (which he had also brought). The work took longer than expected as John learned where the Microsofties had put all the things in XP elsewhere in Vista! A very nice bit of teaching! Thanks, John!
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 July 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]
Have you ever had a need or a desire to make files available only to certain people. Well, you can do that by encrypting the file and giving the decryption code to the individual you want to have access to the file.
Normally, we use an encryption program such as PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) or Cryptainer. But now you can do that in Firefox with an extension called "Fire Encrypter", an extension that allows encryption/decryption and hashing. It contains the following ciphers:
- AES (Rijndael) - Affine - Caesar - XOR - OTP (One Time Pad) - Vigenere - Rail Fence - Morse Encoder - MD5 Hashing - SHA1 Hashing - SHA256 Hashing - Secure password generator (8, 12, 16 chars)
The developer claims that it's useful for developers and for fun. The add-on works with Mozilla Firefox 1.5 - 2.0.0.* If you're interested you can download FireEncrypter from http://www.softpedia.com/progDownload/Fire-Encrypter-Download-55225.html or from http://tinyurl.com/25hcld.
After quite a wait, it seems that Zone Labs (now owned by Checkpoint Software) has finally released Vista compatible versions of its top-notch freeware firewall as well as its full Zone Alarm Internet Security Suite. Fire up your browser and check out this reference: http://tinyurl.com/yt6yz3. I've installed both the freeware firewall on my current Windows XP system and the full security suite on my Vista Home Premium system on the same machine.
I've only had them running for about a week; so it's too early to judge - but OK, so far. [EJV]
6. Licensing Hell. This one is probably related to number 2, but the terms of the End User License Agreements (EULAs) are confusing, in some cases too restrictive, and not well publicized. For example, the XP EULA gives you the right to make a one time transfer of the product to another end user. Does this mean that product cannot be transferred again, or does the new end user get the same right to make a one time transfer? Did you know that the license for Microsoft Office Professional 2007 gives you the right to install the software on one primary device and one portable device as long as both are for your own use (your desktop and laptop)? Many people who buy the software don't know that. Of course, the licensing terms for client operating systems and productivity programs are pure simplicity when compared to those of some of the server products.
7. Best defense is a good offense philosophy. When it comes to piracy, the proactive approach has gotten out of hand. Most people will put up with minor inconveniences designed to thwart pirates, such as having to enter product keys when you install software. But users balk when anti-piracy measures start getting in their faces at every turn. I'm not offended if you have locks on your doors and ask me to show ID before I can come in. But if you not only pat me down and test my DNA on entry but then do a strip search again every two hours "just to be sure," I'm probably going to stop visiting you. I think Microsoft (along with other software companies) is reaching the point with anti- piracy technology where they're defeating their purpose and driving away customers who would otherwise buy the software. [Part 4, next time]
It's been quite some time since we went over how to be on your good behavior when it comes to handling email attachments. But, as I mentioned on p.2, email attachments have blossomed as a malware tool to get you to give out personal info, download malware of all kinds and generally do no good. So, I dug out my version of the rules for ANY ATTACHMENT that arrives in your email. Remember these? -------------------- The best solution to avoid a malware disaster is: obviously NOT to put yourself in harm's way in the first place
So, when you receive an email attachment and BEFORE you open it, ask yourself these four questions:
1. Do I know who the email is from? 2. Do I know what the attachment is? 3. Do I know what the attachment does? 4. Does the attachment ORIGINATE from the person who is sending it to me?
ONLY, if you can answer "Yes" to ALL four questions, can you be assured that you may open the email attachment with impunity.
If you have to say "no" to any of them, then you need to contact the sender and get the info you need to safely treat that attachment!!
Do you really know how to forward emails? 50% of us do; 50% DO NOT. Do you wonder why you get viruses or junk mail? Do you hate it? Every time you forward an email there is information left over from the people who got the message before you, namely their email addresses and names. As the messages get forwarded along, the list of addresses builds, and builds, and builds, and all it takes is for some poor sap to get a virus, and his or her computer can send that virus to every email address that has come across his computer. Or, someone can take all of those addresses and sell them or send junk mail to them in the hopes that you will go to the site and he will make five cents for each hit. That's right, all of that inconvenience over a nickel! How do you stop it? Well, there are several easy steps.
Try the following if you don't normally do it:
1) When you forward an email, DELETE all of the other addresses that appear in the body of the message (at the top). That's right, DELETE them. Highlight them and delete them, backspace them, cut them, whatever it is you know how to do. It only takes a second. You MUST click the "Forward" button first and then you will have full editing capabilities against the body and headers of the message. If you don't click on "Forward" first, you won't be able to edit the message at all.
2) Whenever you send an email to more than one person, do NOT use the To: or Cc: fields for adding email addresses. Always use the BCC: (blind carbon copy) field for listing the email addresses. This is the way the people you send to will only see their own email address.
If you don't see your BCC: option (crtl, alt or right) click on where it says To: and your address list will appear. Highlight the address and choose BCC: and that's it, it's that easy. When you send to BCC: your message will automatically say "Undisclosed Recipients in the "TO:" field of the people who receive it.
3) Remove any "FW:" or "FWD" in the subject line. You can rename the subject if you wish or even fix spelling.
4) ALWAYS hit your Forward button from the actual email you are reading. Ever get those emails that you have to open 10 pages to read the one page with the information on it? By Forwarding from the actual page you wish someone to view, you stop them from having to open many emails just to see what you sent.
5) Have you ever gotten an email that is a petition? It states a position and asks you to add your name and address and to forward it to 10 or 15 people or your entire address book. The email can be forwarded on and on and can collect thousands of names and email addresses.
A FACT: The completed petition is actually worth a couple of bucks to a professional spammer because of the wealth of valid names and email addresses contained therein.
DO NOT put your email address on any petition. If you want to support the petition, send it as your own personal letter to the intended recipient. Your position may carry more weight as a personal letter than a laundry list of names and email addresses on a petition. (And don't believe the ones that say that the email is being traced; it just ain't so!)
Other emails to delete and not forward are:
a. The one that says something like, "Send this email to 10 people and you'll see something great run across your screen." Or sometimes they'll just tease you by saying 'something really cute will happen.' IT AIN'T GONNA HAPPEN!!!!! (We are still seeing some of the same emails that we waited on 10 years ago!)
b. I don't let the bad luck ones scare me either, they get trashed.
c. Before you forward an 'Amber Alert' , or a 'Virus Alert' , or some of the other emails floating around nowadays, check them out before you forward them. Most of them are junk mail that's been circling the net for YEARS! Just about everything you receive in an email that is in question can be checked out at Snopes. Just go to: http://www.snopes.com/. It's really easy to find out if it's real or not. If it's not, please don't pass it on. So please, in the future, let's stop the junk mail and the viruses.
Finally, here's an idea!!! Let's send this to everyone we know (but strip my address off first, please). This is something that SHOULD be forwarded, so do it. [EJV]
MLCUG Meetings 2007 Steering Committee Meetings August 11 August 15 September 8 September 12 October 13 October 17 * = SECOND Wednesday ** = FOURTH Wednesday