Main Line Commodore User Group

Newsletter


October 2007 Issue 305

VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY, ST. AUGUSTINE CENTER, ROOM 110

MEETING STARTS - 09:30 - OCT 13 th


UPCOMING MEETING:

We'll open with our Q&A to feed your thirst for useful knowledge. We will also try to deal with any computer-related items, for problem solving as well as for learning. We hope you'll be there!

For the main meeting, we plan to have a two-part event. First, Emil V will give a very brief peek at the newly released version 11 of the Acronis True Image Home backup program. Not a demo, just a look! He will be followed by Pete W, who will help us tackle those collections of video clips, movies and other such that are taking up much space on folks computers and taxing their memories about just what all that stuff is and where it is stashed! Come on out and see about getting organized!!

After the roughly noon break, we'll have our advanced time. John D, who is much interested in neat utilities and how they might help users out, has been working with one called "SpeedFan". John will show us how it has let him learn a lot about how computers are cooled and how to get the most cool for your PC.


Yet ANOTHER 25th !!!

In June, we highlighted the 25th anniversary of MLCUG; then, in August, came the 25th since the first computer virus and September has brought the 25th anniversary of the first "emoticon" (or "emotional icon")! You know it as the text-based form [ :-) ] of the "smiley face" or the J. And because of the vast import of this symbol, I remain speechless (at least for now )! [EJV]

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ANNOUNCEMENTS & COMMENTS
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Another Passing - I'm sorry to have to again report the death of another long time member of MLCUG. We received a much belated report of Hines Mathews' death, at the age of 95, in late August. In his working days, Hines had been involved in the Univac system program as a Systems Specialist. But for many years after that, he had no connection with computer work. He got back in with a Commodore system and moved, with the club, to a PC in more recent years.

From 1991, when he moved into the Hickman retirement home in downtown West Chester, he was a local resident until he moved to New Mexico about a year ago. We lost track of him after that move, and so were unaware of his passing until an obit was published in the Philadelphia Inquirer. [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

Our turnout in September was only 13, but we made up for the low attendance with a very lively round table Q&A and discussion! You can get all the detail that you may want with the recording of the meeting that has been posted to our web page. Just point your browser (Firefox is our recommended one) to the home page: http://mlcug.org/ There are three files, as usual, that cover: 1) the Q&A, 2) the main presentation and 3) the Advanced session.

Let us know if you have any problems - bring your questions to the next meeting! [EJV]

MAIN MEETING PROGRAM

This month was a very unusual presentation! We have amongst us, a stout defender (and promoter) of the Apple Macintosh computer system. The member, John M, brought in his relatively recent acquisition - a Mac Mini - to show it to us all, explain its features (pro and con) and let us get acquainted with the lowest priced member of the Mac line of computers.

It is a VERY impressive little box (about 6x6x2 inches) with a lot of features packed in it. You can get details from the Main Meeting recording mentioned above. John will be most happy to respond to questions you may have about this system; so don't hesitate to ask. Our thanks to John for giving us the presentation, without the normal religious manner that such happenings usually have about them!

ADVANCED MEETING

For this part of the meeting, our own webmaster, Pete W, reviewed some "experiments" he is exploring in his real-life work, at the University of Pennsylvania, as a teacher of lighting design for the theater.

The situation the Pete reviewed is his efforts to allow his students to complete their assignments and turn them in to a web page setup, rather than email as he has been doing. The web page offers advantages to both his students and himself. Our thanks to Pete for this bit of education, too!

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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 2007, and they are accessible from the web site, as MP3 files. You can download and listen as you choose! [EJV]

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FIREFOX: TIPS AND TRICKS Al Gottlieb

Using Integer Values in About:config

Last month we talked about Preferences with Boolean (true/false) values. We demonstrated using Boolean values in about:config by showing how to have Firefox open search engine results in a new window. Some Preferences, however, need a numerical value. I'll demonstrate this by changing the number of connections Firefox allows when downloading multiple files.

Firefox allows only two files at a time to be downloaded. In order to download more than two at a time we have to increase the number of connections Firefox will make. We can do this as follows:

1. Open Firefox and type about:config in the address bar 2. In the filter box of the about:config window type "network.http.max-persistent- connections-per-server" (without the quotes). (This preference probably exists but if it does not check out last months article to see how to create it) 3. The default value is 2. Just change the value to a number larger than 2 and you will now be able to download more than 2 files at a time.

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DO NOT CALL LIST

If you signed up for the original do not call listing (some 5 years ago), then your tenure on the list expires on November 1st.

To stay protected, you'll need to renew your registration at: http://www.donotcall.gov/

Click the "Register Now" button and follow the instructions from there.

You can register both land lines and cell phones. However, the latter are not really needed since cell phones are protected by another part of Federal law (it prohibits making cell phone calls with automatic dialers - the lifeblood for telemarketers; so they just don't call cell phones).

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TOP TEN GRIPES ABOUT MICROSOFT (AND ONE HONORABLE MENTION) by Debra L. Schindler, MVP, WXP News [Part #4 - and the final one]

8. The name game. This is a minor thing, maybe, but I wish the company would get on the ball when it comes to naming products. Windows Server 2003. Internet Security and Acceleration Server. Content Management Server. Windows Mobile 6. Windows Messenger. How boring can you get? We had one great product name: MOM (Okay, it's an acronym for Microsoft Operations Server, but it's a great acronym). Makes you feel all safe and taken care of. So what do they do? They change it to SCOM (Systems Center Operations Manager). And it's not like they have no imaginations. These products all start out with wonderful code names like Wolfpack, Mantis, Bobcat, Crossbow, Tornado. Then they're released with dull names. I suspect number 2 has a hand in this one, too.

9. What's a PR department for, anyway? Whatever it is, Microsoft's doesn't do a very good job of it. The company does all sorts of good things, but the news doesn't seem to get out there. I would suspect that it's the fault of the mainstream media just not printing the good stuff, except that I've dealt with Microsoft's PR firm, a few times myself. I got little information, wrong information, no follow-ups. Their main PR strategy seems to be "no comment." Of course, that may be because number 2 told them to say that.

10. Better together ... not so much. Customers (some of them, anyway) understand that if a hardware vendor doesn't make drivers for a new OS or a third party software vendor's products don't work, it's not Microsoft's fault. But darn it, we expect Microsoft software to run properly on Microsoft operating systems and play well together. When it doesn't (example: ISA Server doesn't work with MSN Messenger voice and video), something's wrong.

And honorable mention: If it's broke, fix it - or at least let us know it's broken. Sure, it may take a while to get a fix done and released, but in the meantime, if there's a "known issue," put the word out so customers will know it's a problem with the software, not something they're doing wrong. That would save a lot of people a lot of hours of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

That's my list. What did I miss? Send me your own favorite gripes about Microsoft at feedback@wxpnews.com.

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FUTURE-PROOFING YOUR DATA

As mentioned in an earlier issue, the growing problem of accessing old data, personal or business, is more and more coming to prominence as technology whizzes by!

The (slightly edited) info that follows was just published and pretty well expresses the problem and some thought as to how individuals might tackle it for now. It specifically addresses a question about spreadsheet files, but any other file type has similar problems.

Q: What should I do today to make my older spreadsheet files accessible years from now? On occasion, I have exported and maintained data in circa 1995 Excel format. Today I utilize a WinXP-based computer. However, I do expect to move to a Vista-based computer within the next year or two. More importantly, though, I do expect that these old spreadsheet files will have to be accessed and used by others on their computers well into the future.

A: Future-proofing data is a burgeoning problem as users and companies realize that they need to store and be able to access data indefinitely. This can include medical records, digital photographs, videos, and, as you're learning, spreadsheets. Unfortunately, there are no silver bullets to solve this problem.

The first issue to address is how to physically store the data on your spreadsheets. Many computer hard drives are guaranteed by the manufacturer to last 3-5 years (though some last much longer than that) before they encounter problems that require their replacement. Burning files to CD-R or DVD˝R isn't much better, since consumer-created discs often have a similar short lifespan. Not only does hardware fail, but support for old hardware also fades over time. Try to find a 5.25-inch diskette drive at your local computer superstore and you'll understand hardware obsolescence.

In addition to the worries of physical storage, data formats also become obsolete, either because the original applications won't run on newer computers or because certain features become deprecated over time. With spreadsheets that utilize custom macros, this can be particularly problematic. Although newer versions of applications can often open the original file formats, they often lose metadata that applies to the original files. This can be as limited as a formatting change or as catastrophic as the inability to play a video file properly.

Our recommendation for preserving your data is to focus on no more than a 10-year horizon. Predicting software and hardware changes for longer periods is better left to the folks operating out of your local carnival. The key is in thinking of your data as a mobile entity, not as a Lotus Spreadsheet.

One of the best ways to preserve your data is to use a format that isn't tied to the whims of a commercial vendor. In your case, we would recommend converting your spreadsheets to a format known as ODF (Open Document Format). This is a file format for office applications that is used with Open-Office, KOffice, and StarOffice. ODF is an open standard that can be used by any software vendor and, in theory, should have a longer lifespan than proprietary document formats from Microsoft, IBM, or other software vendors.

The easiest way to convert your documents to ODF is to download and install Open-Office (www.openoffice.org) and then open your spreadsheets with OpenOffice's Calc spreadsheet application. If they open properly, you can then choose to save them in ODF. When you need to make changes to the spreadsheets, you'll simply edit them in Calc. OpenOffice is free and is compatible with multiple operating systems in the event you migrate away from WinXP.

If you don't like OpenOffice or you find you're losing some essential functionality with ODF, you'll need to follow a different strategy. This is basically recognizing who is the biggest kid on the block. Lotus is currently an IBM product and should have a decent lifespan, though Microsoft has made Excel the dominant spreadsheet application. With our strategy, you'll need to plan on migrating your spreadsheets to the most current version of your spreadsheet application. And when there's a major shift in popularity, consider jumping ship to the new kid in town. It's going to be a lot of work, but if you stay abreast of changes in technology and the marketplace, you should be able to keep your data accessible for years to come. (SmartComputing, Sep 2007).

Part II - using VMs to preserve the software that can run your older apps and allow you to use and/or update the information. [EJV]

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"PRACTICING SAFE EMAIL ATTACHMENTS OR TINYURLS!!

Why a rerun, you ask? It's only been a couple of issues ago that you published this warning and reminder. Well, the reason is a Firefox tip that we published in the June issue - "Bringing TinyURL Functionality to Your (Firefox) Browser". It described an add-on that lets create a URL of the form: www.tinyurl.com/abcdef to take the place of a hugely long URL. Because this little beast acts in many ways like an email attachment - it may come unexpectedly, does not disclose its contents and may point you to something quite deleterious to your computer's health - you should treat it just like an attachment.

So far, we've not heard of any incidents where such has happened, but it could; so it's likely that sooner or later it will!

So, let's review how to treat a tiny URL or any attachment that arrives in your email.

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 a tiny URL or an email attachment and BEFORE you open it, ask yourself these four questions (you may change "attachment" to "tiny URL":

  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 attachment/tinyURL 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 item!!


                    MLCUG Meetings  2007               Steering Committee Meetings

			October 13 				October 24 <------
			November 10				November 14
			December 8 				December 12

				<------ = a week late !