Main Line Commodore User Group


May 2009 Issue 324


MEETING STARTS - 09:30 -- MAY 9th


For this month's main meeting the plan is to show you the current Windows 7 OS candidate. John M will have the honor of overseeing this presentation. If you've been considering upgrading your current Windows OS to Vista, but are in no hurry, then you might want to consider delaying your upgrade for several more months with the hope that Windows 7 will become available by early 2010.

Here's additional descriptive information from:

Windows 7 (formerly codenamed Blackcomb and Vienna) will be the next version of Microsoft Windows, an operating system produced by Microsoft Corporation for use on personal computers, including home and business desktops, laptops, tablet PCs, netbooks and media center PCs. Representatives of Microsoft estimated in 2007 that Windows 7 would have a three-year development time frame following the release of its predecessor Windows Vista, but that the release date would ultimately be determined by product quality.

Unlike its predecessor, Windows 7 is intended to be an incremental upgrade to the Windows line, with the goal of being compatible with applications and hardware with which Windows Vista is already compatible. Presentations given by the company in 2008 have focused on multi-touch support, a redesigned Windows Shell with a new taskbar, a home networking system called HomeGroup, and performance improvements. Some applications that have been included with prior releases of Microsoft Windows, most notably Windows Movie Maker and Windows Photo Gallery, will not be included in Windows 7, but will instead be offered separately as part of the freeware Windows Live Essentials suite.


1) If you are a member and did not attend the December 2008 meeting, then you likely missed out on getting one of the end of year club flash drives with embedded software as a Christmas gift. If so, and you would like one, contact John D to make arrangements to get yours. The flash drives will normally be available to members at our regular monthly meeting.

2) Club membership entitles you to receive a copy of the newsletter and access to our email list server, which is run for the benefit of our members. Please do not hesitate to post club and computer related notices and problems to it. If we can't solve your problem remotely, we can be alerted to it ahead of the monthly meeting where more hands-on may help resolve your problem.

3) A few of the regular attendees usually partake of lunch at the Country Squire Diner in Broomall near the intersection of Routes 3 and 320. So, after the meeting, why not join us? It's an opportunity to get more help and to discuss our common interests.



Attendance: 11 people in all attended the meeting on Saturday, April 11th.

Main Meeting Q&A: We began last month's meeting with our normal round of questions and announcements. Among the questions and announcements, John D did a brief showing of Zimbra Desktop and Boxee and mentioned the purchase of Western Digital's My Book external 1TB USB hard drive from NewEgg for $115; Bill D wanted to know how to close email picture attachments after viewing them in FireFox; Peter W mentioned his use of the Popcorn Hour Linux driven media center box with HDMI, component, and TOS-Link outputs and remote control, all for $185; Don W spoke of his 1-year anniversary with the club, problem receiving email from a friend, freezing mouse pointer, and need to understand the computing acronyms we use; Marty was again doing hardcopy printouts, this time on cloud computing and made available several copies of Ubuntu 8.2, and spoke of computer related courses on DVD; Pat spoke about storing and synchronizing his music on a multitude of different devices including iTouch and Zune and across different accounts; Dewitt had concerns with anti-virus issues and Windows Update; Layton had issues with the Zoom voice recorder interface and file system; Al G provided info on the Conficker malware and its removal; Rich T mentioned industry concerns with power grid control hacking and had us take a look at the 3D desktop for Windows; and Ed C mentioned his son's business computer problems were suspected of being caused by the Conficker malware and mentioned slowdowns caused by IE8.

Main Meeting Program: This month's main meeting was pretty much a disorganized trouble shooting effort on Wendy's video problem. I say disorganized only because there was no effort to involve the entire group in the process. Those who wanted to were free to discuss other matters. The remaining members were free to observe the effort and ask questions.

I would like to express my appreciation to Peter W who jumped in on the effort. Both Peter and I were probably the primary troubleshooters with support from Wendy and Layton.

Wendy's problem was that her computer display was often non-existent at startup. Eventually the display would start working and once working would continue to work. We connected Wendy's WinXP desktop computer video thru a Y-connector to our overhead projector and her LCD monitor. Upon initial cold boot we got a display from the overhead projector, but not on Wendy's monitor. After a few minutes, the monitor display kicked on and continued to work for the rest of the session, albeit with some strange displays from the monitor at times. Correctly or not, we tended to attribute the strange displays to the Y video connector setup, but thinking back on it, those displays were sometimes and somewhat erratic and strange with just the monitor connected. The monitor did not always sync up correctly and we had to push the display reset/re-sync button on the monitor to correct the display.

I have continued to ponder the problem since the meeting. We did give suggestions to Wendy to help her ID the hardware causing the problem, but I suspect the monitor of having a sync problem that mitigates once the electronics in the monitor warm up.

It will be interesting to see if Wendy has anything new to report at future meetings. As part of the ongoing troubleshooting process we suggested she try isolating the problem further by intermixing various components with other computer systems and seeing if the problem followed those components. We asked her to use the monitor and monitor cable with another computer if she could and to use another monitor with the computer that seemed to have the problem. This would definitely help isolate the problem to specific hardware components. This is what you want to do when you are troubleshooting -- isolate the problem to what is and what is not.


July 20th, 2008 Catherine Posted in How-To, Technology and Science

There have been some reports of the toolbars not staying in their set locations in Internet Explorer 7 (IE7). This happens even after right clicking the toolbar and checking the ``Lock the Toolbars'' function. Some people in the security community have been working on this problem and here is a possible solution.

First, right click on the toolbar and unlock it. Move the toolbars to your preferred locations. If the Google Toolbar is installed, go to: Tools - Manage Add-ons. Google Toolbar Helper (Browser Helper Object) will be there. Highlight Google Toolbar Helper and, in Settings, disable that function. The Settings is at the bottom left of that window. Click ``OK''. Close IE and then reopen the browser. The toolbars should be exactly where you have placed them - and have not moved on their own.

The Google Toolbar should work normally. At the moment, this solution seems to be the simplest fix for this problem. As always, the usual disclaimers apply. Please let us know if this solves the problem for you.

Catherine Forsythe




Despite all the efforts of Microsoft, Apple, and those who supply your anti-malware (anti-virus, etc) programs, they ultimately cannot protect you from yourself. This applies to every operating system including Windows, Mac, and Linux. As in driving a car, it is ultimately ``the Nut Behind the Wheel'' who will likely cause an accident or a problem. What follows is an example of Trojan software that could unknowingly be installed by a na´ve or unthinking user. In this instance it is an example of a Mac Trojan, but could easily apply to any other operating system.


Name : Trojan:OSX/DNSChanger Category: Malware Type: Trojan Platform: OSX

Summary Trojan:OSX/DNSChanger are detections of installation packages, masked as fake codec installations for Mac OS X computers.

These Trojans start in the package install scripts.

Additional Details Installation

Social engineering techniques are used to persuade the user into downloading and running this Trojan. Websites hosting video (often elicit) claim that the video cannot be viewed without installing a new codec. The user is prompted to install the "needed" codec.

The user then downloads and installs the fake codec...

Once the fake codec is installed, the video will play so as not to raise suspicion. During the installation, the local machine's DNS settings are adjusted to point towards a malicious server.

Changes the DNS Server

The trojan changes the OS X network settings to use a different DNS server. DNS Settings are made with a tool called scutil.

The DNS Server Addresses vary. For example, Trojan:OSX/DNSChanger.A directs traffic to servers located in Ukraine.

Reports Back

After installation, the script sends back an HTTP message with information that it successfully infected the system. The message contains the operating system version and the host name.

Prevents Disinfection

The installer script adds a crontab (a configuration file that specifies shell commands to run periodically on a given schedule) to a script to verify the malicious DNS servers remain unchanged. The script is stored in /Library/Internet Plug-Ins and is named plugins.settings.

The Trojan infects both 10.4 and 10.5 versions of Mac OS X.


September 12, 2008

I have a lot of video media stored on my server (almost 2 terabytes), and I need a way to stream it to my television so we can watch the stuff from a couch instead of a desk chair. Years ago I started with a basic PC running Windows, then moved to a hacked original Xbox with Xbox Media Center, then to a hacked Apple TV. Today, I replaced my hacked Apple TV with a Mac Mini running the excellent Plex media center software.

Plex is a fork of the original XBMC software that I used way back with my original Xbox. It has been updated and beautified, and definitely sports one of the sexiest user interfaces you'll ever see gracing your screen. One of its greatest strengths is gathering information about your videos. You point it to your media, and as long as the files are named in a sane way it will go out and fetch all the metadata from online movie and TV databases -- it downloads the episode/movie names, descriptions, and even cover art. This makes for a fantastic experience as you're browsing through your media. You can see in the image here an example of this as I look at the movie ``300?.

All in all, it is fantastic using the Mini has a media center. I have full control over my huge media library using just my Logitech Harmony remote, but I can surf the web or do anything else I want with the computer just by pulling out the bluetooth keyboard and mouse from under the coffee table. Plex is a great piece of software already, and lots of improvements are planned. For digital media junkies, I think this is about as good as it gets right now.


January 11, 2009

Plex, the fantastic media center software I've written about before, added some icing on the cake recently: out-of-the-box support for Logitech Harmony universal remotes.

Logitech Harmony remotes are great because Logitech maintains a massive database of all the codes for pretty much every consumer electronics device ever made (the Harmony 550 was my pick for the best gadget gift under $100). You (usually) don't have to sit there ``training'' the Harmony with your original remotes -- you just hook it up to your computer, type in the model numbers of your TV, receiver, game console, etc, and you're off. It vastly improves (and simplifies) control of your home entertainment center.

However, while Logitech did have remote codes for the Mac Mini (which is what I'm using to run Plex), the six buttons of the Apple remote aren't enough to control a full-featured software suite like Plex. So I wound up buying a piece of software called Remote Buddy that interprets signals from remote controls and turns them into keystrokes. Basically, I spent 2 hours having my Harmony learn IR codes from 7 ``virtual'' Apple remotes (7 distinct sets of 6 IR codes) to give me 42 effective buttons, but then I had to create keystrokes for each of those 42 IR codes in Remote Buddy so that the proper commands would be sent to Plex (as keystrokes). It was extremely tedious, and I wound up having to do most of it over again because one of the learned IR commands was corrupted (resulting in double-presses).

Not happy with this solution either, a few users over on the Plex forums got together and decided to do something about it. A special IR profile could be added easily enough to the Plex code by the developers, but the catch was that Logitech would have to create a Plex ``device'' in their massive database. When I found that out, I pretty much lost all hope because while I love Logitech's hardware, they're a big company and I didn't really expect them to pay attention to a little open-source project run by some home entertainment geeks.

Fortunately, I was wrong. Within a few weeks, Logitech was working with the Plex team to establish an expanded set of IR codes that a Mac could receive and that Plex would specifically listen for. Right around Christmas, the Plex device was added to the Logitech Harmony database. As soon as we got back from visiting our relatives, I eagerly updated Plex on the Mini, plugged in the Harmony to my laptop and fired up the Harmony control software. I found and added the Plex device, flashed the remote, and within minutes I was successfully controlling Plex just like any other device in the Logitech database.

Plex treats the Harmony remote as just another type of input device, so you can customize the key mappings using an XML file just like you can with the keyboard. I tweaked a few of the buttons to my liking, which only took a couple more minutes. All told, I had everything configured exactly the way I wanted in less than 10 minutes -- compared to almost 2 hours I had to spend before learning IR codes and configuring Remote Buddy.

With the addition of Plex to Logitech's device database, Plex now integrates as nicely into your media center as any other device. In my follow-up after my first couple months with the software, the one big drawback I mentioned was the struggle to find a good way to control it. That concern has been solidly dealt with. Considering how much we use this to watch archived video, I want to give a big thank you to the Plex enthusiasts who initiated this crusade, and the folks at Logitech who cared enough to listen to the little guy. From the comments on the Plex forums, it looks like they're going to sell a lot more remotes because of it!



From a 2009-03-22, 06:25 posting:

To answer your question, on the Windows platform in particular it isn't obvious but XBMC doesn't deal directly with the remote or the IR receiver. (I came from running XBMC on an XBOX & the MS remote was truly plug & play & worked right away with XBMC without any config whatsoever so I assumed support was built in & would be the case in XBMC on Windows too. WRONG.)

In most cases you get a receiver (either USB, serial or built into a card like Hauppauge which I have) then you need drivers for it (which likely come with it or are built into Windows which is the case with true MCE remotes). If that driver (like Hauppauge) emulates keystrokes you just need to configure it to output the right keystrokes that XBMC needs. Or you might need an add-on utility like EventGhost or IR Server Suite etc to do some translating or scripting. (During my testing XBMC actually gave a message on startup that it found a remote server or such which leads me to believe not all emulate keystrokes to control XBMC but rather talk directly with XBMC but I am far from expert on that) Keep in mind this assumes you are using the remote included with your kit. If you plan to use a universal remote you need to either reconfigure the IR receiver driver or add-on utility to understand that remote or it be a learning remote to get signals from the original remote or be programmable to emulate a certain remote. (Yeah talk about a lot to work through lol)

So as long as your kit can at least emulate keystrokes or work with one of the add-on's it is just a matter of searching for how-to or such on what is needed to bring all the pieces together. I did a write up on how I did it with my Hauppauge IR built into the PCI TV tuner:

Of course there are other ways to do it but that's what I ended up with after days of searching & trying different combinations.



This month I thought I would provide a list of Media Center related software for your consideration and information. Since my Internet TV presentation in February I've continued to investigate the subject further as evidenced by the previous couple of articles. Herewith is the software list.

Vista Software

With all my talk about XBMC, Boxee, and Plex, I didn't want to leave Windows users thinking there was nothing from the great MS empire they could use instead of a plain old browser or the XBMC application. áI've discovered there are add-ons for Windows Media Center, specifically the Vista version. áIf you want to watch Hulu and Netflix from within MCE, you can do so with these add-ons.


Features * View your Netflix queue * Browse movies by genre, top 100, new titles, etc. * View your history and recommendations * Add movies to your queue * Remove movies from your queue * Move movies to the top of your queue * Browse ``watch now'' movies * Play ``watch now'' movies

You need a paid Netflix account - $9/month.

TunerFree MCE

This software comes from the UK. This add-in adds BBC and Hulu support. You need to setup a FREE Hulu account to access Hulu.

Mac Software

Plex: A Mac specific derivative of XBMC.

The latest beta version of Plex adds many more features but is considered a beta program. New features include the Plex Media Server, online video (including Hulu, TED, CNET, Revision3, and more), full iTunes Music support, iTunes DRM Playback, iTunes Visualizers, and Sparkle Updates. Although it's considered to be stable, users should note that there may be bugs as features and functionality are constantly changing.

All OS Platforms

Boxee: A derivative of XBMC. Currently available for Mac & Ubuntu Linux. Windows version still in development and NOT public.

On a laptop or PC connected to an HDTV, boxee gives you a true entertainment experience to enjoy your movies, TV shows, music and photos, as well as streaming content from services like Netflix, MTV, Pandora and flickr.


XBMC is an award winning media center application for Linux, Mac OS X, Windows and XBox. The ultimate hub for all your media, XBMC is easy to use, looks slick, and has a large helpful community.

XBMC Media Center is currently available for Ubuntu Linux, Mac OS X (Intel-based Leopard, Tiger, and Apple TV), Microsoft Windows, and the original (first-generation) Xbox. The current stable release is 8.10, codenamed Atlantis. Below you can download ready to install packages of XBMC for your platform. (Note: XBMC requires OpenGL support.)



If you know computers, you could become an automatic suspect in a criminal case, especially if you use an OS other than Windows and don't use a GUI. For more info, read this case...

April 14th, 2009 Boston College Campus Police: "Using Prompt Commands" May Be a Sign of Criminal Activity Deeplink by Matt Zimmerman

On Friday, EFF and the law firm of Fish and Richardson filed an emergency motion to quash and for the return of seized property on behalf of a Boston College computer science student whose computers, cell phone, and other property were seized as part of an investigation into who sent an e-mail to a school mailing list identifying another student as gay. The problem? Not only is there no indication that any crime was committed, the investigating officer argued that the computer expertise of the student itself supported a finding of probable cause to seize the student's property.

For the rest of the article, follow this link:


DIRECTIONS FOR ST. AUGUSTINE CENTER MEETING ROOM Meetings are in the St. Augustine Center at Villanova University. The regular monthly sessions meet in Room 110.

Enter from the ITHAN AVENUE main gate, then proceed to the upper level of the 2-level parking building adjacent to the St. Augustine Center, on the Ithan Avenue side of the building.

NOTE: maps on our web page -

MLCUG Meetings 2009      Steering Committee Meetings
  May 9				May 13
  June 13			June 17
  July 11			July 15
EDITOR: John W. Deker, Jr.
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Lafayette Hill, PA 19444-2211

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