Computer News Napa Valley Personal Computer Users Group Inside This Issue:

Computer News Napa Valley Personal Computer Users Group Inside This Issue:
Napa Valley Personal Computer Users Group
Computer News
January 2006
Volume 23, Issue 1
Inside This Issue:
President’s Message
Officers List
Special Interest Groups
Membership News
Member of the Year Award
Heroes of Might and Magic
Digital Cameras Blossom
Tid Bits
Winning the Rebate Game
The New, Best, and Worst
Informative Tech News
A USB Primer
Virus and Incident Check List 14
Holiday Party Pictures
The Napa Valley Personal
Computer Users Group has
served novice and experienced
computer users since 1983.
Through its monthly meetings,
newsletters, online forum, special interest groups, mentor
program and community involvement, it has helped educate people of all ages. The
NVPCUG provides opportunities for people to find friends
who share common interests
and experiences. Through its
Computers-to-Schools program, members refurbish used
computer equipment for donation to local schools. Since
January 2003 the NVPCUG
has donated 398 computers
and 109 printers.
Calvin Ross to Speak on Search Engines at the
January 18 NVPCUG Meeting
By Susy Ball, Programs Coordinator
The Napa Valley Personal Computer Users Group will meet Wednesday, January
18, 2006, 7:00-9:00 p.m., at the Napa Senior Activity Center, 1500 Jefferson Street,
Napa, California.
Did you ever wonder how a person might use the Internet to perform
research to write an article or even look up a recipe or settle a trivia
question dispute? Well, you can find out how to do these things and
even more when you hear Calvin Ross, our speaker at the general
meeting of the NVPCUG this month. He is a very popular computer
columnist for the Napa Valley Register, and he teaches computer technology classes at Vintage High School in Napa. He will be discussing
Google's new search capabilities, as well as some of its other new features.
Calvin Ross
Michael Moore, NVPCUG’s Computer Tutor Coordinator, has arranged for Ken
Manfree to conduct the Computer Tutor session that precedes the main presentation.
Ken will talk about using hyperlinks to access information in a computer. A hyperlink is
an element that provides direct access from one distinctively marked place in a hypertext or hypermedia document to another in the same or a different document. Typically,
you click on a hyperlink to follow the link. Hyperlinks are the most essential ingredients
of all hypertext systems, including the World Wide Web.
Ken is a retired communications equipment installer. He has been an NVPCUG
member since May 2000, and he served as Membership Director in 2002 and Programs
Director in 2003.
Jerry Brown is our Random Access Moderator. He will lead the Random Access portion of our meeting with an open-floor question-and-answer period, during which you
can ask questions about specific computer-related issues you have encountered and receive helpful information from other meeting attendees. Don’t forget that you can email your questions before the meeting. ([email protected])
The NVPCUG can be a resource of practical information about your computer. So
bring your questions and friends to our next meeting. Guests are always welcome.
NVPCUG Computer News, January 2006, Page 1
President's Message—HAPPY NEW YEAR!
By Dianne Prior
(Programs Director, Product Review CoAs the new President of NVPCUG, allow
ordinator with Marcia Waddell), Ron
me to introduce myself. I am Dianne Prior.
Dack (Vice President, Webmaster),
When I was in high school in the '60s I deOrion E. Hill (Computers-to-Schools
cided I wanted to be a computer programmer,
Coordinator.), Julie Jerome (Secretary),
although I'd never seen a computer. Later I
Bob Kulas (Special Projects), John
did do some programming for mainframes
Moore (Facilities Coordinator), Dick Pewith punch cards, until I had my two chilDianne Prior
terson (Mentor Program Coordinator),
dren. I haven't "worked" since then, and in
John Simcoe (Publicity), Jim Stirling (Newsletter
those 25 years the world of computers and proEditor), Dean Unruh (Librarian), and Roy Waggramming has left me far, far behind. I have asner (Treasurer). Other members helping out are:
sembled my own PC computer, but I'm just a novJerry Brown (Random Access), Jim Gillespie,
ice when it comes to making it work.
Jim Hearn (Newsletter Circulation), Mike Moore
I wish all our members and friends a Happy
(Computer Tutor), Bob Simmerman (Greeter Coand Trouble-free New Year. Computers can give
ordinator), Marcia Waddell (Product Review Cous trouble every now and then for no apparent reaordinator with Susy Ball), and Bill Wheadon
son. Finding solutions to our computer hassles is
(Computer Recycling Coordinator). I will rely on
what the NVPCUG is for.
your strong support.
We had a wonderful time at the December
For the time being I will continue as Member"meeting" at Dick and Sandy Peterson's Christship Director.
mas House (lots of tasty food, satisfying drink and
We still need someone for the position of Used
good company). Sandy won the drawing for the
Computer Equipment Sales Coordinator. If you
get-acquainted party game we played. Orion Hill
would be willing to at least work on that commitwas selected as "Outstanding Member" for all the
tee, please contact me or any of the directors.
efforts he has put in for the NVPCUG, especially
his work on the Computers-to-Schools program
and the Used Computer Equipment Sales. Orion
I hope we will have a fun year with smooth sailing.
organized a silent auction for the Holiday Party
that brought in $113.50.
Peace and Good,
Thank you to all the members who are serving
Dianne Prior
on the Board of Directors for 2006 or otherwise
helping out. These members are: Susy Ball
Come to the NVPCUG General Meeting on the Third Wednesday of Each Month
Computer News (ISS 0897-5744) is published monthly by the Napa Valley Personal Computer Users Group, Inc. (NVPCUG), P.O. Box 2866,
Napa, CA 94558-0286. Subscriptions: $30 for one year (12 issues ). Editor: James Stirling, [email protected] The material in Computer News
is intended for noncommercial purposes and may not be reproduced without prior written permission, except that permission for reproducing articles, with authors properly credited, is granted to other computer user groups for their internal, nonprofit use only. The information in this newsletter is believed to be correct. However, the NVPCUG can assume neither responsibility for errors or omissions nor liability for any damages resulting from the use or misuse of any information.
The NVPCUG is an IRC 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit educational organization (EIN 68-0069663) and is a member of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG), an international organization. Donations to the NVPCUG are tax-deductible as charitable contributions to
the extent allowed by law. Copyright © 2006 by NVPCUG.
NVPCUG Computer News, January 2006, Page 2
Membership News
NVPCUG Special
Interest Groups
by Dianne Prior, NVPCUG Membership Director
In SIG meetings you can learn about a
subject in greater detail than is feasible at
NVPCUG general meetings. SIG meetings
are open to everyone. Meeting times and
locations occasionally change, so for current
meeting information, see our Web site,, or contact the SIG leaders.
Digital Photography SIG
Meets: Monthly, second Wednesday
7:00 to 8:30 p.m
Piner’s Nursing Home,
Conference Room
1800 Pueblo Ave., Napa
Leader: Susy Ball
(707) 337-3998
[email protected]
eBay SIG
Monthly, fourth Wednesday
7:00 to 8:30 p.m.
Napa Valley Genealogical Library
1701 Menlo Ave., Napa
Leader: Tom Kessler
(707) 258-1884
[email protected]
Investors SIG
Meets: Monthly, second Monday
5:30 to 7:30 p.m
Jerry Brown’s home,
23 Skipping Rock Way, Napa
Leader: Jerry Brown
(707) 254-9607
[email protected]
Macintosh SIG
Meets: Monthly, second Thursday
6:30-8:30 p.m.
Napa Senior Activity Center
1500 Jefferson St., Napa
Leader: Jim Gillespie
(707) 252-1665
[email protected]
A BIG WELCOME BACK to Bob McKenzie, who has rejoined our group after
over four years’ absence. We look forward to having him with us.
THANK YOU to the 15 members (including 2 associates) who renewed in December. Because of the holidays I’ve been way behind on notifying individuals
that their memberships are expiring. I hope to rectify that in the next few days.
Napa Valley Personal Computer Users Group
Officers for 2005
Board of Directors
Vice President
Dianne Prior*
Ron Dack
Julie Jerome
Roy Wagner
Other Directors:
Susy Ball, Jim Gillespie, Orion E. Hill, Bob Kulas, John Moore,
Dick Peterson, John Simcoe, James Stirling, and Dean Unruh
Appointed Officers
Computer Equipment
(Volunteer Needed)
Sales Coordinator
Computer Recycling
Bill Wheadon
Computer Tutor
Mike Moore
Orion E. Hill
Program Coordinator
Facility Arrangements
John Moore
Greeter Coordinator
Bob Simmerman
Dean Unruh
Membership Director
Dianne Prior
Mentor Program
Dick Peterson
Newsletter Circulator
Jim Hearn
Newsletter Editor
James Stirling
Product Review Coord.
Marcia Waddell
Programs Director
Susy Ball
Publicity Director
John Simcoe
Random Access Moderator Jerry Brown
Special Projects Director Bob Kulas
Ron Dack
*All telephone numbers are in Area Code 707.
NVPCUG Calendar
January 4
January 9
January 11
January 12
January 18
January 25
9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
7:00-9:00 p.m.
5:30-7:30 p.m.
7:00-8:30 p.m.
6:30-8:30 p.m.
6:30-9:00 p.m.
7:00-8:30 p.m.
[email protected]
Vi[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
Computers-to-Schools work parties. To volunteer, contact Orion Hill, (707) 252-0637.
Board of Directors meeting, Piner’s Nursing Home, 1800 Pueblo Ave., Napa
Investors SIG meeting, Jerry Brown’s home, 23 Skipping Rock Way, Napa
Digital Photography SIG meeting, Piner’s Nursing Home, 1800 Pueblo Ave., Napa
Macintosh SIG meeting, Napa Senior Activity Center, 1500 Jefferson St., Napa
General Meeting, Napa Senior Activity Center, 1500 Jefferson St., Napa
EBay SIG meeting, Napa Valley Genealogical Library, 1701 Menlo Ave., Napa
NVPCUG Computer News, January 2006, Page 3
Computer Games—
Heroes of Might and Magic I-IV
By Amitabh S. Bedi
I have been a strong fan of the turn-based roleplaying strategy series of four games known as “Heroes
of Might and Magic” (HMM) since I first encountered
them almost ten years ago. I do not care much about
most turn-based strategy games, but this series is exceptional.
Now many HMM fans are asking about Heroes V,
which should be out in 2006. The series was started by
New World Publishing and continued jointly with 3DO
(which had acquired New World Publishing). After the
firm went out of business, rights to the series were acquired by Ubisoft. Nival Interactive is developing Heroes
V for Ubisoft.
With the projected release of Heroes V only months
away, a review of the series and its development seems
appropriate. Hopefully Ubisoft will continue to produce
the earlier games as well as the newest one.
HMM has two major features: a strategical element
and a role-playing element. The heroes of HMM provide
the role-playing element within each game of the series.
They gain experience, develop skills and acquire
useful items. They serve as your generals and you lead
them into battle. In Heroes I, II, and III, each army consists of one hero and at least one creature. Armies require
heroes to move around the world, but not to garrison
towns, castles, and other locations (Heroes III allowed
you to garrison mines and fortresses). Heroes IV differs
in that it allows for armies with two or more heroes as
well as many creatures, for armies consisting solely of
heroes, and for armies consisting solely of creatures.
However, heroes are still needed to attack garrisons or to
claim mines, towns, or creature dwellings.
Hero Skills and Types
Each hero in Heroes I, II, III, and IV belongs to a
hero type. However, the nature of the hero types and the
number of them has changed as the series has evolved. In
Heroes I and II, there is one hero type per creature alignment. In Heroes III there are two hero types per creature
alignment. Heroes IV has several dozen hero types. In
Heroes I, II and III the hero type is fixed and unchange(continued on p. 5)
Orion E. Hill Named Outstanding Member of the Year 2005
NVPCUG’s outreach to the Napa ValOrion E. Hill was recognized as Outley community. His work with the
standing Member of the Year at the
Computers-to-Schools program, aided
NVPCUG holidays party on December
by volunteers who put in hundreds of
21, 2005. President Dianne Prior prehours in refurbishing donated comsented Orion with an award and a gift basputers, has resulted in the presentation
ket. The selection of Orion was made by
of nearly 400 fully operational comthe 2005 board of directors at its final
puters and 109 printers to Napa County
meeting December 7.
public schools, with additional equipThis was the second time the board has
ment given to nonprofit organizations
recognized a member with this designaand disadvantaged students and adults.
tion; Bill Wheadon was the board’s choice
Orion has also been active in rein 2004. Orion, who has been a member of
cruiting and coordinating volunteers to
NVPCUG since 1995, has served as an
assist with the Napa County electronic waste recyelected or appointed officer for ten years, frequently
cling events annually since 2001. This program has
filling more than one position at a time. He served as
president of the group in 2004 and 2005, after having
resulted in not only the retrieval of thousands of
pieces of usable computer parts, but also the safe defunctioned at various times as vice president, prolivery of tons of obsolete or unworkable materials
grams director, treasurer, membership director, spefor disposal. Other retrieved or donated computer
cial projects director, computer recycling coordinaequipment was offered to the public for sale at
tor, used equipment sale coordinator, and computersgreatly reduced prices, netting $8,400 for NVPCUG
to-schools program coordinator. Many of these prooperating expenses and special projects.
grams were initiated by him.
Many of Orion’s efforts have resulted in
NVPCUG Computer News, January 2006, Page 4
able. In these games, if you know a hero’s type you may
be able to predict what skills the hero will start with and
what kinds of skills it is predisposed to develop. In Heroes
IV, hero type is determined by hero skill specialization and
can be changed, albeit with some difficulty.
Moreover, the nature of the heroes’ skills has changed
considerably as the game evolved. The main characters of
Heroes I have four primary skills: Offense, Defense
Knowledge, and Power. Offense and Defense improve the
offensive and defensive abilities of the creatures under a
hero’s command. Heroes possessing spell books memorize
spells and cast them. Heroes may forget spells after casting
them, and the number of times a hero can cast a spell
without forgetting is primarily determined by its
Knowledge. The strength or duration of a hero’s spells is
determined by its Power.
Heroes II changed the nature of Knowledge. Here
heroes have mana and use it to cast the spells they have
learned. The amount of mana that heroes have is primarily
determined by their Knowledge. They also are given a
different type of skill, called a secondary skill. Each hero
starts with two secondary skills (save for the Wizard, which
starts with only one) and can learn up to eight (out of
Up until Heroes III, heroes of every type started out
with the exact same skills. In Heroes III, each hero has a
specialty, a skill that no other hero of its type (and perhaps
no other hero of any type) has. There are more secondary
skills in Heroes III, and each hero can learn up to ten.
Heroes IV has a radically different skill system, one
based on skill families and prerequisites, not specialty
skills. It does not have the primary skill/secondary skill
format of its prequels, although many of those skills are
still available to its characters. The way in which they are
developed is significantly different. Each hero starts out
knowing a little bit about one skill family and can learn up
to five (out of nine). It can acquire secondary skills within
a skill family only if it is familiar with the primary skill.
Development of secondary skills within a skill family is a
prerequisite for development of the primary skill, and vice
Heroes IV has nine skill families; five magical families
and four ‘might’ (non-magical) ones. The magical skill
families are Nature, Chaos, Death, Order, and Life. The
‘might’ skill families are Combat, Nobility, Scouting, and
Mastering the magic
Heroes have had magic at their disposal since Heroes I.
However, the nature of magic and the routes to mastery of
it have changed considerably throughout the course of the
series. The most important trend is towards professional –
ization and specialization, from merely needing a spell
book to cast magical spells to needing familiarity with a
form of magic in order to cast low-level spells.
Heroes I and II have only one kind of magic, and any
hero with a spell book can cast spells. Heroes II and III
additionally require possession of the secondary skill
Wisdom for mastery of higher level spells (levels three,
four, and five). In Heroes III there are four types of
elemental magic (Earth, Air, Fire, and Water), and it is
possible for a hero to acquire a secondary skill in each type
of elemental magic. Heroes who acquire a secondary skill
in any form of elemental magic can cast magical spells of
that kind at lower cost and (eventually) with greater
Like Heroes III, Heroes IV has several types of magic.
However, the magical specialties of Heroes IV are not the
same as those of Heroes III, and there are no spells that can
be cast by just any hero. A hero cannot cast magical spells
unless he or she has become acquainted with at least one of
the five types of magic, and familiarity with each type
affords a hero the ability to cast spells of that type (skill
levels permitting).
Each magical specialty has a primary skill. As a hero’s
primary magical skills increase in a specialty, so do the
levels of the spells that she can cast. The most potent spells
are available to those heroes who develop a magical
specialty to grandmaster level (level 5).
In addition to a primary skill, each skill family has
three other secondary skills, two of which are the same for
each magical specialty. Each of the magical specialties
has a secondary skill that increases mana and mana
regeneration, and another skill that increases the
effectiveness of spells cast. The nature and value of the
third secondary skill of the magical specialties varies from
one magical family to another.
Creature alignments
A strategy game must have armies for the gamer to
lead into battle. In HMM the soldiery come from a wide
array of races, which are clustered into groups that might
be termed creature alignments. Creature alignment is one
of the most important concepts in HMM; each type of
creature belongs to a creature alignment and is happiest
when all of its comrades (in any given army) belong to its
alignment. When there are too many different such
alignments in a given army everyone feels worse. Heroes
II had six creature alignments: Necromancer, Wizard,
Knight, Sorceress, Warlock, and Barbarian. Heroes III kept
these six and added three more, though those additions
were arguably its weakest ones. Heroes IV eliminated these
last three but retained the original six of Heroes II, albeit
with different names.
Fans of these four games in the series are eagerly
anticipating the arrival of the fifth. □
Ami Bedi is a long-time member of NVPCUG now living in
Fresno, California.
NVPCUG Computer News, January 2006, Page 5
Digital Cameras Blossom as Popularity Increases
By Ira Wilsker, APCUG Director; Columnist, The Examiner, Beaumont, TX; radio & TV show host
Web site:
Much to no one’s surprise, the popularity of digital
cameras is exploding, as the quality improves even more
and the cameras become more affordable. Digital photography, which was initially slow, grainy, and sometimes
difficult to manipulate, has matured and is now nearly
universal. With the dramatic improvements in digital
camera and storage technology in recent years, much of
what early adopters of digital photography experienced
has changed for the better.
Sitting in front of me are two digital cameras, each of
which is representative of the respective technology of its
One is a JVC GC-S1U that is about five years old and
still functional; when it was new it was considered a technological marvel and state of the art in its day, but by today’s standards it is technologically obsolete. One of the
first digital still cameras, it has a 0.3 (that is 3/10) of a
megapixel image of 640x480 pixels, which is miniscule
by today’s standards. It takes 4 AA batteries, which are
good for only a few dozen photos before they are exhausted; even less if the integral flash is used. Reviews of
the day used the expression that this camera “eats batteries.” One of the first cameras on the market to take a
memory card, it uses the now large format by current
standards Compact Flash (CF) card for additional photo
storage. When I connected to the computer via a very
slow serial connection the photos were slow to download,
unless I used an external card reader. One feature that
this antique camera has, still impressive by today’s standards, is a 10x optical zoom. The processor in the camera
is horribly slow by today’s standards, with a noticeable
lag between pressing the shutter and capturing the image,
along with a long delay for a follow-up snapshot.
The second camera I have in front of me is a new, state
of the art Casio EX-S500, one of a series of new cameras
Casio is producing in the “Exilim” series. The newer digital cameras on the market clearly show the technological
improvements that have become commonplace. They
come in a wide assortment of prices and features--tiny
key-chain-size cameras, cameras embedded in a ballpoint
pen, inexpensive disposable cameras, pocket-size marvels, even Single Lens Reflex (SLR) cameras with extreme resolution rivaling 35mm film, and---using an assortment of available lenses--just like traditional 35mm
cameras. Zoom can range from the less expensive and
generally inferior digital zoom, to the superior optical
zoom. Zoom ranges typically from 3x to 12x, with some
models offering a combination of optical and digital zoom
to increase the user’s ability to manipulate the closeness
of the image. Many of the newer digital still cameras can
also capture video and sound, often in the popular MPEG-
4 30fps (30 frames per second) format, the length of the
video being only limited by the amount of storage available on the memory card.
My Casio EX-S500 camera is actually small compared
to my older camera, being only about 3.5 inches wide, 2.3
inches tall, and 0.6 (6/10) of an inch thick, weighing only
about 4 ounces. This full-featured camera will easily fit
in a shirt pocket or purse. It uses the tiny SD memory
cards. With an excellent 5 megapixel maximum image
size, this camera will take digital photos in six different
sizes, ranging from an enormous 2560x1920-pixel size (5
megapixels), to the smaller 640x480 size (3/10 of a
megapixel). It should be noted that the smaller the image, the more images that can be stored in the memory
card. Also, the smaller images are more appropriate if
they are going to be e-mailed, an important consideration
in “netiquette.” The larger-size images are appropriate if
large photos are to be printed in 8x10 inch or 11x14 inch
sizes, or even larger.
Zoom is provided by a telescoping 3x optical zoom,
which can be coupled with an integral 4x digital zoom,
giving a maximum zoom of 12x. The lens produces very
bright and sharp images. When the camera is turned off,
the telescoping zoom lens is retracted into the body of the
camera, making the front of the camera nearly flat. One
technological marvel built into this camera is an “AntiShake DSP” which is a digital signal processor that removes the effect of moving the camera while the image is
being recorded; this contributes to an exceptionally sharp
image by removing or minimizing the blurring many of us
encounter when we move the camera as we take a photo.
Despite the small stature of the camera, it also can record movies and sound in three formats, 640x480 in both
high-quality and normal mode, and a smaller image
320x240 size for extended play. Video is saved in
MPEG-4 format, and the sound is saved in the universal
WAV format. With a common and inexpensive 256
megabyte memory card, the camera can capture about 8
minutes of video and sound at the high-quality setting,
and about 45 minutes at the extended-play setting. Simply, available memory and battery power are the limiting
factors in the length of the video that can be shot at any
given time.
While my old camera ate batteries, having a very short
battery life, this new Casio Exilim has a proprietary rechargeable lithium ion battery with a normal capacity of
about 200 photos before it needs to be recharged.
The camera has a shutter speed of 1/8 to 1/2000 of a
second, rivaling many of the classical 35mm cameras, and
it includes a multi-mode flash, self-timer, bright 2.2-inch
LCD screen, and a mini-cradle that simultaneously con-
NVPCUG Computer News, January 2006, Page 6
(continued on p. 7)
By Gregory West, Editor, SCUG Report and Tid Bits column
“The Sky’s the Limit”
Fewer and fewer people today are using that term, and
for good reason. In many areas of life there are no limits,
including technology. For instance: “As their average
commute time rises, North Americans are making their
vehicles increasingly homelike, with cushy seats, multiple
zones of climate control and DVD players. So it's no surprise that the next big thing in vehicle accessories is satellite television” (Associated Press). I say, never mind with
the TV, how about running WIFI through the FM radio;
now that would be a good limit for all of us.
Guessed This Gadget?
MP3 player, I
presume? Well, you are half-right, partially...Up for a new cell phone and more?
Be prepared to see the people around you
wired for almost everything: “Sony Ericsson
W900 is a high quality fully specified music
player, phone and imaging device capable of super-fast
downloads of all types of multimedia – music, video and
graphics.” This gadget is a UTMS machine. It is a
“(Universal Mobile Telephone System): third-generation
telecommunications system based on WCDMA-DS.”
With a 2 GB card you can listen to over 100 finger O
songs while calling your boss to explain why you are late
for work again. According to Sony, this Walkman/Phone/
etc. is also “an entertainment device. The W900 exploits
the UMTS-delivered capabilities to the full, delivering
fast and smooth download and browsing of video, games,
sound and graphics. The high performance 3D Java gaming engine is put to the test with the embedded Asphalt
(continued from p. 6)
nects the camera to a high-speed USB 2 connection as
well as to AC power to charge the internal battery. There
is also an “AV Out” jack on the cradle. Included with the
camera are two CDs of software to download and manage
the still images as well as the video. A set of included
video cables allows the playing of video directly from the
camera when it is docked in the cradle.
The body of the Casio Exilim EX-S500 camera is
stainless steel, and it available in a typical steel-gray color,
as well as white or orange-toned stainless steel. This camera has a suggested retail price of $350. Locally these
cameras are available at Circuit City, CompUSA, Radio
Shack, Target, Ritz Camera, Sharper Image, or online
from Casio at www.casio,com.
Casio is now marketing some excellent quality digital
cameras and should be strongly considered when shopping
for better quality and full-featured digital cameras.
The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal
Computer User Groups has provided this article.
Urban GT 3D from Gameloft, where users can experience
the thrills of extreme racing at the wheel of the ultimate
sports cars.” What, no WIFI yet?
OK, This One Was an Easy
Guess? Sort of...
Not really; yes, it is a USB flash drive, however this
baby is much more than your average storage case. This
is Bionopoly. Say what?
According to, this is what is known as a
fingerprint reader, “the first USB drive with built-in biometric authentication” or a “bio computer-on-a-stick.”
Most thumb or flash drives will store only your files;
Bionopoly does much more, and for about the same price
as the others. This gadget claims it “will pave the way for
you to do away with the usual start-up process of your
computer and directly boot to it. This is because the bootable USB flash drive has a built-in operating system of its
own. The system further contains OpenOffice to support
Microsoft Office files, the Mozilla FireFox Web browser,
and an e-mail client, as well as an instant messaging client which supports services like Yahoo and AOL and a
PDF-creating program.” Fabulous features; however I am
going to wait until they offer more GBs of storage...and
the price wars really begin.
Extra protection for your Firefox One of
the reasons Firefox is safer than IE is that
Firefox does not entertain Active X controls.
Now Firefox gets even safer with a new "NoScript" control feature. "NoScript" is a program designed for the
Firefox browser to allow you to control Web sites from
automatically using JavaScript or Java. You control on
which sites you want to use these features, sites you trust.
"This whitelist-based preemptive blocking approach
prevents exploitation of security vulnerabilities (known
and even unknown!) with no loss of functionality... Experts will agree: Firefox is really safer with NoScript." "Staying safe has never been so
easy!” For all Firefox extensions go to: https://
Convert Your Files to PDF - fast and free
It doesn’t get much simpler to make your own PDF
creations. Some free PDF makers insert advertising or
watermarks, but not the CutePDF utility. And to make
things even better, this program’s “configuration choices
are pretty close to nil.” (PCWorld Nov. 2005). Get the
details and program download here:
The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal
Computer User Groups has provided this article.
NVPCUG Computer News, January 2006, Page 7
Don’t Be a Loser at the Rebate Games
by Jim Sanders, Editor, North Orange County Computer Club, [email protected]
Most of us have bought something that sounded like
a great value — “After Rebate or Rebates.” Everywhere
from a great price to free! Most such offers are legitimate,
though they may require a fair amount of work to claim.
Most are never claimed. Most offers say you will have to
wait 6 to 10 weeks for a check (for some that turns into 6
to 10 months). Many have tricky fine print. A few are
outright scams!
Below are a list of things that you should do, as opposed to just think about, if you’re going to buy an item
with a rebate and have any real intention of claiming the
rebate and actually getting it. Following that are three emails that dealt with a denied rebate claim for our new
President Elise Edgell.
If you are going to buy an item with a rebate, do the
following while you are at the checkout stand, not after
you get home:
Write down the sales clerk’s name, then ask him to
show you that you have all the items needed to claim
the rebate. Ask him to put an X on the correct UPC
Make sure you have a copy of the correct rebate form
(s). Some are inside the box. You just paid for the
item, it is yours; open the box and read the terms.
If it is an upgrade rebate, it is better to find out if
your old product qualifies before you go to the store.
Check the vendor’s Web site, call the store and ask!
Read the fine print! Then read it again!
Read the “Proof of Purchase” requirement list.
Does it require the original “Sales Receipt,” or is a
copy OK? If the original is required, ask the store for
a duplicate original that is acceptable for a product
exchange if there is a problem with the product. Some
stores provide a “Rebate Receipt.” Make sure that
matches the requirement list.
Check the postmark requirement, I have seen one
that gave you only three days to get it postmarked.
Don’t wait till the last day to mail it.
Make sure a Web site address and/or telephone number is included that you can use to contact the rebate
center about your rebate. Most of the upscale rebate
centers include an 800 number.
Make two copies of all documentation submitted. If
you don’t have copies and a cheesy rebate center decides to tell you they never received your request,
you’re up the proverbial creek. I am working on an
article about using your scanner for this purpose.
I think it is a good idea to include one of the documentation photocopies with the submission, to make
the point that you have copies. Mark it “CC: Vendor,
My Files.” On the larger rebates, buying the 95-cent
proof of delivery service at the post office is cheap
Having a witness to the mailing doesn’t hurt. Err on
your side of the game. If it says 6 to 8 weeks, check at 6
weeks, don’t wait three months. Be reasonable with
phone calls, but check the Web site as often as you like.
Mark your calendar to remind yourself to check on the
rebate. Keep a folder for all of your rebates. Move completed ones to another folder. Once you get your rebate
check, read how long it is good for. Some are good for 6
months. Most are void after 60 days. A few are void after
30 days. I got one that was expired when it was delivered.
When you think you have been shafted, don’t just grimace and bear it, complain. Complain to the retailer. Complain to the vendor. If all else fails, file a complaint with
the FTC at You can also file a complaint
with the Better Business Bureau at Taking
the retailer to Small Claims Court is an option.
The e-mail exchange with BFG Technologies, Inc.
First letter
Dear Sir, My name is Jim Sanders, and I am the editor
of the North Orange County Computer Club’s newsletter,
the Orange Bytes. PDF copies of the publication are
available at For several weeks I
have been gathering material for an article on the rebate
games. Our members should see it in the next issue of the
newsletter. This is a hot issue with our members, as a
number have been burned by various rebate offers. In a
lot of cases it was due to not reading the fine print, not
crossing all T’s or dotting all I’s, or a claim that the request was never received or not received in time.
In some instances the rebate was a pure scam. A few
refused rebates may be caused by human error on the part
of the highly trained, intelligent, well-paid staff of the
rebate center. A common reason given for a rebate denial
is that a required piece of documentation was not included.
All too often, that claim cannot be refuted, as the original was sent in and the suggestion to photocopy all submitted documentation was not followed because of the
hassle involved. In an interesting coincidence of timing,
our club President, Elise Edgell, showed me the rebate
denial postcard that she received on 7/16/2005. The reason given for the refusal: “We did not receive a sales receipt with your request.” She had purchased a BFG GeForce FX 5500 OC at a special Fry’s Electronics’ one-day
sale, where a $50 rebate was offered on your product. In
this case, Elise did scan all the documentation sent in with
the rebate and kept it as a JPG file. In addition, the origi-
NVPCUG Computer News, January 2006, Page 8
nal documentation was
stapled to a printout News
of that file
In an effort to resolve why it became a problem in the
and a notationbywas
Dianne Prior, NVPCUG Membership Directorplace, I made a trip to the Anaheim Fry’s Electronics
My Files.”
That file of
is Napa,
I asked
to speak to the
person in
charge of dealing
We welcome new
Jim Gillespie,
to Computers
this e-mail. As
both of us bought the product
with rebates. The woman that responded to that request
Help for
in Napa.
and requested
the same who
it will
be inter-Manywas
but not very
I asked still
Thank youthetorebate
the 21inmembers
in December
esting to see if I get the same postcard.
Fry’s was having their checkout clerks tell customers that
need to send in dues. Your continued support enables our group to bring you our various activities—including the
I understand that you contract the rebate function to
the “Rebate Receipt” is the same as the full sales receipt
newsletter and many interesting meetings. Please bring your dues to the Holidays Party or mail them to NVPCUG,
other companies, but the typical club member that has a
for rebate purposes. Her response was:
Attn.: Membership Director, PO Box 2866, Napa, 94558-0286. Regular members, $30; Students, $20; and Associates,
problem thinks the problem is with the company that
“Well, sometimes it is and sometimes it’s not.” The
made the product and offered the rebate. It is your reputadiscussion lasted several minutes. It bogged down into
tion that suffers, not the rebate center.
questions of semantics, perception, lack of explicit wordWould you express your opinion on which of the
ing, and responsibility. Her rebuttal to your assertion that
joined NVPCUG.
above reasons
might be
cause of this rebate
it is a “Rebatehave
was thatJim
if has
you been
cut that
leader in the Mac Users Group for many years and will beform
is a computer
in two
line “Rebate
Form:”consultyou have
ant doing business as Home Help for Computers. One of the
courses he's
is the Computer
a “Receipt”
and completed
a “Rebate Form.”
That to help
the cuscourse under Calvin Ross
tomer by not having multiple, small, separate documents
Jim Sanders, Editor, NOCCC Orange Bytes
that are more easily lost, or difficult to match up with the
appropriate rebate form, they are printed together. That
Response from BFG
the “Proof of purchase requirements:” Section 3, says “a
copy of your receipt,” not “Sales Receipt,” not “Full
Hi Jim,
Sales Receipt,” not “Rebate Receipt,” just “Receipt.”
Thanks for contacting BFG Technologies, and thanks
That obviously the “Rebate Receipt” is a receipt. I comfor giving us the opportunity to clarify this particular remented that the Fry’s IT department controlled what is
bate situation.
printed and how it is printed. That it would be trivial for
Looking at the picture in your attachment of Elise’s
them to better separate the two forms with a couple of
submission, it appears there is not a copy of her “Sales
extra blank lines, a line of asterisks, and a line that says
Receipt” included along with the other required items.
“Cut here.” That they could easily have changed Section
In addition to the “Rebate Form/Receipt” and the
3 to explicitly state what kind of “Receipt” was required.
“Proof of Purchase” cut from the box, a copy of the
That if printing the “Rebate Receipt” is supposed to be a
“Sales Receipt” is required. With Fry’s it can sometimes
courtesy to the customer, it would be trivial to have the
be confusing because they label the Rebate Form as a
computer print out a “Duplicate Sales Receipt” when that
“Rebate Receipt.” This could lead a customer into thinkwas required by the vendor. That if Fry’s is going to the
ing that the form was both the rebate form AND the sales
effort to provide this courtesy service at all, they should
receipt, although they are actually two separate items.
go the extra step, and endeavor to do it correctly, rather
Some additional information that may be of interest;
than in the current, confusing, fashion. I commented that
this is one of two rebates that have the highest redempFry’s apparently feels it is their responsibility to remind
tion rates we have ever run. This indicates to us that macustomers that they should make a copy of all documenjority of customers are including all the correct documentation submitted for a rebate by handing out a yellow
tation and getting the rebate for this particular program.
sheet with that warning; why not expand it to include a
In this particular case, the rebate house did refuse the
caution about the receipt problem.
rebate on proper grounds. However, we will contact the
Her response was in essence, I don’t have any control
rebate house and approve Elise’s rebate, and yours as
what the IT department does. I counted to ten,
well. We often do that for customers who contact us and
her for her time and left. I hope this feedback
believe that that they were denied incorrectly. We look
helps you with future programs.
into individual cases and make approvals where the facts
support it.
Thanks again for giving us the opportunity to respond.
Jim Sanders Editor, NOCCC Orange Bytes
If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us.
On 7-23-05 we put on our best optimistic face and went
Kind regards, John @ BFG
Reply to response letter
Hi John,
Thank you for your quick response and also for fixing
the problem.
to the Web site to see how
well the rebate had been approved. We were hoping to
see a message like: “The check is in the mail.,” and lo
and behold we did. Pony Express or 4th Class, but in the
The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal
Computer User Groups has provided this article.
NVPCUG Computer News, January 2006, Page 9
The New, the Best, and the Worst
Collected by Pim Borman, SW Indiana PC Users Group, [email protected] , November 2005
“A distant view or prospect, especially one seen
through an opening, as between rows of buildings or
trees.” (
It is also the name of the long-awaited next version of
Microsoft Windows, not available until at least the second
half of 2006 but already widely previewed and discussed
in PC magazines. What do we glimpse in the distance?
Should we fight or switch?
The most significant improvement in Vista might well
be security, stated to be a primary goal. Only time will tell
– we’ll still be facing continuing patches, updates and
periodic Service Packs, I expect.
New Internet Explorer 7 will be a major make-over,
mostly to catch up with features long since available in
Opera and Firefox. It will also be available to current
Windows XP users. Windows Media Player gets a boost,
but will also be available in Windows XP.
Vista will appear in 32 and 64-bit versions, to accommodate the new 64-bit CPUs now available from AMD
and Intel. Visually, the windows will sport new folder
icons that show thumbnails of their contents, although I
wonder how they handle folders with dozens of subfolders and files. If your graphics card can handle it, the icons
will also be semi-transparent, wow!
Originally, Vista was supposed to support a new file
system, WINFS. I understand that this file system does
away with branching directory trees to store files. Instead,
files all get dumped in large containers, maybe such as the
current “My Documents” areas. Instead of assigning
unique file names you label the files with any number of
suitable tags, similar to the labels currently used in Picasa2. The contents of the files are also indexed on the go
to facilitate a search for keywords such as already provided by Google Desktop Search and Yahoo Desktop
Search. Vista is expected to include a similar search function even before WINFS eventually is implemented. But
WINFS will not initially be part of Vista.
As PC Magazine puts it “… it increasingly appears
that Vista's differentiating features, aside from the sleek
new shell interface, will be the ones that are less visible to
typical users: hardened security, better diagnostics, and
improved manageability in enterprise environments.”
Vista will require an up-to-date computer system,
with plenty of processor speed, memory, and graphics
capability. Manufacturers of scanners and printers will
surely provide the necessary drivers for newer equipment,
but older peripherals may no longer work. Will it be
worth the additional cost and aggravation to upgrade?
Dedicated gamers will love it – they need all the
speed they can get, at any cost. Also, if you work with
demanding graphics programs, large databases or similar
CPU-intensive programs you’ll probably want Vista for
better support of multi-core, 64-bit CPUs. Media enthusiasts will love the new features, but why use them on a
general-purpose computer?
For the rest of us, we’re probably better off waiting
until we need to buy a new computer that is almost certain
to include Vista, whether we like it or not. At least we’ll
get it at a discount. I estimate that MS Windows, Office
and Media Player contain at least 50 percent bells and
whistles that are of no interest to 75 percent of its users.
Last year Microsoft announced a crippled version of
Windows, called Windows XP Starter Edition, being made
available at low cost in certain developing countries. According to CNet (
the local versions of the program were made available in
Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, India and Russia. Cost in
Thailand was reported to be $36, not including MS Works.
Its intended use is in local schools for the obvious reason:
catch ‘m young. Read on…
…Or Else?
“The MIT Media Lab has launched a new research
initiative to develop a $100 laptop—a technology that
could revolutionize how we educate the world's children.
To achieve this goal, a new nonprofit association, One
Laptop per Child (OLPC), has been created.”
“The machines, which will run a version of the Linux
operating system, will also include other applications,
some developed by MIT researchers, as well as countryspecific software. ‘Software has gotten too fat and unreliable, so we started with Linux.’” (
These two quotes from recent MIT press releases
point at new directions in the Computer Revolution. First
of all, there is the realization that computers are here to
stay as a basic necessity in a civilized society. To the
three Rs of basic education we need to add a fourth Requirement, computer liteRacy. The cost of general purpose computers has to come down further to make them
available to every schoolchild, even in this country, let
alone in the developing nations. That clearly includes the
need to eliminate the high cost of the MS Windows operating system and commercial productivity programs written for MS Windows. Essentially free Linux is the obvious
Here is another quote, from (http:// “A number of Indiana high school
students returning for the fall semester will find brandnew Linux desktops in their classrooms. Under the Indiana Access Program, which uses desktop Linux systems
NVPCUG Computer News, January 2006, Page 10
and standard hardware configurations to keep costs low,
Wintergreen Systems Inc. and Linspire Inc. are providing
computers for classrooms. The arrangement could result
in as many as 300,000 Linux machines being deployed
during coming years, the companies said in a statement.”
And Indiana is arguably not a third-world nation.
When a new generation of students gets weaned on
Linux, they are likely to continue using that operating system in the future, creating the critical mass that it takes to
become generally accepted as an alternate desktop tool.
Some of the students will inevitably be interested in hacking the system, resulting in new and improved programs,
as well as some new Linux viruses, I fear. Their efforts
will be facilitated by the availability of all the underlying
code, in contrast with MS Windows programs that jealously hide the source code.
Besides the effort to introduce Linux in school computers, several large cities as well as developing nations,
notably China, have made it a priority to deploy Linuxbased desktop computers. In the near future most of the
growth of Linux will probably take place in developing
areas of the world. Acceptance in the USA and other
Western countries will be slowed by the difficulty or reluctance of users to transfer databases from MS Windowsbased programs to comparable Linux programs. It may
take another generation, but after maturing overseas Linux
is likely to return in force to the Western world.
The Editorial Committee of the Association of
Personal Computer User Groups has provided this
Informative Tech News
By Bob Elgines; CRCC Editor, [email protected]
More Free Spyware - There is another one out there like Spybot, called SpyBlaster, which can be downloaded at: There is a slight catch— you will need to manually update, unless you pay $10 for an automatic update subscription. This, unlike Spybot, will prevent installation of spyware.
PCI Express vs AGP-8X Graphic Cards - Are they here to stay? The PCI-Express cards are about the same speed
and higher in price. So don’t run out and change your motherboard to accommodate the PCI-Express. The only difference right now is the bandwidth, but there are not programs out there to use this advantage. Its main use would be for
Windows 2000 Info! - Microsoft released an update containing a collection of previous patches. The final service
pack for Windows 2000 is SP4, which was released in March, 2003. Support for Windows 2000 will end in 2010.
What is “Windows XP N”? - Windows XP N is a version without the MS Media Player. Windows XP Home (the
standard version) sells for the same price.
What is “Windows XP Media”? - Basically the standard home version with all of the latest photo, music, and
movie enhancement pack. This includes such things as Plus!Photo Story, Media player, Movie Maker, etc. These items
can be downloaded from Microsoft for free in most cases.
New Microsoft Windows Software - Microsoft’s new operating system called “Longhorn” has been officially
named “Windows Vista,” and it is set to be released to the public in 2006. The three new goals are summarized as Clear
(new methods), Confident (better security) and Connected (seamless) by Microsoft developers.
New WD Hard Drive - Western Digital released a new high-class series of Caviar drives and announced a new
high-capacity drive of 400 GB SATA (Serial). This drive has a speed of 7200 rpm, 16 MB of cache, and a transfer rate
of 150 MBps. The WD Caviar SE16 400 GB is priced at approximately $280, with a three-year warranty.
The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups has provided this article.
NVPCUG Computer News, January 2006, Page 11
A USB Primer
By Brian K. Lewis, Ph.D., Sarasota PCUG, Florida
By now most computer users are familiar with the
term USB, or Universal Serial Bus. This connection port
on your computer is designed to replace the older serial,
parallel and PS2 ports. Probably within a year you won't
find any new computers with these older ports. They will
have only USB. There are some things you might find
useful about USB ports and hubs that could reduce or
eliminate problems in dealing with them.
USB ports have a number of advantages over the old
system of parallel/serial ports. They do not require I/O
memory space or individual IRQ lines. Anyone who has
had to work with older computers and operating systems
will remember the problems of trying to prevent IRQ conflicts when connecting external devices such as scanners
or modems. How many times did the sound card manage
to steal IRQ's that you had to have for another device?
USB also allows for automatic device configuration and
hot-plug capability. The hot-plug or hot-swap function
means that you don't have to power down the computer
and go through a restart when you want to connect a new
device. In instead you simply connect or disconnect the
USB cable. The computer will recognize the device and
connect to the proper driver. That is assuming this isn't
the first time you have used the device and that the driver
has already been installed. You commonly have to install
drivers for external hard drives, printers, scanners, card
readers, etc. You generally don't have to install drivers for
mice and keyboards that connect to the USB ports.
Next, consider that USB operates at three possible
speeds: low speed, or 1.4 megabits/second; full speed, or
12 megabits/second; and high speed, or 480 megabits/
second (mbps). Low speed and high speed can be used
with either USB 1.x or USB 2.0 hosts. The high speed can
be used only with USB 2.0. The host is the computer that
provides the USB connections. For USB 2.0 operation the
host computer’s “root port hubs” must support USB 2.0.
That means the computer must have USB 2.0 drivers that
are supported by the operating system. Windows XP
(service pack 1.0) and Windows 2000 both support USB
2.0. The root port hubs are the USB connectors on your
computer and are usually connected to the motherboard.
You can also identify them in the Device Manager where
they will show under the USB Host Controller.
Although the USB specifications indicate you can
daisy-chain up to 127 devices from one port, this is not
likely to happen, because of the power drop that occurs
over long connections. You can get external hubs that
allow you to connect 4–7 devices to a single root port
hub. The external hubs are repeaters that relay transaction
information from the computer to a device connected to
the hub's port. There is a catch to this as well. Some USB
2.0 hubs will decrease their maximum output if you have
a USB 1.x device attached to a port. This means that any
USB 2.0 device attached to the hub may not function or
will function at a lower speed. I learned this the hard way
with an external USB 2.0 hard drive. I thought the problem was the drive, but it was the hub. I had a USB 1.0
card reader attached to the hub, and as a result the current
output to each port was reduced to the point that it was
not sufficient to run the drive. This occurred even though
the hub and the drive had external power supplies.
An ample power supply is necessary to operate USB
devices. Root hub ports can provide 5 volts and up to 500
milli-Amps (mA) of current. The USB power specifications state the USB ports should provide between 100 mA
and 500 mA. Devices connected directly to the computer
are able to obtain the maximum current. So let's take a
situation where we have a hub connected to the computer's root port hub. The hub is receiving 500 mA of current at about 5 volts. If only the current received through
the connecting cable powers the hub, the output from
each of its four hubs will be only 100 mA. This is referred
to as a “bus-powered” hub because it receives its current
solely from the USB bus in the host computer. However,
if the hub has its own power supply and is receiving at
least 1.6 Amps from this supply, then it can provide a 500
mA output at each port. In this case, the hub should be
able to support high-speed USB 2.0 devices.
On some computers you will find an icon in the system tray that is a “hardware disconnect.” In this instance,
you need to double-click the icon and wait for it to permit
you to disconnect the hardware device. This icon does not
appear with all USB devices. Since installing SP2, I haven't seen this icon in my system tray. There are some reports of computers with SATA drives showing this icon.
Since the SATA drive is supposed to be hot-swappable
like USB devices, I'm not surprised that the icon shows
up. However, with my Seagate SATA drive, I still don't
see this icon. That may be because my motherboard doesn't support the hot-swap function even though it supports
SATA drives.
When you plug in a USB device to either a hub or a
computer port, there is an initial identification process
referred to as the “configuration” step that occurs. During
this configuration process the device cannot draw more
than 100 mA. If it does, the process will fail and it will
appear that the device failed to work. The configuration
process identifies the device, its drivers, and its power
requirements. Only after this process is complete will the
device be able to draw more than 100 mA current. Since
this process is not instantaneous, some time must be allowed by the user before attempting to use the device. In
NVPCUG Computer News, January 2006, Page 12
addition, this configuration may not occur if the device is
plugged into the computer before the computer is turned
on and booted. In these cases, it may be better to connect
the USB device after the computer is fully operational.
Most of the time, the computer will identify and configure the device during the bootup.
Microsoft has a knowledge-base article on troubleshooting USB problems (#310575). Typically the problems relate to drivers or power problems. However, they
also point out that high-speed devices should be connected with high-speed cables only. The low-speed cables
may distort the signal as a result of their reduced amount
of shielding. Another really complete source of troubleshooting information can be found at: http:// This has references for Windows ME as well as XP and Windows 2000.
However, anyone who hasn't dumped Windows ME
should seriously consider doing so as soon as possible.
WinXP is such a tremendous improvement over ME and
will really make your computing experience much more
enjoyable. My computer hasn't locked up or crashed in
more than six months, probably longer. I really don't keep
track anymore.
So what devices are typically high speed and require USB 2.0? Let's start with external USB hard drives.
Seagate has a very interesting technical paper on external
hard drives. In this paper they state that most 2 ½” external drives require 1000 – 1100 mA during the start-up
cycle and then can function at the 500 mA maximum current available from the USB port. They also state that
most USB ports can support up to 700 mA on a continuous basis. This is something I have not found elsewhere.
Consequently, my recommendation is that when looking
for an external drive, pick one with its own power supply.
I wouldn't want to depend on one that drew all its power
from the USB bus.
Other high-speed devices include laser printers, scanners, and multi-function printers. All of these should have
their own power supply. Other devices that operate at
full-speed and don't need external power are blue-tooth
adapters and card readers. This is only a partial list of
what is available in USB devices. Just remember when
you are looking at them that the term full-speed does not
mean 480 mbps, instead it is the slower 12 mbps.
Dr. Lewis is a former university and medical school professor. He has been working with personal computers for more
than thirty years.
He can be reached via e-mail:
[email protected]
The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups has provided this article.
Tech News
By Sue Crane, Vice President & Editor, Big Bear Computer Club, California [email protected]
AMD plans 4-core Opterons by 2007
Advanced Micro Devices put a quad-core server processor on its road map and promised to upgrade its software
investments, as it outlined its general technology direction
for the next couple of years. The new processor will incorporate four cores connected together by a new version of
the Hypertransport Interconnect technology, and will support DDR3 (double data rate 3) memory. The 2006 dualcore chips will also introduce AMD’s Pacifica virtualization technology and its Presidio security technology into
AMD-based systems. AMD’s goal for 2006 is to improve
its standing within the business PC market, both in desktops and notebooks.
to a forged IRS Web site that asks for a Social Security
number, tax returning filing code and credit card details
including security codes and PIN. The government is
aware of the issue and is working to fix it.
New TIVO Product Promotes Targeted Ads
After introducing a generation of television viewers to
the joys of skipping over ads, TIVO plans to launch a new
service to let its subscribers seek out the advertisements
they’ve cut loose from their TV viewing. Digital video
recorder (DVR) maker TiVo is positioning the new service,
scheduled for a mid-2006 launch, as a way for subscribers
to find targeted ads in categories that interest them. The
opt-in technology will let TiVo subscribers use keyword
Phishers use Phony IRS Tax Refund to Scam Consum- searches to look for information on specific products or
services. The ad service will be free for subscribers; pricers
A spam e-mail message has been sent around the world ing for advertisers is still being determined.
telling people they are eligible for a $571.94 tax refund
from the IRS. The e-mail offers a link to a fraudulent IRS The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal
Web site, but the link actually goes through a legitimate Computer User Groups has provided this article.
Government Web site. The link in the phishing e-mail goes
NVPCUG Computer News, January 2006, Page 13
Ram & Reason: A Virus and Incident Checklist
By Rob Rice, Member of the Computer Club of Oklahoma City
Much has been said about virus and malicious software prevention, but what if all of your precautions fail?
So there you are, happily clicking along the Internet when
suddenly a popup ad obstructs your view. You start to
close it and then another and then another pop up so that
in just a few seconds there are so many pop-up ads that
you cannot possibly close them all as they just keep coming. So what do you? Delete them as fast as you can in
hopes that they will stop? Turn off the computer? Suddenly a program appears from nowhere and informs you
that you have been infected with a Trojan virus and the
program needs to scan your system so that the Trojan can
be removed. The problem is that you do not remember
ever having installed this program. Do you trust it?
There are some industry-accepted procedures for dealing with this type of incident and any virus or Trojan infection. Just follow these five simple steps in the following order to minimize damage:
1. Do not turn off your computer unless you are certain
that your files are being actively deleted!
2. Disconnect the network cable from your computer
and/or turn off your wireless connection.
3. 3. Write down any error messages and the names of
any programs or software that was running at the time
the infection occurred.
4. 4. Mark the computer “Do Not Use.”
5. 5. Run any of your applications that you are certain
are yours and that might have opened identifying a
virus attack. Next, run your antivirus, anti-Trojan
Step 1:
Do not turn off your computer. Not every Trojan and
virus is the same, so this rule will have exceptions, but
generally you do not want to turn off the computer unless
you can see that the virus is deleting your files. If you
think that it can be stopped from deleting your files without turning off the computer, then don’t do so. The reason
is that while turning the computer off will temporarily
stop the damage, more harm can come when you turn the
computer back on. System files can be infected when
loading, boot sectors contaminated, hard drive partitions
erased, registries corrupted. For example, on a Windows
system every time you make a major system change, one
of the first things that it wants you to do is reboot, “To
allow the changes to take effect.” In the case of a virus or
Trojan, the last thing you want to do is to allow the
changes to take affect.
Step 2:
Disconnect the network cable from your computer
and/or turn off your wireless connection. Trojans are designed to open a door and let other Trojans, spyware and
viruses in. Physically disconnecting its link to the Internet
stops this behavior, prevents your personal information
from going out and prevents other machines from being
infected. Many checklists have this action rated number 1,
and for good reasons. I rate it here as step 2 because step
1 is simply a quick decision that can have a significant
impact on the recovery outcome.
Step 3:
Write down any error messages that appear and the
names of any programs or software that were running at
the time the infection occurred. This is important not only
for repairing the system but also for identifying which
alerts are real and which ones are bogus. Error messages
that contain misspellings and poor grammar are likely
bogus and generated by the virus.
Step 4:
Mark the computer “Do Not Use.” This is in case you get
called away and have to leave the system alone for any
length of time.
Step 5:
Run any of your applications that you are certain are
yours and that might have opened to identify a virus attack. Next, run your antivirus anti-Trojan tools. It’s possible that your antivirus or anti-Trojan software may have
detected the attack and started running a system scan or is
prompting you and waiting for instructions. If you are
certain that it is your software, then let it do what it wants
to do and let it clean the system. If you have any doubts
as to whether the program is in fact one of your programs,
then do not run the software!
Some Trojans actually install and run a program pretending to be antivirus/anti-Trojan software and scan your
system, all the while claiming to be cleaning your computer. In reality it is part of the Trojan. Some of these programs look very commercial and very polished, so be
Rob Rice is a computer specialist working in Anchorage,
Alaska. Rob can be contacted at [email protected]
The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal
Computer User Groups has provided this article.
NVPCUG Computer News, January 2006, Page 14
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NVPCUG Computer News, January 2006, Page 15
NVPCUG Members Enjoy Annual Holidays Party December 21
John Pitt and Jerry Brown, a.k.a. Santa Claus and the popular
leader of the Random Access feature at monthly meetings and of
the Investors Special Interest Group.
Photo by Orion Hill
Two good friends at the party were Dick Peterson and
Richard Wagner. The party was held at Dick’s Christmas
Photo by Orion Hill
Gathered around a table for the evening meal were Jaci Tolman, Lee Ward, Lou Schirm, Pete Kreider, and Bob Simmerman.
Photo by Susy Ball
Dick Wolfe and Ron Dack exchange humorous comments at the silent auction site.
Photo by Orion Hill
Napa Valley Personal Computer Users Group
P.O. Box 2866
Address Service Requested
NVPCUG Computer News, January 2006, Page 16
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