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
February 2005
Volume 22, Issue 2
Inside This Issue:
President’s Message
School Appreciation Letter
Officer List
Windows Media Player 10
Membership News
Protecting Your Computer
Cyber Criminals
Tech News
Firefox 1.0
VCR for Radio
Free Tax Prep & Filing
Hardware Transitions
Start Menu and Task Bar
More Tech News
The Napa Valley Personal
Computer Users Group has
served novice and experienced
computer users since 1983.
Through its monthly meetings,
newsletters, on-line 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 more than 247
computers and 102 printers.
Key Computer Settings Will Be Reviewed
at February 16 NVPCUG Meeting
The Napa Valley Personal Computer Users Group will meet
Wednesday, February 16, 2005, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., at the Napa
Senior Activity Center, 1500 Jefferson Street, Napa, CA.
At our February general meeting, Orion E. Hill will review key
user-selectable computer hardware and software settings that affect computer operations, performance, and security. Although
most of these settings are preset to default values by computer
manufacturers, the default settings, in some instances, can result
in significant problems. In other instances, selecting other optional settings can make
a computer easier to use and greatly enhance a user=s experience. Many settings may
need to be changed to suit a user=s specific needs and provide greater system security.
Although this presentation will focus on computers with Microsoft=s Windows XP operating system, most of the information will also apply to computers with other operating systems.
Orion is a production and inventory management consultant working primarily in
the manufacturing and retail sectors. He is currently serving as NVPCUG President
and is the founder and coordinator of our Computers-to-Schools program.
In the Computer Tutor session preceding the main presentation, Michael Moore
will discuss inserting and formatting clipart and photographs in Microsoft Word, including the wrapping of text around these graphic objects. Graphics can enhance the
appearance of a document and convey information not easily stated.
Mike is a Computer Studies instructor at Napa Valley College, where he teaches
Microsoft Word, Excel, and Access courses. He is also the NVPCUG=s Computer Tutor Coordinator.
Our meeting will begin with Back-to-Basics, an informative session about basic
computer concepts and skills, and with Random Access, an open-floor question-andanswer period during which you can ask questions about specific issues you have encountered in using computer hardware and software and receive helpful information
from other meeting attendees.
Need practical information that will enable you to make better use of your computer? Come to this free meeting! Guests are always welcome.
NVPCUG Computer News, February 2005, Page 1
President’s Message
Improving Our Program
by Orion E. Hill
Great Presentations at January Meeting!
Calvin Ross=s very favorable review of FireFox 1.0,
Mozilla=s recently released Internet browser, at our January 19 meeting was very informative B and persuasive. I
wouldn=t be surprised to learn that many of the 57 meeting
attendees downloaded and installed the free browser right
after our meeting. Bernhard Krevet commented that he
had been using preliminary versions of the browser for
several months and was very pleased with its performance.
Mike Moore=s Computer Tutor presentation on using
the Drawing Toolbar in Microsoft Word was also very informative. Like many word processing application users, I
had never really taken time to fully explore the powerful
tools that are available. I was delighted to learn about
their capabilities and to see that they are so easy to use.
Linda Collison won ZoneAlarm Pro, Zone Labs=
award winning firewall software, in the members-only
door prize drawing.
Membership Renewals
Congratulations to Barbara Fraiser on winning a
one-year extension of membership in the early membership renewal drawing at our January 19 meeting.
I=m very pleased that more than 80 percent (93 of 116)
of our members whose previous memberships expired at
the end of 2004 renewed their memberships by January 31,
2005. This compares with less than 63 percent (74 of 118)
a year ago. In nonprofit organizations, such as the
NVPCUG, it is very difficult to measure effectiveness in
providing services that satisfy member and community
needs. For our organization, membership renewal rates,
increases (or decreases) in member totals, and event attendance trends are probably the best indicators of success. A
17 percent increase in renewals certainly indicates greater
satisfaction with our group=s program.
If you have not yet renewed your membership, I hope
that you will do so now so that you can continue to receive
all of the benefits of membership, including free newsletters, mentor support, and eligibility for drawings. Please
mail your payment, along with a completed Membership
Application/Renewal form. You can use the form in the
back of this newsletter or download one from our Web
Membership Terms Redefined
In January our board of directors redefined membership terms as twelve-month periods, rather than as calen-
dar years, returning to the practice
in effect from 1985, when dues
were first assessed to cover newsletter costs, until the fall of 2002.
Whenever people join or rejoin,
they will simply pay the appropriate annual fees for their membership categories. Every paid membership will now expire on the last
day of the twelfth month from the
time payment is received. For example, the expiration
date for someone joining or rejoining at our February 16,
2005, general meeting would be February 28, 2006.
Annual membership fees remain unchanged: Regular,
covering one or more members of a single family household, $30, and Student, covering one or more full-time
student members of a single family household, $20. The
Corporate fee, covering two employees designated as representatives, also remains unchanged at $75. Life and
Honorary members pay no dues.
The board of directors determined that our two-year
experiment with calendar-year terms proved to be more
disadvantageous than advantageous. The benefits of
twelve-month terms include simplified dues payments for
new and rejoining members (no pro rata fee schedules), no
need for annual membership renewal campaigns, easier
database maintenance and member follow-up, being able
to detect current membership trends, and being able to
more accurately forecast membership and income at any
time twelve months into the future, which is essential for
Member Identification Cards
All currently active and new NVPCUG members will
soon receive member identification cards. These cards
will be required for participation in a member discount
purchasing program now being arranged with several computer-related product vendors and service providers, including CompUSA. Look for regular discounts of up to 20
percent and special discounts for even more.
Volunteers Needed!
The NVPCUG is an all-volunteer, mutual support organization. Without the contributions of many volunteers,
our group could not function. Right now our group is in
crisis because we do not have volunteers to handle the duties of three key offices. The resulting workload is too
great for our current officers to properly handle. We need
volunteers for the following positions, which have been
vacant since the beginning of the current administrative
term in December.
Vice President - In the absence of the President, performs
NVPCUG Computer News, February 2005, Page 2
all of the duties of the President, and performs other duties as assigned by the board of directors.
Programs Director - Arranges educational programs for
our monthly meetings and chairs the Programs Committee,
whose members assist with program activities.
Special Projects Director - Handles a variety of special
projects as assigned by the board of directors.
We also need volunteers for a variety of support roles,
including assisting our Membership, Programs, and Publicity directors and helping our Facility Arrangements and
Greeter coordinators. We need administrators, designers,
graphic artists, photographers, planners, researchers, technicians, writers, and members with other skills, including
people who can simply help set up our monthly meeting
room. Are you one of those members? If so, please contact me to learn more about how you can help.
Presentation Reviews
Volunteers are also needed to write reviews of the presentations at our monthly meetings for publication in our
newsletters. While we would be delighted to have one
person write all of the reviews, we would also be very
pleased to have a different reviewer each month. Writing
a review is easy. Just take notes at a meeting, write a short
article (200 to 300 words) and e-mail it to our newsletter
editor at [email protected] To volunteer, please contact
Computer Tune-up Workshops
Should the NVPCUG offer computer tune-up workshops, first for free to members and later for a fee to the
general public? That is a question being discussed by our
board of directors. The purpose of these workshops would
be to help computer owners install new hardware and software, remove viruses and other malware, and adjust settings to improve the operations, performance, and security
of their machines. Please let me know what you think and
if you would be willing to help at a workshop.
Sound Off!
Got a suggestion for improving an NVPCUG activity?
Want to help with an activity?
Send e-mail to
[email protected] or call (707) 252-0637.
Letter of Appreciation
On January 19, 2005, the Napa Valley Personal Computer Users Group, through our Computers-to-Schools
program, donated 36 refurbished Pentium 3 computers
with monitors, keyboards, and mice to Napa High School.
The following letter was received soon thereafter.
Phone: 707-253-3711 Fax 707-253-3906
Email: [email protected]
January 26th, 2005
Orion E. Hill
President & Computers-to-Schools Program Coordinator
Napa Valley Personal Computer Users Group
361 Pickwick Drive
Napa, CA 94558-6195
Mr. Hill:
On behalf of the faculty and students at Napa High
School, we would like to thank you for your donation.
We are able to maintain our classroom instruction using
technology because of your generous donation. We have
suffered because the State has eliminated our technology
grant funding for liquidation and replacement. We are not
replacing, but patching together what we have. This donation has helped provide students access to technology
throughout the campus in classrooms, libraries and computer laboratories. We thank you again for your generosity.
Richard Perkins
Assistant Principal,
Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment
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 cannot assume responsibility for errors or omissions nor liability for any damages
resulting from the use or misuse of any information. The NVPCUG is a nonprofit IRC 501(c)(3) tax-exempt educational organization (EIN 680069663) and is a member of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG), an international organization. Donations to the
NVPCUG are tax deductible. Copyright © 2005 by NVPCUG.
NVPCUG Computer News, February 2005, Page 3
Windows Media
Player 10
Membership News
by Dianne Prior, NVPCUG Membership Director
by Chuck Guion, Editor,
Rockport Computer Users’ Group,
Microsoft has a new Windows Media Player 10 (WMP10) available now.
Go to
windowsmedia to download it. It was
designed for Windows XP. It does not
have any help files, but there is an article: "Using Windows Media Player 10
on the web," and you can download it
You can use WMP 10 to listen to
music on CDs, MP3s, MIDI, Wave, etc.
You can play CDs and DVDs (if you
have a DVD drive on your computer)
with the program. You can also use it to
watch your home movies, film clips,
etc. You can also use the Internet to
find more information about a CD or
DVD; i.e. the Album and the Artist.
You can quickly Rip from a CD to your
computer, as well as use different formats for doing this.
You can also burn your own CDs.
Most of the music CDs that you buy
have only one or two songs you really
like. With WMP 10 you can pick and
choose your favorite songs from several
CDs and put them on one Master CD.
Isn’t that great --and it’s free!
You can also organize your digital
media collection. The program will
even tell you where you can buy your
favorite albums! All in all, I think it is a
great program, and it is free! About the
only disadvantage is not having any
help file.
The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User
Groups (APCUG), an international
organization of which this group is a
member, brings this article to you.
Congratulations to Barbara Frasier on winning the early membership renewal drawing at our January 19 general meeting. All members whose dues for
2005 were paid up as of December 31, 2004, were entered in a drawing for a
one-year membership extension. Barbara has continued her membership since
moving to Everett, Washington, in 2003.
The Napa Valley Personal Computer Users Group welcomes Betty Forester
and Rob Richards, who joined in January. Barbara is the wife of NVPCUG
member Robert Forester, and Rob is the husband of NVPCUG member Dora
Richards. On January 31 the NVPCUG had 95 active members. A year ago
our group had 78 active members.
Napa Valley Personal Computer Users Group
Officers for 2005
Board of Directors
Vice President
Orion E. Hill
(Volunteer Needed)
Julie Jerome
Roy Wagner
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
Other Directors:
Dianne Prior, John Simcoe, James Stirling
Appointed Officers
Computer Recycling
Bill Wheadon
Computer Tutor
Mike Moore
Orion E. Hill
Program Coordinator
Facility Arrangements
Steve Siegrist
Greeter Coordinator
Bob Simmerman
Marcia Waddell
Membership Director
Dianne Prior
Mentor Program
Hilton Des Roches
Newsletter Circulator
Jim Hearn
Newsletter Editor
James Stirling
Product Review Coord.
Marcia Waddell
Programs Director
(Volunteer Needed)
Publicity Director
John Simcoe
Random Access Moderator Jerry Brown
Special Projects Director (Volunteer Needed)
Ron Dack
[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]
NVPCUG February Calendar
February 2
February 9
February 15
February 16
7:00 p.m.
Board of Directors meeting, Piner’s Nursing Home, Napa
7:00 p.m.
Digital Photography SIG, Piner’s Nursing Home, 1800 Pueblo Ave., Napa
5:30-7:30 p.m. Investment SIG, 23 Skipping Rock Way, Napa
7:00-9:00 p.m. General Meeting, Napa Senior Activity Center, 1500 Jefferson St., Napa
9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Computers-to-Schools work parties. To volunteer contact Orion Hill.
NVPCUG Computer News, February 2005, Page 4
The Computer Corner—
Protecting Your Computer During the “Flu and Virus” Season
by Joe Shipley, Phoenix PC Users Group NEWS
With all the viruses and other malware around, I have accumulated a
group of software that I consider to be
necessary ‘protection’ for any computer that connects to the Internet.
The software I recommend consists of: Ad-Aware
Spybot—Search & Destroy
Zone Alarm
AVG Antivirus
Pop-Up Stopper
All of these programs are FREE.
Millions of people are using them.
For Ad-aware alone, there have been
more than 90 million downloads just
Once these programs are on your
system, you need to make sure they
are updated. AVG and Zone Alarm
have automatic updating; the others
need to be updated by clicking a button.
Ad-Aware and Spybot specialize in
removing spies and malware from
your system. They each will remove
some bad things the other does not, so
I use them both.
When running Ad-Aware, first do
an update to check for the newest
definition files. After updating, run
the program. If the program finds
items which need to be removed,
you’ll see a display of the items suggested for removal. If there are no
check marks in the boxes to the left of
the item name, right-click in the frame
and choose the “Select All” option.
This will check all the items for you.
Click on “Next” to move the items to
a quarantine area. Once quarantined,
the items are removed and will refrain
from causing you any problems. If
you remove something you really
need, you can go to the quarantine
area and recover the item to have it
Upon installation of Spybot, the
program will search for updates and
give you the opportunity to download
them. Do so. Updates are good. After
updating, run the Immunizer to make
sure you block about 2,000+ bad sites.
Once updated, go to “Search & Destroy” to begin searching for more
than 24,000 (as of this writing) spies,
malware, Trojans and other bad
things, which if found, will be removed from your system.
One of the features included with
Spybot that I recommend is called
“Tea Timer.” This feature advises
you every time a change is proposed
for your startup files. Viruses, worms
and Trojans will often insert instructions into the startup files. By utilizing Tea Timer, you can determine if a
change to these files should be permitted or not. The logic of whether or
not to allow a change is simple: if you
just installed some software and
you’re prompted for a change, it’s
probably OK. But if you’re prompted
for a change and you did not just install new software, just click No.
When in doubt, keep it out. You can
always add it in later.
CWShredder can be used to remove a specific group of Web search
files that can hijack your browser to
take you to certain Web sites and use
specific search engines, whether you
want to or not. The shredder removes
those Web search hijackers.
Zone Alarm is a terrific firewall
that advises you of every attempt
made by your computer to access the
Internet, and of each attempt by the
Internet to access your computer. At
NVPCUG Computer News, February 2005, Page 5
first it may seem like an annoyance,
but once you catch on to the rhythm
of how it works, it will greatly reduce
the number of unauthorized Internet
accesses without your consent. The
program runs in the background and
gives you the chance to let it learn
which Internet sites are acceptable
and which aren’t. For example, the
first time you go to do on-line banking, you may see a message asking
you if you want to go to a specific
site. If you say “No,” you won’t be
able to reach your bank’s Web site.
Don’t be alarmed. Try your bank
again, and when you’re prompted to
see if you really want to go to the
bank’s site, then check the box
“Remember this site” and click on the
“Allow” button. The next time you
want to go to the bank’s site you’ll get
right in.
AVG Antivirus is a good antivirus
program, self-updating, and it will
scan e-mail as well as perform a regular antivirus scan. You can even setup
automatic virus checking to have your
system scanned when it’s convenient
for you. With AVG you can, as Ron
Popeil says, “Set it and Forget it!”
The last component of my protection package is Panicware’s Popup
Stopper. This handy Popup blocker
actually works. And if your bank’s
Web site uses popups which are being
stopped, you can hold down the control key to temporarily disable the
stopper to let you receive popups you
actually want. You can also open the
control center and disable the stopper
at any time if the handy control key
feature doesn’t do the job for you.
So this flu season you can get
added protection by using the software described above, and minimize
your downtime.
The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User
Groups brings this article to you.
Legal Bytes: Cyber Criminals - Who and Why?
by John Brewer, Oklahoma City Computer Club eMonitor,
January 2005,
Why do some individuals have the
need to engage in cyber crime? I refer
specifically to those people who write
code that damages networks and the
computers connected to those networks.
According to a recent article in
Internet News: “Tracking virus writers--and more importantly, gathering
evidence against them -- is a thorny
problem for law enforcement agencies
worldwide. While the number of arrests made and sentences handed
down make 2004 the best year yet for
catching cyber criminals, it won’t
have a noticeable effect on eliminating virus writers, according to the
Finnish security firm F-Secure.”
F-Secure states there were three
“primary security-related trends in
2004: a massive increase in phishing
attacks; the introduction of opensource botnets and for-profit virus
Phishing is the term used for
fraudulent e-mails that seek to obtain
information from the recipient. This
information is used for nefarious purposes, including identity theft. An
article on states that
consumers are susceptible to phishing. The antispam firm MailFrontier
Inc. showed to 1,000 consumers examples of so-called “phishing” email, as well as legitimate e-mail
from companies such as eBay and
PayPal. About 28 percent of the time,
the consumers incorrectly identified
the phishing messages as legitimate.
Now, that is a frightening statistic, as
28 percent is a high rate.
A botnet is generally a trojan that
has penetrated security safeguards and
is resident on a computer. When that
computer connects to the Internet, the
botnet will connect to an IRC channel. Then other infected computers
connect to the channel and a botnet is
formed. The person who created the
botnet, often called a “botmaster” or
“botherder,” can then control the
computers that are connected to the
botnet. For example, the botnet could
be used to launch a denial-of-service
attack on an innocent Web site or
The major viruses in 2004 consisted of Bagle, MyDoom, Netsky,
Sasser, Korgo and Sober. Three of
these were designed for specific
crimes, according to F-Secure.
The intent of MyDoom and Bagle
and its many variants was to create
spam proxies. These viruses caused
damages in the millions of dollars and
created denial-of-service attacks on and
According to F-Secure, at one
point MyDoom.A was responsible for
10 percent of all e-mail traffic. Both
viruses used the Mitglieder proxy trojan. Officials at F-Secure suspect the
two viruses may have been written by
one group of writers. Bagle.A
downloaded the Trojan from a Web
site, and it was installed through a
backdoor in MyDoom.A-infected machines.
The Korgo virus was designed to
grab credit card and banking information, according to F-Secure. Similar to
the Sasser worm, the virus targeted
Windows 2000 and XP machines,
scanning random IP addresses for PCs
with a vulnerable, unpatched Local
Security Authority Subsystem Service
Internet News reports it is difficult
to trace and apprehend the cyber
criminals. “If there’s an increase [in
arrests and indictments], it’s very,
very slight,” said Paul Bresson, a
spokesperson for the FBI, about his
agency’s efforts to combat virus writers. “We tend to devote our resources
depending on the volume and scope
of what’s out there, and if there’s a lot
out there, we devote more resources.”
The international nature of the
Internet means many criminals can
leave a long, convoluted trail that
crosses national boundaries with ease,
even if law enforcement agencies cannot. Despite actions by the Federal
Trade Commission to promote crossborder communications and aid, there
are still blind spots where virus writers can flourish.
Mikko Hypponen of F-Secure says
that whenever he speaks with law enforcement contacts about tracking
spammers or virus writers and it leads
to places like Romania or Belarussia
or Lithuania, “you hear this sigh from
the investigators, because they know
it became that much harder to gain
local cooperation.”
“The bad guys know how to reroute their spam and their viruses and
their hacking through six, seven, eight
different countries and go through
places like China and South Korea
and some obscure island in the South
Pacific just to make it hard for the
authorities to track them,” Hypponen
As an example, he points to a recent case where a Russian factory was
hit with a virus by a hacker group operating out of Kuwait. The virus, after
gaining access to the machines,
started downloading more code from
a Web site registered in a small island
off the coast of Africa. The actual
Web server, however, wasn’t there; it
was registered through Sweden to
Jordan. From Jordan, the infected machines in Russia downloaded code
that connected them with an IRC chat
system operated in -CNN’s chat server in the U.S.
Hypponen said it was a relatively
easy matter for his company to call
CNN and the ISPs in charge of the
Web server to blunt the effects of the
outbreak, but it’s something police
would have had a tougher time accomplishing. “If the Russian factory
would have called the cops,” he said,
“how likely would it have been for
the Russian police to first of all successfully track the virus around the
globe, and how likely is it that they
would have been able to prosecute the
Kuwaiti offenders?”
Sarah Gordon, a security expert
NVPCUG Computer News, February 2005, Page 6
at Symantec, has engaged in extensive investigation of the personalities of cyber criminals. “All those
years of research and contact have
revealed that many myths about
virus writers are just that. The
stereotype that virus writers are all
young teenage boys with no social
life, hiding in their basement is not
accurate,” she said. In contrast, she
said, most virus creators are typical
for their age, are on good terms
with friends and family and are
often contributors to their local
community. “Whatever the reason
for writing a virus, all these groups
share a common blindspot,” says
Ms. Gordon, which is that they
have no conception that what they
are doing can affect the wider
world. “They do not connect the
impact of what they do on the
computer with the impact on another person,” she says. “But, once
they realize that it can have an impact on other people, they age out
of it and stop.”
Her research has shown Ms.
Gordon that there is a real difference between virus writers and
hackers. While virus writers are
usually socially adept, many hackers are not. “When you see a complex virus,” she says, “it’s come
out of the hacking community.” In
her experience many malicious
hackers have a borderline criminal
view of the world and do not share
mainstream ethical norms. “Their
judgment processes might be different,” she says, “as well as their
perception of risk and reward.”
In my humble opinion, it is difficult to excuse this sort of behavior, regardless of the reason.
John Brewer practices law in Oklahoma City, is a member of the Governor’s and Legislative Task Force for
E-Commerce, and enjoys issues relating to eBusiness and cyberspace.
Comments and questions are welcome
and can be emalled to
[email protected]
The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User
Groups brings this article to you.
Tech News
Sue Crane, Vice President /Editor, The Big Bear Computer Club,
The search engine wars get more
interesting by the week. Google is
partnering with some of the world’s
most prestigious universities to make
it easier for Web users to scan the
schools’ vast library holdings. The
collaboration of Google and research
institutions that include Harvard, the
University of Michigan, Stanford and
the New York Public Library is a
major stride in an ambitious Internet
effort. The goal is to expand the Web
beyond its current valuable body of
material and create a digital card
catalog and searchable library for the
world’s books, scholarly papers and
special collections.
Meanwhile, Yahoo is adding local
traffic information to its maps service, including roadwork and accident reports as well as the approximate speed at which traffic is proceeding along specific roads. The
service, part of Yahoo Maps, will
offer accident reports and road construction information for about 70
U.S. metropolitan areas. The service
will also provide driving speed information for about 22 of those areas.
The traffic information is layered on
top of a map at the user’s request.
Icons are used to indicate accidents
or construction, while color codes are
used for the speed information.
And America Online is testing a
Web-based e-mail service that will
compete with Yahoo Mail, Microsoft’s Hotmail and Google’s Gmail.
The beta service for America
Online’s free Web-based e-mail is
available to AOL subscribers only.
But it will eventually be offered to
the public for free.
With a floating screen, Mitsubishi’s Scopo, due next year, will truly
be a portable computer! This headset
with an eye-sized, eye-level LCD
creates the illusion that a 10-inch display is in front of the viewer. The
Scopo comes with a belt-carried unit
with a CPU to process images and
NVPCUG Computer News, February 2005, Page 7
video. It can be attached to a cell
phone, video player, or other device
Two Japanese companies, Toshiba
and Memory-Tech, say they’ve developed the world’s first DVD that
can be played on both standard and
high-definition DVD players, using
the HD-DVD format. HD-DVD has
the backing of the DVD Forum.
You can get anything on eBay—
except justice. That’s what one disgruntled litigant found when she
snarkily offered a New York City
judge for sale on the popular auction
site. Even though the highest bidder
offered more than $100, she found
out the hard way that crime just doesn’t pay. And the judge was not
Residents of 13 western states can
check all three of their credit reports
for free at
The Midwest will come onstream on
March 1, the South on June 1, and the
East on Sept. 1. Previously, you had
to buy this information from the three
credit reporting companies: TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. The three
reports can vary. That’s why all
three, and not just one, are available.
Check your credit report online at:
The California Energy Commission unanimously approved standards
to be phased in beginning in 2006
that would require household appliances, including televisions, VCRs,
DVD players and cell phone chargers, to run on one to three watts. Even
when idle, such appliances now typically gobble up two to 10 watts.
Commissioners estimate that compliance with the new guidelines will
save commercial and residential
power customers more than $3 billion
over 15 years.
The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups
brings this article to you
Firefox: A program popularized by open source programmers
by Linda Gonse, Editor, Nibbles & Bits,Orange County IBM PC Users’ Group
The latest version of Firefox, an
open-source program, formerly
Mozilla, and before that, Netscape
Navigator, was released to popular
acclaim near the end of 2004 from Many people, tired
of security problems and perpetual
patching of Internet Explorer, have
begun to make the switch to Firefox. I
was one of them. It was an easy transition to import my bookmarks, favorites, and other items, and set up
housekeeping in it.
But it was a real surprise to find
free “themes,” a change of appearance
for Firefox. Feeling the exhilaration
of discovery, I downloaded Nautipolis, Red Cats, Gray Modern, Littlefox,
and others; finally settling on Littlefox. Then I discovered “extensions.”
Extensions are little programs, originally called applets, that run from
within Firefox. Their specialized capabilities add to the functionality of
Firefox and quickly become features
you just can’t live without. There are
about a dozen I use, including:
Weatherfox, QuickNote, Titlebar
Tweaks, SpoofStick, CopyPlainText,
and Tabbrowser Extensions.
One extension that makes my online life simpler is called QuickNote.
It allows me to copy and paste from
browser pages into a tabbed notepad
available right in the browser. It saves
me from opening Word or Notepad
and working back and forth from one
of them to the browser window.
Fascinated with the free extensions, I tracked down QuickNote’s
creator, Jed Brown, to ask him to tell
me how he got started and why he
wrote the program. Also, since
QuickNote had earned five stars as a
popular Firefox item, I wondered if
Jed thought it might end up being incorporated into Internet Explorer.
He said, “I became involved with
Mozilla back in the 90s. I was a frequent user of what was then the Mosaic browser when the World Wide
Web had just begun. Netscape was
born from Mosaic and I was instantly
a user of Netscape Navigator.
“Once the 'browser wars' began, I
was a devoted Netscape user who
really loathed how Microsoft used
their OS dominance to spread use of
their browser. Unfortunately, after
Netscape released its 4.0 browser, MS
was right on their tail and produced an
even better and more standardscompliant browser.
“Despite the better browser, I was
loyal and stayed on NS as long as I
could. Around the time when Netscape 5 was going to be released
(1998 I believe), they decided to
open-source their browser. That
sparked my interest and I got my
hands on the code as quickly as I
could. Once the open-source community realized that the NS code was a
huge hack and badly organized, they
decided to start from scratch and create what was to be the fastest, most
compliant browser ever. This was too
good to be true.
“Unfortunately, this was no easy
endeavor and would take over three
years to get even close to a final product. In the meantime, Internet Explorer was the superior product (over
NS 4.x) and was becoming the
browser of choice for many—
including myself. I wasn’t hacking on
any of the code, but I did start testing
the releases from the first public beta
release. Since that day, I used this
new engine and code base as much as
I could, but always had lE there for
sites that did not work in the new,
young and untested engine.
“Once Mozilla had matured
(version 0.8) and became usable on a
daily basis, I switched over and said
goodbye to IE for good. The folks at
Netscape had a brilliant idea called
XUL that would allow them to write
the interface to the browser once, and
allow it to run on any platform possible. This meant Mozilla looked the
same on Windows, Mac, Linux, OS 2,
etc. This same technology allowed
authors like myself to start creating
programs that would live on top of the
Mozilla platform and extend its functionality (now called 'Extensions' ).
“As a high-school student back
then, I started a project called
QuickNote that would allow easy access to a notepad-like sidebar for easy
note taking.
“While my extension was popular
and used amongst many Mozilla users, Mozilla was plagued with bad
interface design decisions from Netscape and AOL, who later bought
Netscape, so it really never hit it well
with anyone but “geek” users. A few
talented programmers at Netscape
(Hyatt, Blake, Goodger, etc.) realized
this and in their free time started a
new project based on Mozilla, but
much more simple, that was meant to
be only a browser instead of a full
suite like Mozilla was. This eventually turned into what Firefox is today.
“Thanks to Firefox (formerly
Phoenix and Firebird) much more
attention was brought to it and a much
larger user base. More interest in
Mozilla, XUL, and extension development arose. This has led to over 200
extensions made for Mozilla applications, and has brought together programmers from around the world, like
myself, to join in and help make Firefox/ Mozilla better.
“For example, QuickNote was a
project I was doing by myself in my
free time. But now many different
users contribute code and translation.
A Russian programmer, Nickolay Ponomarev, has joined with me and contributes to QuickNote on a regular
basis. The whole idea of multiplatform and open source software is
amazing, as it has brought thousands
of people together under one cause,
despite language and cultural barriers.
This, in part, is thanks to Mozilla and
its example that open source software
NVPCUG Computer News, February 2005, Page 8
can be just as good—and in this case,
better than, priority software.”
We asked Jed what he sees for Firefox in the next couple of years.
He said, “I think we will see a continuous trend in the growth of Firefox
users. Once Microsoft won the browser
wars, it dismantled its IE team and left
users high and dry. Firefox is filling
this void, bringing a new and fresh
idea to the World Wide Web and making it the place it should have been
(virus/popup/spyware free) years ago.
“I also can see more and more companies embracing Firefox in their internal networks and products they offer to
their users. Google, Amazon and many
others are already starting.”
We also wondered if Mozilla/
Firefox will survive and grow through
the efforts of the open-source community. Or will Microsoft gobble up talented program writers such as Jed, and
thus keep IE dominant?
“Mozilla/Firefox will definitely
survive and be vital for years to come,”
Jed said. “Microsoft is far behind with
Longhorn, and even when it ships it
will take years to get users to migrate
over. In the meantime Firefox will
continue to see growth in users on
multiple platforms and will be extremely important to the survival of
Linux as a desktop alternative. Sure,
MS will copy features and do its best
to find exploits in Firefox. No software
is perfect, but I believe the very nature
of Mozilla and Firefox appeals to users and gives the Web freedom from
control from one sole company. As
time goes by, I think the average user
will begin to understand this and realize the importance of alternative products and that they are superior in many
“The other huge benefit that Firefox
has as a browser and Mozilla, in general, as a platform, is their multiplatform nature. As a programmer, I can
create any application or extension
based on Mozilla and easily make it
work on every platform that Mozilla/
Firefox runs on. This allows users to
use any system they like, perhaps
Unix/Linux at work, Mac OS on their
Ask The Expert— Bluetooth
by Joe Schmitt, Bits & Bytes Online, Tampa Bay Computer Society
What is this “Bluetooth” I keep
hearing about, and do I need it?
Whenever something like a mouse
or keyboard is connected to your
computer, there are protocols and
standards in place so that the computer can talk to the keyboard and
operate properly. The same scenario
also applies to anything that connects
to a computer or other electronics
around your home. Your TV needs to
know how the cable signal is formatted so that you get the sound and
video. Bluetooth is a wireless protocol that allows electronics to communicate. Bluetooth goes beyond your
computer to integrate electronics
across a wide spectrum. It operates on
two levels: First, that all Bluetooth
devices operate on the same radio
frequency and speak the same language, and secondly, that they all
share the same procedures in exchanging data and verify that the data
is received. That is sort of like being
able to speak the language and know
the customs so no one misunderstands.
Bluetooth is a standard that has
been developed and employed by
close to 1,000 different companies.
This protocol would allow you to take
a cell phone, get into a car with a
Bluetooth radio, and transfer the call
to the stereo so your hands are left
free. Later you could take that same
phone and possibly transfer contact
information from the phone to a computer. This is just one example. Bluetooth can be found in phones, keyboards, PDA’s, and even stereo headphones. It could potentially show up
anywhere when you have connected
two devices with a wire, but would
like to do it wirelessly.
Is this something you need? Just
like anything else with computers, the
answer depends on whether or not it
meets your needs. Do you need a
Bluetooth keyboard or mouse? Not if
the wires don’t bother you. Could you
use it to link your FDA or Pocket PC
to the computer? Yes, and that might
be the most likely scenario that Bluetooth would aid you in. If you are the
type of person who likes portable
gadgets as much as your computer,
Bluetooth may be something to take a
serious look into. For more and
———————————————-The Editorial Committee of the
laptop and Windows XP at home, and Association of Personal Computer
yet feel no difference when it comes to User Groups brings this article to
surfing the Web and using the applica - you.
tions/extensions built on Mozilla. Microsoft has no real answer to this
(although .Net tries) and it is a huge
selling point to both users and corporations.”
(You can email Jed at [email protected], and look for
Smart Computing Tip
programs he has written for Firefox at
The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User
Groups brings this article to you.
NVPCUG Computer News, February 2005, Page 9
Take the guesswork out of deciphering Web addresses by using a
utility such as SpoofStick (free; /spoofstick ).
In Search of “VCR for Radio”
by Frank Bollinger, ORCOPUG
I recently began recording radio programs on my computer. Here's how it
This story began more than 40 years
ago, when I became addicted to talk radio. Over the ensuing years, I've enjoyed
many hours of entertaining and informative programs. Topic-oriented shows
about personal finance, law, cars, and (of
course) computers filled the weekends.
Hog heaven, until the radio stations rearranged their schedules. When the dust
settled, three of my favorites were on
simultaneously. On top of that, I'm also a
baseball fan, so Dodger and Angel games
sometimes presented two more alternatives at the same time. Bummer. Why
couldn't there be a VCR for radio?
First Solution
I heard about a special radio and tape
recorder from C Crane & Co. The tape
recorder runs at 1/4 speed, so you can get
a 3-4 hour program on one side of an audio cassette. Two problems were that the
recorder is a bit bulky to lug around, and
the tapes won't play in typical tape players. So, I also acquired a portable player
capable of recognizing the slow speed.
Now I could listen to one program and
record another. But there are three programs. One night, I heard about something called RadioYourWay. This is a
radio with a built-in timer that saves programs on a memory card. It also has builtin memory. RadioYourWay turns out to
be one of those neat ideas that works but
is so aggravating to use that you wonder
if it is worth it. For example, programming it is clumsier than any VCR you can
imagine (I've had many, and mastered
them all fairly easily). A couple other
quirks added to my frustration. Fast forwarding is exceedingly slow. It takes several minutes to get to the second or third
hour of a 3-hour program. Even worse, if
you pause playback more than a couple
minutes, it resets to the beginning and you
have to wait even longer to get to your
new starting point.
It was quite a shock to discover how
much harder it is to “time shift” radio
than TV. But, even with these challenges,
at least I could now record two and listen
to the third live. Not perfect, but manageable, until the timer broke on the C Crane
recorder. Now, I had to choose which
program to miss. Not acceptable after
being used to hearing all three.
The Next Solution
My next idea was to find a device like
Radio YourWay, but easier to use. An
Internet search led to something called
“Replay Radio.” Since I have Tivo for
recording TV, and Replay TV is a competing product, this name was quite intriguing. It turned out to be PC software
that claims to work like “Tivo for Internet
Radio.” I love my Tivo, so I explored
further, discovering that it could record
programs and had an impressive list
(several hundred) of radio shows to
choose from. The only apparent drawback
was that it recorded MP3 files. Remember, I'm a talk-show junkie, not a music
aficionado. So, selecting this approach
would mean I'd need something to play
back the recordings or be chained to my
computer. (At this point, I wasn't sure, but
it sounded like I'd need an MP3 player).
Alas, Replay Radio has a serious
flaw—it can record only one program at a
time (as noted above, I want to do three).
An exchange of e-mails confirmed this
shortcoming and led me to another program, called WM Recorder. Fortunately,
its on-line documentation explicitly stated
it can do up to eight concurrent recordings. One potential glitch—it doesn't
create MP3 files. The same documentation did recommend a program to convert
the recordings.
So, I downloaded the software and
ordered an Apple iPod (MP3 player) from Since I don't like using earphones, I also ordered a speaker apparatus
that the iPod can plug into for playback.
Mission accomplished, right? Not
quite. I successfully recorded several radio programs. All played well on my PC.
The next step was to convert them to MP3
files. Guess what? The “recommended”
conversion program didn't recognize
the .asf files created by the recording software. Being the audio “expert” I am, my
first question was “What the @#$% is an
asf file?” Back to the Internet, where I
researched audio file formats and found
alternative software. Two allowed trial
downloads that were able to handle the
asf files. Curiously, after another e-mail
exchange, I found out that I could simply
change the asf file extensions to wma and
the recommended program would make
the conversions. Apparently, asf and wma
are two different Microsoft audio formats.
Still, it's easier to use a conversion program, since it can batch many at once.
With that problem solved, I'm now
able to record several programs on a predetermined schedule. I can use the iPod
with earphones when out walking and
with my speaker apparatus around my
home. I've even used the speaker gadget
in my car.
This trip was a roller coaster containing numerous ups and downs with continuing challenges. For example, I found
out where one of the originating radio
stations is located when Bob Brinker's
Money Talk turned out to be a Kansas
City Chief's football game. Sometimes
the recordings don't work, and one of the
programs I want doesn't have an Internet
Despite all that, it was a grand adventure, I had a lot of fun doing it, and I am
enjoying listening to programs I was
missing before. The time from the cassette recorder failure to having all the
components assembled and functioning
successfully was about two weeks. Oh,
yes. What about music? Can't say. I may
be the only person who bought an MP3
player NOT to play music.
Here's the final hardware and software
1. WM Recorder (Records the programs) ($29.95 from
2. WM VCR (Schedules the recordings) ($9.95 from
3. River Past Audio Converter
(Converts the asf files to MP3) ($29.95
4. Apple iPod (MP3 Player)
(Approximately $230 and up, depending
on source and model)
5. Altec Lansing InMotion Portable
Audio (Speaker gadget for the iPod)
(Approximately $110, from various
The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User
Groups brings this article to you.
NVPCUG Computer News, February 2005, Page 10
IRS and “Free File Alliance” Again Offer FREE On-line Tax
Preparation and Filing, By Ira Wilsker, APCUG Board of Directors
It’s that time of year again. Our
mailboxes are brimming with W-2’s,
1099’s, and other ubiquitous indications of our daily financial lives. Preparing our forms 1040, 1040A, and
1040EZ are typically not our favorite
annual rite of spring. This year, the
fine folks at the IRS and their partners,
the “Free File Alliance” are again offering their free on-line federal income
tax preparation and electronic filing
services. Unlike past years, where
only selected groups of people, such as
students or military, could utilize the
free services, this year there are free
services available for almost all federal tax filers.
The main IRS website at has at the top: “Free File
- Ever missed a good thing and regretted it? Don’t miss Free File. Millions
of eligible taxpayers can use Free File
— a free on-line service that let’s you
prepare and file your tax return electronically. It’s smart, free and fast.
Don’t miss it!” According to the IRS,
about 6.5 million people took advantage of the opportunity last year.
The process is relatively easy. The
first step is to enter the IRS Free File
Web site at
jsp/index.jsp? where you can view the
various filing services offered by the
Alliance and determine eligibility for
each. Eligibility determination for
each service is the second step listed.
Some of the 15 resources listed have a
maximum “AGI” (adjusted gross income) ceiling. Others will only prepare forms 1040A or 1040EZ on-line,
while some others will prepare taxes
for residents of specific states. Other
members of the Alliance will prepare
and e-file taxes for free, based on age,
often under 25 or over 60, while others
(such as H&R Block,,
and TurboTax for the Web) have no
restrictions on who can use the free
services and are available to all. After
the free preparer is selected, the user
will be directed to a non-IRS website
to complete the on-line preparation.
The taxes are calculated, and proper
forms are electronically filed with the
IRS, using a secured link. An acknowledgment is automatically generated via e-mail, notifying the filer that
the return has been accepted or rejected.
The IRS notes that several of these
companies also offer a fee-based online preparation service, and the only
way to be assured of getting these services for free is to link to them directly
from the IRS Free File Web site, and
not directly to the company Web sites.
It should also be noted that these companies do not generally prepare state
income taxes for free, so there may be
a charge for preparing the state taxes;
but users referred from the IRS site are
under no obligation to incur any tax
preparation expenses for the preparation and filing of federal income taxes,
provided they were originally eligible
for the services.
Electronic filing by these free resources, or other similar commercial
resources, has several advantages, according to the IRS. Some of these
benefits are that it takes less time to
prepare on-line than on paper, refunds
can be processed much faster, returns
are more accurate (provided accurate
information is entered), and acknowledgment of receipt is generated so you
know the return has been filed; and
there are other tangible and intangible
benefits. The IRS also has a statement
that the software used by the providers
for the free service is “comparable” to
the software used by these preparers
for their commercial (paid) clients.
The IRS is well aware that not all
taxpayers have Internet access, so it is
arranging for such groups as churches
and community associations to provide
the Internet access so as to promote
the widest possible use of the free service. The IRS is also supporting such
volunteer groups as Volunteer Income
Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Coun-
seling for the Elderly (TCE).
Some individuals will justifiably
question whether their personal privacy is being compomised when entering this data onto a private company’s
Web site. The IRS has approved the
security and privacy policies of the
participating companies, and all of the
providers must also have a recognized
third-party privacy and security certification. Information provided to these
companies can be used only for the
preparation of income tax forms, and
for no other purposes not explicitly
authorized by the user. The IRS will
monitor all of the providers for compliance, and the companies are required to promptly alert the IRS if any
privacy or security problems are encountered. The IRS has set up an email address with the Free File Alliance at [email protected],
where anyone can get technical assistance about the Free File Web site, or
resolve issues with any of the listed
providers. Any user who is not satisfied with the selected free provider is
free to try another provider that he
may qualify for.
The Free File Alliance is a result of
the IRS's Restructuring and Reform
Act of 1998, which in part has a goal
that 80 percent of all returns are to be
filed electronically (e-filed) by 2007,
and it requires the IRS to make available to taxpayers free on-line filing
Last year (2004) saw 6.5 million efiled returns, and the IRS hopes to triple the number this year. That still
leaves many millions more that will
have to e-file in order to reach the
2007 goal. The 15 companies listed
that are providing free filing services
are a good step on the path of meeting
the IRS’s goals.
The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User
Groups brings this article to you.
NVPCUG Computer News, February 2005, Page 11
The Wonder of the Current Computer Hardware Transitions
By Timothy Everingham, TUGNET, [email protected]
When we have been changing
computer hardware standards, frequently it has been one thing at a
time. At other times those in authority
say that if we are going to change one
thing, let's get some other needed
changes done too. We are going
through much more of the latter right
The thing that is more in the forefront of change is the move from PCI
and AGP motherboard card slots to
PCI Express (PCIe). PCI Express also
changes the way data is transferred
(serial rather than parallel) and has
more intelligent data traffic management. So if you had in mind upgrading to a new processor and motherboard and want to have the latest in
card slots, you will have to choose
between giving up your present AGP
and PCI cards in favor or the newest,
or settle for an older style motherboard that will accept them. If you
recently paid a lot for a high-end AGP
graphics card or have a specialized
PCI card where there is no equivalent
PCIe card available, that may be a
hard choice. You may even decide to
buy a new computer. However, there
are motherboards now available that
have both old- and new-type slots.
On the other hand, you could go to
the other extreme by buying a computer with the new Nvidia SLI system. That is a motherboard with two
PCIe graphics slots where you can
run two Nvidia graphics cards in parallel, to get a 3D graphics performance boost similar to what was done
to the old 3dfx Voodoo 2. We also
started a shift last spring from Sockets
940 and 754 to Socket 939 for AMD
64-bit processors (Socket A remains
for 32-bit AMD processors) and from
Socket 478 to 775 for Intel Pentium 4
processors, which also limits your
upgrade options. Dual-core processors, which have two CPUs on one
chip, will be coming out for workstations, servers, and desktops in the second half of this year. Support for
dual-core processors will come more
from a BIOS change than from a
socket change, however. Some motherboards will be able to support dualcore processors by upgrading your
flash BIOS, but others will not. We
also are making the transition from
DDR to DDR2 system RAM, and
some motherboards support only
Now, though you may think you
have had enough, I am nowhere near
finished. We now have a new powersupply standard, too. ATX Power
Supply 2.01 is in process of replacing
ATX Power Supply 1.3. Newer motherboards have different power connectors. The new connector has 24
pins rather than the old one with 20.
There have been adapters for the 1.3
power connectors to fit 2.01 compliant motherboards, but now we are
going to move to adapters for 2.01
power supplies to fit into 1.3 compliant motherboards. Some motherboards and power supplies had AUX
connectors, but the new standard does
away with that. One thing that is nice
with the new standard is that having
SATA drive power connectors is now
mandatory rather than optional. Also,
power supplies under the new standard are supposed to be more efficient. Nevertheless, be aware that
some power-supply manufacturers
have been exaggerating the capacity
of their product.
However, this new power-supply
standard is just a step in another transition, the move from the ATX motherboard and case design standards to
BTX design standards. I say standards
because there are three different BTX
motherboard design formats: BTX,
MicroBTX, and Pico BTX. BTX replaces the standard ATX motherboards, with MicroBTX going against
the Mini-ATX motherboards and PicoBTX against the ITX motherboards. Part of the reason for the
change is to redesign the airflows in
the case to get rid of all heat gener-
ated by the latest processors. The airflow of BTX designs is from the front
of the computer straight through to
the back of the computer, rather than
the typical lower front intake with
exhaust in the upper back. The CPU
has been repositioned towards the
front of the computer so that it gets
the cool air first. That means a redesign of the power supply to the new
standard. Also, a thermal module has
replaced the standard CPU heat sink
and fan. It takes a more global approach in covering the highest heatproducing components sitting on the
motherboard, including the CPU. Intel is the one who is pushing this because their Pentium 4s have higher
clock speeds than an equivalent AMD
Athlon 64 chip, which means they
produce higher heat. There is so much
heat that Intel had to abandon their
goal of producing a 4 GHz Pentium 4
chip. As such, AMD is not in such
pressure to move to BTX, so BTX
motherboards supporting AMD processors will be a few months behind
those supporting Intel processors. The
first BTX motherboards just recently
came out and should become dominant in 2006.
What does all this mean? By the
second half of 2005, if you have a
computer that is more than a year old
and have thoughts of upgrading it,
you will probably do better to get an
entirely new computer. This puts into
motion another round of the old computer becoming the backup computer
and the old backup computer becoming a boat anchor, flowerpot, or, for
the more adventurous, Christmas or
Chanukah display control system for
the whole house and yard. However,
because there are so many changes
with these transitions, many people
will get a new computer sooner than
normal, resulting in some of the retiring old backup computers being new
enough that nonprofit organizations
and schools may want them. As such
the probability is that others besides
NVPCUG Computer News, February 2005, Page 12
Make the Start Menu and Taskbar Work Your Way
by Mark Scapicchio, from Smart Computing, PC Operating Instructions, Feb. 2005, Vol. 16:2
The Windows XP Start menu
and Taskbar are the thoroughfares you
take to your computing destinations—
your programs, documents, Web sites,
and so on. However, those thoroughfares are often forked by default and
sometimes even blocked, which can
slow you down or take you places you
don't want to go.
Almost every user can benefit
from customizing the Start menu and
Taskbar to eliminate those forks and
roadblocks. (Note that the following
instructions assume you're not using
the Classic Start menu, which allows
far less customization.)
Expand The Start Menu
Begin by putting some of the things
you need to get to most often (such as
recently opened documents, Control
Panel applets, and the contents of the
My Computer folder), onto the Start
menu as expandable submenus so that
you can get to them without waiting
for Windows to open.
Right-click the Start button, choose
Properties, and click Customize on
the Start Menu tab. Start by deselecting Open Submenus When I Pause On
Them With My Mouse on the Advanced tab, which will keep you from
those selling computers and computer
components will benefit from the
chaos caused by this round of the
wonder of computer hardware transitions.
Timothy Everingham is CEO of
Timothy Everingham Consulting in
Azusa, California. He is also a parttime press reporter in the areas of
high technology, computers, video,
audio, and entertainment/media and
has had articles published throughout
the United States and Canada plus
Australia, England, & Japan. He is a
member of TUGNET. Further information can be found at http://
The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups
brings this article to you.
accidentally starting programs as you
search for others. In the Start Menu
Items box:
Under Control Panel, select Display As A Menu. This will put an expandable Control Panel menu on your
Start menu, from which you can
choose any of the Control Panel
applets. In other words, you don't
have to wait for the Control Panel to
display to open, say, the Add/Remove
Programs Wizard.
Under My Computer, select Display As A Menu. This puts an expandable My Computer menu on your
Start menu, from which you can
quickly access the contents of any of
your hard drives.
Under Network Connections, select Don't Display This Item. You
don't need it unless you constantly
add or troubleshoot network connections.
Select the Scroll Programs option.
With this option selected, a program
list too tall for the screen will become
scrollable rather than spreading out to
the side and covering more of your
Finally, make sure List My Most
Recently Opened Documents is
checked; this will add a My Recent
Documents item to the Start menu,
which will expand to display your 15
most recently opened documents.
Click OK.
Give Favorite Programs Top Billing
WinXP makes an effort to load the
Start menu with programs it thinks
you will, or in some cases should, use
most. For example, it automatically
puts links to your Web browser and email program at the top left of the
Start menu but assumes you'll want to
use Internet Explorer and Outlook or
Outlook Express, even if you have
other options installed. Beneath these
it automatically adds links to what are
supposed to be your most recently and
frequently used programs, but sometimes those include links to promo-
NVPCUG Computer News, February 2005, Page 13
tional programs that you'd prefer
never to use at all.
You can get more control over
what appears in the Start menu by
limiting what Windows automatically
adds and by permanently fixing, or
pinning, particular programs to the
menu. To limit Windows' automatic
selections, right-click the Start button,
choose Properties, and click Customize on the General tab. Under Programs, set Number Of Programs On
Start Menu to a lower number, such
as two (which will eliminate most of
Windows' automatic selections but
clue you to any programs you may not
notice you're using often). While
you're here, if you use programs other
than IE for browsing and Outlook or
Outlook Express for e-mail, specify
those programs under Show On Start
Menu. Click OK. If the Start menu
still contains a link to a program you
rarely use, right-click that link and
choose Delete or Remove From This
List from the shortcut menu.
To pin specific programs to the
Start menu, click Start and then All
Programs. Find the icon for the program you want to pin to the Start
menu and, with the right mouse button, drag it to the left side of the Start
menu. A black bar appears to help
you position the icon. Release the button. This program is now affixed to
your Start menu; repeat the procedure
to attach other programs.
Pinning can get to be a habit, and
before you know it your Start menu
may be overcrowded with program
links. You can free up a little more
space by switching to small Start
menu icons: Right-click Start, choose
Properties, click Customize on the
General tab, choose Small Icons, and
click OK. In general, though, try to
pin to the Start menu only those programs you use very, very frequently.
If you need to remove a pinned program to make room for another, rightclick the program in the Start menu
and choose Remove From This List.
(Continued on page 14)
(continued from page 13)
Get There Faster With Quick Launch
You can get to your favorite programs even
faster—directly from the Taskbar, instead of having to click the Start button—-if you add them to
the Quick Launch toolbar, optional in Taskbar.
Add the Quick Launch toolbar to the Taskbar.
Right-click any blank area of the Taskbar and
choose Toolbars and then Quick Launch. The
Quick Launch toolbar should appear just to the
right of your Start button. At a minimum, it will
display perhaps the most useful Taskbar button
of all: the Desktop button, which you can click
to instantly minimize all open program windows and display your entire Desktop. It may
also include buttons certain programs automatically added when you installed them.
Add buttons for the programs you use most.
Click Start and All Programs and navigate to the
item that starts one of the programs you use
most. Hold down the CTRL key, drag the item
to the Quick Launch tool bar, and release the
mouse button. An icon appears on the Quick
Launch tool bar; click that icon to start the program. Repeat the procedure for every program
you want to add to the Quick Launch toolbar.
Why would we tell you how to set up Quick
Launch after we told you how to pin programs
to the Start menu, and why would you want to
use both? One reason is that some people find
the Start menu's larger icons and always-visible
descriptions more straightforward than Quick
Launch's smaller, textless icons. (Note that you
can display the name of the program associated
with any Quick Launch icon by holding the
mouse pointer over the icon for a second or
Another reason is that Quick Launch can be
more habit-forming than pinning. You can add
10 or 12 icons to it before you know it and find
yourself short of Taskbar real estate for your
window buttons. If this happens, consider expanding your Taskbar to a second tier. Place
your pointer on the top edge of the Taskbar until
a two-headed arrow appears, hold down the
mouse button, and drag slightly upward.
Whisk Yourself to Web Sites
You can also add links to favorite or frequently visited Web sites to your Start menu or
Taskbar, so you can get to those sites need to
use IE to add a link to your Start menu or Taskbar, but you do not need to make IE your default
browser to use the link. To add a link to this site
to your Quick Launch toolbar, drag the icon in
IE's address bar directly to the Quick Launch
toolbar and drop it there. To add a link to this
site to your Start menu, drag the
icon in IE's address bar first to
your Desktop or to your Quick
Launch tool bar; then from there
to the Start button, hold it over
the Start button until the Start
menu appears, and then drop it
where you've pinned your other
programs. Click the link in your
Quick Launch toolbar or your
Start menu, and your default
browser opens directly to the
appropriate page. There’s no
faster way to surf.
Napa Valley Personal Computer Users Group
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Revised 2-8-05
NVPCUG Computer News, February 2005, Page 14
tion on the standard itself and some of the products that use it, check out:
NVPCUG Computer News, February 2005, Page 15
TECH NEWS — January 2005
By Sue Crane, Vice President /Editor, The Big Bear Computer Club,
At the forefront of Web publishers delivering local news is What’s new is that they
are relying on local residents. The
idea is that citizen-generated content
lowers costs and creates more loyal
audiences. One intriguing experiment
started in May, when the Bakersfield
Californian launched a community
Web site called the Northwest Voice
( The site
has no paid writers except for a lone
editor. It employs only four people
full-time and gets most of its content
from readers. Last month, the J-Lab
Institute for Interactive Journalism at
the University of Maryland announced a $1 million grant program
to fund what it calls “microlocal”
Web news experiments around the
country. Funded by the Knight Foundation, each initial grant will amount
to $12,000 and go to nonprofit groups
creating community news sites.
Microsoft is setting an example
for customers as they introduce a second security measure for their internal networks: smart cards for every
employee. By the end of 2005, tens
of thousands of telecommuting Microsoft employees will be issued the
cards, which will be required to log
on to the company’s networks.
President Bush signed a new fouryear ban on state and federal taxation
of Internet connections. The latest
version of The Internet Tax Nondiscrimination Act expands the original
dial-up definition of access to include
DSL, cable modems and wireless
Internet connections. The bill blocks
states from differentiating for tax purposes between dial-up and broadband
Intel’s products for the digital
home and digital office in 2005 will
give consumers and IT managers
more capabilities than just raw performance, and the company plans to
highlight those products. Earlier this
year, Intel canceled two single-core
desktop and server designs and announced plans to accelerate the development of dual-core processors.
Intel is planning to design and market
its desktop processors in platforms,
similar to the way the company
brought the Pentium M processor, a
new mobile chipset and new wireless
capabilities to customers as part of
the Centrino platform. Intel expects
to bring 64-bit capabilities to its
desktop processors in the first half of
2005 (Microsoft’s 64-bit Windows
XP operating system is scheduled to
ship in the first quarter of next year).
In 2006, Intel will bring out the
Bridge Creek and Averill platforms
for the digital home and digital office. These platforms will feature Intel’s security and virtualization technologies that it highlighted at recent
Intel Developer Forum conferences.
Microsoft’s next update to the Windows operating system, code-named
Longhorn, will be required to take
advantage of the hardware-based security and virtualization technologies
that Intel plans for 2006.
A report from U.S. Pharmacopeia
(USP), a nonprofit group that sets
standards for the drug industry, says
that as more hospitals have implemented automated systems for administering drugs the number of errors associated with them has risen.
Kenneth Kizer of the National Quality Forum says: “Technology offers
great opportunity to reduce errors,
but it’s not a panacea. You can’t just
throw a computerized system in and
expect that everything’s fixed. It has
to be done right. The technology is
only as good as the people who use
The Editorial Committee of the
Association of Personal Computer
User Groups brings this article to
Napa Valley Personal Computer Users Group
P.O. Box 2866
Napa, CA 94558-0286
Address Service Requested
NVPCUG Computer News, February 2005, Page 16
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