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Find the Best The Secrets of
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SEPTEMBER 16, 2003
Forward Thinking
court-certified one with Windows and a de facto
one with Microsoft Office—and I’m not seeing
much action against this. Although Apple has a
small but loyal following, it doesn’t seem to want to
take on Microsoft directly. And Linux remains a
niche player on the desktop.
Server software is a different story, with multiple
companies competing with various flavors of Unix,
Linux coming on strong, and middleware providers
entering the scene. Microsoft has made a significant
effort with Windows Server 2003 and its .NET strategy, but it’s just one of several players.
In the past couple of weeks, I had the opportunity
to sit down with senior executives from SCO, IBM,
and Sun Microsystems and discuss the future of enterprise software. Here are the views from SCO and
IBM. I’ll save Sun for the next issue.
THE SHAPE OF COMPUTING over the next few years
may be heavily influenced by some legal contracts pertaining to Unix that were written more than a decade
ago. The SCO Group is claiming that IBM has violated
its Unix contract by contributing certain code to Linux.
SCO is also alleging that Linux users are illegally running some of the company’s copyrighted code.
I was initially quite skeptical about these claims,
but after talking with several of the principals in the
case, I’m not so sure anymore. The history of SCO
and Unix is complex. Unix was created by AT&T,
which licensed versions to many organizations. One licensee, The Santa Cruz Organization (SCO), sold a version of Unix for
Intel x86–based computers. Eventually, AT&T sold Unix—including
the patents and copyrights—to
Novell, which tried to make
UnixWare a competitive operating system. The strategy wasn’t
particularly successful, so Novell
sold its Unix business to SCO.
Meanwhile, Linus Torvalds
created and popularized Linux by using the
open-source general public license (GPL). A number
of companies, including Caldera, Red Hat, and SuSe,
developed their own Linux distributions. IBM and
others soon began promoting Linux as an enterprise
operating system for servers. As a result of these
efforts and the inroads Windows was making on
servers, SCO’s Unix business on x86 systems
declined. In 2001, Caldera acquired SCO’s server division, later changing its name to The SCO Group.
That’s when the copyright controversy emerged.
Chris Sontag, a VP at SCO, recently visited PC Mag-
azine’s offices with a stack of documents he claims
proves SCO’s case. Some of these documents are
compelling. Sontag explained that SCO owns the
copyright to Unix System V. He said that through
kernel 2.2, Linux was progressing fine under the GPL.
But in the transition to kernel 2.4, code was added
that violates SCO’s copyrights.
Some of the evidence Sontag showed us is straightforward: Sections of the Linux kernel code relating to
the journaling file system and multiprocessor support are identical to the
Unix System V code. He offered to
show us specific sections of the
Unix code, but only under a
nondisclosure agreement, which we
refused. He said this code was not
added to Linux by IBM but by someone else, and that it’s a violation of
SCO’s copyright. I’m not a lawyer, but his
argument seems convincing.
Sontag then explained that IBM’s
Unix contract prohibits disclosure of
the source code for Unix or for “derivative” works based on Unix. He said that IBM contributed code to Linux, sections of which were derivative of Unix, created originally for IBM’s AIX.
This, according to Sontag, is in violation of IBM’s contract. One thing is clear: The lawyers from IBM and
SCO will be arguing about this for some time.
I also recently spoke with Steve Mills, head of
IBM’s software group, who said that it’s mostly an
AIX contract issue and that IBM has “perpetual, irrevocable rights” to Unix. IBM lawyers are convinced
the company did not violate the contract, and IBM
has countersued SCO. According to Mills, SCO was a
One thing is
clear: The
lawyers from
will be arguing
for some time
to come.
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
Forward Thinking
distributor under the GPL, so SCO gave away any rights it
had. He also said that SCO has seen the code for years but
didn’t raise any copyright issues until now. Mills made clear
that IBM does not provide a Linux distribution but instead
supports other companies’ distributions. He has seen no
change in customers’ plans due to the SCO suit.
The case is scheduled to go to court in 2005, and I expect that a resolution will take years. In the meantime, IBM
will continue to support Linux, and SCO is threatening
legal action against Linux users. But Sontag says that SCO
isn’t going after Red Hat now, because that “would kill
Linux,” which SCO doesn’t want to do.
This controversy is likely to worry some big Linux cus-
tomers. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a big company pay
SCO a license fee ( SCO wants $700 for a single- CPU
license) just to avoid a lawsuit. And I expect the opensource community to pull together quickly to try to figure
out who wrote each section of the Linux kernel distribution and remove or rewrite the controversial code. This
will take many months, but it’s the prudent thing for the
community to do.
So far, the winners are the companies that recently paid
license fees to SCO: Microsoft and Sun. And the big losers?
All those people who installed Linux thinking they were
getting a legal open-source operating system and now have
to worry about whether it was indeed too good to be true.
In recent months, Linux has emerged as a
major competitor in servers now that large
head Steve Mills doesn’t see open-source reorganizations such as the New York Stock
placing commercial software but rather raisExchange have adopted it and companies
ing the bar. “You have to deliver value,” he
such as IBM are promoting it. Mills describes
IBM as a “reformed sinner,” no longer offersays, noting that the open-source Apache
HTTP Server provides basic Web serving
ing just one answer for everyone. It is now
while IBM’s WebSphere offers much more.
focusing on middleware rather than apps, so
NCR 3%
IBM’s “e-business on demand” strategy
it can be an honest broker. Businesses can
Other 9%
Based on new-license revenues worldwide
calls for providing software services only
develop the apps they need and then enlist
in 2002. Source: Gartner, 2003.
IBM to integrate them.
when an organization needs them. Central to
The strategy seems to be working. IBM recently took
Mills’s vision of IT software is the integration of applications, middleware, and business processes. XML is a com- over the top spot in databases from Oracle. And with revmon method of tying all of this together, but many other enues of $13 billion last year, IBM now sees itself as the second-biggest software company in the world.
standards and specifications are needed.
a very different light from SCO. IBM software
THE MOVE TO BROADBAND continues to accelerate,
especially among PC Magazine readers. In our current survey (see page 102), 75 percent of our readers say they have
broadband connections, up from 66 percent just six
months ago. This doesn’t surprise me; once you’re hooked
on broadband, it’s hard to go back. But our survey also
What kind of access do you use?
33.6K modem or slower
56K modem
Cable modem
Wireless local loop
Percent on broadband:
Percentages may not add up to 100 because of rounding.
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
points to one of broadband’s biggest problems: limited
choice. I’m concerned that people have only two broadband options: the cable company and the phone company.
This year, our readers’ average satisfaction with their
broadband ISPs drops from 8.0 to 7.8 on a scale of 1 to 10,
though satisfaction with broadband itself is considerably
higher. The decline may be partially due to people taking
their always-on, fast broadband service for granted. And
readers continue to complain about the rates providers are
charging. That’s to be expected: With scarce competition,
broadband providers can raise their rates.
I’d like to see more competition among cable and phone
providers, perhaps with electric companies or satellite
providers getting more into the market. I’d also like to see
very high-speed connection services. But there’s not a lot
of incentive for such companies in the current economic
and regulatory environment. That’s why it is important for
us to watch the broadband providers carefully and make
sure they continue to offer service at a reasonable price.
MORE ON THE WEB: Join us online and make your voice heard.
Talk back to Michael J. Miller in our opinions section,
SEP TEMBER 16, 2003 VOL. 22 NO. 16
75% of PC Magazine readers have high-speed Internet connections at home, according to our latest survey.
First Looks
Blubster 2.5
Filetopia 3.04
Morpheus 3.2
Spy Sweeper 2.1
AOL 9.0 Optimized
HP Pavilion zd7000
Toshiba Satellite P25-S507
Canon PowerShot G5
Macromedia Contribute 2
Gateway Profile 4X M
Pioneer DVR-A06
Palm Tungsten/T2
Microsoft Windows Powered PCS Phone
SH-G1000 by Hitachi
Dell Latitude X300
HP Compaq Business Notebook nc4000
WebSphere Commerce Professional
Edition 5.5
AlienCamel 1.0
Why not build
your next PC
yourself? With a
little spare time
and initiative, you
can build a top-of-the-line
screamer or a budgetconscious workhorse
with an exceptional
price/performance ratio.
Follow our step-by-step
pictorial guide as we build
one of each and weigh the
pros and cons.
25 Pipeline
Reputation filtering takes on spam.
Wireless hot spots are on the rise.
A new road map for microprocessors.
A facial vocabulary for game characters.
Backup data—on the moon?
monitor, Gateway Connected DVD Player, McAfee’s SpamKiller 5.0.
Find the Best The Secrets of
Broadband ISPs Anonymous Mail
49 Feedback
138 Backspace
Build Your Own PC!
page 80
File-Sharing Services
page 30
SEPTEMBER 16, 2003
Shoot, Scan, Print
page 95
First Looks: 17-Inch
Notebooks page 42
The Best Broadband ISPs
page 102
Anonymous Mail page 68
Help Services page 137
American Online 9.0
page 33
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
SEP TEMBER 16, 2003
95 Shoot,
Scan, Print
You bought it, you love it, but are you
getting the most out of it? Maximize the use
of your printer, scanner, or digital camera
with our 30 tips. From setup to final print,
scan, or shot, we help you along the way.
102 Broadband
113 What’s Next
Which broadband and dial-up ISPs are
doing the best job of keeping customers
happy? Our latest reader survey tells you
which ones offer fast, reliable connections
and which give topnotch tech support.
If, after reading
our results, you’re
ready to get a new
provider, we show
you how to make
an easy switch.
60 Solutions
15 Great Excel Tips: Excel functions
can take your worksheets to new
levels of productivity. Here are some
of our favorites.
Hardware: Want to add devices to
your network with no configuration
necessary? Universal Plug and Play
may be the answer.
Office: Windows’ little-known
Private Character Editor applet lets
you create your own font faces.
Security Watch: Anonymous
remailers let you send e-mails that
contain no trace of your identity.
Internet Business: Amazon.com is
using Web services to make its huge
catalog available to any site or app.
User to User: Our experts show you
how to embed HTML-style index to
images on a CD-ROM, and more.
Discover what’s
around the corner
in the fast-evolving
world of networking. PC
Magazine Labs
experts, industry
analysts, and IT
predict the coming
pitfalls—in home and small-office
networking, the enterprise, security,
storage, and wireless connectivity.
Michael J. Miller: Forward
Bill Machrone: ExtremeTech
John C. Dvorak
John C. Dvorak’s Inside Track
Bill Howard: On Technology
Personal Technology
134 After Hours
Traveling Music: We take a look at eight
of the newest products that bring your
digital music into your car: hard drive
players, MP3 CD players, and satellite
radio receivers.
136 Gear & Games
The Keybowl orbiTouch keyless
keyboard; LucasArts’ Galaxies and
Simon & Schuster’s Eve Online; the
Ambient Orb.
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Our Product Guide for
speakers features
an all-new Buying
Guide, with
you need to
know about
buying a speaker
system. It also lists
the best, newest, and
best-selling speakers!
PC Magazine’s TaskPower utility helps
you control your Windows apps, tasks,
and services. Download it today!
New reviews every week! Coming soon:
• ActionTec Dual PC Modem
• ReplayTV 5500
• Sony VAIO PCV W500GN1
all-in-one PC
Discussions: Log on and participate!
K Each Monday, John C.
Dvorak gives you his
take on what’s
happening in high tech
today. Visit www.pcmag.com/dvorak.
K And each Wednesday,
Lance Ulanoff puts his
own unique spin on
technology. Visit
Coming up:
• Build an HDTV PC
• High-end Serial ATA controllers
w w w. p c m a g . c o m /p i p e l i n e
T E C H N O L O G Y T R E N D S & N E W S A N A LY S I S
Even as the Recording Industry
Association of America (RIAA)
faces off with online musicswapping sites, two-thirds of
the 2,515 Americans surveyed
who trade music online say
they don’t care whether the
music is copyrighted, according to a study by the Pew
Internet & American Life
Project. Through July, according to the study, the RIAA had
issued almost 1,000 subpoenas requesting information
from ISPs to identify music
The Value of a Good Name
A new approach in the war on spam.
our reputation precedes
you. This is the idea
behind a new weapon in
the war on spam and e-mail
overload from IronPort Systems: reputation filtering. The
IronPort C60 Messaging
Gateway appliance controls the
flow of e-mail coming into your
mining whether to scan content,
limiting attachment size/type,
and enforcing encryption.
Delaying mail delivery does
not stop spam, which is why the
C60 will include a licensed version of Brightmail’s antispam
server beginning in September.
Used in conjunction with
network based on the reputaBrightmail, IronPort hopes that
tions of the senders. Reputareputation filtering and mail
tions are primarily established
queuing will reduce false negausing data
collected from
messages that
“The more
more than 11,000
don’t get stopped.
untrustworthy the
that participate
tools often use
sender appears, rules to identify
in IronPort’s
the more stringent unsolicited mail,
are the restrictions but
With this
are always comapplied to that
data, Senderbase
ing up with techcan identify mail
niques to outwit
that appears to
the spam stopbe coming from
pers. By holding
spammers. The more likely a
mail from questionable sources,
message is spam, the longer the
IronPort’s gateway gives the
message is held in the delivery
antispam engine time to update
queue. Or it may not be delivits rules. Mail from reputable
ered at all, depending on rules
sources will be passed through.
set by the C60’s administrator.
The C60 costs $55,000 and is
The more untrustworthy a
targeted at large corporations.
sender appears, the more strinBut IronPort plans to integrate
gent are the restrictions applied reputation filtering with less
to that sender. The restrictions
costly appliances for smaller
include throttling the maximum businesses in the near future.
message acceptance rate, deter—Ben Z. Gottesman
The Human
You can if you go to www
.speak2me.net and chat with
Ladder Digital Education’s Lucy, a
virtual person. Although online
bots such as Lucy aren’t new,
Lucy is backed by A.L.I.C.E. Brain, a
natural-language engine with a
40,000-entry database of
responses to phrases. The technology is a two-time winner of the
Loebner Prize—sponsored by
philanthropist Hugh Loebner—for
the “most human computer.”
Lucy is also attracting commercial partners. Ladder Digital,
Oddcast, and Pandora Bots are
working with A.L.I.C.E. Brain to
develop online e-learning agents
and get businesses to build their
own database-driven bots.
“Companies can deploy tutors
this way and reduce customer
service costs,” says Adi Sideman,
CEO of Oddcast.
So what is Lucy’s favorite
movie? A.I. Artificial Intelligence,
of course.—Sebastian Rupley
Apple Computer cofounder
Steve Wozniak and his company Wheels of Zeus have
developed wireless locationmonitoring technology for
tracking children, pets, and
objects. The electronic tags
use GPS and radio technology
and should come to market
next year. They will be able
to issue alerts by phone or
e-mail when, for example, a
child arrives at school or a
dog wanders beyond a gated
The Motion Picture Association of America, which represents seven major movie
studios, has unveiled a series
of antipiracy spots for release
on television and as previews
in movie theaters. The spots
ask Internet users not to
download copyrighted movies
that they may find online. The
spots include celebrities (such
as Ben Affleck), studio security
guards, and theater workers.
Wi-Fi hot spots in the U.S. M
Wireless Hot Spots:
On the Rise
The number of public
wireless access points in
the United States in 2007 is
expected to be 24 times
the number available in
2002, according to market
research firm The Yankee
Group. By far the majority
of these Wi-Fi hot spots are
expected to be in densely
populated areas.
2003* 2004* 2005* 2006* 2007*
* Projected.
Source: The Yankee Group, July 2003.
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
Ordered to
Pay Up
ad Robin Hood’s booty
of choice been copies of
Microsoft Office, he
might have been involved in
the largest recovery ever
achieved under California’s
antitrust laws—one that partially benefits lower-income
students. A superior court
judge has granted preliminary
approval of a $1.1 billion settlement between Microsoft and
California consumers and
businesses, and claimants
could begin collecting money
as soon as September. Microsoft must pay
for cash after
buyers purchase
computing products from any
Microsoft will give twothirds of the unclaimed settlement to the California Department of Education, which will
go to purchasing computer
products for public schools
with underprivileged students.
While critics charge that much
of the money could be funneled
back to Microsoft if the department buys Microsoft products
for schools, court-appointed
counsel Eugene Crew disagrees: “We’re antitrust,” he
says. “We gave buyers the benefit of this settlement and they
are free to spend it in an open
marketplace, and on computers
and printers, which Microsoft
doesn’t sell.”
Consumers can request
claim forms at www
.microsoftcalsettlement.com or
by calling 1-800-203-9995.
—Alexandra Robbins
Road Map
For Chips
Face Time
computing’s future is like sailing around Africa’s Cape of
Good Hope: Unpredictable
storms could capsize your ship.
Nevertheless, the latest International Technology Roadmap for
Semiconductors (ITRS)— the
semiconductor industry’s
assessment of the future—is
nearly complete, and it forecasts some surprising things.
The ITRS often inspires company collaboration. The previous version of the road map was
released in 2001, but a draft of a
new version was discussed in
July at the Semicon West conference in San Francisco.
The ITRS committee
expects that current optical
lithography techniques for
chip designs will work down
to sizes as small as 45
nanometers. That’s a marked
improvement over previous
predictions and may mean that
newer technologies, such as
extreme ultraviolet lithography
(EUVL), won’t be needed as
t may be time to give a farewell nod to the wooden facial
expressions found in today’s
games. Half-Life 2, the sequel to
Half-Life—a groundbreaking
first-person shooter game—has
been in development for nearly
four years, and the realism in
the characters’ facial expressions sets a new bar.
“We wanted AI characters to
become digital actors,” says
Doug Lombardi, director of
soon as expected.
Over the ten-year horizon,
CMOS (complementary metaloxide semiconductor)—the
technology used in most computer chips today—may be
replaced with nanotechnology
techniques. Research into
nanowires, compatible with silicon technology, looks promising. “Once you get below the
100 nanometer mark, you’re in
the nanotechnology realm,”
says Linda Wilson, managing
editor for the ITRS.
Of course, even the most diligent research can’t account for
unforeseen innovations, and the
current version of the ITRS
won’t be finalized until December. In other words, the road
map is subject to change without notice.—John R. Quain
marketing at Valve.
To aid in the task, Valve went
online and found Paul Ekman, a
psychology professor who has
been studying facial expressions for years. Valve integrated
Ekman’s set of around 60 established expressions into the
characters’ faces. Judging from
recent demos, the results could
warrant an Oscar.
—Carol A. Mangis
Backup data—on the Moon?
Locate backup data on the
Moon? Now that sounds like
a rock-solid business model.
However bizarre the idea
may sound, TransOrbital of
La Jolla, California, is taking
this idea and other proposals
for marrying high-tech and
the Earth’s only natural
satellite seriously. The company is getting ready to send
a commercial mission to the
Moon and intends to send servers, data, handheld
computers, and digital cameras along for the ride.
“We’re the only company licensed to send a
commercial mission right now,” says Dennis
Laurie, TransOrbital’s president and CEO. “We’re
shooting for the first quarter of 2004.” On
December 20, 2002, the company launched a
rocket to test telemetry, positioning, and other
concerns in preparation for the upcoming mission.
TransOrbital had to obtain approval from the U.S.
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
State Department and the
military to gain its license.
Is there any point in storing data on the moon?
TransOrbital has drawn
interest from companies
that want to back up critical
data somewhere other than
Earth. “We’re trying to develop some wider bandwidth
laser communications going
beyond the communication
protocols developed by the Jet Propulsion
Laboratory that exist for use in space,” Laurie says.
In addition to bringing servers to the moon,
TransOrbital is seeking to use digital cameras
and the HP iPAQ Pocket PC handheld as part of
its mission to provide pictures from space.
Laurie says his company is looking at self-healing server technology from various providers for
use on the Moon.
Talk about remote backup.—SR
Head Here
More Than a DVD Player
Gateway will continue to blur the lines between computers and consumer
electronics with the Gateway Connected DVD Player. This progressive-scan
set-top player will recognize DVD, CD-R/-RW, MP3, and Kodak Picture CD discs.
But it will also double as a digital-media hub, meaning you can stream photo,
music, and video files from your PC to it (via either wired Ethernet or wireless
802.11b) for playback through your home entertainment center.—Jamie M. Bsales
$250 direct. Gateway Inc., www.gateway.com.
Save Your Tapes
The HP DVD Movie Writer DC3000
promises to be one of the hottest PC
gifts this holiday season. The sleek unit
will house an analog-to-digital converter as well as a DVD+RW drive.
Simply hook up your VCR or analog
camcorder to the DC3000’s inputs and
you will be able to transfer video to
DVD easily. For more elaborate productions, the DC3000 will include videoediting software.—JMB
$400 street. Hewlett-Packard Co.,
Monitor and Digital
Photo Frame In One
Tired of your computer screen being
blank when not in use? The upcoming BenQ FP791 LCD monitor will not
only be a killer 17-inch display with a
video-friendly 16-millisecond access
time and an impressive 450:1 contrast
ratio, it will also double as a digitalphoto frame. Simply plug your camera’s memory card into the monitor’s
slot and the built-in utility will display
your photos in a slide show, even
when your PC is turned off.—JMB
$570 street. BenQ Inc., www.benq.com.
Kill Spam with
McAfee will soon release
SpamKiller 5.0, an overhauled version of its antispam utility. The program will
integrate with Microsoft Outlook
or work outside other e-mail programs and will feature a probability
engine and a dictionary-attack
engine to thwart spammers.—JMB
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Take It with You
For gamers and professionals on the go,
the 15-inch NEC-Mitsubishi MultiSync
LCD1565 (8.6 pounds) and the 17-inch
LCD1765 (13.2 pounds) will each feature
a clever folding stand, letting you pack
either into a laptop bag (provided you
have another bag for your laptop).—JMB
LCD1565: $350 street. LCD1765: $550.
NEC-Mitsubishi Electronics Display Inc.,
More Fluid Web
$39.95 direct.
Network Associates,
If small fonts on Web
sites make you squint,
try Portrait Display’s
Liquid Surf. This utility
will let you increase or
decrease the size of text and
graphics on Web pages (within
Internet Explorer 6.0), as well as
reorganize windows for more efficient use of your browser.—JMB
$19.95 direct.
Portrait Displays Inc.,
AOL 9.0 Optimized
HP Pavilion zd7000
Toshiba Satellite P25-S507
Canon PowerShot G5
Macromedia Contribute 2
Gateway Profile 4X
Pioneer DVR-A06
Palm Tungsten/T2
File Sharing Without the Tracks
File sharing continues to be hot
news, with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)
looking to make examples of individuals—not just companies—who illegally distribute copyrighted material. The threat of lawsuits is not turning users off from file sharing,
however. In fact, it may be driving users to seek out
anonymous services.
We don’t advocate down-
loading copyrighted material without permission. That said, the ability to hide your IP address
in a peer-to-peer (P2P) setting is an interesting, potentially revolutionary technology, and it merits discussion.
To determine just how much anonymity is possible while file sharing, we looked at Blubster, Filetopia, and
Blubster 2.5
A paradox of sorts, Blubster 2.5
promises to protect your privacy
and anonymity but then
loads annoying adware
on your machine—
Blubster is fast
not to mention the
and provides reasonable
suspicious search
anonymity. But we
bar your browser
acquires. If you
hate the adware
can live with that,
that comes with the
can connect
free version.
with over 200,000
users sharing about 47
million audio files. You can’t
share other file types, but a lot of
the audio offerings are of high
quality, including high-bit-rate
MP3s and Ogg Vorbis files
(which, at certain bit rates, sound
better than MP3s).
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Blubster’s MP2P (Manolito
peer-to-peer) network uses UDP
(User Datagram Protocol) instead of TCP. Few firewalls are
preconfigured to allow access to
the high UDP ports MP2P requires, though, and people concerned with anonymity often
have firewalls. Blubster won’t
work unless you can open the
appropriate ports.
The seeming unreliability of
UDP (packet receipt isn’t acknowledged) and the absence of
servers are what help make
transactions on the MP2P network difficult to trace. Rather
than servers, gateways—Web
pages with changing peer lists—
facilitate connections to machines with hidden IP addresses.
In our attempts to scan test ma-
Morpheus. All have serious limitations but are likely to boost what some would agree is a welcome trend.
w w w. p c m a g . c o m /f i r s t l o o k s
40 Microsoft Windows Powered PCS
Phone SH-G1000 by Hitachi
42 Dell Latitude X300
42 HP Compaq Business Notebook
chines accessing our client, we
couldn’t get correct originating
IP addresses. But whether this
real-time privacy would do
much good in the face of a peer
list obtained with a legal injunction is another question.
If you’ve ever used a popular
file-sharing app, Blubster will
feel familiar. An Advanced icon
lets you narrow a search by quality or other criteria, and search
results appear with user and
quality data in a list. Results take
a few seconds to appear, but they
appear in droves.
Whether you select one file
or dozens, the uncluttered interface gets you to the transfer status with a quick click. From this
transfer section, you can rightclick to look for more sources
for particular files, and these
multisource UDP downloads
seem blazingly fast. Should you
need to shut down, you can resume downloads later.
As impressive as the Blubster
network’s music offerings are,
and despite its efforts at realtime privacy, we can’t wholeheartedly recommend the freeware client. There’s something
almost nauseating about the
Gator ad system it saddles you
with. Even uninstalling Blubster
won’t get rid of all the tendrils
Gator creates. We had to use antispyware tools to do that.
We feel more comfortable
recommending the alternative
versions of the client that access
the network without adware.
They still present the same firewall hurdles, but if you choose to
load either Clean Blubster 2.5 or
Piolet 1.05, you can add a star to
our rating.
Blubster 2.5
Adware-supported. Optisoft,
www.blubster.com. llmmm
44 WebSphere Commerce
Professional Edition 5.5
46 InBoxer
46 AlienCamel 1.0
lllmm GOOD
llmmm FAIR
lmmmm POOR
Filetopia 3.04
Offering diversity of content in
a potentially secure environment, Filetopia 3.04 lets you access and share audio, video,
documents, CD images—anything really—without pesky adware or spyware. You’ll typically find fewer than 4,000 users
connected at a time, though,
perhaps due to the difficult
learning curve.
But at least those users are all
sharing, thanks to the client’s
strict two-way bandwidth rules:
You can download only up to
double the rate at which you
let others take from you.
If you’re not putting in,
There is a
you can’t take out.
learning curve to get
Filetopia encrypts
going, but Filetopia offers
client sharall client-to-client
users the ability to search
using your choice globally for files or exchange other freethem in themed
share users.
of nine symmetric
Searches hapciphers (Rijndael by
pen in a window
default). This doesn’t precalled File Server,
vent someone with networkanalysis tools from picking up which also lists results.
Depending on the network
your IP address, though, so Filetopia also employs bouncers. A settings on both ends and
bouncer is a machine running a whether there is a bouncer, you
program that forwards your may or may not succeed in makconnection to other machines, ing a connection to a file.
providing snoops with only the Should a download break down
bouncer’s IP address, not yours. or fail to start, the file becomes
But stability is not so reliable part of a Watch List so that Filewith bouncers, especially when topia can keep trying to estabdownloading large files, which lish a link to the file. Be premay lead users to turn off pared to use your Watch List tab
bouncers—and a bouncer-free a lot, unfortunately—especially
Filetopia somewhat defeats the if you go through a bouncer. We
purpose of switching from a ser- experienced numerous missed
vice like Kazaa. Also, if you have connections.
a firewall, you cannot download
Both free-share and trade
from users with firewalls.
mode users can enter and use
Filetopia lets you run in either channels, which are like themed
free-share mode or trade mode. IRC channels with file transfer
In free-share mode, your ma- enabled. You can use the search
chine acts as a traditional P2P dialog to query only those users
in a particular channel, or you
can browse file lists from users.
Those in trade mode (or traders)
are limited to channels and can’t
use the global File Server search.
Also, traders have to adhere
to a system of download and upload credits and can search only
for files from other traders. The
upside is that trader connections seemed (in our experience, at least) faster and more
reliable. And the more you give
away (you can set the client to
do this unattended), the more
credits you earn toward stable
Another plus: The Filetopia
user base seems composed of
savvier folks who weed out poorquality or bogus files. But there is
room for improvement. Currently, Filetopia 3.04 is just a little
more effective than searching
IRC and Usenet newsgroups, and
not always as anonymous.
Filetopia 3.04
Price: Free. Filetopia Inc.,
www.filetopia.com. lllmm
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
Morpheus 3.2
While the Gnutella network can
be considered a veteran, having
been launched not long after
Napster, it is usually populated
by well under 200,000 users,
light years away from Kazaa or
FastTrack’s nearly 4 million.
Being susceptible to incomplete
or fake files hasn’t helped. The
new Morpheus 3.2 hopes to give
it a boost with features designed
More important to this story’s
theme—Morpheus is not anonymous by default.
To make Morpheus 3.2 anonymous, you have to enable a builtin feature that is often used as
a jury-rigged add-on to other
applications. By clicking on the
wrench icon (Config your Settings) and selecting the
Proxy tab, you enable a
It looks and acts
list of proxies that
a lot like Kazaa (minus
Morpheus can run
about 3.5 million users), but
through, sort of like
Morpheus does
Blubster’s bouncers.
provide a modicum of
What’s annoying
is that the client
anonymity with
to help—but
doesn’t help with this
adequate stability.
not guaranprocess at all, taking you
to a Web search of sites that
Two up-front warnlist or host anonymous proxies.
ings: Despite what the site claims, With a lot of effort, you can end
Morpheus 3.2 contains spyware. up with a dozen or more proxSome can be removed after in- ies that Morpheus will randomstallation with a spyware-re- ly select for each download you
moval tool, but you may destroy initiate. Maintaining this list,
the client’s functionality if you go however, will require regular
too far (a reinstall and some ex- revisiting of the annoying setup
perimentation might be needed). process, as proxies do go down
Sweeping for Spies, Improved
dware, key loggers, and
other spyware can send
personal information
about you out to the wired
world, as well as make your machine run sluggishly. Spywareremoval tools are as important
as firewall and antivirus packages these days. We covered
nine removal tools in our April
22, 2003 issue, but we never
thought our last-place entry
would improve so much within
two seasons. Webroot’s Spy
Sweeper 2.1 (yearly subscription,
$29.95) is now a viable choice.
The slick new version sets up
by default to run when Windows
is started and will prevent your
machine in real time from installing or activating spyware.
When a snoop is found, the
program identifies and defines it
to the user and prompts for per-
mission to scan and quarantine it.
You can then decide whether to
delete it and other offenders permanently. Spyware you may have
to live with is also identified. For
instance, Spy Sweeper tells you
that Cydoor Peer-to-Peer Dependency is necessary to keep Kazaa
or a similar client running.
A subscription product, Spy
Sweeper automatically updates
itself with what seems to be a
wonderfully current database.
The program found a couple of
spyware apps and traces that
even our previous Editors’
Choice, SpyBot Search & Destroy, left happily running on our
test systems (although these do
not seem particularly malicious).
For Spy Sweeper to be most
effective, you have to be aware of
its settings and invoke the program occasionally. A little experimentation showed us that
someone with access to your
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
machine can install, say, a key
logger, and then tell Spy Sweeper to ignore it in future scans.
Fortunately, if you pay attention during such future scans,
you’ll still notice the installed
covert app such as Spector or
WinWhatWhere mentioned at
the bottom of the scan window
as being present. If you do see
something there that you didn’t
okay in the past, drill into Op-
from time to time.
Some additional anonymity
is provided by PeerGuardian
blacklisting, which is incorporated to block known snooping
hosts. Blacklisting won’t stop
the RIAA, but it will limit your
client’s exposure to malware.
Morpheus has no firewall
setup requirements, although it
won’t let you take files from a
machine behind a firewall if your
machine is also behind a firewall.
File selection tends to be decent,
and popular items will download
fairly quickly. We also didn’t
mind the unobtrusive banner
ads at the bottom of the application window: They’re not like
Gator’s annoying pop-ups.
If you put in the proxy setup
time, Morpheus 3.2 will come
the closest of the three reviewed
offerings to providing anonymity and usefulness.
Morpheus 3.2
Banner-ad supported, with some
spyware. StreamCast Networks Inc.,
www.morpheus.com. lllmm
tions and the Always Keep tab to
remove it from the list. A nice
future improvement would be to
password-protect the interface.
While SpyBot is still free and
likely to keep improving as well,
Webroot’s Spy Sweeper 2.1 is a
tough service to pass up.
Spy Sweeper 2.1
Price: Yearly subscription, $29.95.
Webroot Software Inc., 800-772-9383,
www.webroot.com. llllm
Spy Sweeper 2.1 is thorough and easy to use, spotting everything that could conceivably be called spyware.
AOL 9.0: Custom-Tailored for Mass Appeal
merica Online is serious about maintaining
its lead in the battle for
ISP supremacy. AOL 9.0 Optimized elegantly incorporates
more custom sign-on information, communication options,
security and parental controls,
and productivity features to entice the 24 million existing subscribers—not to mention prospective users—to participate in
the AOL community.
Perhaps the most noticeable
feature is the customizable welcome screen. AOL 9.0’s enhanced
sign-on interface has a larger
video panel and brings to the surface more video programming
for broadband users. There’s also
an MSN-style QuickView page
of personalized daily information services. You can select from
six welcome-screen navigation
toolsets (such as Nightlife and
Great Discoveries) and six corresponding Stories and Features
Based on those welcomescreen preferences, a new Quick
Start guide to AOL content appears on the left-hand side of the
welcome screen (nicely balancing the Buddy List window on
the right-hand side). You can also
choose to bring to the surface
local sports events, local weather,
and Yellow Pages listings.
The redesigned interface
and icons for AOL Mail, Radio,
Video, and Pictures bring dynamic multimedia content to
the forefront of AOL. The AOL
channel structure has given way
to a more appealing system for
navigating the Internet beyond
the confines of AOL.
AOL 9.0 adds permanent storage for AOL Mail: 20MB per
screen name (up to seven screen
names), for a possible total of
140MB per account. We like the
new Microsoft Outlook–style
mail interface, with a file directory on the left-hand side of the
screen, a message list in the middle, and a new message preview
pane on the right. A small but
AOL 9.0’s new welcome screen gives broadband users a wider
variety of video and audio content.
You can customize the new QuickView page to suit your interests and locale.
welcome improvement is that
the mail client displays the filenames of attachments below
e-mail messages for one-click
downloads. There’s also a new
photo-editing tool; we got good
results using it to crop and correct image brightness before
e-mailing a color photo.
Instant Messenger SuperBuddy icons—animated 3-D characters that come to life based on
common chat abbreviations—
enhance AOL 9.0’s creative expressions. The service adds another dimension to personalizing
IMs with expanded icons, wallpaper, and audio options.
Annoying instant messaging
spam (or SpIM) is addressed
with AOL’s new IM Catcher feature, which holds IMs from unknown senders in a scroll box for
review but doesn’t filter the content. Improved e-mail security
features include a new Spam
folder for depositing AOL-filtered spam. Users can review the
contents of this folder and mark
those that are confirmed junk
mail. AOL’s enhanced spamfighting technology analyzes
confirmed spam to improve its
filters. You can also block access
to the Spam folder under the
Parental Controls section.
Other enhanced AOL parental
controls include WebUnlock and
a revised online timer. WebUnlock lets a child request a parent
to approve access to a specific
Web site blocked by AOL’s filters,
even if the parent is working at a
remote PC. The enhanced online
timer lets parents allow Web
surfing only during specific time
blocks, which are set according
to the day of the week. Parents
can also use the new Cash Card
program to prepay into an ac-
count that their teens can use for
shopping online.
AOL 9.0 brings a few notable
productivity features, too. Chief
among them is the shared calendar, which lets you see the calendar entries made by others in
your household. You can also
use this feature with other AOL
users to schedule events such as
team practices.
There’s no question that AOL
9.0 is a compelling upgrade for
current AOL users. But if you’re
deciding between AOL and the
competition, note that Microsoft’s MSN service isn’t standing
still, either. MSN is slated for its
next major upgrade later this
year. We haven’t yet been granted
access to the new service, but
Microsoft representatives say
the upgrade will emphasize improved communication and
browsing features, including
Pop-Up Guard (for controlling
pesky ads) and the Outlook Connector (which will integrate MSN
calendar, e-mail, and contacts
with Outlook 2002).
Both AOL 9.0 and the upcoming MSN emphasize broadband
services with informative and
entertaining audio and video
content, parental controls, security, and creative personalized
communications with stationery, fonts, integrated images,
audio, and video. MSN currently
wins on price (broadband service, $39.95 to $49.95 per month;
dial-up service, $21.95 per
month; with another ISP, $9.95
per month), and promises even
more favorable service packages
later this year.
We’ll continue to hear of more
AOL enhancements this year,
such as the AOL Journal, planned
for this fall. The AOL-MSN competition fuels innovation from
both camps, resulting in fine
choices for those who want
structured Internet content.
AOL 9.0 Optimized
Direct price: Broadband service,
$54.95 monthly; dial-up, $23.90
monthly; through another ISP, $14.95
monthly. Requires: 128MB RAM;
130MB hard drive space; Microsoft
Windows 98, 98 SE, Me, 2000, or XP.
America Online Inc., 888-265-8001,
www.aol.com. llllm
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
Large-Screen Notebooks Push the Limits of Portability
fter Apple introduced
its innovative PowerBook G4 with a 17-inch
screen earlier this year (First
Looks, May 27), it was only a
matter of time before other PC
makers got hold of wide-screen
panels. HP and Toshiba have
recently introduced such models. But unlike the large though
still portable 7-pound G4, these
newer entries—at around 11
pounds—are best thought of as
transportable machines to replace a desktop PC.
With their dazzling 17-inch
wide-screen displays, the HP
Pavilion zd7000 and the Toshiba
Satellite P25-S507 are very alluring multimedia entertainment
systems, capable of capturing,
editing, and playing music, photos, and video. Toshiba offers a
similar model with Microsoft
Windows XP Media Center Edition, and HP will have one soon.
The screen is the most impressive, most imposing part of
these computers. These panels
provide a resolution of 1,440 by
900 pixels, which works out to
100 pixels per inch. Smaller
high-resolution panels cram in
120 to 130 pixels per inch, which
makes it hard to view Windows
fonts, screens, and icons without
rescaling them.
The screens on these HP and
Toshiba models also retain their
color fidelity even when viewed
from well off center, so they’re
great for presentations and
watching movies. All in all, these
represent a big improvement in
screen capabilities for a portable.
The dark-gray zd7000 has a
numeric keypad to the right of
the QWERTY keyboard (yes,
there’s that much room), and its
front edge slopes away comfortably. The blue-and-silver P25S507 has an off-white keyboard
inset (no numeric pad) and a
sharp crease along the front,
which some users may find uncomfortable while typing.
Both machines have massive
batteries that account for about
1.5 pounds of the system weight
and yield similar runtimes: 2
hours 17 minutes for the HP and
2:25 for the Toshiba. Both have an
S-Video-out jack (for quickly
connecting a TV set), a FireWire
port, four USB 2.0 ports, and Harman Kardon speakers with pretty fair sound.
The P25-S507’s advantages
include front-mounted multimedia control buttons and the
availability of a $29 multimedia
remote control. We also like the
two identical media bays on the
front. Typically used for an optical drive and battery, the bays
could be loaded with two optical
drives (for disc-to-disc copying
while on AC power). The P25S507 also has a slot for SD cards
separate from the dual PC Card
bay and a reasonable software
bundle: Microsoft Works, ArcSoft’s PhotoStudio 5, Panasonic
MotionDV Studio, and Drag’n
Drop CD+DVD.
The P25-S507’s Winstone performance was very good, on a
par with that of similarly
equipped desktop PCs. Wireless
performance from its 802.11a/b
Atheros chipset was also very
good: The unit was still receiving a usable signal 160 feet from
our test access point. That said,
802.11a—as opposed to “g”—is
an odd choice for what is clearly
a consumer-oriented box.
Before you plunk down cash
for the P25-S507, however, note
that the zd7000’s advantages
make a compelling case. The
HP machine includes a fivein-one media card reader
(Memory Stick Pro/Memory Stick, SD/MMC,
and SmartMedia)
in addition to
two PC Card
slots. There is a
numeric keypad and
Windows XP Professional (not Home Edition).
We also prefer the
zd7000’s software bundle, which includes Roxio’s
Easy CD & DVD Creator,
Microsoft Works, muvee
autoProducer, InterVideo’s
WinDVD Creator, and an HP-
Toshiba Satellite
HP Pavilion
The 17-inch screens on these
notebooks make them ideal
for entertainment apps but
not for carrying.
produced photo-imaging suite
called Image Zone, which lets
you edit images, create photo
CDs, and even set up a slide show
timed to run exactly as long as a
set of linked audio files.
As for performance, the faster
processor and higher-end graphics in the zd7000, as tested, gave
it the edge over the P25-S507 on
our Winstone tests. Its wireless
performance under 802.11b was
similar to that of the P25-S507,
and its 802.11g capabilities were
very good.
You won’t be unhappy with
P25-S507, especially given the
price. But if both were placed in
front of you with receipts marked
“Paid,” you’d probably be better
off taking home the zd7000.
HP Pavilion zd7000
With 3.2-GHz P4 processor, 512MB
DDR SDRAM, 60GB hard drive,
DVD+RW drive, nVidia GeForce FX
Go5600 graphics, 17-inch LCD,
802.11b/g wireless, Microsoft
Windows XP Professional, $2,377
direct. Hewlett-Packard Co.,
OVERALL llllm M llllm
P lllll V llllm
Toshiba Satellite P25-S507
With 2.8-GHz P4 processor, 512MB
DDR SDRAM, 60GB hard drive, DVDRW drive, nVidia GeForce FX Go5200
graphics, 17-inch LCD, 802.11a/b
wireless, Microsoft Windows XP
Home Edition, $2,099 direct. Toshiba
America Information Systems Inc.,
OVERALL llllm M llllm
P llllm V llllm
High scores are best.
Bold type denotes first place.
HP Pavilion zd7000
Toshiba Satellite P25-S507
2003 (hr:min)
Graphics chipset
P4 (3.2 GHz)
nVidia GeForce
FX Go5600
P4 (2.8 GHz)
nVidia GeForce
FX Go5200
N/A—Not applicable: The model we tested did not come equipped with 802.11g wireless.
Winstone 2003
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Wireless throughput (Mbps)
10 feet
60 feet
160 feet
120 feet
Top-of-the-Line Point-and-Shoot
he new 5-megapixel
Canon PowerShot G5 cuts
to the front of the line in
Canon’s lineup of point-andshoot digital cameras. At $800,
this isn’t the camera to get your
mom started in digital photography. But the G5 will appeal to
hobbyist shutterbugs who can’t
afford the $1,500 price that digital
SLRs command.
The G5—and similar cameras
like the Nikon Coolpix 5700 and
the Olympus Camedia C-5050—
have a lot to offer displaced 35mm SLR users. The G5’s image
quality isn’t at the same level as
that of the digital SLR cameras
we’ve tested, but it is excellent
for a compact camera.
Although the G5 includes only
one interchangeable lens, the
built-in 4X lens (equivalent to a
35- to 140-mm lens on a 35-mm
camera) should provide more
than enough flexibility for most
users. And the G5’s fine closefocus macro feature lets you get
up close on small objects. For
users who want to go beyond the
basics, Canon offers add-on telephoto, wide angle, and close-up
lenses, as well as a wide range of
external flash units.
The G5 is a pleasure to use. On
the outside, the G5 has a businesslike flat-black finish in place
of previous models’ satin
aluminum look. Canon’s trademark twist-and-flip screen has
been slightly improved; it now
folds completely flat against the
camera body when not in use.
The G5 is one of the first cameras we’ve seen to include an
orientation sensor. The camera
(and Canon’s excellent ZoomBrowser image viewer software)
knows which pictures were
taken vertically, so vertical shots
display vertically on your monitor without your having to
rotate the image.
Despite its point-and-shoot
mission in life, the G5 has a very
complete range of manual controls. Its exposure meter and
automatic white balance per-
formed better than most compact cameras we’ve tested, producing good color and accurate
exposure even in difficult lighting situations. Like Canon’s SLR
cameras, the G5 uses a short preflash to determine proper flash
exposure, which helps avoid
washed-out pictures taken with
flash at close range.
Compared with the Pentax
Optio 550, our current Editors’
Choice among enthusiast cameras (see “Snap Happy,” September 2), the G5 is better in every
way. In fact, the G5 delivers the
best image quality we’ve seen yet
from a digital point-and-shoot.
The unit comes with a 32MB
Even More
hen Macromedia released Contribute 1.0
last year, we were impressed. It gave nontechnical
users a nearly foolproof way to
update the content of a Web site
while protecting the integrity
of the design and underlying
code. Less than a year later, the
company has released Macromedia Contribute 2.
Thankfully, Contribute 2 is
not a dramatically new version
of the product. Satisfied users
will find that the program still
has the same streamlined workflow, wherein you browse to a
Web page, edit content, and
publish new versions. But the
new version makes it easier to
add e-commerce links and Flash
files to a site.
Contribute 2 introduces a
new automated mechanism—
called FlashPaper—that generates Flash content from any
printable document. The FlashPaper document can be embedded directly into a Web page. It
is virtually guaranteed to display
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Co m pa c t Flash card, a
lithium ion battery, a charger,
and an infrared remote control.
Battery life is indeed impressive:
We took more than 400 pictures
(with extensive use of the LCD
screen for framing and image
review) on a single charge.
The one drawback is inherited
properly and download quickly.
A predefined interface that surrounds the FlashPaper document lets visitors navigate,
zoom, or print a file.
FlashPaper has been optimized to work with standard
business apps. So, when you
drag and drop a Microsoft
Office document into Contribute, the document can be
automatically converted to
FlashPaper. And because FlashPaper is in fact a virtual printer
driver, you can access it from
within any source application.
For e-commerce sites, Contribute 2 takes advantage of several wizard-based tools to generate
all the code necessary to connect
your site to the PayPal service.
Simple, fill-in-the-blank dialog
boxes let you configure buttons
The PowerShot G5 pointand-shoot is an
choice for
from the G3: At the
widest zoom setting, the camera’s
lens blocks part of the
view in the optical
viewfinder. But for many
users, the great images and excellent battery life will be enough to
Canon PowerShot G5
$800 street. Canon USA Inc., 1-800828-4040; www.usa.canon.com.
for several different kinds of
transactions, including a singleitem sale, a full-featured shopping
cart, and a recurring subscription
fee. This feature is a boon for
small online businesses.
Enhanced security features
include encrypted data transfer
(for SFTP sites) and password
protection on the program level
(to prevent unauthorized users
from taking advantage of Contribute’s automatic site connections). Contribute 2 is now
also available to Mac users,
where it can automatically
detect and connect to .Mac
Web sites.
Macromedia Contribute 2
$99 direct; upgrade, $9.99 before
September 30, $49 thereafter. Macromedia Inc., 800-326-2128, www
.macromedia.com. lllll
wizards within
Contribute 2
add PayPal
capabilities to
a Web site.
Gateway’s All-in-One Gets a Boost
ll-in-one PCs aren’t a
big slice of the market,
but they have a devoted
audience among home and
SOHO buyers. Gateway has just
introduced the fourth generation of its space-saving machine.
The Gateway Profile 4X brings
Pentium 4 (with Hyper-Threading) power and a host of other
improvements to the platform.
For consumers with limited
desktop real estate, the Profile
4X falls somewhere in between a
full-blown desktop system and a
desktop replacement notebook.
But as with the latter, there are
The Profile 4X features a 2.4GHz Pentium 4 processor married to an 800-MHz front-side
bus (FSB). As with other all-inones, your post-purchase upgrade options are limited. You
can add memory (up to 1GB) or
swap out the hard drive. Anything else will have to be connected via one of the six USB 2.0
or two FireWire ports, or inserted into the PC Card slot—which
is just begging for a wireless
LAN card, since an internal wireless NIC isn’t offered.
The integrated 17-inch LCD
display is driven by the 64MB
nVidia GeForce4 MX400 video
controller, a solid midrange
graphics solution. Image quality
on the panel is good from all
viewing angles. The integrated
speaker/SoundMax audio combination is a weak spot, sounding only slightly better than the
cheap desktop speakers that
most vendors ship with entrylevel systems.
To ensure compatibility with
legacy components, the Profile
includes parallel, serial, and PS/2
ports, as well as a VGA monitor
port. A multimedia keyboard and
a Logitech USB optical mouse are
included in the package. The
software bundle is fairly minimal,
consisting of Windows XP Home
Edition, Microsoft Works Suite
2003, and Gateway’s Music Vault
jukebox utility.
Performance (25.2 on our
Business Winstone 2002 test
and 38.0 on Multimedia Content
Creation Winstone 2003) was
fine for typical productivity
chores, but not near what a current state-of-the-art desktop
tower can deliver. Of course, a
better comparison might be
with a desktop replacement
notebook, since these are targeting the same space-constrained
crowd. Here the Gateway Profile 4X tops most, though note
that the fastest notebooks are
scoring around 32 on Business
Winstone and 42 on Content
Creation Winstone.
In its favor, the Profile 4X delivers a desktop-quality LCD
screen and a full complement of
ports. So if you don’t mind sacrificing expandability to save
desktop space and are not
ready to take the notebook
plunge, the Gateway Profile
4X is a good compromise.
Gateway Profile 4X
With 2.4-GHz Pentium 4 processor,
256MB SDRAM, 80GB hard drive,
nVidia GeForce4 MX400 graphics,
17-inch LCD, CD-RW/DVD-ROM
drive, 10/100 Ethernet,
$1,499.99 direct. Gateway Inc., 800-221-9616,
M lllmm
P llmmm
V llmmm
The Gateway Profile 4X features a 17-inch LCD.
Pioneer Delivers Quad-Format DVD Writer
s the originator of DVDR technology, Pioneer
has been that format’s
staunchest proponent. But in
a nod to the competition, the
new Pioneer DVR-A06 adds support for the rival DVD+R and
DVD+RW formats.
In most other ways, the DVRA06 is similar to its DVR-A05
predecessor. Both boast robust
construction, 4X DVD-R and 2X
DVD-RW recording, and a consistent ability to produce discs
that work reliably in every DVD
player in our lab. The A06 ships
with a generous software bundle
that includes Ahead Software’s
Nero Express 5.5 and Nero
Toolkit, the SAI WriteDVD!
drive letter access and packetwriting software, and special
editions of Ulead DVD Player,
MovieFactory, PictureShow, and
When tested on our 2.5-GHz
P4 test-bed (using Nero 6 Burning ROM), the DVR-A06 easily
equaled the A05’s blazing speed
with DVD-R and -RW media,
and generally outpaced the
competing Sony DRU-500A
multiformat burner. Most impressive, the A06 took only 4
minutes 21 seconds to rip our
4.28GB test DVD, compared
with the A05’s 6:20 and the Sony
unit’s 10:30 time.
Our early production unit
worked well enough with its
bundled software but wasn't as
hospitable to some of the applications in our test suite. Neither
321 Studio’s DVD XCopy disc
backup application nor Ahead’s
InCD 4 packet-writing software
could record DVD+RW media in-
serted into the drive. (The companies are working on fixes as
we go to press). Worse, the A06’s
setup routine forces you to load
all of its bundled applications—
a source of conflict if you've already installed and prefer a
competing disk-mastering or
packet-writing application.
Another disappointment is
the drive’s lack of support for 4X
DVD+RW recording, which is offered by Sony’s recently announced four-format DRU-510A.
So if DVD+RW is your preferred
medium, the Sony unit is a better choice. But if your tasks demand a multiformat drive, the
A06 ought to do a good job at a
competitive price.
Pioneer DVR-A06
$330 street. Pioneer Electronics
(USA) Inc., 800-444-6784, www
.pioneerelectronics.com. lllmm
All scores are in minutes:seconds.
Rip 4.3GB DVD
Low scores are best.
image to hard drive
Bold type denotes first place.
Pioneer DVR-A06
Pioneer DVR-A05*
Sony DRU-500A*
640MB CD-R
Drag 55MB folder
to CD-RW (packet writing)
Burn 4.3GB image to DVD
* Reported for comparison. N/A—Not applicable: The drive does not support this format.
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Palm’s T2 Terminates the Original Tungsten
n true summer sequel fashion, Palm has replaced the
original Tungsten/T—its
mainstay PDA for professionals—with the new Palm Tungsten/T2 ($400 street). Unlike as
in Hollywood, this follow-on is
better in almost every way.
For starters, the T2 has double
the memory (32MB) of the T.
The increased memory pays off
quickly. Even after loading all
the applications that came on
the supplemental software CD,
our test unit still had more than
22MB of available storage space.
Palm has also upgraded to a
new transflective display. The
320-by-320 resolution is unchanged, but the new screen
looks much brighter indoors,
and icons look crisper than on
the backlit reflective Tungsten/T display. In sunlight, how-
ever, the original Tungsten/T is
easier to see.
The T2’s chassis (4.0 by 3.0 by
0.6 inches, HWD) is identical to
the original but for the silver
color, and at 5.6 ounces, the T2
weighs just a bit more. As before, for data entry using the
Graffiti 2 area and to access the
four soft buttons on the sides
of the input space, the collapsible case slides open, adding
three quarters of an inch to the
T2’s height. There’s also an SD/
MMC expansion slot.
The USB synchronization and
charging cradle is unchanged (a
travel charger is a $40 option).
The integrated Bluetooth wireless radio also remains on board
and now comes with software
to support Bluetooth phones
using major GSM/GPRS service
providers worldwide.
The T2 delivers a whole slew
of new software, including the
latest Palm OS v5.2.1, new
productivity titles, and new
communication and entertainment applications.
Standard multimedia utilities now include Kinoma
the newer
Video Player for viewing
model, unvideo files, RealOne
less you often
Mobile Player for
find yourself
If you have a
MP3 and Real
out of storage
Audio support, and
space. But if you’re
phone, you can use
Palm Photos for
looking for a powerthe T2’s dialer app
digital images.
ful new Palm OSto place calls.
based PDA with upThe integrated
to-date software in a
monaural speaker
compact, highly mobile
won’t cause any complaints from neighbors, but its format, check out the new Palm
volume is sufficient for playback Tungsten/T2.
in a quiet office. For better sound,
Palm Tungsten/T2
plug stereo headphones (not included) into the standard jack.
If you already own a Tungsten/T, there may be no compelling reasons to replace it with
Street price: $400. Requires: Host PC
running Microsoft Windows 98 or
later or Mac OS 9.1 or later. Palm Inc.,
800-881-7256, www.palm.com.
lecting from the call log or con-
nection Personal Edition, which
links you to corporate e-mail
and PIM information. Users with
PCS Business Connection Enterprise Edition software can push
Microsoft Outlook or Lotus
Notes mail and PIM data directly
to the phone.
Given its features and good
PDA/phone integration, the SHG1000 betters any other Pocket
PC–based hybrid we’ve tested.
The Handspring Treo 300 is
smaller and more comfortable to
use as a phone handset, but the
SH-G1000 outguns it on features.
If you’re a heavy phone user
and looking to add just a few
features to a digital phone, the
SH-G1000 is probably overkill.
Mobile professionals and users
who want a highly evolved
PDA/phone combo, however,
should be pleased with this versatile mobile tool.
Hitachi PDA/Phone Comes tact databases, or using Sprint’s
excellent voice-dialing feature.
We particularly like the large
Loaded for Business
It’s a bit of a
speaker phone button; volBY BRUCE AND MARGE
ome people say that a nocompromise PDA/phone
combo can never be as
small and light as a standalone
cell phone, since the screen and
input areas needed for a good
PDA make for a large phone. But
if you’re willing to carry a little
extra bulk to get both in one
device, the Microsoft Windows
Powered PCS Phone SH-G1000
by Hitachi ($650 street), available
now through Sprint PCS, is the
current combo leader.
Since it weighs 8.4 ounces
and measures 5.6 by 3.2 by 0.8
inches (HWD), you won’t want
to slip the SH-G1000 in a shirt
pocket. For its PDA features, the
SH-G1000 runs Pocket PC 2002
Phone Edition, not the newer
Windows Mobile Software 2003
for Pocket PC (First Looks,
August 5). That said, the new40
handful, but the
er OS’s main
ume from the speaker is
SH-G1000 is
draw is easy
sufficient for a small
wireless con- the most fully loaded group during a meeting or
PDA phone
n e c t iv i ty, a
while driving.
need met by the
Snapping pictures
unit’s 70-Kbps (esthrough the swivel
timated average)
lens is easy, thanks
1xRTT data conto both the sidenectivity.
mounted and onOther features
screen shutter coninclude an intetrols, and you can
grated QWERTY
peruse captured
keyboard for twoimages via the
thumb typing, a 640convenient
by-480 digital camera,
viewer utility.
and an SD/MMC card
Sharing imslot. The 400-MHz Intel
ages is easy,
XScale CPU is partnered
too: A wizwith 32MB of SDRAM.
ard walks you
The SH - G 1000’s PCS
through image selecphone function is well intetion, address selection, and
grated with its PDA features. You adding text and voice messages.
can make voice calls in myriad
In addition to the usual bunways, such as tapping the on- dled Pocket PC PIM and producscreen keypad, entering the tivity applications, the SH-G1000
number on the keyboard, se- includes Sprint’s Business Con-
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Microsoft Windows Powered
PCS Phone SH-G1000 by Hitachi
Street price: $650, plus monthly Sprint
PCS service fees. Sprint Spectrum LP,
888-211-4727, www.sprintpcs.com.
Dell, HP Take On the IBM X31
notebooks—those weighing between 3 and 4
pounds—make up a small but
growing part of the portable
landscape, especially among executives who always carry machines with them. Our favorite
such machine to date is the IBM
ThinkPad X31 (“Notebooks,
Notebooks, Notebooks,” May
27), which packs a 12.1-inch
screen, a full-size keyboard, and
good battery life into a 3.6pound package.
Now Dell and HP have
released ultraportables for the
corporate market, and both
machines have the X31 squarely
in their sights. Our conclusion:
While both newcomers are
strong contenders, neither quite
dethrones the 5-star X31.
Dell’s X300
The 3-pound Dell Latitude X300
provides almost everything you
could want in an ultraportable
notebook. The only drawbacks
are smallish typing keys and a
standard battery.
The X300 offers several ways
to configure for the road. For
back-and-forth commuting, the
standard battery keeps weight
down but delivers only 2 hours
20 minutes of life. We would opt
for the $129 extended battery,
which adds half a pound to the
weight but delivers a more satisfying 5:50 of runtime. That puts
the X300 in the same league as
the class-leading IBM ThinkPad
X31 with its extended battery.
Dell’s $199 MediaBase can house
a second battery as well as the
included optical drive.
In case the fonts are too small
on the crisp 12.1-inch screen,
Dell’s QuickSet utility handles
line—and a Microsoft Windows system image common
across other models as well.
This compatibility is no mean
feat, given that the integrated
system chipset (the ATI IGP
350M) in this Pentium M–powered unit is unique in the HP
corporate line.
For wireless connectivity,
there are Atheros 802.11a/b/g
and 802.11b/g mini-PCI internal
NIC s. Our test machine had
the former, along with an internal Bluetooth card, reasonably
priced at $50. It also came with
an external DVD-ROM drive.
You can also opt for the 1-pound
undermount slice. For I/O,
there’s one FireWire and two
USB 2.0 ports, an SD card slot,
and a single PC Card slot.
As we mentioned, system
performance was on a par with
that of the X300. At 2:52, battery
life was better than the X300’s,
although the larger battery also
means a heavier system to carry
around. HP offers a second battery that clips under the unit; it
adds half a pound but effectively
doubles the runtime.
Wireless performance was
good, though with some anomalies. With 802.11b, speed was
fine at distances even out to 160
feet, where the nc4000 outpaced the Dell entry. But at
close distances (60 feet or less)
with 802.11g, throughput was
relatively low; 802.11g performance was strong at our farther
test points. Newly minted
802.11g drivers may be the explanation.
HP’s nc4000
font scaling beyond what Windows XP offers. The key pitch is
18 mm, which is 95 percent the
size of standard desktop key
spacing. That’s good for an
ultraportable this small, although IBM and HP were able to
cram 19-mm keyboards into just
slightly larger machines.
The 1.2-GHz Pentium M machine’s Winstone performance
was good. Given the margin of
error on our tests, we can say
the speed was on a par with that
of the 1.6-GHz HP Compaq Business Notebook nc4000. The
X300’s extra RAM (640MB versus 256MB) no doubt helped
Our test unit came with the
built-in Broadcom 802.11b/g
wireless solution. (An Intel
802.11b card is available for users
who want a Centrino solution,
though you’d be spending the
same money and giving up
802.11g connectivity.) Wireless
performance was good, and the
X300 was still receiving a signal
at 160 feet from our access point.
For corporate users, Dell
offers its OpenManage Client
management suite and ImageWatch tools for deploying a common operating system and applications across Dell systems.
Dell Latitude X300
With 1.2-GHz Pentium M, 640MB
RAM, 40GB hard drive, external
DVD/CD-RW drive, 12.1-inch display,
802.11b/g wireless, Microsoft Windows XP Professional, $2,136 direct.
Dell Inc., 800-917-3355,
www.dell.com. llllm
The HP/Compaq collaboration
is bearing fruit: The new HP
Compaq Business Notebook
nc4000 is a well-designed 3.7pound ultraportable that’s a
good choice if you want manageability and consistency across a
corporate line.
The compact case measures
1.1 by 11.0 by 9.2 inches (HWD)
and is essentially the same size
as the IBM ThinkPad X31. Like
the X31 and the Dell Latitude
X300, the nc4000 has a 12.1-inch
screen. Also like the X31, it has
full-size keys.
Fleet buyers will welcome the
choice of two optional port
replicators that work across
much of the Compaq-now-HP
HP Compaq Business Notebook
With 1.6-GHz Pentium M, 256MB RAM,
60GB hard drive, 12.1 inch LCD, ATI
Radeon 350M graphics, external DVDROM drive, 802.11a/b/g wireless,
Bluetooth, Microsoft Windows XP
Professional, $2,027 direct. HewlettPackard Co., 800-888-0262, www.hp
.com/go/notebooks. llllm
Winstone 2003
2003 (hr:min)
Dell Latitude X300
Pentium M (1.2 GHz)
HP Compaq Business
Notebook nc4000
Pentium M (1.6 GHz)
High scores are best.
Bold type denotes first place.
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Wireless throughput (Mbps)
10 feet
60 feet
120 feet
160 feet
IBM’s Sphere of Influence
imed squarely at larger
companies, IBM’s Web-
Sphere Commerce Professional Edition 5.5 ($80,000 per
CPU) offers a truly scalable plat-
form for e-business. If you can
get over the initial sticker shock,
this package is remarkably deep:
IBM has bundled many advanced
capabilities in the core product,
the database instead of DB2, for
example—in the set-up utility.
For production environments,
the wizard automates creating
a three-node installation where
database, app server, and commerce components reside on different servers for scalability.
WebSphere also provides a
half-dozen sample stores in
store archive (.sar) files, which
Designed for store managers, not techies, IBM’s WebSphere affords excellent control over virtually every aspect of your store.
including analytics, auctions, and
extensive site administration for
business managers.
We installed WebSphere
under Windows Server 2000
with SP3. (As a J2EE-based solution, the platform is also available on Linux and AIX.) The release comes on ten CDs, five of
which are required for the minimal recommended installation.
There is a (welcome) Quick
Start option that sets up and
connects the various components, which include IBM DB2,
IBM’s HTTP Server, and WebSphere Application Server 5.0 as
the underlying platform.
Of course, quick is a relative
term: The wizard ran for about 2
hours. Additional components
for the recommendation engine
(using technology from LikeMinds) and the Commerce Analyzer for a data mart require separate installation procedures.
You can swap out selected
components—using Oracle as
are very helpful when you’re
creating a new online store.
Using a wizard, we created a
sample online clothing store and
simulated browsing and shopping activity for 100 users.
The default functionality
found in these sample stores is
truly impressive. In addition to
the expected support for searching, shopping carts, and placing
and tracking orders, the default
store includes advanced features
such as guided selling, which
brings site visitors to products
interactively. There’s also support for auctions (including a
discussion board to post messages about items on the virtual
block), plus excellent support for
multiple languages (10 by default) and over 20 currencies.
Support for a payment module
to process credit card orders onor off-line also comes built in.
For administrators, the Commerce Accelerator tool is a very
impressive console for control-
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
ling every aspect of a store. This
menu-driven Web application
provides easy access to categories, products, users, orders, and
campaigns. It also gives you a
handle on advanced options for
auctions and tweaks for the
guided-selling features.
With WebSphere, IBM has
done an excellent job at letting
business managers control a site
instead of having to call IT for
everyday store maintenance. A
good example of this is the Promotion wizard, which guides
you through the details of setting
up sales and discounts. Logic for
discounts is extensive and even
includes support for how to handle overlapping discounts.
Another standout feature for
business managers is the Products screen, which gives you
powerful searching capabilities
for finding products to view and
modify. We liked the screen that
listed all the images associated
with a set of products. Adding a
product was also speedy enough,
though uploading new product
image files required a separate
step. We also applaud the control
you’re given over ads and banners, which you can easily configure throughout a site by
means of a convenient screen.
Reporting in WebSphere is
also strong, with about a dozen
precanned reports for tracking
inventory and orders, overall
site revenue, and other metrics
for your store. IBM’s experience
with real customers shines
here—and throughout the product—since the reports needed
for real-world stores (such as
tracking expected inventory
shipments and customer returns) are included. The Commerce Analyzer tool sets up a
data mart based on your store’s
sales data and lets business decision makers determine what’s
working and what’s not with
over 200 reports.
Online stores generated by ecommerce solutions usually
come half-full or half-empty, depending how you look at them.
It’s usually up to your development team—or third-party addons—to customize the store for
your precise needs. IBM bundles almost all of the whistles
and bells and real-world necessities for most B2C and B2B scenarios. This raises the price tag
of the solution, but you aren’t
likely to find any limitations.
The default store has features
that will likely cost more to implement on your own.
All things considered, IBM’s
WebSphere is a deep e-commerce solution that’s tailored to
the needs of real business users.
WebSphere Commerce Professional Edition 5.5
Direct price: $80,000 per CPU. IBM
Corp., 888-746-7426,
commerce. lllll
It’s easy to drive new sales using wizards that let ordinary
business users select products for discounts and promotions.
If It Sounds like Spam...
here’s more than one
way to skin a spammer.
To spot spam, Audiotrieve’s InBoxer for Outlook enlists some of the same language
recognition technologies that
the company has used to filter
information from audio and
video streams. InBoxer isn’t a
cure-all, but it joins a short list
of personal software packages
that can filter most spam from
your in-box with only a modicum of hassle.
Much like the Ella filtering
utility from Open Field Software, which we recently tested
(“E-Mail Spring Cleaning,” July
2003), InBoxer integrates with
Microsoft Outlook; you can’t
use the app with any other email client. But if you’re one of
the millions who run Outlook,
you’ll find the tool much
easier to use than standalone
apps like DigiPortal’s ChoiceMail One or NextGen’s GoodbyeSpam.
InBoxer installs in minutes.
Upon installation, it adds two
new folders to your Outlook
menu: InBoxer Blocked and InBoxer Review. Then, using the
same mathematical models
built into Audiotrieve’s audio
and video products, the app
sifts through your in-box. Messages deemed spam are shuttled into the Blocked folder.
Messages that, according to calculations, fall into the gray area
between spam and legitimate
mail are placed in the Review
Considering that InBoxer
goes through this initial process
with absolutely no training, we
found the outcome reasonably
impressive. Before we tested
the product at PC Magazine
Labs, our in-box contained 200
legitimate messages and 100
pieces of spam. InBoxer correctly sorted 21 spam messages
into the Blocked folder, and 18
of the 24 messages it placed in
the Review folder were also
Of course, that means that 61
spam messages were left in our
in-box. But the utility learns
your mail as you use it more.
At installation, InBoxer also
adds a pair of buttons to your
Outlook toolbar: Block and
Keep. Using these buttons, you
can periodically parse through
your mail and identify what sort
of messages should be blocked
and what should be kept. As you
do so, the app adjusts its filters
Initially, you’ll have to look
through your Blocked and Review folders as well as your
in-box. Eventually, you’ll check
through the Review folder occasionally, looking for important
mail that may have slipped
through the filter. After a few
days of training, InBoxer caught
automatically creates
Review and
It learns as
it goes to
help you
sort your
about 90 percent of incoming
spam, with just a handful of
what we deemed as legitimate
mail winding up in the Review
folder. InBoxer also includes a
blacklist and a whitelist, plus
several advanced tools for adjusting filters by hand.
The only trouble with InBoxer is that it’s not quite as slick as
Ella. Audiotrieve confuses mat-
Do-It-Yourself Spam Fighting
tering works fairly well.
At the core of the service are
server-based whitelists and blacklists. Mail from users on your
whitelist goes straight to your inbox. Mail from users on your
blacklist goes to the Spam folder.
Mail from other users is stored in
a Pending folder, and you are notified by an e-mail (called the Pending Messages Advisory) that contains a list of those senders and the
subject lines of the
pending mail.
The Advisory is not
just a message but an
HTML form in which
AlienCamel classifies
each e-mail either as
probably spam or
probably not spam,
using two different
spam-filtering algorithms. For each
pending message, you
can whitelist the
sender and accept the
AlienCamel’s Pending Messages
mail, blacklist the
Advisory e-mail lets you decide
whether mail from unknown senders
sender and send the
is spam or legit.
mail to the spam folder, retrieve the mail
ome e-mail services provide spam filtering, but
perhaps the better approach is a spam-filtering service that also gives you an e-mail
account. For $15.99 for six
months, AlienCamel gives you a
spam-filtered POP3 or IMAP
mail account. And we found that
AlienCamel’s innovative, proprietary approach to spam fil-
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
ters by installing two Quarantine folders instead of one. But
InBoxer is easier to use than
many other personal antispam
utilities, and it can certainly ease
your spam problem.
InBoxer for Outlook
Direct price: $24.95. Requires: Microsoft Outlook 2000or later. Audiotrieve
LLC, 617-499-7700, www.audiotrieve
.com. lllmm
without whitelisting, or reject the
message without blacklisting.
We set up an IMAP account
and used AlienCamel for almost
a month. By the end, we were
still seeing some spam listed as
probably legitimate mail, but we
hadn’t seen a real message classified as spam in weeks.
We like that the Pending Messages Advisory interface let us
filter spam without having to
look at the actual messages, but
sometimes the sender name and
subject line can be ambiguous
indicators of whether a message
is spam. And there is no way to
preview the message except by
opening the Pending folder in
your mail client.
The other problem, which
may be a deal breaker for some
users, is that AlienCamel works
only with POP3 and IMAP software. If you want to use AOL or
Web-based mail, you’re out of
luck. But since you can read
POP3 mail into an AlienCamel
account, you can continue to use
an existing POP3 account.
AlienCamel 1.0
Direct price: $15.99 for six months.
Alien Camel Pty. Ltd., 650-353-4729,
www.aliencamel.com. lllmm
“Do you really think blogs will
counterbalance the tremendous power and influence
of organized propaganda systems?”
“BACK TO SCHOOL” (August 19, page 90) is a great guide
to buying PCs for students, but I feel you misrepresented
Apple in your findings. Your choice to review the highend desktop iMac, with its 17-inch LCD screen, made it
the most expensive of the systems you reviewed. And
you were quick to point out its “hefty price tag.”
The iMac was the only model in the roundup with a 17-inch LCD;
choosing a comparable Apple system—such as the 15-inch–LCD
iMac or 17-inch–CRT eMac—would have shown Apple to be much
more cost-competitive. I realize that the iMac is perhaps Apple’s
most widely recognized desktop system. But in that case, the 15-inch
model would have been a fine choice. The lack of a SuperDrive on
that iMac would not have been a detriment, because most of the machines you reviewed do not have DVD-burning capabilities.
We asked each manufacturer to submit a PC that would “carry a student through at least 4 to 6 years of college or high school.” Apple chose
to send us a SuperDrive-equipped, 17-inch iMac. Please note that the
Sony VAIO Digital Studio PCV-RSS220 in that roundup also has a 17inch LCD, along with a DVDV-RW drive and a larger hard drive than
the iMac. The VAIO costs about $400 less than the iMac.—Ed.
A RECENT PIPELINE ITEM (“Game Over,” August 5, page 25) quotes
an Associated Press story in which Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) expresses support for a system where illegal file-swappers receive two
warnings and then have their PCs destroyed.
One has to wonder if the man has any familiarity with the Constitution. The Fifth Amendment states: “Nor shall any person...be
deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” It
does not appear that Hatch has any idea what “due process” means.
BILL HOWARD IS LIVING in a fantasy world, or so it seems from his
recent column “Scanning Lives On” (August 5, page 65). Businesses
would love to convert entirely to electronic documents, but paper
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w w w. p c m a g . c o m /fe e d b a c k
has two advantages over e-files that have yet to be
overcome: (1) You don’t need a special device to read a
paper document. Will the IRS accept an electronic receipt? Can you use an electronic birth certificate or a
computer-printed version to get a driver’s license? (2)
What happens when PDF and JPG are no longer standards for documents? Can your computer still read
documents on 5.25-inch floppy disks? If Bill plans to upgrade his
document archive as formats and media grow obsolete, he has more
time for archiving than I do. I’ll stick with paper.
“NOW PRESENTING” is an informative and useful review of
portable projectors (August 5, page 104). One small criticism: The
review stresses the crossover segment, but you don’t mention the
very high price for replacement lamps. For home use, $300 is a lot to
spend on a spare lamp. Granted, the average life seems to be around
2,000 hours, but I think it’s a point that should have been raised.
IN HIS COLUMN OF AUGUST 5, Michael J. Miller says he’s concerned
that the recent FCC ruling on media consolidation may have a compromising effect on diversity of opinion in media outlets. The FCC
dismissed that argument by saying that diversity of opinion would
remain despite consolidation.
The most crucial element that needs to be preserved is local opinions—framed by locals on local issues. How else can communities effectively control policies and processes if the only significant opinions they can access are framed by (admittedly diverse) outsiders?
MILLER SEEMS TO BELIEVE that since anyone can set up a Web site,
it’s fine if all the mass-communication media are monopolized. Do
you really think blogs will counterbalance the tremendous power
and influence of organized propaganda systems? Miller is just echoing the naive techno-hippies’ idea that computer technology will
make the establishment crumble. They said the Internet would
reroute itself around any attempt to control it. Well, the Chinese government blocks Web sites with ease. And don’t forget that our own
federal government has fearsome Web usage–monitoring capacities.
Corrections and Amplifications
n In “Brave New Apps: The Development Tools” (August 5, page 114), we reviewed BEA
WebLogic Workshop 8.1 in a sidebar. That product should not have received a rating, as
we did not compare it directly against the other tools in the story.
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
w w w. ex t re m e te c h . c o m •
The Vacation Column
ere I am on family vacation, with two
computers, three guitars, an electric bass,
and two amps. Obviously we’re not backpacking through Europe, and we didn’t
get on a plane. We drove to a rented
beach house with our gear, plus the requisite shorts,
bathing suits, and sand chairs—and a stack of books.
Vacation is a time to kick back, but it’s not a time to
do nothing. I have two books/CDs on jazz chords and
progressions and am looking forward to learning how
to twist my fingers into interesting new shapes and
making (I hope) cool new sounds. I’ve got one laptop
with all my work stuff on it, but for some reason I’ve
been unable to get this machine to play MIDI files, despite having reinstalled the operating system and drivers. So my second machine handles music synthesis
and recording, in case I get inspired.
This vacation is also a chance for me to give
thanks for Web sites that are bandwidth-conscious,
since I’m busted back to a dial-up connection that
can do no better than 28.8 Kbps. Yeah, yeah, I know:
What am I doing surfing Web sites on my vacation?
For me, it’s all about doing exactly what I want to do,
when I want to do it.
Beach time is also for good for reflecting on some of
the downloads and e-mails I’ve set aside for further
investigation or contemplation. One of my regular
correspondents, Jon Bondy, always has interesting
recommendations. One of his latest is SketchUp 3D,
a drawing program aimed primarily at architects that
lets you sketch in 3-D.
Unlike in most drawing programs, you’re working
in 3-D right from the start, instead of the usual extruding from 2-D shapes or building up from primitives; a wireframe mode lets you check your geometry if necessary. The Web site, www.sketch3d.com,
has numerous examples of SketchUp 3D drawings,
enthusiastic testimonials, and a free trial download
that’s operable for 8 hours. You can actually learn
enough about SketchUp 3D in that much time to decide whether it’s for you or not.
SketchUp isn’t CAD, but it’s a far faster way of validating design ideas that may eventually be rendered
in CAD. It’s a powerful aid if you’re artistically challenged, and it offers familiar tools, such as a pencil,
ruler, and protractor for creating dimensionally accurate drawings. But the heart of SketchUp is that it
renders with colors, textures, and shadows that are
architecturally or artistically appropriate.
You can go with the defaults or make them as wild
as you like. You can include people in your drawings,
too, to give a sense of proportion. Wizards help you
create objects quickly and painlessly. The only
painful part is the price; $495 makes it a professional tool, not one for duffers like me.
An interesting battle is taking shape between Diebold
Election Systems and researchers at Johns Hopkins
University and Rice University. The Diebold AccuVote-TS electronic voting machine, used in 37 states,
apparently has PC-type innards, a touch screen, and
a smart card to forestall potential fiascoes such as the
2000 presidential election in Florida.
Researchers have been investigating some source
code, ostensibly that of the AccuVote-TS, and have
found it wanting. They discovered ways to hack into
the system, monitor the progress of an election, vote
multiple times, and do all the things that highly motivated, morally deficient people with a political bent
have been doing since time immemorial.
You can find the charges and analysis at www
.blackboxvoting.org/access-diebold.htm and http://
avirubin.com/vote.pdf. You can read Diebold’s rebuttal at www.dieboldes.com. As you look at both sides,
you may find some of the attacks unrealistic or at
least unlikely. You may also find Diebold’s defenses
somewhat idealistic, and the technical rebuttal is
anything but technical.
I won’t claim that Diebold’s voting machines are
deficient, but I think that building a voting machine
(or a medical machine or a space probe) on PC hardware and the Windows operating system is a terrible
idea. Give me a microcontroller and burned-in code
that can’t do anything but what I program it to do,
not a general-purpose environment that is universally and routinely hacked.
Enough thinking for one vacation—surf’s up!
Building a
voting machine
or a medical
machine or a
space probe on
PC hardware
and Windows
is a terrible
Bill Machrone is VP of editorial development for Ziff Davis
Media. Visit his digs at www.extremetech.com. You can
also reach him at bill_machrone@ziffdavis.com.
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
John C. Dvorak
DivX Reloaded
he revolutionary DivX technology first
emerged as a spoof of a failed scheme of
the same name and has slowly usurped
the MPEG-4 initiative. For all practical
purposes, it has become MPEG-4. DivX
can turn a 4.7GB DVD into a 700MB disc with no
degradation in quality. The implications are huge.
The technology has been flying under the radar
for a while, but that will end in a few months, when
DivX-compatible DVD players will flood the market.
How did all this happen so smoothly?
The DivX story began with a 1998 initiative called
Digital Video Express—Divx for short. It was invented
by Circuit City and a Los Angeles–based entertainment law firm (a weird combination of partners, to
be sure). At the time, Disney, DreamWorks, Panasonic, Paramount, Universal, Zenith, and a few
others agreed to back the new system. It’s too bad the
public wasn’t interested.
The idea was that you would buy a special Divxenabled DVD player that connected to your phone
line. When you put in a special disposable DVD/Divx
disc, a central database would monitor when you
played the disc. So if you paid for a one-day rental,
you’d have a limited time to watch it. After that, it
wouldn’t play. And you never had to bother returning it. The idea was convoluted to say the least. I
think the landfill issues alone were enough to stop
the initiative.
The controversy over the wacky discs resulted in
the Divx name emerging years later as the moniker
for a home-brew compression technology that was
initially called DivX ;). The winking emoticon
mocked the previous product. The emoticon was
later dropped.
DivX ;) was actually derived from some Windows
Media Player code floating around in beta. Around
1999, French hacker Jerome Rota (also called Gej)
found a codec embedded in the Microsoft product
that was actually an MPEG-4–compatible process. He
pulled it from the code, and it got passed around the
underground as DivX ;).
Gej needed something to compress files so they
could be transferred easily. Those in the underground saw it as a way to trade movies—and they
did. Luckily for Hollywood, even movies compressed
to the max were still 700MB or more.
This is where the story gets interesting. Gej eventually got some decent funding and formed a company called DivXNetworks. Soon after, a clean-room
version of the codec was developed, making any
commercial version of DivX not bound by the
myriad MPEG-4 patents. In the meantime, as DivXNetworks CEO Jordan Greenhall told me, “All the
MPEG-4 software companies were going out of business, and we ended up being the last man standing.”
This probably happened because Hollywood
didn’t move to MPEG-4 from MPEG-2 and its lucrative DVD business. MPEG-4 lost momentum, while
DivX stayed lean and mean. MPEG-4 now appears to
be relegated to encoding for disc-based camcorders.
The trick that will really give a boost to DivX is its
ability to stream DivX-encoded video at 784 Kbps,
allowing for DVD-quality streaming. With a broadband connection, you can download a movie in less
than half the movie’s playing time.
In contrast to the bumblings of the Recording
Industry Association of America with the MP3 fiasco,
the Motion Picture Association of America has been
working with—not against—the DivXNetworks folks.
How this will play out nobody knows. But Greenhall,
an MP3.com veteran, knows the pitfalls and is going to
steer away from controversy and litigation.
With DivX beginning to appear in DVD players
later this year, the next stage of video compression
development is already under way. DivXNetworks
is working on H.264, a standard that compresses
video by as much as 75 percent. The company
believes that using such compression, a DVD stream
can be pushed over the Internet at a magic 384
Kbps. This also bodes well for the future of highdefinition compression and, eventually, highdefinition video streams.
In the meantime, according to the company, the
public has downloaded 100 million (yes, that’s right)
copies of various free DivX players that it offers on
its Web site at www.divx.com. The DVD manufacturers are in for a surprise with the popularity of
DivX. By this time next year, DivX will be in the
public lexicon.
MPEG-4 lost
while DivX
stayed lean
and mean.
MORE ON THE WEB: Read John C. Dvorak’s column every
Monday at www.pcmag.com/dvorak. You can reach him
directly at pcmag@dvorak.org.
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
he Comic Book Connection.
Fans of The Simpsons are familiar with the oafish nerd who
owns the town’s comic book
store. Can you imagine him designing and selling his own x86 chips?
That seems to be the story behind the VDragon, a CPU out of China supposedly
developed by Culturecom Holdings, a
former comic book publisher. The Chinese have been chatting up an x86 chip of
Chinese design called the Dragon. Critics
say it is roughly the equivalent of a slow
486. The V-Dragon, we hope, is better.
I have found little in the way of details
regarding the V-Dragon, but reports
claim that sales of 100,000 chips will be
delivered for Linux boxes, which are popular in cost-conscious, pro-open-source
China. One giveaway might be the mention of Transmeta and IBM in the press
materials. I suspect a Transmeta design
and an IBM foundry. The way I see it, the
first Chinese-designed Dragon chip was
a hopeless exercise, and this may be a
way to save face. Whatever the case, it is
probably good news for Transmeta and
the Linux community. Stay tuned.
Some of the great new applications for
Linux will eventually come from China.
Microsoft knows this and is doing everything it can to pump money into the
country. The Chinese will wisely take the
money and still use Linux. Just watch.
While we’re on the subject of Linux, apparently the Linux community has gone
hog-wild over initiatives to crack the
Microsoft Xbox and turn it into a Linuxpowered PC/game console combo.
Microsoft is willing to sue anyone it can
over this sort of thing, since that would
seriously derail the company’s long-term
strategy. I think these Xbox cracks will
result in Microsoft discontinuing the
gaming platform altogether. The company needs an excuse to quit.
Microsoft’s Xbox strategy is unusual in
that it involves three marketing stages,
rather than two as with Sony and Nin-
tendo. In a two-stage scheme, a company
sells a box at cost or at a loss and makes
a fortune by licensing and selling game
titles. It’s the so-called razor blade theory
of marketing. With the Xbox, Microsoft
added a third step: online gaming fees.
There is no question that the Xbox is
designed to be the online box of choice.
But this assumes the playing field is fair
and level, which means the boxes cannot
be compromised, lest gamers cheat.
Once cheating is possible, then all efforts
go into cheating better, and the mass market falls apart. No newcomer will even
want to play online with a bunch of
cheaters, and the predicted profits will
never materialize. This is why Microsoft
is so adamant about suing people who
crack the box. Otherwise, why would the
company care?
The Xbox is based on PC technology
instead of a complex proprietary architecture like that of the Sony PlayStation,
making it a natural target for hackers.
And we already know that when trying to
make products hacker-proof, Microsoft
falls short. The company was not thinking clearly when it decided to use a PC architecture. I think this will be the final
straw for the Xbox unless Microsoft can
make money with conventional games
and rethink the online strategy. If the
company is really serious, it will have already begun a new Xbox II and changed
the architecture completely.
Chicken and Egg Dept.: Most experts
agree that in terms of CD drives, Plextor
rocks. So we’ve been waiting for its
DVD-RW drives. The company wants to
go to 8X DVD-writing speeds ASAP now
that it has the mechanism it likes. But 8X
media don’t exist yet. Apparently, the
media and drive speeds need to match
for the media to be tested properly. But
how do you design an 8X drive with no
8 X media? And how do you test 8 X
media with no 8X drive? Apparently, this
was less of a problem with the old CDR/ RW technologies, since the drives
The Linux
has gone
to crack the
could be easily tweaked. Look for Plextor to solve the problem later this year
with a recordable DVD drive that can
write at 8X on 4X media. In the business,
this is called a workaround. I’m sure the
folks working on 8X media will be only
half happy. If the drive can do 8X on 4X
media, then can they be sure that the 8X
media are really 8X? Oh, the agony of
Charity Begins at Home Dept.: Michigan-based ReCellular (www.recellular
.net), a unique company that specializes
in recycling cell phones, has created a
cell-phone recycling program called Donate A Phone for organizations that are
looking beyond door-to-door candy sales.
Go to the company’s Web site or www
.wirelessrecycling.com for more information. Excellent idea.
Pocket Cables? I’ve been meaning to
mention a very cute little product that
came my way recently. A gizmo called the
Zip-Linq (www.ziplinq.com) uses flat
cabling to create an incredibly compact
spring-loaded roll-up device for RJ-45,
USB, and other cabling. For around $20
(for the RJ-45 version), you can now carry
a pocket full of cabling without those unsightly bulges! This thing is very nifty.
Check it out if you like to travel light and
compact. I should create a new column
category called “More weird stuff from
China that I like.”
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
On Technology
The Next Big Thing: Megaportables
ortable computers are again closing in on
and surpassing the 10-pound mark. At a
time when almost every feature that road
warriors desire can be slid, snapped, or
screwed into a notebook of 5 pounds or
less, a compelling case can be made for heavier notebooks. And the heavier the better.
When a notebook weighs over 10 pounds, including the paving-brick-like transformer that probably
should be confiscated by safety-conscious sky marshals, the machine is more of a fold-up desktop PC
with an internal UPS than a notebook.
Dell set the stage in 1998 when it cornered the
market on the first 15-inch notebook LCD panels.
Actually, Dell didn’t have to do much negotiating to
grab the supply, because leading notebook makers
thought Dell—not the leader then—was nuts.
Meanwhile, Compaq, IBM, and Toshiba were agonizing over whether people wanted 14-inch displays
or 13-inch screens were big enough. But the Dell Inspiron 7000 (a.k.a. the U.S.S. Inspiron), despite its
10-pound travel weight, surpassed all sales expectations and spawned a series of imitators and nautical jokes. (Q: Just what does the Inspiron weigh?
A: Anchor.)
Fast-forward to 2003. Virtually every notebook
maker offers a desktop replacement model. Most
have 15- or 16-inch displays. The biggest ones, with
17-inch wide-screen displays, make the best sense,
because they’re most like desktops. In the desktop
replacement class, I’m partial to the heavier, highend systems using desktop CPUs or the desktopbased 3-GHz Mobile Intel Pentium 4 Processor-M,
60GB or 80GB hard drives and combo DVD/CD-RW
drives (recordable-DVD drives are seductive but still
pricey), and 17-inch, 16:9 or 16:10 wide-screen displays with wide viewing angles. Since weight is not
an issue, you’re more likely to get a 1.5-pound battery good for 2.5 hours than a 1-pounder that lasts
only an hour and a half.
Wide screens have a couple of advantages: DVD
movies are a natural fit, and a 17-inch screen starts
to feel like a TV. You can comfortably view a twopage document with the pages side by side (try the
side-by-side Reading Layout option in Microsoft
Office 2003). And ultrawide screens keep the notebook from being too deep (it might be 12 inches
deep, versus 14 inches with a 17-inch 4:3 screen).
Part of the ultrawide screen’s popularity may be
attributed to Apple. It’s amazing that Apple, a company with a market share three points away from
being a rounding error, engenders such envy. Weighing 7 pounds with a 15- by 10-inch footprint, the
Apple PowerBook 17-inch is almost portable. It’s just
not cheap.
At this point, you should think twice about the
few big-screen portables with media center capabilities. Picture quality from TV tuners isn’t that
hot; the tuner module takes up a lot of space or requires an external adapter; the price shoots up past
$2,500; and most of the other media center features
you want are in every notebook anyway. For those
who want the readable-across-the-room front end
of Microsoft Windows Media Center Edition, we
offer PC Magazine Media Console (www.pcmag
.com/utilities). Third parties sell similar products,
and graphics chip manufacturers are bundling them
for free.
While megaportables aren’t for road warriors,
they’re fine for the majority of those who travel with
a computer just a few times a year, for sales reps who
travel by car and want to make dazzling presentations without hooking up monitors, or for the weeklong cabin vacation. If you’re the IT department for
retired parents or relatives who go south in winter,
perhaps you’ve helped them box up a PC and monitor and shove it in the back seat of the car for the trip
to Clearwater. Even the biggest portable makes infinitely more sense.
Two of the best, biggest megaportable computers
are the Toshiba Satellite P25-S507 and the HP Pavilion zd7000, each with a 17-inch LCD and a price
around $2,000. The Toshiba model is nearly 17 inches wide. The HP notebook includes a numeric keypad to the right of the QWERTY keyboard. I don’t
see a big advantage of 15-inch ultrawides over 14inch mainstream notebooks (the total ultrawide
screen area is actually less), but the biggest notebooks are in a class by themselves. In this category,
size does matter.
When a
weighs over
10 pounds,
it’s more
of a fold-up
desktop PC
than a notebook.
MORE ON THE WEB: You can contact Bill Howard directly
at bill_howard@ziffdavis.com. For more On Technology
columns, go to www.pcmag.com/howard.
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
w w w. p c m a g . c o m /s o l u t i o n s
15 Great Excel Tips
Use these little-known functions to make your formulas more
useful than ever. BY HELEN BRADLEY
Microsoft Excel is jam-packed with functions that perform a range of handy
calculations and tests. We take a look at 15 Excel functions you may not know
about and show you some clever ways to put them to work on your data.
Two words of warning: First, some of these functions work only when the
Analysis ToolPak add-in is enabled. To do this, choose Tools | Add-ins, select
the check box titled Analysis
ToolPak, and click on OK . If
Analysis ToolPak is not installed,
you’ll be prompted to install it.
Second, the purpose of this article is to whet your appetite for
these functions; we don’t have the
space to cover their uses in detail.
To find more information about
any of these functions, type the
function name in Excel Help.
The DATEDIF function, undocumented in most Excel versions, returns the
time between two dates, measured in
your choice of completed years, completed months, or days. This function is
handy for calculating a person’s age. Put
the person’s birth date in cell A1 and
write this formula in cell B1 to calculate
the age in years: =DATEDIF(A1,NOW(),"y")
The NETWORKDAYS function calculates
the number of workdays (excluding
weekends) between two dates. You can
specify holidays that should be excluded
from the count. Place your holiday dates
in column A, then select them and click
on Insert | Name | Define and name the
range holidays. Place the start and
end dates in cells B1 and C1 and use
this function to calculate the number of workdays between the two:
TIP 4: DATEDIF is helpful when you want to calculate
someone’s age.
The COUNTIF function counts the number of times a condition is met. For example, if you have a list of days in a
month in column A (cells A1:A31) and
your sales receipts for those days in column B, you can count the number of days
that your sales exceeded $5,000 with this
function: =COUNTIF(B1:B31,">5000"). A
similar function, SUMIF, totals values
instead of counting them.
The CHOOSE function takes a number
from 1 to 29 and a list of items (up to
29) and returns the item that corresponds
to the number. One use for this function is
to return the day of the week for a given
date. To do this, couple it with the WEEKDAY
You’ll find another five Excel tips, plus helpful
pointers on an array of computing tasks, at
function, which gives a day number (1 to 7)
for a date, then use CHOOSE to turn the
number into a day name. Assuming your
date is in cell B2, use this function to get
the day of the week it falls on:
=CHOOSE(WEEKDAY(B2), "Sun", "Mon",
"Tue", "Wed", "Thu", "Fri", "Sat")
3 der when one number is divided by
(or modulus) returns the remain-
Use the CONVERT function to convert measurements from one
unit to another. For example, to
convert a value in cell A2 from inches to centimeters, use this function:
=CONVERT(A2,"in","cm"). Excel Help
contains a complete list of the conversions
and function arguments to use for each.
The ISERROR function returns True
when the cell to which it refers contains an error and False when it doesn’t.
Combine this with NOT and an IF function
to create a string that adds a range of numbers, ignoring any cells that contain errors.
So, if your numbers appear in the range
A2:A6, type this function and press CtrlShift-Enter to enter it into the cell, as it is
another. For example, =MOD(4,3) returns
1. Use this function to format every other
row of a worksheet by selecting the cells to format and
choosing Format | Conditional Formatting. Choose Formula Is and type this formula:
=MOD(ROW(),2). (ROW returns
the current row number.)
Click on Format and set a pattern for alternate rows on the TIP 5: NETWORKDAYS finds the number of workdays in a
Patterns tab. Click on OK given range, excluding weekends and holidays.
when you’re done.
Show m
with h
62 Hardware: Universal
Plug and Play.
64 Office: Customize
fonts on your own.
68 Security Watch:
Anonymous e-mail.
70 Internet Business:
Amazon everywhere..
73 User to User:
Tips and tricks.
column A and sales figures in
columns B and C, the function
looks for Seattle in column A
of the data table (A2:C15) and returns the corresponding value from
column B (the second column in the
table). Use FALSE in the formula to
tell Excel that the data is not sorted
and that an exact match is required.
The function =TODAY() places
the current date in a cell. You
can use this with a macro to save a
file using today’s date as its filename. This sample macro code saves the
file using the contents of cell A1 as the
filename. Simply place =Today() in cell A1
and run the following macro to test it:
TIP 14: OFFSET lets you create charts that update
dynamically when values are added to the source data.
an array function (a function that performs
multiple calculations on multiple values):
The LARGE function will return the
nth largest number in a list. If you
have a list of test scores in cells A2:A10,
you can find the third-best score with this
function: =LARGE(A2:A10,3). There is a
similar function, SMALL, which finds the
nth smallest number in the list.
Sub savenamefromcell()
Dim savename AsString
& ".xls"
ActiveWorkbook.SaveAs Filname:
End Sub
9 list, which may be useful when you 13 the instances a particular number
calculates a subtotal for a
Use the FREQUENCY function to count
are using a filtered list. The problem
with using SUM with a filter is that the
function totals both hidden and visible
values. SUBTOTAL, however, sums only
the visible values. Instead of writing the
SUBTOTAL function yourself, click on the
AUTOSUM button on the toolbar and it will
write the correct SUBTOTAL function.
occurs in a series of values. The function
requires a set of ranges (or bins) to group
the values. For example, use bins of 5, 10,
15, and 20 to report the frequency of values in the ranges 0:5, 6:10, 11:15, and 16:20.
Because FREQUENCY is an array function,
you must first select a range of cells the
same size as the bin range, then type the
function =FREQUENCY (A1:D15, F2:F5)
then press Ctrl-Shift-Enter. This example
uses bins in the range F2:F5 to count numbers in the range A1:D15.
To calculate the square root of a
number, Excel uses the SQRT function; for example, =SQRT(25) calculates
the square root of 25. When you need, say,
a cube root, you must work with the
mathematical idea that the cube root is
calculated by raising the number to the
power of 1/3 . So calculate the cube root of
27 using =27^(1/3). This principle extends to let you find the root of any number by raising it to a fractional power.
Look-up functions find data in tables.
If you have a list of office names in
date automatically as numbers are added
or removed. The arguments for the OFFSET
function are the starting or reference cell;
the number of rows and columns up,
down, or across from the reference cell;
and the number of rows and columns to
return. The OFFSET function is quite useful
for creating charts that update as new data
is added. For a working example, see
“Automatic Charting” (www.pcmag.com
The future value function, FV, calculates the return on a given investment. To calculate the ten-year value of
$1,000 invested today at 5 percent interest
(compounded monthly), =FV(5%/12,
10*12,,-1000) returns $1,647.01. If you
make additional monthly payments of
$10 per month, the future value is
=FV(5%/12,10*12,-10,-1000) and returns
$3,199.83. Negative values are used because
you are paying out money, and you should
take care to scale the interest rate to match
the periods used. We’re assuming 12 periods per year, so the interest rate is 5%/12.
Little-known functions like these open
new avenues of productivity and fun for
Excel users.
Helen Bradley is a contributing editor of
PC Magazine.
Creating dynamic ranges is easy
with the OFFSET function. For example, this function, used in the Insert | Name
dialog, names a list of numbers in column
A, assuming the list begins in cell A1 and
there are no blank cells in the range:
=OFFSET($A$1,0,0,COUNTA($A:$A),1). If
you name your range, for example, FilledCells, the function =SUM(FilledCells) will
sum the values in the list. The results up-
TIP 15: The FV function helps you figure
out the long-term value of an investment.
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
Universal Plug and Play:
Networking Made Easy
points in order to facilitate true peer-topeer networking.
When a device is added to a UPnP network, its first step is to obtain an IP address. Once this is accomplished via its
internal DHCP client, the device advertises its presence, providing a descripImagine adding devices—from PCs to consumer electronics—
tion of itself and its services. A control
to your network, with zero configuration! By Stephen J. Bigelow
point receives the description, which includes a list of actions related to each
hether it’s to share files or In- light switch in your home has a state service and the variables that define the
ternet connections or to play (either on or off ) and an action that possible states for the device, and then
digital content throughout allows the network to get or change the sends action requests to the device. Rethe house, networking has become part of state of the switch. Services typically sults of the requests are published via
everyday life for many home and small- reside in devices. A UP n P -compliant event messages sent by the particular
business users. Despite this, networks VCR might, for example, include tape service and include the values of state
haven’t gotten a whole lot easier to set up handling, tuning, and clock services—all variables. If appropriate, the control
and configure. But a technology called managed by a series of specific actions point presents a page in a user’s browser
Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) is starting defined by the developer. Devices may that lets the user manage the device or
to make networking-configuration hassles also include (or nest) other devices. monitor its status.
a thing of the past.
Because devices and their correspondThis isn’t just theory. Both Microsoft
Just as Plug and Play (PnP) technology ing services can vary so dramatically, Windows Me and XP support UPnP, and
changed the way we integrate hardware there are numerous industry groups many manufacturers are now producing
with our PCs, UPnP will ease the way we actively working to standardize the UPnP-compliant network devices. For
add devices to a network. With PnP, you services supported by each device class. example, a variety of products, such as
no longer need to configure resources for
the D-Link DFE-530TX+ 10/100
Ethernet network adapter
each device manually, hoping there are
(www.dlink.com) and the Linksys
no conflicts. Instead, each device identiEtherFast BEFSR41W four-port
fies itself to the operating system, loads
cable/DSL router (www.linksys
the appropriate drivers, and starts oper.com), now fully support UPnP.
ating with minimal fuss. PC-based networks, however, still require a cumberAnd the new MusicMatch Jukesome setup and configuration process,
box 8.0 media player supports
UPnP home-networking devices.
and devices such as printers, VCRs, PDAs,
and cell phones are still difficult or imIndustry groups will continue to
possible to network.
define new services not only for
PCs and related peripherals but
With UPnP, adding devices to your
network can be as easy as turning them
for home appliances, automoon. A device can automatically join your
biles, and entertainment/media
UPnP DEVICE DEVELOPERS use standards, such
network, get an IP address, inform other
devices—adding more flexibility
as GENA (General Event Notification Architecture)
and SSDP (Simple Device Discovery Protocol), to
devices on your network about its exisand features for home and smallenable automatic discovery and description.
tence and capabilities, and learn about
office users.
other network devices. When such a deThere is one caveat with regard
vice has exchanged its data or goes outToday, there are four standards: Inter- to UPnP: security. Certain vulnerabilities
side the network area, it can leave the net Gateway Device (IGD) V 1.0; Media- have been discovered in components of
network cleanly without interrupting any Server V 1.0 and MediaRenderer V 1.0; Microsoft’s implementation of UPnP,
Printer Device V 1.0 and Printer Basic which can let an attacker gain control of a
of the other devices.
The ultimate goal is to allow data com- Service V 1.0; and Scanner (External Ac- target system or exploit vulnerable sysmunication among all UPnP devices re- tivity V 1.0, Scan V 1.0, Feeder V 1.0, and tems to cause a distributed denial-of-sergardless of media, operating system, pro- Scanner V 1.0). Industry groups will pro- vice attack (DDoS). It is therefore imporgramming language, and wired/wireless duce XML templates for individual de- tant to download and apply the patch
connection. To foster such interoperability, vice types, which vendors will fill with found at the Microsoft Security Bulletin
UPnP relies on network-related technolospecific information such as device MS01-059 (www.microsoft.com/technet/
gies built upon industry-standard proto- names, model numbers, and descriptions treeview/default.asp?url=/technet/security/
cols such as HTTP, IP, TCP, UDP, and XML. of services.
bulletin/ms01-059.asp) even if you’re not
Let’s take a closer look.
The various UP n P devices will be yet using UPnP.
identified and managed by one or more
UPnP is an open networking architecture that consists of services, devices, control points (a controller, such as an Stephen J. Bigelow is the author of Troubleand control points. Services are groups application) on the network. In practice, shooting, Maintaining, & Repairing Perof states and actions. For example, a many devices may include control sonal Computers (5th edition).
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
DIY Fonts
Create custom characters using Windows’ Private Character
Editor. By Lamont Wood
ver come across a document that
uses a corporate logo for bullets or
custom icons for notes or chapter
headings and wish you could do it yourself ? Customized drop caps, section
dividers based on corporate logos or pure
F8FF (63,743). This block of 6,400 codes
corresponds to the Private Use Area in
Unicode and is at your disposal.
Click on a code, and you get a 64-by64 grid, plus a basic selection of blackand-white drawing tools. But don’t start
drawing right away. Instead, click on Reference
under the Window menu
to get a selection window
from which you can pick
any character in any font
on your system. Your selection will appear in a
second grid to the right
of the first. You can use
all or parts of various
characters by selecting
them and sliding them
over to the Edit window,
FIGURE 1: You can use the Private Character Editor to
as in Figure 1.
create a logo.
To save your creation,
click on Edit | Save Charwhim, individualized footnote daggers acter. By default, custom characters are
and icons/bullets that reflect the subject saved in a font file called Eudc.tte and are
matter are the kinds of things that separate linked to all fonts on your system. You
the big-league players from the “me-too” could, if you prefer, link your character
word processor users.
only to a specific font and, in that case,
Now you can play, too, if you have you’d save the character in a new font file.
Windows 2000 or XP. These operating
systems include a virtually unknown
applet called the Private Character Editor. Using it, you can draw your own
characters, basing them (if you like) on
existing characters from any font in your
system. Or, within limits, you can import
graphics from other graphics programs.
There are two constraints: Your custom
characters will not show up in e-mail or
Web pages. They are limited to printed
documents. And you can’t link them to
the keyboard. Instead, you use the Character Map applet to insert them in a docFIGURE 2: You can modify a bitmap in
ument. Beyond that, the typographic
Paint, and then copy it into the Private
world is your playground.
Character Editor.
To get started, choose Start | Run, type
eudcedit, and click on OK. The Private
Character Editor appears with its code
Assuming you’ve linked your character
selection window. The available codes to all your fonts, open the Character Map
run from hexadecimal E000 (57,344) to applet in Programs | Accessories | System
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Tools and scroll through the fonts list to
All Fonts (Private Characters). Doubleclick on your character and click on the
Copy button, then open a document in
your word processor and paste your character. You’ll probably be taken aback the
first time you do this; you’ll see a tiny
black speck on the screen. Not to worry,
just select the character and give it a large
font size. Although the list of font sizes in
most Windows programs rarely gets
above 72 points (one inch), you can type
in a much higher value. Word 2002, for
instance, will accept sizes up to 1,638
points—almost two feet high.
You don’t have to limit yourself to
patching together alphanumeric characters, as in our example. Any image is fair
FIGURE 3: Use a simple, high-contrast
image when creating a character from a
digital photo.
game, as long as it is recognizable when reduced to a 64-by-64 black-and-white grid.
With Windows Paint, for instance, you can
reduce an image to 64 pixels, convert it to
black and white, and then copy it into the
Edit window of the Private Character Editor (see Figure 2). Signatures come
through well, although long names should
be divided into separate characters.
You will, however, encounter problems with images that rely on gray
scales or that have little contrast, since
Paint will convert everything that is not
white to black. (If it doesn’t, the Private
Character Editor will.) In such cases,
you’ll need a graphics program, such as
Adobe Photoshop or Jasc Paint Shop
Pro, that can convert images to two-bit
color with dithering or diffusion functions, as in Figure 3.
Lamont Wood is a freelance writer in the
high-tech field in San Antonio, Texas.
w w w. p c m a g . c o m /s e c u r i ty wa tc h
2003 FLAW
Hiding Your Identity
Anonymous remailers let you communicate on the Internet without exposing who you really are. By Sheryl Canter
ou may know anonymous remailers from their somewhat shady
association with spam, terrorists, child porn rings, and so on. But
remailers—tools that let you send e-mail
and post to newsgroups without revealing
your identity—have practical and legitimate applications. For instance, they can
be useful when you need to blow the whistle on corrupt practices in your workplace,
discuss ideas in a politically oppressed
country, or participate in a self-help group.
If you just want to hide your identity
from casual observers, a Web e-mail from
a Yahoo! address or an AOL screen name
will work fine. But this technique won’t
stop anyone from figuring out who you
are. Your message header reveals your IP
address—the server through which you
connect to the Internet. Using that IP
address, a dedicated investigator can
obtain your name, address, and phone
its destination. The receiver sees the
remailer’s IP address rather than yours.
This strategy was used by anon.penet
.fi, a widely used anonymous remailer that
operated out of Finland from 1993 to 1996.
The problems encountered by anon.penet
.fi demonstrate the weakness in this
approach. The Finnish police forced the
owner, Johan “Julf” Helsingius, to reveal
the identities of individuals accused of
copyright violation and other crimes.
(Helsingius finally closed down the service
because of massive abuse by spammers.)
Servers such as these are termed pseudonymous remailers, because their anonymity
depends on the willingness and ability of
the server administrator to keep the identities of its users confidential. Another
now-defunct pseudonymous server, at
alpha.c2.org, offered security-enhancing
features, such as support for encryption,
chained remailing, and reply blocks (a
technique that lets people respond to
you without learning your identity).
Truly anonymous remailers don’t
offer any way to reply to the sender.
There are two main types: Cypherpunk (Type I) and Mixmaster (Type
II). These are harder to use than pseudonymous remailers, but they’re
more secure. You need to learn how
to use PGP encryption, build the message, and set up the chain of remailers
through which your message is transmitted. Cypherpunk messages can be
created in Notepad, but Mixmaster
easy-to-use service that hides your identity.
messages require special software.
Cypherpunk uses nested encrypted
number. Also, these messages aren’t messages to route your message through
encrypted and can be read as they leave several remailer servers before it reaches
your computer.
its destination. At each stop, a layer deAnonymous remailers hide your IP scribing the next destination is decrypted
address by removing header information. and removed before forwarding. Because
In its simplest form, a remailer server acts the messages shrink with each hop, they
as an intermediary. You send your message can be tracked on the Internet using trafto the remailer, the remailer strips off the fic analysis techniques. Mixmaster closes
header, and then forwards your message to this security gap by rotating the encrypted
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Microsoft Corp. has issued a patch for
the first serious vulnerability to be found
in Windows Server 2003, which company
officials have said is Microsoft’s most
secure OS yet. Although this is actually
the fourth flaw to affect this software, it
is the first one to be rated critical.
This vulnerability exists in a portion of
the Remote Procedure Call (RPC) protocol, which handles message exchanges
over TCP/IP. The vulnerability arises
because of incorrect handling of error
messages and affects a particular Distributed Component Object Model interface with RPC. A successful exploitation
of this flaw gives an attacker the ability
to run code with local system privileges
on the compromised machine—thereby
giving the attacker complete control of
the system.
In addition to applying the patch for
this vulnerability, Microsoft officials
recommend that customers block TCP
port 135, the port on which RPC listens.
The patch for this flaw, which also
affects Windows NT 4.0, 2000, and XP, is
located at www.microsoft.com/technet/
bulletin/MS03-026.asp.—Dennis Fisher
headers from top to bottom as they are
used, so all messages are the same size.
Another technique to confuse traffic
analysis is inserting a random lag time
before messages are forwarded.
You can view a list of remailers, the
reliability of connections among them,
and estimates of latency on the Electronic
Frontiers Georgia Web site (http://
anon.efga.org/Remailers). Another useful
site is www.sendfakemail.com/~raph/
Web-based anonymous e-mail services
are far more user-friendly but less secure.
Hushmail, recently reviewed in PC
Magazine (www.pcmag.com/article2/
0,4149,1132842,00.asp), offers free and paid
versions. Anonymizer.com’s Total Net
Shield product provides anonymous
e-mail, surfing, and instant messaging.
W3-Anonymous Remailer (www.gilc.org/
speech/anonymous/remailer.html) is another free, easy-to-use service.
Sheryl Canter is a contributing editor of PC
Amazon Everywhere
With Web services technology, mini Amazon.coms are popping
up all over the Web. By Jim Akin
iving away the store is usually
bad business, but Amazon Web
Services (AWS) considers this its
mission statement. Amazon.com debuted
AWS in July 2002, announcing that the
service would use XML-based Web services technology to make the contents of
its multimillion-item catalog freely available for use by any Web site or software
Since then, Amazon.com has devoted
significant resources to exposing not only
product descriptions, images, and pricing, but also customer ratings, reviews,
product recommendations, shopping cart
functions, and chat rooms.
The project is among the most visible
examples of Web services, a much-touted
yet inscrutable technology that promises
a more automated Web. AWS has been
publishing, promoting, and supporting a
series of application programming interfaces (APIs), free tools, and a support site
within Amazon.com to help developers
use its data. In the process, Amazon has
registered more than 30,000 programmers (and would-be programmers) in its
AWS developers program.
There’s business logic behind this
largesse. AWS is an outgrowth of the longstanding Amazon.com Associates program, which pays bloggers, Webmasters,
and online retailers commissions on sales
generated by the “Buy Now!” buttons on
their sites. Amazon.com won’t disclose
exact revenue figures or discuss the return on investment for its Web services
efforts. But it hopes AWS will encourage
special-interest Web sites, shopping and
specialty-retail sites, and application developers to share the wealth by tailoring
Amazon.com shopping tools for their respective audiences.
For instance, a fan site for The White
Stripes could use AWS to fetch album artwork and track listings for its discography page. Visitors could click cover im-
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
ages to buy CDs, but sales commissions
wouldn’t be the only payoff. Rigging the
page to display all results of an AWS artist
search on White Stripes would make page
updates unnecessary: New albums would
automatically be added to the page as
soon as Amazon.com added them to its
AWS is also hoping to encourage the
use of Amazon content in ways the parent company would never have been able
to develop on its own, says Colin Bryar,
director of Web services and associates at
Amazon.com. “There has been an economic model for AWS from the very start,
but the real goal is innovation.”
As evidence that this effort is working,
about 100 products are already available
from AWS developers. Some of the more
creative ones include a keychain bar code
scanner from iPilot (www.ipilot.net) that
lets consumers capture bar code information from books, DVDs, and other instore merchandise, upload them to a PC,
handheld, or cell phone, and instantly
get comparison pricing via AWS. And
Cusimano.Com Corp.’s Association Engine
lets Amazon.com associates with no programming expertise set up AWS-powered
shopping pages or even full Web sites.
To give developers as much flexibility
as possible, Amazon.com decided from
the beginning that AWS would support
both of the main development approaches to Web services—XML (eXtensible
Markup Language) and SOAP (Simple
Object Access Protocol). Both methods
exchange data in the form of XML code
transported via Web-standard HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol). Using XML
ensures that the data works on any computing platform.
Web services data transfers are essentially call-and-response exchanges. In the
case of AWS, an associate site or a software application calls an AWS server with
a request for data—a specific catalog
entry or search results for a particular
keyword, for instance. After authenticating the request, the AWS server issues an
XML-coded response.
A major driver of Web services’ popularity among developers is the creative
flexibility they provide. Web services data
is highly structured in terms of definition
and function, but the developer has complete discretion over what to display. For
instance, an Amazon.com associate might
fetch and cache all of Amazon’s digitalcamera listings to allow product searches
within his site, but limit searches to items
that receive customer ratings of three
stars or better.
Helping partner Web sites tailor content for their audiences may make Amazon.com’s presence hard to notice, but
AWS will be happy to have its efforts recognized in Amazon.com’s bottom line.
Tapping into Amazon
The 30,000 members of the Amazon Web Services developers’ program can use free tools to link their applications or
Web sites to Amazon’s vast catalog. This enables users to view content and buy products from Amazon without visiting
Show me all digital cameras
with high customer ratings.
Visitor at camera hobbyist site
Request sent
via XML or SOAP
Amazon’s XML/HTTP
and SOAP
processing layer
Buy Now!
w w w. p c m a g . c o m /u s e r to u s e r
REGEDT32, each
root key appears
in its own subwindow.
You launch it from the
Start menu’s Run
dialog—just like the
more familiar REGEDIT. It has a rather oldfashioned look and
each root key appears
in its own subwindow
(Figure 1). Select the
window for
ability to change security
permissions makes it both
powerful and dangerous.
Fixing Registry
I’m running Windows NT 4.0, SP6 and I
can’t delete certain legacy Registry keys.
When I try, I get the error message Cannot
delete [key name]. Error while deleting
key. The keys are leftover from the Norton
AntiVirus software I removed long ago and
from an expired 30-day trial version of
Raxco’s PerfectDisk defragmentation
software. There are also others with key
MACHINE; if you can’t
see it, choose it from
the Window menu.
Navigate to the key
that you want to delete
and choose Permissions from the Security
menu (Figure 2). For the keys you’ve mentioned you’ll see entries for Everyone and
SYSTEM, with the former having only read
permission. Click on Everyone, check the box
titled Allow Full Control, and click on OK. You
can now delete the key. In Windows XP, use
the normal REGEDIT program and select
Permissions from the Edit menu. Don’t get
carried away, though. In most cases, when a
key is protected against deletion, there’s a
reason.—Neil J. Rubenking
Word can’t perform this function, but Windows can. Right-click on any blank area on
the Windows taskbar and you’ll see a menu
that includes the choice Tile Windows Vertically, which actually places the windows side
by side in horizontal format. If all you have
open are two Word Windows, you’ll get the
side-by-side arrangement you want.
If you have more than two documents
open, you can still get the side-by-side
arrangement by minimizing the other windows before performing the commands. To
undo the side-by-side display, right-click the
taskbar again and choose Undo Tile or rearrange each window as needed.
Note that because you’re using a Windows
command rather than a Word command, you
can create a side-by-side display with any
two windows, letting, say, a Word window
and an Excel window share the screen.
—M. David Stone
Printing Wide Web Pages
Side by Side by Windows
What protection have these vendorinstalled keys been given and how can I
get around it?
My monitor offers high resolution (1,600by-1,200) to show easily the full width of
two Microsoft Word pages side by side. I
often find this useful for writing in one
Word window while referring to text in the
other. But Word 2002’s Window | Arrange
All command insists on arranging the
windows one on top of the other instead of
In the Windows NT family of platforms (NT
4.0, 2000, and XP), it’s possible to define
access permissions for individual Registry
keys. These settings determine who is allowed to perform specific actions on the key
such as creating subkeys, adding values, or
deleting the key. If you attempt to delete a
key and you aren’t in the group that has
permission to do so, you’ll get exactly the
message you’ve described.
The keys in question aren’t harmful, but if
you feel strongly about deleting them, you
can change the permission settings. In
Windows NT 4.0 and 2000, you do so using
REGEDT32. REGEDT32 is a holdover from the
original Windows NT Registry Editor program.
side by side, forcing me to waste time
setting up the windows manually by clicking and dragging. Is there a way to make
Word automatically arrange the windows
side by side?
YOU CAN DISPLAY display documents in
separate side-by-side windows.
Many Web pages are too wide to print on
8.5–by-11 (or A4) paper, resulting in the
right sides of pages being cut off. An easy
solution is to install a free PDF utility such
as PDF995 (www.pdf995.com), which adds
a simulated printer to your system. In the
Printing Preferences section of the PDF995
printer, set the paper dimensions to a
large size, such as A3 or tabloid. Doing this
when there is no print job in progress
lets you make this the default for all
future jobs.
When you want to print a Web page,
simply send it to the PDF995 printer.
This creates a PDF file, which you can
then print from Adobe Acrobat Reader.
When printing from Acrobat, be sure
to check the box labeled Shrink oversized pages to paper size. Acrobat will
reduce the Web page to fit your printer’s paper size automatically. You’ll
never miss a right-hand section of a
Windows NT family, it’s possible to define access
“In thepermissions
for individual Registry keys.”
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
many Web pages are designed with no thought
“Too that
someone might want to print them.”
page again—and you will be able to create
PDF files whenever you want! To use
PDF995 without the display of ads requires
registration ($9.95), but try it for free first.
Put Google in IE’s Search Bar
In “Change IE’s Default Search Engine”
(User to User, May 27, page 74), you explain
how to set Internet Explorer’s default
search engine. But there’s a quicker way if
you want to make Google your default.
Enter www.google.com/google.reg in the
address bar of IE. In the File Download
window choose Open. Click on Yes when
you’re prompted to merge
the file into the Registry,
and OK to clear the confirmation afterward. The
next time you click on the
Search icon on the toolbar, the Google search
field will appear in the
side window.
It’s possible to design a Web page with style
sheets that will format it one way for display
and another way for printing, with each style
optimized for its destination.
Another common technique is
to provide a link to a printerfriendly version of a given
page; click the Print link on a
PCmag.com article and you’ll
get the whole article on a
single page, formatted nicely
for printing. But all too many
pages are designed with no
thought at all for the possibility that someone might want
to print them.
PDF995 is one of many
google.reg, clicking on
utilities, free and otherwise,
Search in the IE toolbar will
that create PDF files by means
activate a Google search bar
of a simulated printer driver
in the left pane.
(see “PDFing Cheap,” August 5,
page 95). As noted, to turn any
printable document into a PDF file, you simply
send it to the simulated printer. There’s definitely extra effort involved—in effect you have
to print the page twice—so you may actually
want to try printing directly to your printer in
landscape mode first. But the result is much
more useful than a printed page with the last
half of each line missing.
If you happen to have Adobe Acrobat 6.0,
you can also use the Open Web Page command to convert the file to PDF. The difference, which may or may not be an advantage,
is that the page will be captured exactly as it
appears on screen. (IE tends to remove backgrounds and change text to black to make
pages print faster and more readable.) Acrobat automatically scales pages and can even
fit an entire Web page on one sheet.—NJR
E-MAIL K pcmsolutions@ziffdavis.com
FAX K 212-503-5799
MAIL K User to User, PC Magazine, 28 East
28 Street, New York, NY 10016-7930
If we print your tip, you’ll receive a PC
Magazine T-shirt. We regret that we
cannot answer letters individually.
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
This tip is especially useful
because the Customize
Search Settings dialog
mentioned in the earlier
article does not include
Google in its list. But if you
type the specified URL
directly into the address
bar, there’s a possibility your browser will
simply open the REG file as it would a text
file, right in the browser window. You’ll be
better off paying a visit to www.google.com/
options/defaults.html. This page has a link to
the google.reg file, and clicking that link will
definitely get the results described above.
The page also includes tips for making
Google the default engine in other browsers,
and it even offers another REG file that restores your IE options to the way they
Using regular file shortcuts will cause problems. Even if you create shortcuts pointing to
the files already on the CD and then burned
those shortcuts, you have a problem when
the recipient’s CD drive isn’t assigned to the
same letter as yours. Instead, try creating a
very simple HTML file containing relative links
to all the photos. You can place this file in the
root directory of the CD, so that all recipients
can use it as an index to the entire CD, or you
can create separate index files for each family.
You can create the HTML file using Notepad.
Assuming you have laid out the entire contents of the CD on your hard drive before
burning, you can even test the HTML file right
on the hard drive. The file might look like this:
<H1>Family Pictures</H1>
<H2>Hatfield Family</H2>
<P><A HREF=”file://wedding\BobCarol
.jpg”>Bob and Carol wedding</A> </P>
<P><A HREF=”file://hatfields\Alice
.jpg”>Alice</A> </P>
<H2>McCoy Family</H2>
<P><A HREF=”file://wedding\BobCarol
.jpg”>Carol and Bob wedding</A> </P>
<P><A HREF=”file://mccoys\Ted.jpg”>
Ted</A> </P>
The figure shows what this index file looks
like in Internet Explorer. Just copy the example
file, duplicate the lines for individual pictures,
and substitute your own filenames. Notice
that the file:// links don’t include a drive
letter. That means they link to files in locations
relative to the HTML file’s own location. On
your hard drive, it might be C:\myphotocd. On
the CD drive, it will be D:\ or whatever letter is
assigned to that drive.—NJR
Creating File Shortcuts on
I have pictures from nine families that I
want to put on a CD. I’ve given each
family its own folder. Many of the pictures have members of multiple families
in them. I’d like to put copies of those in
each folder but that puts me over the
capacity of a CD. If I put a picture file in
one folder, is there a way to put a pointer
or shortcut to it in the other folders? It’s
easy on a PC, but when I burn a disc, the
shortcuts still point to the PC drive where
the original file is located.
a simple HTML
index file to make
accessing files on a
CD easier.
initiative, you can build a top-
of-the-line screamer or a budget-
omputer prices are low, and manufacturers’ offerings are comprehensive, so building your own
PC may seem like a peculiar notion. But component suppliers’ business is booming, and increasing numbers of people are building their own machines, so
there must be something to it. Indeed, in the early dawn of PC
history, building a computer was the only way you could get
one. You needed a soldering iron, infinite patience, and a
month’s worth of spare evenings. Today’s do-it-yourself ma-
With a little spare time and
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
conscious workhorse with exceptional
price performance. Here’s how.
chines, by contrast, require little more than a screwdriver and
a free Sunday afternoon.
Do-it-yourself PC building has become a hobby in its own
right, and DIYers cite the fun of selecting components and integrating them into a working machine. Of course, you can’t just
build a machine every evening for relaxation—PCs would start
piling up around you pretty quickly—but DIYers feel that they
have an advantage over system buyers, because they understand
what goes into a PC and are not afraid to dig in when it’s time to
upgrade or service the machines.
In fact, upgrading is an excellent stepping stone to building a
whole machine. Once you’ve traversed the shoals of adding an
optical drive or more memory, or replacing a hard drive, working inside the case isn’t nearly as daunting anymore.
Some of us at PC Magazine have been building machines for
years, having started back in the soldering-iron days, but we
decided to take a fresh look at the DIY scene. So we built two
machines: an all-out, no-holds-barred screamer and a budget
system that would still have respectable performance. We compared our handiwork with two off-the-shelf commercial machines and a custom-made high-end system from Alienware, a
respected high-performance PC builder.
But this article is titled “Build or Buy,” and to be fair, we’ve delineated the pros and cons of each approach.
Component selection is the heart and soul of DIY. Just try going
into the local computer store and asking for a machine with a
specific motherboard. You can get more memory, and maybe if
you’re lucky you can specify a different video card, but that’s
where flexibility ends. Commercial vendors don’t want to tell
you what motherboards they use, and they reserve the right to
switch vendors for any and all components. So if you’re looking
to achieve specific performance goals through component selection, DIY is the way to go.
Commercial vendors, however, solve compatibility and integration issues long before the products go into their catalogs or
arrive on dealer shelves. Part of what you’re buying is a guarantee
that everything works when you take your new PC out of the box.
What’s your time worth? If you’re the time-is-money type,
don’t even think about building your own machine. There’s no
way you can work cheaper than overseas labor or an automated assembly line. But if you enjoy hunting for bargains,
getting great deals, and tracking down the lowest-cost supplier
for each component, DIY will save you money for a given performance level. And if you believe that hours spent in pleasurable pursuits are not subtracted from your lifespan, DIY is
a longevity booster.
PC Magazine’s Service and Reliability Surveys, which we’ve
been conducting for 16 years, show clear differences among
commercial manufacturers. Some have had abysmal track
records for years; others rise and fall in the rankings, and a
few—very few—are consistently well liked by their customers.
Having a formal support organization is no guarantee of postsale happiness. So if you’re committed to buying a commercial
PC, do your research first.
The good news is that once you go DIY, you’ll never take your
computer in for service again. The bad news is that there’s no
place to take it! You can’t make a malfunctioning DIY machine
somebody else’s problem; it’s your baby. But there’s a vibrant
online community just waiting to pitch in and help you with the
High-End System
What We Spent
Performance Tests
Budget System
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
knotty problems. Our sister Web site, ExtremeTech.com, has a
very active discussion forum that welcomes questions; you’ll
find knowledgeable answers there.
While using discussion boards for tech support often means
waiting a day or more for the answer you need, it’s inherently
less frustrating than being on endless hold or getting caught in
menu hell on vendor support lines. Walk-in service for commercial machines has always been pretty good, yet the inherent
reliability of today’s devices reduces most service calls to a simple component swap. So why not do it yourself?
that will be going into the hands of less knowledgeable users who
can’t supply their own support and service.
Don’t overlook the not-so-hidden cost of software for DIY machines. Commercial vendors pay far less for bulk copies of Microsoft Windows XP than you pay, and commercial PCs often come
with bundles of office, entertainment, and productivity software.
Unless you have a shelf full of exactly the software you need,
you’re going to have to pay. And bargains on software are hard to
find unless you go for older versions.
On the other hand, your DIY machine won’t come with gigabytes of garbage on it. You get what you install—no more, no less.
Too many commercial machines have their startup folders loaded
with useless junk, adware, and utilities of dubious worth. You may
find yourself spending several sessions with a utility such as PC
Magazine’s Startup Cop to delete or deactivate the garbage.
Of course, you should expect at least a 12-month warranty on
any commercial machine, and for the most part, that’s exactly
what you’ll find. Even high-end, quasi-custom systems, such as
those from Alienware, have 12-month warranties and free shipping for service. Alienware will also upgrade your machine at
vendor’s cost for the new components—an enlightened policy
guaranteed to keep customers smiling.
You might be surprised to learn, however, that most of the DIYers who build high-performance systems are not shy when
components in a DIY system also have 12-month warranties, and it comes to self-expression. Vivid paint jobs on the case, clear
some, such as the case and power supply, may
windows, and a variety of internal lighting
have 3-year warranties. But if you zap your CPU
schemes have become the norm. You can even get
with an errant static charge while handling it,
a motherboard with components that glow difthat’s your problem.
ferent colors under ultraviolet light. You can
What’s more, there’s no such thing as an exchoose some truly wild pointing devices and keyFor more about building
tended warranty on a DIY system. And extended
boards. These not-so-subtle signals say, “I built
PCs, log on to
warranties make sense, especially for machines
this PC and I’m proud of it!”
he key to building a high-performance PC is
selecting components at or near the state of the art
and integrating them properly. We picked the best
components we could find at the time we built our system, but
components change all the time. Although you won’t go wrong
with the components we’ve selected, you’ll find significant differences in the feature sets of motherboards, cases, graphics
adapters, and audio cards. Hard-core do-it-yourselfers carefully
read the reviews at a Web site such as ExtremeTech.
Prepare yourself for an onslaught of acronyms in the following paragraphs. These are the components that make or break
your system’s performance, and you’ll have to master the lingo
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
to order the right pieces.
For our high-end machine we chose a 3-GHz Intel Pentium 4
in an Abit IC7-G motherboard, a combination that has proved
fast and stable. Although the 3.2-GHz P4 had not been released
when we configured our system, it’s available now. But that CPU
would add several hundred dollars to the price while contributing relatively little additional performance.
A high-performance CPU cooler is essential. The Pentium 4
ships with one that we consider adequate, but we prefer to upgrade to one that can really handle the heat. We selected the
Vantec AeroFlow VP4-7040, a beautifully engineered hunk of
aluminum and copper, to keep the P4 from self-destructing. The
What We Spent
s you can see from the table below, we were very cost-conscious
when we built our budget system. Using state-of-the-art components for the high-end system gave us considerably less latitude,
but you’re still getting a lot for the money.
Our comparison systems were not identically configured, but the
differences affected price and storage capacity more than performance.
The Dell Dimension XPS included two 120GB SATA hard drives, 1GB of
RAM, and a 19-inch LCD monitor, which ballooned the price to $4,488.
The Alienware Area-51 cost $3,599—configured similarly to the Dell
system but with a CRT monitor.
Pentium 4 (3 GHz)
Abit IC7-G
Two 512MB Kingston
HyperX PC3200 DIMMs
CPU cooler
Vantec AeroFlow VP4-7040
ATI Radeon 9800 (256MB)
Hard drive
Two Western Digital Raptor WD360s
Hard drive
One Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9
Optical drive
Sony DRU510A
Floppy disk drive Generic
Logitech Cordless Pro
Logitech MX700 (included with keyboard)
Sound card
Creative Labs Sound Blaster Audigy 2
CaseArts Super Flower
Power supply
Antec True480 (480W)
Operating system Microsoft Windows XP Professional Edition
System subtotal
Speaker system
Center channel
$ 2,785
Creative MegaWorks THX 6.1 650
Cambridge SoundWorks Newton MC150
Samsung SyncMaster 1200NF
$ 3,673
Abit motherboard has eight USB 2.0 ports, three FireWire ports,
and Gigabit Ethernet support.
A machine in this class uses a much faster front-side bus—
the channel over which the processor communicates with the
other key motherboard chips and memory. The blistering 800MHz front-side bus demands special memory, and more is better in terms of performance. So we loaded 1GB of Kingston HyperX PC3200 memory onto the board. The two DIMMs (dual
inline memory modules), with their blue anodized heat spreaders, help to keep the memory cool and reliable.
Serial ATA (SATA) is the new high-performance standard for
hard drives, and native support (direct on the motherboard, as
opposed to emulated through the PCI bus) is desirable for maximum performance. The Abit motherboard supports SATA
natively via the Intel ICH5R I/O controller hub. The SATA connectors feed two Western Digital Raptor WD360 10,000-rpm
SATA hard drives, for a total of 72GB of very fast storage.
As if the high rotational speed weren’t enough, the Raptor
hard drives each have 8MB of cache. Our RAID 0 configuration
aids performance by reducing latency but provides no data protection through redundancy. The hard drives look like a single
drive to the system, and they contain the operating system,
cache files, applications, and anything else that we’d normally
put on a C: drive.
Although SATA hard drives are available in larger sizes, they
get rather pricey, and you don’t need that speed for all the files
Hard drive
Optical drive
Floppy disk drive
Sound card
Athlon XP 2500+ (1.83 GHz)
Abit NFS-7
Two 256MB Kingston CAS2.5 DIMMs
nVidia GeForce4 Ti 4200 (128MB)
Western Digital WD400BB
Samsung DVD/CD-RW
Dell black
Logitech optical
nVidia nForce2 (built-in)
Antec SLK3700AMB
with 350W power supply
Operating system Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition
System subtotal
Speaker system
Logitech Z-340 (2.1 channels)
ViewSonic E70f
on your system. So we added a third, more conventional Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 9—a 200GB parallel ATA hard drive—
to give us lots of capacity for digital media, where blazing
speed is not required.
The ATI Radeon 9800 has 256MB of video RAM and currently wears the 3-D performance crown. On the audio side,
we chose the Creative Labs Sound Blaster Audigy 2, a fullfeatured sound card suitable for all but the highest-end audio
workstations. All that audio quality isn’t worth much if you
can’t move the air molecules, though, and we chose the Creative MegaWorks THX 6.1 650 speaker system for its overall
excellence for home theater, gaming, and music. To be sure,
we beefed up the center channel by replacing the original
with a three-way unit from Cambridge SoundWorks.
Speaking of home theater, the Samsung SyncMaster 1200NF
display is 22 inches of high-resolution heaven, approaching the
size of some den TVs. The monitor weighs a crushing 69.3lb,
but CRT is still the way to go for the highest-performance
graphics, and it offers better image quality for 3-D graphics
than a flat-panel display.
Optical-drive duties are handled admirably by the Sony
DRU510A DVD“R/“RW/CD drive, which supports the four most
popular recordable-DVD formats (and recordable-CD formats)
at the fastest possible speeds. It’s expensive, but it handles just
about every format. We aren’t quite ready to kiss the 3.5-inch
floppy disk goodbye, though, and the generic $10 floppy disk
drive didn’t put too big a hole in our wallet.
The CaseArts Super Flower case has a gorgeous enameled
paint job. Our choice may not be to your taste, but that’s the fun:
You can have pretty much any design you want. Although it has
the all-but-obligatory window in the side, we didn’t opt for any
additional lighting, since the case itself has a tricolor LED cooling fan in the top. The Antec True480 power supply will stand
up to any use we can think of.
We chose the Logitech Cordless Pro keyboard and the Logitech MX700 mouse as solid representatives of the current crop.
We’re pretty good at spotting bargains, and we think you’ll find
that the street prices we paid are hard to beat. But after all was
said and done, we’d put a $3,673 dent in our budget.
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
Install the CPU
Lift the ZIF (zero insertion force) lever so you
can install the CPU.
Align the Pentium 4 chip so that the corner
with the two missing pins lines up with the
corresponding corner on the CPU socket.
Insert the CPU and lock down the ZIF lever.
Apply a tiny amount of heat-sink paste
if needed. (Some heat sinks already have
thermal tape attached and don’t need
paste.) If you use thermal paste, be sure to
spread it thinly over the entire surface of
the Pentium 4 heat spreader.
The Vantec AeroFlow heat sink uses a single,
push-down metal latch.
Make sure you plug in the heat sink fan power
Install the Memory
Align the DDR memory module so that the notch at the connector edge
lines up with the key in the socket. Make sure the DIMM retention clips
are flipped out.
Push the DIMM straight down until you see and feel the clips
snap into place. Since this motherboard supports dual-channel
memory, we installed a second module.
Our contributors: Loyd Case, senior technology analyst at ExtremeTech, is a serious PC gamer and author of several
books and many articles on building PCs. Bill Machrone is vice president of editorial development and the longest-running
columnist at PC Magazine, as well as a committed do-it-yourselfer.
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Install the Motherboard
One of the joys of
building your own
machine is selfexpression. We’re
using the Super
Flower case, as
decorated by the
folks at
sure cure for the
beige blahs.
This case has a slide-out motherboard tray and a removable hard drive
bay. Features like these make construction and upgrades easier.
Make sure you install the ATX I/O shield before
installing the motherboard.
Attach the
including the
power and reset
switches. The
documentation is your
friend; follow the
Gently fasten the motherboard to the mount
points using the correct screws. (Inset) Note the
mount points, which are typically threaded brass
standoffs, in the chassis. If you’re using a new
case, some of the mount points may not be
installed, and you’ll have to add enough to match
up with the mounting holes in the motherboard.
Attach the power connectors. One square connector handles CPU
power, and a larger, rectangular connector feeds everything else.
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
Install the Hard Drives
Locate the ICH5R
SATA connections.
Connect one SATA
cable to each connector. Not only is Serial
ATA faster than parallel ATA, but the cables
are far smaller, improving airflow and serviceability within the case.
Install the drive bay
into the case. In
addition to the two
superfast SATA hard
drives, we’ve also
installed a single
200GB Maxtor hard
drive for storing large
multimedia files.
Remove the drive bay
from the chassis and
slide the two hard
drives in so that the
connectors face the
inside of the case.
Align the side-mount
holes with the holes in
the drive bay. Screw in
the hard drives, using
the screws supplied
with the case.
Connect the power and
SATA drive cables to
the hard drive. Unlike
older ATA drives, SATA
drives are not daisychained; each has its
own cable.
Install the Optical Drives
The optical drive installs directly into the case,
without rails. Simply slide the optical drive
into the case and fasten it into place with the
appropriate screws.
Attach the power and IDE cables as well as
the proper CD-audio and S/PDIF digital audio
cables to the back of the optical drive.
Connect the IDE cable to the secondary IDE
connector. Don’t use the primary connector, or
the system will attempt to boot from the
optical drive.
Install the Floppy Disk Drive
Like the optical drive, the floppy disk drive slides directly into
the case and is screwed into place.
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Attach the small power connector and the floppy disk drive’s data cable. Normally
you would attach the end with the twist to the drive, but if the cable is round,
follow the markings on the cable. The other end goes into the floppy disk drive
connector on the motherboard.
Install the Graphics Card
DIY Does Well
We kept the official tests for our DIY systems
simple: Business Winstone 2002 and Multimedia Content Creation Winstone 2003. These
test suites give a comprehensive overview of a
system’s performance. Business Winstone
measures the speed of tasks such as word
processing, spreadsheets, and everyday interactions with
the PC, while Content Creation Winstone evaluates the
speed of streaming, compression, and file conversion.
Our high-end system posted some of the best scores
we’ve ever seen for a 3-GHz system, for both business
and content creation tasks. It consistently bested the
other high-end systems we selected for comparison,
thanks to careful matching of top-of-the-line components and a dual Raptor SATA hard drive configuration.
Many high-end DIY systems are used for gaming, and
we compared our system with the Dell Dimension XPS,
which is aimed at gamers. The PCs had identical processors, bus speeds, video cards, and RAM configurations,
and predictably, they were within a heartbeat of one
another—well within the margin of error—on all of our
informal gaming tests.
We also compared our high-end PC with the Alienware
Area-51, which has a wild-looking case and hot innards.
The Area-51 performed very similarly to our home brew.
We don’t expect a budget system to slay dragons, but
we’re happy when it performs respectably. Our Athlon
XP 2500+–based system was well off the pace of the
Pentium 4 machine on content creation but did remarkably well on business tasks. The Athlon XP, with its
shorter instruction pipeline, is typically better at
branchy business applications, while the P4 blows it
away for large, content-oriented tasks.
Investing in a decent midrange video card gave us
respectable graphics performance—far better than what
you would expect from an $800 off-the-shelf system.
We compared our budget machine with a widely available, low-cost commercial PC, the eMachines T2482. The
T2482 had a slightly slower Athlon XP 2400+ but twice
the hard drive space, and we increased its 256MB of RAM
to 512MB. Still, it couldn’t come close to the performance
of our budget system.—Analysis written by Bill Machrone
High scores are best.
Bold type denotes first place.
high-end system
budget system
Alienware Area-51*
Dell Dimension XPS*
eMachines T2482*
* Reported for comparison.
Content Creation
Winstone 2003
Pentium 4 (3 GHz)
Athlon XP 2500+
(1.83 GHz)
Pentium 4 (3 GHz)
Pentium 4 (3 GHz)
Athlon XP 2400+
(2 GHz)
Locate the AGP slot on
the motherboard; it is the
expansion slot closest
to the CPU, set back
farther from the rear of
the case than the PCI
connectors. Align the
graphics card with the slot
and press it down firmly.
Screw the card down with
the correct screw.
The ATI Radeon 9800,
like many other high-end
graphics cards, requires a
separate connection from
the power supply, because
the card uses more current
than the AGP slot can
provide. Our Radeon 9800
uses the full-size 4-pin hard
drive connector; others may
use the smaller, floppy disk
drive–style power cable.
Install the Sound Card
Locate a free PCI slot and
align the sound card’s edge
connector with the PCI
slot. Gently push straight
down on the sound card
until it seats, then fasten
it into place with a screw.
Attach the CD
and S/PDIF
audio cables to
the sound card.
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
onfiguring a budget machine is easier than creating a high-end system in some ways and more difficult in others. You need to factor cost into each decision, but small changes to the system’s overall performance are
not as important, since bragging rights are not at stake.
We set a price ceiling of $799 for our budget system, including the monitor and speakers, because we often see commercial
systems advertised at that price, and we felt that we could easily beat the performance of such systems with judicious component selection. Note, however, that many retail systems
also bundle low-end printers.
We started with an AMD Athlon XP 2500+ to get the most
performance at the lowest price. This processor does more
with less in terms of clock speed, because it’s very efficient
internally. The lower clock speed helps keep down the cost
of other motherboard components.
On the Abit NFS-7 motherboard, the Athlon XP 2500+
compares well with more expensive CPUs. This fullfeatured motherboard has four USB 2.0 and two FireWire
connectors. With today’s prices and operating-system demands, 512MB of memory has become the practical minimum if you care at all about performance, so that’s what we
installed in our budget-beater.
We could have saved money by choosing a motherboard
with on-board graphics, but we invested in video performance with an nVidia GeForce4 Ti 4200 equipped with
128MB of video RAM. Last year’s hot board is this year’s
affordable midlevel board, and that’s exactly what we got—
significantly faster video performance for not a lot more
money. We did go with the on-board nVidia nForce audio
processor, which is more than adequate for most needs. The
Logitech Z-340 speakers won’t blow out candles, but they
sound respectable, and the price is unbeatable.
A single Western Digital WD400BB hard drive gives us
40GB for $50; who can argue with that? We went with a
Samsung DVD/CD-RW drive (DVD burning isn’t a consideration at this price). And we were able to find a floppy disk
drive for a mere $8.
The Antec case is solid and well built, with no sharp edges,
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2002 www.pcmag.com
and it has a convenient snap-out drive bay. With its 350-watt
power supply, it won’t be underpowered if we decide to upgrade.
A surplus dealer’s Dell keyboard and a closeout Logitech optical mouse helped us stay within our budget. The ViewSonic
E70f CRT monitor gave us a bargain-priced 17-inch view of our
computing world.
We’re very pleased with the way our budget system performs,
and we’d recommend a similar configuration to anyone who
doesn’t need an all-out system.
Install the CPU
Lift the ZIF (zero insertion
force) lever so you can install
the CPU.
Apply a tiny amount of heatsink paste if needed. (Some
heat sinks already have
thermal tape attached and
don’t need paste.)
Align the CPU so that the corners with the angled pins line up
with the corresponding holes on
the CPU socket; then insert the
CPU and lock down the ZIF lever.
The heat sink has a notch that
corresponds to the ridge on the
CPU socket. Attach the heat
sink, being careful not to break
the mounting tabs on the plastic
socket edge. Make sure you
attach the heat sink fan power
connector to the motherboard.
Installing the Memory
Align the DDR memory module so that the
notch at the connector edge lines up with
the key in the socket. Flip out the retainer
clips on the sides of the socket.
Push the DIMM straight down until you see and feel the clips snap into place. Since this
motherboard supports dual-channel memory, we installed a second module.
Install the Motherboard
The mounting points in the chassis are
typically threaded brass standoffs.
If you’re using a new case, some of the
standoffs may not be installed, and you’ll
have to add enough to match up with the
mounting holes in the motherboard.
Attach the front-panel connectors, including
the power and reset switches. Follow the
documentation carefully.
Attach the power connectors. The small
square one is for the CPU; the rectangular one
handles the rest of the board’s power needs.
Gently fasten the motherboard to the mount points using the correct screws.
Attach the front-panel USB port connectors.
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
Install the Hard Drive
Ensure that the master/slave jumper on the hard drive is set correctly for your configuration.
Remove the drive bay from the chassis and
slide the hard drive in so that the connectors
face the inside of the case. Align the sidemount holes with the holes in the drive bay.
Screw in the hard drive, using the screws
supplied with the case.
Install the drive bay into the case.
Connect the power and IDE cables to the
hard drive. Connect the black end (not the
colored end) of an 80-conductor ribbon cable
to the hard drive.
Connect the colored (usually blue) end
of the IDE hard drive cable to the
primary IDE port on the motherboard.
Install the Optical Drive
Attach drive rails to the side of the optical drive with the supplied
screws. Attach the CD audio cable now to save yourself a difficult
reach later. Feed the cable through and slide the optical drive into the
case from the front.
Attach the power and IDE cables, then connect the IDE cable
to the secondary IDE connector.
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Install the Floppy Disk Drive
Slide the
drive bay into
the case and
snap it into
Remove the floppy disk drive bay from the case by pulling back on the latch and
sliding the bay out. Install the floppy disk drive into the removable bay and fasten it into
place with small screws.
Attach the small power connector and the twisted
end of the floppy disk drive’s data cable to the drive.
The other end goes into the floppy disk drive connector on the motherboard.
Install the Graphics Card
Locate the AGP slot on the motherboard; it is the expansion slot closest to the CPU, set back farther from the
rear of the case than the PCI connectors. Align the graphics card with the slot and press it down firmly.
Double-check to make sure the AGP retention clip is seated. If it’s not, the
rear edge of the graphics card may not make proper contact with the
fingers in the socket. E
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Shoot, Scan, Print
final art tk
Get the most out of
your digital-imaging gear
Have you considered putting vodka in your printer? Or that your scanner might support resolutions
as high as 2,800 dots per inch, but performance might improve at lower resolutions? Or that not using
your camera’s zoom lens might result in a better close-up? * We’ve tested printers, scanners, and
digital cameras since they arrived on the scene, and in that time we’ve amassed a wealth of inside
knowledge about how these devices work.
* To share our expertise with you, we asked our digital-
imaging experts—Sally Wiener Grotta, Les Freed, and Alfred Poor—to compile their top tips
for scanners, cameras, and printers. Some of the suggestions may surprise you. If you’ve ever been
frustrated with your digital-imaging gadgets, take heart: There’s always an answer.—Jeremy A. Kaplan
Our contributors: Les Freed, Sally Wiener Grotta, and Alfred Poor are contributing editors of PC Magazine. Associate editor Jeremy A. Kaplan and
PC Magazine Labs project leader Glenn Menin were in charge of this story.
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
height) to exactly what you
need (such as a 1.5- by 2.5-inch
photo for a newsletter), then
set the resolution according to
the chart “Size Matters.”
Create Better
Scanned Images
[ B y S a l l y W i e n e r G r o tt a]
On the bottom or side
of many scanners is a dial or
slide for locking and unlocking
the scanner head—the imaging
sensor arm you see tracking
with a light that does the actual
scanning. To avoid damaging
the scanner head, make sure
you unlock it immediately
when you set up your scanner—before you plug the scanner in or turn it on. If you don’t,
you’ll hear a grating sound
when scanning as the rack-andpinion gears of the head get
chewed up. Similarly, be sure to
lock the head before you move
your scanner and then unlock it
once it’s at the new location.
Just as athletes warm
up before a game, you should
warm up your scanner lamp
for at least 5 minutes before
you begin scanning, even if
your scanner indicates that it’s
ready in a couple of minutes. A
proper warm-up is particularly
important for scanning graphics, because the quality (as
reflected in the color temperature) and consistency (seen in
the absence of flicker) of the
light affects the accuracy of
your colors and exposure.
The glass platen on
which you place documents for
scanning is inevitably a magnet
for dust. And every speck
shows up in your scans. Although several manufacturers
now offer dust removal firmware or software, even the best
of these products can diminish
image quality and may not get
all the dirt. As a simple, common-sense solution, always
clean the platen thoroughly
with antistatic canned air, an
tion), the appropriate file formats (DOC, TIFF, XLS, and so
on), and the desired applications or destinations (Microsoft Word, printer, e-mail, and
others). In the long run, the
time you spend configuring
buttons and options properly
will pay off in terms of speed,
convenience, and efficiency.
antistatic cloth, or a camel’s
hair brush. By the way, dust on
the platen may be on the underside where you can’t clean it,
because many scanners are
sealed units. In that case, you
should use the scanner’s dust
removal tools. If it doesn’t have
any or if you want more precision, control, and quality, use an
image-editing program’s (timeconsuming) clone tool.
Using a scanner right out
of the box is now so easy that
many people never bother to
read the documentation or
explore their options. Take the
time to analyze your scanning
habits, then set up the onetouch buttons and default settings to fit the way you work.
This means setting the proper
parameters for the type of
scans (text, photo, or illustra-
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Scan at the size and resolution
appropriate to the image’s
destination. Scan the image at
too large a size and the file will
be bloated with unnecessary
data. This results in overly long
downloads and uploads, bogging down your system and
e-mail and wasting storage
space. Scan it too small and the
file won’t provide enough data.
Both extremes can degrade
image quality. Set the image’s
physical dimensions (width and
SIZE MATTERS. Today’s scanners
support resolutions as high as 2,800
dots per inch. But you’ll waste time
and space creating scans that are
hundreds of megabytes in size.
Instead, set the height and width of
your scan to get the size output file
you want, and check this chart to
figure out what resolution to use.
The Right Scan Resolution
Web pages
Desktop printers
72 dpi
72–100 dpi
72–100 dpi
300 dpi
2 the screen’s
lines per inch*
* For a screen with 133 lines per inch, for
example, scan at 266 dpi.
Always position the
original in the correct orientation on the glass platen, even if
your scanner has an easy-touse auto-orientation command.
While not all auto-rotation
algorithms degrade image
quality, just about all of them
add extra time to your scanning. Similarly, make certain
that an original sheet with text
to be scanned with OCR is not
skewed or inserted at a slight
angle, because that makes the
OCR engine work harder and
can produce inaccuracies.
It’s always better to do
things right initially than to fix
them later; this is especially
true with scanning. Although
many of your scanner’s image
adjustment and color correction tools look very similar to
those in your image-editing
program, the scanner tools
affect your pictures differently.
While the prescan settings
define and create data (the
scanned image), editing an
image that has been already
captured removes and rewrites
data. Hence you’ll want to get
the exposure, color, and image
size right before you scan to
ensure the highest-quality data.
Of course, if your monitor
isn’t color calibrated, you can’t
judge color and exposure
accurately by just viewing a
picture on your screen. When
accurate color is absolutely
vital, consider a monitorcalibration tool from X-Rite or
others. To match your monitor’s
colors to those of your printer,
adopt a full-blown color management system that includes
...unlock the head or you’ll hear a grating sound as the gears get chewed up...
SCANNERS are a great way to preserve some of the stunning pictures published in newspapers or magazines. But their high resolution will pick up artifacts of the printing process
itself that are invisible to the naked eye. We’ve descreened the image on the left to smooth
out the dots laid down by the printer. On the right, the same image sans descreening.
scanner. Film scanners are
optimized for transparent
media and therefore provide
significantly higher-quality
closed-loop calibration. Alternately, set your monitor’s color
temperature to D65 to match
the sRGB spec, as industry
experts suggest. Some graphic
programs advise lowering it
even further, to 5,500 Kelvin,
but this may make your screen
appear yellowish. We suggest a
setting of 9,300 K (a common
factory setting) for general
purpose use and 6,500 K for
image editing. Adjust brightness and contrast as well. Read
“Color Matching” at www
.extremetech.com, for more.
film negatives and slides have
improved significantly in recent
years, but they still leave much
to be desired in terms of image
quality. If you have lots of
negatives or slides to digitize,
consider a dedicated film
[ B y L e s Fr e e d ]
Transparency adapters
that let flatbed scanners read
To save time and energy, use
batch scanning whenever you
need to input numerous documents or pictures. Scanners do
this in various ways. For instance, it’s increasingly com-
Take Better
Digital Photos
In magazine and newspaper printing, offset printing
presses use a latticework of
dots called a halftone, or
screen, to create the illusion of
continuous-tone images.
Choose a descreening option
(look in the driver) when you
scan magazine and newspaper
photos or illustrations. Otherwise, the dot patterns used to
create the originals will look too
prominent and distracting in
your scanned image.
mon for scanners to recognize
when you put more than one
photo on the glass platen.
When this happens, they automatically scan each photo into
its own file. But unless your
scanning software lets you
define the parameters of each
item on the platen, be sure to
scan photos and text-only files
separately. Some scanners can
generate and save macrolike
scripts that you can apply to
groups of scans, which you
may also be able to prioritize.
make sure no lampposts,
street signs, or tree limbs are
growing out of his head. If
you’re photographing scenery
or buildings, check that your
camera is level. Create interesting compositions by moving
your main subject off-center.
Before you press the shutter
button, take a close look at
your subject on the camera’s
LCD preview screen. If you’re
taking pictures of a person,
Virtually all auto-focus systems
use the center of the image to
determine focus. If your subject
is off-center, the camera will
focus on whatever is in the
center of the image. To avoid
this problem, place your sub-
ject in the center of the frame,
then lightly press the shutter
button to lock the camera’s
focus. Keep the shutter halfpressed, then recompose and
shoot. This technique is also
useful if you are taking pictures
of two people and the background—not one of the main
subjects—is in the center of
the image.
Don’t overuse your
camera’s longest zoom setting.
Instead of zooming in, leave
your camera on the widestangle zoom setting and get
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
...printing directly from a camera is
simpler but isn’t any cheaper...
closer to your subject. Virtually
all point-and-shoot cameras
perform better at their widest
settings. Zoom lenses suffer
from light fall-off at longer
focal lengths, so cameras must
switch to slower shutter
speeds to compensate. A long
lens plus a slow shutter speed
usually results in blurry pictures. If you must zoom, use a
tripod, or brace the camera on
a railing or other solid structure. If your camera has a
digital zoom, turn it off: You
can almost always get better
results by “zooming” with your
photo-editing software.
The built-in flashes
on most digital cameras are
designed to operate over a very
narrow range—about 4 to 12
feet. If you get closer, the sub-
awards ceremonies, and other
no-second-chance events
make photographers nervous.
Many digital cameras have very
long power-up times and slow
auto-focus mechanisms, so it’s
fast-moving subjects. Prefocus
the camera where you expect
the action to be (the goal post
at a basketball game, for example), wait for the subject to
move into the area, then release the shutter.
You paid for those
megapixels, so don’t throw
them away by using one of
your camera’s lower-quality
settings! Most models offer
several combinations of image
size and JPEG compression.
Smaller, more compressed
images take up less space on
your memory card, so it can
hold more pictures. But for the
best possible image quality, you
should always use the largest
available image size with the
If you leave your
camera’s flash setting on automatic, it probably won’t fire the
flash when you need it most.
When taking portraits outside in bright sun, switch the
camera to manual flash mode
so that the flash fires. The extra
light from the flash fills in harsh
shadows on your subject’s face
and helps avoid silhouetting
against bright backgrounds.
ject will probably be completely
washed out by the flash; if you
get too far away, your subject
will disappear into a black hole.
In many cases, you may prefer
to switch the flash off and
shoot with available light. Most
cameras automatically adjust
their exposure by switching to
a slow shutter speed to produce fully exposed pictures in
low light. You need a tripod or
other camera support (see tip
13) to avoid camera shake.
important to make sure your
camera is ready to take a picture when you are. Prefocus
your camera (tip 12), then keep
it from going into power-save
mode by maintaining light
pressure on the shutter release
until you’re ready to take the
picture. If you’re concerned
about the battery running
down, switch off the LCD screen
and use the optical viewfinder
to save power. You can use a
similar technique when shooting sporting events and other
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
least amount of JPEG compression. Memory cards are cheap,
so spring for a larger card if the
one you have is too small.
Virtually all cameras come with
a USB cable to move image files
from a camera to a computer.
But most cameras use USB 1.1
(the old 12-Mbps interface), so
image transfers can take some
time. Someday, cameras will
have USB 2.0 High Speed ports
(for a whopping 400-Mbps
connection), but until that day,
you may want to invest in an
inexpensive USB 2.0 memory
card reader. Besides being
much faster, such a reader
won’t run down your camera’s
battery while you’re moving
your images.
Until the past year or so, digitalcamera users had to make their
own prints at home (an expensive and time-consuming
process) or pay outrageously
high prices to have them professionally printed (up to $1 for
a 4-by-6 commercial print).
Some newer cameras let you
send images directly from a
camera to a printer without
first uploading the images to
DON’T LOSE DETAILS. Digital-camera manufacturers often save money by using small
memory cards, which limits the number of
pictures you can take. You could increase the
image compression to make the file size smaller, but your images will suffer if you enlarge
them. On the left, the original image. On the
right, the same picture with a higher JPEG
compression ratio. Details are lost and blurry.
your PC. This simplifies the
printing process but doesn’t
make it any cheaper.
Many retailers have installed
new photo-printing equipment
that produces very high-quality
prints from digital images on
conventional photo paper. The
price is competitive with conventional photo prints —about
29 to 39 cents for a 4-by-6
print—and often costs less
than printing your own on an
ink jet. Remember what you
paid for all those ink tanks?
Make Better
Always keep a spare ink cartridge on hand. Murphy’s Law
dictates that you’ll run out of
ink when it is least convenient
and when stores are most likely
closed or difficult to get to. Get
into the habit of buying two at
a time and you’ll always have at
least one spare in the drawer.
It’s a colorful world out there
now that low-cost color printing is readily available from
both ink jet and laser printers.
Yet color pages still cost more
than simple black and white,
so you can save money by
using just black ink or toner
for pages that don’t need
color. You can always go into
your printer’s driver properties
and change to black-only
output, but here’s a way to
make it a two-click choice:
Set up a second installation of
your printer. Just add another
[ By A l f re d Po o r]
printer using the same port
and printer driver as your
existing printer, then give the
new “printer” a name that
describes its settings, like
OfficeJet Black Only. The rightclick menu will let you set
either printer as the default.
Then go into the driver properties and change the default
settings to black-and-white
output. Choosing draft mode
saves even more ink or toner.
After you’ve created the
new printer, just select it
from the drop-down list of
printers in the File | Print
dialog box for any Windows
application. Even a few pennies per page adds up over
printouts don’t really need to
be in color, but finding the
Monochrome check box in the
printer driver takes time and
can be confusing for less technical family members. Take
the time to create a second
printer driver with options set
for monochrome printing,
then show the entire family
how to find it quickly.
time. Note that this
trick works just as
well for other
Using one
printer, you
can set up
for photo
output (with
glossy photo
paper, best quality
output, and so on), to turn off
the duplexing feature, or for
any other settings you use
frequently but don’t need or
want as a default setting.
If your printer
keeps jamming, try a fresh
ream of paper. Excess moisture
in paper can result in feeding
problems, especially in humid
conditions. If you don’t use
much paper, keep the open
ream sealed in a plastic bag
(seriously!) to help maintain
its original condition.
All paper is not
the same, and the kind you
use can affect output quality.
For example, most people
know that for best results
when printing photos, they
should use glossy paper
designed for this purpose
(and set their printers to
highest-quality mode).
But what’s good for one
printer isn’t good for another.
A paper with a hard, smooth
finish is generally not good for
use in a laser printer, because
the toner will not adhere well
to the surface. As a result, the
plastic ink can crack and flake
off when you bend or fold the
sheet. On the other hand, a
porous paper that works well
with lasers may not be ideal
for ink jets, because the ink
will wick among the
paper fibers and
blur the output.
Paper with a
may not
work well
with either
type of
printer; toner
may not fuse
properly on the
paper’s low points,
and its texture may encourage
ink wicking.
Older printers may
have trouble feeding paper
reliably. The most common
cause is dirty or hardened
pickup rollers at the paper
tray. Try cleaning the rollers
with a cotton swab and rubbing alcohol. If that doesn’t
help, try a light sanding with
fine sandpaper to remove the
tough, oxidized outer layer
from a rubber pickup roller. If
all else fails, you may be able
to buy replacement parts from
the printer manufacturer.
Ink jet printheads can be
temperamental devices,
and if one or more jets get
clogged, print quality suffers
noticeably. Most printers have
a purging utility that tries
to flush out the clog by forcing ink through the jets, but
this does not always solve
the problem. If your print
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
...light sanding with fine sandpaper can
remove the tough, oxidized outer layer
from a rubber pickup roller...
cartridges include the ink
jets—as most do—you can get
a fresh set of unclogged printheads just by putting in new
cartridges. Some printers use
separate printheads, however,
and replacing these as well as
the ink can be expensive.
Before you throw
away either ink
cartridges or
make a
effort to
them. Soak
the ink jets in
a small container
of warm water for a
few minutes, then gently blot
the water from the printhead.
Don’t rub, as you can easily
damage the delicate devices.
Then put the cartridge or
printhead back in the printer
and try again. If that doesn’t
clear the problem, repeat the
process using rubbing alcohol
or vodka. If this fails to clear
the jets, you can at least buy
new printheads knowing you
tried to save the old ones.
Most new printers offer only
USB connections, but many
still offer parallel as well.
When used with an appropriate cable, a parallel connection can be very fast—about
2 Mbps—and appropriate for
your typical ink jet printer.
USB 1.1, with its larger 12Mbps bandwidth, is designed
to handle multiple
devices, whereas
parallel ports
are not. But if
you use a
parallel port
for a printer,
putting a
second device, such as
a scanner or
storage unit, on the
same port. If you must
use a parallel port for these
secondary devices, get an
expansion card with an additional port so that each device can have its own.
Power strips and surge protectors provide a handy way to
turn all the components in your
computer system on and off,
but leave your printer out of it.
If your printer has a power
switch, use it to turn the device
off. This lets the printer complete its shutdown procedure;
for ink jet printers, this in-
For more tips and tricks, plus expert advice on
getting the most from your hardware and software,
check out our Solutions forums:
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
settings of your scanner and
printer to find the combinations that work best. You can
save yourself a lot of time and
get better prints in the long
run. (See tip 5 for details on
which resolution is best for
which purpose.)
Want to print a file that you
found in Windows Explorer?
For example, say
you’re browsing
through your photo
know some of the shortcollection with a
cuts in the contextual
cludes parking
friend and want to
menus accessed by the
right mouse button—
the print carmake a quick print.
they’ll save you a bundle
tridges so they
You could load
of time. The print item is
don’t dry out. In
Adobe Photoshop
a great example. One
most cases, you
and select Print, or
click will automatically
open the correct applicaprobably don’t
just right-click on
tion, print out a copy on
need to turn the
the filename and
the default printer, and
printer off at all;
choose Print. Winclose the application.
most now have
dows opens the
sleep modes that
associated applicadraw negligible power, and
tion, prints the file, and then
many ink jets don’t even have
closes the application. No
power switches.
muss, no fuss.
Many people use their printers
to create photographs from
digital cameras or scanners.
But make sure that you’re
using the best resolution for
your source image when you
print. If the original image
resolution is low, then the print
may look grainy, blurred, or
blotchy at high print resolutions. If the original resolution
is high, it can take much longer
to print, and the final quality
may also suffer. It pays to
experiment with the resolution
Ever find a Web page that
had some information you
wanted, but attached to it
were banner ads and navigation bars? Of course, you
could cut and paste the text
to another application for
printing, but there’s a much
easier way. If you’re using
Microsoft Internet Explorer,
just highlight the text and
choose File | Print. Then in the
Print Range section, choose
Selection. Just the highlighted
text will print. E
Reviewed in
this story
Broadband providers promise fast
AOL for Broadband (C-)
Charter Pipeline (C)
Comcast (D)
Cox (A+)
EarthLink (A-)
Optimum Online (B)
Road Runner (A)
SBC Yahoo! (D+)
Verizon (C)
Reader Survey Results
Readers’ Choice
Summary of Features
Where’s the Butterfly?
Switching ISPs: Easing the Pain
Cheap Dial-Up
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
downloads and always-on connections.
Do they deliver? We asked our readers
and signed up ourselves to find out.
ccording to the online research firm Nielsen//NetRatings,
63 percent of all home Internet users in the United States
still connect via ordinary dial-up modem. This puts the
country well behind such nations as Canada and South Korea. In
Korea, according to that country’s Ministry of Information and
Communication, over 70 percent of home users have broadband
connections. “The difference is that in places like the Pacific Rim
and Canada, governments are providing broadband incentives,” says
Andy King, who runs Web research and consulting firm Web Site
Optimization, where he compiles a monthly “Bandwidth Report” on
the state of consumer Internet access.
In the world of PC Magazine readers, broadband uptake actually
rivals that of South Korea; it reached 75 percent in June of 2003. But
that still leaves 25 percent of you in the dial-up doldrums. Then
there are others who already use broadband but are unhappy with
their particular services. For all of you looking to install a new
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
broadband connection, or to rewhatever is available.
place an existing one, we proOur survey should help you
To keep up with our ongoing coverage of high-speed
vide an in-depth study of
choose a service provider. We
Internet connections, visit www.pcmag.com/broadband.
today’s market, wherein we test
received nearly 10,000 respons9 leading broadband services
es from current broadband
and roll out our recent reader survey results on the service and users, touching on satellite and fixed wireless links as well as
reliability of 19 popular broadband Internet service providers. cable and DSL. Nineteen broadband ISPs have received at least
(You’ll also find results for the 9 most popular dial-up ISPs and 50 responses each, the minimum needed for statistically reliable
a look at cheap ISPs that can save you money while you ponder results. The survey’s questions extend well beyond how satisgoing for speed.)
fied readers are with their connection types and ISPs; they also
American broadband uptake is growing steadily. The number include setup time, installation costs, and monthly fees.
of broadband users increased 0.83 percentage points in June
We wanted to add a personal perspective to this aggregate
alone, the largest jump since Nielsen//NetRatings first started data, which is why we’ve done some hands-on testing of nine bigtracking the market in October 1999. “By this time next year,” name broadband ISPs. In eight houses across the country, we orsays King, “50 percent of all American Internet users will have dered, installed, and used four DSL services (including AOL for
Broadband and Verizon) and four cable services (including ComOf the competing forms of broadband access, cable services cast, EarthLink, and Optimum Online). For Cox, which does best
have achieved the broadest penetration. According to Ipsos-In- overall on our survey, we were unable to find a household willsight, nearly 61 percent of American broadband users have cable ing to install the service within our time constraints.
connections; 36 percent use DSL, and the rest use satellite, fixedIn each of our test households, we ran speed tests, examined
point wireless, ISDN, T1, or other forms of access. Among PC bundled software, and ran the ruler over each company’s techMagazine readers, as of June, 67 percent of broadband sub- support operation. We completed a tech-support script that inscribers say they used cable and 30 percent say they used DSL. volved disabling certain parts of a service and calling the comPC Magazine readers with cable are slightly more satisfied than pany for solutions to the fabricated problems. Such experiences
those with DSL, and this year, three of the five Readers’ Choice aren’t necessarily indicative of the average user’s experiences with
broadband ISPs are cable providers. A fourth, EarthLink, offers these services, but they do give some added insight into what it’s
both cable and DSL. Generally, cable users perceive their con- like to set up and go online with a broadband connection.
nections as being faster, with fewer service interruptions. InterThere’s only one area where we can’t be much help: Accordestingly, however, among surveyed users still stuck dialing up, ing to our June survey, 7 percent of our readers live in areas
DSL seems to have more name recognition. When asked what where broadband services are still not available. But if you’re
sort of broadband service they’d choose, 33 percent say DSL, ver- relatively close to civilization, we can tell you what you need to
sus just 16 percent for cable. But another third tell us they’d take know about the American broadband market.
AOL for Broadband
With AOL for Broadband DSL, $54.95 per month.
America Online Inc., www.aol.com.
The secret of America Online’s
success seems to be loyalty, or
maybe inertia; AOL for Broadband users
have been with the ISP for an average of
4.8 years—mostly on dial-up. It may be
that subscribers are used to AOL’s proprietary interface, or they’re hooked on
the community features, or perhaps they
don’t want to change e-mail addresses.
AOL for Broadband has exclusive highbandwidth content, including streaming
music and video. It also adds enhanced
parental controls, server-side pop-up and
spam blocking, an available firewall utility,
and seven e-mail accounts per customer,
with storage space for each limited to
1,000 new messages, 550 old, and 550 sent.
Note, however, that the accounts use proprietary (non-SMTP, non-POP) protocols,
incompatible with third-party clients.
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Although the broadband offering im- day delivery). You can connect the DSL
proves on AOL dial-up’s dismal Readers’ modem via USB or Ethernet, and it took
Report Card grade of E, readers give AOL us just 5 painless minutes to set up the
for Broadband only a C-, with a worse- hardware and 10 to install the software,
than-average likelihood to recommend it. thanks to straightforward and helpful
This may be driven by AOL’s worse-than- documentation.
average score for connection reliability—
Signing up for an account was simple,
a fatal flaw in the “always on” world of and within 15 minutes of starting we had
broadband—shared by only 2 out of 9 our first e-mail.
dial-up services and 2 of
the 18 other broadband
services on our survey.
AOL for Broadband offers DSL, cable, and satellite service. We tested
with DSL. (You can also
add AOL for Broadband
to an existing broadband
account for $9.95 per
month.) Although AOL
offers paid, in-home installation, it costs $130; we
chose AOL’s Free Quick
AOL’s New Mail box holds 1,000 messages—and 1 ad.
Setup Kit (with a 5- to 7-
Likelihood to recommend
Length of time with provider
AOL for Broadband (98)
AT&T Broadband (551)
BellSouth (398)
Cable One (57)
Charter (456)
Comcast (1,721)
Cox (792)
DirecWay (78)
EarthLink (492)
Insightbb.com (69)
Mediacom Online (76)
MSN (78)
Optimum Online (349)
Qwest (63)
RCN (79)
Road Runner (1,436)
SBC Yahoo! (808)
Verizon (524)
Connection reliability
Connection speed
Adelphia (382 responses)
A Significantly better than
C Average
B Significantly worse than
Technical support
Customer support
Overall satisfaction
E-mail service
Readers’ Report Card grade
AOL (367)
AT&T Worldnet (347)
BellSouth (58)
EarthLink (398)
Juno (67)
MSN (193)
NetZero (112)
Prodigy (51)
SBC Yahoo! Dial (76)
GREEN text denotes Readers’ Choice. A dash indicates that we do not have enough survey data to give the company a
score. * On a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is best. ** Includes time with dial-up AOL.
Everything worked as promised. AOL
wouldn’t commit to specific speeds, but
our tests showed download speeds ten
times as fast as dial-up and upload speeds
close to five times as fast. Tech-support
calls were answered quickly, and the techs
understood our questions. Resolving
them was another matter; it took four 5- to
10-minute calls to fix one minor problem.
Note that we reviewed AOL 8.0, but by
the time you read this AOL 9.0 Optimized
should be available, and it will include
improved spam filtering and an antivirus
scanner (for more information about
AOL 9.0, see our First Looks review on
page 33).—Charles Rodriguez
Readers’ Choice
BROADBAND: BellSouth *, Cox, EarthLink, Insightbb.com *, Road Runner
DIAL-UP: AT&T Worldnet, EarthLink
ore than 13,000 PC Magazine readers completed our June 2003 survey
on user satisfaction with ISPs.
In general, respondents are much more satisfied
with broadband than dial-up—especially with
broadband’s connection speed. But readers sent
a clear message: Broadband costs too much. The
average score of 6.0 for satisfaction with rates (on
a scale from 1 to 10) is very low, though unchanged
from our 2002 survey.
All other average broadband scores are down
slightly from last year. Satisfaction with connection
reliability has dropped the most, from 8.6 in 2002 to
7.7. This appears to be at least partly due to a honeymoon effect. This year, we noticed that the average
score for overall satisfaction is 8.3 among those who
have had broadband for one to three months; the
number gradually drops to 7.8 among those who have
had high-speed connections for more than six years.
For statistically reliable results, we report only on
ISPs that received at least 50 responses. To calculate each ISP’s standing on each measure, we use a
statistical t-test to compare the ISP’s score against
the average of all ISPs’ scores and determine whether
the difference is significant at a 95 percent confidence level. We derive the Readers’ Report Card by
assigning each ISP point values for the eight tabulated measures and converting the result to a grade;
A- or better gets our Readers’ Choice award.
* Not reviewed.
Charter Pipeline
$29.99 to $49.99 per month; setup, $49.95 plus modem.
Charter Communications, www.chartercom.com.
Our readers give the no-frills cable
broadband ISP Charter a C on this
year’s ISP survey, with an average score in
every category. Charter offers a basic service, with little in the way of added features beyond a simple spam-blocking utility. There’s no antivirus software, parental
controls, firewall, or pop-up blocker, and
you get a modest five e-mail accounts
with 10MB of storage space apiece. Interestingly, Charter outranks AOL for Broadband on the survey, though its only
advantages over AOL are on the key ques-
tion of connection reliability and on “likelihood to recommend.” In both cases,
readers give it an average score.
In testing, we were pleased with the
Charter Pipeline cable modem service—eventually. Access speeds were respectable, and because we agreed to install the service ourselves, we paid only
$11 for the first month. Unfortunately, it
took us a week longer than promised to
get the service up and running. A technician dropped off the modem and a selfinstallation kit, but after we hooked up
the modem and followed the included directions, we couldn’t get connected. Despite a 90-minute telephone call, Char-
Our contributors: Cade Metz is a senior writer for PC Magazine. Edward Mendelson, Winn L. Rosch, and M. David Stone are contributing editors. Carol A.
Mangis is a senior editor and Erik Rhey is a copy editor of PC Magazine. Charles Rodriguez is the product testing manager at PC Magazine Labs. John
Delaney is a frequent contributor. Associate editor Sean Carroll and PC Magazine Labs project leader Neil J. Rubenking were in charge of this story.
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
ter’s tech support couldn’t diagnose the
problem remotely. Charter scheduled a
second technician to visit, but we had to
wait a week for him to arrive. The company did knock a week’s worth of fees off
the second month’s bill. When the tech
arrived, he made a quick diagnosis—a
faulty modem. Modem replaced, we had
everything working in minutes, at download speeds ranging from 831 to 886 Kbps.
Our technical-support experiences
were, on the whole, pain-free. Even during
that initial hour and a half we spent on the
phone, the technician was calm, diligent,
and polite. The company also performed
reasonably well on our planned techsupport testing.—CM
With Comcast Cable TV, $42.95 per month;
otherwise $57.95. Modem extra. Comcast Corp.,
Speed alone doesn’t satisfy our
readers. Despite above-average
throughput, respectable connectivity, and
relatively low rates, Comcast’s report card
grade cannot overcome worse-than-average scores for overall satisfaction, service
(both customer and technical-support),
and other key measures. In fact, Comcast
customers’ satisfaction with pricing is
worse than average, although this is the
third-lowest in price among services reviewed. (Compare this with Cox’s betterthan-average price satisfaction, for a service costing $7 more each month.) Value
seems to be more important than cost.
Comcast offers two levels of residential
service. We tested with the standard
High-Speed Internet, which offers speeds
of up to 1.5 Mbps down and 256 Kbps up,
seven e-mail addresses (10MB storage
apiece), and 25MB of Web storage. The
service also includes spam blocking and
McAfee Personal Firewall but no parental
control or pop-up blocking.
We opted for $49 professional installation instead of the self-installation kit. Alas,
no one asked whether we had a cable connection available. When the installer
showed up, he said he wasn’t supposed to
fish wires through walls, and we’d have to
make a separate appointment for that—at
$40 an hour. Then, thankfully, he fished
the wires anyway. While this tech saved
our installation from disaster, the original
failure to check that we were cable-ready
may be the sort of problem that prompts
our readers to give the ISP worse-than-average scores for service.
With hardware connected, setup’s a
no-brainer. The installer entered the user
name, an initial password, and a few other
details into the Comcast setup routine.
The routine took care of everything else,
without making too many annoying
changes to the system: It added a Comcast icon to the desktop, created an e-mail
account in Microsoft Outlook Express
6.0, added several entries to the Favorites
in Internet Explorer, and changed the
standard icon at the right side of the IE
menu bar to a Comcast icon.
Our tests showed appropriate throughputs—roughly 90 percent of claimed
Download this table at
Broadband ISPs
y YES o NO
AOL for
Road Runner SBC Yahoo!
Service type
Setup cost
Up to $9.95
Up to $25
Monthly fee
Broadband modem
For purchase
$57.95 ($42.95
with cable
For purchase
or rent
$49.95 ($39.95 $41.95
with cable
For purchase
or rent
$49.95 ($44.95 $44.95
with cable
$39.95 (or
$29.95 a month
for 1 year)
$34.95 ($29.95
with long
y (on server)
y (on server)
y (on server)
y (utility)
y (on server)
y (on server)
y (on server)
y (on server)
y (utility)
y (utility)
y (on server)**
y (on server)**
y (utility)
y (utility)
y (utility)
y (on server)
y (on server)
y (on server)
y (utility)**
Free spam blocking
Free antivirus
Free parental control
y (on server)
y (on server)
Free popup blocking
Free personal firewall
y (utility)
User can opt not to use branded o
y (utility)
E-mail accounts included
Web-based e-mail
interface available
POP3 access available
Storage per mailbox
Main, 25MB;
others, 10MB
No official
No official
Up to 10 Mbps 2 Mbps
384 Kbps–
6 Mbps
128–384 Kbps
Up to 1.5 Mbps
2,100 messages 10MB
Home page included
ISP-supplied page-building tools y
Storage amount for home page 20MB
Static IP address available
10MB per
Claimed download speed
No official
No official
256 Kbps–
1.5 Mbps
128 Kbps
1.5 Mbps
1.5–3 Mbps
256 Kbps
256 Kbps
Claimed upload speed
Up to 1 Mbps
GREEN denotes Readers’ Choice. * There is typically a restriction on free modems, such as a requirement to return them if service is canceled.
N/A—Not applicable: The product does not have this feature.
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
384 Kbps
** Via the included MSN 8 software.
Up to 128 Kbps
What kind of access do you use?
33.6K modem or slower
If broadband were available in
your area, would you get it?
56K modem
Cable modem
If you can get broadband,
why don’t you?
I don’t need it
Wireless local loop
Percent on broadband:
Percentages may not add up to 100 because of rounding.
speeds, confirming our readers’ impression of good throughput. And tech support
did better on our staged problems, answering calls quickly, understanding our
questions, and fixing each of our problems
in less than 10 minutes.—M. David Stone
Cox High Speed Internet
With Cox Cable Television, $39.95 per month;
otherwise $49.95. Cox Communications Inc.,
Number one with a bullet, Cox
High Speed Internet shoots to the
top of our broadband ISP ratings in its
first appearance. Like Road Runner, another Readers’ Choice–winning cable service, Cox proves that it’s not the extras
and add-ons that make a service great; it’s
the basics—reliability, service, connectivity, and speed.
Like Road Runner, Cox’s offering is
sparse: no antispam or antivirus tool, no
parental controls, no pop-up blocking, no
I have a bad impression
of the service
I want it but haven’t
gotten around to it yet
It costs too much
Multiple responses accepted.
firewall. Its seven e-mail addresses per account are backed by just 10MB each of
storage space. One bonus: Those planning
to create large personal Web
pages will enjoy the generous 70MB Cox provides.
We had considerable
trouble finding a qualified,
remotely located staff member or volunteer who could
try installing Cox’s service. Cable—inherently restricted to the geographic
areas where a cable company is located—
is always a bit of a challenge for testing.
Even opening the field to cooperative
(read daring) readers who’d let us use
their systems for testing didn’t turn up
anyone qualified who did not already
have a high-speed service.
We wanted to experience installation,
service, and support without getting preferential treatment, so calling the company
for help wasn’t an option. Near press time,
Where’s the Butterfly?
After a huge advertising push for Microsoft’s MSN broadband
service, readers might be surprised not to see MSN for Broadband reviewed here along with AOL and SBC Yahoo!, two similar
ISPs. Toward the end of the testing phase of this story, Microsoft
announced that MSN for Broadband was being restructured.
Where previously MSN was your ISP and main point of contact for broadband
service (it collected your payments), now MSN is included as an optional client
and service for other ISPs, which will serve as your main point of contact (and
collect the money). Subscribers still get the browser MSN Explorer, with strong
parental controls (including e-mail– and IM–blocking abilities) and improved
spam filtering. For more on MSN 8.0, see our online review at www.pcmag.com/
however, we found a test household. By
the time you read this, we’ll have each
posted its experiences in an updated version of this review online at www.pcmag
.com/broadband.—Sean Carroll
Cable, $41.95 per month; DSL, $49.95 per month.
EarthLink Inc., www.earthlink.com.
Once an alternative to giant ISPs,
EarthLink has itself become a Goliath—a well-liked Goliath. Readers’ evaluation of the broadband service has shot
from a C+ last year to an A-.
The only areas where EarthLink scores no better than
average are satisfaction with
rates and with connection
speed. The rates score is
hard to explain, as EarthLink’s rates seem competitive for both
DSL (the more common EarthLink setup)
and cable (a newer service).
EarthLink broadband service is available via DSL, cable, and even satellite. We
tested with cable. The service offers eight
e-mail addresses and 10MB of storage per
box, as well as a proprietary pop-up
blocker, an antispam program, and parental
controls. EarthLink also offers backup dialup numbers, as well as significant discounts for the first six months of service.
EarthLink reels you in with free installation and modem, contacting a local
cable or phone company for you. Beyond
that, you’re at the mercy of local
providers for installation. It took us about
a week to get connected after placing the
order, and installation took an hour.
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
How much time do you spend
online at home?
What kind of home network
do you have?
Average hours per month
Wired 34%
Wireless 34%
Wired 15%
Wireless 5%
Why did you decide to get broadband?
Faster access to the Web
None 32%
None 80%
File downloading or file sharing
Total respondents with home networks: 56%
Always-on connection to the Internet
Reader survey scores
Faster access to e-mail
Freeing up or getting rid of a phone line
Sharing (networking) an Internet connection
56K modem
Home office/home-based business
Streaming music and video
Online gaming
Hosting a Web site
On a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is best.
N/A—Not applicable: We did not ask dial-up users this question.
Provided or requested by my employer
Multiple responses accepted.
justified, we found room
for improvement. You can
get 24/7 customer service
via phone, e-mail, or live
chat. E-mail questions can
take up to 24 hours to be
answered. After wading
through a labyrinth of
Touch-Tone menus and
holding an average of 10
minutes, we found the support people friendly and
helpful overall.
EarthLink’s users can configure spam blocking online.
The one exception
came when we called with
(Cable installation is quicker if you a problem viewing Web page photos
already have cable TV; at our testing (which we had turned off in Internet Exhousehold, we didn’t.)
plorer’s options). The tech-support perOnce connected, we found EarthLink’s son first suggested it was “a Microsoft
speeds at or near the advertised maximum issue.” Then she instructed us to reset
of 1,628 Kbps download and 368 upload. our defaults and enjoined us not to reAlthough EarthLink’s claims of “award- configure our browser again. Our other
winning” customer service seem mostly tech-support calls were more successful,
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
though a question about Web hosting was
relegated by tech support to a salesperson.—Erik Rhey
Optimum Online
With Cablevision service, $44.95 per month; otherwise, $49.95. CSC Holdings Inc., www.optonline.net.
Optimum Online’s short fall from
the pinnacle of our survey chart
can be blamed on rising prices and declining service, the only areas where it
doesn’t receive better-than-average
scores from our readers. Last year’s only
A+ was based on scores consistently better than average; this year the support
scores drop to average, and satisfaction
with the rates is worse than average. This
is not surprising, given the service’s
major price increases, but it is unfortunate: Last year 37 percent of the surveyed
Optimum subscribers ranked price
among the top three reasons for choosing
the service—the highest such percentage
Switching ISPs: Easing the Pain
ccording to an old proverb, “A move is as bad as
a fire.” Your furniture gets damaged, possessions
get lost, and you lose time getting organized.
Moving to a new ISP isn’t nearly as disruptive, but it’s seldom
problem-free. Here are some suggestions for making the
transition as painless as possible.
n If possible, keep your old ISP account open for an extra
month to catch mail sent to your old account and to transfer
mail or files left on your old ISP’s servers. If you’re switching
from dial-up to broadband, remember that Windows lets you
dial out through your modem to your dial-up ISP without
switching off your broadband connection. (You generally
can’t access two broadband accounts simultaneously.)
n While you can also download your e-mail to your local
machine, you won’t have access to the servers where your
ISP stores it once you close your account. Before you close
the account, forward all mail to your new address—and
don’t forget to forward sent mail also. If you had your own
Web page on your old ISP’s server, use your browser’s File |
Save As... menu to store the site on your system, or import
your site into a Web site editor.
n If your old and new ISPs use POP3-based e-mail, continue
to use the in-box you already have, but tell your mail program to create a new account for your new address. In
Outlook Express, use Tools | Accounts | Add... to create a new
mail account; in Outlook, use Tools | E-mail Accounts | Add a
new e-mail account. Set the new account as the default.
Messages from your new account will go into your existing
mailbox, and you can delete the old account once it’s closed.
for any service in our 2002 survey.
Such troubles aside, Optimum Online
continues to please, with impressive
speed and a respectable range of services,
including server-side spam blocking and
antivirus and an optional pop-up–blocking utility, Panicware’s Pop-Up Stopper.
We went to Optimum’s Web site to
n Sending a change-of-address e-mail may seem like an
obvious step, but there are right and wrong ways to do it.
If you send out a notice to everyone you know, don’t
include multiple contacts in the To: or Cc: field; you’ll
broadcast e-mail addresses that people want kept private.
Put your new address in the To: field and your contacts’
addresses in the Bcc: field. To open the Bcc: field in Outlook
Express, when you compose your message, use the View
menu and add a check mark next to All Headers. In Outlook,
use the View menu and add a check next to Bcc: Field.
n Have your mail forwarded. A service like Re-route
(www.re-route.com) works with many ISPs to forward incoming messages from your own address to your new one.
You have to keep your old account open and paid up, and Reroute charges a monthly fee. With a Web mail–based service
like AOL or MSN, the cost may be justified. With POP3-based
services, you can get the same results free.
n If you’re changing your e-mail address, consider getting
one you’ll keep forever, either by starting your own domain
with a Web hosting service or by using a paid service like
Bigfoot (a “Bigfoot for Life” address, www.bigfoot.com) or
NetIdentity (www.netidentity.com). These give you an address for use with your current ISP or any future one.
n If you set up your own domain—say, Yourname.net—
choose a hosting service that includes multiple e-mail
addresses. To avoid spam, create a secret mail address you
give only to trusted contacts. Create other addresses for
filling in forms or posting in public. When these start getting
spam, disable them and create new ones.—Edward Mendelson
order the service, which includes a hardware and software starter kit. When we
tested, Optimum was offering free do-ityourself installation, free use of a cable
modem, and a discount for the first three
months, luring people in and getting
them hooked on the service’s speed.
Three days after placing our order, we
received the cable modem
and cables for USB or Ethernet connections. Installation is just a matter of
plugging cables in; anyone
who’s ever connected a
VCR can handle it. We
were up and running at
wicked speeds in just over
half an hour. Except for
one hitch, the experience
was flawless. And our
download speed consistently topped 5 Mbps.
Optimum Online’s setup is as easy as they come.
Our only difficulty
came in setting up our e-mail; we kept
getting an error message that our account
was not yet authorized. We called tech
support, and the tech was polite and
eager to help—but we had to explain the
situation twice before he understood the
problem. He said he’d have to register our
modem, which would take “24 to 72
hours.” By the next night, our mailbox
was available.—Carol A. Mangis
Road Runner
$44.95 per month. Road Runner/Time Warner Cable.
When everything else works,
even middle-of-the-road price
satisfaction (for middle-of-the-road pricing) won’t deter our readers from giving
a service thumbs-up. Road Runner, which
excels in every other field, has moved up
from an A- last year to a solid A, despite
a distinct lack of extras and add-ons.
The service offers only five e-mail ad-
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
dresses, with 5MB per box (the least
here) and just 5MB to 10MB of server
storage space for a personal Web page,
and it lacks pop-up–blocking and
parental-control software. Yet good
speed, reliability, and service seem to be
more than adequate compensation for
the shortfalls.
Testing the Road Runner cable service
in Tampa, via cable provider Bright
House Networks, we experienced quick
download speeds and friendly customer
support. But the service came with little
in the way of networking software, and
we were forced to jump through a few
hoops before getting it up and running.
Based on our readers’ more enthusiastic
scores for Road Runner, we think
our confusing and frustrating installation experience may have
been atypical.
When we ordered the service,
Bright House sent a technician to
do basic installation. He plugged
our new modem into a power outlet, split and connected our television
cable, and quickly tested the line. We were
given the choice of setting up our PC for
Cheap Dial-Up
ou may still have a dial-up account because you
don’t want to pay the higher cost of broadband or
you can’t even get high-speed access yet. Or you
may have dial-up as a backup—or a way to get
online when you’re on the road. Whatever your reason, as
you’re getting ready to pay your next $20 or $25 monthly
access bill, consider that a growing number of dial-up ISPs
offer low monthly rates for Internet access, and in some
cases they include one or more e-mail accounts, e-mail
storage space, and 24/7 technical support.
We signed up for three “cheap” services, each
under $7 a month. Although we uncovered a few
glitches and some restriction in the fine print, we
were generally pleased. All three services limit you
to a 5-hour session before your connection is terminated, and all reserve the right to terminate your
connection after 10 inactive minutes.
Subscribing was easy, typically taking less than 5
minutes. All the services support V.90 and V.92, the
fastest modem technologies currently available,
and provide more than a dozen local access numbers for our region, with thousands of access numbers nationwide.
In very informal testing, we timed a PCMag.com
home page load and downloaded a 1MB mail attachment from each Web mail service. Connection speeds
averaged 42 to 44 Kbps, and in each case we were able to
access our Web mail page within 35 seconds. It took an
average of 4 minutes to download the e-mail attachment
and 50 seconds to load PCMag.com.
Though not quite free, Access-4-Free was the least expensive service we tested. There is a $4.95 setup charge to
subscribe online (for an extra $5 you can subscribe by
phone). Each call to the 24/7 support line costs $5; support
via e-mail is free (we received a reply to an e-mailed question
within 20 minutes).
If you limit your connection time to 10 hours per month,
ongoing service is free, but once you go over, you’re charged
$1 per hour. When your connection fees hit $10 for the
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Internet access on our own, using Bright
House’s do-it-yourself installation kit, or
calling a second, more experienced technician to set it up for us. We opted
for the kit, but once the technician
departed, we realized he hadn’t left
it for us.
We drove to a Bright House office to pick up the two-CD kit, but
we still couldn’t complete the installation. The technician had failed
to make sure the modem was activated
and forgotten to leave our predefined
user name and password. We contacted
month (at 20 hours), you’re automatically granted Access-4Free Plus status—unlimited access for the rest of the month.
Despite the stated 10-minute restriction, we stayed inactively connected for an hour before being disconnected.
Access-4-Free includes one e-mail/Web mail account, with
5MB of mail storage space and a comprehensive Web mail
interface that lets you create mail folders and an address
book, forward messages, and customize spam-filtering
settings. (Access-4-Free.com. llllm )
For $5.95 a month, plus an $8 setup fee, Access4Less gives
you unlimited Internet access. Since it shares the same network and access number as Access-4-Free, we were not
surprised that the services also share
a Web mail interface. But Access4Less
provides two e-mail accounts, with
5MB of storage for each.
Signing up by phone costs an additional $5, and a technical-support call
(up to 20 minutes) costs $5 as well.
We called with a question and were
immediately connected to a support
tech. We let the connection sit idle for
35 minutes before our connection
was terminated. (Access4less.net.
lllmm )
As the name indicates, 650 Dial Up
costs $6.50 per month. It offers unlimited Internet access, five e-mail
accounts, and 10MB of storage (total). Tech phone support is
free (and toll-free), as is support via chat and e-mail. We
called to inquire about support for V.92 modems and were
told that 650 Dial Up supports them. But an answer to an
e-mail inquiry contradicted this.
The Web mail interface is about as basic as can be. A fourbutton control panel gives access to New Message, Back to
Mailbox/Refresh, Delete All, and Logout functions.
We maintained an inactive connection for 45 minutes
before being disconnected and never experienced a dropped
active connection. We like the multiple e-mail accounts and
free phone support, though the response to our V.92 query
made us wonder a bit about support quality. (650 Dial Up,
www.650dialup.com. lllmm )—John Delaney
How do you protect yourself online?
Antivirus software
Hardware firewall
Antispam software
Avoid opening unknown/
unsolicited e-mail
Not online enough to
need protection
Disconnect from the
Internet when not using it
Faith in my fellow humans
I was a victim of
identity theft
tech support both by phone and by Web;
although the reps were polite and ultimately helpful, they weren’t always quick.
Once we finally got online, our download
speeds were excellent, ranging from 1,859
to 1,972 Kbps.—CM
SBC Yahoo! DSL
Basic account, $29.95 per month; full-speed account,
$39.95. Yahoo! Inc. and SBC Internet Services.
SBC Yahoo! aims to be a major
player, with aggressive pricing for
basic DSL accounts (up to 384 Kbps for
downloads and 128 Kbps upstream). But
better-than-average reader satisfaction for
rates is not enough; the service racks up
four worse-than-average scores—for technical support, connection speed, e-mail
service, and likelihood to recommend.
All necessary gear (including a network interface card) comes free with a
one-year commitment. SBC Yahoo! supplies its own browser, messenger, and
parental-control software. It also provides 11 e-mail accounts, with an impressive 25MB of storage space for the main
mailbox and 10MB for each of the
others—the most any service offers. Still,
SBC Yahoo! gets a worse-than-average
score for satisfaction with e-mail service.
SBC Yahoo! actually solicited our testing household, with two representatives
calling in one month. When we finally said
“go,” SBC Yahoo! treated us to an automated thank-you call the next day and the
installation package one day after that.
SBC Yahoo! supplies an auto-run CD
with instructions to install the DSL line
filter, connect the terminal adapter to the
line and computer, and begin. The one bit
of trouble—a modem light that wouldn’t
light—was solved by the on-disc troubleshooter. After more than half an hour of
software installation (and 125MB of hard
drive space), the program let us choose a
user name and password, and we were
online. Transmission speed was disappointing—about 152 Kbps downstream.
One downside: You must install the
SBC Yahoo! browser software to get started (once you’re online, your old browser
and e-mail still work). Uninstalling the
SBC Yahoo! software is a step-by-step
nightmare. Tech support was fast, friendly, and wrong. The rep tried to be helpful,
but his depth of training (or authority)
was thin and he had to make referrals for
simple issues.
One big annoyance: Just 5 minutes after
the first log-on, the first pop-up instantmessage ad appeared—advertising a popup blocker. After we ditched all the SBC
Yahoo! software, we found the service
much more satisfactory.—Winn L. Rosch
Verizon DSL
$34.95 per month. Verizon, www.verizon.com.
Verizon, like SBC Yahoo!, aims for
cost-conscious consumers. The
phone company comes a bit closer to getting it right. Both ISPs score better than
average for customer satisfaction with
pricing. But unlike SBC, Verizon manages
to do an acceptable job on just about
everything else, scoring just one “worse
than average” to SBC’s four. Throughputconscious users beware, however: The
one low score is for connection speed.
This largely unexceptionable showing
I am sure none
of these happened
I spread an attack
I couldn’t
get online
Sensitive data
was released
I’m not sure whether
any of these happened
Faith in a higher power
I sent a virus hoax
Antispyware software
Data was destroyed
Software firewall
Have any of the following happened
within the past year?
puts Verizon squarely in the middle of the
pack, with a C, up from last year’s C-. The
service provides users with a broad package of tools, including an antispam utility,
antivirus and parental-control tools, and a
personal firewall, most of the benefits
coming through the included MSN 8 software. Nine e-mail accounts with 30MB of
storage space each round out the offering.
Though we had some difficulty setting
up Verizon’s service, we found its download speeds fairly high—usually in the
low to mid 700s. (Our satisfaction here is
atypical, judging by our survey results.)
We paid a nonrefundable $12.95 in shipping and handling fees when we ordered
the installation package, but our first two
months of service were discounted to
$29.95 (the first month is free).
When the installation pack arrived at
our test home, three days after we ordered
them, we weren’t immediately able to access the Internet. The modem has two
means of connection to a PC—an Ethernet
port and a USB port—and though we were
connected via Ethernet cable, the service’s
software kept trying to access the modem
through the USB wireless card installed on
our machine. The second machine we
tried lacked the minimum hardware to run
the service. We were successful on a third
machine, but only after again calling tech
support for help.
That first time we called, at 7:00 on a
weekday evening, we had to hold 30 minutes before a rep picked up the phone.
When we called on three other occasions
to test tech support, the reps picked up
more quickly and answered our questions without much delay.—CM E
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
Innovative standards, technologies,
strategies, and products will push
networking—for the home as well as
n the not-so-distant future,
many of us will make regular
video phone calls to farflung friends using our TVs.
We’ll stream video through
the air of our homes, glitch-free. Businesses will meld IP telephony seamlessly into enterprise-level applications and
will have completely automated, intelligent storage systems.
Despite a few bleak years for the tech
industry, the future of the networking
sector is bright. Here
See what’s on the horizon in the
following categories of networking.
114 Home Networking
115 Wireless
116 Security
117 Storage
118 Enterprise
is a look at what we
Our contributors: Les Freed is
a contributing editor of PC
Magazine. Craig Ellison is the
director of operations at PC
Magazine Labs. Matthew D.
Sarrel, CISSP, is a PC Magazine
Labs technical director. Leon
Erlanger is a freelance writer.
Associate editor Davis D. Janowski
and PC Magazine Labs project
leader Oliver Kaven, CCNA, were
in charge of this story.
plore how products,
can expect in home
and enterprise networking, wireless
technology, security,
and storage. We exstandards, and management strategies
will move these categories forward in the
next year or so—
and several years
down the road.
the enterprise—forward. Here’s a look
at the changes in store.
Home Networking
TVs, stereos, and PCs will no longer simply coexist; they will communicate.
n the next year or two, home networks, once reserved for
alpha-male geeks and work-at-home computer professionals,
will have moved into the mainstream. Take a walk through any
consumer electronics store and you’ll likely find an aisle
devoted to home-networking equipment. And broadband providers
are supplying more innovative products directly to consumers.
Most of today’s and tomorrow’s first-time home networkers are
just looking for the simplest, most effective way to share resources
with family members, including broadband connections.
“All-in-one home networks in a box, provided by cable companies and produced by manufacturers like Motorola, Netgear, SMC,
and Toshiba, are a real driver and growing trend in home networking,” says Aaron Vance, industry analyst with Synergy
Research Group. This type of product integrates a cable modem
broadband router, a firewall, and now often a print server and
wireless home gateway in one device.
Once they’ve set up this basic box, they’ll be ready to do more
with their home LANs, says Vance, and products await them when
they’re ready to take the logical next step. After years of hearing
about media convergence, we’re finally starting to see some real, live
convergence products, such as the TiVo Series II Digital Video
Recorder, the Gateway Connected DVD Player, and a wide range of
media hubs. These devices extend the use of the LAN beyond
computing and into the world of home entertainment.
Some consumer electronics manufacturers aren’t so sure that
current LAN technology has enough horsepower for home media
convergence—especially in terms of home entertainment. Though
wired Ethernet provides ample bandwidth, the difficulty and
expense of running it through walls make a convincing argument for
going wireless, especially for those new to home networking.
Start-up Magis Networks has developed a proprietary wireless
system, using the same 5-GHz band as the standards-based 802.11a
wireless technology, for streaming media. It has enough bandwidth
to transport several simultaneous HDTV streams. Magis, backed by
strategic investors like AOL Time Warner, Hitachi, Motorola, and
Sanyo (some of whom have also invested in 802.11a) could lead to
divergence in home networking rather than convergence.
Products such as the new Philips iPronto—a combination Web
browser, universal remote control, and media guide—help bridge
the gap between PCs and consumer electronics. The iPronto uses
802.11b wireless technology to connect to your modem and then
the Internet to download real-time programming data.
Regardless of which road networking technology takes, there
will be no real convergence without content. The desire to move
content throughout the house (or, dare we suggest, have it follow
you around the house) is what will drive ever-larger numbers of
people to invest in networked homes.
“Hollywood doesn’t even know the PC exists,” says Bradley
Morse, VP of marketing at D-Link. “Convergence isn’t something the
PC industry can drive by itself.” But Hollywood will have to deal
with the software and licensing issues, he says, adding that Sony,
with its connections to the PC, movie, record, and home entertainment equipment industries, is likely to lead the way.—Les Freed
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
In a few years more
“The home network will become the backbone
for delivering broadband services, entertainment, Internet sharing, home controls, gaming,
and much more,” says Victor Tsao, vice president and general manager of Linksys. “New
homes will offer home network setups just like
carpet upgrades today.” Tsao credits the explosive growth to the rapid increase in broadband
availability coupled with cheaper, simpler
home networking gear.
Analyst Michael Wolf, of the research firm
In-Stat/MDR, is excited by several trends
within the home-networking space. “Gaming
consoles will be the first networked entertainment appliance for many home network
users,” he says. The next step for PlayStation 2
and Xbox is for them to become “centralized
entertainment servers,” because they already
have powerful processors and ample hard
drive space—though in the case of the PlayStation 2, the hard drives won’t arrive in the
U.S. until the first quarter of 2004. “The ability
to manage music, video distribution, and
instant communication will be available
through these devices,” Wolf says.
In addition, the emergence of low-cost,
user-friendly, Web-enabled wireless network
cameras could have a big effect. Wolf said he
believes products like the D-Link i2eye Broadband Videophone and the soon-to-arrive Sony
eyeToy, which connect to a TV for videoconferencing, have great potential. “Long-distance
relatives, resource-strapped small businesses,
and others will be able to communicate using
videoconferencing,” he says, “and they won’t
even need a computer!”
Fully managed wireless networks and streamed HDTV are not far away.
oll a dozen experts about the future of wireless networking technology and you’ll get at least a dozen answers. But
it’s a safe bet they’ll all agree that wireless networks in the
near future will be based on 802.11 technologies.
802.11 refers to a group of wireless networking standards: 802.11b,
802.11a, and 802.11g (in order of IEEE ratification). The public began
embracing 802.11b products in 2000, and current estimates show
that over 40 million devices have been deployed worldwide. With
the ratification in June of the higher-speed 802.11g specification, we
have already begun to see products that combine all three
standards. This should allow for universal connectivity and make
wireless networking less confusing and more popular.
Intel, with its massive $300 million Centrino ad campaign and
somewhat dated technology, arrived late to the wireless party.
Despite this, a welcome result of the Centrino hype is an understanding that wireless technology for the masses has finally arrived.
Most notebook manufacturers are now including built-in wireless
networking, sometimes even in their lowest-cost models.
A fundamental shift is in store for wireless LANs in the business
world. “The market is going to move really quickly to embrace fullblown managed systems from companies like Airespace, Aruba
Wireless Networks, and Trapeze Networks—and away from standalone access points,” says industry analyst Aaron Vance of Synergy Research Group. “Now that ‘g’ is ratified and security has been
addressed, management is going to become the real issue.”
For the home, entertainment industry giants Philips and Sony
are developing ways to stream high-definition video wirelessly
over short distances using 802.11a technology, which should appear
within a year. People could send media from their home PCs to
their HDTVs, stream high-definition video from wireless-enabled
sources, and surf the Web from the comfort of their recliners.
Key to this and other uses of wireless technology is the 802.11e
specification to improve quality of service (QoS). This will boost
performance for streaming audio and video and will spur development of more Voice over IP (VoIP) devices. By prioritizing audio
and video packets over regular data, 802.11e will smooth out the
timing and order in which these packets are received, ensuring
fewer glitches when consumers listen to or watch streamed media.
Industry experts expect the 802.11e standard to be ratified in the
second quarter of 2004.
Yet another forthcoming standard, 802.11i, promises improved
security for wireless networks; ratification isn’t likely until early
2004. The 802.11i task group is focused on authentication, encryption, and message integrity. Meanwhile, the Wi-Fi Alliance has
adopted many of 802.11i’s key elements as an interim security standard named WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access), which is available now.
The Wi-Fi Alliance felt that the well-publicized weakness of WEP
(Wired Equivalent Privacy) was preventing widespread adoption
of wireless networking in corporations.
The final 802.11i standard will add AES (Advanced Encryption
Standard), which was approved in May 2002 for the federal
government’s use to protect sensitive data. Its long key length will
make it virtually uncrackable, though many legacy products will be
unable to support it.—Craig Ellison
In a few years more
The future looks bright for standards-based
wireless technologies beyond 802.11—like
those based on the 802.16a standard. Ratified
in January 2003, 802.16a covers metropolitanarea wireless networking in the 2- to 11-GHz
spectrum. Backing the standard is the WiMAX
(Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave
Access) trade alliance, composed of industry
leaders (www
Products based
on 802.16 will be
deployed either
in a point-topoint bridging
mode for providing wireless
between ISPs
or in a point-tomultipoint mode,
either as an alternative or as a complement to
cable/DSL for last-mile broadband access.
Don’t look for Ultra Wideband (UWB) products anytime soon, but in a few years this
protocol could spur development of a whole
new range of short-distance wireless devices
by eliminating multipath interference caused
by 802.11 networks, cell phones, PCS phones,
cordless phones, and even microwave ovens.
Unlike existing 802.11 technologies, which
transmit in relatively narrow channels, UWB
devices transmit very short, low-powered
pulses of energy over a broad frequency range.
Since the transmitted pulses are so short,
multipath interference is virtually eliminated.
The military has used UWB for years for secure data communication. And this year the FCC
presented a demonstration of potential uses of
UWB technology that included multiple HDTV
streams in the presence of all the above-mentioned forms of interference, and it worked.
Log on to PC Magazine’s home page
at www.pcmag.com
for more reviews, news, and opinions.
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
New regulations and threats will force companies to rethink their ideas about IT.
lthough the tech industry has languished in the past few
years, recent events, threats, and legislation have buoyed
the area of information security. The events of September
11, 2001, highlighted the importance of business continuity planning.
Code Red and Nimda demonstrated vulnerabilities in commonly
used products. And violations of privacy and shareholder trust have
led to increased government regulation. These factors have resulted
in widespread calls for increased accountability among senior
management throughout the corporate world.
This is in turn pushing network and information security in new
directions. The recent California State Bill 1386—among many other
state and federal acts and laws—will have far-reaching consequences
for IT departments and networking in general. For example, Bill 1386
in particular protects California residents’ personal information and
requires any organization with such data in computerized format to
disclose security breaches. This law is likely to foster similar legislation throughout the nation.
The burden to comply with or at least track new government
requirements falls on the shoulders of IT administrators. They must
ensure that access control, information security, and audit systems
are built into the applications and processes their companies use.
And many organizations have also begun to require certification for
information security professionals, most commonly CISSP certification from (ISC)2 (www.isc2.org) or GIAC certification from The SANS
Institute (www.giac.org).
As the frequency of information theft or vandalism increases, so
does the scope of responsibility in protecting a network. More and
more organizations are establishing the role of a chief security
officer (CSO) or chief information security officer (CISO), responsible for managing risk for an entire corporation. That role should
eventually carry as much clout as other executive offices.
The need for centralized security management tools and reporting capabilities is spawning many new and diverse management
products. Application-level filtering products (for Web, e-mail,
instant messaging) will be used more widely to track employee
activities and will be crucial for auditing the flow of corporate
information to protect corporate assets and to adhere to government regulations.
While government regulations and privacy issues are shaping
trends at the highest levels of information security, many specific
threats will remain unchanged.
“As a security professional, my number-one issue is the vulnerabilities that ship with commercial software,” says Bruce Brody, CISO
for the Office of Veterans Affairs. “There’s not enough time in the
day for the amount of patching, hardening, and configuration management that we face in an enterprise of more than 200,000 users.”
Dealing with such vulnerabilities will remain an IT burden for
organizations of all sizes. Also high on Brody’s list of future perils for
network administrators is the possibility of attack from outside an
organization. “Making sure we know the external boundary of our
enterprise very well, determining how many connections there are
into and out of the enterprise, reducing the number of gateways, and
hardening and centrally managing the few gateways that will remain
in our enterprise are key,” he says.—Matthew D. Sarrel
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
In a few years more
“Think of climbing Mount Everest and being at
sea level right now, and then when you reach
the summit, you find that wasn’t your objective at all, because you still have to go to the
moon.” To Bruce Brody, CISO for the Office of
Veterans Affairs, this analogy epitomizes the
future of network security—a constantly
evolving uphill battle.
Authentication and identity management will
play a huge role. As every device becomes part
of an interconnected mesh network, verifying
that a device and its user are what and who
they claim to be becomes paramount. Unique
identifiers will be built into hardware and software for authentication and digital-rights management. Every device will probably include a
dedicated encryption processor, and most
network communications will be encrypted and
digitally signed. Centralization of security
controls and policies will be critical, and biometrics will become more commonplace. The
primary focus will shift from the network
perimeter to individual devices that require
application-layer security.
Ron Baklarz, CISO for the American Red
Cross, suggests that in five to ten years we still
will be facing many of the same threats: “If you
look at how the Internet has progressed over
the last six or seven years, you see many of the
same problems, only they’re magnified 1,000
times because people have gotten better at
being malicious—a trend that will grow even
more worrisome, because e-mail as a vector
(and the killer app of our day) remains so
tantalizingly attractive to hackers.”
Intelligent systems and cheaper SANs will help businesses of all sizes.
ata storage has become both a critical corporate asset and
a major IT management headache. Companies have seen
their storage needs double or triple annually as they
digitize documents and rely increasingly on messaging, e-commerce,
and rich media applications. The challenge hasn’t been acquiring
storage, which is inexpensive, but managing all the growth so that IT
knows what storage is at hand and can protect it and allocate it
to users and applications that need it.
Many large corporations have turned to Fibre Channel SANs
(storage area networks), moving stored data from their servers to
a single pooled corporate resource. Unfortunately, the hardware’s
cost and complexity have kept it out of reach for many small and
medium-size businesses. But an up-and-coming technology called
Internet SCSI (iSCSI) will provide inexpensive SANs to this market
segment, using the standard IP network and Ethernet cards, switches, and other network hardware they’re already familiar with.
Microsoft has just released an iSCSI driver for Windows, and
Intel’s latest gigabit Ethernet chipset provides iSCSI functions. “In
the next few years you’ll see lots of servers with on-board gigabit
Ethernet chipsets that provide native iSCSI support, giving small and
medium businesses iSCSI virtually for free,” says Robert Passmore, a
vice president of research firm Gartner.
Inexpensive ATA storage is also making a big splash in networks
of all sizes, working as an addition to tape backup solutions and
providing quick data recovery. Serial ATA (SATA), which promises
somewhat better performance and scalability than standard ATA, will
accelerate this trend. Many IT departments will run a two-stage
backup process that copies (referred to as a snapshot) data to
network-attached storage (NAS) or other ATA-based storage at least
once a day for quick retrieval, then makes a secondary backup on
tape, which may soon be used just for archiving purposes.
We can expect to see growth in applications such as storage
resource management (SRM), which helps IT managers see what
storage they have and how it’s being used. “Over the next few years,
SRM vendors will start to apply expert systems capability to tell you,
for example, exactly what caused a certain event,” Passmore says.
SRM developers include IBM, which acquired Trellisoft; EMC Corp.;
Veritas, which acquired Precise Software Solutions; and Tek-Tools.
Another management category, storage virtualization, lets IT
managers slice and dice storage at will, spanning logical volumes
across drives and storage devices without requiring manual
configuration of the storage hardware. Then IT managers can
apply backup, mirroring, and other functions to the virtual storage
pools. HP, IBM, and Veritas will be big players in this category.
Finally, information life cycle management will add true intelligence to storage management by moving data automatically from
primary to secondary storage and tape, based on detailed policies
that reflect business requirements. “Life cycle management applications will apply intelligence to know, for example, that such-and-such
data belongs to Finance, and Finance treats Excel files this way,” says
Steve Kenniston, senior analyst with the Enterprise Storage Group.
Most companies will continue to see their storage needs multiply,
but over the next few years they’ll get better technologies and tools
to tame the storage monster.—Leon Erlanger
In a few years more
If IT managers and manufacturers have their
way, storage will be just another highly
automated network component within the
next five years.
“It will be a lights-out operation,” says Robert
Passmore, a vice president of research for
Gartner. “You’ll have racks and racks of storage
managed by a very small, specialized team. The
fundamentals, such as backup, restore, performance optimization, and capacity expansion,
will happen automatically based on company
storage policies. The system will recognize, for
example, that a certain database needs more
storage and allocate quickly whatever that
application is authorized to use.”
Steve Kenniston, senior analyst for the Enterprise Storage Group, agrees. “The goal is to turn
IT into something resembling the phone company. In the future, department heads will say,
‘I need this level of service for that application
with instant recovery,’ and they’ll simply be
charged accordingly.” Data centers will be
equipped with racks and racks of blade servers,
all sharing a high-speed backplane and a giant
storage pool to provide the level of service each
department needs.
Kenniston continues: “Let’s say it’s midnight
and Finance needs to run a batch job to get endof-quarter numbers by morning; the necessary
processing power and storage can be allocated
accordingly.” When finished, the system can
reallocate some of those resources. HP, IBM,
Novell, Sun, and Veritas are a few of the companies working to make this a reality.
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
After years of anticipation, IP telephony and
Video over IP will finally make a big splash.
nterprise networking encompasses a wide spectrum of
applications and components, from backbone infrastructure
to an end user’s desk. Today the question is often not how
to expand the infrastructure but how to harness its full potential,
making it efficient, productive, and able to eke out some ROI. Yet
many companies are discovering that their existing architectures
can’t support new, more efficient applications.
“The data center remains a focal point for both development
efforts and concerns about bridging technology gaps,” says PierrePaul Allard, president of Cisco Systems Canada.
Security and network resilience are always of prime concern.
These depend on firewalls and intrusion prevention system
technologies, which must be engineered for greater flexibility. Then
comes the need for more innovative, distributed storage solutions to
cope with the growing mountains of data.
Many companies still use network, database, and application
designs based on archaic centralized mainframe models. (Imagine
being required to log on to an application server to work on an Excel
spreadsheet.) True scalability—and productivity—requires a decentralized model that distributes such resources across regional
networks and local devices.
Voice and videoconferencing solutions relying on Voice over
IP (VoIP) will finally arrive. Though VoIP simply allows voice
communications to be transmitted over a data network, IP telephony will tie into enterprise-grade applications such as CRM solutions
in a converged network.
IP video is destined to become mainstream as well. “Its use in the
banking and retail industries for surveillance has begun to grow,”
explains Cisco’s Allard. This technology will allow for a mix of video
and data capabilities; for example, it could record a possible bank
robbery while dialing 911, locking the safe, and feeding live video into
the police mobile command unit.
Key enablers for the new technologies include high-speed
(gigabit) IP networks with intelligent routers and efficient remote
access, as well as technologies like MPLS (Multiprotocol Label
Switching). MPLS provides a labeling function for IP traffic flowing
across a network. With it, administrators can control and shape traffic and allow for end-to-end QoS (quality of service). This ensures,
for example, that VoIP traffic will be routed through the most
reliable and best-performing parts of a network to prevent latency.
Remote-access connectivity will be simplified by SSL gateways,
which let remote-access users connect to specific applications like
e-mail or even back-end databases using nothing but their Web
browsers. Such gateways will augment IPsec-based VPNs in some
instances and replace them in others. (For more on the subject, see
“Simpler, Safe Remote Access,” August 19, 2003.)
While this access method will relieve many small-business IT
administrators of the burden of maintaining IPsec VPNs, administrators of large-scale networks might be confronted with managing
mountains of encrypted HTTP traffic. Traffic accelerators and
shapers have already begun to come to the rescue, including
products from F5 Networks and NetScaler. These devices combine
application-level security, protection, and optimization, providing
both high performance and fail-over.—Oliver Kaven
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
In a few years more
Enterprise networks in the next five to ten years
will be upgraded to support higher bandwidths,
including 10-Gigabit Ethernet in the data center
and Gigabit Ethernet at the desktop, with better
traffic control via quality of service (QoS) and
other traffic-shaping mechanisms. Crucial to
this will be policy enforcement systems that
give administrators instantaneous control over
mission-critical resources.
“The move to Gigabit Ethernet technologies
will take place more slowly than the move from
Ethernet to Fast Ethernet,” says Michael Wolf, an
analyst with research firm In-Stat/MDR. “That’s
because the main driving force for Gigabit at the
desktop will be the low price of the devices
rather than a demand for higher bandwidth, as
was the earlier case.” While this is happening,
Wolf expects to see a proliferation of voice and
video applications such as video on demand,
office-to-office videoconferencing, surveillance,
and IP telephony to take advantage of the
increased bandwidth.
Chris Kozup, program director of infrastructure
strategies for the research firm Meta Group,
suggests that this will have another beneficial
effect, “This proliferation of IP devices connected
to the network will drive the implementation of
new IP standards such as IPv6,” he says, adding
that this in turn will provide for a far more robust
Internet than we know today.
Computer and device networking should
become a largely commoditized affair for the
end user. Closer feature integration will eliminate
the need to carry many different devices, and an
Ethernet jack or wireless hot spot will be as
common to our understanding of communications as the telephone jack and public phone
booth are today. E
w w w. p c m a g . c o m /a f te r h o u r s
Traveling Music
he average southern Californian wastes 136
hours a year stuck in traffic jams. The rest of us
aren’t far behind. So why not give your quantity
time on the road a little more quality? Here,
we evaluate eight products that give you more
choice in music via in-car hard drives and satellite broadcasting. You can use some of them at home or in your
vacation cabin as well.
Compared with similar products of even a year ago, these
Blaupunkt Los Angeles
MP72, MDP-01
The concept is intriguing, but the execution is dubious. The Blaupunkt Los Angeles MP72 is an MP3- and CD-playing indash receiver that lets you plug in a 1GB
IBM Microdrive, which holds about 17 MP3
CDs encoded at 128 Kbps. But the Microdrive doesn’t slide into the receiver; instead, you need a 1- by 5- by 3-inch box
(the MDP-01) that you attach to the dash,
for which you pay an extra $450, Microdrive included.
The receiver does have a flash memory
slot, but it’s for MultiMediaCard, a fading
format that tops out at 128MB. Because of
this, we were left unmoved by the MP72’s
are more polished and store more content. Some cost less.
There also are better choices now for leased cars, where you
want any changes to be reversible, and for high-end cars
with proprietary audio systems where you can’t easily replace the head unit (what used to be called the in-dash
radio). You can install them yourself (nervous do-it-yourselfers often turn to Crutchfield.com) or have the installation done by a professional who will tap into the right 12-volt
line, not the wire leading to the—oops—air bag.
terrific features, such as a microphone
that shapes the MP72’s equalizer to your
car’s acoustics.
MP72, $500 street; MDP-01, $450. Blaupunkt
USA, www.blaupunktusa.com. llmmm
Delphi SKYFi
The Delphi
SKYFi comprises modular building
blocks that let
you move a single XM
Satellite Radio receiver
from your car to your
house to the beach. The
most impressive module is
Buying Tips
• To connect a portable player to any car radio, use a wireless FM modulator,
such as an irock! 300W ($30 street).
• For better sound, look for a replacement car radio with a front-panel line-in jack.
• Adapters from BlitzSafe, Recoton, and SoundGate let you run hard drive jukeboxes
and satellite receivers using your car’s existing audio system.
• A trunk MP3-playing CD changer gives you 50 to 100 hours of music. Check out
products from Alpine, JVC, Kenwood, and Sony.
• Sirius and XM Satellite Radio have similar programming and sound quality,
but XM is in better financial shape.
• Get more tips online at www.pcmag.com/caraudio.
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
the portable adapter, which uses batteries or an AC power. The car adapter is a
maze of wires that calls for professional
installation, and the home adapter is a
cradle you connect to a stereo or powered speakers.
We prefer the SKYFi to other car-andhome devices for both the XM and
Sirius satellite radio services,
Delphi SKYFi
because it’s
easy to use, and
the display can be read
across a room. Of all the devices in this roundup, the SKYFi
is by far the most polished.
Receiver, $100 street; portable adapter, $100;
car adapter, $70, home adapter, $70. XM service,
$9.95 per month; $6.99 for each additional
receiver. Delphi Corp., www.delphi.com/products/
consumers/skyfi. lllll
Kenwood KTC-H2A1
card–size remote? It does. The player
provides virtually every feature you’d want
if you were upgrading your existing car
radio or CD player.
The display is big and readable. The
removable faceplate is a restrained black
and silver, unlike too many replacement radios that are vying,
Kenwood KTC-H2A1
style-wise, for the affections of the
2 Fast 2 Furious crowd. The volume knob
is slippery, other buttons are smallish,
and the three-language manual will
overwhelm the glove box. Even so, Panasonic has the best deal here among indash car devices.
This kit lets you use one Sirius satellite
radio receiver in different places.
The car and home modules work fine,
but Kenwood doesn’t sell a self-contained
module like the one Delphi offers.
Also, the LCD panel is small and hard to
see, and the radar-detector shape looks
odd in a house.
KTC-H2A1 receiver, $100 street; KPA-H2C car
adapter, $70; KTC-H2H home adapter, $80.
Sirius service, $12.99 per month; $6.99 for each
additional receiver. Kenwood USA Ltd., www
.kenwoodusa.com. lllmm
Kenwood Music Keg KHD-C710
$200 street. Matsushita Electric Corp. of
America, www.panasonic.com. llllm
PhatNoise PhatBox
PhatNoise licensed its technology to
Kenwood, then turned its expertise to
supplying equipment to automakers and
owners of cars with integrated audio
systems that can’t readily be swapped out.
The interface needs tweaking; sometimes,
instead of a song title, you see a CD number. But for music lovers who want to
control what they hear, the PhatNoise
PhatBox is the best choice.
The PhatBox provides adapters that
trick your car into thinking it has a factory
The Kenwood Music Keg KHD-C710 is
similar to a trunk CD-changer—but instead of six CDs, you use a 10GB hard
drive cartridge that can hold about
150 CDs’ worth of MP3 or WMA files
ripped at 128 Kbps. You transfer
them from your PC using a USB
1.1 docking cradle and
software developed
PhatNoise PhatBox
by PhatNoise.
You have to use the
Music Keg with a Kenwood CDcontrolling radio that was built after
1998. We paired it with the Kenwood
KDC-MPV622 ($280 street), a
CD/MP3/WMA-playing, Sirius-capable indash receiver with excellent sound, small
buttons, and 67 garish display settings. For
music lovers with lots of digital audio
files, the Music Keg is more convenient
than the rip-as-you-go in-dash units from
Pioneer and Sony.
$500 street. Kenwood USA Ltd., www
.kenwoodusa.com. lllmm
Panasonic CQ-DF583U
Features checklist for the Panasonic CQ-DF583U in-dash
radio/CD player: Does it play MP3
CDs? Check. WMAs? Check. Can
it control a Sirius satellite receiver? Check. Does it have a credit
llmmm FAIR
lmmmm POOR
The Pioneer DEH-P90HDD is an all-in-one
dashboard radio/CD player/hard drive.
Insert a Red Book audio or MP3 CD and it
plays. Audio CDs are recorded on an
integrated 10GB hard drive that has a builtin Gracenote CDDB music lookup database with 200,000-plus titles. The DEHP90HDD also has a Memory Stick slot for
playing tunes recorded elsewhere.
The brilliant display uses a 256- by 80pixel OLED display panel. An included
microphone helps the DEH-P90HDD map
your car’s acoustic
environment. It
supports an external
CD changer and XM
Satellite Radio. On
the downside, operaFor an expanded
tion is complex, and
version of our buyrecording is in real
ing tips, log on to
time. Files are stored
in ATRAC3 format at
105 Kbps or 132
Kbps; audiophiles may find the quality
marginal. The buttons are small, and as
with the Sony MEX-1, our rating reflects
the stiff price. You could buy a fine
radio/MP3 CD player with a line-in jack
and a 20GB Apple iPod for half the list
price (though the street price may be
much lower).
$1,700 list. Pioneer North America Inc., www
.pioneerelectronics.com. llmmm
Sony MEX-1HD
CD changer riding in back. Track and
title info either show up on the factory
radio display or are announced by a synthesized voice; you use the radio buttons
to change modes and pick songs. The
PhatBox has a USB 2.0 PC docking cradle
for fast transfers to its 20GB hard drive.
PhatNoise offers 40GB and 60GB systems
for an extra $99 and $199, respectively, and
the hard drive cartridges are
compatible with the Kenwood
Music Keg systems.
lllmm GOOD
Pioneer DEH-P90HDD
$799 to $859 direct (depending on
the car). PhatNoise Inc., www
.phatnoise.com. llllm
Similar in features to
the Pioneer DEHP90HDD but with a
color TFT display, the
Sony MEX-1HD records
audio CDs onto its integrated 10GB hard drive in
ATRAC3 format at 8X
speed. It also identifies
tracks via built-in
Gracenote CDDB. But
although you can play
MP3 CDs and ATRAC3 files
from Memory Sticks, you can’t transfer any of these files to the hard drive.
To add to the 36 backgrounds and animations, you can transfer photos or animated GIFs from a Memory Stick to the
hard drive. And the MEX-1HD has a front
jack, so you can off-load music to a Sony
Network Walkman. Compared with the
DEH-P90HDD, the MEX-1HD is easier to
use. As of midsummer, some stores were
selling the MEX-1HD for far less than the
$1,500 list price.
$1,500 list. Sony Electronics Inc.,
www.sony.com/explod. llmmm
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
A True Laptop Case
Your search for the perfect laptop backpack may be over. The Higher Ground Gear
Laptrap has a wonderful slim-line design, with plenty of storage compartments
but not the bulk of other bags. The details make all the difference—reinforced
stress points, comfortable handles, a breathable backpack harness, and an
attractive duo-color design. We also love the two riser pads for cooler laptop
operation: These along with the two side pockets and the nonslip surface let the
open backpack transform your lap into a comfortable mobile desk.—Cynthia Rhett
$59.95 direct; single shoulder strap, $9.95; backpack strap, $14.95; Laptrap with both straps,
$79.95. Shaun Jackson Design, www.highergroundgear.com. lllll
Quirky, Not QWERTY
The innovative Keybowl orbiTouch keyless
keyboard transforms the sometimes painful act
of typing into a comfortable exercise. Using your
palms to make short, synchronized movements
of two orbs, you can comfortably type sentences
and move the mouse pointer without relying on
your fingers. The orbs fit nicely into your hands,
and the movements feel natural. Adjusting to the
new typing technique isn’t easy, but those with
typing-related injuries could benefit from the
design. Just be prepared to shell out some serious
bucks.—Robyn Peterson
Cat and Mouse
The term computer mouse takes on a whole new meaning with
the Panic Mouse, a stationary microchip-controlled cat toy
that randomly twirls a tasseled wand, in an attempt to
convince your kitties that it’s a tasty dancing rodent.
We unleashed the device on two cats with very different
temperaments. One turned up her nose and demanded to be
petted instead. Another went crazy for the gadget, leaping up
into the air to bat it around for about two weeks.
Then he realized the Panic
Mouse’s flaw: It doesn’t
skitter across the floor. Now
maybe if we covered a Roomba with fur....—Sascha Segan
$695 list. Keybowl Inc., www
.orbitouch.com. llllm
$29.95 direct. Panic Mouse Inc.,
www.panicmouseinc.com. lllmm
The Information Orb
All you need is a power outlet to receive visual alerts on the
second-generation Ambient Orb. It glows in various shades of
yellow, red, and green that change frequently to display the status
of major stock market indices, regional weather forecasts, and
more. New channels can track such things as publicopinion polls and local pollen levels, and the Developer Channel lets you map your choice of info.
The new Orb is also half the price of
the original and has an internal receiver.
—Marge Brown
$150 street; premium account (more channels),
6.95 a month or $52 a year. Ambient Devices, www
.ambientdevices.com. llllm
P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
Consumer Tech Support
Star Wars
Galaxies: An
Empire Divided
By Marge Brown
As a PC Magazine reader, you’ve undoubtedly received panicked calls from friends
and relatives begging for your help in fixing a misbehaving PC. If someone’s abusing
the privilege a little too often, though, you could kindly recommend a consumer technical-support service. We presented four service providers with the same problem—
our monitor was displaying distorted colors and graphics—and made service requests
at various hours, and we were impressed with the quality and speed of responses.
Ask Dr. Tech
When we placed our service call to Ask
Dr. Tech, the operator told us we would
get a call back in about 2 minutes from an
appropriate technician. The call did come
back within 2 minutes, and the technician
promptly diagnosed and solved our problem by talking us through the necessary
settings changes. Still, we’d prefer a onestep process.
SupportFreaks.com offers both a free email service and a subscription service for
support for any Windows-based PC. The
free service lets you enter a question and
offers up to 25 automated responses. Subscription services include basic, advanced,
and customized packages.
We presented our display problem to
both services. Within 16 hours, we re-
Home plan: Unlimited phone and e-mail support
for any PC hardware and software, $89 per year
for the first PC; $45 for each additional PC.
Home Plan Plus: Faster response times, online
data backup, PDA support, depot repair service,
$179 per year for the first PC; $129 for each
additional PC. Ask Dr. Tech Inc.,
www.askdrtech.com. lllmm
PC Pinpoint
Technicians at PC Pinpoint can address
problems related to any PC or peripheral
running any OS. First, you download
a communications client. When you
encounter a problem, you click on
the Pinpoint icon for automated testing,
which identifies and fixes about 65 percent of common problems. If you need
ceived two responses from the free service, both of which solved the problem.
The phone technician quickly identified
the problem and talked us through the
necessary adjustments.
Basic service (telephone or chat), $29
for 2 hours. SupportFreaks.com LLC, www
.supportfreaks.com. llllm
more help, you can reference illustrated
self-help tutorials or contact a support
representative by phone, e-mail, or chat.
The representative we spoke with
about our monitor asked whether we
had tried the tutorials first. He then used
the communications utility to check our
computer’s components and quickly
talked us through the solution.
One year unlimited service, $49.95 per PC;
on-site support, $75 to $125 per visit. Distinctive
Technologies, www.pcpinpoint.com. llllm
You can buy chat-based technical support
from Tech24 for any Windows-based PC.
Tech24 also has service alliances with
companies such as BestBuy, Microsoft,
and Symantec.
When we presented our display problem to a support person, we had
to key in the details twice—but he
solved the problem in about 5
minutes, using a remote-control
utility to change our screen settings. The representative was
friendly and polite, and he kept us
informed of his progress.
$19.95 per incident. Tech24 Inc.,
www.tech24.com. lllmm
This massively
multiplayer online
game (MMOG) is
pretty, and character creation
is amazing. But the irritating trend of
premature game releases continues.
If LucasArts updates the story content,
improves the mission system, and
adds promised content such as ridable
mounts, Galaxies could be exciting.
Until then, it’s a half-baked experience
in a rich universe.—Rich Brown
$49.95 direct plus $14.95 a month. LucasArts,
www.lucasarts.com. lllmm
EVE Online
This point-and-click MMOG offers
exquisite outer-space graphics, and the
customizable interface hosts features
we wish were present in more games
of this genre. EVE boasts a gargantuan
universe and a complex player-run
economy that’s heaven for get-richquick schemers. And—a pleasant break
from the usual leveling treadmill in so
many MMOGs—your character purchases skills and
training in real
time.—Ari Vernon
$39.99 list plus
$12.99 a month.
Simon & Schuster
Interactive, www
Virtual Thesaurus
Virtual Thesaurus’s remarkable Javabased 3-D interface gives you a highly
engaging way to explore the English language. Enter a word and watch related
words and their relationships pop up onscreen, slowly orbiting the original word.
Click on a related word and it becomes
central, with its own branches. Mouse
over connecting lines to see word relationships. Add
this to your
reference shelf.
—Carol A.
$39.95 direct.
Plumb Designs,
.com. llllm
www.pcmag.com SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 P C M A G A Z I N E
By Don Willmott
Caught in the jaws of a dilemma.
How reassuring!
(Print Shovel)
Some? All? Yes? No? Who knows?
(Unknown source)
Strange—the error’s
unexpected, but they
have a number for it.
This is why we’ve never been particularly
fond of tip-of-the-day boxes.
(Microsoft Visual C++)
Yeah, yeah. Duplicates. We get it.
(InstallShield Developer)
w w w. p c m a g . c o m / b a c k s p a c e
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P C M A G A Z I N E SEPTEMBER 16, 2003 www.pcmag.com
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