August 2006

August 2006
Napa Valley
Personal Computer
Users Group
P.O. Box 2866
Napa, California 94558
COMPUTER
NEWS
Volume 23, No. 8
Inside This Issue:
2 President’s Message
2 Special Interest Groups
2 Calendar
3 Officers List
4 “Suddenly. . .” Part 1
6 The New, the Best, the Worstl
7 Unruh’s Observations
8 Do Shield Laws Extend to Bloggers?
9 Tips from Smart Computing
10 Managing Device Drivers
11 Your Credit Report
12 Windows Vista: a Preview
14 Hard Disk Disasters
16 Choose Your Own “Home Page”
The Napa Valley Personal Computer
Users Group has served novice and
experienced computer users since
1983. Through its monthly meetings,
newsletters, online forum, special interest groups, mentor program and community involvement, it has helped educate people of all ages. The NVPCUG
provides opportunities for people to
find friends who share common interests and experiences. Through its
Computers-to-Schools program, members refurbish used computer equipment for donation to local schools.
Since January 2003 the NVPCUG has
donated 444 computers and 128 printers.
August, 2006
How to Build a Web Site to Be
Explained at August 16 NVPCUG Meeting
By Susy Ball, Programs Director
The Napa Valley Personal Computer Users Group will hold a general
meeting Wednesday, August 16, 2006, 7:00-9:00 p.m., at the Napa
Senior Activity Center, 1500 Jefferson Street, Napa, California.
The main presentation will be given by Serre A. Murphy, on “Building a Web site for fun (and profit).” If
your ISP offers Web site hosting as part of their basic
service, Murphy will show you how to take advantage of
it by using the right software. Some people have developed interesting Web sites that have nonobvious benefits
and have been able to keep costs to a minimum. He will
Serre A. Murphy
demonstrate his company’s product WebBuild Express,
an easy-to-use and inexpensive Web design tool, to build compelling sites
and “get the word out” about information you want to share with other
members of the World Wide Web community. He will even show how to
build a modest site for the users group or an individual, taking themes, suggestions, and challenges from the audience.
Murphy has over 30 years experience as a systems analyst and manager
in the IT field, and is now CEO of Net Fulfillment Technologies, Inc.
Preceding the main presentation, Jerry Brown will lead the Random
Access portion of our meeting with an open-floor question-and-answer period, during which you can ask questions about specific computer-related
issues and receive helpful information from other meeting attendees. Don’t
forget that you can also e- mail your questions before coning to the meeting
([email protected]).
Following this, Michael Moore, Computer Tutor coordinator, will discuss computer security using the Kensington PCKey. For laptop computers
at risk of theft, this system provides hrdware and software protection.
Remember the Summer Potluck Picnic
Saturday, August 12, 1:30 p.m.
Petersons’ Christmas Tree Farm, 1120 Darms Lane
NVPCUG Computer News, August 2006, Page 1
President's Message—
Summer Picnic, Member News
NVPCUG Special
Interest Groups
In SIG meetings you can learn about a
subject in greater detail than is feasible at
NVPCUG general meetings. SIG meetings are
open to everyone. Meeting times and locations
occasionally change, so for current meeting
information, see our Web site,
www.nvpcug.org, or contact the SIG leaders.
Digital Photography SIG
Meets: Monthly, second Wednesday
7:00 to 8:30 p.m
Piner’s Nursing Home,
Conference Room
1800 Pueblo Ave., Napa
Leader: Susy Ball
(707) 337-3998
[email protected]
Investors SIG
Meets: Monthly, second Monday
5:30 to 7:30 p.m
Jerry Brown’s home,
23 Skipping Rock Way, Napa
Leader: Jerry Brown
(707) 254-9607
[email protected]
Macintosh SIG
Meets:
Monthly, second Thursday
6:30-8:30 p.m.
Napa Senior Activity Center
1500 Jefferson St., Napa
Leader: Jim Gillespie
(707) 252-1665
[email protected]
We have 34 people signed up so far for the members’ summer potluck
picnic on Saturday, August 12 at 1:30 at Dick and Sandy Peterson’s
Christmas Tree Farm. The picnic comes the Saturday before our regular
3rd Wednesday, August 16, meeting, so if you haven’t signed up yet e-mail
me at [email protected] Let me know what potluck dish you are bringing and how many will be in your party. NVPCUG will provide soft
drinks and water as well as chicken and steak to BBQ. You are welcome
to bring beer and wine if you wish. Potluck dishes promised so far include
a cheese ball, chips & salsa, 3 other appetizers, 2 kinds of potato salads, 3
other salads, 1 dish of beans, but only one dessert and no vegetables.
Bill Wheadon won the July drawing for the subscription to Smart
Computing. Congratulations, Bill! The drawing for the second subscription (valued at $30) will be at our August 16 meeting. Tickets will be $1
each, six for $5.You do not need to be present to win and the odds of winning are very good (only 17 tickets were sold for the July drawing).
At the August meeting we will also raffle an unused 2003 version of
Office XP Professional. It includes Access and MS Publisher in addition to
Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint. For this prize, tickets will be $5
each, or 3 or $10.
We are still seeking donations to supply other items to be raffled.
Please e- mail or phone me if you can help in any way.
John Simcoe is now out of the ICU. His wife Roberta is looking for a
rehabilitation hospital and hopes to have him in one within a few weeks.
She sends everyone a big THANK YOU for all the prayers, cards and emails (flowers are still not allowed). Because of his accident last month,
John has had to resign as Publicity Director. We will miss him very much.
We need someone else to take over his position. The duties involve notifying the media (usually by e- mail) of our meetings and programs.
If anyone has any problems or questions or suggestions (relating to
Group issues, not computer use questions), feel free to contact me at
[email protected] or phone me at 252-1506.
Peace and Good,
Dianne Prior
NVPCUG Calendar
Wednesdays
August
2
August
9
August 10
August 12
August 14
August 16
9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
7:00-9:00 p.m.
7:00-8:30 p.m.
6:30-8:30 p.m.
1:30-3:30 p.m.
5:30-7:30 p.m.
7:00-9:00 p.m.
Computers-to-Schools work parties. To volunteer, contact Orion Hill, (707) 252-0637.
Board of Directors meeting, Piner’s Nursing Home, 1800 Pueblo Ave., Napa
Digital Photography SIG meeting, Piner’s Nursing Home, 1800 Pueblo Ave., Napa
Macintosh SIG meeting, Napa Senior Activity Center, 1500 Jefferson St., Napa
Annual summer potluck picnic, Petersons’ Christmas Tree Farm, 1120 Darms Lane
Investors SIG meeting, Jerry Brown’s home, 23 Skipping Rock Way, Napa
General Meeting, Napa Senior Activity Center, 1500 Jefferson St., Napa
NVPCUG Computer News, August 2006, Page 2
Napa Valley Personal Computer Users Group
Officers for 2006
Board of Directors
President
Dianne Prior
Vice President
Ron Dack
Secretary
Julie Jerome
224-6620
[email protected]
Treasurer
Roy Wagner
253-2721
[email protected]
Other Directors:
Susy Ball, Orion E. Hill, Jim Gillespie, Bob Kulas, John Moore,
252-1506*
[email protected]
[email protected]
Dick Peterson, James Stirling, Dean Unruh
Appointed Officers
Computer Equipment
Sales Coordinator
Computer Recycling
Coordinator
Computer Tutor
Coordinator
Computers-to-Schools
Program Coordinator
Facility Arrangements
Coordinator
Greeter Coordinator
Librarian
Membership Director
Mentor Program
Coordinator
Newsletter Circulator
Newsletter Editor
Product Review Coord.
Product Review Coord.
Programs Director
Publicity Director
Random Access Moderator
Special Projects Director
Webmaster
(Volunteer Needed)
Bill Wheadon
224-3901
[email protected]
Mike Moore
255-1615
[email protected]
Orion E. Hill
252-0637
[email protected]
John Moore
252-3418
[email protected]
Bob Simmerman
Dean Unruh
Dianne Prior
Dick Peterson
259-6113
226-9164
252-1506
259-1712
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
Jim Hearn
James Stirling
Susy Ball
Marcia Waddell
Susy Ball
(Volunteer Needed]
Jerry Brown
Bob Kulas
Ron Dack
224-2540
944-1177
337-3398
252-2060
337-3998
254-9607
255-9241
Come to the NVPCUG
General Meetings
Held the third Wednesday of each month
7:00 to 9:00 p.m.
Napa Senior Activities
Center
1500 Jefferson Street,
Napa
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
*All telephone numbers are in Area Code 707.
NVPCUG Computer News
Computer News (ISS 0897-5744) is published monthly by the Napa Valley Personal Computer Users Group, Inc. (NVPCUG), P.O. Box 2866, Napa, CA
94558-0286. Subscriptions: $30 for one year (12 issues ). Editor: James Stirling, [email protected] The material in Computer News is intended for
noncommercial purposes and may not be reproduced without prior written permission, except that permission for reproducing articles, with authors properly credited, is granted to other computer user groups for their internal, nonprofit use only. The information in this newsletter is believed to be correct.
However, the NVPCUG can assume neither responsibility for errors or omissions nor liability for any damages resulting from the use or misuse of any
information.
The NVPCUG is an IRC 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit educational organization (EIN 68-0069663) and is a member of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG), an international organization. Donations to the NVPCUG are tax-deductible as charitable contributions to the extent allowed
by law. Copyright © 2006 by NVPCUG.
NVPCUG Computer News, August 2006, Page 3
“Suddenly…” OR “I didn’t do anything!” Part 1
Or — a month’s log of a Sun City Anthem Computer Club “house call” doctor
By Charles W. Davis, Newsletter Editor & Webmaster, Sun City Anthem Computer Club, Henderson, Nevada
In working to help Club members and others with
their computer problems during Computer Talk sessions,
or more often when making “house calls,” I often hear
strange tales that usually involve acts of some gremlinlike creature. Generally the caller’s comments start with
“all of a sudden” or “suddenly” and end with “I didn't do
anything.” I can only surmise that it was probably one of
cartoonist Bill Keane’s ghostly imps “Not Me.”
“Nobody” or even “Ida Know.” Some recent examples:
“Suddenly…”
One morning a couple of weeks ago, I received a call
from someone who was obviously very upset. She exclaimed: “Suddenly all of my desktop icons are gone! I
didn’t do anything! Please help me!”
This situation seemed to be serious. I had never heard
of this happening. I didn’t have anything on the calendar
for another two hours so I hopped in my 1999 Miata for
the short drive up the hill to her Tall Mesa Village home.
She was right, the icons were indeed missing. A simple
right click on the blank desktop, hover over Arrange
Icons by: and then click on Show Desktop Icons. This
was definitely an act by the “little people.” As I said, I
hadn’t heard of this situation before. Therefore, it must
have been “Not Me” wishing to get off the hook by whispering in my ear how I might arrive at the solution. Since
the club member was in the back room and the house girl
had let me in, I quickly left the scene.
The next day the same lady called and said that her
“My Computer” Icon was missing from the desktop. Realizing that it wasn’t the normal desktop shortcut icon, I
was puzzled. When I arrived on the scene, sure enough,
most icons were visible, but the “My Computer” icon was
not in its normal position. It wasn’t immediately visible. I
later noticed the top edge of the icon protruding just
above the task bar. Once again, I moved the pointer to a
blank spot on the desktop, a right click on the mouse and
chose Arrange Icons by and chose Name. The My Desktop icon again assumed its prominence at the upper left.
She said that she didn’t drag and drop it down there. As I
picked up a $20 donation to the Club, I assumed that it
must have been “Nobody” and left for home.
“Suddenly…”
On a recent Monday, the caller sheepishly states that
“suddenly I can’t access the Internet.” I recognized that
the person speaking to me is the same one whose 18-yearold granddaughter had placed hundreds of malware programs on his laptop two weeks before. At that time I had
suggested a router/firewall so that she could plug her laptop directly to the router with Internet access. He had im-
mediately gone out and purchased and installed one. Oh
yes, the granddaughter had been there over the weekend
and had brought her own laptop computer.
The blue Miata once again headed up the hill to their
home in Arroyo Vista Village. In just a few minutes, I
found that the dear child didn’t plug the cable into the
router as instructed, but had used grandpa’s computer.
Since she was an AOL user, she attempted to change
Gramps’ Accounts from Cox Cable to AOL dialup and
failed. It would have been so easy for her to have just
gone to AOL using Internet Explorer. She left for school
Sunday evening and didn’t mention a thing to Gramps.
That way, she didn’t have to tell on either “Ida Know” or
“Not Me.” I picked up the $20 donation to the club and
was soon on my way.
An admonition: Set up a Guest Account without Administrative rights. Place a User name and password on
the Administrative (your) account.
“All of a Sudden…”
“All of a sudden” turns up many times a month and in
some unusual situations. Last week, I received a call from
a member who was using Microsoft Office Outlook. It
seems that she had been entering information into a new
contact when “all of a sudden” she couldn’t enter information. She explained that she had been using Outlook
and contacts for years and had never had this problem.
Since this didn’t seem that it required immediate attention, I arranged an appointment for the next morning. My
Miata and I arrived at her Golf Mesa Village home just as
the grandfather clock guarding the entry was announcing
that it was 10:00.
She met me at the door and we proceeded to the office, where she took her place in front of her computer to
show me what was happening. She began keying in the
house number, using the numeric key pad; and just as she
had said, nothing worked as expected. I immediately saw
why this had happened so “suddenly.” Apparently
“Nobody” had pressed the Num Lock key, thereby turning it off. So as she would enter a house number, things
went wild as the 2,4, 6, and 8 keys acted as direction
keys, 7 and 9 were Home and Page Up respectively and 1
ad 3 were End and Page down. I asked her to press the
Num Lock key and “all of a sudden” the problem was
resolved. I collected the $20 donation check to the club
and was homeward bound .
“Suddenly…”
On another Monday, I received a call from a member
stating that she had recently upgraded to MS Office 2003,
but a short time later could no longer access MS Pub-
NVPCUG Computer News, August 2006, Page 4
lisher files. This was the result of someone else messing
with functions that they should have stayed away from.
Support teams at Norton will vow “Not me.” But when
the lady was directed to an article titled “How to use Office programs with the Norton Antivirus Office plug-in”
she was able to resolve the problem as I watched. This
article can help you extricate yourself and may be found
at: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/329820/en-us.
It is maddening to think that one, nay thousands
upon thousands, must jump through hoops because a
bunch of programmers at Symantec (Norton) can’t get it
right.
I have never understood their automatic plug-in installation. At least they should tell the user, including a
list of possible problems and their resolution, and let
them make a decision as to whether to install the plug in.
Who needs viruses when “reputable” software manufacturers can do things like this? A long time ago, in computer time, but actually just over a year ago, I stopped
paying the extortion money for antivirus software and
have used the free AVG antivirus, which is available
from http://free.grisoft.com/doc/1
Suddenly…”
Last week, one of our neighbors in the Valley View
Village went to his neighbors stating that his phone went
“dead.” On investigation, I learned that he had ordered
and installed a new Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
phone system. Some of the equipment had arrived, but
due to a transposition of digits when he had entered the
credit card number, the important “Silver” box did not
get shipped. “Ida Know” didn't know how the mix-up
occurred. “Who Knows” stated that the customer probably discarded the silver box with the packaging. However, the land line telephone provider had been notified
to discontinue the service. “Dead line!”
An admonition: Before installing anything always
check the contents of packages to make certain that all
components are included! The Federal Communications
Commission has a Web site that explains VoIP.
surprised to hear: “Suddenly I can send e-mail but I can’t
receive any messages. Everything times out. I’ve called
Cox Communications and since I use Office Outlook
2003, they weren’t much help.” This phone call came in
at a time that Vickie was out and wouldn’t return for a
while, so I headed for Ridgecrest Village to see what
had happened so “suddenly.”
It took several minutes of attempting to send messages to the owner’s e-mail address. Sure enough, the
message would be sent, but there were no incoming messages. After some time it would all time out. The first
inbound message would never arrive. I found that there
was no Internet access using Internet Explorer. I installed Firefox from my USB Flash memory and was
then able to access the Internet. At this time clues began
to appear one-by-one: Norton Internet Security was
warning of Firefox accessing the Internet — twice!
ZoneAlarm was warning of Firefox accessing the Internet!
Oops! Only one program firewall at a time is allowed. Since the member’s Norton subscription was
about to expire, I downloaded AVG antivirus to his desktop (free at http://free.grisoft.com), shut off the cable
modem, went to uninstall Norton SystemWorks and discovered two versions. I uninstalled both. When I attempted to install AVG antivirus, the program indicated
that the version of the Roxio CD Creator contained code
that was incompatible with AVG, and it provided a link
for an update. I installed the update and then successfully
installed the AVG antivirus. Then I turned on the cable
modem and downloaded updates. I was grateful to the
AVG programmers to make that test and inform the user.
Suddenly, I decided that I like the AVG antivirus program and its creators even more than in the past.
Now I felt that I could address the original problem.
I opened Office Outlook , and it proceeded to download a
monstrous movie clip — 9.87MB! It was able to complete the download due to the fact that Norton wasn’t
scanning inbound e-mail messages.
“Suddenly” wasn’t really all that sudden. The second
and third firewall programs were installed over a period
of time, but the problem didn’t manifest itself until the
arrival of the large file. As an aside, it was the story of an
autistic youth who had been the go-fer for a high school
basketball team and was allowed to play on the last game
of his senior year. His team racked up 21 points — all
three pointers. I’m not a sports fan, but am a fan of the
underdog! $20 more for the Club’s treasury.
This article was originally published in Bits, PCs &
Macs, the newsletter of the Sun City Anthem Computer
Club. All copies are available online at:
http://www.myscacc.org/newsletters.htm
Not so “Suddenly…”
This particular call arrived on a Tuesday, so I was
The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups has provided this article .
“Suddenly...”
“Suddenly” you can’t open Word or most other Microsoft Office products. This happened because you
owned a Hewlett Packard multifunction printer with a
flash memory card reader. It seems that a security update
messed with the logic for these systems and caused much
havoc around the world. A follow-on update was released to affected computers during late April. If you are
still having that problem, go to Start then Windows Update, download and install all Critical updates. It seems
that “Ida Know” visited Microsoft’s Redmond campus.
NVPCUG Computer News, August 2006, Page 5
The New, the Best, and the Worst
June 2006
Collected by Pim Borman, Web Site Editor, SW Indiana PC Users Group, Inc.
Open Document Format
Long-term archiving of documents generated and
stored in computer format presents formidable problems. Current storage media, such as magnetic tape,
CDs and DVDs, have a limited, ill-defined lifespan.
Programs currently used to read their contents sooner
or later will become obsolete. And the most-used formats for storing office documents are mostly proprietary, mutually incompatible, and incompletely documented.
The international Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS)
has developed an Open Document Format (ODF)
based upon the XML-based file format originally created by OpenOffice.org. It was developed with inputs
from a variety of organizations (with the notable exception of Microsoft), and a committee of the United
Nations. It is publicly accessible and can be implemented by anyone without restriction. The Open
Document Format was recently adopted by the International Standards Organization as ISO/IEC 26300.
Many foreign governments are adopting the new format, and it has also been adopted by the US National
Archives
Microsoft, meanwhile, is developing its own proprietary, XML-based document format expected to be
used in the forthcoming Office 12 suite. Most likely it
won't be compatible with ODF.
The most recent version 2.0 of OpenOffice.org
uses ODF as its native format, although documents
can also be saved in formats that are compatible with
the major proprietary Office Suites.
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenDocument)
image is not pure black, as with a film camera, but
shows a mottling in many colors, due to electronic
noise. The mottling also shows up when a digital picture is underexposed, maybe because the flash did not
go off. The mottling pattern is uniquely different for
all cameras. It is distinct from pixellation that results
from insufficient resolution.
Camera Fingerprints
Jessica Fridrich and coworkers at Binghamton
University have developed a technique to extract a
characteristic “fingerprint” pattern from pictures
taken by a digital camera. It depends on the observation that each original digital picture is overlaid by a
weak noise pattern characteristic for the camera used.
It is due to background electrical noise in the pixel
units of the light-sensing element.
You can see that pattern by taking a picture with a
digital camera with the lens covered. The resulting
The ideal operating system works quietly in the
background, doing what's expected of it. Microsoft
Windows has come a long way over the years, to the
point where weeks may go by without your noticing
anything wrong. But oh boy! when it crashes.
A number of pictures must be taken by the same
camera for someone to extract the characteristic pattern. Being able to identify the camera used can be
helpful in legal prosecutions of child pornography and
such. Study of the background patterns can also give
an indication of image tampering.
Astrophotographers habitually take pictures of
faint objects in a dark sky with CCD chips similar to
those found in digital cameras. In order to eliminate
the mottling from their images they take a “dark
frame,” a picture taken under identical conditions
with the lens covered. They then digitally “subtract”
the dark frame from the image to remove the mottling. This can be done with Adobe Photoshop, but it
doesn't work with inexpensive digital cameras that
internally process and compress photos, usually in
JPEG format. (http://urel.binghamton.edu/
PressReleases/2006/Jan-Feb%2006/Fridrich.html)
Linspire Back on Top
The best things in life generally go unnoticed. If
you notice your shoes, they probably don't fit right. If
everyone notices your new glasses they may not be
flattering.
If you own a PDA, do you know what operating
system it uses? Never noticed it? How about the operating system of your computer? You've noticed that
plenty of times, haven't you?
Over the past 15 years Linux, “the other operating
system,” has in the hands of computer professionals
grown into a powerful, reliable tool. It has been running many of the largest computer servers in the
world, including Google. Early efforts to make it
NVPCUG Computer News, August 2006, Page 6
available as a desktop operating system didn't get
very far because users had such a steep learning
curve to overcome in mastering it.
To make Linux easier to use, a number of Linux
distributions on CD-ROM have become available.
They typically bundle the Linux Kernel with drivers for peripherals, sound and video cards, and
network connections and include a boot manager to
allow side-by-side installation of Linux with MS
Windows. In addition, the self- installing distributions typically include a windows interface, an Office Suite such as OpenOffice.org, an Internet
browser and e- mail program (Mozilla), a paint program (The Gimp), a variety of card and arcade
games, and other useful or entertaining features.
The ideal distribution provides the best off-theCD support for a wide variety of peripherals, useful programs, and easy access to a broad range of
other programs available for the Linux operating
system. Over the last several years I have reviewed
most of the major distributions and concluded that
Linspire (nee Lindows) and Xandros came the
closest to the ideal.
Last year Linspire underwent a major upgrade
to version 5.0, including support for the latest version of the Linux Kernel, itself a major upgrade.
Unfortunately, I couldn't get the new Linspire to
run well on my computers, so I reluctantly
Unruh’s Observations
For those of you who are waiting for the Computer
Police to pry Win 9X out from between your cold,
dead fingers, this article/info my be for you:
http://blog.eweek.com/blogs/eweek_labs/archive/20
06/07/12/11370.aspx?kc=EWEWEMNL071006EP
W1B
I've just scanned through the comments,
but one that caught my eye appears toward the bottom of the page from JOEL R:
# re: Win98 Train Wreck Is Finally Here @ Saturday, July 15, 2006 1:35 AM
For a single user
who wants basic net access and uses office applications, and wants a machine that can play mp3's,
Windows 98 is all you need. Windows XP would be
like using a sledge hammer to break a wine glass.
Fun to look at, but overkill!
My advice is if you
switched to Xandros on my desktop, and kept the
old Lindows 4.5 on my laptop for everyday Internet
access. Xandros does not have the same range of
software available, including updated versions, as
Linspire.
Recently Linspire issued its greatly improved
version 5.1, and I am glad to report that in my
opinion they are back on top again. It faultlessly
recognizes all my systems, including the recent
AMD 64-bit double-core CPU in my new computer. In fact, Linux was weaned on 64-bit processors and runs best in that environment. Linspire
continues to offer its extensive program library
($20/year) that lets you download programs over
the Internet and install them, all with a single
mouse click. It doesn't get easier!
Try it sometime. Use the free Live CD version
of Linspire 5.1 to boot your computer. It allows
you to experience Linux without permanently installing anything on your hard drive, and to determine your system's compatibility. After you turn
the system off nothing is left behind.
(www.linspire.com)
Maybe someday you'll be running Linux without even noticing it!
The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal
Computer User Groups has provided this article.
want
to
keep
using Windows
9x
systems,
1. Get all the critical updates Microsoft has released
for it.
2. Use a firewall to protect you from the nasties of
the net.
3. Install a good virus scanner.
4. Install a new safer web browser like Opera or
Firefox.
5. Enjoy many more years of fun/productivity from
one of the best OS's ever made."
Stay Crisp!
Dean Unruh, NVPCUG member.
NVPCUG Computer News, August 2006, Page 7
Legal Bytes: Do Shield Laws Extend to Bloggers?
By John Brewer, member of the Computer Club of Oklahoma City
The first amendment to the US Constitution contains a number of important personal rights. It reads
as follows: “Congress shall make no law respecting
an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free
exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech,
or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to
assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Analysis of the amendment confirms why the courts have been given the task of interpreting the language through the years.
One of the important parts of the amendment is
freedom of the press. In order to protect the press, approximately 31 States have enacted “shield laws.”
Journalists are protected by a qualified (limited) First
Amendment right to protect their confidential
sources. Many of the federal circuits have held that a
qualified privilege exists. However, journalists are
frequently challenged to reveal their confidential
sources. This privilege has received attention recently
in the New York Times Co. v. Gonzales case that involves the phone records of Judith Miller. An interesting variation to this issue is whether Internet journalists have the same protection as print journalists. A
recent case in California has examined this issue. The
case involved some Internet Web sites and Apple
Computer.
Apple brought an action in California alleging that
persons unknown caused the wrongful publication of
secret plans on the World Wide Web to release a device that would facilitate the creation of digital live
sound recordings on Apple computers. In an effort to
identify the source of the disclosures, Apple sought
and obtained authority to issue civil subpoenas to the
publishers of the Web sites where the information appeared and to the e- mail service provider for one of
the publishers. The publishers moved for a protective
order to prevent any such discovery. The trial court
denied the motion on the ground that the publishers
had involved themselves in the unlawful misappropriation of a trade secret. A California Court of Appeals held that this was in error because (1) the subpoena to the e- mail service provider could be enforced consistent with the plain terms of the federal
Stored Communications Act (18 U.S.C. §§ 27012712); (2) any subpoenas seeking unpublished infor-
mation from petitioners would be unenforceable
through contempt proceedings in light of the California reporter’s shield [note: California has a shield provision in the State Constitution] and (3) discovery of
petitioners’ sources is also barred on this record by
the conditional constitutional privilege against compulsory disclosure of confidential sources. The Court
of Appeals issued a protective order.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is directly
involved in the litigation. The following is extracted
from the EFF web site: “The whole mess began in
December 2004, when Apple filed suit against 20 unnamed and presumably unknown individuals, referred
to in the court filing as "Does," for leaking confidential materials on an Apple product under development
to several Web publications. As part of its investigation, Apple subpoenaed Nfox -- for communications
and unpublished materials obtained by PowerPage
publisher Jason O'Grady. A Santa Clara trial court
upheld the subpoena in March of 2005 and the EFF
appealed.
“In a 69-page ruling, the 6th District Court of Appeal ruled that bloggers and webmasters are no different in their protections than a reporter and editor for a
newspaper. "We can think of no workable test or
principle that would distinguish 'legitimate' from
'illegitimate' news," the judges wrote.
"Any attempt by courts to draw such a distinction
would imperil a fundamental purpose of the First
Amendment, which is to identify the best, most important, and most valuable ideas not by any sociological or economic formula, rule of law, or process of
government, but through the rough and tumble competition of the marketplace," they wrote.
"Today's decision is a victory for the rights of
journalists, whether online or offline, and for the public at large," said EFF Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl in a
statement. Opsahl argued the case before the appeals
court last month. "The court has upheld the strong
protections for the free flow of information to the
press, and from the press to the public."
“Apple argued its right to trade secrets trumped
Constitutional rights, and it had exhausted other
sources to determine the source of the information,
NVPCUG Computer News, August 2006, Page 8
even though Apple had not deposed employees who
were in a position to know,” Kevin Bankston, a staff
attorney for the EFF, told internetnews.com. The
lower court decision agreed and said Apple's trade
secrets rights would trump any journalist's rights to
source confidentiality.
Bankston said the ruling is a win for anyone who
uses e-mail. "A lot of people will hear about this decision and think it doesn't affect them since they are
not journalists, but it has a broader impact because
of the number of e- mail providers, particularly the
number based in this district," he said.
“The court read Federal privacy law to forbid
civil litigants like Apple from subpoenaing an individual's e-mail from e- mail providers. Instead, the
court said civil litigants must subpoena you directly,
and if you are a journalist, you can assert your rights
of confidential sources.
"So they have to subpoena you rather than doing
an end run around your rights and going straight to
your e- mail provider," said Bankston.
If Apple chooses to appeal, the case goes to the
state Supreme Court. Thus far, the sources for the
original story have not been revealed, "and hopefully
based on this decision they never will," said Bankston.
This is an interesting issue. The California case
is far from over, and this issue will continue to be
litigated across the country.
John Brewer practices law in Oklahoma City, is a
member of the Governor’s and Legislative Task Force for
E-Commerce, and enjoys issues relating to eBusiness and
cyberspace. Comments and questions are welcome and
can be e-mailed to johnb(at)jnbrewer.com.
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this
material is distributed without profit to those who have
expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. The article may contain sources for content as attributed within
the article.
The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups has provided this article .
Tips from Smart Computing
Sound Card Problems
Powered or Unpowered USB Hub?
Right-click My Computer and select Properties. Click
the Device Manager tab and select View Devices By
Type. First, check for a yellow exclamation point (!)
next to the sound card listed under the Sound, Video
And Game Controllers entry. If there is a yellow exclamation point, it usually means there’s a resource conflict between the sound card and another
device. Right-click the entry for the sound card, click
Properties, and choose the Resources tab. If possible,
uncheck Use Automatic Settings and click the
Change Setting button to change the IRQ (interrupt
request line) and I/O (input/output) address the sound
card is using. Note that this may not be possible, depending on the hardware. If this is the case, you may
need to physically move the sound card to another
PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) slot in the
computer case or contact the hardware manufacturer
for assistance.
There are two main types of USB hubs: bus-powered
and self-powered. A bus-powered hub, also called an
unpowered hub, is one that draws its power from the
PC. A self-powered hub, also known as a powered
hub, is one that draws its power from an external
power supply unit. Some devices don’t work well
with bus-powered hubs. For instance, devices that
require a significant amount of power, such as scanners and external hard drives, typically don’t run
well, if at all, through unpowered USB hubs. In fact,
we recommend that you get a powered hub even if
you don’t think you need it now, simply because
you’ll likely need one.
Reprinted with permission from Smart Computing. Visit
http://www.smartcomputing.com/groups to learn what Smart
Computing can do for you.
NVPCUG Computer News, August 2006, Page 9
Managing Device Drivers
By Vinny La Bash, Member of the Sarasota Personal Computer Users Group, Florida
labash(at)spcug.org
Windows is the most widely used operating
system (OS) in the personal computer world.
For each piece of hardware that's connected to
a Windows-based computer, somebody somewhere has written a piece of software to make the
device work with a computer. This piece of software is called a "Device Driver." One of the most
useful features of a well written device drive is
making itself all but invisible to whoever is using
the computer. You create a document, send it to
your printer, and somehow the document prints.
Your device driver takes care of all the little details necessary for the printing operation to occur.
Drivers are one of the three most important
broad categories of software in computers, behind
the operating system and whatever applications
are installed. Drivers are important for two reasons. First, your peripherals won't work without
them, and second, corrupted or out-of-date device
drivers are responsible for most system crashes.
There are other reasons why it's important to
keep your device drivers up-to-date. Sometimes a
manufacturer will become aware of some kind of
defect or glitch in the driver software and issue a
fix. You will need it. A different manufacturer
may have a driver for its own device that will
cause a conflict with an out-of-date driver on your
device. Over time, updates for Windows may
eventually cause problems with an out-of-date
driver.
Proper device-driver management is essential
to keeping your computer crash proof. If device
driver management is unfamiliar territory, please
pay attention. You'll be glad you did. Microsoft
introduced the concept of Signed Drivers with
Windows 2000 and continued with Windows XP.
If a device driver is "signed" by Microsoft, it
means that the driver has been subjected to meticulous, painstaking, extensive testing to ensure
compatibility with your Windows operating system.
Anytime you install a signed driver, Windows
checks it by default and also guarantees it has not
www.spcug.org
been altered or changed in any way. If the driver
is not signed, Windows alerts you with a strong
message that the driver has not passed Microsoft's
rigorous certification tests.
Windows will also ask if you want to install
the driver anyway, and will do so if you give it
permission. Keeping your computer safe from
unstable software is always a good idea. Fortunately, changing the Windows default is relatively
easy, but you need administrator privileges.
Right-click the My Computer icon on the
desktop, then select Properties. Click the Hardware tab and then the Driver Signing button.
Choose Block to let this be the new default, and
you're done. Windows will now block any device
drivers that it does not recognize as signed.
Not all manufacturers send their drivers to Microsoft for testing. For small firms this can be an
expensive proposition. Does this mean you should
never install an unsigned driver? No, but you
should do some checking of your own to ensure
that the company has a good reputation in the industry. Sometimes a new device driver will prove
unstable for various reasons. Windows XP has the
ability to delete the driver and install a previous
version. Open the Device Manager, and double
click the drive that's causing problems. Switch to
the Driver tab and Roll Back the driver to the previous version.
What we've discussed so far is fine if you're
using relatively new equipment, but suppose
you're having trouble with something that's old
and the manufacturer has gone out of business.
Chances are good that the original installation
disk is lost or deteriorated to a point where it is no
longer useful. There are many other reasons why
you could have difficulty finding a device driver,
but these are the most common.
In the past, finding the right device driver or
firmware was often a tedious, time-consuming,
and frequently impossible task. Nowadays, we
have Web sites such as www.driverguide.com to
help us. The site has been around since 1997 and
NVPCUG Computer News, August 2006, Page 10
has seen many improvements. It has a unique
membership base of thousands who collectively
compiled a massive database of drivers, firmware,
and support documents that is the largest and most
comprehensive on the Web.
Recognizing that most people who use computers are not experts, they have devised an easy
step-by-step process that will help you find and
install drivers. There is an archive of hundreds of
thousands of files containing not only drivers but
also voluminous information on manufacturers,
including links to other sites with driver information. Also useful are the discussion boards where
you can chat with others who have the same hardware and learn from their experience.
After you search for a driver and find it, help
doesn't stop. The Driver Summary provides you
with a rundown of all the information you're likely
to need to make the decision about whether or not
to download and install the driver. This information is put together from the original manufacturer,
plus ratings and comments from those who have
previously downloaded and installed the file. It's
nice to have everything in one place.
There are many Web sites where you can find
information about device drivers, but this is one of
the best places to use as your starting point. Managing device drivers does not have to be a search
in the dark. Use the tools available to you, and
your system will be stable and a lot less prone to
crash.
The Editorial Committee of the Association of
Personal Computer User Groups has provided this
article.
Your Credit Report
By Richard Kennon, Amador Computer Users Group, Jackson, California. Editor of Bits and Bytes.
How many of you have taken advantage of your
opportunity to obtain a free credit report? There are
three companies who maintain your credit information: Equifax, Experian and Transunion. The Fair
Credit Reporting Act requires that each one provide
you with a free report annually if you request it.
There’s the first catch—you must request it. That’s
not bad since the process is easy.
You have the choice of ordering all three at the
same time each year or of spreading them out and
ordering one from each provider every four months.
I am convinced this latter strategy is the best and I
try to do just that.
The second catch is a little more sinister. You
have and will receive spam offers to obtain your
free report for you. These are scams. Avoid them.
Do not respond to any such offer. There are only
three safe paths to your free reports.
First, and easiest for all you computer savvy
people, is to access http://annualcreditreport.com.
Be very careful to spell it right because there a
number of bogus sites that are a close spelling and
that look just like this one. At this site you can order one or more reports from any of the three reporting agencies.
The second is to call 1-877-322-8228 and take
care of it by phone.
The third way is to order a form from
www.ftc.gov/ credit. Fill it out and mail it in. I think
it is a very good idea to do this on a regular basis. It
will give you the opportunity to see if anyone has
been accessing your records (an indication that
someone is borrowing money using your name)
and/or to find any mistakes in your records that
might give you a headache if you are applying for
credit.
There are ways to get these errors corrected. I
did it once to correct my birth date. Not a big deal,
but I feel old enough without a boost from them.
One last thing, since I have a little space left. The
reporting agencies are not required to give you your
score that you hear so much about. The agencies
will offer you the opportunity to purchase your
score. My thought on this is, if the record is clear
and all my former debts are marked “paid on time,”
then my score is probably pretty good and I don’t
need to know it. Your choice.
Submitted by Charlotte Semple
The Editorial Committee of the Association of
Personal Computer User Groups has provided this
article.
NVPCUG Computer News, August 2006, Page 11
Windows Vista: A Preview
By Brian K. Lewis, Ph.D., Member of the Sarasota Personal Computer Users Group, Florida
As you all probably know by now, Vista is the next
version of Windows that Microsoft will be releasing. It
was supposed to be available this November, but its release has been postponed to after January 1, 2007. However, that 2007 release date relates to the nonbusiness
versions of Vista – in other words, the versions that most
of us will be using. The “enterprise” or business versions
are expected to be shipped this November, unless something else slips.
There will be more than one “consumer” or Home
edition. You should realize that the six versions of Vista
that are expected are really only two more than are currently available in Windows XP. In XP you have the
Home and Professional versions plus the Multimedia and
Tablet PC versions. In Vista you will have Vista Starter,
Vista Home Basic, Vista Home Premium and Vista Ultimate. (Please remember that these names may change by
the time Vista is actually released.) The non-consumer
versions will be Vista Business and Vista Enterprise. I
will limit the scope of this article to the consumer versions of Vista.
Now for a disclaimer. Although I have a beta copy of
Vista, I have not yet installed it on my computer. I have a
large enough partition that I could install it and dual-boot
my machine. However, current antivirus, firewall and
anti-Trojan software will not run on Vista. There are not
yet any new versions of these security programs available
for Vista. Consequently, I have no intention of installing
this Vista software on my main working computer. I have
just acquired a secondhand system that I intend to use
with nothing but Vista and will connect it to the Internet
only when absolutely necessary. So this article is being
written based on the most reliable sources I have been
able to find that have been testing the beta version of
Vista. After I return from my two months road trip, I'll
start working with the Vista beta. For those not familiar
with the term “beta,” this refers to preproduction software
or a testing version of software that is not yet ready for
the market.
Now, back to the various versions of Vista. The
Starter edition is a very low-end version that will support
only 32-bit software. Its exact limitations don't seem to be
available yet. So, we'll just have to wait and see what Microsoft does with this version of Vista. It is fairly certain
that neither this version nor the Home Basic will support
the new graphics interface called “Aero.” However,
Home Basic will require a minimum of 512MB of RAM.
From most reports it appears to me that Vista running on
less than 1 GB of RAM will be seriously slow, like computers that try to run XP on only 128 MB of RAM.
So what does Aero offer the average computer user?
If you have a 3D graphics card with enough video RAM
(128 MB or more), Aero will provide an entirely different
appearance on your screen. (Some commentators have
compared the Aero graphics interface to that of the Apple
Macintosh OS X!) Graphics designers refer to some of the
capabilities as transparency, blurring, window previewing, and graphical rollover indicators. The easiest way to
describe some of the effects is to provide some examples.
The minimize, maximize and close indicators that you
find in the upper right corner of your current window will
change color as you pass your mouse over them. And this
color will spill out around the edges of the icon. This
gives you an additional visual indicator that your mouse
is in the right position. Another example is when you
place you mouse on the shortcut on the taskbar you will
see a thumbnail view of the program. So when you are
multi-tasking you can easily see which application you
want. Or, you can check on the progress of a video feed
or other running processes. Some other advantages of
Aero are the ability to see “around the edges” of windows
to the windows behind. This involves the transparency
and blurring referred to earlier. This is advantageous to
those who do multi-tasking. This ability is also apparently
built in to the new tabbed interface being included in
Internet Explorer 7. There is also a change to the Alt-Tab
function that in earlier versions of Windows allowed users
to tab through the list of running programs to find the one
they wanted to shift to. In Vista this function, now called
Flip, allows users to see a larger thumbnail view of open
programs. There may also be a related 3D view which
will show all the open windows twisted to a 45-degree
angle. The user can then cycle through the windows by
repeatedly pressing the Tab key.
The Aero graphics will be incorporated in the Home
Premium and Ultimate versions. However, it requires a
minimum of 128 MB of fast video RAM, DX9 3D support and a minimum of 1 GB of system RAM. Some
comments have led me to believe that it will not work
with motherboards that use shared RAM for the video
function. It requires a separate graphics card. Also, I
would never recommend trying to run a system with these
minimums. They should both be doubled, at the very
least. If your PC doesn't have this capacity, then you will
still be able to run Aero, only in a limited or basic mode.
It will not display all the features found in the full Aero
mode.
There have been a number of articles related to hardware requirements to run Vista. In my mind, it's a little
early for these specs to be firm. One thing you can be
sure of, Vista will require more RAM, a large hard drive
and a fast central processor. Both Intel and AMD are
touting their latest generation of processors as being necessary for running Vista. It does appear that current single
NVPCUG Computer News, August 2006, Page 12
core processors will be able to run Vista in 32-bit mode. I
suspect that at some later date you will need to consider a
dual-core 64-bit processor or a 32-bit processor that runs
hyperthreading. Naturally, the 64-bit processor will have a
definite advantage in running Vista.
The other question is, how well will Vista run current
32-bit software? Most of the new computers currently being manufactured have 64-bit processors. These are designed to work with both 32-bit and 64-bit operating systems. Vista will be a 64-bit OS. There are very few 64- bit
software applications available, and most of your current
software is, or should be, 32 bit. It is expected that “well
behaved” 32-bit software will run on Vista without problems. Only those applications that don't install system
level drivers or try to take control of the OS are considered
well-behaved. You will have to replace your antivirus and
firewall software. That is a given. New Vista applications
should be available when Vista comes on the market. The
same is true of anti-Trojan/anti-parasite software. Other
software that might be a problem would include video
games and multimedia applications. Those of you who
have been running Windows for a few years and have upgraded from earlier versions are already familiar with one
of the real roadblocks to getting started with a new OS.
That's right – device drivers! Every device driver for your
hardware like printers, scanners, external USB drives, etc,
will have to be rewritten. Early adopters of Vista will have
similar problems.
Windows XP runs 16-bit software in “Windows on
Windows” (WOW) emulation mode. Vista will run 32-bit
software in much the same way, using an emulation layer
to talk to the software. This converts the 32-bit program
calls to 64-bit code. This process should be transparent to
the user. Now, if you still have some 16-bit software or
DOS software, it really is time to upgrade. These will not
run on Vista without the use of third-party emulation software. There is no indication that Microsoft will support
16-bit or DOS applications.
Now the next topic that is of primary interest with this
Windows upgrade is also the one for which the least information is available. That is – Security! Windows XP and
Internet Explorer have developed quite a reputation for
being full of security holes. In spite of all of Microsoft's
efforts to plug the gaps, new ones keep showing up. Microsoft has indicated that Vista will be far more secure
than previous versions. The problem is that in trying to
tighten the security net, Microsoft seems to be making
things more difficult for the average user. With XP Home,
the user generally operates in an administrator mode so
that new applications can be installed and unused ones
removed without having to set up additional permissions.
With both XP Home and XP Professional, Microsoft has
tried to get individual users to use a limited nonadministrator mode on a regular basis. This has been singularly un-
successful. The reason for running in the limited user
mode is to prevent malware from accessing system applications in the Windows directory and subdirectories and/or
the registry. When the computer is set up so that accessing
these functions requires a password, any outside influence
can do less damage to the operating system or to the installed applications. However, because the limitations of
the user mode are so great, most Windows users end up
running in the administrator mode to simplify making
changes to their computer.
Well, it appears that Microsoft is going to change that.
Vista will enforce the limited user or user account control
(UAC) to prevent the user from having constant access to
administrative functions. Microsoft obviously doesn't believe that users can be allowed unlimited access to their
own computers. Included in this there may be increased
blocking of online software distribution. You may get
more pop-up warnings when your installed software tries
to access the Internet. Nearly all applications need to access the Internet at one time or another. This gives them
the capability to download updates, patches, bug fixes and
other security-related information. Many applications also
need to hook into the operating system in ways that are
similar to those used by malware. If your operating system
is constantly popping up warning windows and telling you
that your computer is at risk, how would you react? Would
you be especially annoyed if responding to these warnings
by clicking on “Cancel” closes the program and prevents
you from using an application? You may try to go back
and run all of your applications as an “administrator” as
you did in XP. However, Vista has various levels of
“Administrator” and may still require you to enter a password for non-Microsoft applications. Now for the caveat:
Vista is not yet in final beta form, therefore there can be
many changes, especially in the security setup. It will depend in part on the comments from the testing community.
Hopefully not all of them will be system administrators for
large corporations. What Microsoft has admitted in one of
their own tech articles is that “Windows services represent
a large percentage of the overall attack surface in Windows.” That is a direct quotation. So if Windows is the
problem, why are they trying to solve it by limiting the
ability of users to use their computers and their software?
Over the coming months I will continue to provide
updates on my own experience with Vista as well as information I obtain from other beta testers. We'll see just how
much benefit we'll really get from this Windows upgrade.
Dr. Lewis is a former university and medical school professor. He has been working with personal computers for more
than thirty years. He can be reached via e-mail: bwsail at yahoo.com.
The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal
Computer User Groups has provided this article.
NVPCUG Computer News, August 2006, Page 13
Hard Disk Disasters
By Dick Maybach, member Brookdale Computer User Group, New Jersey
Hard disk failure is the most serious PC problem,
because it jeopardizes all your data. Even if everything
else in your PC dies, if your hard disk is good you can
just move it to a new machine and be back in business
as though nothing had happened.
The first problem is to recognize hard disk failure.
Look for one or more of the following symptoms.
• A squealing or clicking noise – you will have to
open your system case to find where the noise is coming from. Diskette and CD-ROM drives and fans can
produce similar noises.
• A longer than usual time to boot up.
• A longer than usual time to open a folder or file.
• Spontaneous file or folder name changes.
• Frequent error messages.
• Missing or corrupted files or folders.
• Frequent “blue screens of death”.
If these begin to appear, immediately copy your
data files (most likely your My Documents folder) to
another device, preferably one with removable media,
such as a CD-ROM or a DVD. Do not turn off your
PC and do not spend time trying to diagnose the problem before saving your data. Every second you delay
increases the likelihood that more data will be lost.
Clearly, the best defense is to back up your data
before you have a problem. However, few people do
this, and even if you do, it may have been some time
since your last backup.
If your hard disk fails before you can save your
data, all is not lost. If your data is very valuable, for
example if it’s customer data, you can send your disk
to a commercial firm that specializes in data recovery.
This service will cost from several hundred to several
thousand dollars, but usually there is no fee unless
they are at least partially successful. If you decide to
do this, shut of your PC immediately and contact the
firm for instructions. If your data is worth less than
this amount, there are two things you can try:
• Remove the hard drive from the system unit and
give it a light tap by holding a screwdriver by its
blade and tapping the unit with the handle. Reinstall the hard drive and reboot.
• Remove the drive and place it in a freezer for several minutes, until it is cold to the touch. Reinstall and
reboot.
If either of these works, move your data to a safe
place immediately.
If you have only a partial disk failure, save as much
data as you can; then try the following.
• Restart your PC, but before Windows boots, get into
the BIOS setup utility. If you watch the screen carefully, you should see directions on how to do this. Often you will press F2 or F10. Look for an area called
Utilities or something similar and run any drive diagnostics available.
• Run CHKDSK. (Click on Start, then on Run…, and
at the prompt type “chkdsk x: /r”, where x: is the drive
in difficulty. If c: is problem drive, you will probably
see a message that chkdsk can’t check the drive now,
but will offer to check it the next time you restart. Answer “y” and reboot.
• Run diagnostics supplied by your drive manufacturer, or if you don’t have one, use Western Digital’s
Data Lifeguard Diagnostics, available free from
http://westerndigital.com. Versions are available for
both Windows and DOS.
You can take some simple steps to prolong the life
of all your PC components:
• Keep the system unit clean, especially if it sits on
the floor. Once every month or two open the system
case and remove any dust and debris with a vacuum. I
prefer this to compressed air, which just moves the
dirt to a new resting place.
• Don’t move your PC while it’s operating; especially, don’t jar it.
• Use a power surge protector or preferably an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). The latter are widely
available for $100 or so. Besides reducing stress on
your components, one of these will save your data if
the power fails. I always had a UPS at work, and every
so often I would see the lights blink and hear streams
of profanity from other offices whose occupants did
not have one.
Modern PC components are quite reliable, and the
chances are that you will replace your computer before anything fails. However, you should have a plan
in case there is a problem. Similarly, the chances are
that you will replace your car without ever having an
accident yet you still wear a seatbelt, and carry insurance.
NVPCUG Computer News, August 2006, Page 14
Thank You !
The Napa Valley Personal Computer
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NVPCUG Computer News, August 2006, Page 15
Choose Your Own “Home Page”
By Ira Wilsker
I work on a lot of different computers at a variety of locations, and one factor that consistently astounds me is that
many people have blissfully, ignorantly, never changed
their startup “home page” from its default. This is the page
that first opens when the user connects to the Internet. For
example, many Dell computers have the Dell Web site set
for the startup page when the user first accesses the Internet, while Windows itself, unless otherwise changed, defaults to Microsoft’s MSN home page, making it one of the
most-used startup pages. Many Internet service providers
(ISP), such as AOL, AT&T, and others changed the users’
home page to the ISP’s selected home page.
Startup or “home” pages are big business, because
they are commonly advertiser supported, and the more
views they get (also referred to in the industry as “hits”),
the more revenue generated by the host. This on-screen
real estate is so valuable that a type of malware or spyware,
sometimes known as home-page hijackers, will attempt to
change your home page to its client’s home page, for which
the miscreant receives compensation on each page so
changed.
There are many different services offering home pages,
and if you find one you like, you can easily to make it your
new one. The process is the same for most browsers. If
you use Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) and visit a
Web site you like, simply click on “Tools” on the menu
bar, and that will open a window where the home page can
be selected. If the open page is what you like, then click on
the “Use Current” radio button, and the current page will
be displayed each time the browser is loaded. If you
choose “Use Default,” the home page will revert back to
the default start-up page of Microsoft (or other manufacturer). On the new Internet Explorer 7 (Beta), which offers
tabbed browsing, you a different home or start-up page can
be selected for each tab. For those who do not want to connect to any page at all when loading the browser, IE7Beta
offers the option of a blank page. All versions of IE also
allow for the manual entering of any selected internet address for a home page. To directly go back to the home
page at any time, simply click on the little house or “home”
icon on the menu bar.
Firefox (www.mozilla.com), one of the most popular
browsers behind IE, offers you a simple interface to select
or change the home page. Clicking on “Tools” on the
menu bar opens a window where “General” can be selected, and then “Home Page.” Firefox allows the address
to be manually entered, or the current page loaded can be
selected. Other options allow for the home page to be selected from a previously saved bookmark (Internet Explorer calls these “Favorites”), or the option for a blank
start-up page can be selected. Firefox also offers the little
house on the menu bar for instant access to the home page.
There are many choices for a home page. Some users
use their Web-mail accounts as a home page, first displaying their e-mail when connecting to the Internet, while others may choose retailers, auction sites, employer Web
pages, search engines (such as Google or Yahoo), newspapers, or any other page of interest. While any page can be
selected as a home page, the most popular home pages are
usually news and information-based. My personal favorite,
which I use on all of my computers, is “My Yahoo,” at
my.yahoo.com. I have found My Yahoo to be the most
comprehensive and flexible home page. Being an information junkie, I have customized my My Yahoo page to include stock and mutual fund listings, news from dozens of
sources, weather, lottery results, sports scores, my personal
calendar, latest e-mails received, TV listings, and other
information. My Yahoo, which is very easy to configure,
directly offers thousands of choices. Many information
resources, such as the Examiner, are now using “RSS” or
“XML” feeds as a news source, and these can be added to
My Yahoo, often with a single mouse click. My Yahoo is
also customizable with hundreds of backgrounds, color
schemes, layouts, or other features to personalize it.
Microsoft is currently testing a new home page intended to at first supplement its flagship home page at
www.msn.com, and maybe later replace it. This new home
page, currently in beta testing, is currently online at
www.live.com. It will be a strong competitor to My Yahoo,
offering news, sports, weather, e-mail and other resources
in columns that are infinitely customizable.
There are countless other “My” homepages available,
such as AOL’s my.netscape.com, and other personalized
home pages, including Google’s “Personalized Home” link
sitting quietly on the top right corner of the popular
google.com website. All of these home pages can be easily
customized to suit individual needs.
There is no need to continue to use the default start-up
or home page provided by your operating system or ISP.
Investigate some of the alternatives, and increase your enjoyment of the Web.
The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups has provided this article.
Napa Valley Personal Computer Users Group
P.O. Box 2866
Napa, CA 94558-0286
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NVPCUG Computer News, August 2006, Page 16
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