"Your pointer to the very best
Tech information on the Web"
Issue 101 - 17th September, 2003
Support Alert is a registered online serial publication
Quote of the Week
Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't
mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny
iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer is at the
rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed
it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey
lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe.
- Bisso's Weblog
Warning: application of this finding is not recommended when
programming, though this apparently wasn't heeded by the dudes
who wrote the MS buffer code ;>)
We techies are simple souls.
Look at me now; I'm happy, very happy, and all because I just
solved one of my pet peeves.
Now all techies have a long list of computer annoyances, little
things that drive them mad.
But this particular annoyance was driving me bananas. I suspect
it may be driving you bananas as well.
When you read this newsletter (or any newsletter), wouldn't it
be nice to be able to read an interesting item, click the link
and then continue reading the newsletter without being
interrupted by being switched over to your browser?
That said, wouldn't it be even better to be able to read through
the whole issue, clicking links of interest and have them all
fetch in your browser in the background, ready for you to read
when you’ve finished the newsletter?
Well I've found a way to do it. More accurately, a satisfactory
way. I've tried several other solutions in the past but they
were more trouble than they were worth.
This two-part solution however, works really well. Here's what
First, you must set up your email program so that it stays in
the foreground. That is, the email window stays on top when you
click a link in an email message rather than gets buried under
your browser window. Secondly, you need to setup your browser to
stack up multiple sessions.
The Windows operating system allows any open window to be set up
so that it's always on top. However almost no email readers
allow you to set that attribute. To do this, you need a third
I've found two: the first called Heldup is free and you can get
it here: http://www.johnmacintyre.ca/%5CHeldUp.asp
The second is called Actual Title Buttons, cost $19.95 and is
available at http://www.actualtools.com/titlebuttons/.
Both work equally well but differ in convenience of use. With
Heldup, the way you set a window permanently on top is by
clicking a task tray icon and then dragging the icon to the
window title bar. With Actual Title Buttons, you just click a
button that's added to every window title bar next to the
maximize, minimize and close buttons.
This latter system works way better. So much better that I
suspect you may well be tempted to fork out the 20 bucks. If you
do, you'll get a side benefit; Actual Title Buttons also allows
you to minimize any application to the system tray and can make
any window transparent. There's a free trial version, so I
suggest you give it a test drive.
The next stage is to set your browser up to convert a series of
link clicks into multiple sessions in multiple windows.
Now, you can get Internet Explorer to do this by a combination
of option settings and registry fixes but it's not worth it.
Firstly it makes normal day-to-day usage of IE inconvenient.
Secondly, IE doesn’t support tabbed windows so all those
sessions get piled up in a mess in your task bar.
Much better is to install the freeware program MyIE2. You can
think of this as a kind of shell that sits on top of IE that
provides tabbed windows along with a wide range of other
features missing from IE. It doesn't interfere with IE itself
and you can use the two programs together if you wish. But I can
assure you that once you've used MyIE2, you'll never go back to
plain vanilla Internet Explorer again.
MyIE2 is free and is small download at 560KB. You can get it here
Once you install MyIE2, select Options/MyIE2 options/Window/New.
On this panel you set the actions that initiate a new window.
Make sure "local files" is selected. Incidentally, I deselect
all the other options except "Middle mouse button clicks on
links" That way, MyIE2 behaves just like IE with link clicks
opening in the same window but when I want a link to open in a
new tabbed window, I just click with my scroll wheel.
Next, set MyIE2 as your default browser by selecting
Options/Default browser/Set as default browser. You can, of
course, reset IE as your default browser in the same way.
As an aside, MyIE2 has lots of options and it might take you
some time to get it operate exactly as you want. But persevere
because what you'll end up with is a browser customized to your
exact needs. For guidance, check out the excellent FAQ in Help.
That's it. Now, next time you read a newsletter, just set your
email reader window to stay on top, then click away on those
interesting links and they'll all be there, stacked up ready for
you to view, once you've finished reading the newsletter.
Oh happy days.
P.S. Thanks to all those who filled in the reader survey last
issue. The message was overwhelmingly "great newsletter, nothing
is broken so don't change it." There was a minority who wanted
more technical items (15%) and more Linux (12%) so I'll do what
I can to address those needs as well, otherwise it will be
"steady as she goes."
LAST ISSUE’S QUIZ: - "Is it possible to boot Windows from a USB
drive when there is no motherboard USB drive support?"
ANSWER: Here's a paraphrase of the winning answer from James
Baumann MCSE, MCP+I: "The answer is "no" and "yes, maybe." It's
"no" because the BIOS can't detect the USB drive without a USB
driver. As the USB driver is normally supplied by Windows, it
simply can't be loaded until Windows starts up. The answer is
"yes, maybe" because with Windows 9X it's possible to boot DOS
from a floppy, Zip or CD boot disk then use DOS to load a DOS
USB driver. Windows could then be loaded from the USB drive. In
fact a number of USB drive vendors offer such boot disks but
they don't work with 2000 or XP."
Nice work, James! Your copy of PestPatrol is now on its way to
THIS ISSUE’S QUIZ: Win a free copy of PestPatrol!
"Is it possible to merge multi-part MIME messages using
Send your answer to the address below and win a copy of
mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org. Use the subject line "The
IN THIS ISSUE
1. TOP TECH SITES
- Free: The Neatest Net Tricks
- Use Your Broadband to Phone Anywhere for Free
- File Format Secrets Unlocked
- The Best Backup Software
- Free ASP Tutorials
- Disposable Email Addresses to Order
- Auction Your Programming Jobs / Sell Your Skills (SE Edition)
- Great Tips for Better Search Engine Rankings (SE Edition)
- The Best Internet Speed Test Site (SE Edition)
- Automated Google Search Reports (SE Edition)
- Free System Cleaner
- Free Notepad Version for Linux
- The Best Outlook Spam Filter
- Free Batch File Processor for XP/2000
- Control End User Access to Removable Devices (SE Edition)
- Easy Way to Strip MP3s and Videos from Newsgroups (SE Edition)
- Serious Workgroup Communication & Management Utility (SE
- Suite of Free PDF Tools Impresses (SE Edition)
3. SECURITY PATCHES, SERVICE RELEASES AND UPDATES
- Cumulative Patch for Internet Explorer (822925)
- Flaw in Visual Basic Allows Arbitrary Code Execution (822715)
- Buffer Overrun In RPCSS Service Allows Code Execution (824146)
- Unchecked Buffer in MDAC Function (823718)
- Flaw in NetBIOS Could Lead to Information Disclosure (824105)
- Flaw in MS Word Could Enable Macros to Run (827653)
- Buffer Overrun in WordPerfect Converter (827103)
- Unchecked Buffer in Microsoft Access Snapshot Viewer (827104)
- XP SP1 USB 1.1 and 2.0 Drivers Updated
4. OTHER USEFUL STUFF
- 4GB CompactFlash Card Now Available
- More on the Google Calculator
- Using WinXP's IPsec Client
- Using a USB Flash Drive with Linux
- Best Way to Find Images on the Web
- Divorce Less Stressful than Email Loss
- The Most Convenient Backup Solution Yet (SE Edition)
- How to Properly Backup MS Outlook (SE Edition)
- Device Jams Cell Phone Cameras (SE Edition)
- Web Site Helps You Get a Pay Raise (SE Edition)
5. FREEBIE OF THE WEEK
- Access the Command Prompt Easily
- Excellent Free Web Site Link Validator (SE Edition)
Items marked "SE Edition" appear only in the special Supporter's
Edition of this newsletter. This edition is reserved exclusively
for those generous individuals who have donated to this site.
1. TOP TECH SITES
Free: The Neatest Net Tricks
If you like Support Alert but find some of the items a tad
technical, I recommend you check out Jack Teems' free Neat Net
Tricks newsletter. Its motto, "No Screwdriver Needed", pretty
well says it all. Whatever, it's been running now for over seven
years and has nearly 100,000 subscribers so he's clearly doing
something right. Jack is currently offering free "A Baker's
Dozen Of The Neatest Neat Net Tricks" to all new subscribers
until September 30. It’s an excellent compilation of great
sites and useful utilities.
Use Your Broadband to Phone Anywhere for Free
This looks big. Skype is a free P2P based VoIP system that
allows broadband users to talk "on the phone" to other Skype
users using their internet connection. Much to like here: it
works with firewalls, doesn't require NAT or a dedicated IP,
voice quality is good, the user interface is simple, there is no
centralized infrastructure, it's from the folks who wrote KaZaa
and it's already been downloaded more than 150,000 times. If
that's not enough for you, what about the fact that it's free?
File Format Secrets Unlocked
Wotsit's Format started out with the intention of documenting in
detail the many different file formats in use. These days, it
has expanded to include code snippits, scripts, utilities and
other resources needed to read/write specialized file formats.
Check out the section on MS Word DOC format.
The Best Backup Software
Jeff Partridge and I have just completed an agonizingly long
series of reviews looking at 18 Windows backup programs. In the
end, two products emerged as clearly superior, though Jeff and I
disagreed which of these was the best. The result? Two Editors'
Choice awards;>) Note that these reviews were written for end-
users rather than techies and for home/SOHO backup products only.
Free ASP Tutorials
This site offers a comprehensive suite of free ASP tutorials,
many useful scripts, plus lots of links to other ASP resources.
Disposable Email Addresses to Order
Need a temporary email address to give to some annoying web site
that insists on you registering? Well, simply make up anything
and then add the suffix "@mailinator.com”. For example,
email@example.com. Then go to the Mailinator website and
collect any email to that account. It's free and you don't even
need a password to get your temporary mail. All mail is deleted
after a few hours.
** Bonus Items for Supporters **
Auction Your Programming Jobs / Sell Your Programming Skills
Here's a neat idea: put your programming task out to competitive
bid using this free web service. Well, sort of free, in the
sense that 15% of the fee for the winning bid goes to the web
site operator. With over 50,000 programmers signed up the
bidding is very competitive but variations in code quality must
surely be a concern when comparing prices.
Great Tips for Better Search Engine Rankings
A lot of SE optimization tips fall into the class of the
bleeding obvious. Others are simply misleading. This excellent
set of tips, however, is well researched and has real content.
Lots of nice tools as well. Highly recommended.
The Best Internet Speed Test Site
This site offers speed tests utilizing 40 different web sites
throughout the world. You'll get much more accurate results than
speed tests based on a single site. I find this site gives me
the most reliable figures of any I’ve used.
Automated Google Search Reports
I like this! It's a free service that each day will email you
any changes in the results of a Google search on a number of
user-defined search phrases. Great for tracking your website
ranking and good, too, for monitoring fast changing information.
Got some top sites to suggest? Send them to
Free System Cleaner
Easy Cleaner provides a number of useful PC maintenance
functions including the removals of invalid entries from your
Windows registry, the identification and removal of duplicate
and other un-needed files, and the option of cleaning up your
start menu. I found it to be easy to install and fast in use
and, apart from missing a number of entries in my startup file,
it worked pretty well. However, like many utilities in this
class, it is a potentially dangerous tool in the hands of the
inexperienced. Yes, it makes automatic registry backups but
beginners wouldn't know where to find these. Yes, it gives lots
of warnings but these are generally not sufficiently prominent
or meaningful to deter newbies. Overall a valuable tool for the
experienced user but novices had best stick with more forgiving
products like Norton SystemWorks. (1.4MB) – S.F.
Free Notepad Version for Linux
EditPad Lite has long been my favorite free Windows NotePad
replacement but now there's a free version for Linux. It's a
late beta but looking good. (3.0MB)
The Best Outlook Spam Filter
Sorry POPFile/Outclass, there's a new champ on the block; a
product called Junk-Out from The Office Maven, a company that
specializes in MS Office accessories. Like POPFile, Junk-Out is
an adaptive statistical filter. However, while POPFile uses the
naive Bayesian algorithm, Junk-Out uses the more sophisticated
Bogofilters technique, capable of giving even more accurate
filtering. The real clincher though is the way Junk-Out
integrates seamlessly into Outlook. So seamlessly that it
actually looks as though it's part of the product. Apart from
making daily usage easier, this close integration greatly
simplifies initial setup and training - always an area of
difficulty with statistical filters. For example, on
installation Junk-Out scans your Contacts and Sent folders and
automatically adds your regular correspondents into the friends
list. It comes, too, with a prefigured dictionary of 30,000 "bad
words" used by spammers so the filter can start detecting spam
immediately. Like all statistical filters, though, it will only
give its best results after some weeks training on your mail.
Overall, a real winner and now my Outlook spam filter of
choice. Shareware, $19.95 (Basic) and $29.95(Pro), free trial
version available. (9.7MB)
Free Batch File Processor for XP/2000
If you run Windows 2000 or XP and find yourself missing the old
DOS batch files then check out File Commander, a free utility
that allows you to set up a single job that will execute any
combination of file copy, move or delete commands. It works with
other versions of Windows, too, and may be useful for folks who
want to automate a task but can't write a .BAT file. (983KB)
** Bonus Items for Supporters **
Control End User Access to Removable Devices
The security risk posed by allowing company employees unfettered
access to removable devices and media is enormous. For example a
caddied 60GB 2.5 inch USB drive is small enough to fit into a
shirt pocket yet could hold an entire customer database.
Smartline DeviceLock is a software solution to this problem that
uses a client on every user’s PC to control device access. The
system administrator sets permissions for each client using a
centralized management console. Prices range form $35 for a
single license to $4500 for an enterprise license. A free trial
download is available. (1.45MB)
Easy Way to Strip MP3s and Videos from Newsgroups
MP3 and video junkies are going to enjoy this program. Tifny
opens up to 6 simultaneous connections to multiple news servers
and scans selected newsgroups automatically for photo, music and
video files to download. Filters can be used to exclude
categories, multi-part messages are combined transparently, and
downloaded files are automatically catalogued. Some nice extras
include a jukebox to play MP3's (great once I figured out how to
close the display!), an image viewer and a video player. Not
really for beginners. Shareware US$29.95. (3.5 MB) - A.S.
Heavy Duty Workgroup Communications and Management Utility
Ziata is a product designed to manage communication flows in
complex workgroup environments such as large sales offices,
lawyer’s suites or help desk environments. You can think of the
product as essentially a front office manager that uses a
relational database to integrate telephone calls and email
requests with staff scheduling and responses. This is a powerful
package with a steep learning curve that is well worth exploring
for those seeking to manage appropriate workgroup environments.
The download is a massive 21.2MB.
Suite of Free PDF Tools Impresses
Tom Phelps from the University of California has released a set
of free tools for manipulating batches of PDF files. The Java
based tools include utilities for merging, splitting,
compressing, extracting and encrypting. The compression tool is
particularly potent and can significantly reduce the size of
most PDFs. Nice.
Got some favorite utilities to suggest? Send them to
3. SECURITY PATCHES, SERVICE RELEASES AND UPDATES
Oh, this is getting tedious. Nine advisories from MS alone! To
avoid this section overwhelming the newsletter, I'm now only
going to describe “Critical" level advisories. I'll list the
others as headings with the link back to the full MS security
Cumulative Patch for Internet Explorer (822925)
Systems Affected: IE V5.01, 5.5, 6.0, 6.0 for Server 2003
Problem: This is the latest in a series of cumulative IE patches
and covers multiple vulnerabilities including a really nasty one
that could allow an attacker to take control of a PC through a
suitably crafted html email or web page. Security firm Secunia
claims that this patch is only partly effective so expect
another cumulative patch soon. Meantime, the only 100% safe way
to browse is with ActiveX controls and plugins disabled, which
is a major pain as many legitimate sites won't function with
these settings. To see if your browser is vulnerable, click the
second Secunia link below. My system, which is fully patched,
including MS03-032, was vulnerable.
Flaw in Visual Basic Allows Arbitrary Code Execution (822715)
Systems Affected: Most versions of MS Access, Word, PowerPoint,
Excel, Visio, and MS Works since and including 97.
Problem: "A flaw exists in the way VBA checks document
properties passed to it when a document is opened by the host
application. A buffer overrun exists which if exploited
successfully could allow an attacker to execute code of their
choice in the context of the logged on user. In order for an
attack to be successful, a user would have to open a specially
crafted document sent to them by an attacker. This document
could be any type of document that supports VBA, such as a Word
document, Excel spreadsheet, PowerPoint presentation."
Buffer Overrun In RPCSS Service Allows Code Execution (824146)
Systems Affected: NT4 Workstation/Server, Windows 2000/XP,
Problem: "There are three identified vulnerabilities in the part
of RPCSS Service that deals with RPC messages for DCOM
activation- two that could allow arbitrary code execution and
one that could result in a denial of service. The flaws result
from incorrect handling of malformed messages." .... "an
attacker could create a program to send a malformed RPC message
to a vulnerable system targeting the RPCSS Service." ... " An
attacker who successfully exploited these vulnerabilities could
be able to run code with Local System privileges on an affected
system, or could cause the RPCSS Service to fail. The attacker
could then be able to take any action on the system, including
installing programs, viewing, changing or deleting data, or
creating new accounts with full privileges."
Unchecked Buffer in MDAC Function (823718)
Flaw in NetBIOS Could Lead to Information Disclosure (824105)
Flaw in MS Word Could Enable Macros to Run Automatically (827653)
Buffer Overrun in WordPerfect Converter (827103)
Unchecked buffer in Microsoft Access Snapshot Viewer (827104)
XP SP1 USB 1.1 and 2.0 Drivers Updated
Microsoft has issued a patch for the USB drivers included as
part of Windows XP SP1. The patch addresses various problems
relating to power management, Plug and Play detection and the
use of hi-speed isochronous devices.
4. OTHER USEFUL STUFF
4GB CompactFlash Card Now Available
No, it's not a typo, 4GB it is. It's just been announced by
Lexar Media. However, it will set you back a painful $1499.
More on the Google Calculator
Last issue I mentioned that you can now do calculations in the
Google search box. Since then I've discovered just how smart
this calculator is. For example, it handles complex math
operators as well as conversions and common constants. And it
handles several syntax variants as well. Some examples:
80kg=?pounds -> 176.4 pounds.
speed of sound > 340.3 meters/second
32 in binary ->100000
e^(i*pi) -> -1
answer to life, the universe, and everything -> 42
Google has yet to document all the features but you can see some
of the options at these links:
Using WinXP's IPsec Client
It's all explained in this useful guide from Tom's hardware.
Just the thing if you are traveling and want to use your VPN
client to access a LAN behind a IPsec VPN endpoint router.
Using a USB Flash Drive with Linux
Nice how-to guide from Extremetech.
Best Way to Find Images on the Web
This article looks at the effectiveness of various search
engines in locating images on the web. A tad academic in tone,
but full of useful information.
Divorce Less Stressful Than Email Loss
The BBC is carrying a report about a survey of MIS managers
which found that "... when something goes wrong with e-mail for
a week, the experience can be more traumatic that moving home,
getting married or divorce, at least for a third of those taking
part in the survey. "
** Bonus Items for Supporters **
The Most Convenient Backup Solution
I've mentioned Maxtor's OneTouch line of USB/Firewire external
drives before. They offer users the attractive option of backing
up their PC's with the touch of a button. Maxtor has just
announced an upgrade to the product line along with new pricing.
Cost now ranges from $199 for 200GB through to $399 for 300GB.
Personally, I backup to a 2.5 inch laptop drive in a USB
external caddy using a drive imaging program. It's cheap, I
don't need a separate power supply as the 2.5 inch drive is
powered by the USB connection, and it's portable. However, a
push button solution will be attractive to many users.
How to Properly Backup MS Outlook
Many users regularly back up their Outlook .PST files but aren't
aware that they really should be backing up their rules and
other settings as well. Discover how from this useful MS
Knowledge Base article.
Device Jams Cell Phone Cameras
Here's a bit of good news for those worried about the security
and privacy threat presented by the popularization of cell phone
cameras. A UK company is currently beta testing a hardware
device that jams the camera function without interfering with
voice usage. The effect is very localized and ideal for
protecting sensitive areas.
Web Site Helps You Get a Pay Raise
This site offers a free pay raise calculator but more valuable
is the useful information provided to help you support your pay
raise. You can find this by clicking the "additional resources"
5. FREEBIE OF THE WEEK
Access the Command Prompt Easily
If you are a regular user of the Windows command prompt you will
appreciate this nifty free utility that allows you to access the
command prompt directly from Windows Explorer. The integrated
environment is a real plus. So is the fact that you end up in
the folder where you want to be. No more CD commands with long
file name hassles. (118kb)
** Bonus Freebie for Supporters **
Excellent Free Web Site Link Validator
Xenu's Link Sleuth is a free link checker that is as good as any
commercial product I've tried and is blindingly fast as well.
You get comprehensive html reports of any problems plus a
complete list of all valid links on your site. The latter is
really useful for building a site map to help search engine
spiders navigate the nooks and crannies of your site. (232KB)
Got some top sites and services to suggest? Send them in
Visit the Subscribers-only section of the Support Alert website
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Thanks to the following volunteer reviewers for their efforts:
Daniel Rose (D.R.)
Annie Scrimshaw (A.S.) aka Annmarie at www.cybertechhelp.com
Jeff Partridge (J.P.)
Sheila Foss (S.F) aka PippieT at the MSN Computer Chat/Group
Reviews written by Annie, Daniel, Jeff and Sheila are indicated
by their initials at the end of the review.
Thanks too, to subscriber A. Belile for proofreading this issue.
(c) Copyright TechSupportAlert.com 2003