Gizmo Richard's Support Alert Newsletter - SE Edition

"Gizmo's top picks of the best
Tech resources and utilities"

 Issue 124 - 18th August, 2005

IN THIS ISSUE:
0. EDITORIAL: Is Free Security Software Good Enough, Part 5
1. TOP TECH SITES AND RESOURCES
1.1 How to Get the HTML Version of This Newsletter
1.2 New RSS Feed for This Newsletter
1.3 Social Search Engine Uses Del.icio.us Popularity
1.4 Guide to Building an Unattended XP Install CD
1.5 Search Podcasts and RSS Feeds
1.6 RootKit Writers Up the Ante
1.7 How to Reinstall Windows Without Losing Your Data
1.8 How to Run Firefox from a USB Flash Drive
1.9 Free Service Validates Web Pages (SE Edition)
1.10 Linux Distros Explained (SE Edition)
1.11 Try Out PHP/SQL Server Software for Free (SE Edition)
1.12 Securing Wi-Fi in the Enterprise (SE Edition)
2. TOP FREEWARE AND SHAREWARE UTILITIES
2.1 Free RSS Readers/Aggregators
2.2 Outstanding Firefox Extensions
2.3 The Best Clipboard Replacement Utility
2.4 Free Keylogger Detector
2.5 Best Usenet/Newsgroups Reader (SE Edition)
2.6 Free Spyware Scanner (SE Edition)
2.7 Free Utility Allows Collaborative Authoring (SE Edition)
2.8 Best Free Timesheet Program (SE Edition)
3. SECURITY PATCHES, SERVICE RELEASES AND UPDATES
3.1 Microsoft Security News
3.2 Firefox Security Release
3.3 Top Rated Anti-Trojan Discontinued
3.4 Spyware Scanners Come Under Fire
3.5 Stealthy Keylogger May Infect Millions of PCs
4. OTHER USEFUL STUFF
4.1 Access VoIP Using Wi-Fi Handset
4.2 Tiny Wi-Fi Signal Locator Fits on Keychain
4.3 Cheaper Alternative to PodCasting
4.4 Free Serverless Email System
4.5 Complete Waste of Time Department
4.6 How to Surf the Web Anonymously (SE Edition)
4.7 Test Your Geek Rating (SE Edition)
4.8 How to Learn to Remain Conscious While Dreaming (SE)
4.9 Don't Buy Any Cell Phone on This List (SE Edition)
5. TIP OF THE MONTH
5.1 How to Remove Google Text Ads Using the Windows Hosts File
6. FREEBIE OF THE MONTH
6.1 Best Free HTML Editor
6.2 Best Free Download/Upload Meter (SE Edition)
7. MANAGING YOUR SUBSCRIPTION

0.0 EDITORIAL

This editorial is the fifth part in a series looking at the effectiveness of free security software.

If you missed out on all of this you can read all previous articles at the Support Alert website:
http://techsupportalert.com/free-vs-paid-av.htm

In previous parts I've shown how users can build a highly capable set of defenses using a three layered system based on free security software.

Last month I showed that by adding an intrusion detection layer (IDS) to these three other layers you could achieve almost 100% protection. The free IDS products I recommended were PrevX and WinPatrol.

The problem I noted was that an IDS program is only effective if users think about the popup warning messages they receive from IDS products. Simply automatically answering "yes" provides no protection at all.

However, responding correctly to these warning messages is not easy. At times even experienced users may not be sure how to answer.

I wish I could give you specific guidance how to respond in all situations. I can't; there are just too many possibilities.

But don't despair; there are three specific situations where it's very clear how you should respond.

Furthermore, these three situations are often the most dangerous so if you answer correctly here you are going a long way towards keeping malware off your computer.

So what are these situations where it's clear how you should respond?

The first occurs when you've browsed to a web site and a warning message flashes up from your IDS even though you have not clicked any buttons or links at the site.

In this situation always disallow the action; that is, answer "No." No exceptions. Just say "No."

The reason you are getting warning messages from your IDS software is almost cerainly because the website is trying to secretly install software on your PC. It's a common trick used by the baddies and one where an IDS product like PrevX or WinPatrol can really help guard your system.

The second case is where you are working away at your computer and you get a warning message that a program is trying to add an entry to the Windows Startup folder or wants to start automatically with Windows.

Again, answer "No" unless you absolutely know the program can be trusted and has a legitimate reason to need to startup with Windows.

Sometimes this kind of message appears when one of the trusted programs on your PC automatically updates itself with the latest version. However, from the IDS message, you should be able to identify the program involved. If you recognize it and it's one of your normal programs or part of Windows, then it's fine to answer "Yes" to authorize the change. If you don't recognize the program you must say "No."

The third situation is the cruncher; it's the most common source of malware infection. Handle this right and you chances of becoming infected will be dramatically reduced.

That situation is when you install a software product on your PC.

Whenever you install a program, legitimate or not, your IDS program will throw up warning messages. Sometimes, quite a few messages. That's fine; it means the IDS is doing its job.

The sad fact is that there is no way the average users can work out from these IDS warnings whether the program is clean or riddled with spyware.

Experienced users can make some informed guesses but even they can't be sure.

More importantly, no IDS can protect a user who has his mind set on installing a product he wants. That user will answer "yes" to every warning slashed up by an IDS, no matter how many and how grave.

The sad fact is that the most common source of spyware and other malware infection is from users deliberately installing an infected program.

Put in plain English, they deliberately shoot themselves in the foot.

Ask anyone whose job involves removing spyware and they will confirm that most users get infected by their own intended actions. They download some attractive sounding toolbar, game, web accelerator or whatever from some dodgy website and install it deliberately and with intent.

So folks, in this situation, learn to say "No."

I'm not talking here about answering "No" to a warning from your IDS. I'm talking about saying "No" to downloading software whose legitimacy you can not establish.

Most users have learned not to open email attachments from untrusted sources. Yet many will without thinking download and install highly dubious programs on their PC.

Folks, there are thousand of great programs available to you on the internet for free. These programs are ready available from reputable download sites such as those listed here:
http://www.techsupportalert.com/best_shareware_sites.htm

On top of this, there are many newsletters like my own that recommend solid products. There are also many software forums that will give you sound advice.

With this plethora of clean and trustworthy software available there is absolutely no need ever for you to download and install any program whose integrity you can't verify. Just don't do it.

Next time you visit a web site and are offered a free program that purports to make your computer run quicker, your searches faster or whatever, simply refuse the offer. It's unlikely such programs can deliver on the promise but they sure can infect your PC.

Now not all programs offered by web sites are infected. Quite the opposite; most aren't. The point is that most users have no way of knowing which programs are infected.

If you choose to install an infected program on your PC, no IDS system can prevent you. All it can do is warn you and you will probably ignore those warnings because you want the program. That's human nature.

The problem dear readers, is not with the IDS system, the problem is with we users. As the great philosopher Pogo said, "We have seen the enemy and he is us."

See you next month.

Gizmo
supporters@techsupportalert.com

1.0 TOP TECH SITES AND RESOURCES

1.1 How to Get the HTML Version of This Newsletter

The HTML edition of Support Alert will commence in September. I'll be writing to you in the coming weeks giving details on how to subscribe. Meanwhile, if you want read this issue in HTML format you can do so at the following links:
http://www.techsupportalert.com/issues/issue124hse.htm
http://www.pcsupportadvisor.com/issue124hse.htm <= mirror copy

1.2 New RSS Feed for This Newsletter

If you want to be advised by RSS when the latest issue of this newsletter is published you can now subscribe to the RSS feed. It includes a full table of contents. I've also introduced a second feed to let you know each time I update my "46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities" list as well as the "Extended List." To subscribe, go to the Tech Support Alert web site; you'll find the RSS feed list in the bottom right hand corner of the home page.
http://www.techsupportalert.com

1.3 Social Search Engine Uses Del.icio.us Popularity

Here's an interesting implementation of social search: take Google rankings and weigh them with Del.icio.us tag frequency usage from top taggers [1]. This search site is experimental but I've found that even now it often yields more high value hits for computing topics than Google searches. Of course Yahoo! has its own embryonic social search engine but it is currently not very useful [2]. Worth snooping around though as this stuff could well point to the future of search.
[1] http://collabrank.web.cse.unsw.edu.au/del.icio.us/
[2] http://myweb2.search.yahoo.com

1.4 Guide to Building an Unattended XP Install CD

This site offers a clear how-to guide with separate instructions for beginners, intermediates and advanced users. When completed you'll have an unattended Windows XP install CD that includes SP2 and all subsequent hot fixes.
http://unattended.msfn.org/

1.5 Search Podcasts and RSS Feeds

Podcasts are really taking off since Apple introduced PodCasting support in iTunes. This site offers a good searchable directory of what podcasts are available [1]. If you are looking for an RSS feed on a particular topic then check out this RSS search engine [2].
[1] http://podcastalley.com/
[2] http://www.completerss.com/

1.6 Rootkit Writers Up the Ante

Just at the time when security program vendors are making progress in incorporating effective root-kit detection into their products, a new technology called "Shadow Walker" has been demonstrated that appears to evade all current detection methods. Full depressing details here:
http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,1841266,00.asp

1.7 How to Reinstall Windows Without Losing Your Data

Worth bookmarking; one day you may need it. Better still, print a hard copy. ;>)
http://pcworld.about.com/magazine/2109p156id111652.htm

1.8 How to Run Firefox from a USB Flash Drive

Portable Firefox is a special version of Firefox that allows it to run from your flash drive. It's based on the latest V1.06 release and supports Firefox extensions as well.
http://johnhaller.com/jh/mozilla/portable_firefox/

** Additional Items in the SE Edition **

1.9 Free Service Validates Web Pages

Most web validation sites tend to either concentrate on syntactical validation or standards compliance. This site, which will check individual pages or whole sites, checks both. If all this sounds too tedious try the second link below.
http://www2.imagiware.com/RxHTML/
http://posheika.info/whatevervalid/

1.10 Linux Distros Explained

Here's a quick introduction to the major Linux versions. The second link gives some detailed information on each.
http://www.tipmonkies.com/2005/06/16/linux-distros/
http://distrowatch.com/

1.11 Try out PHP/SQL Server Software for Free

At this site you can be sysadmin for two hours for dozens of different free/Open Source server-side applications. It's great for testing out alternatives. For example, if you are looking at groupware you can try out eight different packages.
http://www.opensourcecms.com/

1.12 Securing Wi-Fi in the Enterprise

This useful white paper describes the steps necessary to implement secure WPA and WPA-2 Wi-Fi in a company or workgroup. The section on setting up an authentication server is particularly helpful.
http://wi-fi.org/OpenSection/pdf/WFA_02_27_05_WPA_WPA2_White_Paper.pdf

Got some top sites to suggest? Send them to
mailto:supporters@techsupportalert.com

2.0 TOP FREEWARE AND SHAREWARE UTILITIES

2.1 Free RSS Readers/Aggregators

If you want to make use of the new Support Alert RSS feeds you'll need an RSS Reader of one sort or another. There's no shortage of options with dozens of stand-alone products on the market but one of the sweetest ways to access RSS is through your browser. Firefox users can subscribe to and read RSS feeds using the built-in Live Bookmarks feature. Use the first link below for a simple tutorial [1]. However Live Bookmarks is a bit minimal and most users would be better off installing a full Firefox RSS extension. Sage [2] is the safest bet for most users though some may prefer Pluck [3] because it allows you to store your feeds and bookmarks on a central server which you can then access from any PC. However, the centralized storage causes Pluck to run slower than Sage which stores information locally. Internet Explorer users can use also use Pluck as there's an IE add-in available. In fact, the IE version has more features than the Firefox version. If you want a stand-alone reader, check out the new, free, third generation BlogBridge aggregator [4]. Those wanting to integrate RSS with Microsoft Outlook email might like to try RSS Popper [5].
[1] http://www.mozilla.org/products/firefox/live-bookmarks
[2] http://sage.mozdev.org/
[3] http://www.pluck.com/
[4] http://www.blogbridge.com/
[5] http://rsspopper.blogspot.com/2004/10/home.html

2.2 Outstanding Firefox Extensions

Here are three less-known Firefox extensions that could really lift your productivity, particularly if you are an RSS user. The first is ScrapBook [1]. This allows you to save web pages, page snippets and links into hierarchical collections. Kind of like bookmarks on steroids with the web content available for offline use. All material you save can be annotated and you can even edit the raw material itself. On top of that, you can search saved collections including all saved web pages. Just the thing for all you information hunters and collectors for saving interesting information from web sites as well as your favorite blogs and feeds. The second extension I'd like to recommend is All-In-One Sidebar [2]. This allows you select and load any of your Firefox sidebars with a single click. This includes bookmarks, history, Download, Sage, Scrapbook and more. I've always found the Firefox sidebar a little awkward to use but this extension pretty well solves the problem. It's a real timesaver particularly if you a switching between Sage and ScrapBook. It also provides a number of other benefits like listing your extensions alphabetically and giving you fine control over how clicked links open in tabs. The third extension "Livelines" [3] is a little more mundane but valuable in its own way. It allows you to add an RSS feed to Sage (or Bloglines or many other RSS readers) simply by clicking the Firefox Live Bookmarks icon that appears in the browser status bar of RSS enabled sites. It's simple, neat and effective. All three extensions work with the current V1.06 version of Firefox.
[1] http://amb.vis.ne.jp/mozilla/scrapbook/
[2] http://firefox.exxile.net/
[3]https://addons.mozilla.org/extensions/moreinfo.php?application=firefox&id=324

2.3 The Best Clipboard Replacement Utility

The regular clipboard in Windows has limitations – one item at a time and no retention after logging off. Clipboard replacement utilities provide the ability to hold multiple items and store them for future use, even after logging off. There are many free clipboard replacement utilities available, including CLCL, Clipboard Magic, Clipboard Recorder, Clippy 2001, Ditto, DzSoft Paste & Save, and Yankee Clipper III. While none of these have the very extensive set of features of the class-leading shareware product ClipMate 6 ($29.95), they all offer the basic clipboard replacement features that 95% of us really want and need. If you just need a basic clipboard replacement utility, look no further than Clipboard Recorder [1]. It will store up to 99 items that can be easily selected and pasted from the popup history list by pressing the shortcut key (Ctrl-Alt-V by default). It supports a variety of formats (text, RTF, HTML, CSV, Bitmap, etc.) and has the ability to transfer copied items between computers. In addition, it is a very small program and uses very little resources. Clipboard Recorder is what the regular clipboard in Windows should have been! However, if you need advanced features such as the ability to support additional item types, create groups of items, search previous items, and synchronize clipboards across multiple computers, then I would recommend trying Ditto [2]. In addition to its extended feature set, its user interface is very clean, easy to use, and has many configurable options that you can configure to meet your needs. Note that Ditto requires DAO to be installed [3].
[1] http://www.lw-works.com/ Windows 98 and later, 382 KB
[2] http://ditto-cp.sourceforge.net/ Windows 95 and later, 422 KB
[3] http://ditto-cp.sourceforge.net/dao_setup.exe, 3.3MB

My hearty thanks to subscriber Craig R. Vollmar for reviewing these products for me. Craig is one of my few "trusted" sources and I look forward to his future contributions.

2.4 Free Keylogger Detector

Is someone logging your keyboard keystrokes right now? Probably not but if you want to find out for sure then run this tiny free utility that will scan for any software based keylogger running on your PC. I was a bit suspicious of this program at first because my natural paranoia made me think, "But what if this utility is actually itself a keylogger?" After testing it with several different anti-spyware and anti-trojan programs I assured myself that it was in fact perfectly kosher. With that established I found that it worked well and, while not the slickest of programs, it did detect the presence of all four different commercial keyloggers I happened to have available at the time. That's a pretty impressive performance. KL-Detector doesn't require installing so it makes a nice addition to your toolkit CD or flash USB drive. Freeware, Windows 2000 and later, 35KB.
http://dewasoft.com/privacy/kldetector.htm

** Additional Items in the SE Edition **

2.5 Best Usenet/Newsgroups Reader

I haven't used Usenet (AKA Newsgroups) for quite a while. These days if I'm looking for information from other users I tend to visit web based forums instead. However Usenet is still incredibly popular for those who are into downloading MP3 files, doubtful videos and even more dubious applications. In response to a reader question, I decided to re-visit the area and check out the latest newsgroup clients. Well, things have sure improved since I last used the system. Then, Forte Agent was the "hot" newsreader. Today Agent has been blitzed by a new generation of clients designed to find files rather than read news. Four programs impressed me in particular: Newsbin Pro, Newsleecher, Newspro and NewsRover. All can search for files across multiple groups and news servers and can seamlessly assemble the files from their component parts. Hey, they make finding and downloading files almost easy, something I never believed possible with Usenet! Of the three programs, NewsRover impressed me as the easiest to set up and use and would be a first choice for those new to Usenet. It's a $29.95 shareware product but there's a free trial available. Windows 95 and later, 4.9MB.
http://www.newsrover.com/order.htm

2.6 Free Spyware Scanner

You can't rely on any single anti-spyware program to find all spyware products. That's why I recommend you use two or more different programs. Many folks combine SpyBot with Ad-Aware or run one of these with another scanner such as Microsoft Antispyware. Here's another option. WebRoot, the maker of the excellent Spyware Sweeper program, is offering a free download called Spy Audit which will scan your PC for malware. It will let you know if you have problems but won't fix them. For that you'll need their $29 Spyware Sweeper product (or the 30 day trial version. ;>) Free, Windows 98 and later, 827KB.
http://www.webroot.com/services/spyaudit_03.htm

 

2.7 Free Utility Allows Collaborative Authoring

MoonShine is, according to the web site, a "client server multi-platform collaborative text editor." In plain English this means that it is a word processing program that allows a number of different users to create or edit a document at the same time. The shared document is kept on a server and accessed by each user over the internet through their own copy of the MoonShine client running on their PC. Those without access to a server can use a public server provide by the MoonShine developer. Both the server and client are free for non-commercial use and available for Windows, Linux and FreeBSD. Windows 98 or later, 244KB (client), 21KB (server).
http://me.sphere.pl/indexen.htm

2.8 Best Free Timesheet Program

This is a very lucrative class of programs and consequently the very best programs are, unfortunately, commercial products. The best of the free programs is "Timesheets Lite" from Moving Target Software. It's actually an older "lite" version of that company's full featured $29 shareware product. Its main limitation is that only one person can be connected to the program's database at any one time. That aside, Timesheets Lite has all the features needed for anyone who bills on a time or project basis. It can also export timesheet data to Excel for easy invoicing. I found much to like in this product and can give it my hearty recommendation. Freeware, Windows 98 and later, 4.68MB
http://www.timesheetsmts.com/freesoftware.htm

Got some favorite utilities to suggest? Send them to mailto:supporters@techsupportalert.com

3.0 SECURITY PATCHES, SERVICE RELEASES AND UPDATES

3.1 Microsoft Security News

This month Microsoft released a batch of six security patches [1] three of which were rated "critical." All the "critical" patches were for Internet Explorer, including a fault in JPEG processing, a cross domain scripting flaw and a serious remote execution bug. A somewhat embarrassed Microsoft had to re-release the IE patches within 24 hours of the original release due to a flaw which prevented some users from downloading the files. That glitch is now resolved. Users with the Windows Update service set to automatic should by now have received the updates. All other users should visit the Windows Update site [2] immediately and update manually as working exploits for two of the these flaws are already circulating on the internet.
[1] http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=51160
[2] http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com

3.2 Firefox Security Release

Mozilla has released version 1.06 of Firefox. The new version [1] is essentially a security update that fixes a number of flaws, several of which Mozilla is being very quite about. If you haven't updated, do so now. The folks at Mozilla continue to impress me with their speed in fixing potential problems in Firefox. Their rapid response sits in total contrast with Microsoft's tardy approach to patching Internet Explorer. Secunia Security currently lists 20 outstanding unpatched flaws in IE [2] including two highly critical flaws. By contrast Secunia lists only three unpatched flaws in Firefox [3], none of which are serious.
[1] http://www.mozilla.org/
[2] http://secunia.com/product/11/
[3] http://secunia.com/product/4227/

3.3 Top Rated Anti-Trojan Discontinued

TDS-3, the class leading anti-trojan program from Diamond Computer Services, was discontinued on the 22nd of July. According to Diamond the resources needed to keep up with the ever escalating quantity of malware was proving too draining for the company. Diamond will now concentrate its efforts in supporting existing products and the development of new programs. Existing users of TDS-3 have been offered free licenses to one of the company's excellent other products. More details here:
http://www.wilderssecurity.com/showthread.php?p=514250

3.4 Spyware Scanners Come Under Fire

The spyware vendors are putting makers of anti-spyware products under a lot of legal pressure to remove their underhand products from scanner detection lists or at least to downgrade their classification from "spyware" to the more innocuous "adware." A few months ago Lavasoft, the makers of the popular Ad-aware scanner, buckled. This month Sunbelt, makers of the top anti-spyware CounterSpy, did the same. Microsoft also re-classified some products in MS Antispyware in July but their motivation may have been commercial rather than the result of legal threat. Lamenting this sad situation, Mike Healan [1] in his Spyware Blog suggests users consult Spyware Warrior's list [2] of trusted anti-spyware products before selecting a product. I agree, but also suggest you use more than one product. Also at Spyware Warrior [3] is a recent analysis of which anti-spyware products detect the most controversial and litigious spyware products such as Claria and WhenU.
[1] http://www.mikehealan.com/2005/07/22/59
[2] http://www.spywarewarrior.com/rogue_anti-spyware.htm#trustworthy
[3] http://www.spywarewarrior.com/elh/adw-state.htm

3.5 Stealthy Keylogger May Infect Millions of PCs

Security firm SunBelt Software claims it has discovered a huge identity theft operation involving potentially millions of PCs infected with a keylogger called Srv.SSA-KeyLogger. The program secretly records confidential information such as bank account passwords typed into infected machines and transmits the collected information to a remote web site. SunBelt is now offering a small free utility that will scan your PC for possible infection by the Srv.SSA-KeyLogger. It's hard to say how much of this story is a beat-up but I suggest readers err on the side of caution and download the utility and scan their PCs. Folks like me who already use SunBelt's excellent CounterSpy spyware scanner don't have to worry as CounterSpy has been updated to detect the keylogger.
http://research.sunbelt-software.com/ssaclean.cfm (336KB)

4.0 OTHER USEFUL STUFF

4.1 Access VoIP Using Wi-Fi Handset

MSNBC is running a review of ZyXel's cute little P-2000W handset that allows you to make cut rate Wi-Fi phone calls by using VoIP services such as Ousing Vonage, Verizon, SunRocket, Skype and Gizmo. The unit will automatically search for and connect to available 802.11b or 802.11g Wi-Fi networks. If WiMax Wi-Fi arrives in the next year and delivers 50mbs mobile internet access as promised, these VoIP Wi-Fi phones could easily end up leapfrogging cell phone technology. Maybe you should consider selling your shares in cell phone companies now. ;>)
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8907101/

4.2 Tiny Wi-Fi Signal Locator Fits on Keychain

If you access Wi-Fi networks from your Laptop a lot then you'll know the frustration of moving around with your laptop to try to find a good connection. The diminutive Mobile Edge Enhanced Wi-Fi Locator solves this problem nicely. It will detect 802.11b/g signals up to 300 feet away using four LEDs to indicate signal strength. It detects Wi-Fi signals only and ignores microwave and portable phone signals. Best of all, it means you don't have to boot up your notebook just to see if there is a Wi-Fi connection available. The street price is around $20.
http://www.mobileedge.com/items.asp?cid=7&scid=7&pid=24

4.3 Cheaper Alternative to PodCasting

PodCasting is a great innovation but can be a very heavy consumer of your monthly internet bandwidth allocation. If a lot of your PodCast downloads are from normal AM and FM radio stations you should consider the alternative of using your PC to record from a radio receiver rather than over the internet. There are several USB radios available that plug straight into your PC, some of which include MP3 recording software. The Griffin Technology RadioShark AM/FM Desktop Radio [1] is an example. I've seen it selling for as little as $34.95 [2] complete with time-shifting software. You may also want to check out models from other vendors such as Avermedia and D-Link. Recording quality could be an issue with AM but FM should be just fine.
[1] http://www.griffintechnology.com/products/radioshark/index.php
[2] http://the-internet-eye.com/a-B0001WW3F2/Default.aspx

4.4 Free Serverless Email System

ePost uses P2P for email rather than a conventional client-server arrangement. In essence, all users of the system provide a little server capacity rather than having a big centralized server do the job. The big advantage of the system is security as all mail sent or received is fully encrypted. There is also a claimed improvement in reliability as there is no dependence on a single centralized mail server. Another nice feature is that ePost users can receive and send email to folks who use the normal email system. You must, however, use a special email address and cannot use your existing one. ePost is Java based and available for multiple platforms. It supports POP3, SMTP and IMAP protocols.
http://epostmail.org/

4.5 Complete Waste of Time Department

The first link is to a truly amazing set of optical illusions that, I guess, provide an explanation of why it's so hard to get the color right when painting a room. The second is to a 2D "rag doll" simulation that I guarantee will have you beguiled. Of course the fact that the "rag doll" is a cute bikini clad chick has nothing to do with the attraction. ;>)
http://www.echalk.co.uk/amusements/OpticalIllusions/colourPerception/colourPerception.html
http://www.izpitera.ru/lj/tetka.swf

** Bonus Items for Supporters **

4.6 How to Surf the Web Anonymously

A useful guide for both Internet Explorer and Firefox users.
http://wiki.ehow.com/Surf-the-Web-Anonymously-With-Proxies

4.7 Test Your Geek Rating

Are you really a geek or just faking it? Take the geek test and find out.
http://www.innergeek.us/

4.8 How to Learn to Remain Conscious While Dreaming

Lucid dreams, i.e. dreams where you are conscious that you are dreaming, are one of life's most remarkable experiences. Not everyone has experienced lucid dreaming but there are definite techniques to help enter this strange state at will.
http://www.dreamviews.com/

4.9 Don't Buy Any Cell phone on this List

CNet is carrying an interesting item listing cell phone models that performed poorly when they were reviewed.
http://reviews.cnet.com/4520-6454_7-6259916-1.html?tag=nl.e729

5.0 TIP OF THE MONTH

5.1 How to Remove Google Text Ads Using the Windows Hosts File

It seems that almost every web page you view these days has Google AdSense texts ads spread across the top or down the side.

These ads have never bothered me. They are easy enough to ignore and besides, webmasters are entitled to earn a living just like the rest of us.

However, lately some sites have started embedding the Google ads in the center of the page or worse still, right in the middle of a block of text. So I decided enough was enough and started looking for ways to block the ads.

It turns out that it's dead easy to stop them. In fact there are many ways you can do it. For example Firefox users can use the AdBlock or CustomizeGoogle extensions to kill the ads while Internet Explorer users can use one of the many ad-blocker add-ins such as AddSubtract or WebWasher.

Perhaps the simplest and most universally applicable method is to use the Windows Hosts file to block the address of the Google ad-server.

There is another advantage in using this technique; it will help you develop an understanding of the Hosts file and its many uses.

The Windows Hosts file

This a file on your computer that can be used to locally translate the names of web sites into IPs. IPs are sets of four numbers separated by dots like 65.109.128.16. They are the real addresses of the internet not web site names (URLS). Names are only a convenience and have to be translated into IPs. For example, the name (URL) of my website is techsupportalert.com but its IP, its "real" address on the internet, is actually 65.109.128.16.

Normally this kind of translation takes place at your ISP. They have a special server dedicated to the task called a DNS server. Whenever you type a URL like
www.techsupportalert.com into your browser address window, the DNS server translates the name into the corresponding IP; 65.109.128.16. It's automatic and requires no involvement from you.

However, you can also do it locally on your own PC and that's where the Windows Hosts file comes into play.

The Hosts file is just a plain text file containing a simple list of web site names (URLs) and their corresponding IPs. Here's an example of what a Hosts file might look like:

216.109.118.69  www.yahoo.com
65.109.128.16   www.techsupportalert.com
216.239.115.141 www.cnet.com

You can think of this like an address book. In an address book you look up a name and find the address. With the Hosts file you look up a web site name (URL) and find the address (IP). In the example above, any reference to the name www.yahoo.com will directed to the address 216.109.118.69.

Now, the Hosts file on most computers has nothing in it. That's fine because the DNS translation is usually handled by your ISP.

If your Hosts file does have entries then these are used for the DNS translation for those sites instead of your ISPs DNS server. This is actually fractionally quicker as it saves a step. In fact. some web accelerators store thousands of popular sites in your Hosts file to take advantage of this slight increase in speed.

But there's another common usage for the Hosts file: to block addresses. This is done by using a dummy address, typically 127.0.0.1, that goes nowhere. For example, consider this entry:

127.0.0.1 wwww.yahoo.com

With this entry in the hosts file, any reference to www.yahoo.com will be redirected to the address 127.0.0.1. Now that address is not a valid web address for any real web site. In fact, by convention it refers to your own computer.

If you have this entry in your Hosts file and you type www.yahoo.com into your browser, you'll get an error message: "Host cannot be found."

This is the very technique that we can use to block Google text ads.

Stopping Google Ads with the Hosts File

All the Google text ads seem to come from the address pagead2.googlesyndication.com. If we place that name in the Windows Hosts file and point it to a dummy address then the Google ads will not appear.

First though, we need to locate the hosts file. Here is the usual location for the major Windows versions:

Windows 9x, ME C:\WINDOWS
Windows NT (and some 2K) C:\WINNT\system32\drivers\etc Windows 2K, XP, 2003 C:\WINDOWS\system32\drivers\etc

The Hosts file is simply called "HOSTS" and has no file extension.

It's a simple text file and must only be changed with a plain text editor like Notepad and never a word processing program such as MS Word.

First, we need to open the Hosts file in Notepad. If you don't know how to do that then locate the Hosts file in Windows Explorer and right-click on it. Select "Open" and then check "Select the program from a list." You'll then be presented with list of programs; select Notepad. You should now see a simple text file.

Go to the first blank line at the bottom of the file and type in this entry:

127.0.0.1 pagead2.googlesyndication.com

Make sure you leave no blank lines before this entry.

Just save the file and you are finished. Saving this change may spark an alert from your anti-spyware software but it's OK, just approve the change.

If you've followed the instructions carefully you should never see Google AdSense text ads again. If at a future stage you want to see the ads again, just use Notepad to delete the line you just added.

The same technique can be used to block other advertising servers, malicious spyware or sites containing inappropriate material. In fact a number of folks offer free downloads of Hosts files containing thousand of entries of such unwanted sites.

I'm not a great fan of using the Hosts file for such large scale blocking. To me it's too unselective - I prefer to know exactly what I am blocking and this is virtually impossible with a list containing thousands of sites. However if you want to play with this kind of application, here are some Host file download sites:

http://www.hosts-file.net/
http://www.mvps.org/winhelp2002/hosts.htm

Dedicated Host file enthusiasts may want to check out Hostess, a free Hosts file editor/manager you can get from here:
http://accs-net.com/hostess/.

6.0 FREEBIE OF THE MONTH

6.1 Best Free HTML Editor

This is one of my most requested items but up until now I've not been able to give any product my hearty endorsement. There have been any number of contenders: Amaya for example, impressed with its standards compliance but was incomplete while Selida looked slick but had too many bugs. Finally a worthy contender has arrived on the scene in the form of the Open Source Nvu. In reality Nvu is nothing new but rather a reworking of the old Netscape Composer. Composer was always a solid product and the revamp has lifted the product into another class. Here is an HTML editor and site manager that's easy enough for beginners to use but powerful enough to build large sites. It's closer in concept to Microsoft's FrontPage more than any other product but unlike FrontPage it, thankfully, produces standards compliant code. Its easy-to-use WYSIWYG editor will delight HTML newbies while HTML honchos can simply click a tab to switch to code view. Multiple tabs can be kept open to allow simultaneous editing and there is excellent support for forms, tables and templates. An internal spell-checker is included. CSS is handled through the CaScadeS editor from Mozilla Composer. Nvu also has the handy ability to call W3C's HTML validator from within the product. It's also extensible via XUL. Nvu can upload files to your site via FTP and has some basic site management features but this is not its strength. Overall it's an impressive product; no, it's not a replacement for DreamWeaver but those looking for a competent, free HTML editor that's easy to use need look no further. Free Open Source, Windows 98 and later plus Linux, 6.57MB
http://www.nvu.com/

** Bonus Freebie for Supporters **

6.2 Best Free Download/Upload Meter

NetMeter shows upload and download speeds, along with cumulative weekly and monthly volumes and projected values. The program reminds me in many ways of Hagel's excellent $20 shareware product "DU Meter." In essence, everything you need for nix. Freeware, all Windows versions, 601KB.
http://readerror.gmxhome.de/

Got some top sites and services to suggest? Send them in to mailto:supporters@techsupportalert.com

7.0 MANAGING YOUR SUBSCRIPTION

The best way to manage your SE Edition subscription is from the Supporters' section of the Support Alert website.

There you'll also find all individual back issues, a downloadable back issue archive, plus a growing list of resources exclusively available to Supporters.
http://www.techsupportalert.com/supporters/private.htm

The Supporters' area is protected. To log-in, use the security information sent to you when you first subscribed or in subsequent update messages.

If you no longer wish to receive this newsletter, send me an email at supporters@techsupportalert.com. Remember to state the email address at which you are currently subscribed.

To change your delivery email address, go the Supporters' area of the website. There you can manage your subscription on-line. http://www.techsupportalert.com/supporters/private.htm

Receiving duplicate issues? If you are receiving an unwanted copy of the free edition of this newsletter, you can cancel that subscription by going to:
http://www.webelists.com/cgi/lyris.pl?enter=support.alert. Enter your email address. No password is needed. You can then cancel your free subscription.

Note that the free and paid editions are totally different publications so you can unsubscribe to the free edition without any chance of impacting your paid subscription.

You can renew your subscription to this premium SE Edition here: http://www.techsupportalert.com/resub.htm

Thanks to subscriber A. Belile for proofreading this issue.

You can contact this newsletter by snail mail at:
Support Alert
PO Box 243
Comstock Park, MI 49321-0243
UNITED STATES

Support Alert is a registered online serial publication ISSN 1448-7020. Content of this newsletter is (c) Copyright Ian Richards, 2005

See you next issue.

Gizmo
supporters@techsupportalert.com