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                         Support Alert
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                 Your pointer to the very best
                  tech information on the Web

                   Issue 89 - 2nd December, 2002

     Support Alert is a 100% subscription-only newsletter.
    Un-subscribe instructions are at the end of each issue.
 
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Quote of the Week

"Its are from bits.

Every it - every particle, every field of force, even the space-
time continuum itself - derives its function, its meaning, its
very existence entirely from binary choices, bits. What we call
reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes/no
questions."

John Archibald Wheeler, Scientist (The man who coined the term
"black hole")

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FROM THE EDITOR

I've always believed that it's better to be wrong than be right.

Hey, don't misunderstand me. I'd RATHER be right. After all,
I've got a healthy male ego to feed.

It's just that when you are wrong, you actually learn something.

Well I just learnt something.

A few weeks ago, over lunch, I was sounding off to a young
computer nerd friend about the problems of adware. I was
complaining how it's almost impossible on the Internet to
prevent advertisers discovering your preferences and habits.

Suddenly he interrupted me and said; "Gizmo, you are totally
whacked. You should be telling advertisers as much about you as
possible."

Stunned, I asked why.

"There's nothing wrong with ads as long as the ads are about
products that interest you. Ads are only a problem when they are
for irrelevant stuff. That's why you should tell advertisers all
about your interests. Then they will only send you ads that you
want to see."

This thought was a bit wild for me. I could understand the
reasoning but my poor baby boomer brain had trouble accepting
the implications.

Last week I had a chance to test out his theory.  I downloaded
the latest version of the Opera browser which is now free but
advertising supported.

Included in the download package is a comprehensive multi-page
survey where you can specify all your personal interests.

Normally I'd never, ever, fill in a survey like this. But in the
spirit of adventure, this time I did - all eight pages of it!

I felt very uncomfortable about the whole exercise. It was just
not me.

But blow me down. It worked. Over the next week I was served
dozens of ads while using Opera and they didn't annoy me at all.
In fact they interested me. One of the products advertised even
appears as an item in this issue.

So I was wrong. Yup, my young friend was 100% right.

But at least I learnt something ;>)
 

Gizmo Richards
mailto:editor@techsupportalert.com

P.S. The new "supporter's edition" of this newsletter will be
launched first thing in 2003. I'm using the time to put together
a whole lot of great freebies for those who subscribe. It's all
coming along brilliantly. You guys are just going to love the
final package.

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IN THIS ISSUE

1. TOP TECH SITES
 - Internet Explorer Errors
 - Declining Tech Support Quality
 - PC Tuning Tips
 - Free SQL Scripts

2. UTILITIES
 - The Best Disk Imaging Software Yet
 - Norton SystemWorks Bargain
 - Hide your Browsing
 - The Fastest Browser
 - Free Search and Replace Utility
 - Lock Down Your Icons

3. BUGS, SERVICE RELEASES AND PATCHES
 - New Cumulative Patch for Internet Explorer (Q328970)
 - Internet Explorer Cross Domain Exploits
 - Buffer Overrun in Data Access Components (Q329414)
 - Back Door in Some Alcatel Switches
 - Permission Based Worms

4. OTHER USEFUL STUFF
 - Bargain Hardware Firewall
 - Free Cell Phone Accessories
 - Set Up a Powerline Network
 - Gizmo Gets Flamed
 - Missing Windows XP Clipboard Viewer
 - Acronyms Unpacked
 - Freebie of the Week

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1. TOP TECH SITES
=================

Internet Explorer Errors
Getting strange error messages from Internet Explorer? Then
check out their meaning here:
http://www.generation.net/~hleboeuf/erriexpl.htm

Declining Tech Support Quality
If you have been feeling that the quality of vendor tech support
has been declining then you'll find ample support in this survey
from PC World.  Depressing reading.
http://www.pcworld.com/features/article/0,aid,105854,00.asp

PC Tuning Tips
Like to get more performance from your PC or broadband
connection? Then I suggest you check out this excellent site.
http://www.speedguide.net

Free SQL Scripts
This personal site features an excellent collection of SQL
6.x/7.x/2000 scripts all written by the site owner who's
authored papers include "A Rugged Terrain Traversal Gait for a
Quadruped Ambler". I'd die to have that on my CV.
http://www.umachandar.com/resources.htm

Know some great tech sites? Send them in to
mailto:editor@techsupportalert.com  

 2. UTILITIES
=============

The Best Disk Imaging Software Yet
For anyone serious about tech support, a disk imaging utility is
an essential tool for backup, recovery, upgrading and a host of
other common tasks as well. I've used just about all of the
available products and the bad news is that none of them are
really great. Symantec Ghost is obscure, Powerquest's
DeployCenter and Drive Image are clunky and most of the rest are
just not reliable. That's why I was enthusiastic when I recently
tried Acronis True Image. After using it for a couple of days I
was strongly of the opinion it was the best product of its type
I'd used.  As a cross check, I sent a test copy to Jeff
Partridge, one of our volunteer reviewers.  Here are his
comments: "The main features are: the ability to produce an
image of an entire drive or any partition; to back up to another
drive, a network drive, or a drive with removable media, or a
network drive. It will also create either a set of floppies or a
bootable CD to act as a rescue source. When it restores, it can
resize the imaged partition to fit any space. It will also
restore a boot partition to a blank drive, which is just great.
I give it 9/10." Get the demo version here: (8.8MB)
http://www.acronis.com/products/trueimage/

Norton SystemWorks Bargain
Norton SystemWorks is one of the few products I recommend to all
my friends when they buy a new PC. It includes a great anti-
virus program, with automatic updating and the "one button
checkup" feature is an easy way for the average user to keep
their machine in top condition.  I recently checked out
SystemWorks 2003 and have to report that, cosmetics aside, it is
essentially the same as 2002.  The good news is that 2002 is on
sale everywhere at deeply discounted prices. So why spend big
money on 2003 when the 2002 version does the same thing at a
fraction of the price? In fact, this site claims to be offering
it for free, after a mail-in rebate.
http://www.softwareoutlet.com/index.php

Hide your Browsing
Ghostzilla is designed for those who like to surf at work but
want to appear to be working.  No, it's not another "boss
screen" application, rather it's a Mozilla based browser that
embeds itself inside another application. The display is greyed
out to appear inconspicuous. Quite clever really. (9.3MB)
http://www.ghostzilla.com/

The Fastest Browser
For the last 10 days I've been using the beta release of Opera
7. This is a total rework of the code with the aim of improving
speed and reducing size.  They have been successful on both
counts. It's the fastest browser I've used and at 3MB, is
reasonably compact by the standards of other products. The beta
appears to be quite stable - I certainly had no problems at all.
If speed is important to you, then I suggest you give it a try.
http://www.opera.com/

Lock Down Your Icons
Sick of Windows moving your icons around on the desktop? Lock
them down with this nifty free utility. (400KB)
http://www.sillysot.com/

Got some favorite utilities? Why not share the news? Send
your top picks to mailto:editor@techsupportalert.com
 

3. BUGS, SERVICE RELEASES AND PATCHES
=====================================

New Cumulative Patch for Internet Explorer (Q328970)
Wow, these cumulative patches are coming thick and fast. This
one adds patches for six new vulnerabilities, the most severe of
which could allow an attacker to run code of choice.  Better
update now.
http://www.microsoft.com/technet/treeview/default.asp?url=/technet/security/bulletin/MS02-066.asp

Internet Explorer Cross Domain Exploits
It is still not clear whether the latest IE cumulative patch
(above) fully addresses all possible exploits that utilize the
cross domain vulnerability disclosed by Andreas Sandblad in
early November.   All Outlook and Outlook Express Users should
ensure that their Microsoft Internet Security Zone is set to
"Restricted Sites".  Click this link for more details:
http://www.jmu.edu/computing/security/info/iehot.shtml

Buffer Overrun in Data Access Components (Q329414)
Yet another Microsoft unchecked buffer problem. This one is
rated "critical" and affects MDAC, a set of database
connectivity components that is widely utilized in many
Microsoft products. Those at risk include users of IE versions
5, 5.5 and 6 plus IIS users with versions of MDAC earlier than
2.7 with RDS enabled. Windows XP users are not affected even if
using IE 6. More details here:
http://www.microsoft.com/technet/treeview/default.asp?url=/technet/security/bulletin/MS02-065.asp

Back Door in Some Alcatel Switches
CERT have issued an advisory that Alcatel OmniSwitch 7700/7800
switches running Alcatel Operating System (AOS) version 5.1.1
have a backdoor that would allow anyone to take over the network
to which the switch is attached. Apparently this is because an
operating system debugging feature was accidentally left enabled
in the shipped product. A firmware upgrade is available from
Alcatel.
http://www.cert.org/advisories/CA-2002-32.html

Permission Based Worms
Anti-virus company MessageLabs is carrying an alarming report of
what may be the first of a whole new family of quasi-worms that
bury permission to raid your email contact list in an end user
license agreement (EULA). First you get an email that look like
a standard electronic greeting card notification message. Then,
when you click the link to download your card, you are asked
permission to download a browser plug-in to read the E-greeting
card. A lengthy EULA agreement flashes up and if you click "I
agree" then bingo, you have legally given all your email
contacts to the software vendor. Additionally, the worm sends
copies of the original email to everyone in your contact list.
Clearly it pays to read the fine print. And be careful about
downloading any e-greeting cards, especially at Christmas.
http://www.messagelabs.com/viruseye/report.asp?id=111

4. OTHER USEFUL STUFF
=====================

Bargain Hardware Firewall
If you are looking for a cheap hardware firewall to protect your
home or small office network, you should check out the LinkSys
BEFSR11 router which has a street price as low as $53.  Of
course it's not only a firewall - it allows you to connect up to
253 users to a single broadband Internet connection. You can
also use it to block individual user's access to the Internet.
http://tomshardware.bizrate.com/,mpoi__cat_id--467,prod_id--5149019,rf--wgg,title--Befsr11.html

Free Cell Phone Accessories
A cell phone radiation shield, a booster antenna and a hand-free
earpiece are just three items being offered for nix by this cell
phone site apparently in the hope that you might buy something
else. You'll be charged a minimum of $5.95 shipping but even so,
it looks like a good deal. I just accidentally surfed to this
site and have not personally tested their offer, so please
approach with appropriate caution.
http://www.polstore-iyv.com/

Set Up a Powerline Network
OK you want a home network but your house is not network wired
and you don't want to go to Wi-Fi.  Another option is to use
your powerlines to carry the data.  This tutorial from ZDNet
shows you how to do it:
http://www.zdnet.com/products/stories/reviews/0,4161,2898100,00.html

Gizmo Gets Flamed
"Dear Gizmo, why are you so biased against P2P networks? Are you
acting as a self appointed moral guardian or are you simply
being paid by the record companies?"  Louise, let me say up-
front I adopt no moral position on file sharing. On this one,
it's up to individuals to decide on the rights and wrongs of
their actions. Frankly, given the dubious actions of the RIAA, I
don't think there is any moral high-ground.  My objection to P2P
is centered on the security risk.  Public file sharing is like
having unsafe sex with dozens of complete strangers - the risks
are just too high. Check out the link below. According to this
article, 6% of all downloads on the KaZaA P2P network are
actually viruses disguised as MP3 files!  What more can I say?
http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/55/22119.html

Missing Windows XP Clipboard Viewer
The Clipboard viewer went missing with the release of Windows XP
but it's still there if you know where to look. Full details
here:
http://www.andyrathbone.com/tips/clipbrd.html

Acronyms Unpacked
FYI, here are some of the common UseNet, email and SMS
abbreviations. HTH.
http://www.techdictionary.com/chat.html

Freebie of the Week
This is cute. TinyResMeter is an itsy-bitsy system monitor.
Unlike many other monitors, it doesn't consume a lot of CPU
utilization in order to tell you your CPU utilization. In
addition to CPU usage you can optionally monitor cache, RAM,
page file and swap file usage, running processes and threads,
disk space utilization and a number of other parameters as well.
Also built-in, is a screen grabber that saves the current screen
to disk when you press PrintScreen. How they fit all this into
96KB beats me.
http://194.6.133.21/pesoft/

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

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This edition of Support Alert was proof-read by subscriber A.
Belile who kindly donated her services. My hearty thanks.

(c) Copyright TechSupportAlert.com 2002