PC Alert
Pointing you to the information
you need to know
Issue 11  :  22nd  March to 4th April 1999

Essential Internet

Our recommended sites with important new PC information,
helpful resource files and other items of interest.

IE5 Launch Slows Web
Microsoft launched Internet Explorer 5 on Thursday.  It's more than just a Web browser, with bundled chat utility, HTML authoring, and much more.  Which probably explains why it's a 70 MB download if you want the whole thing.   For end users, there's nothing really new.  What's exciting is the support for features such as XML and DHTML, which will allow the building of better (well, bigger) Web and intranet sites.

If you subscribe to PC Support Advisor or PC Network Advisor, also from ITP, you'll find the full release of IE5 on the PCSA126 and PCNA106 CD-ROMs.  Alternatively, if you're prepared to download it from the Web, be prepared to wait.  Microsoft's site, and indeed much of the Web,  has been running very slowly for the last few days and things are unlikely to improve for a while.

Latest Epson Drivers
With Epson's recent launches, the Web site has been updated with new drivers for its printing and scanning products.

And HP drivers too
HP, also, has a large collection of drivers for its scanners, printers, all-in-one products, and more.

VB Sample Code
If you, or any of the users you support, are writing in Visual Basic, the VBNet site contains a huge collection of information, sample code, and more.  Well worth a visit.

Microsoft Revamps Web Security
Microsoft has a new security system on its Web site, which makes it easier to register and doesn't require you to answer so many questions about your personal and business life.  The site is also more secure, according to Microsoft, which is probably a euphemism for "we've stopped recording personal data that your Web browser sends us".  If you're a regular user of Microsoft's web site, to download patches and obtain information, go through the (required) re-registration process now, and get your ID and password set up.  Better now than waiting until you urgently need a file from the site.

McAfee QuickClean
QuickClean is an excellent Web-based tool that deletes unnecessary files from a user's hard disk, thus (hopefully) speeding up Windows and recovering disk space.  Yes, it really runs from the Web, within your browser - there's nothing to install.  If you're willing to risk it, it does sound useful.

McAfee Online Clinic
QuickClean is just the start of what Mcafee says will become a whole host of pay-per-use tools available via the Web, including tune-up utilities and virus scanners.

Online Calendars
There's a whole host of online calendar sites coming on stream.  Store your details on the site, and you can access them from anywhere in the world.

Windows 98 Y2K fix
In the past, Microsoft has said that there are no Y2K patches for Windows 98 because it didn't need any.  Now, surprise surprise, around a dozen problems have been detected and there is a patch available.  You can't get to it from the Web directly - start the Windows Update feature in the OS and it'll take you there automatically.

Backup to CD-R
Forget tiny-capacity tape drives and unreliable DAT.  If you need to do backups of a machine and you can't justify a DLT drive, why not back up to CD-R?  The disks are only a couple of US$ each and, unlike tape, you can read them on any PC.  And here's a program specifically designed to do backups from NT to CD-R.

Linux Resources
This site has a lot of useful information about Linux, the free Unix OS which, according to many, is worrying Microsoft and Novell.  It's probably not giving the likes of Sun and SCO much of a good time, either.

DOS Test 2000
All the Y2K testing tools we've seen so far have been for testing Windows-based applications.  DOS Test 2000 claims to test DOS apps.  Which, as the manufacturer rightly points out, are older and thus more likely to have Y2K bugs.  There's a free eval copy available from the Web site, too.  (Serious note:  This site has some horrible graphics which flash black/white then white/black on its front page.  May affect sufferers from photosensitive epilepsy)

NT Security Course
Microsoft has a new training course, entitled  "Securing Windows NT Server".  Possibly worth investigating, though maybe it's not necessarily a good idea to take security advice from a company which has to release patches to its so-called secure operating system almost every week.

Visual Café Enterprise Suite
Symantec is now shipping its product for implementing large-scale Java-based Web and intranet sites.

Security Patch for FrontPage PWS
Microsoft has issued a patch for the FrontPage Personal Web Server which fixes a hole that could allow hackers to gain access to all the files on the host machine.

Search and Rescue
PowerQuest, the company behind the superb Partition Magic software, has launched a data recovery utility called Search and Rescue.  The company claims that, if you're armed with a copy of this, you can save thousands of dollars by not having to employ data recovery specialists when users accidentally format hard drives or lose files in other ways.

Also from PowerQuest, version 3 of DataKeeper is now released.  This program automatically backs up files from a workstation to a server whenever a file's contents change, thus removing the need to run any backup software at all.  Anything that makes support people's lives easier is definitely OK with us.

Smartcard Security for NT
Elonex, a UK-based PC manufacturer, has launched a smartcard security system for NT.  At a cost of around US$100 per user, this allows you to control authentication with smartcards rather than passwords.

Registry Information
This site has a lot of useful information on the Windows registry.  Great for anyone trying to work out the contents of a user's registry in order to troubleshoot a problem.

Transparent Encryption
Reflex Magnetics has launched Data Vault, its transparent encryption program for Windows 9x that sets up a virtual drive the contents of which are automatically encrypted and decrypted on the fly.  One useful feature is the ability for administrators or support staff to recover data from protected drives by overriding the user's password, but not without the user's knowledge.

Automatic Software Rollout
Snow, from Richmond Systems, is an automatic tool for rolling out software to corporate desktops.  Presumably so-called because the applications arrive across the machines like a blanket of snow.  The product also has facilities for remote desktop management.  Download an eval copy from the Web site.

Colleagues who know about security swear by Sessionwall, a firewall for NT that also logs and monitors all access.

Web Site Templates
Looking to design a corporate Web site?  Web Templates 250, from Xoom, is a software package containing 250 ready-designed empty sites.  Just fill in the data.

CD-Media Guide
There's an excellent site that covers all aspects of CD-R and CD-RW media and hardware.  Everything you need to know, including details of bugs in drives, longevity of backup and archives, and more.  Highly recommended.

Cabling Info
Networking company Anixter has a lot of useful background information on its site, including lots about cabling.

Serial number "not just in PIII"
So, Intel have been caught out.  Apparently, the unique serial number feature isn't just present in the PIII but in lots of other Intel CPUs too.  Nice of them to tell us.  Apparently it was all a mistake, says Intel.

Virtual Support Network
Want security advice but can't justify the price of a consultant?  Want white papers, troubleshooting guides, expert systems, and more?  You're in luck - someone's put one on the Web.

Floppy Bootable Linux
Want to play with Linux, but you don't have a spare PC?  It's actually possible to set up a version of Linux that will boot on a standard PC from 2 floppies, without the need to write anything to the hard disk at all.  This Web site tells you how.

Stop Hackers Running .EXEs
Yet another Microsoft security patch, this time to stop hackers being able to run executable files on your PC when you're browsing the hacker's Web site.

And There's More
And another patch from Microsoft, to block yet another loophole allowing hackers to gain root access on your machine when you connect to their Web site.

Help Site
Here's a great site, full of manuals and other useful stuff for support staff.

Essential Reading

Our pick of the best of the world’s IT press articles.

Head-to-head comparative reviews
17 PII/450 PCs PC World, April http://www.pcworld.com
117 Internet Service Providers Internet Magazine (UK), March http://www.internet-magazine.com
6 free email services Internet Magazine (UK), March http://www.internet-magazine.com
3 PIII/500 PCs PC World, April http://www.pcworld.com
10 Colour printers PC World, April http://www.pcworld.com
7 PIII/500 PCs PC Mag, 23 March http://www.pcmag.com
9 Online share-dealing services PC Mag, 23 March http://www.pcmag.com
19 Financial information Web sites PC Mag, 23 March http://www.pcmag.com
24 Megapixel digital cameras Publish, March http://www.publish.com
2 Unix workstations Software Development, March http://www.sdmagazine.com
4 Linuxes PC Mag, 23 March http://www.pcmag.com

Pentium III
Most magazines have in-depth features on Intel's new Pentium III this month, but one of the best we've seen is in the April issue of PC World.

Office 2000
Everyone's still doing Office 2000 previews.  If you've not read one yet, and want to know what's coming in the successor to Office 97, you could do worse than to read the April issue of PC World.  We like this preview because no one seems to have swallowed the Microsoft hype - the general conclusion is that, unless you're into Web publishing, you could do worse than stick with Office 97.

Ultraportable Projectors
Data projectors, which appear to have usurped the Kodak Carousel from the boardroom, are getting smaller and lighter (and brighter) all the time.  PC World has a roundup of some of the best, in an article which also offers advice on how to buy.

Open Source Software
PC Magazine, 23rd March, has an interesting article on what was once known as free software and now seems to be called "open source" software.  If you're wondering whether to throw out NT or NetWare in your company and replace it with Linux, this is required reading.

Windows CE Development
So, your users have Windows CE machines to take away with them, in order to provide access to diaries and important documents when away from the office.  But what if you want to write custom applications for CE?  Can standard tools like Visual Basic and Visual C++ do the job?  Yes, but it's not quite as easy as that.  PC Magazine's April issue goes into useful detail.

How to do a Webcast
In the March issue of Digital Video magazine, a useful step-by-step case study on how one particular company set up a live Webcast from a conference.  If you're considering doing something similar, either publicly over the Internet or as a staff-only version on the intranet, this will tell you what tools and expertise you need.

Top Internet Speed-up Tips
The March edition of Internet Magazine (UK) has a large feature containing 90 tips on how to speed up your users' internet access, including email, searching, browsing, connecting, and more.  Well worth a look, in order that you can be ready to pacify users who complain that all those millions of people downloading IE5 are slowing down the net for everyone.

AutoCAD 2000 Preview
CADence magazine, March 199, has a preview of AutoCad 2000, the forthcoming new release of the world's best-known package for computer-aided design.

International Linux
Linux is not just available in English.  Indeed, the cover of March's Linux Journal shows it running in Japanese.  And tells you how to do it, too.

Smartcards and Biometrics
Also in Linux Journal, a good article on smartcard and biometric security.  No particular Linux slant, or indeed to any other OS, just good general information on the subject of how to improve on the password to authenticate users.

Integrating Java and the Mainframe
Want to write a Java app for your intranet which access data on the mainframe and presents it to users?  The March issue of Software Development magazine will show you how.

Project Management Supplement
The March issue of Software Development magazine also includes a useful supplement on project management, aimed specifically at software developers.  Well worth reading if you're developing software internally, or supporting developers who can't keep their projects on time or to budget.

Light Relief - Computers and the Family
Newsweek magazine has a special edition out, containing 100 pages of computer-buying advice for families rather than businesses.  So if you want a camera, scanner, PC or any other technological toy for use at home rather than in the office, forget your Unix and NT magazines and get this one.  Also includes lists of family-oriented Web sites and educational software packages.

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