Support Alert
                       Supporters' Edition
                    ========================
                    www.techsupportalert.com

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

                 Issue 118 - 16th February, 2005

    Support Alert is a registered online serial publication
                         ISSN 1448-7020.

                        <<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>
 

IN THIS ISSUE:
==============
 
0.   EDITORIAL: How reliable are PC Security Products?

1.   TOP TECH SITES
1.1  The Best 46 Freeware Utilities Updated
1.2  Anti-Spyware Products Compared
1.3  Google Now Offers Maps, Cheat Sheet
1.4  Get Some Free PC Help and Give a Little Too
1.5  Bring Your Windows XP PC Back from the Dead
1.6  Run Online Virus Scan from FireFox
1.7  How to Ensure Windows Remembers Your Folder Settings
1.8  Bypassing Windows Download/Folder Access Restrictions (SE)
1.9  How Fast is Your Browser (SE Edition)
1.10 What TCP Ports Do (SE Edition)
1.11 How to Get a Bigger Hotmail Mailbox (SE Edition)
 
2.   UTILITIES
2.1  Open Office and FireFox Revisited
2.2  Faster than a Speeding FireFox
2.3  Free PIMS Offer Alternatives to Outlook
2.4  Free Utility from Microsoft Detects Network Sniffers
2.5  More Free Disk Space Usage Utilities
2.6  New Decentralized Version of BitTorrent (SE Edition)
2.7  Free Utility Warns of Potential Disk Drive Failures (SE)
2.8  Free Anti-virus Utility for Smart Cell Phones (SE Edition)
2.9  Free Open Source Accounting Package (SE Edition)

3.   SECURITY PATCHES, SERVICE RELEASES AND UPDATES
3.1  Microsoft Security Patches
3.2  Flaw in RealPlayer Ready to be Exploited
3.3  Serious Spoofing Scam Affects Most non-IE Browsers
3.4  Serious Flaws in Oracle Patched
3.5  Change Your FireFox Settings to Enhance Security

4.   OTHER USEFUL STUFF
4.1  PDA Wristwatch is a Geek’s Dream
4.2  Unexpected Uses for the Mac Mini
4.3  How to Handle Obnoxious Cell Phone Users
4.4  Free Security Tools Better than Commercial Versions
4.5  Simple Way to Send Yourself Reminders
4.6  Poor Man's iPod for $99 (SE Edition)
4.7  How to Distinguish Fact from Fantasy (SE Edition)
4.8  The Meaning of Life, Death and Everything (SE Edition)
4.9  Free Utility Sends Email Voice Messages (SE Edition)
 
5.   TIP OF THE MONTH
5.1  How to Make FireFox Load Much Faster
5.2  Password Protecting Folders in Windows XP

6.   FREEBIE OF THE MONTH
6.1  An Outstanding Digital Image Organizer/Editor
6.2  Mass Rename Files Easily and Quickly

7.0  MANAGING YOUR SUBSCRIPTION
 

0. EDITORIAL
============

Over the years I've had a few abusive letters from subscribers
but this one was unusually virulent and personal.

It involved a statement I made in my editorial last month. A
statement which ironically, I regard as self evident:

"Yes, your anti-virus scanner can fail to detect malware
products. So can your Spyware scanner. No security product is
perfect. Most are pretty good but perfect, no."

Not only was this statement challenged by my accuser, but he
also claimed that I was "stirring up and frightening ordinary
people" so that I could "peddle them Microsoft's spyware
programs" and my own security products.

We can dismiss these last accusations easily. It is ludicrous to
portray me, of all people, as an advocate of anything
Microsoft.  And besides, the Microsoft anti-spyware product I
recommended was free. As for my own security products, I simply
don't have any.

However, the question of the fallibility of security products
cannot be so lightly dismissed. Let us consider this:

Anti-virus scanners are on the whole quite effective in
detecting viruses and worms but they still have problems. In
particular, they are totally reliant on the quality and currency
of their signature file updates. Some products are only updated
weekly or on a needs basis and are consequently vulnerable in
the interim.

Anti- virus scanners also differ greatly in their
sophistication. The better products will pick up polymorphic,
auto-patching and encrypted viruses and are capable of looking
inside many different kinds of archives and binding schemes as
well as email attachments.

Put these two factors together and you have to accept that not
all virus scanners perform equally. There are stars and there
are ordinary performers and all else in between.

The folks over at Virus Bulletin regularly test the ability of
the major AV products to detect currently circulating viruses -
their "100 Top Viruses in the Wild."  They award their VB100
rating to AV products that detect all 100 in any given month.
http://www.virusbtn.com/vb100/archives/products.xml

Over a period of time it's possible to tabulate how often
individual AV products receive the VB100 award. Here are the
results for some major AV products from 2003 onwards:

NOD32    10/10  100%
Norton    9/9   100%
F-Secure  9/9   100%
Trend     8/8   100%
Kaspersky 9/11   82%
McAfee    8/10   80%
AVG       6/8    75%
Norman    7/10   70%
F-Prot    6/9    67%
Avast     6/9    67%

This is not comforting news for users of the free Avast and AVG
products nor indeed for any user of the lower ranked products.
More so when you consider that we are talking about the ability
of these products to detect viruses and worms that were in mass
circulation at the time of the tests.

Alas, the situation for anti-trojan scanners, adware products
and firewalls is no better, maybe worse.

In my recent tests of anti-trojan products over at www.anti-
trojan-software-reviews.com
the best performing product, TDS-3,
only picked up 56% of the Trojans in the test set. Norton Anti-
Virus 2004 didn't detect a single Trojan.
http://www.anti-trojan-software-reviews.com/trojan-detection-test.htm

The most thorough evaluation of spyware scanners to date has
been one by Eric Howes late last year. In his tests the best
performing product, Giant Antispyware, detected only 63% of
spyware while SpyBot S&D managed to find only 33%.
http://spywarewarrior.com/asw-test-guide.htm

In a large but slightly dated test of 24 firewalls by PCFlank,
not a single product passed all the leak tests. The top rated
product, Outpost Pro, managed to pass only 71% while the popular
free version of ZoneAlarm managed 57%.
http://www.pcflank.com/art41c.htm

No folks, security products are not perfect and never will be.
That's why I've been nagging you for months about the need for
layered protection.

Layered protection means running multiple security products so
that if one layer fails, another will protect you. All PC users,
for example, should have an anti-virus scanner, a spyware
scanner and a firewall. Higher risk users may also need an anti-
trojan scanner, an intrusion detection program and more.

Layering can be further enhanced by duplicating individual
layers. Many folks already do this when they run both SpyBot S&D
and Ad-Aware spyware scanners. Running both a hardware and
software firewall is another example. Again, the idea is that if
one product fails to catch a problem then hopefully another
similar program will.

Yes, it is possible to protect your computer. No, it's not easy
but it can be done. Just how, we'll explore next in the coming
months.

But alas, dear Virginia, there is no perfect PC security product.

Gizmo
supporters@techsupportalert.com

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

1.1 The Best 46 Freeware Utilities Updated
I've just updated this popular list. There are 17 revised items,
10 additions and six deletions. If you haven't checked the list
for a while, now's a good time. You might like to bookmark the
page as it's only available to subscribers and can't be directly
accessed from the web site.
http://www.techsupportalert.com/best_46_free_utilities.htm

1.2 Anti-Spyware Products Compared
As I mentioned in my editorial, Eric Howes last year carried out
the most complete test yet of the detection and removal
capabilities of the major anti-spyware products. What caught my
attention at the time was the poor performance of SpyBot Search
and Destroy (33% detected) and the class-topping performance of
Giant Antispyware (63% detected). The implications are clear:
first, you need more than one anti-spyware product. Second, you
should if possible, be using Giant. Thirdly, it may be time to
retire SpyBot as your primary anti-spyware product.  Read the
full results of Howes' survey here:
http://spywarewarrior.com/asw-test-guide.htm

1.3 Google Now Offers Maps, Cheat Sheet
The ever expanding Google is now offering a beta of a new
service that provides maps, driving directions and a local
business search for the United States, Puerto Rico and some
localities within Canada. Users with Internet Explorer or
FireFox can enjoy some neat features such as map click and drag
and pop up magnification of local areas. While at Google, check
out their new cheat sheet which summarizes Google's many
advanced search commands.
http://maps.google.com/
http://www.google.com/help/cheatsheet.html

1.4 Get Some Free PC Help and Give a Little Too
Just last week I received a review request from a new free tech
support site. I checked it out and while the site itself is
somewhat basic the advice offered is actually quite good. I
admire sites like this where folks give back to the community
without any expectation of profit and I'll do what I can to help
support them.  Next time you have a PC problem try it out. On
the other hand, if you are technically skilled and have a little
time to spare, why not volunteer to help? What goes around comes
around.
http://www.freetechsupport.org

1.5 Bring Your Windows XP PC Back from the Dead
Toms Hardware is running a useful article covering different
ways to recover an XP PC that won't boot. The first two options
canvassed are familiar enough: use the Windows Recovery Console
or boot from a Knoppix CD. Much more interesting is the third
option; to boot from a CD with Bart's Preinstalled Environment
installed. This latter option has many attractions including the
ability to read and write NTFS files, and to run a wide range of
utilities installed as plug-ins on the Bart CD.  The article
gives full instructions how create a Bart Boot CD but be
warned, - you'll need to have reasonable PC skills. An
alternative is the "Ultimate Boot CD" which uses the Bart PE as
its basis, or my personal favorite, the "911 Boot CD."  Building
a boot CD can be challenging but it's worth it. All it will cost
you is an hour of your time and the price of one CD-R. One day
you'll be truly thankful you did it.
http://www.tomshardware.com/howto/20050112/index.html
http://www.ubcd4win.com/ <= Ultimate Boot CD
http://www.911cd.net/ <= 911 Boot CD

1.6 Run Online Virus Scan from FireFox
Last issue I mentioned the excellent Trend Micro online virus
scanning service but lamented the fact that the service utilized
ActiveX and consequently could only be accessed through Internet
Explorer. Thanks to Terry Smith who sent me a non-ActiveX link
where you can run the Trend scan using FireFox or indeed any
browser that supports Java. It's well worth bookmarking as this
is one of the few online scans that will also remove infections
rather than just detect them.
http://fr.trendmicro-europe.com/consumer/products/housecall_launch.php

1.7 How to Ensure Windows Remembers Your Folder Settings
You know the problem.  You diligently set up a folder to look a
particular way and then it reverts to another layout. This
problem has been present in every version of Windows but appears
to be finally fixed in XP SP2.  The problem is that Windows can
only remember details for a maximum of 200 local folder
positions. This can be fixed by a simple registry patch to
increase this maximum, details of which you can find in the
first link below. Be aware that the same set of symptoms can
also be created if you’ve set up your folder options to make all
folders look the same. For details see the forum thread in the
second link.
http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;813711&FR=1&PA=1&SD=HSCH http://www.annoyances.org/exec/show/article03-104

** Additional Items in the SE Edition **

1.8 Bypassing Windows Download and Folder Access Restrictions
Here's a useful read for sysadmins. It's an article that shows a
simple way that users can bypass system restrictions to download
and execute files and additionally get access to any folder they
want. The solution is simple enough; change Windows Group Policy
settings to restrict user access to the command prompt and other
similar programs.
http://neworder.box.sk/newsread.php?newsid=12077

1.9 How Fast is Your Browser
There's no doubt that for a given internet connection, some
browsers run faster than others. Here are some sites that allow
you to easily test the difference between browsers. The first
site tests browser JavaScript execution speed. The second tests
the time taken to load a page from a nominated site. The third
and in my experience, the most reliable, allows you to test
download speeds from 40 popular web sites.  When testing surfing
speed you'll get more reliable results if you run tests several
times and average the results rather than just test once.
Remember, too, to clear your browser cache between runs. If you
can't be bothered to running your own tests, then check out the
last link which leads to a comparison of the speed of all major
browsers. I put this link last because the data presented
doesn't jell at all with my experience.
http://www.world-direct.com/mozilla/dhtml/funo/jsTimeTest.htm
http://www.numion.com/Stopwatch/
http://www.numion.com/YourSpeed/index.html
http://www.howtocreate.co.uk/browserSpeed.html

1.10 What TCP Ports Do
Many of the 65535 TCP ports on your PC are for general purpose
use while others are used by specific protocols and
applications, legit and otherwise. At Steve Gibson's site you
can query the usage of any port number and also test whether
that specific port is open on your PC.
http://grc.com/port_1.htm

1.11 How to Get a Bigger Hotmail Mailbox
According to subscriber Karsten Niehof, many Hotmail users who
live outside the states are limited to a 2MB mailbox. But as
Karsten notes "Changing your Hotmail profile address to Florida,
USA will upgrade it immediately in to 250MB."  Thanks for that,
Karsten. I'm sure using a home state other than Florida will
work fine, too. I wonder if you get 500MB if you live in Texas ;>)
http://www.hotmail.com

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

2. UTILITIES
============

2.1 Open Office and FireFox Revisited
Last issue I mentioned a CD offering a multi OS implementation
of Open Office with FireBird for $29.95. Thanks to Randy Dupuis
for pointing out that you can download much of the material for
free from The Open CD site. This Open Source project has been
around for a while but I hadn't checked the latest offerings
until Randy reminded me. I’m impressed; you can get for free
just about every application software product you need to run a
PC. If you then add to this collection some free security
products such as AVG anti-virus, Ad-Aware and Ewido Anti-trojan,
then throw in some of the utilities from my "46 Best-ever
Utilities" collection, you will have all the software you'll
ever need without spending a cent.
http://theopencd.sunsite.dk/programs/

2.2 Faster than a Speeding FireFox
The success of the FireFox browser has drawn attention away from
the many other interesting Gecko based browsers that are in
development such as K-Meleon, Galeon, Epiphany, Skipstone,
Salamander and Camino to name but a few.  Each has its own set
of positives and negatives but the one that has quietly
impressed me has been K-Meleon.  I've been running the just-
released version 0.9 for a few weeks now and can confidently say
that it is something special. It differs from FireFox in several
key aspects: First, it's targeted to and optimized for the
Windows platform only. Second, it uses its own zippy native
toolkit for the GUI rather than FireFox's slower XUL based
system. Third, it comes with fewer end-user bells and whistles.
These add up to a browser that loads at least twice as fast as
FireFox, takes only a fraction of the memory used by FireFox and
runs a tad faster as well. It's got some nice design features,
too. I liked the use of layers as opposed to tabs and
appreciated the ability to save sets of layers as groups. On the
downside there are few extensions and configuration involves
some manual editing. On balance though, I am impressed. So
impressed that I'm going to use it my standard browser on one of
my PCs. Recommended for those with older/slower PCs who need an
alternative to Internet Explorer and for geeks like me who
simply like clever design. Freeware, Windows 95 and later, 5MB.
http://kmeleon.sourceforge.net/

2.3 Free PIMS Offer Alternatives to Outlook
In the last issue I praised the newly released Thunderbird Email
client but lamented the lack of calendaring and other PIM
features. Since then a new 0.2 version of Sunbird, the open
source Mozilla calendar program has been released. Although it's
still in its early stages, it's already very usable. It does,
however, only deal with calendaring. If you want other PIM
functions there are some other free alternatives: First, there's
Sunbird. It's small, resource efficient and has a really neat
feature that displays on your desktop your to-do list for the
day. If you want more features still, check out EssentialPIM. It
does many of the same things as Outlook and will import your
Outlook data as well.  Linux/Gnome users of course have an
excellent free PIM in the form of Evolution. The good news is
Evolution is being ported to Windows. Personally, I can't wait.
http://www.mozilla.org/projects/calendar/sunbird.html (6.5MB)
http://www.ipi.fi/~rainy/index.php?pn=projects&project=rainlendar (717KB)
http://www.essentialpim.com/ (1.2MB)
http://www.gnome.org/projects/evolution/  

2.4 Free Utility from Microsoft Detects Network Sniffers
Microsoft has released a free security utility tool called
Promqry 1.0 designed to detect the unauthorized presence of
sniffers on a network. The utility, which can be operated
through a graphical user interface or via command line, works by
looking for network devices that are operating in promiscuous
mode. It requires Windows 2000 or later and the Microsoft .NET
framework. (255KB)
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=1a10d27a-4aa5-4e96-9645-aa121053e083&DisplayLang=en
 
2.5 More Free Disk Space Usage Utilities
Last issue I mentioned SpaceMonger, a free utility that displays
your disk space usage graphically using a simple system where
the display size of folders is proportional to the disk space
taken. Subscriber Matthew Turen wrote in to let me know about
another free utility called SequoiaView that does the same thing
but displays the space usage using a related technique called
“Squarified treemaps.” Thanks, Mathew, for that. I’ll add to
your suggestion yet another free disk space utility that uses
treemaps, though these are just ordinary rectangular ones not
squarified. It’s an open source project called WinDirStat. In
additional to the graphical space representation, it offers a
regular directory listing as well a summary chart showing usage
by file type. Me, I still like SpaceMonger. It’s cruder than the
others yet very effective and runs directly from the executable
without the need for installation.
http://www.win.tue.nl/sequoiaview/  553KB
http://windirstat.sourceforge.net/   640KB
http://www.werkema.com/software/spacemonger.html   103KB

** Additional Items in the SE Edition **

2.6 New Decentralized Version of BitTorrent
One of the problems with the hugely popular BitTorrent protocol
is that it is critically reliant on centralized trackers. These
trackers have, however, become prosecution targets for
organizations like the MPA to prevent their copywrite material
being distributed.  File sharers have responded with a new P2P
protocol called eXeem which employs a variant of BitTorrent that
does not need centralized trackers. A free beta of the eXeem
client is now available but, according to reports it, like
KaZaa, comes with bundled with Spyware. Within days, a spyware
free "lite" version has already surfaced. It's early days for
eXeem and only time will tell whether it cuts the mustard.
http://www.exeem.com/
http://www.exlite.net/

2.7 Free Utility Warns of Potential Disk Drive Failures
It may surprise you but many disk failures are not random or
instantaneous but rather are preceded by a relatively slow
degradation in disk performance parameters.  This degradation
can be detected using a monitoring system called S.M.A.R.T that
is built into many modern drives and their controllers.  HDDlife
is a utility that runs in background and monitors the health of
any hard drives on your system that support S.M.A.R.T. It can
give you early warning of an impending failure which gives you
time to backup your data and change the drive. HDDlife only
works with internal IDE and Serial ATA disks. Free for non-
commercial use, Windows 2K or later, 1.5MB
http://www.hddlife.com/
http://www.storagereview.com/guide2000/ref/hdd/perf/qual/featuresSMART.html

2.8 Free Anti-virus Utility for Smart Cell Phones
Yes, smart phones are susceptible to viruses and trojans but
thankfully the problem is not widespread. That's largely because
the main virus propagation method is currently via Bluetooth
which has a strictly limited physical range. However, if you
want to protect your phone there are several anti-virus products
on the market including offerings from Symantec, McAfee, F-
Secure and SimWorks. Thanks to subscriber Gary Peters for
letting me know about this free offering from the folks at Trend
Micro that runs on devices with Windows Mobile 2003 or Symbian
OS v.7.0 operating systems. Note however that this version will
expire in June 2005, when a new enhanced version that includes a
firewall and data encryption will be released. It's not clear
whether they will charge for the news version. (2.3 to 2.5MB
depending on version)
http://www.trendmicro.com/en/products/mobile/tmms/evaluate/overview.htm

2.9 Free Open Source Accounting Package
If you are running a small to medium size business and looking
for a full fledged accounts package then check out TurboCash.
It's powerful, flexible and has a downloadable chart of accounts
for the USA and UK.  You can download it for free though there
is a charge for a CD version, the plug-ins and some
documentation components. Note: I haven't evaluated this product
as I know zip about accounting. Caveat Emptor. Freeware, 65MB.
http://www.turbocash.co.za/

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

3. SECURITY PATCHES, SERVICE RELEASES AND UPDATES
=================================================

3.1 Microsoft Security Patches
This month MS released a huge batch of 12 separate patches
through the Windows Update service. Eight of these fixes were
given a "critical" rating and covered serious flaws in Internet
Explorer, Windows Media Player, MSN Messenger, Office XP and
components of the Windows OS itself. Full details here:
http://www.microsoft.com/security/bulletins/200502_windows.mspx

All home users should ensure they have updated their PC's to
include this latest batch of fixes your system has been updated
as demonstration code to exploit two of the vulnerabilities has
already surfaced. If you are unsure whether your PC is updated,
then visit Windows Update at
http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com.  Note: If you use Microsoft
Office, it's also a good idea to visit the Office Update page
regularly as most security fixes for Office are not distributed
through the Windows Update service.
http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/officeupdate/default.aspx

I applied all 12 Windows patches to my three XP SP1 PCs via the
Windows update service and experienced no problems.  For
sysadmins responsible for large numbers of machines with
differing configurations and operating systems, I can only
assume that they had a very bad week.

Despite the large number of fixes in this batch, many known
vulnerabilities remain unpatched including well publicized flaws
in the XP SP2 version of Internet Explorer and a six year old
frame spoofing vulnerability. My standard advice applies;
Internet Explorer is a security threat to your PC. Don't use it
unless you have to, such as for accessing the Windows Update
Service. Instead, for your everyday browsing use FireFox or
other modern browser of your choice. No browser however is
perfectly secure and never will be but why increase your
security risks when you don't have to? If you are thinking of
changing to FireFox, do it now. Here's a free conversion guide
that will show you how:
http://www.techsupportalert.com/firefox.htm

3.2 Flaw in RealPlayer Ready to be Exploited
Security firm Secunia has issued an advisory covering a flaw in
RealPlayer that could allow an attacker to compromise a user's
system. "The problem is that RealMedia ".rm" files can open
local files in the built-in browser. This can be exploited by
e.g. a malicious website to load a local HTML document in a
local context via a specially crafted RealMedia file. Exploit
code has been published which combines this vulnerability with a
publicly known vulnerability in Microsoft Internet Explorer..."
This is a very worrying flaw for which there is currently no
fix. Until a fix arrives it would be prudent to change your file
associations so that .rm files are no longer linked to the
RealMedia player or, more drastically, uninstall the RealMedia
player itself.
http://secunia.com/advisories/14087/

3.3 Serious Spoofing Scam Affects Most non-IE Browsers
Boing Boing has reported a technique which allows phishers to
fake domain names in email links, the address bar and SSL
certificate of almost all browsers other than Internet Explorer.
The scam utilizes features of IDN, the industry standard for
representing non ASCII characters in domain names, to substitute
non standard characters for very similar looking English
characters. This newsletter is plain text so I can't give you an
example but substituting and '0' for an 'O' in  SUPPORTALERT.COM
vs. SUPP0RTALERT.COM will give you the idea. IE does not comply
with the standard and is consequently not affected. Apparently
Mozilla incorporated a fix into nightly builds within 12 hours
which allows users to turn off IDN but there is no patch yet for
released versions of Mozilla or FireFox. However, a developer
has patched the FireFox SpoofStick extension so that it will
reveal the scam. More generally the problem can be avoided by
not clicking on links nor cutting and pasting but rather typing
them in to your browsers address bar by hand. All this supports
my current view that you can no longer reliably pick phishing
scams. If you get an email from a bank or financial institution
requesting some action then phone first, act latter.
http://www.boingboing.net/2005/02/06/shmoo_group_exploit_.html
http://secunia.com/multiple_browsers_idn_spoofing_test
http://www.jarnot.com/mt/archives/2005/02/firefox_spoof_s.php

3.4 Serious Flaws in Oracle Patched
Oracle seems to be giving Microsoft a run for the money in the
security vulnerability stakes. The latest batch from Oracle's
Quarterly patching cycle includes flaws that could allow an
attacker to gain access to sensitive information, change
information, escalate privileges, create an  a DoS attack and
more. Makes you pretty uncomfortable when you consider the
number of sites that use Oracle to store your private personal
and financial information. For full details of products affected
and patch availability see the PDF file below:
http://www.oracle.com/technology/deploy/security/pdf/cpu-jan-2005_advisory.pdf

3.5 Change Your FireFox Settings to Enhance Security
There has been some discussion in security forums recently about
the desirability of changing some of the FireFox default
JavaScript settings to reduce the potential for phishing fraud.
You can find these settings under Tools/Options/Web
features/Advanced from within FireFox. The consensus view is
that users should definitely disable the second option "Raise or
lower windows" and there is little downside in also disabling
the rest. You can go further still; it's all a question of
whether you are prepared to trade off a little functionality for
security. Personally, I feel that disabling all the "Advanced"
options is more than sufficient but the truly paranoid can find
a few more tweaks here:
http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum21/8412.htm
 

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

4.1 PDA Wristwatch is a Geek’s Dream
PC Magazine is carrying a glowing review of the Fossil Abacus
wristwatch that provides full Palm OS functionality as well as
USB flash drive storage.  It won’t win any fashion stakes, it’s
definitely not suited to anyone with big fingers and forget it
if you have less than 20-20 vision. That said, what it manages
to achieve in such a small package is quite remarkable. $199.
http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,1748060,00.asp

4.2 Unexpected Uses for the Mac Mini
Most of the interest surrounding the release of the Mac Mini has
focused on the low price and good looks. But the real sleeper
appears to be its small size. This is opening up unexpected uses
such as a car computer, video recorder or as the basis of server
banks in data centers. It could well become the standard
"generic" computer.
http://www.macmerc.com/articles/Freeloader_Friday_Download_of_the_Week/264
http://www.pbs.org/cringely/pulpit/pulpit20050120.html
http://www.byodkm.net/scripts/show/26-Mac_mini_s_in_cars__The_MacNova_and_MacJeep.html
http://www.macminicolo.net/

4.3 How to Handle Obnoxious Cell Phone Users
Sick of being forced to listen to other people’s cell phone
conversations? Then download and print these cards and hand to
the offenders. Highly satisfying.
http://www.coudal.com/shhh.php

4.4 Free Security Tools Better than Commercial Versions
SlashDot is running an interesting story from a professional
penetration tester (sic) who argues that free, open-source
security tools "such as Nessus and ismet are more reliable and
have better features than expensive commercial alternatives like
ISS, Internet Scanner or Airopeek ... and that tools like
Ettercap have no commercial alternative."
http://ask.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/02/07/1523234

4.5 Simple Way to Send Yourself Reminders
What a neat idea for those who don't have a PDA; a free service
that will email you reminders at any time in the future that you
nominate.
http://futuremail.bensinclair.com/home/index

** Bonus Items for Supporters **

4.6 Poor Man's iPod for $99
OK the Perception Digital PD-1000 is bigger than an iPod and
it's not quite as svelte but it's cheap. Amazon is currently
offering it for $99 after a $30 rebate and this includes free
shipping. What you get a 1.5GB of hard disk storage, 15.5 hours
of playback time, voice memo recording and the ability to use
the device as an external USB disk drive as well. This deal was
still available at the time this newsletter was published but
don't expect it to last forever.
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0002UB0E8/ref%3Dnosim/mybarbiestore-20/104-2381750-4909534

4.7 How to Distinguish Fact from Fantasy
Before you start spreading that weird bit of news, such as AOL
and Microsoft merging, you should check some of these urban
legend sites.
http://www.urbanlegends.com/ulz/
http://www.snopes.com

4.8 The Meaning of Life, Death and Everything
PBS has an excellent site explaining many of issues addressed in
Stephen Hawking's TV programs. Just the thing if you want to
drop a reference to Schrödinger’s Cat in your next job review.
If you find this subject matter too daunting then try the Closer
to the Truth web site which has a series of videos covering
simpler subjects ranging from "What is Consciousness?" to " Will
This Universe Ever End?" ;>)
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/hawking/strange/html/stuff.html
http://www.closertotruth.com/videoarchive/index.html

4.9 Free Utility Sends Email Voice Messages
Subscriber Jayavinda writes " Hi Gizmo, I've come across this
most interesting free program called Vemail. It allows you to
speak into your microphone and have the voice recording
compressed, stored as an attachment, and sent to an email
address.  Then, when the recipient opens the attachment, it is
automatically played in Windows Media Player. I particularly
like the way the email is sent via your existing email
handler(in my case Outlook) and thus saved in the sent email
folder. It is a very quick way to create an email, and the
result is of course so much more personal and rich." Nice find
Jayavinda and it works with all versions of Windows as well.
Freeware, 233KB.
http://www.nch.com.au/vemail/index.html
 

5. TIP OF THE MONTH
===================

5.1 How to Make FireFox Load Much Faster

Note: This tip is not suitable for inexperienced computer users.

You can slash FireFox's agonizingly slow load time by compressing
the DLLs and executables. There are many choices for compression
but I suggest you use UPX which is free, efficient and time proven.

1. Download UPX from  http://upx.sourceforge.net/#download

2. Unzip upx.exe into your FireFox installation folder which is
normally C:\Program Files\Mozilla FireFox.

3. Make sure FireFox is not running then shell to a command
prompt in the FireFox installation directory.

4. Type in the following code in a single line and hit return:

for %v in (*.exe *.dll components\*.dll plugins\*.dll) do upx  "C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\%v"

5. If on some later occasion you want to unpack the files, just
type in the command above but add the decompression switch "-d"
after "do upx."
 

5.2 Password Protecting Folders in Windows XP

[Note: This extra tip was written by Dennis Faas, the Editor of
InfoPackets newsletter. Dennis kindly mentioned Support Alert in
his newsletter so I'm reciprocating.]

If you own more than one computer and have a local area network,
you can restrict who has access to what by setting the "share"
privileges on Folders.

On the other hand,: if you only own 1 computer and have more
than 1 person sharing it, Windows XP does not offer any way to
password protect files or folders unless you choose to Compress
the folder using ZIP.

The downside is that this method is not very intuitive and
requires a lot of 'extra steps'; and although compressing a
folder will keep files private (to some degree), there are no
security measures in place to protect the ZIP folder and its
contents from being deleted arbitrarily. (Source: pcWorld.com)

What to do?

After querying Google for some clues, I came across a nifty
utility called Folder Password Expert (FPE). Before I decided to
download the program, I searched Google for reviews on the
software; oddly enough, Google led me back to the Folder
Password Expert page where I found a quote from LockerGnome.com,
a very trust-worthy source. The LG quote read:

" ... People are going to be curious and want to look at your
files, and there's not much you can do (as far as protection)
with the current Windows security if you haven't logged out.
Folder Password Expert does exactly what the title implies. It's
as easy as choosing a folder to protect and creating a password!
... As opposed to other software, Folder Password Expert will
not allow access to the locked folders in Windows Safe mode or
DOS ... "

The last statement perked my interest, as I'm well rehearsed
when it comes to DOS. It wouldn't make much sense to password-
protect something in Windows if I could get around it easily by
entering in a few DOS commands.

I decided to keep on reading further down the page, where
another review was posted -- this time, from The Software Corner:

" ... [Folder Password Expert claims to protect your folders are
100%] ... I have tested this claim by putting a few files into a
folder and trying to open them with [their respective] program.
MS Word and [Windows Media Player] could not find the folder
that the files were stored in. I have also found that the [MS
DOS] command prompt also failed to find the folder on the hard
drive ... I was pretty amazed at how simple and easy it was to
lock and unlock folders. Similar programs might not offer the
ease and simple interface that Folder Password Expert does. "
(Source: theSoftwareCorner.com)

I was certainly enticed -- was the program really that good?

... Click to read the rest of the story:

http://www.infopackets.com/gazette/20041111.htm
 

6. FREEBIE OF THE MONTH
=======================

6.1 An Outstanding Digital Image Organizer/Editor

It’s rare for me to be impressed by a product but this one just
bowled me over. It was a bit like when I first saw the Lord of
the Rings movie. Having read the book I had low expectations –
how could a film possibly match my imagination. But it did, in
fact it bettered my imagination.

It was the same feeling with this product. After a long line of
disappointments with digital photo organizers/editors including
the highly touted Adobe Photo Album, I had given up hope. But
immediately I started using Picasa 2 I just knew this was the
one, this was the product I had been looking for. Amazingly, it
was free.

When you first run Picasa it offers to scan your whole hard
drive (or designated locations) for photos and videos. Scanning
is surprisingly quick and when finished you’ll have all your
shots neatly organized into folders on a time-line basis.

Now you can view you shots one at a time, in slideshow or
traversing the time line. Speaking of time-lines the way it is
done is remarkable. The timeline is represented as circle in the
center of which is shown the current photo with an aged black
and white photo effect. As the time-line rotates so the photos
displayed flash by your eyes like a dream. It’s very moving
particularly when you see photos of long lost friends or folks
who have passed away.

The editing features are limited compared to professional image
editors yet they provide every function amateur photographers
could conceivably need including one-click red eye reduction. I
have a copy of Photoshop and not once did I find myself feeling
the need to start it. Furthermore the editing functions provided
are logically named and organized – no more scratching your head
wondering what the heck the unsharp filter does.  Similarly
adding labels to photos is a snack while a simple but effective
star rating system allows you to flag favorite snaps. Individual
folders can also be password protected.

Facilities are provided to import your images from your camera
in multiple formats including RAW. You can send photos to your
choice of web printing service, cut a CD, print to a local
printer or share with others via your own blog or instant
messaging.

I’m afraid my bland description of Picasa’s features misses the
mark. The real joy of a well designed product derives from the
pleasure of using it, of being continuously surprised by how
well it works, from finding simple ways to do complex things.
Go get Picasa now and share in that pleasure. You will not be
disappointed. Freeware, Windows 98 or later, 300MHz Pentium with
128MB memory or better, 3.2MB.
http://www.picasa.com/

** Bonus Freebie for Supporters **

6.2 Mass Rename Files Easily and Quickly

Would you like an easy way to rename all those weird numbered
files from your digital camera? Would you like the ability to
quickly change your MP3 tag files.

I've seen no better way of doing it than with this free utility
called Flexible Renamer. It has an easy to use Explorer style
interface, intuitive commands, a full un-do facility and its
lightning fast as well.

Features include automatic sequential numbering of files,
wildcard or regular-expression file name substitution, the
ability to rename, copy or move files and much more. As an added
bonus the program doesn't even require installation.

Every PC user needs a good bulk renaming utility. So why pay up
to $49.95 for a commercial product when you can get a utility of
this quality for free? Highly recommended. Freeware, 649KB
http://hp.vector.co.jp/authors/VA014830/english/FlexRena/
 

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

VISIT THE SUBSCRIBERS-ONLY SECTION OF THE SUPPORT ALERT WEBSITE
================================================================

You'll find all back issues, a downloadable archive of every
issue ever published, plus a growing list of resources
exclusively available to Supporters.
http://www.techsupportalert.com/supporters/private.htm

The area is protected.  Use the security information sent to you
when you first subscribed or in subsequent update messages.

7.  MANAGING YOUR SUBSCRIPTION
==============================

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 standard 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.

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

Content of this newsletter is (c) Copyright
TechSupportAlert.com, 2005

See you next issue.

Gizmo
supporters@techsupportalert.com