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

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

                 Issue 119 - 10th March, 2005

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

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

IN THIS ISSUE:
==============
 
0.   EDITORIAL: Are free security products good enough?

1.   TOP TECH SITES
1.1  The 46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities Updated Again
1.2  Free Web-based Network Diagnostics
1.3  Free Web Page Content Monitoring
1.4  Free Support for Microsoft Word
1.5  Free Computer Help
1.6  How to Remove Ads from FireFox
1.7  Excellent Free JavaScript Tutorials (SE)
1.8  Microsoft Sounds Rootkit Trojan Alarm (SE Edition)
1.9  How to Recover a Lost NT/2000/XP/2003 Admin Passwords (SE)
1.10 Two Easy Ways to Get Yourself a Gmail Account (SE Edition)
 
2.   UTILITIES
2.1  Google Launches Desktop Search V1.0
2.2  New Version of FireFox Released
2.3  Copernic Desktop Search Now Works with Thunderbird & Eudora
2.4  Free Utility Resets User Passwords on NT/2000/XP Systems
2.5  Record MP3 Files from Internet Radio
2.6  Free Windows Explorer Replacement Offers Tabbed Windows (SE)
2.7  Send Any Audio Signal to Your AirPort Express (SE)
2.8  Free Screen Magnifier for Folks with Poor Sight (SE Edition)
2.9  Another PIM to Replace Outlook (SE Edition)

3.   SECURITY PATCHES, SERVICE RELEASES AND UPDATES
3.1  Microsoft Security News
3.2  Serious Flaws In Trend Micro Security Programs
3.3  Real Media Problems Make Users Real Vulnerable

4.   OTHER USEFUL STUFF
4.1  A Secure USB Flash Drive
4.2  A Screen Saver That's Actually Useful
4.3  How to Install Linux on a Mac Mini
4.4  Could you Get a Job at Google?
4.5  When It's Time to Relax and Forget Computers
4.6  Tiny Radio Network Scanner with Inbuilt TV (SE Edition)
4.7  How to Keep Your Desktop Icons in Place (SE Edition)
4.8  A Boundary Not to be Overstepped (SE Edition)
4.9  The Best Free Digital Image Stitcher (SE Edition)
 
5.   TIP OF THE MONTH
5.1  How to Increase Your Productivity Using Keyboard Shortcuts

6.   FREEBIE OF THE MONTH
6.1  The Best Free File Archiver/Zip Utility
6.2  Accessing HotMail & Yahoo Webmail Accounts from POP3 (SE)

7.   MANAGING YOUR SUBSCRIPTION
 

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

Are free security products good enough to protect your computer?

It's a question that needs to be answered. With the internet
currently besieged by spyware, trojans and other malware agents
you can argue that we all should be protecting our computers
with the best security products available rather than ones which
are simply free.

So how good are free security programs?

It's a tough one to answer as it's hard to generalize. If
pushed, I'd probably say they are very good indeed but not
necessarily the best.

Take the case of the free AVG Anti-virus program. It's a great
program thatís widely used by subscribers to this newsletter. In
fact it's one of the programs I recommend in my "46 Best-ever
Freeware Utilities" list.

Good though it is, AVG is not in my opinion the best anti-virus
program available. I suspect that title belongs to one of the
commercial products NOD32, Norton AV, PC-Cillin or maybe F-
Secure. You can argue which one but they may well all be better
than AVG.

You can see this clearly from a table I featured in last month's
issue of the newsletter. This table shows the number of
occasions since 2003 that various AV products have received a
perfect score from Virus Bulletin newsletter's monthly tests.

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%

You don't need to be a scientist to conclude that AVG and
another free program Avast have simply not performed as well as
the top commercial products.

This finding coincides with my own experience testing trojans
over at www.anti-trojan-software-reviews.com. AVG has performed
well in detecting trojans, but not as well as commercial
products like NOD32.

If you use AVG you are probably starting to feel a little
depressed at this point but read on, this story has a happy
ending. Better still, it's a happy ending with a moral.

The Virus Bulletin results give a misleading impression. They
imply that the top anti-virus products have perfect detection
rates while the rest fall short.

This is not the case. All AV products have less than perfect
detection rates, the top products included.

All the Virus Bulletin results show is that in specific months
the top products detected all the top 100 viruses in circulation
in that month.  Had they tested the top 1000 I suspect every
product would get less than 100% detection. In fact, I'm certain
of it.

Computer security is like any other kind of security. Perfection
does not exist. It's a numbers game where you have to balance the
level of protection against the cost of providing that
protection.

Your current car is probably quite safe to drive but it's not
perfectly safe, no car is. Moreover, I bet there are safer cars
than yours so why don't you drive one of those?

The answer is simple; you've traded off some safety for other
factors such as cost, convenience and personal model preference.

Computer security is no different. It's all a trade off.

Let's say AVG detects 92% of all viruses and NOD32 95%. I'm just
making those numbers up but I suspect they are not too far off
the mark.

What cost are you prepared to pay to lift your detection rate
from 92% to 95%?

Some of you may well be prepared to fork out $39 for NOD32 to
get that increment in protection, others not.

But there are other ways of lifting the detection rate.

All you have to do is add another layer of security in addition
to AVG. Furthermore it's easy to do using free products.

I know because I've just proved it experimentally using a series
of malware detection tests with AVG and NOD32.

First up, the results of my tests confirm that both products
detect most malware products but NOD32 detects slightly more.

Second the tests also reveal that even NOD32 missed some malware
products entirely.

Third and most importantly, the tests show that by layering
protection by combining AVG with another free product, Ewido,
the overall detection rates were higher than using NOD32 alone.

You can find the results of the tests on the Tech Support Alert
web site at http://www.techsupportalert.com/free-vs-paid-av.htm

Let us now return to our original questions:

Are free security products good enough to protect your PC?

My answer is yes, particularly if you use several products to
give layered protection.

Do commercial products give better protection?

The answer is a clear yes. However the level of protection you
get from using free products in layers may be more than
sufficient for most usersí needs.

See, I told you this story had a happy ending ;>)

Gizmo
supporters@techsupportalert.com
 

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

1.1  The 46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities Updated Again
Yes, another update, though a more minor one this time. But
there's another development. The Best-ever freeware list was
originally intended to be reserved strictly for subscribers to
this newsletter but it's been so widely posted that I've now
abandoned any attempt to keep it restricted. I've decided
instead to make the list public. Hopefully the extra web traffic
it draws will lead to more subscribers to this newsletter which
will in turn, secure the newsletter's survival. In this task I'd
really like your help. Please tell everybody about the best
freeware list; post it to any forums or user groups and you
belong to, mention it in your publications, indeed tell
everybody and anybody. If you can post it to SlashDot, Furl,
Delicious, the LangaList, LockerGnome and other popular spots
that would be great. If you can do any of these things I'd
consider it a real favor. Let me know if you do, I'd love to
hear.
http://www.techsupportalert.com/best_46_free_utilities.htm

1.2  Free Web-based Network Diagnostics
This service uses a Java applet running from your browser to
quickly test the reliability and status of your computerís
network connection. It works by sending test data to/from your
computer and the site's server and analyzing the results. It's a
relatively simple test but it allows you to diagnose a range of
problems from faulty cables and duplex mismatch to wrongly
specified TCP parameters. Definitely worth bookmarking.
http://miranda.ctd.anl.gov:7123/

1.3  Free Web Page Content Monitoring
This is a free service that lets you know when the content of a
web page you have designated has changed. There are a number of
sites that offer this service but what impressed me was the fact
that the email you receive notifying you of a change, also
details exactly what has changed. This means that you don't have
to visit the monitored site as all the information you want is
in the email. This gets around a real problem with these
services; you get notified of a change only to visit the site
and discover the change is trivial.
http://www.watchthatpage.com/

1.4  Free Support for Microsoft Word
Nice combination here of Word usage tips organized by topic.
http://www.word-answers.com/

1.5  Free Computer Help
"Computer Hope" is an aptly named web site offering useful
online resources, a very active set of forums and a free email
support service.  I found the forums particularly responsive.
Well worth trying next time you run into a PC problem.
http://www.computerhope.com/index.htm
 
1.6  How to Remove Ads from FireFox
Most FF users have installed the AdBlock extension to stop
unwanted web ads. However, the extension is only as effective as
the filters that it uses and the default filters are rather
minimal. There are lots of preconfigured AdBlock filters
floating around but I rather like this one, which is updated
weekly to get around the latest advertisers tricks. Be prepared
for faster web page downloads and for lots of blank spaces in
web pages. Hint: Read the instructions.txt file to find out how
you import this filter into AdBlock.
http://www.geocities.com/pierceive/adblock/

** Additional Items in the SE Edition **

1.7  Excellent Free JavaScript Tutorials
These are the best free JS tutorials that I've yet encountered.
If you want to learn JS, this is the place to go.
http://jennifermadden.com/

1.8  Microsoft Sounds Rootkit Trojan Alarm
Kernel rootkits are a type of trojan that work by incorporating
themselves into the heart of the operating system itself. Rather
than run as programs under Windows, they become part of
Windows.  When cleverly implemented they are extremely difficult
to detect using software that runs on the infected PC. Detection
is easier from a boot CD or other stand-alone environment.
Removal is problematic too, often involving a hard disk reformat
and operating system re-install. The good news is that rootkits
are at the moment, relatively uncommon. In my whole career I've
only seen four infections, one of which was on a Linux system.
Microsoft however, seems to think they represent the next wave
of malware threats. The first link below is to an article that
discusses rootkits and a new tool being developed by Microsoft
to help detect them. The second link is to a free rootkit
detection tool that's already been developed by SysInternals and
can be downloaded. It works nicely but requires a degree a
degree of technical skill for proper use. News flash; Just
before publication F-Secure has announced that they will be
releasing their own rootkit detection utility. For more details
see the last link below.
http://www.computerworld.com/securitytopics/security/story/0,10801,99843,00.html
http://www.sysinternals.com/ntw2k/freeware/rootkitreveal.shtml
http://www.f-secure.com/blacklight

1.9   How to Recover Lost NT/2000/XP/2003 Admin Passwords
This excellent article canvasses the major options. Check this
month's Utilities section below for a nifty little program that
allows you to change any user's password.
http://www.petri.co.il/forgot_administrator_password.htm

1.10  Two Easy Ways to Get Yourself a Google Gmail Account
Thanks to MEK for letting me know about this site where GMail
users with spare invites can freely donate them to those
desperate to get an invite. If you want a Gmail account, go to
this site and try your luck. Also try the second link below.
It's a news page at Technorati that deals with Gmail and often
has links to sites giving away invites. I suspect Google is
close to making Gmail public. Last month I received 50 GMail
invites to dispense rather than the usual six and when I gave
these away it allocated me another 50. Additionally, Google has
just issued a big batch of invites to many of those who applied
directly to Google over the last year.
http://isnoop.net/gmail/
http://www.technorati.com/tag/gmail

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

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

2.1  Google Launches Desktop Search V1.0
The beta testing phase has finished; Google has just released
their first full version of their free Desktop search product.
The main enhancements include the ability to work with Mozilla
Firefox and Thunderbird, searching of PDF files, meta data from
MP3s and other media files plus improved confidentiality
features. It's only just out so haven't had a chance to have a
look at it. My main concern is that it appears to retain the
familiar Google layout for search results. While ideal for web
searches I found this layout a pain for searching email. The
format for search results used in the Yahoo desktop search and
Copernic are much better for quickly finding what you want.
Freeware, Windows 2000 SP3 and later, 723KB.
http://desktop.google.com

2.2  New Version of Firefox Released
Mozilla has released version 1.0.1 of Firefox that fixes a whole
pile of problems including an issue with the Internationalized
Domain Names (IDM) standard that could allow phishers to spoof
web addresses. The problematic IDN standard allows phishers to
use non-ASCII characters of the kind used in foreign languages
to build addresses that look like familiar addresses. Such
addresses could then be used to fool users to believing that
they are at a well-known web site when in fact they are at a
phisher's site. Firefox V 1.0.1 addresses this problem by
displaying foreign characters in a format called punycode, which
then makes the fake address obvious. The update also addresses
several other security issues and a number of operational fixes.
All FF users should download the new version. There are
conflicting reports circulating on the web whether you should
uninstall the old version before installing the new. My
experience with Firefox is that it's always a safer option to
uninstall first. Besides, it saves you having duplicate Firefox
entries in the Windows Add/Remove programs panel. If you do
uninstall the old program, all your settings, extensions and
plug-ins will be automatically retained as they are stored in
your Profile which is in a totally different folder to the
installation directory. However it's not a bad idea to back up
the Profile folder before installation. The Profile folder is
stored in different locations in different Version of Windows.
To find the location for your Windows version, click the last
link below. Freeware, All Windows versions, 4.9MB
http://www.mozilla.org/products/firefox/  <= download
http://kb.mozillazine.org/Thunderbird_:_FAQs_:_Profile_folder

2.3  Copernic Desktop Search Now Works with Thunderbird & Eudora
This is great news for users of the excellent free Mozilla
Thunderbird email client and Eudora users as well. The latest
1.5 beta version of Copernic's free desktop search now indexes
your email. I tried it and it works a treat. It's also good news
for Outlook Express users; the case to switch to Thunderbird is
now compelling. Thunderbird is safer, better, totally reliable
and free.  Copernic DS is also free, works on all versions of
Windows and is a 2.3MB download.
http://www.copernic.com/en/products/desktop-search/download.html
http://www.mozilla.org/projects/thunderbird/

2.4  Free Utility Resets User Passwords on NT/2000/XP Systems
Chntpw works by creating a boot disk that allows you to get into
the protected system and change any account password by registry
edit.  It's straight forward enough to use but not exactly point
and click. Yes folks, this is a utility that needs to be used
with care. That means thoroughly reading the usage notes and FAQ
BEFORE use. That said, a valuable addition to any techie's
toolkit. Freeware, Windows NT and later, 1.1MB.
http://home.eunet.no/~pnordahl/ntpasswd/

2.5  Record MP3 Files from Internet Radio
StreamRipper32 is a free Open Source Windows program that allows
you to save native format MP3 files from streamed sources such
as internet radio. What's really neat is its ability to
interpret and extract MP3 metadata from the stream. This means
that the saved data will be in the form of separate MP3 files
rather than one continuous recording. StationRipper is another
utility that takes the same concept further. It's got a more
user-friendly interface, an inbuilt database of radio stations
and can process up to 600 different streams. It can also record
podcasts. If you can afford the asking price of $14.99 I'd go
for this. If not, the freeware StreamRipper32 will still do what
you want, though in a slightly less convenient manner.
http://streamripper.sourceforge.net/sr32/ (799KB)
http://www.stationripper.com/ (837KB)

** Additional Items in the SE Edition **

2.6  Free Windows Explorer Replacement Offers Tabbed Windows
Many web browsers now offer tabs so why not apply the same idea
to file browsers? ExplorerXP does just that and adds another
browser feature as well; the ability to save collections of open
folders as "groups."  Other enhancements over Windows Explorer
include folder size information, multiple file rename, the
ability to split and merge files and easier copying/moving of
files between folders. I've used it now for a couple of days and
have concluded that it offers useful time-savings over the
standard Windows Explorer. Is it better than xplorerx2, my
current recommendation as the best freeware Explorer
replacement? Well, both products offer tabs and both offer
groups, though the free lite version of xplorerx2 does not allow
you to save groups. ExplorerXP is nowhere near as slickly
implemented as xplorerx2 but the latter has a cleverer design.
On balance I suspect ExplorerXP may have a slight edge for
easier navigation to regularly used folders but for general file
and folder manipulation the two pane design of xplorerx2 cannot
be beaten. If you use Windows9x you don't have a choice anyway.
Freeware for non-commercial use, Windows 2000 and later, 370KB.
http://www.explorerxp.com/
http://zabkat.com/x2lite.htm  <= xplorerx2

2.7  Send Any Audio Signal to Your AirPort Express
I don't have any AirPort Express devices but this sure looks
interesting for folks who do. Here's what the web site says:
"With Airfoil, you can send audio from any application to your
AirPort Express in just three easy steps:
Step 1) Select the application whose audio you want to transmit,
in the Audio Source area.
Step 2) Select the desired AirPort Express device from the
Remote Speakers list.
Step 3) Click Transmit. That's it!
Once you do this, any audio from the audio source will play out
through your remote speakers. Use Airfoil to play audio from
RealPlayer, Windows Media Player, Safari, and almost any other
application right through your AirPort Express. Shareware, $20,
Mac only, 1,6MB
http://www.rogueamoeba.com/airfoil/

2.8  Free Screen Magnifier for Folks with Poor Sight
Magical Glass is a small utility that replaces the Windows
cursor with a small box within which any text or graphic in the
region is shown magnified. Think of holding a magnifying glass
over the cursor and you'll get the idea.  All Windows functions
such as selecting text and mouse clicking work normally within
the box, the only thing that's different is that everything
appears larger. Just the thing for those with poor sight or for
graphics designers who want to see the fine detail. You can
adjust the viewing window size and magnification and switch it
on and off with hotkeys. The utility seems to be adware and
spyware free. Freeware, Windows 95 and later, 132KB
http://freestone-group.com/download/magg.zip

2.9  Another PIM to Replace Outlook
Subscriber John Dodds writes "Gizmo I know you like to feature
free software but this shareware PIM deserves a mention. Last
year I gave up on Outlook; it did everything I wanted but was so
unfriendly I just never wanted to use it. I looked at just about
every PIM on the market including the free products you
mentioned [last issue]. Most of these products do the job but I
what was looking for usability. I ended up with C-Organizer ...
and have never regretted it."  Thanks Kevin, I didn't know of
this product until you wrote. If it delivers on the product
description on the vendor's web site, it's certainly a
contender. While at the site check out their freeware diary
product called "Advanced Diary", it looks pretty neat too.
Shareware $19.95, 30 day trial, 3.5MB
http://www.csoftlab.com/products.html

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

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

3.1  Microsoft Security News - The Beast Cometh
There are no new MS security patches this month. I guess that
means is we can expect a big batch in April. Some other news
though.

When Windows XP SP2 was introduced last year many home and
corporate users, me included, blocked the Windows Update service
from automatically downloading and installing by using a
Microsoft supplied utility. That utility will stop blocking on
April 12. So better be prepared for SP2 to be installed. That's
not to say SP2 will be installed on April 12 rather the
Microsoft update service will start distributing it to
previously blocked PCs from that date.

The list of programs that SP2 breaks is rather daunting.  Check
out the Microsoft-prepared lists using the links below. On April
11 I'll be imaging all my system drives just in case.
http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?kbid=884130&product=windowsxpsp2
http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?kbid=842242

3.2  Serious Flaws In Trend Micro Security Programs
Anyone using PC-cillin AV or other Trend Micro product had
better read this carefully. A serious flaw has been discovered
in Trendís range of products that could allow attackers to take
control of your PC. To quote the Secunia advisory: "The
vulnerability is caused due to a boundary error in the AntiVirus
library when processing ARJ files. This can be exploited to
cause a heap-based buffer overflow via a specially crafted ARJ
file containing an overly long filename. Successful exploitation
allows execution of arbitrary code."  Trend has addressed the
problem so update your scan engine to VSAPI 7.510 or later ASAP.
http://secunia.com/advisories/14396/
http://www.trendmicro.com/download/engine.asp

3.3  Real Media Problems Make Users Real Vulnerable
Two serious flaws have been detected in RealMedia products.
Affected products include Helix Player 1.x, RealPlayer 10.x,
RealOne Player v1 and v2, RealPlayer 8 and the RealPlayer
Enterprise 1.x. The flaw involves a buffer overflow
vulnerability in the processing of WAV and SMIL files. Opening
files specially crafted by an attacker could allow execution of
arbitrary code. Users should download the patches by using the
"check for update" feature in their the media player.
http://secunia.com/advisories/14456/
 

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

4.1  A Secure USB Flash Drive
Thumb drives are wonderful for backing up and transporting your
vital information but if they get lost or stolen then you may
find all your personal data in the wrong hands. You can encrypt
your data but here's another alternative; a drive with an
inbuilt fingerprint reader that's linked to automatic 256 bit
AES encryption. ClipDrive is a full USB 2.0 device that features
an interesting capless design and eye catching colors. Models
are available from 64MB to 4GB. The manufacturer's suggested
price is $335 for a 512MB model with street prices around $260.
http://www.memoryexpertsinc.com/en/clipdrivebio.php
http://store.cablesplususa.com/usb-flash-memory-drive-clip-drive-bio-flash-memory.html

4.2  A Screen Saver That's Actually Useful
Softvoile Virtual Teacher is a screensaver with a difference.
Rather than simply display pleasant but mindless images like
most screensavers it helps you learn a foreign language. It does
this by flashing mometarily on the screen, key vocabulary along
with the English translation. It can also display verbs and
common phrases and pronounce the words as well if you wish.
Virtual Teacher not only works in screensaver mode, it can also
optionally display the same information in reduced size while
you are actually using the computer. This product can't teach
you a language, you need a full language course for that, but
anyone who is learning a language will find it a great aid in
remembering and consolidating their vocabulary. The product
comes with a fixed vocabulary set for 30 languages including
Russian, English, Spanish, German and Italian but you can add
your own additional vocabulary (or languages) if you wish.
Shareware, $19.95, 15 day trial, 2.16MB
http://vteacher.net/

4.3  How to Install Linux on a Mac Mini
According to this article, the author installed Debian Linux on
a Mac Mini in less than hour. Follow his detailed instructions
and maybe you can as well. This guide is a work in progress. I
await the follow-up articles with interest.
http://www.sowerbutts.com/linux-mac-mini/

4.4   Could you Get a Job at Google?
This web site has posted "glat", the aptitude test used by
Google for job applicants. Try it and see how you well you fare.
Here's a sample question: " How many different ways can you
color an icosahedron with one of 3 colors on each face?"
http://soderlind.no/archives/2004/10/01/do-the-glat/
http://www.ul.ie/~cahird/polyhedronmode/icosahed.htm <= Icosahedron

4.5  When It's Time to Relax and Forget Computers
This Shockwave based web kaleidoscope is so visually
intoxicating that I feel reluctant to recommend it for fear of
being accused of inciting moral corruption. Hint: Move your
mouse for greater corruption ;>)
http://www.tekhna3d.com/demos/kaleido.html

** Bonus Items for Supporters **

4.6  How to Keep Your Desktop Icons in Place
One of the more common questions I get from subscribers is how
can you prevent Windows periodically rearranging their desktop
icons. The simple answer is you canít but you can however save
and restore their position using this simple free utility.
Freeware, Windows 98 and later, 281KB.
http://users.rcn.com/taylotr/icon_restore.html
http://snapfiles.com/get/iconrestore.html  (alternative source)

4.7  Tiny Radio Network Scanner With Inbuilt TV
The Icom IC-R3 is a radio scanner about the size of a medium
sized cell phone that covers a frequency range of 0.495-2450
MHz. It includes a 2" lcd screen so you can watch TV as well.
With its 450 channel memory and signal strength monitoring
capabilities it's an impressive bit of gear. The street price is
around $359 so it's not cheap but I'm sure it's "ideal" for
checking your company's Wi-Fi field strength. ;>)
http://www.icomamerica.com/receivers/handheld/icr3main.html

4.8  A Boundary Not to be Overstepped
Thanks to Lex Davidson for letting me know about this amazing
series of photographs of Federer and Agassi playing on the
world's most extraordinary tennis court. They certainly weren't
distracted by noise on the adjacent court.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/photo_galleries/4289977.stm

4.9  The Best Free Digital Image Stitcher
I use an impressive $59 commercial product called PhotoVista to
stitch together my digital images into panoramas. I'm very happy
with it but must admit to feeling a little despondent when I
discovered this utility that works just as well and is free.
It's called AutoStitch and is the product Matthew Brown, a PhD
student at the University of British Columbia. No, it doesn't
have all the bells and whistles of PhotoVista but the stitching
to my eye, is actually better. The way it automatically aligns
haphazard mosaics of photos without any human intervention
borders on the miraculous. The author is currently looking for a
commercial backer but in the interim, the product is free for
personal use. (1MB)
http://www.cs.ubc.ca/~mbrown/autostitch/autostitch.html
 

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

5.1 How to Increase Your Productivity Using Keyboard Shortcuts

Last month's tip was for advanced users. This month I'm
compensating with some tips for average users.

There are dozens of different keyboard shortcuts in Windows.
Many are of little use but there are a few that are so handy
that everyone should know how too use them.

Most users now how to use Ctrl C to copy a block of selected
text and Ctrl V to insert the copied text.

Less widely known but extremely useful are the keyboard
shortcuts for selecting text.

Ctrl A is really handy. It selects all the text in the current
window or field. Try it now. You'll see the whole issue of this
newsletter highlighted. Click in any blank space to remove the
highlighting.

You'll agree that using Ctrl A is way faster than selecting
everything using a mouse.

Ctrl A works in text boxes and form fields as well. If you have
a lot of text in a field that you want to remove, the quickest
way is to click anywhere in the field, hit Ctrl A and then press
Delete.  If you want to type in new text, you don't even have to
hit Delete. Just select the old text using Ctrl A and start
typing the new. As soon as you start typing the old text will be
instantly erased. That's a trick that's works just about
anywhere in Windows.

Selecting large blocks of text can be difficult using a mouse,
particularly when the block spans several screens. But with
keyboard shortcuts it's easy.

To select a large block first use your mouse to left click at
the start of the block. Then hold down the Shift key and click
at the end of block. All the text in between will be selected.

And it doesn't matter how far apart the clicks are. You can page
down several screens before making the second click and it will
still work just as long as you continue holding down the shift
key while you navigate to the end of the block.

It also works if the end of the block is above rather that than
below the block starting point.

There are a couple of variations of the Shift key trick that are
worth learning. These involve holding down the Ctrl key at the
same time as the shift key.

To select all the text between a certain point and the end of
the document, click the start point then hold down the shift and
the Ctrl keys and the hit the End key. Voila. It's done!

Substitute the Home key for the End key and you can mark
everything between the start point and the beginning of the
document.

Another important keyboard shortcut is typing Z while holding
down the Ctrl key.  Often written as Ctrl Z or ^Z it's used
everywhere in Windows to undo the last operation. If you
accidentally erase a wanted paragraph just hit Ctrl Z and it
will return. Similarly if you delete a file from the desktop,
try Ctrl Z and it will miraculously be restored. Definitely a
shortcut to remember!

If you are interested in other keyboard shortcuts you'll find a
good list here:

http://www.computerhope.com/shortcut.htm
 

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

6.1  The Best Free File Archiver/Zip Utility
Users are spoiled with choice in this category with QuickZip,
ICEOWS, IZArc, TUGZip, ZipGenius and 7-Zip all worthy contenders
for the title.

7-Zip v4.15 is to be commended for its solid engineering; It was
the only product in this group that could unpack a multi-part
RAR volume embedded in a ZIP archive and the only product to
give a meaningful error message when an attempt was made to
unpack a 256bit encrypted WinZip archive. However it's lack of
drop and drag from an archive is a real minus as is the fact
that it was the only product that required configuring after
installation. It also supports only 12 formats - it can't for
example read ACE archives.

ZipGenius v 5.51 is the easiest to use and has the most
professional looking interface but was the slowest to run.
ICEOWS v4.2 (the former ArjFolder) opens all archives in an
Explorer Window rather than its own control panel, a feature
some might find comforting but I found limiting.

TUGZip v 3.2 is a terrific product marred by the lack of
captions on its control panel icons - I got confused every time
I used it.

QuickZip 4.5 impressed me greatly with its features. It was also
the only product that displayed different icons for different
archives, which proved to be a surprisingly useful feature.
QuickZip was however, just a little slow to run and supports
fewer archive types than some of the other products. It's
another product that can't read the relatively common ACE
format.

This leaves IZArc v 3.5; It's relatively fast, easy to use, has
full drop and drag support, can read nearly 50 archive types
including media formats like ISO, BIN and IMG and can write (and
convert) to 12 archive types. The only downside is that it uses
one icon to represent all archive types and a quite ugly icon
too. That aside, it is a terrific product and gets my hearty
recommendation.

Note: If you already use WinZip you'll find IZArc an excellent
companion product. It can read just about all the archive
formats WinZip can't, including RAR. Make sure though, that
after installing IZArc, you don't let it change your WinZip file
type associations. Just let IZArc handle file types not covered
by WinZip. Freeware, Windows 9x and later, 3.1MB
http://www.izsoft.dir.bg/izarc.htm

** Bonus Freebie for Supporters **

6.2 Accessing HotMail, Yahoo and other Webmail Accounts from
Your POP3 Mail Reader

At last, a freeware product that allows you to download your
mail from several different webmail services into your POP mail
reader such as Outlook or Thunderbird. There have been a couple
of single service utilities around for a while such as
YahooPOPs! and HotMail Popper but no single utility that worked
with multiple services. Now there is.

It's a free Open Source program called MrPostMan and it works
with free accounts at Hotmail, Yahoo, Juno, GMail, RediffMail
and more. It can even download mail held on Microsoft Exchange
5.5 servers. I've tried it with Thunderbird to download my mail
from both my Yahoo and HotMail accounts and it worked
flawlessly.

All you have to do is configure your email client by changing
the POP server name and port. The product is written in Java and
requires the Java Runtime Environment to be installed on your
PC. It's an impressive implementation of a much needed product
and a must-have utility for all webmail users.
http://mrpostman.sourceforge.net/  <= MrPostMan
http://2mod2.com/mohot/ <= Installing MrPostMan
http://sourceforge.net/forum/?group_id=68124 <= MrPostMan forum

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

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

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Thanks to subscriber Neal Dwire for proofreading this issue.
Neal was given the job at very short notice while he was busy
himself but responded wonderfully. Thanks Neal, appreciated.

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See you next issue.

Gizmo
supporters@techsupportalert.com