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

 Issue 123 - 13th July, 2005

IN THIS ISSUE:

0. EDITORIAL: Is Free Security Software Good Enough Pt4
1. TOP TECH SITES AND RESOURCES

1.1 HTML Version of this Newsletter
1.2 Helpful New Content at Tech Support Alert Site
1.3 Google Releases Toolbar for Firefox
1.4 Rogue Anti-Spyware Products Proliferate
1.5 Virus Scanners Tested and Rated
1.6 Spyware-Free P2P Clients
1.7 Linux Distros
1.8 Ajax and Ruby Explained
1.9 How to Improve Your Internet Security
1.10 WPA vs. WPA2 (SE Edition)
1.11 Great Set of Programming Resources (SE Edition)
1.12 Top Hardware Site (SE Edition)
1.13 Help with Spyware You Simply Can't Remove (SE Edition)

2. TOP FREEWARE AND SHAREWARE UTILITIES

2.1 The Best Free File Encryption Utility
2.2 The Best Free Drive Encryption Utility
2.3 Best Free Spell-Checker
2.4 Free Utility Resets Read Only Files
2.5 The Best Free Archiver (Unzipper)
2.6 Free Remote Access Utility (SE Edition)
2.7 Free Time Sync Utility Offers Much More (SE Edition)
2.8 Free MS Tool Protects Shared PCs (SE Edition)
2.9 Free Utility Extracts Data from Unreadable CDs (SE Edition)

3. SECURITY PATCHES, SERVICE RELEASES AND UPDATES

3.1 Microsoft Security News
3.2 Microsoft Warns of Unpatched Flaw in Internet Explorer
3.3 Chinese Rootkit Revealer Best in Class
3.4 Spyware Invades BitTorrent Files
3.5 New Flaw in Adobe Acrobat Reader
3.6 New Version of MS Antispyware Released
3.7 SpyBot V1.4 Now Available

4. OTHER USEFUL STUFF

4.1 Seagate Introduces Hardware Encrypted Notebook Drives
4.2 Video Signal Wiring Standards Explained
4.3 Street Cred 2005 Style
4.4 Convert Your Phone Number Into Words
4.5 Put Old Inkjet Cartridges to a Good Use
4.6 Complete Waste of Time Department
4.7 Free Utility Lets You Save Any Audio to MP3
4.8 Learn Morse Code in One Minute (SE Edition)
4.9 Zip Code Locations Revealed (SE Edition)
4.10 Use a Normal Phone to Dial Via Skype (SE Edition)

5. TIP OF THE MONTH

5.1 How to Disable the Microsoft Java Virtual Machine (MSJVM)

6. FREEBIE OF THE MONTH

6.1 Take a Virtual Tour of the Earth with Google
6.2 Best Free Disk De-fragmenter (SE Edition)

7. MANAGING YOUR SUBSCRIPTION

0. EDITORIAL

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

In previous parts I showed that by combining the free AVG anti- virus scanner, the free version of Ewido anti-Trojan scanner and the free Microsoft Antispyware scanner, it was possible to achieve a 95% detection rate against a particularly nasty set of 104 assorted malware products that I had downloaded from P2P networks.

This month I'll look at a way of increasing the effectiveness from 95% up toward 100% by adding an additional security layer.

The additional layer I suggest consists of an intrusion detection program. And there are some excellent free programs available.

Intrusion detection programs work differently from anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-trojan programs. All those programs depend on recognizing malware from characteristic fingerprints or signatures as they are called.

Intrusion detection products detect malware products by their behavior rather than by looking for a characteristic signature. Kind of like a detective catching a thief using his modus operandi rather than his fingerprint.

The "behavior" that intrusion detection products monitor typically includes:

* changes to the programs that start with Windows
* the launching of new programs
* the alteration of existing programs including DLLs
* changes to key areas of the Window Registry
* the launching of new processes
* installation of drivers
* termination of key programs, processes and services
* the installation of Browser Helper Objects
* Browser home page changes

If an intrusion detection program discovers another program doing any of these things, it will stop the suspicious program dead in its tracks and flash up a warning asking whether you want to allow the activity. That's quite a comfort.

Unfortunately, not only malware programs engage in this kind of activity; legitimate programs do as well and it's tough for intrusion detections programs to tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys.

To handle this problem, intrusion detection programs throw the problem back to the user. They typically pop up a warning message to the user asking what to do. This is good in that the user becomes aware that something potentially threatening is happening but it puts a load on the user to work out what to do. I'll return to this point later.

There are two outstanding free intrusion detection programs available.

The first is PrevX. This was my 2004 "Freeware Product of the Year." PrevX monitors just about every activity on your PC, including all those in the list above and many more. It's so comprehensive in its coverage that it's hard to see how any malware program could install itself without PrevX warning you first.

PrevX, however, is only available for Windows 2000 and later. The good news is that users of earlier Windows systems also have an excellent choice in WinPatrol. It's only slightly less comprehensive than PrevX in its coverage and is easier to use.

By combining either of these free products with AVG, Ewido and MS Antispyware, you can get close to 100% protection for your computer. All for zip.

There's no doubt about the effectiveness. In my test batch of malware, both PrevX and WinPatrol caught all the malware products missed by the other security layers. I achieved my goal of 100% protection.

But there's a catch.

Intrusion detection products like PrevX and WinPatrol can only protect you if you know how to accurately interpret the warning messages thrown up by these programs. And interpreting these messages is not easy.

Let's say you are installing a free backup program that you have just downloaded.

When you try to install it, both PrevX and WinPatrol will throw up several warning messages asking your permission to proceed. A typical message might read:

"Program temp211 is trying to add an entry backsched.com to the Windows startup program folder. Approve Y/N?"

But what do you do? Most folks would say "yes", because they are installing the backup program of their own free will and expect the program to make changes to their computer during installation.

The fact is that you don't really know. You are just hoping that backshed.com is something to do with your backup program whereas it could actually be malware.

I know this from direct experience; the example I've just given is not made up, it's real. As it turned out, backshed.com contained a version of ISTbar, a nasty homepage and search hijacker. The distributors of the malware have deliberately named the installation program backshed.com to appear to be a harmless. It's a common trick.

Does this make intrusion detection programs useless. Not at all. It just makes them imperfect, like every other security product.

Are they worthwhile? You bet, just as long as you are prepared to think about each warning message before automatically answering "yes."

In the next issue, I'll show you some simple techniques that you can use to ensure that you give the right answers to those tricky security warning messages.

Meantime, if you are not already using either PrevX or WinPatrol, go try them. Both are excellent products and both are free.

If you are an experienced user running Windows 2K or later and have a modern PC then I recommend PrevX. Other users should try WinPatrol.

Once installed, these products will start issuing quite a few warning messages and these may confuse and annoy some users. Don't worry, it's a small price to pay to have your PC better protected. Besides, in the next issue I'll show you how to make sense of it all.

http://www.prevx.com/prevxhome.asp
http://www.winpatrol.com

See you next month.

Gizmo
supporters@techsupportalert.com

1. TOP TECH SITES AND RESOURCES
1.1 HTML Version of this Newsletter

The HTML edition of Support Alert will commence in September. Next month in the August issue, I'll give details how to subscribe. Meanwhile, if you want read this issue in HTML format you can do so at the following links:

http://www.techsupportalert.com/issues/issue123h.htm
http://www.pcsupportadvisor.com/issue123h.htm          <= mirror copy

1.2 Helpful New Content at Tech Support Alert Site

I've updated just about every page at the Tech Support Alert site and added a whole lot of new material including the best items from recent issues of the newsletter. If you haven't visited the site recently you are in for a very pleasant surprise; check out the the left side navigation bar and you'll find links to some really useful free tech information.
http://www.techsupportalert.com

1.3 Google Releases Toolbar for Firefox

There's been an unofficial third party version of the Goggle Toolbar for the Firefox browser for some time. It works well enough but has been just been eclipsed by the release of Google's own version. It includes all of the same features of the third party version but adds many additional capabilities including SpellCheck, a web form spelling checker, AutoLink that turns street addresses into links to online maps, AutoFill for filling out online forms and WordTranslator for foreign language word translation. It looks better and is more compact as well. As a bonus, it even includes some features not found in Google's Internet Explorer Toolbar such as the useful ability to open search links in new tabs.
http://toolbar.google.com/firefox/index.html (291KB)

1.4 Rogue Anti-Spyware Products Proliferate

There are more than 200 bogus anti-spyware scanners out there trying to cash in on the current spyware plague. Many of these products generate a long list of supposed infections on your PC to panic users into buying. Worse still, some of these "security" products are actually themselves spyware. Almost all use product names similar to well known, reputable brands in order to confuse customers. Here's a complete list of products you should avoid compiled by security researcher Eric Howes. Check this list before buying any anti-spyware product.
http://www.spywarewarrior.com/rogue_anti-spyware.htm#products

1.5 Virus Scanners Tested and Rated

I'm pretty suspicious of many of the comparative tests of anti- virus products I read. Most are based on simple file scanning tests. Few reviewers take the trouble of running tests of detection-on-execution, detection of existing infections and removal effectiveness mainly because these tests are so time consuming. That's why I was delighted to see John Bang's latest reviews over at SuggestAFix. John "did it right" which is perhaps why I find myself in the unusual position of largely agreeing with his findings. Not entirely of course; I think NOD32 is rather better than John infers and AntiVir impresses me less but otherwise we are pretty well aligned in our views.
http://www.suggestafix.com/index.php?act=ST&f=16&t=16990&s=407229a133914019ef7531bdc8207d1c

1.6 Spyware-Free P2P Clients

Find out which P2P programs are clean and which are infected from this table:
http://www.spywareinfo.com/articles/p2p/

1.7 Linux Distros

If you want to download a Linux ISO, you'll find an excellent list of torrents here [1]. The number of Linux variants continues to grow but Kanotix and Kubuntu are both getting rave reviews from Linux users for overall quality and their ease of installation. For newbies, the current hot choice is the Debian- based Mepis [2]. Like Knoppix, you can run it from a CD to test it out but you can also install it to your hard drive once you feel comfortable. There's also a book available called "Point & Click Linux!" by Robin Miller that deals specifically with installing and using Mepis. Well worth trying if you want to dabble in the Linux world without abandoning Windows. Speaking of Knoppix, V3.98 has just been released [3]. It includes V2.6.11 of the kernel, the beta of OpenOffice 2.0 and KDE 3.4.
[1] http://www.linuxisotorrent.com/
[2] http://www.mepis.org
[3] http://torrent.unix-ag.uni-kl.de/stats.html?info_hash=2f7f138103e7f0a1627601dcdd826c8c31e1a6d0

1.8 Ajax and Ruby Explained

Ajax and Ruby on Rails are transforming web application development. If you've been ignoring the subject then bring yourself up-to-speed quickly by reading this informative article.
http://www.onlamp.com/pub/a/onlamp/2005/06/09/rails_ajax.html

1.9 How to Improve Your Internet Security

This site offers some excellent security advice for experienced users. I particularly liked the suggested settings for enhancing the security of Internet Explorer.
http://surfthenetsafely.com

** Additional Items in the SE Edition **

1.10 WPA vs. WPA2

Confused about all the Wi-Fi security standards? Join the crew. This article documents the varying standards but be warned, it's not simple. What a mess.
http://blogs.zdnet.com/Ou/?p=67

1.11 Great Set of Programming Resources

As the web site says, "Free Programming Resources is a directory of links to free programmer resources including free programming tutorials, free online programming books, free compilers, free programming tools, free source code, programming libraries, game programming resources, graphics resources and security tools."
http://www.freeprogrammingresources.com/

1.12 Top Hardware Site

Excellent collection of hardware articles, guides, and reviews all neatly organized into categories ranging from motherboards through to cases and cooling. The forums are very active with knowledgeable moderators and are quite friendly to newbies.
http://www.anandtech.com

1.13 Help with Spyware You Simply Can't Remove

Some spyware just keeps on re-appearing on your PC no matter how many times you remove it. When this happens, download HijackThis from this page and follow the instructions. These folks should be able to help you permanently get rid of the problem. It won't cost you a cent, either.
http://www.tomcoyote.org/hjt/

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

2. TOP FREEWARE AND SHAREWARE UTILITIES
2.1 The Best Free File Encryption Utility

AxCrypt might not have the bells and whistles of other encryption programs, but encryption couldn't be faster or easier - just right-click files or entire folders to encrypt them. AxCrypt provides secure AES-128 encryption using passwords or keyfiles, which AxCrypt can generate. Double-clicking on files encrypted with AxCrypt lets you edit or view them with the program of your choice and closing these files automatically re- encrypts them. The author's website is also worth a visit as it provides a clear and reliable introduction to encryption and encryption software. Highly recommended. Freeware, Windows 95 and later, 1.02MB
http://axcrypt.sourceforge.net/

2.2 The Best Free Drive Encryption Utility

TrueCrypt is an open-source utility which enables you to create encrypted "virtual drives" of almost unlimited size, where you can securely store files and keep them away from prying eyes. TrueCrypt offers a wide range of encryption algorithms, including the option to encrypt with multiple algorithms, as well as "plausible deniability" for the benefit of the truly paranoid. The program is very stable (although backups are obviously recommended). Newbies might find the program a bit daunting at first, though more experienced users who want serious virtual drive encryption would be hard-put to find a better program. Highly recommended. Freeware, Open source, Windows XP and later, 641KB.
http://www.truecrypt.org/

Thanks to Leib Moscovitz for the previous two reviews. Leib is a regular contributor and one of my few "trusted" sources.

2.3 Best Free Spell-Checker

Last issue I mentioned a couple of spell-check add-ins for Firefox and Internet Explorer. This prompted subscriber Mel Harris to write in about tinySpell, a free spell-checker that works in any Windows program, not just a browser. TinySpell is an impressive little utility that checks individual words on a correct-as-you-type basis from clipboard contents or from a query box. The provided dictionary is not enormous but more than adequate for normal usage and you can also add words to the dictionary as needed. Resource usage seems modest and the product can be easily enabled/disabled from the taskbar icon. It has one odd feature: the dictionary has both American and English spelling so words like "color" and "colour" both show as correct. Overall, it's quite a solid product and an excellent companion to WordWeb, the free dictionary/thesaurus program I mentioned last issue. Freeware, Win98 and later, 547KB.
http://tinyspell.m6.net/

2.4 Free Utility Resets Read Only Files

It's a familiar problem; you copy your report to a CD-ROM at work but when you take it home and transfer the file to your hard drive you find you cannot edit the file. The problem is that CD-ROM is a read-only medium so Windows flags any files as "Read Only." When you copy any files to your hard drive, the "Read Only" attribute gets copied too. Resetting the file attribute to "Read-Write" is not all that hard from Windows but it's much easier to use a specialist utility, particularly when a lot of files are involved. Thanks to Robert Conley for letting me know about CROA, a tiny free utility whose name tells it all; Clear Read Only Attributes. It's easy to use, will clear individual files, folders or whole drives and works at lightning speed. A nice little addition to your toolkit. Freeware, Windows 98 and later, 285KB
http://davidcrowell.com/Croa.aspx

2.5 The Best Free Archiver (Unzipper)

When I last looked at archiving utilities I checked out six utilities: QuickZip, ICEOWS, IZArc, TUGZip, ZipGenius and 7-Zip. The product that impressed me the most was the Open Source program 7-Zip. It was the only product in the 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, I was unable to recommend 7-Zip due to the lack of drop-and drag. With the release of version V4.23 on the 29th of July that's been corrected. Also new is the ability to copy directly from one archive to another. 7-Zip still handles fewer archive types than IZArc, my previous top recommendation. It only supports 7z, ZIP, CAB, RAR, ARJ, GZIP, BZIP2, Z, TAR, CPIO, RPM and DEB while IZArc can read nearly 50 archive types including media formats like ISO, BIN and IMG and can write (and convert) to 12. You can't go wrong with either product. 7-Zip is a little more robust while IZArc is a little more flexible. If you already use WinZip you'll find both 7-Zip and IZArc make excellent companion products for WinZip. They can read just about all the major archive formats WinZip can't, including the widely used RAR.
http://www.izsoft.org/izarc.htm Windows 9x and later, 3.1MB
http://www.7-zip.org/ Windows 9x and later, 1.05MB

** Additional Items in the SE Edition **

2.6 Free Remote Access Utility

I have been recently trying out LogMeIn, a commercial remote access program suggested to me by subscriber Chris Paetz. It's an impressive product with excellent security but frankly I still prefer my long term favorite, GotoMyPC. However, LogMeIn also offers a cut down version for free. It's actually pretty good - easy to set up, reasonably fast in operation for a remote access program and has an excellent user interface. You can't transfer files; that's a feature only available in the commercial version, but it handles most other remote operations. Just the thing for remotely checking an email that's on your home computer, running programs remotely and similar uses. To use the system, you must first create a free account at the web site and register your PC. After that you can download the software onto the host PC. You can then access the host PC from any PC by simply logging into your account at the LogMeIn site. Of course, the remote PC must be connected to the internet if you wish to access it. Free for personal use, Java required, Windows 98 and later.
http://www.logmein.com

2.7 Free Time Sync Utility Offers Much More

I'm not a great fan of multi-function utilities. Mostly I find that no individual function works quite as well as a specialist product. Still, some folks really like the convenience of these things. If that's you, check out PTBSync; it's a time sync utility that includes a pretty passable organizer, trayclock, desktop calendar and more. It all works surprisingly well, though the loud color scheme combined with the intrusive default display would not be welcome after a hard night out. Many thanks to Walt for the suggestion. Donationware, all Windows versions, 500KB.
http://www.netcult.ch/elmue/ElmueSoft-en.htm

2.8 Free MS Tool Protects Shared PCs

Whether it's in a school environment, an Internet cafe or a home network, system administrators are faced with the problem of preventing users from engaging in risky practices. The new Shared Computer Toolkit for Windows XP from Microsoft addresses this problem by providing tools that allow the sysadmin to protect the Windows partition, restrict user access to programs, control the files that may be saved to hard drives, plus a host of other useful management features. Free beta, Windows XP SP2, 2.2MB
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=7256D456-E3DA-42EA-857D-92B716077A84&displaylang=en

2.9 Free Utility Extracts Data from Unreadable CDs

It's pretty common to encounter unreadable CDs. The causes are many, ranging from simple scratches through to partially written sessions. ISOBuster is free utility that will allow you extract any usable information on the CD (or DVD) to your hard drive. It works by bypassing Windows and talking directly to the hardware. As an added bonus it can read old sessions, decode multiple image file formats, recover data from quick formatted DVDs and a host of other useful data recovery features. You can use most of the functions in ISOBuster for free but it will cost you $25.96 to enable some of the advanced functions such as recovering data from MAC UDF or HFS(+) file systems. Windows 95 and later, 2.5MB.
http://www.smart-projects.net/isobuster/

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

3. SECURITY PATCHES, SERVICE RELEASES AND UPDATES
3.1 Microsoft Security News

On Tuesday the 13th of July, MS released a batch of three security updates [1] all of which were rated as "critical." One particular update, MS05-035, represents a real and immediate threat so users should update ASAP. This fixes a problem in Microsoft Word 2000, 2002 (XP) and MS Works where simply opening a specially crafted Word file could allow your PC to be compromised. Note that this patch is only available from the MS Office site [2] and won't be automatic downloaded from the Windows Update site. That means you will have to manually visit the Office site [2] and click "Check for Updates." Users with the Windows Update service set to automatic will receive the other updates over the next couple of days. All other users should visit the Windows Update site [3] immediately and update manually.
[1] http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=49236
[2] http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/officeupdate/default.aspx
[3] http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com

3.2 Microsoft Warns of Unpatched Flaw in Internet Explorer

In a recent advisory, MS has warned of a serious flaw in Internet Explore 6 running under Windows 2000 with Service Pack 1, 3 and 4, and on Windows XP with Service Pack 1 and 2. The flaw could allow an attacker to run any program they wanted on a targeted PC, effectively allowing them to control the machine. The flaw could be exploited simply by a user visiting a hostile web site or clicking on a link to such a web site from an email. No patch is available but MS offers a number of workarounds from disabling Javaprxy.dll in Internet Explorer through to disabling the MS Java Virtual Machine. I recommend the latter; MSJVM is a time-proven security risk. It's an obsolete product that's not shipped with current Windows products and has effectively been replaced by Sun Java for running Java applications. The only folks who need to keep MSJVM are those who run custom Java applications that make use of proprietary MSJVM features. To disable MSJVM, see the "Tip of the Month" section below.
http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/advisory/903144.mspx

3.3 Chinese Rootkit Revealer Best in Class

Last issue I wrote about BlackLight, a free, easy to use rootkit detector from F-Secure. It will detect most rootkits missed by AV scanners but can still be fooled by state of the art rootkits like Hacker Defender. To detect this and a few other insidious rootkits, you need heavier artillery. Currently the biggest gun in the rootkit detection war is a free Chinese product called IceSword. It will reveal absolutely everything running on your PC. Usage, however, requires considerable skill together with the patience to work out the program which is currently only documented in Chinese. Freeware, 1.51MB.
http://www.f-secure.com/blacklight/cure.shtml (BlackLight)
http://www.Xfocus.net/tools/200505/1032.html (slow Chinese site)

3.4 Spyware Invades BitTorrent Files

Unlike P2P, most files available for BitTorrent download have been relatively free of Spyware. Not any longer; commercial interests are now flooding the BitTorrent system with media files carrying embedded adware, spyware and worse. Some of the infected files are huge.
http://www.vitalsecurity.org/2005/06/aurora-install-source-revealed-and-175.html

3.5 New Flaw in Adobe Acrobat Reader

Adobe has released details of a security vulnerability in Versions 7.x of its popular Adobe PFD Reader and Viewer software. Using XML script, the flaw could "under certain circumstances… discover the existence of local files." The problem has been fixed in the latest release, V7.02 for Windows. A Patch for Mac OSx is not yet available. All users should download and install the latest version. Download links can be found in the advisory.
http://www.adobe.com/support/techdocs/331710.html

3.6 New Version of MS Antispyware Released

Microsoft very quietly released an updated build of its outstanding Antispyware program. The new 613 build adds improved "detection and removal capabilities, including improved Winsock LSP removal capabilities and support for long descriptions of categorized software." Freeware, Windows 2000 SP2 and later, 6.7MB.
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=321CD7A2-6A57-4C57-A8BD-DBF62EDA9671&displaylang=en

3.7 SpyBot V1.4 Now Available

After a prolonged beta test phase, the maker of the popular SpyBot Search and Destroy anti-spyware program has finally released version 1.4. It features over 100 enhancements and fixes including faster scanning, a vastly expanded immunization database, a more professional looking interface, a slicker installation routine and the ability to scan inactive registries. The latter is most useful as it means you can scan multiple versions of Windows when installed on the one PC as well as scanning a normal, single Windows installation from a diagnostic boot CD. With this SpyBot version now released, we may hopefully see more regular signature file updates. Freeware, Windows 95 and later, 4.8MB.
http://www.safer-networking.org/en/download/index.html

4. OTHER USEFUL STUFF
4.1 Seagate Introduces Hardware Encrypted Notebook Drives

Losing your notebook computer or having it stolen is bad enough but inconsequential compared to the loss of confidential or personal data that might be stored on the machine. BIOS and Windows logon security provides little protection as it can be broken easily. The Seagate Momentus 5400 family of 2.5" drives overcomes the security risk by providing hardware encryption of all disk data. The encryption is transparent to the user; once they enter a boot time password they won't even notice the encryption exists. The latest drives in the series use Seagate's perpendicular recording technology and come in sizes up 160MB. There's a lot to like about this system and it's one I'll definitely bear in mind when I do my next notebook disk upgrade.
http://www.seagate.com/cda/newsinfo/newsroom/releases/article/0,1121,2732,00.html

4.2 Video Signal Wiring Standards Explained

What the difference between S-Video and RGB? What kind of plug and cable do you need for DVI or HDMI. Find the answer to these and many other of your video wiring questions at this site.
http://www.destinynetworks.com/Downloads/WebHelp3-1-0/06_Wires_for_Video.htm

4.3 Street Cred 2005 Style

TiVos are just so 2004. This year's hot media technology is not time-shifting but space-shifting. The idea is simple; you pay for an expensive cable or satellite feed at home, why shouldn't you be able to watch that feed from any location anywhere? Well, with the SlingBox you can. Just connect it to your home TV or media setup and you can use a PC at another location to watch anything playing at home by streaming it over broadband internet. You can not only watch but also control channel selection and other functions from the remote location. Around $250 but heavily backordered due to demand.
http://www.slingmedia.com/

4.4 Convert Your Phone Number Into Words

Enter you phone number and this site will try to convert it to a meaningful mnemonic.
http://www.phonespell.org/

4.5 Put Old Inkjet Cartridges to a Good Use

I recently received an email from Richard Hoehn who offers a free recycling service for old inkjet and laser cartridges. Half of any funds generated go to a charity of your choice and the other half helps Richard through college. I admire his initiative. If you do, too, send him those old cartridges that you've got hanging around.
http://www.cartridgecharity.org

4.6 Complete Waste of Time Department

Renju is an interesting game of strategy that I used to play at college using a pencil on graph paper. It was then called CZOCDUR which was reputed to be a French acronym for something like "Cinque Zots Ou Croix Dans Un Row" which in turn was reputed to mean something like "five dots or crosses in a row." In other words, it's like a scaled up tic-tac-toe but on a large board. Although simple to learn, it's a surprisingly challenging game involving some significant strategic elements. You can play it online at this site or download it for local play if you wish. I only tried the online version and it must be ActiveX based as it worked fine in Internet Explorer but not FireFox. Warning: highly addictive.

http://www.steffengerlach.de/freeware/

** Bonus Items for Supporters **

4.7 Free Utility Lets You Save Any Audio to MP3

This freebie has the rather unwieldy name of MP3myMP3 Recorder 2.0. What it does is convert any audio being played on your PC speakers to an MP3 file regardless of the source of the audio. Just the thing for recording streaming audio. There is a small loss in audio quality due to the additional analog to digital conversion process but most folks couldn't tell the difference. Freeware, all Windows versions, 5.78MB.
http://www.mp3mymp3.com/mp3_my_mp3_recorder.html

4.8 Learn Morse Code in One Minute

I hate to confess this but I actually know Morse code. In mitigation, I am a geek and have never pretended otherwise. If you want to learn Morse, you can learn very quickly using the clever method outlined at this site.
http://www.learnmorsecode.com/

4.9 Zip Code Locations Revealed

Here's a neat little site: type in all or part of a zip code and it will graphically show you the locations of all codes that match.
http://acg.media.mit.edu/people/fry/zipdecode/

4.10 Use a Normal Phone to Dial Via Skype

This article shows how you can make an adaptor box and cable that allows you to use any normal phone to dial numbers and make calls via the Skype VOIP system. Requires some soldering.
http://www.grynx.com/index.php/projects/build-your-own-chat-cord/

5. TIP OF THE MONTH
5.1 How to Disable the Microsoft Java Virtual Machine (MSJVM)

The MSJVM is a dead product; it's no longer shipped with Windows yet it can be found on many PCs, maybe even yours. That's because it was included in every version of Windows from 95 through to XP SP1a.

I recommend that you disable MSJVM because it's a known security risk. The latest Internet Explorer vulnerability I mentioned in the security section above is just another in a long line of MS JVM problems. More will surely follow.

MSJVM is used to run Java programs (applets). Such programs are quite common, both as stand alone programs like the popular BitTorrent client Azureus. Java is also commonly used to support advanced web site features.

Note that Java has nothing to do with JavaScript, the popular scripting language used on almost all web sites. Despite the similarity in name, the products are not related. To run JavaScript all you need is a modern browser. To run a Java program you need a Java engine installed on your PC.

But you don't need the Microsoft Java engine to run Java, you can use the Sun Java engine instead. Well, almost. A small number of Java applications utilize non-standard features in Microsoft's version of Java and may require the MS product to run. Such applications are rare outside corporate environments; I've not encountered a single example in the last 12 months.

Sun Java not only replaces MSJVM, it's a safer, better product and unlike the MSJVM is being actively developed and enhanced. That why I recommend you use it to replace the MSJVM.

The MSJVM can be removed or disabled. Disabling is the preferred option; it's less problem prone, is simple and quite effective. Here's how you do it:

Step 1: Find Out Whether You Have the MSJVM

Click the Start button and select "Run"

Type "command" into the run box (with no quotes) and hit Enter.

Type "jview" into the command window and hit Enter.

If you don't have MSJVM installed you'll get a message very similar to this:

"'jview' is not recognized as an internal or external command, operable program or batch file."

If that's what you see then you are finished; you don't have MSJVM on your PC. You are safe.

If you do have MSJVM you'll get a message like this:

"Microsoft (R) Command-line Loader for Java Version 5.00.3805 Copyright (C) Microsoft Corp 1996-2000. All rights reserved."

followed by about 20 lines of usage and options information. If that's what you see, go on to step 2.

Step 2 Install Sun Java JRE

Go to this page: http://www.java.com/en/download/manual.jsp.

Click the second button (manual installation) and download the file to your PC. This is a big 22MB download so allow plenty of time if you have a slow connection.

The downloaded file will be called jre-1_5_0_04-windows-i586- p.exe or something similar. Locate this file and double click it to install Sun Java on your PC.

Reboot your PC if requested.

Step 3: Disable the MSJVM and Ensure Sun Java is Enabled

Open Internet Explorer.

Select Tools/Internet Options From the toolbar.

Click the Advanced Tab.

Scroll down to the section called "Java (Sun)" and ensure that there are ticks in all check boxes within this section.

Immediately below will be a section called "Microsoft VM." Remove all ticks in all check boxes within this section.

Click "Apply" then "OK".

You are now finished; MSJVM has been disabled and replace by Sun Java JRE.

Removing the MSVJM

I don't recommend removal as disabling provides adequate protection for most users. However, if you want the absolute highest level of security and you are an experienced user then you may want to consider removing MSJVM entirely. Note that this is an irreversible process so it carries a few minor risks. That's why Microsoft pulled their free MSVJM removal tool from public download. To get the tool you'll need to write to Microsoft's support section where will make you jump through a few hoops to get it. Full details here: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/826878#kb4

Thankfully, the MVPS.org site offers the same MS removal tool for direct download (301KB) with no hoops: http://www.mvps.org/marksxp/Downloads/WinXP/Java/unmsjvm.exe

It's also quite possible to remove the MSJVM manually. You can find full instructions here:
http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/forums/How_to_remove_the_Microsoft_Java_Virtual_Machine_JVM-tut97.html

If you have some unanswered question about the MSVJM you can consult this comprehensive Microsoft FAQ: http://www.microsoft.com/mscorp/java/faq.asp

6. FREEBIE OF THE MONTH
6.1 Take a Virtual Tour of the Earth with Google

Yet another sensational freebie from Google. Google Earth 3 is the latest release of the commercial Keyhole program that Google acquired last year. The difference? It's better and it's now free. Google Earth 3 allows you to view detailed satellite photos of any location on the planet. Just type in a place name or address and Google Earth will zoom you in. In some places, like the major US cities, the image is 3D and the detail just sensational but it's pretty good even in the most remote locations. A search
can even get driving directions to a specific location. To use the program you'll need modern hardware; Google recommends Windows 2000 or XP, with a minimum CPU speed of 500MHz, 128MB of memory, a 3D graphics card and an internet broadband connection of at least 128Kbps. Wondrous, simply wondrous. (10MB)
http://earth.google.com/

** Bonus Freebie for Supporters **

6.2 Best Free Disk De-fragmenter

I get a lot of requests from subscribers for a recommendation in this category. Unfortunately, it's slim pickings as anyone with a good product can make money by selling it as shareware. My top recommendation is Diskeeper Lite V7, a cut down version of Executive Software's full Diskeeper. The latest version of the full product is V9 but there is no lite version of that product, only the older V7 that dates from 2002. That said, it still works well; it's faster than the Windows defrag utility and does a better job with fewer problems. It also provides automatic warnings when your disk needs defragging and has some quite useful tools to analyze the state of your disk. The Lite version can only handle a single local disk at a time and cannot be scheduled but most folks can live with these limitations. The V7 Lite seems to be quickly disappearing from download sites so grab a copy while you can. Freeware, Win 98 and later, 12.1MB.
http://www.majorgeeks.com/download.php?det=1207

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

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See you next issue.

Gizmo
supporters@techsupportalert.com