gizmo richards' support alert newsletter

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

Premium Edition
Issue
151, 22nd November, 2007

If you experience problems reading this issue in your email program you can read this issue online from the Supporters' Area here: http://www.techsupportalert.com/members/index.htm

IN THIS PREMIUM ISSUE:

0. EDITORIAL: Never re-install Windows again part 2

1. TOP TECH SITES AND RESOURCES

1.1 How to Get Your Five Minutes of Fame  Please read
1.2 Extreme Google
1.3 Turn Your Web Browser into Your Desktop
1.4 How to Recover Lost Windows Passwords
1.5 Free Software for Macs
1.6 Downloadable Boot Disks
1.7 All About MSCONFIG
1.8 The Ultimate Defragger Review
1.9 How to Download MP3 Audio from Youtube Videos (Premium Edition)
1.10 Thousands of Free Fonts (Premium Edition)
1.11 Style Sheets Explained (Premium Edition)
1.12 Free .ISO file burners from Microsoft (Premium Edition)
2. TOP FREEWARE AND SHAREWARE UTILITIES
2.1 Modify Websites the Easy Way
2.2 Windows Home Server is Here
2.3 Replacement Software for your Digital Media Adaptor
2.4 De-Frenzy your Fonts
2.5 Free Tool for Managing Shared Computers
2.6 Free Internet Radio and TV Tuner (Premium Edition)
2.7 Free CRM Software for Windows (Premium Edition)
2.8 Free Audio File Tag Editor (Premium Edition)
2.9 A Better Mobile Phone Manager (Premium Edition)
3. SECURITY PATCHES, SERVICE RELEASES AND UPDATES
3.1 Microsoft Security News
3.2 Multiple Patches for Oracle Products
3.3 Storm Worm Gets Even Sneakier
3.4 Microsoft Security At Home
3.5 Microsoft Office 2007 Security Guide
3.6 Apple unleashes Leopard
3.7 New Linux Releases Impress
3.8 Microsoft Office 2003 SP3
3.9 Office 2007 Save as PDF Feature Added
3.10 Written to Gizmo in the Last Month?
3.11 A Warning from Gizmo Please read
4. OTHER USEFUL STUFF
4.1 How to Stop Your Cell Phone or iPod from Sliding Around
4.2 How to Measure Your Typing Speed
4.3 Print Your Own Digital Posters
4.4 How to Remove JPG Metadata
4.5 How to Type Foreign Characters and Accents
4.6 Improve your Vocabulary and Help the Hungry
4.7 Useless Waste of Time Department
4.8 Access the Web Without a Web Connection (Premium Edition)
4.9 An Easy Way to Get into Ajax Programming (Premium Edition)
4.10 Lots of Free Website Designs (Premium Edition)
4.11 Wire Your Whole Home for the Internet for Little Cost (Premium)
5. TIP OF THE MONTH
5.1 How to Back Up Your Data Online Cheaply
6. FREEBIE OF THE MONTH
6.1 Search Files Without Using a Desktop Search Utility
6.2 The Best Free Media Audio and Video Conversion Program (Premium)
7. MANAGING YOUR SUBSCRIPTION

0.0 EDITORIAL

Over the next few issues I'll be showing you how you can use drive imaging to make backup copies of your Windows operating system. Once you've set this up, you'll never have to re-install Windows again.

To effectively use drive imaging you will need to partition or divide your hard drive into two separate areas: one containing Windows, the other containing your personal data.

This is a very simple partitioning scheme. A lot of advanced users divide their hard drive into many areas, not just two. Indeed, I have four on most of my PCs. The ideal number of separate partitions is, in fact, a very controversial issue.
So controversial that since I mentioned last month that I was going to talk about partitioning I've had over 80 subscribers write in offering their opinion on the best way to partition hard drives. These suggestions ranged from those who thought a single partition was ideal to those who proposed creating more than a dozen partitions - a veritable alphabetic soup of logical disk drives.

However, I'm not interested here in the "best" way to partition a hard drive, that's a topic for another time. Rather, my focus is on creating a simple setup so that users can easily backup Windows using freely available drive imaging software. That's why I'm proposing that you create only two partitions: one for Windows, and the other for your data.

But before we do anything there's a critical first step that needs to be taken: you need to identify and backup your personal data.

So what's hard about that? Just backup the "My Documents" folder to CD or an external drive, right?
Alas, it's not so simple.

One of the worst design failures in Windows is that it doesn't provide clear separation of user data from the operating system itself. Yes, the "My Documents" folder is designed for the user's data personal data but, unfortunately, user data is also scattered throughout Windows, and often in obscure locations that are totally unfamiliar to users.

Take, for example, your "Favorites" folder. It's definitely user data but it's not located in "My Documents"; it's usually located in the user profile at something like "C:\Documents and Settings\User\Favorites"

And what about your email files? Again, this is user data, but where is this data stored? The answer depends on the email client you use. For example, Outlook Express usually stores email files at "C:\Windows\Profiles\User\Application data\Microsoft\Outlook express\Mail", while Outlook stores its .PST file at several different locations, depending on version. For example, with Office XP it's "C:\Documents and Settings\User\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook"

Other email clients store their email files in other locations, some of which are even more obscure than Outlook.

You application programs are also culprits here. They can store your user data just about anywhere. Some embed it in user profiles, and others store it in the application's Program Files folder or anywhere else that took the programmer's fancy.

No folks, you cannot cleanly separate out your user data from Windows. It's a mess. Worse still is what happens if you try to move these islands of personal data from your Windows drive to another drive or partition.

Commonly it will cause Windows to crash, your applications to crash, or both. For example, if you move your Program Files to another drive, your system will end up as a non-functioning mess. The same thing would happen if you move your user profiles. (There are actually ways of doing this safely but that topic, like complex partitioning schemes, will have to wait for another day.)

At this stage you are probably thinking "This makes no sense Gizmo. First you said that I should partition my hard drive into two and move my data to the second partition. Now you are telling me that my data is all mixed up with Windows and I'll wreck my PC if I try to move it."

The answer to this conundrum is to limit your ambitions. It's true that you cannot completely separate out your data from Windows, but you can quite easily separate out your most important sets of data.

Furthermore, you can move these important items without creating problems for Windows or your programs.

So what data should you move and how should you move it? That, folks, will be the subject of the next part in this series.

Gizmo
supporters@techsupportalert.com



1.0 TOP TECH SITES AND RESOURCES

1.1 How to Get Your Five Minutes of Fame

I'm looking for experienced users to help with the "46 Best-ever Freeware" list.

The plan is to convert the list into a Wiki and allow site visitors to make suggestions and alterations along the line of WikiPedia.

For this to work, each software category needs an editor to moderate user comments, so I'm looking for experienced individuals to fill these roles.

If you feel that you are knowledgeable about a particular software category such as "program editors" or "file managers", then why not share your knowledge by becoming the editor for that category in the "46 Best-ever Freeware list."

As a category editor you will be fully credited for your efforts, unless, of course, you wish to remain anonymous.

It's a great way to get your five minutes of fame. It's also a way of becoming an internet "giver" rather than just a "taker". And you will be surprised at just how much you will learn from the suggestions of others; I certainly have.

If you are interested check out the current categories in the "46 Best-ever Freeware" list [1] and the "Extended List" [2]. Select categories that you would like to edit and email me at editor@techsupportalert.com with your selections plus a very short description of your background and experience. If you have any commercial affiliations related to any of the categories, please state them.

Feel free to select as many categories as you like but be aware that editing each category could take 1-2 hours of your time per month. Also feel free to suggest a new software category if you feel it is needed.

Thanks guys.

[1] http://www.techsupportalert.com/best_46_free_utilities.htm
[2] http://www.techsupportalert.com/more/extended.htm

1.2 Extreme Google
Google is probably the most useful Web site on the internet right now, especially if you include the search engine, Gmail, Docs and Spreadsheets, Google Earth, and all the other clever tricks that they're up to. Here's an interesting list of other Google-related projects that people have come up with.
http://douweosinga.com/projects/googlehacks

1.3 Turn Your Web Browser into Your Desktop
If you want the ultimate online office, with all your programs and data available from anywhere, you need a Web-based operating system and desktop environment. And eyeOS is just such a product. Install it on your web server, and everything can be accessed with nothing more than a standard Web browser. Best of all, it's open source.
http://www.eyeos.com

1.4 How to Recover Lost Windows Passwords
Trying to fix someone's Windows PC but he or she has forgotten the administrator password? Ophcrack is a bootable CD containing a pre-installed Linux OS plus password recovery tool. An essential addition to every IT support technician's toolkit, and it's free too.
http://ophcrack.sourceforge.net/

1.5 Free Software for Macs
I often get asked if there is a web page similar to my "46 Best-ever Freeware" list [1] but geared to Macs. There's no exact equivalent but Mac Recon [2] is the closest I've found.
[1] http://www.techsupportalert.com/best_46_free_utilities.htm
[2] http://macrecon.com/software/

1.6 Downloadable Boot Disks
If your Windows installation is corrupted and the PC won't start up properly, a bootable CD or floppy disk will allow you to start trying to find out why. If you don't have any boot disks handy, bootdisk.com has dozens, going right back to DOS 3.3 and Windows 95.
http://www.bootdisk.com

1.7 All About MSCONFIG
MSCONFIG is an extremely useful free utility supplied with Windows that provides an easy way to find out which programs, utilities and services are configured to run in the background every time you start your PC. Even better, it allows you to easily disable programs that you don't need, which in turn can speed up your PC and help to prevent system crashes. Find out how to use it here.
http://www.netsquirrel.com/msconfig/index.html

1.8 The Ultimate Defragger Review
This is an amazingly comprehensive analysis of the performance of just about all the free and commercial defraggers on the market. Comprehensive or not, I've used many of these products and simply cannot agree with the author's conclusions. For example, I don't much like Perfect Disk 8, which I've found to be slow, but have found Diskeeper 2007 to be excellent. This is a complete reversal of the respective ratings at this review site. Go figure. Note that I don't sell or carry ads for any defrag product. Thanks to Rein Rüüsak for the link.
http://donnedwards.openaccess.co.za/2007/04/great-defrag-shootout-part-1.html

** Additional Items in this Premium SE Edition **

1.9 How to Download MP3 Audio from Youtube Videos
Sometimes it's great to be able to download a video from a site such as Youtube, in order to play it offline or on a portable MP4 player. There are lots of programs that claim to be able to do this, some of which cost quite a bit of money. But there are also some free ones too, including some web-based tools. My favorite is Vixy, a web site that is quick, free, and easy to use. Just paste in the Youtube URL and select an output format, and within a minute or so the site will fetch the video, convert it to your desired format, and let you start downloading. Best of all, perhaps, is that one of the output formats is plain MP3 audio, so if there's a music video on Youtube that you want to listen to on your MP3 player, now you can.
http://vixy.net

1.10 Thousands of Free Fonts
Font Garden [1] is a collection of thousands of free fonts, ideal for producing logos and other designs for your site. It comes highly recommended by subscriber Tony Bennett. Keep in mind, though, that it's not wise to include non-standard fonts in your web page text, because the people who look at your site probably won't have the font installed on their computer. But there's no harm in turning a small amount of text into a graphic and inserting it as an image on your page instead.
If you really need to include text in a non-standard font on a web page, there's actually a pretty neat solution that uses Flash to embed the font. Check out sIFR [2] for details.
[1] http://www.fontgarden.com
[2] http://www.mikeindustries.com/sifr

1.11 Style Sheets Explained
CSS Zen Garden [1] is the ultimate example of just how much you can accomplish through clever use of HTML style sheets. Click through the various available styles and note how the layout of the page changes drastically. The authors of the site have even produced a book about CSS, which is an excellent read.
[1] http://www.csszengarden.com

1.12 Free .ISO file burners from Microsoft
If you download a CD or DVD image as an .ISO file, perhaps for a Linux installation, you need a quick way to burn that image to a disk. CDBURN.EXE and DVDBURN.EXE are two command-line utilities that are about as simple as they come, and they're part of Microsoft's free Resource Kit tools for Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP. Also check out ROBOCOPY, an incredibly powerful file copying and backup tool, in the same package.
http://tinyurl.com/6csco  (microsoft.com)

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



2.0 TOP FREEWARE AND SHAREWARE UTILITIES

2.1 Modify Websites the Easy Way

If, like me, you look after various Web sites, you'll know how tedious it can be when you need to make a minor modification to a file on a web server. Download the file with ftp, modify it, and then re-upload. There are programs available that let you edit a file directly on the server but they're not cheap.

PSPad is a freeware text editor for Windows that has a built-in FTP facility, so you can edit files in place on a Web server. Once you've configured the program so that it knows the ftp username and password for your server, then opening, editing and saving a file on that server is as easy as if the file were on your local hard disk.

Although PSPad works great as a standard editor for plain text files, it also has built-in syntax highlighting for languages such as HTML, PHP and C. So if you are developing a PHP-based site, for example, and you want a perfectly capable development environment that won't break the bank, a good look at PSPad is highly recommended. Especially as it's totally free.

The program's already been downloaded more than a million times, and a new version is just around the corner, so the number of users is sure to increase as word spreads about just how useful a program it is. Freeware, All Windows versions, 3.43MB.

http://www.pspad.com/en/

2.2 Windows Home Server is Here

Microsoft is finally shipping Windows Home Server, the latest addition to the Windows family. However, it's an OEM-only product, which means that you can't easily go out and buy a copy to install on an old PC that you happen to have lying about. You can, though, buy it pre-installed as part of a dedicated WHS box, which various companies such as HP are now shipping.

Windows Home Server is a superb idea, aimed at the growing number of households that have more than one PC. It's a cut-down version of Windows Server 2003 (no sign of Vista here, thankfully), that helps to ensure that your digital household runs smoothly and efficiently. It'll stream your collection of music and video files to other PCs, for example, as well as to devices such as your Xbox 360. It can even act as a Web server, allowing you and others to browse your pictures and other files via the internet from anywhere in the world, which is just wonderful if you want an easy way to keep in touch with relatives around the world.

In fact, all aspects of Home Server are accessed via a web browser so there's no need to have a monitor or keyboard connected to the machine itself. Just hide it in a cupboard somewhere, plug it into your network, and access it from wherever you wish.

Perhaps the best feature of Windows Home Server is that it provides an easy way to ensure that all household PCs are backed up. Install the client software on all your machines, and they get backed up to your Home Server every night. If anyone loses a file, or even an entire PC, it can be recovered from the Home Server. So is this the backup solution we've all been waiting for? Not entirely.

If you're going to go to the trouble of backing up every machine in your household, you need to be confident that you can recover data after just about every conceivable problem that might occur. Windows Home Server doesn't fully deliver, in my opinion, because there is no off-site backup. So a disaster at your house, like a flood or a fire or a robbery, could mean that you lose all your precious data files and all your backups too.

http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/winfamily/windowshomeserver/default.mspx

2.3 Replacement Software for your Digital Media Adaptor

One of the hottest gadgets around at the moment is the Digital Media Adaptor, a box that sits under your TV and allows you to stream video or audio content to your living room from a PC elsewhere in your house. They're available from the likes of Pinnacle, Zyxel, Linksys, Phillips and many others (even an Xbox360 makes a great DMA). Some have built-in hard drives, DVD drives and TV tuners, while others are simply a solid-state box with a network connection (wired and/or wireless) and no moving parts at all.

If you have a large MP3 collection on your main PC and you want to be able to listen to it around the house, perhaps via a decent amplifier and speakers, a DMA is a great device to have. Most of them will also allow you to listen to internet radio stations too.

Many DMA devices are actually nothing more than a cut-down dedicated PC containing a web browser and the necessary decoders to play audio and video. The clever bits all take place on your PC, onto which you need to install some server software. The DMA then connects to the PC in order to browse the video and audio files.


All DMA devices are supplied with their own server software, but if you don't like the way it looks there are plenty of shareware and freeware alternatives. In the case of the Pinnacle Showcenter device, for example, and other devices which use the same chipset, products include Wizd, Simese, Helios Neolink, myihome, oxyl box, tversity, and open showcenter. They're all freely available for download.

I've recently tried all of these, and Wizd is my favorite because it's easy to write your own skins using PHP and HTML. You can make the display on your TV look just how you like. Plus, unlike some of the others, it copes with the situation where your MP3 files and DVD rips are on one machine yet the server software itself runs on another PC on your LAN. Some programs don't. Wizd: Freeware, Win 98->XP plus .NET 2.0 Framework, 3.2MB.

http://wizd.sourceforge.net

2.4 De-Frenzy your Fonts

Todd Johnson recently contacted me to talk about a problem he'd been having with the fonts on his PC. As Todd rightly points out, whenever you install a program it often comes with a bundle of new fonts and you rapidly end up with hundreds of them on your machine, which can slow down the computer and take up valuable disk space. So Todd had decided to have a clear-out and managed to remove around 250 unwanted fonts. It was then that he discovered he had another problem. He'd inadvertently deleted a key Windows built-in font, so some of his programs would no longer run. Todd found the solution to his problem in a neat little freeware program for Windows XP called FontFrenzy. It's a font manager with loads of additional features, such as being able to restore any of the default Windows fonts if you accidentally delete them. It also helps you view, manage, install, delete and preview your fonts. Nice one, Todd. Freeware, all Windows versions, 1.2MB
http://www.fontfrenzy.org

2.5 Free Tool for Managing Shared Computers
Looking after a shared computer, in either a domestic or business environment, is never easy. Every time others use the machine, they create lots more temporary files, cached internet pages, registry entries, and possibly introduce spyware or adware or viruses which can affect subsequent users. If you've ever used a PC in an internet café and have been jealous of the way that those machines manage to reset everything after each user has accessed the machine, you need SteadyState. It's a free add-on for Windows XP, from Microsoft, which locks down the machine so that all changes made by a user are deleted when they log off. Freeware, Windows XP, 3.9MB. My thanks to Oliver Jones for alerting me to this excellent utility.
http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/winfamily/sharedaccess/default.mspx

** Additional Items in this Premium SE Edition **

2.6 Free Internet Radio and TV Tuner
Subscriber Kurt emails to recommend RaimaRadio[1], an excellent utility that lets you tune into a large number of internet radio and TV broadcasts. The program runs under Windows XP and Vista and is free of charge (and nag screens and ads). If you have a fast broadband connection and you want an easy way to explore the wonderful world of internet radio and TV, RaimaRadio makes a welcome change from the ubiquitous (albeit excellent) Winamp[2]. Thanks for the tip, Kurt.
There are thousands of radio and TV stations broadcasting on the internet from around the world, and hundreds of applications and Web sites that claim to help you locate and play them. As with just about everything on the internet, however, the quality of the broadcasters varies hugely. Some have a repertoire of just a handful of songs, while others are transmitted in very poor quality. My favorite `net radio station for the past couple of years has always been AOL Radio [3]. Not only does it broadcast in excellent quality, but there are a huge number of different channels covering all sorts of musical genres. So I can always choose something to suit the mood I'm in, or the mood I want to get into.
[1] http://www.raimasoftware.com/default.aspx
[2] http://www.winamp.com
[3] http://www.aolradio.com

2.7 Free CRM Software for Windows

"Here's a program that's worth its weight in gold", says Randall Koop in an email to me, and I'm inclined to believe him. The subject of his message is a program called Radix [1], which fits into the category of CRM software, or Customer Relationship Management. CRM is like a traditional contacts management database but with loads of extras, to allow you to keep track of appointments, phone messages, expenses, invoicing, and every communication that you've had with a customer.

Radix is available for Windows XP and above, and is totally free for a single-user license. If you want to share the database with other users in your company, additional licenses are $50 each. Randall says "This program is the best all-round business tool I've ever found".

Subscriber "David" has a different view. He writes "Gizmo, Vtiger [2] is the best CRM open source out there. As an alternative consider Sugar CRM [3]. It's mostly free unless you want extra stuff."

CRM packages are complex and highly specialized programs and frankly I don't have the right background to properly evaluate these products. If you feel you do then why not volunteer your services as a moderator for this software category? See item 1.1 above.

[1] http://www.hurstridge.com/index.shtml
[2] http://www.vtiger.com/
[3] http://www.sugarcrm.com/crm/

2.8 Free Audio File Tag Editor
Graham Smale has emailed to recommend a free audio file tag editor called Mp3Tag. He says "It is excellent and allows for not only tag editing of all the major audio formats (including the insertion of images for CD/book covers) but allows for translating file names to tags and vice versa. It also has a scripting language and a host of pre-created scripts for renaming any tag or filename." Thanks for the suggestion, Graham. The program does look very useful for tidying up my collection of MP3 files into a standard naming format so that my media player can sort them correctly by artist, song, album etc. Freeeware, Windows 2K->Vista, 1,6MB
http://www.mp3tag.de

2.9 A Better Mobile Phone Manager
Need to back up the phonebook entries or call lists from your mobile phone? Want to control the phone from your PC? Or control the PC from your phone? Float's Mobile Agent can do all this and more, if you have a Windows PC and a Sony Ericsson phone. Freeware, Windows version compatibility unstated, 14.3MB
http://fma.sourceforge.net/index2.htm

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

3.0 SECURITY PATCHES, SERVICE RELEASES AND UPDATES

3.1 Microsoft Security News

November's set of security patches from Microsoft contains just 2 fixes, one of which is described as important and the other as critical. If your PCs are set to download and install updates automatically then you should already be protected, but it's always a good idea to visit Microsoft's security website occasionally and opt for an automatic check to ensure that you're not missing any important updates.


The "critical" rated patch, MS07-061, finally fixes a problem that has been known and exploited since mid-year. The flaw meant that a Windows user who clicked on a carefully crafted malicious URL could have his or her PC compromised by a hacker. The problem was originally blamed on Firefox but Windows was the real culprit. The flaw affects all recent Windows versions.

The "important" patch, MS07-062, affects only Windows Server 2000 and Windows Server 2003. Microsoft says that a spoofing vulnerability exists in Windows DNS Servers and could allow an attacker to send specially crafted responses to DNS requests, thereby spoofing or redirecting Internet traffic from legitimate locations.

Further details of the Microsoft November updates can be found here [1]. All the updates are distributed automatically via the Microsoft Update Service. Dial-up users in particular need to be aware that these updates are large files and will require a considerable period of time online to be successfully downloaded. If you are not certain that you have received the updates, then visit the Microsoft Update Service [2] now.
[1] http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/ms07-nov.mspx
[2] http://update.microsoft.com (Requires IE5 or later)

3.2 Multiple Patches for Oracle Products
Oracle's latest batch of security updates, which it releases on a quarterly basis, appeared in October and contains 51 updates for various Oracle products including the Oracle Database, Application Server, E-Business Suite, Collaboration Suite, and its PeopleSoft product line. All of the updates are described as critical, and Oracle is advising customers to install them as soon as possible.
http://www.oracle.com/technology/deploy/security/critical-patch-updates/cpuoct2007.html

3.3 Storm Worm Gets Even Sneakier
The Storm worm (also known as Dorf and eCard) is believed to have infected up to 50 million PCs worldwide. The infected machines form a huge botnet under the control of the criminals behind Storm. One of the nastiest aspects of the worm is that it is constantly being updated on the infected machines to avoid detection. According to Sophos analyst Richard Cohen [1] the latest trick in its ever increasing defensive repertoire is to neutralize a wide range of anti-virus software products but instead of killing the AV, it leaves it running. Users thus think they are protected while in reality they are infected. This is just another example of what I've been saying to you in recent issues - you can no longer rely on your AV or other defensive security product to protect you against modern malware. A far better approach is to take a pro-active approach to ensure you don't get infected in the first place. Full details here [2]
[1] http://www.sophos.com/security/blog/2007/10/682.html
[2] http://techsupportalert.com/how-to-secure-your-pc.php

3.4 Microsoft Security At Home
Microsoft publishes various online guides to security, and finding all the information you need can often be confusing. But here's one page that brings together lots of useful facts and links for home users and it's well worth adding to your web favorites. In addition to containing details about the latest patches and fixes that Microsoft has issued, and advice on how to download and install them, there are also topical tips such as how to prevent your neighbors from borrowing your Wi-Fi bandwidth, how to handle suspicious email messages, how to avoid online donation scams and how to stay safe when you're using a public computer.
http://www.microsoft.com/protect/default.mspx

3.5 Microsoft Office 2007 Security Guide
Microsoft has published an excellent set of documents aimed at helping you ensure that Office 2007 is configured for optimum security. If you use Office 2007 at home or at work, and you want to ensure that your computer and your files remain out of the reach of hackers and viruses, this is well worth reading.
http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/guidance/clientsecurity/2007office/default.mspx

3.6 Apple unleashes Leopard

As every Mac fan will no doubt be aware, Apple finally launched OSX 10.5 this month, known colloquially as "Leopard". It contains more than 300 new features, though many of these are fairly minor. Among the most useful improvements is the automatic backup feature, known as Time Machine, which lets you revert to a previous version of a document (or even an entire folder) if you need to. Spaces is a new feature that allows you to create multiple desktops and switch between them. For example, you might have one arrangement of documents and icons for when you're doing real work and another for leisure times. It's neat, but hardly new; Linux has had it for ages.

The most unwelcome aspect of Leopard is that the default setting for the built-in firewall has reportedly changed. It's now effectively turned off, configured to allow all incoming connections to get through. If you upgrade to Leopard from a previous version of OSX and your firewall is currently turned on, Leopard will change your settings. Easy enough to fix, of course, so long as you're aware that it has happened.

It's surprising that Apple has taken this step. When Microsoft launched Windows XP, and the built-in firewall was turned off by default, security experts called it a bad decision. Microsoft finally saw sense with Service Pack 2 for XP and turned it back on. Hopefully Apple will do the same.

http://www.apple.com

3.7 New Linux Releases Impress

Probably the two biggest players in the world of Linux distributions, Ubuntu and Fedora, each released new versions this month, and each has an animal-related moniker in addition to a conventional version number.

Fedora version 8, better known as Werewolf, has a host of new features, some functional and some cosmetic. Among the cosmetic features is a new desktop theme, including wallpaper that changes color according to the time of day. Perhaps more useful, the functional changes include an improved firewall configuration tool and better support for printers and for running on laptops.

Ubuntu, rapidly becoming the de-facto standard for Linux owing to its adoption by Dell, has released version 7.10, better known as Gutsy Gibbon. Gutsy, too, has a range of new features, including a new desktop theme with semi-transparent window borders and other graphical effects, inspired by Windows Vista yet, in this writer's personal opinion, actually much less intrusive and nicer to use.

Both operating systems can be downloaded now and are completely free of charge. Ubuntu also comes in a Server version, without a graphical interface, which lets you set up a Web server complete with MySQL and PHP support in a matter of minutes.

[1] http://www.fedoraproject.org
[2] http://www.ubuntu.com

3.8 Microsoft Office 2003 SP3
In September, Microsoft released a new Service Pack for Office 2003. Weighing in at a hefty 117 MB, it contains a variety of new bug fixes and security patches, and also contains everything from the previous two service packs. The company is urging all users to download and install the update.
http://officeupdate.microsoft.com

3.9 Office 2007 "Save as PDF" Feature Added
One popular feature of the beta version of MS Office 2007, which was removed from the product prior to its official release, was the ability to save document files in PDF format. Apparently it was all down to legal arguments between Microsoft and Adobe, and Microsoft stated that the facility would be re-introduced by way of a downloadable freebie. That freebie has now been released, and adds an option to all of the Office 2007 applications to save your work as a PDF file for easy distribution and printing to those who don't have Office or who don't need to modify the files.
http://tinyurl.com/v46jc (microsoft.com)

3.10 Written to Gizmo in the Last Month?
When I got back from my recent vacation I was confronted with over 1000 emails from subscribers in my in-tray! Answering all these may take a couple of months but I've tried to respond to everything that looked urgent. If I missed your urgent email then please write again. My apologies to all those who offered suggestions or asked questions. I will get back to you but it will take some time.
editor@techsupportalert.com


3.11 A Warning From Gizmo

I recently had an email from a subscriber asking if there had been a security breach in the Supporters' Area of my website.
There had been no security breach but when I learned why he was asking I was shocked.

Someone had taken money from his web based bank account using his username and password. As he used the same username and password for the Supporters' Area as his bank account he thought maybe someone had got access to the information from my site.

Folks this is crazy. Don't use your banking, email or other important username and password for the Supporters' Area. In fact don't use the same username and password for any of your important accounts.

The reason is simple: you want to limit the damage if someone gets access to one of your passwords. If you use the same credentials for everything then a malicious individual will be able to access all your accounts including you bank account.

If the username and/or password you are using for the Premium Supporters' area of my website is the same as that for your email account, bank account or other sensitive account then please change it immediately to something different.

You don't need a fancy or complex username and password for the Supporters Area as I don't store on the site any personal financial information of value such as credit card numbers. So a plain and simple set of credentials is all that is required.
To change your password go here:

http://www.techsupportalert.com/am/member.php


4.0 OTHER USEFUL STUFF

4.1 How to Stop Your Cell Phone or iPod from Sliding Around
I recently broke my cell phone when it slipped off a glass table that was on a slight slope. I looked around for a solution and came up with these non-slip, transparent stick-on pads. They are reasonably priced and work like a charm. I liked them so much I now have them on my phone, iPod and digital camera
http://www.egrips.com/

4.2 How to Measure Your Typing Speed
Here's a web site that offers a free program to monitor your typing. Once you've installed the program and pressed the "record" button, just load up a word processor or text editor and start typing. Then look at the Speedometer program to discover your speed in words per minute, as well as other interesting statistics such as the number of corrections you needed to make. My thanks to Stephan Hodges for recommending this.
http://www.customtyping.com/speedometer.htm

4.3 Print Your Own Digital Posters
This is a simple idea, but one that's perfectly executed and which produces absolutely stunning results. And thankfully it's not as rude as the name suggests. The Rasterbator turns a digital picture into a multi-sheet poster. Just upload an image file (1 MB or less) from your PC onto the Rasterbator web site, then choose from various options such as whether you want color or black and white, and how many sheets of paper you want the finished poster to occupy (it'll happily generate a 100-page poster if you want to let it). Once the processing has finished you'll see a link to a PDF file which you download and print. It's that easy, and the results look superb on an office or bedroom wall. Just make sure you have plenty of paper and ink in stock.
http://homokaasu.org/rasterbator

4.4 How to Remove JPG Metadata
Chances are your digital camera saves images in .JPG format. What might surprise you, though, is just how much data is contained in the .JPG file in addition to the actual picture. Depending on your camera, and whatever application you might have used on your computer to edit the file, there might also be a reduced thumbnail image as well as a whole host of metadata. The metadata contains details of your camera, the date and time that the picture was taken, the exposure settings, and other facts that are often irrelevant (not to mention a privacy breach) if the picture is to be put on a public web site. JPG Extra allows you to remove unwanted data from .jpg files, in order to improve your privacy and to reduce the amount of space that they occupy. It'll also make them download faster from your web site too, of course. The evaluation version is free. If you intend to keep the program, you're asked to make a donation of whatever you think the program is worth. Windows XP/Vista.
http://www.fieggen.com/software/jpgextra_get.htm

4.5 How to Type Foreign Characters and Accents
Ever wanted to write to someone called Andre but didn't know how to create the accent over the "e". Actually it's quite possible to type all sorts of fancy foreign language characters using a standard keyboard. You'll find out how from this site.
http://www.starr.net/is/type/kbh.html

4.6 Improve your Vocabulary and Help the Hungry
Free Rice is a web-based vocabulary game with a simple goal. Guess the meaning of each of the words that is presented, from a choice of four options. For each word you guess correctly, it allows the United Nations to give another 10 grains of rice to a hungry person somewhere. The site is so popular that it's currently giving away some 130 million grains of rice a day, paid for by the companies that advertise on the site.
http://www.freerice.com

4.7 Useless Waste of Time Department
The ultimate PC download: a program [1] that's compact, portable, operating system independent and bug free. Thanks to subscriber "Bob" for the link. If you have even more time to waste try these Flash games [2], [3] suggested by regular contributor Tony Bennett
[1] http://www.bernardbelanger.com/computing/NaDa/
[2] http://members.iinet.net.au/~pontipak/redsquare.html
[3] http://flightsimx.archive.amnesia.com.au/?id=Cd5GmOnSypp5

** Additional Items in this Premium SE Edition **

4.8 Access the Web Without a Web Connection
Need something to read on your laptop, smartphone or PDA? No access to an internet connection? Why not download the Web and read it offline? OK, so maybe not the whole web, but huge collections of pages related to one or more topics of interest.
http://www.webaroo.com

4.9 An Easy Way to Get into Ajax Programming
Ajax is a technique for changing one part of a Web page without forcing the entire page to reload. There are many Ajax toolkits available but they're large and cumbersome. The simplest that I've found is Feather Ajax, which is everything you need to get started producing "Web 2.0" sites. It's tiny, and only does the basics, but it's small enough to understand and sufficiently well commented to enable you to add any other features you require, such as updating the color or style of an HTML object rather than its text value.
http://celtickane.com/programming/code/ajax.php

4.10 Lots of Free Website Designs
I recently needed to set up a web site from scratch. I bought the domain name and the hosting space, now I just needed a basic design to start tinkering with. A few sessions with some search engines led me to a number of sites that offer cheap or free Web designs, and Open Source Web Designs (OSWD) definitely appears to be the best of them. More than a thousand designs, all free to download and use, and mostly CSS-based so they're easy to customize. It's guaranteed to save you time and money if you want to build a web site and your design skills aren't quite as good as your technical expertise.
http://www.oswd.org

4.11 Wire Your Whole Home for the Internet for Little Cost
This excellent WikiPedia entry tells you all you need to know about Homeplug, an incredibly simple plug-and-play technology that can turn any standard electrical outlet in your home or office into an Ethernet network socket. Not quite as convenient as Wi-Fi, maybe, but in our experience the connection is faster and more stable.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HomePlug_Powerline_Alliance



5.0 TIP OF THE MONTH

5.1 How to Back Up Your Data Online Cheaply

The best course of action you can take to ensure that your important documents, pictures, videos, spreadsheets and other data files are protected, is to make regular backups. Having a recent, trustworthy backup available means that you can recover from just about any eventuality, be it a virus attack, hard disk failure, flood, hacker attack, or the theft of your entire PC.

There are lots of choices when it comes to backup media. You can copy your files to CDs, DVDs, external hard drives, tape, USB sticks, another computer on your LAN, or another hard disk or partition within the backed-up computer itself. While all of these methods offer a great deal of protection against some of the major threats, they won't offer total protection unless you take the backup off-site. Otherwise, floods, burglary, fire or theft could easily mean that you lose not just the original computer but all of your backups too.

There are two possible solutions to the problem. One is to ensure that you always store your backup media away from your main computer. Just take the tape, DVD, external drive etc to a friend or neighbor, or perhaps leave it at the office for safekeeping. You can always turn on the encryption feature in your backup program if you're concerned that your friend or workmates will be tempted to pry into the content of your files. However, carrying backup media around the neighborhood is time-consuming and irritatingly low-tech, and inconvenient if you need to restore a file or refresh a backup and the media isn't at hand.

An alternative solution is to back up electronically to an online location via the internet, so that all your files are instantly off-site but remain permanently accessible if you need access to them.

Specialist providers of online backup services are plentiful, and can easily be found with Google, but they're not particularly cheap. FirstBackup [1], for example, charges more than $34 a month for storing up to 10 GB of data from a single PC. Mozy [2] is cheaper, at $4.95 a month per PC for virtually unlimited storage.

Both services come with client software that's automatic and very easy to use; just install it on your computer, tell it where your important files are stored, and the software will take care of backing them up whenever they change.

Restoring files is just as easy. And crucially, you can easily restore files to a different PC rather than to the one that was backed up. Vital if you're attempting to rebuild your digital life after your PC gets stolen or you manage to drop your laptop down the stairs.

But there are alternatives to the traditional online backup service including some good free options:

If you don't have much data to back up, some of the online backup services will give you a free account. The aforementioned Mozy, for example, offers free accounts with 2 GB of storage that never expire. If your key files consist mainly of documents and spreadsheets rather than MP3s and videos, 2 GB might well be enough. If you do have MP3 and video files too, but they don't change very often, you could always keep those files on DVDs or an external drive, kept off-site and refreshed every few months, and just use a free Mozy account for files that change frequently.

Free webmail services offer lots of email storage space for free. For example Gmail [3] offers 5 GB as does Hotmail [4] while Yahoo! [5] offers nominally unlimited storage.

You can use this storage by sending your backup data to your email account as a zipped attachment to an email. To get back your data login to your webmail account and access the attachment directly or resend it back to a mail account on your own PC. Note though, that you will be limited by the maximum email attachment size allowed by your ISP or webmail provider.

Gmail is particularly suited to online backup because of the availability of a freeware program called the Gmail Drive Shell Extension [6]. This is a wonderful piece of Windows software that creates a virtual disk drive that maps to a Gmail account. Just use Windows Explorer or any Windows application to drag a file to your virtual drive, and in reality it gets copied to your Gmail account as an attachment to a dummy message. Drag the other way and you can instantly retrieve a file from its online location.

The only problem with the Gmail Drive Extension is that Google isn't terribly keen on it, because that's not what Gmail is supposed to be for. So it could stop working at any time if Google decides to flex its technical or legal muscles. That said, it currently works really well.

Another option is to rent space on a web server. Such space is normally intended for websites but there are no rules that dictate that you can't use the space for backup instead. It's cheap too: for example, Blue host [7] charges $6.95 a month complete with a domain name. For that, you get 300 GB of storage, and access via web, ftp and SSH (secure shell).

You can send and receive files easily to your hosted server via a standard FTP program. If you don't have one of those, Filezilla [8] is excellent and it's a free download.

And so long as you store your backup files above the Web document root (htdocs on most servers), your files won't be accessible via the Web and so there's no chance that someone could type a crafty URL into their web browser and access your files.

Hopefully, you're now inspired to re-visit your current backup solution and perhaps consider doing all or part of it online. But before you do, here are two more things to consider.

First, it's always a good idea to encrypt your backup so that, if someone does hack into the server, they can't read your files. You can encrypt simply and easily using the password protection feature in an archiving program like WinZip or use a dedicated program such as the free program TrueCrypt [9].

Second, test your backups regularly. Download a few sample files from your online location and make sure that you can access them. Ideally, do the test from a different PC, just to make sure that everything still works correctly.

If you would like more online storage options check out the "Today's Best of Breed" link [10], which contains pointers to various internet sites that offer free online storage. There are some great ideas in there.

[1] http://www.firstbackup.com/
[2] http://mozy.com/
[3] http://www.gmail.com
[4] http://www.hotmail.com

[5] http://www.yahoo.com

[6] http://www.viksoe.dk/code/gmail.htm
[7] http://www.bluehost.com
[8] http://filezilla-project.org/
[9] http://www.truecrypt.org/
[10] http://todaysbestofbreed.wordpress.com/2007/09/19/dont-forage-terrabytes-of-free-storage-online/


6.0 FREEBIE OF THE MONTH

6.1 Search Files Without Using a Desktop Search Utility

Desktop search programs like X1 or Google Desktop Search allow you to quickly find any file on your PC by filename or by any phrase contained within the file.

However, these programs carry a high overhead. Creating and maintaining the indexes eats up a lot of processor power, and the indexes themselves take up a lot of disk space.

If you only occasionally need to search all the files on your PC for a specific phrase, you don't need a full desktop search program. You can achieve the same result in other ways and avoid the unnecessary overhead.

The first option is to use the search feature built into Windows but it's agonizingly slow. So slow that you would ever use it as a last, desperate resort. Besides, it's a resource hog as well. That's why many experienced users turn off the automatic Windows indexing service.

The second option is to use a Grep style search tool. Grep is a famous UNIX command line utility but there are several free versions for Windows, including BareGrep [1] and GNU Grep for Windows [2]. Both, however, are rather too technical in their usage and not suitable for average users. Rather more friendly is the GUI based Wingrep [3] program. It's a fast and very powerful product, but unfortunately it's shareware, not freeware.

The third option is to use a dedicated non-indexed search utility such as the freeware program Agent Ransack [4]. Ransack is a great product but it has somewhat limited search features compared to its shareware "big brother" called File Locater Pro. However, if you can live with its reduced feature set it's a great freeware solution.

A final option is to use the search feature built into some File Managers. Among the best of these is XYplorer [5].
XYplorer can search for both file names and file contents and has powerful search specification options, including the ability to limit the search to specific drives, folders, file types, creation dates, size, file attributes and more. Furthermore, the speed of the inbuilt search is simply amazing.

XYplorer is shareware but you can get the last free (for personal use) version from here [6]

Overall XYplorer gets my recommendation as the best free non-indexed solution to finding files and file content quickly and easily. As a bonus you'll also get an outstanding file manager and a great replacement for Windows Explorer as well.

[1] http://www.baremetalsoft.com/baregrep/index.php
[2] http://www.steve.org.uk/Software/grep/
[3] http://www.wingrep.com
[4] http://www.mythicsoft.com/agentransack/
[5] http://www.xyplorer.com/product.htm
[6] http://www.321download.com/LastFreeware/page22.html#XYplorer

*** Bonus Freebie in this Premium Edition ***

6.2 The Best Free Media Audio and Video Conversion Program

The ready availability of audio and video material in digital format has allowed all of us to have access to a huge range of content with an ease and accessibility never before possible.

This wonderful blessing has, however, been tarnished by the proliferation of different audio and digital media formats. The existence of so many formats has meant that seemingly simple tasks, such as transferring a YouTube video to your iPod or making an MP3 file from a DVD soundtrack, can end up being complex tasks, so complex that they become nearly impossible for non technical users.

In response to this situation we have seen the market flooded by expensive commercial media conversion programs, some costing up to $199. The good news is that there are many free media conversion programs available that will do the job just as well as their commercial cousins.

My long-time favorite has been "Super" [1]. It's really no more than a user friendly interface for a variety of command line conversion programs.

It has two great strengths: first, it's reasonably easy to use, and secondly it handles a large number of different file formats. For example, with video files it handles 3gp/3g2 (Nokia, Siemens, Sony, Ericsson), asf, avi (DivX, H263, H263+, H264, Xvid, MPEG4, MSmpeg4, etc), dat, fli, flc, flv (used in Flash), mkv, mpg (Mpeg I, Mpeg II), mov (H263, H263+, H264, MPEG4, etc), mp4 (H263, H263+, H264, MPEG4), ogg, qt, rm, ram, rmvb, str (Play Station), swf (Flash), ts (HDTV), viv, vob, and wmv. It also handles audio file format conversion including ac3, amr, mp2, mp3, mp4, ogg, ra, wav, and wma.

The download link for Super on the author's site is quite hard to find so I've listed an alternative download site [2].

An alternative to Super is MediaCoder [3]. It has the advantage of being open source and, arguably, is a little easier to use. It doesn't handle some of the formats handled by Super but is being continuously expanded by its authors. iPod and PSP owners will appreciate the special features for these devices that makes usage particularly straight-forward.

If you are mainly interested in just video conversion then check out "Any Video Converter" [3]. It has a better interface than either Super or MediaCoder and is very fast as well. Input formats include DivX, XviD, MOV, rm, rmvb, MPEG, VOB, DVD, WMV and AVI. It's set up to make MP4 conversion as simple as possible, but it can handle other output formats if you are prepared to delve into the options.

Thanks to subscribers John Bruinen and Clayton Poole for suggesting MediaCoder.

[1] http://www.erightsoft.net Freeware, Windows 98 and later, 18MB.
[2] http://www.afterdawn.com/software/video_software/video_encoders/super.cfm
[3] http://mediacoder.sourceforge.net/
[4] http://www.download.com/Any-Video-Converter/3000-2194_4-10611989.html

7.0 MANAGE YOUR SUBSCRIPTION

To change your email delivery address, username or password login to your Premium Edition Subscription Control Panel. Here you can also renew your subscription or check your expiry date.

To log-in, use your username and password. If you have not yet chosen a username and password then login using your subscription email address for both username and password. Your subscription email address can be found at the very end of this newsletter.

From you control panel you can also access the Premium Supporters' Area. There you'll also find all individual back issues, a downloadable back issue archive, an extensive FAQ plus a growing list of resources exclusively available to Supporters.

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.

Receiving duplicate issues? If you are receiving an unwanted copy of the free edition of this newsletter, you can cancel that subscription by going to the following link: http://www.webelists.com/cgi/lyris.pl?enter=support.alerth

Enter your email address. No password is needed. You can then cancel your free subscription.

Note that the free and paid editions are totally different publications so you can unsubscribe to the free edition without any chance of impacting your paid subscription.

The 46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities
http://www.techsupportalert.com/best_46_free_utilities.htm

The Extended List of the Latest Freebies
http://www.techsupportalert.com/more/extended.htm>

For lots more free IT newsletters see
http://www.freetechmail.org/infobase.asp?TPubId=79

Thanks to subscriber Roger Keeny for copy-editing this issue. If you have a need for such services, contact Roger at liddlebigboy@gmail.com.

Thanks also to my friend Robert Schifreen who helped prepare this issue while I was on vacation.

For convenience North American subscribers can contact this newsletter by snail mail at:

Support Alert
PO Box 243
Comstock Park, MI 49321-0243 USA

Support Alert is a registered online serial publication ISSN 1448-7020. Content of this newsletter is (c) Copyright TechSupportAlert.com, 2007

See you next issue. Next month's issue will be published on the Thursday the 13th of December.

Gizmo
Ian Richards
editor@techsupportalert.com