PC Alert
Pointing you to the information
you need to know
Issue 17 - September 1999

Essential Internet

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

Tech Support Site
These sites have a good database of tech support information.  Useful stuff for support staff and users alike.

Spam Haters Unite
The coalition against unsolicited commercial email has a site where you can find tips and techniques for blocking spam.

Computer Security Tips
The International Computer Security Association has a Web site with lots of papers, pointers and other useful information for anyone involved in IT security issues.  Well worth a browse.

Hacker Tales
There's a certain hacker who likes publicising the sites he manages to penetrate.  Read all about it here, and learn from the mistakes of others.

New Virus Threat
Another high-profile virus has been doing the rounds.  This one is being called HLL Toadie.7800, and spreads via conventional means as well as via Pegasus Mail and Internet Relay Chat.  It is being distributed in programs which claim to help you clone mobile phones or generate passwords for porn sites on the Web.  Not that your users would be interested in either of those, naturally.  But just in case, now might be a good time to ensure that your scanners are up to date.

Oracle 8 Bug
ISS has discovered a bug in Oracle 8 for Unix which could allow someone to gain root access.  Oracle has released a patch.  Note that this bug only affects Unix versions of Oracle 8, not those for NT.

Justice Department Wants You!
Fascinating progress in the US war against users of encryption.  Now, the Justice Department wants powers to enter homes and offices to find encryption keys or to covertly disable security systems such as firewalls.  Nice.  Not.

Notes DoS
A denial-of-service vulnerability against Lotus Notes Domino server v4.6 has been discovered, which could allow a hacker to crash the server.  The fix is to upgrade to v4.6.6, or to v5.

More Help for Techies
Another site that contains lots of useful tech support info...

Compaq Messes Up
Compaq has shipped 60,000 DeskPro PCs which all have the same MAC address.  This is bad news for anyone trying to connect them to a network, as the system will get terribly confused.

Windows 2000 EFS
Windows 2000 will have an encrypting file system.  If someone steals a drive, they won't be able to read any of the files on it.  There's some useful information about it on the Microsoft Web site.

WS_FTP Bug Bites Again
We've written before about the poor encryption in ws_ftp's data files, which includes the passwords used to connect to protected sites.  It seems that the latest version still has weak encryption, so you may not want to use it to connect to highly-confidential sites.  Someone's even put up some Javascript code which cracks encrypted ws_ftp passwords.  The site's in Spanish, but it's easy to understand.

Intrusion Detection
Peter Sommer, a well-known expert on IT legal matters, has a paper on "Intrusion detection systems as evidence".  It covers UK, US and European law.

Exchange Server Patch
Microsoft has a patch for Exchange Server, to fix a bug which could allow an attacker to perform mail relaying via an Exchange server that is configured to act as a gateway to other Exchange sites using the Internet Messaging Service.

Save Butt!
Save Butt is a Windows program that runs in the background and automatically monitors a directory.  If any file is changed or created, the directory mirror in another place (drive, directory, workstation etc) is updated so that both copies match.  Useful if you're working on important files and you want to keep automatic backups, or if you have users who like to have local copies of work but you also require them to copy files to the server.

DiskState v2
Diskstate, our favourite disk tool for examining files on a drive, is now up to version 2.

Cute FTP
FTP clients are many and varied, but few are as easy to use as cute ftp.  We like it, and so do many others.

Intel WebOutfitter
Intel has a new Web site which provides sneak previews of Intel software and Web content, especially for Pentium III users.

Fluke has 15-day eval copies of its latest software, downloadable from the Web site.  You can get Protocol Inspector, Network Inspector, and Traffic Flow Monitor.  Great for tracking down networking problems.

Ready-made Scripts
Need some sample Perl  or Javascript code?  There's loads of it here.

Language Translation for Free
Don't waste money on software to convert between languages - there are places on the Web that will do it for free.  So long as the source document isn't confidential, of course.

One of our favourite search engines just keeps getting better.

Essential Reading

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

Head-to-head comparative reviews
10 colour printers PC World, September www.pcworld.com
10 19" monitors PC World, September www.pcworld.com
10 modems PC World, September www.pcworld.com
10 graphics cards PC World, September www.pcworld.com
20 cheap flatbed scanners PC Magazine, 1st September www.pcmag.com
6 graphics accelerators PC Magazine, 1st September www.pcmag.com
4 high-end digital cameras PC Magazine, 1st September www.pcmag.com
10 sound cards PC Advisor, October www.pcadvisor.co.uk
10 network printers PC Advisor, October www.pcadvisor.co.uk
10 network servers PC Advisor, October www.pcadvisor.co.uk
10 digital cameras PC Advisor, October www.pcadvisor.co.uk

AMD's Athlon
In September's PC World, there's a first look at AMD's Athlon K7 chip, which appears to outperform Intel's Pentium III.  Our research suggests that the K7 will give Intel a run for its money, even with the PIII now running at 600 MHz.

Buying Online
Also in September's PC World, a large feature on buying PC kit online.  If you're looking to buy computers, peripherals, software, or any other IT product, and you're willing to buy online with a company credit card, you can save yourself money and a few headaches too.  Web trading really is coming of age and, contrary to popular belief, giving your credit card details over the Internet is safer than handing out the number to a restaurant waiter or a petrol station attendant.

Office Survival Guide
September's PC World also features an Office Survival Guide, with lots of tips on how to perform tasks in Microsoft Office 97 and 2000.  Well worth pointing your users to a copy of this article.

Server Protectors
In the 1st September issue of PC Magazine, a review of 40 protection products for Internet-facing machines.  Includes a look at firewalls, VPNs, intrusion detection systems, password policy enforcers and more.  Well worth reading if you are responsible for IT security at any level.

Windows Superguide
The September issue of PC Computing carries a "Windows Superguide" article, containing lots of tips and tricks about Windows.  Recommended reading for support staff and users alike.  Includes information on how to speed up Windows, how to prevent crashes, how to find bug-fixes and more.

Is Intel Hiding Something?
Also in the September issue of PC Computing, a fascinating story which suggests that, using Intel's own figures, the latest Celeron processors are faster than the Pentium III.  Worth reading if you're about to buy a batch of PCs and want to ensure that you get the best speed for the money.

Colour Printing
And also in the September issue of PC Computing, a comparison of colour printing techniques.  Specifically, solid ink vs laser.  It would appear that it's only a matter of time before black and white printers are no longer available, and the world moves to devices which are all capable of printing in colour when required.

In the August issue of the always-excellent Windows NT Magazine, a look at the reliability enhancements that have been added to Windows 2000.  Plus, an update on the Zero Administration philosophy that Microsoft is pushing.

NT Security
Also in Windows NT Magazine's August issue, a look at securing an NT proxy server. Plus, information on where Windows NT stores its various passwords.  Once you know where they're stored, you can take steps to prevent users taking copies of these files or registry keys and passing them through any of the widely-available password crackers that are circulating on the Internet.

Remote NT Admin
And again in Windows NT Magazine's August issue, a useful article in remote NT administration and how to do it.  Useful if you need to manage a server from a distance, whether you're a continent away or just in an office along the hall.

Managing Users
In the September issue of NT Systems magazine, the cover feature looks at managing users.  How to create and manage groups, policies and so on.  The magazine also looks at fingerprint-based authentication, and how to dynamically resize NT partitions.

Customising Windows
In the October issue of the UK-based magazine PC Advisor (no relation to PC Support Advisor), a useful article on customising Windows 95 and 98.  If your users want or need different menu bars, start menus, screen layouts etc, this is what they need to read.  Also, a review of WordPerfect Office 2000 from Novell.

Security Analyzer
In August's issue of Web Techniques, a review of WebTrends' Security Analyzer, which claims to be able to perform an automated security audit on a server.

Gigabit Ethernet Developments
In August's Network Magazine, an interesting article on current developments in gigabit Ethernet.  Plus, a look at directory systems such as LDAP and X.500.

How to Hack Firewalls
If you've always assumed that a firewall was unhackable, think again.  In August's Network Magazine, there's an interesting article on just how hackers manage to break through firewalls.  Remember, just because it guarantees impenetrable security and peace of mind on the box, that doesn't mean it's true.

ASP Development
August's issue of Microsoft Internet Developer looks at how to build ASP applications, and how to encode VBscript and Jscript code so that visitors to your site can't copy or examine the source code.

New Media Age
New Media Age is billed as "the business weekly for online advertising, marketing and publishing".  It's a newsletter, published in the UK, and well worth reading if you're considering establishing an online presence.

About PC Alert

PC Alert is published monthly by Email, by International Technology Publishing.  Its function is to save PC and networking support personnel the tedious task of browsing the Internet and wading through magazines just to find the occasional item of interest.  PC Alert saves you time, saves you money and keeps you ahead of the game.

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Copyright International Technology Publishing 1999.