PC Alert
Pointing you to the information
you need to know
Issue 18 - October 1999

Essential Internet

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

Star becomes Sun
Sun Microsystems has bought Star Office, the rather excellent MS Office clone which is free for private use and much cheaper than Microsoft's version if you want to use it in a commercial environment.  Watch as Sun starts selling its new product to PC vendors, who can then bundle it instead of the Microsoft product.  First Linux hits the big time, now Star Office.  Those Microsoft-haters must be loving every minute of it.

That Secret NSA Key
If you missed all the furore about the NSA key buried in Windows, here's a copy of the original document.  It alleges that there's a back-door decryption password called NSAKEY built into the crypto components of Windows, and that it must have been planted there by Microsoft at the request of America's National Security Agency.  General opinion is that this is nonsense, if only because no one would be silly enough to call the key NSAKEY.

Web Techniques
Web Techniques magazine has a web site from where you can download all sorts of useful source code.  This will be of interest to anyone maintaining or building a corporate Web site.

WinAmp Now a Freebie
WinAmp, the best Windows player for MP3 files, is now freeware.  But that's no excuse to allow it on your company's PCs unless you really don't mind staff playing pirated CDs through headphones when they're supposed to be working.

End those FTP Failures
You know how it is.  You're 99% of the way through downloading the latest 95 MB service pack for NT or NetWare and the remote server drops the connection.  Your ftp client doesn't support resumes of aborted downloads, so it's back to the start.  Unless you're using an ftp client such as Leech.

Fluke Demos Online
Fluke, the market leader for hardware gadgets that test all sorts of things to do with networks, has some software products too.  They monitor all sorts of network connections, and are available in 15-day demo versions for free.

Looking for some Javascript or Perl code and you can't be bothered to write it yourself?  You might find it here.

NTFS Corruption Fix
Microsoft has a new patch for NT4.  It fixes a problem which will corrupt NTFS drives which contain more than 4 million files.  If that's your server, then you need the patch.  Now.

New Service Packs for NetWare
Novell has released support pack 3 for NetWare 5 (92 MB) and support pack 7 for NetWare 4 (47 MB).  You can download them from the Web.  If you subscribe to PC Network Advisor, you'll find them on the PCNA 112 CD-ROM.

InDesign Ships
Adobe is now shipping InDesign, its brand new DTP package.

LearnItOnline is a new training organisation, with tutorials that you access online over the Internet.  Each course comprises around 30 tutorials, and there are currently courses on 60 different topics such as MS Exchange, MS Office, Lotus Notes and more.  A year's access to all the courses costs just $100.

Office 2000 Special Report
PC World magazine has a special report on Office 2000, that's well worth reading if you're considering an upgrade.

Y2K Helpdesk Strategy
Got your Y2K strategy for the help desk sorted?  Do you know who's on call?  Will you be able to handle external calls and internal ones too?  Do you know about the "Y2K Expected Calls Formula"?  If you're worried that your support desk won't be able to cope, Pink Elephant will tell you what you need to do.  They'll even give you a free assessment of your current situation, and they swear it's not too late.

Security Links
The Encyclopedia of Computer Security now has a Links Library containing links to lots of security-related Web sites.

Asset and Inventory Management
Computer Associates has a new asset and inventory management product called AimIT. 

Taiwan quake could raise prices
Analysts have warned that the recent earthquake in Taiwan could affect availability and prices of PC hardware.  You may find that you need to adjust your purchasing plans.

DirectX 7 Ships
Microsoft has released version 7 of DirectX, the libraries that allow Windows to handle fast graphics and various sound effects.  Many multimedia products such as conferencing systems need these libraries - they're not solely for the games market.

DataJunction is a program which claims to be able to convert between 80 data file types.  Why not download your free trial version?

Concise Columbia
The full text (but not the pictures) of the Concise Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia is available online, free of charge.  Now you've no excuse not to look up something which you think you ought to know.

NT Installation Files Not Deleted
So, we're 39 weeks into 1999 and Microsoft has released its 39th security patch of the year.  OK, so it shows they care.  But it also shows what poor programmers they must be.  Doesn't it?  Anyway, going back to patch 36, this fixes a problem with NT4 whereby an unattended installation of the OS doesn't delete a temporary file that contains various sensitive information including passwords. 

IE5 Patch
Another Microsoft patch, this time for IE5.  If you don't install the patch, a "malicious Web site operator" could "take inappropriate action" on a visitor's computer.

ISS Database Scanner 3.0
ISS is now shipping Database Scanner 3.0, its product for ensuring that database such as Oracle, accessible online, are correctly configured to avoid unauthorised access by hackers.

Stronger Coffee
Coffeecup Software is shipping version 7 of its CoffeeCup HTML editor. 

It Lasted Just A Day
Microsoft doesn't like MP3, because it's not a Microsoft proprietary format.  So Microsoft released something that does what MP3 does, only with new features.  Including the ability for the publisher of the file to prohibit copying - something that is sadly lacking in the MP3 format.  So, how long did it take for the hackers to crack the protection?  Just a day.



Essential Reading

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

Head-to-head comparative reviews
3 license managers   Windows NT Systems, October    www.ntsystems.com
3 2.3megapixels digital cameras CGI, October www.cgimag.com
10 flatbed scanners Digit, October www.digitmag.co.uk
7 NT utilities for support staff Windows NT magazine, September www.winntmag.com
2 quota management solutions Windows NT magazine, September www.winntmag.com
5 CD-RW drives PC World, October www.pcworld.com
10 power PCs PC World, October www.pcworld.com
2 contact management packages PC World, October www.pcworld.com
12 27GB hard disks PC World, October www.pcworld.com
2 ultraportable projectors PC World, October www.pcworld.com

Internet-Enabled Legacy Apps
In the September issue of Microsoft Internet Developer, the cover story looks at how to make legacy apps work on the Internet.

Wiring COM components in VB
Also in September's issue of MID, a useful tutorial on how to write COM components in Visual Basic to extend the capabilities of Active Server Pages.

Intelligent Agents
In the September issue of Web Techniques, a look at bots and agents, one of the technologies that will change the way that the Web works.

Managing VPN Dial-up Access
Virtual Private Networks provide a much more secure way of using the Internet for private purposes, but there are some important things you should know before you start.  A comprehensive article on the subject in October's NT Systems tells you it all.

Office 2000 - Worth upgrading?
Office 2000 is here and there's no doubt that it's a better product than 97.   But is it better enough to warrant the effort of rolling out an upgrade to all your users?  Especially as the Access file format has changed.  An article in October's NT Systems has the answers.

Unix Security
September's issue of SysAdmin, the journal for Unix systems administrators, concentrates on security issues.  Articles include "Landmining the cracker's playing field", "hardening a host", plus articles on packet sniffing and on intrusion detection strategies.  Essential reading if you look after the security of a Unix system.

The Windows 2000 Change Journal
NTFS 5, the filing system for Windows 2000, maintains a database of every changed file or directory.  There's an API for accessing this database, which you can use to create utilities that will assist in detecting problems and security breaches within your company.  Full details are in the September issue of Microsoft Systems Journal.

101 Design Tips
Just because your marketing people have the latest versions of all the DTP tools doesn't mean that they'll be able to turn out anything half-decent.  For that, you need design skills rather than the ability to understand a software package.  A feature in October's issue of Digit magazine, containing 101 design tips for use with most leading DTP products, should help no end.

NT Startup Failure Recovery
September's issue of Windows NT Magazine contains a useful feature on what to do if NT fails to start up.

Windows 2000 Reliability
Also in September's Windows NT magazine, details of how and where Windows 2000's reliability and stability has been improved.  Plus, a look at Web cacheing to improve performance, how to set up a backup strategy, and a look at the Remote Installation Facility in Windows 2000.

Not-so-great Dictators
Speech recognition is getting better, but it's  still far from perfect.  Some software packages are better than others, and there are also some hardware-based solutions that combine portable dictation devices with speech recognition.  October's issue of PC World looks at what's around, in a major feature that is worth reading if your company is considering the use of such technology now or at a later date.


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.