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tech support information on the Web.
Issue 77 - 1st June 2002
Welcome to Support Alert, the email newsletter that
points you to the best technical support resources
on the Internet.
Support Alert is free. If you like it, why not share
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Support Alert is sponsored by PC Support Advisor and
PC Network Advisor, the standard reference sources for
Check out the following free tutorials available now
* Understanding TCP/IP
* How to Dual Boot Windows 2000
* Understanding the OSI 7 Layer Model
* The Windows Registry Explained
* How to Create Bootable CDs
* IPv6 Tutorial
Plus dozens more.
FROM THE EDITOR
It always amazes me that so many people are willing to accept
advertising or other labelling at face value, even when the small
print makes it quite clear that, frankly, someone's lying to you.
Cigarette and tobacco advertising is the classic example, of
course. The glamorous posters and magazine adverts suggest that
consuming the product will make you socially acceptable and do
you no harm, yet accompanied by something which spells out that
your health, and that of your unborn child, will suffer greatly
if you use this stuff. But people carry on buying.
There are other examples too. One that always amuses me is
frozen meal which is labelled as "gravy with roast beef". The
company isn't allowed to refer to "roast beef with gravy" because
the product is mostly gravy and contains comparatively little
My favourite disclaimer right now is the one that you see at the
bottom of spam email which recommends that you buy shares in a
particular company. Having gone to great lengths to explain that
some company is a "strong buy", and that you may be able to make
a killing in just a few short weeks, the small print then kicks
in. It explains in precise detail that the forecast you've just
read is, at best, only a guess, that you will probably lose your
investment, that the spammer who sent you the information received
$30,000 in stock for doing so, and that the prime reason for sending
the spam is to inflate the share price in order that the spammer
can sell his portfolio at a profit.
No wonder the Internet has such a bad reputation. How come
allow companies to get away with such dishonest practices, simply
by making them include a disclaimer which says "actually this
is all lies"? It wouldn't be tolerated in the real world so why
does anyone accept it in cyberspace?
And now, companies are starting to add disclaimers to all outgoing
mail that their employees send. If you are not the intended recipient
of the message you are asked to ignore it, delete it, and advise
the sender of their mistake. Is this legally enforceable? No way.
And what's the point of putting a disclaimer at the bottom of a
message, asking you not to look at what you've just read?
Wendy Grossman, a friend of mine who wrote the excellent net.wars
book (read it online at http://www.pelicancrossing.net), has come
up with a disclaimer that she adds to all her outgoing email. I
think it's great, and it embodies the true spirit and reality of
Internet email. It reads as follows, and Wendy says you're welcome
to use it.
"IMPORTANT - ANTI-DISCLAIMER - This email is not and cannot, by
its nature, be confidential. En route from me to you it will
pass across the public Internet, easily readable by any number
of system administrators along the way. If you have received
this message by mistake, it would be ridiculous for me to tell
you not to read it or copy to anyone else, because, let's face
it, if it's a message revealing confidential information or that
could embarrass me intensely, that's precisely what you'll do.
Who wouldn't? Likewise, it is superfluous for me to claim
copyright in the contents, because I own that anyway, even if you
print out a hard copy or disseminate this message all over the
known universe. I don't know why so many corporate mail servers
feel impelled to attach a disclaimer to the bottom of every email
message saying otherwise. If you don't know either, why not
email your corporate lawyers and system administrators and ask
them why they insist on contributing so much to the waste of
Neat, eh? :)
IN THIS ISSUE
1. TOP SUPPORT SITES
- Encryption Choices
- XP Visual Tools
- Need to Monitor Your Users?
- Test Your Network
- PDAs Most Vulnerable
- CuteFTP 5.0
- PatrolSearch 1.6
- NEO 2.5
- Thumbs Plus
- Sniff This!
3. BUGS, SERVICE RELEASES AND PATCHES
- NT4 and Win2k Patched
- Cumulative IE Patch
- BrainStorm Updated
4. OTHER USEFUL STUFF
- RegisterMe! for Free
- Free Security E-Book
- FrameMaker 7
5. TECH SUPPORT RESOURCES
- Word Field Codes
- Conferencing over IP
1. TOP SUPPORT SITES
If you want to protect the information on your hard disk then
you need to encrypt it. There are many encryption programs around,
and they work in many ways. This excellent article explains the
leading programs and, most importantly, explains how each type
of program works, so you can choose the system that's best for you.
XP Visual Tools
If you want to tweak the way that Windows XP works on your users'
PCs then XP Visual Tools is a good place to start. This suite of
WinXP tools lets you reveal hidden Taskbar and Start Menu entries,
for example, and much more besides.
Need to Monitor Your Users?
PC Activity Monitor Net is, says its authors, an invisible and
undetectable tool for the monitoring and surveillance of
stand-alone and networked PCs. It monitors keystrokes, programs
run, text pasted from the clipboard, online chat, and more. You can
even configure it to send its results by email to a nominated address.
So if you suspect that one of your users is misusing his or her
PC in the office, this might be the tool you need in order to
gather the evidence. Though we reckon you should check out the
legal situation before using such tools in anger, just in case.
If you don't have permission or authority to use the tool, you're
probably breaking the law.
Test Your Network
GFI has enhanced its free security test site, which now checks
for even more vulnerabilities. Submit your name and email
address to the site. It will then attempt to send you various
harmless messages. If these get through, you are vulnerable to
one or more well-known bugs and you need to download the
appropriate fixes. Well worth trying out on your own servers.
And please remember, the messages sent out by the site are harmless.
Don't be surprised if your antivirus scanner claims that someone
has sent you a virus. It means that your system is working
correctly and detecting the hacking attempts.
PDAs Most Vulnerable
What do your users store on their PDAs? Online banking passwords?
Confidential contact details? A survey carried out by security
specialist PointSec shows that users who have their PDA stolen
could be putting their employer at risk because of the large
amount of confidential information stored on the machine. So
before you allow your users to store private files on PDAs,
consider installing some security on the devices first. Needless
to say, PointSec sell such security products. Check them out,
and read the full survey results, on their site.
"The world's favourite ftp program" is currently at version 4.2,
but the new version 5.0 should be out shortly. Major new
features will include support for Windows XP. If you haven't
tried this ftp tool, check out the 30-day free version now.
This search engine management tool helps you find and organise
your internet search results. You can search across more than
120 engines with a single command, and save the search results
for future reference. Download your 30-day trial copy today.
Nelson Email Organizer is a brilliant add-on for Outlook (but
not Outlook Express) which organizes and manages your messages.
The latest release adds faster searching and "Caller ID" for
email. Download the 30-day trial to see for yourself. If you've
used a previous trial version of NEO in the past, downloading
the new 2.5 will give you another 30 days to try NEO again.
We love Thumbs Plus. It's the ultimate Windows tool for
viewing image files. The latest version, 5.0, now handles
video files too. If you need to catalogue your collection
of photos or MPG files then this is the tool to do it. And
it'll even build a Web page with thumbnails of your selected
pictures, plus links to full-size versions. Recommended.
Capsa is a network sniffer and analyser for TCP/IP which allows
you to monitor all data that flows around your LAN and to/from
the internet. If you've never used a protocol analyser to
troubleshoot network problems, then this $99 shareware package
is a cheap introduction. And there's a fully functional 15-day
eval version to download too. Latest release is v2.1.
3. BUGS, SERVICE RELEASES AND PATCHES
NT4 and Win2k Patched
There's a new patch for Windows 2000 and WinNT 4.0 which fixes
a security hole that could allow a hacker to run a program
of his choice. The fault is in the Windows debugger. Microsoft
regards the maximum severity rating of this problem as "critical"
and advises all users to download and install the patch.
Cumulative IE Patch
There's a new cumulative patch for Internet Explorer 5.01, 5.5
and 6.0 which fixes all known problems plus 6 new ones. Microsoft
naturally recommends that you download this patch as soon as
There's an update to Brainstorm, the excellent outliner
for Windows, to fix a problems with a virus scanner.
If you run Symantec anti-virus and the program reports
a virus or trojan in Brainstorm, it's a false alarm caused
by an error in the scanner database. By updating your virus
scanner to the most recent database, or by downloading the
latest Braintsorm release, you'll fix the problem.
4. OTHER USEFUL STUFF
RegisterMe! for Free
If you want to issue usernames and passwords to control access
to your Web site, you need to understand .htaccess and .htpasswd
files. And the facilities on offer are relatively basic. But
RegisterMe!, from Eastwright, simplifies the process and adds
loads of new features. Manage all your user accounts from
a Web front end, get details of who's been logging on,
allow subscribers to register via a Web form, and much more.
And the "lite" version is totally free, too. Well worth a look.
Free Security E-Book
In addition to compiling Tech Support Alert, I've also been
contributing a monthly column to SC Magazine for the past
8 years or so. SC is probably the world's best-known magazine
on IT security matters. Check out the publisher's site for
subscription information and lots of useful security articles.
And check out my site for a free e-book containing around
100 of my past columns. It's something to read when you get
a spare moment at the office. It may not be Shakespeare, but
then he didn't know how to configure Firewall-1 either.
http://www.westcoast.com (SC Magazine)
http://www.thesecurityservice.co.uk (Free PDF E-Book)
Adobe is now shipping version 7 of FrameMaker, its structured
XML and SGML authoring and publishing tool. Full price is
around US$800, though upgrades are nearer $400.
5. TECH SUPPORT RESOURCES FROM ITP
Word Field Codes
Field codes in Word let you automate common tasks and perform
useful facilities and calculations in your documents. If you
missed this popular 2-part article in PC Support Advisor last
year, you can now read the complete text online for free.
Conferencing over IP
The internet isn't just for email and the Web. You can also
use it for low-cost, high-quality multimedia voice and video
conferencing. But there's a lot of technical stuff you need
to know first, such as various standards for codecs and the
like. PC Network Advisor published a useful article on the
subject in 2001. If you missed it first time round, check
it out now. Access to the site is completely free.
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