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Issue 90 - 19th December, 2002
Support Alert is a 100% subscription-only newsletter.
Un-subscribe instructions are at the end of each issue.
Quote of the Week
"The only thing you cannot do to excess, is doing things to
Oscar Wilde, whose prophetic words have proved to be a source
of guidance and inspiration for future generations of military
computer systems planners. ;>)
FROM THE EDITOR
This is the last issue for 2002 so it's a little different from
a normal issue.
This issue features the editor's pick of the best support sites
and utilities that have appeared in the newsletter throughout
New for this year are my awards for the single most impressive
support utilities and freeware products.
I'm not making any claims about these being the "best products."
I haven't reviewed all the products available and besides,
there is always an element of the subjective in such matters.
What I can say is that the 3 selected products are superb.
Congratulations to all.
I'd like to give particular thanks to the Web's freeware
authors. They, in the true spirit of the Internet, do what they
do simply for the pleasure of their craft and the pleasure of
And thanks to you gentle readers. Your letters, suggestions and
occasional rebukes during the year have been a source of
enjoyment and stimulation.
In return, I'd like to offer you something. It's a gift
suggestion for your family.
Last year, I registered an Internet domain name based on our
family surname. All members of my family now use that domain
name for our email addresses.
It works like this. Let's say your family name is "Jones."
then register a domain like www.jones.com. Using the email
redirect feature available from your domain registrar, you then
redirect any email addressed to your family domain to another
So let's say we assign Uncle Bill the email address of
email@example.com. At your domain registrar, we redirect mail
from that address to Uncle Bill's "real" email address which
might be something like firstname.lastname@example.org.
Using the same technique, you assign addresses to all your
family members: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org,
The system has great attraction for your family. First, they now
have a meaningful email address which is linked to their family
name. But most importantly, they no longer have to remember
anyone's email address. If they want to send a message to
Granddad, they just email email@example.com.
It also means they have permanent addresses. Should Granddad
change his "real" email address, all that needs to be done is to
change the redirection at the domain registrar. So he will be
Grandad@jones.com for the rest of his life.
And the amazing thing is that this gift to your whole family
will cost you less than $10.00! That's the annual cost of a
registering the domain name. Redirection is usually free.
There are many domain registrars but the one I use is
http://www.active-domain.com. At $8.95 they are about as cheap
as they come and they offer free redirection for up to 50 email
accounts as well. The interface they provide for managing the
email redirection is excellent.
Of course, you could also set up a family web site with the
domain you've registered but that's not necessary for the email
redirection to work. However if you want to go down that route,
I suggest you try http://www.portland.co.uk who provide totally
free hosting with no ads.
If you have a common family name, don't despair. Almost
certainly you'll be able to find a suitable domain name to
register. You can use name variants like jones-clan, thejones,
the-jones-family and you have the .com, .net, .org and
other options available as well. For example, I just did a
check for the name "jones" and the domain www.the-jones-clan.com
is currently available!
Well, folks, that's it for 2002. The next issue will be around
the middle of January and will coincide with the launch of the
new "Supporter's Edition" of this newsletter. I'm already
working on the first issue and I can assure you it will be
something really special.
Support Alert currently has subscribers in 39 different
countries. To all of you, I wish peace and prosperity for 2003.
P.S. In producing this newsletter year I have willingly and with
pleasure given you hundreds of hours of my time. May I ask for
a few minutes of yours in return?
We really need to build up the subscription base of Support
Alert. The more subscribers we have, the more suggestions we
get, so it's in everyone's interest to have a larger circulation.
With an advertising budget of zero, the only effective way we
have of getting new subscribers is word of mouth.
So I would like to ask you for a favor. Just this once, on
occasion of this last issue of the year.
I'd like you to send this special "best of" issue to a friend
who you know would enjoy it, along with a note that they might
like to subscribe as subscription is free. If you can forward it
to two or more colleagues, that's even better.
I have never asked for a favor before but I really need this
one. Please take a minute to help.
IN THIS ISSUE
1. SUPPORT ALERT AWARDS FOR EXCELLENCE 2002
- Product of the Year
- Best Free Utility
2. TOP TECH SITES FOR 2002
- They'll Suggest A Fix
- Solving Windows Install and Reinstall Problems
- Five Star Support
- Windows Shutdown Problems
- Not the Latest
- Fishing for Chips
- How Does Your Virus Scanner Stack Up?
- Optimize Your Broadband Connection
- Resolving MS DLL Version Conflicts
- Tuning Windows
- White Paper Collection
- Computer Security Test Sites
3. TOP UTILITIES FOR 2002
- Locate Required DLLs
- Automatic Password Resets
- Passwords Revealed
- Free Disk Cleaner
- Backup Outlook Express Files Easily
- Free Search and Replace Utility
- Free Acceleration
- Resource Meter
- Time to Retire Notepad
- Free Outlook Add-In
- Open HTML Email Safely
- Say No to HTML Mail
- AutoComplete Errors Fixed
- Share Outlook Folders between Users
- Cheaper and Better Web Log Analyzer
- Audit the Security of Your Web Server
- Webmail from your POP Email Client
- Free Anonymous Surfing Service
- Changing Browser Proxy Settings Easily
4. CHRISTMAS GIFT SUGGESTIONS
- Computer Help for the Hopeless
- Cheap and Weird
- Blue Screen of Death T-Shirt
- Geek Bumper Stickers
- The Ideal Gift for Unix and Linux Users
1. SUPPORT ALERT AWARDS FOR EXCELLENCE 2002
Product of the Year
Mailwasher is a superb email preview utility that allows you to
check your email on your mail server before you download it to
your PC. The advantage of this approach is that you can kill
unwanted messages including spam, viruses and large attachments
before they get anywhere near your computer. It also saves the
time and cost of downloading unwanted mail which can be very
handy with slow or costly connections.
But Mailwasher does more. It automatically flags for you any
messages containing viruses and possible spam which makes for
quick and easy identification. It also will send a message back
to the spam mail sender saying that their message could not be
delivered. Hopefully this will encourage them to take your name
off their mailing list.
MailWasher works with any POP email account and any email
client. Version 2 will also check your hotmail accounts.
The product is lightning fast and has proved on my PC to be
totally stable. Best of all, it's free - or more exactly, it's
donation-wear. That is, you can use it for free but if you like
it you can send the author a donation.
Mailwasher is a brilliant idea brilliantly executed. It's the
best single solution yet to handling spam. Everyone should be
using this product.
Best Freeware Utility
There were two main contenders for this title and in the end I
couldn't pick a winner - it was dead heat.
AIDA32 is a one of the most thorough system inventorying tools
I've seen. It will document just about every aspect of your
hardware and software configuration. Throw in the fact that it
checks out networks, gives memory benchmarks, and that it is
totally free, and you end up with a product that should be in
everyone's toolkit. When you download the product, remember to
download the documentation as well. Corporate users need to
register but there is no charge. (1.8MB)
Prcview may be the best Windows process viewer I've used and
it's totally free. PrcView displays detailed information about
all running Windows processes including memory used, threads,
and DLL usage. For each process and DLL, full path and version
information is also displayed. Individual processes can be
killed or their priorities changed. It even allows you to
automatically run a script to check if a process is running and
kill it. All this is crammed into a tiny package. Works for
all versions of Windows. (68KB)
2. TOP TECH SITES FOR 2002
They'll Suggest A Fix
Here's a great tech support site, where the resident techie
guys are happy to help with your PC and internet problems.
And the site's completely free. Check it out.
Solving Windows Install and Reinstall Problems
This whole site is dedicated to Windows installation
problems. The range of how-to's is quite extensive with
step by step instructions and screen shots. I found the
article on installing XP on a blank drive pretty
useful. There are a lot of ads and they'll try to sell
you their CD but this does not detract from the usefulness
of the site.
Five Star Support
This excellent support site currently boasts 53 technicians, all
eager to solve users' problems. Access is free, and they also
offer up a great collection of tips, tricks and FAQs.
Windows Shutdown Problems
If you are experiencing problems with Windows XP shutdown you
might like to check out this useful guide:
Not the Latest
The Web makes it easy to distribute new versions of software.
However, this usually means that old versions are taken offline
and can be difficult to locate. You're stuck with updated
versions which are often much larger and full of features that
you don't particularly need. This great site keeps non-current
versions of popular software.
Fishing for Chips
If you've ever needed to identify what a board does just from
its IC chips, you'll find this site invaluable. It allows
you to identify chip function, pin-outs and other data just by
entering the chip ID number.
How Does Your Virus Scanner Stack Up?
Check it out at Virus Bulletin's 100% Award, where all the
major scanners are tested each month against viruses "in the
wild." This month Norton AV did well as did Kaspersky AV.
Optimize Your Broadband Connection
This site offers some excellent free tests and tools to
help you get the most out of your DSL, Cable or Satellite
Resolving MS DLL Version Conflicts
Different Microsoft applications can install different
versions of the same DLL and this can often create major
problems. You can sort out the mess at this useful MS site.
There are a lot of sites dedicated to getting the most out
of Windows but this well established site remains one of
White Paper Collection
Some of the most useful technical articles on the Web exist
as free "white papers" on vendors' web sites. And now,
someone's finally put together a site which links to many of the
best ones. There are hundreds here, covering topics such as Web
development, network admin, security, .NET and much more, too.
Computer Security Test Sites
This site features a comprehensive set of links to other
web sites that allow you to test the security of your
computer. If you really want to give your PC a thorough
security workout, head straight here:
3. TOP UTILITIES FOR 2002
Locate Required DLLs
This free utility can be a lifesaver. It identifies all the DLL
and OCX support files required to operate any Windows 32-bit
Automatic Password Resets
Plagued by users who keep forgetting their passwords? Here's
a product that will save helpdesk staff loads of time. Password
Station asks the user a series of personal questions in order to
verify the identity. Assuming these are answered correctly, the
program resets the user's password without the need for
intervention by a helpdesk person. Simple, eh? (32.87MB)
I've never understood why people fork out their hard-earned
money for commercial utility programs when often there are
freeware products that do exactly the same thing. Take for
example PassUnleash, a terrific freeware product that will
reveal your Windows passwords hidden beneath all those
asterisks. It works like a charm yet you can pay up to $49 for
an (un-named) product that does exactly the same thing a little
more clumsily. (66KB)
Free Disk Cleaner
G-Lock Temp Cleaner is a handy little utility that identifies
all those .$$$, .tmp, and other temporary file types cluttering
up your hard disk. Once identified, the Cleaner allows you to
delete those you don't want. It freed up 140MB on my notebook.
It even works over a network which makes it handy for
sysadmins. Download here: (895KB)
Backup Outlook Express Files Easily
This free utility allows you to do a full or selective backup of
OE's critical files including mail folders, newsgroups, and
address book and identity settings. Simple, effective ... neat.
Star Downloader 1.32 is not only free of charge, it's free of
ads, spyware and other undesirable extras packed into most free
download accelerators. On top of that, it is blindingly fast and
has a raft of features including automatic mirror site
detection, automatic resumption of failed downloads, download
scheduling, anti-virus integration and more. If you are not yet
using a download accelerator, go get this product and start
counting the time you save. The faster your internet connection,
the more you will gain. Users with slow modem connections will,
unfortunately, benefit least. (1.3MB)
This is cute. TinyResMeter is an itsy-bitsy system monitor.
Unlike many other monitors, it doesn't consume a lot of CPU
utilization in order to tell you your CPU utilization. In
addition to CPU usage, you can optionally monitor cache, RAM,
page file and swap file usage, running processes and threads,
disk space utilization and a number of other parameters as well.
Also built-in is a screen grabber that saves the current screen
to disk when you press PrintScreen. How they fit all this into
96KB beats me.
Time to Retire Notepad
I've tried many replacements for Notepad, the basic text
editor that comes with Windows, but my long term favorite
is EditPad Lite. Unlike other Notepad replacements, it makes
no pretensions to being a programming editor or a word
processor but rather concentrates on doing what Notepad
doesn't - efficient plain text editing. You can open as
many files as you like and it even handles my 100MB web log
files with ease. It's free for non-commercial use. (849KB)
Free Outlook Add-In
Microsoft has released a free add-in for Outlook XP called
Pocket Contact Synchronizer. It helps sync your PDA with
your Outlook contact database. (1.9MB)
Open HTML Email Safely
I hate opening HTML email. Despite multiple layers of
protection, I just know that one day some cunning new
exploit is going to get me. That's why I'm so enthusiastic
about PocketKnife Peek, a small free Outlook add-in that
allows you to preview your HTML email as text (480KB)
Say No to HTML Mail
In the item above, I mentioned PocketKnife Peek, the free
Outlook add-in that allows you to view html mail without opening
the message, thus eliminating the risk of executing an embedded
script. Here's a shareware utility that does the same thing for
Outlook Express. (539KB)
AutoComplete Errors Fixed
Internet Explorer's AutoComplete feature can save you a lot of
time when completing Web forms but it doesn't allow you to edit
"saved" responses. This can be a real pain, particularly when it
has saved wrong or mistyped responses. Now you can edit to your
heart's content with this free utility from PC Magazine (1.24MB)
Share Outlook Folders between Users
A common problem with Outlook in a small to medium office
environment is that it's difficult for a group of people to
share the Contacts, Journal or indeed any Outlook folder
unless they have MS Exchange Server installed. Workgroup
Folders for Outlook overcomes this by allowing concurrent
reading and writing rights for several users into a
central Outlook .pst file. This is a much needed product
and my impressions have been favorable though the English
translation of the German manual is hard going. (3.0MB)
Cheaper and Better Web Log Analyzer
Webtrends Web Log Analyzer has long been the industry
standard and my personal choice as well. However, recently
I've switched over to WebLog Expert 1.60 and found it
quicker and better than WebTrends. It's got lots of useful
features including a unique report that shows the original
external (session) referrer for any web page. At $79, versus
$699 for WebTrends, it's a bargain. There's a free "LITE"
version but it's a bit, er ... lite. (995KB)
Audit the Security of Your Web Server
N-Stealth 3.5 is a Web vulnerability assessment product
that will really test out your Web server security. The
software comes with an extensive database of over 19,000
vulnerabilities and exploits. I tried it out on three
hosting services and N-Stealth found vulnerabilities in all
three. You can download a full working version for free but
updates to the vulnerability database are by subscription.
Webmail from your POP Email Client
Like to routinely collect your webmail from Outlook,
Eurodra or other email client? It's quite easy with
Web2POP, a genuinely useful shareware program. The demo
version will only handle Yahoo and Hotmail but the
registered version handles AOL, Excite and many others.
I use this product with Outlook 2002 to collect all my
different webmail accounts at the same time I collect
my POP email. Works like a charm. (1.03MB)
Free Anonymous Surfing Service
There are lots of reasons folks have for wanting to
surf anonymously, ranging from simple paranoia to possibly
being murdered by a malevolent foreign government. Whatever
the reasons, commercial services that offer anonymity are
doing real well. However, one of the best services, JAP, is
totally free and its level of secrecy is better than
many commercial systems. Expect your surfing to
slow down as you'll be relayed through a chain of servers.
You'll also need to change your browser settings to work
through a proxy. (362KB)
Changing Browser Proxy Settings Easily
Speaking of proxy settings, here's a nifty little shareware
utility called SetProxy that allows you to select between
different sets of browser proxy settings (or no proxy)
with a single mouse click. Works faultlessly and I recommended
it highly. There's a free trial version here: (2.27MB)
4. Christmas Gift Suggestions
If you are completely lost for ideas, you might like to try
Computer Help for the Hopeless
Here's a gift for those relatives and friends who are always
asking you for advice about their computer problems. Alan Luber
has written an excellent small book called the PC Fear Factor.
It takes readers step-by-step through what is needed to protect
their computer and avoid the various disasters that, truth be
told, happen all the time. Luber provides much practical,
sensible advice, plus many concrete suggestions for specific
programs that provide disaster protection. Highly Recommended.
Around $14.99 street price.
Cheap and Weird
Nunzilla: a fire breathing 2" high model nun in full habit
designed to throw fear into the hearts of the unfaithful.
Around $6.95 for a set of 2.
Blue Screen of Death T-Shirt
Very realistic. I like it. $19.95
Geek Bumper Stickers
There's a good selection here. I rather fancy "Will write code
for food." Could get you a job offer. Around $2.00
The Ideal Gift for Unix and Linux Users
The diminutive Happy Hacking Lite keyboard has all the keys "in
the right place" and now offers additional USB ports as well. $69
Gizmo Begs and Pleads
Com'on guys and gals, I really need your help.
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This edition of Support Alert was proof-read by subscriber A.
Belile who kindly donated her services. My hearty thanks.
(c) Copyright TechSupportAlert.com 2002