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Issue 91 - 16th January, 2003
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Quote of the Week
"The computer allows you to make mistakes faster than any other
invention, with the possible exception of handguns and
FROM THE EDITOR
If you are reading this, then you must have made a donation
towards keeping this newsletter ad-free.
That means you've probably read the editorial in the standard
edition so there's no point in repeating it.
But it does give me another opportunity to thank you.
And I'm going to use the opportunity.
Thanks guys, wholeheartedly.
P.S. I've made this special first issue of the Supporter's
Edition double length. It's my way of saying thank you. I hope
you enjoy it. Future editions will be 30-50% longer than the
IN THIS ISSUE
1. TOP TECH SITES
- BIOS Optimization Guide
- Windows XP Boot Problems
- ZoneAlarm Support
- Instant Messaging Security Threat
- Web Programming Tutorials
- Font of Wisdom ** Additional item **
- Optimize Your Swap File ** Additional item **
- Inspiring Web Sites ** Additional item **
- Free Email Security Test ** Additional item **
- Become a Master at Internet Searching ** Additional item **
- Free Anti-Virus Software
- Take Complete Control of Your Monitor
- Self Repairing PCs
- Shred Sensitive Data
- For the Truly Security Conscious
- Free Copy Utility
- Free Backup Program ** Additional item **
- Free PDF File Creator ** Additional item **
- Access MS Outlook from Lotus Notes ** Additional item **
- Excellent Password Generator ** Additional item **
- Free Backup for MS Outlook Files ** Additional item **
3. BUGS, SERVICE RELEASES AND PATCHES
- Flash Player Vulnerability
- Two MP3 & Windows Media Audio File Exploits
- Windows 2000 Null Sessions Exploit
- Microsoft IE Security Mess-up
- MySQL Vulnerability
- Ad-aware Spyware Remover Updates
4. OTHER USEFUL STUFF
- A Cable Modem That Does the Lot
- Extreme Programming Goes Mainstream
- Popups Become Kick-Throughs
- How to Delete an Undeletable File in XP
- Spammers Abuse Everything
- New W3C Scripting Interface Standard
- Tech Support Nightmare
- Universal AC/DC Power Supply ** Additional item **
- Change Windows XP Drive Letters ** Additional item **
- Build Your Own PC ** Additional item **
- Networking PCs with USB ** Additional item **
- Windows XP Clean Install Guide ** Additional item **
- PC Cleaning Technique ** Additional item **
- Running Legacy Programs Under Win XP ** Additional item **
5. FREEBIE OF THE WEEK
- Boilerplate Text Utility
- Monitor Your User's Backup Needs ** Additional item **
1. TOP TECH SITES
BIOS Optimization Guide
Want to tweak your BIOS for maximum speed or stability? Like to
understand the meaning of some of the obscure settings in your
BIOS setup? If so, head straight to this site.
Windows XP Boot Problems
If your PC hangs while booting or you have other boot time
problems, you might to check out this useful Microsoft Knowledge
ZoneAlarm, the popular personal firewall, is not only free of
charge; it's free of technical support as well. It's pretty
hard to complain about this but the inability to get answers to
your questions can be frustrating. Well, now there's a solution.
ZoneAlarm has started a user forum at their site and it should
be your first port of call for ZA support questions.
Instant Messaging Security Threat
Symantec is offering an excellent, free white paper on the
security exposure presented by the various instant messaging
systems. I'd rate it as essential reading. Note that it's in PDF
format so you'll need Acrobat Reader to view the report.
Web Programming Tutorials
Then head for this site where you'll find lots of links to free
web programming resources.
Font of Wisdom ** Additional item **
There are many free Windows font sites but many are so loaded
with advertising that they are virtually unusable. This one
keeps the ads discreet and has a fabulous range of free type
styles. I've bookmarked this site and I suggest you do as well.
Optimize Your Swap File ** Additional item **
The configuration of your Windows swap file (aka "Virtual
Memory", "Paging File") can have a major impact on your PC
performance. This guide will help you tweak the settings.
Inspiring Web Sites ** Additional item **
A few issues back I mentioned websitesthatsuck.com, which lists
web sites with poor design. Here's a site that lists the good
Free Email Security Test ** Additional item **
At this site you can arrange for special emails to be sent to
test for 11 different security vulnerabilities.
Become a Master of Internet Searching ** Additional item **
Perfect your searching skills by following Fravia's 16 quick
Got some top sites to suggest? Send them in
Free Anti-Virus Software
I normally recommend the Norton or McAfee Anti-virus suites but
I'm fully aware that some folks simply can't afford to buy them.
If you fall into this category then you should check out AVG
Antivirus 6.0 Free Edition. This product has been continuously
refined since it was first released in 1991 and now offers very
impressive protection capabilities. Additionally, it's
relatively small, light on resources, has regular automatic
updates and handles email scanning. There is a free and a pro
version, the only difference being that the free version has a
few non-critical features disabled and has no technical support.
Even so, it's an impressive package and a offers the financially
challenged a real alternative to the major anti-virus
Take Complete Control of Your Monitor
If you work in an environment where the precise control of your
monitor's resolution, refresh rate and color accuracy is
important, you should check out PowerStrip 3. This handy
utility gives you precision control of many parameters directly
from the system tray. And, it includes direct hardware support
for many chips including the latest Radeon 9700. PowerStrip is a
$29.95 shareware product but there's a free trial. (0.9MB)
Self Repairing PCs
IBM has introduced the "Rapid Restore" utility for its line of
PCs that allows end-users to effectively re-image their PCs to
recover from data corruption, virus infections and other
software induced system failures. The utility works by restoring
a system image along with key application data from a hidden
disk partition that cannot be accessed by viruses or
applications. I don't own an IBM PC so I can't test this product
but, if it works as advertised, it may well be the best news of
2003 for many hard pressed support staff. (32.9MB)
Shred Sensitive Data
FileShreader is a freeware utility that will permanently delete
Windows files so that they cannot be recovered. As a security
measure, FileShreader will overwrite the disk sectors containing
the original file with random data repeatedly up to 15 times.
Usage is by drop and drag or right-click menu selection from
Explorer. This is an easy to use utility for those requiring
normal levels of security but note that there may still be a
chance that your valuable data is lurking on your computer as a
temporary file or in a system cache. It all depends on your
level of paranoia. That said, this utility provides way better
protection than Windows delete. (1.5MB)
For the Truly Security Conscious
If you really want to totally and permanently remove all traces
of a file, or indeed all your work activities, you should check
out Acronis Privacy Expert 2003. This product is awesome in it's
thoroughness in deleting data not only on the disk but in every
nook and cranny of your computer. It also thoroughly erases all
traces of your surfing activity. The user interface is a model
of clear design and provides the simplest means yet for average
users to achieve near forensic levels of data cleaning. I tested
the program by deleting some test data with Privacy Expert and
then tried to recover the data using some of the most powerful
data recovery tools in the business. After two hours I gave up.
I couldn't locate one byte of my original data. At $29.95 this
product is a bargain for the security conscious and a necessity
for anyone who shares a PC with other users. Highly recommended.
Get a free 15 day trial here: (2.86MB)
Free Copy Utility
I was surprised recently to find that a friend of mine, who is a
tech support professional, had never heard of the XXCOPY
utility. For those of you who are living in a similar state of
ignorance, it's a command line copy program that can be best
described as being like the old DOS XCOPY on steroids. It will
even copy whole partitions including Windows 9X operating system
partitions. It's free. It's extremely useful in particular
situations. It should be in everyone's toolkit. (252KB)
Free Backup Program ** Additional item **
Karen's Replicator v1.8.10 is a straight-forward backup utility
that copies individual files, folders and even entire drives to
another location. The backup can be on another partition, local
drive or network drive. Its key feature is the ability to
schedule automatic backups. No, it doesn't support removable
media - that kind of feature is for a different class of backup
product. The intended use of this product is to make regular
automatic backups of critical files. While testing, I used it to
make hourly backups of the file containing my notes for future
issues of this newsletter. Simple, effective and free. (1.4MB)
Access Outlook from Lotus Notes ** Additional item **
MS has announced a free utility that allows users of IBM's Lotus
Notes collaborative messaging system to access most of the
functions of Microsoft Outlook. Outlook 2002 Connector comes in
the form of an add-in for the IBM Lotus Domino Release 5
server. End users can use either Outlook or Notes. (826KB)
Free PDF File Creator ** Additional item **
Pdf995 is a free download that allows you to create PDF files by
"printing" them from any Windows application. This is a full-
featured product that supports bookmarks and links as well as
the ability to create PDF's on the fly for automatic attachment
to an email. Pdf995 is free but ad supported. If you want the
ads removed, you'll have to pay a massive $9.95! (3.92MB)
Excellent Password Generator ** Additional item **
If you need to generate a lot of passwords, I can strongly
recommend Cynapse SafeKeys which is fast, relatively compact and
has all the features any sysadmin would ever need. There are
some good freeware generators around but none with the bells and
whistles that SafeKeys offers. Plus, at $7.95 it's not going to
break the bank. Get the free trial here: (3.42MB)
Free Backup for MS Outlook Files ** Additional item **
Many users of Outlook 2000/2002 are not aware that Microsoft
offers a free plug-in that will automatically backup all their
Outlook folders. To get the plug-in, you must a download it from
the Office Web site at the address below. The instructions MS
gives are a little sketchy so you should check out the second
URL for detailed installation and usage information.
Got some favorite utilities? Why not share the news? Send
your top picks to mailto:email@example.com
3. BUGS, SERVICE RELEASES AND PATCHES
Flash Player Vulnerability
This is nasty. Macromedia has advised of a buffer overflow
problem in all Flash players distributed before the 12th Of
December 2002. Utilizing the fault, a specially crafted Flash
movie file could be used to allow the execution of an attacker's
program of choice. The rogue Flash animation could be on a web
site or in an email. Macromedia has released a new version of
the Flash player that remedies the fault. I suggest you download
the new version now.
Two MP3 & Windows Media Audio File Exploits
Security company Foundstone has released two advisories
concerning media files. The first involves a flaw in Windows
Explorer within Windows XP whereby a specially crafted MP3 or
WMA file could compromise the system and allow for remote code
execution. An alarming aspect is that the exploit could take
place merely by browsing to a folder (or web site) containing
the malicious file. The second exploit involves the current
versions 2.81 and 3.0 of popular media player WinAmp. Again, a
maliciously crafted MP3 file could lead to a buffer overflow
when played which could expose vulnerabilities including remote
code execution. Both Microsoft and WinAmp have released fixes,
the details of which can be found in the Foundstone advisories.
Windows 2000 Null Sessions Exploit
CERT has issued an advisory about the W32/Lioten – an aggressive
Worm that attacks Windows 2000 machines for weak passwords by
utilizing anonymous null sessions. CERT's suggested solutions
involve the restriction of null sessions, the enforcement of
strong passwords and ingress/egress filtering. More details here:
Microsoft IE Security Mess-up
In November, Andreas Sanblad demonstrated an object caching flaw
in Internet Explorer. First MS went into denial. Then they
blamed the messenger for the message. Then they issued a patch.
Then they upgraded the warning and issued a new patch but left a
critical element to be applied as a manual registry alteration.
If you use Internet Explorer with NT4, Win2000 or XP Pro AND you
know how to safely modify your registry, then you'd better fire
A German firm has advised of a number of flaws in the widely
used MySQL database software that could, in the worst case, be
used to bypass the MySQL password check or to execute arbitrary
code. The vulnerabilities affect all versions prior to 3.23.53a
and 4.0.5a and users should upgrades to the latest versions that
have fixed the flaws.
Ad-aware Spyware Remover Updates
Everyone just loves Ad-aware and with good justification. It's
free and it's always been extremely effective. However with no
updates to the database since September 2002, that effectiveness
is waning. According to this report from Spyware Weekly
newsletter, the lack of updates is because a totally new version
of the engine will be released in the next couple of months.
Existing Ad-aware users will need to decide whether to hang in
for a couple of months or go over to other Spyware removal
product such as PestPatrol. I think I'll hang in.
4. OTHER USEFUL STUFF
A Cable Modem That Does the Lot
Why settle for a cable modem that does only one thing? The
CG814M from Netgear also serves as a router, switch, firewall
and 802.11b wireless access point. With a street price of around
$230, it's an attractive proposition.
Extreme Programming Goes Mainstream
XP is a program development methodology that uses teams
comprised of managers, developers and customers all linked in a
tight feedback loop. It's been around for a few years and is now
gaining acceptance for particular types of projects. More
Popups Become Kick-Throughs
A new advertising menace has arrived - the kick-through window.
This device takes surfers to an advertiser's site even if they
just pass their mouse over an ad. They are already in use by
travel discounter Orbitz at several sites including the New York
Times. The new devices represent the next step in the technology
war between advertisers and consumers. Undoubtedly we will see a
counter response from the makers of anti-popup software.
How to Delete an Undeletable File in XP
Yet another technique. Worked for me.
Spammers Abuse Everything
A couple of issues ago I told you of a new spamming technique
that utilizes Windows Messenger to send pop-up ads to
unsuspecting users. I just happened to surf to this site that
is actually offering spammers the software to do it. Worse
still they even try to make a virtue of this offensive
technique. "IP2IP is a feature-rich direct advertising program
designed to deliver your messages directly to Windows 2000, XP,
and NT desktops." The hide of some people!
New W3C Scripting Interface Standard
The W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) has finally released long
delayed specifications for level 2 of the Document Object Model.
This is a platform and language-neutral interface that defines
elements in HTML or XHTML pages. A free test suite is available
that allows developers to test whether their applications
conform to the new standards.
Tech Support Nightmare
If you thought eliminating some of the recent worms from PCs was
difficult, just wait to you see these:
Universal AC/DC Power Supply ** Additional item
Carting around power supplies for your cell phone, laptop, PDA,
etc. is a real pain. IGO has come up with a stylish universal
supply that fits most devices and works both from the mains
supply and your car's 12V plug as well. Around $90 street price.
Change Windows XP Drive Letters ** Additional
OK you've just added a new hard drive partition and Windows has
assigned it some crazy drive letter like "K:" when you really
wanted "D:". Here's how you re-assign the letters.
Build Your Own PC ** Additional item **
This excellent guide concentrates on putting together a machine
with the highest price performance ratio rather than the fastest
PC regardless of cost. There are a quite a few blatant plugs and
other ads but the underlying information and advice is well
Networking PCs With USB ** Additional item
I received two letters from subscribers last week asking whether
they can network their home computers using USB ports. The
reason they asked is one or more of their PCs didn't have any
spare slots for network cards. The answer is yes, but you can't
just connect the USB ports with a normal USB cable. This will
almost certainly damage the ports. Instead, use a special cable
like the Net-LinQ USB connection cable. Another alternative is a
USB to Ethernet adaptor or even a parallel port connection. For
a good overview of the options, check out this web page.
Windows XP Clean Install Guide ** Additional item
One of the most frequent requests I get from subscribers is "how
do I do a clean install of XP if I can't boot off the CD?"
These two guides show you how.
PC Cleaning Technique ** Additional item **
A clean install is one thing. A clean PC is quite another.
Discover how to do a spring cleaning by following this useful
guide from TechTV.
Running Legacy Programs Under Windows XP ** Additional item
If you can't get that old DOS or Windows 9x program to work with
XP, you should tweak the XP compatibility settings. This guide
will show you how to do it.
Got some top sites and services to suggest? Send them in
5. FREEBIE OF THE WEEK
Boilerplate Text Utility
This is a real productivity tool. I just love it and I suspect
you will too. CastlePaste is a free utility that allows you to
easily paste any one of multiple text snippets into any program
you are currently running. You can define as many snippets as
you like. A number of clipboard extenders do the same thing but
the real strength of this product is that snippet insertion is
made really easy with a pull down menu that is available from
the title bar of any application you are currently using.
CastlePaste is freeware but there is also a $15 Pro version
which handles multi-line pastes. Yet another great software
product from New Zealand. Must be the clean air ;>) (1.24MB)
Monitor Your User's Backup Needs ** Additional item **
BackupWatcher is a free tool that allows LAN administrators to
measure the backup requirements of network users. It does this
by monitoring the file churn rate on each PC since last backup.
Full reporting facilities are provided that allow problem areas
to be easily identified. Quite a neat way of reducing
unnecessary backups and ensuring necessary ones are actually
carried out. (2.57MB)
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This edition of Support Alert was proof-read by subscriber A.
Belile who kindly donated her services. My hearty thanks.
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