Support Alert
                       Supporters' Edition

                 Your pointer to the very best
                  tech information on the Web

                   Issue 97 - 23rd May, 2003

     Support Alert is a 100% subscription-only newsletter.


Quote of the Week

"A computer scientist is someone who, when told to "Go to Hell,"
sees the "go to," rather than the destination, as harmful.”



Most readers of this newsletter know this feeling.

It's the feeling you get when a fiend or relative asks you to
fix their computer.

Flattery, annoyance, resignation; they’re all mixed together in
there and a few more emotions as well.

But when my neighbor Fraser asks me to fix his computer there is
only one emotion.


You see, Fraser is that most dangerous of animals; he's the man
who knows a little bit about computers.

That's why his 20 GB hard drive is set up as 20 separate one
gigabyte partitions - "Why Gizmo, I thought you’d know that
Windows gets very inefficient with large partitions."

And that's why he names all folders and files in the old 8.3 DOS
manner in UPPER CASE. "It’s essential Gizmo, to maintain DOS

And it goes on and on.

So when he asked to come and see why he couldn't order a pair of
golf shoes over the Web, I was less than pleased. I knew what
awaited me.

Surprisingly, the problem was quite simple.

He was trying to buy the shoes through a site that linked to the
commission junction (www.cj.com) site as part of an affiliate
selling arrangement. But the CJ site was being blocked because
it was included as an entry in the infamous Windows "hosts"

The hosts file is a concept derived from UNIX and was intended
to speed up surfing by providing local DNS lookup for commonly
accessed sites.  That’s a kind of address book that locally
translates text URL addresses like www.google.com to numerical
IPs like needed for the Internet.

Normally this translation takes place on the DNS servers at your
ISP.  By performing the lookup locally, you can save the time
taken for the translation.

But that's only one use for the hosts file. If you enter a URL
in the hosts table like www.cj.com and assign it an address like then you actually block that URL from being accessed.
That's because the special address is reserved for
your computer. Any attempt to access www.cj.com goes nowhere.

This can be useful if you want to block sites that serve banner
ads, porn sites and other undesirable URLS. In fact there are
many downloadable hosts files on the Web that contain thousands
of sites you may want to block. Most of the entries are usually
advertising sites.

Some programs like KaZaa Lite give you the offer of installing
one of these large hosts file in order to block banner ads.

And that’s exactly what happened to Fraser.

All I did was delete www.cj.com from his hosts file using a text
editor and he was able to order his golf shoes.

Personally, I think that a lengthy hosts file is a source of
many potential problems and the file is better left blank.
Others differ.

You should check your hosts file.  In Win98 you can find it in
the windows/system folder. In Windows 2000 and XP, it is located
in windows/system32/drivers/etc. The file has no extension and
should be viewed and edited using a text editor like NotePad.
Don't delete it.

Oh, I should say that I didn’t escape that lightly with Fraser's
PC. As soon as I’d fixed the hosts problem, he gave me the usual
line “while you are here would you mind having a look at this …”

Yes, there was another problem and that turned out to be a real
challenge, but more of that next issue.

Gizmo Richards

NEW CONTEST! Win a free copy of PestPatrol!

I've decided that every issue I'm going to run a contest to tap
into the huge collective intelligence of our readers. The prize
this issue will be the excellent anti-adware program Pestpatrol.
Here's the first quiz question so shoot in your answer:

Question of the Week:
"Aunt Mabel is a kindly woman with a modest amount of PC
knowledge. She wants to send you a 5MB video file over the
Internet containing pictures of your cousins but her ISP email
file size limit is only 2MB. She rings you and asks how she can
send the file."

So what do you tell her?

Email your answer to mailto:editor@techsupportalert.com



 - FAQ Finder
 - Free Web Developer Tutorials
 - Specialist Site for Systems Management
 - Google's Gift to Stalkers
 - How Good is Your Password? (SE Edition)
 - What Your Web Site Really Looks Like? (SE Edition)
 - Training Movies Galore (SE Edition)
 - PDA Search Engine (SE Edition)
 - Free Outliner Shines
 - The Ultimate Windows Macro Utility?
 - Enhanced Explorer Functions
 - Superior Windows File Management
 - Free but Good
 - Remove a Major Windows Annoyance (SE Edition)
 - Control Your Printing Costs (SE Edition)
 - Outstanding Free Utility for Comparing Files (SE Edition)
 - Free File Cleaner Tops the List (SE Edition)

 - AOL ICQ Seriously Flawed
 - Flaw in Windows Media Player Skins Downloading (MS03-017)
 - Cumulative Patch for BizTalk Server (MS03-016)
 - Buffer Overflow in Cisco Secure Access Control Server
 - New Version of AIDA32 Released
 - Combined Wi-Fi/GPRS Card
 - High Definition PCs?
 - Windows XP Right Click Speedup
 - Clean Up the Right Click Menu
 - Be the Coolest Kid on the Block
 - Pointless Waste of Time Department
 - Get Back at Spammers (SE Edition)
 - Internet Personality Profiles (SE Edition)
 - The Ultimate Flame (SE Edition)
 - How to Appear to be Working Hard? (SE Edition)


 - Accelerate Your Browsing for Free
 - The CD "read only" Problem Solved (SE Edition)

Items marked "SE Edition" appear only in the special Supporter's
Edition of this newsletter. This edition is reserved exclusively
for those generous individuals who have donated to this site.


FAQ Finder
FAQs are compilations of Frequently Asked Questions. They are a
gold mine of information particularly when you have an obscure
problem to solve. This site has searchable listing of ALL the
UseNet FAQs and believe me, that's a LOT of information.

Free Web Developer Tutorials
Thanks to subscriber Roger Davis for letting me know about this
top site featuring free tutorials and guides for web programming
languages. Many of the guides are in PDF format and can be
downloaded for off line reference. The quality is excellent.

Specialist Site for Systems Management
This site provides hints, tips and FAQs relating to Systems
Management technologies such as Microsoft Systems Management
Server, Operations Manager, Software Update Services and Tivoli,
amongst others.

Google's Gift to Stalkers
Thanks to subscriber Kathleen Gillion who alerted me to this
potentially nasty new service in Google. If you type a telephone
number in the search box, Google returns the physical address
linked to the number along with a detailed map and directions
how to get there. It definitely works in the US, but when I
tried the local Google’s in the UK and Australia, nothing came
up. Readers elsewhere might like to let me know. This is scary
and yet, there appears to be no opt-out mechanism.

** Bonus Items for Supporters **

How Good is Your Password?
Check out the security of your passwords using this free service:

What Your Web Site Really Looks Like?
Here you'll find an excellent free tool that shows you how your
web site appears to a search engine crawler. Using the tool to
browse some familiar sites is an educational experience. For
example sites that enclose all their content in frames appear as
totally blank. Yes, folks that's right; most search engine
crawlers can't see inside frames. Don't take it too hard - at
least you now know why your site has never been indexed ;>)

Training Movies Galore
This site features over 2000 training movies that you can
download to your PC.  The subjects covered are mainly about web
site and web application development though there are some
broader IT topics as well.  Subscription costs $25 month but
there are always free samplers available. The video quality is
excellent which means you'll need a broadband connection to
effectively use the service.

PDA Search Engine
Looking for some specific PDA related information? Try this
search engine that only indexes PDA material.

Got some top sites to suggest? Send them to


Free Outliner Shines
I'm not a great fan of outliners - my brain doesn't work that
way. Some folks however, swear by them and if that includes you,
then you should check out Keynote, an Open Source freeware
program that has a dedicated band of followers.  Its major
design attribute is its ease of use. Words like "natural" and
"seamless" come close to the mark but really don't capture the
essence of what is really a great design. What do you do with
it? Well to quote the web site “KeyNote is used by screenwriters
to draft screenplays, by medical doctors to keep patient
databases, by developers to store source code snippets - and to
everyone it serves as a place to put all the random pieces of
information that have no particular structure of relationship to
other data, and do not fit easily in task-specific applications
such as word-processors, databases or spreadsheets.”  (1.7MB)

The Ultimate Windows Macro Utility?
Regular contributor Jeff Partridge writes "Gizmo I know the
macro utility Hotkeycontrol XP you mentioned last issue may be
free but it pales in comparison to Perfect Keyboard Pro. It will
do text replacement, allow you to assign hotkeys to text strings
or any macro. Oh, yeah, it'll record macros as you perform
actions on the computer. It also allows you to WRITE macros,
using the internal macro programming language. It will also do
automated form filling, while online or off. That said, the
program is also easy for newbies to handle and works with any
version of Windows. Is it worth $29.95? You bet, I use it every
day." I agree with Jeff but I would suggest that readers who are
prepared to pay for such features also check out Macro Express
at $39.95.
http://www.pitrinec.com/pkindex.htm  Perfect Keyboard (1.77MB)
http://www.macros.com/MacroExpress (6.67MB)

Enhanced Explorer Functions
At the Perfect Keyboard site there's a neat free utility called
MyExplorerBar that adds extra functions designed to speed up
your everyday work when using both Windows and Internet
Explorer.  This is done through an additional panel that appears
at the bottom of the Explorer Window. In that panel you can take
shortcuts to common folders, carry out web searches and most
importantly make DOS style, wildcard file name selections.  You
can easily turn off the extra panel and re-enable it only when
you require the functions provided. (729KB)

Superior Windows File Management
Windows file managers are promoted as superior replacements for
Windows Explorer (WE). Most are not, which is why most folk
muddle along with WE. Directory Opus is different because it is
genuinely superior to WE in just about every respect. By
combining the WE tree model with dual panes, you get an ideal
environment for effective file handling. Additionally, for
speed, all panes are operated as separates threads and for
power, each provides functionality totally missing from WE, such
as wild card matching. There's way too much to explain so take
advantage of the 60 day trial and see for yourself. It's not
cheap at $59 but is a real productivity tool for power users.

Free but Good
If your budget doesn't stretch to the "best in class" Opus file
manager reviewed above, then check out the free 2xExplorer I
mentioned a couple of issues ago. While lacking the awesome
power of Opus it's beautifully conceived and crafted. And unlike
Opus, it's tiny, only 340KB, a sure sign of clever coding.
** Bonus Items for Supporters **

Remove a Major Windows Annoyance
Don't you just hate it when you open a file open dialog and
can't find the file you want, or you can find it but want to
rename it?  Don't you just hate it when every time you open the
dialog you have to navigate through the same tree to get to the
directory you want?  Well hate no more; try File-Ex a neat
$19.95 utility that solves these problems and many more. (442KB)

Control Your Printing Costs
O&K Print Watch is a shareware utility designed to help system
administrators monitor, manage and control end-user printing.
The product reports the fine detail of printer usage including
use by printer, by user, by time and resource consumption.
Provision is made to convert these figures into dollar costs.
The product costs $69 and is available of 30 day trial.

Outstanding Free Utility for Comparing Files
WinMerge is a free Windows utility that compares two files and
identifies the differences. The differences can then be merged
from one file into the other. This is the sort of product that
is ideal when you have several different versions of a file and
are not sure of how they differ. The product is geared to text
files so it won't be much use to you with Word Processing or
other complex formatted documents (see below). But for text
reports or computer programs, WinMerge is ideal. (514KB)

Compare Two MS Office Documents
Recent versions of MS Word have an inbuilt "compare documents"
command but it's pretty limited. If you want to do a more
complex comparison of two MS Word DOC files or other MS Office
documents you'll need a full-on commercial product. DiffDoc is
one example and it will handle RTF, WordPerfect and PDF files as
well. Prices start from $149. Anyone know of other utilities
that do the same thing?  (4.4MB)

Free File Cleaner Tops the List
I've tried quite a few commercial products designed to clean
unneeded temporary files off your hard disk but must say that
the free utility "Empty Temp Folders" is the best I've used. It
takes a few minutes to set up but after that, all you need do is
press a button to recover many megabytes of disk space. (667KB)

Got some favorite utilities to suggest? Send them to


AOL ICQ Seriously Flawed
Security company Core Technologies has advised of six flaws in
AOL's popular Mirabilis instant messaging software. Two of the
flaws are serious and could allow an attacker to run code of
choice. The flaws affect ICQ Pro 2003a (the then current
version) and all previous versions. AOL has released a new
version 2003b and all users are advised to upgrade.

Flaw in Windows Media Player Skins Downloading (MS03-017)
MS has announced a "critical" level flaw in Windows Media Player
V7.1 and Windows Media Player for Windows XP V8.0 that could
allow an attacker to execute code of choice. Media Player 9 is
not affected. The flaw lies in the method employed to download
and install new skins. An attacker could exploit the flaw by
offering a suitably crafted skin from a web site or by email. A
patch is available.

Cumulative Patch for BizTalk Server (MS03-016)
This advisory, rated "important" covers two flaws in Microsoft's
Enterprise Integration products, BizTalk Server 2000 and 2002.
The first and more serious flaw is a buffer overflow problem in
2002 that could allow execution of code of choice. The second is
SQL injection vulnerability in the Document Tracking that could
allow the execution of a malicious SQL command. Patches are now
available. More details here:

Buffer Overflow in Cisco Secure Access Control Server
Cisco has released a "critical" level advisory concerning a
buffer overflow problem in it's widely used Systems Secure
Access Control Server for Windows software. The versions
impacted are 2.6.4, 3.0.3, and 3.1.1. The UNIX release of the
same software is not affected. According to Cisco "Exploitation
of this vulnerability results in a Denial of Service, and can
potentially result in system administrator access."  A patch is

New Version of AIDA32 Released
Version 3.40 of AIDA32, my favorite PC inventorying program, has
just been released. Improvements are incremental rather than
dramatic but I still suggest you upgrade as the release includes
some bug fixes as well. It remains totally free, even for
commercial use.  (2.1-2.3MB depending on version)


Combined Wi-Fi/GPRS Card
Now here's a neat idea. Sony Ericsson has just unveiled their
new GC79 PC Card that supports GPRS as well as 802.11b Wi-Fi.
That means you can connect your laptop wirelessly when near a W-
LAN hot spot or using GPRS over the cell phone network when not.

High Definition PCs?
PC monitors have significantly better resolution than TV sets.
So why not feed HDTV directly into your monitor? The folks at
NextVision asked themselves the same question and have come up
with a multi-purpose AV box that is well worth checking out.

Windows XP Right Click Speedup
Microsoft has finally confirmed what many XP users have long
known; that right clicking an icon consumes a huge amount of CPU
resources. This can have consequences on other processes that
range from annoying to disastrous.  Anyway, the fix is here:

Clean Up the Right Click Menu
Following on from the previous item, readers should be aware
that they can delete unwanted items from the right click menu.
This article shows you how:

Be the Coolest Kid on the Block
Check out these sunglasses with inbuilt LCD screen. They accept
input from any video source and project a TV-set size image to
one eye. Use them to surf, watch TV or play games while jogging.
Maybe you could attach them to a portable X-ray machine for
superman-style x-ray vision. ;>)

Pointless Waste of Time Department
Waste away vital hours with urban75's growing collection of
useless puzzles, idle distractions and Flash games!

** Bonus Items for Supporters **

Get Back at Spammers
TarProxy is a fiendishly clever proxy for mail servers that
recognizes spam in real time as it is received using a Bayesian
algorithm. It then slows down the receipt of the message thus
imposing a cost on the spammer, presuming of course they are
actually paying for their server time. TarProxy is a free, open
source utility and will be available for many different

Internet Personality Profiles
Being flamed on the Internet may not be a lot of fun but Mike
Reeds' Flame Worrier Guide definitely is. Check out the
excellent collection of cartoons lampooning the many different
types of flamers. Lots of laughs here:

The Ultimate Flame
If you ever get flamed and need to retaliate, you'll find an
excellent collection of replies here. Note that some are a tad
vulgar, so if you sensitive to such things, just go on to the
next item.

How to Appear to be Working Hard
Here's an intriguing article from the WSJ about how tech workers
can fake working hard while really slacking it. There are some
really good tips here. :>)



Accelerate Your Browsing for Free
There are dozens of products that claim to speed up your surfing
but most have little effect. NaviScope is different - it
actually works! Not only does it speed up your surfing it also
offers optional ad, pop-up, cookie and JavaScript blocking, an
extensive set of diagnostic tools and more bells and whistles
than you can imagine. My only beef is that the tool bar is very
obtrusive so once you set up NaviScope, you should select the
option to turn off the toolbar.  If you need it, you can always
bring it up again though the quick launch icon. (614KB)

** Bonus Freebie for Supporters **

The CD "read only" Problem Solved
Anyone who has restored data from a CD onto their hard drive has
faced the problem that all the restored files are marked as
"read only" and cannot be modified. Changing these settings in
Windows is a real pain particularly if a large number of files
is involved. With this free utility you can change the file
settings for dozens of files or even whole folders with a single
click. Actually while the product is free of charge, the
developer requests your feedback. None-the-less, ReadOnly should
be on every PC. (315KB)
http://www.sente.co.uk/downloads.htm (towards bottom of page)

Got some top sites and services to suggest? Send them in
to mailto:supporters@techsupportalert.com
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