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  Welcome to the Summer 2006 1ComputerCare Newsletter  
     

 

Please forward me to a friend  

Notwithstanding my comments below, it is reliably reported that a virus keylogger packaged in a PowerPoint presentation will be doing the rounds by e-mail, unchecked until Microsoft's next security patch is released on 8th August.  Unsolicited e-mail attachments should never be opened especially if the subject is '18 humorous slides about love between men and women'.  Following Eugene's housekeeping guide will help keep you protected.

Broadband connections.  Excepting the very few folks still connecting to the Internet via a 56k dialup line [bless], we are all being gradually moved from regular ADSL to DSLmax.  Be aware that this is a rate adaptive technology; that means that you will receive the fastest speed your line is capable of sustaining to a maximum of 8Mbps (although 100Mbps is now available for some).  However, the flip side of the probable speed increase coin, is that in order to adapt to the optimum speed, you will loose your connection periodically.  This is particularly noticeable for the first 14 days after the switch.  Both PlusNet and ADSLGuide publish very informative guides about this, possibly abstracted from the BT explanation

DSLmax is far more unforgiving of bad wiring than its predecessors.  To get the most out of it, ensure that your router or modem is connected to a microfilter which is connected to the BT master socket (the one closest to the telecoms point of entry to your property).  If you must use an extension cable, make sure it is the shortest ADSL compatible cable (standard telephone extension cables are inferior) that will reach the equipment, and that you have a microfilter on every live socket on the same line - that's phone extensions, fax lines, Sky boxes, security systems and all such devices.  If you are unsure, give me a call on 0845 108 0254.

If you connect to the Internet via a router, and you do not get automatically reconnected (assuming it is set to dial on demand), just power cycle the router.  That means disconnecting the power, counting to 10 (to allow the capacitors to drain), reconnecting the power, then waiting two minutes for it to reinitialise.  If that does not work, keep the power disconnected from the router for one or two hours (to allow possible lock ups to clear) then try again.  If it still fails to deliver a connection, call your ISP.

Largest broadband ISPs in the UK by number of lines (Ď000s)

Source: Point Topic

Cheap routers are available now from FON.  For just Ä5 (about £3.45) Fon will sell you a quality router; all you have to do is agree to allow others to share your wireless network.  In reality this is not much to ask as even if there is anyone close enough to be able to pick up your signal, you probably would not notice the loss of bandwidth.  Fon will then either give you free roaming wi-fi access to their hotspots around Europe, or 50% of the income they make from hiring out your broadband signal.  These and other free Wi-Fi hotspots worldwide, may be listed at free-hotspot.com

Why is a router better than the standard modem which many ISPs give you ? 

  • An always on connection to the Internet - you do not need to dial a new connection each time you start your PC.

  • A hardware firewall is usually bundled in, thereby saving the performance drain in your PC

  • Multiple PCs, telephones or other Internet aware devices can share the same broadband connection concurrently

  • Wireless connectivity is possible, enabling music or video to the barbeque or pool side

End of Life for Windows 98 & ME

Itís time to upgrade if youíre still using Windows 98, ME or Windows XP SP1. Effective July 11, Microsoft are retiring Windows 98 and Windows ME ó which means that support and security updates will no longer be available, even if additional security problems are found in the future. If youíre still running Windows 98 or Windows Millennium, now is the time to upgrade.

Beginning October 10th, Microsoft will also end support of Windows XP SP1.  It is recommended that anyone running Windows XP upgrade to Service Pack 2 (SP2) as soon as possible, if you havenít already.  If you follow my housekeeping suggestions, you'll be just fine.

The next versions of Microsoft's flagship products are about to be released, and the latest public beta test versions are available for free download for the curious at heart.  Windows Vista (product guide here) will supersede XP as the operating system installed on most of the world's computers.  You can see if your current PC is sufficiently well endowed to run it by downloading and running the Upgrade Advisor.  A selection of informative reviews is available at Paul Thurrott's SuperSite.  The programs which may be downloaded are: 

Tex2 is a simple programme that sits on your phone. It's free and lets you swap messages with anyone who's got Tex2 for a fraction (maybe 1/20th) of the cost of a traditional SMS.  Tex2 requires that you have GPRS enabled on your phone and that you can use your phone to browse the web. If in doubt, call your network to check. 

I usually shun screensavers, but automatically changing desktop wallpapers delivered over the Internet do give me pleasure.  I was happy to use a few static images of Yosmite for a time, then I manually downloaded images from Caedes, but now I use Landscape Pictures, which gives me a different, dynamically changing picture from nature every few minutes or hours with optional sound.  Best of all, the photos are from a huge online collection so I never get bored of seeing the same picture over again.

Rather than sending toxic rubbish to a landfill, why not donate your used printer cartridges to a charity for recycling in a Freepost envelope ?  You can choose from many charities when you order your envelope supply from Environmental Business Products Ltd

I receive a steady trickle of mass forwarded emails from well meaning clients warning of some new virus or other.  These are almost invariably hoaxes as mentioned in a previous edition of this journal, and each time they are forwarded on the system gets clogged up with this rubbish - a form of spam.  A good portal to use to check if you are tempted to issue a mass-mailing is Spamlinks Hoaxes.  And that site is also a good resource for people wanting to limit the spam mail they receive or filter the stuff out after the event.

First aid advice is very neatly packaged by the St. John Ambulance website where they provide concise podcasts and an RSS feed to items everyone should know about.   I was very happy for the existence of NHS Direct (phone: 0845 4647) last month when I cut myself badly while building a new PC and needed to know the opening hours of the nearest minor injuries unit (Uckfield 8am - 8pm, Crowborough 24 hours) .  And at last my local (Buxted) doctor is now on the EMIS system which allows appointment booking, repeat prescription requests and secure messaging over the Internet.

Regular topics

Requests, suggestions and comments are appreciated here

Free Downloads

  • Sick of spam ?  Fed up with Outlook Express ?  Try Mozilla Thunderbird as your e-mail client.

  • Create voice messages, edit sound clips, convert music formats, use the new version of Audacity.

  • For free file (text, photos, video, audio) hosting which you may choose to share with others, use CCPublisher to upload to archive.org - a place where many hours can be spent viewing other folks' uploads, many are very informative and/or instructive.

  • Adobe Photoshop is often seen as the king of image editing applications, but Paint.NET is about £350 cheaper and very similar for all but the most demanding user.

  • freeCommander is an easy-to-use alternative to the standard windows file manager with many useful features not in the Microsoft equivalent.

  • Media Player Classic looks just like Windows Media Player 6.4, but has many additional features. It has a built in DVD player with real-time zoom, support for AVI subtitles, QuickTime and RealVideo support.

Interesting Websites

  • Toss out the TV and watch Channel 4 on your PC.  BBC is available too.

  • wikiHow is a collaborative writing project aiming to build the world's largest how-to manual.

  • Microsoft feel your pain when their software fails you.  Watch the spoof video

  • Learn how to search (and use other tools) more efficiently with the help of GoogleTutor. Or visit Google's own help center. Or for a simpler site, try asking Bruce.

  • Cheap airline tickets from many providers consolidated in one easily searchable place by WhichBudget.com

  • Interested in optical illusions ? Test your senses with 20 questions posed by the BBC

  • If your eye sight is beginning to fail you may be interested in the DIY eye surgery kit now available from  LASIK@Home

  • The 20 most common PC myths are debunked on the official Windows XP website which also hosts the 50 best Windows XP tips ever.

  • Examples of stretched imagination are displayed on the oh-so-useful human clock display, analogue or digital, automatically updated each minute.

  • I dare to repeat myself as I feel the downloading of a huge selection of high quality music at not much over a U.S. Dollar per album will not last long, so hurry over to AllofMP3

Dear Eugene - Agony Uncle Extraordinaire

Q. I have the same sub-directory on two different hard drives. The sub-directory on each hard drive has several sub-directories also. Each of these sub-directory contains hundreds of files. I want to combine all of the files into one sub-directory on one hard drive.

My problem is, I have made changes to the files on both drives, but not with any consistency, so drive c: has some updated files, and drive d: has some updated files (but not necessarily the same updated files).

How can I do a compare of the files on each of these text files on the two different directories, and either overwrite the older files, or flag them to be looked at to then overwrite them?

A. WinMerge is a Win32 tool for visual difference display and merging, for both files and directories.  Get it at http://sourceforge.net/projects/winmerge
 
Q. Many, but not all, photos [on webpages I visit] display with crude pixilation, rather than displaying with fine resolution.
A. Perhaps you are using an "acceleration" program which, to "speed up" downloads, does not download the entire [graphic] file as posted on the webpage.  Rather, it "reformats" the image to a less intense graphic to "simulate" a faster download time.
 
Q. I am having problems with my CD drive. I can see the drive in Windows Explorer.  But when I insert a CD I can not read it. 
A.

Several possibilities occur:

  1. The drive may not work on the same channel if another drive on the same channel is bad.

  2. Could be a jumper setting problem if you've recently installed a drive incorrectly. e.g. if you add a Slave drive to a channel and set the Jumper to Slave you also may have to change the original drive jumper to Master.

  3. An IDE cable may be bad and/or shorting out on a sharp edge of the innards of the case.

  4. An IDE cable may have become partially mis-seated from the motherboard or drive.

  5. You may have a boot sector virus.

  6. Boot to DOS with a bootdisk that contains CD drivers and see if you can read a disk. This will tell you if it's a Windows problem or a hardware problem. Note that just doing a DIR command will only read the FAT so you also have to see if you can Edit a text file after a dos boot.

  7. Worst case is that the channel the CD drive is on is not working correctly or is bad, though very unlikely especially as XP is detecting the drives.

And that's it - I hope you found this interesting.  This newsletter is just my thoughts and so you should check all items carefully before acting on any advice as I accept no responsibility for unfortunate events resultant on heeding the ideas here.  Most links are to websites I have no control over and should not be construed as an endorsement of any products or services for sale there.

Eugene.

A clever person solves a problem.
A wise person avoids it.

Einstein, A.

Here's an index to what is in this newsletter.

 

Broadband

Cheap Routers

End of Life for Windows 98

Microsoft's future versions

Tex2 mobile messenging

Desktop wallpaper changer

Donate used printer cartridges

Hoax mails and other spam

Medical Matters

Free downloads

Interesting websites

Dear Eugene - agony uncle

 

Book your PC in for a routine service today and avoid tomorrow's emergency !

Netiquette

I respond to e-mails within 24 hours of receipt - even if only to acknowledge receipt - to give the sender confidence that their mail has not been automatically moved to a spam folder. 

 

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