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May 15, 2001 - Vol. 1, No. 4

By Scot Finnie

IN THIS ISSUE

  • Windows Report
  • Review: The Netgear FR314 Firewall Router
  • ZoneAlarm 2.6 Feedback
  • In the News
  • Product Beat: Tweaki ... for Power Users 3.0
  • Where to Find Karen Kenworthy's Power Tools
  • StarBand Yellow Light
  • What's the Deal with Pegasus Express?
  • Sprint Broadband Direct in 14 Cities
  • Reader to Reader
  • New 'Find Winmag Content' Page
  • Windows and Broadband Q&A
  • Link of the Week: Teds Tech Site
  • Tip of the Week: Customize Start's Context Menu
  • Answers to Nagging SNFL Questions
  • Subscribe to or Unsubscribe from this newsletter.

    Get the great Winmag.com content you've been missing at the SFNL Find Winmag Content website.

    If you like this newsletter, please take a moment now to forward it to a friend who might like it too. Thanks! To subscribe: subscribe-scots-newsletter@lyris.dundee.net.


    The Windows Report
    By now you've heard many times over that Windows XP will be formally released later this year on Thursday October 25. Microsoft made that announcement about a week ago after dates like October 29 and October 26 leaked out to various newsgathering organizations. I'm sure many large OEM PC makers were displeased by the news. But for you and me, there's nothing more important than Microsoft getting this code right. Bad enough we're going to have to put up with Product Activation in Windows XP. We don't want to suffer from bugs that might have been prevented too. So I say, it's good news that the new Windows won't be rushed out the door.

    In order to place Windows XP on store shelves on October 25, Microsoft must still wrap up development no later than early September (and that would be cutting it pretty fine). The company is giving itself about three and a half months to wrap up development of the new operating system. Generally speaking, that's more time than two "release candidates" need, so whatever they're calling the end-phase of the beta development cycle, it would appear it's effectively a beta 3 duration.

    Although the end of October comes late in the year for the holiday selling season, it's really not too late for the large PC makers -- who get the code as soon as it's frozen (late summer). They would prefer more time to test and assemble the best hardware components for XP. But they should have more than enough time to roll out Windows XP to all their model lines well in advance of Thanksgiving. And corporate sales are more likely to occur in the late first or second quarter anyway. The issue for us as PC buyers is that because the test and quality assurance cycle is compressed for PC makers, you might want to think twice about buying the first wave of XP machines. But that's been true of virtually every consumer release of Windows I can recall, stretching back to before Windows 95.

    Device Driver Blues?
    From a source I can't name I recently heard a rumor that concerns me more than all the claptrap about the ship date. According to my source, Microsoft froze the device-driver pack that will be included with Windows XP as of Beta 2. According to the rumor, no additional drivers will be added or tested. That's alarming because, if true, more people could have trouble installing XP or adding hardware to it than people had with Windows 2000. The Beta 2 device-driver pack is woefully under-stocked.

    There's an unsung new feature of Windows XP that could help with that problem. Dynamic Update works with upgrades of existing Windows installations. It checks the Windows Update site for new drivers and software patches and downloads them to the PC as part of the Windows XP Setup process. Potentially, that could prevent installation problems before they occur. It's one of my favorite new features in Windows XP.

    But for Dynamic Update to work, the Windows Update site must be actively stocked with the latest device drivers and patches. Even though Microsoft has promised in the past that Windows Update will distribute device drivers, it never has. So far, there are no signs that Microsoft intends to push out updated drivers via Windows Update for Windows XP either. The interface for this process has changed for he better under Windows XP, but there are no drivers available during the beta process. On any other subject, I might cut Microsoft some slack about the lack of drivers -- since, after all, XP is a beta product. But we've been promised device drivers on Windows Update before, and the promise has never been fulfilled. I'd like to hear from Microsoft that it will take a more active role in delivering updated drivers for XP via its servers.

    I contacted Microsoft for comment concerning the rumor about the frozen device driver pack, but they weren't able to respond by press time. If I learn something more on the topic, I'll print it in the May 29 issue of SFNL.

    Major Windows XP Beta 2 Review
    The Lycos Computers channel is the publisher of a detailed, Winmag-style Windows XP Beta 2 review called "Get up to Speed on Windows XP." The story was written by Serdar Yegulalp, Neil Randall, Dave Methvin, and me. In addition, Winmag art and production staffers Heide Balaban, Jeanette Hafke, and Roma Nowak contributed to the article. Lycos's Vito Valentinetti also worked on production. A lead-in to the story was also picked up by Wired News. Check it out: Lycos - Get up to Speed on Windows XP.

    Win2000 Service Pack 2
    You might have missed it in all the other goings on of late, but several sources report that Microsoft has quietly wrapped up development of Windows 2000 Service Pack 2 (SP2) and is close to making it available on its website. Microsoft hasn't overtly made SP2 available, yet (although I expect it any day now). When it arrives formally, it should be available from Microsoft's Win2K service pack website. In the meantime, it is possible to directly download the 101MB Service Pack 2 from Microsoft's servers. My advice is not to be the first one to jump on a new service pack, unless you just feel like it. ;-)

    Windows Licensing
    Microsoft seems bent on making everyone's head spin. First it was BIOS-locked PCs, then Product Activation, and now the company is changing the way enterprise customers license and re-license Windows software. It's all about Microsoft trying to beef up the bottom line, folks. And for many companies, I suspect the change will play out on the negative side financially. The announcement is complex because it involves both subscription pricing and a change to the current licensing scheme. It's being interpreted in different ways by the press and analysts. Microsoft press releases:

  • Microsoft Offers New Subscription License, Upgrades for Enterprise
  • Microsoft Simplifies, Enhances Volume Licensing Programs

    Here's a sampling of stories that I think will help you understand the changes better:

  • Microsoft Licensing Squeeze Continues (InternetWeek)
  • Microsoft Unveils Optional Subscription Licenses (InformationWeek)
  • MS Licensing Switch to Trigger Mass Upgrade to Win2K, WinXP? (TheRegister)
  • Microsoft Rolls out Volume Software 'Leases' (TheRegister)

    Back to the Top


    Review: The Netgear FR314 Firewall Router
    I was very intrigued when I learned in late March that Netgear and SonicWall had teamed up to create a low-cost Netgear broadband router that's scheduled for ICSA firewall certification. Most of the best professional grade software and hardware firewalls seek and earn ICSA certification. But few hardware products in the personal firewall price range are currently listed.

    What's more, Netgear's four-port switch FR314 Internet Access Firewall Router includes SonicWall's "stateful inspection" features and specific protection against denial-of-service hacker attacks. Stateful inspection is a technique that allows the firewall to analyze potential contacts. Boiled down, it means smarts that keep track of the context of Internet contacts, both in terms of past connections and also the current application. In other words, the FR314 doesn't just analyze packets in isolation. It also takes into account the surrounding context when drawing conclusions about the nature of the contact. Often, stateful inspection employs a rules-based approach to guarding against proscribed activities, or allowing prescribed ones.

    The new Netgear product also includes parental controls with static and dynamic content filtering, logging, email alerts about possible intrusions, and Web-based configuration all for under $250 on the street. On paper, it's a real step up from other consumer-oriented devices of its type. Two other products that I reviewed in the past offer similar firewall features: SohoWare's Broadguard and SonicWall's SOHO Telecommuter. Of the three, I prefer this new Netgear model as the perfect compromise between convenience and security, and also on price.

    Like the better products in this field -- which includes the Linksys EtherFast Cable/DSL router (an SFNL Top Product) -- The Netgear FR314 works with cable and DSL modems, includes NAT/DHCP services, and provides support for standard and PPPoE DSL connections. It also supports IPSec and PPTP VPN access. The Web configuration screens are excellent, and the documentation is good. It took me about 5 minutes to remove a different broadband router and insert the FR314 in its place, thanks to the use of standard IP ranges and just all around good execution of this product.

    Security Testing
    I use GRC's Shields Up, Port Probe, and LeakTest; HackerWhacker's extended port probe; and Security Space's Standard Audit of more than 650 vulnerabilities. For more detail on my testing, see the last SFNL's review of ZoneAlarm 2.6.

    GRC's Port Probe test of the FR314 showed that while all critical TCP ports are closed, they are not invisible to hackers -- something GRC calls "stealth." I've written about this extensively in the Broadband Report in past. While it's not technically a firewall feature, making ports stealthy is an advantage I consider to be important enough to mark the FR314 down for. The Netgear RT314, which I reviewed last year, also showed some TCP ports as being "closed" and not "stealth."

    GRC has changed the Port Probe test, fixing a bug that made some firewalls and routers appear to Port Probe to be stealthy when in fact they weren't. Netgear's Mike Shields, senior product development manager, had this to say about the FR314's lack of port stealth: "During the development of the FR314, the subject came up about whether the common ports should be closed or stealthed. SonicWall ships their own product with the ports closed but visible, while we just recently changed the RT314 to stealth. This fell through the cracks on the first FR314 release, but should be changed in the next. Meanwhile, we suggest this as a workaround: Pick an unused LAN address (I use 192.168.0.99) and forward all the 'closed' ports to that address. They will then scan as stealth."

    I'm not sure the average person would know to do that, or how to do it. But I have tested this and it does work. Also, if you're running ZoneAlarm (and some other software firewalls), it will make your TCP ports show up in "stealth" mode too.

    On the other tests, the Netgear FR314 fared well, scoring similarly to ZoneAlarm on the Security Space test, and acing the HackerWhacker test. But, as has every hardware router product I've tested so far, it failed GRC's outbound LeakTest, which among other things shows how your computer might be turned into a zombie and used as an attacker in a distributed denial of service attack against somebody else. Because of that, I have to recommend that anyone who uses the FR314 should also install ZoneAlarm or similar.

    Brass Tacks
    As much as I like the Netgear FR314, at $230 you're paying extra for features that I'm not sure will pay you back over the long run. This product is clearly superior to the SohoWare BroadGuard. For one thing, the Netgear has excellent VPN support. But since the FR314 doesn't obviate the need for a software firewall, it doesn't afford better protection than the 4-port Linksys EtherFast Cable/DSL Router whose street price is at least $100 lower than the FR314. The Linksys also shows all stealth on the newest GRC Port Probe test.

    The Netgear does offer more than this older Linksys device -- just not $100 more. Also, there's another limitation. The FR314 supports only eight connected PCs, whereas most low-cost broadband routers support 250 or more users (but in the real world, any more than 30 or so is pretty ridiculous). You can upgrade the FR314 via firmware for an extra charge, so that it will support 20 or 45 users. But you're paying a lot of extra money for stateful inspection and content filtering. I'm afraid it's not worth it.

    Having said that, I can recommend the FR314 to anyone who wants a top-notch broadband router with built-in firewall features. The combination of the FR314, ZoneAlarm Pro, and a solid antivirus package, such as Norton AntiVirus would make for peerless SOHO internetworking and security at this price range.

  • $230, FR314 Internet Access Firewall Router, Netgear Inc, 408-907-8000, press release, Lowest Price: Computers4Sure.com, $229.99

    Back to the Top


    ZoneAlarm 2.6 Feedback
    Over the two weeks since the last issue, when I named ZoneAlarm 2.6 an "SFNL Top Product," I've received some sketchy reports about mostly minor issues with this new version. For example, one reader reported that he was running Norton Internet Security and the previous version of ZoneAlarm (2.1.xx) on his system at the same time, with no problem. (Nevermind why he'd want to do that.) ZoneAlarm 2.6 no longer permits this, he wrote to me.

    In some discussion forums, I've heard about problems with ZoneAlarm 2.6 and Windows 2000, including in one case, the scary symptom of spontaneous reboots.

    Reader Michael Horowitz runs an intriguing personal website called Computer Gripes. There's a page called ZoneAlarm Gripes. There he has detailed some problems with ZoneAlarm 2.6 and Windows NT 4.0.

    David Becker wrote this to me about ZoneAlarm Pro 2.6: "I've used Roadrunner and the 2.1 version of ZoneAlarm Pro successfully together for quite some time. So when I was offered via the upgrade to version 2.6 via email, I decided to try it. After installing, Roadrunner crashed, and the only way to get it up and running was to uninstall ZoneAlarm Pro. I'm back to the previous version. The upgrade was the problem. Now I'm out $39.95 for the 2.6 version. Three emails to ZA Tech support and customer service have gone unanswered. Have you heard of others having this problem with the upgrade? Roadrunner still takes the position that no firewall is needed, which I find incredibly shortsighted for an always-on connection. I suspect RoadRunner doesn't want to get involved in configuring its service to be compatible." --David Becker Sr.

    Having said all that, most of the responses from SFNL readers have been wildly positive. I still think ZoneAlarm 2.6 is great stuff.

    Initial Comments on Norton Personal Firewall
    Well, there was one other negative comment to the ZoneAlarm review. Symantec's Norton Internet Security/Norton Personal Firewall team immediately called to ask whether I'd properly checked out the 3.0 version of their product.

    I've installed Norton Personal Firewall 3.0 on a test machine, and this product has come a long way from its roots. (Originally, by the way, it was AtGuard.) I hope to finish my tests of the Norton product for the next issue of SFNL, but my initial impressions are as follows: A much improved user interface that's clearly superior to ZoneAlarm's, although, as is often the case with Symantec products, settings and options are all over the place. It's sometimes hard to remember where to go to turn off this or enable that. Norton Personal Firewall also has a lot of other features, including several Privacy controls, an ad-blocker, and automatic integration Norton AntiVirus. The product has three features that seemingly outclass ZoneAlarm:

    1. Automatic configuration. This firewall offers built-in risk assessment, and it can optionally decide for you how to configure Internet access for applications that try to reach out to the Internet. I'm not a big fan of "automatic," but this is a complex product for the uninitiated to operate. I'm still evaluating this feature. And it might take me a while to come to a conclusion.

    2. Intrusion detection. Norton Personal Firewall 3.0 detects port scans and automatically enables port blocking as a result. I plan to test this specific feature by launching an intensive port scan on it. ZoneAlarm can also block port scans, by the way, but as a matter of course, not in response to a scan.

    3. Application scanning. The feature I already know I like is the optional scan for Internet-enabled applications that runs as part of setup or whenever you like as part of the Security Assistant wizard. Combined with other features, the scan can help you get out in front of the blizzard of pop-up windows endemic to the personal firewall category.

    I'll save the rest for later. One big issue with Norton Personal Firewall is that it doesn't come in a freeware flavor, but there is a 30-day trial.

    Back to the Top


    In the News
    The following are Windows and broadband stories that caught my eye over the last week.

    Windows

  • Leaked Login Spreads XP Beta, Floods MS Network (BetaNews)
  • Much Hangs On Microsoft's Windows XP Launch (InformationWeek)
  • Microsoft: Killing NT Softly? (InformationWeek)
  • Win XP to Launch on October 26: Coders Go on War Footing (TheRegister)
  • AOL in Turmoil over .NET and XP (BetaNews)
  • Is Microsoft's WMP8 Merely Viral Marketing? (TheRegister)

    Broadband and the Internet

  • Chinese Hackers Call Truce in China-U.S. Cyberwar (MSNBC)
  • Bells Gain Foothold in Uphill Broadband Battle (InternetWeek)
  • FCC Chief Wants Fines that Hurt Bells (InternetWeek)
  • ICSA Labs to Certify PC Firewalls (InformationWeek)
  • Service Discontinued (InternetWeek)
  • Broadband Gets Pricier (InternetWeek)
  • BellSouth, Verizon To Raise DSL rates (InternetWeek)
  • Boeing Signs with ScreamingMedia for In-Flight Web [Content] (InformationWeek)

    Back to the Top


    Product Beat: Tweaki ... for Power Users 3.0

    Tweaki ... for Power Users 3.0
    JerMar Software contacted me last week to let me know that a past Windows Insider Program of the Month, Tweaki ... for Power Users, has been released in a major new 3.0 version. I took a quick peek at it, and the interface is revised, for the better. But I'm reserving judgment for a possible future review. If you're not familiar with Tweaki, it's sort of Tweak UI on steroids.

    Linksys, Trend Micro, and Zone Labs
    A well appointed broadband setup includes a NAT/DHCP broadband router, an antivirus program, and a software firewall. You need all these things at minimum to maximize Internet sharing and security. That's why Linksys, Trend Micro, and Zone Labs are teaming up to provide a convenient bundle consisting of the Linksys EtherFast Cable/DSL Router, Trend Micro's PC-cillin antivirus software, and Zone Lab's ZoneAlarm Pro. And how could I not like this idea, given that Linksys's EtherFast routers and Zone Labs' ZoneAlarm are SFNL Top Products? Apparently, PC-cillin and ZoneAlarm will be downloadable in a secure fashion, probably as directed by the Linksys's Web-based configuration screens. The Linksys 1-port and 4-port EtherFast Cable/DSL Routers will first arrive with the bundle in June, with other models adding the software by the end of the third quarter.

    Does your company have a new computer product of interest to this newsletter's users? Submit it to Product Beat.

    Back to the Top


    Where to Find Karen Kenworthy's Power Tools
    Want to know probably the most common question I get from SFNL readers in email? It goes something like this: "Scot, I just subscribed to your new newsletter. Do you know where I can find Karen Kenworthy and her amazing Power Tools too?" The really great thing is that I sure do. Karen is doing fine, and still writing both her great Power Tools programs and her enjoyable Karen's Power Tools newsletter. Karen's new home page is called Karenware.com. To subscribe to Karen's Power Tools, you can use this email link: subscribe@karenware.com. Or visit the Karen's Power Tools home page.

    Tell Karen I said hi.

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    StarBand Yellow Light
    Those of you who were readers of the Broadband Report know that I've been at the job of making up my mind about StarBand since early January. It's now the middle of May, and it's about time for me to give you some conclusions. Is it worth your shelling out your hard-earned money for right now?

    On the one hand, StarBand is a whole lot faster at conventional Web browsing than a 56kbps analog modem connection, or even ISDN. On the other hand, what it delivers isn't the real Internet. With almost any other type of Internet connection -- cable, DSL, fractional T1, analog dial-up -- the latency times are much shorter, and the way the Internet is served up to you is consistent. In other words, a 512kbps DSL connection serves fast FTP (file download) as well as fast HTTP (Web browsing). There are no limitations on clients, such as AOL or ICQ instant messaging. And it's at least technically possible to use VPN on your connection, even if your consumer-oriented ISP frowns on it.

    There's another point, too: your connection keeps working even if it's raining hard or snowing outside. During my five months with StarBand, I've encountered at least half a dozen weather-related downtimes. They are usually brief, but it is an issue. Of course, I've also had problems with DSL disconnects and cable company outages.

    If StarBand were our only choice among two-way satellite broadband services, this would be an easier decision. Though expensive at $70 a month, it would be the only alternative to 56kpbs analog or expensive and slow ISDN for many people. But with Pegasus Express now becoming available, and the prospect of much faster WildBlue two-way satellite (distributed by Dish Networks) around the corner, the decision is becoming more complex. If you're about to make the plunge (and considerable upfront investment) into two-way satellite, my counsel right now is to wait and see how this shakes out.

    Back to the Top


    What's the Deal with Pegasus Express?
    Two days after the last issue of SFNL, Pegasus Broadband formally launched its Pegasus Express two-way satellite service, based on Hughes Electronics' DirecPC. It looks like several companies may be marketing the two-way DirecPC service; EarthLink and Juno are distributing it. EarthLink's upfront costs to customers are very high, however. Around $1,000, depending on choices you make. And Juno doesn't appear to be jumping in with both feet. Pegasus is the largest independent distributor of DirecTV, so it has a lot of experience with both Hughes and servicing satellite customers.

    Pegasus Express's costs match up pretty closely with StarBand's. You'll pay $600-$700 for installation and equipment charges. And there's a $69.95 monthly charge. DirecTV subscribers get $100 off installation and $10 off their Pegasus Express monthly charge.

  • Picture of the Pegasus Express equipment.

    Other details include the fact that there's a special AOL version. There is no VPN support. I'm told that, unlike StarBand, email operates quickly -- although there's apparently an annoying pop-up dialog that offers to get your mail for you. From a third party, I've learned that Pegasus is expecting to launch its business-oriented service, Pegasus Express Pro, in June. You'll be able to share that service's Internet access with multiple PCs. It's not clear to me at this time whether sharing the consumer version of Pegasus is impossible or just requires a little networking know how.

    Here's an excerpt of an email I received from an early Pegasus customer about some problems he was having:

    "...Apparently, Pegasus spoofs my IP halfway through. This prevents me from hosting a Java chat room (specifically WebRPG rooms) as well as an FTP server, nor can I receive files over ICQ. Pegasus has told me they don't know why it doesn't work, as their spoofed IP should route directly to the [IP address] I have internally with them. They also said they don't plan to work on a way to fix it. I have tried using a program like WinIP or DynIP to assign a host name to both of my IPs (the local one and the spoofed one) without luck."

    Despite the standard problems of an initial launch, Pegasus Express sounds like it's worth further investigation. I'm still trying to work out an arrangement to have it installed.

  • Pegasus Express May 3 Announcement.

    Back to the Top


    Sprint Broadband Direct in 14 Cities
    I've been a little remiss in not having covered Sprint Broadband Direct recently. This "fixed wireless" broadband solution requires line-of-site dish access to a tower. You have to be within 35 miles of the tower, and in the U.S., Sprint Broadband Direct currently serves 14 markets: Colorado Springs, Houston, Denver, Wichita, Melbourne Florida, Phoenix, Tucson, San Jose, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Oklahoma City, Fresno, Detroit (business only), and the newest market: Chicago.

    Performance is pretty solidly in the 512kbps to 1.5Mbps range downstream, although it can vary. Sprint quotes upstream throughput as "up to 256kbps." Sprint offers a range of setup charges that depend on the contract. Installation can cost nothing or $99, depending on choices you make and promotions running in various areas. With no time commitment from the customer, Sprint will charge a $299 equipment fee. A one-year commitment reduces that amount to $199, and a two-year commitment reduces the equipment charge to $99. SFNL recommends paying the $299 for month to month service. If you don't like it or something better comes along you won't have to buy yourself out of your contract. If a year's commitment seems doable, then take the $199 deal. The $99 deal seems foolish. (Twenty-four months is forever in broadband years.) The monthly charge is $49.95, which you can reduce to $39.95 if you have or sign-up for Sprint long-distance.

    One early Chicagoland user of Sprint Broadband Direct raves about it. According to SFNL reader Rob McKillip, "Sprint Broadband Direct has been up every minute since I got it a month ago, and at T1 speeds nearly every time I've checked. My connection to the Sears tower is rock solid. My neighbor who had StarBand just switched to it as well. They never could get his satellite dish lined-up accurately enough for uploads to work reliably. Sprint is starting to advertise in Chicago and the little square antennas are starting to pop-up all over."

    The Sprint Broadband Direct dish is a diamond shape, and it usually mounts on the roof or high on the side of your building. Height is more crucial with fixed wireless than with satellite, so stake mounting in your yard isn't an option. Here are some pics of the dish and the modem:

  • Picture of Sprint Broadband Dish.
  • Picture of Sprint Broadband Modem.

    Getting more information from the Sprint website could be difficult because it only provides information if the zipcode you enter is within one of its service areas. The press release for Chicago gives you some details, but to learn more call Sprint's toll-free number: 877-728-7676.

    Back to the Top


    Reader to Reader
    More Than Six TCP/IP Entries
    I wanted to let you know what happened when I tried installing Internet Connection Sharing (ICS). In a nutshell, the ICS setup would not complete properly because I already had six instances of TCP/IP configured in Windows' Network Properties:

    TCPIP==>DIAL UP ADAPTER
    TCPIP==>DIAL UP ADAPTER 2 (VPN SUPPORT)
    TCPIP==>AOL ADAPTER
    TCPIP==>AOL DIAL UP ADAPTER
    TCPIP==>3COM NIC
    TCPIP==>ADSL MODEM

    The folks at AOL say I have to have their stuff or else AOL won't run. But I found a solution! I went to the Microsoft Knowledgebase and learned that you can increase the number of allowable TCP/IP instances to eight if you modify the maxinstance variable for the protocol. It's explained in Microsoft KB article Q217744. --Tom Caltabellotta

    No Serial Ports on Notebooks
    I just purchased a new Toshiba model 1755 laptop computer and it has no serial ports. Seems Toshiba believes we don't need them anymore. I had a GPS system geared toward a serial port that will not work now. There is no workaround either. When I called Toshiba on this point, the company said Toshiba and many other notebook makers have all decided not to supply serial ports any longer. They believe USB is enough. What a rip off. --Paul Hoffman

    Have you found out something that others should know about? Give it to them!
    Back to the Top


    New 'Find Winmag Content' Page
    In the last issue of SFNL I offered to help people find previously published Winmag content -- if they couldn't find it themselves. Well, I got too many emails to really answer many of them, and it seemed to me a lot of people had been half-hearted about their own searches. To help with this process, I've created a new page at the SFNL website called Find Winmag.com Content. Not only does it have the search field right there, but it also has a list of a dozen or two popular Winmag columns and articles. I'm continually adding to this page, so it's a good place for you to start if you're looking for something from Winmag.com.

    Back to the Top


    Windows and Broadband Q&A

    Uninstall IE 5.5
    Question: I installed IE 5.5 to fix a problem with Outlook Express. Although I figured out the Outlook Express problem, I have never been happy with IE 5.5. It's slow and unstable. Is there a clever way to uninstall 5.5 and install an earlier version (5.01) without having to reinstall Windows, or something equally ridiculous? --Jeff Dugas and Colin William [this question is an amalgam of two questions posed by these guys]

    Answer: As mentioned last issue, IE 5.01 Service Pack 2 (SP2) is this newsletter's recommended version of Internet Explorer. It's the one I use, and I've literally heard no problems about it from any reader or anyone in the industry. Some people find that they're able to uninstall IE 5.5, while others find they cannot. If you can uninstall IE 5.5, preferably back to the base IE version that your operating system came with, then skip the next paragraph to the one following about downloading and installing IE 5.01 SP2.

    If you cannot uninstall IE 5.5, the best workaround I can offer you is to download (if need be) and reinstall IE 5.5 back over itself. Once you have successfully reinstalled IE 5.5, you will almost certainly be able to uninstall it if you do so right away (without making other system changes).

    It's important for you to educate yourself about Internet Explorer before you install it. Microsoft Knowledgebase article Q267954 tells you about IE 5.01 (SP2). This Microsoft webpage is where you start the download process. When you click the Download Now button, you'll receive the small IE5SETUP.EXE file. Double-click that file to initialize the actual program download.

    Pay attention to the next few steps. One of the first screens you'll see will give you two options. Pick the one that reads: "Install Minimal, or customize your browser" (even though that might seem counterintuitive). In the middle of the next screen, you'll find a drop-down dialog that's easy to miss. From that drop-down, select "Full." By adding or removing check marks in the scroll window below, you can customize the setup file you download to include or exclude specific program options and to manage its size. Include everything you might someday want, but nothing you know you won't ever want.

    Next, click the "Advanced" button on the lower right. On the subsequent dialog, click the radio button beside "Download Only." I recommend that you place the files in a folder something like C:\Downloads\IE\IE 5.01 SP1. (Put all the rest of your downloads in the C:\Downloads folder too.) Chances are, you've picked between 20-30MB of stuff, so wait for that to come down. The steps I've just outlined separate the download from the installation.

    Once it's down, simply open the folder where you stored the download files and double-click the IE5SETUP.EXE file you'll find there. That begins the installation.

    Here's the really neat part. You don't have to install all the options you selected. You can use the "Install Minimal..." option again to select which options to install. In other words, you can selectively install a subset of options from the download files, and do so offline, where there are fewer possibilities of installation problems. That's especially useful if you have a slow or error-prone connection to the 'Net, or Microsoft's servers are having a bad hair day. What's more, if you decide to reinstall IE 5.01 SP1 or add an option later, you can go back to the same download set. Don't forget to copy the download set over to your second and third computer. --S.F.

    Difference Between NAT and Firewall
    Question: I read your ZoneAlarm piece and I have a question. If you are running a router and ZoneAlarm on your local network server, why would you need ZoneAlarm on all the network PCs. I thought that the router made the PCs behind it invisible. --Rick Wilke

    Answer: There are two answers to your question. First, the way most broadband routers are designed to work, the broadband modem plugs into the router, and your PCs plug into switches on the router, or you may connect a hub to the router, and the PCs plug into the hub. Either way, I think you can see that ZoneAlarm running on one of your PCs affords no protection to your other PCs.

    Second, there's a difference between invisible and impervious. The Network Address Translation (NAT) of your broadband router may help to make you less visible on the Internet. But if someone knows you are there, they can still get at you. Someone determined to specifically hack you, as opposed to someone randomly looking to hack someone, will not be stopped by your router. ZoneAlarm and other firewalls are designed to block entry. While it is possible to configure a software firewall to protect an entire network, you would need to configure your network differently than most low-cost broadband routers are designed to work. --S.F.


    Office XP Licensing
    Question: It has been my understanding, that in the past, Microsoft has allowed up to two installations of it Office series. Typically, one installation on your desktop PC and another one on your laptop (which is what I have currently). Will this still be the same with the new Office XP? --John and Susan Scott

    Answer: Yes, that is still the case with Office XP. And if you called them with a good reason, like you own three PCs of your own, they'd probably give you a code that will allow you to install it in three places. --S.F.

    Send your burning question to the newsletter and look for an answer in a future issue.
    Back to the Top


    Link of the Week: Teds Tech Site
    Sometimes a pointer page is just what you need. Anyone looking for information and links about Windows, hardware, antivirus, DOS, Java, Novell, newsletters, tech support, Linux, Microsoft support, and more should hop on over to Teds Tech Site.

    I have to be honest, Ted. The place ain't pretty. And we could do without the background music (but thanks for the Pause button). And we'd especially be happy to see you lose those annoying Tripod pop-up ads. But the list of links is absolutely superlative. SFNL readers, I promise you'll find a website or newsletter that you'll wish you'd found a year ago. Teds Tech Site is SFNL's Link of the Week!

    Reader Comments on Past Winner: PCNineOneOne.com
    "As always, you keep putting out the best newsletters about computing. Your last SFNL was no exception. I went to the "Link of the Week" at http://www.pcnineoneone.com/ . It's a great site that I now have in my Favorites. Of note, there were registry tweaks provided on the site. Some of them I tried and are pretty good. One of the registry tweaks was to provide a setting for "Powerful PC" in the file system choices in the System Properties > Performance > Advanced section. That was a new one on me." --Al Jack

    Reader Comments on Past Winner: PCPitStop.com
    "Just an FYI. PCPitstop was a lifesaver for me. I had a PC running very slow and all I could get out of Win98 System Monitor was that CPU usage was very high even when the PC was doing nothing. PCPitstop reported a problem with the hard disk. Eventually I got diagnostic software from the hard disk vendor and it reported an error with the hard disk that I reported back to them. PCPitstop sent me in the right direction after a lot of wasted software tweaks. Who would have guessed that a hard disk hardware problem would manifest itself as high CPU usage?" --Michael Horowitz

    Have you discovered a relatively unknown Windows- or broadband-oriented website that everyone should know about? Please send me the URL, and let me know why you liked it.

    Back to the Top


    Tip of the Week: Customize Start's Context Menu
    Last time I showed you how to explore your Web favorites better. This week I'm going to show you how to add the Explore Favorites shortcut command to your Start button's context menu for quick access. When this deed is done, you'll be able to right-click your Start button and choose Explore Favorites to rapidly access a two-pane folder showing all your Web Favorites. That's a good way to use this tip, but you can also use it to add virtually any shortcut-style command to the Start button's context menu. This is a good one, so settle in and get it figured out. Note: This tip has been tested with all versions of Win9x and Win2000. The directions follow Win9x steps more precisely than Win2000 steps.

    Open the System Registry Editor. Navigate to and click on this subkey on the left pane of RegEdit:

    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Classes\Directory\Shell

    Add a new subkey to the Shell folder by right-clicking Shell and choosing New, Key. The name you give this key will be the label for the new Start context menu item, so type "Explore Favorites." Now add a new subkey within Explore Favorites and call it "command." Select the new command folder on the left pane, and move the pointer to RegEdit's right pane and double-click the (Default) string value. Insert the following command exactly as it appears and then click OK:

    C:\WINDOWS\EXPLORER.EXE /e,root,c:\windows\favorites   or

    C:\WINDOWS\EXPLORER.EXE /e,/root,c:\windows\favorites

    Win2000 users: After you make the Explore Favorites\command subkey, select from RegEdit's menus Edit > Add Value, don't name the value, and choose REG_EXPAND_SZ from the Data Type drop down. Use the value you'll find further down in this Tip of the Week under the heading "Explorer Favorites for Windows 2000."

    When you right-click your Start button, you should now find the new Explore Favorites command there. A variation on the command string creates a single-pane folder window:

    C:\WINDOWS\EXPLORER.EXE c:\windows\favorites

    Or add any other shortcut-style or folder-specific command to Start's context menu in this fashion.

    Explore Favorites for Windows 2000
    I'd like to publicly thank Lee Suffridge, James M. Whiley, and Jim Whitt, all of whom wrote with similar variations on the same idea: Making the Explore Your Favorites tip from last issue of SFNL work properly under Windows 2000. So, here's the tip again, customized for Windows 2000:

    If you're really serious about bookmarks management, the best way to handle it is with a two-paned Favorites Explorer window that opens directly to your Favorites folder, shows all your favorites' subfolders, and displays what's in each one as you click it. Drag-and-drop copies and moves of multiple favorites icons are a snap, and it's easy to rename things or check their dates. To set this up, right-click the desktop and choose New > Shortcut. In the command-line field, type or paste this line:

    %windir%\explorer.exe /e,/root, C:\Documents and Settings\Administrator\Favorites

    If you are not the administrator or not logged in as the Administrator, you'll need to change the path statement to where the Favorites folder is located to match your user name, such as:

    C:\Documents and Settings\Scot\Favorites

    Similarly, if Windows 2000 is on a drive other than C:, you'll need to change that drive name in the pathname as well.

    Name the shortcut "Favorites Explorer." Now right-click the new shortcut and choose Properties. Click the Change Icon button. Click the Browse button, navigate to the \WINNT\System32 folder, locate and highlight the SHELL32.DLL file, and click Open. That will display a large palette of available icons for your new shortcut. Scroll to the right and choose the icon that shows a folder with a blue asterisk or star on it; click OK twice in succession to finish the job. Whenever you launch this shortcut it will open a two-paned Explorer window with folder hierarchy on the left side automatically rooted to your Favorites folder. You should also place this shortcut on your Favorites menu.

    Still More on FDISK /MBR
    More advice on this subject, from SFNL reader Paul Kinney: "I felt the need to write a quick note about the FDISK /MBR virus cleaning tip you published recently. Certain boot-sector viruses ("Monkey B" is one that I know of) will move and encrypt the master boot record (MBR) to a different location on the disk. Upon system boot, it decrypts and moves the MBR back to it's correct location so that everything looks OK. What this means however, is that if you try to restore it with the FDISK /MBR command, it will corrupt your good copy and you will loose all of your data. A quick way to tell if you have the "Monkey B" virus is by booting from a clean floppy and trying to access your hard drive. If you get an "Invalid Drive Specification" message, you've got it. The correct way to clean this type of virus is to use an antivirus program. Most of the major program vendors offer a trialware version that you can download and use for 30 days." --Paul Kinney

    Do you have a Windows or broadband tip you think SFNL readers will like? Send it along to me, and if I test it and print it in the newsletter, I'll print your name with it.

    Back to the Top


    Answers to Nagging SNFL Questions

      - Huge circulation increase!
      - Yahoo! Groups 'unsubscribe' SNAFU
      - Email addresses deleted from Yahoo! Groups
      - Solving Subscription issues
      - How to read back issues and other recurring requests
      - Privacy statement
      - SFNL's business model
      - Why Winmag.com shut down

    Five Times More Subscribers!
    Since the last issue, Scot Finnie's Newsletter (SFNL) has increased its circulation size by 400 percent, and the subscriptions keep rolling in. Most of that growth is due to two mailings CMP Media performed on my behalf, one to the Windows Insider list (on May 4) and the other to the Broadband Report list (on May 9). Some of you may have received two emails whose subject lines read "Message from Scot." Sorry to clutter up your mailboxes and possibly confuse you! There wasn't any good way to mail only one time or I would have done so. The good news is, that's it. There'll be no more mailings. Thanks for your patience.

    Scot Finnie's Newsletter is now a respectable size, and I hope to keep it growing. I hate to sound like a broken record, but please pass this issue along to a friend whom you think might be interested. Doing that really helps! Don't send it to people you don't know well, though.

    The Yahoo! Groups 'Unsubscribe' SNAFU
    Last week about 4,000 of the earliest subscribers to SFNL received a perplexing message implying that they'd attempted to unsubscribe from the newsletter. If you got one of those messages, just delete it. Yahoo! Groups' got its last revenge on me. For those of you who might not be aware, the first two issues of Scot Finnie's Newsletter were managed by the Yahoo! Groups newsletter distribution system. I quickly decided I didn't want to continue using Yahoo! Groups, so I migrated to a paid newsletter distributor beginning with the May 1 issue. Anyway, as I was laboriously deleting everyone's name from the old list, I wasn't aware that Yahoo! Groups was automatically sending out an old boilerplate message. I caught on in time to prevent that message going out to everyone. Even so, I received a lot of rightly confused mail. Sorry!

    Email Addresses Deleted from Yahoo! Groups
    By the way, every last email address was deleted from the Yahoo! Groups list. Many of you created Yahoo! email addresses whose primary purpose was to receive the newsletter. Some of you input personal data in the form you may have filled out when you created your Yahoo! address. If you're not using your Yahoo! email address for anything, I recommend you go back and delete as much as you can.

    Solving Subscription Issues
    That brings me to another point. For some subscribers, the current subscription tools are a royal pain. If you want to subscribe from an email account that you can't send from, you'll have difficulty with the current method. That may sound like a non-issue, but I assure you that more and more people are using ISPs or free email addresses that don't offer any means of sending a message. If you have any doubts, please read Fred Langa's first column at InformationWeek: Message in a Bottle

    I have two solutions to this problem. My friend Jason Levine and I are polishing off a .CGI script that will allow subscribes from my website that will allow you to just type in your email address. But there's also a short-term fix: Just send me an email containing the pertinent email address(es) and I'll take care of it.

  • To Subscribe If You're Having Difficulty.
  • To Get Help Changing Your Email Address.

    How to Read Back Issues and Other Recurring Requests
    Your suggestions about the SFNL newsletter and website matter to me. And I operate under the theory that when lots of people request the same thing, it's time for me to do something about it. Many of you, for example, asked that I change the blue background on the website because you found it made reading difficult. Okay, done! You can expect me to be equally responsive on other issues.

    Another recurring request is that I make it easier to find back issues of the newsletter. From now on, you'll find a link at the top of this newsletter to the SFNL Back Issues. For the time being, I am not posting this generally on the website. That's a decision I may revisit at a later time.

    Privacy Statement
    Many of you have asked me to develop and post a privacy statement. That will be done. I don't know how quickly it will be done, but it is on my list of things to do. I've also gotten requests for Dundee.net's Privacy Statement. They have one, but it's not really aimed at their Lyris list server business.

    So, for the short run, I hope this will suffice. I own Scot's Newsletter. There are no investors or backers, no business people waiting in the wings. My wife, Cyndy, edits it. A Winmag friend -- Heide Balaban -- does the graphics for the website. That's it. I'm not going to rent the list, sell it, or do anything with it other than mail this newsletter. What I will do is keep writing the best newsletters I know how to write. Privacy-wise, my story is simple. I'm the only one who is going to send you email or get your email address. And I'm not talkin'.

    For those of you concerned about my newsletter distributor, don't be. Dundee.net is in the business of managing lists for newsletter providers. They'd be absolutely nuts to do anything with your names. Here's a list of just some of their clients.

    SFNL's Business Model
    As reader Mark Condic wrote when he emailed asking how I intended to make money: "after all, we all have to eat." I didn't launch this newsletter with the expectation that it would make me any real money. On the other hand, I'm now spending money every month to keep it afloat. So, Mark is right, I have to develop some means of offsetting expenses. I'm considering three revenue streams, which I'll explain.

    A surprising, gratifyingly high number of you have written me offering donations or strongly urging me to institute a paid-subscription edition of Scot’s Newsletter. To facilitate donations to SFNL, I've signed up with PayPal. If you click the link below, you'll be able to send a monetary donation to help keep this newsletter afloat. Don't send me your last dime, folks. But if you can spare something for the cause, I would be sincerely grateful. You'll also find the PayPal button on the left side of the Scot Finnie's Newsletter home page. I would like to thank Virginia Sumner publicly for being the first person to donate to SFNL.

    There's one caveat on the donations: It doesn't look like I'll be able to apply credit from donations toward any future paid-subscription edition of SFNL because that's a logistical headache and a half. On the other hand, I'm not planning to launch a paid version in the near future. Even so, I believe that paid subscription -- the second revenue stream I'm considering -- is the future for email newsletters. At the same time, I also firmly believe in the free newsletter concept. The good news is that there's a way to mix the two.

    Winmag.com colleague Fred Langa was a pioneer in this area. He offers a Plus version of his excellent LangaList newsletter.

    Well, I'm considering a paid-subscription "Plus" version of Scot Finnie's Newsletter. If and when I do come out with an optional SFNL Plus version, I would continue the free version I have now. The Plus version's benefits would include an HTML mail edition, probably no advertisements, and some other things I'm quietly thinking about, but I don't have a complete plan yet. Fred charges $10 a year for LangaList Plus (a real bargain), and I would probably charge a similar amount.

    The third revenue stream is advertising. I wrote in a previous issue that I will take advertising that comes to me. I'm not going to become a salesperson. If companies don't come to me, then there won't be any ads. I'm not going to become a salesman. There will only ever be one ad at a time in the newsletter, and it will occupy the space at the top where you currently see the "house ad" for the ex-Winmag newsletter authors.

    Because this newsletter also reviews products and gives hard facts and pointed opinions about all sorts of things, this is my pledge that any ads I may accept will not affect the editorial. My responsibility is to my subscribers, not to advertisers. Fair and equal treatment for all companies is what you can expect. I'll continue calling them as I see them -- no matter what.

    If you'd like to give your opinion about anything you've just read concerning SFNL's business model, please send it with this link. I would be very interested in what you have to say.

    Why Winmag.com Shut Down
    With all the new subscribers, I continue to get questions about what happened to Winmag.com. I wrote a section in the first issue of this newsletter you might find interesting called Why Winmag.com Shut Down.

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    The Fine Print
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    Subscribe, Unsubscribe, Change Email Address or Message Format
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    Contributions
    To help with the cost of creating and distributing the newsletter, I accept contributions via PayPal and Letter Mail. For more information on donations:

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    Contact
    Send comments, suggestions, or questions about this newsletter. Don't be bashful about telling me what you like or don't like. Send emails related to editorial content (only) to scot@scotsnewsletter.com.

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