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March 2, 2002 - Vol. 2, Issue No. 22

By Scot Finnie

IN THIS ISSUE

  • DOJ Settlement Spurs News of Win XP Service Pack 1
  • Brass Tacks on Microsoft Antitrust Proceedings
  • In the News: Broadband Bill Passes the House
  • PC Makers: Lose the Junky Software
  • The @Home Migration Report Card
  • The Trouble with Email, Part II
  • Welcome HTML Beta Testers!
  • Subscription Issues - Help With Changes
  • Link of the Week: Computer America Radio Show
  • Tip of the Week: Reader-Submitted Tips
  • Subscribe, Unsubscribe, or Change Your Address.


    DOJ Settlement Spurs First News of Win XP Service Pack 1
    Things get complicated when you combine legal maneuverings with software development. No company on earth knows that better than Microsoft. For the Redmond, WA-based company, development plans are a multidimensional chess game that's dependent on far more than just customers needs or the quarterly P&L statement; it's also dependent on what legal proceedings do to change the way Microsoft may conduct business.

    One of Microsoft's top goals right now is to get U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to dismiss the antitrust suit brought by the nine states that refused to join the U.S. Department of Justice's proposed settlement. The judge has said she would rule on that motion on or after March 6. That's why the DOJ and Microsoft have hammered out revisions to the settlement proposal, many of which haven't been fully released to the public yet. For more information on the revisions to the settlement, see this story:

  • Microsoft, DOJ Make Changes to Settlement

    So what's all this have to do with Windows XP Service Pack 1? Microsoft has revealed its existence because it wants to make the point that it is already at work on changes to Windows XP that would comply with the DOJ settlement. It's hoping to strengthen its argument to the nine dissenting states in attempt to win them over to the DOJ settlement.

    If it wins all or most of them over before March 6th, then the judge might eliminate the second phase of the trial, scheduled to undergo consideration on or after March 11. That's when she'll consider new remedies proposed by the nine dissenting states that go a lot further than the DOJ settlement does. Microsoft wants to avoid that if at all possible.

    Here's the official word released by Microsoft to the press this week about the Windows XP Service Pack 1:

    "Microsoft is working towards delivering Service Pack 1 for Windows XP in the second half of this year. SP1 will roll up critical updates and contain enabling technologies for "Mira" and new types of PCs like the Tablet PC and the "Freestyle" enabled PC, which was shown at CES. It will also include the changes required by the consent decree with the DOJ and the nine states. More information about SP1 will be available soon.

    "Windows XP has been the most rapidly adopted operating system by PC manufacturers and the fastest selling version of Windows ever. SP1 will continue the momentum of Windows XP and deliver on our commitment to customers and partners to maintain the platform with the most up-to-date capability."

    One Microsoft executive likened Service Pack 1 to putting a coat of wax on your car. But that's pretty vague. In fact, all the details on Service Pack 1 are pretty vague. Like other Service Packs before it, Windows XP SP1 will probably be mostly a bug fix. If you're a little fuzzy on Mira, Freestyle, and Tablet PCs, I'm planning a story in an upcoming issue of the newsletter that will cover those technologies in more detail.

    Until then, here's the short form: Microsoft is working on several technologies as part of its Windows CE .NET efforts that will enable a new class of handheld PCs and applications. The Tablet PC, which is something of a cross between a Pocket PC and a notebook PC (to put it simply) is just one aspect of this thrust. For a quick overview, see this Microsoft press release from January's Consumer Electronics Show.

    Most published reports state that Win XP Service Pack 1 is expected in the third quarter of this year, even though the official word is "the second half" of the year. Microsoft really isn't saying more than I've printed above. Still, for more background, I recommend these two stories:

  • XP Update to Go Beyond Mere Fixes
  • WinXP SP1 to combine new goodies with the fixes

    Windows Security Updates
    Unless Win XP users have the automatic Windows Update features completely turned off, by now you probably have noticed that Microsoft released three security updates for Windows XP in the middle of February. The updates are for "Unchecked Buffer in SNMP," Incorrect VBScript Handling in Internet Explorer 6.0," and the ever popular "XMLHTTP Control Can Allow Access to Local Files."

    Although it lists them somewhat differently, Windows Update for Windows 9x/Me/NT offers a similar set of updates bundled into a new 3,311K Critical Updates package.

    I'm not a big proponent of everyone rushing to download a new security patch every time Microsoft feels like posting one. My best advice to you is to hang back (unless your PC is in a mission-critical environment where security is a top priority). The average computer isn't going to be suddenly attacked because he or she waited a week or three before installing the latest "critical update."

    Why not do it right away? A small but steady percentage of people have problems on their PCs after they install these updates. I get the emails. I got one from someone who installed the Windows 98 version of this patch. Waiting a few weeks, or even a few months, is no guarantee that you won't have a problem. However, if the problem is widespread, Microsoft will likely fix it. All I'm saying is, don't be a lemming.

    Back to the Top


    Brass Tacks on Microsoft Antitrust Proceedings
    Let's segue to something I haven't commented on in a while: The Microsoft antitrust proceedings. Since I try never to hold back my opinion (even if you hate me for it):

    I don't think Microsoft has any hope of having the judge accept the DOJ settlement as being the last word on the remedies in the antitrust trial. U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly will actively consider the proposal of the nine states and the District of Columbia. The fact that she okayed the opening of Windows XP source code to the nine dissenting states means that she's taking their argument seriously.

    That's as it should be. I was against breaking up Microsoft, even though there were several good ethical reasons for doing so. I just didn't think it was a practical solution. Microsoft is one of the most successful corporations in U.S. history. Cutting it two seemed like the cheap way out. But that wound up being almost a sideshow, because the real story was how Judge Jackson handled the trial. What I wondered aloud at that time, was: Is Judge Jackson Mad?

    I believed Jackson poisoned the case by publicly displaying that he'd lost his objectivity. And that mistake has colored the trial ever since. Microsoft couldn't have asked for a better sabotage job than Jackson did on himself. That's my personal opinion.

    The fast and loose settlement slapped together by the post-Clinton Department of Justice was equally ludicrous though. Americans have had good reason to lose faith in the U.S. judicial system over the last couple of years.

    Microsoft did overstep its bounds, especially over the last five to seven years. It abused its relationships with OEM PC makers. It flooded the market with free software in order to swamp its competitors. And it did so by bundling application software into it monopolizing operating system. Any notion that Internet Explorer could not be separated from Windows is patently absurd. A company called 98lite.net proved that several years ago. This same company is working on a release of its software, which strips Internet Explorer out of Windows, for Windows 2000 and XP right now.

    But even before that, the world seems to have forgotten that the very first release of Windows 95 did not have Internet Explorer in it. Microsoft quickly changed that (only a few months later), but you had to download and install IE 2.0 (or was it 1.0, now I can't remember) separately.

    Ironically, the trial itself and many other events in the computer industry have caused Microsoft to become far less customer focused than it used to be. While it has always been money driven, its actions seems bitter, short-term focused, and far less considered than they once were. What concerns me is that Microsoft does have a virtual monopoly, and it needs more than a slap on the wrist. Because otherwise, it's going to be Microsoft business as usual.

    And Microsoft business as usual means that Windows and Office do well, Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, and Outlook have little competition, and fewer and fewer independent software companies remain. This was once a thriving industry; that's not so any longer. Intel has AMD to keep it on its toes, to some extent. In the area of desktop software, Microsoft has no important competitors.

    This isn't to say that Microsoft lacks competition. AOL Time Warner, Sun, IBM, Oracle, and many others compete with Microsoft. But when it comes to desktop software, the only one that has any edge is AOL. And that edge is only in online software, online presence, and instant messaging.

    The forthcoming shift to Web services, if it is even truly a shift for anything but corporations (where it seems likely Web services will thrive), could be an equalizing gate for Microsoft. In other words, it might help level the playing field. But again, I don't see that being a gain for desktop users any time real soon.

    The computer industry is in a hurting place right now. Microsoft's dominance isn't helping. If more companies were encouraged to develop computer products, it would rekindle interest in PC purchases. Microsoft isn't the only company that can innovate. When it comes to desktop software, right now it's at the top of the short list of companies that are even trying to do business.

    What do you think?

    Back to the Top


    In the News: Broadband Bill Passes the House
    It comes down to this. Which do you believe are the bigger monopolies: AT&T Broadband and Comcast, along with Cox and the other cable-modem Internet-access providers -- or the four Baby Bells, Verizon, SBC, Qwest, and BellSouth?

    The bill known by several names -- including HR1542, the broadband bill, the Tauzin-Dingell bill, and the Internet Freedom and Deployment Act -- passed the House of Representatives this week. Proponents of this bill argued that it will free up the Baby Bells from pesky competition, like NorthPoint (chapter 11), Rhythms (Chapter 11), and Covad (emerging from Chapter 11) -- supposedly allowing the Bells to focus on the true bad guys, AT&T Broadband and the other cable-modem companies, which own a commanding share of the consumer broadband marketplace.

    Hogwash. The Baby Bells are a far more threatening monopoly. They own the copper phone lines required by DSL, and they are the reason DSL is so expensive. If they're deregulated, virtually all competitive carriers, such as Covad, will be out of business within two years (if not much sooner). The cable companies do have a head start. But the problem with DSL isn't that the Baby Bells don't have a reason to build out their infrastructures -- it's that they're greedy and want to own everything in their territories before they do.

    The Baby Bells have one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington and they're literally trying to buy their way back to a virtual lock on phone lines by taking apart regulation created by the Telecommunications Act of 1996. If it weren't for the 1996 act, I wouldn't have DSL. Verizon doesn't deign to offer DSL in my town. I get it through Covad and its customer, SpeakEasy. Tell me how casting aside the protections of the 1996 act would suddenly make Verizon more competitive. It would not. It would do the opposite.

    Look, I'm not saying AT&T and Comcast are perfect. They too may need regulation at some point. But the Bells have had years to prove that they're aboveboard about rolling out services in markets that are somewhat less lucrative to them, and they have failed at every turn. They had DSL technology for years but didn't release it. Why? Because pitiful ISDN was far more lucrative to them. It still is. And they still push it.

    Don't believe the rhetoric from the Baby Bells' lobbyists. Tauzin-Dingell must not be allowed to pass. Thankfully, it's looking like Senators McCain and Ernest Hollings are spearheading a drive to make passage in the Senate unlikely. But that same prediction was made by many about the House vote, which wound up being 273 to 157 in favor. Now's the time to write your senator.

    Meanwhile, we can't do much about Michael Powell, the FCC Chairman who is running similarly amok by reclassifying DSL service supposedly to spur competition. Translation: Michael Powell and the FCC have written off competitive carriers completely in an effort to prop up the Baby Bells. You have to ask yourself why otherwise bright people believe that the likes of Verizon and SBC need any help from government at all.

    Here are two of the better researched and reported news stories about the House vote this past week. Educate yourself.

  • House Passes Tauzin/Dingell Bill
  • House Grants Big Victory to Baby Bells

    Back to the Top


    PC Makers: Lose the Junky Software
    PC Makers have a dirty secret. They bundle wads of cheap, so-so software on new consumer PCs in an effort to make buyers think they're getting a good deal. But in the end, what users get is an overloaded PC that starts slowly, has few free system resources, and which may creak to a halt in the near future as additional programs are added. This isn't helping the end-user Windows experience -- and will ultimately cost PC makers customers.

    A lot of us complain about the PC experience, and rightfully so. Most of the experts, including yours truly, tend to point to the sheer complexity of PCs and their amazing flexibility, in defense of the computer industry. Your fax machine and TV set each perform only one task. Not so the computer. Because PCs can be programmed to do thousands of things, they're only as good as the programs that run on them. Blah, blah, blah.

    There's an enduring truth about the PC experience though. The computer industry isn't doing a whole lot about just how unreliable, unintuitive, and prone to frustrating disaster PCs are. Microsoft catches a lot of flack for that, and they deserve some of it. But PC makers also share the blame in my book.

    One of the biggest goofs some PC companies make is peppering their systems with dozens of two-bit programs in the name of "adding value." It's a wonder consumer PCs boot at all. Although this is somewhat less true of business PCs, some models aimed at small businesses tend also to be laden down with applets and gizmos that load automatically when Windows starts. The result is often slow performance, much longer Windows start times, and a radical reduction in Windows' system resources.

    To prove the point, I made a junket to a nearby CompUSA superstore. I closely examined one model from every maker the retailer carries, some 10 different brands. I checked each sample PC for the number of background applications running and available system resources at boot. The results were alarming. The sample Compaq model was programmed at the factory with some 31 background programs and routines, and it had only 64 percent free system resources. The Hewlett-Packard I chose had 37 programs running in background with just 66 percent free system resources. To put that in perspective, I make it a personal rule to reboot any Win9x PC whose system resources fall below 60 percent; I also expect to find at least 80 percent free system resources at Windows start. Over the years, I've found Windows 9x runs best within these parameters. (Note: These facts come from research that is about two years old, but in my estimation there hasn't been a marked change in the way PC makers overstuff consumer PCs with background applications.)

    No One Talks About It
    Quantifying a system resources reliability range could be the subject of debate, but many knowledgeable industry insiders I talked to for this story -- including some who work for PC makers -- agree that too many programs and, in some cases, sub-standard software are being pre-installed on consumer PCs. The ironic part is that's been true for a long time. Five years ago many PC makers were heavily marketing software-based telephone-answering systems for home office/small business PCs. Lots of people bought those computers based on this perceived value, but what many wound up with was a giant headache instead. You had to leave the PC on day and night, some of the programs couldn't be uninstalled or easily reconfigured, and there were performance and telephone line issues. In a nutshell, the average $69 telephone answering machine was a more viable solution.

    So why do some PCs continue to come jam-packed with automatically running software? Two main reasons: Differentiation and dollars. PC makers have precious little they can offer that sets them apart from their competition. Software that solves a specific problem or adds functionality increases sales, even if the buyers wind up being disappointed. Would it surprise you to know that a few software publishers actually pay PC companies kick-backs or incentives to pre-install their software on new PCs? This is true of some programs that serve as clients for subscription-based services, like online companies. Since most smaller programs cost PC makers very little -- often under a dollar a copy -- there's little incentive for them to hold back.

    But none of these reasons is really valid enough to risk diminishing your experience with that new PC. Some ideas should be common sense: 1. No PC should come factory installed with so many background applications that boot times, operating system performance, or system reliability are even slightly impaired. (It's outlandish that the facts compel me to say that.) 2. No pre-installed software should lack an uninstaller. 3. No PC that comes with hardware that requires pre-installed software to run should come without a CD or floppy containing that software. 4. PC companies and antivirus makers should make clear to us how to temporarily disable background antivirus software, because real-time antivirus checking should be temporarily disabled whenever operating system patches or upgrades, new browser software, and major application software are installed.

    Many people know they have too many background applications running or that they should disable antivirus apps before doing a Windows upgrade, but few know how. (For step by step instructions, see the links at the end of this section of the newsletter.)

    There's more on the wish list, too. PC buyers should be able to choose before they buy a computer (or from a menu when they first turn it on) what software they want and what software they don't want. All pre-installed software should be listed and explained in a prominent tutorial or document supplied by the PC maker. Direct sellers, like Dell, Gateway, and Micron, offer some choices before you buy. For example, you can say no to bundled antivirus software before you buy a Dell PC. More retail brands could make this available with first-start system configuration programs. PC makers better start looking well beyond the initial sale to customer satisfaction and retention. Because if they don't have that, all they have is a sale, not a customer. In this time of dying PC sales, repeat customers are a whole lot more important.

    One last obvious idea. Call me an eternal optimist, but is it really too much to ask that a temporary coalition of at least some of the world's top PC makers -- Compaq, Dell, Gateway, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, MicronPC, Sony, Toshiba -- gather with Intel, Microsoft, Symantec, Lotus, Network Associates, Corel, and others to work on guidelines for improving the PC experience? Other industries manage to come to terms on accepted practices. The personal computer industry has been around long enough now that it should stop hiding behind the excuse that it's a fledgling industry moving too fast for such niceties. It's time to get real about making PCs do what they're supposed to.

    For step-by-step instructions on how to rid yourself of bloatware background apps, see:

  • Dump Unwanted Automatically-Launching Apps and Services

    For information on using MSCONFIG.EXE, which is a big help in managing startup applications, see:

  • Using MSCONFIG to Temporarily Disable Background Apps

    Truly observant readers will note that this piece is reprised from a previous work. It's been updated and re-edited for Scot’s Newsletter. But it's just as applicable today as it was in late 1999.

    Also, if you liked this piece, you'll probably like this previous Scot’s Newsletter special issue:

  • Build a Better User Experience ... Or Get Out of the Way

    Back to the Top


    The @Home Migration Report Card
    With February 28 deadline come and gone, all four million or so Excite@Home cable-modem Internet access customers have been forcibly pushed off the Excite servers. Hopefully you've all also made the transition to your new servers provided by your cable companies.

    In the last issue of SFNL, I asked @Home subscribers to tell me about their personal experiences in the migration process away from the @Home servers to servers of their cable company, such at AT&T Broadband, Comcast, Cox, Insight Communications, Adelphia, Mediacom, Charter, and others. (If your cable company isn't covered, it means I either didn't get enough responses to include it.) So, bBased on the many emails you sent, here's the SFNL Report Card on the transition process from @Home to the various cable companies.

    InsightBB: A+
    I didn't get a single, even partially negative email about people's transitions to InsightBB cable from @Home. Most of the emails raved about how great InsightBB is, and only one email mentioned a slight hiccup that was quickly resolved. All in all, these folks had the best time, and may even be much better off with their new back end.

    Adelphia and Mediacom: A
    The sample size of people who wrote about Adelphia and Mediacom was the tiniest of the bunch. But all the messages were positive. Words like "flawless" and "painless" were used by customers of these two companies to describe the changeover. If the sample sizes were larger, I might have been tempted to give these two companies A+ too.

    Cox: B+
    Most people did pretty well with the Cox conversion, which began overnight the night of January 23. The people who had the hardest time may have been the early adopters. Cox had problems with its servers for about five days at the end of January. During that period there was a lot of frustration. Compounding the problem was that Cox's tech support was completely overwhelmed with phone calls. Many people were unable to get through for several days. For those who hung back a week or two, many describe the transition as being easy. Cox sent a disc in the mail that provided a wizard-like setup experience. I know of more than one person for whom the wizard didn't work, but it did the trick for most. More experienced users complained that all it did was brand IE and OE with Cox logos, and that it was easier just to make the configuration changes themselves.

    Cox performance has also been pretty good. One Orange County, CA, reader wrote that his average performance with Cox after the transition is: Speed 3172kbps downstream and 273kbps up (DSLReports). Not too shabby for roughly $40 a month. Other performance testers may show slower performance though. Another reader, though, said his performance dropped from an average 1.5Mbps to about 490kbps, a marked difference.

    Despite the fact that most people had only minor problems with the transition, a small contingent of Cox folks had serious, bigtime, show-stopper annoyances. Rhode Island was one area hard hit, but it wasn't alone. One guy wrote in excruciating detail about a two-hour field technician visit to his home, after which he still didn't have a working connection.

    Charter Pipeline: B Compared to most past @Home customers, Charter subscribers are happy. But terse communication and difficult setup issues haunted less experienced users, who often were frustrated. One major plus: No one is complaining about a reduction of performance.

    AT&T Broadband: C
    The most honest thing I can say about the experiences of people who have converted to AT&T Broadband from Excite@Home is that there isn't a solid trend. I have mail raving about everything from an easy transition to much faster performance, as well as very disappointed messages about having a terrible transition and much slower performance. The reality may simply be this: AT&T's cable-modem Internet access service has been purchased willy-nilly from a variety of sources over the last several years. Regional differences may account for the differences. AT&T had to make room on a variety of servers to absorb its @Home customers. In some areas, that may have caused a problem while in others it was no big deal.

    Although lack of VPN support and the loss of a static IP address are issues for ATTBI customers, I was surprised that not many people complained about it. The bigger problem for many was that they were cut off from all service for anywhere from a day to a week before the transition took place. That really wasn't AT&T's fault, in my opinion. It was Excite's stupidity to do that to their outgoing customers as a way of thumbing their nose to the AT&T board. Whether Excite had an honest beef or not, taking it out on the customers was mean spirited.

    All in all, many AT&T customers seem more or less happy. Their biggest concern may well be the prospect of being taken over by Comcast.

    Comcast: F
    This is where the big problems were. Email was especially hard hit, and I even emails from just the last couple of days with people complaining that they're still getting error messages when they attempt to send/receive (and other issues). Also, apparently only one of the seven Excite@Home email addresses people had is protected by Comcast. The rest were turned off by default. Finally, many people report that it was Comcast transition and "registration" software that caused the problems on their PCs. Folks who found a way to bypass the Comcast software say their email transitions went smoothly.

    The lack of newsgroup service really rankles experienced users. One suggested that it might still be possible to sign-up for newsgroup access at this link.

    He's not sure because the process requires email correspondence, and his Comcast email is still problematic. I can't test the above link because I'm not on Comcast. So my apologies if it's bad or is a dead end. But I thought it might be worth including just in case.

    Blocked VPN service is another issue that troubles new Comcast users. The company began its prohibition of VPN in 2000, although apparently it is still technically possible to run VPN, it just against the Comcast user agreement.

    Perhaps because of the ongoing email problems, I actually received more messages from pre-existing Comcast customers, those who didn't go through the transition from @Home. One wrote: "My experience with Comcast has always been that when it's good, it's good, but when it's bad, it's really bad." The tech supports scripts (the things tech support is required to say to each customer), he added, are really annoying.

    Reports about Comcast performance are all over the place. But the worst reports, which came from more than one SFNL reader, were that throughput measures in the 320kbps upstream, 90kbps downstream range. That's very poor performance for cable-modem service. To be sure, that experience isn't universal, but it's bad enough that I would recommend looking for an alternative broadband source.

    More than any other company, the emails from Comcast customers are the most frustrated and tell the biggest horror stories. Profanity is more common in these messages than literally any email I've ever gotten for Scot’s Newsletter, Broadband Report, or Windows Insider. Let me tell you, that's a whole lot of email. Even the people who report that there transition went -- and there are a few of them -- mention things like having to spend 1.5 hours on the phone to tech support just to get there email running. More than any other service reported on, Comcast customers also report that they still have outstanding issues. Given that Comcast was among the first to switch over, that's especially telling.

    All in all, it wasn't hard to award Comcast a failing mark. I think many Comcast customers might say that Comcast did better than an F. But the preponderance of negative experiences forces me to tell it like it is.

    I want to warmly thank all the many SFNL readers who contributed to this report. About 200 readers in all. Especially Cox customers, who came out in droves. I didn't have time to respond to all your messages. So please accept this thanks as my response. -- Change Your MediaOne.net Subscription to Scot’s Newsletter!
    Time is running out. Are you still subscribed to Scot’s Newsletter with your MediaOne.net address? My understanding is that AT&T is pulling the plug on that domain name by March 15. Please visit the Scot’s Newsletter subscription center to change your address right now. Or if you need help, send me an email directly.

    Or send an email to scot@scotsnewsletter.com and make sure the subject line reads:

    COA_Mediaone

    In the body of the message, please type your old Mediaone.net address and your new Attbi.com address (or whatever), labeled as such, like this:

    old: scot@mediaone.net
    new: scot@attbi.com

    Thanks.

    Back to the Top


    The Trouble with Email, Part II
    To the many Pegasus Mail, The Bat!, and Calypso faithful who've written me over the last couple of weeks: In The Trouble with Email from the last issue of this newsletter your email programs were mentioned in passing. But I guess I have some disappointing news. I've looked at all three programs in the past and have found them wanting. Here's the good news: Two of these applications, Pegasus and The Bat!, show promise. Calypso, though, has been abandoned by its developers -- and so very definitely isn't recommended by me even as an alternative email program. (I have that information, by the way, directly from the company itself. It's gone.) That's a shame because I liked Calypso's interface very much. Far more polished than Pegasus, The Bat!, or Eudora, for that matter. Perhaps second only to Outlook Express. Because Calypso is defunct, I've crossed it off the list. The last thing anyone should use is an unsupported email program that won't be updated.

    Pegasus Email
    Pegasus has always had a lot of the requisite raw power, but I have trouble with the product's mindset. The company seems focused on selling email servers and documentation -- not on making a client that rocks. There is a new version that I've installed and am looking at. Perhaps it will change my mind. But I have to say that the installation experience did not change my past impressions one whit.

    Perhaps you'll want to check it out for yourself. Pegasus Mail is probably the leading alternative email product out there. It's as old, if not older, than Eudora. And that's saying something. Outlook and Outlook Express are sniveling brats by comparison:

    The Bat!
    I first tested The Bat! perhaps two years ago, and I haven't looked at it since then. I like the feel of it better than many other alternative emailers. And I plan to test the 1.53d version again in the near future.

    But from talking to some of the SFNL readers who've suggested that I look at it, I'm left with the impression that The Bat! still doesn't do Identities/Personalities. In fact, the frustrating thing is that everyone says that The Bat! does Identities/Personalities because it handles multiple email accounts. But that's not what Identities or Personalities are.

    Think of personalities -- a feature that originated with Eudora and was copied exceedingly well by Microsoft for Outlook Express -- as the ability to save a set of account settings and a specific Return Address by a user-assigned name.

    I know from experience that that definition doesn't do justice to this complex topic, so let me describe one of the ways I use it. I have several ISPs -- I think seven or eight. But I have something like 25 Eudora personalities. More than one of my ISPs allows me to use whatever return addresses I choose. (Some people call this "mail relaying," and frown because it's a process that can be used to SPAM people. Of course I don't use it that way, and I don't condone unsolicited mail in *any* fashion.) That capability lets me use my ISP to respond to messages on accounts that I receive from mail-forwarding services, such as Bigfoot.com and Iname.

    Why the heck would I do that? I'll give you an example. I have a universal email address hosted by Bigfoot.com. Let's not get into the fact that I hate the fact that my "Bigfoot 4 Life" email address suddenly costs me $20 a year, or whatever it is. I decided to pay it because I have a huge, absolutely humongous investment in that all my friends, family, acquaintances, and a bunch of other people -- including virtually every Internet store and online registration -- have my Bigfoot.com address on file. This Bigfoot.com address is my de facto personal address.

    Here's the thing. Bigfoot is a mail-forwarding service. It doesn't host my email. It just forwards the mail I receive to its address to whatever ISP I choose. So when I receive this mail, it actually comes to me from Bigfoot via my DSL ISP, SpeakEasy. When I respond to a message I receive from Bigfoot by way of SpeakEasy, I want those messages to be from my Bigfoot.com address, not my SpeakEasy account. Otherwise I would confuse the heck out of people, and also completely mess up the whole reason for having a Bigfoot account -- to have a permanent email address, regardless of what ISP I happen to be using currently. Happily, SpeakEasy (one of the smarter ISPs on the planet), lets me do this. And for that reason, I will probably stay with them for a long, long time. SpeakEasy gets the Internet.

    Back to Eudora and Personalities: Eudora lets me name and save a Bigfoot account even though the "account" is actually a SpeakEasy account. All the connection details are to SpeakEasy, but the return address is a Bigfoot address, and I can separate that account from my SpeakEasy account. And that's a very, very good thing. Why? Because I use my SpeakEasy email return address as a personality that is my mail-forward to my official TechWeb.com address. In other words, people send me email to sfinnie@cmp.com, my TechWeb address, but my company automatically forwards those messages to my SpeakEasy account. When I reply to those messages, I can reply to them with sfinnie@cmp.com as my return address.

    So think about it for a second. Both my personal email and my business email are being processed by the same ISP, but they don't intermix. The reason they don't is Eudora's Personalities feature -- and its excellent email filtering features. These two sets of email remain separate in my mail store even though they come across he same ISP because of two things:

    1. Eudora lets me create personalities.
    2. Eudora lets me filter (use email rules to route) incoming *and* outgoing messages based in a special way: by the names of my personalities.

    Okay, so enough said about personalities. You may not quite get what I'm trying to convey; it's a complicated subject. My apologies if you don't. But there are two additional points I want to make on the subject of why Eudora out-powers the competition. The first I just referred to. Eudora lets me filter *outbound* messages. You can't do that in Outlook or Outlook Express. Last time I checked you couldn't do it in The Bat! or Pegasus Mail either. The ability to filter outbound messages means that you can put your responses in the same mail folders in which you place incoming messages on the same topic. It's so obvious, I don't know why Microsoft told me it wasn't planning to do that back in 1998 or so when it launched all the major features of Outlook Express that are basically unchanged to this day. They didn't see the need for applying rules to outbound messages.

    Does it sound like a hopeless geeky thing to do? Let me step back a bit and make the second point. Email contains your best thoughts, and those of others, on any given day. Whether it's about our personal lives or our businesses, email very often contains invaluable information that you can't buy anywhere. Your perspective, and those of your correspondents, is very often not repeatable. Tomorrow you will think differently about things, even though today, your thoughts may be the true gems. That's why knowledge management products, such as Enfish Personal are building steam, mostly in the corporate space. If companies could truly harness the thoughts and ideas of their employees, chances are they could succeed in ways that most companies don't. Ideas, opinions, insights are the special intelligence that makes one company different from another -- and one company excel where another doesn't.

    That's the backdrop; here's the hard data. I organize my mail by folders that mean something to me. I have nearly 1,000 email folders. Every person who means something in my life ... every company I regularly correspond with ... every topic that has special meaning to me ... each of these things has its own folder in my mail store, which is well over 1.5GB in size. Nearly 550 Eudora Email filters automatically control the routing of incoming and outgoing messages in this special arrangement of folders. Or let me put it another way: I rarely ever have to delete an email message. Even SPAM gets tucked away in a folder, or automatically deleted if it's dangerous. My mail is 95 percent presorted, and even if I don't read it right now, it's waiting for me later. When I need to lay my hands on something I wrote about XYX topic three years ago, it takes me only seconds to do that. The same when I need to find a message from a friend, a colleague, or from a company.

    By identifying and routing outbound messages as well as inbound ones, I have an easy way to review both my own thoughts and those of people who send messages to me. The fact that most if not all other email packages don't let you filter outbound messages is a clear indication of how little those companies value the medium their products serve. You can say what you want to about Eudora's interface -- and it is bad -- but the company's programmers get email and its fundamental value better than any other company building email software.

    These are only some of the features that keep me using Eudora -- hate it though I do in some ways -- over products like The Bat!. Yes, I think I probably use email to its utmost. I think I probably demand more from an email application than 80 percent of the people using email. Maybe 90 percent. But the sad truth is that Outlook Express does 70 percent of what I need. Eudora does 90 percent. The next nearest packages, Outlook, Pegasus, The Bat! are more like 40 percent. People say Pegasus Mail's email rules, rule. I don't think so. If you can prove me wrong, I welcome the input.

    Message to the programmers of The Bat!: I would be only too happy to sit down with you in person, on the phone, or via instant message or email and explain what I think the product doesn't do that it needs to do. (Actually, I extend that offer to Pegasus Mail's David Harris too, but I kind of doubt he'll take me up on it since he hasn't been receptive to my ideas in the past.) There is an opportunity for a product at this level to surpass both Eudora and Outlook Express. Those products are now both beginning to languish. I'm willing to jump ship. And I think other expert email users also have an ear cocked toward any product that takes the high road and delivers the goods. (On the other hand, The Bat! hasn't been updated since June of 2001 either.)

    So if you're an email application programmer, here's your master thesis. Take Eudora Email (the paid version) apart at the seams. Learn why it does what it does; adopt all its functionality, but cast aside its user interface. (Regard Outlook Express for UI.) The resulting product has the chance to succeed in the face of Microsoft's product domination. No guarantee, but a chance. Any company that's willing to try, while focusing on the end-user experience, will certainly get this newsletter's support. I can almost promise the support the support of many other independent reviewers, computer magazines, and especially, users. People are fed up with crummy email. That was actually the single most common response to the Part I article on this subject.

    This Just in from Qualcomm
    Just as I was about to wrap up this issue, I got a tip from an SFNL reader that Qualcomm was considering open source development of Eudora. Because I've been critical of the lack of recent Eudora development, I had to run this notion down. After contacting a lot of different folks at Eudora, I finally talked with VP of Engineering, Steve Dorner.

    He admitted Qualcomm has been considering a lot of different possibilities for Eudora, and that open-source development was one of them. He also didn't deny the fact that almost 11 months was a long time to go without even a minor update to the Windows version of the product. Clearly the company has been considering various options. But Dorner added Qualcomm's upper management has recently reaffirmed its commitment to Eudora Email. Although Steve didn't say anything more on the point, I got the impression that neither a sale of Eudora nor a switch to open source was likely in the near future.

    A beta of the Mac OS X version of Eudora is in the works already. Something I hadn't noticed.

    While it's not apparent now on the Eudora beta page, a new Windows version of Eudora Email is being worked on. Dorner said that the Windows beta would arrive "in fairly short order," and the second quarter as a time frame is a "safe bet." Although he mentioned no specific dates, I have the impression that the beta could arrive as soon as the end of March. Dorner also set expectations, saying the new version would be a modest update to the product.

    So maybe there's hope yet for Eudora.

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    Welcome HTML Beta Testers!
    Last time I mentioned the beta test trial I'm running on the new HTML email version of the newsletter. This issue is the first one to go to a significant number of HTML subscribers. I expect there will be some problems with certain email packages. I may or may not be able to fix them. If you're seeing problems, please refer back to the sign-up page on how to send me feedback about the problems you're having. I need several details from you before I can even think about working on what went wrong.

    If you missed the announcement in the last issue, here's where you can sign-up to receive future issues of this newsletter in HTML email. Please read through the information on this page. I can't support certain email packages, and there are some other caveats. Anyway, check it out:

    http://www.scotsnewsletter.com/subcenter/subscribe.htm

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    Subscription Issues - Help With Changes
    Over the last couple of weeks I've discovered there's a problem with Web-form based Subscribe and Unsubscribe fields that appear on the Scot’s Newsletter Subscription Center, the website version of the newsletter issues, and the HTML version of the newsletter.

    By Web forms, I mean the subscribe/unsubscribe options where there's a blank field (or one that reads: "Type Email Address") in which you type your email address and then press a Subscribe or Unsubscribe button. The email-based subscribe and unsubscribe methods continue to work perfectly.

    The problem, which I'm tracking down with the help of a variety of experts, is intermittent. In other words, it works sometimes. Unsubscribe seems to be more affected than Subscribe. The Text version of the newsletter is much more susceptible to the bug, but that probably just because it is huge by comparison with the two week-old HTML version of the newsletter, which currently boasts 600 subscribers. (Each version has it's own separate list.)

    We believe the problem has to do with increased anti-SPAM measures implemented by both the Scot’s Newsletter Web host (Hostway) and its newsletter distributor (Dundee.net). So far I haven't been getting a lot of cooperation from Hostway in figuring this out. There's even a chance I will wind up switching Web hosts again. But first I want to get to the bottom of it.

    In the meantime, please be aware that, even though this problem may continue for a while, that doesn't mean you cannot unsubscribe from Scot’s Newsletter. You absolutely can. But you need to understand some things:

    If you try to subscribe or unsubscribe from an email address whose account you can't send or receive to, you may run into issues with the email based subscription methods. They're designed for people who actually have access to their accounts -- which makes sense when you think about it. It just doesn't match how people actually work with their ISPs and email addresses. In fact, many @Home and Mediaone.net users are facing hard stops on their old email addresses right now. So it's a particularly bad time for this to happen. I do, however, have two solutions to offer.

    I am in the process of building a new page of information about how to subscribe, unsubscribe, and change your address to SFNL. Until that's done, I want to direct your attention to my friend Fred Langa's Help page on managing this process yourself. Fred uses the same Web host and newsletter distributor I do. And his instructions are very clear. He doesn't offer a Web-form-based Unsubscribe option. Here's what he tells his subscribers.

    Pay attention in particular to the method he describes about changing your return address. That doesn't work with every ISP, but if it works with yours, this is your easiest solution.

    I'd prefer if you followed Fred's advice, but if you don't understand, don't want to take the time, or have tried it and it doesn't work for you, please feel absolutely free to ask for my help by using one of these three links. No questions asked.

  • Subscribe Me (or mail to scot@scotsnewsletter.com with the subject: Subscribe)
  • Unsubscribe Me (or mail to scot@scotsnewsletter.com with the subject: Unsubscribe)
  • Change My Address (or mail to scot@scotsnewsletter.com with the subject: Change_My_Address)

    In the weeks to come, I may be revising all the subscription methods either temporarily or permanently. That's still being worked out. But whatever changes I make, they'll be made to ensure you can unsubscribe and make other changes whenever you want to, and that they'll be as convenient as I can make them. That's always been my primary goal.

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    Link of the Week: Computer America Radio Show (and More)
    Shameless self promotion, I guess. This week's Link of the Week is the Computer America Tech Talk Board, a discussion area adjunct to Craig Crossman's popular and long-running Computer America radio show. I've agreed to mind the store on the Tech Talk Board as a regular "technical consultant" to the show and forum.

    Cut to the chase: I wouldn't have signed up for the gig if I didn't think the show was interesting, and worthy of Scot’s Newsletter support. Mike Elgan, who writes Mike's List, is a regular on the show. So check out both Computer America and its Tech Talk Board.

  • Computer America Radio Broadcast
  • Computer America Tech Talk Board
  • Mike's List

    Best Windows Product Activation Story
    If you know me and Scot’s Newsletter, you know I'm not a big fan of Microsoft's Windows Product Activation. But I've tried to present information about it fairly. A second Link of the Week this week goes to Alex Nichol's Windows Product Activation (WPA) on Windows XP, which is hosted on Jim Eshelman's Windows Support Center website. Eshelman's site was Link of the Week two issues ago.

  • Windows Product Activation (WPA) on Windows XP

    Alex's piece on product activation demystifies several aspects of the Microsoft anti-piracy technology. Many of the things he says I know to be true, and others Microsoft has told me in the past. But in particular, it's Alex's explanation about what hardware gets checked that I haven't seen published in this much detail before. This is a must-read for SFNL readers who have Windows XP, are considering it, or will ever buy a new PC with Windows XP on it.

    For more on product activation from Scot’s Newsletter, see the Best Of piece on WPA.

    Bonus Link
    One more link this week. The interactive Web graphic "man" on this Web page is cool. Pass your mouse over it and see what happens:

  • The.Man.Project by Aaron Clinger

    Thanks to Rusty Weston for passing the link my way.

    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.

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    Tip of the Week: Reader-Submitted Tips
    This week I have a couple of reader-submitted tips that I think you'll find worthy. Recently, I've received a lot more reader tips, and I plan to work through them. So if you sent one, please wait patiently. Any that I haven't run before that are worth publishing, I will publish. And if you've got a good Windows tip -- for any version of Windows -- please send it along.

    All Purpose Notepad
    I've found it useful to have a shortcut to Notepad in the QuickLaunch area of the taskbar (just to the right of the Start button. If I see something on the Internet or anywhere that I want to save, I can select exactly what I want by highlighting it, pressing Ctrl-C to copy, opening Notepad, and pressing Ctrl-V to paste the selected text into Notepad. Then I can save or print it. I use it on the Scot’s Newsletter archives a lot.

    To place Notepad on your taskbar, open the Start Menu > Programs > Accessories. Depress the Ctrl key. Click and drag the Notepad icon off the menu and drop it onto the QuickLaunch area on the taskbar (directly to the right of the Start button). That's all there is too it. A single click summons Notepad from the QuickLaunch area. (XP users, you may have to enable QuickLaunch first.) --Michael Wark

    Response: Funny, I have Notepad on my taskbar for a similar reason. I routinely copy URLs, their names, and sometimes all or part of the text on them into documents I save for use later on. Trouble is, when you paste Web text into Word, from the Web often gets carried over. Word XP has a laborious process for making the new text conform to your default style, but it's often not worth the trouble. Pasting the text into a Notepad window strips the formatting. Then I can copy and paste the text into Word or an email message without having to hassle with formatting. I wish Microsoft would get hip and realize that preserving the default formatting should be an optional setting on pastes from the clipboard. And also, that Notepad's window should remember size and positioning. --S.F.

    Hot Win XP Recovery Console Tip
    SFNL reader Kevin Kehoe contributed the basic nut of this tip. Thanks, Kevin. He wrote: "Further to your comments about being able to boot to CD and the Recovery Console to work on an NTFS drive, or FAT32 for that matter, you can also install the Recovery Console on your hard drive so that it will come up on Windows XP's boot menu." Kevin's right. Here's everything you need to know about Recovery Console, and how to make it very easy to access.

    The Recovery Console is a DOS-like command line (it's not actually DOS) that provides a long list of commands that you can use to get your PC out of trouble when problems arise. The advantage of having it installed on your disk means you can access it much more quickly. The best option is to boot your computer to your Windows XP CD and wait while it loads the entire Windows XP Setup process before it offers you the Recovery Console option -- something that takes several minutes. Trust me, it's annoying.

    Here's a list of Recovery Console commands, which are very like DOS commands, which should help you decide whether this tip is worth your while.

    Here are things you need to know: Installing Recovery Console on your hard drive will cost you 7MB of disk space. You need to be connected to the Internet to complete the installation. And after you follow the procedure, each time your start your PC, you will be offered the option to either run Windows XP or start the Recovery Console via the text-based Startup menu. Because of this boot menu, there's a delay in how quickly Windows will boot by default. You can simply press Enter when the boot menu appears to bypass it. But if you don't do anything, adding Recovery Console adds 30 seconds to your Windows boot time. I'll give you a way to shorten that delay later in this tip though. Finally, if something goes seriously wrong with your hard drive, Recovery Console may go down for the count with everything else on your hard disk. At that point, the fact that you'll have to load Recovery Console from your Windows XP CD will be the least of your worries.

    Weighing all the pluses and minuses, I decided to install the Recovery Console option on all my Windows XP machines. If you already have a XP's multiple-boot menu happening (because you have Win98 and Win XP running on the same PC, for instance), adding Recovery Console adds no time to the boot process at all. All you're doing in that case is adding a Startup menu item.

    Here are the steps for installing the Recovery Console to your hard disk:

    1. With Windows XP running, insert your Windows XP CD in the drive, and click Exit when the installation options are displayed.

    2. Click Start > Run > and type:

    {CD Drive Letter}:\i386\winnt32.exe /cmdcons

    Replace {CD Drive Letter} with the driver letter of your CD drive. Press Enter. Note: If the i386 directory is already installed on your computer (as might be the case in computers purchased with Windows XP pre-installed), you may be able to skip inserting your Windows XP CD.

    3. Follow the instructions on screen to install the Recovery Console, and when the installation is complete, restart your computer.

    4. The Recovery Console will show up in the list of available operating systems in the Startup or boot menu. You must be an administrator to use the Recovery Console.

    An alternative method is to boot to the CD and start WINNT.EXE, then when prompted to Install or Repair, click Repair, which installs the Recovery Console for you.

    To speed up the boot menu, with XP running, choose Start > Control Panel > System. Click the Advanced tab. Click the Startup and Recovery Settings button. To the right of the line "Time to display list of operating systems" you'll find a scroll box listing seconds. Change it to read 5, 10, or 15 seconds -- whatever your preference is. This controls how long the boot menu will display before it automatically begins loading Windows XP. I use 10 seconds.

    Removing Recovery Console from Your Hard Disk
    If you change your mind, you can delete the Recovery Console from your hard disk by following these instructions:

    1. Open My Computer (click Start and then My Computer).

    2. Double-click the hard drive to which you installed the Recovery Console.

    3. On the Tools menu, click Folder Options and the View tab.

    4. Click "Show hidden files and folders," clear the "Hide protected operating system files" check box, and then click OK.

    5. In the root directory, delete the \Cmdcons folder.

    6. In the root directory, delete the file Cmldr.

    7. In the root directory, right-click the Boot.ini file and then click Properties.

    8. Clear the Read-only check box, and then click OK.

    9. Open Boot.ini in Notepad, and remove the entry for the Recovery Console. It will look something like this:

    C:\cmdcons\bootsect.dat="Microsoft Windows Recovery Console" /cmdcons

    Warning: Modifying the Boot.ini file incorrectly may prevent your computer from restarting. Be sure to delete only the entry for the Recovery Console.

    10. Save the file and close it. Follow step 8 and reverse step 9 to change the attribute for the Boot.ini file back to read-only. You may also want to hide your system files again.

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

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    IN FUTURE ISSUES
  • More on NTFS, including NTFS Q&A
  • Windows and Broadband Q&A
  • Reviews of a long list of cool stuff that I've been neglecting
  • Tried and True Products
  • Tablet PCs
  • Expanding "Best Of" content
  • Microsoft commentary
  • Windows XP Service Pack 1
  • Windows 98 tips and insights
  • Webhosting and domain name info
  • What do you want to see covered?


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