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February 3, 2003 - Vol. 3, Issue No. 39

By Scot Finnie

IN THIS ISSUE

  • Review: Ad-aware Plus 6.0 *Top Product!*
  • Testing Underway: Opera 7.0 and Mozilla 1.2
  • 60-Second Briefs
       - Java VM: The Eternal Flame
       - Spamnix 1.0 for Eudora Email Build 43
       - Linux Is Just as Buggy as Windows
       - Outlook 2000 Holidays Revisited
  • AT&T Broadband to Comcast Update
  • Link of the Week: Counterexploitation
  • Tip of the Week: Turn off Win Messenger Service
  • Scot’s Newsletter Forums?
  • Request for Contributions
  • Subscribe, Unsubscribe, or Change Subscription.

    My sympathies to the families, friends, and colleagues of the seven NASA astronauts who lost their lives in the space shuttle Columbia.

    Review: Lavasoft's Ad-aware Plus 6.0 *Top Product!*
    Published Feb. 3, 2003, Scot’s Newsletter.

    After months of waiting, Lavasoft's Ad-aware anti-spyware utility has come out in a major new 6.0 release, and already at least three new reference files have been released for it. There are three versions of the new Ad-aware: Standard Edition (free), Plus, and Professional. At this writing, the Standard Edition was not yet available, so I reviewed the $26.95 Plus version, which includes Ad-watch 3.0, the real-time monitoring utility that prevents new spyware products from being installed on your system.

    Ad-aware 6.0 Standard Edition, the freeware version, is scheduled for release this Wednesday (Feb. 5). Ad-watch is the primary difference between the Standard Edition and the Plus version, although there are several other differences that are detailed later in this review.

    The brand new Ad-aware Professional version (available for purchase online) is designed for IT professionals. Lavasoft says it is a lot more customizable in terms of the checks and fixes it carries out, so IT managers can set policies. It's also designed to work on a network.

    Worth the Wait
    Ad-aware has been on the Scot’s Newsletter Top Products! list since January 2001, when I reviewed Ad-aware 4.02 quite positively (in Windows Insider) and named it the Program of the Month.

    A lot has changed in Ad-aware since I reviewed version 4.0. There was a series of problem plagued 5.x versions that I used but didn't love. Ad-aware 6.0 is a polished, sophisticated application with the right set of features (at last) and a largely well implemented user interface. It also works exceedingly well. In nearly three years of using various versions of Ad-aware, I have yet to get into trouble with it. Its Quarantine feature, which lets you name and save backups, permits you to roll-back Ad-aware removals. So even if you do get in hot water (for example, if after running it, your browser stopped working), it's easy to get back to where you started.

    The 6.0 release also solves the most nagging, annoying problem with the Ad-aware 5.x releases, the fact that the spyware/adware definition-updating tool was separate from the main client and hard to use. The Lavasoft website was also tough to find support info on (in fact, sometimes the site has been tough to find at all), and generally speaking, a lot of us went nuts trying to keep Ad-aware properly installed, updated, and running.

    Most of that appears to have changed with the 6.0 release, an overhauled Lavasoft website, and a newly launched support forum. In one stroke, Lavasoft has retrieved its lead in the anti-spyware area.

    So what's new in version 6.0? Here's a list of new features taken from the program's Help file. I've edited this liberally for clarity:

  • Brand new scanning engine
  • Automatic quarantine (backup) function capability
  • Reference update module fully integrated into the main program
  • New and improved user interface
  • Powerful program configuration options
  • Includes pop-up stopper with customizable blacklist
  • Blocks browser hijacking, Active-X, IE save attempts, and unwanted auto-start entries
  • Well maintained and updated database
  • Enhanced logging capabilities
  • Exporting and printing of HTML reports
  • Extended in-depth registry scans
  • Advanced process browser that fully supports installed extensions
  • Smart process-blocking, including filter lists
  • Customizable automated scanning modes
  • Powerful command line options for loading configuration scripts and reference files from, and sending log files to, remote drives
  • New plug-in concept provides powerful expandability and updating without the need to download a new core-application

    Ad-Aware 6.0 Features by Program Version
    At press time, Lavasoft handed me a word-processed document that compares the features in the three versions of Ad-aware 6.0. Since I haven't looked at the Pro or Standard Editions yet, some of the distinctions seem a bit hazy to me. But here's the list of features found in each version:

    Ad-aware Standard Edition 6.0:
    Enhanced database, basic command-line parameters, Standard Edition plugins and extensions, automated scanning.

    Ad-aware Plus 6.0:
    All the features of the Standard Edition plus Ad-watch 3.0, automated blocking, Plus- and some Professional-version plug-ins and extensions, pop-up blocking, ActiveX blocking, browser-hijack and IE download blocking, customizable scanning, Registry protection, executable-file-extension protection, improved safety and redundant backups, improved logging capability, free email support, advanced filtering, and printable reports.

    Ad-aware Professional 6.0:
    All the features of Ad-aware Plus and full-featured quarantine support, process manager/viewer, additional command-line parameters, additional menu and export options for reports, Professional-only plugins and extensions, and mapped network and RAM disk scanning.

    Clearly Superior
    Fast scans are the first thing you'll notice with Ad-aware 6.0. It's always been fast, but it's much faster in this release. You can make it even faster by customizing what parts of your system Ad-aware scans, and that's very easy to do with new, highly discoverable options in the updated interface. One of my criticisms of the 4.02 product was that Ad-aware gave no real information about spyware items it found, but now you can double click or right-click individual results to get more information.

    The product also includes a popup-stopper with a pre-built list of websites (part of Ad-watch). For my own PC I prefer to manage pop-ups myself. Mostly by promptly closing the pop-ups and never returning to sites that employ them. But if you follow that course — you should leave Ad-watch running (with the pop-up feature scaled back or disabled) and/or you should run the Ad-aware scan regularly to strip out the code some of these sites will inflict on your system.

    Another change I find welcome is that Ad-aware 6.0 focuses on eliminating adware and spyware cookies, not cookies in general. A plug-in program will shortly be released by Lavasoft to add back the all-cookies functionality because some people prefer that. But my take is that some cookies are good things. I like 'em. They keep track of things I want to keep track of. Version 6.0 does dump cookies whose primary purpose is to either share information about you with multiple sites or to create a unique identification key about you so they can track where you go in order to build up "demographic" information about you. Both of these activities invade your privacy and offer no advantage to you. For a pretty good summary on the differences between types of cookies, see this Pest Patrol Research page titled Spyware Cookies.

    I've only scratched the surface about what's new and improved in Ad-aware 6.0. Let me sum it up this way: This product is clearly the leader in its field. It's well designed, mature, easy to use, and effective. The features are now probably less important than the knowledge that Ad-aware is back and better than ever.

    Perfect, No. Excellent, Yes.
    The length of time people waited for this update without any reference file updates on the 5.x versions of the program (since late September of last year) has frayed the nerves of the Ad-aware faithful. And, as with all heavily revised software (and Ad-aware 6.0 is a major upgrade), there are bugs.

    Some people are disappointed with this new release of Ad-aware.

    Lavasoft has had some bad publicity lately. I think the 6.0 release and what appears to be a strong renewal of support by its developers will make all that blow over. Ad-aware 6.0 is an excellent program, and my estimation is that all demonstrable problems will be cleared up shortly.

    The one bug clearly identified is a problem with the real-time Ad-watch program and Windows shutdowns. (I haven't experienced this problem.) Lavasoft has already responded with a new build of the program (build 160). For more information, see this thread in the Lavasoft support forum.

    There are also many very positive posts, so try not to get caught up in the early negativity. Most of the complaints so far seem to relate to Ad-watch. In my experience, any program that monitors changes on your PC in real-time is going to run into problems sooner or later. I'm not a big fan of such utilities. Uninstallers are another example of the ilk. Using Ad-watch for the last several days, it seems better to me than most. But I doubt I will leave it turned on all the time. But if you've got to have the very best protection, or you're installing something you've got reason to be concerned about, Ad-watch is a very useful tool.

    So, from my point of view, there's not much to criticize in Ad-aware. There's just one little nit I have with the user interface, which in all other ways is significantly improved. When you get to the end of a scan, it's not immediately obvious how to handle the desire to remove none of the problems Ad-aware finds. (In most cases, you should probably opt to Remove all spyware objects and other traces it finds, but there are times when you might not want to.) Ad-aware defaults to a view that shows all items checked, and there's no Deselect All button, and no menu items at all. While you can manually remove the check marks from individual items — they don't look very clickable. And if there's a long list of items (I managed to create over 100 such on one test PC), doing so would be laborious.

    Of course there is a way to do this. But you have to right-click the results window to get at the "Deselect all objects" option. Like a keyboard combination, a right-click context menu should never be the only means of access a function. It's just bad UI. Perhaps the best idea would be for Lavasoft to add an Actions button beside the other primary buttons that offers the functions on the right-click context menu. But as I said, this is a small point.

    Down to This
    So new features aside, how well does this product work? That is the heart of the issue, after all. As I said, it works very well. But in testing competitors, I've found that Spybot Search & Destroy 1.1, a freeware program, actually finds things Ad-aware doesn't. In my tests — which involved installing some of the hairiest adware/spyware-infested programs — Spybot turned up the remnants of unwanted programs, such as empty folders, unthreatening registry keys, and so forth. If you're the belt-and-suspenders sort, you're probably going to want to look at Spybot, which also has a simple but effective form of quarantining and built-in definition updating. Spybot is a younger product that shows good promise, but it's rougher around the edges.

    I prefer Ad-aware because it strikes the best balance to me. It gets all the major and minor nasty stuff. I know some spyware aficionados will quibble with this, but the last two percent of spyware-related traces just isn't all that important. It's better to make as few changes as you can get away with while still making the PC perfectly safe. That's the right formula to ensure the best user experience — and it's Lavasoft's formula. When you add that to the powerful enhancements in 6.0, you've got a winning combination.

    Ad-aware 6.0 is a hands-down Scot’s Newsletter Top Product! It's an essential part my own Internet survival toolkit. I recommend it be installed and used regularly on every Windows PC.

  • $26.95 for Plus, Standard Edition is free, $39.95 for the Professional version; Ad-aware Plus 6.0 Build 158; Lavasoft, Sweden; Phone: +46 (0) 515 530 14; Email contact; Ad-aware 6.0 support forum

    Back to the Top


    SFNL readers get 15% off VCOM's entire line of products!
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    Testing Underway: Opera 7.0 and Mozilla 1.2
    As longtime readers of SFNL may know, over the years I've reviewed every major version of Netscape, Internet Explorer, and several versions of the Opera browser. While they may seem pedestrian, Web browsers are to my way of thinking the single most important type of application. Years ago I would have said the word processor held that distinction, or the spreadsheet. But almost everyone connected to the Internet uses a browser. Hence, how well your browser works dictates a big part of your overall experience with your PC.

    I spend a huge part of my life (more than I care to admit) reading Web pages on the Internet with my browser. It's my job, my avocation, and I use the Web (as many of us do) for an increasing number of things in my personal life. I can't remember the last time I visited a bank branch office, for example. I order books, medicines, specialty foods, clothes, tools, and many other things online. Let's not belabor the point, the Web browser has become an indispensable tool.

    Netscape was my everyday browser until the 4.0 version was released. I switched to Internet Explorer at that time and have been using it ever since. It's not that I'm in love with IE. I just think that during this these last few years, it has been the best browser available. But now that Microsoft more or less dominates the Web browser marketplace, it has stopped innovating. Both Opera and Mozilla (the open-source organization that builds the browser suite underlying Netscape) have continued to dream up new ideas, and Internet Explorer is starting to be left behind.

    This is an introduction to an eventual comparison review of Opera 7.0 and Mozilla 1.2 (or possibly 1.3 if it is finalized before my review comes out). Part of the reason it's an introduction is that I'm inviting your comments and insights on these two products. What I need most from you is not an impassioned argument for Opera or Mozilla. I know you may feel strongly about this. What I could really use is a reasoned summary of your experiences — or even better, a list of pros and cons you're finding with either Opera 7.0 or Mozilla 1.2 (I'm not interested in Mozilla 1.3 comments just yet since it is still in prerelease testing). Or specific features you found really cool in either product. Or a specific features you dislike in either product. Write about what you know about, not what you're guessing at or what someone told you. Send your thoughts to me, please.

    Here are some first impressions of both products to get you started:

    Opera 7.0
    There have been many aspects of the Opera browser that I have preferred over the years. It's small, light, very fast, and it showed new ideas (like internal Web page windows and page zooming) in every release. The 7.0 version is a from-the-ground-up redesign, with a brand new HTML rendering engine and a completely different email module. I've eagerly awaited this release for a long time. In particular, I've been hopeful that the new rendering engine would render pages more like IE does. It's not that I prefer IE's rendering per se, it's just that as both a reader of Web pages and a creator of them, I'd like them to all look pretty much alike.

    A lot of SFNL readers write me about Opera or Mozilla and say things like: "People who say they create Web pages and don't want to create them for multiple browsers are just lazy." Hogwash, people. I'm a Web publishing professional. I do it both for this newsletter, and for my day job at TechWeb.com. And before that I did it for Winmag.com. And before that, ZDNet. I've been at this longer than most. I'm here to tell you that trying to make any Web page look right in any more than one browser is a tough thing indeed. The rise of IE has made things much easier for the Web publishing community. And don't think that hasn't been an important aspect of the IE phenomenon. We're talking about human nature. Browsers need to render pages alike. They'll never do so exactly alike, but they should be darn close. Otherwise they fall outside of the de facto standard, and any browser that does that *will* get left behind. Because life is short.

    My initial reaction to Opera 7.0 in this page-rendering area was disappointment because the problems Opera had with my own website are still problems in 7.0. They are minor problems. I haven't had a chance to make a thorough study of how similarly to IE Opera renders pages yet. But that's on the list. If you find pages that it does a bad job of, please send me specific URLs. Generally speaking, though, I'm not coming across major problems how Opera displays pages, which is good news, and wasn't always the case with previous versions.

    As the originator of the idea that multiple Web page windows should be contained within a single browser program window, I'm a little disappointed at this feature in Opera 7.0. Mozilla has imitated the feature (and features that build off this concept), and I think it may do a slightly better job of it than Opera. User-interface-wise, the two programs are more or less the same. You have tabs that represent individual pages — much the way the HomeSite HTML editor provides access to multiple pages (or similar to the way Windows 95 and its successors show programs buttons in the taskbar). Click on any tab to make it the currently displayed Web page. If, like me, you find yourself working with three, four ... seven ... 12 instances of Internet Explorer open on your desktop on a regular basis, this tabbing paradigm in Opera and Mozilla is worth exploring.

    Both Opera and Mozilla allow you to have multiple windows open automatically whenever you launch the browser (optionally). Each offers a way to save sets of Web page windows. Opera's named and saved sets work a bit better than Mozilla's because they're integrated into its default start-page configuration.

    But Opera 7.0 falls down in one area. It won't properly load (or at least, I haven't found the trick to loading) encrypted pages that require a password — even if you've saved that password with the product's new Wand password-inserting feature. In some cases, I just got an empty page. In other cases the page opened but the Wand didn't appear nor did the Wand's keyboard alternative (Ctrl+E) work.

    I'll save the details on Opera's new email program for a later time, but suffice it to say it uses a very different paradigm than most email packages. Instead of storing your mail messages, addresses, and other items in discrete locations or modules, it stores everything in one place. It is very database-like in that it displays views (lists based on a set of criteria) of your email data, such as messages from so and so, messages with this kind of attachment, received addresses, and so forth. While you can create folders, you really might not need them much or at all. The secret to understanding Opera's new email program is to expand all the triangles in the tree view under the Unread messages icon and click on everything you find there.

    Just to the left of the address bar (where you type URLs) is the User Mode button. Click the down arrow beside that baby and then make selections from that menu to check out some interesting ways Opera can present Web information.

    Opera is highly targeted at providing a Web browsing solution to the mobile marketplace. To get a sense of where they're headed with effort, open any Web page and press Shift+F11 and imagine a small, color cell-phone display.

    Be sure to consult Opera Software's page on what's new in Opera 7.0. It's a pretty impressive list of improvements.

    Mozilla 1.2
    Those of you who are familiar with the Mozilla 1.3 alpha code are, I'm sure, wondering why I'm not testing that product since it includes Bayesian anti-spam capabilities. I will look at that when it's done. I've reached a point where I review prerelease software only when I have to. The reviews are better for it, believe me.

    I started my review research on version Mozilla 1.2 by installing Mozilla 1.0.2. I've used Netscape 7.0 in the past, but not for long stretches. I found Mozilla 1.0.2 to be pretty basic, but stable and reliable. So I uninstalled it and installed the final release of Mozilla 1.2. Check the list of what's new in 1.2 in case you're not familiar with it.

    One of the additions is an improvement that makes a big difference for me: Automatic saving of multiple browser pages on browser exit that reload the next time you launch Mozilla. You can also save multiple Web pages in Bookmark sets ("Group of Tabs") to your Bookmarks, so you can open multiple page sets very easily. For anyone with a fast Internet connection who routinely uses a sets of Web pages to get something done, this is a real boon. I know I will be making heavy use of it.

    As previously mentioned, Opera does a better job of integrating this functionality into your start page because it can be configured to ask you as it launches what saved page set ("session") you want to load. Mozilla 1.2 doesn't do that, but it does a much better job of handling encrypted or authentication-required, password-protected Web pages. If you've saved the password, it just loads the pages. If you haven't, it prompts you for the password.

    Without actually benchmark testing, I'm surprised at Mozilla 1.2's performance. Subjectively, it feels almost as fast as Opera. (I will be conducting performance tests when I circle back and complete this review.)

    Mozilla's email program is comfortable and offers no surprises. It also has very few bells and whistles. Basically this is the same email program Netscape first delivered in Netscape 4.0. It's only slightly changed since then. I still can't arrange the windows as I would prefer to arrange them. It still won't filter outbound messages (its rules only apply to inbound messages). And it still doesn't offer the Personalities/Identities capabilities offered by Eudora and Outlook Express. Two additions: Filter logging and the ability to run filters locally ("Run now") are welcome additions, but this emailer could be made competitive with Outlook Express if Mozilla wanted to do that. They just don't seem to want to.

    In operation, Mozilla still bears some old Netscape trademarks. When you open bookmarks or when you exit the browser, Mozilla thrashes the hard disk. It's hard to believe that's still going on all these years later in a very different open-source version, but it is.

    Then there's the stuff that's hard to put into words, the way it feels to use this product. Despite Opera's advantages, Mozilla has that certain something. Opera feels like an old Volkswagen beetle (with a ripping six cylinder engine). But Mozilla feels like a sports car. I find myself gravitating toward the open-source product.

    To be continued ...

    Back to the Top


    60-Second Briefs
       - Java VM: The Eternal Flame
       - Spamnix 1.0 for Eudora Email Build 43
       - Linux Is Just as Buggy as Windows
       - Outlook 2000 Holidays Revisited

    Java VM: The Eternal Flame
    I feel like I've been writing little snippets about the Java for Web browsers all my life, and that it'll never end. But, per usual, there's more to tell you, so I'm back at it again.

    Let's hope you don't have any need for Microsoft's version of the Java Virtual Machine (as I did recently) for use with Internet Explorer. At least, not for the next several months. Even though Sun's JRE (Java Runtime Environment) will work with Internet Explorer, many Java applets require one of the later versions of the Microsoft version. That was the case with a program I've been trying to test for weeks.

    No doubt you've heard about the court case between Sun and Microsoft. Microsoft is currently not allowed to distribute its own Java VM, and it's in the process of hammering out in court how it will distribute Sun's Java runtime environment.

    I asked a Microsoft spokesperson to verify the point that the Java VM isn't available, and this was the response:

    That's correct, there is no way to get the code today. But provided Sun meets its obligations, Microsoft will make Sun's JRE technology available on Windows Update within 90 days of the effective date of the order. Sun's technology will be available to all Windows users as a recommended update on Windows Update.

    Just today, Microsoft released information about how it will distribute Sun's Java. Apparently it will do so in a re-release of Windows XP SP1 in early June.

    I also want to mention I've been getting reports from a number of people about their JVM version number being 5.00.3809 instead of the 5.00.3805 current version I mentioned a few issues back. I've got the 5.00.3809 version myself on several XP machines. I believe the change may be due to one or more of several recent Windows Update/Auto Update Java VM patches Microsoft has released.

    What gets funky about this is that many of us have multiple versions of Java installed on our machines, and the Microsoft VM may not be the one our browsers are actually using. And with all the court high jinks going on, this is getting wicked complicated. Because Microsoft's JVM, which is actually required by some Java applications, is a lame duck that will no longer be distributed.

    Somehow I have this funny feeling I'll be talking more about Java runtime environments in coming issues of the newsletter.

    Spamnix 1.0 for Eudora Email Build 43
    A number of people have installed Spamnix for Eudora on my advice, and so far everyone who's provided feedback has been positive about it. Two bits of quick news and a question for those of you using Spamnix:

    1. Spamnix author Barry Jaspan issued another minor update to the program. Build 43 includes the useful default option to always accept mail from any email address listed in your Eudora address book.

  • Spamnix Download
  • What's New in Builds 41-43

    2. In my tests on the last issue of the newsletter, Spamnix 1.0 Build 41 did not trap Scot’s Newsletter as spam. It did assign it a 4.7 score, so it was close to branding it as spam. And I expect that some issues will wind up scoring over the default 5.0 limit because it's just too close.

    If you're using Spamnix, tell me about your experience, both with the program in general and with whether it tags SFNL as spam.

    I'm taking a break from the Let's Fight Spam series for an issue or two. It will return in the future, and I hope to address Bayesian solutions, since several of you have reported positive early experiences with products employing Bayesian concepts.

    While I take that break on the spam series, I invite you all to read this very interesting set of InternetWeek.com reader responses to a poll the online magazine ran on spam recently. I promise you it'll open your eyes:

  • Desperately Seeking Fix to the Spam Problem - InternetWeek.com

    Linux Is Just as Buggy as Windows

    Fred Langa did an excellent job on this piece in InformationWeek about the fact that Linux has bugs just like every other piece of software. Fred isn't beating up Linux, nor is he praising Windows in some way. He's just telling it like it is; no software is immune from bugs and security flaws. I fully agree with every single word in his article. And it's especially interesting for his analysis of Red Hat 7.2 versus Windows XP patches, which might surprise you.

  • Linux Has Bugs: Get Over It - InformationWeek

    Outlook 2000 Holidays Revisited
    The Tip of the Week in the Dec. 23rd issue of SFNL was a fix forwarded to me by reader Tim Downey (thanks again, Tim) aimed at helping people update Outlook 2000's built-in list of holidays for 2003 and beyond.

    This tip generated a storm of sometimes conflicting email from Outlook 2000-using SFNL readers. Most people said the tip worked for them, thanks. One guy wrote a specific set of instructions with a step he said I missed. Since no one else wrote about problems installing it, I'm going to discount that one. A couple people wrote to tell me that they already had the 2003 and beyond holidays but had done nothing special to install them. (One speculated that have to with his Exchange server providing the holidays.) Others wrote to say there were problems with holidays listed in other languages (also included in the same file).

    Then the storm turned into a firestorm as bulletin boards and newsletters all around the Internet heated up with confused messages about errors in Outloook.txt and installation problems. On January 22, Microsoft released a new version of the Outlook 2000 Holidays file with instructions on how to install it.

    According to Woody Leonhard, writing in the January 22, 2003 issue of his Woody's Office Watch newsletter: "As far as I can tell, there's only one error in the U.S. dates: Election Day in 2005 is listed as November 1, when in fact it's November 8."

    It's a bit ironic that Microsoft has to issue patches to text files too.

    Back to the Top


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    AT&T Broadband to Comcast Update
    Many SFNL readers wrote to correct me about an inadvertent mistake I made in the story last time about AT&T Broadband customers having their attbi.com addresses changed to Comcast addresses.

    I wrote incorrectly that the new email addresses will have the Comcast.com domain name. The new addresses will have the Comcast.net domain name. Comcast reserves the .com extension for its corporate email.

    That said, let's get to the good stuff. If you have questions about this transition — even if you haven't been contacted by AT&T/Comcast yet — this FAQ (thanks to Judy Battistelli for sending this link) on the Comcast Connection site explains the transition.

  • Comcast AT&T Broadband to Comcast Conversion FAQ
  • Comcast Connection Center

    Apparently I may also have been wrong on my guess about Comcast's corporate ego being involved with the immediate, mandatory change in the attbi.com email addresses. Comcast did not respond to my attempts to contact them on the point, but several sources, including an inside source at Comcast who asked not to be identified, wrote to tell me that Comcast is changing the email addresses because they don't have permission to use the AT&T name. Even the term "attbi.com" is, apparently, protected by the AT&T trademark.

    Whether Comcast has rights or not, it seems to me that the two companies could have worked out something better than a 60-day transition for millions of subscribers who are being forced into an email-address change. Some of these customers have been through two such changes already not all that long ago. Many have been through one change.

    In other Comcast news, an attbi.com reader (who uses an anonymous handle) sent me another interesting Comcast link. This one is for a new high-speed, $95-per-month, 3.5Mbps downstream/384kbps upstream service. The details are on the Comcast High-Speed Internet Pro page.

    Several months ago I did some research about a similar AT&T Broadband high-speed service that's already available in some parts of the country. The ATTb service was cheaper as I recall, in the $70-to-$80-per-month range. Anyone who has that AT&T Broadband high-speed service, I'd be interested in learning about it. It's not offered in my area.

    There's a good possibility that Scot’s Newsletter will opt for this high-speed Comcast service later this year. But we may have to make sure that Cyndy never, ever sees the cable bill.

    [Editor's Note: Here's a tip of the week. Instead of trying to keep secrets, try bribery, er ... compromise. You know, "Honey, if I can get Comcast's new high-speed service, we can go see that Jane Austen movie you've been wanting to see." Or better yet, how 'bout getting one or two of those darn satellite dishes off the house! --Cyndy]

    [Writer's Note: Who's Jane Austen? Is she hot? Uh, just kidding. And did I mention that I do all the bills? --Scot]

    Back to the Top


    Link of the Week: Counterexploitation and Spyware
    My research on spyware and adware for the Ad-aware review turned up an impressive website that was instantly became Link of the Week. Counterexploitation is a large website begun in 1998 jam-packed with information devoted to promoting privacy rights, personal online security, avoiding hassles on the Internet, preventing censorship, debunking scams, and a wide variety of other useful information for savvy or soon-to-be savvy Internet users. It's an intriguing if somewhat cynical (and be warned, vulgar in spots) website that you should definitely check out. It's also effectively a giant personal website with lots of interesting though often off-the-wall documents buried within. Don't get lost.

    The spyware content on Counterexploitation is, all on its own, worthy of being named a Scot’s Newsletter Link of the Week. The site's Adware, Spyware, and Advertising Trojans page, and the stuff it links to, shines.

    As long as we're talking spyware, here are some other excellent destinations on the subject:

  • Spywareinfo (a past SFNL Link of the Week):
  • SimplyTheBest: Spyware
  • grc.spyware Newsgroup

    Finally, I've received email recently from one or two readers wondering about "Microsoft's HotBar" being spyware. Apparently there's a spam message still making the rounds that bills an adware utility called HotBar as being an "upgrade to Microsoft Outlook." Not true. For more information on this point, please see PestPatrol's Research HotBar document.

    I need your help! Have you discovered a relatively unknown Windows or broadband related website that's a little or a lot amazing? Please send me the URL so I can check it out and let everyone know about it.

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    Tip of the Week: Turn off Windows Messenger Service
    This tip is for all versions of Windows, although Windows XP users in particular seem to be the most in need of it.

    Before I go any further with this, let me head off what could be a major point of confusion. This tip has nothing to do with either the Windows Messenger or MSN Messenger instant-messaging programs. In fact, it has nothing to do with instant messaging at all. Microsoft's Windows versions since Windows 98 have a networking service built into them known as the "Windows Messenger Service." This service was designed to allow warning and administration messages to be sent on LANs.

    So, while this is about harassing and/or spam-like messages popping up unbidden on your computer, they aren't instant messages, they're network style messages with an OK box whose title bars are labeled "Messenger Service."

    I'm not going to detail the steps here in the newsletter as I usually do because at least two other sites have done this already, and the steps are different for different versions of Windows. The steps at the two sites aren't identical. That's the reason I'm giving you both. I have only tested these steps on Windows XP (where, by the way, the instructions make some assumptions about your customization, or lack thereof, of the XP interface).

  • StopMessengerSpam.com for Windows 95/98/Me
  • StopMessengerSpam.com for Windows 2000/NT
  • StopMessengerSpam.com for Windows XP
  • StopMessengerSpam.com Background Information
  • How to turn off Windows Messenger Service

    If you'd rather have a program do this for you, StopMessengerSpam.com offers a little freeware program that's a 1.42MB ZIP file download that purportedly does the job. (I haven't tested it mind you.)

    Should everyone rush to disable Windows Messenger Service? I recommend that you definitely disable Windows Messenger Service if you're receiving unwanted messages. But if you're on a corporate network and you're not having a problem with the Windows Messenger Service, don't disable it without checking with your network administrator.

    There's no real setting to change under Windows 9x/Me, but if you have properly configured your LAN for security, with NetBEUI or IPX/SPX and NetBIOS carrying your LAN traffic and TCP/IP handling your Internet traffic, and TCP/IP file/printer sharing turned off, then you're already set.

    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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    Scot’s Newsletter Forums?
    Bear with me a minute with a little introduction, because there's a question I want you to take half a moment to answer.

    I recently had a minor operation and all went well, thanks. But I found myself stuck in bed for several days, including all of a weekend. I amused myself by downloading and installing various low-cost threaded-message bulletin board software solutions. The one I like the best (so far, anyway), and which works the best with the tools my Web host has provided me, is called Infopop UBB Classic. It's pretty popular board software in use by a wide variety of large and small websites. Here are some examples.

    I set up a little demo of it on the SFNL website. The demo is member limited (30 members max.) so I'm not going to pass out the URL generally. It'll be open to everyone if and when I purchase the software and get it fully configured.

    What I want to know from you if you have an opinion either way, is: Would you make use of a Scot’s Newsletter threaded-message discussion forum (in other words, a Web-based BBS)?

    I think the idea might have some advantages for the newsletter in helping it to turn up in search sites (promoting subscriptions). Plus it should generate answers to burning questions faster than I'm able to answer them in the newsletter. I expect it would serve as a lightning rod for problems, issues, and developments. All that could happen if people actually use it. Before I waste time and money to set it up, I'm looking for how many heads are nodding or shaking no. Your input is much appreciated.

    If this gets off the ground, I would also welcome co-moderators if anyone is interested in being a regular presence. I don't have all the answers. I always welcome other points of view. [Editor's Note: ... It would just be way too easy .... --Cyndy]

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    Request for Contributions
    Donations to Scot’s Newsletter are strictly voluntary. But if even one in five of the newsletter's subscribers (about 7,000 readers) donated $15 annually to keep it running, I could conceivably quit my day job and devote myself full-time authoring it. Last time I counted, fewer than 1,000 individuals had ever actually sent a contribution. Some have sent money two, three, even four or more times. Thanks to everyone who has ever sent a donation to SFNL! I'm grateful.

    But if you've never contributed to Scot’s Newsletter, or haven't for at least a year, please consider making whatever donation you can afford at this time.

    For more information about donating to SFNL, read this brief document.

    You can print that page to send me a donation by cash or check via conventional letter mail. Or you can use PayPal to send me an online contribution.

  • Sign-up for PayPal (if you don't already have it)
  • Click to Donate to Scot’s Newsletter via PayPal

    Thanks in advance for your contribution. I'll use it to make the newsletter better and keep it coming.

    -- Scot

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    The Fine Print
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    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
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