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February 18, 2003 - Vol. 3, Issue No. 40
By Scot Finnie
IN THIS ISSUE
Let me go back and set the stage on this story. Last October I wrote this enthusiastic Product Beat description of ActiveWords. But within hours of sending that issue of the newsletter, I realized that the $30 charge for the program was not a one-time charge, but an annual subscription fee. The product self-disabled if you didn't renew your subscription every year. In the two following issues of the newsletter, I wound up recanting some of my praise for ActiveWords, and deeply embroiled in the issue of software's business model:
Two days ago in Scottsdale, AZ, at Demo 2003, an exclusive computer trade show for cutting-edge computer companies, press, and analysts, ActiveWord Systems launched the new $10 SE 1.9 version of ActiveWords to go along with the recently introduced $50 Plus! 1.9 end-user version of the product.
Both new versions of ActiveWords come with perpetual-use licenses. In other words, there's no annual fee to keep using them. (They're also available in free full-featured 60-day trials.) The $10 SE version has some feature limitations, and its license permits installation on only one PC.
The license for the $50 Plus version specifically allows installation on up to three PCs owned by one person. This Web form allows you to easily request and quickly receive your second and third Plus registration keys.
The good news is that ActiveWord Systems has completely dropped the subscription fee for individual users (enterprise customers still license the product that way). The only bad news is that the product is still locked to your PC using activation-like technology. The biggest problem with the hardware-locking technology ActiveWord Systems employs is that ActiveWords will be disabled by any major update of the Windows operating system installed on your PC, such as a Windows XP upgrade (or clean install). You also can't move it to another PC if, say, you buy a new PC and remove it from your old PC. ActiveWord Systems Pete Weldon says his company's tech support staff is responsive to customers in those situations, and it aims to please.
I'm on record as not the product-locking stuff. But ActiveWord Systems has listened to its customers and tailored a response that addresses multiple concerns: We now have both a low-cost way to get at ActiveWords' productivity (at $10, don't think twice), as well as an advanced version of the software that gives users stated permission for three installations. This is reasonable, folks.
Because of the new way ActiveWords is being sold, I was only too happy to reinstall the product for full-fledged testing. I'm working on that review now, and you can expect to see it in an upcoming issue.
Differences Between SE and Plus
ActiveWord Systems has created a Web page that shows the differences between SE and Plus. The chief limitations of SE are these: The purchase price does not include any updates or upgrades, there are fewer free add-on applications for SE (and some SE add-ons are simpler), it doesn't provide the ActiveWords scripting facility, and you can't create and work with multiple WordBases.
Let me explain that last one. What's a WordBase? It's the user-configured list of keyboard-combination actions you create while building ActiveWords. Actions include inserting boilerplate text, launching a program, opening a document or folder, browsing a website, and sending a email. WordBases also contain some standard commands, as well as commands derived from add-on applications.
ActiveWord Systems engineered a difference between SE and Plus WordBases. SE can only manage one WordBase at a time. SE installations can't import Plus WordBases. (Although an SE installation can import all the actions from another SE WordBase.) You can upgrade an SE installation to Plus, and in so doing you convert the WordBase to the Plus structure. SE WordBases can also be used by a Plus installation.
The enterprise version of ActiveWords adds several features above the Plus version. I'm not going to detail them here (the comparison document linked above does), but one is the ability to share the WordBase from one ActiveWords installation with that of another computer via a network.
There's also one benefit to SE worth noting. The SE version does not utilize the hardware-locking technology. The software license prohibits you from installing it on multiple PCs, but if you upgrade your operating system or switch PCs, you will be able to reinstall the program without having to contact ActiveWord Systems for a new registration key. And since your email support expires after 60 days, that's a good thing.
Upgrades from Previous Versions
If you have a previous version of ActiveWords, such as the 1.8 version you may have downloaded when I first wrote about the product, there are upgrade options. If you paid $49.95 for Plus version 1.6 or 1.8, you'll be offered a free upgrade to Plus version 1.9. If you paid $29.95 or another amount for an annual license to ActiveWords Plus version 1.8, you can upgrade to Plus 1.9 for $25.
So, anyway, the ActiveWords software-evaluation lamp is lit once again. If you try it, I'd be interested to learn your experiences with it.
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But that stuff is down the road. There are two Microsoft products coming off the assembly lines much earlier, Windows 2003 Server, due in April, and the next version of Office, codenamed Office 11, which appears to be scheduled for June or July.
Like the last version of Office, Microsoft will be releasing a pre-release version called Beta 2 to anyone willing to pony up something like $20 (according to speculation by TechWeb's Gregg Keizer) for the privilege of receiving even-buggier software.
So are your ready for a mixed message from Scot’s Newsletter? First, I'm going to tell you what not to do, then I'm going to tell you how to do it:
1. Don't get Office 11 Beta 2 and install it on your only computer or your "production" computer. That's plain silly. Office is big software, and it contains elements that may mess with the operating system and a lot of other stuff on your PC. Beta tester beware.
2. Here's where you sign up to be notified by Microsoft via email when the public beta of Office 11 becomes available:
Here are some additional Office 11 resources:
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On a related subject, I'm working on a specific story idea for a future installment of the Let's Fight Spam series. The working title is something like: "Interesting Radical Ideas and Theories About How to Stop Spam." I actually have quite a few suggestions in that vein already. If you've got a way you think will stop spam cold in its tracks, no matter how far out there, send it along.
Finally, I'd like to thank the many folks using Spamnix for Eudora (and also other SpamAssassin implementations) for writing to let me know whether their copy of the last issue of Scot’s Newsletter was caught and tagged as spam or allowed to pass through. In my emailbox, where I receive more than 25 issues of Scot’s Newsletter to many different accounts, the February 3rd issue was only tagged as spam once, and I understand why it happened. I have no special rules in effect in Spamnix that seek to allow Scot’s Newsletter.
But about half the people who responded to me on this point found that Scot’s Newsletter was tagged as spam in their mailboxes. Some of those people forwarded me their SpamAssassin spam report text so I could see why the newsletter was labeled as spam, and this information is very helpful. I believe I have found a very simple thing I can do that will drastically reduce the likelihood of Scot’s Newsletter ending up in the Spam folder again.
Whether it's SpamAssassin or SpamCop or any other spam-identification tool, if you found Scot’s Newsletter in its nets, I would be interested to learn any details you have about that because it would help me get the newsletter out to more subscribers. Send me what you learn, and thanks!
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Similarly, I'm hearing reports that Mozilla 1.2.1 encounters unusual performance problems, but only on some pages. I've seen this myself, but have so far not managed to set up a repeatable performance test for the browser. If you've noticed this problem with Mozilla, please send me website URLs. And give me a quick description of what happens when you try to load the page. I will also attempt to bring them to the attention of Mozilla.org.
I didn't talk about the Mozilla Phoenix project last time, but it's worth mentioning. If you're interested in browsers, check this one out. It's still under heavy development as a 0.5 release, but you'll probably see why so many people are interested in it. It's based on the Mozilla codebase but heavily revised.
By and large, I'm still delighted with both Opera and Mozilla. And I'm not altogether sure I'll still be using Internet Explorer primarily by the time I conclude this little project.
For those who love the tabbed-browsing metaphor (and I'm one of them), you might want to check out this Internet Explorer overlay browser called Slim Browser. According to the anonymous but regular reader who sent me info about Slim Browser, "You can open multiple windows in one browser instance [tabbed browsing], it can remove all pop-ups automatically, it seems to be faster than IE, and you can group pages for auto open. There are a few weaknesses such as no Links bar. But overall, I am very satisfied so far."
After my review of Ad-aware Plus 6.0 in the last issue, I've been getting reports of all sorts of issues surrounding Lavasoft, including people having trouble buying the product from the website. I contacted the company for an update on bugs and issues, but I'm waiting for a response. When I have something concrete to report I will.
Because many readers asked me to, I am testing PestPatrol 22.214.171.124, which is an interesting program because it straddles the line between anti-spyware products and anti-Trojan utilities. I had installed PestPatrol prior to writing the Ad-aware review but ran into problems with it because the company was having serious server problems.
Several readers wrote wondering whether I was recommending in the review that people run both Ad-aware and Spybot on their PCs. I wasn't specifically suggesting that, but it can't hurt either. (Be careful with Spybot not to just blindly remove everything it finds.) For that matter, PestPatrol might be a good product to run too.
I am increasingly not thrilled by real-time spyware monitors, and especially real-time cookie managers. PestPatrol's annoying bloop, bloop noise whenever a cookie gets placed on your computer is overkill, in my opinion. There are some bad cookies. But most of them are perfectly benign, or even mildly useful.
Finally, SpywareInfo's Mike Healan wrote me to point out a piece he wrote on SpywareInfo.com (a past Link of the Week) about how both Ad-aware and Spybot claim their code was reverse engineered or their target databases lifted for resale under other names. It's an interesting piece, and worth taking a look at:
The Java Chronicles
You've probably heard that Microsoft won a temporary stay from a Federal appeals court on an order from a lower court requiring it to add Sun's Java technology to Windows within 120 days. Long and short, Java virtual machine has left the house, and who knows when it'll be back.
That's why I have to thank Stefan Jodar, who sent a link to Java Virtual Machine download links, a simple website that offers direct download links to several sites on the Internet hosting Microsoft's 3805 version of the JVM. There are even installation instructions. You'll also find download links for Sun's Java Runtime Environment.
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About 85 percent of those responding said that yes, they would at least try a new Scot’s Newsletter forum when it comes out. And even the people who replied "No" didn't seem to mind the idea. They just aren't planning to use it. A few of the positive-responding folks even offered to help moderate: A big thanks to those folks!
Many of you asked questions or expressed reservations that showed you understand both threaded-message discussions and Scot’s Newsletter. So let me provide some additional clarification:
There are many excellent help forums on the Internet. I would not be seeking to outdo them at what they do best. I'm in the newsletter business, and that will continue to be my primary focus. I look at starting an online forum as another way to help Scot’s Newsletter readers find answers to thorny Windows, broadband, and networking questions. It should also serve as another means of gathering both questions and answers, providing fodder for the newsletter.
I will not be able to run a forum on my own; I just won't have time to be the only poster or responder. If that's what ends up happening, I'll probably close the forums after a while. On the other hand, I have significant experience on CompuServe and several BBSes at handling forum discussions. I'm not walking into this blind. So, I'll be seeking co-moderators who know their stuff and who like helping others. And I will also regularly provide some responses.
In addition to Q&A content, I hope to spur discussions on other topics. Looking back past issues of the newsletter, I see many topics that could generate lively threads, such as Software's Business Model, Product Activation, What's Wrong with Tech Support, Let's Fight Spam, The Trouble with Email, Satellite Broadband, Multibooting Windows, Alternative Browsers, Linux vs. Windows, and the Next Version of Windows, and Fixing NTFS Problems Under Win XP. It would be a lot of fun to see those take off. It would also be a good way to get new voices into the newsletter.
Registration, Rules, and Privacy
Forum registration will only be required in order to post. People will be free to "lurk" and read all they want. Other websites will be free to link to any discussion thread or message. At some point way down the road, I may put a small part of the forum behind a membership firewall, and that portion could become one of several perks provided to paid annual subscribers to Scot’s Newsletter (probably costing something like $15 a year). People who register will be required to provide minimal information about themselves; currently, I'm only planning to require a working email address. Not even your name will be required.
Several people enthusiastically recommended freeware message-board software alternatives to the Perl-based Infopop UBB.classic forum software I mentioned that I've been testing. I haven't had a chance to check out all the suggestions yet, but they include:
Thanks in particular to Mitch Wagner, James Eshelman, Patrick Dutra, Ric Rudman, Andrew Field, Jeffrey Olson, Frank Moore, Alexander Bunakov, and many others, some of whom opted to be anonymous. There were many excellent comments and suggestions.
I'll provide more info on the forum, including a link to it, as soon as I've had the time to set it up, which might take a little while.
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Answer: It is very possible that you have an email worm (like a virus) that is hijacking your Outlook Express address book and sending out new instances of the worm to everyone in your address book. These worm programs come with their own email servers built into them. Install and use an antivirus program that scans email messages for known worms. Make sure it is updated. Make sure email scanning is turned on. I use Norton AntiVirus 2003, but there are others that are equally good. Trend Micro's PC-cillin is another good one, for example.
But ... (and this is a very big but) ... it might not be you who has the email worm. It could be the friend who received the spam messages (although that's less likely than other possibilities). If you and your wife are both running up-to-date email-scanning antivirus programs, the more likely scenario is that it's a fourth person whose address book contains the email addresses for you and your wife. As you can see, it's tough to figure out. And since no two address books are exactly the same, it quickly becomes a one-degree of separation guessing game that's impossible to triangulate.
The best solution is what I already told you: Get, use, and update strong antivirus protection. What you should not do is send out messages to everyone in your address book or your friend's warning them that you or they may have a virus. That only makes things worse, and it really doesn't anything. Encourage all your friends and relatives to use antivirus software. You can't stop the problem that has already occurred. But you can be prepared for the next one. --S.F.
By the way, the manual says I can only use static IP addresses in a certain range. The static addresses I am using at the facility are a completely different range. Can I change the router so that it will work with my current private address range. Or must I change every address in the facility? --Tom Garske
Answer: First, if your router is wireless, this Linksys Knowledgebase article does a good job of explaining how to configure it for best security: Securing your Wireless Network
But you need to understand something about routers and security. The only Linksys router that provides security specifically is the BEFSX41 Firewall Router. The company's other router products make your ports invisible (the colloquial term is "stealthing") with a technology called Network Address Translation (NAT). This stealthing is actually a byproduct; a NAT's primary purpose is to share the Internet connection of one IP address with many computers on a network. NAT stealthing is a deterrent to random attacks, not coordinated ones. A determined hacker who is looking for your company in particular will find you anyway.
Another security step is described in more detail in this issue's Tip of the Week. It's the addition of a separate network protocol, such as IPX/SPX with NetBIOS or NetBEUI. This protocol is used for file sharing and other network duties only between the computers on your LAN. Your computers use the separate TCP/IP protocol via your router to access the Internet (the source of intrusion threats). By separating the two protocols, you add a degree of safety. The one step you can make to help improve your security is to add IPX/SPX or NetBEUI and disable the binding to File and Printer Sharing for TCP/IP (or Internet Protocol) in Network Properties. You must do this for every PC on the network. Sharing must be enabled for NetBEUI or IPX/SPX with NetBIOS or your local area network won't work.
But all of the above is a stall before the real answer. Tweaking the router or your network configuration is far less important than running firewall software
No business, no matter how large or small, should rely solely on a consumer-oriented, broadband router for security for computers connected to the Internet. Such a device is a good start, but a software firewall with intrusion detection, antivirus software, and possibly anti-Trojan software are all important pieces needed as well.
Finally, yes you can change the router to a different IP range. To do that, give the router its own IP address in the range and subnet mask of the other IP addresses on your network. As soon as you do that, you will have to log out of the router's Web-based configuration routine and log back into the Web-configuration program using the IP address you just gave it. (If you're on a DHCP network, you may have to release and renew the IP address on the computer you're using to configure the router before re-accessing it's config screen.)
Also, if the PCs on your network are assigned IP addresses by something other than the Linksys router (you used the word "static," which means they're permanently assigned in Windows' Network Properties screens), then you need to disable the router's DHCP server functionality, which automatically detects and assigns IP addresses to all computers on the network. You may find that allowing the router to assign your PCs IP addresses is more useful to you, especially if you add or remove PCs to your network on a regular basis.--S.F.
Answer: Peggy, if he's having no problems with his Windows Me installation
It's true that it would be better to do a clean install. But only if he's capable of handling that job on his own. It is a big job, and like any clean install, he may need new drivers, and so forth. (He may need these even with the upgrade.) Also, if he is planning to buy the less expensive Upgrade CD to do a clean install, he needs an original Windows Me, 2000, or 98 CD that can be inserted during the setup process to validate that he owns a previous version. Going price for Home Edition Full install is $200 with Pro Full Install costing $400. The Home Edition Upgrade is under $100.
All in all, I think you should let him get into his own trouble, if only because it could wind up being easier. And this way you won't have to clean out the hard drive.
I can suggest something that's a bit of the best of both words. If, like some of us, he's got gobs of hard drive space on a second hard drive partition, like Drive D, then he could install Windows XP as a dual boot with ME. Each time the computer started, he'd be able to choose either one from a small menu. He will have to reinstall all his applications for Windows XP, and he could run into driver issues, but while he's figuring that out, he can still boot to Me. This is how I install XP on most PCs that already have another version of Windows on them. --S.F.
Answer: Richard, you're supposed to put your Win9x/Me or DOS product on first, and then go back and install XP second. The Multiboot series in Scot’s Newsletter covered this exact point. You'll find a full discussion of three different ways to do this in this issue of the newsletter.
For what you want to do, you may find that V Com's System Commander utility will get you closest to your goal. Still, I would read through all the solutions.
I also want to address your point about not creating a separate partition. While for your application, I understand why you don't want to bother with that step, I nevertheless recommend it. I am a firm believer that each operating system installed on any one PC should have it's own partition. Partitions are a good thing. In your case, you could create a 10MB partition to accomplish this goal, and you'll be better off for having done it that way.
Products such as Paragon Software's Paragon Partition Manager 5.5, PowerQuest's PartitionMagic 8.0, or V Com's Partition Commander 6.0 can accomplish the task of dynamically creating a new partition for you. In my humble opinion, no self-respecting computer enthusiast can do without at least one or two of these utilities. --S.F.
All Windows XP users can use the System Registry Editor and the good instructions in Microsoft Knowledgebase article Q292504 to remove Log Off from the Start Menu. You'll find many other customizations options detailed in this KB article.
Windows XP Pro owners (but not Home Edition owners) have the option of using the Group Policy Editor (Gpedit.msc) to accomplish the same goal a bit more easily. To do that:
1. Click Start > Run > type "gpedit.msc" (without quotation marks) and press Enter.
2. In the left-pane tree area, Navigate to User Configuration > Administrative Templates > Start Menu and Taskbar.
3. On the right pane, find Remove Log Off and double-click it. Choose the "Enable" option and click OK.
4. Close the Group Policy Editor, and the change will already have taken effect on the Start Menu.
Windows XP Pro users might like to take some time to familiarize themselves with GPEdit (which in previous incarnations of Windows has been called MMC, or Microsoft Management Console). This tool allows a wide range of customizations to the Windows XP interface. Although SFNL has covered GPEdit before, there's a lot more in this tool that I should probably address. If you've got a favorite GPEdit tweak, pass it along. I may do a piece on the possibilities.
Thanks, Goran. And my apologies for not getting this right in the first place.
Send your burning question to the newsletter and look for an answer in a future issue.
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And that's just the start of this jam-packed site. Bootdisk.com either provides or links to drivers, DLLs and system files, error messages, Microsoft updates, networking, tweaks, and how-to guides. It also recommends products and websites with unique PC-oriented services. There's even a newsletter.
So, why did it take me so long to point out this site, which is clearly worthy of Link of the Week status? Simple, in the past I've watched bootdisk sites go out of business. Several years ago, one such site disappeared after I made it Link of the Week in Windows Insider (a newsletter precursor to Scot’s Newsletter). I haven't linked to bootdisk.com because I was afraid that it would draw attention to the site, whose owners might get a call from Microsoft's lawyers or something. Because, technically, I don't think Bootdisk.com is allowed to distribute some of this software. But I'm really glad they do.
Also, while I'm on this subject, I want to point out a similar website published by Scot’s Newsletter subscriber, Ahmad Hisham. It's called The 911 Rescue CD, and it's worth a visit.
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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Along with revising the steps for clarity and ease of installation, I've also added information on how to disable or uninstall IPX/SPX and NetBIOS (which many people are using instead of NetBEUI), and also how to remove TCP/IP from the File and Printer Sharing binding, which enhances the security of your network.
For those of you keeping score, I'm in the middle of changing over the SFNL Labs from TCP/IP with IPX/SPX and NetBIOS to TCP/IP with NetBEUI. When Microsoft first announced (a couple years back) that it was discontinuing support for NetBEUI beginning with XP, I switched to IPX/SPX with NetBIOS. But I found my 20-node peer network less reliable under IPX/SPX. In a future issue, I'll be covering the outcome of my switch back.
NetBEUI: No Win2K Disc?
A lot of people are writing to say that they don't have the Windows 2000 CD, so they can't get the Win2K version of NetBEUI. Many have said they scoured the Internet looking for Windows 2000 versions of the NetBEUI files, but struck out. The NetBEUI software is Microsoft's and I don't have permission to distribute it. So far as I know, Microsoft does not distribute it separately. So I think your best bet is to install the Windows XP version of NetBEUI. I wrote about how to do that here. Be sure to check the Microsoft Knowledgebase article I linked to there for additional information or if you get stuck.
Problems Using NetBEUI
SFNL reader Dave Ladd is one just one of many people who've written me recently about problems making this or that protocol (such as TCP/IP, NetBEUI, or IPX/SPX) work on a peer network. I'd also like to take a moment to warn people about the Windows XP Network Setup Wizard. I had problems with this piece of software throughout the Windows XP beta process, and the thing still doesn't work properly. It makes too many assumptions. My advice to you is not to use this "useful tool," but instead to learn how to make use of Windows XP's various and separated network dialogs for configuring your network.
Let me take a moment to say that Microsoft messed up in creating the user-interface controls for Win XP networking. They were drinking their own Kool-Aid on this one. Albeit, networking is more complex under Windows XP; it's more robust and has more options. (In particular, XP handles multiple network connections, while Win9x does not.) But the old Windows 9x user network-configuration interface was more intuitive and could have been adapted. Despite the bad UI, it is possible to master Windows XP networking. Just keep at it.
I have yet to get to the bottom of Dave Ladd's networking problem. He's able to run NetBEUI, but he can't get TCP/IP to work. Most people would prefer not to use TCP/IP for LAN functionality. It adds a level of security to separate your LAN protocol from your Internet protocol. And the Internet runs on TCP/IP. More than likely, Dave's problem is related to IP address assignment. His router may be set to dynamically assign IPs while he's used static IPs. Or he may need to release and renew the IP addresses his computers currently retain, another common problem. Dave, if you write me back, provide some details.
But if you have the reverse problem, where you're having trouble making NetBEUI or IPX/SPX work, my first thought is: Are you using wireless networking products? At least in their earlier incarnations (which I tested extensively for this newsletter), 802.11b networking solutions did not support (or support properly) NetBEUI and IPX/SPX. On my LAN, I find I have to enable File and Printer Sharing bindings for TCP/IP for all computers connected via wireless connections to manage file sharing.
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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