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October 20, 2003 - Vol. 3, Issue No. 51

By Scot Finnie

IN THIS ISSUE

  • Review: Why Eudora 6.0 Isn't a Great Emailer
  • Rant: Do Not Bother with a Do-Not-Spam List
  • Mastering eBay to Buy PCs
  • Heading to L.A. for 'Longhorn'
  • Reader Poll: What's Your Primary OS?
  • New Address for the Scot's Newsletter Forums
  • For Linux Explorers: Making CDs and Boot Floppies
  • Windows Magazine and PC Today
  • Product Beat: Update on the Norton Stuff
  • Link of the Week: The Tweaking Experience 2.0
  • Program of the Month: Belarc Advisor 6.0
  • Newsletter Schedule
  • Subscribe, Unsubscribe, or Change Subscription Options.


    Review: Why Eudora 6.0 Isn't a Great Email Program
    I'm wearing software handcuffs in the form of the Eudora Internet email package. And I'm increasingly searching for a way to cut loose.

    For about 10 years I've been using and recommending Qualcomm's Eudora Internet email package. I've reviewed or recommended the product in PC Magazine, Windows Sources, PC Computing, and other magazines come and gone, not to mention this newsletter and others I've authored. As the years passed, Eudora has not kept pace with the needs of the marketplace. New features in recent years have been glitzy, not substantial (such as "Mood Watch"), and the software has become less reliable -- especially under Windows XP. The best thing that Eudora has to recommend it is that it's one of the more powerful email programs on the planet, and there's nothing out there that betters it.

    Before you dash off to write me a message asking whether I've tried ... Pegasus Mail, The Bat!, PocoMail, Becky, Courier, Netscape, Outlook Express, Microsoft Outlook 2003, ThunderBird, or any of at least half a dozen other grass-roots competitors ... please don't. I have! I've tried them all at one time or another. Most more than once, and several very recently.

    I have also written in great depth about alternative email packages. It's a regularly recurring topic in this newsletter and Windows Insider before Scot's Newsletter. What I've learned about this product category is that -- even more than Web browsers -- the selection of an email package is a matter of supreme personal preference. Features, functionality, and user interface all go into that decision. Also, because so many email programs are free or come bundled on the PCs we buy, cost is another huge factor.

    Web browsing is supposed to have been the premier "killer app" of the Internet. But that's never been the truth; browsing is number 2. The most important Internet application is email. Sadly, Microsoft sat on this marketplace even harder than it did on the browser marketplace, but no one seems to have noticed. Outlook Express is one of the most unreliable, non-portable emailers out there. But every Windows user already has it because it's bundled with Windows. And to top it off, Outlook Express's interface is admittedly among the very best. The program also includes some high-end features only found in a handful of other email programs.

    Microsoft couldn't care less about Outlook Express though. The product hasn't been significantly updated since about 1998. It doesn't have a marketing team, or even a dedicated, separate development team. Outlook Express is a scarecrow. Its sole purpose seems to be to keep small Internet email software makers away from this category so Microsoft can continue to make gobs of money with its Microsoft Outlook corporate email program.

    Back to Eudora
    That's part of the reason why I've been a huge supporter of the comparatively independent Eudora emailer for so many years. But Qualcomm has another problem, it's not really a software company. And the Eudora camp within Qualcomm has yet another problem: It's Mac focused and highly insular. Every major new version of Eudora has a completely new temporary marketing "team." There's very little contact with the press or end users. Basically, the Eudora development team feels that it already knows what's best for end users. And with recent releases of the program in particular, they've proved that that's simply not the case.

    What's wrong with Eudora 6.0? The same things that were wrong with Eudora 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, and 5.0. Qualcomm isn't listening and apparently doesn't care about the fact that, for example, most new users give up on the program within a week or two. I have personally convinced dozens of people to try this product. My success rate at getting people to stick with it beyond a month is under 10 percent.

    Like many companies that have come up against Microsoft in the past (WordPerfect and Lotus spring immediately to mind), the Eudora team appears to have given up. Microsoft is not unbeatable just because it can bundle software in Windows. Does that make it tougher? Sure. Should Microsoft be allowed to compete this way? Absolutely not. But does that mean that Eudora (and Netscape Mail, for that matter), have been in a no-win situation? I don't think so. I don't think either company really tried. Call me Quixotic or an eternal optimist -- but I would pay $50 for an email program that ran rings around Outlook Express. While I realize that casual Internet users probably wouldn't pony up any cash at all, I'd like to believe a lot of people who use email daily for important matters would pay too. When I look at the email offerings out there, none of them does a good job in all the areas necessary.

    The problems in all the previous versions of Eudora may be summed up in a few sentences (because otherwise I'm going to write a book about them). Eudora has an abysmal user interface that is loaded with inconsistencies. It breaks almost every interface rule in the book, probably because of the perceived need to be multiplatform compatible (Windows and Mac) while remaining relatively simple under the hood. In fact, Eudora is for all intents and purposes built with a 16-bit orientation to Windows. Most of the files that it creates or that control it are text files, right down to two large .INI files. Many of its processes are modal (meaning that they are designed to operate serially or within bounds). Eudora's address book is overly simple, out of date, not very configurable, and lacks many of the power features of the competition. The error messages contain inane jokes that the programmers apparently still find funny years later even though the rest of us are rolling our eyes.

    One of Eudora's biggest problems is that it's far more powerful than people realize, but feature discoverability is extremely poor. Options and settings are all over the place in the most disorganized fashion. The entire Options area might as well be labeled "Miscellaneous." Eudora is in need of clean-sheet redesign that focuses wholly on the Windows platform (Linux could use Eudora too, by the way). But this is unlikely to happen so long as Qualcomm continues to own the product team.

    Eudora 6.0
    On the face of the latest version of Eudora, it's a better product than 5.x version that preceded it. The biggest addition is the wholly Bayesian-based spam filter called SpamWatch. This tool works quite well, and the interface is both extremely simple and very usable. I find it a better spam-fighting tool than Spamnix 1.2 beta for Eudora, which also uses Bayesian technology. It has fewer false positives and misses fewer spams than Spamnix. The downside is that Eudora has not committed to significantly updating it in the future, so it might not be a long-term spam solution. You also have to pay for the Pro version of Eudora 6 to get SpamWatch. It's not available in sponsored mode.

    The next most important addition is left out of many of the Eudora marketing materials. It's called Dual SMTP Authorization, and its purpose is to allow Eudora to interoperate with the increasing restrictions ISPs are placing on sending and forwarding mail. The rest of what's new, contextual filing, the "Content Concentrator," and "Format Painter" are bells and whistles with only slightly better utility than the useless Mood Watch "flame meter" feature introduced by an earlier version of Eudora.

    I've been using Eudora 6.0 since early September when it was first released. There are no other significant changes to the product that aren't cosmetic. In other words, all the downsides continue.

    The kicker for me is that Eudora 6.0 continues to have a problem that began with earlier versions in October of 2001. Eudora does not run well under Windows XP. The problem is unexplained program crashes. The product stops operating. It also has a tendency to hesitate, or freeze, for a second or two periodically. You can say a lot of things about Windows XP. It isn't a perfect operating system. But the one thing I find that it does well is manage applications. All except for Eudora. [Editor's note: How about Quicken? It's not great either. --Cyndy.]

    I will continue to wear my Eudora software handcuffs because I have yet to find a program that has all the power features I require (which admittedly is a longer list for me than most people) and is fully reliable under Windows XP. I need stability. I also strongly prefer a Bayesian-spam filter that is built into my email program's interface.

    Of all the competing products out there, the three Eudora competitors that come closest to what I call a real contender are PocoMail, The Bat!, and Pegasus Mail. All three have solid message-filtering tools that equal or better Eudora's. Last I heard, none of them had any sort of built-in Bayesian spam filter. But if, like me, you're looking around for something new -- they're a good bet.

    Give Eudora 6 a miss. Unless you're stuck with it for the moment like I am. And be advised, the free sponsor-mode version of Eudora incorporates adware.

  • $49.95 ($39.95 upgrade), Eudora 6.0, Qualcomm, Support, Press Release

    Back to the Top


    Rant: Do Not Bother with a Do-Not-Spam List
    When legislators turn their attention to technology, I usually find myself wondering with some trepidation whether they approach all other topics with a similar level of ignorance.

    The office of Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) recently released a survey conducted by UnSpam and InsightExpress stating that three-quarters of Americans support a "Do Not Spam" list. Schumer is trying to drum up support for do-not-spam legislation that would mimic the Do Not Call list for telemarketers. I'm sure the survey is correct. Of course Americans want a cure for spam. But do they truly understand the ramifications involved?

    I feel certain I'm preaching to the choir when I say the Do Not Spam list idea will not work! It won't even put a small dent in the rising spam problem. In fact, thousands of people presumably placing their e-mail addresses on any sort of list sounds like a better way to elicit spam than prevent it.

    From what little we know about it, a Do Not Spam bill also isn't likely to be a major help to litigators hoping to scare spammers out of business by making a few pay large settlements in very public lawsuits.

    What's more, this kind of uninformed legislation is potentially dangerous to legitimate e-mailers. These days, most corporations in the U.S. and many around the world send legitimate e-mail that could well be affected by a half-baked law that doesn't understand all the dynamics of unwanted, unsolicited e-mail.

    The computer industry has finally cranked up the heat on anti-spam technology development. But I have an even larger role in mind for the captains of the computer industry, security experts, academicians, and pundits. Their input should be shaping the social and legislative decisions we make. In other words, the experts who truly understand the problem should play a fundamental role in lobbying for the right laws and communicating with businesses and the public about best practices.

    The computer industry must reach out and stop politicians like Schumer before they, perhaps unwittingly, do more harm than good. It's no longer enough just to build products that solve problems. Now that computers and IT are a mainstream part of thousands of everyday corporate and private endeavors, the computer industry has a responsibility to address the side-effects of the changes it has brought to pass.

    This article was originally published in Security Pipeline.

    Back to the Top


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    Mastering eBay to Buy PCs
    I haven't bought a new notebook PC in over two years. I haven't bought a new desktop PC since 1998. Why? Three reasons. The first is that hardware has advanced far more rapidly than the operating systems and software that run on it. There's just far less reason to buy the latest, greatest personal computing hardware. The second reason is that, with desktop PCs, building them yourself is both fun, relatively easy, and you wind up with a much better product for about the same money.

    The third reason has allowed me to keep pace with new notebook equipment: eBay. If you're knowledgeable about computer systems, buying and selling computers -- especially notebook computers -- on eBay can be a great way to save or make money. It's very possible to buy brand new, never used, never opened notebook PCs on eBay that have full warranties. And they'll cost hundreds of dollars less than the same models bought new from a traditional retail store or direct from the manufacturer.

    Why? Because they're being sold by individuals or small businesses. That means there's an element of risk to the buyer, which brings the price down. If you become adept at figuring out who are the honest sellers in this game -- people you can trust to deal straight -- you can save yourself a pile of money. And if brand new isn't important to you -- you can grab a top-notch notebook PC that's a couple years old for just $500 or less.

    The 1GHz Compaq Evo 600c I'm typing this on cost me $600. It was absolutely brand new with 640MB of RAM, a 20GB hard drive, a 14.1-inch LCD, dual pointing devices, Ethernet, and a pile of other stuff. It arrived sealed in its original box with all manuals, accessories, and discs. OK, so it's not the fastest CPU on the block. But I don't need any more than this. Even the least expensive new Compaq Evo 610c series notebook (which has an identical exterior but with faster CPUs) would have set me back $1,700. It was a no-brainer.

    By the way, computers aren't the only thing you can buy on eBay. I have a friend who has bought a BMW 5-series and a Range Rover on eBay. I've been in both and he's done well.

    12 Rules for Buying Successfully on eBay.
    I started the eBay and Used PCs thread on the SFNL Forums about buying via eBay and got several excellent responses and suggestions. I'd like to thank Cluttermagnet, epp_b, greengeek, Ibe98765, Jeber, littlebone, LLfan, Ross549, SonicDragon, Temmu, Volunteer, and zox for their insights, questions, and suggestions. At the end of the rules there are several links to books and website contributed mostly by Ibe98765 that will provide excellent additional information.

    #1: Read the Auction Thoroughly (Before You Bid). Read the auction thoroughly before bidding. Make sure you understand everything you read, and if you don't, take notes on things you're not sure about. You have to attack eBay as a research project. Handling it any other way is a sure way to end up buying something that's less than you wanted. Ignorance is no excuse on eBay. Most sales are final. And there's no true court of appeals.

    I recently bought a hard-drive caddy for a notebook computer. The caddy arrived in perfect condition, but it lacked the four teeny-tiny screws required to attach it to the hard drive. Nothing in the auction mentioned the four screws and the picture didn't show them. I should have realized that and asked the seller in advance of bidding whether the four screws were included. It may seem to you that the seller should have been responsible for communicating that. And a good seller would. But with eBay, caveat emptor (which is Latin for buyer beware).

    #2. Read Feedback, and Take Negative Feedback Seriously. Read the Complaints and Neutrals (negative feedback) going back at least six months, and longer if the person is an infrequent seller. And check up on the feedback of the people who leave negative feedback to see whether they've had problems with others and also how experienced they are.

    The odds are stacked against the buyer on eBay. Because both buyers and sellers are given feedback, people are afraid to drop a dime because of revenge feedback. That means that you should take any negative feedback seriously -- especially if it was left by an experienced eBayer. Recent negative feedbacks are also more important than older ones, especially if the seller has had many transactions in between.

    Don't buy from someone who replies defensively or with a counter-attack. Anything less than 98 percent positive feedback (especially from people with fewer feedbacks) has a strike against them in my book. If the person has 500 or more transactions, 97 percent is okay.

    #3: Set a Final Price and Stick to It. This is easier to say than do. Set a final price and stick to it. If you're not getting a good deal, what's the point? I've been trying to buy a specific notebook PC for six weeks now. I've bid on literally dozens of auctions for this model (this is easy when the item isn't rare, and this one isn't). Other people have gotten my price point on auctions I wasn't around to complete. So I know it's possible. I just have to wait for the stars to line up. It'll happen. Be patient.

    #4. Research Your Seller! Does he or she have an eBay store? Is he an eBay Power Seller? What else is he selling? Send them questions, even if you don't really need the answers. If you get mail from them, you may be able to figure out a website they belong to. Do your homework on the person or company you'll be dealing with.

    Don't buy from any seller whose email bounces. Don't buy from any seller who never responds to your questions. Don't buy from any seller who is evasive. I look for ways that sellers can prove their ownership. With computers, I ask for the serial number. Some PC makers provide Web-based warranty look-ups that use the serial number. This is a good way to verify that the person is actually holding the computer they say they are -- and it also gives you some information about the computer in question.

    #5. Communicate Effectively and Politely. Email communication is everything on eBay. It's one of the main things everyone on both sides of the transaction is looking for. Be positive, upbeat, friendly, and honest. If you don't have something nice to say, don't say it at all. It's not going to help you to get into a bickering match with some seller who just isn't a nice person. Skip that auction and move on.

    #6. Beware First-Time or Zero-Feedback Sellers. Do not bid on an auction when the seller has fewer than 15 sales transactions or who registered on eBay within the last month. Beware of sellers with zero feedback who registered two weeks ago. About half of such sellers (in my personal experience) are running some sort of scam. The other half are honest people who signed up to sell their personal PC. Use email communication to separate wheat from chaff.

    #7. Bid Shrewdly. Every time you bid on the product, you're probably raising the final price. Don't bid early and often. Try as hard as you can to hold off until the final hours or minutes of the auction. Many experienced eBay bidders never bid until the auction is less than 60 seconds from completion. Why? Some people feel compelled to be "winning" the auction all the way through, and they will keep upping the price if someone beats them. It's a stupid game of oneupsmanship, and the only person who wins it is the seller. The more everyone feeds into that, the higher the price goes. Hold off on bidding. The only bid that matters is the last bid.

    It is common for prices on popular auctions to rise 25 to 35 percent in the last 45 seconds before the auction closes. You have to factor in that likelihood when considering whether an auction is worth you rearranging your life to be there just when it closes. Also, auctions that close on Saturdays often have more people showing up to bid in the final seconds.

    #8. Don't Bid in Predictable Amounts. It's not uncommon for an auction to come down to only a penny difference in bid price. Old hands routinely bid amounts that are one penny, fifty cents, fifty one cents, $1.01 or $2.51 over the round number. It's also not uncommon for computers to sell for $10 or $10.01 over $500, $600, $1,000 or whatever. If you're making a final bid, tack that extra bit on -- it can be the difference between getting the item you want, and missing it by a few pennies.

    #9. Understand Reserves. A reserve price is a minimum amount the seller will accept for an item. Reserve prices have a way of killing some auctions, and high reserves are often the trademark of inexperienced or under-confident sellers. The only ways you can find out what the reserve is on a given item is to bid it up until it no longer says "reserve not met" or send the seller an email and politely ask them whether they'd be willing to share their reserve price. Some do and some don't. There's nothing wrong with asking.

    A better way of creating a minimum price of an item is for the seller to set the opening price fairly high. For example, on an item worth about $1,000, an $800 opening price is like a public reserve. What's ludicrous is an item that opens at $1 with a $900 reserve and is worth $1,000. It's not uncommon for an auction like that to fail to meet its reserve.

    #10. Pay with Credit Card or PayPal. Most eBay auctions accept PayPal. Sign-up for PayPal; it's not the awful service some people believe it to be. Your preferred payment methods should be credit card, PayPal, and personal check. These methods of payment give you some recourse if the seller never sends the item or it arrives in poor condition (when you were led to believe otherwise). You can cancel a personal check, but the charge to do that is only worthwhile on items that cost more than $100, and even then you'll be taking a bath on it. Some money orders apparently offer some sort of cancel policy. Be sure to check into those if you decide to pay this way. My personal rule is not to bid on any auction that doesn't take credit card or PayPal.

    You should always insure the shipments of high-ticket items that might be damaged or lost in the mail. Some sellers look at this as a little profit center, and tack on exorbitant fees for shipping insurance. Nevertheless, you'd be crazy not to pay this extra fee for something expensive. And find out how much the seller is insuring the item for.

    #11. Pay Promptly. There's nothing a seller likes better than to be paid right away (but read the instructions first). By paying promptly, you create a positive experience for the seller, and you motivate him or her to give you the same in return. When you drag your feet, are out of touch, or don't pay until the last second, you create animosity on the other side. Keep your end of the bargain; your seller will be more likely to keep his or hers.

    #12. How to Leave Feedback. Always leave positive feedback for a good transaction. But think twice about leaving negative feedback. It will almost always result in a backlash negative feedback from the seller that will usually make you look worse than the seller looks. Especially if you're new to eBay, one negative feedback out of 15 transactions looks far worse than one negative feedback out of 1,000 (for your seller).

    If you have a significant problem with a seller or buyer (you didn't get the item or it doesn't work), contact eBay for the person's phone number -- and call them. Work it out. And if that doesn't solve the problem, work with eBay for additional advice and possibly mediation.

    Another method is to check the Neutral or Positive feedback option but be honest in a nice way in the text area about what didn't go well with the transaction. This will warn off smarter eBay buyers.

    More eBay Resources
    Here's a list of eBay information websites, eBay sellers and bidders tools, and books that explains eBay in more detail:

    Advice and Tips on eBay:
    http://www.entrepreneur.com/ebaycenter
    http://www.freewarehof.org/ebay.html
    http://www.ebayersthatsuck.com/main/index.php

    Tools for eBay:
    http://www.hammertap.com/index.html
    http://www.vendio.com/
    http://www.andale.com/corp/index.html
    http://www.auctionsniper.com/
    http://www.powersnipe.com/
    http://www.auctionessentials4u.com/
    http://www.bidspyder.com/

    Book: eBay Hacks By David A. Karp (of Windows Annoyances) http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/ebayhks/index.html

    An eBay Alternative:
    http://www.craigslist.org/

    Back to the Top


    Windows Intelligence: Heading to L.A. for 'Longhorn'
    No, I'm not moving to L.A. But I am traveling to Los Angeles the last week of this month. I'm headed to Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference, PDC2003. The convention, which is aimed primarily at engineers is notable this time around because it's the first large venue where Microsoft will be showcasing a late pre-beta of Windows "Longhorn," the next desktop version of Windows.

    Much of what will be visibly new in Windows Longhorn when it eventually ships, probably in early fall 2005, will not be on display at the PDC. That includes Microsoft's next-generation user interface, codenamed "Aero." My expectation is that the beta 1 release of the next Windows will have an early implementation of Aero. Right now, it's not clear when that beta will be delivered. My wild guess is something like late 1Q2004.

    But word from Microsoft is that PDC2003 attendees will receive pre-beta 1 code. We'll also be given sessions on various aspects of Windows Longhorn, including the file system. And we'll get several chances to ask questions of product managers and engineers. I hope to soak up a ton of knowledge about the forthcoming OS, and then provide you my usual brand of no-bunk analysis. I'm too old to fall in love with every Microsoft technology that comes along just because it sounds cool two years before it's released. But I've also seen Microsoft hit home runs, and I know they're still quite capable of doing just that.

    There's a lot of questions swirling around out there about Windows Longhorn. Frankly, too, I think there's been a lot of misinformation. Many of the fears about Longhorn from long-time Windows users are probably misplaced. More than anything, though, I think there are a lot of outstanding questions. And I'm looking to get answers.

    What do you want to know about Windows Longhorn? Send your Longhorn questions to me and I'll try to get answers. I'll also be writing in depth about Longhorn both here in the newsletter and elsewhere in the months to come. So I'll provide many answers there.

    Back to the Top


    Reader Poll: What's Your Primary Operating System?
    Each year around this time, Scot's Newsletter conducts a reader poll that asks: What's your main OS? I know many of you use multiple operating systems. I'm asking you to select the one OS you use most of the time and give me its name. One answer only, please.

    If you want to tell me about other OSes, you can do that in the body of the message. Please don't vote for "Other" as a way of voting for multiple OSes.

    This is an email-based poll. To participate, click the link below the operating system name that's your answer. Clicking the link will open your email program and create an outgoing message with the proper subject line for our vote to be counted. AOL and Web-mail users, you will need to create the message manually following the directions in parentheses.

    Which operating system do you use the most? Please choose one OS only:

    1. Windows XP
    (If this link doesn't work, send a message to poll2003@scotsnewsletter.com and type "WinXP" in the subject line.)

    2. Windows 2000
    (If this link doesn't work, send a message to poll2003@scotsnewsletter.com and type "Win2K" in the subject line.)

    3. Windows Server 2003
    (If this link doesn't work, send a message to poll2003@scotsnewsletter.com and type "WinServer2003" in the subject line.)

    4. Windows Me
    (If this link doesn't work, send a message to poll2003@scotsnewsletter.com and type "WinMe" in the subject line.)

    5. Windows 98 (any version)
    (If this link doesn't work, send a message to poll2003@scotsnewsletter.com and type "Win98" in the subject line.)

    6. Windows NT (any version)
    (If this link doesn't work, send a message to poll2003@scotsnewsletter.com and type "WinNT" in the subject line.)

    7. Windows 95
    (If this link doesn't work, send a message to poll2003@scotsnewsletter.com and type "Win95" in the subject line.)

    8. Linux (any version)
    (If this link doesn't work, send a message to poll2003@scotsnewsletter.com and type "Linux" in the subject line.)

    9. Macintosh (any version)
    (If this link doesn't work, send a message to poll2003@scotsnewsletter.com and type "Mac" in the subject line.)

    10. Other OS (DOS, Win 3.x, OS/2, Unix, BSD, or other not mentioned)
    (If this link doesn't work, send a message to poll2003@scotsnewsletter.com and type "OtherOS" in the subject line.)

    Thanks for taking the time to send me your message.

    In an upcoming issue I'll tell you how this turned out. I'll also ask you about what you think your next operating system will be. So hold off telling me about that until then.

    Back to the Top



    Have you thought about advertising in Scot’s Newsletter? New ad positions may be opening soon. Now’s the time to find out about it. Check the Rate Card for more information. Or send us an enquiry by email to: sales@scotsnewsletter.com.

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    New Address for the Scot's Newsletter Forums
    The quick word is that we had to change the address to the Scot's Newsletter Forums. And that new address is:

    http://forums.scotsnewsletter.com/

    Folks using the old address will find a message that helps them get to the new address of the board.

    A little more depth on what caused this might prove interesting for some of you. As the forums have continued to grow (almost 2,000 members and over 40,000 posts), we started to encounter performance problems and occasional error messages. About five or six weeks ago, the error messages went from being occasional to frequent -- and the usability went down. Some folks even stopped coming.

    The forum software we use, Invision Power Board, was designed for Linux using PHP and MySQL. After a lot of diagnosis by my webhost's tech support team, they decided to move the forums from a Windows server to a Linux server. The Scot's Newsletter website continues to be hosted on Windows. But, according to my webhost, the problems we had were "the classic PHP with Windows" problem. And they were right. As soon as we made the switch, the trouble disappeared.

    By the way, are you interested in Windows, Linux, or Networking? Have you tried the Scot's Newsletter Forums yet? Windows and Microsoft forum moderator ThunderRiver is an official Microsoft beta tester who knows all the latest software. The All Things Linux forum is two things most Linux forums can't claim:

    1. Friendly to Windows users
    2. Loaded with useful information on how to get started

    Our Security and Networking forum is managed by Windows and Linux experts. Plus there's Hardware, Application Software, Q&A, and more. Give this place a shot. I know you're going to like it. You can read all you want without registering. Validated email registration is required to post.

    An Amazing Community
    Think the Scot's Newsletter Forums is just another bulletin board on the 'Net? Naw, it's something a lot more special. When Hurricane Isabel plowed right through the roof of Senior Moderator LilBambi's house on September 19, several forums people pulled together to help out. LilBambi and her husband Jim were out of power for more than a week and their roof was so bad they could see the sky in spots. Something had to be done.

    Together, SFNL Forums moderator Teacher and member Siebkens and her family planned a day when they would all meet to effect repairs. They took separate road trips to LilBambi's house. Forum member Ross549 and his friend Eric also hopped in a car and headed to LilBambi's house in Virginia. Everyone showed up and worked for two days stripping off a section of the roof, laying down new ply and tar paper, and then hoisting and laying new roofing shingles. The effort put in by people who had never met one another is, perhaps, the Forums' single best moment.

    Other people, who couldn't be there in person, contributed money to the venture. Almost $500 was collected in just a few days based strictly on a single post in the Forums. I'm not going to name the financial contributors, since I'm not sure if they all want to be named. But everyone who donated helped significantly -- and should be proud of themselves.

    I know that LilBambi and her husband were very grateful. It shows that a virtual community can be every bit the equal of a local community. For me, this is what it's all about.

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    Tips for Linux Explorers: Making CDs and Boot Floppies
    We probably should have done these two topics a few issues back -- burning Linux installation CDs from downloaded ISO files and making a Linux boot floppy disk should probably come before and after installing Linux, respectively. So we're rectifying that this time around. And next issue we'll pick up where we left off with a cheat sheet to the Linux file system.

    Burning ISOs to CDs Under Windows
    Under Windows, use Nero 6 CD-burning software to create a bootable CD from downloaded Linux ISO files with these steps:

    1. Launch the "Nero Burning ROM" (regular version, not the wizard) portion of the program.

    2. Select from the menu: Recorder > Burn Image.

    3. Use the default options and burn the CD.

    4. Repeat for each ISO file.

    Scot's Newsletter Forums member Owyn points out another tool you can use to burn ISOs with in Windows XP: The ISO Recorder Power Toy. Download the program with this link. After you install it, follow these steps:

    1. Right-Click on the ISO file and choose "Copy Image to CD" from the pop-up menu.

    2. Confirm the settings in the dialog window and click Next.

    This website (translated from German by Google) provides more information on using the ISO Recorder Power Toy.

    Burning ISOs to CDs Under Linux
    Type the following lines in the Linux console, pressing Enter after each. The first line will give you a three-digit number separated by commas that you must type after the "dev=" attribute in the second line. Be sure to replace "{Downloaded ISO path and filename}" with the actual path and name of your downloaded ISO (without the curly brackets):

    $ cdrecord --scanbus
    $ cdrecord dev=0,1,0 {DOWNLOADED ISO PATH AND FILENAME}.iso

    If after burning your ISO files you see a lot of files and directories on the new CD, you'll know your CD burned correctly. If all you see is your downloaded ISO file, then you've done something wrong. You need to burn the image, not the file. If you're using a CD-R, you will need to use a new one to try again.

    Make a Linux Boot Floppy
    After you install Linux, you should make a boot floppy disk for it. If your Linux distro's GUI-tool for making a boot-floppy fails, there's a simple command-line way of accomplishing the task. The actual steps vary slight depending on which distro you use. So here are the steps in some popular ones. Note: There's no need to wipe your floppy or reformat it.

    Mandrake:
    $ su
    <enter your root password>
    # uname -r     (shows the Linux kernel version)
    # mkbootdisk --device /dev/fd0

    Note: Take the kernel version shown you after you enter the third line and enter it into the fourth line, like this:

    # mkbootdisk --device /dev/fd0 2.4.21-0.13mdk

    Now insert the floppy and press Enter.

    RedHat:
    $ su
    <enter your root password>
    # uname -r     (shows the Linux kernel version)
    # /sbin/mkbootdisk -device /dev/fd0

    Note, take the kernel version shown you after you enter the third line and enter it into the fourth line. Then insert floppy and press Enter.

    Debian and Knoppix (installed to hard drive):
    $ su
    <enter your root password>
    # uname -r     (shows the Linux kernel version)
    # mkboot -r dev/hda?

    Note: Replace the question mark in dev/hda? with the number that represents the root partition. Take the kernel version shown you after you enter the third line and enter it into the fourth line. Then insert floppy and press Enter.

    Slackware and VectorLinux:
    $ su
    <enter your root password>
    # makebootdisk
    And a dialog box will open that helps you to make the floppy.

    Using A Boot Floppy
    Always test a new boot-floppy after you make it by using it to boot your PC. Once you have a tested boot floppy, you can do serious work on your Linux installation; if things go wrong, you'll have a way to boot even if the Master Boot Record (MBR) gets overwritten. You'll be able to boot from your floppy and restore Lilo or Grub to the MBR following these steps:

    $ su
    <enter your root password>
    # /sbin/lilo

    or

    # grub-install /dev/hda

    You can even do a re-install of Windows without having to worry about the boot-loader. A boot floppy is a necessity under Linux.

    Sources
    Most of the material you'll read in Tips for Linux Explorers comes from Bruno of Amsterdam, one of the moderators of the popular All Things Linux forum at Scot's Newsletter Forums.

    Bruno is helped by All Things Linux co-moderators Peachy and Teacher, as well as other forum members who have posted in the highly useful Tips for Linux Starters thread (from which Linux Explorers is derived).

    Previous installments of Tips for Linux Explorers can be found in these Scot's Newsletter back issues:

  • Check Your Linux 'ISO'
  • Installation Tips
  • Updating Your Distro
  • Command-Line Shortcuts

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    Windows Magazine and PC Today
    Are you an ex-Windows Magazine reader? Many of you know I'm an ex-Windows Magazine reviewer and editor. In fact, I was the guy in charge of WinMag.com's Windows coverage. And before that, I was the magazine's lead Windows reviewer. Windows Magazine has, I think, been retired for good. But I continue to be employed by the company that owned Windows Magazine, so let me point out to you a new home for some of the better Windows Magazine articles that still offer very useful information today.

    InformationWeek recently debuted a new Windows Tech Center that delivers the stories of lead Microsoft reporter John Foley, the InformationWeek columns of ex-Windows Magazine editor Fred Langa, and a solid collection of classic Windows Magazine stories and columns. The latter were hand-picked by me, some 100 or so of the best articles ever produced by Windows Magazine.

    Meanwhile, a small consumer magazine company based in the Midwest has just launched a magazine with a focus similar to Windows Magazine. It's called PC Today. You may recall a magazine of that name that folded a few years back; now it's being resurrected with this new mission.

    I'm happy to announce that I'll be writing a new column for PC Today that will appear beginning in the January 2004 issue. The content of PC Today magazine does not appear on the Web. I believe the premiere issue is on newsstands today, or you can subscribe to it on the Web.

    In coming issues, the bylines of at least two other ex-Windows Magazine editors are scheduled to appear in the pages of PC Today, and at least two other well-known authors will appear as columnists. Should be worth checking out.

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    Product Beat: Update on the Norton Stuff
    Final code for Norton SystemWorks 2004 arrived this week, a bit later than expected. I've been running Norton AntiVirus 2004 for some weeks now. I've run into an issue on one computer. Since installing NAV2004, Microsoft Word XP runs more slowly, and the mouse pointer/cursor has a tendency to disappear for a couple of seconds. There is an Office Plug-in feature that caused trouble with earlier versions of Norton AntiVirus and Word that I disabled, but that didn't help. I'm not 100 percent sure this problem is caused by Norton AntiVirus 2004. But I can tell you it wasn't there under Norton AntiVirus 2003.

    As reported in the last issue, I've had trouble with a clean-installed version of Windows XP, a clean installed version of Eudora (with some custom installation options), and an install of Norton AntiSpam. In fact, that Norton AntiSpam problem occurred in both Eudora and Outlook Express on that computer. Symantec has not been able to duplicate the problem. This stuff happens. I'll update you once I've figured it out.

    One note of clarification about Norton AntiSpam 2004, according to a closely placed company source, the engine is purely Bayesian, and the product does not use rules-based antispam definitions. The one-year subscription service that comes with Norton AntiSpam is for tweaks to the Bayesian engine.

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

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    Link of the Week: The Tweaking Experience 2.0
    Is it link? Or a tip? Or a program? The Tweaking Experience 2.0 is all three. It's a downloadable help guide that provides scores of tips on how to configure and tweak Windows XP, Windows 2000, and Windows Server 2003. The 5+MB .MSI installable is provided by a Windows XP resources site known as WindowsXP.homedns.org.

    Scot's Newsletter Forums, Windows and Microsoft forum moderator ThunderRiver personally recommends The Tweaking Experience 2.0. I also have found it to be chock full of interesting and useful suggestions and instructions. If you like Windows tips, you're going to like this.

    One of the beauties of this downloaded help applet is that it's filled with images that show you what to do. I challenge any SFNL reader to tell me he or she didn't find something new and useful in this one. Check it out!

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

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    Have you thought about advertising in Scot’s Newsletter? New ad positions may be opening soon. Now’s the time to find out about it. Check the Rate Card for more information. Or send us an enquiry by email to: sales@scotsnewsletter.com.

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    Program of the Month: Belarc Advisor 6.0
    This program has been around forever, and it's been suggested numerous times as the Link of the Week or Tip of the Week. In fact, downloadable freeware programs are a frequent incorrect suggestion to Scot's Newsletter's Link of the Week and Tip of the Week mailboxes. That's why I'm adding the Program of the Month item to the newsletter beginning in this issue.

    What does Belarc Advisor do? The 544K freeware utility gathers information about the hardware, software, and BIOS on your PC and displays it on a local Web page that is jam-packed with useful information. It takes less than five minutes to download and run this program. Here are some of the things you'll learn about any PC you run it on:

  • Motherboard serial number
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  • CPU type and speed
  • Operating system (and specific service pack)
  • Hard drive total capacity and free space
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    Newsletter Schedule
    OK everyone, my summer schedule is monthly, but my regular schedule is every other week. So where has the newsletter been?

    Plain and simple, my day job as editor of TechWeb.com and SecurityPipeline.com has heated up dramatically over the last several months. I'm also traveling on business a lot more lately, something that interferes with the newsletter's schedule. The week after next I'm at Microsoft's PDC2003, where I'll gather lots of information about the next version of Windows. I'm also heading to Fall Comdex (traditionally the largest computer conference of the year) in middle November. And I'm working on several projects that are going to nibble away at my time. [Editor's note: If you think you've been missing him, don't even get me started ... -- Cyndy.]

    Don't worry, this isn't a signal that the newsletter is about to disappear. SFNL continues to grow, and is up to 45,000 subscribers now. But it looks like I'm going to be monthly for while I sort out my busy schedule. Right now, I'm planning the next issue for November 13th, but that could change. So check the Scot's Newsletter home page for when the next issue is expected.

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