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June 24, 2002 - Vol. 2, Issue No. 28
By Scot Finnie
IN THIS ISSUE
ZoneAlarm 3.1 Plus
Last week I finally hooked up with the folks at Zone Labs after several weeks of trying. They filled me in on a new product they're announcing tomorrow called ZoneAlarm 3.1 Plus. You might be interested in this.
Take ZoneAlarm 3.0 Pro, sprinkle in the latest batch of bug fixes and minor functionality tweaks, then eliminate the privacy and ad-blocking features in ZoneAlarm 3.0 Pro. And then charge $39 ($10 less than ZoneAlarm 3.0 Pro). That's ZoneAlarm 3.1 Plus. It slots in between the freeware version and the Pro version. And I expect to review it in a forthcoming issue of Scot’s Newsletter.
For those of you using ZoneAlarm now, I know what your next question is: When will ZoneAlarm 3.1 (the freeware version for personal use) be available? Zone Labs' Te Smith says "early July." That's not too long to wait. Pro users? Your question? If I answered it they'd have to shoot me. But I can tell you that the 3.1 Pro version is coming, and you won't have to wait forever.
I asked the Zone Labs folks (Te and Fred Feldman) whether the emergence of the Plus version might be the first signal that the free version of the product might someday disappear. The answer was a resounding "No." At least, that's not currently in the plans. Zone Labs has 2.5 to 3 million Pro users and 17 to 19 million free users. Are they looking to convert some of those free users to paid? I'm sure they are, although the Plus version isn't likely to do that, at least not in big numbers. Frankly, I'm not sure I get the marketing plan here. Well, maybe I do. Increasingly, Zone Alarm Pro will be carrying the ball on new and important features. The Plus version gives the company a way to segue into that stance. Sooner or later, I expect that the free version will be pared back to what you need to be secure and nothing more. That's my conjecture though.
As you'll see later in this issue, in my review of Norton Internet Security 2002 Pro, I'm not a big fan of the new ZoneAlarm user interface, which was introduced with the 3.0 version of the product. I gave Te and Fred some feedback about that. Here's hoping that Zone Labs' developers take some of my thoughts and ideas to heart.
Do you have thoughts about the ZoneAlarm 3.0 works that you'd like to pass along to Zone Labs? It's a company that's usually willing to listen. So, send your comments my way.
LINDOWS AT WAL-MART
Maybe you heard about this. Wal-Mart, the nationwide discount retailer, is selling well-equipped Pentium 4 and AMD Duron Microtel computers for $300 to $600 with the LindowsOS SPX Linux-based operating system. Thanks to SFNL readers Jerry Viano and Mike Champion for bringing this to my attention more than a week ago. In case you want a peek for yourself at the different models and prices, check it out.
What's especially interesting about Lindows is that it's designed to run Windows-based applications. Although, from what I can tell, LindowsOS SPX does not have that Windows application compatibility functionality. The real version is still in beta, and not due to be released until later this year.
What's especially interesting about the Microtel PCs is their low price points and huge value. How about a 1.8GHz Pentium 4 with 256MB of RAM and a 40GB hard drive, CD-RW drive, Ethernet, and modem for $599 (monitor not included)? The Microtel PCs include a small bundle of no-name software. Lindows appears to be focused on selling applications for Lindows PCs with its Click-N-Run application download portal. Wal-Mart Microtel PCs come with up to three free application downloads from Click-N-Run.
All of that's great, but the big news is the fact that retailing giant Wal-Mart has selected these Microtel Lindows PCs. But when you think about it, it makes sense. Wal-Mart can't sell $1,200 PCs. That's not what it does. On the other hand, are Linux PCs -- even ones that come with preinstalled Linux -- really the right product to spring on unsuspecting Wal-Mart consumers? I'm convinced that Linux is a true alternative for propeller heads; I'm not convinced that it's the right OS for what may well be newbies. But I'm willing to suspend my disbelief and give it a shot. I'm attempting to contact Microtel for an evaluation unit. If I get one, expect a review of the Wal-Mart/Microtel experience.
Scot’s Newsletter is very interested in Lindows, at least the version that is slated to run Windows programs. I've been unsuccessful in getting a copy of one of the three Lindows sneak previews from Lindows itself. But a smart SFNL reader, who shall remain nameless, did forward me a copy (thank you!). And I'm in the process of clearing away a test machine to install it on. Hopefully, I can get the company's attention this time though.
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This week I have an update. First, Microsoft provided Beta 1 of SP1 recently, and I've been examining it on a test machine. Beta 1 appears to be feature incomplete, and some of it isn't functional. What's more, beta testers are warned not to install this build on their "production machines." In other words, if you get your hands on this release, don't install it on any PC you use everyday.
The first thing you notice about SP1 is that there's not much to notice. On Start's Programs submenu there's a new menu item that reads "Set Program Access and Defaults." That shortcut accesses the Add or Remove Programs control panel, tunneled into a new fourth area of Add or Remove Programs. It probably won't surprise you that the name of this fourth area is Set Program Access and Defaults.
Last time I described four selectable modes, Computer Manufacturer, Non-Microsoft, Microsoft Windows, and Custom. Since this copy of XP SP1 wasn't installed by an OEM Computer Manufacturer, it's no surprise that it shows only the other three items. Take a look at this screenshot to see what one of the Beta 1 Custom mode screen looks like.
The Custom mode worked as advertised in Beta 1. I might quibble with the interface, but hey, it is Beta 1. It was pretty easy to make specific program changes, both creating third-party application defaults and making Microsoft apps invisible or visible. Most people who actually use this tool will probably wind up using Custom mode.
The Non-Microsoft mode only works if you've installed at least one Non-Microsoft browser, email program, instant messaging tool, media player, or Java virtual machine. And in Beta 1, I couldn't get the Non-Microsoft mode to work at all. I installed several alternative programs and with their settings, made them the default browser, email package, and so on. But try as I might, non-Microsoft apps never appeared as options on the Non-Microsoft screen.
The Java VM Change
Microsoft has decided to include its own version of the Java Virtual Machine (VM) in Windows XP SP1. Have you been as confused about the inclusion of Microsoft's Java VM in Windows and Internet Explorer as I have? Almost a year ago Microsoft announced that it was yanking the Java VM, as I wrote, "from all future versions of Windows and Internet Explorer."
Apparently, though, that decision sprouted a few footnotes. According to Microsoft, the settlement agreement between Sun and Microsoft prevents the Redmond, Wash.-based company from making any changes -- including security fixes -- to its Java implementation after January 1, 2004. So there will be no Java in Windows from that point forward. But between now and then, Microsoft's Java VM will continue to be distributed with IE and Windows.
Microsoft has also decided to include the Java VM on the Windows XP SP1 disc. Here's an excerpt from an email sent by a Microsoft spokesperson that explains Microsoft's reason for the change:
Microsoft made this decision because the company is removing the installation-on-demand component that was originally included in Windows XP because of Sun's most recent lawsuit. Microsoft believes that including the option [to allow] Windows XP customers who encounter a Java applet and don't already have a Java VM on their PC to be prompted to download [the Microsoft] Java VM was fully compliant with Microsoft's settlement with Sun.... But, due to Sun's most recent lawsuit, which claimed the installation-on-demand option for Java was in violation of the settlement agreement, Microsoft wanted to take this issue off the table in the new lawsuit while minimizing any potential impact on customers.
Seems to me like Microsoft's taking away the Java VM with one hand and giving it back with the other, all because of its legal tango with Sun. Sun's only goal seems to be to mess up whatever Microsoft is trying to do with Java. On the other hand, Microsoft no longer has the argument it once had. Sun's recent Java builds are quite good under Windows. Microsoft just doesn't want to distribute Sun's code; it only wants to distribute the Java VM that it customized for Internet Explorer, which is now aging rapidly. Both companies are creating problems for users by not sitting down and working this out.
Backing out of SP1
One of the things I like right away about SP1 is that it offers a real uninstall feature that deletes a very large number of files that it installs. Heck, maybe it's a complete uninstall -- but who can ever know for sure? (Uninstall only works if you select the installation option to save a backup of your pre-existing installation.) Many users may be deterred from using the uninstall feature because it also presents a dialog box listing applications on your PC that may not "run properly" after you uninstall SP1.
On my test PC, those programs included Internet Gateway Device Discovery and Control Client, Windows Media Player, Networking Services, and Outlook Express. In fact, there was only one non-Microsoft application that might be affected. In reality, I saw no problems. But I also neither installed nor uninstalled applications after applying SP1, so I didn't tempt fate much. Oddly, the warning dialog is only supposed to display programs you've installed since SP1 installation. In Beta 1, I didn't find that to be the case.
Disabling Windows Messenger
Ok, so it's Beta 1, but Microsoft not only doesn't remove any of the programs it disables, it's actually quite easy to make the Windows Messenger icon reappear in Windows XP even after you've used the new Set Program Defaults and Access user interface to remove it. All you have to do is launch Outlook Express. In its default configuration, Outlook Express has its Contacts pane visible, and when that screen is visible, running Outlook Express automatically launches Windows Messenger's System Tray icon. In the last issue of SFNL, I provided links to tricks that help you prevent this from happening.
Maybe I should send them to the Windows XP SP1 team too.
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Last December, Symantec released the updated 4.0 version of Norton Personal Firewall in a more advanced, and more expensive product with the ungainly name of Norton Internet Security 2002 Professional. This $99 software package (which comes with a $30 rebate coupon), has been installed and running on my main PC since that time. When I switched over to Windows XP, I left it behind. But in preparation for this review, I've been using it there too; it works equally well on XP.
For many people, I think NIS 2002 Pro is an excellent alternative to SystemWorks 2002. It lacks Norton Utilities, Ghost, CleanSweep, and so on. But it comes with Norton Personal Firewall, basic intrusion-detection technology (akin to that in BlackICE Defender), Norton AntiVirus 2002, privacy controls, a corporate filtering option, and ad blocking. I think a lot of people are far less interested these days in gee-whiz utilities, like Norton System Doctor, and are far more interested in full-fledged security and protection. That's what Norton Internet Security is about. NIS 2002 Pro is also able to integrate itself with an existing installation of SystemWorks 2001 or SystemWorks 2002. (I'm running the latter on my primary Windows XP PC.) NIS's install routine is also smart enough not to reinstall Norton AntiVirus 2002 if it finds that application already installed on your PC.
I started testing NIS 2002 Pro last December with the expectation that I'd return to ZoneAlarm on my main PC after a thorough trial. Two things happened to change my mind about ZoneAlarm and Norton Personal Firewall: The first is that Symantec has anti-Trojan rules and intrusion-detection with a powerful automatic shut-down feature for specific intruding IP address, called Autoblock. Zone Labs is not currently headed in the intrusion-detection direction, and I'm a firm believer that both firewall and intrusion detection are necessary to thwart the ever-increasing Internet security threat. Make no mistake broadband users, you are very definitely in peril if you don't have at least one solid layer of protection. More layers are better. Dial-up users aren't immune either.
The second reason I wound up sticking with Norton Internet Security 2002 Pro is that as I was completing my extended trial with it, Zone Labs came out with ZoneAlarm 3.0. For the first time in several years of using ZA, I not only did I not like one of its upgrades, I had a little trouble with it. I've detailed that issue in previous installments so I won't rehash it here. But it wasn't a huge problem, and it did quiet down after I reinstalled the product. I also found, though, that I can't abide the new ZoneAlarm 3.x interface. ZoneAlarm has been running ever since on my number 2 machine. And doing remarkably well. But NIS 2002 Pro is also running well. I've seen no reason to change, either.
So one year later, ZoneAlarm and Norton Personal Firewall are still strong contenders. What's more, ISS purchased BlackICE Defender last year, and it recently released a new version of BlackICE, which is also now running in SFNL Labs. Windows XP, which shipped last October, also has the ICS Firewall built in. I'm going to cover all these products, some in more depth than others, over the next several issues of the newsletter. By the time we're done with that, there's a very good chance that both Symantec and Zone Labs could have issued major or minor releases to their products. Fall tends to be the time of year for new versions. And when all is said and done, I'm going to make a hard recommendation about which product or products are best. Along the way, I'm going to tell you which one(s) I like right now.
So, How Secure?
Let's get down to brass tacks on Norton Internet Security 2002 Pro. How well did it protect my plain vanilla DSL connection? Well it passed the SFNL Firewall Test Suite with a minimum of fuss, and a maximum of protection.
In fact, the NIS 2002 Pro protection is so good that I had to turn off the Autoblock feature in order to do port scans. Autoblock shuts down any port scan within seconds of initiation and provides notification to you with details if you want them. I like that very much.
There was only blemish on the NIS 2002 Pro record. I had this same problem in the Norton Personal Firewall 3.0 test in May of last year. The Internet clock program I use, Tardis 2000, is capable of functioning as a server. I use it to serve time data to other computers on my network, so only one computer is actively retrieving time from an Internet server. Once that server feature is enabled, Norton Personal Firewall allows access to two ports in the 1 to 1024 TCP range. If I block Tardis's access to the Internet using NPF's Internet Access Control (application controls), then the two accessible ports are closed. ZoneAlarm is able to allow Tardis to function while keeping the ports closed to outside scans.
I've communicated this in detail to Symantec, but it was at the 11th hour, and they weren't able to get back to me in time. Perhaps they'll have a response for the next issue of SFNL.
All in all, though, I'm very pleased with NIS 2002 Pro's protection. Despite this one blemish, the product provides well rounded, layered protection. And as any security expert will tell you, layers are important when it comes to Internet attacks.
The core "firewall" technology in Norton Internet Security isn't, in my opinion, better than the ZoneAlarm (2.6 or 3.0) firewall. In fact, I would have to give the edge to ZoneAlarm there over Norton Personal Firewall 4.0. That was the case when I compared Norton Personal Firewall to ZoneAlarm 2.x last year, and it's still the case now. The improvements to NPF 4.0 from NPF 3.0 are minor. They're mostly usability and Windows XP compatibility features.
The reason I think ZoneAlarm is a tad better is that it gives you more control, both in terms of multiple levels of the trusted zone and also in providing specific application controls for both receiving ("Access") and outbound ("Server") activities. As a pure firewall, ZoneAlarm is better. It's particularly better for more experienced users, though. For less experienced users, or anyone who doesn't want to think about security, I think the Norton product is a better choice.
Plus, taken as a package, the Norton Internet Security 2002 Pro feature set provides a well conceived mixture of security strategies. NIS's Autoblock feature, for example, automatically locks out any specific IP address intrusion attempts to scan your TCP or UDP ports. The block lasts for 30 minutes, and if the same address attempts a scan again, Autoblock will again lock out that IP address for another 30 minutes, and so on. If you're looking for security from port scanners (and well you should be since they're one of the bigger security threats), NIS has excellent coverage.
Symantec also added application-control "fingerprints," or pre-built rules for common applications. So, for example, the first time AOL's Instant Messenger launches under NIS 2002 Pro, I don't have to know whether to give it access or not. Symantec has provided an automatic rule for it. That means you see fewer alerts, and you have less chance to make an error that might either disable an important application or, worse, diminish your level of security. As with other Norton products, NIS 2002 Pro updates via the Internet for an annual fee. You get the first year with the purchase of the product. NIS can update intrusion detection, Trojan, and application rules online. There have been a small trickle of updates since the product was introduced.
Although I'm still working on a future review of BlackICE, which is more an intrusion-detection product than a firewall, I think I can safely say that BlackICE provides a better degree of intrusion-detection protection than the Symantec product. The key to what's desirable about NIS 2002 Pro is that it provides a happy medium of firewall, intrusion detection, and anti-Trojan features. You could install both BlackICE and ZoneAlarm, or you could just install the Norton product.
For most of us, having one vendor to deal with and only one program sucking up system resources is at the least, attractive. Because of that, because it did well in testing -- and because Norton Personal Firewall and Norton Internet Security are the easiest firewall/intrusion-detection products to install, configure, and use -- NIS 2002 Pro is clearly an SFNL Top Product. It continues to be the firewall running on my primary computer.
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Get the Right Modem
Question: I have a new (January 2002) Compaq computer with a PCTEL Platinum V.92 modem. I am constantly being disconnected from the Internet. I have even changed phone outlets thinking perhaps it was that particular outlet. My two-and-a-half-year-old HP with a Rockwell modem is very seldom disconnected. My ISP says it is the PCTEL that's the problem, and it does appear to be a very low-cost model. My question, I want to invest in a better analog modem, since I don't have any broadband options. Do you have any recommendations? --Peggy Tisch
Answer: I do have a recommendation. I only buy internal analog modems myself, since an analog Internet connection is a fallback for me and I don't need the clutter. If you want the fastest and most reliable connection you can get, get an external modem. I'm going to offer recommendations on both types.
Most modems, especially internal ones, are "winmodems." They rely on software that's provided by Windows to function. Windows isn't the best mediator of serial communications though. I recommend a hardware modem. How do you know whether it's a hardware modem? If the specifications say that it can run under DOS, it's a hardware modem. Avoid any modem, internal or external, that lists Windows (any version) as a system requirement. It's okay if it says it runs on all versions of Windows.
The internal modem I like is the U.S. Robotics 56K Performance Pro. It's an internal modem on a PCI card, and it costs a lot more than most internal modems. I believe it to be the best internal modem for the money, and $70 is little enough to pay for the best if an analog modem is your only Internet connection. Buy.com has it for about $70.
My recommendation is less firm on external modems because I haven't used one in a long time. They can run a good deal more money, anywhere from $40 to $300. Brands I would trust include U.S. Robotics and Zoom. This Zoom external model appears to have the right stuff for $60.
If money is no object and you want the best you can get, don't think twice about getting the U.S. Robotics Courier V.Everything at around $240. I hope this helps. --S.F.
Answer: CD-R and CD-RW drives are actually pretty tough to get a grasp on because they represent a relatively young technology. One of the odd parts is that the sizes actually vary by brand of CD as well as the drive and software you're using. But roughly speaking, they all offer 650MB at minimum. That's plenty of storage for documents. Lots and lots and lots of documents. And you can buy CD-R or CD-RW discs by the box. You're choosing the right method, at least in terms of bang for the buck. But you might not be choosing the right method for the way you work. Let me explain with a short primer on the subject.
The difference between CD-R and CD-RW is that the former can only be written to once and the latter you can write to multiple times. One of the advantages of a Zip disk is that you can treat it just like a big floppy disk or a small hard drive. Not so with CD-R/RW. Most people use CD-R/RW by saving up a big wad of data (like a hard drive's worth) and just copying it to the CD-R/W disc. You go away and have lunch while that's happening, because it is generally not fast -- even with the newer, faster drives. When it's done, you pop the disc in a labeled jewel case and slip it in a drawer somewhere and forget all about it until you need it.
What CD-R/RW isn't great for is serving as an incremental place to store information where you're writing a little bit today, some tomorrow, more the next day, copying stuff back off, changing it, copying it back on, adding some more, deleting some and then after 10 months of that, oh it's full, pop another CD-RW CD in. I'm guessing that might be how you work. If so, you absolutely must get CD-RW, not CD-R. But more importantly, it's not drag and drop to the Zip Disk as you've probably been doing. The process involves running special software that just to copy files from the hard disk to the CD-RW disc. It's anything but easy, and just not well suited to small additions or subtractions.
That said, here's some specific purchase advice. Get the fastest CD-RW drive you can find. The numbers shown for performance are usually in this order:
40x (write) - 12x (rewrite) - 48x (cd read)
Rewriting is always the slowest, and CD-RW discs are not infinitely rewritable. Eventually you could run into drop-outs or other problems.
Here's a Plextor model you might consider. I'd also like to recommend an alternative solution: Consider getting a small additional hard drive as well as a CD-RW drive. You could use the second hard disk as a staging area for document backups. Copy everything there to provide interim protection, and then periodically write permanent archives to CD-RW discs. --S.F.
Answer: Because you have NTFS, I would first suspect that your performance issues are related to small NTFS cluster sizes on your hard drive. When a hard drive that was previously formatted with DOS tools (Fdisk and Format, creating FAT16 or FAT32 partitions) is converted to NTFS, there is frequently a problem that causes a tiny 512-byte cluster size under NTFS. That's the smallest cluster size NTFS allows. I won't go into a long explanation, but it's also the slowest cluster size. The solution is to convert the cluster sizes to at least 4K. Many, many people have reported that doing so solved their performance problems completely. Microsoft is aware of the problem, but really hasn't done much about it. It's also not warning people not to convert to NTFS on Windows 9x upgrades, which routinely result in 512-byte cluster sizes. This isn't just a Windows XP problem, either. Windows 2000 users face the same issue.
It's also not just a problem for people who've upgraded to Windows XP and then converted to NTFS either. Even some new PCs -- including name brand models (especially in the early going right after Windows XP shipped) -- had this problem. The DOS-based software tools some PC makers use to image new hard drives are the culprit. If your new PC was purchased recently from a local system integrator, for example, you could have this problem. Most major PC makers have resolved this problem (on PCs sold in 2002), though.
So far I have been unable to come up with a reliable solution that doesn't require the use of a third-party disk-partitioning utility. So the one I recommend is Paragon Partition Manager. This product was developed by Russian programmers for the European market. You can buy it on the Internet for about $40. What makes it different from most other disk-partitioning utilities is that it can dynamically convert cluster sizes under NTFS.
This Scot’s Newsletter article describes where to get Paragon and tells you how to use it to solve the 512-byte problem. Before you rush off and buy Paragon, though, use the instructions on this page to find out whether you have the 512-byte cluster size. If your cluster size isn't less than 4K, then this isn't your problem. If you already own PowerQuest's PartitionManager, you should read these instructions. While they don't work for everyone, they could save you the cost of the Paragon product.
Finally, there are other disk partitioning utilities -- some of them available for free -- that may also do the job. I have not tested those products. But I wanted to let you know they existed if you want to do your own research. I have personally solved the cluster-size problem with both the Paragon and PowerQuest products. --S.F.
I tried to install my XP hard drive in an older computer so I could extract the files I want to save. I assumed I would have some problem with XP Activation, but figured I'd call Microsoft about that when the time came. However, I could not boot to the transplanted drive on the older computer. The error message said something about APC not being fully supported by BIOS and to reboot and when "text set-up" started and asked about loading drivers, I could omit the APC drivers. However, it would never get past the Safe Mode menu. Was I wrong to think I should be able to at least boot up far enough to get an XP Activation message? --Bob Sobotik
Answer: No, that's not product activation getting in your way. It sounds as though the BIOS on your older computer is just too old to support XP. But even if you did solve that problem, you definitely would have hit the activation problem -- and it wouldn't have let you even copy a few files.
Windows XP Service Pack 1 (see second item in this issue), which isn't out yet, but is coming late this summer, will let you copy as many files as you could copy in three days' time. It gives you a three-day grace period before it locks you out.
As you alluded to, calling Microsoft's product activation center would almost certainly have gotten around the activation problem once you explained the problem to a support rep. The call is toll free, and the number would be shown on the activation screen. In your situation, I'm guessing they would have approved you right away.
And finally, the problem you describe is probably the single biggest complaint people have with the NTFS file system. Since your computer fails to POST (power-up self test), I'm assuming that you can't even boot to a floppy disk or the Recovery Console. What you need is another XP computer, and to install your e-Machines drive as a secondary drive. It is a thorny problem. --S.F.
Send your burning question to the newsletter and look for an answer in a future issue.
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Meanwhile, my wife, Cyndy (and gracious editor of SFNL), is probably dancing in the streets whenever I'm not around. Or maybe not, since she's made almost no reference to it. Adding one more dish is a major problem, but subtracting one is ho-hum. I guess nothing short of no sat dishes at all is worthy of significant comment from her. Never mind that I catch her watching satellite TV all the time (a service that came with WebTV). Or that when I have to disconnect the DSL service from our large home network (something I have to do to test software firewalls, for example), she wants to know how she's going to continue wirelessly connecting to the Internet with her notebook PC. Small wonder that she connects with StarBand during those times, and is glad about it. But satellite dishes are evil. [Editor's note: Exactly. Not to mention a glaring eyesore. -- Cyndy]
I may have the last laugh. Or at least I thought I was going to. StarBand is supposed to be fixing me up with its new much faster small-business two-way satellite service. I know they put the paperwork through on that a couple of months ago. Still haven't heard, so maybe I fell into a crack somewhere. [Editor's note: One can hope. -- Cyndy]
At the same time, cable Internet is creeping toward the SFNL Labs slowly, interminably. I'm hearing through the grapevine that cable Internet service may finally be available in my town by the end of July. What's more, because I've been in regular contact with the town's cable advisory board, they added me to a list to be among the first to test the town's service.
In preparation for cable, I'm having my entire house rewired with new, up-to-date coax cable. I'm also looking into a dual-drop installation. In other words, I would have two lines coming off the telephone pole. That would help keep levels high so there'd be less chance of a reduction in performance. I've hired an electrician to do the wiring, and have been talking to AT&T Broadband's construction department for my region to get this project headed in the right direction.
For those of you who've noticed a drop-off of broadband coverage in SFNL, acquiring cable Internet service will probably rejuvenate coverage in the newsletter. I will also have a much better testbed for testing firewalls and a variety of broadband-oriented computer products.
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Thanks to SFNL reader Rich Krenkel for sending in a link to a freeware program called StartMan. StartMan is a pretty cool little 1.14MB downloadable utility done by the PCForrest website, which is a past Link of the Week (going back to Windows Insider, the precursor to Scot’s Newsletter). There is gobs of good stuff on the PCForrest site. Check it out.
What StartMan does is provide an easy way to see the programs that launch automatically on your PC each time you run it. Windows 9x, Me, and XP all provide a utility called System Configuration Utility that provides some of the information StartMan offers. PCForrest StartMan's advantage is that you can right click a program name in StartMan and be delivered directly to a third-party website, Pacman's Startup Content, which took Link of the Week honors two issues ago. Startup Content gives you specific information about literally hundreds of programs, which helps you evaluate whether you want any of them running on your PC. StartMan opens Startup Content and goes directly to the specific program in the Startup Content listing. It's a neat idea, worthy of Link of the Week status.
I would like to see StartMan add the ability to see currently running processes too -- in other words, what Win 9x's Close Program does or XP's Windows Task Manager does (also 2000 and NT). Just press Ctrl-Alt-Del (once) to access this tool to see what I mean. StartMan is reading Registry to check what is launched automatically at startup. Both things are important. A tool that both read automatic startups, read running processes, and linked to Pacman's Startup Content would be a very useful tool indeed. As it is, StartMan is still extremely valuable. It's clearly a worthwhile addition to your regular utility suite.
Have you discovered a relatively unknown Windows- or broadband-oriented website that everyone should know about? Please send me the URL, and let me know why you liked it.
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Remove Arrow from Shortcut Icons
Over the years, I've had dozens of people ask me how to remove the small arrow that designates that an icon is a shortcut (or alias) to a regular icon. Microsoft's Tweak UI Windows customizing utility has a setting that does this for you. But if this is the only thing you really want, a simple System Registry edit turns off the arrows on shortcuts. This tip works with all versions of Windows, so far as I know. I tested it (again, since this is an oldie) with both Windows 98 and Windows XP.
1. Load the System Registry Editor by opening the Start menu, choosing Run, typing "regedit," and pressing Enter.
2. Navigate through HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT until you find the "lnkfile" entry.
3. Click to select "lnkfile" on the left pane, then select and delete the "IsShortcut" item on the right pane.
4. You will probably have to restart Windows. You may find that logging off and back on works.
5. To reverse the process, navigate to the same location in the System Registry Editor. With "lnkfile" selected, right-click any blank area of the right pane. Choose New > String Value. Name the new entry "IsShortcut" (without the quotation marks) and close RegEdit. Again, you may have to restart or log off and back on.
51 Ways To Leave Windows Messenger
Finally, a follow-up to the last issue, in which I gave you several ways to disable Windows Messenger. Here's one more. I haven't tested this one, but it comes highly recommended. I'm just going to give you the link to the story in TheRegister.com where it was popularized. Thanks to Matthew Kirchhoff for sending the link.
This script is very similar to Doug Knox's script, which I linked to in the last issue. Both automate the process of uninstalling Windows Messenger. Doug wrote me since the last issue to let me know that his downloadable VB Script to remove Windows Messenger also cures the long Outlook Express load times. For more on all of this, see Tip of the Week from the June 6 issue of Scot’s Newsletter.
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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Specifically, the next issue of the newsletter is scheduled for July 18. The following issue is slated to appear on or around August 15. This schedule gets me through two separate vacations plus a long July 4th weekend. In September I'll be back on track with publication dates of September 12 and 26. I wish you all the best summer ever. And if you live on the other half of the planet, may you have a wonderful winter.
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