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May 13, 2003 - Vol. 3, Issue No. 45
By Scot Finnie
IN THIS ISSUE
Alongside PestPatrol I've continued to examine Ad-aware 6.0 and also Spybot - Search and Destroy, upgrading to newer builds and versions as they've come out. A full review of Spybot is on tap for a future issue of the newsletter. The current release of PestPatrol at press time (and the latest one I tested) is 184.108.40.206.
From the Get-Go
I had trouble with PestPatrol at the outset. Due to problems on the company's servers (or so one PestPatrol employee explained to me), I was unable to properly complete my first online program and definitions update. I tried several times over several days, and finally gave up because the result was a hashed installation. After cleaning out PestPatrol and starting over again. I found that later 4.2.0.xx versions were more reliable than the 4.0x versions I started testing.
In operation, PestPatrol runs some memory resident programs designed to trap tracking cookies and spot running malware. From a user perspective, the cookie feature was annoying. While it's possible to turn this off, the cookie-tracker's repetitive bloop-bloop was just overkill. It reminds me, in fact, of the tendency of early BlackICE Defender versions to over-report "attacks." Cookies are not only not all bad, tracking cookies are pretty much a fact of life. I don't like them much, and deleting them is probably a good idea, but hearing the constant blooping noise as I surf around from site to site, well, the cure (which isn't even a cure really) is worse than the illness.
One of my other pet-peeves with PestPatrol is slow system scanning. On one machine with a 30GB hard drive, it consistently took PestPatrol 19 minutes to complete a full scan. Spybot and Ad-aware each completed comparable scans on the same PC in under four minutes. I even removed PestPatrol, ran a full drive check, and reinstalled it just to make sure. The result: 19 minutes again. (Note: PestPatrol was considerably faster on other machines, narrowing its performance shortcomings, but overall it was still the slowest scanning of the three products.)
Then there's PestPatrol's clunky Windows 3.x-era separate program-updating tool. Ad-aware suffered from its own version of this problem until the 6.0 release. Although PestPatrol's update is also marginally incorporated into the main product, it is technically a separate module. Although I don't like the way it works, it has improved with later 4.2.x releases and/or the server component has improved, I'm not sure which.
The main PestPatrol user-interface is reminiscent of 16-bit Windows with huge high-quality buttons grafted on, perhaps in the hope that users will miss its retro roots.
On the plus side, PestPatrol does an excellent job of reporting its results. Better than either Spybot or Ad-aware. Once you mess around with the clumsy spreadsheet-like reporting grid, the actual information imparted is quite good, and includes hyperlinks in some cases that help to explain. This PestPatrol strong point is, by the way, Ad-aware's weakest point.
Rubber and Road
But all the rest matters little if you don't find and remove adware, spyware, and at least some Trojans, right? Unfortunately, PestPatrol, while not horrible at these duties, was the least effective of the three products I've been testing. No two of these products ever return the exact same results screen (unless they're showing no threats). But I've found that the combination of Spybot and Ad-aware eliminates the need to run PestPatrol. I also discovered that some items PestPatrol appeared to remove weren't always fully removed. A definite no-no.
I understand a major improvement is scheduled for the 5.0 release of PestPatrol. And if that winds up being case, I may update my review of this program. But until then, I'm crossing PestPatrol 4.2 off my A List of programs, and uninstalling it from all my PCs. It doesn't live up to expectation.
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The most visible "event" of the conference was a demonstration of a possible next-generation PC, as envisioned by Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard, code-named "Athens." This is both a hardware and software prototype. Athens is a wide-screen LCD, display-centric computing environment with built-in wireless phone handset, speakerphone, biometric-based security access, and extended "presence" technology. Rather than tell you about it, I invite you to see it for yourself. The following RealAudio Web videos show the actual demo of Athens at WinHEC 2003:
For still pictures of Athens, visit the Microsoft WinHEC 2003 image gallery. For at least some information about Athens functionality, read the Microsoft press release. But the videos above do a better job of telling the story.
The Windows 'Longhorn' Roadmap
Even more news from WinHEC was the confirmation from Microsoft that the next major client release of Windows, code-named "Longhorn," won't ship until sometime in 2005. Microsoft's last on the record conjecture was that it would ship in 2004. A demonstration slide offered at WinHEC showed a conceptualization of the Longhorn roadmap, including the October 2003 Professional Developers Conference, Beta 1 and Beta 2, and a position on the roadmap for the Longhorn Release to Manufacturing (RTM) date indicating roughly April or May of 2005. Microsofties would almost certainly laugh at my attempt to pinpoint the release date in 2005 based on this image, but mark my words.
To see the Longhorn roadmap, hop on over to this Scot's Newsletter Forums post by Windows and Applications moderator, ThunderRiver. (Registration is not required to view posts.)
You'll also find some links to screenshots and MPG videos there of recent Windows Longhorn builds that all those who consider themselves Longhorn curious will probably find worth the wait. (These may not be dial-up friendly.) Most of the videos show off new graphics capabilities in the forthcoming OS.
Also at WinHEC this year, Microsoft took more of the robes off of the security initiative known as "Palladium," which has been given the snappy official name: Next-Generation Secure Computing Base (NGSCB). It just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?
Here are some of the details Microsoft revealed about NGSCB at WinHEC that, at the least, will help you understand what it is. And this mainstream newspaper-style story may answer some of your questions about Next-Generation Secure Computing Base:
Palladium has garnered a lot of press since it was first announced last year, and much of it bad. And it's not hard to see why. The technology seeks to bolster several types of security and content rights by incorporating security features in PC hardware tied to the operating system. I've seen some tentative positive comments about it too, perhaps with good reason, because it's becoming clearer that rank and file Windows users are not going to be forced to implement, use, or workaround Palladium's "features."
Let me make one thing perfectly clear: I haven't made up my mind about NGSCB. On the one hand, I have serious misgivings about it, but I also can't quite imagine Microsoft shooting itself in the foot with Palladium either. (Of course, I felt the same way about Windows Product Activation.) But if you want more of my opinion on the subject, please see my post in the 'Trustworthy Computing' thread of the SFNL Forums. (For reference, here's the Trustworthy Computing thread from the top.)
For additional materials, white papers, press releases, and propaganda, see Microsoft's WinHEC 2003 PressPass Information for Journalists site.
Get A New BrowserTune
Fred Langa has been working on a heavily revised new version of his BrowserTune website that checks your browser and Internet-connection for quite some time. He's just offered a private preview of BT 6.01 to his paid subscribers. Give the new BrowserTune a test drive for yourself.
I'm a Firebird Watcher
Last issue I promised an upcoming review of the 0.6 milestone of Mozilla's under-development new browser code-named Firebird, which until recently was called Phoenix. Mozilla has released several new builds over the last couple of weeks, and the stable milestone build is due out any day now according to Mozilla's Asa Dotzler. As the newsletter "went to press," it was not finished yet -- and I'm currently running the May 11th release. But it is possible that by the time you read this, 0.6 build will have taken wing.
Despite the months that Mozilla took to find its new code name for this browser, it apparently overlooked the Firebird open-source database project, which clearly pre-dates the Firebird browser. But since Mozilla is not planning to use the Firebird name as anything other than a code name, this doesn't seem to me to be a big issue.
Some excellent Firebird links you might check out:
I have not tested this, but SFNL subscriber Michael Boyer sent this link to a website that provides a Firebird installation routine. Some people have had trouble uninstalling Firebird, so it might come in handy. The site doesn't appear to have been updated much recently, however.
For those of you who follow Mozilla, a new beta of Mozilla 1.4 was released last week. I must admit that I so prefer Firebird to the current Mozilla browser that I'm just finding it hard to get excited about the last major release of the previous generation Mozilla browser.
Super-Secret Eudora 6.0
I had thought Qualcomm's Eudora development team had switched over to making Windows its lead effort. I was given that information by the company some years ago. But apparently that's not the case. Qualcomm isn't sure it's "ready" to talk to me about what it's doing with Eudora 6.0 for Windows, even though it has publicly released a beta of 6.0 for the Mac, is promising a beta of the Windows version shortly, and has a website that lists some of Eudora Email 6.0's new features. Ah, well. I've had a love-hate relationship with Qualcomm and Eudora for some eight years now. Why should it be any different with Eudora 6.0? Here's what little is known about Eudora 6.0.
The short form is that Qualcomm is taking advantage of Eudora's excellent built-in message-filtering (or "rules") to provide a new antispam junk mail feature.
My guess is that the Effective Spam Filtering with Eudora website, done by Cecil Williams (thanks to Jan M. Levine for sending this link), will get you much of this forthcoming antispam functionality now.
For what it's worth, I've built my own set of Eudora antispam filters over the years. They run in advance of any other spam filter I test, and while they only grab about 30 percent of the spam I get, they get both the worst of it and also the stuff that is falsely personalized in some fashion.
Finally, I recommend Spamnix 1.1.9 (out of beta since a couple days after the last newsletter), a Eudora plug-in for Windows and Mac that, while not perfect, is probably Eudora users' best line of email-package-integrated defense.
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Comcast has let many of its customers know that by June 30th, it will make the transition. And it's offering a downloadable background application we can install on our computers called the "transition wizard." It will keep an eye on us and on the status of the Comcast changeover and make sure that we don't miss the transition somehow. More joy and rapture.
The first Comcast email said:
The Transition Wizard consists of two parts. Prior to June 30, each time you restart your computer, the wizard checks our transition server for changes to the schedule, currently scheduled for June 30, 2003. The Transition Wizard will automatically prepare your computer for the transition and configure your email settings, which will change your attbi.com email address to your comcast.net email address at that time. The Transition Wizard will also set up email forwarding to make sure that all emails sent to your AT&T Broadband Internet account are forwarded to your new Comcast email account through December 2004. In order to have a smooth transition to the comcast.net email domain, you need to install the Transition Wizard on any computer that you currently use to access the AT&T Broadband service.
As SonicDragon on the SFNL Forums wrote, "Call me crazy, but I think I will wait for the manual instructions to come out."
Me too. But in two separate emails, Comcast has made a strong point of saying that if you don't install its Transition Wizard, you will not get email forwarding from your attbi.com account to your comcast.net account. Why should we trust Comcast? I can tell you that a lot of people already don't. We haven't been given a reason to. Comcast's customer service approach, which in this case amounts to scare tactics, not only doesn't kick things off on a positive note, but it engenders mistrust. "Do this or else" is what I take away from the emails I've received. Only a company enjoying a monopoly position could be so cavalier with consumers.
For Comcast customers going through the transition, please check the Comcast Connection Center, where the fine print notes that Linux users will be given manual instructions on June 30th. So I guess it isn't the end of the world if you don't install the required transition wizard.
AT&T Broadband/Comcast users should also be aware that they're already bound by Comcast's subscriber agreement.
Ex-Comcast Employee's Feedback
This is the fourth in a series of articles over the last four issues of the newsletter about Comcast and the AT&T Broadband switchover. It's the biggest broadband customer conversion since Excite@Home went out of the broadband business, so it bears coverage.
In the last issue, I shared a series of emails between SFNL subscriber Steve Disenhof and me under the title: Comcast Pricing: Business as Usual or Monopolistic?
That exchange brought in a letter from another SFNL subscriber worth passing along. I'm protecting his or her name because he or she used to work for Comcast. Here's that letter:
You and Steve are exactly right. I am an ex-Comcast employee and I worked both broadband-repair field work and phone support in the company's broadband technical support call center. You are correct that Comcast has a monopoly. If you take a look at almost every market that Comcast serves, they are the only cable company there.
Comcast's technical support is far from being true support. When the company sent me and another broadband tech through "tech support training," it was not focused on fixing cable Internet subscriber problem at all. It was focused on teaching you how the billing system and the other non-technical support software operated.
Out of four weeks of training, we were given only one and a half days on troubleshooting. My class had approximately six to eight people, and only two of us had experience with PCs and broadband. Of our two instructors, only one of had significant PC experience. When experienced trainees attempted to offer troubleshooting tips or asked technical questions, we were reprimanded.
On the call center floor I found that lack of technical experience was the status quo. The 150-person tech-support crew had only a handful of technically experienced reps. Comcast took anybody off the street it could get. The turnover rate was [extremely high]. Each support person was given a script to read from. You had to say certain key phrases from this script or it would be held against you. Comcast also instructed tech support reps to end their calls in 12 minutes or that, too, would be held against you. I found that if I told the caller to make a change that required a reboot, that ate up the 12 minutes very quickly.
Comcast call center reps were given a troubleshooting flow chart to follow. It was limited and I found it to be of little real value. About 90 to 95 percent of the problems I handled related only to the first part of the flow chart, but I was obligated to go through the whole thing anyway because the script was protocol. Many of us wound up going over the 12 minutes quite regularly. And the few of us who were PC experienced were constantly being asked questions about various problems the other reps ran into.
When I was doing field repair work for Comcast, I found that 45 to 50 percent of the calls I would go on could have been resolved on the phone by PC savvy tech support reps. --Name Withheld
These sorts of mistakes by a cable company were quite common in the early days of cable Internet, back in the 1994 to 1998 timeframe. And they were to be expected given that most cable TV companies were not network or PC support companies. They knew very little about supporting computer users, and didn't really want to know.
But by the end of 90s, most cable Internet companies had wised up and realized that they had to figure out the consumer PC support end of things if they wanted to play in this market. And most did. But Comcast may still be in the wising-up phase.
During the Excite@Home transition in early 2002, I got many messages from SFNL subscribers who detailed their conversion to Comcast service. In the March 2, 2002 issue of Scot's Newsletter, I reported on the @Home transition and graded the cable Internet ISPs involved on how well their migrations went. Comcast scored the lowest of all, receiving a grade of "F."
More than one Comcast customer who wrote to me complained about the "tech support scripts" that Comcast phone support reps prattled off. One called them "really annoying." So now we've got the same information from both sides. Let's hope Comcast has figured out what it did wrong on the @Home transition and has put that knowledge to good use.
If you were or are an AT&T Broadband customer who has or is in the process of converting to Comcast, write to me and tell me what your experiences have been so far. Give Comcast a grade for their efforts so far: A, B, C, D, or F (where A equals Excellent and F equals Failing). And let me know why you've graded them the way you have.
Back to the Top
My personal favorite was the one that wanted to create a "Do Not Call" list, like the federal program to prevent telemarketing, for spam. You can't get any more bogus than that. Sure, every spammer out there is going to check his or her lists to see whether you're on the "Do Not Spam" list before sending you spam. Yeah, right. It also assumes that everyone only has one email address, which just isn't the case. But as this TechWeb article makes clear, the only thing sure about the current crop of antispam bills is just how little our government understands computer technology and phenomena.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a proponent of antispam legislation that doesn't have any negative impact on legitimate opt-in email senders, such as Scot's Newsletter. In fact, I'm all for antispam legislation. I think we need it. The recent lawsuits we've seen, such as the $16.4-million EarthLink award granted by a judge last week against spammer Howard Carmack, will only grow in their numbers and award amounts if we have better laws that make it easier to sue and beat spammers in court. If we make it both more difficult and more expensive for spammers to do business, many will turn to different vocations.
It's just that we need to do a much better job of conceiving new laws than we have been. And most of all, we can't assume that legislation on its own will do the trick. It will not. Serious, well researched, well developed technology will be the most important part of the solution. If the government really wants to help, it should probably fund independent research.
Commonsense Ways to Fight Spam
SFNL reader Michael Bugden -- who gets very few spam messages -- wrote me with his personal set of rules for avoiding spam. I completely agree with Mike's rules, but I've augmented to them in several places and added a few of my own rules to round out the advice.
1. Avoid signing up for discussion forums and other websites that require you to give your email address unless you use a throwaway email address. (Note: Scot's Newsletter Forums is one of the exceptions to this rule because it protects your email address and allows you to fully hide that address, even if use the forum to send an email to another member.)
2. Do not use an email address at Hotmail or Yahoo or any large email provider, as they are prime targets for spammers. Large ISPs like EarthLink and Comcast are similar targets, by the way. And you should be careful using your ISP's email address. Smaller providers (such as FastMail and MyRealBox) are just are not worth the trouble to most spammers. That's why you should sign up for and use such an email address for anything on the Internet where you have to give out your email address, such as website registrations where you purchase things online, online banking, and so on. The beauty of this approach is that if and when such an email address becomes a spam magnet, you can ditch it and get another one.
3. When you do sign up to a newsletter, website registration, or the like, pay special attention to check boxes that ask for the right to share your email address or to send you messages "from partners." Be careful to always disallow this.
4. Do not post in Usenet newsgroups with an important email address. Do not allow your email address to be published on any website, ever.
5. Do not send joke messages to 65 of your friends, and if you get one of those, do not pass it along. Do not respond to messages with large numbers of recipients. Most people should never send an email to any more than 10 or 15 people at once.
6. Never, ever reply to an unsolicited mail selling a product or service -- even if you want that product or service. If everyone followed this rule, spam would wither up and die.
7. If you get an unsolicited email, do not reply or click a link in it -- even if it's not apparently selling something. More than likely the message's entire purpose is to confirm that your email address is valid. Just delete the message.
8. When selecting a new email address, don't pick a short one that's easy to remember. Spammers are increasingly turning to random email address generators to make their work easier, and a short email address is much easier to stumble upon that way.
It's a Spam, Spam World
There's a few spam-related links worth passing on this week.
Thanks to SFNL reader Michael D. Bray for the above.
They Have No Shame
Most spam messages tend to set my teeth on edge, but there's been a new crop over the last few months that really get my goat. They're messages that advertise antispam products or whose subjects talk about hating spam. The people who send these messages make ambulance-chasing lawyers and bad used-car salespeople look like angels. Here's a real life example of one of the dozens of examples of this genre that I've received lately:
Subject: Do you hate Junk Mail?[spam link removed]
From: Tyler Perkins
To: Scot Finnie
Date: Fri, 9 May 2003 14:15:49 -0700
Dear Friend ,
I used to just *hate* junk mail. I mean, doesn't everyone just delete it most of the time?
The answer to that is NO!
People look at and read their email all the time, heck, you're reading this email right?
What does that mean for you?
It means that there is opportunity out there for you to make money off of the billions of emails (I am NOT talking about SPAM, but legitimate emailing to people that have requested to receive offers) that are being sent everyday promoting products that people want and need.
This business used to be for big players only, but not anymore. We've created a simple system where you can get involved in this very lucrative business with only 5 minutes of your time a day.
It really is that simple!
I'll even prove to you how simple it is by giving you my entire business model that is generating hundreds of thousands of dollars!
Don't believe me?
Man, spammers have gall!
Back to the Top
The two most important tools needed to troubleshoot basic network problems like this are ping and a Windows utility called WinIPCfg or IPConfig. In this issue, I'm focusing on the latter.
Under Windows 98 and Me, the tool is WinIPCfg, and it's a small graphical utility. Under Windows NT/2000/XP, the tool is called IPConfig, and it's a command line program run from the Command Prompt.
The need to release and renew the IP address is more prevalent on Win 9x/Me PCs. To load WinIPConfig under Windows 9x/Me, Click Start > Run > and type "winipcfg" (without quotation marks) in the Open box > click OK. Then just click Release All, and when that operation is done, click Renew All. It's Win 9x, so sometimes you'll find you have to reboot in between.
Under Windows NT/2K/XP, click Start > Run > type "cmd" (without quotation marks) and press Enter. In the Command Prompt box, type the following line and then press Enter:
Next type this and press Enter:
On small home networks, another way around this problem is to disable DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) and assign static IP addresses to your networked PCs. Doing this eliminates the possibility of having a plug-and-play network, wherein, for example, a friend could come over with a notebook or handheld, jack into your router or hub, and automatically have an Internet connection.
The following articles help explain various aspects of why you need to do this, how to do it, and what options are available to you.
Plus there's this a graphical version of IPConfig for Windows 2000 that appears to work under XP, although I haven't tested it extensively.
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I can't resist this second Link of the Week, which perhaps belongs in Mike's List instead of Scot's Newsletter, I don't know. But it's from my friend, Paul Schindler (past editor-in-chief of Winmag.com), whose website-based columns contain some material by Craig Reynolds (I don't know him). Paul's site quotes Craig as saying about the following Macromedia Flash-based Honda advertisement: "I don't know. the filmmakers say it was real, obtained after 606 takes." You have to see this yourself to believe, but the tagline on Paul's site, "Honda Accord Salutes Rube Goldberg," is apt.
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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THIS SPACE AVAILABLE! EMAIL FOR DETAILS.
Useful Windows XP Keyboard Shortcuts
You know you love keyboard shortcuts. Many of us can never get enough of them. Well, I'm about to try your patience, because I've got a big long list for you.
Let's start with my personal favorite Windows Key (that key with the Windows logo on many newer keyboards) shortcuts:
Windows Key = Toggle to open or close the Start Menu
Windows Key + E = Opens My Computer
Windows Key + F = Open Search dialog
Windows Key + D = Toggle to show desktop (minimize all open windows)
Windows Key + R = Run command
Windows Key + Break = Display the System Properties dialog box
Windows Logo + F1 = Display Windows Help
Windows Logo + L = Log off
But all that did was whet your appetite, right? Well, then, here's the main course:
Internet Explorer Tip
This tip, submitted by SFNL subscriber Andy Danziger, somehow didn't make it on Microsoft lists of XP keyboard shortcuts. Say you want to get to Google fast. Type "google" (without quotation marks) in the Address field of any open IE window and press Ctrl + Enter. IE will automatically add the "www." and ".com" to google and open the site. Now if Google's URL were www.google.net, this might be a problem. But it works for a good variety of sites, ones you laboriously type many times a day. Thanks, Andy!
Make XP Users Invisible Follow-Up
A follow-up to the Make XP Users Invisible tip from the last issue comes from SFNL subscriber Lori Ortiz who wrote me recently:
Please help, I followed your tip about making users invisible. I made my primary user invisible and now I can't access Windows at all to reverse the change. What do I do?
Here's the solution:
1. Turn on your PC or restart it if it's running.
2. You should encounter the Welcome screen with no names on it. At that point, press Ctrl-Alt-Delete twice, in succession.
3. You'll probably see your main username there. Just enter a password if you have one (or nothing in the Password field if you don't) and press OK. That should do the trick. If not, proceed with the next steps.
4. If you don't see your username or it doesn't work, after you press Ctrl-Alt-Delete, type "Administrator" in your username field. No password (unless you've used Administrator before and used a password). Press OK. This will get you in.
Once you are in, follow the steps from last issue's tip again. In the System Registry Editor, you can just delete the icon labeled with the username you hid.
I need your help! 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.
Back to the Top
No matter what you call it, I'm sure that 98 percent of the people who read this thread will learn something they didn't know about Windows 2K/XP from it. Some of the best of SFNL Forums' brain trust posted in it. And I'm planning to run one of the tips in a future issue of the newsletter.
All Things Linux Forum Is on a Mission
SFNL Forums' newest moderator is Bruno, who is complementing our other fine All Things Linux moderators, Peachy, ThunderRiver, and Mike.
All Things Linux forum is literally turning out new Linux users. The forum's mods and I have a theory: What if we build a Linux forum that is friendly to Windows users? What if we offer help to people installing for the first time instead of the invective and ridicule Linux newbies sometimes experience in other forums?
To help with that, Bruno has created a special thread called Tips for Linux Starters, mentioned in the last newsletter. He's been adding tips every few days. Other people are contributing and offering suggestions. If you're interested in Linux, don't miss it.
All Things Linux has also boasted several success stories. Recently, forum member Prelude76 successfully completely a SuSE installation. He got help before, during, and after the installation in Advice on first time installation.
It's not so much that Linux is so hard to install that we're celebrating. It's the fact that All Things Linux is helping to make it not just painless but downright fun.
SFNL Forums denizens, have you noticed a thread (or topic) in the Forums that is useful, interesting, problem-solving, or just cool? Nominate it for possible publication (Forum registration required to post) in an upcoming issue of Scot's Newsletter, and if I make it Thread of the Week, I'll print your name (or forum nickname) with it.
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The next issue of the newsletter is slated for Tuesday, May 27, the day after Memorial Day holiday in the U.S. My current plans call for additional issues on June 10 and 24. Over the summer, I will be paring back to one issue a month because of vacation time. Currently scheduled issue dates are July 22 and August 19.
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