NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, March 2004
The Deals Column
by Bob Click, The Dealsguy
Greater Orlando Computer Users Group
(click to email author)

This Is No Hoax
This may sound like a broken record, but I find this stuff interesting. In the 12/22/03 issue of InfoWorld, columnist Ephraim Schwartz wrote an article about exploding batteries in cell phones and laptops. It concerns the change from nickel metal hydride to lithium-ion batteries. Seems the new technology can lead to "thermal runaway." He says it is not a frequent problem for a battery to explode, but it is certainly a distinct possibility and has happened, although he did not mention anything about gas stations. His article should be posted at [http://www.infoworld.com/article/03/12/19/50OPreality_1.html ].

Two of my readers told me that gas stations in their area have signs posted forbidding cell phone use while pumping gas. I'm not the only one who wants to be careful. I've also had messages explaining to me that Hydrogen power is NOT any safer than gas.

In other news of note, one of our favorite vendors is being bought. It was reported that VPN and firewall vendor "Check Point Software Technologies Ltd." acquired desktop firewall maker Zone Labs Inc. for $205 million. It was said that Check Point must integrate more security into the desktop and that they plan to do that. I hope the free version of Zone Alarm remains free for home use.

You might be interested in knowing that Microsoft is reconfiguring the jobs of the managers in charge of operating system development. It is supposed to improve the product quality and a lot of other things. Haven't we heard that one before? I hope it works. I imagine it does become a big problem when you sell the most prolific operating system in the entire world and all the hackers lay awake nights trying to exploit it, and often succeed before it is even officially released.

In the category of old business, I've received only a couple of messages with comments about my possible plans for the monthly column. After doing it for over nine years each month without a miss, I have established an excellent network to many user groups and would hate to see it come tumbling down. I still have a little material so we'll see where it goes. Since I have tons of announcements for new products, I may start posting some of them on my Web site for the time being although so far I have heard little interest in these mostly unknown products.

Why Pay For Income Tax Preparation!!
If you have a simple income tax to make out, don't pay for the tax return prep because you just might qualify for the IRS's very own FREE File Service. Check further for that at [ http://www.irs.gov ] and if you feel its really not that simple, or you are a klutz with the computer, call 1-800-829-1040 to find the closest Volunteer Income Tax Assistance location. That free service is meant for the elderly, low-income people, disabled folks, or people with problems speaking English. My wife says I seem to qualify in all those ways when she has a honey-do job. Don't forget the free income tax service for uncomplicated tax returns by AARP volunteers, most of whom are actually specialists donating their time. Call your local AARP chapter for more information.

How's Your Credit These Days?
With identity theft so rampant today, people should do themselves a favor and occasionally check their own credit. You can't be too careful and a simple way to get the most information is to check with Equifax where you can get reports from all three credit-reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) for just $29.95. Yes, I know they are working on a law for you to get your credit report at no cost, but don't hold your breath for that right now, even though it's in the works. Most people don't know that if you have a low score (around 600) for your credit rating, your interest rate will be higher than if your credit rating was near 800. That could mean thousands extra for a mortgage.

Free Phone Calls - Yup, All Over The Globe
My thanks to JB Hillard of Chautauqua Cyber Club who sent me this item for the DealsGuy column. Check out [http://ui.skype.com/help_faq.html ] where you can set up an account to make free phone calls all over the globe. It uses peer-to-peer technology and is presently available only to Windows XP and 2000 operating systems. They say it may work with ME or Win98, but that is not promised. The download is free and right now you would be a beta tester. However, later when they are further along with the development, there may be a subscriber fee. Check it out.

This One Does it Better
I received a message the other day from Colleen Toumayan of Executive Software telling me they are offering Diskeeper Professional Edition 8.0 bundled with Undelete Home Edition for just $49.95. [ http://consumer.execsoft.com/home.asp ] (Diskeeper will not install on Microsoft Windows Server Operating systems, although they do have a version that will for more money.) Colleen was kind enough to send me the software because I had never used it before. After trying it out, I became convinced. I am used to starting the defrag in Windows and leaving the room to do something else while it works, but Executive Software's Diskeeper has shown me there was a better way.

Undelete does what it says and can sure be handy in some cases. I often delete things by holding the shift key so it will bypass the Recycle Bin. Once in a while I regret doing that and Undelete helps with that problem. I'm not sure how long this special offer will last. By the way, if you delete something from a floppy or external drive, they don't normally end up in the Recycle Bin either.

It's interesting that Undelete replaces the Recycle Bin with a "Recovery Bin." What is the difference --- too much for me to explain here, but it catches much more than the Windows Recycle Bin does, such as items I just described. Go to[ http://consumer.execsoft.com/home.asp ] for more information and to order this bundle at the special price.

Get Out Of Here You #@&% Spies!
Most of you know about spyware that sometimes finds its way on your computer, and some freeware to get rid of it such as AdAware and SpyBot. Here is something called Spyware Blaster that is said to prevent spyware from even being installed on your machine. I read about it in a users group newsletter, but neglected to make a note so I could credit the person who recommended it, but the concept sounds interesting. [ http://www.wilderssecurity.net/spywareblaster.html ] is the place to take a look and see what you think. Since it is free, trying it is cheap. However, the developer does ask for a small donation if you like it. Remember that sometimes trying to remove trial software can be a problem. I have not tried this product so I cannot speak from experience. Try it at your own risk. If you read through the material on the Web site, it is said to also do other tasks.

That's it for this month. Meet me here again next month if your editor permits. This column is written to make user group members aware of special offers or freebies I have found or arranged, and my comments should not be interpreted to encourage, or discourage, the purchase of any products, no matter how enthused I might sound. Bob (The Cheapskate) Click [ FBobclick@mindspring.com ]. Visit my Web site at [http://www.dealsguy.com ] for past columns and many interesting articles I have taken from various users group newsletters.

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