NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, December 2005
The New, the Best, and the Worst
Collected by Pim Borman, SW Indiana PC Users Group, Inc.
(click to email author)

Hard Drive Too Small?
If you think a 500 GB is still not big enough, help is on the way, in what seems to be an obvious way. If you think of a room filled with people all stretched out on the floor, you can cram in a lot more folks if you have everybody stand up, right? As it turns out, the magnetic elements on current hard drives are lying down on the job, but now several manufacturers, including Hitachi and Seagate, have figured out a way to make the lazy critters stand up on the disk and squeeze them closer together. It must be easier said than done, considering how long it took to implement this technology, but now Seagate is announcing a new 2.5” minidisk, named Momentus, that will hold 160 GB, 20% more than the highest-capacity 2.5” drives currently available. It sounds like magic, and the name, Momentus, suggests that Harry Potter had something to do with it. The new disks will be shipped early next year. Seagate anticipates that regular hard drive capacity will jump to 2500 GB (2.5 TB) in 3-5 years. (PC Magazine, 8/9/05)

How Much Is That Program in the Windows?
In the good old days, when you purchased the latest version of MS-DOS you were free to install it on as many computers as you owned, and many a copy was shared with friends and neighbors as well. That has changed, as we all know, and many expensive programs can now only be installed on a single computer, whether we like it or not. Large commercial programs used in the business world have usually been licensed per seat, based on the number of computers the program was installed on. Some small engineering companies that obtained a single copy of expensive Autodesk and used it on multiple computers were fined and lost their use of the program when they got caught.

As CPUs have been getting faster, computer productivity has gone up, to the benefit of the users. Although most providers have increased their license fees to some extent as the programs improved, fees have mostly continued to be charged per seat or per CPU. Now the trend to faster computers is to increase the number of CPUs on a single chip instead of making single ones faster, and some software companies want to charge their fees on a per CPU basis. They are mainly concerned about the many back-room computers used as servers dishing out data over computer networks to employees. Oracle and IBM have been in the forefront of the pricing battles, but seem to be compromising on an individual basis. Microsoft has unexpectedly taken the side of the users and licenses its software at the same cost for single-core or multiple-core processors. That may have something to do with the threat of Linux and its Open Source programming model that is looking more and more attractive to many businesses as the cost of Windows-based software keeps increasing. (The Economist, 7/16/05, thanks to Louis Ritz)

Too much security?
Recently I had occasion to help someone straighten out the connections between their computers and the router. The router had been set up by an expert, using all its available security features. Unfortunately, he left behind a jumble of notes about procedures and passwords that seemed to be incomplete or wrong. In the end all we could do was reset the router and start over again. That made me think about how much security we really need.

Most of us live in homes with maybe two locks on the front and back doors, possibly with an added bolt for extra security at night. That will keep most amateur burglars out, but a determined crook will find a way to get in anyhow. So be it, unless you live in a big city apartment where it is smart to live behind a steel door with multiple locks set in a reinforced frame.

The same goes for routers. To keep occasional snoopers out of your network takes only a few simple changes to be made on the router’s access page.

    • Replace the default password needed to access the set up screen with a secure one that is easy to remember (an old street address is good, as it contains letters and numbers). Also change the default user name, if your router lets you.
    • On the wireless access page change the SSID name to a secure one.
    • On the same page uncheck the option to broadcast the SSID name.

Forget about all the other security options, including WEP or WPA encryption, unless someone could have good reason to spend lots of time and talent guessing your setup information and ruin you in doing so. Just because it can be done doesn’t mean anyone will actually go to the trouble! Just make sure to write down the user name, password and the SSID. And if you forget anyway, it only takes a few minutes to reset the router all over again.

Windows Tips and Tricks
The June 28, 2005 edition of PC Magazine carried a large number of Tips and Tricks for Windows, mostly contributed by PCM’s lead analyst Neal Rubenking whose articles and advice I have been following almost as long as I have been using computers. Try to get hold of a copy to see for yourself. Here are some that caught my eye.

If an error message indicates that a system file is missing or corrupted you may be able to recover it from the Windows disk. You DID get one when you bought your computer, did you? Else ask the manufacturer for one - you paid for it! Insert the Windows system disk and select Search from the Start menu. Use the name of the file you are looking for, but replace the last character of the extension with an underscore, e.g. Notepad.ex_ instead of Notepad.exe. Make a note of where you found it and then use some good, old-fashioned DOS command to expand that file and install it on your hard drive where it belongs. Use Start…Run and in the window that pops up type (for this example, assuming your CD ROM is labeled D :) expand D:\Setup\Notepad.ex_ C:\Windows\Notepad.exe and that should do it. In some cases the missing file is stored in a compressed CAB file. You can find out by repeating the search with the full file name. If found, open the CAB file in Windows Explorer and simply drag the missing file to its location on your hard drive.

Another handy tip concerns access to Windows in its Safe mode, such as might be required to remove a virus infection. The manual tells you to hit F8 or DEL (depending on the make of your computer) during start up, right after the initial boot sequence completes, but before Windows starts loading. In practice, there is only a fraction of a second during which you must do this, and it may take many repeats before you finally get it right. With a USB keyboard it is impossible to do at all, since the keyboard won’t be active yet at the required moment. If you miss and the system boots up in the full-fledged Windows mode, press Start…Run and type msconfig followed by the Enter key. Choose the BOOT.INI tab and check the /SAFEBOOT box. Now XP will reboot in Safe mode until you repeat the procedure and uncheck the box.

Recovered Printer Cartridge
The other night I set out to print a first birthday picture of our black-and-white Cocker Spaniel, Bonnie. As the picture emerged from the printer, an older HP-812C, the top half looked OK but the bottom half was faded red. Clearly, one or two of the three colors in the color cartridge were depleted. Just because of such happenings, I always keep an extra cartridge on hand, in the refrigerator to keep it fresh. That may have been a bad idea.

I installed the spare cartridge, aligned it, and printed out the picture. The black snoot of the dog came out looking distinctly bluish. Back in the image editor I darkened the black parts of the image and printed it out again. Same result, distinctly bluish. Continuing the next evening, a test page indicated that the yellow color of the cyan-magenta-yellow cartridge was not printing. I used the printer’s utilities to clean the cartridge and to prime the inks, without luck. I took the cartridge out and carefully cleaned the print head with 90% pure rubbing alcohol, still without success.

I was ready to give up on the cartridge and buy a new one when one more possibility occurred to me. I double-bagged the cartridge in two ZipLoc bags and immersed it for 20 minutes in a pan of hot tap water. That did the trick, Bonnie printed out just fine. From now on no more storing of color cartridges in the refrigerator!

AdSubtract, Good Bye!
For years I have used AdSubtract to block nuisance ads while browsing. These days ads are no longer just nuisances, as some are harmful and require stronger counter-measures. I still have AdSubtract on my older system, but its update button is no longer active. A Google search indicates that Intermute, AdSubtract’s parent, has been acquired by Trend Micro. AdSubtract has been combined with TrendMicro’s SpySubtract Pro to form Trend Micro Anti-Spyware 3.0, which is only compatible with Windows XT or 2000.

There is no restriction against any non-profit group using this article as long as it is kept in context with proper credit given the author. The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG), an international organization of which this group is a member, brings this article to you.

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