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Dennis Turner


Got a Web site? How about a blog? A Myspace page? If you do, you could be raking in the bucks - if you play your cards right, that is. All you have to do is figure out how to draw thousands of people to either click on your site and/or link to it. That's the dream, at least. Once upon a time, the dream was to write a script that would be bought by a Hollywood TV or movie producer, or maybe writing the Great American novel. But with YouTube and its ilk everybody's a producer - and who has time to read books anymore? Today, making big money from a Web site or blog is the latest quick-rich fantasy. Is it attainable?  Let's see.



Microsoft Office is like the weather-you can't get away from it-but the 2007 version combines power, ease of use, and visual clarity in ways that leave earlier versions far behind. Microsoft Office 2007 packs more improvements into the world's leading application suite than any previous upgrade. For most users, the big question isn't whether to upgrade but when. Experts, beginners, and corporate users all get major benefits from the upgrade. The only downsides I could find are minor ones that will probably disappear in the first service pack. Once you get past the few minutes needed to navigate the new Ribbon interface, you'll wonder why Microsoft waited so long to get so many things right.  So here's how you can use it right.



Despite all the filters and parent blocking programs, currently the best way to protect your kids from all the horrible stuff out there on the Internet is to limit the technical capabilities of their computer. If, say, the instant messaging doesn't work too well, they're not going to use it too much, which means they'll have less opportunity to connect with "undesirable elements." This is only a stop-gap measure, as soon enough you'll have to upgrade out of computer obsolescence.  So here's an idea that I've been toying with, based on a worldwide growing movement of free wireless Internet access employed by community groups all over the world. You could call it a Kosher Internet.



Version 7 of Microsoft's dominant Web browser packs in interface changes, many new features, and plenty of under-the-hood updates. It's available now from here. Soon it will be automatically installed with a windows update. It also arrived just days before version 2 of the up-and-coming Mozilla browser, Firefox.  Firefox 2 (which you download for free from this link) automatically updates your Firefox 1.51. So which new browser is your best bet?  I'll try here to give a comprehensive comparison.  Like Fox News, I'll report - then you decide.


MICROSOFT ONENOTE: The Best Personal Organizer

Many programs have been written over the years to help computer users organize their contacts, to-do lists, notes and progress, to link Web sites to certain topics, and to offer a variety of other activities. These programs include Microsoft Outlook itself. In recent years, however, the demands on such programs have become increasingly severe, including video, audio, sharing content and allowing others to revise content with all the revision capabilities of Microsoft Word. It is unusual for Microsoft to get something right the first time, but the program I use very successfully is Microsoft OneNote, an add-on to Microsoft Office.  If you aren't a Premium Subscriber to Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) Downloads, as I am, you can buy it separately at $99. It is well worth the money.  Here's why.



The coming years will make you more vulnerable than ever What are the dangers of storing ever more e-mail, documents, photos and financial account information online? I first read interviews with experts and then designed several scenarios that depict what could happen in the next few years if technological innovation and public policy trends in three categories - online storage, location tracking and biometrics - remain on their current course. Tracking Your Location The scenario: The police are at your house on official business, your inbox is flooded with pornographic ads - and all you did was drive to the mall to buy an anniversary gift. Welcome to wireless location tracking in the year 2020. On Saturday morning, you jumped into your car and plugged in your new high-speed Internet phone. The phone downloaded data to the car's real-time holographic traffic map and guided you to the mall along the route with the least traffic. To find the jewelry store, you downloaded a map of the mall to your phone. The turn-by-turn directions took you past a new lingerie shop, so you wandered inside for a few seconds. Then you proceeded to the jewelry store, and in 15 minutes your shopping was done. A little later, you started receiving raunchy multimedia messages hawking sex toys. While you were inside the lingerie shop, the store's data reader pinged your phone via Bluetooth and then automatically bought your contact information from commercial data brokers. Now its affiliate, which sells novelty adult items, can legally market to you via e-mail, claiming an ongoing business relationship.



It has been perhaps a year and a half since I first heard of YouTube. The service is not quite two years old and already it's worth $1.6 billion (!) - at least it's worth that much to Google. My gut reaction to Google's pursuit and purchase of YouTube is that it was caught up in a second Internet boom that will undoubtedly go bust. Honestly, how can a business of any kind less than two years old be worth nearly $2 billion? Okay, Google is not driving a truck filled with money to YouTube's doors; this is a stock swap. Even so, value is value. On the other hand, Google may know what it's doing. YouTube has the most coveted online commodity of all: eyeballs - and lots of them. And every single set visits YouTube almost every day to see the latest crazy, unusual, wacky videos. I know kids of friends who do so. Their parents call them iVideots.



Here we are, well on our way into the 21st century. The human race has been around for at least 5,767 years as of last weekend (the Jewish New Year), and we've been working with e-mail, Internet and spam for over a decade already. With those credentials, you'd think people would know better.

Well, we do know better - but some people never learn. The proof? Many people are following the advice offered in the flood of stock-scam spam that has hit the Internet in recent months, leaving virtually no computer immune.

I'm sure that some To The Pointers are among them.

According to a recent study by Internet researchers at Harvard and Purdue Universities, the prices of "penny stocks" being touted in mass mailings to suckers actually rose significantly after a batch of messages were sent - as if recipients were rushing to their online brokers to buy the likes of Cyberhand Tech and ThermaFreeze Products in the hope that they could double their money.

Well, the come-ons are certainly appealing, but it's a scam, of course; all part of "pump and dump" schemes, where scammers buy stock in companies that exist mainly on paper and are traded on unsupervised exchanges, and then dump the shares on those who respond to their spam.

It must be working, because in the past few months stock spam has begun edging out fat pills and Viagra messages in my inbox!




When I moved to Israel years ago, I brought with me all my worldly possessions, among them a 300 dpi laser printer - quite an expensive gadget in those days.

It was so pricey, in fact, that I remember having to leave a huge deposit at the airport; the customs inspectors said that I would have to return with paperwork proving that I needed it for business if I wanted to get my money back.

And now? Printers are practically throwaway items! Actually, there ain't so such animal as a "printer" anymore. Nowadays, the only printers with decent output are part of "all-in-one" machines that include faxes and scanners as well as three- and even four-color printing.

Though printers are more powerful and cheaper than they have ever been, and they come with a raft of features, they are, for the most part, really and truly flimsy.

Compare these printers with the one I brought with me to Israel. It was solid enough to make the trip in an airline luggage hold and survive to tell the tale. I dare you to try that with most of the printers you can pick up in stores such as Office Depot nowadays.



In the mood for a true crime story? Well, here's one ... and you are the victim! It's unbelievable but true. You and I, all of us, are being held hostage! It's even worse than that, because this extortion could end up costing us lots of money, time and frustration. But it's a fact: Your expensive PC/laptop, all your files, work and e-mail, the hours of toil and trouble you put into your career, are all being held hostage by a couple of lines of simple code that can disappear at anytime, with the result being that you will have to shell out big bucks for a new computer, or at least spend time you can't spare on what often ends up to be a wild goose chase! I'm talking about drivers, those little controller pieces of software that we don't think about until it's too late - which is when they disappear by being erased or damaged by a virus or any of the other daily PC hazards.


PLAIN VANILLA FLASH DRIVES: Are the U3 Upgrades Worth It?

It seems as if computer product marketing takes two distinct tacks these days. Students of the "new and improved" school label upgrades and new hardware models as the latest and greatest, placing the tag "upgraded" upon products that have been reworked in the lab. Which leads one to wonder: Why were they trying to pawn off a piece of "old and unimproved" junk on consumers before? The corollary principle is one in which customers, happy with version 1.x of a product, protest that there was nothing wrong with the original formula and that the "new and improved" item is actually "bloatware," where manufacturers heap on features and options that are supposed to enhance performance. Instead, the "improvements" make the product unwieldy and harder to use, thus erasing - or reversing - any potential benefit to the user. In the computer industry, the new/improved-vs.-bloat concept is generally applied to software applications, but in a few cases it applies to hardware as well - such as with USB flash drives that feature the U3 software platform.



Although I live in Israel, I'm writing this from the American point of view, with the help of Web searches and articles and my cousins.  Here's the bottom line: The privacy of your data may depend on how you connect to the Internet. My cousin is a longtime DSL customer of the ISP now known as AT&T. He's been following with concern the coverage of AT&T's recently revised privacy policy.  The most startling revision to the policy is found under the "Legal Obligations/Fraud" heading: "While your Account Information may be personal to you, these records constitute business records that are owned by AT&T. As such, AT&T may disclose such records to protect its legitimate business interests, safeguard others, or respond to legal process."



The first thing to do is start saving Windows Updates locally for faster reinstalls. You can download XP updates as program files, save them on your hard drive, reload them when you need to, and even share them between computers. Begin with downloading Windows XP Service Pack 2. Keeping a reinstallable version of SP2 handy will save you more download time than all the other XP updates put together. Download SP2, or order the update on CD (note that the first of these two links begins the download automatically)



If you've had trouble figuring out the differences in service and pricing structure between ADSL and cable modems, dial-up and broadband, well, all I can tell you is to prepare yourself for some complications before you get too involved in reading this since the inevitable headache is sure to result. That's right, folks - they're changing the technology, yet again. The current range of download speeds available for both cable and DSL/ADSL modems isn't sufficient for the "Next Big Thing": video or TV on demand. So, the people in charge of these things - phone and cable companies, international consortia of various shapes and sizes and, of course, the marketing department - went back to the drawing board and came up with a bunch of new technological candidates that will provide faster, easier and smoother access to all things digital, including video, data and voice systems. The new converged systems will replace the current un-converged digital technologies, as well as require the hapless citizenry to learn a whole new bunch of acronyms.



There is an amusing story about Sir Arthur Eddington, who in the 1920s and 1930s was Britain's leading expert on Einstein's theory of relativity.  Eddington was once asked to comment on the rumor that only three people in the world, by implication including himself and Einstein, properly understood the theory.  There was a long pause before Eddington replied slowly,  "I wonder who the third person is." The theory of relativity has a fearsome reputation, the widespread belief being that any theory formulated by a man of such legendary genius as Albert Einstein must be beyond the power of ordinary people to grasp. Yet today, Einstein's theory is routinely taught in universities around the world, and libraries contain a range of student textbooks on the subject. Either the students of today are much brighter than they are sometimes given credit for, or the theory is not so fearsomely difficult to grasp after all.



So, it finally comes out: There's a method to the madness of Google's super-generosity in supplying users with mega-gigabytes of free storage space for e-mail, photos, and even uploads and downloads. Why preserve users' search data not as an aggregate but as information derived from user accounts? The latest Internet scandal caught major search engine AOL committing a serious (from users' point of view) gaffe when it inadvertently released information from about 19 million search requests made by more than 658,000 AOL subscribers during the three months ended in May.



Warren Buffett can feel confident about sinking his $4 billion into Israel - at least from an electronic-security point of view. I can say with utmost certainty that the country's most sensitive secrets are safely stowed away on secure servers, inaccessible to the public. Try as I might, I couldn't find any Word documents marked "top secret" regarding Israel's plans regarding Iran on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Web site; no PowerPoint presentations on Israel's alleged nuclear weapons program on the Ministry of Defense site; no PDFs on future political plans on the main government site - nothing, nada, not a thing!  Even using the special advanced "Google hacking" techniques I learned from Johnny, I couldn't get an untoward, scandalous or headline-making fact on any of the burning issues of the day. One less thing for Warren Buffett to worry about.



A few of my friends caught their children on websites that I'll describe below. They asked me what to do about it. I did some searching on the Web, and this article is a compilation of what I found out. As you read you'll find it's really fearsome. The short answer is: Your kids aren't going to stop using MySpace and Facebook, but at least you can give them safety helmets and kneepads.



Folks, I'm sorry but this week has been taken up with legal matters over my late brother's estate.  However, I found an easy solution to the auto restart problem we discussed last week.  It eliminates not only the nagging but disables the automatic reboot altogether. The solution involves adding a registration key to your windows registry.  I know most of you don't dare play with your registry and I advise against it.  However a knowledgeable programmer has written a problem that does it automatically.  I tried it on all three of my computers.  It worked without any problem.



We're going to talk today about getting rid of an annoyance with Windows Updates. Every user should have it turned to Automatic.  But whether it is automatic or not, almost all the time after the update, your computer must be rebooted for the updates to take effect. The annoyance is that if you click no to the message box that asks you if you want to reboot now, the message box pops up every several minutes and asks the same fool question.  Worse, if you leave the room for several minutes when the message box pops up, it'll reboot automatically - losing whatever websites you were on or data you hadn't saved. This was really annoying me, and probably many of you.  After Jack sent me an email asking me how to prevent it, I finally decided to find out how to get rid of it.



By some counts, 99 versions of 17 different products are affected by vulnerabilities disclosed this past week by Microsoft in 12 different vulnerability reports. The updates are all available through the usual channels: Windows Update, Microsoft Update, Software Update Services, and direct downloads through the advisory pages linked to above. As you all know by now, you can't get the updates until Microsoft verifies that you have a genuine copy of Microsoft Windows.  What you don't know is how Microsoft verifies it.



 Like me, I bet you can't think of more than a handful of movies made in recent years you really liked. Imagine that - there are dozens of movies coming out of Hollywood each year, and most of them are what are called in the business "stinkers."

Somehow it just doesn't seem fair.  "Professional" moviemakers who seemingly can only make third-rate films get rich, while we, who are obviously far more talented, aren't even in the picture.

Why, I bet any of us could put together far better films than 95% of the flicks available. If only someone would give us a chance.

Well, as a matter of fact, there is a place where you can show off your directing, producing and even acting abilities - and even make money off your work.



You call your attorney to ask her to review a contract, and she says, "Sure. Fax it over." "But it's a Microsoft Word document," you say. "Can't I just e-mail it to you? I don't have a fax machine." No, she prefers fax. Or, she says, if you'd rather, you can drop it in the mailbox or drive it over. Grrr! 

But wait! You probably do have a fax machine and don't even realize it. It's right in your PC. You may have forgotten this if you've moved to broadband, but most computers still ship with fax modems. And Microsoft Windows XP includes fax software, although you may not have realized that either, since it's not part of the default installation. Fortunately, installing it is pretty painless. 

Here's how to enable fax services.



I signed up several months ago for a service which gave me free delivery on some products (value $10), knowing I would get a weekly e-mail from the business.

I never got around to reading those weekly messages, and they began to pile up in my e-mail box. After a few months, I got a message from the company with this title: "Dennis - Are you missing out on a good thing?"

No, sir or ma'am, I am not - or at least I didn't plan to. I opened the message and read the following: "Dear Dennis: We've noticed that you haven't been opening our weekly emails. We don't want to impose, so we've decided to stop sending them to you."

Huh? This was unbelievable! Not that they were considerate enough to stop spamming me (although that is pretty unbelievable in itself!); it was the first sentence that threw me.

How, pray tell, would they know whether or not I opened their message? How could they?

Through the use of "Web bugs," that's how.



With its billions of sites, the Web has become the natural place to turn for information about nearly any subject. Large search engines like Google and Yahoo have their little search bots running 24/7, gathering data on sites and reporting back to the database, which you tap into when you conduct your search.

Unfortunately, though, finding what you need isn't always so easy. The data you need are definitely out there - the problem is getting to the right site, ferreting out the useful Web pages from the 5 million others ones that might mention the term you searched for, but in a totally useless, completely irrelevant context.

There is an easy, fast, and free way around this dilemma - and that is to create your own personalized search engine.  Here's how.


SKYPE 2.5 (beta)

We first talked about Skype, the software program by which you can make free phone calls most anywhere in the world, last September in Talk Is Cheap.

Last week Skype marked quite a milestone: 100,000,000 registered users. That's just the number of downloads, though-there aren't necessarily that many regular users.

Still, at any moment, several million people in the world are online using Skype whether for free Skype-to-Skype voice calls, instant messaging chat, video calls, or to take advantage of the premium services that actually earn Skype its money. That's impressive by any measure.

As of May 3, 2006, there's a new and modestly improved version of Skype available for download.



There's one (and most probably last) thing I want to say about the new Intel powered line of Macintoshes - and that's compatibility with the rest of the Intel-compatible hardware out there.

It stands to reason that if the processor in the new Macs can support popular operating systems, like Windows and Linux, which describes how Macs have been successfully booted using three operating systems), then they should be able to use printers, scanners and other desktop appliances that until now have been available only to Windows users.

However, most Mac users, even the ones with Intel processor computers, can't use PCI cards - because...



Windows can be as slow as a tortoise. You try all the tricks in the book, but your computer still crawls along. During some computing sessions, things sort of limp along, but in others, you can barely get the mouse to move.

Defragmenting the hard drive, uninstalling programs you don't use, closing applications you aren't using - all seem to have at least a temporary effect, but sooner or later, your PC just goes back to its old, slow ways.

It turns out that there are a bunch of things in Windows itself - especially in Windows XP, now the dominant version of the operating system in the marketplace - that actually hamper performance.

But it also turns out there's a quick fix that'll change your PC from a tortoise to a hare.



When it comes to the Web, dedicated search engines that only, well, search are out. These days, the focus is one-stop shopping-with a Web service.

The recipe is simple: Start by combining all kinds of search capability-general Web, desktop, image, and whatever else-in one spot. Stir in a bunch of free services like news, weather, and mapping.

Garnish with a generous supply of customization options-let users design their own homepages, drop the components they don't want and add the ones they do, and more. Make it available for free and, voila!-an all-inclusive Web service, cooked to order.

In an attempt to win over the multi-tasking masses, two new services are doing exactly that. Windows Live (which is still in Beta) and Google Desktop 4 offer many of the same features, but each has a unique look and different packaging.



I am not a Mac user, although I have several friends who are.  I must admit the Mac interface is sleeker, the box more beautiful, and the software that comes with the Mac better integrated.

However third party software is in short supply, and Apple development environments are simply not up to Microsoft standards.

Mac's vaunted security, in my opinion, stems from its 4% of the market. Hackers don't get the ‘bang for the buck' in creating nasties for it as they do with Windows.  Furthermore, businesses rarely use Macs, and for professional identity thieves, Windows attacks are much more profitable.

For years, Mac users were the right-brainers, the creative types - as opposed to the left-brain, draw inside the line, corporate toady Windows users. Thus it was forever, it seems, until - in a Frankenstein-like mixing of body parts- Apple came up with the Intel processor-based Macintoshes described last week.



Vista delay, schmista delay. You may not be able to upgrade to the official next version of Microsoft's Windows for months, but you don't have to wait a day to add many of the new OS's security, performance, and interface improvements to your current XP setup. And to top it off, many of these advances cost little or no money.

Vista will introduce new techniques to help speed Windows' startup and shutdown times, and to accelerate application launches.  But why wait?

SystemBoosterXP claims to use a technology similar to Vista's prefetching, which anticipates the files you're likely to request next and revs up your file loading and app starts. The program sits quietly in your system tray (the area near the clock) and needs little if any configuring. You can try it for 30 days before forking over the $20 registration fee.

On the other hand...



A friend of mine was recently tasked to provide the entertainment for a conference, and on a tiny budget.  He first thought of karaoke.

Karaoke bars are big business, and people love to ham it up in front of the screen. You don't have to come up with lame or insulting wisecracks to get people into a fun mood, and there are lots of party games you can come up with using the music and lyrics.

That's what my friend wanted for his party:  people singing and dancing, having a grand old time - with him as the star for having come up with it.

The only problem - the budget! Until now, my friend would've had to go out and hire someone with an elaborate and expensive karaoke set-up to come out and run it - putting the idea of a karaoke party out of reach for him, as it is for so many others.

Until now, that is. 



1,000 files. 4.5 gigabytes. All in a month.

Numbers like these almost put me in the elite of digital music aficionados. I spent much of a month using one of my favorite programs, Stationripper, reviewed by me last July.

In its free version, Stationripper lets you record 2 Shoutcast MP3 streams at a time. Stationripper is useful because it saves songs downloaded as individual files with their proper names.

It's a great way to build a large music collection in just a few days - and it's all completely legal, as I mentioned recently.  Getting music is no longer a problem, and playing it is easy, too.

The only problem is trying to get a handle on my collection. Until recently, all my files were in a few folders; it would have been nice to set up playlists by artists, genres, even albums.

But who has time to figure out what songs go with which albums? And who has time to set up playlists according to mood mixes, artists, music types or whatever?

The Monkey has the time - as well as the ability!



I was sitting at Aroma Café this morning when another geek sat at the table next to me and booted up his laptop.  A woman, also a regular with a laptop, sat nearby, and another customer made a joke about Aroma becoming an internet café.

The three of us traded a few geek jokes.  There are so many funny computer stories and anecdotes out there, it's a wonder some headliner comedian/comedienne hasn't come up with a related routine.

Something like - "Did you hear the one about the computer programmer who gets shipwrecked on a desert island with a gorgeous blonde?



Spam e-mail isn't very new. In fact the term was originally coined to describe early attempts at e-mail marketing first made in the early 1990's, using a name derived from a Monty Python song lampooning Hormel's canned meat product.

Spam-fighting companies began to emerge in late 2000 and throughout the next few years. Some developed filtering systems that attempted to identify the contents of e-mail messages as spam by using mathematical models or other message analysis tools. Others used syndicated "black lists" compiled by various security vendors, while still others simply allowed desktop users to develop "white lists" of e-mail senders they wished to receive e-mail from.

Cloudmark, launched in 2001, has taken a different approach.



It looks like we won't have to put up with DVDs much longer.

More and more people are bypassing them and directly copying or downloading movies, TV shows, and computer games directly to their computers - in contravention of the will of the movie and music producers and, in many cases, of the law.

Folks are figuring out how, with free or low cost software, their PC can be more than a computer - it's a media center.  It plays music, movies, TV shows, and can do all sorts of other wonderful things - like pick up local radio stations and terrestrial high definition TV broadcasts.

Let's get you started in turning your PC into a home entertainment center.



Developers can use Google and other search engines to find source code, but it's not easy.

A Silicon Valley startup claims to have come up with a better alternative -- a search engine for source code and code-related information. The tool, known as Krugle, is designed to deliver easy access to source code and other highly relevant technical information in a single, convenient, clean, easy-to-use interface, according to the company. Krugle works by crawling, parsing, and indexing code found in open source repositories and code that exists in archives, mailing lists, blogs, and Web pages.



wizard21706.jpg Do drivers want to see a photorealistic image of the road ahead on their navigation displays? Google, Volkswagen, and nVidia think so, and they're working on a mapping and navigation system that could present Google Earth satellite images of highways and buildings. Since 2005, Volkswagen of America's Electronic Research Lab in Palo Alto, California, has been developing prototype vehicles with the system. While there’s no projected date for the concept to become reality in production vehicles, it’s not far off.



Sophisticated net surfers will have noticed that, despite my proclamations that "It can't be done," there is a plethora of commercial movies - the kind you buy on DVD - that are available for download on the various "pirate" services, of which Kazaa is (was) the most well known. Actually, when I say "can't," I mean "shouldn't" - but there is technology, both hardware and software that allows intrepid souls to "rip" (copy) DVDs off the disk and onto their computers. You don't have to be police lineup material to use the methods described below to copy DVDs. Maybe you want to make backups or copies of a wedding or Bar-mitzvah DVD to send to family and friends abroad. So how do they - and we - do it?



This is Dennis “The Wizard” Turner’s initial Science column for To The Point. In addition to his weekly column on computers, we hope this is the first of many. ---JW Dark matter is usually thought of as something ‘out there.’ But we will never truly understand it unless we can bring down to earth. If we could see dark matter, the Milky Way galaxy would look like a much different place. The familiar spiral disk, where most of the stars reside, would be shrouded by a dense haze of dark matter particles. Astronomers think the dark haze is 10 times as massive as the disk and nearly 10 times as big in diameter.