The Bug Report

The only Bug that's good for your computer!
A Publication of the Greater South Bay PC Users Group
Volume 17 Number 10
October 1999

 

New SIG

November 23 Presenter: FBI Special Agent Charles Neal

Christmas Party December 8

CNET Help Offer

Symantec Software

PC Wizard: Questions & Answers

Computer Fraud

Internet Talk

Digital Cameras Arrive In The Mainstream

Review: Quicken Family Lawyer 2000 Deluxe

What's New...

New SIG

By Harold A. Caccamise,

GSBUG, Inc.

hcaccamise@aol.com

 

This new SIG meets on Tuesdays from 1:00 to 4:00PM at the Boy Scout Center in Torrance. This is concurrent with the Daytime Hardware SIG. The purpose of this SIG is to see the other side of computing: how to enhance your every day living using programs that will enlighten your problems and furnish easy solutions to them. Examples are calendars, labels and maps. The forum will be left open for future programs.

The SIGs held this past three weeks have been centered on maps for every day life. You are invited to bring your own programs to match against any in the group. We have been using Microsoft Expedia Streets 98. This is an excellent program that covers the entire USA including Alaska and Hawaii. With todayís traffic, how many times have you wished to go directly to your destination?

With todayís busy schedule, calendars are a boon. Put a monthly calendar on the refrigerator; a glance tells you your important appointments. A picture of your loved ones reminds you of their Birthdays, Anniversariesľ .

Labels: What did I put into that new spray bottle I just bought? That freezer package? Johnnieís lunch bucket? These questions are readily answered by labeling. See you there.

 

November 23 Presenter:

FBI Special Agent Charles Neal

Come to the regular meeting on November 23 in El Segundo for a presentation by the FBI on current issues involving computers and high tech law enforcement. Maybe you have some questions to ask about viruses, privacy, identity fraud or current legislation.

 

Christmas Party

December 8

The GS-BUG Christmas party will be held at the Torrance Scout Center, 2365 Plaza Del Amo at 6 pm on December 8. Check out the map if this is a new location for you.

Itís time to check in your attics or garages for computer items that are out of service which you would like to donate to our Silent Auction. We plan to have Christmas food goodies, especially those contributed by our members.

 

CNET Help Offer

Submitted by John Sellers

 

 

E-mail offer

Got computing or technology questions? We've got answers at CNET Help.com, CNET's new free service. CNET Help.com (http://www.help.com/ ) is the place to find hundreds of thousands of computer and technology questions and answers, culled from Usenet newsgroups and submitted by users around the world. And the best part is, it's all free. Here's some of what you can do: Search our database of questions and answers, or submit your own question to the worldwide community of computing experts. Most questions are answered within 24 hours. Browse our directory of thousands of tips and how-tos, written by CNET editors, for more help with the hardware and software products you use every day.

Get more resources on your favorite tech topics in our Help Centers, where you'll find everything from books to online classes to assisted tech support. Get your tech answers here: http://www.help.com/

 

 

Symantec Software

By Liz Orban, GSBUG,Inc.

 

For those of you that were not present at the October 15th meeting, Symantec handed out forms with 30-day special User Group prices on all their software (expires 11/15/99). The club has forms available if you are interested. The entire System Works 2000 3.0 Pro Edition was available for $50. However, we recently noted a similar low price on System Works at Samís Club.

 

PC Wizard: Questions & Answers

By Dr. John Hanson 643-9882 fax 643-8559

Brain Development Center, P.O. Box 1862,

Redondo Beach, CA 90278

 

Can you bring a member with you?

As some of our members get older, their night vision is not as acute when their pupils are dilated by the darkness (just like a camera). As a result, some don't feel safe driving at night and their doctors even advise against it. Now that our meeting place is further away, even though it is an excellent place, it means even fewer want to drive to our meetings at night.

In Emmett Ingram's case, he is picked up by George Austin since they live fairly close. We miss those who haven't been coming to evening meetings and SIGs. So, if you are one of those who no longer attends, please send your name, address and phone number, as well as the nearest big cross streets to me. I will set up a database and look for someone near you. Besides the main meeting, mention any night SIGs you would like to attend. Send your information to Dr. John Hanson, 5328 W. 142nd Place, Hawthorne, Calif. 90250.

Remember the $500 system I was hoping for?

Several years ago, I was searching for good systems you could buy for about $500. At that time, a lot of effort was involved in finding the few such systems that existed. Today it is much easier. Emmett Ingram and Virginia Pfiffner found an excellent supplier who is located very close to us: Infinite Computers at 20610 Manhattan Place, near Western. Their system includes a good 15 inch monitor. See their ad on page 59 of the September 14 MicroTimes. With some hard work, it is possible you can get a better deal. But this is a pretty good deal as Emmett and Virginia are quite pleased with their systems.

Anything you want at Comdex?

Comdex is coming up in November. Let me know if there is something you are looking for and maybe I can bring back some information. There will be a lot of talk about Linux as so many people, including me, are unhappy with Windows. Recently Sun Microsystems bought Star Office and is offering their entire suite as a free download for those who are tired of constant Windows updates. Star Office is probably as good as Windows applications so you might want to give it a try. I will try to pick up a number of copies at Comdex.

How is your Voice Express working?

A super salesman gave an excellent presentation several meetings ago and many members bought Voice Express. This program allows you to see your dictation on screen as well as being able to issue voice commands to your computer. Our president, Dr. Gary Sexton, got Voice Express to work better after he used the better microphone that was included with the program. On the other hand, I have not been successful even getting the program to load. It does load the tools but not the main program, and I haven't had much time to spend on it. One problem I had, was that Word is required. After I loaded Word, it told me that I needed Explorer 5, which I also added. But still no luck. Let me know how much success you have been having.

Should you buy a flat screen monitor?

Perhaps. They save a lot of space, and now that they are getting larger, they could be very suitable. But be careful, as they are quite expensive and you need to check that some of the pixels are not missing. With notebooks you also need to check carefully for missing pixels.

Looking for a scanner?

Some of the members at the daytime DIG SIG have had considerable trouble getting their scanner to work out of the box. Rich Bulow says he has had great results with the Visioneer One Touch working right away after popping in the CD. I brought my One Touch along and it installed just as easily.

 

Computer Fraud

By Lee Schwab

Published in the August 1999 issue of the dVINE Blues

Napa Valley PC User's Group

I took advantage of the opportunity to attend the Southwest Regional User Group meeting in San Diego on July 9-11, 1999. One of the best presentations I attended was by Terry Rankhorn, Special Agent, Cybercrimes Unit, FBI San Diego. His presentation was fascinating and scary. Below is some of the information he presented.

The FBI has developed a hacker profile based on their experience. The following description of a hacker lists the most common attributes first. The hacker is usually a student who uses the Internet every day, especially IRC. If the hacker has a job, it usually involves computers. He is usually quite knowledgeable of Unix. As a matter of fact, you will usually find several books on Unix in a hackerís room. The typical hacker is an adolescent, white male.

Many things motivate the hacker. His curiosity pushes him to learn how to get around the Internet, firewalls, and whatever else he happens to encounter. Hackers gain prestige and bragging rights when they are able to break through a firewall or other obstacle. There is even a web site where they can post their accomplishments and gain a following. Some hackers are motivated by revenge for some perceived injustice, which they feel they have experienced. They may get the IP of the person causing the injustice and knock them off the Internet every time they get on. Because of their age, hackers are usually not motivated by politics or profit.

One of the most common targets of hackers is Internet Service Providers (ISP) because they are easy to hack and have numerous user accounts. A hacker will break into an ISP and get one or more accounts and passwords. He may sell or trade the account information to other hackers. Unless the subscriber of the account reports a problem with the account, the hacker usually does not get caught. Most ISPs assign a different IP address every time you sign on which allows anonymity for the hacker. Therefore, it is unlikely the Internet will ever be truly secure.

Other popular targets for hackers are Universities because many have powerful number crunching computers like the Cray. This number crunching capability helps the hacker more quickly find the key that they are looking for. The university setting provides a perfect opportunity for the hacker. Many times (especially in smaller schools) the security is lax and there are numerous user accounts.

Government and military sites are also popular targets among hackers because of the challenge, prestige, and publicity. If a hacker breaks into one of these sites, he gets big bragging rights and will probably post his accomplishment at attrition.org. Recently, it was reported that a hacker broke into the pentagon. Terry said that what actually happened is that security was alerted that someone was trying to break through the firewall. When the hacker tried a different approach, security decided to take the system down. No breech of security was made.

If a person is denied service or experiences a perceived injustice, he may want to hack for revenge. This may require a low skill level and use of pre-made downloaded tools. This type of hack could be called "Internet Road Rage". With wiretapping (sniffer) type hacks, a hacker uses a password sniffer to collect passwords and personal information. There are internal intrusions where the biggest threat is from within. Whereas, in classic external intrusions a remote intruder breaks into the computer.

All of the frauds that work through the mail work just as well, or perhaps even better, when using a computer. This is partly because of the feeling of anonymity on the part of the person committing the fraud and partly because people are sometimes embarrassed to admit that they were ripped off (especially at x-rated sites). Terry told a story about a man who advertised a projector for sale at one of the Internet auctions. Several people bid on the projector and the auction site gave the seller the contact information for the top bidders. The seller then contacted each of the prospective buyers and told

them that the person above them had dropped out of the bidding and that they had won the bid. The seller received checks from several people but none of the buyers received a projector. Was there ever a projector for sale? Who knows? The good news is that the seller was caught.

Pyramid schemes are a popular type of fraud on the Internet. You put your name at the bottom of a list and send each person on the list above you $5. There is almost no chance that you will recover your money. Plus, you may have provided your email information to a hacker. The same threat holds true for advance fee schemes. For example, you send $19.95 to have your credit history repaired. You do not need to pay a fee to repair your credit and you may have given a hacker access to your email.

Hackers can be prosecuted for mail fraud (Title 18, Section 1341) or wire fraud (Title 18, Section 1343). Wherever hackers or anyone else goes on the Internet, they leave a trail that can be followed by a savvy investigator. However, the investigator has to be alerted that there is a crime before he/she can investigate.

If you use a cable modem or are connected to the Internet all the time, be aware of who is accessing your computer. Terry gave an example of a friend who has networked two computer in his home and uses a file server. Terry was easily able to look at the files on his friendís computer and could have caused major damage. Instead, he sent a message that appeared on his friends monitor. What a scary wake up call.

This only scratches the surface of what Terry covered during his presentation. The bottom line is Ė use good common sense when using the Internet. If you feel you are at risk, you can download a shareware firewall from nukenabber.com. Happy surfing!

This message is brought to you courtesy of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG), an organization to which this user group belongs. Lee Schwab has been an active member of the Napa Valley PC User's Group for many years and was an officer for ten years. She served as Editor of the dVINE Blues newsletter (7.5 years), President, Vice President, Publicity, Public Relations, Evaluations Coordinator, and Program Chair. PC's play an integral part of Lee's busy life outside the NVPCUG. She is the President and Chairwoman of the Board for the CyberMill, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization where people (especially at-risk youth) learn to use technology. She uses her PC to evaluate and track her extended family's investments and make stock trades. Lee feels very fortunate to work in areas that she likes (computing, investing, and volunteering) and will always be challenged and in learning mode.

 

Internet Talk

By Frank Chao, GSBUG, Inc.

 

 

Hello again. This the fifteenth article about how to access the Internet and benefit from the vast amount of information available there. Letís start this article off by talking about Internet myths and lore.

Fallacies About Free Access to the Internet

I keep hearing the same fallacies over and over about the Internet and I am tired of hearing them. They are usually expounded at great length by people who doní t even own a computer.

The biggest fallacy that I hear is that free Internet access cannot possibly be reliable. Well, all I can say is that, you should try a free Internet Service Provider (ISP) and find out for yourself. As I stated in the previous article, if you have a problem with a particular free ISP, you should use another one, since there are now three good ones here in the Los Angeles area.

The second biggest fallacy is that free is impossible. Where have these people been? Since the late 40ís, we have had totally free, advertising-supported television and no one is running around saying that free television programming is impossible!

The third biggest fallacy is that the free ISPs put up huge advertising bars that cover up half of a computer monitor. All of the free ISPs, that I have ever tried, have advertising bars that are between one and two inches in height.

The fourth fallacy that I keep hearing is that if you are on the Internet, hackers will access your hard drive and trash your computer. I have yet to find someone that this has happened to. Most of the people that I know are perfectly capable of trashing their hard drives without help from some hacker out in Timbuktu .

The fifth fallacy is that, if you give your credit card number to a Web site to make an online purchase, you will have a high probability of being victimized by credit card fraud. While this is possible, I do not know anyone that this has happened to. For your information, if this is a big worry for you, the "American Express Blue" credit card guarantees that you will not be held responsible for on-line credit card fraud. Their Web site is at http://www.americanexpress.com/blue

"Spedia": Get Paid for Accessing the Internet for Free

A new, totally free ISP called "Spedia" will provide you with totally free Internet access and pay you cash for the time that you use them to access the Internet. See http://www.spedia.net/ I have been too busy to try them out but a member of the Los Angeles Computer Society has assured me that this service is for real. Let me know if you are successful in using this new concept in free Internet access.

Some Truths about Free Internet Access

Now, letís turn our attention to some realities about free Internet access:

Reality 1: If you want an ISP that has a friendly tech support person that can spend an hour or two with you to resolve computer problems, then you will not find such a person at a free ISP. Some, like Netzero (www.netzero.net), religiously answer their e-mail from customers. Others, sort of ignore you when you send them e-mail about your on-line problems.

Reality 2: You have to be reasonably computer literate before you can access the Internet with any degree of competency. So learn your operating system, whatever you choose to use, before you add in the complexity of Internet access to the repertoire of things that you do with your computer.

Reality 3: If you get an installation CD-ROM from a full-price commercial ISP (like Earthlink, Compuserve, AOL, etc.), this disk will help you set up "Dial Up Networking" and "TCP/IP", which are the parts of the Windows 95 or 98 "Network stack" that you need to make a dial-up connection to the Internet.

However, if you use a free ISP (like Netzero, FreeI, or Altavista FreeAccess), you may have to install these two networking items BEFORE you attempt to install the software that you get from the free ISP. This requirement is too much of a barrier to success for many computer owners.

Reality 4: If you want to have reliable dial up Internet access for free, you probably will have to use at least two of the free ISPs. There are too many things that can go wrong with any individual ISP. For example, I alternate between Netzero, FreeI, and Altavista and I have yet to fail to make a successful connection between all three of these services on any given day for the past two months.

News About the GSBUG Web Site

During the present month, our Webmaster Rich Bulow has continued to make cosmetic enhancements to our clubís home page which is at http://gsbug.apcug.org Usage of the discussion group feature has been low. Rich has put a lot of effort into setting up this feature, so please log into it, set up an account for yourself, and try out this new-fangled feature.

Getting Free Internet Access Without Getting E-Mail

Some club members have indicated that they wish to get on the Internet without having an e-mail address. This is now easy to do. All you have to do is to get a totally free Internet access account at Altavista Free Access. Go to http://www.microav.com and download their software. After you install their software, you can set yourself up with free access to the Internet. Unlike the other two free ISPs, Altavista Free Access does not automatically set you up with an e-mail address when you sign on with them. This is great if you donít need or want an e-mail address or an additional e-mail address.

Enhancements to Freebie Web Hosting Sites

During the past month, both Tripod and Angelfire have made significant enhancements to their free Web site services. You can learn all about these amazing improvements at their respective Web sites at http://members.tripod.com and http://www.angelfire.com

Both of these free Web hosting sites now allow members to run CGI scripts. Tripod members now have a shorter URL assigned to them: My URL at Tripod used to be http://members.tripod.com/fchao It is now http://fchao.tripod.com

If you want to create a free Web page on the Internet, this aspect of "Internet life" is now better than ever.

How Will Freebie ISPs Affect the Los Angeles Free-Net?

The Los Angeles Free-Net used to be the cheapest way for Los Angeles area residents to make dial-up connections to the Internet. However, with the three free ISPs, and more free ISPs on the horizon, things do not really look good. My crystal ball is as cloudy as yours. Let me know what you think will happen and I will relate your opinions in future issues of this column.

Windows 98 Second Edition

The "Second Edition" of Windows 98 is the only version that you can now buy in stores. This version of Windows 98 has "Internet Connection Sharing" for peer-to-peer networks. If you load "Second Edition" into all of the computers in your house, AND if all of the computers in your house are connected together by means of Ethernet cables, then, if you make a dial-up connection to the Internet with one computer, the other computers can share this Internet connection. I have not had the opportunity to try this feature, so if you have done so, please let me know if it worked okay for you.

El Camino College Has Great Computer Training

El Camino College continues to provide quality computer training at bargain basement prices. It does not get any cheaper than $12 per semester unit anywhere. To learn more about this training opportunity, see http://www.elcamino.cc.ca.us Some of you probably know that I have been teaching in "Computer Information Systems" classes at El Camino College for the past two months

Some Great Web Sites

The official U.S. time is available at http://www.time.gov/

All of the publications of the California Department of Motor Vehicles are available for free at http://www.dmv.ca.gov The "California Drivers Handbook", a complete copy of the voluminous "California Vehicle Code", and other useful documents are all online in Adobe *.pdf format at this taxpayer-funded Web site.

Radio station KFWBís Web site is a great place for you to keep up with local, national, and world news events. This site is located at http://kfwb.com

Microsoftís Year 2000 Site is a must for anyone that runs any Microsoft operating system or application. This site is located at http://www.microsoft.com/y2k

Lyrics for popular music from 1930 to present can be found at

http://www.ntl.matrix.com.br/pfilho/html/top40/index.html

"Travelocity" is a great site for scheduling airplane flights. The URL of this site is

http://www.travelocity.com

"Altavista" at http://www.altavista.com is the best search engine for locating minute detailed information.

Use plus signs to tell it to search for occurrences of two items.

"ebay" is a great site for buying or selling almost anything. It is a virtual 24-hour a day on-line auction. Try them out by going to http://www.ebay.com

For lots of information on various subjects, try out the various "Centers" at the Los Angeles Free-Netís Web site at http://www.lafn.org/interest.html

Use Internet Access to Complement Other Hobbies

Use your Internet access to find information about your non-computer hobbies. The World Wide Web has information on every possible hobby. To get lots of information on any hobby, all you have to do is to go to your favorite search engine Web site and tell it to search for information on your other hobby. For this type of a search, I highly recommend Yahooís subject-based search.

Use Web Access to Learn About Pharmaceuticals

The branded drug business is one of the greatest sources of hype since snake oil. Use a Web-based search engine to sift out the generic equivalents of any branded drugs that your doctors prescribe for you. It will save you a small fortune. And, donít get fooled by the claims by pharmaceutical companies about how their branded versions of drugs are "purer" or "have better absorption" in your digestive system. They only have better absorption of the money in your wallet.

To learn more about generic drugs, see

http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/health/generic.htm

http://www.fda.gov/cder/ogd/

http://www.saint-lukes.org/feelgood/previous/generic.html

and

http://www.tevapharmusa.com/factsabout.html

http://www.acsh.org/publications/priorities/1001/gendrugyes.html

http://www.fda.gov/CDER/news/nightgenlett.htm

http://www.aarp.org/ontheissues/issuegendrug.html

Some lists of the generic drug equivalents of branded pharmaceuticals can be found at http://www.aap.org/policy/00026t8.htm

http://www.drugtopics.com/brand.html

http://www.mosby.com/mosby/open/hfea_genr

Ways to contact me

If you have any questions or problems, I can be contacted by one of the following methods:

1. Leave a voice message for me at 310-768-8951.

2. Send me e-mail at fchao2@yahoo.com

3. Send me "snail" US Postal Service mail at Frank Chao, PO Box 6930, Torrance, CA 90504-6930.

Or sell your computer and take up sailing instead !

 

Digital Cameras Arrive In The Mainstream

By Steve Morgan

I purchased my first digital camera 12 years ago. It was a closeout model that I paid $90.00 for on an online auction. The highest resolution it was capable of was 320 pixels by 240 pixels, thus creating a 76,800-bit picture. The camera came with a .5-megabit memory, so I am able to take about 8 pictures before the memory is full. There is no flash available. The size of the pictures when I print them is about 1 Ĺ inch by 1 inch, and they actually look pretty good, until I try to enlarge them, then they look pretty bad. The camera is excellent for sending pictures via email since their small size makes them fast to send and receive. There is no way to display the picture I have taken, without sending them to a computer first, so I always have to wait to see how they look. I have never had to replace the batteries that came with the camera.

Todayís cutting edge consumer digital cameras cost $700-$1000, and take picture resolutions of 1800 by 1200 bits, creating a picture with almost 2 megabytes of pixels. They come with flash memory cards that have between 4 and 32-megabyte capacities and have software that compresses the images so that you can take between 6 and 80 pictures before having to download the pictures to a computer. If no computer is available, just snap in a new memory card just like you would put in a new roll of film. For the ultimate in capacity, some cameras are now starting to support the new IBM 170 and 340 MB Microdrives, and Sony cameras will soon support a 200 MB floppy disk that will allow for an almost unlimited number of pictures. Most new cameras come with a 1 to 2 inch LCD panel on the back so that you can preview the picture to see if you wish to keep it, thatís a real money saver over film cameras. Many of these cameras have glass lenses and come with optical zooms that magnify up to 12 times. Flashes are standard and rechargeable batteries are required to keep you from going broke! Printing pictures from these cameraís results in 8 by 10 inch glossy pictures that are indistinguishable from those created by 35 mm prints!

As you can imagine, in-between my camera and the cutting edge cameras, there are a great many other digital cameras that are priced between $200 and $700. However, while there are many good cameras, there are some that will disappoint. Let me tell you what to look for when buying a digital camera.

1. The best quality cameras come with a glass lens. While several good cameras come with plastic lenses, they will be prone to deteriorate much more quickly than ones made with glass.

2. Look for a camera with an optical zoom lens. Most people take pictures of the great outdoors, and it is difficult to get close enough to get good detail in your pictures without an optical zoom. Many cameras advertise a digital zoom lens, just remember that a digital zoom just crops the current view and uses software to make the remaining image larger. Many cameras come with both kinds of zoom, for example a 3X optical zoom with a 2X digital to make it seem like a 6X zoom.

3. Examine how the camera downloads the pictures to the computer. The amount of time can vary dramatically depending on the method used. The slowest way is to have a serial port connection; a better way is via a USB connection and even faster is using the new Firewire connection that is starting to appear on computers. Another fast option is to use a floppy disk, or a memory card reader that can be plugged in to the floppy disk drive.

4. Check and see how visible the LCD panel is in sunlight. A washed out screen will make it harder to see what you are shooting. The LCD also takes up battery power, and does not update very quickly. A regular see-through optical viewfinder is always nice to have in your digital camera.

5. Cameras that accept other lenses give you more flexibility. There are several cameras out there that allow you to screw on a wide angle or telephoto lenses. Putting in a filter also helps with special effects.

6. Always look for a camera that will output to a TV. This will not only allow you to see a much bigger picture to share with others, but by using a VCR you could make a tape of your favorite photos or an easily viewed slideshow of a trip or vacation.

7. Nice optional features include Picture delay, audio imprint, burst mode, thumbnail images and panoramic mode.

Digital cameras are definitely the wave of the future. But if you are not quite ready for the cost of a good camera yet, remember that you can always ask for your regular photos to be put on a CD. Kodak does this for a nominal fee, and each disk includes the software that will let you view the photos right from the CD.

8. Lastly, always do your research when buying a major item of this nature. My favorite research sites for digital cameras are www.zdnet.com and http:/photo.askey.net. Both sites let you see reviews and comments about many of the cameras that are available for purchase. If you are looking for a bargain, be sure to check out www.onsale.com or www.ubid.com and look for digital cameras that are being auctioned under the computer category.

This article is furnished as a benefit of our membership in the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG), an international organization to which this user group belongs. The author, Steve Morgan, is a member of the APCUG Board of Advisors. He represents Region 5, which covers AK, ID, MT, OR, WY, ND, SD and WA. Steve is also a member of the Editorial Committee. Heís one busy guy!

 

Review: Quicken Family Lawyer 2000 Deluxe

By John Weigle

jweigle@vcnetcom

Reprinted from The Outer Edge, Newsletter of the Channel Islands PC Users Group, 9/99

"This program provides forms and information about the law. We cannot and do not provide specific information for your exact situation.

"For example, we can provide a form for a lease, along with information on state laws and issues frequently addressed in leases. But we cannot decide that our program's lease is appropriate for you.

"Because we cannot decide which forms are best for your individual situation, you must use your own judgment and, to the extent you believe appropriate, the assistance of a lawyer."-- Disclaimer that appears when Family Lawyer 2000 is opened

Parsons Technology sent us the 1999 version of Family Lawyer, but we couldn't find anyone to review it before the next version appeared in the stores. Because I use several of Parsons' programs and felt an obligation to provide the review after getting the program, I bought the updated version for my own use and am providing this review.

Understand that I am not an attorney. The limits of my legal knowledge are what I learned in my college law of the press class, and little of that is the kind of information that appears in Family Lawyer. Understand, also, that I would be very leery about preparing a long, complicated legal document with any software, just as I am hesitant to try to prepare my own income tax forms, with or without my computer.

I know, however, that much of the material in any legal document is boilerplate - witness the number of fill in-the-blank forms available in stationery stores. I imagine I could save some of my lawyer's time - and my money - by answering the Family Lawyer questions, getting definitions of some legal terms and having a general idea of what the document I want is supposed to do. If I have doubts, I can print Family Lawyer's suggested document and let my attorney review it. In other cases, I'd be more than willing to just use the Family Lawyer document.

Quicken Family Lawyer includes the basic program, which lets you prepare what the box advertises as thousands of documents (I didn't count them), Estate Planner, The Plain-Language Law Dictionary and Ask Arthur Miller. The CD-ROM version contains locked versions of the ABA Family Legal Guide and The Personal Home Inventory. The programs can be unlocked for $19.95 each.

The program also includes access to Parson's legal Web page, www.itslegal.com, which is also accessible if you don't own the program. The Web page includes links to a variety of legal pages, including some to find an attorney in your own area.

After displaying the disclaimer/warning quoted at the beginning of this review, Family Lawyer asks questions about your marital status, number of children and home address (laws vary from state to state). Based on your answers, it suggests the documents you should prepare. In my case (I have never been married, have no children and am buying a condo), it says I should have:

An advanced health care directive, designating a person to make health care decisions for me if I am unable to do so.

A health care power of attorney.

A living will, describing what I want done in case of a terminal illness or if Iím expected to die shortly.

A will for a single person with no children.

The listings for each document include a description of what the document does, the reasons to create it, the information needed before you start to create the document, the reasons to update such a document and references to other parts of the program with more information. Because each document requires different information, you're interviewed for each one.

Subjects covered in Family Lawyer are estate planning, health and medical, powers of attorney, family and personal, school and education, real estate,

landlord/tenant, credit, consumer, business, employment, government letters and government forms. A different version is available if you need lots of documents related to running a business.

Documents include everything from a request for a copy of a tax form to living trusts. The information presented is easy to understand. Because I am about to be named the executor of my father's estate, I looked up executor in the program and on the Web site and found useful information about what I can expect. I had already decided to use a lawyer for probate, but I also wanted to get some ideas of what's in store for me without spending a lot of time with my lawyer. And I do plan to update my will, prepared several years ago when my father was still alive and I was in a serious relationship. I doubt that she still would appreciate being named my executor.

Family Lawyer 2000 Deluxe comes with a copy of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Wills and Estates" and costs $29.99 at Best Buy and about $20 at WalMart. Many stores are still stocking Family Lawyer 99, which, if I remember right, includes the ABA Family Legal Guide at no additional charge, but if I had to choose, I'd rather have the updated forms and legal advice than the guide. Speaking of updated information, Family Lawyer has joined the long list of programs that provide simple downloads of updates from the Internet.

The program installs easily (and the previous version uninstalled just as easily). It runs on Windows 95/98 or Windows NT, and requires at least a 25 MHz 486 (60 MHz Pentium recommended), 8 MB of RAM (16 recommended), at least 40 MB of free hard-disk space, a 2X or faster CD-ROM drive and at least a 640x480 display, 256 colors.

My only complaint is that it does not have a manual. The online help is excellent, but at times I prefer the printed page, which I can read whether I have my computer on or not.

 

What's New...

By William Grizzell, Phoenix PC User's Group

Reprinted from Phoenix PC Users Group News, 9/99

Hitachi Has PC266 256-Mbit Dram

Hitachi Semiconductor is shipping the industry's first engineering samples of 256-Mbit, PC266 double-data SDRAMs. Production quantities are slated to start shipping in November. Hitachi is producing the chip on 0.18 micron processes at its fabs in Nara, Japan, and in Singapore. They expect the 256-Mbit DDR SDRAMs to be volume-priced only slightly above the PC133 single-rate version, with less than a 10% premium.

AMD Athlon CPU

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. will release the K7 Athlon CPU for use at the end of August, 1999. AMD claims that it can out perform by up to 30% comparable Intel chips operating at the same speed. They also claim that their top-line Athlon at 650-MHz will run faster than Intel's fastest Pentium III processor clocking in at 600 megahertz.

The first speed grades of the Athlon to roll off the line will be 500-,550-, and 600-MHz chips which will be priced respectively at $324, $479, and $699 each. However, in late news the 600-MHz chip was reduced to, $615 when Intel announced their Pentium III 600-MHz CPU at $669. AMD, at press time, had not announced the price of the 650-MHz chip.

AMD's director of marketing, Robert Fuller, said a 1-GHz Athlon is planned for mid-2000. The current AMD releases are targeted at the desktop PC and will be marketed in the Athlon Professional category - a class of high-performance PCs. Future multiprocessing Athlon systems with up to 8 Mbytes of level 2 cache will be dubbed Athlon Ultra machines, and a future low-cost derivative will be dubbed the Athlon Select family. The Athlon Ultra machines will be for workstations and servers.

The motherboard to run the AMD Athlon is a six-layer design using the AMD Irongate chipset. Some of the motherboard manufacturers are having difficulty producing the first wave of Athlon boards. Later this quarter, a second wave of manufacturers should start shipping motherboards.

The Athlon is a Slot A (similar in appearance but not the same and not compatible with the Slot I1used by Intel Pentium CPU's), 200 MHz system bus bandwidth. Motherboard manufacturers include Asus, Biostar, FIC, Microstar, and Gigabyte.

Initial production will be in .25 micron process at Fab25 in Austin Texas. Later production in early 2000 will be in Dresden, Germany.

New Digital Effects from 3Dfx

3dfx Interactive, Inc. recently announced new technology that will further boost the realism of game graphics. Through the use of the "T-Buffer" proprietary technology that will be offered to consumers in its next-generation video cards, developers will be able to achieve "real-time cinematic effects on the PC." The company is best known for its line of Voodoo video cards and has had great success with its Voodoo3 boards, which rose to the top of PC Data's charts of best selling video cards shortly after their introduction.

In the drive to improve the output capabilities of the graphic boards, two areas have been heavily focused upon: raising the number of polygons that can be generated for on-screen objects and improving the frame rate of the graphics output. Higher polygon counts result in more realistic, less blocky objects, while higher frame rates create smoother animation.

However, some specs are reaching the point that they exceed the capabilities of the human eye to discern a difference. For instance, a game I running at 70 frames per second won't look any better than one running at 60 frames per second.

Earlier accelerators were stretched to the limit to perform 3D improvements on a frame at a time, but the ongoing boost in processor power enables 3dfx to process multiple versions of an single frame on the fly while maintaining a high frame rate and polygon count. These frames - or specific elements of the frames - can then be combined to generate complex image corrections and special effects.

USB Fix Modem

Diamond Multimedia System, Inc, has added other modem to its catalog. The new modem is SupraExpress 56 USB. It has a suggested retail price of $99.95. It supports the 56k V.90 standard and connects to either a PC or MacIntosh computer through the USB port. This offers cross-platform functionality and fast data transfer: a USB port is ten times faster than a standard serial port, and enables "hot-swap" capability that enables the user to connect a device without shutting down the computer.

For several months, I have been using a similar device by Jaton Corp. It is a small (pager-size) external modem that I can connect to the USB connector on my notebook computer at any time to get on the Internet, fax information to a customer or connect to the Bank via modem. Connections are always quite fast.

Microsoft Blending More Products into Windows

Microsoft Corp. plans to more tightly integrate digital-music and photography technology and online services into the Windows operating system for home-computer users. The move continues its practice of absorbing once-separate software products into Windows.

Microsoft announced early August that it has delivered the first batch of early programming code for the next version of Windows, code-named Millennium. The finished product, the successor to Windows 98, is expected to be released next year. One of the major goals for Millennium is to make it easier for users to play, view and store the digital music that is increasingly available online, and to scan, send and receive digital photographs.

The new version will also make it easier for consumers to connect to the Web and to locate sites, as well as to use filters to shield minors from undesirable content. The new operating system will also include additional technology for home networking, allowing families with multiple computers to share files and Internet connections, and to link other digital devices to the PC.

Millennium is expected to be the first product from the Consumer Windows Group, which was created in a reorganization earlier this year. This is a separate group from the group working on Windows 2000, the successor to the more powerful Windows NT operating system for businesses, which is expected to be released by the end of this year.

Trade online with AOL

America Online Inc. said that online investment bank Wit Capital Corp. will give AOL users access to after-hours trading later this year. Wit Capital of New York will pay AOL $1 million to be the exclusive information provider in After Hours Center, a new section of AOL's personal finance channel that will launch this November.

After-hours traders who visit the center will be able to see the "book" in each particular issue, then execute trades on Wit Capital's Web site or those of other online brokerages. The deal with AOL lasts one year, the first six months of which Wit Capital will be the exclusive provider of information, including analysts research, in the center.

All-In-One PCs

Gateway, NEC, and Future Power are or soon will produce new streamlined PCs similar to the iMac in appearance and use of a flat panel display monitor and a computer that takes up little desk space. The NEC unit is not yet released but is projected to be priced at $1,999 which is similar to the Gateway at $1,999 to $2,300 which has been released.

The Gateway Profile is a neat package with a flat-panel LCD display and everything housed within the monitor and the base. It uses an AMD-K6 2 400 and 64 MB of memory with a maximum of 256MB, 6.4 GB hard drive, an integrated DVD or CD-ROM and 56k Modem. The NEC unit, code-named Millennium is to be released later this year.

The advantage of the Millennium is that it uses NECs VersaBay technology, which has become popular with many laptop users due to the easy management of upgrades such as DVD ROMs and hard drives. Like the Profile, this system also offers a flat-panel monitor, except NEC's microdesktop will feature a detachable monitor. The microdesktop will feature a PIII as the processor.

The Future Power E-Power machine uses a conventional monitor, Celeron 400, 64MB memory, 6.4GB hard drive, CD-ROM and is priced at $799. The system also incorporates USB and serial ports for peripherals, plus a 56k modem. Its resemblance to the iMac is evident. The color and shape of the E-Power, right down to its translucent housing, says iMac when you see it.

William Grizzell is CEO of Memory Etc. Inc., a wholesale computer components store in Mesa at 480-833-0086 and in Phoenix at 602-336-8686.