The Bug Report
THE BUG REPORT
A monthly publication of
GS-BUG Inc. (c) copyright 1996.
Reproduction of any material herein by any means is expressly prohibited unless written permission is granted. Exception: Articles may be reprinted by other users groups in unaltered form if credit is given to the author and the original publication.
Editor - Kay Burton
MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT
SOFTWARE LIBRARY NEWS
SONY "CD-MAVICA" DIGITAL CAMERA
THE POWER OF SMALL
|Message From The President
By Gary Sexton
The annual elections are approaching, George Austin has agreed to
be nominating committee chairman. Because of health reasons Herman
Krouse will not be running for reelection as Vice President, a canadate
for this position is needed. Any one desiring to run for any position
please contact George Austin 310-375-7213.
Oct. meeting should do final nomination and the election will be held at
the November meeting.
I have been using a “laptopdesk” it folds to the size of my laptop, but opens to sit across your lap to 11 x 22. When unfolded part of the way there is a lip that allows partial opening so the angle appears to be between 10 degrees and 30 degrees in 5 steps. The surfaces are non-skid so the laptop does not slide. There are groves allowing ventilation. To me the surprising thing was when open to 10 deg. this made using the laptop on a desk very comfortable and my thumb does not hit the touch pad as it does when at desk height without it. Ergonomically the hand position is very comfortable and tolerated for extended periods. The nonskid makes it great to work on your lap and ventilation allows me to use on the lap or bed as a work area. I am able to pack it in the laptop case to carry with me. Weight is 22 Oz. Good travel addition and don’t begrudge the extra weight but because of the comfort use it constantly at home. The web site is laptopdesk.net. for further information. Price on web site is 24.95.
By Dr. John Hanson
Topics for August:
1. Printer Repair
2. Las Vegas Conference
3. Paint Shop Pro Class
4. Modify your computer
5. Flash Card Reader
1. Printer Repair: There are a number of things you can do yourself to keep your printer working well. While ink jets are inexpensive and can do a great job you are asking for trouble if you don’t use them at least once or twice a week because the water based ink tends to dry out at the nozzles. On the other hand if you have a dot matrix or laser it’s always ready, even after six months of non use. The ink ribbon on the dot matrix might dry up a little but that is easy and inexpensive to replace if necessary. I have a number of Panasonic 1124 printers and some are used every day. Bill Juneau gave me his old 1124 when he bought an ink jet. My HP-4’s are also very reliable and do such a great job that I have about six of them churning out pages when something important is coming up.
If you do a lot of printing like I do it’s a good idea to have a laser printer. They are much faster than ink jets or dot matrix and the results are excellent at very low consumables cost, especially if you buy refilled cartridges. While HP doesn’t make very good computers for the personal market their laser printers are very good. Brother is also quite good and I would guess Canon also as they make the print engine for HP and possibly many others also. For my heavy printing load I prefer the HP-4 plus which you can get used for under $200. Even after printing 300,000 pages they still work very well. They do have two design flaws. The first is that they omitted a buffer dump in case you start a long print job and decide you need to stop it. There is no stop button so you need to pull out the paper tray at just the right moment or you will cause a serious paper jam inside. Then you turn off the machine and wait for the buffer to die. The other serious flaw is that the rear rollers are not very accessible or easy to change or clean as the rubber ages and hardens. This results in a paper jam and causes an accordion fold in the last part of your page. Other than that it is a marvelous printer. In fact, it is so good that I have about five or six of them and often several are running at once.
HP has fixed the problem in some of their lower cost lasers by avoiding the problem. Instead of having the pages come out in the right order they come out in reverse order thus voiding the necessity of having rollers that turn the paper over. I fixed Virginia Pfiffner’s HP-4 by cleaning her rollers with paint thinner, then acetone and alcohol but it is still a pain to get at the rollers. If you can get some rubber rejuvenator at a printing supply house like Kelly Paper it should work even better. HP should have designed it so that when you open the back, the paper can pass straight thru and not be folded over but that may have seemed like an inelegant solution to their designers.
In ink jet printers HP does provide nice output but much more expensive consumables than Epson so my favorite is the Epson 880. If anyone is upgrading and wants to get rid of their 880 please let me know. My 880 cranks out beautiful 8 1/2 by 11 color prints of pictures of my Tootie products at very low cost.
Ink cartridges are very cheap at CSI (327-2775) at 1601 W. 190th at $2.00 for black and about $3.50 for color. It’s even cheaper than refilling and avoids the mess. I recently bought an Epson C-80 but haven’t used it enough to give any comments on cost of consumables. I don’t have any experience with Canon but presume their bubble jets are about as good as Epson.
If you use fax machines I would be leery of getting a plain paper type which is becoming quite popular. This is because they may use ink jet technology which tends to clog if not used regularly. Some plain paper types use a film roll which then imprints on the paper. While this type doesn’t clog 11 inches is used up for every sheet of paper processed. This could be very expensive. On the other hand my thermal roll fax machines are ready all the time even after months of non use. To get around the problem of the thermal paper being hard to read or fading that is solved easily by making a laser copy of the fax.
Alvin Aiken thot he had ruined his Epson 880 by not replacing the cartridge properly so brought it to the hardware SIG and we got it working for him. He was very delighted. All it needed was a little knowledge of how the 880 works and a little extra cleaning of the nozzles with a wet rag.
There is a place on Aviation Blvd. called Laser Service (372-5331) that specializes in repairing printers but mostly selling a do it yourself repair kit with everything you mightneed for your model printer, including a videotape of how to do it. It’s a messy looking place, worse than my garage, but the people are very nice. It is on the east side of Aviation just north of Grand. I have no idea how good their work is so let me know if you try them.
A nice young man, who sells at the TRW Ham swap meet the last Saturday of each month might be considered. He sold a laser to Emmett Ingram that worked out very well. He is called “John’s Printers” (562-402-1054) near the 605 and 91 freeways.
Another place called Laser Care, 3750 S. Robertson in Culver City (204-6121) www.LaserCareUSA.com might be considered if you have troubles with your laser. Let me know how good they are.
There is another fellow who repairs print ers who does a terrific job but he is a little far from us on the east side of Los Angeles but he comes to you. Call me, I’ll give you his con-tact information. I bought a refurbished HP-4 plus from him recently and it was in immaculate condition and works perfectly.
2. Las Vegas Conference: It is held the weekend before Comdex and extends till Thursday during Comdex. It is a marvelous affair intended for the education of Club officers but if you want to go it might be arranged if we haven’t exceeded our limit. Different vendors sponsor the various meals at which time most give excellent presentations of their products. Comdex is the week of 18 November. I go every year and stay for the whole ten days and still don’t see everything. It’s very intellectually stimulating.
On Saturday and Sunday there are educational sessions all day and a great opportunity to meet other club members from all over the world. Beginning Monday we have the sponsored breakfast and dinner meals and presentations. Adobe which makes the fan-tastic Photoshop program usually has the best dinner and presentations. Each vendor usually gives all attendees a copy of their latest software which is greatly appreciated. You easily get all your registration money back in software and meals, not to mention all the interesting and useful educational sessions.
Coming up this month is the Computer conference I mentioned in a recent article. It’s only for a weekend but also very intellectually stimulating.
3. Paint Shop Pro Class: This class at Narbonne High is excellent by teacher Mike Ochoa. You learn about digital cameras, scanners and the Paint Shop program. Version 7 is only $60 at Costco and $40 from Amazon after rebates. Even at full price this is a wonderful program. In many ways just as powerful as Photoshop but commands are a little difference so I was worried that I might be confused as I usually use Photoshop every day to process my many pictures. So far, learning the other program hasn’t bothered me. In fact, it helps me get better at Photoshop so even if you are a dedicated Photoshop user I think it would be wise to learn Paint Shop also. In some things, like selection, Photoshop clearly better but some other things are easier in Paint Shop. Then after you learn them in Paint Shop you try to try the same in Photoshop. You can enroll anytime, even after the class is started so don’t worry about coming in late. You don’t even need to have Paint Shop as all the computers at the school have it. Give it a try. It’s really worth your time. See previous issue for more details.
4. Modify your computer: If you are handy with tools there are several things you might consider doing. One is to add a chest handle on the top of your computer. This works best with ATX computers as the top is fixed and only the sides come off. One serious caution is to use masking tape and magnets to keep metal chips from shorting your motherboard when drilling the holes. Be sure to put a round dowel under the computer to find the correct balance point. The handle makes it so much easier when you have to carry it.
Another thing I did recently was to tap into the purple wire coming out of the power supply and running it to a green LED via a limiting resistor. I drilled a tiny hole in the front and glued the LED in. Even when the computer is off it glows green letting me know the power to the computer is available when I want to turn it on. It also warns me to pull the plug before I install or remove any components inside.
The old AT computers had a receptacle on the back of the power supply that came alive when the computer was turned on. The new ATX’s don’t have that wonderful feature which could turn on your monitor, and various plug in adapters for sound, USB and scanners, etc.
It’s not a good idea to leave them on when the computer is not in use as some are poorly designed and could overheat and
possibly start a fire. Skill, the company that manufactures great cordless drills makes the poorest adapter of all for charging their batteries. I have several and all have melted and deformed the plastic. On the other hand the company that makes the terrific electric Wahl shaver makes an excellent adapter that has remained plugged in for the last four years. You may have noticed in the fine print that most of them say to unplug the adapter when not using it. Very impractical but it legally gets them off the hook.
So the modification I am making to my computer is to tap into the 12 volts (yellow and black wire) and running it to the outside via two pin jacks. Then I will hook that up to an old, empty power supply box and add a 12 volt relay inside that will activate a power strip with my various adapters whenever the computer is turned on. An easier way, if you are not good with tools, is to buy one of those flat panels with several switches in front and receptacles in the back into which you plug your power strip but you have to remember to turn it on.
5. Flash Card Reader: If you have a digital camera it the best way to go in unloading your pictures to the computer. My Kodak 4800 uses Compact Flash and Emmett Ingram’s new Minolta uses the newer SD Flash. At Frys you can get a PQI reader that reads all but the Sony memory stick for only $30. It’s USB, fits in your shirt pocket and is great for transferring large files and programs from one computer to another. Frys has 32 mb Smart Media for only $10 and 96 mb Compact Flash for only $25 when on sale. Both Emmett Ingram and I have one and they work great. Even tho I use Compact Flash for my camera I bought two of the $10 Smart Media cards and will leave them plugged in so I have 32 mb all the time when I want to transfer files too large for a floppy. Recently they had a 384 mb Compact Flash for only $109. Now, when I am using my digital camera even at high resolution it is hare to believe I can take more than 300 pictures and of course now I can transfer even bigger files. Anyone want to uy my almost new 100 mb USB Zip disk drive.
Editor’s Note: John Hanson is the inventor of Tooties, a superb self-teaching system used by millions in schools, homes, and by eye doctors around the world to improve vision. He also invented a new form of psychology called QET (Quick Effective Therapy) which transforms poor students into good students, almost overnight, usually in 5 to 15 days. He has also had outstanding success in helping brain damaged people, even years after their accident. Why go to therapy for years and spend lots of money when you can improve quite fast with QET? He uses computers to document his cases for his books so that others may benefit and improve their vision and other skills. Visit his web site at www.Tooties.com for more information.
By Frank Chao
Allow me to extend a warm welcome to the 48th article in the “Internet
Talk” series. This article resides in the fifth newsletter that is being
generated by Kay Burton, our reliable editor. Kay has instituted an early
deadline for all article submissions, so please get your contributions
to her on or before the 20th of each month. The best way for
you to submit articles and other information to her is by sending them
as file attachments to her email address which is
LANGENBERG COMPUTER VIRUS INFORMATION
In previous months, various club members asked me to help them locate information on various computer viruses that their computers contracted. A good starting point for researching any virus that you contract is http://antivirus.langenberg.com/
It contains search engine links to 4 excellent Websites that provide free information on computer viruses.
Be sure to keep your anti-virus software up to date, since new viruses are created and released into the “wild” every week.
Kostek Haussman (email@example.com) recommends a diagnostic software application called the “Belarc Advisor”.
You can download it for free from
After installing it onto your Windows computer, this software application can provide you with details on the hardware and software of your computer.
According the Belarc’s website:
“The Belarc Advisor builds a detailed profile of your installed software and hardware and displays the results in your Web browser. All of your PC profile information is kept private on your PC and is not sent to any web server.”
During the past two weeks, this free software application has provided me with an accurate analysis on the hardware and software of various Windows XP, Windows 2000, and Windows 95 computers. Try it—you’ll like it !!
PEGASUS E-MAIL CLIENT
The Pegasus “Post Office Protocol” e-mail software client that you can run on your Windows computer is totally free. You can download a copy from
I have been using the various versions of this fine free software for the past five years. This software package does a much better job of saving e-mail messages to text (.txt) files than any other software package that I have ever used. Each month, I use the “Save Messages to Disk..” feature of the “Folders” pull-down menu to save some of my e-mail messages into a text file. For example, at the end of July, I saved all of the e-mail messages that I received during the month to a file called 07_2002.txt
If I need to retrieve any e-mail messages at a later date, I can do one of two things:
I can use any program that can open a text file such as Windows “WordPad” or Microsoft Word to look at the file and search for messages of interest
I can drag and drop 07_2002.txt into a WinZip window. If I drop 07_2002.txt into a WinZip window, I can then retrieve the various e-mail messages as separate text files. In addition, WinZip also allows me to retrieve any binary file attachments that I were attached to the original e-mail messages.
GOOGLE NEWSGROUP SEARCH
To search Usenet archives of newsgroup postings, go to http://www.google.com
Click on the “Groups” button.
Put your search terms or phrase into the search engine form.
Then click on the “Google Search” button.
I can often find information by searching newsgroup postings in this manner after searches of the Web itself fails to find information that I am looking for.
“695 ONLINE” offers unlimited dialup Internet access for $6.95 per month http://www.695online.com/ They have local access numbers all across the 48 contiguous states of the United States. However, I have been unable to find out much about them. If you try them out, let me know what you find out.
FIREWIRE FOR INTERNET CONNECTION SHARING
Last month, I visited an interesting home network in Redondo Beach. Here is what I found:
Broadband Internet access is provided by a cable modem that is provided by Earthlink Cable. This cable modem connects via a 10Base-T “Category 5” modular data cable to the “Wide Area Networking” side of a D-Link Internet Gateway. The “Local Area Networking” of the D-Link Internet Gateway connects, via a 10Base-T “Category 5” modular data cable, to a Pentium 2.0 Gigahertz computer that runs Windows XP Home Edition. The Pentium 2.0 Gigahertz computer contains a PCI Firewire adapter card and this card connects via a 10-foot Firewire cable to a similar PCI Firewire adapter in a Pentium 1.0 Gigahertz computer. Microsoft’s “Internet Connection Sharing” is enabled on the Pentium 2.0 Gigahertz computer so that the Pentium 1.0 Gigahertz computer can access the Internet through the Pentium 2.0 Gigahertz computer, by means of the Firewire link. The 2 computers also shared files with each other by means of the Firewire link. Also, the Pentium 1.0 Gigahertz computer was able to send print jobs to a printer that was attached to the USB port of the Pentium 2.0 Gigahertz computer.
To summarize, at this residence, Internet access is provided by a cable modem which connects to D-link Internet Gateway which connects via a 10Base-T modular Ethernet cable to a Pentium 2.0 Gigahertz computer which connects via a Firewire cable to a Pentium 1.0 Gigahertz computer.
The bottom line is that a 400-Megabit per second Firewire link is used to connect two Windows XP computers together in order to facilitate Internet Connection sharing, file sharing, and printer sharing. Cool !!
More information about Firewire home networking will be provided in future articles.
WAYS TO CONTACT ME:
If you have any questions or problems, I can be contacted by the following methods:
1. Leave a voice message for me at (310)768-3896.
2. Send me e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Send “snail” U.S. Postal Service mail to:
PO Box 6930, Torrance, CA 90504-0030.
Or sell your computer and take up golf instead !!
|SOFTWARE LIBRARY NEWS
By BOB HUDAK
WANTED: D-Base 3 or 4 original manuals. One of our members needs
the books to deal with some files. Please check your pile of old programs
and see if you can help out. Call me if you come up with the books.
Last month I brought you the collection of Jeff Levy’s tips about working with computers and programs. This month the tips are for PhotoShop 6. Disk # 94 has a PDF file that has over 300 tips to help you with the program. There is also a index file that you can print out to help you find the page the tip you are looking for is on. You can read the tip on screen or print it out. All the tips are on 49 pages so youcould print them all out on 25 sheets of paper. Print the odd pages first and then reload the paper and print the even pages. The tips are in a number of categories to make things easier to find. Come to the Library table to check the list of tips and pick up a disk.
The next disk I have for your library is a book called “The Little Black Book Of Viruses”. It is a 183 page book in PDF file form that tells you how different viruses work. The more you know about how viruses do their job, the better you are prepared to defend against them. Something a little different. I hope you take the time to read it. Ask for Disk # 101.
John Hanson told you about the program ADVISOR last month. He told you I would have a copy in the Library. I do have copiesthis month. Disk # 99 is what you want. It tells all about your computer. CPU, memory, hard drive, operating system and all about all the other hardware you have. Then it lists all the programs you have and where they are. Print the report and you will have a nice profile of your computer on hand.
At our Tuesday Hardware Sig we have seen a number of computer power supplies fail. Burn out. Quit. A number of our electronic experts have been taking them apart to see if they are repairable and where they failed. Jack Burton and Emmett Ingram have been working on black boxes to check power supplies. John Hanson has also been poking the little boxes.
So what have we found out? They seem to fail at the same place. They can’t be fixed. A number of power supplies with the name “Deer”on it failed. I was talking to Ray Shinn, who bought two of the Dr. Hanson type computer. He was happy with them EXCEPT for the noisy power supplies. I ran into this problem a while back and had to try 3 different ones before I got rid of the noise. Doing a little reading I found two power supply manufacturers that make good quality units. PC Power & Cooling Inc (www.powercooling.com) and Antec are the two names I found. Going to www.pricewatch.com I did a search and found both power supplies. The Antec 300w with adj. fan speed was $39.00. The PC Power & Cooling unit with 300w was $89.00 This unit had a noise level of 44db(A) and a built in line conditioning circuit that results in an ultra clean output. Go to PC Power’s web site and check out all their different units and prices. They have a lot of information on power supplies. Spend a little time reading. I did not really search out the best prices but just wanted to get a idea. It’s hard for a vender to sell you a computer for $300.00 if it has a $90.00 power supply in it. Ask what the MTBF is. One that has a 100K rating is of higher quality. There is no free lunch in this area. If you have information on power supplies that would help our membership, send an email to me and tell all so I can pass on the info.
SONY "CD-MAVICA" DIGITAL CAMERA
John Sullivan, GSBUG
If you’re thinking of buying one of these, wait until after you read this column. This camera is the successor to the Sony Mavica that used to take pictures and save them onto a floppy disk. The new “Cd-Mavica” saves your pictures onto a CD, which obviously holds a lot more! Plus, it can record and save short videos with sound, that you can play back from the camera into a TV, record to tape, or playback on your computer in your regular CD drive.
So far, it all sounds wonderful.
I bought one for a couple of friends of mine who are hiking the Appalachian Trail (2000 miles from Georgia to Maine) and wanted to send me photos and videos from the Trail that I could put up on their website. (www.habitatlb.org/AThike) I researched all the different analog and digital cameras and camcorders that were on the market at the time, and only the CD Mavica had the right combination of storage, portability and price.
The camera actually uses a 3" CD disc, which is readily available from major computer chains, however not many people have ever seen one. They look like a regular CD, only smaller, and are often used to record short corporate videos, which people can hand out as digital business cards. Rather than a standard, cardboard business card, people can record short presentations about their business onto the CD’s, and supposedly you can play them back in any computer with a standard CD Rom drive. If you open the CD drive on your computer, you’ll probably see the tray has a depression in the center, just large enough to hold a 3" CD disc!
These discs hold about 150 Megabytes, which is quite a bit more than the old floppy disc, which holds 1.44 MB. It will hold quite a few photos, depending on what size you record them at, plus a number of videos (which end up at about 5 MB for 60 secs of video and sound).
The problem with the discs is that they just don’t seem to sit right in the CD drives! I have two drives, a newer Plextor 24x10x40 CD-RW, and an older 24x CD Rom, but neither one reads the little CD’s reliably everytime. You have to open the Cd tray and relocate the disc a few times before the computer will recognize it. It just doesn’t seem to center well in the tray. Sony even includes a plastic adapter collar, which you snap around the outside of the 3" CD, which makes it fit into the regular 5" CD groove, but even that doesn’t work all the time. I did, however, have good luck with the Cd drive on my laptop, which has a center spindle which holds the CD perfectly centered in the drive.
I bought the camera because my friends could buy the blank CD’s for a few bucks each, which is cheap enough that I don’t have to send them back to them after I’ve downloaded all the photos; I just save them till they get back from their adventure. Most cameras nowadays use the Smart Media / Compact Flash type of cards, and under normal circumstances, I would have bought one of these instead.
Recently I’ve been asked to do a demonstration at one of the Meetings of Partition Magic. I’ve been wanting to buy a bigger hardrive so that I’d have room to experiment with digital video, so I thought this would be a good time. By searching Price Grabber (www.pricegrabber.com), I found a new IBM Deskstar 80 GB for about $76.00. I planned to use this to show how Partition Magic compares to using the old DOS command “fdisk”.
After installing the drive, I opened Partition Magic and made the whole drive into one large 80 GB partition, and formatted it FAT 32. This took about 10 minutes. When I exited Partition Magic back to Windows 98 SE, and checked the drive, the whole 80 GB was sitting there waiting to be used. (actually about 78 GB after the formatting info is written to it). It seemed to be OK, so I rebooted to a DOS prompt and ran fdisk.
Fdisk recognized the drive OK, and I used it to first delete the partition I made with Partition Magic. But when I tried to create a Primary Partition, it would only allow a 13 GB size!
Over the years, there’s been a number of obstacles that hardrive manufacturers have had to overcome. Computers originally were never visualized as having multi-megabyte drives, let alone multi-gigabytes! There are a few “limitations” built into IBM compatible computers, things like the INT 13 setting, the 1024 cylinder limit, and the 2 GB limitation. Whether or not you can install a large hardrive on your computer depends on things like how old your BIOS is, and which version of Windows you’re using.
I’d heard about and read about all these limitations, but had never run across a 13 GB limit. I checked my BIOS manufacturer for updates and read the Partition Magic manual (how many people do that?). The CD that comes with Partition Magic also has an extensive tutorial on hardrive theory, but none of this mentioned a 13 GB limit!
Finally I went to the Microsoft Knowledge Base (support.microsoft.com) and started typing in searches for fdisk problems. Eventually, I found that there’s a newer version of fdisk for Windows 98, which I downloaded and installed. This actually fixed the problem with fdisk ... apparently when Microsoft published Windows 98, they also could not envision people having hardrives larger than 13 gigabytes. When bigger hardrives came onto the market, they had to rewrite fdisk to accomodate them!
Zone Alarm is a highly-recommended software firewall for your computer that you should be running if you access the Internet at all. It will hide your computer from hackers who are cruising around the Internet looking for computers to break into. After you install it, you can go to Steve Gibson’s site at www.grc.com and test your computer, and you’ll see that Zone Alarm is making your computer invisible to hackers! Zone Alarm is available Free from www.zonealarm.com. (There’s also a pay version with more features, but start with the free one).
I’ve been using Zone Alarm for a few years, ever since I first heard about it, and never had a bit of trouble until the other day. My neighbor’s computer was acting up ... all kinds of things were messed up, giving lots of different error messages whenever she tried to do anything. She hadn’t even been able to read her email for days! I took a look and found that her antivirus software was out of date. Sure enough, after updating Norton Antivirus, and running a virus scan, we found a few viruses hanging around. Norton corraled them and cleaned them all out.
After all was running well again, I decided to install Zone Alarm for her, to help indicate if she ever had any future virus activity. (Some viruses, trojans, etc. will try to access the Internet without your permission, and Zone Alarm will see it and notify you that such and such program is trying to get onto the Internet). After installing Zone Alarm, I gave the computer over to her so she could check her email, but it wouldn’t work. The modem made the connection OK to her service, but Outlook Express just couldn’t seem to connect to the email server. I looked through the different settings, but couldn’t pick out anything wrong, so I started thinking that Zone Alarm was causing a problem somehow. I’d never heard of anyone having problems with Zone Alarm, but I though that maybe the viruses had corrupted something that made programs like Zone Alarm incompatible. Going into Control Panel, I selected Add/Remove Programs and removed Zone Alarm, however, this didn’t fix the problem.
Next I uninstalled Norton AntiVirus, thinking the same thing: maybe somehow the viruses had changed something so that antivirus software no longer would work. That fixed it ... Outlook Express was able to find the server again, and tons of email (junkmail) starting coming in. But Norton AV is a reputable program, so we weren’t done yet. We had to make Norton work with this system.
The version of Norton we were using is the new 2002, so there aren’t any newer versions available at the website, but I did look around their tech support section, and finally found that a feature in Norton Antivirus called “email scanning” just plain didn’t work on some versions of Windows. Their solution? : turn it off!
Going into the Norton program, I found the setting for email scanning and disabled it. Norton says that this is just an added layer of protection, and that the program will still protect you from email viruses with this extra “feature” (aka: bug) turned off.
Having done all that, we checked Outlook Express, and then Internet Explorer. Both were Ok, so I re-installed Zone Alarm, so that she’d have firewall protection. Checking the programs again, I found the email OK, but Internet Explorer could not access any web pages! None!!
Uninstalling Zone Alarm fixed it, but I wanted ZA installed and running. Finally, I again suspected that Windows had somehow been damaged by the viruses that Norton hadn’t repaired, so I re-installed Windows on top of itself. That was a hassle in itself, but we finally got through it and had a computer that actually ran pretty good! Until I re-installed Zone Alarm.
Finally I went to the Zone Alarm website and dug down through their tech support FAQ’s. Because the program is free, they say they don’t provide very much in the way of support (if you want hand-holding, you have to buy the full version). However, there was a notation along the way, something to the effect that when you uninstall Zone Alarm using Add/Remove Programs, it leaves behind what they call their True Vector service. There had been a complaint from someone who’d upgraded their computer from Win 98 to ME, and then could no longer access the Internet.
Tech support answered that the only proper way to uninstall ZA was with the included Uninstall utility. So we tried this on my neighbor’s computer, first uninstalling ZA with the built-in utility, then reinstalling it. This time, Internet Explorer worked fine. That was it!
Now she’s got her computer back, with IE and Outlook Express working, and Norton and Zone Alarm guarding it. Having also ran Disk Defragmenter, the computer runs like new. Now all she has to do is answer all those emails!
John Sullivan can be reached at: CAEnnis@aol. com
THE POWER OF SMALL
(Small is Beautiful!)
by Guenter Schott, Editor and one-man producer of 28-page award-winning monthly newsmagazine for the Fallbrook PC Users Group Fallbrook, California
The above headline may appear to you as “strange”, but I want to emphasize an important ingredient of good communications when you transmit images as a file attachment over the Internet.
Yes, there is an unwritten protocol that calls for courtesy in this process and of what happens when you, for instance, send a family photograph to a friend or family member with the help of an E-mail client.
Most of us don’t have the luxury of a fast DSL phone line. And that is the problem when you transmit an image from point A to point B. You probably have only a 56K modem connection and so does the other person you communicate with on the other end of the Internet data transmission highway.
So, what are we really talking about? Two simple words are the explanation: File size. Why is that so important, you might want to know? Well, let’s first describe what a modem is and what it actually does. It’s an acronym for modulator-demodulator. A modem is a device or program that enables a computer to transmit data over telephone lines. Computer information is stored digitally, whereas information transmitted over telephone lines is transmitted in the form of analog waves. A modem converts between these two forms. The next thing you have to understand is bandwidth. It’s the amount of data that can be transmitted in a fixed amount of time. For digital devices (your computer), the bandwidth is usually expressed in bits per second (bps) or bytes per second. For analog devices, the bandwidth is expressed in cycles per second, or Hertz (Hz).
A bottleneck in transmission of data through the circuits of a computer’s microprocessor or over a TCP/IP (abbreviation for Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) network is the key point in this discussion. The delay typically occurs when a system’s bandwidth cannot support the amount of information being relayed at the speed it is being processed. TCP/IP connections were originally designed to transmit only text files, and the proliferation of bandwidth-intensive transmissions such as high-resolution graphics has caused bottlenecks in the process; therefore, the data moves more slowly across networks. TCP/IP, the suite of communications protocols used to connect hosts on the Internet, uses several protocols, the two main ones being TCP and IP.
All communications between devices require that the devices agree on the format of the data. The set of rules defining a format is called a protocol. At the very least, a communications protocol must define the following: Rate of transmission (in baud or bps).
Whether transmission is to be synchronous (occurring at regular intervals) or asynchronous (most communication between computers and devices is asynchronous — it can occur at any time and at irregular intervals).
Whether data is to be transmitted in half-duplex (refers to the transmission of data in just one direction at a time). For example, a walkie-talkie is a half-duplex device because only one party can talk at a time. Or in full-duplex mode (refers to the transmission of data in two directions simultaneously). For example, a telephone is a full-duplex device because both parties can talk at once.
In addition to the standard protocols, there are a number of protocols that complement these standards by adding additional functions such as file transfer capability, error detection and recovery, and data compression.
All of the above now leads us to the core information I want to address, and that is the all- important data compression. Data compression is particularly useful in communications because it enables devices to transmit the same amount of data in fewer bits. There are a variety of data compression techniques, but only a few have been standardized. The CCITT (abbreviation of Comité Consultatif International Téléphonique et Télégraphique, an organization that sets international communications standards. CCITT, now known as ITU — the parent organization) has defined many important standards for data communications, including the V.90 compression standard for full-duplex modems sending and receiving data across phone lines at up to 56,600 bps In addition, there are file compression formats, such as ARC and ZIP.
OK, now that we have covered all the fundamentals, we can talk about some of the file formats when images and graphics are to be transmitted over the wires and cables of the communications industry. First of all, keep in mind that — just like the rendering of images on Web sites — the viewer will get irritated if it takes too long to hold your attention. E-mail is certainly no exception. Have you ever downloaded your messages from your ISP (Internet Service Provider) server and seen the blue progression bar draw at a snail’s pace? It makes you furious when, after perhaps 20 minutes, you have 4 messages on your computer and one came with a file attachment (your brother-in-law’s birthday party picture) that alone took 19 minutes of the entire download process?
Here is the explanation: The image file was way too large and should have been compressed or put into a JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) appearance. He had a real nice photograph and probably digitized it by passing it through an optical scanner. A scanner works by digitizing an image — dividing it into a grid of boxes and representing each box with either a zero or a one, depending on whether the box is filled in. (For color and gray scaling, the same principle applies, but each box is then represented by up to 24 bits.) The resulting matrix of bits, called a bit map, can then be stored in a file, displayed on a screen, manipulated by programs, or sent to someone else by E-mail.
A photo scanner is a type of optical scanner designed especially for scanning photographs. Photo scanners are smaller than general-purpose scanners but offer high resolution. A typical photo scanner is a sheet-fed scanner that can scan 3x5-inch or 4x6-inch photographs at 300 dpi or higher resolution. Some high-end photo scanners can also scan negatives and slides.
As for E-mailing photos, you must avoid creating images on your scanner that are megabyte monsters. The two important points to always keep in mind are size (dimensions) and resolution (dpi). Normally, there is no good reason to scan anything higher than 72 or 96 dpi for anything that’s going to be viewed on a computer monitor.
You have to “optimize” photos or graphics and find the right balance between file compression and quality. Most professional graphics programs are able to do this effectively. A good jpg cruncher is available at http://spinwave.com/crunchers.html.
Had uncle Joe used his newly acquired digital camera (a camera that captures and stores still images as digital data instead of on photographic film) instead and then sent the image to his relative, the outcome would have been considerably different.
Now a word about the most universal file formats. It appears to be a somewhat confusing area and when it comes to the question of which one is best for your purpose, I would first look at one of the following and keep the explanation handy. Graphics file formats are file formats designed specifically for representing graphical images.
TIFF is the acronym for Tagged Image File Format, one of the most widely supported file formats for storing bit-mapped images on personal computers. Other popular formats are BMP and PCX. TIFF graphics can be any resolution, and they can be black and white, gray-scaled, or color. Files in TIFF format often end with a .tif extension.
JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) is a lossy compression technique for color images. Although it can reduce files sizes to about 5% of their normal size, some detail is lost in the compression. Lossy compression technologies attempt to eliminate redundant or unnecessary information. Most video compression technologies, such as MPEG, use a lossy technique.
GIF (pronounced jiff or giff) stands for Graphics Interchange Format, a bit-mapped graphics file format used by the World Wide Web, ompuServe and many BBSs. GIF supports color and various resolutions. It also includes data compression, making it especially effective for scanned photos.
The Golden Rule: No screenful of data should take longer than 25 seconds to load. That is not only true on the Internet but can also be applied to sending graphic images by E-mail. Assume 1K per second at 28.8 bps, and that will allow you 25K of data.
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