The Bug Report
The only Bug that's good for your computer!
A Publication of the Greater South Bay PC Users Group
Volume 19 Number 11
November 2001


Ken's Korner Commentary




Computer Comparison Prices

Ken's Korner Commentary

Forwarded by Ken Fermoyle

I want to hurt my computer. I want to buy a software program that, when run, causes my computer to suffer grievously, though not permanently. When my screen freezes or turns blue, I want a special button I can push to make the CPU start squealing like a motherboard.

I want a device that stores an electrical charge in my telephone. For every minute I spend on hold waiting for technical support to answer, the charge would increase in intensity. When the guy from tech support finally answers, the electrical bolt of energy would be discharged into him. This should not affect my ability to hear what's going on at the other end of the line, of course. And a special function would allow the volts to double every time a tape-recorded message urges me to continue holding. "Your call is important to us," the featureless voice always claims.

I want my phone to be outfitted with a translation program which will reconstitute this irritating reminder into the truth: "Actually, we already have your money, so we couldn't care less about you. Our technical support department consists of two college kids, both of whom are busy playing Doom. Eventually, one of them will come on the line, but it will be the one who doesn't speak English."

I want my modem to sense when my PC has committed an "illegal function" and issue a warrant to arrest Bill Gates. When my system crashes and I lose a file that has taken me more than an hour to create, I want someone from the computer company to come out and retype it for me.

I don't understand why new, "upgraded" software creates files that cannot be read by old, reliable software with the same name. Is there no one in the computer industry who has noticed that word processor files all look alike once they are open? Why can't 6.0 recognize a 7.0 file? It's all just words, isn't it? There should be a rule that when software engineers buy a new car, their old cars should cease to function. If they don't understand why this is happening, they should call me and I will explain it to them.

How come when my computer catches a virus, I'm the one who misses work? I want to know why my printer always jams on the last piece of paper or the last sheet of checks. When this happens, it makes me want to put sandpaper into the manual feed and print the Emancipation Proclamation.

I am really tired of hearing about all the horrible things that will happen with the Y2K problem: sewers will regurgitate, all of my fillings will return to the dentist, my high school reunion will be held in Spanish, etc. Why doesn't anybody ever ask these computer programmers how in the world they didn't know the year 2000 would follow the year 1999? Software engineers are supposed to be pretty bright people. What, did they need a memo or something?

I recently bought a program that is supposed to tell me if my computer files are Y2K-compliant. The program won't work because - get this, my CD-ROM player is too old (I bought it 34 months ago). The manufacturer doesn't sell an "updated driver." Thus, to find out if my computer is Y2K-compliant, I need to buy another computer.

I want to know what good is a Web search engine that returns 324,909,188 "matches" to my keyword. That's like saying, "Good news, we've located the product you're looking for. It's on Earth."

I want to know why, when I had a tiny hard drive, my operating system was virtually crash-proof and took up so little space. My new operating system is five times the size of my original hard drive. With every "upgrade," it seems to grow 75 percent. That's as if every time your mother-in-law came to visit she weighed another 500 pounds. Now I've found out that my PC no longer "recognizes" my floppy drive. How could they not recognize each other? They live together!

Please understand: I don't hate my computer. I just want to hurt it every once in a while.

[Note: This article was forwarded to me some weeks ago, and I just had to share it with you. It expresses frustrations we all share at times. 1 tried without success to backtrack and find the author. So I will just credit it to that thatfamous writer, "Anon. "If you are, or know of, the actual author, please write me at kfermoyle@earthlink net so I can give credit where credit is due! - Ken Fermoyle]

[Reprinted from Phoenix PC Users Group newsletter , March 2000. Ed.]



At last month's general meeting we had the raffle drawing for the Microsoft Office XP Professional software package. The winner was Ray Shinn. He was a happy man. The secret for his winning is he bought a number of chances, thus increasing his odds for winning. Thanks to everyone that joined in the fun by buying a chance.

I have a couple of interesting programs for you this month.


pdfFactory is a shareware version of Adobe Acrobat. Following is a description of the program found on their web site. pdfFactory is the first PDF creation tool designed for non-expert users. With pdfFactory, anyone can create PDF documents that can be published on web sites, emailed or archived. Easy to Use: pdfFactory is a printer driver, and creating PDF files is as easy as selecting pdfFactory as the printer in your application's Print dialog box. pdfFactory supports all international languages including symbolic fonts, Asian and Central European fonts. Among its features: automatically combines multiple documents into a single PDF, page insert/delete and send as email. What are PDF files? PDF files are used to represent printed material electronically. When viewed and printed, they contain all the fonts, graphical information, layout and formatting of an original printed document. A PDF file can be viewed and printed on any operating system including MacOS, and all Unix variants including Linux with the free Adobe Acrobat Reader. We have all used Adobe Acrobat Reader to view forms or documents that have all the formating they given when written. With this program you can save your documents and send them to anyone. The documents can then be read just as you created them.

Ogg Vorbis

This is a free alternative to the MP3 format for music. Ogg Vorbis is a new audio compression format. It is roughly comparable to other formats used to store and play digital music, such as MP3, VQF, AAC, and other digital audio formats. It is different from these other formats because it is completely free, open, and unpatented. Vorbis files have the extension .ogg. Ogg Vorbis has been designed to completely replace all proprietary, patented audio formats. That means that you can encode all your music or audio content in Vorbis and never look back. MP3 is what is known as a "lossy" format. Thus, much of the sound data is removed when MP3 files are created. This results in a file with inferior sound quality to a CD. Vorbis is also a "lossy" format, but uses superior acoustic models to reduce the damage. Thus, music released in Vorbis will sound better than a comparably sized MP3 file. With Vorbis, you can listen to your music with higher quality in less space. Two files encoded at the same bitrate, will always be the same size, if they are both encoded with CBR (Constant Bitrate). The current Vorbis Beta only encodes files in VBR (Variable Bitrate) which can produce smaller files with better quality, since it doesn't have to waste data for audio that is easy to encode. So bottom line is that Vorbis uses about 38% less space then a MP3 file and it sounds better. There is a plugin for WinAmp that will play these files. I hope a few of our audio buffs will give this program a try out.

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This has noting to do with Library news, but seeing that it is Thanksgiving time I would like to thank the many members that have helped in the past year. Not only with computer problems but with other personal projects that came up. The club contains such a wealth of knowledge in so many fields that getting help on anything from car repair to home repair is only a question away. If I listed all the help I received, it would fill the news letter. So a big THANK YOU to all who helped me. It REALLY pays to be a member of GSBUG. To get the full benefits you only need to participate.

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We will have the GS-BUG Annual Holiday Party and Silent Auction of computer hardware and software donations from our members. It will be held at the Salvation Army on the corner of Earl and Emerald in Torrance on Monday, December 3, 2001, at 6:00 p.m.

It is a fun and active meeting—a chance to socialize with members and to bid on inexpensive pieces of software or hardware that suit your fancy. There will be door prizes too.

We will have food, soft drinks, coffee, tea, cocoa and sweets. Signup sheets for food that you would like to contribute will be passed around at our General Meeting on November 5th.

Pamela Harrison, Emmett Ingram, Joyce Oliver, Virginia Pfiffner and Dixie Rasmussen are spearheading the activity. Come help make this meeting a festive occasion.

The following are some activities in which we’d like you to participate. Make your choice:

    1. Bring your computer hardware and software white elephants to the December meeting. Check out your closets and the attic for things that are cluttering up your life.
    2. Sign up on the circulating sheets at the November 5th meeting to bring cookies, candy, brownies, potato salad, baked beans or your special dish.
    3. Help to:
Set up tables for displaying donated software and hardware Decorate

Set out food and drinks


Any ideas that you may have to help out with the party will be welcome.

You may call Virginia.

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By Frank Chao

Welcome to the 39th article in this series about the fabulous complexities of the Internet.


During the month of September, Netzero and Juno merged to form a new company called "United Online". The new company has not effected any changes to either Netzero or Juno Internet service. These two dial-up Internet services are the only totally-free services that are currently available here in the greater Los Angeles area. Both services also provide low-cost banner-free Internet service options for under $10 per month. United Online has headquarters in Westlake Village in the San Fernando Valley. Netzero and Juno will continue as separate entities as wholly-owned subsidiaries of United Online. Earlier in the year, Juno announced that they would terminate the free version of their Internet service after the merger was complete. In case they decide to do so, I recommend that you get an account at Netzero, (using the totally-free version of Netzero) if you do not wish to eventually start paying for Juno access.

Information about United Online is available at

Information about Netzero is available at

Information about Juno is available at


By the time you read this article, the boxed version of Microsoft Windows XP will be available for sale to the public both at retail stores AND on-line at Web sites that sell software.

Computer stores like CompUSA and Best Buy have been selling computers with Windows XP pre-loaded onto their hard drives since the beginning of Ocotober.

During the past two months, I have been experimenting with Windows XP Beta 2 (Build 2505). My overall experience with it has been positive. My general impression is that it provides you with a better, faster Internet experience. Windows XP works well with the two free Internet service providers (ISPs) that are currently available: I have successfully used Windows XP Beta 2 to make dial-up modem connections to the Internet with both Netzero and Juno.


Bob Hudak has served on the GSBUG Board of Directors for 13 years as our club librarian. We are fortunate to have his competent services. Many computer user groups are unable find someone to fill the role of club librarian. The duties of a club librarian include the physically-challenging work of hauling books and software to club meetings. Bob's customized CD-ROM and floppy disks of software have helped many club members. Please make an effort to thank Bob for his sustained efforts on behalf of our club.

I look forward to taking advantage of his fine library services in upcoming months.


PC Liquidator has a constantly-changing inventory of used computers, software, and accessories. They are located on Aviation Blvd., 1/2 block south of Artesia Blvd.

Their street address is

1732 Aviation Blvd.

Redondo Beach, CA 90278

Voice phone: (310) 374-7448

Their Website is at


Goodwill Computer Works now has two stores in Orange County. Jeff Levy says that they are great places to buy a used computer. One is in Santa Ana and the other is in Fullerton. See

for details.


During the past few days, "Yahoo mail" (at has been experiencing problems. When I attempt to use the "Get other mail" feature to download my Post Office Protocol (POP) e-mail from El Camino College, Yahoo mail keeps giving me error messages about it's database not being available.

Whenever, this happens, I go to my Hotmail account (at

and log in. Then I use the "POP mail" feature of Hotmail to download my POP e-mail into my Hotmail inbox.

In order words, here is my strategy for reading my POP e-mail from my account at El Camino College:

I usually use the "Get Other Mail" feature of "Yahoo mail" at Yahoo mail's website. When they are problematic, I use the "POP mail" at Hotmail's website.

Both Yahoo mail and Hotmail are totally-free so I use them in order to provide myself with redundancy. Each acts like a backup for the other.

Both check and block computer viruses that are in any file attachments that are attached to my e-mail messages.

This provides me with an extra measure of security so that I can have my file attachments checked for viruses before I use a POP e-mail client (like Microsoft Outlook) to download the e-mail messages into the hard drive of my personal computer.

Both provide me with viewers for many types of file attachments so that I can often can look at file attachments without having to download an e-mail message into the hard drive of my personal computer.

Both Yahoo mail and Hotmail occasionally experience problems. I have never encountered a situation when both were experiencing problems at the same time. By maintaining accounts at both of these Web-based e-mail services, I am always able to get to my El Camino POP e-mail from any Web-attached computer.


Your computer will provide you with a faster and a more reliable Internet experience, if you turn off some of the programs that run in the background. This is because background programs use up RAM and CPU cycles. Turning some of them off will free up more RAM and CPU cycles for the things that you are doing with the Internet. One utility that you can use to turn off unwanted background programs is END IT ALL 2. It is totally free. I use it all the time. You can get it by going to,2997,s%253D1478%2526a%253D13909,00.asp


Also, Liz says that you can use End IT All 2 prior to running the Disk Defragmenter, so that your background programs will not conflict with the activities of Disk Deframenter.


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:

3. Send "snail" U.S. Postal Service mail to

Frank Chao

PO Box 6930

Torrance, CA 90504-0030.

Or sell your computer and take up bowling instead !

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Computer Comparison Prices
by John Hanson

What to Look For when Buying a Computer

Background Information:

If you have an older system and are thinking of upgrading you should consider getting an entirely new, modern computer. This is an excellent time if you know what to look for as prices are very low. For instance, you can buy 256 MB of SDRAM for only about $25 which is in the 168 pin configuration. Older type memory is so expensive and so small you are better off with a new computer. No longer do you have to put in several sticks at a time, a big improvement.

Another important advance is the ATX system where most of the input and output connectors are grouped together in an upper corner on the back of the computer case. And then, there are the marvelous USB connectors where you can hot swap all kinds of things like printers, zip drives, digital camera readers, etc. This alone is worth buying a modern system. Of course you could wait until the much faster USB 2 comes out but why not enjoy a modern system now. One of the cases I saw at MSC Computers has a neat little door in the front bottom with two USB ports and sound ports with microphone input.

Some users like myself still use DOS for most of my writing so it is important not to go to an operating system beyond Win 98 SE. We should all stick there and gradually the experts will iron out all the bugs Microsoft left in. On the other hand Windows programs can do all sorts of miracles that DOS can't such as digital photography and fancy spread sheets. There is even a Big Shot Magnifier where those with failing eyesight can instantly make the screen print any magnification they need. That is very difficult to do in DOS. This wonderful program was discovered by Herman Krouse. I just downloaded a new program called XXcopy which is a take off on the very powerful and useful DOS program called Xcopy. It keeps track of both the DOS file name and the Windows long name.

When ordering your system be sure to specify the system recommended by Dr. Hanson for the GS-Bug Computer Club. That way you are insured to get the correct system even if you don't read the following suggestions. Whatever you do avoid buying name brands such as HP, Compaq, Gateway or Dell, etc. unless you are buying a notebook. On TV Dell was advertising a system similar to what we show below for $800. Not only are you paying about $500 too much but each company tends to tailor their operating system differently as well as some of their components so you are locked into them. With the money you save you can buy a monitor, printer and scanner, etc.

In the Oct 2000 issue of PC World, page 97, they have a chart named "Best and Worst Places to Buy a PC" and none are listed as the worst. In my book you are wasting your money to buy a computer at any one of these. On other things you may get a good deal if you know what you are doing. For instance Frys has many good deals on many kinds of things but they are buried among all the not so good deals. Even at Costco and Sams you have to be careful. Somewhere I read that one of the worst companies to return a computer is Gateway. They will do anything to prevent that such as refund quite a bit of your money if you keep it. Even with such a discount I would never buy a Gateway but they do have good ads and one of our lovely members bought one in spite of my advice. I hope it gives her good results. She probably won't follow this advice either but anyone who has bought a Gateway within the past year and seriously tries to return it might easily get a 4 or $500 refund if they keep the computer. This is the perfect time to take advantage of that opportunity. See the same issue of PC World for details.

If you don't know what to look for you could easily pay two to three times as much for the same computing power. If you want to spend all that money it is better to buy two or three identical computers following our advice and you will have some spares.

As an example visit any Frys, Comp USA, Best Buy, or Circuit City, etc. store and listen to a salesman talking to another customer. You might even feel sad for the customer but don't offer to help as they usually will be suspicious of your motives. Let them learn the hard way.

Know what a real ATX power supply looks like in the back. You should see a fan, an on-off switch and one male receptacle to plug in power. If you see a female output receptacle also it is probably an older AT power supply which has been modified with an ATX plug. Avoid these as they are probably being unloaded by vendors when the switch to ATX started. If you don't see an on-off switch on the back stay away from that variation also.

Know what an ATX case back of input-output receptacles looks like. At the top you should see two small PS-2 receptacles side by side. Under that are usually two USB jacks and often a LAN jack but they could be lower down without causing any problems. Then comes the small serial port and the large parallel port followed by an monitor port, game port and sound ports. The model ports are usually separate coming out of the AMR slot.

There are hundreds of motherboard brands but if you look carefully you will see that many are using the same board but with their name imprinted on a support chip. Since boards are so difficult to design and test only a limited number of manufacturers can do it well. One board you should avoid is FIC. If you are ambitious visit some of the motherboard sites on the Internet and read some of the reviews. There are many good boards being made but you want a recent one with a good review. Knowing which are the good ones is hard to decide. This is why we are making specific recommendations below. The systems below have what is called an integrated mini motherboard. That means that Video and Audio are built in and a 56 K modem is included. If you should need a faster or fancier graphics card it can be added later.

Visit the hardware SIG and know what to look for in a case. The Mini and Mid Towers are usually quite satisfactory but there are so many choices you have to be quite alert. First of all you should have at least three 5 1/4 inch bays at the top and just below two normal looking 3 ½ inch bays. Inside you should have one or two hidden 3 ½ inch racks to support hard drives. Don't get a case with a fancy slot for a floppy or with speakers built in. You want one with a flat top and flat sides. The sides should be removable without affecting the top. Inside the case the sheet metal should have edges that have been folded over so you won't cut yourself and the sheet metal should be reasonably substantial.

The latest cases have a "soft" switch which means it operates on a 5 volt logic signal instead of 120 volts. It doesn't matter where it is as long as it is not too near the floppy drives eject buttons as you could accidentally push it when trying to remove a floppy. Below and not too close should be a recessed reset button. Accidentally pressing this button could cause a disaster so don't get a case if the reset button is not recessed. When you place your order for the computer ask that the Bios be set so that the on-off button must be held in for 4 seconds if you want to turn it off manually.

We have agreed with the vendors that Win 98 SE will be installed for testing purposes and the entire Win 98 SE disk be copied into a separate directory in case you need to add something later like another printer. The purpose is so that you can bring some DOS utilities with you to test the computer at the store before you bring it home and later more thoroughly at home before installing your own Win 98 SE or some other operating system but avoid Windows XP as it makes it harder to use vital DOS utilities. Be sure to ask the vendor to install the utility that allows the motherboard hardware details such as CPU temperature and fan speed plus system voltages to be called up while in Windows.

When you test your computer the first thing to do is find the Pause key on the keyboard as the computer boots press it when the opening screen comes up. That way you can read it carefully to see the type and speed of the CPU, the hard drive make and size and the number of floppies which I recommend to be two. A second floppy only costs about $10 extra and is good insurance. Normally you should use the "B:" floppy. After you have verified that everything was installed as required press the Enter key so the computer can finish it's booting process. See what has been installed and then reboot into DOS and then run some utilities that you bring with you from the club librarian. I like SysChk, SysInfo and Snooper even tho they may not be up to date.

If you really need to save every ten dollars you can, you could get the slowest AMD Duron and leave off one of the floppies and get only 128 mB of memory. But I think the best value is the slowest speed Athlon (TB) because it has a lot more internal cache memory. The extra memory and floppy could be added later very easily.

Another agreement with the vendors listed is that they supply a 20 gigabyte Maxtor hard drive but a Western Digital or Fujitsu are acceptable. Do not accept Samsung. Sometimes you can get an upgrade to 30 gigabytes for only $10 extra.

Don't be afraid to drive about 30 miles to get a good deal as two of the vendors are in San Gabriel and La Habra. The other is close by in Torrance and all are about equal in good value and dependability. The one in San Gabriel is my favorite as they give you more personal attention. When MSC Computers had a branch in Lawndale it was the favorite of one of our best experts. Now only their La Habra place is open even tho their ad in Microtimes shows about six branches. Most open at 11:am. Don't think of having your computer shipped as it may not survive United Parcel's handling and of course never by the Post Office. MSC Computers offer to ship it to your door so if you try this and it works, please let me know. Be sure to ask about the extra cost. Pick it up in person if possible and try to test it at the store before you bring it home to make sure it works well and has all the right things in it. I have had good results with the three I have bought from 1st Step Computers in Hacienda Heights and Advanced Computers has already supplied about ten to our members including the three I bought from them. Below are three good choices I have personally checked. There are two others that seem good with about the same prices but I have not checked them as thoroughly as yet. They are MA Computers in Walnut at 909 - 468-1398 and Compumagic in Hacienda Heights at 626 - 968-0218 so be extra cautious if you try them, especially Compumagic. Ask for a show special sheet. Remember, this is only advice. I teach my speed reading students to be wary of everything they read until it can be verified. Journalists are not the brightest people as you can easily see every time you watch the news. Many of our members are so smart they don't need this advice at all so feel free to deviate and make your own decisions. Those who play games may want one of the fastest graphics cards. This also may apply to those doing video editing and digital photography. So far I have had good results, even with digital photography, using these integrated systems. Avoid those with only 8 mB or 16 mB of shared video. Remember SDRAM memory sticks are very cheap now so you don't mind sharing lots of memory.

Advanced Computers

20725 S. Western Ave.

Torrance, CA 90501

310 - 618-0928


First Step Computer

429 W. Las Tunas Dr.

San Gabriel, CA 91776

626 - 284-7829


MSC Computer

Imperial at Harbor

La Habra, CA 92835

714 - 526-2475


AMD Athlon 900 mc CPU

Motherboard, 200 FSB,

Matsonic, Amtron

and ESC all seem good.

256 mB SDRAM PC-133

20 gB Maxtor hard drive

32 mB AGP Video Share

32 bit 3D PCI audio sound

56 kB PCI Fax Modem w/ voice

Two 1.44 floppy drives

52 X CD-Rom Drive

ATX Case with 300 w Power

PS-2 Keyboard and Mouse

2 speakers w/ built in power

By the way if you need more memory Fry's has 512 mB memory sticks for only about $45. As with anything from Fry's make a copy of your receipt and test the item as soon as possible. It seems they intentionally print receipts that fade easily and prices on boxes are always printed in very light, vague type that is barely readable, even with a magnifying lens.

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