CorelDraw

This is a test of CorelDraw 12.

The page background color is #000066 and the text is #FFFFFF.

TEST ONE

The first set of graphics is exported as “selected only” and without a bounding box.

The image is exported with antialiasing, but without dithering:

The image is exported without antialiasing and without dithering:

The image is exported with antialiasing and with dithering:

The image is exported without antialiasing, but with dithering:

CONCLUSION: Antialiasing smooths the text, as it’s supposed to. Because of the limited number of colors, dithering has no effect.

TEST TWO

The second set of graphics is exported as “selected only” and with a bounding box that has no fill and an outline that has no color.

The image is exported with antialiasing:

The image is exported without antialiasing:

CONCLUSION: At this point, I thought the bug was gone and apparently didn’t text the option that would have revealed its continued existence.

TEST THREE

In this third set of tests, the image now has a background that is #009900 with a 2-point #009900 outline.

The image is exported with antialiasing, but without dithering:

The image is exported without antialiasing and without dithering:

The image is exported with antialiasing and with dithering:

The image is exported without antialiasing, but with dithering:

CONCLUSION: The bug is not gone. If DITHERING is turned on, the text is smoother, as expected, but the annoying bounding box is back.

TEST FOUR

Test with PNG file format, full color. Because this is full 24bpp color, dithering is not needed and is not an option.

Image exported without antialiasing:

Image exported with antialiasing:

CONCLUSION: Using PNG doesn’t help.

TEST FIVE

CPT Image brought into Draw

CPT graphic with transparency exported without antialiasing:

CPT graphic with transparency exported with antialiasing:

Draw sample illustration with drop shadow

Illustration exported without antialiasing:

Illustration exported with antialiasing:

Draw sample illustration without drop shadow

Illustration exported without antialiasing:

Illustration exported with antialiasing:

CONCLUSION: Depending on the image, this may be workable as long as you don’t try to use antialiasing.

This is how it should work! Here I use Macromedia Fireworks, an application I find significantly harder to use than Corel Draw and a much less capable graphics application, but the folks at Macromedia understand what an output file should look like.

Antialiased text with a transparent background:

Antialiased text with a visible background:

This is not appreciably better than the output from Draw. If I create a blue background, though, both programs do better.

The better output is clearly from Fireworks.

Gears (a CorelDraw graphic, exported from Draw as EPS, opened by Fireworks, and exported):

There’s not much that can be done with this particular graphic. It wasn’t created with the intent of being placed on a dark background. As a result, no application will produce suitable output for a page such as this one.

I may have a workaround. This idea occurred to me while I was taking a shower. I was sorely tempted to jump out of the shower and run down the street screaming “Eureka!” I elected not to do this for two reasons:

The temperature outside is 23 degrees Fahrenheit.
The police take a dim view of naked people running down the street screaming “Eureka!”
WORKAROUND (TEST A)

The bug in Corel’s export engine assumes that the bounding box should be antialiased. This is wrong. But what if we play along and give Draw an extra bounding box? Below is a graphic (text) surrounded by a green box. Those two objects are surrounded by a third object: A box with no fill and no outline. It is 10 pixels taller and 10 pixels wider than the green box. Draw antialiases the surrounding box, but since the surrounding box is invisible, we don’t see it. Ha!

I also created a custom palette because I can select only ONE color to be transparent and Draw had created several “almost white” colors for the surrounding box. I delete the extra near-white colors.
The INTERIOR box (the green one in this example) MUST have an outline (1 pixel is enough) that is the SAME COLOR as the box. Because the outline is applied to the outside of the box, we’re adding 4 pixels on each side to allow for “invisible antialiasing”.

Adding 4 pixels to everything seems a bit extreme and it will, of course, create some alignment problems. Can I reduce the exterior bounding box to being just 1 pixel larger on each side and still get the same effect?

(I guess not.) This isn’t a perfect workaround by any means and I’m glad that I didn’t run down the street shouting “Eureka!” But if you use Draw and you don’t have Fireworks or some other application that can get the export right, adding 4 pixels to every side of your graphic almost solves the problem.

Dealing with what creeps and crooks put on your computer

“Hi, Dad,” said elder daughter Elizabeth on the phone, “could you come over and look at my computer?” Well, I knew right away that she wanted me to do more than just gaze at the monitor, keyboard, mouse, or case. “The guy at Roadrunner thinks there’s spyware on it.” Indeed there was.

Starter

What applications are starting when your computer starts? When you log on? How are they starting? These are just a few of the questions you might have about applications that start automatically. Other questions you might have include: How can I keep some of these applications from running? If I stop an application from running, how do I start it again if I decide that I need it? CodeStuff’s Starter answers all these questions.

Canada must be larger than I thought

I received (at the Technology Corner address) this week an offer for various medicines at “My Canadian Pharmacy”. But, as it turned out, My Canadian Pharmacy is in Sofia, Bulgaria. Maybe. That’s where the domain registrar says the domain holder is located, but that may not be the case.

Nerdly News

Firefox hits 100 million as Flock (almost) arrives: The Mozilla Corporation says 100 million people have downloaded Firefox as the browser approaches its first anniversary (November). That’s more that expected, but Firefox still has a tiny bit of market share compared to Internet Explorer. And now another niche player is approaching launch: Flock.

Open Office 2.0 “ships”: If it’s just a downloadable product, can it ship? If the the version 1.9 beta code doesn’t differ a lot from the version 2.0 code, is it a big deal? Is Microsoft concerned that a “free” office suite is nearly as good as Microsoft Office? Those are some of the questions I have about the latest Open Office. I might even have an answer or two.

Have a question? Ask it and you might pick up a prize for stumping the chump.

Send your question to bill.blinn@610tech.net .

And … good luck!

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October 16, 2005

Adobe Creative Suite 2: Photoshop: Adobe Photoshop still has a complex interface that tends to confuse me (keep in mind that I confuse easily) but some of the features in the CS2 version are close enough to “magic” that I’m willing to do a little work to figure out the interface.

The US is still the #1 source of spam: But other countries are gaining. The United States is responsible for slightly more than 25% of the spam worldwide, but South Korea now accounts for nearly 20% and China has a solid hold on third place. The antispam company Sophos maintains a global network of spam traps. Analysis of the spam received shows that the US is still the worst offender. The Can Spam Act is having some effect, though, because more of the spam is moving offshore.

Giving Norton Antivirus the boot: What if you decide that you’d like to stop using Symantec’s Norton Antivirus because you’re concerned about the sluggishness of the computer when NAV is running? How do you remove Norton and install something else? That’s a question I received recently because Norton Antivirus has a reputation for being difficult to remove. Fortunately, there are ways.

CD warnings: Maybe you’ve wondered what the pictograms on CD and DVD packaging is trying to tell you. The messages are even more obscure than those represented on the safety card in the seat back pocket on an airplane — the ones that you’re supposed to follow along as the flight attendant explains how to use a seat belt (should be you allowed outside by yourself if you don’t know this?) and points out the exits.

Nerdly News: Apple’s Video Ipod: Last week I said that I’d wait until this week to predict what Apple would announce last week, and it’s a good thing I did. Apple launched a new version of its Ipod music player that now, in addition to displaying photos on its color screen, also displays videos. The new Ipod comes with a 30GB or a 60GB disk. • Have an HP/Compaq notebook? Read this! Hewlett-Packard is recalling more than 100,000 batteries for HP and Compaq notebooks. Why? It seems that some of the batteries melted their plastic cases. Some caught fire. This is from the Consumer Products Safety Commission.

October 9, 2005

Your next computer will be a …? WinXMac? Back in the dark ages (for computers that would be from about 1978 until 1990), people had real choices. Sinclair, Atari, Apple, Commodore, IBM. Each computer had a different kind of operating system. Each manufacturer had a different way of doing things. Today, about 90% of us have the same operating system, but this may change.

Open-source applications: Listener Tim Miller asked about Gimp, an open-source graphics application. He’s planning to teach senior citizens at the Hilltop community center how to repair historic photographs. He’s considering Gimp as the application to use because it’s free. He’s wondering if the application will work for his intended use. We’ll take a look at the promises and problems of open-source.

How much spam is too much? In my opinion, any spam is too much. The spams I receive are invariably for bogus anatomical enhancements, fake “prescription” medicines, stocks from companies I’ve never heard of, and various other offers that are illegal, stupid, or disgusting. Fortunately, there are tools that allow me to fight back.

Nerdly News: What’s Steve Jobs going to announce on Wednesday? There’s been a lot of chatter that suggests a video Ipod, but that’s not likely. At least not yet. Since the middle of the week, more sane projections have been surfacing: An Ipod that’s physically smaller but holds more? An updated notebook? • First Microsoft Anti-Spyware, now Microsoft Antivirus: Sybari Software’s antivirus application will soon have a new name — Microsoft’s. Microsoft has developed a new virus scan engine that’s based on technology acquired in another acquisition. • Service providers kiss and make up: A couple of cry-baby service providers reached an agreement Friday that made it possible for their clients to use the Internet again. Cogent Communications Group said Level 3 Communications had begun to accept its Internet traffic again after blocking it Wednesday and Thursday in a dispute over payments.

October 2, 2005

Office 2003 SP2: Lots, but not much new: Microsoft released a service pack for Microsoft Office 2003 this week. It contains security enhancements, stability improvements, and performance improvements — in all several hundred bug fixes, but you may already have some or most of them installed because they’ve been released in separate updates. SP2 combines the previously released fixes into one update.

Office 12 is on the way: At last week’s PowerPoint Live, product manager Ric Bretschneider talked about the future of his application. Some remarkable advances are on the way for the Office Suite, including the ability to apply a “style” across many applications.

September 25, 2005

From San Diego: This week’s program comes from San Diego. There is no prepared synopsis which means the program will sound pretty much the way it always does.

September 18, 2005

Adobe Creative Suite 2: InDesign: Adobe continues to leave Quark XPress in the dust, but (surprisingly) still hasn’t caught up with Corel’s Ventura Publisher in some regards. Ventura doesn’t have a chance in today’s world, though. Corel hasn’t updated the program for years and it still has some serious bugs. InDesign is the future and every iteration shows Adobe’s commitment to quality.

Monitoring what’s before your eyes: Flat-panel monitors have come a long way in the past year. They’re larger. The color is even better. Some are even able to keep up with games or other applications that have fast-changing video. And the prices are attractive. CRTs are still less expensive, but there’s a lot to be said for flat panels these days.

You can get it on Ebay: Ebay will acquire Skype Technologies of Luxembourg for approximately $2.6 billion in cash and Ebay stock. The company says the acquisition will strengthen their global marketplace and make new lines of business available to the company.

Nerdly News: FCC extends VoIP 911 deadline … again: The Federal Communications Commission has given Internet telephone service providers another month for their customers to acknowledge awareness of the limitations of dialing 911 from a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) based telephone. Earlier the FCC had announced that VoIP providers would have to shut off service entirely for those who hadn’t yet responded. • It’s getting to be like the old days: Another browser will soon be available. Windows users currently can choose from an antique Internet Explorer, Opera, Mozilla, Firefox, and a few others. Mac users have all those (except their version of Explorer is even older) along with a special OS X browser from Mozilla and Apple’s own Safari. Now comes Flock from Bart Decrem.

September 11, 2005

Firewalls (yet again): This is a subject that will not go away. You need a firewall. If you have a dial-up connection, you need a software firewall. If you have a DSL or cable connection, you need a hardware firewall and a software firewall. Microsoft provides half a firewall for free with Windows XP and you can buy other firewalls from vendors such as Zone Labs and Kerio (as for Sygate, it’s been acquired by Symantec). My choice is still Zone Alarm.

A shared drive done the right way: I was just sitting there minding my own business when the UPS guy approached the house and tossed a package over the transom. It was from ADS, a company that sends things for me to take a look at. The box said it contained an NAS Drive Kit. NAS means “network attached storage” and it’s a (pricey) way to make a disk drive available to all computers on a LAN. Was I ever in for a surprise!

How to capture streaming audio: I’m not sure whether this is dedication or an indication of serious trouble on the horizon, but I heard from a listener who wants to record Technology Corner using WTVN’s streaming audio (www.WTVN.com). He wasn’t able to get the free audio program Audacity to record the show and wrote to see if I could suggest another application. What I suggested, instead, was digging several layers deep to the control panel Windows provides for playing back and recording sounds. Why Windows makes this so hard, I’m not sure, but I know that Apple makes it even harder to snag streaming audio.

Nerdly News: Smaller and smaller: This week Apple introduced the iPod Nano. The latest Ipod holds 1000 songs of average length, is (as Steve Jobs likes to point out) “thinner than a standard pencil”, and is about half the length and width of other players. • Do a Google search on “Vinton Cerf”: One of the primary inventors of the Internet (and NO, Al Gore never claimed to be an inventor, only a proponent) Vinton Cerf has accepted a job at Google. He’s been MCI’s senior vice president for technology strategy.

September 4, 2005

The story from New Orleans: First the storm, then the flood. The misery continues in New Orleans and one of the best windows to the story is the ongoing coverage by the New Orleans Times-Picayune. For the first 3 days after the storm, the paper was unable to publish, but the heroic reporters, photographers, and writers did manage to create a newspaper in PDF format and post it on NOLA.com. On September 2, a paper-and-ink version returned, but the Web-based PDF version continues.

Opera … the melody lingers: Browsers keep getting better. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer hasn’t been updated in several years and still doesn’t have tabs. It will in the next release, which is already out in beta, but not yet. If you like tabs, and apparently a lot of people do, you can choose Netscape, Firefox, or Opera. Although my primary browser remains Firefox because of the prodigious number of extensions available for it, Opera would be the right choice for a lot of people.

Linux, open source, and other Microsoft terrors: LInux is still not the operating system for my desktop computer or my notebook computer, but it’s more than adequate for a lot of people, particularly with the advent of Open Office 2.0. The latest beta version (1.9) is good enough and complete enough that I would consider using it.

Nerdly News: Here’s a big surprise: Creeps are taking advantage of Katrina. Web security firm Websense says a malicious website that poses as a Katrina news site includes JavaScript that tries to exploit two Internet Explorer vulnerabilities. If you visit the site with an unpatched version of IE, the site will install a Trojan horse application. • Police in Turkey arrest 16 more worm suspects: Sixteen suspected arrested in Turkey are accused to assisting in the Zotob and Mytob worm outbreaks. Earlier, 21-year-old Atilla Ekici, was arrested in Turkey. Police say he paid a resident of Morocco to write the Zotob worms, which disrupted some major organizations.

August 28, 2005

Adobe Creative Suite 2: Bridge & GoLive: There’s a lot to like about Adobe’s Creative Suite 2 — so much, in fact, that it’s not possible to review the entire suite in a single Technology Corner program. Or even two. Or three. This time I’ll spend some time with an application that may surprise you. Adobe Bridge looks a lot like the old file browser. It is that, but it’s a lot more. Bridge is the component that the “major” CS2 applications depend on to stay organized.

Yes, the website did disappear for a couple of days: I can honestly say that I’ve had many weeks start better than this one. Much better. Monday, 6am: My e-mail client at the office made 2 sounds that I don’t like to hear — each indicating failure to connect with an account. The two accounts in question are my two primary accounts at blinn.com.

Hey! Can I really get a hotel room in Sandy Eggo for $0 per night? I’ll be off to San Diego in a few weeks for Powerpoint Live, so I was looking around for lodging. You can imagine how excited I was when I spotted a rack rate of $0.00 for a Red Lion Hotel. Even though I knew it was a mistake, I clicked …

Nerdly News: Google Yak-Yak: OK, so that’s not the real name. Maybe Google missed a naming opportunity by choosing Google Talk instead. Google Talk brings instant messaging to the company’s portfolio of offerings. The current version doesn’t do much, but eventually it should go well beyond the ability to just send instant messages. You’ll be able to use the service to make a free phone call anywhere in the world. • This isn’t supposed to happen to technology reporters: And particularly not if you’re the tech reporter for the New York Times. David Pogue wrote a cautionary tale this week about being sure you have a good backup. Mainly a Mac user, Pogue said that he recently turned on his Windows machine and read “DISK READ ERROR. Press Ctrl+Alt+Del to restart.” The disk was unusuable and he didn’t have a full, complete, and verified backup. • The great VoIP outrage … er, outage: Voice over IP (VoIP) users may find themselves without service around the end of September. The Federal Communications Commission extended to September 28th its deadline for customers to officially acknowledge the possible shortcomings with VoIP 911 calls. The plan is a little short on logic and intelligence.

August 21, 2005

Security: How much is it worth? Should you encrypt the data on your computer’s hard disk? How many passwords should you have? Is just a software firewall enough or do you need a hardware firewall, too? With increasing instances of identity theft (despite the decreasing rate of credit card fraud) lots of us are concerned about security. A former US counterintelligence agent who has asked that I not identify him any more specifically than that has some interesting thoughts on the issue.

Protecting passwords: Your e-mail account requires a user ID and a password. So does your computer at the office. In fact, you may have several different user IDs and passwords at the office — one set for each of several applications. If you do banking on-line, you’ll have a user ID and password. Many websites requires a user ID and password for all content or for premium content. And if you buy anything on line, each store will want you to set up an account with a user ID and password. That’s a lot to remember and you already know that you shouldn’t just write them down and stick them in your wallet. Using the same user ID and password for everything isn’t good, either, because if one is compromised, they all are compromised. There’s an easier way.

Worms in your news, your earth-moving equipment, and your Chrysler: This was not a good week for companies that are still using Windows 2000 and that haven’t managed to install all of Microsoft’s critical patches. The ABC Evening News staff had to break out typewriters this week when their computers were attacked. The same was true at other networks. Chrysler lost an entire hour of productivity at more than a dozen assembly plants, idling some 50,000 workers. Was this necessary?

Nerdly News: Mozilla creates for-profit division just as Firefox loses market share: Net Applications, which monitors some 40,000 websites, says that Firefox’s market share has dropped a bit. Earlier in the year, Firefox was gaining about 1% per month and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer was losing about an equivalent amaount. • The (former) AOL employee who stole 92,000,000 names goes to prison: Jason Smathers, who used to work for AOL, will spend up to 15 months in prison for stealing a database of 92 million e-mail addresses and selling it to spammers.

August 14, 2005

Questions and (possibly related) answers: Questions come in. Answers go out. Sometimes the answers are even related to the questions. That happened three times this week with questions about antivirus applications, wireless routers for home use, and notebook computers suitable for college. When it comes to antivirus programs, you probably have more choices than you think you do. The most secure WiFi settings may not be right for home use. And selecting a notebook computer requires looking at more than just who makes the processor.

Messages from Apple: Apple is in the dangerous position of having announced that a major hardware change is coming while not wanting to lose sales during the interim. It’s a tough perception to fight. If you want a Mac and you want it now, the right thing to do is to buy what’s available now because it will continue to work with existing and future software. That’s a tough sell, though, so Apple is doing what most marketers do in similar situations: They’re cutting the price (but not by much).

Typing fast: “Time spent sharpening the tools is never wasted.” That’s something that journeyman carpenters are known to say. If you work with sharp tools, you’re more likely to get the job done right the first time and you’re less likely to injure yourself or other workers. The same philosophy applies for those of us who use computers.

Nerdly News: Surly Apple comments: I’ve mentioned a time or two that Apple CEO Steve Jobs has a rather inflated opinion of himself. As evidence, I present a commencement address at Stanford University, up El Camino Real a bit from Apple’s headquarters. Much of what Jobs has to say is reasonable and even inspiring, but Jobs describes “dropping in” on a calligraphy class and the impact he had on the world of computing in a way that suggests he is the sole reason we can set type on computers these days. That position disregards a lot of historical evidence. • Surly Windows comments: It’s been another big week for Microsoft. The patch frenzy continues at the company tries to fix some particularly nasty problems. The Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT, until Homeland inSecurity got involved, “Computer Emergency Response Team”) describes the problems: “Microsoft has released updates that address critical vulnerabilities in Windows and Internet Explorer. Exploitation of these vulnerabilities could allow a remote, unauthenticated attacker to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service on an affected system.”

August 7, 2005

Adobe Creative Suite 2: Illustrator: When it comes to vector art programs, my preference has always been for Corel Draw, but the latest version of Adobe Illustrator in the Creative Suite 2 package got my attention with several new features. CS2 is too large a collection to discuss in a single program, so each of the major components will get their own show. I’m starting with Illustrator because it’s the Adobe program that I’ve previously considered to be lacking. The CS2 version goes a long way toward changing my mind on that issue.

Where’s the Federal Trade Commission when you need them? A few weeks ago I wrote about some misleading ads that I encountered on Google. The ads are from the “Online Reward Center”, a company that seems to be working with BMG Music, Discover, Disney, and Video Professor. You “win” something if you happen to live in the right Zip code (anything from 00000 to 99999 is acceptable, along with Zip codes “YouLie” and “Fool”. The deal is that you have to sign up for some “free” offers to get the “free” gift. But if you do that, you’ll soon find out that you have to sign up for lots of other “deals” to get your “free” gift. I had to ask Google’s PR staff twice, but eventually they told me “Thanks for your inquiry and thanks for the feedback on the ad. We will review advertisers who we receive complaints for and determine if they meet our policies. Generally speaking we do not discuss specific advertisers so I am unable to comment on this specific ad in question.” You’ll find lots of pages with the same kind of deceptive “offers” so apparently there’s no shortage of suckers.

Tinker Tools System is a must if you own a Mac: I decided to upgrade my little underpowered G3 500MHz Ibook to Tiger and because there was no critical data on the machine, I elected to erase the 10BG drive and install a fresh copy of the operating system. It is perhaps worth nothing that this computer’s hard drive is half the size of the hard drive in my Ipod. I suspected there was a way to reduce the size of the operating system and in looking for the solution I found a utility every Mac owner should have.

Nerdly News: Why does my new 2-button mouse have just 1 button? Apple this week finally decided that owners of its computers are smart enough to use a mouse with two buttons, but you can still see only one button. Actually, the mouse is, in true Apple style, both sophisticated and simple: Sophisticate on the inside, but simple on the outside. • Does copy protection help anyone at all? Some CD manufacturers are including copy protection which makes their CDs difficult to use if you have an Ipod, but they’re still easy for pirates to duplicate.

July 31, 2005

Why you should think about buying your next computer locally: The question of Dell, HP, or a local store comes up occasionally here. I once owned a Dell notebook and loved it. I have an HP at the office and it’s OK (rather underpowered for what I need to do, but that’s my fault.) At home, I have a computer that a TCR Computers built for me a little over 2 years ago when I was too busy to do what I had done previously, which is build my own. At the time, I said I’d never build another computer myself. Nothing in the past 2 years has changed my mind.

Konfabulate your computer: The company that’s responsible for the Konfabulator must be of two minds these days: Annoyed that Apple borrowed the idea for their “Widgets” in OS X Tiger, but possibly gratified that Apple has raised the general public’s awareness of widgets.

Firewalls (again): For several years, I have recommended Zone Alarm by Zone Labs, but I’ve had to re-think that lately. There’s apparently a problem (“issue” in newspeak) for those who have Zone Alarm installed and also use a certain Internet service provider that must not be named as their ISP.

Nerdly News: No more Ipods … from HP: Hewlett-Packard says it will stop selling Apple Computer’s Ipod portable music players under its own name. The alliance between the two companies puzzled a lot of people from the beginning, which wasn’t all that long ago. • Are you being exploited? The University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center says most people don’t have a clue how the Internet works and, in this case, what they don’t know can hurt them.

July 24, 2005

Movies on my (Mac) desktop: Watching a DVD on a computer isn’t exactly new technology. Both Mac and Windows computers have had the ability to play a DVD for several years. Both Windows and Mac computers come with applications that can display a DVD; both have add-on applications with extra features. Trans Lucy from Startly Technologies (Mac only) brings to the desktop a feature some people will think is astoundingly great and others will think is astoundingly stupid: Trans Lucy makes it possible to watch a DVD transparently over (under?) whatever else you’re working on.

Less than you need for more than you should pay: If you’re looking for a digital camera, here’s one you should avoid. I’ve been seeing an ad in various publications and I noticed that it doesn’t exactly lie about what’s being offered, but it doesn’t exactly tell you the entire story, either. The ad is from a company we’ll call Hell+Bowel (not the company’s real name). They’re offering the camera for $300 and suggesting (but not claiming) that it might actually be worth three times that. It’s not. In fact, if you pay more than $100 for a camera like this, you’re paying too much.

You say “mouse”; I say “Logitech”: At the office I have a Logitech MX500 mouse that matches the MX500 mouse I have at home. I like it because it has scroll up/scroll down buttons, a scroll wheel with a click function that I can assign to be a double-click, forward/back buttons that are helpful with Web browsers, and a task-switch button that I hardly ever use. I take the Mac Powerbook to the office regularly and I decided that it needs a better mouse than the Microsoft Notebook Optical mouse. So I took the MX500 from home to the office. That left the home computer without a mouse. Now what?

Nerdly News: Here’s one for the good guys: Police in Spain and elsewhere have made hundreds of arrests in what is probably a hopeless attempt to break up what’s known as “Nigerian 419 Scams”. The 419 is the section of the Nigerian legal code that deals with the crime. Most of the current arrests were made in and around Málaga, Spain. • No more “Moo”: The next version of Windows has been code named “Longhorn”, but now it has an official name (Windows Vista) and a projected release date for the first beta version (August 3).

July 17, 2004

“I’m from the government and I’m here to help you” I was working on a project recently that required me to find the cost of and requirements for mailing 500 packages by USPS Standard Mail (what used to be called Third Class). The packages would weigh about a pound. I went to USPS.com, the website operated by the US Postal Service. I’ve used the site previously without too much trouble. But not this time. My preferred browser is Firefox, but it didn’t work. By examining the Javascript console, I could see that there was a Javascript error. Some browsers (Internet Explorer, for example) are more forgiving when the page contains an error. So I sent the webmaster a note and opened Internet Explorer. It didn’t work either, so I concluded that the corporate firewall must be blocking something. So I tried again when I got home. No luck there, either.

Beware what you find on Google: I had a good reason for a Google search using the word “ipod” and the results were interesting. One of the links promised me a free Ipod Photo 60GB device. I was skeptical and, as it turns out, that was a good thing.

I’d call it “Thanks for the Memos” but Michael Feldman’s attorney would call: How much does the US Postal Service know about the Web and about Internet communications? Not much, apparently. A postmaster from eastern Ohio sent me a copy of an e-mail message.”The attached e-mail,” he wrote, “is an internal one which is supposed to be copied and given to employees to encourage them to use the district health unit’s website.” All that seems perfectly reasonable until you notice one rather important omission.

Nerdly news: Lots of patches this week: Microsoft, Apple, and Mozilla all released security patches this week. No matter what computer system or browser you use, checking for an update would be a good thing to do. • Steve Jobs is starting to sound like Bill Gates: For many quarters, Microsoft reported huge, unsustainable gains and Bill Gates said words to the effect of, “Hey, this is great, but these gains are huge and unsustainable.” Apple has just finished its best quarter ever and the company is now predicting flat sales.

July 10, 2004

Why Tiger users sometimes giggle uncontrollably: Occasionally I like to talk about Apple computers and Apple’s operating system, the latest version of which is called Tiger. Although I’m much more familiar with Microsoft’s operating system because I’ve been using Microsoft applications for 20 years and Apple applications for only about 5 years, I’m increasingly attracted to the features Apple brings to the desktop.

Some Mac users still don’t grok that a computer is just a computer. I attended a session of the Digital Designers Group in June. The group meets at the Columbus College of Art and Design and the June session was titled “What’s New in Photoshop CS2”. The session featured Photoshop guru Clay White and it revealed some undeniably cool new features, but it also revealed once again how far Adobe is behind Corel in some areas.

Counterspy protects your computer and your data: Spyware can be little more than an annoyance, but it can also pose a serious threat to your finances. The definition of spyware is a bit murky currently, with some people thinking that cookies are a serious threat and most anti-spyware products doing little to disabuse them of that myth. Others consider applications such as Eudora or Opera that, in sponsored mode, display ads to be spyware. (Wrong. They’re ad ware and they’re up-front about it.) Some manufacturers and software publishers include applications that check in from time to time looking for updates. Are these spyware? Some seem to think so. I’m not particularly concerned about any of those, but I don’t want anyone to install an application on my computer that reports information to anyone without telling me.

Nerdly News: Smacking those who lose your data: A couple of weeks ago, I said something about class-action lawsuits and that, although I’m not always a fan of the technique, it seemed like a good time for someone to file such a suit against companies that manage to lose hundreds, thousands, or millions of records that would allow someone to steal someone else’s identity. Guess what! • What ARE they smoking at Microsoft these days? You may not recognize the name “Claria”, but you probably will recognize “Gator”. Claria is the company’s new name and suddenly Microsoft’s anti-spyware application considers Claria apps not to be so bad after all. Might this be because Microsoft is planning to buy Claria? That’s the rumor — that Microsoft will purchase Claria for $500 million.

July 3, 2005: Happy Independence Day one day early.

June 26, 2005

Painter: A program that’s hard to categorize but fun to use: Corel acquired Painter from Macromedia several years ago. Through the years, Painter has built a loyal following among electronic artists who see the program as a tool that allows them to accomplish things they would otherwise be unable to do with a computer. And although that’s exactly right, it also doesn’t begin to tell what Painter can do.

Feeling a little insecure these days? If it seems to you that there’s a new security disaster just about every week, you’re not alone. It seems that way to me, too. Identity theft is a huge and growing problem, yet big companies sell data to crooks, allow thieves to plant worms and viruses on their networks, and sometimes just flat out lose the information. The biggest loss so far is about 40 million records.

How wired are libraries? We’ve talked about libraries in central Ohio and about some of the electronic features they’re offering. The good news is that we’re not alone. Most libraries offer free public Internet access. Increasingly, they’re offering wireless connections.

Nerdly News: Welcome to the third world: If you thought the United States was the world leader in Internet technology, you were right. We invented the Internet, after all. According to an article in Foreign Affairs magazine, that’s no longer the case. In an article called “Down to the Wire”, Thomas Bleha writes that Japan is using what used to be called an “industrial policy” to create incentives for expanding broadband and wireless technology throughout the country. The US has done nothing. • RSS in Longhorn: Microsoft says it’s next version of Windows will have built-in support for Internet data feeds. The technology is called Really Simple Syndication (RSS) and is increasingly popular among those who want news headlines and other information constantly. • Itunes continue to grow: Apple’s Itunes service has recorded 430 million downloads in the last two years and it just keeps growing.

June 19, 2005

Backup: The importance of, a reminder about: Normally we think of hard drive crashes, viruses, and the like as things that will damage or destroy the data on a hard drive. That’s not all that can happen, as is shown by a note from a correspondent in southwest Virginia.

Time to download the latest Spybot Search and Destroy: The latest version of Spybot Search and Destroy is still free. It’s also faster and the interface has been improved a bit. This is one program that should be on every Windows computer.

Patchety Patchety Patch — more fixes from Microsoft: This monthly Microsoft patchfest included 10 advisories that cover 12 problems and 3 are rated “critical”, Microsoft’s highest severity rating. Bulletin 25 for the year addresses a remote code-execution vulnerability in Internet Explorer. Specifically the problem is one that deals with how IE handles PNG image files. This problem could allow a malicious website to gain complete control of a computer.

How many zombies are out there? If you’re curious about how many zombied computers are out there, you might want to visit CipherTrust’s ZombieMeter website. You won’t like what you see, though. As of Friday afternoon, in the 5 o’clock hour, more than 30,000 new computers in the United States and more than 34,000 new computers in China (added just in the last hour) were ready to launch distributed denial-of-service attacks, serve spam, or do whatever else their masters toll them to do.

Sharing photos: Question: I just returned from a week on vacation and have a bunch of vacation pix I’d like to share with family and friends. I don’t want to have to e-mail the pictures to everyone, so I want to find a way to post the pictures online so people only have to type in a URL and be able to see them. (I have an answer.)

A CD problem: Question: I don’t know what happened to the CD drive on my desktop. It’s worked fine for the last 4 years and then suddenly stopped last week. Maybe it’s coincidence, but I had a photo CD made by my son’s teachers in the drawer when the drive stopped working. I also have a 22-month-old daughter. She’s a lovely girl, but I have to question her innocence here as well. (I have an answer and it turns out to be the right answer!)

June 12, 2005

Will Apple be the next Osborne? Several times in the past, rumors have popped up suggesting that Apple would switch to Intel processors and each time the rumor proved to be untrue. Why would Apple want to put its operating system on an Intel-powered platform that anyone could buy? Apple is, after all, a hardware company that just happens to have an operating system and Apple has always wanted iron-fisted control over the manufacturing. Well, it’s happened. Apple will move its entire line to Intel processors within the next 2 years. How many current PowerPC-based machines do you think they’ll sell?

These JAWS don’t bite: If you’re a sighted person, close your eyes. With your eyes closed, you can’t read this page. That’s a problem that blind and low-vision people have had with computers from the beginning and it’s a problem that’s only made worse by the Internet. So much information is available, but difficult to access if you lack vision. Enter JAWS, a “screen reader” program from Freedom Scientific. The story behind JAWS is as interesting as the application.

New Quicktime for Windows: QuickTime 7 is included in Apple’s OS X 10.4 for Macs, but the Windows version is still in beta. In fact, it was released just this week in beta form with no indication when the final release will ship.

Nerdly News: Worm breeders sink to new depths: Showing once again that the creeps who want to infect your computer have no shame, no scruples, and no morals, they are now spamming an e-mail that takes you to a website that infects unprotected computers. The message purports to be a news report about Michael Jackson. • Microsoft patch party coming: This coming Tuesday, Microsoft will release 10 security patches that cover several serious vulnerabilities — some rated as “critical”, Microsoft’s highest severity rating. In one case, a flaw could be exploited to allow the spread of a worm without any action by the computer user. • Your notebook just got bigger: Seagate has announced a 2.5-inch disc drive that will offer notebook computer users 160GB of space — that’s a quarter larger than the largest notebook drive available today. The Momentus disc drive uses “perpendicular recording” which stands data bits on end on the disc platter. Until now, disks have laid the magnetic particles flat on the disk surface. Seagate says that the new technology not only saves space, but also makes the disk more reliable.

June 5, 2005

It’s enough to burn you up: Faster DVD burners, more standardization, the ability to burn dual-layer DVDs, and lower prices for name-brand discs (well under $1 for high-quality DVDs) are combining to make creating DVDs at home something that no longer requires a PhD in electronic engineering. We’ll talk about legalities (I am not a lawyer), copy protection, decryption, good media and bad — everything you need to know for successful DVD burning.

Busy days at Samsung: South Korean electronics giant Samsung keeps coming up with new devices — phones, flat-panel monitors, and memory. Within a week Samsung announced mass production of a 4GB flash device and development of a 16GB flash drive. Less than 5 years ago, I was amazed by the ability to carry a 16MB memory device in my pocket.

Nerdly News: Verbatim Dual Layer 4x DVD-R discs ship: Verbatim is shipping 4x DVD-R Dual Layer media, but keep an eye on your wallet. You’ll pay $25 for 3 DVDs in jewel cases. This compares to less than $1 for single-layer DVDs. The price will have to come down before sales will take off. • ICANN goes with .xxx adult domains: The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has approved “xxx” top-level domain names. Whether you like or hate pornography, this is a good move. If you love it, you’ll be able to find it more easily. If you hate it, or if you want to block such sites, this will make that process easier, too. • More and more for your cell phone: Handmark, one of the big developers of software for mobile devices, can put a map on your mobile phone with a Java version of Pocket Express, the company’s suite of information services for mobile devices. Express is available for handsets from Sprint PCS Vision and users can access real-time news, sports, movie times, maps, local city information, and more.

May 29, 2005

Perfect audio: Stick it in your ear! The day before I left for Corel World in Kansas City, I received a question — Would I like to try a pair of Etymotic Isolator Earphones? The answer: You bet I would. Can you get them here yesterday? That didn’t happen, of course, so I wasn’t able to test them on any of the 159 airplanes required to get me from Columbus to Kansas City and back by way of Prague, Toronto, Manila, and Cancun. But they were waiting for me when I returned. I wish I could have tried them on the airplanes, but I’ve done enough on-the-ground listening to know they’ll be a good choice for travelers.

Take your PC with you in a Migo: Remember when moving files from one computer to another required a cable? Or a stack of floppies? Or a CD or DVD? Today it seems that just about everyone who needs to move files from here to there has a solid-state USB disk drive. They make moving files easy, but what if they could do even more?

Your phone can hear you now: Despite security concerns with Bluetooth devices, the technology continues to grow in popularity among cell phone users because it makes external headsets so easy to use. And used with care, the security issues are manageable.

Nerdly News: Dumb hackers have found a way to take dumber users’ files hostage by installing an application that encrypts the victim’s files and then offering to sell the victim a key to unlock the files. • Podcasting comes to Itunes: Apple says the next version of Itunes will support podcasting. (Dear Windows users who don’t like to hear Mac stories on the show: Get over it.)

May 22, 2005

Internet access while on the road: I was in Kansas City, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis-St. Paul this week on the way to and from a conference. Internet access is easier than ever while traveling, but the fees could add up.

Apple amusement: Recently, I talked about the latest version of Apple’s operating system (OS X Tiger, 10.4). I said that I’ll probably continue to use Windows because that’s the operating system I’m most familiar with, but that wasn’t enough for a listener in Gallion. To please him, I would have had to prostrate myself and proclaim OS X the “best” operating system. Well, I’m not willing to do that. (Nor am I willing to say that Windows is the “best” operating system. Or Linux.)

OS X Vulnerability: Apple’s operating system was built from the ground up with file and directory permissions, password access, and networking in mind. These are all features that Microsoft has added over the years. Many Mac users believe that OS X is completely immune to attack. That kind of thinking is dangerous.

Nerdly News: Sober again: Last week I sent out a special alert about the German (and occasional English) spams that were flooding into my mailbox. I’ve heard from others who received a deluge of these, from some who received only a few, and from some who received none at all. • Apple wants 128,000 batteries back: Apple Computer has issued a recall for 128 thousand Ibook and Powerbook computer batteries. Apple says consumers should immediately stop using the affected batteries because they pose a fire hazard.

May 15, 2005: No program.

May 8, 2005

Super Ad Blocker: Super Ad Blocker is a utility for Microsoft’s Internet Explorer that’s designed to eliminate pop-ups, sypware, and other annoyances. I’ve found it difficult to evaluate because it works only with Internet Explorer and I rarely use IE these days. If you still do, you need this application. It’s the best protective add-in for Internet Explorer.

I’ve been attacked by a Tiger! And I’m loving it. This will not be a comprehensive look at Apple’s new operating system, but we’ll take a quick look at Tiger, consider why it’s undoubtedly Apple’s best operating system ever, and think about why you might want to wait a bit before installing it … or install it immediately.

Odds and ends

An interesting twist on the Nigerian scam: If you haven’t yet received a Nigerian money scam, you will someday. This week I received an imaginative variant. It’s really quite inventive. I presume this particular creep has sent his message to every site his spider can find that talks about digital photography.

Did you receive a real copy of Windows with your computer? Some computer manufacturers provide “recovery discs” that, if used, will format the hard drive (deleting all data on the drive), reinstall the operating system, and leave the computer in the condition it was when you first bought it.

Who will protect us from the people who are supposed to be protecting us? If you sometimes think the people who are “in charge” are absolutely clueless, you’re not alone. US military censors who apparently don’t understand how Adobe Acrobat works accidentally released secret information when they made public details of the incident that cost the life of an Italian security official in Iraq.

Nerdly News: W32/Sober — 18 months after it appeared, idiots are still clicking on infected Zip files: I seem to have hit the jackpot this week. Friday’s 87 W32/Sober-infected messages brought to more than 1000 the total number of infected messages I’ve received this week. Click the link at the right to see one 8-hour period’s harvest. • A gaggle from Google: Google’s juggernaut continues. The company has recently added several new applications to its beta page. The Google Web Accelerator this week joined My Search History, Google Ride Finder, Google Maps, and Google Video — all added since the first of the year. The names are sufficiently descriptive that I don’t need to tell you what they do.

May 1, 2005

Security becomes even more critical: Technology Corner has been around for a long time. How long? So long that, in the early days, antivirus software wasn’t a necessity. Today you need to wrap your computer in many layers of protection. Anyone who’s running a computer without up-to-date virus protection is irresponsible. A software firewall is no longer optional, in my view, and for those who have a broadband connection, a hardware firewall is a good idea. Of course, it’s also a good idea to be alert at all times, too.

Spam Wars — Now is the time: Danny Goodman is an author who is well known among people who write computer programs or who maintain websites because of his books on dynamic HTML, Javascript, and the like. These are usually books that are sold by the pound. Recently he became so frustrated with spam that he’s written Spam Wars to help average Internet users find a way to shut off the spam spigot. We have an interview with Goodman to talk about ways to fight spam.

Nerdly News: Adobe picks up Macromedia: Adobe has acquired Macromedia for $3.4 billion. The combination gives Adobe nearly unquestioned ownership of the publishing and website development markets, even though the folks at Quark might dispute that. • Peace talks between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray: Backers of two competing technologies for the next-generation DVD standard are talking to see if they can find common ground instead of fighting for domination in the marketplace. They’re trying to avoid the events typified by the VHS/Beta or DVD+r/DVD-R wars. • Microsoft’s Q3 earnings double, but disappoint Wall Street: Microsoft says third-quarter earnings nearly doubled from last year, but that wasn’t good enough for Wall Street — possibly because last year’s third quarter included legal charges of $2.53 billion. • PS: Apple’s new operating system (Tiger) is on the prowl. We’ll talk about it once I’ve had a chance to look at it.

April 24, 2005

A pitstop for your PC: If you’ve ever wondered how your computer’s performance compares with others or whether there are things you should do to make your computer run better, consider visiting PC Pitstop on the Web. The service is free, meaning it’s financed by advertising. The tests are accurate, but sometimes the recommendations are a little too self-serving and advertiser-serving.

You can get there from here: What happens if you’re in Columbus on Thursday and you have a 95MB file that needs to be in Australia by Sunday so that it can be tested in time for a Monday evening meeting (which is Tuesday morning in Australia)? FedEx could get it there a day or two late for a lot of money. The post office could get it there even later for less. But I needed to get it there on time and preferably for free. There’s a way to do it.

Nerdly News: Your dual-layer DVDs are already outdated: DVD Double Layer media prices are still high, but already the next generation of media is starting to be available. TDK has released its Blu-ray disc TDK Professional Disc that uses a blue-violet laser with a short wavelength for recording and playback. The result is a 23.3GB disc — about 5 times larger than standard DVDs. • Opera’s latest could leave the CEO out to sea: We’ll find out on Monday if the head of Opera (the Norwegian browser company) will be swimming from Norway to the United States. Jon von Tetzchner says that 1,000,000 people download Opera 8 Web within the first four days of the launch, he will make the swim with only one stop-over for a cup of hot chocolate at his mother’s house in Iceland.

April 17, 2005

Three of a kind from Karen Kenworthy: You probably recognize the name. Karen wrote many columns for Windows Magazine. She also makes available a series of useful utility applications. Among the two dozen utilities, you’ll probably find several that perform a function you have wanted to do, but didn’t know how. I’ll talk about 3 of them. It’s up to you to check out the others.

Libraries are looking at the future: One of the most vexing problems faced by library administrators is that of lost, stolen, or damaged materials. It may be that the library of the future will allow you to download books, magazines, and videos. In fact, you can do some of those things today at many central Ohio libraries.

In Nerdly News … The number of people who complain about spam has dropped and that has a lot of people (including me) trying to figure out why. Some people think it’s because we’re just getting used to the flow of sludge. I think it’s because we’re getting smarter about dealing with the junk. • With the required XP updates now taking place and the monthly Microsoft security updates released, yet another creep has started sending spams that purport to be from Microsoft. The messages carry a link that will take you to a site that will install on your computer something you don’t want there.

April 10, 2005

Who needs (or wants?) a CD player these days! We have CD players scattered around the house. In the family room. In my office. In Kaydee’s room. A couple of portable units here and there. For the most part, they’re unused. At the office office, I play music from an Ipod that contains (at last count) more than 4000 individual tracks. That’s a big selection, but the computer in my home office has more than 9000 tracks. This includes a few hundred half-hour radio programs from the 1930s through the 1960s, a few audio books, a lot of rock music, a growing collection of jazz music, and several hundred classical selections.

Firefox extensions: Firefox, the latest browser from the Mozilla Organization continues to be my favorite browser. For some people, security is the main “selling point” for Firefox. (Do free applications have “selling points”?) For others, it’s tabbed browsing that Internet Explorer still doesn’t offer. For me, it’s both of these, and a combination of other built-in features (such as bookmarks) and a rich variety of extensions (such as the ability to synchronize bookmarks). I’ve talked about security and tabbed browsing previously, so today we’ll look at bookmarks and extensions.

Nerdly News: OptInRealBig.com has declared bankruptcy. Who? It’s probably a company you’ve received messages from. Lots of messages. • Google announced that their recently launched Google Mini search appliance has been reduced in cost, and at the same time they have increased the search capacity from 50,000 documents to 100,000. • Forty years ago, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore said the number of transistors on a computer chip would double every year. Later, he changed that to 18 months. The 1965 prediction was an elegant statement of how semiconductor chips would become cheaper, faster, smaller, and more reliable over time.

April 3, 2005

Windows service pack 2 no longer optional: By mid month, your Windows XP system will refuse to run if it hasn’t had the SP 2 security update installed. Microsoft says the update is mandatory, but you still have a choice: You can get the upgrade and install it yourself or you can wait for Microsoft to do it. Recommendation: Do it yourself. Now.

Google Picasa 2: Shortly after its IPO, Google acquired Picasa and made it available for free. Now there’s a significant upgrade to Picasa 2 and the cost of the application is … nothing. The new features are impressive and it even has an “I’m Feeling Lucky” button. If you think that Google expects somehow to make money by giving away a photo organizer and editor, you’re right, and I’ll tell you how.

The Internet changes the way we experience life: In the early days of the Internet’s availability outside the lab, it was hailed as the savior of life as we know it. Then it was condemned as inherently evil. The truth is, of course, somewhere in the middle. A death in Toronto and an on-line discussion of the man who died reminded me once again that it’s possible for people to be friends, even if they’ve never met.

Nerdly News: If you visited Google on April Fool’s Day, you may have noticed two stories. One about a new line of Google soft drinks (Google Gulp) and one about plans by Google to double the amount of on-line e-mail storage for its free G-Mail service. Only one was an April Fools Day joke. • Microsoft this week had an April Fools Day stunt of its own. The company filed suit against 117 “John Doe” defendants in an effort to hamper phishing attacks.

March 27, 2005

Now it’s “Corel Photoshop Pro”: For several years, it appeared that one of my favorite software companies didn’t have a clue and nobody would loan them one, even if they promised to give it back unused. Now, with several profitable quarters behind the company, and another key acquisition, the Ottawa company is back in the game.

The book Apple should include with its Ipods: Kirk McElhearn is an American expatriate who lives in France. He’s a Mac author and journalist; one of his recent books is Ipod and Itunes Garage. When he heard I was working on some Ipod stories, he offered to have his publicist send me a copy of the book. I never turn down review copies of books, and I’m particularly happy that I accepted this one.

Nerdly News: This week the Mozilla Foundation released version 1.0.2 of Firefox to patch three vulnerabilities. Most people heard about the update before the heard about the vulnerability. • IBM is offering a technology they’re calling Fair Use of Unsolicited Commercial Email (FairUCE) that promises to send spam back to the sending machine. The company is making it available for free and says there’s no plan to make it a commercial product.

March 20, 2005

Adobe Acrobat 7: Adobe Systems began shipping Acrobat 7 in January. The downloadable version has been available since late 2004. As with version 6 of Acrobat, the software is available in standard and professional versions — the professional version including features that are essential for professional printing. The professional version also includes features for those who use computer-aided design (CAD) systems. If you’re sending raw Word documents to clients or partners, you’re asking for trouble.

Why Microsoft’s firewall is inadequate: The firewall is a vast project developed based on a half-vast plan. I’m not someone who dislikes Microsoft software just because it’s from Microsoft. The Redmond company is responsible for a lot of good, innovative software. The firewall that’s part of Windows XP SP2 is really just half a firewall. You need something better.

a certain Internet service provider that must not be named falls short of its promise: I was excited when I received a message from a certain Internet service provider that must not be named, my Internet service provider, in the second week of March: “To help you get the most out of the Internet, we’re accelerating your Internet speed. Beginning March 11, 2005, we’re increasing your Internet speed from 2Mbps to 4Mbps – at no additional charge! Now you’ll be able to surf the Internet even faster than before, download pictures and streaming video more quickly, and even play online games like a pro!” A week after the promised upgrade date, I’m still “puttering” along at 1729 Kbps, which is even slower than what I was paying for.

Nerdly News: Looks like Samsung week. The company about to release a cell phone with a camera. Big deal? Well, it’s a 7 Mpxl camera with a 3x optical zoom lens built in. Maybe it’s more of a camera with a built-in phone. And Samsung is marketing several MP3 players. Sony, beware.

March 13, 2005

Ulead PhotoImpact: This is a good time to be a photographer with a digital camera. All of the players in digital photo editing are working hard to create applications that allow novice users to achieve professional results and professionals to do astonishing things. Ulead’s PhotoImpact version 10 is one of the new applications.

GMail – the best webmail ever? Google’s GMail is the best Web-based e-mail I’ve seen: It has many keyboard shortcuts, it offers 1GB of online storage, it offers the ability to organized messages by labeling them manually or automatically, it includes a spam filter that learns to recognize what you consider to be spam, and it’s reasonably fast. But it’s still a Web-based e-mail client.

Good news and bad for Firefox: The browser from the Mozilla Organization has created enough of a stir that it was the subject of an article in Newsweek recently. But there’s trouble on the horizon because the developers are suffering from burnout.

Nerdly News: It’s not exactly news, but it didn’t fit elsewhere: My advice for a Windows computer owner who’s thinking about a Mac. • From Seagate, big news about a 6GB drive. That may not sound like much storage, but wait until you hear how big the case is.

March 6, 2005

Should you install Microsoft’s AntiSpyware? Microsoft bought its anti-spyware application from Giant. The former commercial application is now in beta testing. I installed it on two computers and have already removed it from one of them. Whether you decide to try it or not depends on how comfortable you are with beta versions of software.

WinSpeedUp – a good idea that’s not quite ready: This application promises to make your computer faster. Among the promises is faster booting. It delivers on the promise, but by removing every application from your StartUp folder. I can reduce the weight of my car by by about 135 pounds, too, if I siphon out all the fuel, but the car won’t work very well that way. The same can be said about speeding the computer by removing applications from the StartUp folder.

IBMicroApple: This is what comes of thinking. It’s a scary thing. Thinking should probably be regulated and may be someday.

Nerdly News: Downloads of Firefox have slowed a bit, but the browser continues to chip away at Microsoft’s market share for Internet Explorer. For the first time in 3 years, IE has less than 90% market share. • Smart phones are the new targets for worms and viruses. If you’re wondering why security wasn’t better from the outset for these things, you’re not alone.

February 27, 2005

The Department of Corrections: Word’s AutoCorrect is very cool. I know that I frequently type “hopsital” when I really mean “hospital”. This occurred to me a decade or more ago when I spent a fair amount of time writing for a medical audience. Telling Word to correct the misspelling worked fine as long as I was using Word, but not when I was using a text editor or an e-mail program. What’s needed is something that works at the operating system level. I have recommendations for both Mac and Windows users.

Dantz Retrospect – backup with teeth for Windows and Macs: A few weeks ago, I talked about backup applications and mentioned that Retrospect didn’t belong with the standard backup applications. It’s a much more complex application than other backup programs. It’s undoubtedly the most difficult backup program I’ve learned how to use, but it’s also remarkably complete.

Nerdly News: Firefox has been downloaded by 25,000,000 people. Many of those who have started using Firefox have done so because of security problems with IE. This week Firefox issued its first security update. • The Federal Bureau of Investigation is concerned about e-mail messages that people are receiving. The messages claim to be from the FBI. They aren’t, of course, and the attachment is really a virus.

February 20, 2005

To the rear, march! Starting in the 1970s, the first personal computers showed up on our desks. Those machines were underpowered by today’s standards, but they had personality. This week, we’ll take a long look at the history of personal computing.

Book ’em: Because I let an editor at Sybex take a look at the retrospective, I have a couple of books to tell you about — one that covers much of the same ground as my look back at antique computers and one that explains how to pimp your computer.

NTI CD and DVD burner: To return fully to the present, we’ll take a look at programs by NTI US for both Macs and Windows machines — programs that make working with CDs and DVDs easier.

Nerdly News: Google appears about ready to release GMail to anyone who wants an account. Those who signed up with Google for an account months ago are hearing from the company now. But this week Google’s GMail server was briefly unavailable. • After denying there would ever be a new standalone version of Internet Explorer, Microsoft has done a quick flip-flop (must be run by Democrats, eh?) and announced that there will be a new version, but only for users of Windows XP.

February 13, 2005

This week’s program in cancelled in memory of Sally Bradley, Joe’s wife.

February 6, 2005

Thumbs up for Thumbs Plus: This image organizer has been around for many years and earlier versions have been on my computer for many years, but the latest version adds features while retaining performance speed. The professional version even reads “raw” files from high-end digital cameras. If you’re a photographer or need the ability to organize image files, this is a program to have.

Corel Wordperfect Office Home Edition: The folks at Corel have created a package that might be just what you’re looking for. Starting with Wordperfect and Quattro Pro, the home edition includes applications you’ll be able to use with digital audio files and digital images.

You can’t get there from here: If you need proof that it’s a good idea to check a printed map against the results you get from on-line maps, here it is. An error in Microsoft’s MapPoint application would send travelers on a 1700-mile jaunt through half a dozen European countries instead of suggesting a more direct 530-mile route between two cities in Norway.

Nerdly News: Guilty as charged. The guy who stole 92 million e-mail addresses from AOL will be sentenced later this year. He could spend up to 2 years in prison and faces more than $200,000 in fines. • Kazaa is a pain to install even if you work for the company that provides Kazaa. CNet has information about an internal memo that was distributed at Sharman Networks. It’s an interesting read.

January 30, 2005

WiMax: Not everyone has access to high-speed Internet connections. An acquaintance lives in Chicago and, because of the lousy telephone wiring in his apartment building, can get only about a 20Kbps Internet connection. The wiring won’t support DSL and cable isn’t an option for him. Another acquaintance lives in eastern Ohio, several miles from a small town. Cable isn’t available and isn’t likely to be anytime soon. He’s too far from the telephone company’s central office for DSL to work. He’s not interested in satellite. So his best connection is about 28.8Kbps.

How much is that WiFi in the window? If you have a Windows computer with Centrino WiFi built in or an Apple Powerbook with AirPort built in, you can connect — more or less effortlessly — with wireless local area networks (WLAN) in Starbucks coffee shops, Panera restaurants, some libraries, some college campuses, and some office buildings. But short of dragging your computer out of its case and turning it on, how do you know if a signal is present?

DVD CD Plus Minus Dual RAM ROM dual … aaaaagh! You can’t tell the players without a program and maybe not even with a program. The ROM-RAM fight was largely settled several years ago (RAM won) and the Plus/Minus battle is essentially done (Plus won and even Apple is moving that way). Now there’s the dual-layer kerfuffle.

Nerdly News: Apple corps: Missed this last week — not enough time. Apple is having trouble keeping up with demand for the Mac Mini. Big surprise? Not around here. If you want one of these little (tiny?) computers, give Apple the extra $100 to double the disk size and increase the processor speed a bit. The Mac Mini isn’t the right choice if you’re a video or graphics pro, but it’s a great way to find out what makes Apple tick. • Where all the children are above average: If you’re familiar with Garrison Keillor, you know that all the children in Lake Woebegone are above average. If you’ve ever spoken with a bad driver who caused a wreck, you’ve probably been told it was “the other guy’s fault.” Should we be surprised by research from the Pew Internet & American Life Project that says 92% of Internet users feel they are confident about their ability to use search engines even though only 38% are able to tell the difference between paid and unpaid results and less than 20% of search engine users can always tell which results are paid and which are not?

January 23, 2005

Telephone number portability: The good news is that number portability works and there are ways to get the dozens (or hundreds) of number you’ve stored in your old phone into your new phone. The bad news is that your previous carrier may conclude that you owe them a lot of money.

Moving all your numbers from the old phone to the new phone: If you have a phone that has 20 numbers stored in it, moving those numbers to a new phone (same service or different) isn’t a big deal. But if you have dozens or hundreds of numbers, you may not want to spend the time needed to manually enter those numbers in your new phone. The good news is that you don’t have to.

Cell phones keep getting smarter, but that may not be so smart: Users of cell phones have something in common with PC users: worms, viruses and other crap. And it’s only going to get worse. Carriers are pushing users to upgrade to “smart phones” that provide numerous additional (handy) services — from customized interfaces and text messaging to e-mail and video. They also make it easier for creeps to crawl in.

Nerdly News: Why caution is important. A researcher set up a test computer, intentionally visited a rogue site, and then assessed the damage. The infection added 58 folders, 786 files, and 11,915 registry entries to the test computer. • The commerce, it is a’changing. With apologies to Bob Dylan. On-line commerce is still only a small part of overall business sales, but it’s growing fast. In some cases, on-line purchases for the holidays* was 50% higher this year than last.
*”Holidays” is NOT a euphemism to avoid saying “Christmas”. Christmas is only one of many holidays that occur near the end of the year. I don’t feel like naming all of them.

January 16, 2005

The importance of being backed up: You’ve heard me say something along the lines of “if you don’t have a complete, verified backup, you don’t have a backup.” Shortly before the end of the year, I proved that to myself. That sounds more ominous than the situation actually was, but I received an excellent reminder that if a backup isn’t verified, it isn’t a backup. Today we’ll take a look at Windows Backup and an inexpensive backup application from Siberia.

A look at some backup strategies: I was having a chat with an acquaintance who said that she found that her “grossly overstuffed ‘Sent’ folder in Outlook Express apparently exploded and the entire contents are gone.” She also noted that she had a vague memory that this had happened previously and that there wasn’t anything she could do to restore the information. So we talked about how to accomplish backups and some of the options, ranging from external hard drives and DVDs to on-line backup services. I’ll share some of that information with you.

Nerdly News: My prediction that Apple would NOT release a $500 Mac proved wrong. It’s now a reality and this is something that could ignite sales for Apple, a company that’s already roaring forward with record income and profitability. • I now predict that PageMaker will be around for a while. Despite Adobe’s purchase of FrameMaker and its ongoing development of InDesign, the first page layout program doesn’t face extinction anytime soon.

January 9, 2005

“What if Apple users actually liked the company!” Late last year, I had a conversation with a long-time owner of Apple computers. I’m a short-time owner of Apple computers (from 2001). The two of us concluded that Apple continues to succeed in spite of itself. Apple owners are loyal and fiercely protective. They evangelize for Apple and the company repays them with shabby treatment.

It’s (going to be) a digital world: I recently had a chat with an acquaintance who lives in Silicon Valley and has been working for the past decade and a half with the companies that invented CDs and DVDs. In recent months, he’s attended 3 market research conferences and the recent National Association of Broadcasters conference. I asked him to do a brain dump to give us some idea where digital imaging is going.

Nerdly News: Large “oops” for Microsoft: Bill Gates, during the keynote presentation at the Consumer Electronics Show, had major problems with his computer, including the blue screen of death. • Microsoft’s anti-spyware application: Less than a month after buying a small software firm called Giant, Microsoft has released a beta version of its anti-spyware program.

January 2, 2005

Identity Theft: This is a large and growing problem. We’ll take a look at some of the threats and some possible solutions. One company is developing “out-of-band” validation that could halt identity theft.

POPping GMail: Google’s GMail is the best Web mail ever, but it’s still Web mail. If you’ve been hoping that Google would start allowing POP3 access to the system, you’ll be happy to know that this has been implemented and IMAP access may be coming soon.

Nerdly News: The holiday creeps are about: Every holiday season, when most of us are taking some time off, the misfits and outcasts who write viruses and worms get busy. That’s certainly been the case this year. • Apple OS X 10.3.7 patch can cause big problems: If you read the instructions, you’ll see that external FireWire drives should first be disconnected. Miss that and you may discover a lot of data is missing. Maybe Apple needs to re-think its installation process.

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