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Vol. 17  No.6 Supporting PC Platforms Newsletter:.November-December 2001
CONTENTS

Windows XP debuts -- on time!

What’s new with alternatives?

Wishing and hoping

Got a second? 

Final bytes

Schedule

Windows XP debuts -- on time!
By Bob Wallace 

October 24th was the date chosen by Microsoft to roll out its latest Personal Computer operating system. This year, unlike several previous release dates, Microsoft made it to the retail shelves with very little trouble. OEM computer makers were given their copies one month earlier, giving them time to ramp up production for the new OS, getting their systems available in stores at about the same time. 

Despite antitrust lawsuits by some 18 states and the federal government, Microsoft managed to work through all the problems and get the next round of Windows out to store shelves on the appointed date. Based on newspaper coverage read by the end of that week in October, very little interest seemed apparent for the new OS. Several retail shops in San Francisco noted that some number of people walked in and looked over the new boxes, but very few took the time to purchase a copy. 

One quick visit to Office Depot on Saturday found four boxes lining the shelf in San Mateo. This version comes in two setups:  Upgrade  or  New Install.  In addition, each comes in a Home or Professional design, the Home version being what the average computer user would be likely to purchase, the Professional for those serious about their computing, or those who simply like to tinker with the latest thing. 

Whether your interest is in the Home or Professional version, keep in mind that the side of the box for  Upgrade indicates that the program will make a check of your computer and CD drive to figure out what you have in terms of hardware, and whether you have a copy of Windows that includes Win98, Win98 Second Edition, or Millennium Edition (WinMe) before going ahead with any installation on your system. 

From this point on, the details of doing any installation on your computer are unclear. The box you purchase may include both diskettes and a CD disk with all the software required. But be advised that some number of news reports and some number of e-mail messages seen here indicate that you may have to make a telephone call to Microsoft to get an authorization number first before making another call to download your version. As of this past weekend, there has been no clarification in the San Francisco Chronicle on which method of installing has been made available by Microsoft. 

Also note for the record that on some number of occasions when your editor has installed a new version of an operating system on his computer, regardless of the OS involved, advice from Ernest Hintz and Jerry Havnar has suggested quite strongly that any new installation be done only after running Format on the hard drive(s) first, then installing of the operating system. In every instance where this step has been followed, the computer ran with very little problem, whereas installing over whatever had been there previously tended to find a few problems popping up. 

One can only hope that Microsoft has included the ability within their new OS for the average user to format the hard drive(s) first, then install. Prior to doing any formatting, however, be aware that any data you want to have available under the new operating system will have to be backed up in one manner or another, diskette or tape, most likely,  then copied back to the hard drive by  one means or another. 

For CD drive or tape drive, be sure to have the latest driver available before you start the install. Microsoft should have the latest drivers for nearly any type of device likely to be attached to your computer, so long as your computer is reasonably new, meaning no older than two or three years, perhaps. 

Among other things noted with this new operating system is the minimum system requirements for computers running it. At the very minimum, a Pentium III with 64 Megabytes of RAM and a "healthy" hard drive of at least 5 Gigabytes. What Microsoft is suggesting as the better choice is the same CPU, Pentium III, with 128 Megabytes of RAM and 5 Gigabytes of hard drive. This new operating system includes much more than do earlier versions, meaning the installation will eat up about 1 Gigabyte of storage on your hard drive before you even consider adding anything else. 

Something else for you to consider in migrating your computer to Windows XP. Two years ago when we purchased a Celeron-based computer from Datawise with Windows 98 Second Edition on it, one of the CD disks we had installed Corel’s WordPerfect 8 for Windows on the Win95-based computer would not install, telling us that one DLL file was not the correct version for that specific version of WordPerfect. Fortunately, WordPerfect 6.1 for Windows did install under Windows 98 SE, and still works to this day. Whether that same version of WordPerfect would install on a new Windows XP or not is clearly open to question, given the experience with the Corel 8 CD. You may want to add this question to your list of questions to ask the technical support folks at the local computer retail outlet before purchasing a copy of Windows XP for your computer. Whether those folks will have an answer for you is open to question, for that matter. 

Assuming all things to be equal with Windows XP, likely the best fit for any computer user is the outright purchase of a new computer with XP already installed, provided you also get decent responses from the technical support staff before you purchase as to whether your older programs will install under Windows XP, much less run under it. Going about it in this way will get you over the hurdle of having to purchase your copy of XP, back up all your data files, then format (if available within the upgrade package) the hard drive and install the operating system, then see about installing whichever of your programs you choose to use under that new operating system, and migrate your data files back to the hard drive in the appropriate subdirectory for use with whichever program they belong to. Figuring out which subdirectory these files belong in could get dicey, depending on how Microsoft has configured this new operating system to work. So long as you have the ability under the new OS to copy your data files back to a specific subdirectory, in whichever way you choose to do that, not a problem. 

As noted earlier, many computer users have said that they will not jump on this bandwagon for perhaps a couple of months after the debut. In an e-mail message over this past weekend from a former GT Sysop in Canada, he notes that a poll in that country suggests that most Canadians will also stay away from this version for some time, not necessarily tied to the higher price Canadians will pay for it when they do purchase their copy. 

Looking at XP from a different angle, another e-mail message noted that one web site discussion comparing Windows XP with Windows 2000 found that Win2K was faster at the same task than was WinXP, so you may want to factor this into your decision to purchase or not as well. 

Yet another consideration is the age of your current computer. If it is not one of the most recent systems around, then you’ll also have to weigh the possibility of upgrading your hardware first, either doing that yourself, or going out and find a new computer at one of the local retail outlets. Upgrading both hardware and software, however, may also mean increasing your learning curve, both for the new computer and the new OS. All things considered, quite a few things to think about with this latest release from Microsoft. 


What’s new with alternatives?
By Bob Wallace

In addition to the new Windows XP operating system being available, and in keeping with our "Supporting PC Platforms" message on the front page, a quick note of other suppliers with their latest operating system or update for them.

Apple’s Mac X 10.1 is out and about, a good step in the right direction, according to Henry Norr in the S.F. Chronicle shortly after it came out. Norr also noted that Mac X 10.1 was what the 10.0 version should have been, which should make Mac users much happier.

IBM’s OS/2 Warp 3 and Warp 4 have been updated with Fixpacks for each. Warp 3 is current if you have Fixpack 42 in place on your system, while Warp 4 users can get Fixpack 14 to update their computer. Each Fixpack can be found on the Hobbes site:
http://hobbes.nmsu.edu

Not to be overlooked, a check of Red Hat’s web site this past weekend finds the current version of Linux to be 7.2 at their site, for those flirting with this Bay area-based OS.

While discussing updates of software, let’s also note that we received a card via snail mail this past week from Family Tree Maker, software provider for the genealogy program some number of us are aware of, now available in version 9.0.

Netscape’s browser in its latest version is now 6.2, which may occasion yet another look at it, given that IBM (or someone very close to IBM) has done some tricks with the source code for OS/2 Warp users with a Warpzilla browser available, although still being worked over to make it work correctly, given the possibility of getting daily updates from their web site. One check of one of the earlier releases several weeks ago found a browser running under OS/2 Warp 4 on your editor’s system that had the same look and feel of Netscape’s v6.x browser for Windows. Will wonders never cease!?

Not to overlook alternatives to Micro-soft’s Windows XP documentation, a check of Amazon’s web site and search for books on XP located more than 50 hits on "Windows XP," with several books within that listing being marked up as not yet published, so shop with care. For the record, these were found in Computers & Internet; Reference; and Health, Mind & Body sections.

For firewall users utilizing the Zone Labs ZoneAlarm program to monitor incoming/outgoing Internet traffic, a quick check of their web site shows the latest version to be 2.6.357, dated October 10, 2001. If you have a high speed Internet connection on your computer, you should be using a firewall to protect yourself and your computer.



Wishing and hoping
By Judy Oliphant

Your Executive Board has been entertaining the thought of relocating
our monthly meetings. Now before you all start saying "Oh no, not that! But I don't like changes, and why do we have to move?" Come on, cheer up! Let me try and calm your nerves.

We're not moving just yet; we're just looking into it. So don't show up to the November meeting with long faces and whisper in the back, now, did you hear what she put in the newsletter? We're just looking into it.

If we ever want to grow and have more members than we do now, we are going to have to move to larger quarters.

Another consideration here is that of the parking situation. The Board of
Directors for the Condo Association has made it clear to Larry that they
do not like it when we park on a public street near the condo complex. I do not understand their logic by this at all. After all, it's a public street like many others around there.

There is also the problem of getting access to the meeting room. And
several times it has been a problem where we had no access to the meeting
room. It would not look too good if we had a company like Corel show up and we had to move the meeting to a pizza parlor. That I do not want to see happen. That is another reason why we're considering making a move.

As your program chairperson I have taken on the task of trying to find out what is out there as far as meeting spaces go. And if any of you have any suggestions of places to contact, then please email me or see me at the meeting. I am very sincere when I say this. I want to find us a new meeting space. I want to start the New Year in a new location that is right for everyone.

One of the places that I have contacted is the Elks Lodge of San Mateo. The Elks Lodge has a computer club already in place. They meet the second
and fourth Friday of every month, with a workshop on Friday mornings. I have
spoken with Jerry from the Elks Lodge of the Executive Board's interest. He
was very pleasant and interested in our club and wanting to learn more about all of us.

Jerry from the Elks Lodge will be at our November meeting. Please, let's
all welcome him to our club and make him feel welcome Thursday evening.
By the way, Jerry's interest is in Digital Cameras.

Two of the options here with the Elks Lodge is that we merge our club with
their club, or we seek to rent space from the Elks Lodge. At any rate, I
felt that you as the members of the SFPCC should know what we are looking into.

I hope I have settled some nerves, and I have informed you on what we're
looking into. There is no need to start packing the boxes yet. Changes are a good thing, they're good for the soul. Just think of this as an opportunity to meet new people and learn new things.

Hope to see all of you on the 8th of November.


Got a second?
By Judy Oliphant

That's probably all you have time for is to search is a second. Searching for something on the Internet should not be that difficult. You type in what you want to search for and it ought to show you some places that you can go and click on. Instead what you may get are sites that have nothing to do with what you were searching for. Has this happened to you? And now we have another thing to contend with called pop-up ads. I am here now telling you all I hate pop-up ads when I am surfing the net. If I wanted to see ads I would read a paper or a magazine. I don't want to see pop-up ads when I am surfing the net.

I can't test this for sure, but I have been told that AOL -- you know that one, American On Line -- has more pop-up ads than anyone else. Get a clue, AOL, get rid of the pop-up ads.
 

Has this happened to you, do a search on tourism in Seattle, Washington and you find that over half of the one thousand plus hits you get back have nothing to do with tourism in Seattle, Washington? If I had the time to waste I could learn about the financial state of the City Council, or about the Seattle Baseball team. That isn't what I wanted at all. What the heck, I wanted tourism in Seattle, Washington, not how the city council votes on dog parks.

I have found a search engine that I like very much called Google. I also like the name as well. Google and Fast, and Alta Vista uses something called a spider to scan and record the contents of web pages. The spider collects a page title and other information stored in its HTML code and then it follows links on the page to gather the information about those pages, and then it follows links on the pages as well. Spiders are set to exclude certain words. www.Google.com

Happy Holidays, Folks! May you be safe and healthy and happy. As we start
this Holiday Season, let's take some time out to remember what this country
is all about and the freedoms that we share. Our lives have changed so
much since Sept 11th. This doesn't mean that we can't still remember how
great and wonderful this country of ours is. United We Stand! We have
much to be thankful for. The events on the 11th of September have only
shown us how much we all need one another.



Final bytes
By Bob Wallace

Several items related to the Microsoft Windows XP release and Microsoft’s legal problems with 18 states and the U.S. Justice Department. Some of you may be aware that Larry Magid does a computer-related discussion on local radio station KCBS each weekday afternoon at 3:50 P.M., and can be heard on the CBS Radio Network hourly news program whenever a breaking computer story is covered by the network.

On October 23, 2001, Magid was heard suggesting to listeners and the radio hosts that no computer user should feel compelled to purchase Windows XP if the only reason they’re doing it is to line Bill Gates’ pockets with more money. Nor should any user feel obligated to purchase Windows XP if their current operating system is working reasonably well.

Just this past Friday, November 2, Magid was on the CBS Radio Network news program discussing the apparent settlement between the U.S. Justice Department and Microsoft over their court case which also involves some 18 state Attorneys General. As Magid put it, part of the settlement of the Micro- soft case would mean Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) would no longer have to pay Microsoft for a computer sold, so long as Windows was not on that computer.

In the first instance here, Windows 98 Second Edition is working reasonably well, so we’ll quite happily stick with what ain’t broke. In the second, your editor’s position is that’s precisely the way it should have been all along!

For computer users, new or old, who do have a dial-up or cable modem attached to your system, if you have any concert at all for your system’s security, visit the Gibson Research Corp. web site and check to see if your computer is "leaking" information out the modem connection without your knowledge. As noted in a newsletter long ago and far away, checks of two systems were made here shortly after learning about the GRC.COM site, with the then-new Windows 98 system testing positive for leaks without a firewall installed, but coming back negative after installing the ZoneAlarm firewall noted earlier in this issue from Zone Labs in San Francisco. Go to the grc.com site and run a check. If your system is leaking, you can link from grc.com to zonelabs.com to get the latest version of ZoneAlarm.

Following up on the Judy Oliphant’s piece on searching the Internet, one of the best sites come across by your editor is Dogpile, suggested to us by friends at Lake Tahoe who found it in one way or another and were pleased to be able to pass it on to us. A check of dogpile.com just moments ago on this Monday afternoon finds 16 search engines tied to Dogpile, including, in the order returned for the search:
Goto.com, Looksmart, Findwhat, Sprinks, About, Ah-Ha.com, ePilot.com, Kanoodle, DirectHit, RealNames, AltaVista, ValleyAlley.com, OpenDirectory, Wisenut, Yahoo and SearchHippo.com.

Meeting dates for 2002 include: January 10, February 14, March 14, April 11, May 9, June 13, July 11, August 8, September 12, October 10, November 14 and December 12.



Schedule

November 8: MovieWorks

December 13: Firewalls

This is tentative at the moment, depending on the presenter’s schedule for December.

January 10: TBA

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