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Vol. 17  No.5 Supporting PC Platforms Newsletter:.September-October 2001
CONTENTS

Personal computer turns 20

Is your computer a sitting duck?

Final bytes

Schedule

Personal computer turns 20
By Bob Wallace

This was the story heard on local radio recently, yet very little seems to have come from the local media beyond that teaser, or was it a real headline?  Given
the neighborhood named Silicon Valley being as close as it is, one would think the San Francisco Chronicle would have had a large feature story on this, but your editor can not recall seeing anything on it in the intervening weeks, and it's been only a few since hearing that story.

So, go digging around on the Internet, searching for "PC History" and see what comes up from that search on Dogpile (www.dogpile.com). Quite a bit, in fact, including mention that Gary Kildall wrote his CP/M operating system way back in 1973, then rewrote it in 1974 to take advantage of Intel's 8080-based CPU, meaning that the beginnings of CP/M were getting put in place before most of those computer systems were ready to go out the door.

Searching a bit further, one can find that the good old Kaypro computers most of the membership of this club originally began with came out in March of 1982, less than five years after Radio Shack came out with their bare-bones TRS-80 Z80-based system that needed a tape cassette to store one's work. Kaypro's maker, Non-Linear Systems, got their act together very well, provided one didn't mind toting a 26-pound "luggable" computer from one place to another, with its 2.5-MHz Z80 processor, twin 5.25-inch diskette drives (a whopping 193KB of disk storage!), 64 KB of RAM, CP/M 2.2, and the Perfect Software family in its first incarnation. Shortly after this writer purchased his Kaypro II, most of the original membership in the then-named Kay+Fun Computer Club ended up with the Wordstar program.

Gary Kildall went on to start Digital Research, dropped CP/M and came up with DR-DOS later on, and spent some number of months on the local tele-vision program Computer Chronicles. Kildall's alleged nemesis, Bill Gates, in the meantime, found an obscure oper-ating system in the Seattle area named as Quick and Dirty Operating System, or QDOS, renamed it to Micro-Soft and started a company under that name, eventually removing the hyphen from the official name. The rest, as some are wont to say, is history. Digital Research and Microsoft supposedly went head to head to become the official writer of the operating system for IBM's PC, with one story having it that Kildall stood up the folks from Big Blue on the day they stopped by his office, thereby giving Microsoft the opened door to write what would become PC-DOS for some number of years, closely related to MS-DOS, and competing with DR-DOS for the PC market's operating system.

One reason for going over some of this history is to serve as a reminder of where we've been as a club, where the computer industry has been at one point in its history, and where we may be going in the future, as Microsoft is about to release its next Windows-based upgrade, Windows XP, near the end of October. At the moment, that debut may hinge on what the U.S. Justice Department does about what's left of the Microsoft Anti-Trust Case, and/or what one U.S. Senator, Arlen Spector of Pennsylvania, chooses to do within the Judicial Committee of the Senate over Microsoft's apparent attempt to keep as many "outsiders" from tagging along with this next version of their Windows platform as Microsoft is able to manage.

As of this past week, Microsoft was given some reprieve from the Justice Department case, but only to the degree that the original judge has been removed for spending time with news reporters while he was trying the case, making statements to those reporters about how Bill Gates needed at least a modest slap on the wrist to get him and his company back in compliance with the Anti-Trust statutes, and not going out of his way to crush any and all comers with similar ideas of an OS for Personal Computers. There has not been any change in the decision handed down by Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, only his removal from the case and handed over to another Federal Judge, with instructions from Justice to take yet another look at the overall case to see if Jackson's ruling will stand up or not. Additional instructions to the new judge on the job include getting the review done as quickly as possible, given Microsoft's debut deadline late in October.

Depending on what the Senator from Pennsylvania chooses to do about this next version of Windows may make some difference in whether Microsoft is able to get out the door on time or not. If Senator Spector waits for the Justice Department review to finish before making his move, Microsoft could easily be delayed in releasing the Windows XP that has been getting some degree of bum rap from some analysts until very recently, in part based on how one may go about getting the new version from Microsoft.

Based on an e-mail message of just a few weeks ago describing how that procedure would take place, this may be one of the most brazen moves by Microsoft yet. Computer users may be required to phone Microsoft on their own dime to get a registration number first, then make another call to down-load the software, using the registration number during installation to upgrade from whatever version you have now to Windows XP. This message went on to detail that a user would have only two attempts to install before that download and its registration number would not function again, meaning going through that process all over, from the tele-phone call to get a new registration number, to getting the software again and going through the entire process once again.

Should this be the way Microsoft gets the new OS to users will prove quite costly for those users still using dialup modems to gain access to the Internet, while those with the high speed cable connections will get them reasonably quickly. How many computer users will even choose to go through all this is still open to question on this second Sunday in September, as is the question about reviewers changing their minds about how good a product this new version of Windows may be between now and "opening day" at the end of October, if Microsoft is able to stick to that date. Several issues need to be resolved between now and the end of next month, any one of which, or several of them acting on their own, could easily derail Microsoft's efforts to get this next version in stores around the country, and do it on time. We'll have a clearer picture of all this by the next newsletter early in November. At least, that's the best guess, depending on the several variables still to be dealt with between here and there.


Is your computer a sitting duck?
By Judy Oliphant

As more and more computer users converge onto the net  on a daily basis and soup-up Internet Access as the ranks of the technically unsavvy grow more and more are making  themselves a sitting duck  for malicious hacking around the globe.

Ah! you say, but it can't happen to me, I'm not downloading from the net, I'm not shopping at any of the online store fronts.. But Mr. & Mrs. computer user, you are just as much  a sitting duck as the man in his home across the street from you.. In fact  the man down the street from you could be staring at your computer files. This is an issue that is being discussed widely by all ISPs (Internet Service Providers) -- how do we protect the unsavvy computer user from being hacked.

When you sign up for your new ISP you are flooded with information how to set up this new account, you are given a CD-ROM disk, and you are given  all the proper guidelines, but does it say "By the way, you can be hacked"?

Highspeed connections last year doubled the amount of users with about 9  million households subscribing, making break-ins that much easier for the hacker. A hacker just found the 9 million "welcome mats" (households) just sitting there waiting for him. It was made easier for the hacker because  computers are connected to the Internet around the clock via tv cable and phone lines, widening the Internet use.

While both sides try to outwit each other  while users like us say well the  broadband providers should  do something for us.. Well should they or should you? Who is the owner of the computer after all?  Isn't it you that owns the computer, so shouldn't it be you that protects yourself?
Just like your car and your home.

Computer users in general put out a welcome mat and say hey, come on in, Hacker, the welcome mat is out by  using the file-sharing commands of Windows operating system designed to allow users to trade documents with others on a private network. Many users fail to realize that file sharing also enables the entire Internet to browse through your computer, leaving you buck naked in the woods to attacks. You're out there naked to the entire universe to see what you  have on your computer..This also leaves you bare to scanners or viruses or probing drives.

It's totally up to you how you protect your own computer. Here are some of the ways that may help you do this. When a new computer comes out of the box the file-sharing command in Windows is turned off by default but people by nature are  wanting to tinker around with this  command and this command is often turned back on.
 

One of the ways to protect your self here is to leave this command turned off. Another way to protect yourself is to install what is called a Firewall.. One of the easiest ones that I have installed here is called  Zone Alarm, from www.zonealarm.com in San Francisco. Very good firewall. Easy to configure and is a local company made good. There are many of them out there
Norton has one, McAfee has one as well.

Here are several other ways you can protect yourself.

  1. Check to see if file sharing is turned on. If it is, turn it off.

  2. Log on to www.grc.com and use their free program, ShieldsUp, to check your computer's risk for invasion. And download GRC's LeakTest program to run on your computer for a local test..

  3. If you do not have a local area network (LAN) at home, turn off file sharing.

  4. Get one of the firewall programs and install it.  (Zone Labs has their ZoneAlarm Pro for enterprise systems, but also has a free version for home PC users near the bottom of their home page at www.zonealarm.com. File is named zonalm26.exe.)


 

Final bytes 
By Bob Wallace

As any sports fan knows, this second weekend of September is opening day (or should I say Opening Day) of the 2001 National Football League. With replacement officials on the field, it is highly important and highly serious that as many eyes as are possible be on the field of play to ensure that calls are being made by officiating crews in the correct manner. In the second half of the Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs game, the Raiders have already been burned at least twice by this replacement crew of officials, and other games are likely suffering similar fates. All this goes in the direction of explain-ing to you why it is this issue of the newsletter is somewhat shorter than is normal, only four pages. On almost any other newsletter day, this would easily get to eight pages, including the mailer page on the back.  (And don't forget that when football gets under way, it's only a few more weeks until hockey!)

Coming up for monthly meetings are the following: PrintRoom on Thursday evening of this month, September, and a discussion of Firewall protection on your personal computer in October. 

PrintRoom is the web site that allows you to post your digital pictures on the Internet (up to 200 MB of storage space at no cost; additional space is available for a one-time minimum fee), a site on which your editor and his wife have already set up several "albums" of pictures related to one another.

Putting a firewall on your personal computer to protect against unwanted invasion of your computer while tied to the Internet is one of the easier things to do, regardless of your level of exper-tise when it comes to computing. Log on to the Zone Labs web site noted at the bottom of Judy's piece, download their free version for home use, then click on "Start" and "Run," followed by supplying the subdirectory and file name to get ZoneAlarms installed to provide protection for your system. The latest version (zonalm26.exe) includes protection for Internet use (going out the phone line or over the cable to gain access to the Internet), and a second "door" that allows for setting up your own Intranet (two computers hooked up in one manner or another that will allow for file sharing between each without the need for copying to diskette to move a given file from one computer to the other) that is handled separately by ZoneAlarm.

Since visiting Canada in July in search of information on my grandfather's grandfather, born and raised in Scot-land, trained there as a stone mason, then emigrating to Townsend Town-ship in Ontario where he and another Scotsman built some number of stone houses in the 1850s and 1860s, each Sunday has been tied to logging on to the Genealogy forum page for Wallace to find what might have popped up over the previous week in the way of messages, and checking on my mother's side (Delamarter) to see if anything has shown up there. This has quickly become one of the most intriguing uses of the Internet I've found yet! Logging on to a web site in your former hometown only to find what may  be your great grandfather's obituary listed there is something to write home about!

Other uses for the Internet, now that the bulletin board systems have finally gone the way of the dinosaur, include getting news (Drudge probably has the best selection of wire services and newspapers from around the country), checking on genealogy information, and visiting Scotland via one of some number of web camera operations, this one camvista.com with links to several Scottish locations.

Our thanks to Judy Oliphant for her piece on Network Security. As has been the case for some time now, this issue is put together on the OS/2 Warp 4-based computer using WordPerfect for Windows in OS/2's emulation of Windows 3.x, printed on HP's 693C.


Schedule

September 13:  PrintRoom


October 11:  Firewalls

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