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Volume 13, Number 6..........................Supporting PC platforms.......................... November-December 1997

Contents



Changes just keep coming

by Bob Wallace

Breakfast is out of the way for yet another day, Lois is off to Foothill College to teach another course in Floristry, the stereo is playing several of my favorite CDs at the moment, and it's only five days until the next Peninsula Computer Club meeting. Sounds like a good time to get started on this last issue of yet another calendar year.

Had expectations for getting this newsletter put together prior to the weekend at Lake Tahoe managed to happen, any last-minute changes would have necessitated an update of one sort or another. Fortune, in this instance, means waiting until nearly the last moment to sit down and get this November-December issue "put to bed," as they say in the newspaper business.

One of the changes in need of being addressed with this presentation relates to the December Internet topic, which we'll get to in just a moment. Presentation on computer- generated greeting cards by Lee Hill is still on the agenda. Along with his Thursday evening discussion, Lee will be presiding over a special Saturday workshop on November 15, an add-on meeting similar to those we've done in prior years for subjects that have far more depth to them than might be easily covered during the Thursday evening session. Thursday's meeting is still scheduled for the usual 7:30 p.m., with the Saturday workshop set to start at 10:00 a.m., going perhaps until 2:00 or later in the afternoon, for those of you wanting to make plans for anything after this special session. Lee may be able to give a better overview of the timeframe for Saturday's session at this Thursday's meeting.

December is where a change has been necessitated. Yet another Internet presentation had been on the calendar for December, but Myron Gershenson has been put to work on an education committee which takes much of his time at the moment, thus is unable to keep to the date set for what would have been an Internet session at the beginner's level. We'll keep this one for a later date, sometime early in the New Year of 1998.

Arrangements have already been made with McAfee Associates in Santa Clara for a return visit with us. Makers of the anti-virus software provided us with a most memorable evening several years ago, and will no doubt do so for us once again at the December 11 meeting.

While most of us will never know the joys of seeing a virus show up on our computer, those who do get this rare opportunity will want to know what to do when that day comes along. Bring your questions about computer viruses with you for the December presentation. It's bound to be most interesting, so long as it's informational in nature, and not someone looking for a fix for their computer just caught by one of these nasty critters.

Given the change of presentation for December's meeting, I'll forego the listing of potential topics for discussion beginning in January. We have an Exec Board meeting slated for November 20, at which time we'll be going over what is likely to be the first presentation of another New Year. In between now and January 1, 1998, are several other dates that you should need no reminder of. Thanksgiving Day is only two and one-half weeks down the road, followed thereafter by the first day of Christmas shopping for another year. And as of the meeting date this November, only six weeks of Christmas shopping left! Now, where are those credit cards?



Area code change comes in February

by Bob Wallace

This will serve more in the way of a reminder for you than anything else that the area code for most of San Mateo county and the nothern portion of Santa Clara county will change permanently as of February 1, 1998. We will no longer be a part of area code 415, one of the three original area codes to be found in California. For anyone not here during those early years of area codes to access telephones in other parts of the Golden State, the other two were 213 and 916.

We've been under a temporary setup from Pacific Bell since August of this year, but that will change totally by February 1 when we'll have to include 415 to access telephone numbers in Marin and San Francisco, in addition to area codes for the South Bay and East Bay cities.

Some of the cities in San Mateo county affected by this change include Burlingame, Half Moon Bay, Los Altos, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Pacifica, Palo Alto, Redwood City, San Carlos and San Mateo, in addition to the areas of Santa Clara county now served by the 415 area code.

This change not only affects phone numbers dialed for personal purposes, but also those calls made to bulletin boards and/or Internet service providers. Most software programs used for either of these situations should provide dialing directories for those phone calls made by computer users. If yours does not include a dialing directory, it may be time to find a better piece of software.




What if Dr. Seuss did technical writing?

(Lamont Shadowens brought this to the October meeting, reading it for the assembled that evening. Adding it here makes it available to others who no doubt will get a chuckle from it as we did last month. -Ed.)

If a packet hits a pocket on a socket on a port, and the bus is interrupted as a very last resort, and the address of the memory makes your floppy disk abort, then the socket packet pocket has an error to report.

If your cursor finds a menu item followed by a dash, and the double- clicking icon puts your window in the trash, and your data is corrupted 'cause the index doesn't hash, then your situation's hopeless and your system's gonna crash!

If the label on the cable on the table at your house, says the network is connected to the button on your mouse, but your packets want to tunnel on another protocol, that's repeatedly rejected by the printer down the hall, and your screen is all distorted by the side effects of gauss, so your icons in the window are as wavy as a souse, then you may as well reboot and go out with a bang, 'cause as sure as I'm a poet, the sucker's gonna hang!

When the copy of your floppy's getting sloppy on the disk, and the microcode instructions cause unnecessary risk, then you have to flush your memory and you'll want to RAM your ROM. Quickly turn off the computer and be sure to tell your mom.




Spam: what is it, what we can do about not getting it!

(This article comes to us from Sirius Connections by way of Judy Oliphant. -Ed.)

As many Internet users know, "Spam" is unsolicited mass emailing and massive Usenet crossposts has become a very serious problem for many people who use Email in their own business, their own personal email.

Email spam is very intrusive and annoying and is almost never used to promote legitimate products, ie: JC Penney selling Dockers Jeans to their retail clients.

Usenet spam threatens to drown out all reasonable conversation in many newsgroups. This also is a wasteful use of the Internet resources (bandwidth), computer power and storage space.

I understand to some this unsolicited email is harmless and others may find a chuckle in it somewhere. And to some it is a problem and there are ways to remove most of the unsolicited email that you may or may not receive.

Others may find spam as a threat to the Internet at large. I myself find it annoying as I do the junk mail that I receive from the political groups, the five and dime stores, or the Safeway ads, filling my kitchen trash basket.

Many of the local ISPs (Internet Service Providers) have taken an anti-spam stance - it isn't feasible to eradicate spam at the source just yet, so they have implemented some tools and policies which should at least prevent some spam from reaching most users.

To give an example of what Sirius Connections is able to do I placed a phone call to my ISP, the same one that has our web page on (www.sirius.com/~jlo) and asked them what are they doing to filter out the spam from their users, and prevent spammers from abusing Sirius resources.

Here are a few tips that thay passed on to me that may help some of you as well. I am sure these are universal and will be the same with most of the local Bay area ISPs. You may want to check with your ISP and see what they are doing to help preserve their resources and cut down on the spam reaching your email.

1. Addresses are generally "harvested" from Usenet (news groups) or the web. To prevent your name from being harvested you can configure a slightly modified email address in your news software or your web browser.

Example: I could post to news groups with an address like:

"abuse,REMOVE.TO REPLY@Sirius.com and thus foil address harvesting software. In this case I would also include instruc- tions to replying in the body of my post somewhere else.

2. Don't bother following removal instructions. In most cases users have reported that they get more spam from the same source that way after trying. Addresses requesting removal more likely get added to a list of addresses which have proven out to be bounced.

3. Never flame, threaten, insult, etc., in response to the spam. It will not do any good, more likely if the address is even valid it will result in your account being mailbombed. This could expose you to legal liability.

4. If you are opposed to unsolicited bulk email as a medium for advertising make it your policy to NEVER buy anything over the Internet that you can not buy in a commercial business. If you make this your policy at least the commercial spammers will eventually go away as no one is buying their product.

One note here, folks. A mail list, such as Cnet Central, an on-line list that I have subscribed to, tells what are the latest files for downloading, what will be on their program for their timezone, etc. Or any on-line catalogs selling hardware or software to you. The difference here is, folks, you yourself asked for that catalog or that mailing list.

But to receive spam on some new adult material site is not what I consider information that I need to know about, nor is it my policy to learn about some new gay men's singing group in Austin, Texas, looking for a conductor. All of which were deleted. With just the push of a click on my mouse and my delete button.

Sirius Connections has been configured to reject mail which claims to be from a site which does not exist, according to the DNS. This modification has reduced their total spam intake by a significant amount, an early estimate was 9,000 spams daily by this one modification.



Email Filters

Emailers to Sirius may set up filters on their accounts. Filters will scan incoming mail and will discard mail which is judged to be spam, based on certain criteria. Using a web page, users can select from three pre-built filters or construct their own. The pre-built filters are created with the goal of catching 80% of the spam. With no false positives to this. User-created filters are the responsibility of the user. With no support from the ISP.

Newsgroup Filtering System from Sirius news server is set up to discard messages which match certain criteria. This filtering system has proven to be very effective. It's cutting out roughly 100,000 Usenet spam daily.

Additional information can be found at: www.sirius.com spam.abuse.net, an excellent source. CAUCE, a coalition who's purpose is to promote legislation which amends 47 USC 227 the section of the U.S. law that bans junk faxing so that it will cover electronic mail as well.

ZDNet Article, an interesting and informative general article on spam.




McAfee's BBS changes software

by Bob Wallace

Bulletin board users over the past seven years know that the McAfee anti-virus archives have been made available via the Peninsula Bulletin Board (and Hints BBS for longer than that) directly from McAfee's Homebase BBS in Santa Clara, California. If you've not called their bulletin board in recent months, you'd not know that their Host program has been changed in the past couple of months.

While this may not pose a major problem for anyone wanting to pick up the latest anti-virus archive for checking your computer, for those who do go looking at the source for the latest release, changes made at McAfee's BBS will make you wonder what's been going on with their bulletin board.

Such was the case only recently, when your editor was able once again to log on and download what was thought to be the latest anti- virus archives available. It was only after making that call that it was discovered that the latest wasn't quite the latest.

Conversations with McAfee personnel over the past few weeks have given a clue that it may now be the "industry standard" that files are first posted to the Internet in the belief, perhaps, that everyone is calling the Internet. If that's not the case, the "industry standard" may be to force everyone to call the Internet for files. Needless to say, this will be one of the questions to be asked of the representative from McAfee at the monthly meeting on December 11.




Tech support as it's not meant to be

by James Montgomery, Sysop. The Hot Spot BBS, Augusta, GA

Actual dialog of a former WordPerfect customer support employee:

"Ridge Hall computer assistant; may I help you?"

"Yes, well, I'm having trouble with WordPerfect."

"What sort of trouble?"

"Well, I was just typing along, and all of a sudden the words went away."

"Went away?"

"They disappeared."

"Hmm. So what does your screen look like now?"

"Nothing."

"Nothing?"

"It's blank; it won't accept anything when I type."

"Are you still in WordPerfect, or did you get out?"

"How do I tell?"

"Can you see the C:\ prompt on the screen?"

"What's a sea-prompt?"

"Never mind. Can you move the cursor around on the screen?"

"There isn't any cursor; I told you, it won't accept anything I type."

"Does your monitor have a power indicator?"

"What's a monitor?"

"It's the thing with the screen on it that looks like a TV. Does it have a little light that tells you when it's on?"

"I don't know."

"Well, then look on the back of the monitor and find where the power cord goes into it. Can you see that?"

..... "Yes, I think so."

"Great! Follow the cord to the plug, and tell me if it's plugged into the wall."

..... "Yes, it is."

"When you were behind the monitor, did you notice that there were two cables plugged into the back of it, not just one?"

"No."

"Well, there are. I need you to look back there again and find the other cable."

..... "Okay, here it is."

"Follow it for me, and tell me if it's plugged securely into the back of your computer."

"I can't reach."

"Uh Huh. Well, can you see if it is?"

"No."

"Even if you maybe put your knee on something and lean way over?"

"Oh, it's not because I don't have the right angle, it's because it's dark."

"Dark?"

"Yes, the office light is off, and the only light I have is coming from the window."

"Well, turn on the office light then."

"I can't."

"No? Why not?"

"Because there's a power outage."

"A power.... A power outage? Aha! Okay, we've got it licked now. Do you still have the boxes and manuals and packing stuff your computer came in?"

"Well, yes, I keep them in the closet."

"Good! Go get them, and unplug your system and pack it up just like it was when you got it. Then take it back to the store you bought it from."

"Really? Is it that bad?"

"Yes, I'm afraid it is."

"Well, all right then, I suppose. "What do I tell them?"

"Tell them you're too stupid to own a computer!"

Note: The employee was fired.




56k modems get PC Magazine review

by Bob Wallace

For anyone not routinely reading PC Magazine every month, you may have missed their October 21, 1997, issue which included a feature story on the latest group of 19 56Kbps modems now out and about for computer users looking for faster download times from systems supporting 56K at the other end of the phone line.

Two modems were given the PC Magazine Editor's Choice award: Diamond SupraExpress 56i Sp, using the K56flex protocol; and 3Com Sportster 56K Faxmodem (internal version), with the x2 protocol. Prices noted in the story suggest a $140 street price for the Diamond modem, and $200 street price for the 3Com model. (If you're not yet familiar with the name 3Com when it comes to modems, this is the new name for the former USRobotics line of modems. 3Com purchased USR some time ago and is putting out packaging which now includes the new name for a very good product. -Ed.)




Final bytes

by Bob Wallace

As noted early on in this last issue of another calendar year, we had expectations of getting this done prior to our trip up to Lake Tahoe over the November 1-2 weekend, in part due to the addition of another session for some of our upcoming subjects.

For the record, these extra sessions will apply only when one of our members is covering the subject. We have enough troubles at times in getting outside people to show up for the monthly meeting, much less show up for both Thursday evening and Saturday sessions.

The Peninsula Computer Club first started providing additional time for a few topics, notably those relating to the use of computer bulletin boards, including the club's Peninsula Bulletin Board (650-571-9259, N-8-1 settings), and for the Hints BBS (also N-8-1, 650-572-8219). Sysops of both systems have been club members since its inception more than a dozen years ago.

At least one other club member is a Sysop. Judy Oliphant has been running her own Bay Window BBS (650-871-0359, N-8-1 settings) for just over three years now. There is good reason for noting each of these systems for you in this last newsletter of 1997, as each has been seeing ever fewer callers over the last year, at least. Given the work that the average Sysop puts into his or her system, it can get downright discouraging when all the work is being done seemingly for nothing.

Shareware files continue to be produced and made available to local BBS systems, and message areas of all sorts are routinely available to callers who take the time to check for what is there for them to read while connected to the system, or for picking up via QWK functions that round up messages and download them to your system for reading while not tied to the phone line.

Next time you have a few moments free, give one or all of these BBS systems a call. What's available on each may well surprise you. What may also surprise is that someone is at the other end of that system, seeing that it works 24 hours of every day, and that moving a file over the phone line from the BBS to your computer is done at the fastest possible speed and the least amount of delay.



Calendar/Schedule

November 13: Computer-generated greeting cards, Lee Hill 7:30 p.m.

November 15: Computer-generated greeting cards, Lee Hill 10:00 a.m.

Nov. 20: Exec Board, 7:30 p.m.

December 11: McAfee Associates Anti-virus software 7:30 p.m.

Peninsula Bulletin Board

650-571-9259 24 hours

2400-28800 bps N-8-1


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