Monday, July 27, 2009

How Many Computers Do You Really Need?

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Vol. 9, #81 - Jul 28, 2009 - Issue #389

 How Many Computers Do You Really Need?

  1. Editor's Corner
    • How Many Computers Do You Really Need?
    • Follow-up: Will email become obsolete?
    • Quotes of the Week
  2. Cool Tools
    • Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without
  3. News, Hints, Tips and Tricks
    • Companies vow to use XP "forever"
    • Can you survive in a click-free interface?
    • Firefox redesigning interface for Windows
    • EU browbeats Microsoft into offering competitors' browsers in Windows 7
  4. How To: Using XP Features
    • Make XP shut down more quickly
  5. XP Security News
    • Emergency Patches coming out this week
  6. XP Question Corner
    • Can I run Windows 7 in a virtual machine instead of XP?
  7. XP Configuration and Troubleshooting
    • System error 5
  8. Fav Links
    • This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
  9. Product of the Week
    • DownloadStudio: The Award-Winning Download Manager That Gets Everything On The Web!

Kiss Your Antivirus Bloatware Goodbye

We asked users of antivirus products what they didn't like about their AV software. They told us they are resource hogs and slowed their computer down. They told us that scan times took way too long, and that the AV software nagged them. In short, old-style AV software takes too much Memory and CPU. Time to switch to VIPRE! It gives you malware protection that combines antivirus, antispyware, anti-rootkit and other technologies into a seamless, tightly-integrated product. Even if you run "free" antivirus software, it hijacks 20% of your PC, so it's really not free at all! Get VIPRE now and see how fast your PC can really be:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090728-VIPRE


 Editor's Corner

How Many Computers Do You Really Need?

Thomas Watson, who was chairman of the board of IBM corporation in the 40s, is often credited with the quote, "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." There is some controversy over whether he said it, but whomever did, it turned out to be a colossally inaccurate prediction.

In the 1970s, Bill Gates was laughed at for his vision of a computer in every home. That goal hasn't been completely achieved - I know two people who don't own computers in the sense that we think of them, although both have devices such as DVRs or cell phones that are, in a very real sense, dedicated computers. Of course, there are plenty of folks in third world countries who have never even seen a personal computer, much less owned one. Nonetheless, Bill's dream is closer to reality than anyone ever imagined, less than half a century ago, it would be.

I can still remember how utterly cool I thought it was when I got my first computer, a Commodore VIC-20. To my parents, it was just a sophisticated toy. A Commodore 64 followed soon after. I lusted for an IBM PC for years, but the cost (over $4000 for one with a color display and two diskette drives) was out of my reach until the late mid-80s, when I bought a used PC XT from a friend. Mine had 128KB (yes, that's right, KB) of memory. Among my friends, I was unusual; very few of the people I knew had computers in their homes - or even wanted to.

In the 90s, it became a more common phenomenon, but I still had plenty of friends and relatives who didn't own computers. Most of those who did used them as overgrown typewriters and/or calculators. They composed documents - letters, stories, business documents - in WordPerfect (which they always printed; after all, that was the only way a document was useful) and they made spreadsheets in Lotus 1-2-3 to keep track of their business or personal finances. Few home users ran database software; programs like dBase were expensive and complicated. Most ran a few games; Tetris was my favorite. Until the mid-90s, few people went online. There were services available for consumers in the 80s, like CompuServ and Prodigy, but hourly access fees (up to $25/hour) were too steep for the average person.

Reasonably priced Internet access can probably be credited with the boom in computer ownership and usage. Today, almost all upper class households, most middle class household and many poor households have computers. There are initiatives to provide free or low cost computers to low income homes, especially those with children in school. A computer is considered almost as essential for school children today as textbooks or pencils were in the past. Basic desktop computers and netbooks are so inexpensive now that it costs less to buy a computer than a TV set or a high end point and shoot camera.

I remember when I was a kid, most households had a single TV in the living room that everyone watched. As TVs got more affordable, the number of TVs in the typical household increased, so that in addition to the living room TV (which is usually the nicest), people began putting TVs in each bedroom, in the kitchen, out on the patio, etc. Likewise, as prices have fallen, the personal computer has become even more personal. Now instead of each household having a computer, it's common for each person in the household to have a computer - or, in many cases, more than one.

My household isn't typical. We have more than twenty working computers (not counting the smart phones that are actually hand held computers with more RAM, faster processors and more storage space than our desktops of fifteen years ago). But we're IT professionals and we run our business from our home. So we have an Exchange server, an ISA Server firewall and proxy, web servers, domain controllers and other enterprise-level machines that are not part of the typical home network. In addition, we each have multiple desktop computers for different testing purposes, multiple laptops ranging from netbooks to the large, heavy 17" "tanks" for complex demos and presentations, multiple media center PCs, and so forth.

But having multiple computers is becoming the norm. I know several families with small children where kids who haven't even entered first grade yet have their own computers (that wasn't an issue when my kids were small, since computers were still expensive). Mom and Dad often have their own separate desktop computers (in their separate offices) and their own separate portable computers. Older kids, like mom and dad, may have both desktops and laptops. There may also be a media center computer to record TV shows instead of a DVR, and to store music and photos and other media that can be shared with the other computers on the home network.

One way the number of computers in the household grows is through "hand me downs" or "repurposing." Often we buy new systems because they're faster or to run new software, but the old one still works fine so we press it into service somewhere else. For example, Dad gets a new system and gives his old one to Mom to replace her even more outdated one. She gives her old one to Junior, who might not have had his own computer before. Or you buy a new desktop computer and set up the old one as a file server or put it in the guest room so visiting relatives will be able to use it. Over the years, you find yourself with a whole houseful of computers (and a much higher electric bill).

It's not at all uncommon for a family of four in a typical middle-class neighborhood to have five or more computers. In a recent web survey reported by ZDNet, 32 percent of readers said they have between five and ten computers in their homes, and 45 percent have between three and five.
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090728-Enough

How about you? How many computers do you have in your home? How many would you have if price (of the computers and for the power to run them) were not a consideration? Do you think young children should have their own computers, or is it better for them to use a supervised family computer in a central location? At what age should a child be allowed to have his/her own personal computer? Are home servers just luxuries or is it becoming a necessity for home networks to have a central place for file storage, where all the data in the household can easily be backed up? Tell us what you think. We encourage you to discuss this topic with other readers in our forums at
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090728-Forum-Discussion


Follow-up: Will email become obsolete?

Last week, I wrote about a trend I've noticed: a reduction in the number of email messages I receive as I participate more in social networking sites and other communications alternatives. This stirred some pretty lively discussion on our forums. I want to address a couple of the issues that readers brought up there.

One very good point in favor of email was that for many communications, it's important to have a "paper trail" (or in this case, electronic record of what was said). In fact, that's one of the reasons that I prefer email so much to telephone conversations for critical business. I can save it to refer back to and to "prove" that what I remember as being said really was what was said. Some other electronic communications methods offer this (for example, you can set your IM client to log your conversations) while others don't, or make it more difficult. Facebook private messages seem to be saved in your inbox until you delete them, although I don't know if there is a limit on that (if so, I haven't reached it). I have some message threads on FB that are very long. I certainly would not entrust anything to the FB server that I absolutely needed to be able to access later, without making a copy of it to save on my local hard drive.

Several readers brought up privacy issues. Many seem to think that email is secure and can't be read by anyone except the recipient. Unless it's encrypted, it's not. Email goes through multiple servers and can be read by any administrator there. One reader sees Facebook as "Big Brother" and is afraid of the government monitoring posts. Of course, many believe the NSA already monitors all email.

Then there's the reader who said, "Google mail has made Outlook obsolete for me. The ability to redirect all my various email accounts to the one gmail account accessible anywhere in the world, plus gmail's top search engine, plus gmail's automatic anti-spam anti-virus, made Outlook useless years ago." To each his/her own. I have a Gmail account, but I would hate to have to use that clunky interface for all my email communications. With my Exchange server, all of my mail, calendar, tasks, notes, etc. are accessible anywhere in the world, via the Outlook client on any computer or via Outlook Web Access. As another forum participant noted, even if you don't have Exchange, you can access your desktop and Outlook via RDP from anywhere in the world. The flexibility that I have with Outlook (the ability to filter messages, and now sophisticated features such as the Ignore button in Outlook 2010) is something I would never willingly give up.

Another wrote: "I hesitate to use sites like Myspace, Facebook and Twitter since, in my work in computer repair, I am finding myself fixing problems caused by viruses, malware and malicious hackers associated with the usage of social networking sites." Sure - just as hackers and virus writers distribute malware via email. Any type of communication that goes over the Internet is vulnerable to malware and attack. In my own experience, more people I know have had their computers infected by email viruses than by social networking viruses. In both cases, it comes down to user education (don't click on everything indiscriminately, whether on a web site or in an email message, and you'll save yourself a lot of grief).

I think the consensus is that email is here to stay. I think it's also inevitable that other means of communication will grow in popularity and email traffic will decrease. I see that as a good thing for email users. As many pointed out, snail mail is still around, despite its decreased popularity. There's room for many different communications venues for different people and different purposes, and I look forward to seeing what new alternatives they come up with in the future.

Thanks to everyone who participated in this discussion. To read all the comments, visit the forum at
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090728-Follow-Up

'Til next week,
Deb Shinder, Editor
feedback@wxpnews.com

PS: Did you know this newsletter has a sister publication called VistaNews? You can subscribe here, and tell your friends:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090728-VistaNews

And for IT pros, there's our "big sister," WServer News, at
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090728-WServerNews

Look up the WXPnews Fan Page and join us on Facebook!

Quotes of the Week

Every improvement in communication makes the bore more terrible. - Frank Moore Colby

The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn't being said. - Peter Drucker

The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate. - Joseph Priestley


Keep The Bad Guys Out With The Sunbelt Personal Firewall

Why do I need a firewall? Together with antivirus and antispyware, a firewall is a "must" to protect your computer. PC Magazine gave the Sunbelt Personal Firewall a "Very Good" rating with 4 Stars and a conclusion of "good protection". Check out the Reviews on the site and it will be clear why you need the Sunbelt Personal Firewall to protect your PC. One good example: Unlike the Windows XP and Vista Firewall, you can tell the Sunbelt Personal Firewall to look carefully at the data leaving your browser, so that sensitive information like your credit card numbers, email address, bank account, social security number and PIN code do not get stolen by hackers!
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090728-SPF


 Cool Tools

Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without

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PC Tune-Up: 4 Easy Steps That Eliminate Frustrating Slow Computer Problems:
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Registry First Aid 7.0 - New Release Is Faster, Safer and Even More Effective
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Improve your English writing skills with WhiteSmoke a smarter solution for high quality writing. Download the free trial version here.
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Rip DVDs for your iPod/iPhone or Apple TV. Bundle includes video converter too! Try it free!
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Vista gets bogged down very quickly! Advanced Vista Optimizer will tweak Vista for Max performance. Easy to use:
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Backups? Why back up when you can sync? Simply replicate every piece of data to another drive in real-time. Set it and forget it.
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090728-GoodSync


 News, Hints, Tips and Tricks

Companies vow to use XP "forever"

A recent poll of IT professionals on TechRepublic showed that 96% of those responding say XP is still the primary operating system in on their company networks. Not surprisingly, 45% said they are waiting for the release of Windows 7 before they upgrade. What is somewhat surprisingly is that 43% said they will "always" use XP. While there are many reasons not to upgrade immediately, it seems a little realistic to think XP will last forever, and it's hard to believe that many businesses will continue to use it after extended support for the OS ends in early 2014. You can see the rest of the poll results here:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090728-Dropping-WXP


Can you survive in a click-free interface?

This site is an experiment in computing in a "clickless" environment. Most people are so used to using the mouse click to navigate the web that they may be lost in a world without clicks. Try it and see whether you like it a lot or miss being able to click. You get to submit your vote - "to click or not to click; that is the question."
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090728-DontClick


Firefox redesigning interface for Windows

According to an article on Softpedia.com, Mozilla is in the process of redesigning the graphical user interface (GUI) of its Firefox browser for Windows XP, Vista and 7. The new version will be 3.7, and are made to better take advantage of the Aero Glass theme in Windows Vista and Windows 7. You can read more about it and see screenshots of possible prototypes here:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090728-Firefox-Redesign


EU browbeats Microsoft into offering competitors' browsers in Windows 7

Well, it wasn't good enough for the European Commission that Microsoft agreed to take Internet Explorer out of Windows 7 E, to be sold in the European market. Instead, they're going to have to offer a "ballot screen" that lets Windows 7 users choose the browser they want. What do you want to bet that won't include the more obscure alternatives like Maxthon? Somebody tell me why this isn't like forcing Ford to let you choose a steering wheel made by GM or Chrysler when you buy a car, instead of the standard one Ford makes? You can read more about the new development here:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090728-European-Browser-Choice


 How To: Using XP Features

Make XP shut down more quickly

I often get mail from readers who are annoyed at the amount of time it takes for their XP computers to shut down. If XP is inordinately slow about shutting down, it may be that it's waiting on a hung program. You can edit the registry to change the amount of time XP will wait for a program to close. As always when editing the registry, back it up first, just in case. Then perform these steps:
  1. Open your registry editor.
  2. Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Control Panel \ Desktop
  3. In the right pane, find the item HungAppTimeout and double click it
  4. In the value data box, change the default value (5000) to a lower number (for example, 1000). Click OK.
  5. Next, find the WaitToKillAppTimeout and double click it
  6. Change the default value from 20000 to 1000. Click OK.
  7. Now navigate to:HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ System \ CurrentControlSet \ Control
  8. In the right pane, find WaitToKillServiceTimeout and double click it.
  9. Change the default value to 1000 and click OK.
  10. Then navigate to:HKEY_USERS \ DEFAULT \ Control Panel \ Desktop
  11. Find HungAppTimeout and doubleclick it.
  12. Change the default value to 2000 and click OK.
  13. In the same key, find WaitToKillAppTimeout and double click it.
  14. Change the value to (you guessed it!) 1000 and click OK.
If you don't want the timeout to be quite as short, change these values to something else (for example, 5000). Just make sure the value is the same for each.


 XP Security News

Emergency Patches coming out this week

Normally, Microsoft saves up its security patches and releases them all on one day of the month, so-called "Patch Tuesday," but occasionally an issue is so critical that they issue an "out of band" or emergency patch without waiting for the standard update day to roll around. That's what's happening this week, with the patch that will affect the most users being the one to fix a vulnerability in Internet Explorer. The other patch is for Visual Studio. Read more here:
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090728-Emergency-Patches


 XP Question Corner

Can I run Windows 7 in a virtual machine instead of XP?

QUESTION:
There are posts all over the Internet about how to run XP in a virtual machine on Windows 7 so you can have access to both operating systems at the same time. What I want to know is, can I do the opposite, keep XP as my main OS and run Windows 7 (or failing that, Vista) in a virtual machine? Do I use the same software or what's the best way to do this (if it can be done)? I'm running XP Pro with SP3 - Arvel K.

ANSWER:
The Windows Virtual PC (WVPC) software that's used for XP Mode in Windows 7 will only run on Windows 7, so you can't use it the way you describe on XP. However, you can download the earlier version of VPC, Virtual PC 2007 SP1, at
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090728-Service-Pack-Update

It will install on Windows XP SP3, and Vista is supported as a guest operating system. Windows 7 is not supported by Microsoft as a guest OS, but many folks have reported being able to install it as a guest OS on VPC 2007. You need to install the virtual machine tools for best performance.


 XP Configuration and Troubleshooting

System error 5

If you try to run the Net View or Net Time command on your Windows XP computer and you get an error message that says "System error 5 has occurred. Access is denied," there are several different conditions that could be the cause. This includes a time synchronization problem, a permissions problem, a connection problem caused by a firewall or third party program and more. To find out more and get tips on how to resolve the problem, see KB article 555644 at
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090728-System-Error5

How to remove EFS encryption from a file or folder Windows XP Pro includes the Encrypting File System (EFS) for protecting the confidentiality of files. Sometimes, though, you may have encrypted a file and now you don't want it to be encrypted anymore. If you have problems decrypting the file, see KB article 308993 at
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090728-Folder-Encryption


 Fav Links

This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff

Disclaimer: WXPNews does not assume and cannot be responsible for any liability related to you clicking any of these linked Web sites.


 Product of the Week

DownloadStudio: The Award-Winning Download Manager That Gets Everything On The Web!

Did you know that Windows XP or other Windows operating systems are not optimized for downloading files? This award-winning program will download files as much as 500% faster and will resume broken downloads - saving you significant time and bandwidth. It will download any file from the web, including programs, images, music, movies, flash, zip files, even complete web sites and ftp sites. DownloadStudio comes complete with an ultra-fast downloader, an offline browser, an interactive web site explorer, an audio/video recorder, streaming media support, flash capture support, full Internet Explorer support, a visual file browser and more. DownloadStudio uses latest internet technologies and is optimized for fast downloading. And you can even record your own favorite radio or streaming broadcasts when you want them.

Order now and get $10.00 or try the free evaluation software.
http://www.wxpnews.com/3UDXV2/090728-DownloadStudio


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