Monday, August 27, 2012

Gizmo's Tech Treats: Freeware Game of the Week (This game leaves you wanting for more!)

Gizmo's Tech Treats: Firefox Extension of the Week (The Mother of all Extensions!)

Gizmo's Tech Treats: Finds of the Week (Killer Mouse tips, Firefox security add-ons, 26 Cross-Platform Productivity Apps, Hubble's Hidden Treasures)

Gizmo's Tech Treats: (Website of the Week)

A new outlook on email

  1. Editor's Corner
  2. Quotes of the Week
  3. Windows News and Commentary
  4. Windows Hints, Trivia, Tips and Tricks
  5. How To: Step-by-Step Guidance
  6. Free Download of the Week
  7. Security and Privacy
  8. Ask Deb: Question Corner
  9. Windows Configuration and Troubleshooting
  10. Fave Links

Editor's Corner

Talking Tech: A new outlook on email

I've been using Hotmail, off and on, for a lot of years – since way back when it was HoTMaiL (for HTML mail - get it?) and wasn't yet owned by Microsoft. Microsoft acquired the service in 1997, the same year Yahoo! Mail appeared and long before Gmail (which launched in beta in 2004 and didn't become generally available until 2007).

As of last October, Hotmail was reported to have 350-355 million users, at the top of the web mail ladder above Yahoo! Mail with 310 million and Gmail with 260 million (statistics from Comscore Report, October 2011). However, over the past year Gmail's user base has grown to over 425 million accounts, thanks, at least in part, to the fact that you have to have or create a Gmail account to set up an Android phone.

Microsoft has revamped Hotmail several times over the years, and changed its name from MSN Hotmail to Windows Live Hotmail to plain old Microsoft Hotmail. They have progressively added features and updated the web-based user interface, making it look and work more like the Outlook email client. They also made it possible to set up your Hotmail account in Outlook, which is the way I've been using it for the past few years. My Hotmail inbox appears in Outlook along with my Exchange and Gmail inboxes; I rarely, if ever, log onto Hotmail (or Gmail) through the web. You can see my Hotmail inbox in my Favorites list in Outlook 2013 in this screenshot:

If you look very closely, you'll see another email account underneath the Hotmail inbox - called That's the new email service that Microsoft rolled out at the end of July, with plans for it to eventually replace Hotmail altogether. Think Google has cornered the market on free email? Think again; within six hours of release, the Los Angeles Times reported that a million people had already signed up for accounts.

Although I will probably continue to get most of my mail through the Outlook client on my desktop, I have tested the web client for and I like it a lot. In fact, it makes me feel as if I'm working in Outlook - which, with the name change, I guess I am. Speaking of the name change, I think that's a positive thing, too. Most folks today don't have a clue about the origin of the Hotmail name and the domain name conjures up images that are less than professional (just as the username hotchick or hotdude on the left-hand side of an email address would). I think "" is much more appropriate for business-oriented messages.

You can sign in with your existing Windows Live ID or you can create a new account. You'll see the familiar (to Hotmail and Outlook users) layout with your mail folders on the left, message list in the middle and a right pane that can be used for different purposes. If you click the balloon with a smiley face in it that's just to the left of the gear (settings) icon next to your name, the right pane become the Messaging pane. Here you can start a chat session with your Facebook or Windows Messenger friends. It can also turn into the Social pane.

With Outlook 2010, Microsoft introduced the "social connector," a set of plug-ins that let you integrate information from social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn into the data about your Outlook contacts. This has been more seamlessly integrated into Outlook 2013, as illustrated by the "People Pane" underneath the email message preview in this screenshot:

Likewise, synchronizes with your social accounts and displays social networking information in the right pane of the web interface after you've connected your social account(s). Before you do that, you'll see a message in the pane asking you to sign up for Facebook. If you already have a Facebook account, don't click Sign up; instead you need to click the Already on Facebook? link, then click the Connect button. If you're presently logged into Facebook with that browser, will automatically connect your Live ID account to your Facebook account with you having to tell it your Facebook username and password.

You can select what information gets shared between these two accounts. In and on other Windows Live services that you log into with this Windows Live ID, you can do any or all of the following: see Facebook friends and their updates, chat with Facebook friends via Messenger (or on Windows Phone), share your Facebook status with your Messenger contacts, publish photos and videos to Facebook from Windows Live services/applications (Photo Gallery and Movie Maker) and/or share status updates, photos and documents from Messenger, Hotmail, SkyDrive and Windows Phone on Facebook.

To connect your account to LinkedIn, YouTube or Flickr, you need to go to the Connect Services page in your Windows Live profile. Be sure and read the terms of service when you grant Microsoft permission to access your social accounts.

Note that when you're in the Inbox list or otherwise don't have a personal email message selected, the right pane will contain advertising. That's what pays for this free service and it's not very intrusive; it's pretty easy to just visually tune out that column:

If you've used Windows 8 and/or Office 2013, you'll notice that the web interface has a distinctly "Win8" look. You'll also see Windows Phone-like animations when, for instance, you send a message. You can customize the look to an extent but not much. You can choose from 12 colors (default is blue) and configure the location of the reading pane (right, bottom or off).

By default, messages are arranged in conversation view. That's something I'm not fond of, but the implementation in the reading pane is interesting, as you can see in the screenshot below. Something I do like is that flagged messages go to the top of your Inbox, so they don't get lost in the deluge. You can also choose to hide the flagged messages if, for example, they contain sensitive information in the from name or subject line. If you do this, you'll see the number of flagged messages at the top of the Inbox but nothing about the messages themselves (unless/until you click the Show link).

You can also create up to five aliases - additional email addresses that will all be delivered to this account. You can have the mail to the aliases go into the same Inbox or you can create a folder for each aliases where those messages will automatically be filtered. This is handy if, for example, you want to use one name for business and another for personal mail. Microsoft has also made it very easy to rename your email address while keeping the same account.

Of course, you can do all the usual account configuration, such as forwarding, sending/receiving mail from other accounts and sending automated "out of office" (vacation) replies. You can change the "reply to" address so that responses come to an address other than your address. You can create a signature and select a font style and color for new messages. You can also set it up to check for forgotten attachments before sending, and you can choose to send large attachments as SkyDrive links, instead of sending the files themselves, if you have contacts who are restricted in the size of attachment they can receive.

You can configure how junk mail is handled and set up both white lists ("safe senders") and black lists ("blocked senders"). You can also set up the service to allow you to recover messages you have accidentally "deleted," and there are a myriad of "advanced privacy settings" that you'll want to look through to be sure you have things set according to your preferences.

So far I like, but there's more to come. Eventually you'll be able to access Skype through your account and for some, that's going to be a very important feature. If you haven't tried it yet, head over to and give it a whirl. If you have, let us know what you think. Is it good enough to convince you to switch from Gmail or Yahoo! Mail? What's your favorite new feature? What do you hate about it? What additional features would you like to see? Let us know about your thoughts, opinions and experiences in our forum or email me.

Point of View: Is our digital world making us more "binary?"

A few days ago, my husband and I were talking about what it takes to advance within a large company and, in particular, the growing need for the so-called "soft skills" - the ability to deal with and manage people, create a consensus, work with a team, motivate others and so forth. He said something that struck me as particularly perceptive and that explained why so many talented and brilliant people in the IT industry get "stuck" in positions at a certain level. What he said was that IT professionals "tend to think in binary."

That makes sense. The computer world as we've always known it is built on binary; it's a world of ones and zeros, where the light switch is either on or it's off - there is no such thing as a dimmer. Binary is simple and easy to understand. It's all about precision; in the old analog world, things were much more fluid. Compare tuning in a radio station; with an analog tuner, you fiddled with the dial and the signal faded and strengthened until you found the best sound somewhere between 101 and 102 on the dial. With a digital tuner, you move in precisely defined steps and you know your station is located at 101.4.

Precision is great for dealing with machines but it's not so great for dealing with people. When we get into the "binary" way of thinking, we tend to see everything in absolutes. Something or someone is either good or bad, smart or stupid, a friend or an enemy. The world is painted in black and white, with no nuances of gray in between.

You've probably heard the old joke: There are only 10 kinds of people, those who understand binary and those who don't. But it's not just people who understand the binary number system that are influenced by the move to a digital way of thinking. As computing has gone mainstream and as technical knowledge has seeped into the collective consciousness, it seems as if more and more people have adopted the binary way of thinking. Maybe that's one of the reasons our population seems to be so polarized these days. Many people seem to see their own choices and opinions as the only "right" way to do or think.

Folks are fiercely adamant about which computer platforms or cell phones they use and defend their choices with a fervor that once was reserved for religious zealots. People define themselves by their political parties and actually feel that they can't be friends with someone from the opposite side of the partisan aisle. We have "zero tolerance" policies in our schools and courtrooms, policies that don't concede there is a difference between being caught in the classroom with an aspirin vs. a bag of heroin, or having a butter knife in one's locker vs. an AK-47. It's a one or it's a zero; it's a drug/weapon or it's not.

Even in the computer world, I'm not sure this is really the best way to approach most things outside of machine code. The responses I've heard about Windows 8 and Office 2013 (both in public betas) have been very binary: some folks are gushing about how great the new OS and productivity apps are. Others hate them. It seems as if I'm hearing fewer folks in the middle (although I am one of those few folks, who likes some of the changes and isn't so crazy about others).

As a matter of fact, computers in the distant future might not use binary code at all. Theoretically, at least, the next giant step forward in computing will involve quantum mathematics, based on the behavior of particles at the subatomic level, in which data is represented by qubits instead of binary bits. Whereas a bit can only be in one of two states (one or zero), a qubit simultaneously has the possibility of being in any one of a number of states. The advantage of quantum computers is that they will be much faster and able to process exponentially more data than traditional binary machines.

Quantum computers are still a long way down the road, but the concept shows that even a machine that processes logic doesn't have to be limited to "all or nothing" thinking. Maybe all of us would be happier and do a better job of getting along with each other if we learned to give up our binary way of processing information and making decisions.

Let me know what you think. Is it just a coincidence that the seeming increase in divisiveness has come along with an increased reliance on digital devices? Share your thoughts, opinions and experiences in our forum or email me.

Until next time,

Deb Shinder

WinNews Editor

Security is everybody's business! Check out our sister publication, VIPRE Security News, at

If you're an IT pro, be sure to check out our "big sister", WServer News, at

Quotes of the Week

"I see the player piano as the grandfather of the computer, the ancestor of the entire nightmare we live in, the birth of the binary world where there is no option other than yes or no and where there is no refuge." - William Gaddis

"Unity can only be manifested by the Binary. Unity itself and the idea of Unity are already two." - Buddha

"Everyone is in a hurry to be the one, but no one want to be a zero that adds value to the one." - Moses Pereira

"If anybody says he can think about quantum physics without getting giddy, that only shows he has not understood the first thing about them." - Niels Bohr

"Quantum technology turns ordinary reality upside down." - Michael Crichton

Windows News and Commentary

No more Metro?

The user interface that was introduced in the Zune, carried over to Windows Phone 7 and became the most controversial aspect of Windows 8 has been called Metro for a long time, but according to recent reports, that's about to change. And now Microsoft has confirmed that they will be dropping the "Metro style" naming. For the moment, it's just the "new user interface" (which isn't very inspiring). Maybe they could change it to an unpronounceable symbol and we could call it "The Interface Formerly Known as Metro?"

Windows 8 goes for the gold

As I'm writing this, the Olympic Games are going on in London with more than 10,000 athletes hoping to take home a gold medal. Meanwhile, back in Redmond, the next version of Microsoft's operating system - Windows 8 - has "gone gold." That's industry terminology for reaching the Release to Manufacturing (RTM) stage, at which the code is complete and ready to be sent to hardware vendors to install on the computers they'll be selling.

What does that mean to you and the prospect of getting your hands on the final version of the new OS? We're still looking at October for general availability to the public - October 26, to be exact. That's slightly more than three years after the release of Windows 7, which came out on October 22, 2009.

Samsung to make Windows 8 phones

Microsoft might have a "special" relationship with Nokia, but when it comes to "special" smartphones these days, Samsung's Galaxy series is right up there at the top of the heap. Now we're hearing that Samsung has at least two Windows 8 phones waiting in the wings: the Odyssey and the Marco; both are 4G LTE models.

I seriously doubt that Samsung will be dumping Android, as suggested in Forbes' article titled Is Samsung Leaving Android for Windows Phone 8, but it makes sense for the company to cover all the bases. I currently use a Samsung Galaxy Nexus and although the upcoming Nokia Lumias look impressive (and there are rumors that they'll be released earlier than WP8 devices from other vendors), personally I'm very interested in seeing what Samsung has to offer.

Windows Hints, Tips, Tricks and Trivia

Make Disk Cleanup work better

The Disk Cleanup tool that's built into Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 (and now Windows 8) can help you remove unneeded files that accumulate on your system, thus freeing up space on your hard drive, uncluttering the file system to make it easier to navigate in Explorer and in some cases improving the performance of your computer.

By default, temporary files are kept for seven days but you can change that so that they'll be cleaned up more quickly if you want. To do this, you'll need to change a registry setting so - as always - be sure to back up the registry before you begin. If you want to make this change, swing over to and you'll find the step-by-step instructions in their article titled Make Windows Disk Cleanup Work Better.

Making Windows Search more useful

Want to get more out of Windows' built-in search function? All it takes is a few tweaks to the way you're doing things to vastly improve the results of your searches. Lifehacker has compiled several tips to Make Windows Search a Million Times more Useful with these Simple Tweaks.

How To: Step-by-Step Guidance

XP Tip of the Week: Get rid of unwanted items in the "Open with" list

The ability to pick which program you want to open a file with when you right-click it is handy but sometimes you may find options there that you never use and are never going to use. Did you know that you can get rid of them and just leave those programs you would consider using? It takes a registry edit, so be sure to back up the registry before you go poking around in it. To remove the unwanted options, open your registry editor and navigate to each of the following locations (unfortunately the items are stored in several):
  • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\FileExts\.xyz\OpenWithList
  • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\FileExts\.xyz\OpenWithProgIDs
  • HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.xyz\OpenWithList
  • HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\.xyz\OpenWithProgIDs
  • HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\SystemFileAssociations\\OpenWithList
In each of these locations, select the entries you want to remove in the right pane, right-click and choose Delete.

For more information and screenshots to illustrate the process, see Clear Unwanted Open With Entries on the website.

Windows 7 Tip of the Week: Use the Math Input Panel

Did you know that you don't have to struggle with searching through the Character Map to find mathematical symbols when you want to type complicated math problems in Windows 7? The Math Input Panel is one of the operating system's best kept secrets; most people don't even know it exists. Here's how you use it:

  • Click Start and in the Search box, type "Math input panel," then select it from the results.
  • Write the math expression in the writing area with a digitizer pen or even with your mouse or trackball.
  • Windows 7 recognizes the math input and displays it in the preview area.
  • Click the Insert button at the bottom right to insert the math into your word processing or other application.

Windows 8 Tip of the Week: Remove apps from the All Apps screen

You can pin your favorite Windows 8 apps to the Start Screen but the tiles are large, so it's not long before it gets so full that you have to scroll a lot to find what you want. Smartphone users may prefer the familiarity of the All Apps screen; the problem is that - true to its name - it lists all files from an app's start menu folder, including Readmes and uninstallers. That adds clutter for things you might never or rarely use.

There's no obvious option to remove items from the All Apps screen but you can do it by deleting (or moving) the items from the following folders:
c:/ProgramData/Microsoft/Windows/Start Menu/Programs
c:/Users//AppData/Roaming/Microsoft/Windows/Start Menu/Programs

For the details on how to do this, see Tame the Windows 8 All Apps Screen at, which also shows you how to create a shortcut to the All Apps screen on the desktop, so you don't have to leave the desktop and go to the Start Screen to get to it.

Windows Phone Tip of the Week: How to switch Hotmail account to on WP7

When Microsoft first released their new email service (see review in the Talking Tech feature article above), there were reports that Windows Phone 7.x users would have to restore their phones to factory settings in order to use the new address. That's actually not the case - you can create an email alias when you sign up for your address and continue to use your Hotmail account with the new address. Just choose to create an email alias, rather than opting to rename your email address. For more info on this, see Windows Phone 7 users can update their email addresses to without restore on the website.

Free Download of the Week

Powerful desktop calculator

The revamped calc.exe program in Windows 7 is pretty good - in fact, it's excellent for performing basic calculations - but if you need to go beyond its capabilities, one of the best free calculator programs I've run across is SpeedCrunch. It includes unlimited variables, syntax highlighting and 50 decimal places. It's been around for a while and it's now available for Windows, Mac OS X or Linux, so you can use it on all your computers, no matter what operating systems they're running. Check it out and let us know what you think.

Security and Privacy

Phishing emails are getting more sophisticated

Last week, I got up one morning to find four emails purporting to be from, confirming my hotel reservations. The problem is that I hadn't made any hotel reservations recently and had never made any through I did a bit of investigative Googling and confirmed what I already suspected: the attachment (which of course I did not open) is malware. is a legitimate site but these messages are spoofing its return address. I can see how someone who recently used the site to make reservations might click the attachment without a thought. There's also a good chance that some folks who didn't make reservations will open the file for more information so they can call and correct the "mistake."

Another authentic-looking fake message that's supposedly from AT&T is going around, too. I haven't gotten this one, but it tells you that your current statement is ready to view - just like the legit messages I get from Verizon, the city water utility and several other companies with which I do business. When you click on the link, it redirects you to a site using the Blackhole exploit kit to download malware to your computer.

These days, you have to be diligent and take nothing for granted - even if it seems to come from a trusted source.

Ask Deb: Question Corner

Can I still Telnet in Windows 7?

Hey, I know I'm a dinosaur, but I still need to access a telnet server, which I've been doing with the built in telnet program in XP forever. I just got a new Windows 7 laptop and I'm not seeing the telnet client. Has it been removed? Do I have to download a third party program? If so, can you recommend one? Thanks! - D.J.

Wow - I haven't thought about using Telnet for years, but if you need to, the Microsoft Telnet client is still around. However, it isn't installed by default in Windows 7 as it was in XP. You'll need to add it through the Windows Features section in the Add or Remove Programs applet that you get to from Control Panel. Just type "Add or remove programs" in the Search box on the Start menu and select it from the results. In the left pane, you'll see Turn Windows features on or off. Click that and scroll down in the list of features to find the Telnet client. Check the checkbox and click OK. Windows will search for the required files and then apply the changes.

The Telnet client can be added to Windows 8 in the same way.

Windows Configuration and Troubleshooting

Screensaver that displays pictures stops working

If you've set your screensaver in Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7 to display pictures from Windows Live Photo Gallery (or in the case of XP, the My Pictures folder), it might stop working for one of two reasons. You can fix it by changing your power setting or by deleting invalid photo shortcuts in the folder and subfolders. Or you can use a Microsoft Fix it tool to do it for you. You'll find a link to the tool and instructions for the DIY method in KB article 2425702.

Applications crash because of clipboard problem

If your Windows 7 or Vista computer is crashing when you use Windows Explorer, Microsoft Office applications, or Windows Movie Maker, it could be because of an issue with the Ole32.dll file that adds a malformed data structure to the system clipboard. When another process queries the clipboard, the system crashes. Ouch! What do you do about it? Luckily there is a hotfix available. You can find out more about this problem and download the hotfix from KB article 2541119.

Fave Links

A selection amazing video clips featuring cars, golfers, a kangaroo and more:

Ramesh Raskar and his team at MIT have invented a camera that can photograph light in slow motion:

Human-powered "car" equipped with headlights, backlights, turn signals an odometer and an iPhone dock:

10 awesome and easy tips and tricks that can save you a lot of time and frustration:

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Gizmo's Daily Tech Treats

Gizmo's Daily Tech Treats

Link to Gizmo's Daily Tech Treats

The Complete Guide to YouTube: Tips, Tricks, Hacks and Resources

Posted: 06 Apr 2010 03:12 PM PDT

What Vendors Give, Vendors Can Take Away

WXPNews: Published by Sunbelt Software since 2001

Vol. 10, #14 - Apr 6, 2010 - Issue #424

 What Vendors Give, Vendors Can Take Away

  1. Editor's Corner
    • What Vendors Give, Vendors Can Take Away
    • Imagine you had an 'Internet Butler'.
    • Follow-up: Cutting your phone bills
    • Quotes of the Week
  2. Cool Tools
    • Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without
  3. News, Hints, Tips and Tricks
    • Windows Live Wave 4 expected not to support XP
    • Make your XP (or Vista or Windows 7) computer look like Windows Phone 7
    • A better idea than saving XP?
    • No Office for iPad
  4. How To: Using XP Features
    • How to do a diagnostic for DirectX problems
  5. XP Security News
    • Watch out for malicious PDF files
  6. XP Question Corner
    • How can I do a search and replace on File names?
  7. XP Configuration and Troubleshooting
    • XP shuts down because UPS service is started
    • "Bad Command Structure" error message
  8. Fav Links
    • This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
  9. Product of the Week
    • Driver Genius Professional 9.0: Are your Outdated Drivers Slowing Down your PC?

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 Editor's Corner

What Vendors Give, Vendors Can Take Away

Last week, our reader Matt V. wrote to me about a Sony firmware update for the PlayStation 3, released on April 1, that seemed like a cruel April Fool's prank to some customers. What does it do? It removes the option to "install other OS" that was on the console's menu and previously made it possible for users to load Linux and use the PS3 - which, after all, is a computer - for other computing tasks besides playing games.

Now it's one thing when you buy a device, knowing that it can only be used as a game console. It's quite another when you make that purchase based on the belief that you can use it for more than that, with the vendor's blessing, and then have that functionality taken away. Some PS3 owners are very unhappy campers. They feel it's a lot like buying a new car that comes with leather seats, and then having the auto maker come to their homes in the dead of night to rip out those nice seats and replace them with cheap cloth.

Sony says the update is completely optional. Oh, but there's a catch. If you opt not to install it, you won't have network functionality, which means you can't use PlayStation Network, chat or browse the PlayStation Store. And what's the point of removing the option, anyway? Some speculate it's because people were using the other OS to watch pirated movies, but many folks say they used it so they could use a better web browser, as they didn't like the Sony one. In any event, such a drastic removal of functionality to prevent piracy that might or might not happen seems a little like taking our cars away from all of us just in case we might break the speeding laws with them, or banning tire irons because after all, it's possible to use one to commit assault.

Of course, Sony isn't the only company that has ever removed functionality from one of its devices. In 2007, an Apple software update famously "bricked" an unknown number of iPhones that had been "unlocked" by their owners so they could be used with a cellular carrier other than AT&T - taking away all functionality.

Apple also reportedly forced the developers of Stanza, an ebook reader app for the iPhone, to issue an update that would remove the app's ability to transfer ebooks to their mobile devices with a USB cable. Interestingly, Lexcycle, the maker of Stanza, fielded questions by staying they were "forbidden from discussing the specifics of our conversations with Apple on this matter," although they did confirm that the feature was removed in accordance with Apple's demands.

And last December, Microsoft issued an update for Office 2007 that removed the ability to read Custom XML elements contained within .docx, .docm or .xml files - but it wasn't exactly a voluntary action. The company was ordered by U.S. Federal Court of Appeals, which found in favor of Canadian developer i4i when it claimed the feature infringed on its patent, to remove the XML editing technology.

Is it legal, then, for hardware and software vendors to change your devices and programs after you buy them? Unfortunately, if you read all the fine print in the End User License Agreement (EULA), you'll probably discover that you agreed to that very thing when you clicked the "Accept" button during the installation or setup process. The Sony PS3 EULA, in section 3 ("Services and Updates"), says: "Without limitation, services may include the provision of the latest update or download of new release that may include security patches, new technology or revised settings and features which may prevent access to unauthorized or pirated content, or use of unauthorized hardware or software in connection with the PS3(tm) system." and "Some services may change your current settings, cause a loss of data or content, or cause some loss of functionality."

You can bet the vendors made sure their attorneys had covered their behinds before they issued these updates. Don't remember ever clicking to accept the agreement? It doesn't matter, because section 9 ("General Legal") says: "By using or accessing the System Software, you agree to be bound by all current terms of this Agreement." and what's more: "SCE, at its sole discretion, may modify the terms of this Agreement at any time, including any terms in the PS3(tm) system documentation or manual."

It does make you wonder just how far that clause could be taken. Can the vendor come back and say, "Oh, we've decided that instead of granting you an infinite license to use this software, we're changing the terms of this agreement so you only get to use it for six months. If you want to use it longer, you have to pay for it again"? Apparently they could.

Interestingly, I did not find such an overt clause permitting the terms of the agreement to be changed in the Windows 7 EULA. However, section 23 ("Entire Agreement") says: "This agreement (including the warranty below), additional terms (including any printed-paper license terms that accompany the software and may modify or replace some or all of these terms), and the terms for supplements, updates, Internet-based services and support services that you use, are the entire agreement for the software and support services." If you parse that language carefully, you'll see that they're saying they can modify or replace the terms of the agreement by issuing "additional terms," which can be but wouldn't have to be printed-paper terms accompanying the software.

Want to know what's in the EULA of any other Microsoft products? At least they've made that information easy to find all in one place:

Of course, we've talked about heinous EULA terms before, but the clauses that give them the right to change any and everything (including those terms themselves) has to be the worst. In essence, that one clause negates any and all rights that might seem to be granted to you by the agreement, since the vendor has the sole discretion to change any part of it at any time.

Tell us what you think. Should vendors be allowed to remove important functionalities from their devices or software after you paid for that same functionality? Should they only be allowed to do it when under a court order, as Microsoft was with the XML editing issue? Should they have to refund part or all of your money if they make significant changes that cause you to no longer want the device or program? Or should they be able to make any changes they want, since after all, you agreed to it? Should, at the very least, changing the terms of the agreement be prohibited? Have you ever had features you wanted removed by an update? We invite you to discuss this topic in our forum at

Imagine you had an 'Internet Butler'.

Imagine you had an 'Internet Butler' in your PC. Tell us what that things that 'butler' would do for you automatically, instead of you having to do it yourself?

Follow-up: Cutting your phone bills

Last week, I wrote about the evolution of our phone service, from landline to Lingo VoIP for six years and now, given recent problems with Lingo, to my "pilot program" with Skype. Readers had lots of comments and suggestions, and what quickly emerged from the discussion (both on the forum and in email) was that the same solutions are not going to be right for everybody.

One reader noted that cell service is unreliable where he lives and "Relying solely on a cell phone means no service 1/2 the time." It made me very grateful that in my area, I've never failed to get a cell signal in the last five years with Verizon, indoors or out. On the other hand, I have a friend who lives in the next suburb over, who is unable to get any service at all inside his home with his AT&T iPhone.

Another reader suggested, "Why not just keep your DSL line, which you can use as a regular phone line, and use your cell for everything else. Usually your DISH or DIRECTV system requires a line for them to access your reception boxes, so the DSL line can be used for that also." For those who have DSL and DISH or DirecTV, that sounds like good advice. It's not at all applicable to our situation. We have FiOS Internet service, which is far faster than DSL, but even if we wanted it, we're too far from the CO to get DSL. And we don't have DISH or DirecTV, so there's no need for a landline for that.

Other readers use other solutions. Some use their cable company's phone service. Others mentioned MagicJack and Ooma. These two are super low-cost alternatives: MagicJack costs $20/year (after a $40 initial hardware cost), and Ooma costs $250 for the hardware and then there are no monthly charges for basic service. There is a "premier" service that costs $99/year and gives you a second outgoing line, three-way calling, and forwarding of calls to your cell or other backup number, as well as call screening and voicemail-to-email, blacklisting and anonymous call rejection, custom ring patterns and other services beyond what you get with the basic service. Both have been around for a while, but I haven't personally tried either of them. I'll be checking into them further in the future, after the enthusiastic recommendations they both got. Other suggestions included ACN VoIP, Toktumi,, and Google Voice.

That last one confused me a little, as it seemed at least one reader was suggesting it as an alternative to other phone services. Unless it's changed, it is actually an addition to other services, as you have to have an established phone number to activate it. If you can get inbound calls with Google Voice only, I'm not aware of it.

To answer kurtneus's question: "MagicJack is cheap but it requires that you leave your computer on all the time. That can cost $15/mo. for electricity (at 7¢/kwh & 300w power supply)! How is this cost effective?" If you don't already have a computer that's always on, that's a valid consideration. If you run servers, as we do, that remain on 24/7 anyway, you just plug the device into one of them and there's no extra power cost.

Based on the number of responses, this is a topic that resonates with many people, and it was interesting to see how many of you have also dropped your landlines, either in favor of some iteration of VoIP or cellular only - although there are a few who vowed to hang onto their landlines forever. And Scott W. brought up the subject of adding up your total cost for various types of connectivity: phones, Internet, TV, cell phones, satellite radio, On-Star, home alarm system, movie rental, etc. I don't use all of those (I've never been interested in satellite radio and I dropped On-Star after two years and am seriously considering dropping the alarm monitoring service) but even so, the total number is pretty scary.

I enjoyed reading about your experiences trying different phone solutions and it was also eye-opening to find out how much prices can vary for landline service in different parts of the country. As always, thanks to all of you who participated in the discussion.

'Til next week,
Deb Shinder, Editor

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Quotes of the Week

"The telephone is a 100-year-old technology. It's time for a change. Charging for phone calls is something you did last century." - Niklas Zennstrom

"I stay away from the telephone if at all possible." - Lee Trevino

"The Internet is a telephone system that's gotten uppity." - Clifford Stoll

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 Cool Tools

Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without


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 News, Hints, Tips and Tricks

Windows Live Wave 4 expected not to support XP

We already know that Internet Explorer 9, the next version of Microsoft's web browser, isn't going to support Windows XP. Now comes the news, from Mary Jo Foley, that there is a high probability that Live Wave 4 - the next generation of its Live Mail, Live Writer, Messenger, Photo Gallery and other free applications - won't support XP either. We won't find out for sure until the public beta comes out (reportedly in June) and of course, even then there will still be time for changes before the final release (reportedly scheduled for August). If true, this is apt to make some XP users very unhappy.

Make your XP (or Vista or Windows 7) computer look like Windows Phone 7

You can't yet buy a phone running the new Windows Phone 7 operating system ("Series" has been dropped from the name, thank goodness), but the user interface has been demonstrated and has the tech world buzzing. And if you just can't wait, there is an application that you can install to make your XP (or other Windows) desktop look like the phone UI. It's called Omnimo and you can read more about it, and find a link to download it, here:

A better idea than saving XP?

Warning - this article is a bit, shall we say, tongue in cheek. Check the date it was published before you take it too seriously. But it's still a fun read, and I would be willing to bet there are at least a few folks out there who really feel this way:

No Office for iPad

If you're one of the many who celebrated April Fools Day by rushing to the Apple Store to buy an iPad, don't make plans to run Microsoft Office on it anytime soon. According to Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft's Business Division, the company has no current plans to make a version of their popular productivity suite for the new Apple device. Is this the right decision? Or is it, as many tech commentators seem to think, a big mistake? Only time will tell, but let us know what you think, and whether you're at all interested in the "giant iPhone sans phone" that went on sale last week.

 How To: Using XP Features

How to do a diagnostic for DirectX problems

If you have performance problems with video games or other 3D applications, you might want to run the DirectX diagnostic tool in XP to track down the source of the problems. Here's how:
  1. Click Start | Run
  2. In the Open box, type dxdiag
  3. Check the System tab to find out what version of DirectX is installed and get other general system information.
  4. Check the DirectX Files tab, which will show you in the Notes section at the bottom if any of your important DirectX files are missing. If you have missing files, you may need to reinstall DirectX.
  5. Check the Display tab to run DirectDraw and Direct3D tests, which will tell you whether DirectX is running properly and allow you to disable acceleration if needed.
These tests will go a long way toward helping you find the root of your DirectX problems (or confirm that DirectX isn't the problem). Just follow the instructions in the dialog boxes.

 XP Security News

Watch out for malicious PDF files

Most computer users consider PDF files to be pretty safe, unlike executables or even Word documents that can contain macros. After all, it's just a way to present a two-dimensional document, right? Well, maybe not. Recently a security researcher discovered a way to embed code in a PDF and launch it using Adobe Reader or Foxit, just by opening the file. The good news is that, at the moment, it's still in the "proof of concept" stage (meaning nobody has actually released such an attack in the wild) and the makers of the PDF readers have been notified. The bad news is that it's not exploiting a vulnerability in the software, which makes it harder to come up with a "fix" for it. Read more here:

 XP Question Corner

How can I do a search and replace on File names?

I have a directory that has many files (hundreds) with file names that start with the same word (Smith) and then additional descriptions, like this: Smith birthday photo.jpg, Smith vacation1.jpg, and so on. What I want to do is replace "Smith" with something else, my first name instead of my last, so that they're named Lisa birthday photo.jpg and so forth. Is there a way to do this in one big operation (like how you can search and replace in Word) to replace "Smith" wherever it appears with "Lisa?" Hope this makes sense. Thanks. - Lisa S.

XP has built-in functionality for renaming a group of files with sequentially numbered file names; for example, you could select the group, choose rename and type "Lisa," and your files would be named Lisa(1).jpg, Lisa(2).jpg, etc. but that's not very descriptive and I don't think that's what you want. However, you can do a search and replace within file names if you use a third party utility like FileMonkey. It will run on XP, and they have a tutorial on their web site that shows you how to search and replace in file names. The downside is that there is no "undo" so once you've renamed the files, you can't go back to the original names easily (unless you've backed them up first with the original names, which I highly recommend just in case it doesn't turn out like you expected).

Check it out here:

 XP Configuration and Troubleshooting

XP shuts down because UPS service is started

If you start the Uninterruptible Power Supply service on your Windows XP computer, and you don't have a UPS attached to your computer via a COM port (or if you, but it's not working), Windows will shut down either before or after you log on. That's a problem, because you can't get into Windows to turn off the UPS service. The solution is to start in Safe Mode and then follow the instructions in KB article 818197 at

"Bad Command Structure" error message

If you try to extract files from a compressed folder, you might get an error message that says "Compressed (zipped) folders was unable to create the specified directory. Ensure that the directory does not already exist, and that the path entered is valid." This happens because you didn't type the entire explicit path for the folder name. The solution is simple: type in the complete path name. See KB article 291779 for more information:

 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

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Personal & Educational Use Only This blog consists mainly of FREE newsletters from computer web gurus that I receive. I thought you might like to see them all in one place than try to discover them on your own. A moderate amount of editing may be done to eliminate unrelated repetitious ads or unnecessary text which bloat the post. However I have given the authors full credit and will not remove their site links because you deserve to see where it comes from and they deserve to get credit for what they have written. Your use of this site is simply for educational purposes. For more computer-related help go to: CPEDLEY.COM for free software, advice and tips on low cost products which are very helpful. If you want to contact the editor, please go CPEDLEY.COM and check the Contact page for email address.