Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Will Technology Turn Against You in 2009?

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Vol. 8, #52 - Jan 6, 2009 - Issue #360

 Will Technology Turn Against You in 2009?

  1. Editor's Corner
    • Will Technology Turn Against You in 2009?
    • Follow-up: Computers, Emotions and Personality
    • Quotes of the Week
  2. Cool Tools
    • Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without
  3. News, Hints, Tips and Tricks
    • Microsoft extends XP's life - again
    • Will XP fans hate Windows 7?
    • Have your sidebar and XP too
  4. How To: Using XP Features
    • How to make the XP taskbar look like Windows 7
    • How to reverse the buttons on your mouse
  5. XP Security News
    • Top 2009 Security Threats
    • Hashing algorithm used for SSL certificates is not secure
  6. XP Question Corner
    • Why can't I change Automatic Update settings?
  7. XP Configuration and Troubleshooting
    • Can't install XP Service Pack 3
    • Can't install the WGA Validation Tool
  8. Fav Links
    • This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
  9. Product of the Week
    • Edraw Max

VIPRE and AVG Resource Usage Shoot-Out

Many of you asked how VIPRE compares to the popular AVG. Well, we ran the tests and posted the results. The numbers tell the story. VIPRE deep scan time is 3.5 times faster in minutes. VIPRE takes only 38% of the CPU compared to AVG, and AVG takes 1.5 times the the Memory compared to VIPRE. In short: both AVG "Free" and "Paid" use A LOT more resources to do the job, which can slow down your PC dramatically. Here are the details and the graphs:

 Editor's Corner

Will Technology Turn Against You in 2009?

Seems as if it was only a couple of years ago that we were all worried about what was going to happen to our computers when 1999 turned into 2000. Now it's already just one year shy of a decade later, and that potential problem (which turned out to be mostly a non-issue) seems far in the past.

Or maybe not so far. Owners of the 30 GB model of Microsoft's Zune MP3 player received an unpleasant surprise last week when thousands of the devices suddenly locked up. The problem turned out to be a "leap year bug" whereby the internal clocks of the devices had not been programmed to handle a year with 366 days. The problem occurred if you connected the Zune to a computer on leap day; those who waited until after noon GMT on January 1 to do so weren't affected. Microsoft provided instructions for "unfreezing" the players, at

At best the experience was an annoyance for people who lost the use of their players at just the wrong time (since many are traveling or off work during the holidays and perhaps more likely to be listening to music). Even worse, a few folks were reporting that the posted process for reviving the Zunes didn't work and they were left with "bricked" players (a term made popular by an early iPhone fiasco).

It's bad enough when our technological devices seem to turn against us because of some stupid programming error like the Y2K or Z366 flaws. It's even worse when technology that is supposedly developed for our benefit is deliberated used against us by criminals, corporations or the government. Unfortunately, we can probably expect to see more and more of the latter in 2009 and subsequent years.

Hackers are getting more sophisticated all the time and they always seem to stay a step ahead of the security measures designed to thwart them. Once upon a time, most network intruders were talented kids who broke into systems to prove their skills; they might inadvertently do damage, but that wasn't the primary intent. Today most attacks are launched with malice in mind, often for profit: there's an entire underground industry built on obtaining and using stolen information, from individual bank account passwords and credit card numbers to entire identities to corporate trade secrets and financials.

The bad guys also have more and better tools at their disposal than they did in the past. And thanks to technologies of convenience - such as wi-fi and Bluetooth and various applications that make computer users' lives easier but open up avenues of attack - they have more options for "getting in" and gaining access to our information. See the "XP Security News" section later in this newsletter for discussion about the Top Security Threats of 2009.

Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if it were only the bad guys that we had to worry about. After all, we expect them to do us harm. We don't - or at least shouldn't have to - expect the same from those with whom we do business or the governmental agencies that are supposed to protect us. Yet those entities are invading our privacy and putting our sensitive information at risk to an alarming degree, and the trend shows no sign of letting up.

I had an experience recently that brought that home in a personal way. I was shopping for groceries at Target and along with the usual items, I picked up a bottle of wine for a holiday party. When I got to the checkout counter, the clerk asked for my driver's license. I guess I look okay for my age, but on a Saturday morning, with my hair up in a makeshift ponytail that shows the gray at the temples and no makeup to speak of, nobody is going to mistake me for a 21 year old. Still, I don't mind verifying it for the record, so I held it out for the clerk to see.

That wasn't good enough. "I need to swipe it through the machine," he told me. Say what? Looking at my license to ensure that I'm not some sneaky prematurely aging 16 year old is one thing. Recording that information for who-knows-what later use is quite another. I noted that it was a privacy issue, and the clerk noted that he didn't like doing it but was required to. I ended up leaving the wine there. Later I went down the road to Tom Thumb, where I bought an identical bottle of wine for about a dollar more - but nobody asked me for my ID or wanted to swipe it through the system.

The more I think about it, the more troubled I am by this trend. I'm sure some readers will say "you got upset about giving them your driver's license but you probably paid with a credit or debit card." As a matter of fact, I was paying cash. But even if I weren't, recording the information from my driver's license is different from recording the limited information on my credit card. The magnetic strips and bar codes on drivers' licenses can contain all sorts of personal information, including your home address, your birth date, your social security number - everything that's needed to steal your identity or even to target you for a home burglary.

I don't know how or if Target plans to use the swiped ID information. I'm not too worried about being accused of having an alcohol problem based on my purchase of one bottle of wine three or four times a year. They'll say they're doing it to prove that they comply with state laws prohibiting sales of booze to minors, but the law doesn't require them to keep a database, just to reasonably ensure that a purchaser isn't under the age limit. It certainly would be tempting, though, to use that database for marketing purposes, since it's a way to get the info on customers who decline to participate in their (voluntary) reward card programs.

But regardless of Target's own use of the data, I'm more concerned about it getting into more malicious hands. When we read every day about breaches of data security, with private companies, universities and government agencies allowing people's personal data to be stolen or lost, I don't want mine in any more databases than absolutely necessary. If I can avoid that by buying my wine at a different store, that's what I'll do. That's no big loss to Target, I guess.

If only all privacy invasions were that easily circumvented. When it's the government doing the invading, we usually don't have a choice. There are so many examples of this that many of us have given up completely, but I still think it's important to take a stand against each new invasion of our privacy by our governments, whether federal, state or local.

You may have read that because drivers are doing what the government wanted them to do (driving less and driving more fuel efficient cars), gasoline tax revenues are down. Oh, dear. These taxes are used to build and maintain the roads (of course, if we're driving less, that should mean road maintenance costs decrease, too, but let's not confuse the issue with logic), so governments are "concerned." The governor of Oregon has proposed a "mileage" tax that will use a GPS to determine how many miles you drive your car and tax you 1.2 cents per mile:

I don't live in Oregon, and I probably drive far fewer miles than most people, but these "great ideas" have a way of starting on the west coast and spreading to the rest of the country. Having the government download the data routinely from everyone's GPS is another troubling idea to me. Of course, the governor assures his constituency that only the mileage data will be recorded - not where you go. And of course, he's a politician so we shouldn't be worried that it might not work out exactly as he says.

I love technology and I'm not ready to give it all up and go live in the woods with no electricity just because my technology has the potential to be used against me. But these trends bother me. How about you? Do you think the technology will be used to restrict, control and tax us more and more in the future? Or does the use of technology just ensure that laws are enforced and taxes imposed more fairly? Is it way too late to worry about privacy when our names are already in hundreds of databases? Or is it time to stand up and say "no" to unnecessary collection of our personal information? Tell us what you think at feedback@wxpnews.com

Follow-up: Computers, Emotions and Personality

In our last newsletter (prior to the holiday hiatus), I discussed the relationship between computers, emotions and personality, including how electronic devices can impact our emotional states and whether they can cause long-term personality changes. Many of you wrote to say that you definitely get emotional about your computers from time to time. I guess Dan the Man put it most succinctly when he wrote that "I am A+ certified and pcs still p--- me off."

Judging by the number of exclamation points, many readers got emotional about the whole topic. Vic G. said, "All this technology has led to the explosion of obesity in this country. Instead of our kids going out to play, they are parked in front of game systems or computers. When it was just televisions it was bad enough. Plus how many in my area alone have been killed due to technology? Too many! (one was a car load of young women who died due to texting). Sure being tech-savvy is great in some ways but it sure isn't great in all of them! We need a healthy balance of tech and the good old days!"

Old friend J.P.G. offered this: "Has the electronic age changed us? Of course. I would say our attention span has shortened considerably (which is not a good thing), though whether technology is to blame for this or just an adjunct, I don't know. Do my devices ever make you emotional? Not often - I am attached to my older devices, much in the way I was to a car, but (other than getting cross with recalcitrant software), they don't usually make me emotional - though the people I meet through them do."

Many who wrote likened the effects of the Internet to those of having a few drinks. Kenneth F. said, "I believe that being on-line sometimes releases a person's inhibitions in a way somewhat similar to that performed by alcohol ingestion. For both, a person's more hidden personality traits tend to surface. A repressed person may become emotive on the Internet, and an aggressive one may become more thoughtful. The reason for this is the very impersonality of the medium, as opposed to being able to see another person close-up and real. This goes, too, for those who become unbuttoned (sometimes all too literally!) before a Webcam."

Some of you say you don't let your computers get to you. Ellen D. wrote: "The day I let my computer get the better of my emotions and personality will be the day I become a brainwashed zombie. I feel I have enough knowledge to deal with whatever it can cough up at times, speaking of the technical side of it." She also noted that, "Computers have made the world smaller and smaller and at the same time there are more and more people living on this planet making it even smaller yet. Perhaps people need a way to shut it all out whenever they can... putting on their ear buds and tuning it all out."

Bonita shared this sensible analysis: "I am usually kind of soothed by sitting in front of the computer doing research. I occasionally get angry at my printer for "eating" my print projects, but usually I'm the one fixing the technological difficulties. I think that obviously people bring their own emotional maturity to any and all parts of their lives. If they have a short fuse and blow up easily in anger, they will probably blow up while using computers or other devices too."

But many of you are worried about what technology is doing to the children. Michael H. wrote, "I personally think, and my daughter is living proof, that devices such as Cell phones and I-pods are creating a new generation of unsociable kids. They don't know how to interact with each other face-to-face anymore. They can't seem to think of anything to talk about unless they are texting and even then they communicate using acronyms instead of real Webster's dictionary words. I'm truly concerned that our younger generation, you know the ones that will be leading our country soon, will not be able to handle serious situations such as marriage, raising children, going to church and as I stated previously, running our country."

Tom G.'s experience is similar: "I believe many are already becoming 'sheep' - dependant on their devices in order to have a good day. My (otherwise) two extremely level headed teenagers can't seem to function unless they are plugged in to their music. Spontaneous conversation is almost nonexistent - it's almost like you have to get an appointment to have a conversation because they first have to 'disengage' from their devices."

Carolane P., however, has a different perspective: "... my introverted, sullen daughter has metamorphosed into a living, breathing person once she was able to 'connect' with her friends and classmates. Her communication still consists primarily of grunts and nods to my husband and I but occasionally and more frequently we have seen glimmers of old fashion communication. Sentences that seem to stretch on for words. She seems to have found herself and is quite comfortable. Dare I say a real personality change. I'm not sure if it is her simply growing up or the technology; I tend to think it is the technology."

And Edward L. said, "...Tecno-babelism is where technology is slowly eroding the social foundations of society. Why go to a concert when you can listen to the concert on your PC? Why go to a meeting when you can attend from home? Why go to a football game and sit in the 110th row (nosebleed section) on a snowy day when you can watch the game much more closely on you wall size screen in the comfort of your heated vibrating recliner? Why hold the hand of your loved one (for reassurance) on a turbulent flight when she can be engrossed in Yanni or Josh Groban for relief of her tension? The difference is... the language barrier which caused the failure in the construction of the tower of Babel was easily identifiable. Our current dilemma, which has not yet truly come to light, will fester for many years before we see any serious effects but we already see some communication issues."

Orris H. has a somewhat more optimistic interpretation: "We used to live in small communities (agrarian/traditional society) and interact in person - then we moved from rural to urban living (industrial/modern society), invented phones, libraries and shopping malls. Cell phones, email, and the web are just the post-industrial technologies that accomplish these basic human social functions in our post-modern society and we will not likely abandon them until better tools replace them. The tools are temporary - the human need is universal and enduring."

Personal Note
Thank you to the hundreds of readers who sent holiday greetings and wishes for a happy new year. I was truly overwhelmed, and I hope all of you had as much fun as I did with family and friends. Despite the scary headlines, 2008 was a pretty good year and I look forward to more interaction with my readers in 2009.

'Til next week,
Deb Shinder, Editor

PS: Did you know this newsletter has a sister publication called VistaNews? You can subscribe here, and tell your friends:

And for IT pros, there's our "big sister," WServer News, at

Quotes of the Week

Remember that what you believe will depend very much on what you are. - Noah Porter (1811-1892)

Data is not information; Information is not knowledge; Knowledge is not understanding; Understanding is not wisdom. - Cliff Stoll and Gary Schubert

It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong. - Voltaire (1694- 1778)

New: Sunbelt Personal Firewall Now Supports Vista

The Windows Firewall is worse than useless, it gives you a false sense of security. Why is the Windows Firewall not cutting it? It only filters INCOMING traffic. That means if malware has compromised your PC, it is able to SEND OUT your credit card data, and all other personal info. That's right; the Windows "firewall" does not stop that! The Sunbelt Personal Firewall (SPF) now supports Windows XP and 32-bit Vista, and it DOES filter both in - AND outgoing traffic. Of course it works great with CounterSpy and VIPRE. The SPF two-way firewall keeps hackers out and your private info inside. Believe us, with the crime rates on the Internet skyrocketing, you really want to get the full version of SPF.

 Cool Tools

Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without


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Rip DVDs for your iPod/iPhone or Apple TV. Bundle includes video converter too! Try it free!

Vista can quickly morph itself into a SNAIL! Advanced Vista Optimizer will tweak Vista for Max performance.

Still not backing up your data!? No worries. Synchronization is easier, faster and much more current than backups!

Simplify Your Life With StickyNote! The 3-D Notes look like real bits of paper stuck to your screen!

Spotmau PowerSuite Professional 2008: Fantastic! All the tools necessary to fix most common computer problems. Clone and backup too!

Print Screen Deluxe is the realistic upgrade of the Windows version. You can crop - before the capture! Very quick!

One password gives automatic, secure access to all my online passwords and usernames. The autofill feature is a major time-saver! Not a widget.

 News, Hints, Tips and Tricks

Microsoft extends XP's life - again

In the December 16 issue of the newsletter, we wrote that XP is just too good to die. Apparently Microsoft realizes it, too; a little over a week ago they announced that they are extending its life once again. Now custom system builders will be allowed to continue to get copies Windows XP until the end of May 2009 instead of January 31 as previously planned. Windows 7 is expected to be released sometime in the last half of the year. Read more here:

Will XP fans hate Windows 7?

Many folks have written to tell me that they're skipping Windows Vista and waiting for Windows 7, as they've heard that it's a much better OS. Ed Bott, over at ZDNet, has put forth an interesting premise: his recent column is titled "If you love Windows XP, you'll hate Windows 7." Well, maybe. Those who have resisted Vista and stayed with XP simply because they hate anything new undoubtedly won't like Win7 any better than Vista. It will present even more of a change than does Vista. On the other hand, if your gripe with Vista was the slow performance that it suffered from on some computers (especially pre- Service Pack 1) and/or the "in your face" aspect of its User Account Control security, you might find Win7 a bit more friendly. Either way, Ed's article is worth a read:

Have your sidebar and XP too

Even though you've chosen to continue to run Windows XP, there may be some things that you like about Vista. The main thing I used to miss when I used an XP computer was my Vista sidebar - but now that's not an issue because I have the Thooseje Sidebar installed on the two systems that are still running XP. The Thooseje sidebar for XP looks remarkably like the Vista sidebar, with many of the same gadgets, and you can customize its look to an even greater extent than you can with Vista's built-in sidebar. To see what it looks like and for the link to the (free) download, check out my blog post at

 How To: Using XP Features

How to make the XP taskbar look like Windows 7

Already added the Vista-like sidebar discussed above to your XP computer? Want to go a step further and make your XP taskbar look like the one in Windows 7? Download this application and have fun:

How to reverse the buttons on your mouse

I know many left handed folks who have gotten used to using a computer mouse that was made for a right handed world, but you don't have to. You can switch the functions of the left and right mouse buttons. Here's how:
  1. Click Start | Control Panel
  2. Double click the Mouse applet
  3. On the Buttons tab, check the box that says "Switch primary and secondary buttons."
  4. Click OK

 XP Security News

Top 2009 Security Threats

What will the top online security threats be in the coming year? Nobody has a crystal ball, but everyone is making predictions and it's a good bet that at least some of those predictions will prove to be correct. Take a look at these:

Hashing algorithm used for SSL certificates is not secure

Computer users rely on the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption and digital certificates issued by trusted public certification authorities such as VeriSign to ensure that their web-based financial transactions are secure. Now attackers may be able to spoof those certificates that use the MD-5 hashing algorithm, which means the integrity of secure sites is in question. Read more about it here:

 XP Question Corner

Why can't I change Automatic Update settings?

I have an HP desktop computer that I got from my sister (hand-me-down) running XP Pro. I wanted to make sure the automatic updates work but when I go to the Automatic Updates in Control Panel all of the settings are grayed out and I can't change anything. What's going on and how can I fix it? Thanks. - Tim S.

The first question is whether you're logged on with an administrative account. If not, you won't be able to configure Auto Update settings. The fix is simple: log on with an admin account. If that's not the problem, it may be that a group policy setting is blocking Automatic Updates. Try this:
  1. Click Start | Run and type gpedit.msc in the box.
  2. In the Group Policy Editor, navigate to: Computer Configuration | Administrative Templates | Windows Components | Windows Update
  3. In the right pane, double click Configure Automatic Updates
  4. Set the policy to "Not Configured"
  5. Navigate to the following location: User Configuration | Administrative Templates | Windows Components | Automatic Update
  6. In the right pane, double click Remove access to all Windows Update features
  7. Make sure the policy is set to "Not Configured"
Automatic Updates can also be configured by editing the registry. For more information on using both Group Policy and the registry, see KB article 328010 at

 XP Configuration and Troubleshooting

Can't install XP Service Pack 3

If you try to install XP Service Pack 3 and get a message that says "Access Denied" or "Service Pack installation did not complete," it might be because of restrictions on one or more registry keys. To find out several methods for resolving the problem, see KB article 949377 at

Can't install the WGA Validation Tool

You need to install the Windows Genuine Advantage tool from the Microsoft website in order to validate your copy of XP before you're allowed to download some free programs, but you might receive an error message when you try to do so. The error message says (unhelpfully): 0x80070005. Find out what to do about it in KB article 917499 at

 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

Edraw Max

Edraw Max is powerful yet easy to use vector-based diagramming software chock full of incredible templates. Create your own home floor plans, plan and layout your home office or home entertainment room, create fashion designs, electrical plans, maps, org charts, flow charts, business process, software plans, work flows, program structures, network diagrams, chart and graphics, mind maps, directional maps and database diagrams. With pre-drawn libraries and more than 2000 vector art symbols, drawing and layout couldn't be easier! Download the (30) day fully functional trial and compare to Microsoft Visio.

 About WXPnews

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