Monday, August 3, 2009

What's Your Killer App?

WXPNews: Published by Sunbelt Software since 2001

Vol. 9, #82 - Aug 4, 2009 - Issue #390

 What's Your Killer App?

  1. Editor's Corner
    • What's Your Killer App?
    • Follow-up: How many computers is too many?
    • Quotes of the Week
  2. Cool Tools
    • Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without
  3. News, Hints, Tips and Tricks
    • Is XP's reign ending?
    • How to migrate from XP to Windows 7
    • How does Windows 7 stack up against XP on a netbook?
    • Zune HD: Will it be a contender?
  4. How To: Using XP Features
    • How to set XP to display the shutdown menu when you press the power button
  5. XP Security News
    • Adobe Flash: 12 new vulnerabilities patched
    • Fake ATM discovered at ... hacker convention
  6. XP Question Corner
    • How to play m4a music files?
  7. XP Configuration and Troubleshooting
    • Error message: "Game requires administrative rights"
  8. Fav Links
    • This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
  9. Product of the Week
    • WinCleaner OneClick Professional Clean - Fix Errors and Speed Up Your PC With Just One Click.

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 Editor's Corner

What's Your Killer App?

In last week's follow-up, I mentioned the reader who wrote to me that "Google mail has made Outlook obsolete to me." This past week, I tried using Gmail web mail for a whole day. I'm sorry, but no. It's slow and awkward and the interface is ugly and hard to navigate. I would hate to have to use that clunky web interface to process the 200 or more messages I get every day.

Don't get me wrong: I like having a Gmail account. It's a good backup for the once or twice per year that the Exchange server is down for more than a few minutes, and it's good to have another alternate email address for filling in web forms and giving to people to whom I don't want to give my "real" address. But I almost never access Gmail via the web. I get my Gmail messages (and my Hotmail messages) in Outlook. My Gmail and Hotmail Inboxes appear as folders in Outlook, and I can send from those accounts via Outlook, too. For instructions on how to set up Outlook 2007 to access your Gmail account, see

For a long time, I thought of Outlook as my "killer app." It's the one that I'll give up when they pry it from my cold, dead fingers. There are plenty of other email clients, many of them free. There are lots of web mail services whereby you can use the web browser as the mail client. But I've been living in Outlook for over a decade now. It gets better with every version. It does what I want and it does it the way I want it done.

I think most people who have been using computers for a while have that, at least one application that they depend on, are intimately familiar with, and love dearly. Of course, we have all grown more dependent on the web browser as time has gone by. For many people today, the web and the Internet are synonymous. Back in the early days of the 'Net, you needed many different programs to do different things. You had an email client, of course. You had the web browser to view HTML sites. An FTP client was essential for uploading and downloading files. You would need an IRC client if you wanted to engage in real-time chat. You used a program like PCAnywhere if you wanted to access your computer remotely. And so forth.

Today all of this, and more, can be done with just a web browser. You can get your email through the browser - not just for web mail accounts but even from your Exchange server if the administrator has set up Outlook Web Access (OWA). You can upload files to web sites and download files to your computer via the browser. You can chat or even have live audio-video conversations through a web service. You can remotely access your computer through a web-based service like GoToMyPC. It would be hard to argue that the web browser isn't today's killer application.

And that's the reason Google is building an operating system based on a web browser. That's why Microsoft is porting its Office programs to the web. That's why some less technically inclined users believe "the Internet is down" if their web browsers won't connect. Doing everything from one interface is convenient - but is it necessarily the best way?

The thing that I most frequently hear people say about web applications is that they're "good enough." Nobody argues that Gmail/Hotmail/Yahoo Mail can do as much as Outlook, just that they do "enough." Nobody seriously thinks working in Google Apps gives you the same power and flexibility and performance as working in Microsoft Office or OpenOffice, but - at least for certain tasks - they'll tell you it's good enough. I guess the question is whether you're willing to settle for "good enough."

Generally, I'm not. I could laboriously upload my photos to Picasa or Pixenate or one of dozens of other online photo editing sites, but I much prefer doing it in PhotoShop or PhotoPaint or PaintShopPro or another local program. It's faster, it gives me more features, and I don't have to worry about losing the work I've done if connection to the site is lost. I could post to my Typepad-based blog by typing the content into the Typepad web interface, but I prefer to set up my Live Writer blogging program to upload to the blog and do my writing in the locally-installed program. That way, I can blog even when my computer isn't online (for instance, on an airplane) and upload it later, and I have local copies of my posts saved on my hard drive.

Another problem: some of these web services need a fast Internet connection to work properly. I know people who are still using 56K modems, and have no plans to change soon. Local applications are a must for them, if they want to get anything done. As fast Internet access becomes more ubiquitous, this may become less of an issue. Several airlines are currently testing or have implemented in-flight broadband Internet access. Some see the lack of access on planes as, perhaps, the last obstacle to doing away with local applications entirely and moving everyone to web-based (or "cloud") apps accessed through the modern version of the thin client - netbooks.

It's true that web apps are getting better. OWA in Exchange 2007 has many improvements over its predecessors and it's getting even better with Exchange 2010. For instance, finally the message list won't be divided into pages but will scroll continuously like "real" Outlook. And now you'll get the same OWA experience with Firefox and Safari that you get with IE. We also get the side-by-side calendars that we've had in the full Outlook client for a long time. The problem is that getting this upgraded experience through the web requires that your organization upgrade its Exchange server. We run our own Exchange server here at the house and host our own email, but most Exchange users don't have that kind of control over such things.

Most of the Office programs are, to an extent, "killer apps" for me. I use them extensively in my work. I'm looking forward to trying out Microsoft's Office 2010 Web Apps, but I know these are only going to be "light" versions of the Office applications. First of all, not all Office programs will be available in Web form. According to leaked previews, there will be web versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook. If you need Access, Visio, Publisher, Project, etc., you'll still need to install the local programs. The web apps themselves won't have all the functionality of the full-fledged Office suite (not that you would expect them to, since they're free). For instance, you may not be able to edit SmartArt objects on the web. For some screenshots of the Web apps, see

An interesting aspect of the Office Web Apps is the apparent integration with the local Office programs, allowing you to continue what you're doing in the full Office client (assuming, of course, you have it installed) if the web version can't handle what you want to do. At first glance, you might wonder: why are you using the web app in the first place, if the full Office program is installed on your machine? On the other hand, I can see this as being very handy. You can start work on a document, spreadsheet or slideshow using the web apps when you're working from a public computer or on the road with a laptop that doesn't have a copy of Office. When you get back to your more fully-equipped system, you can access the document in the web app and then continue it in the full Office program. I can especially see using OneNote this way.

How about you? What's your "killer app?" Would you be willing to give up the local version for a web-based one? Are you one of those people who does just about everything from within the web browser now? Or do you prefer having your critical programs installed locally on your machine? If web apps are free and you have to pay for the local versions, does that make web apps "good enough?" If the web app providers start charging for their services, would that make a difference? And is it inevitable that they will do so at some point in the future? We invite you to discuss this topic on our forums at

And getting back to the email question and recognizing that many people have to use web mail, next week I'll spend a whole day with each of the major web mail providers and render an opinion on which is best.

Follow-up: How many computers is too many?

In last week's editorial, I posed the question: how many computers do you really need? How many do you want, if price were no object? How many do you have in your household? Those questions led to some great responses. I wasn't surprised to read that most of the readers who wrote have more than one computer and quite a few listed at least five.

This post from Stacie struck me: "My husband and I have two laptops (one with xp home sp2; the other with vista/win7), his two laptops (XP home sp2 and vista), and his hp desktop (xp home sp2) ... We're not too adventurous when it comes to computers. Not really used for anything other than relax time." The interesting thing is that a family that's "not too adventurous when it comes to computers" nevertheless has five of them - and none of them are used for work. And based on what I'm hearing, that's not at all atypical.

As another reader pointed out, "need" is a subjective term. Many people absolutely need at least one computer. You may be required by your job duties to keep up with email from home, or you might be taking a course that mandates downloading course materials online. There are probably alternatives - such as driving to the nearest public library or other location where a computer is available - but they would pose major inconveniences. The need for additional systems is harder to articulate, especially if they're just used for recreational purposes, but as RL pointed out, "it is really nice to have at least one per family member (that's 5) so we aren't fighting over them."

In fact, way back in 2004, The Register printed an article noting that 90% of British families with computers reported arguing over who got to use it and for how long, and noted that "to solve this problem, many families buy additional computers."

So we might even say that having multiple computers contributes to congeniality among family members. Maybe computer vendors ought to use that as a basis for marketing.

A friend had what's perhaps the best answer to the question of how many computers you need. She said, "one more than I have." It's sort of like the definition of rich: "someone who makes more money than I do." There is no one definitive answer, but I enjoyed hearing your views on the matter, and I found it interesting that, for all the talk of being able to use a "desktop replacement" type laptop as your sole computer, almost no one admitted to having only one system.

Thanks to all those who participated in this discussion.

'Til next week,
Deb Shinder, Editor

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Quotes of the Week

You have to find a way of working that makes it dead easy to take full advantage of your inspired moments. You never hit at a convenient time, nor do they last long. - Hugh McLeod

Give a man a fish, and you'll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll buy a funny hat. Talk to a hungry man about fish, and you're a consultant. - Scott Adams

If you believe everything you read, better not read. - Japanese proverb

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!

 Cool Tools

Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without


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

Fully automatic back ups to the "Cloud", and only $5/month for unlimited storage. Nice!

PC Tune-Up: 4 Easy Steps That Eliminate Frustrating Slow Computer Problems:

Registry First Aid 7.0 - New Release Is Faster, Safer and Even More Effective

Improve your English writing skills with WhiteSmoke a smarter solution for high quality writing. Download the free trial version here.

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

Vista gets bogged down very quickly! Advanced Vista Optimizer will tweak Vista for Max performance. Easy to use:

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.

 News, Hints, Tips and Tricks

Is XP's reign ending?

It's had a long, very good run, and there are still plenty of people around who say they have no intention of upgrading to another OS, at least until they buy a new computer that has the new one installed. However, in the business world, the percentage of companies using XP has finally started to decline, according to a recent Forrester Research report. Read more here:

How to migrate from XP to Windows 7

If you're one of those who are anticipating a move to Windows 7 in the near future, you may be wondering: what's the easiest way to do it? Vista users will have the option of doing an in-place upgrade to retain their applications and settings, but for those who are still running XP, it's a little more complicated. Even if you're going to buy a new computer with Windows 7 installed, however, there's still a way to keep from having to start completely from scratch; even though you'll have to install your applications, you can still migrate the app settings to the new system instead of having to manually configure everything. Find out more here:

How does Windows 7 stack up against XP on a netbook?

When the original EeePC was released, with a stripped down Linux OS, the first thing many people did was install Windows XP on it. A few brave souls tried to install Vista, but that didn't work out so well. Now that Windows 7 is close to release (and many people have copies of the release candidate), the next logical step is to try it out on the little low-powered computer. So what's the verdict? Can Windows 7 hold its own against XP in this contest? Find out here:

Zune HD: Will it be a contender?

Matt Rosoff, in his Digital Noise blog, says maybe. Smaller and thinner than the iPod Touch and with an OLED touch screen and redesigned interface, it's proof positive that Microsoft is still doggedly pursuing this market, with a device that does more than just play MP3s and videos. Check it out here:

 How To: Using XP Features

How to set XP to display the shutdown menu when you press the power button

By default, when you press your computer's power button, the system shuts down. That can be a problem if it sometimes gets pressed accidentally. You can configure XP to instead display the shutdown menu, giving you the option to choose whether to shut down, restart, etc. Here's how:
  1. Right click an empty spot on the desktop
  2. Select Properties
  3. In the display properties dialog box, click the Screen Saver tab
  4. Near the bottom of the dialog box, click the Power button
  5. In the Power Options Properties dialog box, click the Advanced tab
  6. At the bottom of the page, under "When I press the power button on my computer," select "Ask me what to do."
  7. Click OK
  8. Restart the computer

 XP Security News

Adobe Flash: 12 new vulnerabilities patched

If you use Adobe's Flash (and who doesn't, since it's needed to watch YouTube videos and the like), you need to be aware of a number of critical vulnerabilities that have been identified in the current versions of Flash Player for all the major operating systems (Windows, Mac and Linux). Adobe has also released an out-of-cycle update for Adobe Reader and Acrobat. See the security bulletin here:

Fake ATM discovered at ... hacker convention

Defcon is a popular convention that started out for hackers but is now attended by many IT pros and professionals in the network security industry. It's held every year in Las Vegas, in conjunction with its more famous counterpart, BlackHat. This year, someone was apparently trying to hack the hackers. A fake ATM was discovered in convention hotel. Just one more reason that I never use ATMs unless it's a dire emergency. If you need cash, it's safer to go to a grocery store, pay with your debit card and get cash back.

 XP Question Corner

How to play m4a music files?

I have some music files that are m4a format. I don't know how to play them on my computer. Can you help? Thanks. - Tully K.

The m4a file extension indicates these are audio-only MPEG-4 files. MPEG-4 is based on Apple QuickTime. Windows Media Player doesn't play them by default. One way to play them is to convert them to MP3 format. You can do that with one of several free programs; an example is Free M4a to MP3 Converter, which you can download here:

Another option is to install a codec for Windows Media Player so it can play this format directly. You can download a free MPEG-4 codec here:

Or you can install a media player that has support for MPEG-4. One such player is VLC player, which will work with several different operating systems:

Winamp 5.56 will also play the m4a files:

Note that you may not be able to convert or play some files because of Digital Rights Management (DRM) copy protection. If the file is M4P, it's a protected file.

 XP Configuration and Troubleshooting

Error message: "Game requires administrative rights"

If you attempt to play a game in Windows XP and you get an error message that says "Game requires administrative rights to play," or if the game doesn't recognize that the game disc is in the CD drive or won't let you save or open files, it's probably because you're logged on with a non-admin account and the game is written to require admin rights. To find out how to grant administrative access to an individual program, see KB article 893677 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

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 About WXPnews

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