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Commentary: Are IM and Spyware Inevitable Partners?
- February 2004 Reader Challenge Winners
- March 2004 Reader Challenge
News & Views
- Microsoft to Provide Antispam Technology, Foster Email Standards
- Tip: Leave My Current IE Browser Window Alone!
- Featured Thread: Windows 98 Automatic Logon
New and Improved
- Make Windows Systems Faster and More Stable
- Tell Us About a Hot Product and Get a T-Shirt!
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==== Commentary: Are IM and Spyware Inevitable Partners? ====
by David Chernicoff, [email protected]
Longtime readers of this column know my feelings about the various Instant Messaging (IM) programs that have proliferated throughout the Internet over the past few years. In general, I haven't been enthusiastic about using these tools, but more and more my clients ask me for an AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) or Yahoo! or MSN Messenger IM ID so that they can pop in with questions about projects or planning.
Of course, living in a household with kids, I know that IM is a de facto part of the childhood experience these days. Despite the availability of telephones (both cellular and plain old telephone service--POTS), kids seem to feel that they need to talk to their friends with messaging. I use Cerulean Studios' Trillian IM client because I don't want to have to install multiple applications to use IM features. Trillian's Pro version has worked well for me since its release. (Trillian also offers a free basic version of its IM client, available at http://www.trillian.cc.) Trillian lets me connect to AIM, MSN, and Yahoo! and access the IM features that these services offer without requiring me to use their dedicated clients, which makes using the services more bearable for me. I can categorize correspondents by task and type (e.g., business or personal) across various services without regard to which service each user is on.
Recently, I discovered another good reason to use Trillian instead of other IM clients. My kids upgraded their computer to AIM 5.5, the latest version of the IM client. In my weekly security scan of this computer, I discovered that AIM 5.5 installs a lot of stuff, including WildTangent monitoring software, so that AOL can track how its members use the games that AIM now includes.
The WildTangent software sets off my spyware scanner (I use Lavasoft's free Ad-aware program, available from http://www.lavasoftusa.com ). Although WildTangent doesn't collect personal data about users, I have a firm policy of killing spyware on the computers on my combination home-office network. The bigger problem here is that many businesses use AIM to provide quick connectivity between their internal and external users. Does any business want external software on its network that tracks employee behavior? You can kill WildTangent and still use AIM (although doing so is technically in violation of the AIM user agreement). However, the point is that the WildTangent software is automatically installed--you can't prevent the installation. If you use AIM in your business, you now have one more thing to worry about.
If you're a hardcore IM user, I suggest that you consider using Trillian as your basic IM client. And make sure you run spyware-checking tools on your computer after any upgrade, or simply as part of your general computer maintenance and hygiene routine. A Google search will return many free products worthy of your consideration.
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==== Reader Challenge ====
by Kathy Ivens, [email protected]
February 2004 Reader Challenge Winners
Congratulations to Doug Dau of Iowa, who wins first prize, a copy of "Windows Server Undocumented Solutions: Beyond the Knowledge Base" by Serdar Yegulalp (McGraw-Hill Publishing). Rachel Lemonti of Ipswich, Massachusetts, wins second prize, a copy of "Linksys Networks: The Official Guide, Second Edition," by Larry J. Seltzer and Kathy Ivens (McGraw-Hill Publishing). Visit http://www.winnetmag.com/articles/index.cfm?articleid=41703 to read the answer to the February Reader Challenge.
March 2004 Reader Challenge
Solve this month's Windows Client challenge, and you might win a prize! Email your solution (don't use an attachment) to [email protected] by March 18, 2004. You must include your full name, street mailing address, and phone number (without that information, we can't send you a prize if you win).
I choose winners at random from the pool of correct entries. Because I receive so many entries each month, I can't reply to respondents. (I never respond to a request for a receipt.) Look for the solutions to this month's problem at http://www.winnetmag.com/articles/index.cfm?articleid=41919 on March 18, 2004.
Recently, I eavesdropped on a meeting in which a consultant was explaining the way she planned to manage classes she would be holding at a training center. The center's network is a 12-station Windows 2000 domain with one server. The consultant told the folks who run the center that each student would log on with the same username ("student") and would save documents locally. She planned to instruct each student to create a data folder for her class, and all students would use the same folder name. She made the following announcement: "I'll create a folder on the server named StudentData. When the first class ends, I'll drag each student's folder to the StudentData folder on the server and remove the local folders to keep the data away from the students in other classes. Then, for my remaining classes, I'll either teach my students how to access their server-based folders or I'll drag the folders back to the workstations."
Sigh! Another IT professional who knows just enough to be dangerous. I'm so grateful that these people exist because they provide most of the fodder for my monthly challenges. What would I do without them? To be eligible for this month's prize, tell me what's going to happen.
==== News & Views ====
by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]
Microsoft to Provide Antispam Technology, Foster Email Standards
At the RSA Conference 2004 Internet security conference in San Francisco on February 24, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates outlined his company's plans to work with large email partners to eliminate spam. Gates said Microsoft will give those partners free technology that will emulate the caller ID functionality in today's telephone systems and prevent spammers from hiding their identities and forwarding mail through anonymous sources. The plan, which involves backers such as Amazon.com, Brightmail, and Sendmail and calls for a global registry of legitimate Internet email sources, might have to compete with similar but less sophisticated initiatives in the works at Yahoo! and AOL. Microsoft correctly notes, however, that for the scheme to work, a large number of email providers must adopt it.
Microsoft's antispam effort, the Coordinated Spam Reduction Initiative (CSRI), will include numerous policies and technologies that the company will use to curb the spam threat. Microsoft is working to establish standards that will help legitimate email senders differentiate themselves from spammers, developing new email filters, and working on a micropayment system that would make spam financially ineffective. "Spam is our email customers' number-one complaint today, and Microsoft is innovating on many different fronts to eradicate it," Gates said. "We believe that Caller ID for E-Mail and the Coordinated Spam Reduction Initiative will help change the economic model for sending spam and put spammers out of business."
Ryan Hamlin, general manager for Microsoft's Anti-Spam Technology and Strategy Group, describes Caller ID as a mechanism that legitimate senders of email can use to help ensure that spammers aren't abusing their Internet domains. "In a nutshell, caller ID involves two key steps," he said. "One, senders of email publish the IP addresses of their outgoing mail servers in DNS in an email-policy document. Two, the email software at the receiving end of a message queries DNS for the email policy and determines the 'purported responsible domain' of the message. This is done by comparing the information in DNS to ensure it matches the information on the originating mail. We believe this technical solution gets at the root of the spam problem by helping to confirm legitimate senders."
By this summer, Microsoft will roll out a beta version of Caller ID for E-Mail in MSN Hotmail to test its effectiveness. Hotmail currently serves more than 150 million active email users and is the most-used email service on the planet. Microsoft will also work with partners to ensure that the system is in place on as many email ISPs as possible and help develop a compliance program. The company is also working on viable-identification alternatives for smaller email senders and says it will continue to work on other antispam technologies, including challenge-response systems, machine learning, micropayments, and safelists.
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==== Resources ====
Tip: Leave My Current IE Browser Window Alone!
by David Chernicoff, [email protected]
If you're tired of clicking URLs in email messages or applications only to have the resulting window take over the Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) browser you're currently using, try this simple registry edit. It will enable a new browser window to open and won't affect the current browser window.
1. Launch a registry editor in Windows XP or Windows 2000.
2. Open the HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Main\AllowWindowReuse subkey.
3. Set the subkey's value of type REG_DWORD to 0.
4. Exit the registry editor.
5. Log off, then log back on to activate the change.
Featured Thread: Windows 98 Automatic Logon
Forum member ngaisteve1 would like to know how to configure Windows 98 on his computer so that he's automatically logged on to Windows 98 when he boots the computer. If you can help, join the discussion at the following URL: http://www.winnetmag.com/forums/rd.cfm?cid=39&tid=117377
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==== New and Improved ====
by Dianne Russell, [email protected]
Make Windows Systems Faster and More Stable
Uniblue Systems announced SpeedUpMyPC 2.0, software that lets you tune Windows systems for faster, more reliable performance. SpeedUpMyPC analyzes your system and recommends specific actions to optimize your PC's performance. The software will allocate extra processing cycles to applications you specify and can assign extra resources to the OS or important applications when a running application dominates available CPU resources. The automatic RAM recovery feature monitors your system's memory usage and automatically frees unused RAM to keep applications running optimally. The Disk Performance Monitor generates detailed read-write performance graphs for any drive you specify so that you can monitor disk load and performance. You can use hot keys to activate the anticrash function in critical situations and instantly terminate rogue applications. SpeedUpMyPC's built-in security scanner terminates spyware and Trojans that threaten your system and your privacy. SpeedUpMyPC supports Windows Server 2003/XP/2000/Me/9x systems. Cost is $39.95 for a single-user version; multiple-user licenses are available. You can download a fully functional 30-day trial version of the software at http://www.liutilities.com . Contact Uniblue Systems at [email protected] .
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