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What You Need to Know about All Things PC


Volume 2 Number 18

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The Naked PC -
What You Need to Know about All Things PC
Publisher:            Lee Hudspeth and T.J. Lee
Editor in Chief:      Dan Butler
Contributing Editor:  Al Gordon
This issue is for Thursday, September 2, 1999 - Vol. 2 No. 18

Table of Contents

** 01. Letter from the Publisher
** 02. A Journey with Linux 6.0 (by Dan Butler)
** 03. A Cheap Solution to the "Rat's Nest of Cable"
       Problem: Part 3 (by Lee Hudspeth)
** 04. TUGPCs Corner - The Instant Expert Method (partial
** 05. Software Bargains and Free Stuff (by Dan Butler)
** 06. Featured Book - "Perl CD Bookshelf" by O'Reilly &
** 07. Featured FAQ - TUGPCs: Where the heck is that URL?
** 08. Featured Product Recommendation - JamCam by Kidboard
** 09. Featured Web Site - ZIP+4 Code Look-up
** 10. Newsworthy - a potpourri of current events and
       interesting stuff
** 11. We Get Mail - Comments and Tips from TNPC Readers

** 01. Letter from the Publisher

Yes, late again... I'll have to take full and complete
responsibility myself. Despite the best efforts of my colleagues
here at TNPC nothing could overcome the trials and tribulations of
"The Move." Dog, bunny, four kids, wife, and household seem to
have made the relocation with massive effort but little lasting
detrimental side effects. I, however, may never be the same .

But the sprained back will heal and eventually I know I'll be able
to get the smell of musty cardboard out of my head. Maybe by
Christmas. Anyway, as new residents of Clovis, California, I send
greetings to any TNPCers here in the Valley area!

The subscriber count continues to climb and TNPCers now number
35,000 strong (and that's a real subscriber count by the way). We
here at TNPC appreciate all the email we receive from you all and
the positive feedback you've given us.

In this issue Dan embarks on a fascinating journey to Linux
enlightenment and Lee wraps up the Cable Solution series. Al's on
a short hiatus this issue, dealing with some outline changes on a
series of books we're working on (more teasers to follow on this).
As Jim just mentioned, he's nursing a sore back and near-terminal
culture shock having relocated his entire family nearly 250 miles
in 36 days from decision to move to unpacking the first box in his
new home.

TNPCer Jeff pointed out a gaff we made in the last issue of TNPC
(#2.17) wherein we said the Christmas Virus activation date was
12/31/99 when -- as its name implies -- December 25th is the
trigger date. Thanks Jeff!

Mike C. points out that we did not announce the winner of our free
book giveaway in the last issue and that's because the guy
responsible for giving the books away was busy moving. Sheesh. Jim
has promised to be more attentive and to pull a random number out
of the hat and give some books away ASAP.

As always, reader support is what keeps TNPC free, so please pass
a copy of TNPC on to co-workers and friends (no spam please!) and
always say "I saw it in TNPC!"

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** 02. A Journey with Linux 6.0 - by Dan Butler

The latest technology IPO buzz has been over Red Hat Linux. At one
point their stock price (having started out at around $14/share)
rose above Microsoft's. Regardless of what you think of Linux, the
IPO is impressive. Our own Al Gordon wrote about his experience
with Linux a while back here in TNPC. As a UNIX system
administrator by title and a Webmaster by job function I'm no
stranger to the Linux way of doing things. So I've started a
little experiment and I'll keep you posted on the progress.

I've been meaning to set up a Linux machine as a server here for
some time now. So I was at CompUSA recently and purchased the
retail version of Red Hat Linux 6.0. Using my second PC (an older
P90 with 96 MB of RAM) I was set to do the install. Putting the
boot floppy in A: and the CD-ROM in the drive I turned the machine
on. After answering several questions the install took off and 15
minutes later I had a working Linux machine running the X Window
system. This was quite a change as the installer took care of
partitioning, formatting, and installing the system. If any of you
are looking to try Linux out I would recommend trying Red Hat
Linux 6.0 over any other flavor just for its ease of use.

That was twenty-four days ago and I haven't rebooted since. In the
meantime I have networked my Windows 98 machine with the Linux
box. All of my documents and preference backups are now being
taken care of by Linux thanks to SAMBA, which is acting like an NT
server (I was able to pull that off by using the instructions from
last issue's Featured Web Site,

With the free-for-personal-use StarOffice I'm editing all my
Office 97 documents from Linux and testing the viability of using
it as my primary system. The only programs I don't think I'll find
a suitable replacement for are Dreamweaver, Quicken, and Pegasus
mail. In the case of Quicken and Pegasus the issue is more one of
familiarity and historical data. Pegasus has many thousands of
messages stored for me and a complex set of filters built over

To get around this limitation I installed the freeware WinVNC
mentioned in TNPC #1.12. Now I can remotely run the Win98 machine
from inside Linux giving me access to the Windows applications I
have not yet replaced under Linux. Pretty slick and a suitable
temporary solution.

Next I want to make the Linux machine a firewall/proxy and
Internet dialer for all the machines that I've networked together.
After that I want to automate the backing up of various data both
on the Web and the local machines as well as schedule many of the
mundane tasks that occupy my time but that could just as easily be
handled while I sleep. I'll keep you posted on my progress and
keep you informed of helpful resources I find along the way.
Current status: 24 days uptime; 0 reboots; 0 crashes.

So my tips for now:

1. Put Linux on a separate machine
2. Try Red Hat 6.0
3. Use the Workstation install option

Resources from this column:

VNC Remote Control Software:

Red Hat Software:

Samba Configuration Instructions:

You can reach Dan Butler at:

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** 03. A Cheap Solution to the "Rat's Nest of Cable"
       Problem: Part 3 (by Lee Hudspeth)

TNPC subscriber Darren Pilgrim took the time to submit a detailed
rejoinder to two of the suggestions from my previous cabling
article. It was so nicely put together that I wanted to share it
with you.

Darren says, "In response to the suggestion that you run
everything through data switches:

This *can* work well, however there are three caveats:

First, some cables are very sensitive to EMI (electromagnetic
interference) and RF (radio frequency) interference. Macintosh
SCSI cables (DB25), long parallel cables (over 4 meters), and
video cables (HDDB15 cables are the worst). Every time you add a
break in the cable to add a port connection (there's at least two
at the data switch) you add interference to the cable.

Second, some cables should *never* be switched. Network and SCSI
cables, digital audio cables (SPDIF or Sony Philips Digital
Interface Format), and any serial or parallel cable with a live
connection on it (i.e., null modem networks and parallel Zip
drives) all do real-time communication over the line. Breaking
that line can cause problems on both ends of the cable, even
damage whatever device the cable is attached to.

Third, some interfaces, while they can be switched, sometimes do
not respond well to being switched. Disconnecting the mouse or
keyboard can crash a system, or hang the mouse or keyboard driver.
You can even do permanent damage to a PS/2 mouse or keyboard
hardware controller by switching the mouse or keyboard while the
power is on. With video, if you have a monitor with PnP enabled,
disconnecting the monitor can make Windows do strange things, such
as try to detect a new monitor when reconnected. A good electronic
KVM (keyboard, video, and mouse) switch will hold the connection
and generate the signals needed to make the disconnected computer
think that the keyboard, mouse, and video are still connected,
preventing crashes and driver hangs.

In response to the twisted pair network cable warning:

UTP (Unshielded Twisted Pair) is designed to handle relatively
large amounts of interference. The levels of interference
generated by house-current power cables and normally-operating
video cable isn't enough (by far) to disrupt the signals on UTP
cable. Any interference with the network link you get is likely
the result of a UTP cable not meeting Category 5 specifications.
(Category 5 provides for specifications on signal bandwidth up to
100 MHz and greater.)"

Thanks for the write-up, Darren!

You can reach Lee Hudspeth at:

** 04. TUGPCs Corner - The Instant Expert Method (partial

[TUGPCs Corner is a tiny glimpse into our latest book, "The 
Unofficial Guide to PCs", (by T.J. Lee, Lee Hudspeth, and Dan
Butler) published by QUE (ISBN 0-7897-1797-2).]

"With all of the information available on the Internet, how do you
condense and digest it into a useable form? Further, how do you
separate the wheat from the chaff? These two tasks can be daunting
indeed. In Chapter 18 Choosing Internet Applications we'll talk
about search engines and some tools that can help you cut your
searching time down considerably.

What we would like to discuss now is our "Instant Expert" method
of Internet research. Generally this will work on any topic and
will enable you to get up to speed very quickly on the concepts,
lingo, and resources available. While we cannot guarantee that you
will succeed in any undertaking this method will at least give you
a big head start. In Chapter 20, "Taming Technical Support" we
will discuss how to search out answers to specific technical
questions quickly.

As always the most important thing to do is define what
information you are looking for before setting out on a search.
What is the topic of your inquiry? What information do you already
know? What information do you know you need to know? Write these
answers down and you'll be off to a great start.

Read the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for Your Selected Topic

Start over at where the FAQs for all of the Usenet
Newsgroups are archived as shown in Figure 15.2. Be careful with
the information and don't just accept it as true. Generally the
more technical the subject the better the quality of the FAQ. The
FAQ will be just what it says -- a list of the most questions most
frequently asked to members of the newsgroup. Usually you will
also find pointers to Web sites, books, mailing lists, and other
helpful information. Use this as your jumping off point and you
will already have the answers to the questions that will occur to
you as you continue your research. Following all of the leads in a
good FAQ can take quite some time and may be all the information
you need on some topics.

Browse Through Newsgroups Associated with This Topic

Start at DejaNews ( where you can look through
all of the postings to any particular group. You will have the
names of the groups to look from the FAQ information.

When you look through the newsgroup postings here are the sorts of
things you want to pay attention to:

* Pay attention to who answers questions thoroughly and

* See which topics come up consistently as those are probably some
of the questions you'll be having soon. A combination of these
topics and the FAQ will answer 80% of the questions you'll have.

* Check the homepages of people who put a link in their posts.
Often times the homepages will contain a good list of links
relevant to your topic.

Bright Idea
Start your own glossary when you are becoming the "Instant
Expert." Make notes of acronyms, inside terms, and phrases that
you don't understand. Your personal glossary will keep your time
expenditures to a minimum.

* Start learning the lingo of the group. The more familiar you are
with the language used on a topic, the more you'll be able to
glean information as you read.

* Learn the personality of the newsgroup. Some groups have a
certain "personality" where the members are able to joke with one
another or they may even appear to be rude. Learn what is going on
before you join in the group so you won't be surprised by the

When you look for information in Usenet newsgroups try to find a
group that isn't in the "alt." hierarchy. The quality of
information goes up dramatically and is more targeted in other

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** 05. Software Bargains and Free Stuff (by Dan Butler)

If you need a backup solution you can still get Backup Plus for
free after rebate but you need to hurry. We mentioned this product
in TNPC #2.16. In "The Unofficial Guide to PCs" we stress the
importance of backups. This program could be the one you are
looking for and the price is right. With it you can save different
backup sets (Document, Programs, et cetera). In addition the
program keeps a nice log to help you track your backups. Hurry
because the rebate runs out on September 15, 1999.

Get your free upgrade to the latest version here:

If you know of software or hardware bargains that would interest
TNPC readers send them in to:

** 06. Featured Book - "Perl CD Bookshelf" by O'Reilly &

Whether you are a beginning Perl programmer or a full-blown
hacker, the "Perl CD Bookshelf" has something for you. You get a
hardcopy of "Perl in a Nutshell" (654 pages) and a CD-ROM
containing the full text of "Perl in a Nutshell," "Programming
Perl, 2nd Edition," "Perl Cookbook," "Advanced Perl Programming,"
"Learning Perl 2nd Edition," and "Learning Perl on Win32 Systems."
All of the books are fully cross-referenced and indexed including
a master index for the entire library as well as a search engine
for quickly gaining access to the entire contents of the CD-ROM.
O'Reilly has done a very nice job formatting these books into HTML
pages viewable from any Web browser.

Using the "Perl CD Bookshelf" library couldn't be easier, just
insert the CD in your CD-ROM drive. The search engine is
initialized and the master Table of Contents appears in your
default Web browser. You'll quickly become accustomed to searching
for an answer followed by a quick cut and paste of any sample code
for testing. Also the combined master index helps you gain a
broader perspective of the information available than when you are
just looking in the individual books. I did find myself wishing
the standard Perl documentation and FAQs had been included at
times but overall I am very satisfied with this CD library. You
can get your copy at for $53.96:

(If you are new to Perl it is a freely available cross-platform
programming language. You can get it for free from the link shown
below. -- Ed.)

** 07. Featured FAQ - TUGPCs: Where the heck is that URL?

In "The Unofficial Guide to PCs" we mention the URLs to dozens of
Web sites that anyone who uses a PC will want to visit. But as you
probably already know, URLs are always subject to change. So what
we've done is to gather all the URLs from our book and put them on
a Web page were we can keep them updated. If you can't find
something on the Web that we've mentioned in the book, take a peek
at our Web site and see if the URL has been updated.

** 08. Featured Product Recommendation - JamCam by Kidboard

The JamCam is a nifty, inexpensive digital camera that takes up to
six photos at a time at 320 x 240 resolution. To transfer the
pictures from the camera to your computer you'll need an available
serial port. How good is the quality of the pictures taken with
this camera? Judge for yourself at the KB Gears (formerly
Kidboard) Web site:

The pictures you take will be 320 x 240 in size. Don't think
you'll be taking and printing out commercial grade photographs at
this relatively low resolution. But the quality and size is
perfect for putting pictures on Web pages and/or attaching to
emails. If you don't already have a digital camera this is an
inexpensive way to give this fun technology a try. is
offering a $10 rebate until September 15th. (US Customers only on
this one!) The package also includes a full copy of Microsoft
Picture It making this package a steal at $29.99.

** 09. Featured Web Site - ZIP+4 Code Look-up

Okay, so finding the right zip code may not be a big thing for you
but when I was trying to find the full zip plus 4 zip for my new
address I was tickled when I came across this site maintained by
the U.S. Postal Service. Enter an address on this form and it will
give you the zip code in the full 9 plus 4 format. Very handy.

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low price of $30 per issue. Get your message out to over 35,000
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** 10. Newsworthy - a potpourri of current events and
       interesting stuff

*-* First in a series of patches to fix security holes in
Microsoft products:

The "Excel 97 'ODBC Driver' Vulnerability" is not limited to
Office 97 as MS originally assured everyone but affects Office
2000 as well.
(Beware: this URL may wrap in your email reader) There's a patch available for the tongue-twisting "Scriptlet.typelib/Eyedog" vulnerability found in IE5. And a patch for the "Virtual Machine Sandbox" bug that pretty much affects everyone running MS products. *-* Just when you were relaxing to Y2K, Microsoft has owned up that Excel may not slide into the year 2000 without problems. Seems the =DATE() function not only has problems with the year 2000 but a lot of Y2K validation software can miss potential problems with worksheets that use the function.,4586,2318285,00.html *-* -- Amazon is offering our latest book, "The Unofficial Guide to PCs" by T.J. Lee, Lee Hudspeth, and Dan Butler, for the incredible, special low price of $12.59. *-* Sun's acquisition of Star Office (the competitor to Microsoft Office that runs on a number of platforms including Linux and Windows) has Sun President and Chief Operating Officer Ed Zander going on about how Sun will make Star Office a thin client based set of services accessible by anyone using a browser on the Internet. Called StarPortal and based on Star Office this service is slated to appear in October at the very popular price of FREE! *-* We've talked in TNPC about cookies before and many of you are still curious about what exactly merchants use them for. Advertisers use them to track where you surf, what you click on, and what you buy. Is it time for a cookie blocker for you?,4,40728,00.html? *-* And be sure to check our Annoyance Update page regularly: ** 11. We Get Mail - Comments and Tips from TNPC Readers TNPCer Bill Q. dropped us a note about the NEAT box tip from the last issue of TNPC. He finds that the large zip-locking freezer bags help a lot in keeping the odds and ends of his PC organized. Great tip. TNPCer Chip S. mentioned that he keeps a bunch of sheet protectors in a three-ring binder and uses them for all the loose papers and warranty cards and small manuals that can clutter up your NEAT box. **PLEASE SUPPORT TNPC BY VISITING OUR ADVERTISERS** +++----------------------- classifieds -----------------------+++ EVEN PC-GURUS CAN HAVE TEENAGE KIDS THAT DRIVE THEM NUTS! Get help at Parenting Adolescents: offering free, expert advice by a mental health professional with years of experience working with kids & parents. Also online bookstore, videotape to buy, articles, polls, links. +++-----------------------------------------------------------+++ BUY ALL YOUR HARDWARE/SOFTWARE AT WHOLESALE PRICES! 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Confidential --> Classified --> Top Secret --> For Your Eyes Only >> +++-----------------------------------------------------------+++ DISCLAIMER Personal computers are individual machines with performance that can vary with components, software, and operator ability. The Naked PC is not responsible for the manner in which the information presented is used or interpreted. Also, although we work hard to provide you with accurate Internet links in The Naked PC, we are not responsible for Internet links herein that represent sites owned and operated by third parties. We are not responsible for the content, accuracy, performance, or availability of any such third-party sites. Grass stains may not wash out. Do not leave on your car dash with the windows rolled up on a hot day. REDISTRIBUTION POLICY We encourage you to forward this newsletter to your friends, associates, and colleagues for their review and enjoyment. However, please do so only by sending it in full, thereby keeping the copyright and subscription information intact. We do request that, once they've reviewed an issue or two, they subscribe independently rather than continue to receive issues from you. This helps TNPC grow and prosper, thereby funding its continued publication. Also, if you wish to post this newsletter to a newsgroup or electronic discussion group, you may do so if you preserve the copyright and subscription information. Thanks. SUBSCRIPTION SERVICES To subscribe or unsubscribe, surf on over to: To make comments or suggestions, surf on over to: or send email directly to: Get back issues form our Mailbot by sending email to: WEB BULLETIN BOARD Check out our 24x7 Web bulletin board. If you've got a technical question about PC issues, or suggestions of your own, this is the place to hang out: ADVERTISING To advertise in TNPC go to: Mail services provided by Blue Horizon Enterprises, one of the very few "Mom and Pop" operations left on the Web: Copyright (c) 1999, PRIME Consulting Group, Inc. and Dan Butler. All Rights Reserved. The Naked PC is a trademark of PRIME Consulting Group, Inc. ISSN: 1522-4422 RMH: 619

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