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What You Need to Know about All Things PC


Volume 4 Number 10

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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, May 17, 2001 - Vol. 4 No. 10

Table of Contents

** 01. Letter from the Publisher
** 02. Email Fraud and Common Sense (by T.J. Lee)
** 03. Broadband Once Again (by Dan Butler)
** 04. High-speed Internet Connection: What To Do When Yours
       Goes Down - Part 3 (by Lee Hudspeth)
** 05. Al's Ongoing Office eXPerience (by Al Gordon)
** 06. Burning Your Own CDs (by Al Gordon)
** 07. Featured Book - "Visual Explanations: Images and
       Quantities, Evidence and Narrative" by Edward Tufte
** 08. Featured Product - ParseRat from Guy Software (reviewed by
       Lee Hudspeth)
** 09. Featured FAQ - CD Burning
** 10. For Recent Subscribers to The Naked PC
** 11. Newsworthy - a potpourri of current events and
       interesting stuff
** 12. We Get Mail

** 01. Letter from the Publisher

Welcome to (cough!) another (wheeze!) exciting episode of The
Naked PC (hack!). Sorry, it's Jim's turn to write the Letter and
he's come down hard with a virus that his son brought home from

Speaking of viruses, Jim received something in his email the
other day that while not a virus is much more dangerous to those
not on guard against email bunco scams. Al checks in with his
first impressions of Office XP (which he'll be updating in future
issues) and reviews the leading contenders for the crown of Best
CD-ROM Burning Software.

Dan has some words of advice for anyone who has been the victim
of phone or connection infrastructure outages: watch out for bird
and wasp nests, and an update on his "Inside Secrets of Finding
the Best Internet Service" cassette tape. Lee provides his
analysis of the high-speed Internet connection survey you folks
so kindly filled out a few issues back.

A word of caution to TNPCers: phone bill scams never cease. Lee's
business line was again the target of some unapproved charges on
a recent phone bill (collect calls from out of state that he
never received). Back in TNPC #3.01 Lee wrote in detail about
phone bill scams, slams, and crams. His advice is still good
today, "Review your monthly phone bills carefully, and take
prompt action when you think you've been defrauded."

The Naked PC Company Store has been updated. We would like to
thank all of you who commented on our new store design and
shopping cart software. Those of you who have purchased our book
on CD-ROM will be glad to know that the new software makes it
easier to enter coupon numbers so you can receive your discounts
on other products.

Speaking of products, as many of you know, the huge demand for
our Back Issues CD took us by surprise but the second pressing of
that CD has arrived and we've caught up on all outstanding

Reader support is what keeps The Naked PC free, so PLEASE help us
and pass a copy on to co-workers and friends (no spam please!)
and remember to always say "I saw it in The Naked PC!"

So now you know.

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** 02. Email Fraud and Common Sense (by T.J. Lee)

I've spoken a lot about using common sense in regards to email
messages that have suspect subject lines and attached files.
These are the most common way viruses are passed around the
Internet. But, as I recently learned, there are other evil emails
lurking out there in cyberland. Fortunately the same common sense
approach can protect you from these as well.

The other day I received a message that started like this:

"Dear Sir,

I have been instructed by my colleagues
to look for partners who can assist us
execute an urgent business transaction
involving huge profits and international

It went on to try to set the hook thusly:

"We need a foreign partner who can assist
us with the transaction involving
US$27.350.000.00, which has been set-aside
in an escrow account. We have resolved
that a negotiable percentage will be your
commission for participating in this
transaction on our behalf and any other
assistance you may give in this deal."

Welcome to the Internet variation of the 40-year old bunco scam
called "The Nigerian Letter." The gist of the rip-off is that a
huge, and I mean huge, amount of money is setting somewhere
offshore in an escrow account and you can earn a percentage by
helping the honest owners of this money get it into a bank
account in your country. In the case of the letter I received the
difficultly the owners of the money ran into was that they were
"civil servants and as such, it is not possible for any of us to
operate a foreign account."

I have to tell you that receiving this spam message floored me.
This is a golden oldie of the bunco world right up there with
classics like the "pigeon drop." But it woke me up to the fact
that the guys in the black hats who only used to prowl the
physical world are waking up and smelling the zeros and ones of
the cyberworld. They're jumping on the Internet bandwagon and
trolling for suckers using spam email.

The crux of most scams depends on the victim staying focused on
getting a huge amount of money. A 5% commission on twenty-seven
million three hundred and fifty thousand dollars is a bit over
one million three. This sets up the scenario where investing a
few measly thousand to score a cool million seems trivial. And
rest assured, something will come up requiring you to cough up
some earnest money before you can collect your score.

That this is a rip-off may seem obvious but keep in mind that if
this scam and hundreds more like it weren't working they wouldn't
be around. So remember that most multi-million-dollar deals don't
depend on random emails to strangers. Also, most international
businessmen don't work out of Yahoo! or Hotmail email accounts
when transacting these mega-deals.

And always keep the classic bit of wisdom in mind: if the deal
seems too good to be true, it isn't. Let's be careful out there.

You can reach T.J. Lee at:

** 03. Broadband Once Again (by Dan Butler)

The broadband issue continues to have many of you writing in
about your experiences, good and bad. Robert E. from Houston, TX
had almost the same experience I did with AT&T Broadband: trees.
Still AT&T continues to send me advertisements for their service.
I've received 12 at last count and that's after they tried to get
it to work in my neighborhood and failed. I would like to try
their service but they can't work through the leafy trees in my

Then last week my main phone line quit working. While I have
three incoming lines only one of them is set to ring for various
technical reasons of my own. So we were without incoming phone
service for several days. I must say it was a nice change not to
have the phone ringing! When the phone company showed up the
problem turned out to be -- a bird's nest on the line. You would
think the birds would be content to build their nests in all the
trees that have stumped AT&T's broadband service. The last time
my phone line quit working it turned out to be -- wasps. A wasp
nest built around the connection at the pole. Just goes to show
that technology can be thwarted by the smallest things in nature.

As mentioned last issue my cassette tape "Inside Secrets of
Finding the Best Internet Service" is almost ready. Besides my
own advice I have several interviews with those in the know and a
list of resources ready. If you aren't already on the list to be
notified when it's available send an email to:

Any specific topics you want to see covered be sure to let me

You can reach Dan Butler at:

** 04. High-speed Internet Connection: What To Do When Yours
       Goes Down - Part 3 (by Lee Hudspeth)

In two prior issues I covered what you can do when your high-
speed Internet connection goes down (see TNPC #4.06 and #4.07).
In #4.07 I asked you to complete a survey and a whopping 607 of
you kindly did just that (thanks much). In this article I cite
the statistics that I found most interesting, and draw what
conclusions I can based on this type of straw polling.
Part 1:
Part 2:

The majority of you--meaning, the survey respondents--use cable
(64%), followed by DSL subscribers (34%) and other (2%). At least
two-thirds of cable/DSL subscribers have been using your current
ISP for more than six months and there's no significant
difference between the two modes on this dimension (75% cable,
65% DSL).

Not surprisingly, since the survey was targeted at cable/DSL
subscribers who presumably already have a functional connection,
very few of you said that you cannot get cable/DSL at your
current location (less than 3%). As a group I had expected some
"mode switching" from cable to DSL or vice versa, but fewer than
4% of you report having switched.

I am definitely NOT surprised by the high frequency of
connectivity and email disruptions. 18% of cable subscribers and
20% of DSL subscribers report regular disruptions in your
Internet connection ("regular" defined here as more than one
downtime incident per month). 25% and 18% (cable and DSL) report
regular email disruptions. It's a shame that connectivity and
email infrastructure isn't yet as reliable as POTS (plain old
telephone service) dial tone. On the flip side, a surprising
number of you report never experiencing a connection being down:
14% and 26% (cable and DSL). 17% and 32% (cable and DSL) report
never having lost email service.

The cable ISPs fall far short of my expectation that a good high-
speed ISP should offer free dial-up access: only 10% of cable
subscribers have such access versus almost two-thirds (61%) for
DSL subscribers. But for all those ISPs that do offer free dial-
up, most of you have found that it works (84% cable, 96% DSL).

Note: for the one-third of you who know that your ISP provides
free dial-up but haven't tested it yet, you owe it to yourself to
do so!

There was no single ISP with a dominant share of this subscriber
base. The ISP with the most customers in this group is AT&T@home
at about 13%, that's out of a total of 150 different ISPs.

If you're interested in how I quickly parsed 600+ formatted email
messages--many with different length text-based responses to
open-ended questions, into a structured database for analysis--
read this issue's Featured Product, ParseRat.

You can reach Lee Hudspeth at:

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** 05. Al's Ongoing Office eXPerience (by Al Gordon)

Yes, there are a number of things in Office XP that are really
annoying but let's start off with a few pet peeves from previous
versions of Office that the upcoming XP version actually

-- Outlook 2002 no longer clogs your desktop with multiple dialog
boxes when you have more than one task reminder message. Instead
they are combined in one box.

-- Also, you can now edit a reminder and save the changes and
keep the existing reminder schedule (over the years, I have
gotten REALLY tired of those "your reminder time is in the
past..." messages).

-- The new Smart Tag (an embedded dialog) feature allows you to
get control of cutting and pasting. When you paste text into
Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, a Smart Tag allows you to choose the
formatting that will be applied. The lack of that has been
especially annoying in pasting material into documents that
you've copied from Web pages.

-- And, at last, you can actually open more than open document at
a time in Publisher.

NEXT TIME: why the Task Pane doesn't work at startup.

You can reach Al Gordon at:

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** 06. Burning Your Own CDs (by Al Gordon)

When last we visited the world of CD burning software, we came
away with two favorites: Easy CD Creator from Adaptec and Nero
Burning Rom.

Easy CD Creator from Adaptec (which has now spun off the software
unit as Roxio) which was, ahem, easiest to use but suffered from
coasteritis, that is the tendency to hiccup during the creation
process turning the CD into a disc only suitable as a coaster on
the coffee table.

Nero Burning ROM from Germany's Ahead software, which was nearly
Bulletproof when it came to burning CDs, but had a very difficult
interface making it very hard to use.

Now both products are back with new versions and both are, I'm
happy to say, REAL upgrades addressing many of shortcomings found
in the previous versions.

Easy CD Creator 5 Platinum $80 ($60 after a $20 rebate for

Easy CD retains its plethora of features, and now is much more
reliable than previous versions. Not the least of the key
features is better support for BURN-Proof, the Sanyo-developed
technology that allows high-speed CD burners to resume recording
after a temporary interruption in the flow of data from your PC.
This is the fix for the dreaded "buffer underrun" (the buffer
being a cache of data on your PC that is headed for the burner).
Normally, buffer underrun makes for a guaranteed coaster.

The problem with Easy CD 4 was that it was released when 4x
burners were dominant and before BURN-Proof had been introduced.
And while Adaptec/Roxio released numerous patches, the product
never seemed to catch up. Now, Easy CD 5 checks for potential
buffer problems and slows down the burn rate to avoid creating a
useless coaster instead of a working CD.

Also in the package is DirectCD packet writing software that
allows you to use CD-RWs as super-floppies. I am not a huge fan
of this, as it means running one more background application on
your PC, but I bow to the inevitable: packet writing will be
built into Windows XP.

If you are a Windows 2000 user, be sure to download the 5.01 and
5.01s patches to Easy CD, which deal with a number of bugs in the
initial release related to Windows 2000 installations.

Nero Burning ROM 5.5:

Nero's pricing is more complicated: $66 for a CD in a package
(which includes CD labels and an applicator) and $50 for the
download-only version. But MP3 encoding (included with the Easy
CD product) is sold separately and costs $15 extra to download,
or $30 to get it on a floppy disk.

On the other hand, upgrades from Nero 5.0 are free and there are
reduced prices for those upgrading from version 4.0.
Get the download-only version here:

Nero has added a wizard interface that allows you to quickly set
up plain vanilla burns about as easily as with Easy CD. The more
complex options are now available by shutting off the wizard. It,
too, has packet writing ("In-CD") and it has much improved its CD
labeling software.

In fact, the essence of the 5.5 package is the addition of most
of the "extras" such as audio editing software and video CD
support that long have been part of Roxio's Easy CD product.

The bottom line of this year's products: Easy CD is still easier
and Nero is still virtually coaster-free, but the gap between the
two is down to nearly zero. Casual burners probably will want
Easy CD while power users will like Nero, and intermediate users
would be happy either way. It really is now a matter of personal
taste and quirks. Here is what I mean.

When you make an audio compilation CD (a/k/a a "greatest hits"
collection), both products present you with essentially two
Windows Explorer-like windows--one for your system and one for
the CD to be burned. Easy CD will access the Internet to get the
track names for your music CD and thus you have the song titles
available to assist in making your compilation. Nero, on the
other hand, simply lists "track 1" "track 2" etc. and doesn't get
the Internet information until after you drag to the compilation

BUT, the music CD information must be converted to .wav format
before it can be burned and Nero does this when you set up the
compilation. Easy CD does it only when you start to burn. This
means that you have to go back and reinsert all the CDs you used
for the compilation whereas with Nero you only do that once.

Hey, it's not much of a difference. But it is a difference.

You can reach Al Gordon at:

** 07. Featured Book - "Visual Explanations: Images and
       Quantities, Evidence and Narrative" by Edward Tufte

This is the third in the visual information series from the
master of information presentation himself, Edward Tufte. His
first book, "The Visual Display of Quantitative Information," is
the definitive work of presenting numeric information visually in
the form of a chart or graph. As Jim says, "If you create charts
in Excel or just sketch graphs on cocktail napkins you gotta have
this book!" The second book, "Envisioning Information," is in the
same vein but focuses on maps and cartography. His latest tome,
"Visual Explanations," deals with dynamic data, meaning,
information that changes over time. Tufte uses key historical
events to illustrate his examples, making them very interesting.
From insights that can be drawn from the 1854 Cholera Epidemic to
how the Challenger disaster could (and should) have been
predicted and therefore prevented, this is a fascinating book.

Recent TNPC Favorites
"The Visual Display of Quantitative Information" by Edward Tufte

"How to Read a Book" by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren

"The Mythical Man-Month" by Frederick P. Brooks Jr.

** 08. Featured Product - ParseRat from Guy Software (reviewed by
       Lee Hudspeth)

A few weeks ago Dan and I were talking about the high-speed
Internet connection survey and he suggested I try a tool he has
been using for data parsing and analysis: ParseRat.

I took Dan's advice and now I too really like this product. In a
nutshell, ParseRat can organize (and re-organize), filter, or
parse any conceivable type of input file into whatever output
format you need. I found its help text especially easy to follow,
which is important because with such a rich feature set you need
to stay focused on the task at hand for your particular type of

I was able to quickly install ParseRat, study the help file to
get the lay of the land, play around with a five-record test
database (before tackling the 607-record master), and familiarize
myself with the tool's interface. For the survey I needed to tell
ParseRat that I had a page image record structure and tell it to
break to a new record with each occurrence of the unique string
"TNPC #4.07 Survey Form" (this is called a "tag"). Next I needed
to tell it that the tags aren't always on the same line per page
because some of my form's free-form text input fields push other
fields "down" the page. Next I defined each tag, for example,
"Type of Internet connection :" and "Question 01. :" and so on.
As you're doing all this you can easily scroll through and
observe your input file's data structure, both by record and
horizontally across each line/field.

If you like your own tag strings as field names then you simply
clear the default output settings, click a "Copy all input fields
to output fields" button, and click Output (you can output field
names as the first record, or not). ParseRat processed 600+
records in a blazing three seconds, so clearly it can accommodate
both small and gargantuan databases.

ParseRat has so many capabilities it would be best for you to
check out the author's Web page for the details. Suffice it to
say... input formats supported are fixed format, delimited,
dBase, binary, EBCDIC, page image (and other multi-record
blocks), HTML, XML, output from HTML form, and the clipboard.
Data element conversion including (but not limited to!)
date/time; various numeric formats; split/combine inputs;
reassemble and reparse fields; analyze and parse human names,
street address components; change case; Soundex; eliminate
duplicate records; and add your own custom transformation plug-
ins. The output options are just as diverse as the input and
conversion features I've listed. This is a really useful tool,
and from what I can see the developer has thought of everything!

ParseRat comes in the form of a 30-day free trial, after which
you can register for $49.95US (electronic delivery) or $59.95US
(shipped media).


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** 09. Featured FAQ - CD Burning

This page is a collection of every relevant link to information
about burning CDs and CD-RWs that the page creator Harry  (yes,
that's the name he lists for himself) could find. And Harry found
a lot! Information, primers, glossaries, hardware guides, FAQs,
tips and tricks, you name it and there's a reference to it on
this page. References to pages that tell you how to transfer your
LPs and cassettes to CD-ROM, how to make a bootable CD, links to
newsgroups and forums that specialize in CD-ROM topics, and more.
Anyone who burns CDs should check out the incredible information
available here.

** 10. For Recent Subscribers to The Naked PC

The Naked PC has been adding nearly 1,000 new subscribers to our
readership list every issue, so a lot of our current readers may
not be aware of some of the articles that have appeared in past
issues of our newsletter. Here is a quick recap of some all-time
winners that you may find interesting if you missed them the
first time around.

*-* Low Tech Solutions for High Tech Problems (TNPC #1.11.02)
A look at one some of the lowest tech solutions that can pay off
with the highest increase in computer productivity.

*-* Low Tech Solutions - For Whom the Bell Tolls (TNPC #2.13.03)
Do you have a home office or just work in the den evenings and on
weekends? In this Low Tech article find out how a trip to Radio
Shack can save your sanity.

*-* Change your Printer Settings Faster than a Quick Change
Artist (TNPC #3.01.04)
How to deal with the dizzying array of options to choose from
when you print: paper types, print quality, duplex, and booklet
printing, et cetera with just a few clicks of the mouse.

Remember, you can find a listing of all prior The Naked PC
articles at:

** 11. Newsworthy - a potpourri of current events and
       interesting stuff

*-* Microsoft will release Windows XP on October 25th of this
year, according to the software giant. Ready or not here it

*-* Microsoft has changed their licensing programs for their
corporate clients (corporations that buy software from Microsoft
at a discount). Included in the new programs are maintenance
agreements and corporations get future upgrades as part of the
deal, but will pay 25 to 29 percent of the purchase price every
year for this perpetual license--whether they want the new
software or not. And they have until October 1st to get "current"
defined as running either Windows 2000 on all their systems or
having an agreement to purchase Windows XP when it's available.
Oh, and they have to run Office XP as well.

*-* According to Paul Thurrott, Microsoft won't be offering an
Office XP subscription service here in the USA after all. Seems
that they're not too sure about the ASP market and will "test
market" an Office XP subscription service in what it's calling a
"few select locations" before making it generally available here
in the States.

*-* The popular search engine GoTo is one of the few Internet
businesses that's making money but critics are not happy about
how that money is made. When you use GoTo to search the Internet
the pages returned are based on which site is paying the most for
the keywords you typed into your search.

Get more Newsworthy bits on The Naked PC Web site:

Have you come across something newsworthy? Drop us a line:

** 12. We Get Mail

In Jim's recent series on Email Basics he recommended re-reading
your message before sending it. But it's easy to hit the Send
button, especially when engaging in a heated response. With some
email clients like Outlook, if you're connected and hit Send, off
the message goes. TNPCer Jim C. has a suggestion for a cooling
off period.

"You can use the Rules Wizard in Outlook to defer delivery of a
message for five minutes or so before it's mailed. This is useful
for cooling off, but often I remember something I forgot to
include immediately after hitting Send. With this delay built in
here's no problem; I just pull it out of the outbox and edit it
further." -- Jim C.

Be sure to stop by the Letters to the Editor page for more:

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Copyright (c) 2001, PRIME Consulting Group, Inc. and Dan Butler.
All Rights Reserved. The Naked PC is a trademark of PRIME
Consulting Group, Inc.
ISSN: 1522-4422


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