Taking eWaste Out to the Curb…

SPAM is no longer just an entertaining meat-product

Statistics are coming in for this year that the level of ‘spam’ (the common term for junk, or unsolicited commercial, email) is ever-rising. Impact issues to users include:

  • Wasted time sifting through inboxes to locate legitimate correspondence.
  • Man-hours allocated for business’ internal IT support in isolating and/or filtering repetitive attacks from high-volume SPAM originators.
  • Man-hours spent corresponding between users and in-house technicians while attempting to identify a responsible entity.
  • Lower attentiveness to legitimate business email due to recipient ‘wear and tear’.
  • Lower ‘value’ and higher discomfort factor placed on email as a medium by users who become calloused by threat of SPAM and other email-based attacks (virulent attachments, etc.)

From ZDNet: “Spam hits 36 percent of e-mail traffic”

Highlights of the article include:

  • Unsolicited bulk e-mail could make up the majority of message traffic on the Internet by the end of 2002.
  • According to Brightmail’s latest figures, unsolicited bulk e-mail made up a whopping 36 percent of all e-mail traveling over the Internet, up from 8 percent about a year ago. (Brightmail serves large Internet service providers such as the Microsoft Network and Earthlink.)
  • Market research firm Gartner estimates that a company of 10,000 employees suffers more than $13 million worth of lost productivity because

    of _internally_generated_ spam.
  • Efforts by grassroots groups have caused many U.S.-based Internet service providers to crack down on spammers that use their networks. But, Linford said, unrepentant “spam gangs” simply start launching their attacks from other countries.
  • Brightmail competitor Postini, a relative newcomer to the business, found that spam made up 33 percent of customers’ e-mail last month, up from 21 percent in January.
  • MessageLabs, a U.K. company that offers services to stop viruses and spam, reports that its customers classify 35 percent to more than 50 percent of their e-mail traffic as spam.
  • “We are hoping that the U.S. government will bring in a federal anti-spam law,” Linford said. “That will take care of the majority of the problem.” If the United States passed a restrictive law, other countries would be more likely to follow, he said. “We will still have the spam gangs, but they will be doing it illegally,” Linford said. “We would be running them out of business, or underground.”

What can users expect to do about it? Setting up mail rules, or ‘filters’ (the terminology differs depending on the email client software) can be especially helpful, based on key words or phrases — or even by watching for frequent abusers in the ‘From:’ field. But even with these precautions, rude people will continue to find ingenious ways to get around your methods, no matter how slick. But you can beat down on the deluge to a great degree.
  1. Keep more than one email address active.

    Use your company-provided business email address for anything that MUST be tied to your company. Get a separate one for personal correspondence. A third can be put to use whenever you are required to provide an email address to obtain information on a web page, or when signing up for a service or membership.

    That third address can be changed every couple of years (or more often, if necessary) while leaving the other two intact. If you’re careful, you can remain ‘unfound’ by the SPAMmers for years.

  2. Make sure you keep your address book accurate. If you ever do need to change your personal or business addresses, you’ll need to know how to notify associates of your new contact information.
  3. Keep antivirus software installed and running on your computer. Many addresses get collected by intrusions (visible or otherwise) made by way of little ‘applets’ that accompany email messages. It doesn’t take much for someone to get a copy of your address book (or any other file on your hard drive), if they manage to get you to open an email that contains a hidden link to their meddlesome code.

    By making sure that your antivirus software is active and up-to-date, and likewise your operating system, you have the best chance of avoiding these unseen gremlins.

  4. Do not, under any circumstances, purchase anything based on junk email. The reason unscrupulous companies send junk email is the same reason that millions of companies have been relying on the traditional type delivered by the US Postal Service: it works. As long as there are people willing to respond to advertisements, companies will continue to see SPAM as a revenue-building opportunity, and can sleep quite soundly at night knowing that they may have annoyed 100,000 people with a message; but gained a handful of sales that otherwise might not have come in.

Dan Oblak

Old Enough to Drink, Dead Enough to Bury…

Remember when Microsoft sold IBM something they didn’t even own (yet)?

According to the folks at MSBoycott.com:

“August 12 was the 21st anniversary of MS-DOS’ official launch, meaning Microsoft’s first successful product is finally old enough to go barhopping with its few remaining friends. Wherever you are, DOS, drink a toast to 21 years of mediocre software development.”

Let’s have a little ceremony and get a little drunk; then get down on our knees and thank God that our own OS was never owned by Bill Gates.

As a side note, the same web site points out that Microsoft’s latest OS update, Service Pack 3 for Windows 2000, includes some notable changes to the EULA (End User License Agreement): now Microsoft doesn’t have to ask permission before altering various components of the OS and other MS-provided software. For any of us who have to support Windows users, this means more of the same behind-the-scenes software revisions that have users and technicians already scratching our heads (and other places) when we find discrepancies between PCs that were perfectly identical when we rolled them out.

Thanks, Uncle Bill; may I have another?

Dan Oblak

Shop Somewhere Else!

There is probably no other company on the planet with fans as rabid as Apple’s…

Say you want an Apple t-shirt to show off your most recent ‘gadget’ purchase? Want the IT geeks at your company to quake in their sneakers when they learn your home system makes their feeble Microsoft-Weakware pale in comparison? Well, don’t go to the Apple Store on the web to get Apple and Mac-related paraphanalia. They don’t sell any.

There are indeed a few other places on the ‘net to garner some pro-Mac paraphenalia:

  • MacSurfshop (airbrush-style updates to some long-standing Mac-Militant quips; and a handful of new ones on a regular basis)
  • Red Light Runner (vintage Apple-trademarked goods collected from whoever is willing to sell them – nothing here is new)
  • Geek Culture (home of the popular ‘Joy of Tech’ and ‘After Y2K’ comics)
  • The Missing Bite (more Apple collectibles)
  • Dougintosh (Apple logo clothing & collectibles)

We don’t know why Apple wouldn’t be interested in letting their best cheerleaders — their customers — give the company extra exposure whenever the opportunity arises. We thought that the Apple retail stores opening all over the country would have been a great place to provide this kind of merchandise. Instead, we are limited to offering a few suggestions that may help you make the splashdown of MacOS X have the impact it should when you move your own company up from OS 9 — that should be far enough removed from the trademarked logos and verbage that can get Apple’s lawyers on your tail faster than a lonely dog at a trouser convention:

  1. “Got X?” graphic emblazoned on the back of your company’s own (meaning having your company logo on the front) standard-issue shirt, which is handed out internally (not sold) to employees only.

  2. A spoof of the “X Files” logo that promotes one or several of the advantages of X (where it normally says, “The Truth Is Out There.”?, or “Trust no one.”, it could say, “The Truth is, it just works.” or “Trust nothing from Redmond.”).
  3. Button-pins delivered with each roll-out (Badge-A-Minit.com) with the same kind of messages as these.
  4. [CHEAPNESS AWARD:] Another idea we were kicking around was to let employees (who are normally forbidden from putting anything on their cube walls or windows above a certain height) put a masking-tape “X” in their window when they are preparing for the move; they can leave it up as long as they like. Most ‘geek-types’ will be hip to the reference.

It would be nice to find a free MacOS X t-shirt in every box of OS 10.2; but don’t hold your breath. Someday, perhaps we won’t have to dance outside the reach of the Apple Legal Department. But then, we don’t love the Macintosh because of their lawyers.

Dan Oblak

Uncle Bill Sells Trust to Microsoft Customers

Like a rapist teaching personal safety to college coeds, Gates shares his vision…

From: “Bill Gates” [BillGates@chairman.microsoft.com]
Date: Mon, 22 Jul 2002 15:04:44
Subject: Trustworthy Computing

As I’ve talked with customers over the last year – from individual consumers to big enterprise customers – it’s clear that everyone recognizes that computers play an increasingly important and useful role in our lives. At the same time, many of the people I talk to are concerned about the security of the technologies they depend on. They are concerned about whether their personal data is being protected. Although they know that computers can do amazing things, they are frustrated that their technology doesn’t always work consistently. And they want assurances that the high-tech industry takes these concerns seriously and is working to improve their computing experience.

Six months ago, I sent a call-to-action to Microsoft’s 50,000 employees, outlining what I believe is the highest priority for the company and for our industry over the next decade: building a Trustworthy Computing environment for customers that is as reliable as the electricity that powers our homes and businesses today.

This is an important part of the evolution of the Internet, because without a Trustworthy Computing ecosystem, the full promise of technology to help people and businesses realize their potential will not be fulfilled. Ironically, it is the growth of the Internet and the advent of massive computing systems built from loose affiliations of services, machines, communications networks and application software that have helped create the potential for increased vulnerabilities.

There are already solutions that eliminate weak links such as passwords and fake email. At Microsoft we’re combining passwords with “smart cards” to authenticate users. We’re also working with others throughout the industry to improve Internet protocols to stop email that could propagate misleading information or malicious code that falsely appears to be from trusted senders. And we are making fundamental changes in the way we develop software, in our operational and business practices, and in our customer support efforts to make the computing experiences we provide more trustworthy.

For example, we’ve historically made our software and services more compelling for users primarily by adding new features and functionality. While we are continuing to invest significantly in delivering new capabilities that customers ask for, we are now making security improvements an even higher priority than adding features. For example, we made changes to Microsoft Outlook to block email attachments associated with unsafe files, prevent access to a user’s address book, and give administrators the ability to manage email security settings for their organization. As a result of these changes, the number of email virus incidents has dropped dramatically. In fact, email viruses like the recent “Frethem” virus propagate only to systems that have not been updated – underscoring the importance of updating them regularly.

We are also undertaking a rigorous and exhaustive review of many Microsoft products to minimize other potential security vulnerabilities. Earlier this year, the development work of more than 8,500 Microsoft engineers was put on hold while we conducted an intensive security analysis of millions of lines of Windows source code. Every Windows engineer and several thousand engineers in other parts of the company were also given special training in writing secure software. We estimated that the stand-down would take 30 days. It took nearly twice that long, and cost Microsoft more than $100 million. We’ve undertaken similar code reviews and security training for Microsoft Office and Visual Studio .NET, and will be doing so for other products as well.


Trustworthy Computing has four pillars: reliability, security, privacy and business integrity. “Reliability” means that a computer system is dependable, is available when needed, and performs as expected and at appropriate levels. “Security” means that a system is resilient to attack, and that the confidentiality, integrity and availability of both the system and its data are protected. “Privacy” means that individuals have the ability to control data about themselves and that those using such data faithfully adhere to fair information principles. “Business Integrity” is about companies in our industry being responsible to customers and helping them find appropriate solutions for their business issues, addressing problems with products or services, and being open in interactions with customers.

Creating a Trustworthy Computing environment requires several steps:

  • Making software code more secure and reliable. Our developers have tools and methodologies that will make an order-of-magnitude improvement in their work from the standpoint of security and safety.
  • Keeping ahead of security exploits. Distributing updates using the Internet so that all systems are up to date. Windows Update and Software Update Services, discussed below, provide the infrastructure for this.
  • Early Recovery. In case of a problem, having the capability to restore and get systems back up and running in exactly the same state they were in before an incident, with minimal intervention.


There is still much work that Microsoft and others in our industry must do to make computing more trustworthy. Here is a summary of some of the progress we’ve made, six months after my email to Microsoft employees:

  • We have changed the way we design and develop software at all phases of the product development cycle. Our new processes should greatly minimize errors in software, and speed up the development process for new products and services.
  • Software Update Services (SUS) is a security management tool for business customers that enables IT administrators to quickly and reliably deploy critical updates from inside their corporate firewall to Windows 2000-based servers and desktop computers running Windows 2000 Professional and Windows XP Professional.
  • Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer is a new tool that customers can use to analyze Windows 2000 and Windows XP systems for common security misconfigurations, and to scan for missing security hot fixes and vulnerabilities on a variety of products, including newer versions of Internet Information Server, SQL Server and Office.
  • In addition to providing customers with tools and resources to help them maximize the security of Windows 2000 Server environments, we are committed to shipping Windows .NET Server 2003 as “secure by default.” We believe it’s critical to provide customers with a foundation that has been configured to maximize security right out of the box, while continuing to provide customers with a rich set of integrated features and capabilities.
  • The error-reporting features built into Office XP and Windows XP are giving us an enormous amount of feedback and a much clearer view of the kinds of problems customers have, and how we can raise the level of reliability in those products – and that of products made by other companies. As part of this effort, we recently created a secure Web site where software and hardware vendors can view error reports related to their drivers, utilities and applications that are reported through our system. This enables the vendors who work with us to identify recurring problems and address them far more quickly than in the past. All of our server software products will incorporate these error-reporting features in subsequent versions of the products.
  • With Microsoft Windows Update, we are completing the customer-feedback loop based on the error-reporting features mentioned above. This globally available Web service delivers more than 300 million downloads per month of the most current versions of product fixes, updates and enhancements. When customers connect to the site, they can choose to have their computer automatically evaluated to check which updates need to be applied in order to keep their system up-to-date, as well as identify any critical updates to keep their system safe and secure.
  • We are working on a new hardware/software architecture for the Windows PC platform, code-named “Palladium,” which will significantly enhance users’ system integrity, privacy and data security. This new technology, which will be included in a future version of Windows, will enable applications and application components to run in a protected memory space that is highly resistant to tampering and interference. This will greatly reduce the risk of viruses, other attacks, or attempts to acquire personal information or digital property with malicious or illegal intent. Our goal is for the Palladium development process to be a collaborative industry initiative.
  • We’ve incorporated what is known as P3P (Platform for Privacy Preferences) technology in the Internet Explorer browser technology in Windows XP, which enhances a user’s ability to set privacy levels to suit his or her needs. The P3P standard enables a user’s browser to compare any P3P-compliant Web site’s privacy practices to that user’s privacy settings, and to decide whether to accept cookies from that site.

Identifying and addressing critical Trustworthy Computing issues will require significant collaboration across our industry. One example of the kind of cross-industry effort we need more of is the recent creation of the Web Services Interoperability (WS-I) Organization (http://www.ws-i.org/). Founded by IBM, Microsoft and other industry leaders including Intel, Oracle, SAP, Hewlett-Packard, BEA Systems and Accenture, WS-I’s mission is to enable consistent and reliable interoperability of XML-based Web services across a variety of platforms, applications and programming languages. Among other things, WS-I will create a suite of test tools aimed at addressing errors and unconventional usage in Web services specifications implementations, which in turn will improve interoperability among applications and across platforms.


Given the complexity of the computing ecosystem, and the dynamic nature of the technology industry, Trustworthy Computing really is a journey rather than a destination. Microsoft is fully committed to this path, but it is not something we can do alone. It requires the leadership of many others in our industry and a commitment by customers to establish and maintain a secure and reliable computing environment. For customers, the most important first step is understanding what it will take to make their computers and networks more reliable and safe. Below are some suggestions on what individuals and businesses can do to create a more Trustworthy Computing environment for themselves and others.

  • Give us feedback by using the error-reporting features built into Office XP and Windows XP.
  • Use Microsoft Windows Update (http://windowsupdate.com/) to ensure that you have the most up-to-date and accurate versions of product updates, enhancements and fixes.
  • Businesses customers can take advantage of Software Update Services to download critical updates from Windows Update. (http://www.microsoft.com/windows2000/windowsupdate/sus/)
  • Use Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer to analyze Windows XP and Windows 2000 for common security misconfigurations. (http://www.microsoft.com/technet/treeview/default.asp?url=/technet/security/tools/Tools/MBSAhome.asp)
  • Enterprise Systems Integrators can take advantage of the Systems Integrator Source Licensing Program (http://www.microsoft.com/licensing/sharedsource/).
  • Hardware, software or systems vendors can sign up for Microsoft’s Windows Logo Program at http://www.microsoft.com/winlogo/ to ensure a high-quality user experience.
  • Find more information about computing security at http://www.microsoft.com/security/.
  • Our White Paper on Trustworthy Computing is at http://www.microsoft.com/PressPass/exec/craig/05-01trustworthywp.asp.
  • If you don’t already have Internet Explorer 6.0, download it for free at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/evaluation/overview/ to take advantage of its increased reliability and security and privacy features.

We are doing everything we can at Microsoft to make software as trustworthy as possible. By building awareness, through collaborative work and with a long-term commitment, I am confident we can and will create a truly Trustworthy Computing environment.

Bill Gates

America Turns its Back on God

We are aghast, but not surprised, at the direction we are headed…

After hearing today that a federal court has decided that the Pledge of Allegiance can no longer be recited in schools because the phrase “under God” endorses religion, I was feeling rather patriotic (and perhaps a little angry); so the following piece seemed appropriate. If anyone knows who the original author is, please let me know.


I am tired of this nation worrying about whether we are offending some individual or their culture. Since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, we have experienced a surge in patriotism by the majority of Americans.

However, the dust from the attacks had barely settled when the “politically correct” crowd began complaining about the possibility that our patriotism was offending others. I am not against immigration, nor do I hold a grudge against anyone who is seeking a better life by coming to America. Our population is almost entirely comprised of descendants of immigrants.

However, there are a few things that those who have recently come to our country, and apparently some born here, need to understand. This idea of America being a multicultural community has served only to dilute our sovereignty and our national identity. As Americans, we have our own culture, our own society, our own language and our own lifestyle. This culture has been developed over centuries of struggles, trials, and victories by millions of men and women who have sought freedom.

We speak ENGLISH, not Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, or any other language. Therefore, if you wish to become part of our society, learn the language!

“In God We Trust” is our national motto. This is not some Christian, right wing, political slogan. We adopted this motto because Christian men and women, on Christian principles, founded this nation, and this is clearly documented. It is certainly appropriate to display it on the walls of our schools. If God offends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as your new home, because God is part of our culture.

If Stars and Stripes offend you, or you don’t like Uncle Sam, then you should seriously consider a move to another part of this planet. We are happy with our culture and have no desire to change, and we really don’t care how you did things where you came from. This is OUR COUNTRY, our land, and our lifestyle.

Our First Amendment gives every citizen the right to express his opinion and we will allow you every opportunity to do so. But, once you are done complaining, whining, and griping about our flag, our pledge, our national motto, or our way of life, I highly encourage you to take advantage of one other great American freedom:



UPDATE 020627: Well, it seems as though a few people got an education about what the majority (remember them… the ones who are supposed to set the rules?) wants. From the Associated Press:
“…Circuit Judge Alfred T. Goodwin, who wrote the 2-1 opinion that said the phrase “under God” violates the separation of church and state and endorses religion, stayed his ruling until other members of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decide whether to change course.

The appeals court can rehear the case with the same three judges, or an 11-judge panel.

Immediately after Goodwin’s decision became public, the U.S. Department of Justice requested a hearing by full 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on the Pledge of Allegiance ruling.

Wednesday’s ruling, by law, would not take effect immediately anyway. The ruling already was on hold by court rules for 45 days to allow for any challenges.

Lawmakers Recite Pledge To Start Session

In an unusual show of defiance, both the House and Senate chambers were full as lawmakers recited the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of their legislative session Thursday morning.

House members applauded after finishing the pledge, then sang “God Bless America” before breaking into more applause…”


UPDATE 020704: We know we can never make 100% of our readership happy with anything we write; but this guy apparently thinks we’re going to be bruised by dropping us from his bookmark list. You can go stand with the guy who brought the lawsuit; we don’t want you visiting our site, anyway:
From: Scott Campbell [scampbell1@mac.com]
Date: Thu, 4 Jul 2002 13:53:52 -0400
To: [jdoblak@mac.com]
Subject: Yes, a bigot


I’ve looked here and there at your site. I’m always looking for insightful comments that help me get the most out of my Macs. But today, July 4th, I read two things. First, I read the complaint about OS X, and I found it to be a very interesting point of view. Though I’m an OS X “convert,” I found your commentary valuable. It’s so important to not lose the best parts of the old Mac OS and blindly follow the future.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The commentary he refers to is a post by another reader, as was the article he goes on to lambast…]

But, speaking of blindness, your second piece was totally unrelated to the Mac and, to me, offensive. I’m speaking of course of the little whining piece about the “under God” ruling. Freedom? Maybe freedom to express your own self-righteous blather with the comfort of knowing that you are in the majority. But the real point of freedom is to give rights, possibilities, and freedoms to individuals who are NOT part of some kind of groupthink mob. It is quite arguable that the founders of this country–Enlightenment skeptics for the most part–used Christian language to placate the more conservative members of the “revolutionary” movement. Regardless, we’ve overcome their blindnesses about gender and race inequalities, and we sure should overcome any propensity they had to listen to the dictates of some “almighty creator” that is apparently unavailable to protect citizens when attacks come.

I don’t think the recent court decision means much. But those who have used it to wax patriotic about the wisdom of putting a god at the center of a people should think for a second about how religious belief that becomes bigotry and ignores common sense and the rule of law is the very thing we’re fighting. Our “freedom” should teach us to use our heads.

Good grief. I’ll remove your site from my bookmarks.

-Scott Campbell, State University of New York at Stonybrook

Perspective is King

You point of view may be clouded by the people you’re hanging out with.

The other day, while I was watching TV with my kids and pondering who is hotter (Lizzy MacGuire or Ashley Spinelli?), I realized that Apple’s road to acceptance in the world of IT and high finance is still a battle of missed perceptions.

I used to think that the problem was the corporate worlds’s poor grasp of tech; and that if compared to Microsoft fairly enough, any other software company would be the clear choice.

But it’s becoming obvious that Apple is blinder than the business consumers they say they’re courting.

Apple and Microsoft are finishing the five-year term of their contract to share ideas, profits, and argyle socks; but don’t you believe that this fruit company will stop acting all soft and squishy. There’s no need to worry that the cutting-edge company might do any cutting-edge marketing, or that the folks who make the rules in R&D will break any in the retail world.

Listen up, Apple: It’s time to stop marketing to Martha Stewart, and start trying to reach the Tim Taylors. It’s time to change the company you keep.

And don’t watch TV with four-year-olds.

Dan Oblak

Terrorism Defined? – People are starting to ask questions again who will be scrutinized by the ‘new FBI’

Several civil-rights watchdog groups have professed a strong curiosity regarding the methods and liberties the Federal Bureau of Investigation will have at their disposal in this new age of vigilance. But there have always been questions like that; how can we ever be sure that our government has our best interests at heart, and will act accordingly?

I maintain that if the government should be involved in protection, it should be guarding the people against threats — internal or external; not having to dedicate resources against rhetoric and politics for politics’ sake.

Parameters must be clearly defined, with no unrealistic levels of complexity (are you listening, IRS?). Millions of taxpayer dollars outside the budget should not be necessary to intervene; if anything appears so convoluted that it requires the appointment of a questioning body or committee, it should be re-engineered so that there is no more a lack of clarity to a department’s goals, mission, and methodology.

Then the agencies of our government can spend their energies (and our money) on biting the heads off the real threats to life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. Without distraction.

Section 309 of the proposed Patriot Act (PDF file requires Adobe Acrobat Reader) makes it clear that computer-related crimes would only become an act of terrorism if those crimes are “calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion; or to retaliate against government conduct.”

Hmmm… it seems to me that defines Microsoft, along with Bill Gates specifically, as a terrorist threat.

Dan Oblak

Do-It-Yourself Cheap Thrills – Here’s an upgrade that Apple actually doesn’t mind if you handle on your own…

What’s the cheapest way to increase the ‘oomph’ under the hood of your computer? It’s not a new processor, has nothing to do with the design of the enclosure, and won’t even require a trip to an Apple Store.

Anybody still clueless?

It’s RAM! OK, now since some of our readers are tech-heads, geeks-for-hire, or Mensa dropouts — while others are just the unfortunate relatives of those same miscreants, we’ll take a moment to explain what RAM is and why you’ll want to look into upgrading it on your own ride.

First, let’s remove some confusion between two very common types of storage: RAM and your hard drive. (You geek-types pipe down in the back row; yes, we know there are two other types of storage, but that’s not important right now.)

Think of RAM (also called ‘memory’) as your counter-top in the kitchen… it’s where the work gets done. The more space you have, the faster the work goes.

Then your hard drive is like your cupboards; you keep stuff in there, and when you need something, it’s readily available. When you are done with something, you put it back in the cupboard — and that item will stay there until you remove it again.

There; everybody clear? When your computer complains that it needs more memory, you need the counter-top kind; when you don’t have any more storage space left over, you need the cupboard-type. We call these two types of storage volatile (counter-top) and non-volatile (cupboards).

In that past, volatile storage (RAM) was relatively expensive, while non-volatile storage (hard disk) was rather cheap, in comparision.

Well, that’s still true — if you measure in dollars-per-megabyte. But for the moment, RAM is amazingly inexpensive, compared to the increased performance you will get out of a decent upgrade.

1) The first thing you’ll need to do is learn what type, capacity, and form of RAM is appropriate for your Macintosh model. The best way to do this (there are many) is to go straight to the source: Apple. Among all the other helpful documents Apple provides on their support web site, there is the AppleSpec Database, which provides all the information you’ll need.

Then compare the amount of RAM your Mac is capable of using with the amount you already have installed by using the Apple System Profiler (under the Apple Menu on MacOS 8-9.x; in the Utilities folder on MacOS X).

2) The next important step is to locate a dealer that stocks the type of RAM you need (hopefully a company that is Mac-friendly). Most of this work has been done for you by a site called RAMSeeker.com. This is maintained by folks just like you who want to know not only what the RAM market is doing (prices do fluctuate quite a bit), but also which dealer can give you the best deal on a 72-pin SIMM for your mother-in-law’s 9-year-old Mac.

3) The third, and last step is to simply install the RAM yourself. While you could take your Mac into a repair shop and have them do it for you, there is nothing scary about handling the task unassisted, so long as you follow a few simple guidelines:

  1. Read the manual before opening your Mac the first time. There’s some good stuff in there about how to get the case open, how to not fry yourself, and probably a few important notes about static electricity that could potentially damage your new RAM chips.

  2. Don’t remove the RAM from its package until you have the Mac ‘opened’ on a clean work surface (a bath-size towel on the dining-room table is fine), with good lighting and whatever tools the manual recommends to have on hand. When you do open the package, be sure not to touch the chips (you’ll know what these are when you see them), or the metal contacts that fit into the memory slot in the Macintosh. Instead, hold the whole thing by the edges, and try to keep from shifting around too much on your feet (which can build up a bit of static charge).
  3. When you have the RAM in one hand, and an open Mac under the other, be sure to touch the metal frame of your (unplugged) Mac one last time before inserting the memory into the appropriate slot. This makes sure that the electrical charge is balanced (neither positive or negative) between you and the Mac — and can cut down on the possibility of a static discharge so faint that you can’t see it, but strong enough to fry your RAM.

The general rule of thumb is simply to get as much RAM as you can afford. What’s the downside to having ‘too much’ RAM? The worst you can expect is that with more RAM, your system will perform better; but may take longer to boot, since there is a check that is run every time you turn your system on. And for laptop users, note that 512Mb of RAM may take a few minutes off your battery life — but hey, if you’re getting your work done faster, that won’t matter, will it?

Dan Oblak

Is Celine Dion Evil, or Just Uninformed?

“Sure, Officer, the disc was marked; but I didn’t think it would really kill my Mac.”

AppleCare Knowledgebase document number 106882 notes that:

“A small number of audio discs use a copy protection technology that can prevent the disc from being read by a computer. This may also prevent the disc from being ejected. The audio discs are technically and legally not Compact Discs (CD format), and the CD logo has been removed from the disc. In the logo’s former place is the printed message: ‘Will not play on PC/Mac’. This appears both on the cover and on the disc. Inserting this disc in a computer may cause the system to stop responding. It might not be possible to eject the disc on computers without a manual eject hole.”

The problem is, some models won’t even eject the disc after a reboot (using the usual methods available to consumers). This may require, for some people, a trip to Apple for emergency extrication.

Sure, you can argue that it was an honest mistake; you don’t make a practice of reading every bit of text on an audio CD before listening to it… but in this case, ignorance is gonna bite you in the butt.

That is why we recommend you join us in boycotting any audio CD that does not display the standard CD logo. There is a downloadable list (PDF format) provided by FatChucks.com that shows which discs to avoid.

Maybe someday Celine will get the hint and stop recording for the bad guys.

Dan Oblak

When Good Consumers Go Bad… [Are you a criminal? Got a modem?]

Head-honcho Michael Greene spent several uncomfortable moments at this year’s Grammys awards ceremony to drone on about how bad technology has become for the music industry. Remember the Sony Walkman? When did it become Mr. Greene’s responsibility to decide how much technology is too much?

He called the concept of music downloading, “the most insidious virus in our midst”; forgetting, perhaps, that the vast majority of the cash cows seated before him have donated vast amounts of time, talent, money, and their commoditized names fighting another disease that might just possibly be more real, and more insidious.

MSNBC complains that there were more blank CDs sold last year than commercially-produced music CDs… forgetting perhaps that at least some of these were used to hold backups of data?

Steven Levy has posted an article called, “The Customer Is Always Wrong“. He notes that in a recent Senate Commerce Committee hearing, Senator Fritz Hollings exclaimed, ‘When Congress sits idly by in the face of these [file-sharing] activities, we essentially sanction the Internet as a haven for thievery,’ said the committee chairman, charging ‘over 10 million people’ with stealing.”

Hollings wants to make the technology found commonly in PCs today (CD burners, blank CDs, MP3-ripping software) illegal to manufacture and sell; or at least hindered to prevent their common usage.

It is ironic that at this same year’s Grammy awards ceremony, Apple won for ‘outstanding technical contributions to the music industry and recording field’. “We love music and are thrilled to play a part in how music is created and enjoyed,” noted Steve Jobs. “We are honored to be receiving our industry’s first Technical Grammy and we look forward to making many more contributions in the years ahead.” He didn’t seem to be worried that later that evening, he would be called a criminal.

When the whole ‘Napster thing’ was all over the news, I had mixed feelings. As a musician, I thought Napster was a great channel to be heard, and to hear music that I otherwise might not have been exposed to (read: albums that I probably wouldn’t have opened my wallet for). I agree that passing around copies of music illegally is a problem, and that it probably happened more than it should — that’s human nature.

But I also know that if I were your garden-variety Britney Spears fan (OK, she’s not exactly Country, but a decent enough musician who understands the business of the music business), you can bet I would be a little more than put out if I found I could no longer transfer her latest boppings to my MP3 player. And when Britney sees her sales plummet, you can believe that she’s going to be anxious for the expiration date on her Big-Name recording contract.

When Michael Eisner and the other Fat-Pockets realize that the artists are fleeing, it will be too late for them to back-pedal.

Personally, I’m looking forward to it. [Looking for a new label, Britney? Call me…]

Dan Oblak

Losing My Religion – Why switching platforms is so hard, and so hard for others to accept

Although Christmas is never mentioned in the Bible (this is a shock to most Christians in the western hemisphere), the Christmas tree is:

Jeremiah 10:2-6
“Thus saith the Lord: Learn not the way of the heathen…For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not”

In fact, no where was it written that Christ’s birth should be celebrated at all (the very idea of celebrating birthdays is of pagan origin). So how have the masses come to treat second-hand pagan traditions as the ‘Gospel Truth’?

Probably the same way that salespeople delude themselves and their customers into believing that the Microsoft Way is the path to enlightenment.

  1. “Might makes right.”
    When I was growing up, our family belonged to a church that taught that Christmas was not an acceptable way to honor and worship God and His plan for mankind. The difficulty was not in living with different beliefs; but that no one else around us could deal with the fact that we could possibly want something different from what they had accepted.

    Most people can’t understand why anyone would want to choose a Macintosh.

  2. “Don’t confuse me with the facts.”
    At any time, we could go to the Bible and point out the differences between Biblical teachings and current Christian practices. We could cite references from Josephus and other historical texts that clearly showed the disparity between reality and what the early Roman-Catholic regime taught in order to ‘keep the people in line’ (i.e., the world is flat, etc.). Modern-day texts produced by almost every denomination and religious movement have documented that the traditions of Christmas (and Easter, Halloween, etc.) have been added long after Christ’s death by way of intermarriage and cultural assimilation.

    Although Microsoft and the hardware industry have come a long way toward parity with the Macintosh in speed, power, and ease-of-use, the Mac has always had a lead that should place it firmly ahead of the PC in the desktop war.

  3. “We know it isn’t perfect; but it’s for the kids.”
    Folks rationalize away the whole thing because no one is ready to risk being seen as ‘anti-Christ’ instead of just ‘anti-Christmas’. And besides, who wants to take Santa, the tree, holly, yule logs, and colored lights away from our kids? What kind of parents would do such a thing?

    One of the primary excuses against buying Macs for schools is that parents want their children to be prepared for the work world after graduation. So the schools live with poorly-designed software, overly expensive support contracts, and an operating system that evolves so much every couple of years that students must still re-learn everything anyway.

  4. “Our family and friends expect gifts and holiday gatherings from us; we can’t just change.”
    People who decide to stop celebrating Christmas have a hard time staying in touch with relatives who don’t understand, and won’t try. Grandparents feel like little Johnny is ‘missing out’ and still try to bring over brightly-colored packages despite repeated requests to the contrary.

    Misunderstandings and ignorance are a force to be contended with in the Mac vs. Windows platform wars. People generally believe that Macs are more expensive, are lacking for software, are difficult to use, and are impossible to netwrok and support. None of these are true; yet Mac users find themselves ‘defending’ their choice of tools to Windows users on a regular basis.

Industry pundits and mainstream publications alike express bemusement at the ‘religious fervor’ found among Mac users.

Now you know why.

Dan Oblak

We began in 1997 as ‘MacBigots of America’…

Our original lead, when this was mostly a tech blog: “This site does not discriminate against people because of their race, religion, sexual preference, gender or operating system; we just think Microsoft Windows sucks.”

Some Americans have chosen to blame Muslims for the terrorist attack of September 11. Since my domain name (‘macbigot.com’) draws a lot of traffic not related to computing platforms, I have decided to add my two cents to the conversation.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Our webmaster professes to be a Christian, and owns 1.8 shares of Apple stock.

Recent Christian history has shown its own share of zealots, crying angerly in the name of God that someone (in this regard, the identity of the victim is not as important as the aggressors’ fervor) must die. The Crusades should have taught us that Christianity is not immune from such idiocy. (Let that be a lesson to all our ‘red-blooded Americans’; er, is that red-necked Americans?)

The David Koreshes, Hitlers, and Osama bin Ladens of our era are not limited to any religion, creed, nationality, or weight class. What sets them apart is the ability to find thousands of drones to follow their lead. With a cause — any cause — and an agenda not necessarily shared down the chain of command, whole armies can be sent willingly to their deaths.

The children of Afganistan and the surrounding countries are more well-educated than any previous generation; yet they still believe that Americans strongly desire the eradication of Islam, and that we have acted politically and with military aid toward that goal.

The truth is, the average American doesn’t care whether you are Muslim, Jew, Christian, Buddist, athiest, or undecided.

What we do care about is whether anyone stands in our way as we clamor to escape debt, ignorance, and aimlessness. It is a drive for hope, a yearning for purpose.

Perhaps these zealots, of our generation or past – whether Christian or Muslim – could eventually kill each other off. Or perhaps someday, they will have a better grasp of who actually is and is not their enemy.

Until then, maybe they should look for countries to target that once struck, won’t hunt them down like cockroaches.

Microsoft – The Great Pretender

From the source code to the Recycle Bin, they can’t even implement a stolen idea without perverting it.

Guy Kawasaki is often quoted as having said, “Saying Windows 95 is equal to Macintosh is like finding a potato that looks like Jesus and believing you’ve witnessed the second coming.” We haven’t found a more appropriate phrase to describe our distaste for the common misbelief that Microsoft’s GUI is comparable to the MacOS.

It seems to be Microsoft’s method of operation (see Myths #5, #7 and #10) is to take the best of everything and make it part of their culture — or at least a cheap knock-off of the best.

This time, they’re trying to copy one of Apple’s best assets: Mac users. Seldom does a company find that its own customers are willing to do their marketing; and few manufacturers can claim such a loyal following as those who subscribe, for example, to the MacEvangeList mailing list.

From the Seattle Times:
“Letters purportedly written by at least two dead people landed on the desk of Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff earlier this year, imploring him to go easy on Microsoft for its conduct as a monopoly.

The pleas, along with more than 100 others from Utah residents, are part of a carefully orchestrated nationwide campaign by the software giant that may be backfiring. Microsoft sought to create the impression of a surging grass-roots movement, aimed largely at the attorneys general of some of the 18 states that have joined the Justice Department in suing Microsoft.”

Though Bill Gates would like everyone to believe that all their business, design, and marketing choices are purely customer-driven, only cult-assimilated blithering idiots believe him. Here’s hoping the courts aren’t swayed by the lobbyists on Microsoft’s payroll.

Dan Oblak

Fw: NEVER PAY FOR SEX AGAIN! [How did they know I was married? …and other questions about junk email]

If you’ve had your email address for a while, chances are you have a steady stream of unwanted junk mail in your inbox. Some of the more common ‘products’ are:

  • Porn sites
  • ‘Get rich quick’ schemes
  • ‘discount’ travel
  • ‘gauranteed weight loss’ plans
  • Home business ‘opportunities’
  • Online gambling
  • Stock tips
  • Investigative tools to ‘Find Anyone Fast!’
  • ‘Secrets’ to erasing bad credit
  • Inexpensive wedding invitations, t-shirts, bumper stickers, promotional printing
  • Diplomas, false credentials, international drivers’ licenses
  • competitive software that ‘millions are using,’ but you have to respond to find out what it is
  • bulk mailing lists so you can send your own junk mail to thousands of other unhappy recipients

So how do these people get your name? Since there is no worldwide system of directories for email addresses (like there are for phone numbers), you might have initially felt pretty secure that only your friends and business associates would send you mail when you first got your online account. But soon there are one, two, three, and finally the trickle turns to a river of unwanted messages to delete every time you check your mail.

I have had my Earthlink account for about six years now; and having the same email address for this long can practically gaurantee that you’ll be added to many of these lists that unscrupulous companies use to target with junk mail (also referred to as ‘spam’). These people understand that there are two basic types of email addresses:

  1. An address that a person has set up to communicate with other people, and that won’t be changed for a long time due to the difficulty in informing everyone of address changes. Like my Earthlink address, this is like gold to a ‘spammer’; they know that I can be reached over and over, and that the only way I can completely ‘hide’ from them is to also lose contact with many of my online friends.

  2. Short-term addresses that have been set up to accomplish a specific purpose, like selling a product, issuing a press release, taking a survey, making a political statement, or submitting comments anonymously to corporate ‘suggestion boxes’ often found on company web sites.

Bad guys love it when they find addresses that are type #1… it give them a ‘prospect’ that can’t escape from them. The worst part of it is, if email junk mail wasn’t profitable, they wouldn’t be doing it after so many years; so somebody out there is responding to these ads and encouraging the spammers to keep it up. Many individuals have found that responding to junk mail with a plea to ‘cease and desist’ only makes matters worse — not only because the spammers don’t care about your preferences; but because doing so verifies that your address is a working one, and you will immediately be ‘upgraded’ on their lists. You will have opened the door to an even greater amount of junk mail.

So what can you do? When this all began, the best advice was to simply notify the spammer’s ISP, in the hope that their email account would be deactivated for abuse or for breaking a ‘terms of service’ agreement that prohibits unsolicited mail. But that has become increasingly more difficult as spammers create their own ISPs, and have no one to answer to. And sometimes, the email address of the sender is not clearly presented; making it very hard to learn who to complain to.

Here are some tips offered by readers that have worked to a small degree; used in combination, you should be able to push aside these rude messages without having to delete them each by hand whenever you check your mail.

  1. Most email clients have a feature that lets users filter out messages based on certain criteria. If you see a lot of spam coming from a certain domain, for instance, you can have all mail coming from that server sent directly to your ‘Delete’ folder… and it will never land in your inbox. Just be careful not to do this to domains that your friends might be using for legitimate correspondence (like AOL.COM, MSN.COM, YAHOO.COM, etc.).

  2. Check with your ISP to see if they have the capability to filter out known spammers at the server. If so, they will be glad to keep junk mail from ever reaching your mailbox in the first place. The downside? Some ISPs filter out too much; I have a friend on AOL who can never get emails from me because AOL doesn’t ‘trust’ messages from MacBigot.com.
  3. Get two email addresses; use one to stay in touch with friends and business associates; use the other one whenever you need to post a message in a public forum or include an email address with contact information requested on a company’s web site. You can always change the second one, without having to worry about notifying all your friends of a new address.
  4. NEVER FORWARD A CHAIN LETTER, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES (or ANY message that includes the text, ‘send this to all your friends’ – even if it says it’s not a chain letter, it still is if it includes these words!). Spammers use messages like this to encourage people to add their address (and several dozen others from your address book) to a long string of others in a single message — this becomes a big, juicy morsel for anyone itching to collect names for an illegitimate mailing list. If you are unclear on the concept, check out these links regarding chain letters, urban legends, and virus hoaxes.
  5. When you send a message to more than a few people (say, 10 or more?), put most or all of their names in the BCC: field so that their names and addresses are not visible to the more unscrupulous sorts on the internet.
  6. MOST IMPORTANT: Don’t do business with companies who send spam. Voting with your dollars may be the only true democracy left to the world economy.

Dan Oblak

‘MacBigot, ACSA’ [Apple finally provides tech certifications… but keeps them a secret?]

In reference to Apple’s latest Big Idea for reclaiming marketshare in the education segment, one reader noted,

“My first thought was, ‘Having Macs in schools will be good for building the Mac userbase. Students who learn on Macs will want a Mac at home.’

Now I’m beginning to worry. I have heard nothing but complaints about school Mac labs, ranging from, ‘The network guys at school don’t know anything about the Macs so they never help me,’ to ‘Macs suck, the Macs at school are slow and they crash all the time!’

Maybe Apple should have a ‘Macintosh Network Administrator Certification’ and require that the schools have a certified Mac head on campus.

Just a thought.”

Bob Arlauskas
Systems Admin

We’re not surprised no one has heard of them.

For a long time, the lack of any professional training and certification on the MacOS platform has been used as ammunition against installations of Apple products. People would point to the number of technicians with MCSE (Microsoft) or CNE (Novell) certifications and count this as an advantage for the Wintel platform — even a ‘proof’ that the MacOS is not a ‘serious’ business tool.

To be clear, we agree that technicians on other network platforms have had a real advantage over Mac users… but only in that more standardized training has been available for the products they support.

The idea behind these vendor-sponsored certifications (Microsoft, Novell, HP, Cisco, etc.) is that your IT personnel are always up to speed with the latest product lines; and this increases the chances that you’ll continue to purchase and use that vendor’s products in your company. From Microsoft’s point of view, that’s a Good Thing.

Times change. Apple learns from its mistakes… eventually.

We are now aware of three Apple-sponsored certifications; schools and IT shops should adopt one of them as their standard and pay to get someone on staff certified as an ongoing Standard Operating Procedure.

  • AppleCare Technician:
    ‘Provides all the information you need to prepare for the AppleCare service certification exams for Macintosh and PowerBook systems. This easy-to-use, self-paced course includes training materials, diagnostic tools, and extensive information from Appleƕs own technical library.’

  • Apple Certified System Administrator (ACSA), available in fall 2001:
    ‘This certification is designed for full-time professional system administrators managing medium-to-large networks of Mac systems in demanding and relatively complex multiplatform deployments.’
  • Apple Certified Technical Coordinator (ACTC), available in June 2001:
    ‘This certification is ideal for a traditional Mac and AppleShare IP user who may not be a full-time professional system administrator but who is tasked with maintaining a modest network of machines. Typical technical coordinators are teachers and school technology specialists, designated power users within larger organizations, or helpdesk personnel.’

The links above also outline Apple’s Certification Roadmap, Benefits, and Technical Training. It’s worth an hour of your day to read it well; and place copies of the downloadable PDFs where they will be reviewed by your local school board, your IT manager, and every technician that has opportunity to deal with cross-platform issues.

We’re not sure why Apple hasn’t marketed these products more aggressively (has their marketing department ever done justice to a product?); but those who use Macs for profit should make an effort to get this training included in their support plan.

Dan Oblak