VONTRONICS E-NEWSLETTER - MARCH 2008 It ' s p a r t y-t i m e , e v e r yo n e ! My grandson turned 1 in February and we all got together for a pirate-themed party for him. I wore a silly pirate's hat the whole time and apparently caused several cameras to break! Here he's enjoying a birthday present with his mom, while his dad is desperately trying to get the next present open before the little guy falls asleep in need of a nap. Needless to say, the birthday pirate scored a good haul of booty that day! Remember, as always, if you don't want to be sent these e- newsletters, please check at the bottom of this e-mail to find out how to easily be taken off the list for future e-mailings. And if you are receiving more than one copy, please reply back and let me know your primary e-mail address. And if you could help me out by forwarding this e-newsletter to a friend that might enjoy it, I'd appreciate it! Thanks. Product Reviews VISTA SP1 The long-awaited Service Pack (SP1) to "fix" Windows Vista is finally coming. On February 4, 2008 Windows Vista SP1 was released to manufacturing and will be available to the public in mid-March via Windows Update and the Microsoft Download Center. If you feel that, for any reason, you don't want to automatically receive this SP1 update, a free blocker tool is available from Microsoft for those that would like to temporarily prevent installation of ANY Windows Service Pack updates through Windows Update. This tool will block the installation of any Service Packs for 12 months following their general availability for both Windows XP and Vista. I'll report next month on how this SP1 update affects my recommendations towards Windows VISTA. http://tinyurl.com/2tadkt BEYOND VISTA It's been rumored that, with the sluggish public response to Windows VISTA, that Microsoft is proceeding with yet the next version of Windows to rapidly replace VISTA, similar to how rapidly Windows ME was replaced with XP. Microsoft has confirmed they are working on the next version, #7, which is slated to be available in 2010. Here's an article with the details. http://www.internetnews.com/ent-news/article.php/3724671 DVD WARS OVER With Toshiba, as the last major stand-out, throwing in the towel in the High-Definition DVD wars, the "Blu-Ray" format can now be declared the winner over the "HD-DVD" format. But don't rush out and buy a Blu-Ray player right away. There are several factors to consider: Selection - At the beginning of February 2008, there were only about 400 Blu-Ray DVD titles on the market compared to over 90,000 standard DVD titles offered by NetFlix. Although there is a difference between the resolution (sharpness) of High-Definition (when viewed on matching High-Definition screens and equipment) and standard DVD's, the difference is much less noticeable than it was between VHS tapes and DVD, especially if your TV is 37" or less. Pricing - As with any technology, as time passes the prices become more competitive as the products become more of a commodity instead of early-adopter leading edge technology. Blu-Ray players are already available for less than $300 and should continue to drop as time goes by. Eventually, you'll be able to get Blu-Ray DVD recorders for the price that players go for now. Obsoleteness - The Blu-ray standard is still evolving. Most models currently available use the original "Profile 1.0" standard, while some newer models use "Profile 1.1". Later this year, the first "Profile 2.0" players--which add the ability to deliver online special features--will become available. Ironically, both of these are designed to bring the Blu-ray standard in line with HD-DVD players, which have long been able to deliver these features. Very few current models allow upgrade-ability to "Profile 1.1", with the Sony PlayStation 3 (PS3) gaming console being the only current Blu-Ray system upgradeable to "Profile 2.0". Possible Resolution Restrictions - Anyone with an older HDTV--one without an HDMI or HDCP-compliant DVI input--is at the mercy of the studios' whims when it comes to watching hi-definition DVD movies at full high-definition. The studios have the option to downgrade the video resolution on the component-video jacks to 960x540. That's better than standard DVD, but only 25 percent of the full high-definition capability of 1,920x1,080. Not many studios have used this option, but the option exists and is at 1,920x1,080. Not many studios have used this option, but the option exists and is at their whim. Alternatives - With Apple TV, Xbox Live, Vudu, video-on-demand, and pay-per-view outlets already offering High-Definition movies, why worry about physical media (DVD discs) at all? Maybe we can skip the next optical disc format and jump straight to downloadable HD movies. Bottom Line - Unless you've just invested in a huge home entertainment system including a High-Definition receiver with matching cable service, and a huge TV with matching sound system, you probably should wait until the prices go down and the features go up to purchase a Blu-Ray player. The only exception for a sound investment now is to get a PS3 for about $400 with its combination of future-proofed Blu-Ray player and popular gaming console. Watch for those sales during Black Friday 2008! Tech Tips VISTA MEMORY I'm often asked "how much memory should I have to run VISTA?" There is not a simple answer because it depends on what you are planning to use your computer for and what version of VISTA you'll be using. I certainly recommend no less than 2GB of memory for any VISTA situation, but did you know that all of the "common" versions of VISTA top out at about 3.2GB, even if you were to install more in your computer? The "common" versions refer to x32 versions, or 32-bit. The maximum memory restriction is a factor of how much physical memory a 32-bit system can address, not a Microsoft marketing ploy. If you need more memory you should consider a x64, or 64- bit version of VISTA. Microsoft has endowed these less-common versions with different maximum memory ranges. The x64 versions of Vista Ultimate, Enterprise and Business editions support 128 GB, Home Premium x64 supports 16 GB and Home Basic x64 supports 8 GB. But to use these versions and gain the extra memory ranges, you have to have 64-bit hardware, and even more importantly, 64-bit versions of whatever programs you plan to run. The last restriction, the programs, is going to be the most difficult to accomplish as there are still very few 64-bit-designed programs compared to the vast market for 32-bit. Research first before diving into the 64-bit pool. LASTING MEMORIES What digital media should you use for long term archives of pictures, documents, etc.? Optical Disks - We've all burned or used CD's and have been told "don't worry, they'll last forever". Well, it's not true, but CD's and optical media, in general, certainly have a last forever". Well, it's not true, but CD's and optical media, in general, certainly have a longer shelf life than most archival storage media. Keep in mind, that a commercially- produced optical disk will last longer than any that you "burn" with your computer or recorder, due to the difference in how the technology works. Commercial disks are made in a similar way to how vinyl LP's were made, with a casting and forming process, while home-burned disks are made with a laser-melted dye layer that will fade and degrade over time. There hasn't been any long-term tests (yet), but scientists estimate from as few as five years up to twenty-five years of effective storage time with home-burned disks, depending on handling and care. Magnetic Media - Here we're talking external hard drives, tapes, floppy disks, camera media, even USB flash drives. Just as with aging VHS and Audio cassette tapes, we all know that magnetic media has a shelf life that degrades over time. The miniscule magnetized areas simply lose their strength eventually until the signal weakens too far to be useful. All magnetic media will do this, and usually on a much faster timescale than optical disks. Magnetic media is currently the leader in ease of use, plus price for storage capacity, especially in hard drives. However, the real question is not will your archived storage last long enough. The true question is "will there be any hardware available in the future that can still read this information, assuming that it is still preserved?" This factor is much more important than what storage method you use. The technology will constantly change, always improving capacity, speed, cost and longevity. Think about how, in the last few years, floppy disks, tape drives, older hard drives and camera media, and now CD's have or are becoming obsolete. Even if your information is perfectly preserved could you or your heirs be able to access the information you have so carefully preserved? The answer to this dilemma is to stay in touch with the changes in technology, and be prepared to "up-format" your important information to whatever the newest stable storage method is. Right now, CD's for data storage are essentially obsolete; most new computers no longer come with CD-writers unless specially-ordered, just like floppy drives were two years ago. The current optical disk of choice is DVD-RAM, but with the latest High-Definition Blu-Ray technology you can expect Hi-Def DVD writers to be available and replace standard DVD-writers soon. So unless you're going to put a brand new, fully working computer capable of reading your digital archives into a time capsule along with operational instructions in all languages, including binary, like NASA did with Voyager, then keep on top of the changes and be prepared to modernize your digital media about once a decade. RECYCLE YOUR CELLPHONE Eventually, everyone replaces their cellphone, usually several times. Just like old computers, your old cellphone doesn't have much value. But you can recycle it instead of just tossing it in the can. Wait! Don't just toss your cellphone, with all of its valuable private phone numbers including a record of your recent incoming and outgoing calls, into the trash! You wouldn't think of doing that with your computer (I hope), so don't do it with your old cellphone. hope), so don't do it with your old cellphone. Assuming it still works, consider these options: Erase all of your personal data quickly and easily. Look up your make and model on this site, then enter the codes to clear it out before either tossing it or donating it. http://www.recellular.com/recycling/data_eraser/default.asp Once you've wiped out your personal data, the next step is to donate it so someone less fortunate can have a cellphone. This site allows you to select which charity you would like the recycling credit to go to: http://www.collectivegood.com/ One other possible option remains: re-use it yourself! A working cellphone, even one that has been de-commissioned and wiped of all personal information, can still be used to make "911" emergency calls. Consider keeping one, including its charging cables, in your car's glovebox for emergencies (just like those late 70's Radio Shack CB radio units!). Freebies FILE YOUR TAX RETURN FOR FREE There are some restrictions: first, your adjusted gross income must be $54,000 or less. There are also age and residency requirements. And other criteria may apply. Start at www.IRS.gov. There you'll find options to file for free online, then you'll select one of the several commercial providers. Complete the forms and, as they say, "the check is in the mail!" Current Security Recommendations KEEP IT SAFE OUT THERE As always, don't forget to keep your Windows updates current and your computer protected from malware. There are many free, yet excellent programs available so there is no excuse not to stay protected. However, there are many more free programs which are harmful, that will, instead of protecting your system, actually harm it. Choose from this list I've provided and you should have no problems of that sort. Most of these free programs are for individual home use, not commercial / business use, but I've noted those restrictions, plus the Windows versions each is compatible with. Here's the latest list of excellent, but free, security programs that I recommend. The (NEW) flag means that these items haven't been on the list before this month. ANTI-VIRUS: (fights viruses, worms & trojans) AVG 7.5 Free: (home only, Win98-Vista) http://tinyurl.com/2neexk http://tinyurl.com/2neexk AVast! 4 Home Edition: (home only, Win95-Vista, annual free renewal) http://www.avast.com/eng/avast_4_home.html Comodo 2: (home or business, XP/2000 only) http://antivirus.comodo.com/ Clam-Win .91: (home or business, Win98-XP, manual scanner only) http://www.clamwin.com/ ClamXav: (home or business, Mac 10.X) (NEW) http://www.clamxav.com/ ANTI-MALWARE: (fights spyware & adware) SpyBot 1.5: (home or business, Win95-Vista, manual scanner only) http://www.safer-networking.org/en/mirrors/index.html Threatfire 3: (home or business, WinXP-Vista, manual scanner only) http://www.threatfire.com/download/ Microsoft Windows Defender: (home or business, WinXP-2003, requires validation) http://tinyurl.com/c9p2f Webroot SpySweeper: (home only, Win2000-Vista, 30-day free trial) http://tinyurl.com/2bp9xa McAfee SiteAdvisor: (home or business, Win2000-XP) Adds safety ratings to websites and search results to help protect you from adware, spam, and online scams. http://www.siteadvisor.com/download/ie.html FIREWALL: (fights keyloggers and hacking) Your Router: almost all routers have a hardware firewall built-in; the best type! ZoneAlarm Free: (home only, Win2000-Vista) http://tinyurl.com/3yhkyk Comodo Firewall Pro: (home or business, Win2000-XP) http://tinyurl.com/2o2p6d Outpost Free Firewall: (home or business, Win95-XP) http://www.agnitum.com/products/outpostfree/index.php ANTI-SPAM: (fights unwanted email) Spam Terrier: (home or business, Win 98-XP, Outlook 2000-2003, Outlook Express 5.0-6.0) http://www.agnitum.com/products/spam-terrier/index.php http://www.agnitum.com/products/spam-terrier/index.php Spamfighter: (home only, Win 98-VISTA, Outlook Express 5.5+, Windows Mail) (NEW) http://www.spamfighter.com/Product_Info.asp Don't forget to visit my website for recent updates. All of my previous e-newsletters, plus many extras, are available to you at www.familycomputerusa.com. Thanks for checking! I don't get any compensation from the commercial links I include in my e-newsletters. It's merely a pleasure for me to find and share these tidbits with you. If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to reply. I try to answer all e-mails within 24 hours. Thanks for reading. Now you're one of the family! Eric VONTRONICS, INC. Naples, Florida 239-597-0001 To be removed from future e-mailings, reply to firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to be removed. If you would like to begin receiving future e-newsletters, reply to the same e-mail and ask to be added. If you change your e-mail address or anticipate doing so, please let me know, also.
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