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Dux Computer Newsletter
http://duxcw.com/newsltr/index.html
July 16, 2001; Vol. 1, No. 7

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IN THIS NEWSLETTER
Introduction
Recent News and Commentary
Tech Tips
Around the Internet

Recent News and Commentary.  Microsoft Windows XP is scheduled for release on October 25th.   Microsoft plans to spend about one billion dollars promoting it.  Many analysts think that the normal PC refresh cycle plus hard selling by Microsoft may boost the PC business out of its doldrums, others are doubtful.  I think XP may stumble, and if it does, I think the tech sector will rebound anyway.

First, Uncle Sam may delay XP with a court injunction.  Let's not forget that Microsoft has been found guilty of Anti-Trust activities.  The appeals court overturned the remedy for this activity, breaking-up Microsoft, but upheld the verdict.  A new remedy/settlement has yet to be devised/agreed to.   Although, earlier this month Microsoft made a conciliatory gesture in resolving the dispute by announcing that they would make it possible for PC Manufacturers to remove shortcuts/icons to the Internet Explorer on the Start menu and desktop of Windows XP, 98, 2000, and Me and allowing them to add icons to the desktop, the Department of Justice and several states appear determined to expedite a new remedy and may go after an injunction.

But setting this entire legal morass aside, disgruntled comments and news stories about XP are appearing all over the Internet and nearly everyday.  From them, I think XP poses big acceptance problems with many potential buyers, especially those who may be contemplating an upgrade.  At the end of last month Microsoft agreed to drop Smart Tags from the version (6.0) of the Internet Explorer that will ship with Windows XP after news stories appeared about concerns that Smart Tag links appear on Web pages without permission by their owners/authors and that they would encourage users to leave the sites and move to ones offering Microsoft services.

Windows Product Activation (WPA). The new licensing and registration provisions of Windows XP are quite controversial.  In a nutshell, the when you buy XP (if you do) it will come with a Product Activation code like previous versions of Windows and one installs Windows in a similar manner.  During the installation process Windows generates some sort of code ("hardware hash") based on what hardware the user has installed in his or her computer, such as the unique MAC address every network adapter has, hard disk serial number, etc. The user then has 30 days (the Beta version allows 14 days) to call Microsoft of connect to Microsoft's web site via the Internet to activate Windows or it will stop working.  Although the scheme is supposed to be forgiving so a user may do minor upgrades, etc. a major upgrade will probably deactivate Windows.  If that happens, the user may have to call Microsoft and convince them that the cause of the deactivation is innocent.  Also, Microsoft may limit the number of activations for given product key (I've read that it is five times during the first month or so and 10 times altogether, and that Microsoft support personnel may have some latitude on this).  Besides inconvenience and possible snafus, what does this mean?  The license is technically for a PC and when the PC goes so could the license, unless mighty Microsoft allows otherwise.  Also, one has to wonder what will happen if Microsoft's computer(s) go down just when one needs XP activated.  Of course, any or all of this could change by the time XP is released.

As I recall, in the past a license was sold to the user and the user could use it on any one computer at any given time.  I remember years ago when Lotus (and others selling commodity software) tried the copy protection thing with their 1-2-3 spreadsheet.  It failed and they recanted because customers didn't like it and they had competitors (remember Borland Quattro?).  Also, expansion boards were designed and made widely available which defeated the Lotus copy-protection scheme.

There other XP concerns as well. Users of Windows 95 or older versions of Windows will not be able to upgrade.  They have to buy the full version.  I'll bet that rubs a lot of people very strongly the wrong way.  About 10% of the people who visit my web site are still using Windows 95 or older versions of Windows.  There are indications that the Home version upgrade will cost about $100 and the Pro version upgrade will cost $200, and full versions will cost $200 and $300 respectively.  How many will pay that much money for software with that kind of license?  Who is to stop Microsoft from expiring Windows XP (or Office XP which also has the activation gizmo) when they feel like it?  The Justice Department?  There's more, but I'm running out of space.   Check the news section our web site for more XP news and other significant news events.

Without the XP influence, there are encouraging signs that the economy and the tech sector may start to get better as the year progresses anyway.  Energy prices are falling sharply, the IRS will start mailing checks as part of the new tax-cut law on the 23rd of this month (details are here), and the Fed has cut interest rates six times and their accumulative effect should be starting to kick-in.  A survey of information executives in June indicates that spending have bottomed and plans are to increase information technology spending by 6.3% over the next 12 months, up from 3.8% in May.

At the same time PC's with new motherboards and motherboard chipsets will start to regain the attention of potential buyers who have been holding back for the "latest and greatest."  The "latest and greatest" may very well turn-out to be AMD's desktop Athlon with the more powerful and power-saving Palomino core and the nVIDIA nFORCE and/or SiS 735 motherboard chipsets, all of which should appear in the Fall to Christmas time period (motherboards with the high-performance SiS 735 DDR chipset are coming out now).  However, the Intel P4 processor and volume shipments of motherboards for it should not by any means be discounted in the overall equation; although, despite promotional efforts by Intel, sales of P4's have been lackluster because of lower performance of the processor as compared to Athlons with slower clock speeds and the high-cost of Rambus memory needed for the current chipsets (motherboards for the P4 that use PC133 SDRAM memory are forthcoming, but the combination is not competitive performance and price wise with Athlon CPUs and DDR memory).

Processor price cuts (e.g., $94 for a 1 gig Athlon and Durons for $24) and plunging memory prices (e.g., $17.50 or less for 128 Mbytres) are adding kindling to the start of this potential bonfire (and should reduce inventories).  An interesting point is that while memory prices have fallen to the point of unprofitability, production continues without noticeable decline.  Memory manufacturers must be anticipating something.  Also, PCs bought during a spike of PC purchases at the end of 1998 and through 1999 and into 2000 caused by the Y2K fiasco will start to show their age. This will provide a good excuse for a new round of PC purchasing and add to the momentum.

More news.

Tech Tips. The Windows 9x/Me Hardware Info Utility provides a wealth of information about your computer and Windows.  To run it click Start, Run, and enter hwinfo /ui.  To help narrow-down problems, click View in the main menu and select Devices with Problems.

The old refrigerator trick.  If you have a failing hard disk drive (sometimes you can read some data off from it, but most of the time you can't, or it won't boot all the way up) and you have some valuable files on it that you want to recover, pull the drive and stick it in the refrigerator next to the freezer compartment for about an hour.  After it has gotten good and cold you have to move fast before it warms-up much.  Have the computer ready to go with a new drive connected to the primary IDE interface and a cable connected to the secondary interface to attach the defective drive.  Remove the defective drive from the refrigerator, inspect it for condensation (you don't want to short-out the printed circuit board, etc.), connect it to the cables, and lay it down on it's back so the printed circuit board won't be shorted-out (you won't have enough time to physically install the drive).   Boot the computer a get those files copied to the new drive as fast as possible.  If you have a hard disk drive that isn't spinning up try this trick.  If you hear a drive making a clinking noise, get your data off from it real quick.  Seagate drives, in particular, may issue this warning just before failing (or after failing!).

Problem: You have lost the Windows product key needed to install Windows. When Windows is installed, the Setup program requires that you type in a 25-character Product Key that is on the back of the CD (jewel) case or on a certificate on the cover of the Getting Started/User Manual.  During the Windows installation the Product Key is stored in the Windows Registry.  You can find it on your computer by clicking Start, Run, and entering regedit.  Click the plus signs to expand the branches in the Registry until you reach: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion.
Scroll the right pane until you find ProductKey.  Unfortunately, Windows 2000 does not have this feature.

Around the Internet.  If opening a DOS Window to ping an IP address or connecting to a DNS lookup service seems inconvenient, try Netinfo.  It is a quick, easy to use Windows-based toolkit for diagnosing network problems and getting information about users, hosts, and networks on the Internet or on an intranet.  It costs $25.  A fully functional demo is available for download.  I like it.  Monster Ping has some of the same sort of tools in a simple command button interface.  It costs $28.  A fully-functional trial version is available for download.  Qcheck is a supper pinger, throughput analyzer, and tracer for the TCP, UDP, SPX, and IPX protocols.   The easy-to-use interface looks somewhat like a simplified, handheld multimeter.  It's free if you are willing to fill-out a short questionnaire.   Visually trace an Internet connection on a world map with NeoTrace Pro.  This very popular program costs $29.95.  A 30-day trial version is available for download.

Larry

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Copyright, Disclaimer, and Trademark Information Copyright © 1996-2006 Larry F. Byard.  All rights reserved. This material or parts thereof may not be copied, published, put on the Internet, rewritten, or redistributed without explicit, written permission from the author.