The Big Bear Computer Club Online Newsletter
— Volume 8 — Issue 2 — Bearly Bytes Online is Published on the First of Every Month —

February 2008

President’s Message

cleary3.jpgCONGRATULATIONS RICK EDWARDS!The photographs he submitted to the APCUG Conference in Las Vegas won First and Second by the Judges and First and Second People's Choice. We also won Honorable Mention for our Newsletters. The Big Bear Computer Club is getting well known throughout the Region and now at the National Conference.

First let me apologize for cancelling our meeting in January, but the safety of our members was foremost. The Forest Service is trying to cut corners and one was not contracting someone to snowplow the Discovery Center. Since we don't know if it is going to snow for our meeting, the board decided to move the meeting to the Village Yogurt Express (next to the Peppercorn Restaurant) in the Village as we don't want to cancel another meeting.

Because we already had made arrangements last year to have Smart Computing come to our February meeting, we will have an abbreviated training on routers with Jim Applebury doing the training right after our program. We do plan to start our new training format in March so for sure make plans to attend.

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

Yomar Cleary

APCUG Conference in Las Vegas:
January 3rd thru January 6th, 2008

Big Bear Computer Club was well represented with six members attending the Association of Personal Computer User Groups Conference. Those in attendance were Nancy and Harry Hinz, Ron and Grace Fross, Karen Tangeman and Yomar Cleary.

APCUG Vegas

We all went to different workshops… just to name a few: Creating a Podcast, Composing and remixing music with Acoustica; How to Create a Powerpoint; Virtual Technologies; Cyber Security; How to set up a Home Wireless Network and Identity Theft and many more other workshops.

During the meals we had presentations by Microsoft Mind Share, Pinnacle, Corel, and AMD showing off their newest technologies. There were many door prizes given away during the course of the conference. There were approximately 200 members of various User Groups from throughout the US and Australia.

This was a very enlightening and exciting conference; we hope next year we can have more of our members attend. Anyone can attend as long as your are a member of the Computer Club because we are a member of the User Groups.

APCUG Vegas

The club entered several contests which included our website, Bearly Bytes Newsletter and the photography contest. The winners were announced on the last day of the conference. Rick Edwards' two photographs ran away with 1st, a picture of a crane drinking water, and 2nd Prize, a photo of a young Massai Girl. There were two judging categories, one judged by professional photographers from back East and the second being "People's Choice". Everyone picked the same two photographs… Wow, were we delighted. Thanks Rick!!!

We also received Honorable Mention for our Newsletter.

Yomar Cleary

Rick Edwards Takes Top Honors in Vegas!

Club Board Member, Rick Edwards, has once again scored big in user group photography competition winning kudos at the APCUG convention in Las Vegas for two splendid photographs he took in Kenya.

Crane

Shown above is the First Place winner in the Animal Category, a Crowned Crane drinking water. This photo also took First Place as Best in Show as judged by the Center for Photography in Madison, Wisconsin. Rick’s picture of a young Masai girl took Second Place in the People Category. These photos also placed first and second in the People’s Choice Category decided by attendees at the convention. This is certainly a big score for Rick, and an honor for our club.

Rick, an Associate of The Royal Photographic Society, perfected his photography skills while living in Nairobi Kenya observing wildlife in the many parks of the region. During his last two years of his stay in Kenya he became the official photographer for the Kenya Wildlife Service.

Showtime in Las Vegas:
The APCUG, CES and AVN Shows

hinz1.jpgSeveral Big Bear Computer Club members attended the Association for Personal Computer Users Group (APCUG) Conference. This was a 3-day event of hobnobbing with computer nerds from most states around the US with some international attendance and representation.

Following the APCUG was the mother of all conventions, the 4-day 2008 International CES, the Consumer Electronics Show. This show is restricted to the trade, the bloggers and the press only and is not open to the public. Attending were an estimated 140,000 industry professionals for the year's hottest gadgets at the 2008 International CES®.

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)®, and the 2008 International CES is the world's largest tradeshow for consumer technology. About 2,700 exhibitors were spread out over 3 convention halls as well many of the major hotels. A fleet of shuttle buses (on a 10 min. schedule) made getting around possible. Most everywhere it was long lines and shoulder to shoulder people. Many of the larger companies had entertainers doing top-flight performances. The noise in the larger halls was deafening. Many of the products, gadgets and gizmos shown are not yet on the shelves. There can be seen, of what many of us will be dazzled by and want to buy during the next year or so. Some of new introductions may never make it to market. A large number of products were being introduced from Asian countries like China, Korea, Japan, India.

Featured were popular sessions, i.e. "Technology's Role in Long Term Development", "Technology in Practice" and "Building a Better Tomorrow with Technology". The highly popular SuperSession, "The Last Gadget Standing," was a fast-paced tour of some of the hottest products at the 2008 International CES, sponsored by Yahoo! Tech. Representatives from Asus, Dash Navigation, Electric Spin, Eye-Fi, Fujitsu, iRobot, Logitech, Sansa, Toshiba and Verizon Wireless demonstrated their newest gadgets. The Eye-Fi, a wireless memory card that automatically uploads pictures from your digital camera to your PC or Mac, won the title by audience vote.

Overlapping the CES was another show, the annual national AVN Adult Entertainment Expo 2008® at the Sands Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center. Again, this too, was only open to the trade. Here the porn shop owners and the folks in the business do their shopping and selling. Notable were the large number of professional photographers doing photo-ops.

Harry Hinz

Excel Tip: Automatically Capitalizing Day Names

excel.gifOne of the features built into Excel is the ability to automatically capitalize days of the week if you enter them in a cell. For instance, if you type the word "wednes­day," Excel would automatically change it to "Wednesday." To control this behav­ior, follow these steps if you are using a version earlier than Excel 2007:

  1. Choose AutoCor­rect from the Tools menu. (In Excel 2003, choose AutoCorrect Options from the Tools menu.) Excel displays the AutoCorrect dialog box.
  2. Make sure the Auto­Correct tab is select­ed
  3. Select the Capitalize Names of Days check box if you want Excel to automatically capi­talize for you.
  4. Clear the Capitalize Names of Days check box if you don't want Excel to make auto­matic changes.
  5. Click on OK.

If you are using Excel 2007, then you should use these steps, instead:

  1. Click the Office button, and then click Excel Options. Excel displays the Excel Options dialog box.
  2. At the left side of the dialog box, click Proofing.
  3. Click the AutoCorrect Options button. Excel displays the AutoCorrect dialog box.
  4. Select the Capitalize Names of Days check box if you want Excel to auto­matically capitalize for you.
  5. Clear the Capitalize Names of Days check box if you don't want Excel to make automatic changes.
  6. Click on OK.

Applies to Excel 97, 2000, 2002, 2003, and 2007

Windows Tip: Make a Recovery Disk

word.gifYour PC may have come with a recovery CD that will restore it to the precise state—as far as OS, drivers, and software are concerned—it was in when you bought it. But really, the older your system is, the less useful that CD is. It will lack all the latest security patches (including Windows XP Service Pack 2) and in all likelihood, many drivers will be outdated. So it’s an excellent idea to build a new recovery CD, and fortunately you can. The process is more involved than will fit here, so for our full instructions, point your browser to:

http://go.pcmag.com/xpsp2recover

Reboot to Safe Mode in Win XP

Sometimes in the course of troubleshooting you need to reboot and start Windows in Safe Mode, which is a minimal start-up that loads only those Windows components that are absolutely essential. In theory, you can enter Safe Mode by restarting and then either holding down the Ctrl key or pressing the F8 key at the right moment. In practice, it can be difficult or, with a USB keyboard, impossible (the USB drivers aren’t available in the DOS start-up environment). To configure Windows XP so its next restart will enter Safe Mode, launch the System Configuration Utility (msconfig) from the Start menu’s Run dialog. Click the BOOT.INI tab and check the box titled /SAFEBOOT. Don’t touch the other settings. When you reboot, XP will start in Safe Mode and will keep doing so until you uncheck that box.

Word Tip: Creating a Drop Cap

word.gifDrop caps can be a nice finishing touch for some types of documents. Word allows you to create three types of drop caps, and to adjust how those drop caps appear. Drop caps are a decorative touch, done through typographical means that you can apply to your document. Drop caps are traditionally done with the first letter of a chapter or some other major section of a document. To create drop caps, do the following if you are using a version of Word prior to Word 2007:

  1. Type your paragraph as you normally would.
  2. Select the first letter of the paragraph.
  3. Choose Drop Cap from the Format menu. Word displays the Drop Cap dialog box.
  4. Chose the position for your drop cap, according to your preference.
  5. Change any other options to format your drop cap.
  6. Click on OK.

Here’s how you create a drop cap if you are using Word 2007:

  1. Type your paragraph as you normally would.
  2. Select the first letter of the paragraph.
  3. Choose the Insert tab of the ribbon.
  4. In the Text group, click Drop Cap. Word displays some common options for drop caps.
  5. Choose Drop Cap Options. Word displays the Drop Cap dialog box.
  6. Chose the position for your drop cap, according to your preference.
  7. Change any other options to format your drop cap.
  8. Click on OK.

This tip works with MS Word 97, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2007.

Product Review:
Hallmark Card Studio Deluxe 2008

Carol AllenOne of the first things that surprised me about this program is it comes with five discs. Of course because of that, it took about 20 minutes to install so don't expect to throw in the program and whip out a card while you're running out of the door. If you're not familiar with greeting card software, they easily allow you to create and personalize greeting cards for many different occasions as well as making announcement certificates, scrapbook pages, children's activity pages and more.

As a dedicated user of Hallmark Card Studio Deluxe 2005, I have used a number of the cards for family members in the past three years and there weren't many new styles. I was very happy that you can now search for greetings directly from the style of the card that you like and can quickly add in that "personal sentimental message." If you've waited until the last minute to create your card, this program will allow you to save your card and email it to that special person. If you're creative and have written your own sentimental message, you'll be happy that you can now easily do a "spell check" right from the card. Another new feature of this program is its 3D projects. You can make photo cubes and gift boxes that can be printed, cut out, and folded after being personalized with great graphics or your own personal photos.

The most recent version still has an event calendar and address book feature where you can keep track of special holidays and your personal friends. The program comes with a "Kid Lock" function as it states that some portions may be unsuitable for children. You can turn this feature off or on at the initial start up but I did not see anything that I would be concerned about.

If you have a previous version of Hallmark Card Studio, you may be a little disappointed that the new version does not come with all new graphics and cards but includes many of the cards that were in previous versions. The Regular version comes with 4400 cards and projects, the deluxe version has 8000 so I can understand why the new version does not come with all new graphics but I do wish Hallmark could have come up with a few more newer graphics than they did.

For the beginner, this program comes with a tutorial to walk you through the steps of creating your own card. For beginner or experienced users alike, this program is an excellent alternative to the high cost of greeting cards that you purchase in the stores.

Card Studio Deluxe

Hallmark Card Studio 2008 Deluxe
www.hallmarksoftware.com

Suggested Retail Price: $49.99
Found at Best Buy for $39.99

System Requirements:

  • Windows XP or Vista
  • Intel Pentium III 500 MHz or faster
  • 256 MB Ram
  • CD-ROM drive
  • 1024 x 768 screen with 16-bit color
  • Color printer
  • Requires the installation of Microsoft .Net Framework

Carole Allen

I have been a member of the Computer Club as of 1999. It has given me many opportunities to learn new things and meet new people.

Product Review: Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2

flanagan1.jpgThanks to inexpensive little digital cameras and cell phones with photo capabilities, nearly everyone nowadays is a snapshooter. For most there is no need to do anything with pictures once they are shot except take the files to the corner drugstore for prints, or store them on a computer hard drive for viewing and maybe post a few in a blog or on a social networking site. Snapshooters are an easy lot to please and if some of them have the desire and wherewithal to make minor adjustments to their image files, there are lots of basic software programs out there, many of them freeware, that fill the bill nicely.

But what about the serious photographers? They’re the folks who visualize the image they want in their heads before snapping the shutter. The photographer thinks in terms of composition and lighting— and sometimes style, mood and meaning. The problem is, a camera, no matter what its cost, is often not capable of producing the photographer’s exact desired result, so a certain amount of manipulation and experimentation in the darkroom is frequently called for. These days the darkroom is computer software, and the Gold Standard of that software is Adobe’s Photoshop, a program that retails today at $650 or more. My guess is that a good many Photoshop users have purchased a far bigger program than they’ll ever need, and that a smaller, arguably easier to use program like Corel’s Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 could yield image enhancements comparable to those they are getting from Photoshop, and at a fraction of the cost.

Does the reasonable price indicate that Corel’s product lacks powerful capabilities that a serious photographer would find useful? Absolutely not. I’ve used Corel’s excellent bitmap image editing program, Photo-Paint, since it was first bundled with CorelDraw 3 in 1992, and have currently been using the version that was bundled with CorelDraw 10 in 2000. I’ve used Photoshop in the past, but my preference has always been the Corel product because photo enhancing or retouching for litho and web was my thing and using Photo-Paint just seemed easier and quicker to me.

So how does this shiny new Paint Shop Pro X2 stack up with its ancestor, my tried and true Photo-Paint 10, for doing the things I usually use an image editor for? Some experimentation with the program was called for to answer that question. I started with a scanned jpeg my brother sent me a while back, asking if I could do something about the serious emulsion cracking that had developed in the original print. Here’s a detail of the image’s problem area:

Bike

I know, it’s not a good picture to begin with, but it has sentimental value for my brother and the big ’scratches’ bugged him. Using my old Photo-Paint, I did some serious pixel editing and sent him back something he was very happy with. With Photo-Paint it took me well over an hour to get rid of the scratches. Using the Photo X2 ‘Adjust’ tools that were not available to me in Photo-Paint, I redid the exercise and got a better result in less than 15 minutes. This involved a little freehand area selecting, X2’s Scratch Removal Tool and Auto Scratch Removal feature, some blurring, X2’s Smart Photo Fix, and a smidgen of sharpening.

Bike

Here’s an easy one. Let’s get rid of the two guys on the airplane.

Air Show

Photo X2’s tools make simple retouching easier and rather quick to do. The Selection Tool, Dropper Tool (color picker), and Paint Brush are all that were needed to remove the two figures from this photo, then tidy up the sky’s wispy clouds. Anyone could easily learn to do this and get a usable image intended for web use. Doing something similar to an image intended for print would require a bit more time and skill, but Photo X2 has the tools to do the job.

Air Show

Let’s move on to something else. Here’s a photo I took from the backyard of B’s Backyard Barbecue Restaurant late one afternoon shortly before dark. The result is nothing like I imagined it when I snapped the picture. I could blame that on the martinis but the truth is that the tonal range a digital camera is capable of capturing is several steps short of the actual tonal range of most sunsets. That, and the fact that I was too lazy to make appropriate readjustments to the camera’s exposure settings for the lighting situation, resulted in this unimpressive image where the shadow detail is acceptable, but the sunset’s lighting has lost its pop. The camera’s light meter had done what light meters are born to do: average everything to a 50% gray. Many little digital cameras come with an EV (Exposure Value) adjustment, and that’s how the sensible snapshooter overrides the light meter’s decisions. I wasn’t sensible that night.

Example

The ideal way to shoot a scene like this is to put the camera on a tripod and then make some careful exposure adjustments to capture the reality of the light and color in the sky, and then a few more for detail in the dark land areas. Then, using Photo X2’s nifty capability to combine the best images, a much improved result could be attained in the ‘darkroom’. Unfortunately, I only had this single, sad, undramatic picture, so it was necessary to improvise a second exposure to try out the photo combining process in Photo X2.

Photo X2’s ability to rotate the cropping rectangle made it a snap to straighten the original image out a bit before trimming down its size for this exercise.

Perhaps you noticed the power lines running across the image. The first thing I wanted to do was eliminate those pesky power lines. Photo X2’s Scratch Removal feature got rid of them nicely with a minimum of fuss. Because the dark areas contained enough detail to satisfy me, the image would suffice as the first needed for the combining process.

To get a second image for the exercise, I applied some saturation enhancement to the first image’s sunset using Photo X2’s Smart Photo Fix which allowed me to make various adjustments while evaluating the results. I killed as much detail as I could in the dark areas because the first photo had all the detail I desired, and doing so sorta simulated the result I’d have attained had I exposed for just the light in the first place. I then saved this as my second image.

Example

I then used Photo X2’s HDR (High Dynamic Range) Photo Merge function to combine the two photos. This is a simple process that includes a few adjustment controls so that various results can be considered. I finally settled on this one:

Example

Not bad for just a quick run-through. I felt it now contained a bit of interest and drama, but the coloring had strayed considerably from the color of the actual sunset as I remembered it. Fiddling a bit with Photo X2’s RGB color adjustment sliders enabled me to give the scene some warmth. Yes, the cloud structure has changed from the original. Had I actually used a tripod and bracketed a few exposures when I first photographed the sunset, the resulting combined image would have been much more faithful to the cloud structure, lighting, and colors of the actual sunset.

Example

For these exercises I’ve utilized only a few of the many tools included in Corel’s Paint Shop Pro Photo X2, but these are the tools I most frequently use. There’s a great selection of other tools in the program that once I get accustomed to using them will certainly be handy now and then; and some features I consider unnecessary for a program meant for use by the serious photographer. Scrapbooking and inserting cutesy clipart into images are capabilities I feel bloat the program unnecessarily, and are better served by other programs. For a complete listing of Photo X2’s features and capabilities, visit the Corel product page using the link below.

Included with the package is a slim user’s guide that should adequately familiarize the user with the many tools and capabilities available with the program. Anyone already comfortable with image editing programs will require little time with the guide, but a newbie would benefit considerably by giving it careful study while trying out the software. This is not a lightweight program, so someone new to higher end photo editing software may find the interface a bit overwhelming at first.

SUMMARY

I’ve been happy with the old Corel Photo-Paint products for more years than I care to count, but there’s no denying that this new incarnation has a better selection of powerful tools, and is superior in most ways except speed and compactness. It ain’t a sports car. It loads way too slow to be useful as a go-to program for quick basic tasks like crop and resize, and it has frozen up on me a few times. I had to trash the ‘trendy’ gray Graphite Workspace theme because my tired old eyes were struggling to read the toolbar labels on my 1024 x 768 display. Even with the more traditional workspace theme, some toolbar labels and info are smaller than I’m comfortable with, and I’ve yet to find a place where that can be changed.

CONCLUSION

Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 is certainly a program worthy of consideration by those who are looking for a feature-rich image editing program with many capabilities found in pricier products. Its affordable price makes it a practical choice for photography hobbyists and professionals who expect great results from their image editing efforts.

BikeCorel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2
Manufacturer’s suggested retail price: $89.99
Amazon’s price as of this writing: $69.99
Visit Corel’s page for this product

System Requirements:

  • Microsoft® Windows Vista™ or Windows® XP, with latest service packs installed
  • 512 MB RAM (768 MB recommended)
  • 768 MB RAM required if using Windows Vista
  • 1 GHz processor (2 GHz recommended)
  • 500 MB hard disk space
  • 24-bit color display, 1024×768 resolution
  • Microsoft DirectX® 9.0c or higher (included in Windows Vista and XP)

Bill Flanagan

Bill is a Big Bear Computer Club Board Member, and maintains the Club's website which he created. His primary background is in technical art and graphic design, and he operated a printing/graphic design company in Long Beach for twenty years before retiring to Big Bear. Long before cameras became digital, Bill was involved in photography, both professionally and as an avocation, and he knows his way around an actual darkroom.

Book Review:
The Photoshop Elements 5 Book

Jack Koch

Adobe Photoshop Elements 5 is a good program for downloading your digital pictures and making photographs. Add Scott Kelby's, The Photoshop Elements 5 Book, and these pictures can be great. Use the book often and your pictures are out of this world. I am amazed how much more I can do each time I review a chapter.

Scott Kelby writes the book as if here were talking directly to you. First, what you are going to do or accomplish, then step by step how to do it with illustrations. It would be hard to get lost with his instructions. The fourteen chapters outline what you can do in each section and how to do it. Elements are like a college text book, when once read you kinda remember something can be done and are able to go back to that section. Going to the Table of Contents or Index and you are well on your way to creating excellent pictures. There is a complete chapter on retouching portraits that covers everything from removing blemishes to love handles.

Photoshop has an area for storing your pictures. I never really understood it but after fifty pages of instructions it is a great way to find, sort, and stacking your photos. Color correction, shading, softening edges are the basics. The serious stuff comes in the last chapters where you learn to make watermarkings, slideshows, different borders, and configuring your camera for the right color space. Borders on your photographs do make the pictures great for presentation and Elements5 explains the many ways it can be done.

After downloading my digital pictures from the camera I start to think what I can do with them based what I have learned in the book. My last project was individual pictures of my family rock climbing and the final results were one picture with all four of them blended in as if they were climbing together.

I still have pages marked in this book to try, and it is just a matter of time to try all of the suggestions Scott makes plus ones I make up going along the way.

Book
The Photoshop Elements 5 Book
by Scott Kelby

Published Nov 13, 2006 by New Riders

Available from Peachpit, Berkeley, California

Suggested Retail Price: $44.99
Peachpit price: $40.49

Jack Koch

Jack Koch is retired having served as a law enforcement officer for 25 years. He lives in the Southern California Mountains and enjoys photography and mountain bike riding.

Club Member Product Review Program

tangeman.jpgInstead of listing a few review programs that are available, I would like to inform you that any program you are interested in and would like to install on your computer is probably available for review. All you have to do is ask for it and review it. The program could be on landscaping, any kind of crafts, digital photos, video, any kind of home decorating, games, office or accounting programs, gift cards, label, and printshop programs, any program you are interested in having. All you have to do is let me know which program you would like to review. I will then contact the vendor and it takes about 10 days to receive the program. Sometimes the vendor will grant the reviewer a license online and all the reviewer has to do is download the program. Reviews are not hard to write; in fact they are quite easy. You are given instructions on how to write a review plus I have many samples you can look at. Also if you need any help all you have to do is e-mail or call me. Writing a review is like telling someone about the new program you just received. You tell them what you like about the program, what you don't like, and how the program could be better, that's it. There's your review. And you can review books, also.

Karen Tangeman, Review Editor

Sandboxing for Additional Internet Security

Whenever we go online to surf the web or check our email, we expose our computers to the possibility of acquiring some nasty bit of software whose intent is to make our lives miserable. Sometimes it will just make a mess of our computer’s operating system, but increasingly these days its intent is more insidious than that: It wants to get whatever personal information about us it can. It wants the login info to our online banking, investing, or shopping accounts for instance, and it wants to snoop around in our computer as unobtrusively as possible so that we don’t realize our computer has been hijacked until it’s too late. It may even send copies of itself to the folks in our email address list, signing our name to the emails without us realizing it, particularly if our virus protection isn’t up to date or yet aware of the malware.

The risk of this happening to us is greatly reduced if we surf the web with a certain amount of paranoia, visiting only sites that are known to be legit, and only opening emails from folks we know are diligent about using up-to-date virus protection. We should be very cautious about opening those forwarded and reforwarded frivolous emails many folks send thoughtlessly because they think it’s the cool thing to do. It isn’t.

However, this amount of caution isn’t practical or reasonable for most of us. We all visit a variety of new websites frequently for one reason or another without any way to judge the integrity of the sites beforehand. And often we open questionable emails without thinking about it, or out of curiousity, or because there’s nothing blatantly suspicious about them. The question is: How can we use the internet freely without angst and survive unscathed? A nifty bit of software called a sandbox could be the answer.

One type of sandbox is a protective, limited environment isolated from the computer’s operating system. If we run an application like a browser or email program from within this sandbox, the application loads from the hard drive and functions normally in the sandbox, but the sandbox does not allow any code or changes to be written outside of itself. In other words, if we receive our emails in a sandboxed email client, we can open any or all of them willy-nilly, and if there happens to be one that executes malicious code, the mischief is trapped within the sandboxed environment, unable to access and infect the computer’s operating system. The threat will vanish completely when the guilty mail is deleted and the sandboxed emailed program is exited. Of course it’s rarely possible to determine that any particular email is the work of the devil, so the best policy is to delete the jokes and junk, and keep the important, trusted stuff. Never forward trivia on to friends.

Anyway, this is how a free little program named Sandboxie claims to operate, and I’ve recently downloaded it for a test drive. I frequently search the web for freebie fonts, scripts, or programs that I’m curious about, and many of the sites Google turns up are red-flagged by Mcafee Site Advisor as being suspect. Now I can open my browser in Sandboxie and visit these questionable sites or any other as I normally do with a minimum of concern about consequences. I’ve already downloaded and installed some programs using a sandboxed browser just to have a look at them. These programs installed and operated normally within the sandbox. When my curiosity was satisfied, I simply deleted the sandbox content and subsequently could find no indication that these programs had ever been on my computer. Very nice. No more going to the Windows control panel to uninstall them. If I chose to keep one of these programs, I would have to go through the download and install process again, but outside the sandbox. No big deal. Another thing is that all traces of sandboxed browsing activity like history, cookies, etc., are discarded when the sandboxed session is closed. This could be a good thing if privacy is a concern, but means that interactivity with trusted sites should probably be done outside the sandbox.

Sandboxie does not interfere with ActiveX functionality, so Flash files and the like will still display in a sandboxed browser, yet are unable to write evil files to the operating system should they have a mind to do so.

Sandboxie compared favorably in a 2006 review to other sandbox programs that were available for purchase at that time. I should mention here that to understand how the program is set up and works, careful attention should be paid to the Getting Started section on the Sandboxie website. I found it a bit more confusing than it needed to be.

A discussion of a similar sandboxing process, written by Gene Barlow, can be viewed at his website, User Group Store, where he sells computer software at a discount to user group members. His sandbox software offering is called ShadowSurfer, and is available from his site for a reasonable $20. He has another, StorageCraft ShadowUser Pro, which sells for $47.

Bill Flanagan

Configuring Outlook Express

By Dick Maybach, Columnist, Brookdale Computer User Group (BCUG) Brookdale, NJ — www.bcug.org — n2nd(at)att.net

You can greatly improve your e-mail experience by properly configuring Outlook Express, which is the default Windows e-mail client. Outlook, which is included with MS Office, is a completely different program, but it has a similar user interface for e-mail. The two programs are similar enough that you should have no trouble adapting these procedures to your version. You should modify them as you get more experience with your particular mix of e-mail messages.

By default, Outlook Express has X folders. You should add to these to organize your e-mail messages to make them easier to find in the same way that your organize your file system by using folders there. Set up a separate folder for each major category of e-mail that you send and receive. With Outlook running, click on "File", select "New", and then click on "Folder…". Put the desired name in the "Name:" box and select "Personal Folders" in the "Select where to place the folder:" box. Move the messages in your Inbox to the appropriate folders. While you're at it, delete any you don't need. You will probably find some messages that don't belong in any folder; just leave these in the Inbox. Consider having Outlook Express empty the Deleted Messages folder every time you exit the program.

You will now set up a series of rules that tell Outlook where to place incoming messages, using the following procedure. Click on the Organize icon and then the Rules Wizard menu item. Click on the New… button to create a new rule or the Modify… one to change a rule. Assuming you are creating a new rule, the first screen asks you what kind of rule you want, which is usually "Check messages as they arrive." At the bottom of each screen is a window showing the rule as you've defined it so far. You can click on any underlined terms in the rule to change them. (When you are defining a new rule, you must define these before you can go the next screen.) The second screen lets you specify for which conditions you want to test. In the third screen you set what to do with the message, and the fourth one lets you add any exceptions. Finally, name the rule.

First, establish the rules to move incoming messages to the desired folder. Make the following choices for the rules screens. Screen 1 - "Check messages as they arrive". Screen 2 - "from people or distribution list". (Select the names from your address book.) Screen 3 - select both "move it to the specified folder" and "stop processing more rules". (Click on specified and select an existing folder or create a new one.) Screen 4 - you probably won't need any exceptions. Screen 5 - give the rule the same name as the folder. Repeat this until you have specified folders for all the people from whom you regularly receive mail.

By default, Outlook indicates junk mail by showing it in gray and adult content in purple. (I love that we use the new-speak term "adult" to describe content that most of us lose interest in by the time we leave adolescence.) To get rid of it, set up the following rule. Screen 1 - "Check messages when they arrive". Screen 2 - "suspected to be junk e-mail or from Junk Senders". (You will see a message asking if this is to be applied to every message you receive; select "Yes".) Screen 3 - "move it to the specified folder", probably "Deleted Items". Screen 4 - no exceptions. Screen 5 - name it "Junk Senders". Repeat this procedure, but for screen 2 select "Containing adult content or from adult content…".

You will probably find that these filters are not very effective. The following step is quite effective in eliminating spam, but it deletes all messages sent to you on a "copy to" (cc) or "blind copy to" (bcc) list. I use bcc routing on the Roundtable and Hardware SIG meeting notices. Unless you have set up a rule to route messages from me to a folder and then to stop processing other rules, Outlook will delete these meeting notices. Repeat again but select "Where my name is not in the To box" in screen 2. Monitor the results of this rule in case you need to add exceptions. Note also that if you don't have your incoming mailed sent to folders as above, your will need exemptions for every correspondent that uses cc or bcc routing.

If you follow my suggestions, you are sending all suspect e-mail to the Deleted Items folder. On my PC, everything in this folder is erased each time I exit Outlook, which means that you should look before you exit, at least for a month or so. By the way, I find that many such messages attempt to access the Internet when you open them. I think that they are just downloading graphics, but I don't want to take a chance that they are doing something sneaky. After I download my e-mail I disconnect so I can abort such actions. (If you have high-speed access you probably can't easily do this.)

Your last step is to order your rules list. The rules moving the desired e-mail to the correct folders should appear at the top of the list. Since they stop checking other rules after they move a message, they will prevent the spam filter rules from throwing out messages from people with whom you regularly correspond. To do this, click on "Rules Wizard…" and use the "Move Up" and "Move Down" buttons to sort the rules. You will have to reorder the rules each time you add a new one.

You will probably find that some spam still gets through. You can add to your junk senders list by right clicking on the message, selecting "Junk e-mail, and clicking on "Add to Junk Senders list". However, many spammers change their e-mail address with each message, making this ineffective. In such cases, see if you can identify the junk in some other way, perhaps by looking for specific words or in one of the fields (address, header, etc.). Keep in mind however, that your goal is not to completely eliminate spam, but to reduce it to a manageable volume. Don't let yourself become obsessed.

This article has been provided to APCUG by the author solely for publication by APCUG member groups. All other uses require the permission of the author (see e-mail address above).

Digital Cameras: When More is Less

When digital cameras were in their infancy, the quality of the pictures obtained from them could not approach the quality of those from the average 35mm cameras, but within a few years the pixel count of the light sensors within the digital cameras rose dramatically, and the resolution of the images they captured became acceptable, even remarkable. At the same time, the sensors became smaller as did the cameras, and digital photography became very popular with consumers. Now we have digital cameras smaller than a pack of cards, and even smaller digital phones that can record images, and the sensor’s pixel count has broken the ten million mark. We perceive a compact digital camera’s picture quality to be a function of its megapixel count, and the manufacturers work hard to increase that count to sell more cameras. But are we truly getting better results from our digital cameras when we upgrade to higher megapixel counts?

There’s a body of thought nowadays that claims the pictures from compact digital cameras began to suffer in quality when the their light sensor’s resolution became more than 6 megapixels. How can this be, you ask? Consider this simple diagram (Not to scale. Shown larger than life):

Sensor Size Comparison

The larger rectangle represent the light gathering sensor of a digital 35mm single lens reflex camera, the big puppy professionals use. The smaller rectangle within it shows the relative size of a sensor in a compact digital camera. If each of these sensors has a resolution of 8 million pixels, you can readily agree that the pixels in the compact camera’s sensor would be considerably smaller, and perhaps less capable of accurately capturing the information passed to them by the lens.

The larger camera has larger pixels, and its bigger lens passes more and better information to each pixel, so the software within the camera doesn’t have to work too terribly hard to process a highly detailed, relatively accurate image.

The smaller pixels in the compact camera’s sensor, however, require considerable software assistance to make sense of the information they’ve received. This results in an increase of image ‘noise’, those pixels within an image that have been defined more by guess than reality. Other factors contribute to making image detail less than it could be, such as lens quality and the camera’s steadiness and aperture setting during exposure, but the idea of the camera sensor’s pixel size being a major culprit tends to make sense to me.

Before rushing out to buy the latest little zillion megapixel digital camera, you might think twice if your present camera is in the 6 megapixel range, and those awful prints you’re getting reflect more on your abilities as a photographer, and less on the capabilities of the camera. You might also take a look at 6mpixel.org for a full and detailed discussion of the above topic.

Bill Flanagan

The 10 Signs You Are Addicted to the Internet

  1. You kiss your girlfriend’s/boyfriend’s home page
  2. Your bookmarks take 15 minutes to scroll from top to bottom
  3. Your eyeglasses have a Website burned on the lens
  4. You find yourself looking for new subjects to search
  5. You refuse to go on vacation where there is no electricity and no phone lines
  6. You take a vacation only after buying a cellular-modem and a laptop
  7. You spend half of the time on a plane with the laptop on your lap and your kid in the overhead compartment
  8. Daydreams consist of ways to get a faster connection
  9. You dream in HTML
  10. You type com after every period when using a word processor.com

BBCC January 2008 Cash Flow Statement

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