The notebook is bulging with tidbits, many important, that won't take a whole column to cover. Let's cut to the computer briefs.
We are now all getting official-looking mails from Microsoft urging us to install an attached patch that will bring our systems up to date. Instead, it is yet another computer worm called "swen." Let's cover this one more time: Microsoft will never mail you a file to install on your system. Neither will any other reputable company. Delete such messages unread, and if your anti-virus program is not catching them, get a better product. Make sure your anti-virus is set to scan both incoming and outgoing mail (it's in the settings).
Many of us are getting official-looking e-mails from PayPal, our banks and other companies urging us to re-enter bank information, Social Security numbers and other information. These are also scams, no matter how good they look. Never enter credit card info or anything else in an e-mail form. If you already have done so, put "fraud alerts" on your three credit reports (Equifax, Trans Union and Experian) and alert your credit card company.
Before you install any new software on your Windows XP system, create a "restore point." This will allow you to "back up" to the way your system was before you installed the patch or new software package. To create a restore point, hit Start, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, System Restore. Select Create a Restore Point and follow the instructions. If you ever need to "go back," then follow the above and select Restore My PC To An Earlier Point.
I got many mails talking about the merits of Microsoft Office versus lower-cost alternatives. I should have mentioned Open Office, a free office suite that is being developed as part of a grass-roots effort. There are versions for Windows, Mac, Linux and Solaris. You can download the product for free from www.openoffice.org.
To my gripe "why can't laptop batteries last longer" I received a 19-page, single-spaced report from a scientist on lithium-ion batteries and their function versus their weight. In response, I sent him the definition of "rhetorical." I just want a laptop that will last for my entire flight, that can't be broken by the TSA screeners and will fit on an airline tray table in the full-reclined position after the jerk in front of me ends up reclined in my lap.
To my gripe that Windows is infected every few weeks with a new worm, I got deluged with the "buy a Mac" crowd. Give me $3,000 and you've got a deal. When Macs play all of the online games I spend too much time playing, I will be first in line. Their hardware designs are elegant and their operating system is better than Windows. It's a software issue for me.
Now that routers are like $10 after rebates, more people are buying them. Putting your PC behind a router does add a level of security, because most include a firewall function built in. If you install a wireless router, make sure you enable the built-in security functions. Also, change the administration password for the router when you install it. I just wish rebates would go away and they would just discount the product. Of course, only 14 percent of people actually fill out rebates, so that is how they make their margin.
WEEKLY WEB WONDER: Grab your kids and head to Meddybemps for a great journey.
James Derk is new media editor for The Evansville Courier & Press. His e-mail address is email@example.com