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February 2005 - Vol. 5, Issue No. 66

By Scot Finnie


  • Spyware in 2005
  • 60-Second Briefs
       - About Microsoft's 'Genuine Windows' Anti-Piracy Plan
       - Firefox 1.1 Slips to June 2005
       - Thunderbird Is No Firefox
       - Microsoft Malicious Software Detection Tool
       - Broadband Wars
       - Macintosh Defection?
       - Traveling to Microsoft
       - Scot's Newsletter Forums!
  • Results of the HTML Test
  • Linux Explorer: Taming the Cron Daemon
  • Some 'Splaining
  • Link of the Month: Spyware Warrior
  • Tip of the Month: Convert HTML Newsletter to Text with URLs
  • Newsletter Schedule
  • Subscribe, Unsubscribe, Change Your Subscription

    Spyware in 2005
    The spyware, and anti-spyware, landscape has changed significantly since I wrote reviews of Ad-Aware and SpyBot back in February 2003 and August 2003, respectively. For one thing, spyware has gone from being a nuisance that occasionally bit some people hard to being a threat that can bite just about anyone hard, every day of the week. Spyware is a much bigger deal than it used to be. Many of us have learned to our chagrin that a firewall and antivirus program aren't enough to protect us from everything nasty.

    My quick review of Microsoft's AntiSpyware tool (recently purchased from Giant Software) drew a lot of mail over the last month. It was also republished by several sites at TechWeb, and was well read there. I was also surprised about the somewhat lackluster operation of SpyBot and Ad-Aware in that quick test. I had liked both programs quite a lot in the past, but it appears that they're not keeping pace.

    I was also intrigued by the many other programs that SFNL readers suggested when I asked you to tell me what you use to fight spyware. Products like CounterSpy, HiJack This, SpySweeper, Spyware Blaster, PestPatrol, and others. One common refrain, similar to the point I made in the last issue, is that no one anti-spyware program can be counted on to find everything. That's something that has to change. Another lament is that always-on spyware monitors can be annoying. I can attest to that. Things have a way of repeating themselves because antivirus software was exactly the same way in the middle 90s. Few people left AV products running all the time in background because the downsides were just too apparent.

    The clear upshot is that anti-spyware is both needed and needs to get better. That's why I've decided it's time for Scot's Newsletter to carry out an anti-spyware comparison review. I've identified about a dozen anti-spyware products and contacted their makers. I'm in the process of installing and screening them to decide which five or six products are worthy of being compared.

    I'm also collecting a list of spyware programs and sources of spyware programs so I can create a repeatable real-world test suite. Drop me a note if you want to help me figure out where to get some of the nastiest spyware to stock my test suite with. Please include URLs to programs that you're absolutely contains spyware, and name the miscreants if possible.

    Anti-Spyware Programs
    These are the anti-spyware utilities that are under consideration for the upcoming review. The first two — Webroot's SpySweeper and Javacool's Spyware Blaster — are the ones that collected the most votes as personal favorites of SFNL readers. They were followed closely by SpyBot, Ad-Aware, HiJack This, and CounterSpy. From the many, sometimes extremely detailed comments supplied by readers, SpySweeper sounds like a very good bet. But I still have to test them all myself.

  • Webroot Software SpySweeper
  • Javacool Software Spyware Blaster
  • Javacool Software Spyware Guard
  • CA eTrust PestPatrol
  • FlyYaNet Technology Adware Away
  • LavaSoft Ad-Aware SE
  • McAfee Antispyware
  • Merijen HiJack This
  • Microsoft AntiSpyware
  • PC Tools Spyware Doctor
  • PepiMK Software SpyBot
  • Sunbelt Software CounterSpy
  • BillP Studios WinPatrol

    Spyware Resources
    I'm also looking for excellent Spyware resources to help people who run into problems. Here are some I've collected:

  • Spyware Warrior - Named Link of the Month in this issue!
  • (past Link of the Month winner)
  • AntiOnline
  • CounterExploitation (past Link of the Month winner)
  • Home PC Firewall Guide: Anti-Spyware (past Link of the Month winner)
  • CastleCops
  • PC Pitstop Spyware Information Center
  • How to Remove Spyware and Malware - Michael Horowitz
  • Gooroo Spyware Reviews

    There are many, many other excellent spyware sites, forums, bloggers, and resources out there. Start with the above, and check their links pages.

    Microsoft AntiSpyware and Sunbelt Software CounterSpy
    A number of you wrote me with praise for Microsoft's AntiSpyware program, and some of you sent issues (usually with the real-time monitor) or criticisms. But the tidbit most interesting is the fact that Sun Belt Software's CounterSpy and Microsoft AntiSpyware are different versions of the same product. What's more, due to an agreement crafted when Microsoft bought AntiSpyware from Giant Software, Microsoft will be serving spyware updates to CounterSpy customers until July of 2007.

    If you're suddenly confused, I don't blame you. I asked Sun Belt Software president, Alex Eckelberry, whom I've known for years, to explain what this is about. Here's his email response to me:

    1. Sunbelt is a Gold Certified Microsoft provider and the two companies have had a strong and friendly partnership for a number of years.

    2. Microsoft fully owns the anti-spyware product that it acquired from Giant Company. (Giant had earlier granted co-ownership rights to Sunbelt for a previous version of Giant's anti-spyware product. As part of that contract, Sunbelt has the exclusive right to innovate its own product. Similarly, Microsoft has exclusive rights to the Microsoft technology.)

    3. In turn, Sunbelt fully owns its own anti-spyware technology, currently marketed as CounterSpy and CounterSpy Enterprise.

    4. Microsoft will be providing definition file updates to Sunbelt to its spyware database until July 2007. During this time, Sunbelt and Microsoft share in the ownership of these definition files.

    Eckelberry notes that Sunbelt QAs the Microsoft definitions. "We have our own research team which finds additional ones (I have six full time spyware research guys and also have a well-known spyware expert on as a paid consultant). We also have own version of Microsoft's SpyNet. We call ours ThreatNet. This is our own collaborative community that reports spyware."

    Looks like two companies have picked the Giant anti-spyware product. It'll be interesting to see how they differentiate them down the road.

    Back to the Top

    60-Second Briefs
       - About Microsoft's 'Genuine Windows' Anti-Piracy Plan
       - Firefox 1.1 Slips to June 2005
       - Thunderbird Is No Firefox
       - Microsoft Malicious Software Detection Tool
       - Broadband Wars
       - Macintosh Defection?
       - Traveling to Microsoft
       - Scot's Newsletter Forums!

    About Microsoft's 'Genuine Windows' Anti-Piracy Plan
    Over the last several days there have been literally hundreds of stories published about Microsoft's new anti-piracy program, which seeks to prevent pirated copies of Windows from accessing the Windows Update site to download updates from Microsoft — including security patches. I've written about this in my January 27 TechWeb Spin column on TechWeb, As Microsoft Lumbers On, Google Guns It.

    The column covers some other ground, too. But one thing that should be clear is my viewpoint on the subject. As I wrote in the TechWeb Spin piece: "While [Microsoft] certainly has every ethical and legal right to protect its investment and to collect payment for its work, it doesn't — or shouldn't — have a right to risk our computer security to get there." Leaving pirated copies of Windows running unprotected in the name of gaining a few more bucks for the bottom line is a new low in a litany of poor decisions by Microsoft.

    I've read many of the opinions from my colleagues at other publications about Microsoft's Genuine Windows. My favorite is from eWeek's David Coursey, titled A 'Genuine' Pain in the Neck.

    To find out more on the subject, check Google's news search on it.

    Firefox 1.1 Slips to June 2005
    With Firefox's lead programmer Ben Goodger now splitting his time between Google and Mozilla, the young programmer has announced on his blog that the forthcoming 1.1 version of Firefox is now expected three months later, sometime in June 2005. The Mozilla Firefox roadmap has also been changed to reflect the new timeframe. Realistically speaking, June is still a target date. There's every chance version 1.1 could slip further. We'd rather they get it done right anyway, instead of rushing to some arbitrary release date.

    Thunderbird Is No Firefox
    A lot of you have been bending my ear with the suggestion that I try Mozilla's Thunderbird. I don't really make a habit of reviewing email software, even though I do write about the subject a lot. Why don't I review email products? Because I've learned over the years that my needs are a lot more demanding than most people's.

    For example, I need an email program whose message rules can filter both incoming and outgoing messages. Thunderbird can only filter incoming messages. I need an email app that can pull dozens of email accounts into a single inbox and folder hierarchy. Thunderbird is primarily designed to handle multiple accounts in separate inboxes. It has a feature that allows it to merge those accounts into a single inbox, but Mozilla decided to protect us from ourselves by creating a default SMTP server that's designed to serve all of your accounts, and that frankly turns the whole program into a giant mess for experienced email users who are able to work with multiple SMTP servers. I also need an email program that provides true individual account controls (plus an "identities" or "personalities" feature, which lets you create multiple account-like entries for a single mail account). Thunderbird makes a stab at this, but it's fatally flawed, primarily because of the compromises already mentioned.

    One other pet peeve. Many of Thunderbird's settings dialogs are modal. Once opened, they prevent anything else from being opened. That can be annoying when you want to copy and paste settings from one account to another, for example. I also had trouble getting ThunderBird's import tool to import the Eudora address book, even though it offered an option to do so. My Eudora installation uses the default locations for all Eudora files, but Qualcomm made a change a couple of years back on those defaults. My guess is that some Thunderbird developer was using an old version of Eudora when writing the import script.

    After just 30 minutes with the finished product, my assessment is this: Thunderbird looks a lot like Outlook Express. In fact, it reminds me of a cross between the cult-favorite Calypso emailer from the 1990s (which is now being marketed and developed by Rose City Software as Courier) and Outlook Express. It's actually less powerful than Outlook Express (though OE has other severe problems) and more powerful than the original Calypso.

    Frankly, all, you can do better than this. There's a product called PocoMail that might be worth a look if you haven't tried it. It has much of the power of Eudora with a cleaner interface more like Outlook Express. My only qualm about PocoMail has been that the product is updated sporadically, and reliability hasn't always been excellent.

    Sorry to pour cold water on Thunderbird when I know so many of you are newly fond of it. The interface is very slick but I do not like Mozilla's underlying strategy. The very same approach is perfect for the Firefox browser. But the world doesn't need another light-weight email package — there are already far too many of them. What we need is something that can go up against Outlook, Outlook Express, and Eudora head on. Something with significant features that will give us a real alternative. It's clear to me that Mozilla is more than capable of creating such an email application. They just went in a different direction. As a result, I find Thunderbird to be a bitter disappointment.

    Microsoft Malicious Software Detection Tool
    Thanks to reader Carolyn Breninger for her help in researching this bit. Not long ago Microsoft released the "Malicious Software Removal Tool" on Windows XP Automatic Updates and Windows Update. The tool is also provided online for Windows 2000 and Windows Server 2003.

    At first I wondered whether this was the first appearance of Microsoft's antivirus tool. Well, not exactly. Microsoft has dabbled with several antivirus products over the last couple of years, and is probably using one of them as the underpinnings of this tool. But think of the Malicious Software Removal Tool as the disposable razor of antivirus utilities. Microsoft intends to release a new version of the tool on the second Tuesday of every month. Each version will contain built-in signatures for a new, small selection of prevalent malware targeting Windows.

    If you download it through Automatic Updates or Windows Update, the tool runs in the background and deletes itself afterwards. So there's nothing for you to do. You can also run the online version from the Malicious Software Removal Tool Web page. For more information about the Malicious Software Removal Tool, check Microsoft Knowledgebase article 890830.

    Broadband Wars
    The largest cable provider in the U.S., Comcast, announced on January 18 that it was in the process of raising the bar on its broadband Internet performance by roughly 33%. Downstream data-transfer rates are going up from a maximum of 3Mbps to 4Mbps and upstream rates are rising from 256kbps to 384kbps. The change will affect all Comcast broadband cable Internet customers, and is expected to be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2005. The upgrade will also be automatic, and will not require any action by customers. Texas and the greater Washington, D.C. area (including parts of Virginia and Maryland) are apparently two of the earliest locations to receive the upgrade.

    In some regions, Comcast offers a faster up-level performance level at a higher price. That service is also being upgraded. It will rise from 4Mbps to 6Mbps downstream while keeping its 384kbps upstream service level. For more information, see the company press release.

    Meanwhile, beginning on the same day, America's largest Baby Bell company, Verizon, countered with a long list of announcements about localized Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) Networks in groupings of towns around its network. The company also reports that it is building out its FTTP network in parts of California, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia. In towns where FTTP is offered, Verizon is offering a service it calls FiOS, whose base level is 5Mbps downstream / 2Mbps upstream for $35 to $40 a month. For $45 to $50 a month, you'll be able to get a whopping 15Mbps downstream service. Pony up $200 a month and they're offering a 30Mbps downstream service too.

    The Verizon FTTP service levels are impressive, but the Comcast announcement will affect millions of people. Very frustrating for me is that several towns near my town (and one bordering it) are being offered the Verizon FTTP service. But not my town. I can tell you that there's absolutely nothing more frustrating than being that close.

    There's also no mention in the Verizon announcement about whether the advent of FTTP in a town might help extend the distance from the Verizon Central Office (main switching station) for the availability of DSL. Technically speaking, if the town is fully wired with fiberoptic, that should make it possible to extend the availability of FiOS to every household.

    For more information about the Verizon announcement, see this press release for the Westchester and Rockland counties of New York (just outside of New York City).

    I know I have many readers who work for Verizon. If you do, and you have additional details, clarification, or information about Verizon's plans, I would welcome your input in email.

    I would absolutely love the chance to revisit my Comcast vs. Verizon comparison review with the second-generation services from the two broadband companies.

    But no matter what, I love to see these two big companies competing. Let's hope the spirit spreads to companies like Cox, SBC, Time Warner Cable, Qwest, Charter and so forth.

    Macintosh Defection?
    For all those of you who thought that since Finnie has been adding lots of Linux content of late, he might one day stop covering Windows and turn into another angry Linux geek, you may have gotten the right idea, but the wrong operating system. A long, long time ago in another century, I used to be a complete Mac head. Sounds funny, I know. But I was. Twice in fact. I was, in fact, an initial convert, five years before Windows. And I used to laugh at people using DOS or Trash-80s or Commodores or whatever (even though I kept using all of them too).

    So it should come as no surprise that I've been saving my money and biding and my time, and the advent of Apple Computer's $499 Mac Mini drew me like a moth to flame. I can't get Apple to send this Windows guy a Macintosh evaluation unit. (They're real snooty, you see.) But I they can't keep me from buying one.

    What I intend to write, once I've had some time to work with the diminutive new beast, is an in-depth description of my experiences with OS X. And you'll read it here first. It'll probably take a while to produce, since I have to wait "3-4 weeks" for delivery of the Mini. But it should prove to be great fun. And you never know, I might be swept away by the whole thing. I feel like I'm flirting with danger. [Editor's Note: That you are, my bucko. Your honey-do list better not be neglected while you're Mac-ing around! --Cyndy]

    One of my Mac friends said that as soon as I got my the Mini, they'd give me the Fez and autographed poster of Steve Jobs, and teach me the secret handshake. Another quipped back that no one's supposed to talk about the Fez or the handshake until *after* I've inhaled the spores released by the cooling fan. Should I be having second thoughts? [Editor's Note: You think? Better read my previous note. --Cyndy]

    Anyway, I'll let you know how it goes. If nothing else, it should give us the Windows perspective on OS X — something I've been trying to find an excuse to do for quite some time.

    Traveling to Microsoft
    As long as we're talking alternative OSes, I'm also traveling this month to that Microsoft Mecca, Redmond, Washington, to soak up some buzz about the next version of Windows, codenamed Longhorn. Hope to come back with at least a few tidbits for all of us about Longhorn and other things Microsoft. Watch TechWeb and the Pipelines for the first word, but I'll write in the newsletter too. In late April, I'm planning to attend Microsoft's WinHEC event in Seattle. There's no official word at this time, but Microsoft usually distributes early versions of next-generation products at this event. At one time the company probably intended to distribute Longhorn Beta 1 at WinHEC, although I'm not sure they're that far along.

    Scot's Newsletter Forums!
    Have you ever checked out the Scot's Newsletter forums? This place is coming up on 2 years of age, it's approaching 3,000 registered members, and we have almost 130,000 posts. SNF is a rich, vibrant community with an amazing crew of moderators and members who do their best to extend technology help, jest, and camaraderie with talking points that include Windows and Microsoft, Browsers and Email, Other Apps, Linux, Macs, Hardware, Security, Networking, Programming and Web Dev. Plus there's an extremely creative and downright fun Water Cooler.

    You don't have to register to just hang out and read. We do require double-opt-in (confirmation click) registration in order to post messages. That's really only to prevent "drive-by flames" though. Your email address is completely confidential. Take a look, and let me know what you think.

  • Scot's Newsletter Forums

    Back to the Top

    Results of the HTML Test
    I want to thank the hundreds and hundreds (probably thousands) of people who sent feedback on HTML Test that ran in the last issue of the newsletter. We are back to normal with this issue.

    Two giant facts emerged from the test. The first was simply was nothing more than the fact that many of (well over 90% of those who responded), vastly prefer the HTML edition. Many, many, many of you wrote that you wanted to switch to the HTML edition regardless of the outcome of the test. There was no way for me to even read all of the feedback I got on the test, let alone try to convert all your subscriptions. So I have not done that. But I do have a convenient Scot's Newsletter Text-to-HTML Subscription-Conversion wizard. It was recently upgrade to make the confirmation process simpler. Now you just click a link to confirm your subscription. Try it!

    People who use Lotus Notes should be aware that the newsletter doesn't work as it's designed to work in that email program. Ditto for older versions of AOL, Eudora 3.x and older, and Outlook 97 and older. All other email programs and Web mail services, such as Hotmail, display Scot's Newsletter HTML perfectly. (Web mail users: If you're skeptical, I know why, and I'll explain why this is not a problem a little further down. Feel free to subscribe to HTML. You'll be fine.)

    I mentioned two giant facts. The second one is that I have decided *not* to send out the Text Edition the way that I did in the test. Although it worked for most people — and in fact the vast majority of the responses weren't just positive, they were enthusiastic — but there's a downside that I suspected would be a problem and it was. This method of sending doubles the size of the newsletter in your inbox. Instead of a 40-50K newsletter, you got one that was 100-110K. Many people assumed that was because the HTML newsletter was twice as large. But, no, the reason is that you got both the Text and HTML editions, you just only saw one of them.

    There are some other issues too. One that's fairly easy to deal with was mentioned by a small but vocal majority of readers who want to be able to copy and paste the newsletter to a Word document to save it. Why do you want to do that? I don't know, because it's easy enough to look at the newsletter's back issues on the website. You can even search them. But everyone has a right to work they want to. I'm a big believer in doing my best to support whatever way people want to use the newsletter. It's pretty hard to use it to line your birdcage. But if you want to use it like that, be my guest.

    But on this copy and paste thing, what I've learned is that a lot of people want to do that for archival purposes — and that's why they subscribe to the Text edition. Well, folks, I want to tell you, Microsoft Word was really designed for this. Just open the HTML message, copy the parts you want, and paste it into Word. The URLs are preserved in Word and they're clickable right in the document. If you don't use Word, and don't care about URLs, you can also strip out the HTML formatting by copying the newsletter and then pasting it into Notepad. You can then copy it again, and paste it into any other document. The words will be preserved but all the other junk will be stripped out. Try it. I don't use a lot of fancy formatting, so this isn't a big deal. (For more tips on archiving, see this issue's Tip of the Month.)

    Question for all of you. What if I were to make an archival version of Scot's Newsletter available? Perhaps PDF or Windows Help File or something like that? I would probably want to charge for that, but it would be a small amount (like $15 a year or something). Would that be an acceptable alternative to text edition? And, if so, what format would be best for you? PDF is my personal preference, by the way. Or possibly HTML with a built-in index page. Send me your thoughts.

    For those of you keeping track of my aspiration to eventually provide a paid premium edition of the newsletter, this archive thing would most likely become one of the added benefits I would extend to paid subscribers.

    Announce-Only Text Newsletter
    So based on the results of the test, I've come up with a new possible plan that I want to run by you. I already know that some people are opposed to this idea. But I don't know how many people are. The new plan is simply this: The HTML newsletter would continue exactly as before. The Text Newsletter would be vastly different, however. It would become what's known as an Announcement-Only newsletter. In other words, instead of sending a full Text Edition, I would send a text-only edition that would probably consist of the Table of Contents (or "In This Issue" section) and a prominent link to the website version of the newsletter. In other words, this link:

    I know, I know, there are some of you who read the newsletter offline, either because you have a dial-up connection to the Internet or because you travel a lot, or because you've become habituated to computing on a handheld PC. And for those people, this solution wouldn't work very well. I want to hear from you if this wouldn't work for you, in fact, and especially I want to hear from you if you have an alternative solution that might work.

    Everyone, please understand: This is not a done deal. I'm just thinking about it for now. It might be worth a test, but no decisions have been made so far.

    I want to be clear about the Announce-Only version's advantages to me: It would free up about two hours of my time every issue while cutting my production time down to only about 30 minutes. Currently I write the newsletter in the Text Edition, and then I have to spend a lot of time converting it by hand to HTML. With this proposed change, I would just write the newsletter in HTML (with which I'm extremely comfortable) and then just write a quick Text Edition. That savings could make the difference between having a Tip of the Week or not. As you know, I haven't done a lot of those lately. Two hours is about the time it takes to write just one shorter item in any Scot's Newsletter edition. Production time takes away from content that I have time to research and write.

    Another advantage is that Announce-Only text would save me about 25% on my list distributor costs because the Text Edition would be much smaller in size, and I get charged in part by the size of the newsletter. I would still have two separate lists, but I would also still save some money. There's a third advantage, also. With more people reading the website version of the newsletter, I would probably see a modest revenue increase in my Google AdSense (small text-based Web ads). That money is small to be sure, but it comes in every month. It helps.

    Back to the Top

    Linux Explorer: Taming the Cron Daemon
    Cron-jobs are maintenance jobs performed automatically on your system on a scheduled basis — every night, once a week, or once a month. These jobs can include logrotate (refreshing log files and zipping up old ones), updatebd (updating your locate-search database), and updating any other databases, such as RPM and Whatis.

    The term Cron comes from the Greek word chronos, which means time. The Linux program that takes care of scheduling is the Cron-daemon. (The word daemon in Unix/Linux-speak is loosely analogous to the an operating system "service" in the Windows world.) A Cron job starts at a pre-selected time. Most are scheduled overnight so not to interrupt normal working hours. (If your computer is off at those times, you'll want to install Anacron, which picks up forgotten jobs the next time the computer boots).

    The Cron program in most Linux versions comes with pre-defined system-wide Cron jobs — and as a general rule, you shouldn't mess with them. But you can also add a series of root- and user-specific operations. This installment of Linux Explorer will tell you how to do that.

    IMPORTANT: The tips in this document require the use of command-line statements. For more information about how to read and execute Linux command-line prompts and commands, please check's Linux Cheat Sheet:

  • Linux Prompt Basics
  • Linux Command-Line Nomenclature


    Cron Jobs and the Cron Daemon
    The schedule for Cron is written in the /etc/crontab file, so to have a look at the system crontab type:

    $ cat /etc/crontab

    It should show this:

    # run-parts
    01 * * * * root nice -n 19 run-parts /etc/cron.hourly
    02 4 * * * root nice -n 19 run-parts /etc/cron.daily
    22 4 * * 0 root nice -n 19 run-parts /etc/cron.weekly
    42 4 1 * * root nice -n 19 run-parts /etc/cron.monthly

    The order of codes here is: minute, hour, day of month, month, day of week, user, and command. The * means any value will do. So the first line tells it every 1 minute, of 1 hour, of every day, of every week and every month to run-parts /etc/cron.hourly. The second line tells it to do the daily jobs at 4:02 hours (using the 24 hour clock). The third line tells it to run on day 0 the weekly job at 4:22. (Note: The days are number from 0 to 6, with 0 being Sunday.) The last line will run every 1st of each month at 4:42! If those times are inconvenient, you can change them to your preferences.

    Ok, so what is in /etc/cron.daily? Type:

    $ cd /etc/cron.daily
    $ ls

    This will show you this:

    0anacron - logrotate - makewhatis.cron - msec - rpm - tmpwatch

    Those are all little scripts for the tasks to be done. Just add your script and it will run with the other daily tasks. You can use either shell or bash script, it doesn't really matter.

    Here's an example: Have a look at the rpm script now that we are in the right directory. Type:

    $ cat rpm

    This shows you:

    rpm -qa --qf '%{name}-%{version}-%{release}.%{arch}.rpm\n' 2>&1 | sort > /var/log/rpmpkgs

    See ? . . . . . . #!/bin/sh on the 1st line showing it's a shell script and a "simple" command on the 2nd line!

    Now, you have a better understanding of how Linux works. Explore a little and see what all the hourly to monthly tasks are about.

    Cron and Anacron
    If you run Mandrake, SUSE, or any other distros and your computer is not powered up 24 hours a day, there are several Cron jobs that might be forgotten because they're scheduled for 3:00AM-4:00AM in the morning. Installing Anacron will set this to rights. Anacron searches for missed Cron jobs and executes them five minutes after you boot your computer. You'll notice extra activity of your CPU and hard disk for about five to seven 7 minutes as a result. Note: Red Hat and Fedora have Anacron pre-installed by default.

    Installing Anacron is simple and needs no special configuration. Here's an example of how to install it using Mandrake:

    Mandrake Control Center > Software Management > Installing Software > search for Anacron.

    If you decide to skip Anacron, keep in mind that you could be running the risk of eventually running out of disk space (in an extreme case). The default logrotate Cron job tries to prevent this by zipping up old logfiles like /var/log/syslog and /var/log/messages. But if your turn your computer off at night, logrotate won't be able to run — unless you have Anacron installed.

    User-Created Cron Jobs
    If you want to set up some tasks yourself (as user or system-wide as root) to run every so many hours/days, here is how to do that:

    Make a text file and let's say we call it "test-cron." In the file, place the following lines (replacing "bruno" with what's applicable to your Linux installation):

    0 * * * * play /home/bruno/Sound/Hour.wav
    30 * * * * play /home/bruno/Sound/HalfHour.wav

    You'll need to make sure the sound files named exist in the places indicated above, or change the names to .wav files that are there. Follow the earlier instructions for setting the time and days.

    Then type the command:

    $ crontab test-cron

    And from now on, every hour the Hour.wav will play and every half hour the HalfHour.wav will play, just like grandma's clock. (Your personal cron-settings are then saved in directory comparable to /var/spool/cron/bruno.) You can also do this as root, so it will run for whichever user is logged in at that moment.

    Most of the material you find in For Linux Explorers comes from Bruno of Amsterdam, lead moderator of the popular All Things Linux forum at Scot's Newsletter Forums. Bruno is helped by All Things Linux co-moderators Peachy and Teacher, as well as other forum members who have posted in the highly useful Tips for Linux Explorers thread (from which For Linux Explorers and the site are adapted). Previous installments of Tips for Linux Explorers can be found at

    For Linux Explorers is edited by Cyndy, and copyedited by Scot.

    Back to the Top

    Some 'Splaining
    Over the last month two things happened with Scot's Newsletter that, well ... I have some 'splaining to do.

    The first was exceedingly simple. I inadvertently deleted the Body tag in the HTML versions last month. That resulted in a problem for most Web mail users that was described something like this:

    "I received a copy of your newsletter, but the message was blank."

    It had no effect on people using email programs that I've been able to ascertain.

    Because Hotmail is the single largest segment of Web mail users, I re-sent the newsletter to all Hotmail subscribers. (Yeah, I can do that. I rarely do stuff like that, but it is possible.) But there are many, many other Web mail service providers out there. And I'm sorry to all of you. In case you still haven't seen the January 2005 issue, I think it was one of my better ones. Please check it out.

    Needless to say, I've made it much more difficult for this problem to occur again.

    The second problem was a lot more serious, but it affected a much smaller number of people. According to my Lyris list management company,, about 2,000 of Scot's Newsletter's over 50,000 subscribers received a message they weren't supposed to get. It came from another Dundee customer, called Kastle. And it talked about special rates on "your next birthday party." To many it looked like an unsolicited advertising message, and quite rightly I got a handful of messages from savvy readers wondering whether my list had been broken into. (Thank you to the half dozen of you who wrote to alert me of the problem!) It turns out that this other customer of sent a message offering a discount for its services to its own mailing list, but because of a previously undiscovered bug in the Lyris Server Software, other lists on the same server (Scot's Newsletter among them) received the message too. Dundee saw the problem quickly and halted the mailing before it could go out to the entire list. It also filed a bug report to the Lyris company. But some of you did get this message. For that I'm deeply sorry. As is my list distributor.

    In my four years with, this is the only time I've had a problem like this. It's a scary problem, but it's a one-time thing. In fact, my confidence in has gone up a notch because of the experience. They were on top of it. The reason I pay Dundee as much money as I do is to prevent just this kind of thing from occurring. I'm very serious about protecting this list. And, just for the record, I have never rented the Scot's Newsletter list and I will never, ever do so. All you're ever going to get is messages from me. (Hey, I figure that's bad enough.)  ;-)

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    Link of the Month: Spyware Warrior
    Spyware Warrior is an amazing site that just oozes honest research and educated insight about spyware threats and anti-spyware utilities. Run by Eric L. Howes and "Suzi," who writes the blog and manages the forums, Spyware Warrior is perhaps the first site you should visit for rational information spyware. You'll find everything from basic help to information about suspect spyware, to deep details about spyware testing, to anti-spyware comparison reviews and tests. Spyware Warrior is a first-rate resource site in a field jam packed with many players. Don't miss it. And check out the comparison-review feature tables:

  • Group 1
  • Group 2

    Check out the Spyware Warrior forums too.

    Have you discovered a relatively unknown Windows or broadband related website that's a little amazing? Please send me the URL so I can check it out and let everyone know about it.

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    Tip of the Month: Convert HTML to Text with URLs
    One of the many things SFNL Text Edition subscribers have let me know recently is that they like the Text Edition because it makes it easier to access the URLs for the many websites I link to in each issue. I understand the value of these URLs, believe me. Some people tell me that if I printed URLs in the clear in the HTML Edition — instead of encoding them as hyperlinked words — they might prefer the HTML. Well, I have to tell you, I have no intention of doing that. It makes the HTML harder to read, and flies in the face of the whole point of hyperlinks on the Web. It's important that the URLs are attached to specific words, so that you know the context of what I'm linking too.

    That said, I'm not against the idea of making it easier to harvest the URLs. I'm not a big lover of the text format, and so I'm not going to try to do this research for you. However, Google something like "Convert HTML to Text" and you will find a *long* list of websites and programs that purport to do this for you. I was looking for something free that would do this for you, while preserving the URLs in the story. A site called The ASCIInator does exactly that. Just plug in the URL for the specific Scot's Newsletter issue that you want to convert, and it will deliver unwrapped text with a footnoted list of URLs at the end of the file.

    If you find something that works better than this online converter (and I would surprised if there isn't something better), send me a note about it. And if I agree, I'll publish it in a future issue.

    Internet Explorer also has an ability to print the website version of any issue of Scot's Newsletter and append a labeled list of URLs in a table at the end. To do that, open the newsletter edition on the Scot's Newsletter website:

    Choose File > Print. Click the Options tab. Place a check in the box beside "Print table of links." Click the Print button. That will send the file to your default printer. The result is actually quite usable. But there is a drawback: Longer URLs may be truncated.

    You can also do this from within some email programs, such as Eudora, that use Internet Explorer as the viewer for their HTML mail. That's slightly more convenient because you don't have to go to the website first.

    One thing that people forget is that Internet Explorer has Page Setup options that let you set the page margins. My advice is to set these margins to 0.25 inch. That maximizes the body size while staying within bounds of the print image area supported by most printers.

    Do you have a Windows or broadband tip you think SFNL readers will like? Send it along to me, and if I print it in the newsletter, I'll print your name with it.

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    Newsletter Schedule
    Scot's Newsletter is a monthly e-magazine. My aim is to deliver each issue of the newsletter around the first of each month.

    It seems likely at this time that one of the next three issues — March, April, or May — will be skipped due to extensive travel and time away. I'll keep you posted. But if it's the March issue, you'll know why it didn't arrive.

    Did you know you can always find out when the next issue of Scot's Newsletter is expected to appear by visiting the Scot's Newsletter home page.

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    The Fine Print
    If you like this newsletter, I need your help spreading the word about it. Please share it with friends and co-workers, and encourage them to sign up! It's free.

    Visit the new Scot's Newsletter Forums.

    Subscribe, Unsubscribe, Change Email Address or Message Format
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    The Scot’s Newsletter Subscription Center:

    To help with the cost of creating and distributing the newsletter, I accept contributions via PayPal and Letter Mail. For more information on donations:

  • Sign-up for PayPal (if you don't already have it)
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