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Welcome to Clif Notes Newsletter

January 22, 2006



  Hi Everyone.

This week, I learned that Google is trying to stand by it's slogan "Don't be evil.". I learned how to catch "MICE" from Steve Gibson, and that not all Microsoft "leaks" are bad. Last week, I started submitting articles at the Infopackets newsletter. Welcome to those of you who found me there, and thanks to Dennis Faas for posting them.

I hope you enjoy this week's letter. Be sure to write me for advice or yell at me for messing up.







MouseTrap - does your computer have MICE?

Website - Freeware

reviewed by ClifNotes, Jan 2006



Notes from Clif

You may have recently heard of the Windows Metafile vulnerablilty. Steve Gibson at GRC.com has written a very good tool to detect if your system is still affected. He calls this vulnerability "Metafile Image Code Execution" or "MICE" and he calls his detection tool, "MouseTrap".


Do you still have MICE? Most of you are already protected by a Windows Update. Even so, I recommend you download and run MouseTrap, to be certain that your computer doesn't have MICE. If the MouseTrap shows you do have MICE, Steve's article on the WMF page contains tips on how to get rid of your little rodents.




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Quote from GRC.com

• What versions of Windows have MICE?

Microsoft introduced Metafile Image Code Execution (MICE) into Windows NT4. Every version of Windows since NT4, including their not-yet-released Windows Vista (aka Longhorn), incorporated this code. Microsoft removed it immediately after it was discovered by clever hackers. Also remember that any fresh installation of Windows will initially be vulnerable to MICE exploitation until it is patched to eliminate this behavior.


• What about Windows 95, 98, 98SE and ME?

Contrary to Microsoft's dynamically changing and frightening statements about the vulnerability of these earlier versions of Windows, they completely lack the MICE facility that was engineered into all later versions of Windows. There is no possibility that any of the earlier versions are vulnerable, and no need for any security patching.


FileZilla - monstrous powers to transfer files

Website - Freeware

reviewed by ClifNotes, Mar 2005, Jan 2006



Notes from Clif

The monster, Godzilla, is well known for his powers of destruction. Unlike Godzilla, FileZilla can help you build. I use FileZilla as my FTP client several times a week while building websites. Over the years I've tried many free FTP programs. They all did the job, but FileZilla is the one that I finally kept. It's easy for me to use and does everything I need. I like the dual pane views which make dragging and dropping files between the web and my PC a simple task. It will also connect to my FTP sites with a single click of the mouse, because it remembers all of my FTP logins and passwords. FileZilla downloads in a 4.5mb installer and will run on all Windows versions. If that isn't enough, it's a freeware open source project that has been around a long time. I feel I can depend on it's continued support and improvement.



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FileZilla is a powerful FTP-client for Windows 9x, ME, NT4, 2000 and XP. It has been designed for ease of use and with support for as many features as possible, while still being fast and reliable.


The main features of FileZilla are:

  • Ability to resume Uploads/Downloads (if the server supports it)
  • Custom Commands
  • Site Manager with folders
  • Keep Alive system
  • Timeout detection
  • Firewall support
  • SOCKS4/5 and HTTP1.1 Proxy support
  • SSL secured connections
  • SFTP support
  • Upload/Download Queue
  • Drag & Drop
  • Multi-language support
  • GSS authentication and encryption using Kerberos


Leet Speak Generator - F3Ar me, 1 @M 4 m4D H4x0r

Website - Freeware

reviewed by ClifNotes, Jan 2006



Notes from Clif

What is Leet Speak? When wanna-be hackers get together, they type in a slang language to set themselves apart and keep the rest of us in the dark. Here's an article from Microsoft about it. A parent's primer to computer slang


If you run into someone in a chat room typing this stuff, you can give them a taste of their own medicine with this freeware tool. The Leet Speak Generator can translate from English to l33t and from l33t to English. It's a simple download, unzip, and run.



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Quote from author Ryan Ross

Can you only type in proper English, keeping you from rising the $CRiP+ KidDiE ranks? The l33t sp34k g3Ner4+0r can remedy this serious problem! Simply type in the sentence, paragraph, or page that you would like to have "leet-o-fied" and press a button. 'Leet speak' the easy way. Generator will randomize caps and different methods of replacing characters.


CQPhone - allows you to chat over the internet.

CQPhone Website - Freeware

reviewed by FreewareFan, Jan 2006



Review by Tony at FreewareFan

As you all know, I have a very old IBM Thinkpad with only 40 Mb of RAM, so most of the voice mail programs (Skype, Yahoo etc.) don't work for me.


CQPhone will work on any computer that is running Windows 95 or later. The use of microphone, speakers, and web cam is optional. Your computer must be connected to the internet. CQPhone as been successfully tested on Windows 95, 120 Mhz, 32 MB RAM, 33K dialup modem!!!


Here are some of the things it can do;


VOICE CHAT: high quality, two-way voice, even for people using a slow dialup connection.

TYPING CHAT: for people who prefer not to use voice.

VIDEO CHAT: for people who wish to use a web cam.

PICTURE SHARING: for people who wish share photos during a chat.

PUBLIC CHAT LIST: for people who wish to meet new friends.

PRIVATE PHONE NUMBER: for people who prefer not to use the public chat list.

NO REGISTRATION: CQPhone is ready to use as soon as you install it.


GOOD PRIVACY: Peer to peer connection - the chat is not saved.

WORKS BEHIND A NAT: Handles calls between two computers behind the same internet sharing box.

WORKS ON OLDER SYSTEMS: CQPhone as been successfully tested on Windows 95, 120 Mhz, 32 MB RAM, 33K dialup modem.

CLEAN UNINSTALL may be perfomed at any time.

I think this program is going to be BIG. Check it out at ( http://www.cqphone.com/ ).




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Quote from CQPhone

CQPhone is a simple chat program that works like a real telephone. This program is free. There are no advertising banners. Enjoy using it. Tell your friends.


BigFix Consumer Edition - fix the security on your PC

BigFix Website - Download BigFix - Freeware (for non-commercial use)

reviewed by ClifNotes, Mar 2005, Jan 2006




Many of us don't care much for the Windows Update website. If that's true for yourself, BigFix could be a viable alternative. The Big Question for BigFix is "Can you trust them?". My opinion is that you now have two companies to choose from when you update. Microsoft is in business to sell you more software. BigFix is in business to sell security systems for PC's. Now who would you trust more?


I tried out BigFix and it was easy to install and easy to use. I edited the startup entry in msconfig so that BigFix doesn't run on Windows startup. After searching my system, BigFix displayed 6 updates that I needed. I installed all the fixes and now I'm good to go until the next time I run it. So far, all the fixes that I have installed, are from Microsoft and are downloaded from their website by BigFix.


Conclusion: The average person should use BigFix as an additional source of fixes and should not replace going to the Windows Update website. BigFix is a great free program and doesn't seem to have too many problems. It should be a valuable source for security fixes and give you additional confidence in the security of your PC.



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BigFix is a program that can intelligently detect and correct all kinds of problems on your computer, usually before they get a chance to mess up your computer. With BigFix, you are protected from known bugs, security holes, and problems caused by outdated software, letting you do more and crash less every day.


BigFix usually runs in the background, monitoring your computer for problems and conflicts. You can be sure that BigFix is running if you see the blue icon near the bottom-right corner of your screen (called the system tray).


Every day, BigFix automatically gathers information about the latest bugs, security alerts, and updates from BigFix Sites around the Internet. This way, BigFix is always up to speed on the latest problems.


Whenever BigFix detects a problem, it alerts you by flashing the blue system tray. To fix the problem, click on that flashing icon to open BigFix.


BigFix has been designed to fully protect your privacy. No information about you or your computer will ever be sent off your computer by BigFix without your express permission.


RoughDraft - a writer's word processor

Website - Freeware

reviewed by ClifNotes, Jan 2006




RoughDraft is a word processor designed by a writer for writers. Who knows what they need better? The author of this program has taken a great deal of time away from his writing so that other aspiring authors will have a great free tool for helping them with their art.


One of the subscribers to this newsletter wrote in to recommend it. Richard writes: "Rough Draft is a Free or Donation writers program, I consider it to be one of the best or I wouldn't waste my time now. No I do not have any connections or financial interests, I have used the program to write stories and my daily journal for well over five years and have only last week upgraded to the latest version. Rough Draft is what I consider to be a rare find, a little gem, I think it may be worth your time to take a look at it ..."


I gave RoughDraft a test drive, and I agree with Richard. It's simply great. I especially like the integration with WordWeb and the live spell checking.



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  • Special modes for plays and screenplays which make formatting easy.
  • A side panel that makes common operations quicker and more convenient.
  • Instant backup of all open files to the device of your choice - a very convenient way to make sure you don't lose your work.
  • Automatic creation of cover pages for manuscript submissions with word and page counts.
  • Automatic insertion of user-defined words - for character names or commonly used words.
  • Four extra clipboards for inserting longer phrases or paragraphs.
  • A comprehensive but simple printing system, including a print preview that shows exactly how your work will look on the page.
  • Creation of HTML files of your work for publishing on the web.
  • Importing of files in Word 6.0, Word 97 and HTML formats.
  • Up to 100 files open at the same time.
  • Spellchecking. British and American English dictionaries are included. Dictionaries for many other languages can be downloaded.
  • Live spellchecking that underlines misspelled words in red as you type.
  • A custom spellchecking dictionary so you can add your own words.
  • A dictionary and thesaurus facility (provided by Anthony Lewis' WordWeb program, which has to be installed separately - it's not required to run RoughDraft, but strongly recommended).
  • Comprehensive text and paragraph formatting options.
  • Saving of files in the popular Rich Text Format (RTF), meaning they can be opened in just about any other word processor.
  • Full find and replace, including the ability to list all the matches in the current file or in a number of files.
  • Font styles for quicker formatting.
  • Shortcut keys for just about everything.
  • A comprehensive help system.


Open Office - MS Office alternative

Website - FreeWare

by JohnHood, Jan 2006


Review from John Hood

Replacement for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Publisher



Review Date: Continuous First Listed: Nov-2003 License: Open Source



Average Rating10.0

(Of The 4 Programs I Reviewed)


"OpenOffice.org, does better at handling Microsoft Office file formats than Ms Office itself does."- CNet Reviews


Now in version 2.0 - OpenOffice.org contains a word-processor, spreadsheet, presentation maker and publisher. OpenOffice comes with the features you would expect in a high-end office suite: create and apply styles on the fly, automatic word correction, mail merge, bullets and numbering, graphic support, macro record, full read and write of Microsoft formatted documents. OpenOffice happily coexists with MS Office on the same computer. Install it on every computer, and then install Microsoft Office only where MS Office functions are absolutely needed.


Thumbs up for...: - The menus are practically clones of MS products. Cross-platform (Windows, Mac and Linux) and released in 147 languages, OpenOffice has more logical layout of menu options, better data source support including a pre-built bibliography database for students, better template and master document support than MS Office, auto-complete to save repetitive typing and export to Adobe PDF format built in. The PowerPoint clone will publish a presentation in Micromedia Flash. OpenOffice also has better end-user support with "http://www.oooforum.org/." Tons of extras available.


Thumbs down for...: - It can be slow to launch. It's missing a "Paste Format" option. there is no groupware, calendar and organizer equivalent like Outlook (see the Outlook page for options here). It can be a bit intimidating at first glance for the user who is transitioning from Microsoft products. This is usually based on the fact that all of the features in OOo actually work correctly.


Visit WebsiteScreenshots & Getting Started (interactive)Documents to use


Don't want to install it before deciding? You can try it out by downloading John Haller's No-Install Version




Notes from Clif

Open Office Suite: I belive it's the best of the free office suites.


Quote from the website

What's in the suite?

WRITER Is a powerful tool for creating professional documents, reports, newsletters, and brochures. You can easily integrate images and charts in documents, create everything from business letters to complete books with professional layouts, as well as create and publish Web content.


CALC is a feature-packed spreadsheet which can turn boring numbers into eye-catching information. Calculate, analyse, and visually communicate your data quickly and easily. Use advanced spreadsheet functions and decision-making tools to perform sophisticated data analysis. Use built-in charting tools to generate impressive 2D and 3D charts.


IMPRESS is the fastest, most powerful way to create effective multimedia presentations. Your presentations will truly stand out with special effects, animation and high-impact drawing tools.


DRAW will produce everything from simple diagrams to dynamic 3D illustrations and special effects.


The Database User Tools give you all the tools you need for day to day database work in a simple spreadsheet-like form. They support dBASE databases for simple applications, or any ODBC or JDBC compliant database for industrial strength database work.


EasyOffice - the other MSOffice alternative

Website - NagWare Free-for-personal-use

reviewed by JohnHood, Jan 2006



Review by John Hood


Review Date: Jan-2005 First Listed: Nov-2003 License:



Interface = 8.0

Features = 9.0

Stability = 9.0

Help/Support = 8.5

Versatility = 8.0

Average Rating = 8.5 (Of The 4 Programs I Reviewed)


EasyOffice has undergone a major update. If you didn't like it, try it again. This is what Microsoft Office should be, and could be if they stayed out of court.


Plusses - It's got features enough to run a small business. Mail, calendar, contact manager with history and reminders (the only place you are going to find this feature for free), database rapid developer (ditto) and spreadsheet. There is a business report module that is unique to the suite. You can generate cash flow, AR AP reports painlessly. The suite is as compatible with MS as OpenOffice. Email support is prompt, helpful and free. Get this: even the error messages are in plain English! A lot of thought and care went into this suite. DO NOT purchase MSOffice products until you check this out.


Minuses - It gets dinged for having a fairly large nag screen. This goes away with payment of $59. The calendar is not sharable, which takes it down in my view.

Visit Website = http://www.e-press.com/downloads_freeware.asp



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Easy Office 9.0 is loaded with all of the following programs.


EasyMail, EasyAntiVirus, EasyWord, EasyGraphicsSuite2, EasyMailServer, EasyWebpageCreator, EasyWebCapture, EasyVoIP, EasyPad, EasyDiagram, EasyNewsReader, ~EasyFTP, EasySpreadsheet, EasySpeaker, ~EasyIM, EasySpreadSheet2, EasyImage, EasySpeller, EasyTranslator, EasyCustomInstaller, EasyVoiceRecognition, EasyThesaurus, ~EasyFTP, EasyGraphicsSuite, EasyDatabase, EasyZip, ~EasySVGViewer, EasyProject, EasyPresentation, EasyBackup, EasyDataRemover, EasyOpen, EasyContactManager, EasyCalculator, EasyFileEncryption, EasyBookkeeper, EasyCalendar, EasyFileSynch, EasyFileCleaner, EasyBarCode.

















The How-To help guide from PC Magazine

Website - Free information

Tip from JeanInMontana at Temerc Internet Countermeasures Forum



Notes from Clif

Jean found a nice selection of How-To articles at the PC Magazine website. Here is a list of the main topics there.



How to Migrate to a New PC

Transferring files and settings to a new machine doesn't have to be a major headache.


Getting the Most from Your Batteries

Batteries light up our lives—and a whole array of devices. Here's how to choose and use them.


Make Your Thumb Drive Bootable

Your USB drive can be your emergency toolkit at home and away, and if the host machine supports booting from a USB drive, you can boot to a USB key that you've prepared in advance.


How To Upgrade Your Graphics Card

Step-by-step instructions for upgrading your graphics card.


How To Upgrade Your Hard Drive

Step-by-step instructions for upgrading your hard drive.


How To Upgrade Your Memory

Step-by-step instructions for upgrading your memory.



How to Get Video on Your iPod

Why settle for Lost reruns when you can get almost any video onto your new iPod?


How to Make an Award-Winning Movie

Tight deadlines and consumer-level gear need not deter a resourceful DV filmmaker.



Make Your Photos Great!

We turned to two of our frequent contributors to show you how it's done.


Know Your Camera

We want to make sure that you don't miss out on all the other things your camera is capable of doing.



Setting Up Your Own Hotspot

Whether you're at home, in an apartment or running a small business, learning how to build a wireless hot spot can pay big dividends.


New Ways to Go Wireless

On the following pages, we explore these new technologies, which will fit into your life in different ways someday soon.



Your New Computer

Your new machine is all ready to go—or is it? Our tips help you get off to a good start.


80 Super Security Tips

Whether your PC is 3 years or 3 days old, it faces the same, sometimes scary security issues. We show you what to do, help understand the threats and be ready with a plan of counter attack.


Top Tips & Tricks For Windows

In this story, we present our favorite Windows XP tips.


Top Tips and Tricks Mozilla Firefox

Here are some tips to enhance your browsing experience.


See them all here.


Quote from PC Magazine

You finally got that gift you always wanted—a new PC, digital video camcorder, phone, etc. Now you're thinking, "This is great, but I wonder how I can keep my PC safe, create a visually pleasing home movie with my new camcorder, get the best shots out of my digital camera? In our special How-To Help Center we've collected some of our best how to stories and tips to help you find the answers to your technology questions and problems.


Download Disasters - places you don't want to go

Website - Free security advice

reviewed by ClifNotes, Jan 2006



Notes from Clif

If you look around, you'll see I'm not the only one who tries out bad websites and bad programs on purpose. The SiteAdvisor blog has issued a top five list of places you should never download from. It's a good read and I'd like you to pay attention so that you can spot bad programs when you see them yourself.


Quote from the SiteAdvisor Blog

When we first started crawling the Web looking for bad downloads last year, we weren't sure what we'd find. Today, a million Web sites and 140,000 download tests later, I can say with confidence that there are some great programs to be downloaded out there. I can say with equal confidence that there's also plenty of train wrecks waiting to happen to your PC. read more


AbbreviationZ - What do all those abbreviations mean?

Website - Free information

reviewed by ClifNotes, Jan 2006



Notes from Clif

I've been online a long time but I still find many abbreviations online that I can't figure out. Chat rooms and forums seem to be the worst place for someone new. Type in the abbreviations at Stands4.com, and they will usually find the meaning.


Now you don't have to feel stupid when you ask someone what LOL means.



AbbreviationZ is the world's largest and most comprehensive directory and search engine for acronyms, abbreviations and initialisms on the Internet.


In their daily life people are exposed to new, ever-growing technical terms where occasionally a single term has a totally different meaning in a diverse context. In addition, one might need to have a list of acronyms or abbreviations that relates to a specific subject. It might be a student that is looking for a list of terms in physiology, a businessman that needs to prepare a lecture on international business or a laboratory that would like to print an abbreviated form of the Periodic Table.





















Readers' recommendations

Thank you for recommending these websites.

CyberGuide: FlashEarth - see the planet, or your house

Tiffany: Pandora - personal music station

Koelsh: tiddlywiki - a personal wiki that you can publish

RichardW: Abilon RSS aggregator

TonyF: SendOver - Send 2gb files by email link

bluepwrdup: - 40 favorite FireFoxExtensions

Maxpower: - MWSnap - screen capture utility

JimH: - Password Corral - password manager


Websites I have visited recently

Hover over the links to see my comments.












Google says NO to U.S. Government

thanks to SarahInTampa, Jan 19, 2006 - news


When the U.S. Government requested search data from the web giants, Yahoo! and MSN said "yes" and Google said "no," forcing the matter into the courts. read more


IE7 Beta Leaked

thanks to SarahInTampa, Jan 21, 2006 - news


A build of the IE 7 browser has been leaked to the net. Let's see what they've got brewing so far!

... Read the comments for alternate links! read more


Caution from Clif: I've heard IE7 beta is extremely buggy. Only expert users should try it.





























Frapper - you people live all over the world!

I invite all of you to record your locations on this map. You can include as little or as much information as you wish. I think you'll enjoy seeing yourself there.


Here's a small look at the frapper map. Click and drag to see the rest of the world.


Write your own review


I get many of the reviews in the newsletter from the readers. You don't have to be a genius or computer guru. Just answer a few questions and send me a review. I'll probably put you in the newsletter.






Have fun and surf safely.



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