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PC Rescue newsletter April 2008

One of the joys of writing on the IT industry is its fast changing nature. This month I've had to change the newsletter's contents a number of times as things have changed before I had the chance to press the send button.

Last night there was another last minute change when Microsoft pulled the Windows XP service pack release yesterday due to a late developing glitch. This is why the April newsletter is being sent on the last day of the month.

These glitches are becoming common with Microsoft and are an indication of a much bigger problem in the world's biggest software company.

So is it time to get a Mac? Quite possibly and I'll explain why below. But first, we'll have a look at some other important computer news.


AVG 8 Update warnings

If you follow my recommendation and use AVG Free as an antivirus, you'll be receiving pop-up adverts for the new AVG 8.0. This is the paid version of AVG.

I'm a little disappointed Grisoft decided to put such an obtrusive advert on their systems, but then this is a free program and it's not unreasonable to expect them to try and make some sales from it.

You don't have to switch to this version to continue using AVG, the free version is still working and will do in future. Just disregard the message unless you want to take advantage of the support and additional features with the paid version.

There is an AVG 8 Free version now available. For the moment though, I'd recommend not switching from AVG 7.5 until it's been tested.

If you do decide to download the new AVG Free, keep in mind it is bundled with the Yahoo! toolbar. I recommend you take the tick off the box when it asks if you want to include it.

XP Service pack released (or is it?)

The long overdue XP Service Pack 3 was released last week. Then it was withdrawn yesterday due to incompatibilities with Microsoft's Retail Management System product.

There's little new in the service pack and most users won't notice the difference once it has been installed. The big difference is that all the security updates have been rolled into it and there have been some underlying technical changes.

I'd recommend not installing SP3 until it's been throughly tested in the marketplace. It's best to wait a few more weeks when it starts appearing on the Windows Updates.

Who says you can't get a good computer manual? Our Dummies books are available online. If you want to learn more about your computer, we have the answers.

Using mobile broadband

Mobile broadband's a great idea. The problem is the bill you might get at the end of the month. A recent survey by Sony-Ericsson and Three Mobile showed Australian consumers are very suspicious of plans and are cautious of using it.

This isn't suprising when we see Optus charging an unbelievable $300 per Mb of data. I have a detailed run down on what to look for in plans on the PC Rescue website.

Of the plans, Three has the best but it's range is limited, Vodafone has some useful plans and Telstra is the best for regional ares. Optus subscribers though should consider changing providers if they want to access the net through their mobile phone.

Computer services

Need a computer tech? We can get technicians to help you with your home and office computer problems anywhere in Australia.

Call 1300 798 957 and our call centre can help you.


Switching to a Mac

The whole mess of Windows Updates and Vista is encouraging a lot of people to switch across to the Mac.

This was bought home to me personally last week when we set two computers on our office network. The first computer was a Mac Book Pro. It took seven minutes to connect to the network and be ready for useful work.

The second computer was an Acer Aspire. It took an hour and half to connect. Suffice to say, my next computer is going to be an Apple Mac.

To be fair to Microsoft, this is not wholly their fault. The original problem was Acer, in their infinite wisdom, had decided not to install the Wireless networking drivers along with not supplying any installation disks.

Vista though did not help this process with multiple irritating messages, and the treacle-like installation speed of the driver software.

It's increasingly more difficult to recommend Vista based computers, not least because the manufacturers like Acer treat their customers so poorly by releasing incomplete products.

While a Mac may not be the right business tool for you, it's worthwhile shopping around to find the best computer that meets your needs.

If you find essential components have not been supplied or properly installed, take it back and don't tolerate the shabby service many computer retailers and manufacturers seem to think is acceptable.

Business tech talk column

This month, Paul's weekly Tuesday blog on the Smart Company website looked at registering domain names, backing up your email and cutting computer costs in tough times.

Smart Company is a free news, information and resource site for Australia's entrepreneurs and small to medium enterprises. You can subscribe to Paul's, and other articles, for free by registering on the website.

New Skype plans shake up the VOIP world

A fascinating recent change has been Skype's new call plans. Their new plans allow unlimited calls to 34 different countries. At 9 Euros a month ($15) a month, this is an extremely cost effective way of making overseas calls.

If you are using the Free Versions of Skype this does not affect you. The free Skype-to-Skype calling system still works.


Internet crime

The conviction of New Zealand hacker Owen Walker illustrates how professional virus writing gangs have become. Owen is alleged to have been paid $NZ40,000 and the gang is alleged to have raised 20.4 million from their work.

The days of script kiddies writing viruses are over. These people are professionals and there is big money to be made. This is why it's more important than ever to take your security seriously.


Ask us a question

Our sister website, IT Queries answers common computer problems.

If your computer has a frustrating problem, have a look for an answer at IT Queries. If you don't find one, just ask on the IT Queries site and we'll get a solution for you.


Software of the month: Lookout seach tool

A new feature in the newsletter is the software of the month. Each month I'll look at a useful computer program.

This month it's the Lookout Search Tool. If you are a Microsoft Outlook user, you'll know the Search function in Outlook is, shall we say lacking. Lookout is a far more flexible, effecitve and speedier program.

Sadly Lookout was bought out by Microsoft some years back and the technology folded into the Windows Seach function but you can still download it through the Major Geeks website.


ABC Radio Spots

The March radio spots are on over the next two weeks. For Nightlife listeners in WA, Victoria and Tasmania this is the next Friday spot is the last you'll hear on air before the AFL season starts. For Sydney listeners, this Weekend's spot is one of the rare appearences of Simon Marnie.

702 Sydney Weekends

The next Weekend spot is 10am Sunday, May 25 and we haven't yet decided on a topic. We'll post it on the website closer to the date.

Nightlife, nationally on ABC Local Radio

The next Nightlife spot is Friday, May 9 at 10.15pm when we'll be looking at the cost of mobile Internet and avoiding bill shock.

If you'd like to call or offer any suggestions about the shows please contact us.

Jargon of the month: Domain parker

It's a big month for the Jargon Buster with a lot of new terms added. The best one this month is Domain Parker.

A domain parker is someone who registers a good sounding domain, creates a web site full of advertising and then waits for someone to offer a big wad of cash for the site.

This is a little different from a cybersquatter in that the squatter deliberately chooses a name similar to a known name and doesn't necessarily put up a website at the address.

Regardless of the term, it's a good idea to make sure your business names and trade marks have all the relevant domains registered to avoid this nonsense.


Next month on the website

In May, I'll be looking closer at online office application and seeing if it's possible to do all your work using free tools on the Internet.

If you have a topic you'd like us to discuss on the websites, Smart Company blog or the radio spots please contact us.


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©Technology Publishing Australia, 2007