PC’s and more PC’s

Two weeks ago, I picked up a “grab bag” of computer parts from a guy on Craig’s List.  It contained two PC’s and a box of miscellaneous stuff.  I also picked up a computer from  beside the dumpster on my way to work.  It appears to be a Pentium 3.  There was no hard drive in it, but it does have a DVD-Rom drive and a cdrw drive in it, so that’s a big plus, not to mention 384 megs of ram.

Now I have 5 working computers at home and gobs of parts.  It would be nice if I could sell some of this stuff locally and turn it into some real cash

My adventure with Windows

So, I upgraded the memory in my laptop and decided to try something crazy. I installed Windows 98 on it.

Win98, required a lot of work to gather up drivers for my ancient hardware, but it does handle the hardware, namely my wifi card, better than Linux. However, there is a really big problem. It is nearly too slow to be useful. I’ve installed Firefox, Opera, K-Meleon, and the usual I.E., of all of them, Opera is the fastest, but it still sucks badly. Reading websites is painful. I’ve considered even installing Netscape 4.7, and even though that would be a faster browser, it lacks CSS capabilities. DSL Linux is just all around faster. One kudo for Windows is all of the software out there for it. I found a couple of programs that I am really enjoying. They are yBook and yWriter. yBook is a “paperback emulator” (LOL!) it can open txt, rtf, html, and pdb ebooks and display them as if you were reading them in a book. It’s a little slow, but quite usable. yWriter is a “novel builder”. I’m working on some fiction and this little program is very handy. If this software were made available for Linux, I would go back to Linux and never look back. So, I think I will keep a dual boot between Win98 and DSL for the time being. It’s sad that Microsoft doesn’t put more thought into being backwards compatible whith their operating systems, but that wouldn’t make them as much money.

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Minimum requirements for Windows Vista

This article details the requirements for the new Windows Vista OS.

Minimum Requirements (Vista-Capable PCs):
* 800 MHz Intel-compatible processor
* 512MB of RAM
* DirectX 9.0-Capable Graphics Processor
* 20GB HDRecommended Requirements

(Premium-Ready PCs):
* 1 GHz Intel-compatible processor
* DirectX 9.0-Capable Graphics Processor, with 128MB graphics memory. (64MB of graphics memory to support a single monitor less than 1,310,720 pixels [no more than 1440×900]; 128MB of graphics memory to support a single monitor at resolutions from 1,310,720 to 2,304,000 pixels [no more than 1920×1200]; 256MB of graphics memory to support a single monitor at resolutions higher than 2,304,000 pixels [more than 1920×1200]).
* 40GB HD with at least 15GB “free space”

It goes on to say,

Of course, we here in the Orbiting HQ want to stress that these specification recommendations are minimum, minimum, minimum! If you have a PC with a 1 GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, and a 128MB DirectX 9.0-compliant video card… you’d be insane to install Windows Vista (in our not-so-humble opinions.)

And then the Linux users laugh with glee at the sad little Windows users.

Greetings from the new laptop!

Well, I’ve successfully installed DamnSmallLinux, and I like it. 50 Megs, and I have everything that I want. Right now, I am writing this using Flock, which does not come with D.S.L. It is being processed by my main pc and is being displayed on my laptop though something called X11 Forwarding. I’m just thrilled. This kicks some real butt!

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Paranoia is not education

There’s been a lot of talk going on in the news about identity theft. I understand that this is a terrible crime that can leave a person penniless and in dire financial straits. The main culprit, of course, is the internet. The news reports are full of “Beware of this” and “Beware of that”. My beef, and this is probably something inherent in TV that I have long been immune to is that important information like this is given 30 seconds to 2 minutes on the nightly news. That is not enough time to educate anyone about the dangers of almost anything. The only thing it can do is spread fear, and that is no way to combat a problem.

For example, on NBC’s Today show suggested staying away from any website that asks for any personal information such a mother’s maiden name, etc. Okay, big dumb move. Legit companies like eBay and Amazon.com ask for that kind of information as a security reminder. They’re goal is to press you with information and make is sound as scary as possible. Fear tactics do not make for good consumers.

Here are a few good tactics that they won’t tell you in the news.

1. Get rid of Microsoft Outlook and/or Outlook Express. Hackers and virus writers sometimes specialize in hacking this software. It also has inherent vulnerabilities that make it’s users specially at risk. Get a good email program or service with built in spam blocking. Thunderbird is great, Eudora is good, and Lotus Notes is acceptable.

2. Read Snopes.com and Symantec’s Hoax page, and be aware of able to identify legit email from spam at a glance. No, you have not won a lottery in another country, nor is Bill Gates wanting to send you $50 for forwarding an email. Most importantly, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon from the country of Durkadurkastan does not have $3M for you if you help him transfer it to another bank account.

3. Make you password difficult. For example, “L1Qwpp01G5woS” is a good password. It is difficult to remember, but it is also difficult to crack. “jason77” is not a good password, neither is the word “password”. Make your password difficult, write them on 3×5 notecards for safe keeping and lock them up in a filing cabinet or lockbox when you are not using them. No hacker is so good that he can use his computer to look through your locked filing cabinet.

4. Pay your bills online. That’s right, I said it’s okay to make purchases online. If your bank is reputable, then they may offer this service for free or for a small cost. Data encryption in most banks is probably very good. If your local utility companies can take a bank draft, then do it. It will save you time and money in the long run.

5. Learn how to use encryption software. By all means, read up on how to use GnuPG or PGP. This is one powerful tool that can make almost any email program built like a TANK. Is it complicated? vYes it can be, and you might have to learn something new. It is worth it in the end especially if you use programs like Quicken or Microsoft Money. I think I’ll write up a mini howto on how to use it one of these days.

6. Finally, some of the ideas that were posted on some news site isn’t so bad. Owning a shredder is definately a plus, but how about this: Buy an el-cheapo flatbed scanner, scan those old bills that you want to keep to image files, encrypt the files, and save them to CDROM. If the CDROM gets stolen. It’s okay. The encryption that GnuPG and PGP uses is government strength. As long as the hacker doesn’t have you private key AND your password, the data there will do them no good.

You might have to do some research to accomplish some of these tips. You might have to learn something more about computers and the internet. That’s okay. An educated consumer is a safer consumer. Don’t be afraid of the internet. Be smart enough to navigate it safely.