EduNotes Blog

Bug Alert

There’s a new bug out there called BugBear and it ain’t pretty. While some bugs exploit email weaknesses (particularly in Microsoft products) to send themselves to others and other bugs do nasty things like record keystrokes (to steal passwords or other sensitive information) and email this file to someone, the BugBear does both of these things.
If you don’t have the latest antivirus updates installed on your computer, now is a good time to do so. All the major antivirus vendors have updates to detect this virus available. Most good virus programs will automatically check for new virus definitions on a daily or weekly basis. Make sure your antivirus software is checking and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to manually check for a new download anyway.
BugBear doesn’t do the same thing on every computer, making it difficult to detect. It will create files on your computer that it uses to do its dirty work but those files are based on the serial number of your PC, the drive letter infected and other variables so each infected computer will have different file names. The file that records your keystrokes is created in the windowssystem directory and has a dll extension, disguising itself as an important Windows file.
There are dozens of different subject lines that the bug uses to spread itself so if you want to check out a suspicious email, visit your antivirus software vendor’s web site for more information. The best way to protect your computer is to make sure that you have all the latest security patches applied to your computer, make sure your virus definitions are up-to-date and do NOT open any attachments, even from people you know, if you are not expecting an attachment. It’s ALMOST enough to make me want to buy a Mac.

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Low – End Computer

If you think the time for super cheap computers faded with the bursting of the dot.com bubble, think again. Wal-Mart has teamed with Microtel to provide very inexpensive low-end computers. How inexpensive? The base price is below $200!
But it is a low-end computer. Working from home and tired of having your kids mess up your system with their games? This might be the answer you’ve been waiting for. The cheapest system comes with the Lindows operating system. Lindows is a Linux based system that looks a lot like Windows. For an additional $100 though, you can get the system with Windows XP installed.
This deal is apparently only available on the walmart.com web site so don’t go asking at your neighborhood store. This system would be great for a second or third PC on a home network sharing a broadband Internet connection. It does NOT come with a floppy drive (sounds almost like a iMac?) nor with a modem although you can purchase them separately. It DOES come with an 800 MHz processor similar to Intel’s Celeron Processor and 128 MB of RAM which is not bad at all.
A high end computer from Gateway or Dell will come with a Pentium 4 processor running at 2.8 GHz and 512 MB of RAM, by comparison. So while it’s definitely on the low end, it’s also definitely affordable. What is it good for? Email, Internet browsing, Simple Word Processing or Spread Sheet manipulation. So if you are need of a computer that does just that, this is the way to go. Don’t buy it if you think you’re going to have a computer you can run high end applications or games on.
Just in time for the holiday shopping . . .

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Excerpt from President Bush’s Patriot Day Proclamation

I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim September 11, 2002, as Patriot Day. I call upon the people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities, including remembrance services and candlelight vigils. I also call upon the Governors of the United States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, as well as appropriate officials of all units of government, to direct that the flag be flown at half-staff on Patriot Day. Further, I encourage all Americans to display the flag at half-staff from their homes on that day and to observe a moment of silence beginning at 8:46 a.m. eastern daylight time, or another appropriate commemorative time, to honor the innocent victims who lost their lives as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fourth day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand two, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and twenty-seventh.
GEORGE W. BUSH
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© 2002 EduCyber, Inc. This newsletter is brought to you by EduCyber, Inc. https://www.educyber.com Permission is hereby granted to redistribute all or part of this newsletter as long as this copyright message is included.
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For questions, or to be removed from this monthly newsletter distribution, email us at edunotes@educyber.com.

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My Favorite Web Sites

What are your favorite web sites and why? I’ve got a few that I’d like to share because I think they’re cool.
My.yahoo.com is the page I use for my portal or start page. I’ve got it customized with the news, stocks and sports that matter to me and I can check up on all the latest news. I’ve even got three of my favorite comics on the page so I don’t miss them when I don’t have time for the paper in the morning. I used to use my.netscape.com but they couldn’t seem to get the sports right and it just got too annoying. Of course the pop-under ads at my yahoo are also annoying but I can live with them. I used to use home.excite.com but that’s a whole other story.
And of course, though you’ve heard me say this repeatedly, google.com is a pretty cool site. They’ve got the best searches, up-to-date news and loads of other features. I’ve been using google since it was a college project and it seems as though most of the world uses it now. The only downside is that they’ve so brilliantly outdone the competition that they don’t really have any anymore. Hopefully this lack of competition won’t lead Google to rest on their laurels.
Buy.com has some of the best deals around and that makes their site a frequent visit for me. Their site is easy to use with quick menus to drill down to a specific area or a search menu that can quickly help you get to what you’re looking to buy. Though I use Buy almost exclusively for computer-related stuff, they also have books, magazines, games, and music.
And, for a local plug, you should check out applewoodbusiness.com. This is one of our newest sites and we’re quite proud of it. If you live in the west Denver area, you can find local businesses that would be happy to have you as their customer. It’s also a good place to locate your local government’s web site or to learn more about the Applewood area.
My last shameless plug is for educyber.com. If for no other reason, you should visit to browse through our newsletter archive with newsletters dating back to 1998. But you can also learn about our other services and educators can get a special treat. Our education links and our grants information page continue to get a lot of visitors.
Got a favorite site? Let us know about it and we’ll include it in a future newsletter.

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Update Time

Well it’s time for an update. Microsoft has just released Windows XP Service Pack 1 and they have also recently released Service Pack 3 for Windows 2000. For security needs alone it is worth making sure your Windows XP or Win2K computer has the latest service pack. From the user point of view, the only thing you might notice that is different is the Set Program Access Defaults button added to the Start Menu. And the reason for this new button is because of Microsoft’s agreement with the Justice department. Now you have more control over the programs on your computer.
But wait, there’s more. Office XP users can and should download and install Service Pack 2 but you first have to install Service Pack 1 if you haven’t already. If you have an Exchange server you’ll want Service Pack 3 (talk to your IT people about this). Internet Explorer users should have IE 6.0 Service Pack 1, or IE 5.5 Service Pack 2. Of course for all your Microsoft products you should regularly visit the Windows Update site and make sure that all Critical Updates are installed or use Microsoft’s automatic updating tool.
For reading pdf files, the latest version of Adobe’s Acrobat Reader is 5.05. Mac OS users should be running 10.1.5, or 9.2.2 or 8.6. And Mac users should also verify with the Apple web site that they have the latest security updates installed.

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News Needs to be New

If you’ve ever done an Internet search for a recent event and got instead results about events from years ago then you are probably searching in the wrong spot. And Google has just the search engine for you. They now have a news search at http://news.google.com that gets feeds from many national and international sources and brings it all together for your searching convenience.
Google just keeps getting better. While testing the site out for this piece, my fat fingers typed “anthraz” instead of “anthrax.” Google quickly reported there were 0 results for anthraz but then delivered the 135 results it did have for anthrax. Within those results were several articles that had been on the wire about an hour.
Having the ability to search through different news organizations reports on the same story can be of benefit and a real eye-opener as you begin to see the various ideological stances through what stories are covered and how a specific story is covered from organization to organization.

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Volunteer On Line

After the terrorist attacks last year, President Bush urged all Americans to volunteer their time. There are, as you can imagine, as many different ways to volunteer as there are needs.
There are several web sites that can help you find the volunteer opportunity that best fits your skills and age. The following are three such sites with a brief description of each.
http://www.usafreedomcorps.gov/
The USA Freedom Corps is a government organization that helps put you in touch with volunteer opportunities right in your own community. It was started after the President’s State of the Union address asking all Americans to donate 4000 hours (two years) over the course of their lives to volunteering.
http://www.volunteermatch.org/
As their mission statement says, “VolunteerMatch is dedicated to helping everyone find a great place to volunteer.” Working with the USAFreedomCorps, VolunteerMatch lets you find opportunities by zip code. As of August 1 they had 21,242 organizations that they work with and 39,320 volunteer opportunities.
http://www.volunteersolutions.org/
Not to be outdone, the United Way has its own clearing house of volunteer opportunities. Pick your city from the list and you’re on your way to finding the organization that’s just right for you. For example, on August 1 they had 171 volunteer opportunities from 122 different organizations in the Denver area.

If you are in an organization that’s looking for volunteers, you’ll watch to check all of the above to make sure your opportunities are listed.
Of course you can always check the web site of your favorite charity or religious organization to find out about specific opportunities that might not appear in the sites above.
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© 2002 EduCyber, Inc. This newsletter is brought to you by EduCyber, Inc. https://www.educyber.com Permission is hereby granted to redistribute all or part of this newsletter as long as this copyright message is included.
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For questions, or to be removed from this monthly newsletter distribution, email us at edunotes@educyber.com.

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Does a Web Site Make Cents for You?

Maybe the best question is how can a web site make cents (or lots of dollars) for you? Businesses large and small can use web sites to help them make and or save money.
Here are five tips for my five cents on the subject:

  1. Use forms where web site visitors can submit questions, request additional information, or ask for someone to call them. The more specific the form’s function (“Use this form to request a sales representative to call you.”), the more likely it will be used. Don’t ask for information you don’t need – if the customer wants a call back, you don’t need his or her address on the form, just a phone number.
  2. Use key words and phrases that a potential customer would likely search for on the first page of your site. Make sure your site is listed in the search engines – give us a call if you need help with this.
  3. Make sure your web pages are fast loading. Nothing drives people away faster than having slow, “heavy” pages that takes minutes to appear on the screen.
    Use a uniform graphic or color scheme throughout the site to help visitors identify your site.
  4. Last but not least, focus on content not on pretty graphics or other cool features that end up detracting from your message.
  5. (I’ve always got more than five cents worth on a subject) Make sure that your web site address is featured prominently on any and every piece of PR that you put out.
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8 Steps Towards Security

Wondering how to be more secure in an insecure world? It’s not as difficult as you might assume. The following are eight steps to apply to your computing to improve your system security.
1) If you’re purchasing a system, we recommend Windows users get either Windows 2000 or XP Professional. Both of these systems come with built-in security features not available in Windows 98, ME, or even XP Home Edition. For the most part Mac users or Linux users don’t have to worry as much about security issues but they should make sure they keep up-to-date with the latest patches and updates that need to be applied.
2) Another simple security device is using real passwords. For example, a user name of wsmith for William Smith should not use william as a password. William would also not want to use shirley, his wife’s first name or his license plate number or his address. If William wants to make sure he can remember the password, he could even try wi11iam, substituting the l’s (el) for 1’s (one). While this is also a common password trick, it does move the security up a notch. The best passwords are the also the hardest to remember. How about 45rexcyt, 8 numbers tapped out more or less at random but each pair is next to each other on the keyboard?
3) How long have you had the same password? Changing your password on a regular basis is highly recommended. Unless you’re involved in national security or something similar, “regular basis” doesn’t have to mean every day. Every three to six months is just about right for most small businesses. Of course if you have employee turnover, you also need to make sure unused accounts are disabled or deleted and other passwords are changed accordingly.
4) I still find clients who don’t have antivirus programs installed! If your computer has an Internet connection or a floppy drive, it should also have an antivirus program installed and those virus definitions should be updated on, at the bare minimum, a monthly basis, with a weekly basis being the preferred interval. A quick check of the mcafee.com web site reveals that, since June 28th, at least 30 new viruses have been discovered. If you have installed an antivirus program but haven’t updated it since it was installed, your computer is at risk.
5) Following closely on the heels of a good antivirus program is having a good backup routine so that if you get hit or hacked, you can go back to your clean data. With the advent of recordable and rewritable CD’s, the cost of a fast, efficient backup has plummeted. Most small businesses (1 to 5 computers) don’t need whole system backups because it would be cheaper and faster to reinstall the operating system and applications than to try to restore from a tape backup. The critical thing is to have your data backed up. With one CD able to hold over 700 MB of data, most of us can do quite nicely with a CD burner and supply of rewritable CDs.
6) If you’ve got an always on internet connection like a cable modem or DSL router plugged directly into your computer or network and don’t have any software firewall installed, your computer is at great risk of being hacked. Once hacked, your computer could have all its data erased or be used to launch a denial of service attack on another computer. There are many hardware and software firewall options available depending on your needs but zonealarm.com has a decent software firewall free for individual and non-profit users.
7) We wholeheartedly endorse doing business online. There are hundreds of ways you can save money by either selling or buying online. But do it with your eyes wide open. Don’t do business with a company that doesn’t have a phone number and / or physical address or you might be kissing your money goodbye.
8) Looking for a real low-tech security solution? Turn your computer and / or router off at night. Does that always on Internet connection need to be on all night? If not, you can turn it off at night (check with your technology provider to determine how to best do this if you’re not sure). Of course, if you have backups or other automated processes that run in the wee hours, you’ll want to make sure you leave the computers on but you still might be able to turn off your Internet connection.

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