Radschool Association Magazine - Vol 46

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Sam Houliston



Computers and stuff


Sam Houliston.

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There is every chance that you will receive an email from a mob called FanBox saying something like:- “On March 15 you earned $2.75 and your all time earnings are $234.40”. This is nothing but a phishing attempt through a spam mail. Delete it immediately.


Fanbox is a shady company that was fined and banned in the UK for operating misleading SMS services, now they’ve turned to a web-based service and are flooding the web with spam.


The spam mail sent by Fanbox claims that “you were invited by (someone you know) to the FanBox Beta product launch of IPL (I’ll Pay Later) and you can earn by advertising your product, service or blog now and pay later”.


In case you do not have a product, service or blog, then it offers you to participate in the profits from other people’s sales now and pay later, something it termed as ‘boosting’.


The service (of Fanbox) tricks people into giving up their email addresses, passwords and mobile phone numbers and then spams them relentlessly. The spam messages have a ‘to stop receiving emails click here’ link but all that does is let FanBox know that your email address is live. Don’t do that either.


So what’s in it for FanBox??


First, it collects your email ID, data and contacts and then uses that for marketing (spamming) and may also be selling it to some other interested parties. Secondly, after a few emails, Fanbox sends a mail asking for a ‘maintenance fee’ for an account that may not even exist. Here is a sample mail Fanbox sends for the maintenance fee…




As of Nov. 7, 2012, you had utilized $371.58 of your “I’ll Pay Later” funds, and have earned $309.91 since you started utilizing IPL.


Your October processing fee of $5.69 became due on Nov. 12, 2012. You'll want to pay your processing fee immediately to protect your account and money. Please note that if your processing fee has not been paid by 22 Nov. 2012, a late fee will be added to your processing fee.


Amount due if paid before 22 Nov. 2012: $5.69

Amount due if paid on or after 22 Nov. 2012: $15.69




The FanBox Account Protection Team”


So what is the remedy to avoid getting trapped into Fanbox spam scam? In your mailbox, mark the mail from Fanbox as spam (for Gmail, you can also report it for phishing). If necessary create a filter that can automatically sends any mail from Fanbox to trash.


And most important, do not click on any link in the mailer.




Why continuing support for XP is bad maths.


More than a few Windows XP users are willing to pay Microsoft for more updates to the now effectively obsolete OS and in theory, doing so could produce billions in revenue for Microsoft. Here's why it's not going to happen.


A lot of people who are happy with XP say they would be more than willing to pay Microsoft a perpetual fee to continue supporting Windows XP. To gain significant traction, the subscription would have to be priced reasonably for the average PC user, perhaps U.S. $25 a year. It's an interesting concept but how much money could Microsoft rake in for ongoing XP support? Let's take a quick look at the math.


There are roughly 300 to 500 million PCs in the world still running Windows XP; let's split the difference and say there are 400 million some of whom are government agencies and major corporations that are already paying Microsoft significant fees for extended XP support. So let's cut the number in half and say there are 200 million consumers still using the now unsupported Windows XP and assuming most of those individuals would be willing to pay $25 per year to avoid upgrading to a more modern operating system, Microsoft might see roughly $4 billion in annual revenue.


That's hardly chump change, especially given that Microsoft's entire net income for the most recent fiscal quarter was $5.66 billion and there would be almost no cost to Microsoft as it's already investigating flaws and developing patches for the supported versions of Windows. At face value, it seems like a win for both Microsoft and Windows XP users.


It isn't — and Microsoft knows that. There's almost no chance that the company will implement any consumer-based, pay-for-support program for XP and we should all be thankful for that. The issues with Windows XP run much deeper than just patching known vulnerabilities on the second Tuesday of each month. Moreover, Microsoft has motives and concerns that go beyond patching XP vulnerabilities and fighting off exploits.


Windows XP wasn't built to be vulnerable; but its architecture has made it so over time. Back when the Internet was relatively new, XP was a great operating system and it's still a perfectly functional OS for applications that do not require a network or Web connection. But from a security standpoint, XP is now simply too archaic. Connecting the OS to the Internet is like speeding down the highway in a car with no seat belts. It's not only dangerous for you but today's malware makes it hazardous for every other PC with a shared network or Internet connection.


Patching XP won't provide the security tools introduced with Windows Vista and enhanced with Windows 7 and Windows 8. Current versions of Windows also include User Account Control (UAC), which helps protect users running in administrator mode, which on most machines is the default. UAC forces you to approve specific changes to Windows, such as installing or updating applications. XP lets an attacker run malicious code with full administrator privileges.


Windows XP is almost always at significantly greater risk than newer versions of Windows


The liabilities of XP are not limited solely to Microsoft. Third-party hardware and software vendors are also affected. As long as Microsoft supports a legacy operating system, hardware and software vendors typically feel obligated to do so, too. If Microsoft initiated a paid-support subscription for individual XP users, the makers of monitors, keyboards, webcams, and software would also have to continue investing resources to keep their products compatible with Windows XP. So the cost equation isn't limited just to Microsoft. Adding in the many hardware and software vendors tied to a PC makes the math far more complicated and if you factor in the entire Windows XP ecosystem, that $4 billion of revenue for Microsoft could be offset by many more billions spent by other vendors.


Not to be facetious, but there were probably people who would've paid for continued support of eight-track tapes or 5.25-inch floppy drives. Technologies evolve, and so do threats to those technologies and in most cases, the older the technology, the greater the hazard. Most of us are very happy that our cars have seat belts, crumple zones, airbags, and more cup holders.


Windows XP users are still welcome to continue using the aged OS just as there are those who will still get some use from their effectively obsolete 3.5-inch floppy drive. But all security experts strongly recommend limiting the use of XP to standalone applications. Don't connect it to the Internet, especially if it shares a network with other PCs. A successful infection on an XP system could easily spread to other machines.


Regardless of whether and how you choose to continue using Windows XP, the concept of paying for support just doesn't add up. Not for users and not for vendors — not even for $4 billion a year.



In bed, it's 6.00am, you close your eyes for 5 minutes - it's 7.45am

At work, it's 1.30pm, you close your eyes for 5 minutes - it's 1.31pm



There is an alternative to XP – and it’s FREE.


If your computer hardware is still good you may want to consider replacing Windows XP with Linux Mint to be able to safely use the PC now that Microsoft has stopped their support for Windows XP.


Linux is a free, very secure, open source (like Firefox) operating system which is available in a variety of ‘distributions’. The appearance and method of operation are the obvious things that distinguish different distributions. Linux Mint is one of the distributions that has the shortest learning curve for Windows XP users.


The series of pictures and commentary below show what to do to get Linux Mint working on a computer that originally came with Windows XP. The installation process as described is non-reversible so be careful, although if you replace your hard drive with another one you can then keep your Windows XP hard drive as a backup. When you install Linux Mint, the hard drive in your PC should be in good condition and probably at least 10 gigabytes, but it doesn’t have to have a functioning operating system on it to start the installation.


So, if you have XP on your machine and you don’t want to spend money on a newer version of Windows, this will do the same sorts of things that Windows 7 and 8 will do (but running Linux programs rather than Windows ones), and you can download it for free.


You will need a good internet connection as it’s about one gigabyte and will take around 15-20 minutes to download on Bigpond cable.


Here’s how:


















Go HERE  which will take you to the page at left. 


Click on the MATE program. You will need to select either the 32 bit or 64 bit version, depending on your computer. If you have been running XP odds on you have a 32 bit machine.


This takes you to a page at left which will have a lot of possible download sites. Somewhere near the bottom you’ll find the Australian sites in ‘Oceania’, pick one that looks like it might work well for you (they will all work but some may be quicker than others depending on your location and internet provider.



Depending on your browser, you will get something like the prompt at left, so save the iso file somewhere on your PC and burn a DVD from it.


How you do that depends on how your PC is set up, you could right click the file after it has downloaded and be presented with an option to burn, otherwise do some googling and find out how to burn the DVD. If that’s too difficult for you, you should probably not proceed with the installation of Mint, however, conversely, if you manage to do that successfully you’ll quite likely be ok.


At this point make sure you have everything backed up from your XP machine in a form which is easy to read. Copying your documents, pictures etc to a USB drive or a large USB flash drive will be easy to work with. Or you may want to burn to a CD or DVD.  If you have any doubts at all about the quality of the backup medium, backup to two different places.


Although it is possible to install both Linux Mint and XP on the same hard drive so that you select which operating system to use at startup, I do not recommend this. If you want to keep your old Windows hard drive as a backup, see if you can find a different hard drive to put in your PC instead of the Windows one, this is normally just a screwdriver and plug job, the hard thing might be finding a suitable IDE drive. If you do find such a drive, use it INSTEAD of the Windows drive, not AS WELL as the Windows drive.



Once your backups are sorted out, put the Linux Mint DVD in the PC’s DVD reader, power off your PC, make sure what you plan to use in the way of speakers, mouse, internet cable, webcam etc are plugged in then restart. Most built in or USB WiFi devices are supported, if you don’t have an internet cable you can click networking icon on the bar at the bottom and connect to WiFi. A cable is usually quicker.  You will get the screen below, right-click the Install Linux Mint icon and select open.


On the resulting screen (left), assuming you want English, just click Continue:



When this screen appears, click Continue:



On this screen, the default selection may be to install Linux Mint alongside the other operating system, which will normally be Windows XP.  CHANGE THIS to ‘Erase Windows XP and reinstall’ (or similar) which will probably be the second option, then click Continue:



On this next screen, click Install Now:



On the next screen, it should have worked out a suitable location for your time zone setting, so just click Continue:


On the this screen it should have worked out what keyboard you use, so just hit enter:


This screen will ask for your name, pick a user name and password, I’ve found it’s best not to alter the computer name here (it’s ok to change it after installation). It’s also best not to select Log In automatically:



The next screen gives you the option of taking a pic with your webcam, I’ve never tried it but you could probably put a pic on a USB stick and select that to be associated with your login. When done click Continue:



Then file copying starts, followed by a few screens describing the capabilities on Linux Mint:






Finally it ends and you get this screen, click Restart now to start up your new operating system:



After restarting, sign in by clicking your name/userid on the login screen then entering your password. When you finish signing in for the first time you will see a screen like this:


'Click the Menu button (like the Windows Start button) and from the menu click 'All applications' at the top right'



From the All Applications menu select Preferences then Appearance as shown:



On the resulting window, click the customise button and make the selections shown on the tabs ‘Controls’, Window Border’ and ‘Icons’, then close all of the windows associated with ‘Appearance Preferences’












At this stage you should have a reasonably familiar looking operating system, but updates since the installation material was created should be applied by clicking the small shield towards the right of the bar at the bottom. This will bring up a window similar to the one shown here, just leave everything alone and click 'Install Updates' on the toolbar (under the green tick). You should carry out updating like this regularly, say once a week.


You may sometimes be prompted to install updates without having clicked on the shield at the bottom of the screen, this is ok. Note that this is the only update process you have to worry about, and it will only update when you want it to. It's not like Windows where update pop-ups appear from time to time to update software such as Acrobat, Flash and Java:


The initial installation of Linux Mint includes:


  • Libre Office which can be used instead of MS Office for most things

  • Thunderbird which can be used instead of Outlook

  • VLC Media Player and Banshee (which is more along the lines of iTunes)

  • Gimp which is a comprehensive image editor sometimes compared with Photoshop

  • gThumb which is a bit like Picasa-lite (shows pictures, can do full screen slideshows, has a basic image editor).


If you click on the menu button and then select Software Manager (a bit like the Google Play store) you can install Picasa, but it's not the latest version. If your processor is on the slow side, forget Picasa and learn to love Thumb, which is actually quite a nice product.


Also to be found in Software Manager is:-


  • Audacity, which I love, great for capturing audio from vinyl or cassette which you can then edit and split into individual tracks if you want to.

  • Aisleriot, with which you can play solitaire, freecell and a whole lot of other similar games.

  • Skype, this is the only product I can think of that runs more efficiently in Windows. Unless you have a dual core processor as a minimum you're likely to get unusable hashy video if you try to run video in both directions at once. But apart from that Microsoft are delivering a good solid version of Skype for Linux users.


It might be worthwhile getting PulseAudio Volume Control if you're going to use Skype, if the microphone doesn't work first time it can make sorting out the microphone a bit easier.


It's definitely worth downloading the Chrome browser from the Google site (rather than the cut-down Chromium browser from Software Manager) and maybe making it the default browser. It handles recent Flash better than other Linux browsers and as far as I know is still the only Linux browser that handles ABC iView properly. Apart from not supporting iView, the version of Firefox that comes with Linux Mint seems good.


When up to date as at the last check, the shield on the bar at the bottom will contain a green tick. It will have a red cross if it needs updating. If it has an ‘I’ inside there are updates available, but you’re reasonably up to date.


The medibuntu repository irregularity isn't a problem with the new release.


Have fun with Linux!






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