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PC Rescue newsletter March 2008

Is it the moment of truth for Windows Vista?

Last week service pack one for Windows Vista was released. In the past this is when most home and business users started looking at upgrading. So why is this not happening with Vista?

We'll be having a look at the Vista service pack In our upcoming ABC Nightlife spot along with the new breed of ultra small laptops. On the 702 Sydney Weekend spot we'll be looking at a project to conserve important emails for the historical record.

On the Microsoft Office front, there are some big differences in the way Office saves files. This can cause problems for users of older versions of Office. The problem applies to both Mac and Windows users and we look at how you can avoid it.

If you're feeling challenged by technology then the new PCs for Dummies book is on the shelves. This month is also Dummies month and every purchase of a Dummies guide gets a ten dollar cashback. Check with your local bookstore for further details.

This month's topics include,

Windows Vista service pack released
Is it time to get Vista?
Buying Windows XP
April ABC Spots
Reading newer Microsoft Office files
Business Tech Talk
Apple gets cheeky
Dummies Month
Spyware gets clever
Jargon of the Month: CAPTCHA
ANZ Bank scam warning

NSW Senior's week

The big theme of this month's newsletter is the Microsoft Vista service pack. So what exactly is a service pack?


Windows VistaVista Service Pack

No software is perfect. Regardless of how good a package is there will always be updates and revisions.

Microsoft's way of dealing with this is to occasional bundle all the updates into one big package, throw in some new features and eliminate a pile of bugs. Experienced Microsoft customers wait until the first service pack of any Microsoft product.

This week the first service pack for Vista will start appearing in the Windows Update service. If you are using Vista it should appear as an optional update. When it does, we recommend you install it.

Before going ahead with the installation, make sure you have a full backup of your system. While we haven't heard any negative reports about the service pack, things can go wrong with such a major upgrade.

Note there are some applications that don't work with Vista after the service pack is installed. Some notable programs are Zone Alarm Firewall, Bit Defender Anti Virus and the Fujitsu Shock Sensor. There will certainly be more to be added to Microsoft's list.

The service pack itself doesn't seem to have many changes to the look and feel of the system. Microsoft have concentrated on making improvements on the underlying system with things like better file copying speeds.

Overall the service pack is an important update if you are running Windows Vista. We recommend you install it at the first opportunity.

Is it time to buy Windows Vista?

Normally the release of the first service pack heralds the time to consider buying a new Microsoft product. So is it time to move to Windows Vista?

We think not. For most users, there are few compelling reasons to buy Vista and a good number of reasons not to. The least being compatibility problems with even recently released hardware and software.

If you own an existing system running XP there is absolutely no reason to install Vista on it. In fact in many cases you may lose features and functionality.

It is becoming difficult to buy a new system without Vista so if you do buy a new machine running the newer Windows make sure you have enough memory to get the most from it. We recommend a minimum of 2Gb for any Vista machine and Vista Home Premium or Vista business is preferred over Vista Home Basic.

Buying Windows XP

Microsoft originally intended to stop selling XP at the beginning of the year, but the market's lack of enthusiasm forced Microsoft to reconsider.

The new deadline is the end of July so if you are looking for a new computer, it's worthwhile checking out Windows XP systems before they are withdrawn.

We think Microsoft will extend the deadline further and they have already created a loophole for computer builders catering to the small business market who can continue to sell XP until the beginning of next year.

Note too that some suppliers, such as Dell, don't publicise that certain systems can be supplied with XP. If you want an older system, insist on it and you will probably find XP becomes available when you threaten to take your money elsewhere.

ABC Radio Spots

The April radio spots are on over the next two weeks. For listeners in WA, Victoria and Tasmania the AFL coverage clashes with our Friday Night Nightlife spot but you can listen online at the Nightlife website. Online listeners are welcome to call or send in their comments.

702 Sydney Weekends

The next Weekend spot is 10am Sunday, April 13 when we'll be discussing a new idea to preserve emails. Listeners outside of Sydney can tune in on the 702 website.

Nightlife, nationally on ABC Local Radio

The next Nightlife spot is Friday, April 4 at 10.15pm when we'll be looking at the new breed of ultra portable computers and taking your calls on Microsoft Vista and other computer issues.

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

Reading newer Microsoft Office files

Microsoft has introduced a new Office file format for both the 2007 Windows edition and 2008 Mac version. The new XML based format has a number of advantages over the older formats but older versions of Office cannot read them.

If you are using an older version of Microsoft Office we recommend you download the Office Compatibility Kit for Windows (the Mac version is still under development) from the Microsoft website so you can read Office 2007/8 files.

Users of Office 2007 and 2008 will almost certainly be sick of being told their files can't be read. The solution for this is to change your default file formats to the older versions of Word, Excel and Powerpoint. We'll have how to do this on our IT Queries website in the next few days.

Business tech talk column

This month, Paul's weekly Tuesday blog on the Smart Company website looked at the new Office 2008 for the Mac, business Internet domains and choosing the right tools for your business.

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.

Apple gets cheeky

Safari is Apple's web browser which comes built into the Apple Mac and is available for Windows computers. We've never really recommended it as an alternative to Internet Explorer as we've found it somewhat slow compared to Firefox and Opera.

The new 3.1 version, which Apple claims is quicker than the previous versions, was released last week to so far good reviews.

However Apple have decided to bundle Safari into their iTunes and QuickTime upgrade program. This means you will asked if you want to install Safari by the Apple updater in the next few days.

We'd recommend not installing it unless you want to try it out. To stop the installation, just take the tick off the box alongside the Safari option when the installer box pops up.

Bank scam warnings

We've seen a big rise in bank scams in the last few weeks. Today St George Bank issued a warning about Internet hoaxes circulating over the last few weeks. We have one claiming to be from St George in our inboxes this morning.

Another nifty little scam went around over the weekend claiming to be an online survey from the chief executive of the ANZ Bank. Fill in the details and you might win a Sony laptop computer. Or so they say.

Of course these are phishing expeditions where the aim is to steal your account details, PINs and passwords so they can loot your bank accounts.

You should never give out valuable information by email or over the phone. The ANZ bank has some very good advice on how to deal with these issues.

Dummies Month

March is Dummies Month and the publishers, John Wiley Australia, are offering a $10 cashback on all Dummies titles. Check out your local bookstore for more promotions and special offers. We'll also have the new edition of PCs for Dummies on the shelves for the end of the month.

PCs for Dummies
Internet for Dummies
Laptops for Dummies

Spyware gets clever

One of the things we've seen over the last few years has been the increasing sophistication of spyware and virus writers. A story over the weekend tells of how the rights to use compromised computers are being sold by hackers.

The whole reason for this trade is botnets, where a network of infected computers is used to attack other computers or to send out spam like the phishing scams mentioned above.

Ten years ago virus writing was an amateur hobby; today it is big business. This another good reason to secure your computer.

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.

Jargon of the month: CAPTCHAs

While surfing the web, you might have noticed many sites now require you to copy some strange looking characters into a box before you can continue. These are called CAPTCHAs which stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.

The aim of a CAPTCHA is to stop automated programs signing up for services or filling comments pages with spam. To date it has worked, but these things are always a race between the good and bad guys.

Expect to see CAPTCHAs get more complex in the next few years as the bad guys get better at beating them.

NSW Senior's week

NSW Senior's week is between the 6th and 13th of April. As part of the week PC Rescue's managing director, Paul Wallbank, will be giving a talk on the Bridging the Digital Divide at the Council Of The Ageing, Level 5, 280 Pitt Street, Sydney from 9am, April 9.

If you'd like Paul to speak at one of your functions, contact us for more details.

If you wish to unsubscribe, please do so through our subscriptions page.

If you have a topic you'd like us to discuss on the websites, Smart Company blog or the radio spots please don't hesitate to contact us through the website.

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©Technology Publishing Australia, 2007