Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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December 2002, Week 1 -- Viruses, Spam and Other Problems



 Internet Security


   "Norton Internet Security" for 2003 adds spam blocking to their virus protection. The editors at PC Magazine made it their "editor's choice," but half the user comments say it's a mess and forget it.

   Problems with the new Norton package seem to center on browsing the Internet. The trouble with some virus protection software is that it identifies some web sites as security risks and won't let you log on. Some of these sites might be important for your work. Other users said they couldn't access their email and the program locked their system. Fixes took anywhere from a few minutes to three weeks. Other complaints included frequent notices to upgrade and one user who noted it refused to give his wife permission to browse the web because it insisted she wasn't old enough. Tech support costs $30 a call.


   I'll skip this one, but if you like Norton the new program is $70 from There's a $30 rebate, making the final cost $40.


   My Own Take On Spam: It depends on your attitude. I find spam amusing and don't block any of it. I look at it as the world's nutball fringe going by my computer screen. What would the day be like without half a dozen requests from Nigerians wanting me to open a bank account in both our names and deposit a large sum to show my good faith? Then there are herbs and mysterious medicines for all occasions, mortgages I don't need or want, invitations to casinos, tips on the stock market, special deals on junk jewelry, cameras, watches, computers, brokers who will find the car I'm looking for, and real estate agents who say I've won a free trip to somewhere near somewhere I might have heard of.


   Has anyone ever had any trouble finding a new car? Or opened a Nigerian bank account? Is property for sale difficult to find; my local newspaper list weighs several pounds. Does anyone actually buy any of this stuff? Hard to believe. I'm told by people who should know such things that spam can pay off with a favorable response rate as low as two people in every ten thousand. I'm sure the Nigerian con men need fewer than that. It's all pretty amusing. Try to look at it for laughs.


Speak with a geek


   No, it's not a promotion for a circus sideshow, it's tech support This is one of several such services we've written about (you can search our web site for more). This one is $35 a month, with a five-day free trial. Only problem is they want your credit card number first, so if you don't like it you have to remember to cancel. We tried it and our geek solved the problem. The service is available 24 hours a day and seems like a good one. You can query them online or by phone.

  National Geographic 

113 Years of the World, 42 cents a year

   Forget about garage sales; here are 32 CDs with every page of every issue of the National Geographic from 1888 to the end of 2000. Giant type on the box says it covers "112 Years," but by my calculation, the period from the beginning of 1888 to the end of 2000 is 113 years, not 112. Oh well, simple arithmetic was never their strong suit.

   As their promotion states: from mummies to moon landings, from the top of Everest to the bottom of the sea, every map, photo, article and advertisement. A great deal on a great magazine. For Win/Mac. We found it for less than $48 at


A moving experience

  Move 2 Mac 

   "Move to Mac" pretty much says it all in the title. The object here is moving your files from a Windows computer to a Macintosh.

   You can't move Windows programs to the Mac, and indeed there would be no point since they wouldn't work. But you can move files, folders, photos and some other data. You can also do these things manually, but Move to Mac makes it much faster. The program is $70 for Windows from Detto Technologies



--  Home page of the World Policy Institute, a think tank based at the New School in New York City. The most useful part of this site is the list of links to several hundred publications devoted to discussions of politics and economics, research organizations, citizen action groups, international think tanks, etc. A mix of liberal and conservative organizations.


And now for some fun ...

  Butt Ugly Martians

-- "Butt-Ugly Martians" is a series of old-fashioned arcade games updated with Martian characters from a Nickolodeon TV show. The action pauses before you start each new action sequence and any age can play. Simple fare and fun; we liked it. For Win/Mac, $30, by Vivendi-Universal, web:

-- Another new Nancy Drew adventure, this one a big improvement over the last. It's called "Ghost Dogs of Moon Lake" and is appropriately spooky and scary. But don't worry, spunky girl detective Nancy Drew never gets hurt, but always needs your help to solve the case. These adventure games are totally great! From Her Interactive, $20 for Windows.


   "Building Wireless Community Networks," by Rob Flickenger; $25, O'Reilly A slim, easy to follow volume on how to create a wireless community-wide network. Instructions on equipment, antenna placement, etc.

NOTE: Readers can search four years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at or