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Tech Q and A: New Cat in Town

First impressions of Snow Leopard, Apple’s new operating system. Problems loading FoxNews.com. Will upgrading to a new operating system allow me to use more RAM? A strange start-up message. What can I do about spam? And more, after the break.

I had the opportunity to install and play with Snow Leopard, the newest release of Apple’s OS X operating system. That’s pronounced “oh ess ten” as opposed to “oh ess ecks.” The latter, I’m told by reliable sources, marks you as a clueless newbie.

I have to say that I love the packaging. A Snow Leopard with a dollop of snow atop his head, worn at a rakish angle that reminds me of a guerilla’s beret. Staring directly at you as if to say, “Let’s do lunch sometime. You can be the lunch.”

The packaging is killer. The operating system itself looks pretty much like Leopard, which it replaces. At first glance, about the only thing that looks different is the lack of a hard disk icon in the upper right-hand corner of the screen (you can turn it back on in System Preferences — Apple seems to be going with a cleaner, sleeker look as its default).

Under the hood there’s a world of difference. As Engadget’s Joshua Topolsky put it, “… underneath the customary OS X fit and finish there's a lot of new plumbing at work here. The entire OS is now 64-bit, meaning apps can address massive amounts of RAM and other tasks go much faster. The Finder has been entirely re-written in Cocoa, which Mac fans have been clamoring for since 10.0. There's a new version of QuickTime, which affects media playback on almost every level of the system. And on top of all that, there's now Exchange support in Mail, iCal, and Address Book, making OS X finally play nice with corporate networks out of the box”

Snow Leopard works great. Everything snicks into place, like the gears in a Porsche transmission. It seems to run faster than its predecessor. I’m unabashedly more of a Windows guy than a Mac guy, but this new OS has me just about to reach for the Kool-Aid. Is there some way to effectively use Exposé without having to reach for the mouse, and braille out the two small buttons on either side?

Because everything has been rewritten, some of your third-party applications may no longer work. After the upgrade, you’ll probably end up with a folder of “Incompatible Apps.” If you have a 32-bit screensaver that you’re fond of, or a 32-bit plug-in for the Mail app that you can’t live without, you’re going to have to pony up the cost of its 64-bit replacement, and add it to your upgrade cost.

Check a software compatibility list before you commit to the upgrade. There’s one at http://snowleopard.wikidot.com/

For What It’s Worth Department: For those of you so inclined, you can follow me on Twitter. Add “citizen_gee” to your “following” list. I’ll tweet whenever a new installment of Tech Q & A is published, along with a direct link.

It Makes One Weak

Q: Every time I go to the FOX News website my computer freezes. I have no issues with any other websites, not even FOX Nation. I have Norton and have run security (malware, spyware etc.) programs but it still does not work. This has been since Sunday. FOX still works from my Blackberry and other computers. It only doesn't work on the computer I use most frequently that has a Vista Home Premium 64 bit system.

A: We need to get this fixed! Seven days without access to FoxNews.com makes one week!

Your problem sounds like an issue with an add-on. Go ahead and fire up Internet Explorer. Choose “Tools” and then select “Manage Add-ons.” In the list of add-ons, look for one with a “File date” which corresponds with the approximate time your browser started acting up. Highlight it and then choose “Disable.”

Close down Internet Explorer and then restart it. See if the problem still exists.

If your system is anything like mine, the offending add-on is Microsoft Silverlight, pushed out on or about Wednesday, July 22. Don’t know if it’s the website or the add-on itself -- but after I disabled it, I didn’t have a problem loading the site any more.

You Can’t Put 64 Bits of Mud in a 32 Bit Sack

Q:I recently upgraded my desktop PC's RAM to 5Gb only to have the OS recognize 2Gb. After some research I find out my Windows XP Professional is a 32 bit OS [and] will not recognize the additional RAM. What are my options to make use of my new RAM? Install 64 bit XP Pro, Vista or is the new Windows 7 a better option?

A:Depends entirely on the central processing unit (CPU) on your motherboard. If it’s a 32-bit processor, a 64-bit operating system won’t do you a bit of good.

Assuming a 64-bit processor, I would go with Vista. Windows 7 is only available as a release candidate at the present time, and they’re not selling XP any more. I would advise against installing Windows 7 — on production machines, at least — until the first Service Pack comes out.

Let others be the guinea pigs.

With Vista installed, you can upgrade to Windows 7 when the time comes, as opposed to buying the full retail version.

Where’s the Beef? And Why is it Dead?

Q:Every time I boot up my HP dv2000 Windows XP notebook, I get a popup that says:

lsass.exe - Application Error

Big, red circle with a white "X" inside. The instruction at "0x742e48b6" referenced memory at "0xbeefdead". The memory could not be "read".

Click on OK to terminate the program

Click on CANCEL to debug the program

A:I’m betting on some sort of malware, despite your assurance that you’ve run anti-virus and anti-spyware scans. The referenced memory location is at more or less the 3Gb mark. That’s three billion memory locations, and the hexadecimal address (as denoted by the “0x” in front) of this one just happens to spell “beef dead” in English?

I’m not a big believer in coincidence. This error message doesn’t pass the smell test.

Spam, spam, spam, spam …

Q: I, like everybody else get spam mail from MSN, Yahoo, Google etc and when I try to report it, there are so many hoops to jump through for each spam that I just give it up.

Why can't you just forward the offending spam to the appropriate email provider and forget it? My time is more valuable than to sit around doing MSN's, Yahoo's and others jobs for them!

A: Not much you can do about spam. For that matter, there’s not a whole lot MSN, Yahoo! or Google can do about it, either. Resistance is futile, you will be spammed.

The solution I’ve found most effective is from SpamArrest. It works by retrieving e-mail from all of your various e-mail accounts and applying a whitelist — that is, a list of people or companies you permit to send you e-mail. It delivers whitelisted messages, keeps all the rest in a folder for your periodic review.

It takes 30-60 days to get it properly “trained” — after that, you just need to log on every week (or so) to check for anything that might have accidently gotten trapped in your spam filter.

I generally have to scan thru about 750 messages. Don’t usually find a single one worth keeping.

Live human beings can self-whitelist. They get a polite message telling them that their mail can be delivered by typing the characters they see in a graphic. For the time being, the servers which send out spam cannot pass this check. You can also add entire domains to your whitelist (allow messages from anybody with a “your-employer.com,” “your-bank.com,” or “your-utility-company.com” address.

Costs about 50 scoots per year. Well worth it in terms of the time and aggravation it will save you.

Feedback

Rick writes:

I am of the opinion that your definitions of notebooks -v- laptops are 180 out. The laptop has the bigger screen larger fans, more external USB ports and/or standard keyboard and mouse import ports and a VGA output port plus usually a optional porting dock. With external etsa ports mad video cards are upgradeable. With a 17" screen or 19" on some models make the laptop the portable desktop replacement.

I find notebooks are usually a smaller size 14" to 15" screen with less features and options. But the smaller size makes them fit on a school desk’s desk better and they have a longer battery life.

To each his own, Rick. I certainly understand your classification and I think that you would agree with me that “if there is a difference” between laptops and notebooks, it is in the area of size. We’ll just have to disagree on which size is which.

To me, it seems like the laptop would be smaller, so that it could, erm ... fit on your lap. The notebook would be larger, and sit on a desk. Like a real notebook.

Reminds me of the story about little Johnny. His grandfather says, “I remember when you were small enough to sit on my lap.” Johnny replies, “Grandfather, I remember when you used to have a lap.”


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