Want to travel really light? Consider travelling with a Palm handheld instead of a beefy PowerBook. Jeff Carlson looks at what you'll need to make it a reality. Also, Brady Johnson passes on a collection of sites that provide information and tools for combatting spam. Finally, Apple releases firmware and Ethernet updates for current Macs, and we note the releases of Eudora 4.3.2, Spring Cleaning 3.5, and AMUG's 3.2 GB shareware DVD.
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Eudora 4.3.2 Fixes Numerous Minor Bugs -- Qualcomm has released Eudora 4.3.2, a minor update to their popular email program. Eudora 4.3.2 fixes a long list of minor bugs including a few that could cause crashes, so the free update is well worth downloading. You can download a 375K patch that will update either Eudora 4.3 or 4.3.1 to 4.3.2, or if you've held out on upgrading so far, you can instead get a 5 MB updater that will update an existing version of Eudora Pro 4.x to 4.3.2. Eudora 4.3.2 requires a PowerPC-based Mac running Mac OS 7.6 or later. For more information about Eudora, see our "All About Eudora" series of articles. [ACE]
Ethernet Update for Recent Macs -- If you're experiencing Ethernet problems with an iBook, a FireWire-equipped PowerBook, or a slot-loading iMac or Power Mac G4 shipped since November 1999, Apple may have a fix for you with its Ethernet Update 1.0. The update is intended to improve Ethernet reliability on uncommon network setups, usually including large unswitched 10Base-5 (thick Ethernet) or 10Base-2 (thin Ethernet) segments with unusually small interpacket gaps (the delay between transmission of Ethernet data packets) or dropouts due to high network activity (after repeated attempts to retransmit data have failed). The update is a 2.5 MB download; it requires Mac OS 9.0.4 and replaces the Mac OS ROM file - but if you aren't experiencing Ethernet trouble, there's no need to download this update. [GD]
Spring Cleaning 3.5 Adds iClean -- Aladdin Systems has released Spring Cleaning 3.5, the latest version of the company's utility for cleaning up your hard disk. Along with features for removing duplicate files, fixing broken aliases, eliminating empty folders, and deleting unnecessary files related to uninstalled applications, Spring Cleaning now adds iClean, which saves disk space and protects privacy by deleting browser caches, Internet history files, and cookies. Although Spring Cleaning doesn't do much that you couldn't do by hand or with a variety of other utilities, it automates and simplifies the process of finding and deleting all the unnecessary files. Spring Cleaning 3.5 costs $50, but upgrades are $20 for owners of previous versions or any other Aladdin product (recent purchasers of Spring Cleaning 3.0 can upgrade for $7.50 shipping & handling). [ACE]
AMUG Puts 3.2 GB of Shareware on DVD -- With their 650 MB of storage space, CD-ROMs just don't cut it as large file repositories any more. But the Arizona Macintosh Users Group (AMUG) has now released a collection of Macintosh freeware and shareware on DVD, containing over 9,500 items for a full 3.2 GB of files (over 5 GB decompressed). Of course, you could find and download almost everything in this collection from the Internet (including numerous updates and utilities licensed from Apple), but the DVD provides faster access for those without high-speed connections, and it's also a useful archive for future reference. AMUG includes databases of the DVD's contents in several formats; unfortunately, Sherlock searches of the DVD are unaccountably slow. The DVD costs $20 ($26 outside the U.S.) direct from AMUG. [ACE]
Poll Results: Keeping It to Yourself -- Last issue's article on how people view their privacy (see "Thread Models and Domination Systems" in TidBITS-532) inspired our poll question of "Do you use any of the following strategies to protect your privacy online?" Your threat models must not devote much space to online privacy, since only 732 people responded at all. Among respondents, roughly two-thirds said that they used strong passwords, didn't give personal information to Web sites, and blocked or audited cookies. The other options received significantly lower usage rates, with between 7 and 22 percent of the respondents saying that they used anonymous email or Web proxies, or encrypted email, files, or disks. The topic also spawned several interesting discussions on TidBITS Talk, including one on whether or not PGP was in fact too much of a pain to use on a regular basis. [ACE]
Poll Preview: On the Road Again -- Later in this issue, Jeff Carlson looks at some devices that make a Palm organizer more useful on the road. You'll have to read on to see if Jeff decides he can use his Palm in favor of his PowerBook, but we're curious what computing and communication devices you find the most useful when you're travelling. Whether you consider yourself a high-tech road warrior or a low-tech Luddite, tell us what you prefer to use on our home page! (For the purposes of this poll, consider yourself to be "travelling" whenever you're doing work away from your normal workplace - you don't have to go as far as Gideon Greenspan did in his Working off the Beaten Track articles!) [ACE]
by Geoff Duncan <email@example.com>
Apple has released separate firmware updates for slot-loading iMacs, iBooks, Power Mac G4s, and FireWire-equipped PowerBooks running Mac OS 9.0 or later. The patches update the firmware to version 2.4, and address the following issues:
Slot-loading iMacs can better handle AC power fluctuations that might cause the machine to shut down unexpectedly, and those running Mac OS 9.0.4 gain the capability of using a FireWire device as a startup disk. The update also fixes uncommon problems where the machine may not start up correctly.
iBooks gain improved support for 256 MB memory modules and USB storage devices.
On Power Mac G4s, the update corrects problems recognizing more than 1 GB of memory and startup problems with some third-party memory modules. Also, early Power Mac G4s gain the capability to use a FireWire device as a startup disk.
FireWire-equipped PowerBooks also gain improved support for USB storage devices and the ability to use a FireWire device as a startup disk. The update also improves support for FireWire target disk mode, which enables the PowerBook to be connected to another Mac as if it were an FireWire drive.
All the updates are available as self-mounting disk images and are less than 700K downloads. Before performing any firmware update, be sure to read the instructions with the update for complete information on upgrading your firmware - and having a complete backup of your data in case something goes wrong is never a bad idea. However, remember that Apple's firmware upgrades are irreversible and sometimes cause problems for third party add-ons such as SCSI PCI cards. If you use such peripherals, we'd encourage you to check with the vendor before updating.
by Brady R. Johnson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
After my recent two-part article on spam laws (see "Email Spam: The Bandwagon Plays On" beginning in TidBITS-528), many readers wrote privately and to TidBITS Talk with requests for practical information. The survey of how United States law is addressing the problem was all very interesting, they wrote, but what can ordinary Internet users actually do about spam without having to sue someone?
I often find myself telling clients that litigation is usually one of the worst ways to resolve a dispute. It is often slow and tedious, costly both in terms of money and time, follows arcane rules (some of which date back to "I Claudius!") and is inherently risky in the end. If there is any other alternative, using it is often the best course of action.
On the individual spam-fighting level, you can create filters in Eudora, Outlook Express, and other email clients that will catch the more obvious spam. If you're not inclined to do that, services such as Brightmail can do it for you. If you want to take a more active role, you can sign petitions, write your elected representatives, and, of course, boycott companies with inconsistent or nonexistent spam policies.
I have compiled a short list of Web sites that offer those things and more. Many of these were recommended by those who wrote in (thank you!), while others are sites I've found and use myself. There are many more sites than those I mention below. If you run across others that you think are particularly noteworthy, please send a note to TidBITS Talk introducing the resource.
I should add that I am not specifically endorsing any of these sites, and the fact that I may not include a particular site does not mean I think it's no good; I probably just don't know about it. For the benefit of TidBITS readers, I will keep this list posted on the Web and will occasionally update it based on what I find and what I see mentioned on TidBITS Talk, so please do write in with new sites and with any good or bad experiences you may have with the posted sites.
Server Filtering Services -- These anti-spam tools provide an email account with server-based filtering so you don't have to create all the filters yourself in your email program. Even better, they filter out spam before it ever reaches you so you don't waste time or disk space downloading the junk.
Brightmail acts as a mail proxy server for your email and filters suspected spam for you. To use Brightmail, you have to set up a free account and modify your email client program settings to get mail through the Brightmail server. Brightmail does not simply trash suspected spam, but saves it at its site where you can view the messages and decide which to keep and which to delete. Their FAQs list more information, including topics for individuals, corporations, and ISPs.
For a fee, SpamCop offers a service similar to Brightmail where SpamCop acts as a proxy server for your email account and filters out spam before it reaches you. They hold the filtered mail for up to a week so that the user can review it.
The Spam Bouncer requires a Unix shell account, procmail, and the savvy to use both of them. The Spam Bouncer is essentially a series of procmail filters that allow you to block or flag spam as it's received.
Tracking Down Spammers -- This next group of sites provide information on tracking down spammers so they can be reported to ISPs and, if necessary, to law enforcement. Keeping track of spammers is important for another reason: the more data users can provide to lawmakers, the greater the chance of realistic laws will be implemented and enforced. Also see Geoff Duncan's TidBITS article, "Responding to Spam," in TidBITS-442.
Get That Spammer provides information and tools for tracking down spammers. The Tools link provides an array of Web-based tools to help track down systems abused by spammers - although you have to understand a bit about how email and DNS operate to use the tools effectively. The Information link lists the latest legal developments and articles discussing policy and practical approaches to stopping spam. The site also provides instructions to ISPs about crafting better acceptable use policies, advice to users on how to file complaints (complete with a sample complaint letter), and much more information, tips, and tools for dealing with spammers.
The free SpamCop service allows its registered users to send received spam to SpamCop, which will then generate complaint messages to the appropriate ISP administrators and others.
Spam Education -- These educational sites provide information about spam, additional suggestions on how to deal with it, and often links to other anti-spam sites. They also list contact information for reporting spammers, and for encouraging lawmakers to enact appropriate legislation.
F.R.E.E. is the Forum for Responsible and Ethical Email. F.R.E.E. provides a spam primer that educates users about why spam is such a bad thing, and also provides information on reading email headers, building filters to block spam, crafting complaints, and much more.
Spam.abuse.net is an informational site that not only describes the damage done by spammers, but also provides a list of non-spamming, spam.abuse.net-endorsed marketing companies and sites.
The Mail Abuse Prevention System's Anti-DMA info page provides information about the Direct Marketing Association's efforts to protect spam and spammers.
Spam Law in the United States -- The following sites offer information specific to legal efforts to curb unsolicited email in the U.S.
CAUCE, the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email, is a well-known anti-spam group providing information on current anti-spam efforts, legislative updates and discussion, and other advice on how to combat spam. CAUCE tracks spam issues in the U.S. and abroad, and they even have a cool t-shirt.
The John Marshall Law School Cyberspace Law site provides information and links to statutes, cases, and other legal materials about spam. The site is updated and maintained by Professor David Sorkin.
The Spam Laws site, also maintained by David Sorkin, is a bit more up to date than the John Marshall site but also provides information on U.S. federal and state laws addressing spam.
SueSpammers.org is an excellent resource to track developments in spam law across the U.S.
The Mad About Spam Web site provides a petition users can sign to send a message to their U.S congressional representatives about neutralizing the Direct Marketing Association's efforts to protect spam and spammers.
International Spam Law -- Finally, although the bulk of Internet usage is still centered in the United States, spam is an international issue and could become increasingly so if U.S. legislation becomes more restrictive. The following sites deal with anti-spam legislation in various global locales.
David Sorkin's Spam Laws site also includes a section on European Union directives, policies, and directions on regulating the Internet and spam as Internet usage increases in Europe. Another section covers spam and Internet regulation elsewhere in the world.
CAUCE has a number of affiliates around the world, including EuroCAUCE, CAUBE.AU (Coalition Against Unsolicited Bulk Email, Australia), and CAUCE India. If you're a resident of one of those areas, check out the appropriate CAUCE affiliate site for links to local legislative issues.
Electronic Commerce and the European Union is a site that provides information about European Union policies regarding the increasing amount of commerce being done on the Internet.
by Jeff Carlson <email@example.com>
If you think notebook computers have yet to catch on, spend some time at the airport. Once, it was fun to see if anyone else carried a laptop, but now it's hard to avoid being jostled by someone's overstuffed Targus bag. Laptops have enabled people to free themselves from the desktop, work on the road, and stay connected via email and the Web from nearly any location. (For an extreme example, see Gideon Greenspan's chronicle of preparing for his travels throughout Asia with his PowerBook strapped to his back.)
However, even a compact laptop weighs heavy on the shoulders when you've been carrying it all day at a trade show, or even when switching planes in a large airport where your gate is always as far as away as possible. An increasing number of people in search of a lighter alternative have asked me if it's possible to leave the laptop at home and just carry a Palm organizer. While I was writing my latest book, "Palm Organizers Visual QuickStart Guide" (Peachpit Press, ISBN 0201700638), I had the opportunity to try several programs and technologies that make a handheld much more than just an electronic calendar. (However, I don't recommend testing all these items simultaneously: there were a few times when the combined weight of the various Palm devices and accessories was heavier than my PowerBook.)
The verdict? Yes, it's possible to replace your PowerBook with a Palm device, but depending on your needs, you may have to make too many sacrifices to do it well.
Getting Your Input -- If you're serious about leaving the laptop at home, definitely consider a keyboard for your handheld. After using various Palm organizers over the years, I'm proficient at Graffiti, the Palm OS shorthand for writing characters. But there's a limit to how much I can write before my hand cramps up, not to mention the drastic decline in accuracy when I try to write quickly. As an alternative, I can recommend two keyboards available for Palm devices.
The GoType keyboard from LandWare was the first model designed specifically for the Palm. The clamshell GoType (and the newer GoType Pro) is light and relatively inexpensive ($70), and slips easily into a carry-on bag. It features Palm OS-specific keys, such as programmable function keys that launch the Palm's built-in applications, plus Command-key shortcuts for activating onscreen buttons and responding to dialog boxes. The only downside is the small size of its keys if you're accustomed to a full-size keyboard. The GoType works with Palm III and Palm VII devices; the GoType Pro is available for the Palm V and Handspring Visor, and also features the capability to synchronize the handheld with a computer directly from the keyboard.
The newcomer to the field is the Palm Portable Keyboard, which is the only Palm accessory I carry that consistently elicits "oohs" and "ahhs" from people. It also includes Palm-specific features like programmable function keys and shortcut keys, but the kicker is that it's a full-size keyboard that folds up to roughly the size of the Palm organizer itself. Palm licensed the design from a company called Think Outside and sells the $100 keyboard for its line of organizers; Targus will offer a version for the Visor sometime in June.
Keeping in Touch -- Unless I'm on a bona fide vacation, I need access to my email and the Web. It's easier to stay connected now than with earlier Palm models, but your mileage will definitely vary.
On the hardware front, you'll need a modem. Palm makes a series of clip-on modems for Palm devices, and Handspring offers a modem that plugs into the Visor's Springboard slot. Depending on your location, you can also look into wireless offerings such as the Palm VII or the OmniSky modem. With Palm's and Handspring's modems, you use a normal phone line to connect to your ISP; the wireless devices require that you sign up with the respective wireless access plans, which can range between $30 and $45 per month.
Both simple and sophisticated email software is available for Palm devices. Using a program like Top Gun Postman, you can dial into your ISP and grab your email messages, which appear in the built-in Mail application. However, Mail is a bare-bones mail client with minimal filtering that truncates messages larger than 32K. Also, there's no built-in support for synchronizing mail with your Macintosh; however, you can purchase MultiMail's HotSync conduit, which synchronizes In and Out box messages with Eudora, Outlook Express, or Emailer.
Programs such as MultiMail Pro or One Touch Mail offer more robust filtering and even limited support for some email attachments. One unexpected advantage the Palm has over a PowerBook is the capability to receive email from an America Online account using PocketFlash, currently something a Mac can do only with AOL's software, Emailer, or the mail component of Netscape Communicator 6 (currently available only as a preview version).
A (Small) Window to Your Data -- The Palm organizer's small screen works surprisingly well for checking a calendar and other bits of miscellaneous information, but for some applications it can be limiting. Word processing is no problem, and you can even do spreadsheet work using software like Cutting Edge Software's Quicksheet 5.0 (though you'll find yourself scrolling frequently).
So, you may not need a 14-inch active matrix color display for everything you do, but larger displays are easier on the eyes over long periods. You may also find looking at the small screen uncomfortable when typing. Laptops work well because you can sit up straight and have plenty of screen to view, but with a handheld it's easy to catch yourself leaning ever closer to the screen or craning your neck, positions that are ergonomic nightmares and can be harmful over longer periods of time.
(In)compatibility -- Perhaps the biggest limitation in terms of using a Palm device as a PowerBook replacement is that you can't use common applications or file formats. There are some notable exceptions, however.
DataViz's Documents to Go lets you read - but not edit - Microsoft Word and Excel files (plus a number of other formats, including AppleWorks) on a handheld. This is helpful for storing reference materials, or reading reports on a long plane ride. Quicksheet, however, includes a plug-in for Excel (currently in beta for the Mac) that lets you work with spreadsheets on both platforms.
If you're looking to do word processing on the Palm, you can use the built-in Memo Pad application, but Memo Pad records are limited to 4,096 characters. You're better off using a program like SmartDoc or QED, which are limited only by the amount of free memory on the organizer.
You can also use data from FileMaker databases on the Palm by enlisting some additional software to synchronize with Palm databases. Rick Holzgrafe's HanDBase Desktop for Macintosh synchronizes with DDH Software's HanDBase Palm application; the FMSync conduit from FMSync Software works similarly with Richard Carlton's flat-file Palm database JFile.
If you're a graphic designer, well, forget it. Although there are drawing and painting programs for the Palm OS (such as TealPoint Software's TealPaint), they're much more akin to MacPaint than to any graphics program on the market today. A minor exception, though, is the recent appearance of digital cameras available for Palm devices, which let you take photos using the Palm and transfer them to your computer. I don't have hands-on experience with them, but if you need low- to medium-resolution color or grayscale images in a small package, check out the eyemodule for Visor or Kodak's PalmPix cameras.
Portable Power -- A last consideration is energy: for most Palm devices, you'll do fine by tossing a package of AAA batteries in your bag - they're significantly lighter than an extra PowerBook battery. However, rechargeable models such as the Palm IIIc and Palm V require the HotSync cradle and a power brick to top off their battery levels. Carrying these adds weight and awkwardness (a HotSync cradle's rounded triangular shape refuses to pack well), so instead consider purchasing Palm's travel chargers if you're going to be away from the cradle for longer than a week or two. Other power alternatives include LandWare's BattPac, a snap-on Palm V attachment that uses AAA batteries to feed juice to the handheld, and Tech Center Labs' emergency chargers.
Handy Mobility -- My solution for staying portable so far has been to carry both my PowerBook and my Palm organizer. Each has its strengths, and in some cases like word processing, I swap between them (especially when I'm flying, since most seats have barely enough room for me to sit comfortably, much less operate my PowerBook). However, it is possible to leave the PowerBook behind and do all your computing in your Palm, provided you're willing to work within some limitations.
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