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1. Commentary: Offering Computer-Buying Advice to Nontechnical Users

2. News & Views
- Microsoft Adds Service Pack Deployment to SUS

3. Announcements
- New--Test-Drive Our Performance Portal!
- Get Problem-Solving Scripts That Will Simplify Your Life

4. Resources
- Tip: Preventing Broken IrDA Connections in Windows XP
- Featured Thread: NT/Exchange User Accounts Repeatedly Locked Out

5. Events
- New Web Seminars on Exchange, Active Directory, and More!

6. New and Improved
- Back Up Standalone Windows Computers
- Centralize Data Protection
- Tell Us About a Hot Product and Get a T-Shirt!

7. Contact Us
- See this section for a list of ways to contact us.

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==== 1. Commentary: Offering Computer-Buying Advice to Nontechnical Users ====
by David Chernicoff, david@winnetmag.com

I'm certain that virtually all readers of this column have at some point in their lives been asked to recommend a computer to a family member, friend, or friend of a friend, not to mention random acquaintances who say, "You work with computers? Well, what should I buy in order to ..." I'm asked this question at least half a dozen times a week, especially at the beginning of the school year.

It didn't take me long to stop giving the computer-geek "build your own" answer that seemed so cool back in the late 1980s. Most people just aren't interested in building their own computer. I'm willing to bet that no one who works in the kitchen appliance business has ever told a friend to build his or her own dishwasher or gas oven, so I don't know why some computer-literate people still love to make the build-your-own suggestion to their friends.

When I realized my mistake in suggesting that people build their own computer, I began advising that they buy a machine from a local independent computer store. This solution worked fine as long as the store stayed in business. However, all too often I received the dubious honor of becoming the primary tech support person for a mix of hardware and software with which I was unfamiliar. So then I graduated to telling petitioners to buy a machine from the first- or second-tier vendor of their choice. I was always willing to consult on such purchases, giving people who asked me for advice an idea of their hardware requirements that I based on their description of what they needed the computer to do. However, I wanted them to have a vendor to call for help so that I wasn't taking panicked phone calls at 11:00 p.m. (A friend of mine asked me to include this warning: Never buy your parents a computer unless you're willing to offer 24 x 7 tech support, regardless of how good the service is from the computer vendor.)

For the most part, my suggestion to buy from a reputable computer vendor has been a good strategy, but recently some friends who aren't computer-literate have told me that they can't figure out how to buy a computer online. The ease of posting information on vendors' Web sites seems to have led vendors to offer dozens of options for every computer they sell, making it difficult for nontechnical customers to identify the machines they want. Computer vendors have addressed this problem by creating all sorts of bundled packages, but I've been hearing that the bundles include a lot of features users don't want. Most of these complaints come from nontechnical users who are upgrading to a new computer. They have a good idea of what they want, but they don't realize how much technology has changed over the last few years and don't know how to answer the questions that vendors' sites are asking them. Or, these customers get fairly high-pressure sales pitches from the "sales consultants" who staff the vendors' 800-number order lines.

After walking one of my neighbors through a half-dozen computer vendors' Web sites, I noticed a consistent theme: Many options exist in almost every feature and component category, with almost no easily accessible information that explains what the options mean. After seeing the expression on my neighbor's face after I explained to her why eight different Pentium 4 processors ranging in speed from 2.2GHz to 3GHz clock speeds exist, I realized that the only answer she really needed was that, for her needs, she would never notice the difference if she picked the 2.4GHz processor instead of the 3GHz processor (which would have almost doubled the system cost).

In light of my recent experiences, I still suggest to anyone who asks that he or she buy a computer from a top-tier vendor. However, I also ask a few questions about what the person plans to do with the computer. Based on the answers I get, I advise the person to look for a very narrow range of features. This information gives the potential buyer a starting point for his or her purchase and has eliminated the follow-up phone calls I used to get that asked for help with what should be a simple task--buying a computer.

==== 2. News & Views ====
by Paul Thurrott, thurrott@winnetmag.com

Microsoft Adds Service Pack Deployment to SUS

Last week, Microsoft upgraded the free Microsoft Software Update Services (SUS) tool. Businesses can now use SUS to automatically install security patches and other fixes, service packs, and full OS deployments to desktops. In the past, businesses had to manually install service packs or opt for a larger and more complex (and more costly) tool such as Microsoft Systems Management Server (SMS). Now you can use SUS to roll out Windows XP Service Pack 1 (SP1), Windows 2000 SP4, and future service packs for Windows Server 2003, XP, and Win2K. I'm sure the recent spate of Windows-based security vulnerabilities had a lot to do with Microsoft adding this capability, but whatever the reason, rejoice. SUS--already a free and useful tool--just got a lot better.

==== 3. Announcements ====
(from Windows & .NET Magazine and its partners)

New--Test-Drive Our Performance Portal!

The Windows & .NET Magazine Performance Portal site is an online service that lets IT professionals test client/server scalability and application performance of client/server database, workflow, streaming media, and office productivity applications. Check out this innovative service at http://perform.winnetmag.com

Get Problem-Solving Scripts That Will Simplify Your Life

OK, so you're not a programmer. But if you read Windows Scripting Solutions every month, you don't need to be. Tackle common problems and automate everyday, time-consuming tasks with our simple tools, tricks, and scripts. Try a no-charge sample issue today! http://www.winscriptingsolutions.com/rd.cfm?code=fsep26xxup

==== 4. Resources ====


Tip: Preventing Broken IrDA Connections in Windows XP
contributed by David Chernicoff, david@winnetmag.com

Since I've been using my cellular phone as an Infrared Data Association (IrDA) modem device, I've noticed that I sometimes lose the IrDA connection to the phone after bringing my notebook up from standby mode. Apparently, in Windows XP, a conflict exists between the restored serial.sys file and the network device interface specification (NDIS) drivers after they resume operation from standby mode. To fix this XP problem, take the following steps:
1. Launch the registry editor.
2. Open HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Enum\ACPI\PNP\\DeviceParameters where is your computer-IrDA device combination.
3. Create a subkey of type REG_DWORD and name it SerialRelinquishPowerPolicy.
4. Set the new subkey's date value to 1.
5. Save, then exit the registry editor.
6. Reboot the computer to apply this fix.

Featured Thread: NT/Exchange User Accounts Repeatedly Locked Out

Forum member smaredia (Salim) administers a network with two Windows NT 4.0 domains, some Windows 2000 members, and a server running Microsoft Exchange Server. Recently, an intruder used one or more user accounts with weak passwords to hack into the network. Salim implemented a strong password policy and recreated new passwords for all the network accounts. Now, some of Salim's external users who use POP3 authentication and the company's Web server to access email are repeatedly locked out of their NT accounts. The time between lockouts is approximately 15 minutes. Salim would appreciate any ideas about why these accounts are being locked out. He has verified that the locked-out users have the correct passwords and that they don't have multiple email accounts that use the same logon information. If you can help, join the discussion at the following URL: http://www.winnetmag.com/forums/rd.cfm?cid=38&tid=63592

==== 5. Events ====
(brought to you by Windows & .NET Magazine)

New Web Seminars on Exchange, Active Directory, and More!

Check out the latest lineup of Web seminars from Windows & .NET Magazine. Prepare your enterprise for Exchange Server 2003, discover the legal ramifications of deterring email abuse, and find out how Active Directory can help you create and maintain a rock-solid infrastructure. There is no charge for these events, but space is limited, so register today! http://www.winnetmag.com/seminars

==== 6. New and Improved ====
by Sue Cooper, products@winnetmag.com

Back Up Standalone Windows Computers

Lockstep Systems released Backup for One, software that provides automatic disk-based backup and disaster recovery for standalone Windows computers. Backup for One performs an initial complete backup of a computer, including the registry and system state files, and stores the files in an encrypted and compressed format. Subsequent backup operations back up only the files that have changed since the previous backup. The program provides four restoration options and an undelete option. Backup for One supports Windows Server 2003/XP/2000/NT/Me/98/95. Pricing is $69 (download) and $79 (CD-ROM). For more information, contact Lockstep Systems at 877-932-3497, 480-596-9432, or http://www.backup-for-one.com. http://www.lockstep.com

Centralize Data Protection

PowerQuest announced V2i Protector 2.0 Management Console, which works in conjunction with V2i Protector, a disk-based backup and disaster-recovery solution for Windows servers and desktops. The management console lets you plan and configure automated backup schedules for any group of servers, PCs, and laptops that you define. The console deploys scripts to automate processes and can notify you of backup activities through email. Pricing is $50 per server and $40 for a 10-workstation license. Contact PowerQuest at 800-379-2566 or 801-437-8900. http://www.powerquest.com

Tell Us About a Hot Product and Get a T-Shirt!

Have you used a product that changed your IT experience by saving you time or easing your daily burden? Tell us about the product, and we'll send you a Windows & .NET Magazine T-shirt if we write about the product in a future Windows & .NET Magazine What's Hot column. Send your product suggestions with information about how the product has helped you to whatshot@winnetmag.com.

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==== 7. Contact Us ====

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