Welcome to The Funny/Alerts Newsletter. Since last week's newsletter was so late getting out, I thought I'd keep this week's FAN short and sweet. As such, I'll just say that my recovery is progressing nicely and there's just a nagging soreness (like I've been punched in the stomach). But my surgeon says that I've healed up extremely well (I told her I would) and she was pleasantly surprised that I'd moved solid food so quickly.
OK... that's it for now. Blue skies and green lights to you!

Co-Conspirator To Make The World A Better Place


"Father Reilly," the Mother Superior reported, "I just thought you should know that there's a case of syphilis in the convent."

"Oh good," the priest replied, "I was really getting tired of the Chablis."

A sign went up at the golf course: "Kitchen closed for re- modeling." A few weeks later a new sign was posted: "Kitchen Open." Directly under this 6 men had already signed their names.

Have you heard about a very controversial book written by French author Thierry Meyssan called "The Big Lie"?

The book's idea is that the September 11 hijackings and murder of innocent people was orchestrated by the U.S. Government. In France, the book has sold 200,000 copies. The book is set to hit the United States shortly.

A quick search of Amazon shows Meyssan's other books:

"A Round Earth? The Flat-Out Truth."

and "The Sun? Or A Really BIG Flashlight. You Decide."

Overheard on a televised National Dog Show event:

The dog on the screen at the time was a white English sheepdog. It was simply a mound of fur with four legs. The judge was brushing back the dog's hair so she could look at the animal's eyes.

The TV announcer was explaining that each dog has to have its eyes checked to make sure they're the right shape, color, etc., etc. 

Another announcer chimed in with, "Well, plus the judge has to see if the dog HAS both of its eyes. 'Cuz if you start combing through hair and you only see ONE eye... you're looking at the wrong end of the dog."

Security Threats to Beware of in 2003
Liane Cassavoy

In this New Year, virus attacks just begin with e-mail. Here's what to do to stay safe from Internet-borne nasties.

The New Year is often a time to make a new start. Unfortunately, that includes viruses, worms, adware, spyware, and all the threats that pose a risk to your PC. In 2003, you have plenty to worry about, and experts warn, those threats aren't always what you expect.

Although viruses spread predominantly through e-mail, they can enter your system many ways. Any sort of file transfer is susceptible, as are application holes. The chief security mistake is to concentrate on Outlook and other e-mail applications, an antivirus vendor suggests. Still, that's always the place to start.

"End users at home are really the only ones who will be victimized by e-mail worms. For businesses, it's easy to block executable attachments," says Roger Thompson, TruSecure's technical director of malicious code research. "You don't even have to worry about scanning those attachments for viruses once you make the decision to block all of them."

Patching the Problem
Thompson acknowledges it isn't as easy for home users to stop the stream of e-mail threats. 

"All they can do is keep their antivirus software and firewall up to date," he says. "And they have to keep their operating system patched. They should go to Microsoft's Windows update site and apply patches all the time." Those patches are vital to protect both home and business users from a new wave of threats, he says. 

"We're so focused on e-mail worms, and sure, those threats will still be there, but the new threats are coming in elsewhere. It's not a case of an attachment anymore, it's vulnerability exploiters that pose risks."

These vulnerability exploiters, as Thompson calls them, are threats similar to the Code Red worm, which didn't have an e-mail component. Instead, they spread via the Internet and company network, searching for vulnerabilities in servers, operating systems, and browser software.

And those vulnerabilities seem to be increasing exponentially. Microsoft, for example, patched more than 80 vulnerabilities in its Internet Explorer browser last year. However, as many as 30 IE vulnerabilities remain unpatched, Thompson says. These holes--as well as the ones for which patches are available but were not applied--could let malicious code make its way onto your PC or network.

Potential Threats Abound
Another area of increasing risk is intentionally malicious files posted on the Internet, masquerading as legitimate downloads. Adult newsgroups are particularly dangerous, Thompson says. Many of the files that users download, believing they are .jpeg or .mpeg files, are actually remote access Trojan horses that allow the creator complete access to your PC. 

You may download the file, and when it doesn't display a picture or play a song, you think it doesn't work. In fact, it could be installing a backdoor on your PC, which alerts the creator when you're online and allows him access to all the contents of your PC. In addition to reading your files, the Trojan's creator could also use your PC as part of a distributed denial of service attack, aiming the resources of your system and thousands of others at a certain Web site in an effort to knock it offline, Thompson warns.

Another growing potential risk is adware. While it doesn't harm your PC, it can invade your privacy, Thompson says. Users often unwittingly download such software with other applications, including some of the popular file-swapping programs. It watches every Web page you visit and creates a profile of you and your interests, so that it can serve you specific ads tailored toward your interests. 

Wireless and instant messaging viruses aren't truly a threat yet, says Thompson. Still, he notes, virus writers are trying to target instant messaging systems, and he expects they will succeed. 

Staying Safe
While Thompson's forecast for 2003 may sound like doom and gloom, he emphasizes that PC users can do plenty to stay safe. Home users should still worry about mass-mailed viruses, but look beyond e-mail. If you keep your antivirus software up to date, install and maintain an updated firewall, and constantly patch your software, you should stay safe. And, of course, you should never open executable attachments if you're not entirely sure of the contents.

While it's easier for businesses to block executable attachments, it's more difficult for them to constantly patch the software across their entire network. The key, Thompson says, is to configure the network properly. "You have to harden the inside of your network to keep the vulnerabilities out," he says. 

Configuring a network is easy enough if you know what changes to make, Thompson says--though he admits that his statement is a bit like saying, "it's easy enough to make money in the stock market if you know what stocks to buy." It may not be easy, but with a little time and attention, the effort to protect your network or your PC will be worthwhile.

Yaha Virus Lingers Into the New Year
Laura Rohde

Virus was largely contained before the holidays, but a new variant is still making the rounds.

A new variant of the Yaha computer virus which emerged December 21 and was detected on thousands of PCs over the holiday season appears to be making a gradual retreat but is still ranked as a "medium risk" by security software vendors.

Security vendor MessageLabs, which calls the new variant W32/Yaha.K, said the rate of spread has been declining steadily since Monday when the company intercepted more than 8,000 copies of the virus. By Wednesday that figure had declined to 6,500 and it stood at just over 2,000 on Thursday afternoon in Europe.

Altogether more than 34,000 copies of the virus had been detected by the Gloucester, U.K.-based company, MessageLabs originally identified the virus as an existing variant, called Yaha.M, but has since determined that a new variant is making the rounds.

According to MessageLabs, the origin of the virus was Kuwait and computers in 100 countries have been affected by it, especially in the Netherlands, the U.K., Canada, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Australia.

Threat Assessments
Symantec, which is calling the worm W32.Yaha.L@mm, rates the virus' threat assessment as low, the damage assessment as medium, and the distribution of Yaha as high, according to information on its Web site.

McAfee.com and parent company Network Associates rated W32/Yaha.k as "medium risk" to both home and corporate users.

Helsinki's F-Secure gave the Yaha.K virus a level 2 alert on its scale of three levels, meaning the virus was causing widespread infection. It said the virus carries aliases including Yaha.M, W32/Lentin.H@mm, I-Worm.Lentin.h, and Yaha.K!e2a2.

The worm affects mainly systems running Microsoft's Windows operating system and appears as an e-mail attachment in the form of an .exe or .scr file. Infected e-mails carry a wide variety of subject headings and messages. The virus contains its own e-mail client to mail itself out, forging the "from" address. It attempts to close down a number of firewalls and antivirus programs, according to MessageLabs.

Trek Puts a Camera on a Key Chain
Richard Baguley

Tiny USB ThumbDrives gain photography, music player functions.

LAS VEGAS--Key chain USB drives have a place in the hearts and pockets of many geeks. But simply storing files isn't enough; the next generation of Trek's tiny ThumbDrive devices, announced at the Consumer Electronics Show here, can take photos and play music.

They join a growing selection of key chain USB devices seeking to distinguish themselves with extras like recording functions, enhanced security, and cameras. 

Photos on the Fly
The ThumbDrive Camera from Trek, for instance, combines flash memory with a digital camera in a package about the size of a couple of packs of gum. 

The prototype Trek is demonstrating at the show takes distinctly blurry photos, and with a maximum resolution of 640 by 480 pixels, it won't replace a dedicated digital camera. But Trek doesn't intend it to: The ThumbDrive Camera is aimed at casual photo snappers who value convenience over image quality. 

Trek representatives say the 128MB of memory in the camera will store up to 920 photos. The device can also record video clips up to 32 seconds long (although it can't record sound) and can be used as a Webcam when connected to a USB port. 

When not connected to a PC, a single AAA battery powers it. And like previous ThumbDrives, the camera version doesn't need drivers, so you can plug it into a PC in a hotel or cyber café and access the photos or files stored on it. The ThumbDrive Camera is scheduled to ship in February priced at $179.

Music for the Thumb
For the more musically inclined, the ThumbDrive Music is a combination of key chain USB drive and digital audio player. It has 128MB of memory, can play MP3 or WMA digital audio files, and can run for as long as 12 hours powered by a AAA battery. It is scheduled to ship in February as well, with a $169 price tag.

Trek is also announcing and showing the ThumbDrive Elite, a new version of their storage-only device. 

The new edition comes in capacities of up to 1GB and has a USB 2.0 interface, which increases the speed at which data can be copied to or read from the drive. You'll pay handsomely for the privilege of carrying a gigabyte of data on your key ring, though; the ThumbDrive Elite is expected to cost $499 upon its release in March.

Opening a New World
by Deborah Luper
Alaska, USA

I was raised in the Brooks Range of Alaska, 60 miles north of the Arctic Circle. We lived in a log cabin, drove a team of dogs to get wood in the winter, flew airplanes instead of driving cars, and basked in 24-hour daylight during the short but hot summers. It was a wonderful way to grow up.

That kind of life had disadvantages, of course. We were the only humans for 40 miles, so we got lonely sometimes. We didn't have refrigeration, so we had to catch dinner during the warmer months -- and then we got very tired of fish and rabbit. We also had to watch out for grizzlies and wolves. But between reading, schoolwork and outdoor adventures, my three younger siblings and I kept ourselves occupied.

The biggest challenge was education. My father decided to home-school us using Alaska's correspondence course. He taught me first and second grade, and a teacher on leave taught me half of third grade. My brother and I went to public school in Pennsylvania for a few months the following year. After that I was pretty much on my own, and responsible for teaching my siblings as well.

Things worked well enough until it was time for me to start high school. My family had to decide whether to send me to boarding school, at considerable expense, or move. But then Al and Carol Brice came to the rescue.

The Brices had volunteered to participate in a state program. They agreed to take in a child from "the bush" for the school year, in exchange for a small stipend. They ended up with me, a shy, skinny, 14-year-old Native Alaskan girl with almost no self-confidence. I had grown up without television, friends other than my siblings, or any social training. While I was excited to branch out, I was also deeply afraid others would think I was backward and uneducated.

They welcomed me with loving arms. They housed, clothed and fed me, and even gave me an allowance. They paid for dance and piano lessons, skiing and skating lessons, a family vacation, and much more. Their five children made me feel like a sister.

As a result of that year, I gained the confidence I needed to excel in my studies, and to dream of achieving more. I competed in pageants, earned scholarships and got a pilot's license. I attended college, was accepted to law school for a national Indian paralegal program, and went into law enforcement. Eventually, I entered politics, and today count lawmakers and governors among my friends.

By opening their home and hearts, Al and Carol Brice opened the entire world for me. I hope through telling this story to share the depth of my gratitude with them, and to inspire others to reach out to children with challenges.

How do I view it?

Q: I was emailed an attachment in a .pps file format, which I can't open. When I try all I get is a lot of code in MSWord. It comes from a friend and I would like to see it.

A: Microsoft has free viewers for it's Office Apps:

Lindows head funding Xbox hacking project
Scarlet Pruitt

The donor for a hacking project aimed at bringing the open source Linux operating system (OS) to Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox gaming console was revealed this week to be Lindows.com Inc. founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Michael Robertson.

Robertson's involvement in the project brings him in even further opposition to the Redmond, Washington, software behemoth, which he is already butting heads with both in the courtroom and on the desktop through his Lindows venture. Lindows provides a low-cost, Linux-based operating system that supports popular Microsoft Windows file types. Microsoft is suing the software startup for trademark infringement over the similarity of the Lindows and Windows names.

The rivalry has been taken one step further, however, with the revelation that Robertson is the previously anonymous donor pledging $200,000 to developers who are able to successfully complete the hacking project. The donation, which was disclosed on the SourceForge.net Web site for open-source developer collaboration, is being allotted as two prizes.

The first prize is being given to the developers who successfully complete Part A of the project, which involves "running Linux on the box." The second prize is being awarded for Part B, running Linux on the Xbox with no hardware modifications. Part A has already been completed and "Linux Xbox" is available free for download from the SourceForge site, at http://xbox-linux.sf.net. Part B is still incomplete, and Robertson has extended the deadline for another year.

Although sponsoring a hacking project aimed at one's main competitor is usually seen as a personal assault, Robertson has claimed that he is funding the initiative in support of his belief that users should be able to run any software they want on any hardware.

In that vein, the hacking challenge aims to provide a version of GNU/Linux for the Xbox so that it can be used as an ordinary computer. The Xbox consists of PC-based hardware from IBM Corp. and runs a stripped-down version on the Windows 2000 kernel, according to the project site. For anti piracy reasons, the Xbox only runs games, however.

The developers working on the Xbox hacking challenge claim that an Xbox running Linux is useful as a desktop computer, Web server or node in a Linux cluster. The hacking project comes as a revolt against Microsoft's closed architecture approach to the machine.

No one representing Microsoft was immediately available to comment on the matter Friday. [Duh! - DP]


Diet-Data.com is a searchable online food database that includes nutrition facts on over 6,000 of the most common foods consumed in the United States. The data was provided by the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory 



Every week, your system clock loses a few minutes. These utilities correct the problem by synchronizing your PC with an atomic clock.



There is nothing more precious than life itself