Should I be using Spybot or Ad-Aware on my Apple iBook?
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

T e c h n o f i l e
Copying VCR tapes, making the 'Run' command work better, the dangers of Outlook and the non-dangers of a Mac

April 1, 2007

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2007, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2007, The Post-Standard

   In an article you wrote many years ago about recording from one VCR to another, you mentioned possible problems if one VCR has left and right audio and the other doesn't. That's my situation. What kind of problems might they be? I presume the problems would be with the sound only, not the picture. Would that be correct? -- D.E.

   There are only two problems. The primary one is the lack of stereo sound. When the left and right audio signals are paired into a single signal (using a Y-adaptor from Radio Shack, for example), all the stereo audio information is lost. In recorded TV shows, this doesn't matter much, but it's probably not much fun listening to movie sound tracks in monaural.
   The second problem is seldom talked about. Some VCR recordings have out-of-phase audio tracks, meaning the stereo sounds are out of sync. (Think of it as one loudspeaker pushing out while the other one is pulling in when they are playing the same drumbeat.) When the two channels are paired into one, the out-of-phase sounds cancel out, and the resulting single-channel sound might sound weird.
   New VCRs with stereo sound are VERY cheap, so my advice, if you have a lot of tapes to copy, is to go out and buy a modern one with stereo audio.
   Here are other precautions:
   Clean the tape heads on both VCRs once every 10 hours of use.
   Buy good tape for the copy. TDK and Maxell are good.
   Record at the highest speed possible. That helps keep the quality up.
   Should I be using Spybot or Ad-Aware on my Apple iBook? -- R.S.

   Spybot (officially called "Spybot - Search & Destroy") and Ad-Aware are programs that look for signs of spyware on a PC running Windows. They're for Windows only and won't run on Apple computers.
   But Apple's computers, called Macs, don't have any spyware anyway, so there's no need for spyware eradicators.
   Al, I have been using the "Run" command in the Windows Start Menu for several tasks. Recently the default path has changed. When I type "regedit" in the "Run" text-entry form it does not find the program, but if I type the full path, Windows finds the program and executes it. Is there a way to set the path so that the "Run" command will find the program properly? -- R.C.

   Memories are made of this! And of DOS, the ancient command-line program that Windows was built on in the 1980s. Setting the path to whatever you want is easy, and can be done in old versions of Windows in the AUTOEXEC.BAT or CONFIG.SYS files. Even newer versions of Windows allow this.
   But I suggest writing a batch file and storing it in the main Windows folder -- which might not be called "Windows" (on my Windows 2000 PCs, it's called "WinNT"!) -- and executing the batch file from the "Run" line. Here's an example:
   :: batch file to run the registry editor
   :: April 1, 2007

   To run it, you'd simply type this:
   And you'd press the Enter key.
   You'll find many other sample batch files, including some complicated ones that solve unusual problems, in the "Batch Files" section of my Web site, too.
   I work at a university. Currently we use Novell's GroupWise for e-mail, but I'm told we are migrating to Outlook. I've always heard that Outlook is not secure and therefore a bad choice for e-mail. I raised this point to our computer folks, who said they never heard of this allegation. You've written negatively about Outlook, and I've certainly heard its lack of security blasted by other folks. Am I just woefully uninformed? -- K.W.

   Outlook is a program you learn to love and hate. It's the single best contact and scheduling manager you can find, has an extraordinary ability to combine mail, documents, schedules and notes, and is much better than GroupWise at all of this.
   Unfortunately for those who have to support Outlook on the technical side, it's also one of the least secure ways of handling e-mail on the planet. Insecurity is built into Outlook, just as it's built into Internet Explorer. Microsoft designed both of them to respond to scripts and home-grown programs, ostensibly to make office integration easier.
   But adding unsafe features to make something else easier is nonsense. How would we feel if Toyota and Ford made cars with pop-off brakes to make it easier for Midas to check them? Or, perhaps more to the point, imagine a world in which Toyota controlled 90 percent of the car market. How would we feel about unsafe design then?
   It's no secret that Outlook is so unsafe. But to have your tech experts feign ignorance is silly. Show them this column.