Tips & Tweaks: Matters of Importance

This week I want to talk about some serious real-life stuff for a change. (I need a break from Word tips and cool freebies.) So forgive me while I climb up on my soapbox--and keep reading, this is for your own good.

Quick Aside: Boy, did I hit a nerve with my Mac rantings last week. "Please separate your content into a Mac and a PC version. If I wanted to read about Macs I'd subscribe to a Mac newsletter," wrote an unidentified reader.

Another subscriber was more adamant: "Steve, leave the Mac info for Mac magazines. ... I have been stopping magazines who are inserting Mac info into a Windows magazine. I would hate to stop the PC World magazine...."

The best response, though, was from a subscriber named Bob: "Huh? They're still makin' Macs?"

Calm down, kids. It was news, and some people are bi-computer. But don't worry. I won't be mentioning M... uh, other computers very often, and it's not because of the uproar. I've never used a Mac--and I agree with Bob, who doesn't think they're going to catch on.

Now, lemme tell you the news about UNIX....

Watch Out for That Copyright

Years ago, 1995 to be exact, I was nailed by a copyright issue.

Someone sent me an e-mail with "2001.267," a satire about HAL (you know, from 2001: A Space Odyssey) dealing with his new Intel chip.

I thought it was so good that I sent a copy to my then-editor Lincoln Spector. Oh, was he the wrong guy to pick. It was his article and it had been passed around the Net without his permission. It took about 2 minutes, even in those old dial-up days, for Lincoln to fire back this note:

<blockquote>Steve -- Please do NOT send this article out to anyone else. It's mine. I wrote this, I copyrighted it, and I never gave permission for anyone to distribute it.... Nevertheless, within a week of this article's first appearance in the 12/13/94 edition of San Francisco Bay Area Computer Currents, it was all over the place, filled with errors, misspellings, and a title that gave away the main joke too early. Whoever first stole it did not even have the common courtesy to include my name.... Please notify everyone you sent this to that it is copyrighted material and not to be distributed.</blockquote>

Ever since then, I've done my best to track down the copyright owners for anything I post--especially anything that could have been authored by Lincoln. (Go to Lincoln's site for more of his columns.)

For instance, you might remember the cute Flash video of a cat cleaning the inside of your monitor that I ran about six months ago. With 30,000 hits, it was mighty popular. I recently received a note from the author: It turns out he's selling the video, actually a screen saver, for a not unreasonable $6.

Another example? I discovered the Superhandz site after I ran across one of the Xtreme Digits videos posted on it. It took about an hour of digging, but I found the original site. Now I can direct readers to the copyright owners' Web site, instead of simply posting the clip; I think it's worth the effort.

Memo to Artists: If you want to make sure your digital creation is properly identified, take the time to embed your URL or other contact info into it.

Dig This: For another take on copyright issues, catch this 9-minute video from the 80s, "Don't Copy That Floppy." (It was produced by the Software Publishers Association (now known as the Software & Information Industry Association.)

Avoid These Scams

Jury Rigged: Are you ready to tell all your secrets to the guy calling you about jury duty? Don't--someone's trying to swindle you. These things come in cycles, and the "jury duty" scam's back again. Go to to find out more.

The IRS Wants to Talk: Not really; it just wants your money. But phishers are using the Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Department as bait. Don't fall for this one, either. [Thanks, Tom.] Be sure to read "Phishing E-Mail Targets Taxpayers" for info on a related scam.

I wrote about scams--and how to avoid them--a few weeks back. Read "Avoid Viruses and Phishing Scams" if you need to refresh your memory.

Audio Players and Hearing Loss (Say What?)

Are you listening to an iPod, or even an ancient Creative Rio MP3 Player? Think about turning down the volume. Seriously.

The big news is that many people risk hearing loss by listening to loud music on their portable audio players. People are taking notice, like Representative Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts)--and an iPod owner is filing suit.

Dig This: I just caught a video promoting Spore, a cool Sim-type game that I can't wait to try; the release is set for fall 2006. You can watch the author, Will Wright, demonstrate the game in a 36-minute presentation on Google Video. There's lots more about the game on the forum.

Dig This, Too: Oddcast has a text-to-speech demo that'll knock your socks off. Stick in some text (I used five long sentences) and watch the character speak it back to you.

Steve Bass writes PC World's monthly "Hassle-Free PC" column and is the author of PC Annoyances, 2nd Edition: How to Fix the Most Annoying Things About Your Personal Computer, available from O'Reilly. He also writes PC World's daily Tips & Tweaks blog. Sign up to have Steve's newsletter e-mailed to you each week. Comments or questions? Send Steve e-mail.
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