In the past few years, the term "hacker' has been twisted from its original meaning into a negative term with a criminal connotation. By associating blackmailers with hackers (The Explorer, August), Mr. Elgan gives the impression that true hackers are criminals as well. This is not true; in fact, we frown upon any sort of criminal activity. The Internet was founded and expanded by people who were proud to declare themselves hackers. True hackers are upstanding individuals, and being a hacker should be something honorable, not detestable.
Chester J. Karma, via the Internet
I would no more consider putting my $4,000 laptop on an airport conveyer belt than I would my child. This type of theft is completely avoidable. Just tell the airport security people that it's a computer and you don't want it scanned. They will ask you to boot it up, and if it will boot to at least a C:\ prompt, they will let you carry it through without putting it on the conveyer belt. If you're in so much of a hurry that you're going to fling an expensive notebook on an airport conveyer belt, you deserve to be ripped off.
Becky Swayze, via the Internet
I thought your readers might want to know about a new product, CompuTrace, that monitors the whereabouts of laptop computers. The stealth-type technology using a friendly virus is undetectable on your drive, silences the modem and speaker, and at various intervals silently contacts the monitoring station at the head office of Absolute Software Corp.
Once a lost or stolen laptop is reported missing, the software sentry automatically captures the identification of the phone number (or the ENS signature of a cellular phone) the next time the modem is turned on, and silently completes its regularly scheduled call-in to a North American 800 number. When the incoming call is received, it's matched with a physical location, where a police warrant can be issued for recovery. It's a neat idea to counteract what Mr. Elgan correctly described as one of the biggest growth areas in the lucrative field of high-tech crime.
Wayne Hunter, via the Internet
Editor's note: Mr. Hunter has a financial interest in Absolute Software Corp.
The president of our company had his laptop computer stolen from a conference at an upscale hotel. He did have a BIOS password enabled. We called the manufacturer, who placed it on a "hot list." Sure enough, within a month an unsuspecting buyer of this stolen computer called the manufacturer to get the password. Tech support put her on hold and called us. We gave her name and number to the police, who then located and prosecuted the thief. Moral: Use BIOS passwords.
Tom Wildman, via the Internet
Fred Langa's recent editorial on Windows 95 was an unexpected pleasure (Start, August). While we wait for the flawless, perfect OS demanded by some, I am happy to use Windows 95. Win95 has helped me discover a virus, resolve hardware conflicts and run a number of powerful programs concurrently without running out of resources. Although identifying deficiencies is an important part of the improvement process, the deficiency is not the story. As I see it, Fred's efforts to balance the picture with the good stuff is overdue in the industry.
Gordon Paulson, via the Internet
I've been in computer user support for 12 years, and I've observed a pattern over that stretch of time. The user gets what he or she expects. Those who expect to have problems, do. Those who expect everything to work well find that it does. I have exactly the same equipment on my desk that the vast majority of my company's users have, and it has worked flawlessly for me for eight months. But I get dozens of calls every day from irritated users who "knew this was going to be junk before they ever got it." I also talk to dozens of users every day who call with simple problems or questions and are generally very pleased with the new equipment. They also got what they expected. Keep up the positive thinking.
Hal Scoggins, via the Internet
I have to agree with Fred Langa. I've installed Windows 95 on several different machines ranging from an old 386 to a top-of-the-line Pentium. While there were problems here and there, the end product is much better than anything around. PnP does work most of the time, memory is handled more efficiently, and the interface is outstanding. Give Microsoft and Windows 95 a break and maybe even a pat on the back. Although Windows 95 isn't perfect, few things in this world are.
Terence Stephenson, via the Internet
I read David Methvin's cover story ("Safety on the Net," August) with great interest. I was appalled at how easy it was to find the site pictured on page 170. Using the word UTILZ, I used search engines to easily produce links to hacker pages. The sheer volume of information and programs dedicated to hacking and other devious endeavors is alarming.
Richard Dykes, via the Internet
Although you went to some trouble to blur the name of the URL pictured on page 170, any Internet-savvy cracker or cracker-wannabe can find anything on the Net in a few seconds. This one screenshot gave enough ammunition to arm anyone interested in technological terrorism, or as you put it, "unsavory technical pursuits." By this time, I am sure a new corps of crackers are thanking you for publishing such an informative article.
Christopher D. Ciulla, via the Internet
Editor's reply: It's true. I used a Web search to find this site (and many others) as part of the research for the article. I didn't want to print the URL of the sites, but knew that a Web search would easily turn them up. Believe me, a lot of bad guys already know how to do this. I want to make sure the good guys know, too.
After reading Karen Kenworthy's article about the Registry ("Unlock the Registry's Secrets," July), I thought you might be interested in a utility called LifeSaver. LifeSaver creates backups of all the Win95 configuration files in a single .zip file that can be used to restore any or all of the files. I have had to restore my Registry from the command prompt using the self-generating batch file (copying older versions of the Registry files from within Windows can cause Win95 to write invalid entries in the Registry while exiting). I know many people who have used LifeSaver to restore their Registry, and they all say it saved their life. You can find more info about LifeSaver at http://members.aol.com/aeroblade or download a copy from ftp://members.aol.com/aerofiles2/pkz204g.exe.
Jeff Becker, via the Internet
I have been doing 3-D animation for the past 10 years, and I was somewhat baffled by the omission of LightWave 3D in your recent article about 3-D ("Get Real!" July). Most 3-D professionals have great respect for this high-end package. In television, the use of LightWave overshadows all the other 3-D packages. In the game market, it's taking market share from 3DMax at a rapid pace. And many movies currently rely on LightWave for cutting-edge effects.
I would like to add that LightWave was the first major 3-D animation package available on NT.
Jean-Eric Hënault, via the Internet
I feel your recent article regarding professional 3-D animation packages running under NT was severely lacking because you did not include LightWave 3D. This software has been available under NT longer than the other software mentioned and is every bit as professional a package. This is rather obvious, given the number of television programs, motion pictures and game development companies that use LightWave.
Ace Miles, via the Internet
In our August New Products section, we listed incorrect phone numbers for Jetstream Communications. The correct numbers are 888-INFO-JET and 408-777-4300.
We want to hear from you! Please send your letter and phone number to: Letters, Windows Magazine, One Jericho Plaza, Jericho, NY 11753, or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. We reserve the right to edit letters for length and clarity.