PC on DSL not quite open book

Helpline

January 24, 2000|By James Coates | James Coates,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

It bothers me when I consider getting the new high-speed DSL Internet access lines that they are always on. Does this mean that anyone will be able to access my computer hard drive information whenever they choose? What would prevent anyone from accessing one's computer when the lines are always connected to the Internet?

It is true that hackers can gain limited access to your computer when you are connected to the Internet via DSL because your computer is assigned an IP (Internet Protocol) address and thus is part of the World Wide Web.

A snooper could, for example, find your computer and then use software called sniffers to trace what Web sites you visit and what e-mail you send. Furthermore, if you are using your machine to create Web pages, a good hacker probably could use a feature called FTP to vandalize your work.

But computer operating systems do not allow outsiders coming in on IP connections to do things like read and delete files except in areas specifically set up to allow such access as part of a Web feature.

While the always-on feature of DSL does have limited vulnerabilities, the short answer to your question is three simple words: Not to worry.

You let us Macintosh users down in a recent item from a reader who asked how he could print out the letters A-Z, a-z, and the numbers 1-10 for each of the fonts on his machine so he could keep track of all the possible type faces available. You said to use the Windows Directory and find the Fonts folder.

I am using a Mac G/3 under OS 8.1. and as this system does not have a Windows directory, I am not able to follow your instructions.

Just as Windows lets users call up icons for every font on the machine and display or print out a sample, so does the Mac.

Go to the Macintosh hard drive icon and open the System Folder. Therein is a Font folder that lets you open and print out samples just as does Windows.

Your column on keeping names and addresses in a text file named "fonz.txt" instead of a formal database (such as Lotus Organizer, Microsoft Outlook or ACT!) may be my salvation, since I still keep my master address list as a WordPerfect 5.1 file -- and still do labels and address lists with WP 5.1.

You open up a future in which I would be able to put this whole list onto a Palm or other device and keep a version in Word on my laptop, which doesn't work with DOS versions of WordPerfect.

Since it's a text file, does this mean it has no delimiter to separate fields within records from records? Or do you use your own system of multiple commas or some other delimiter?

For years I have advocated keeping one's computer contact lists as simple as possible by ignoring all the complexities of rigid databases by simply keeping an ordinary text file (fonz.txt) to hold the data.

You can then use any word processor's search function to retrieve each bit of information as needed. Because it is kept in the vanilla and universal text format it can be loaded into any word processor you encounter.

Palms and Windows CE machines import text files and then search them as well.

This text file trick spares you from nightmares of entering and re-entering data every time you change machines or software and is much easier than jumping through the hoops demanded by formal databases that keep stuff by rigid fields (first name, last name, zip code, fax, etc.)

The purpose is to eliminate the kind of comma delimiters you describe, which simply are a way to break data apart into fields using commas instead of field names. Don't bother with a single one of these niggling commas, I say. Keep it simple with text only.

Send e-mail to jcoates@ tribune.com.

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