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My November 20, 2003 column talked about how an attempt to upgrade my computer turned into a disaster. Fortunately, my son was able to untangle the mess left by an inept and unethical installation technician. But here are a few other aspects of the new computer worth mentioning.

For example, when I bought my Windows 95 PC six years ago, I was surprised by how little instruction Microsoft offered on its flaky products. Most amazing, Microsoft provided no manual of any sort. In theory, all the help you might need is available online. In actuality, online help proved to be worthless. Also, I was amazed by how useless third-party manuals were.

Well, this time around, Windows XP set off a replay of my experiences with Windows 95. I am astounded to see how software companies still don't provide any meaningful instructions in written form. Again, they tell you that all the help you need can be obtained online, but that just isn't true.

With Windows XP, I had problems with almost every piece of software I installed, including Microsoft Word, the Earthlink Internet connection, and Norton Firewall. I always tried to solve the problems with online help and each time found it useless.

I also had the same experience with third-party manuals. They are still expensive and even less useful than those I bought for Windows 95. I purchased more than $100 worth of third-party manuals for Windows 95, and what I spent was nearly a total waste. With Windows XP, I again invested more than $100 on third-party manuals, and this time the expenditure was even more of a waste.

Now let's talk about the call centers being relocated to India, the Philippines, and other Asian nations. I probably made several dozen calls that ended up in Help Centers staffed overseas. I hate to give computer and software firms the bad news, but the people in these offshore centers are not fluent in English. Over and over again, I was connected to people who stumbled all over the place in their attempts to negotiate the English language.

In addition, the people at these Help Centers did not have a good grasp of the product. If you got off on a tangent that didn't fit their prepared script, they were lost.

Enough happy talk. Now let me get to hacker attacks on my computer. One thing I have learned is how to track down the Internet Protocol numbers of servers from which hackers initiate attacks.

Here's the surprising thing. Internet services based on cable TV systems are the main sources of hacker attacks, at least on my computer. In just two weeks, my Norton Firewall stopped attacks launched from Charter Communications, Road Runner Cable TV, Shaw Communications, Mid Continent Cable TV, Comsat Cable Communications, and RCN Corp. In addition, conventional phone companies from which attacks were launched included Deutsche Telekom, SBC Internet Services Southwest, and Pac Bell Internet Services. An especially notorious service is Comcast Cable Communications of Cherry Hill, N.J. Almost as soon as I log onto the Internet, I get a hacker attack from one of their servers. And the attacks persist on and off all day.

Once you have captured the IP number of a server that has tried to hack you, go to http://www.arin.net/tools/whois_help.html. Plug in the number, and you'll find out which Internet service was the source. The same site can be used to track the origin of spam which, for most of the stuff sneaking through my filter, comes from overseas.

-- Ronald Khol, Editor

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