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Net Explorer content advisor is potential saboteur

Net Explorer content advisor is potential saboteur

Q

The Content Advisor in Internet Explorer [IE] 3.0 is designed to screen out objectionable material, and I like the idea of parents being able to put some restrictions on their children's Internet adventures. However, after installing IE 3.0 on one of our machines, I misplaced the supervisor password. I have tried completely removing IE 3.0 and then reinstalling it, but I'm still locked out. Help!

A

Microsoft's IE Content Advisor is not a very good way of ensuring that employees - or kids - don't venture where you don't want them to. It only guards IE - not the TCP/IP stack itself or other computer programs. Therefore, anyone can still use another program to view anything on the Internet.

But the Content Advisor does let a disgruntled employee, a mischievous student, or a saboteur permanently cripple a system running IE. In theory, once anyone sets a password, the system is forever restricted unless you wipe the disk and then reinstall Windows.

Fortunately, there is a way to undo the damage without starting from scratch.

First, shut down all instances of Internet Explorer. Next, edit the Registry. Go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/SOFTWARE/Microsoft/Windows/CurrentVersion/Policies/Ratings and delete the key in that folder.

Then, open an MS-DOS session, go to the C:\Windows\System directory, and issue the command DELTREERATINGS.POL. Reboot to ensure stability.

Before I answered this question, I debated the ethics of doing so; after all, someone's kid might use this information to unlock the browser. But I decided to print this tip for several reasons.

First, most of the other effective work-arounds - and I've only mentioned one of many - are much easier. (You need to be pretty Windows-savvy to edit the Registry.)Second, similar information is available on BBSes worldwide.

Third, the Content Advisor presents a tremendous opportunity for sabotage; it's vital that IS staff know how to reclaim use of a computer that's been locked by an unscrupulous third party. Finally, I believe that Microsoft's solution provides parents and employers with a false sense of security.

Unless access is filtered within the machine's protocol stack or by a firewall, determined youngsters or employees can easily view whatever they want.

Of these two approaches, a firewall with a Web proxy server is preferable. Users will not be able to bypass it by loading alternative TCP/IP softwareon their individual machines. If your proxy server has a caching option, it may speed up Web access dramatically.

Finally, a good firewall will be capable of checking for viruses in downloaded material.

Q

A customer needs a flatbed scanner that can handle lots of optical character recognition and some colour photographs. Some models claim to have super-high resolutions - as much as 9600 by 9600dpi. Other models specify more than one maximum resolution for the same scanner - for example, 300 by 600dpi "optical" and 2400 by 2400dpi "interpolated". The number of bits per pixel also varies, and he doesn't know how many he needs. How do we give intelligent advice?

A

There's a world of technical doublespeak with scanners. This is the advice I give to buyers.

First, find the true optical character resolution (OCR) of the scanner - that is, the actual number of light sensors the scanner's head packs per inch. This is always the lowest number listed in any of the specifications. For example, if a scanner claims a resolution of 300 by 600dpi optical and 2400 by 2400dpi interpolated, ignore all the numbers except the 300. This is the true resolution.

All the others are products of algorithms that approximate - often incorrectly - the colours that lie between the dots.

How much resolution do you need? If you're scanning pictures for the Web, a bargain-priced 300dpi model will do; 600dpi is the practical minimum for line art; and 1200dpi is a must for pre-press work. For accurate OCR, insist on 600 dpi or better.

Second, check the number of bits per pixel. Scanners really should devote more bits to brightness (luminance) and fewer bits to colour (chroma), as television, digital video, and the human eye do.

But virtually all of them format their output as three-colour components (red, green, and blue) and allocate an equal number of bits to each.

More bits give the scanner a greater dynamic range, which means it will do better with washed-out or dark originals. Nowadays, 30 bits are hardly more expensive than 24 and are good for general-purpose use.

For serious artwork or greyscale scans, consider 33 or 36 bits.

Third, don't buy any scanner that doesn't have a SCSI interface. And for an IBM compatible, make sure the drivers use the Advanced SCSI Programming Interface (ASPI). SCSI is important because it means the scanner will work with a wide variety of hardware and software. Don't fall for a vendor's claims that a proprietary interface is faster.

ASPI is necessary if you want to run the scanner on the same SCSI bus as other peripherals. I was recently forced to return a Mustek scanner - and get a Microtek instead - because Mustek did not support ASPI.

Finally, check carefully into the availability of an automatic document feeder. Most manufacturers say that they offer this accessory, which is essential for even moderate volumes of OCR work. But few, if any, retailers carry feeders for the scanners they sell.

Odds are you'll have to place a special order or go directly to the manufacturer and pay the full list price, which is sometimes more than the cost of the scanner. And you will often find that the feeder is back-ordered or no longer available. If you think you might need a feeder and are not absolutely sure you can get it, keep shopping for another model.

Q

Not surprisingly, the URL for the Win95 Dial-Up Scripting Tool changed since it was published recently. I found it at http://www. microsoft.com/windows/common/aa2724.htm.

A

Thank you for the heads-up. This reader also points out that the latest download contains a short file documenting the scripting language. The file lists several commands that won't work on the version on the Windows CD-ROM but will work on the one you can download.

Several readers noted that if you have Windows 95B (also called OSR2) or have downloaded the ISDN Accelerator pack, dial-up scripting is integrated into your Dial-Up Networking software. The script settings appear on a tab in each connectoid's property sheet.


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