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Sun, Apr 25, 2010 3:02 pm

Creating Meeting Requests using Entourage 2004 or 2008

Instructions for creating meeting requests using Entourage 2004 or 2008 on a Mac system can be found at Creating meeting requests with the Entourage 2004/2008 calendar.

[/network/email/clients/entourage] permanent link

Tue, Apr 13, 2010 8:35 pm

Online File Analysis

In performing PC support, by far the most common complaint I've had to deal with has been malware infections. For any files I download, I normally submit them to at least one and sometimes all of the following sites, which will scan a file you upload to the site with multiple antivirus programs:

Sometimes, a particular antivirus program won't yet recognize some new malware, but other such programs will recognize it. Of course, one also has to bear in mine that false positives do occur, so if only one antivirus program reports a program is infected it could be a false positive.

I also use Sunbelt Software's CWSandbox on-line malware analyzer. You can submit a file to that service and it will install the software within a sandbox on a Sunbelt system and then give you the results of the analysis of the file submitted, including files and registry entries created, network activity, and process details. For a sample of a report see the report created for the installation file for Totally Free Burner named TotallyFreeBurner.exe, which I submitted to the analysis service:

Malware Report for ID: 12057226

Note: Totally Free Burner doesn't contain malware; I just normally check all software before I install it on my system or someone else's system.

If you know the MD5 checksum for a file, which the virus scanning services I listed above provide, you can determine if there is an existing Sunbelt CWSandbox report for it by using a URL of the following form:<md5 checksum>

E.g., for the 6.0 version of Totally Free Burner I downloaded from the developer's website and then uploaded to Sunbelt's CWSandbox service.

There are also a number of free tools that you can use to determine the MD5 checksum of a file. The MD5 checksum is determined by performing a mathematical calculation on the contents of a file and should be unique for a given file (there is a very slim possibility that may not be true, but for all practical purposes you can consider it unique).

FileAlyzer© from the developer of Spybot Search & Destroy will show you the MD5 checksum for a file, in addition to providing other information, as will digestIT 2004. Both are free.

[/security/antivirus] permanent link

Sun, Apr 11, 2010 9:16 pm

Getting Free Credit Reports

You can get a free credit report from the 3 major credit reporting companies, TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian through You will need to provide your Social Security Number (SSN). From that site you can go to the 3 reporting companies one by one and get a report from each.

You are entitled to one free report from each nationwide credit reporting company per year. It is entirely your choice whether you order all three credit reports at the same time or order one now and others later. The advantage of ordering all three at the same time is that you can compare them. However, you will not be eligible for another free credit report from the Central Source, i.e., through, for 12 months. On the other hand, the advantage of ordering one now and others later (for example, one credit report every four months) is that you can keep track of any changes or new information that may appear on your credit report. Remember, you are entitled to receive one free credit report through the Central Source every 12 months from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – so if you order from Yonly one company today you can still order from the other two companies at a later date.

You can't get a free credit score, which is a mathematical algorithm that is used to evaluate information in an individual's credit file. A credit score is used by a lender to help determine whether a person qualifies for a particular credit card, loan, or service. Most credit scores estimate the risk a company incurs by lending a person money or providing them with a service — specifically, the likelihood that the person will make payments on time in the next two to three years. Generally, the higher the score, the less risk the person represents. You can opt to pay for the credit score, if you choose.

There are lots of services that purport to give you free credit reports that can actually prove to be quite costly. The way they work is that you get a "free" report by providing a credit card to pay for a monthly credit monitoring service. The trick is that the companies can make it almost impossible for you to cancel the service, so you may pay $80 or more a year for the "free" service. Just because you see it advertised on TV, don't think the company advertised won't try that trick.

E.g., the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charged with deceiving consumers. I've included information from FTC Sues Imposter Web Sites Offering "Free Credit Reports below:

How consumers were deceived. and advertised "free credit reports," but failed to inform consumers that they were automatically signing up for credit report monitoring services and would be charged $79.95 if they did not cancel within 30 days. The FTC also charged that the web site failed to inform consumers that it was not associated with the official annual free credit report program established by recent amendments to the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Consumers were drawn to and web sites through radio, television, e-mail and Internet ads promising free credit reports and free monitoring services. In some cases, consumers were led to the sites through an Internet search for terms such as "free credit report," "free credit score," and "free credit history." Consumers who visited the sites were required to supply a great deal of personal information in addition to a valid credit card number. When membership was not cancelled within 30 days, credit card accounts were charged.

For Experian, to return to your report in the near future, log on to and select “View your report again” or “Dispute” and then enter the report number provided when you first view the report. The experian site offers a service called VantageScore® that currently charges you $7.95 to get your credit score. TransUnion offers the credit score for $14.95, but you have to sign up for a monthly service.


  1. FTC Sues Imposter Web Sites Offering "Free Credit Reports"
    Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
  2. The Federal Trade Commission's Information on Free Annual Credit Reports
    Federal Trade Commission
  3. Can You Really Get a Free Credit Report -- Without Getting Scammed?
  4. The credit score rating scale; range
    The Credit Scoring Site

[/financial] permanent link

Sat, Apr 03, 2010 12:49 pm

Playing VOB Files with VLC

A Video Object (VOB) file is a container format in DVD-Video media. VOB can contain video, audio, subtitle and menu contents multiplexed together into a stream form. VOB is based on the MPEG program stream format, but with additional limitations and specifications in the private streams. The MPEG program stream has provisions for non-standard data (as used in VOB files) in the form of so-called private streams. VOB files are a very strict subset of the MPEG program stream standard. While all VOB files are MPEG program streams, not all MPEG program streams comply with the definition for a VOB file.

You can play .VOB files with applications such as PowerDVD, VLC media player, and WinDVD.

The VLC media player is free. It is a highly portable multimedia player and multimedia framework capable of reading most audio and video formats (MPEG-2, MPEG-4, H.264, DivX, MPEG-1, mp3, ogg, aac ...) as well as DVDs, Audio CDs VCDs, and various streaming protocols.

The VLC setup file, vlc-1.0.5-win32.exe uses the Nullsoft Scriptable Install System (NSIS) for the installation.

[/os/windows/software/audio-video/VOB] permanent link

Sat, Apr 03, 2010 11:32 am

Combined Community Codec Pack

A family member needed to play .mkv video files. The .mkv extension is used for Matroska video files. Matroska is an extensible open source, standard multimedia container. Matroska is usually found as .MKV files (matroska video), .MKA files (matroska audio) and .MKS files (subtitles). The developer home page is located at Matroska Media Container. There is a downloads link there for CCCP (Combined Community Codec Pack), which takes you to the Combined Community Codec Pack website.

The installation file uses the Inno Setup installation system. If you have any concerns about the safety of the software you might install, I've provided links to the malware scan reports for the 2009-09-09 version of the Combined Community Codec Pack below. Virustotal is a "service that analyzes suspicious files and facilitates the quick detection of viruses, worms, trojans, and all kinds of malware detected by antivirus engines." VirSCAN provides a similar service. Both sites scan uploaded files with multiple antivirus programs; none found any malware within the codec pack setup file.


When you install the 2009-09-09 version of the codec pack, you can choose from the following components. All will be installed by default unless you deselect them.

CoreWavPack 1.1.1
FFDShow Tryout r3065 2009-08-30
FLV Splitter r1264
Haali Media Splitter 2009-01-11
MPV (MPEG2) Decoder r1264
VSFilter 2.39 r1264
Media Player Classic Homecinema 1.3.1264

If you install all of the above, you will need at least 22.3 MB of free disk space. By default, a "Combined Community Codec Pack" folder will be created beneath the Start Menu with shorcuts for the codec pack.

Under Select Additional Tasks, you also have the following options:

  Set Perceived Types
  Register Extensions in Windows Media Player
Haali Media Splitter
  Enable Shell Extensions
    Enable Thumbnails

The "general" ones are selected by default, but not the "Haali Media Splitter" options. I selected those as well. You can also choose to open the settings window for the application during the installation.

The Combined Community Codec Pack provides support for the following FFDShow Video Decoders:

Flash Video (FLV1 & FLV4)
Generic MPEG4

The following FFDShow Audio Decoders are supported:

True Audio

CCCP Decoders

You can also change the file associations for various file types, such as .avi, .mkv, .mp4, and .ogm files.

CCCP General Settings

To be able to play those files by just double-clicking on them, you may need to change file associations. For instance, under Windows 7, if you want to play the files with Windows Media Player, you can right-click on a file of one of those types, e.g., an .mkv file, and choose Properties. Then click on the Change button to change the "opens with" application.

[/os/windows/software/audio-video/MKV] permanent link

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