White House open only to Web holiday visitors


Dec. 9, 2001


I've just returned from a holiday tour of the White House in Washington, D.C.

You may have heard media reports that security concerns have closed the White House to tourists for the Christmas season. It's true that you can't physically walk through the White House, but thanks to the Internet, you can get what may be a better view than you would in person.

The White House has a virtual tour available at its Web site. The real star attraction is the 360-degree tours of some of the White House rooms that have been specially decorated for the holidays. These include the East Room, the Blue Room, the Green Room, the Red Room, the State Dining Room and others.

The 360-degree view is just that -- once the room photo loads, you can use your mouse to ``look'' all around the room. Viewers can zoom in and zoom out, look straight down or up. It's as complete a view of a room as you can get in a photo. And in this case it is especially nice because it's the White House displaying its holiday finest.

The photographs were all taken using ambient lighting, adding real warmth to the pictures. The number of Christmas trees, lights and decorations are impressive.

The theme of the holiday decorations in the White House is "Home for the Holidays," and there are replicas of many presidential homes used in the decorations around the White House.

You won't want to miss the White House dining room, which is festively decorated and features a huge gingerbread replica of the White House as it appeared in 1800. The White House chefs created the house in scale usual actual blueprints. It took three weeks and 80 pounds of gingerbread, 30 pounds of chocolate and 20 pounds of marzipan to build the gingerbread house.

There are other holiday-related photos, including shots of staffers decorating the White House, the presidential Christmas cards current and past and more.

The only thing missing on the virtual tour of the White House are people standing in front of you. Visit the White House Web site and take the tour at www.whitehouse.gov.

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS. If you are a Kentuckian by birth or choice, or know someone who has ties to the state, you can treat them to a little bit of Kentucky they can download and keep on their computer during the holidays as a screen saver.

The Bardstown-Nelson County Tourism and Convention Commission's Web site, BardstownTourism.com, features a screensaver that depicts Federal Hill, the mansion at My Old Kentucky Home State Park, which is also featured on the back of the recently released Kentucky state quarter.

The scene is "Moonlight at My Old Kentucky Home" by Kentucky artist C.W. Vittitow. The screensaver features music and a gentle snowfall. Instructions on how to download and install the screensaver are available on the Web site.

The screensaver is a nice holiday touch, especially for someone with ties to the state but won't be able to visit their own Kentucky home for Christmas.

The BardstownTourism.com site also offers some nice Kentucky gift ideas for the hard-to-shop-for person on your Christmas list.

For more information, visit BardstownTourism.com.

VIRUS OF THE WEEK. Warnings about computer viruses, worms and other nasty little bugs are becoming so frequent that it is tempting to just ignore them.

Some of the loudest warnings often come from the companies who market anti-virus software, and you sometimes wonder if the threat is real.

From where I sit, the threat of computer viruses is real -- at least to PC owners. Apple Macintosh users have little to worry about when it comes to viruses. The vast majority of virus threats are aimed at PCs.

The latest computer virus alert is for a worm named "Goner."

Goner, like many of its predecessors, is spread as an attachment via e-mail, and activated when a user clicks on the attachment.

In Goner's case, the attachment is supposed to be a screen saver that is being sent from a friend. When Goner infects someone's computer, it sends itself out to the e-mail addresses in the address book for Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express.

Goner allegedly tries to disable anti-virus software and firewall programs on an infected computer by deleting certain files.

The attachment that has been spreading Goner is named goner.scr.

With so many new virus threats coming all the time, weekly updates of your anti-virus definition files (the files that tell your anti-virus software about new viruses) are probably your best defense -- along with never downloaded or clicking on any file attachment you aren't expected.

Comments and questions about this column may be sent to jbrooks@myoldkentuckyhome.com, or visit www.myoldkentuckyhome.com on the World Wide Web.

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