Home > Internet Columns > Jan. 5, 2003

Ring in the New Year with a new PC

Jan. 5, 2003


If you didn't buy a computer during the Christmas shopping season, you are in good company, according to news reports on holiday shopping trends.

According to recent reports, computer sales for Christmas 2002 were only a fraction better than they were in 2001, which was considered as a "down" year on its own.

Holiday shoppers who bought PCs this year were bought on the both ends of the equipment spectrum: top-end, maxed-out computer systems and budget-priced entry-level machines were the only ones that moved off retailers' shelves.

After a less-than-spectacular holiday sales season, this might be the time to pick up a deal on a new PC as retailers unload unsold inventory.

Of course, as with any PC purchase, I recommend buyers first determine what they plan to do with the computer. If you want to edit video and play graphics-intensive games, you will likely be disappointed with a low-end, budget-priced PC. But if you're interested mostly in surfing the Web and sending e-mail, a budget-priced PC will fit the bill.

As the saying goes, "Good things come to those who wait," and that can also apply to post-Christmas computer shopping. Retailers often discount their existing models when new models arrive. The secret is keeping close tabs on the clearance tags, and buying the PC you want before someone else snaps it up.

Another point to remember is that nearly all PCs can be easily upgraded, especially when it comes to adding or upgrading the hard drive or CD-ROM drives. Aftermarket hard drives and CD-ROMs come as a kit with software and simple step-by-step instructions. I've already upgraded my hard drive in my home PC twice since I built it two years ago, and its not as difficult as you might think. If you don't want to tinker with your PC, you can always add an external hard drive or CD-ROM or DVD if you need them.

DOMAIN GAME. A federal judge in New York has ordered the Domain Registry of America to stop targeting customers of Internet registrar Register.com with its mailings and implying that the two companies are affiliated.

Last year, the Buffalo, N.Y.-based Domain Registry of America (DROA) sent mailings to individuals with Internet domain names that had been registered with Register.com and were coming due soon for renewal.

At first glance, the DROA mailing appears to be a legitimate domain renewal notice, even warning domain holders "failure to renew your domain name by the expiration date may result in a loss of your online identity." Like Register.com, DROA is a legitimate domain registrar.

The devil, of course, is in the details. A sentence tucked in the top portion of the "bill" mentioned the notice was not an actual bill. "This notice is not a bill, rather an easy means of payment should you decide to register or renew your domain(s) with us."

Despite that disclaimer, the DROA mailing was effective -- in its complaint in federal court, Register.com said thousands of its domain registry customers were duped into renewing their domains and switching to DROA as their registrar. In addition to the federal injunction, Register.com is seeking monetary damages.

I came close to falling for the DROA's carefully crafted mailing. I received several DROA domain renewal reminders, and it wasn't until I checked my records that I realized the company wasn't the one with whom I had registered my domain. After re-reading the notice it became clear that DROA was targeting soon-to-expire domains in the hopes of prompting them to switch.

The judge in the case agreed with my conclusions.

In her injunction, U.S. District Judge Naomi Buchwald found DROA's methods "neither accidental nor innocuous, but calculated and intended to confuse and mislead consumers."

Clearly it pays to read -- and re-read -- anything that appears to be a new "bill" that arrives in your mail from an unknown company.

EXPENSIVE SPAM. If those junk e-mail messages cluttering your In-box every day are a pain, take solace in the fact you aren't alone. Junk e-mail -- also known as "spam" -- is on the rise and will continue to do so, experts predict.

According to a recent study, spam has a considerable financial impact on corporations. The study by California-based market researcher Ferris Research reports that 15 to 20 percent of all e-mail messages sent to corporate organizations is spam.

The annual cost to U.S. business who must deal with spam in their e-mail networks is estimated at a staggering $9 billion. Lost productivity accounts for an estimated $4 billion of the total. The balance is attributable to hardware, bandwidth and support costs.

The corporate cost of spam in Europe is smaller -- $2.5 billion -- but the report noted that there is no indication the torrent of junk e-mail is going to decrease in the future.

The cost of spam eventually filters down to all of us as just another cost of doing business. Don't be surprised to see Congress consider legislation this year that could curb the flood of spam.

NET TURNS 20, WE THINK. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the protocol that made the Internet possible: TCP/IP.

TCP/IP, which stands for Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol, was implemented on Jan. 1, 1983. It was developed to replace the older NCP protocol.

The new protocol was created to handle the ever-growing network of computers that was then known as ARPANET. ARPANET was begun 1969 as a Department of Defense project to build a computer network that could withstand a nuclear attack. As the network grew in the 1970s, the non-military portion of ARPANET was splintered off. It continued to grow as computers at universities, research institutions and defense contractors were connected together. Due to the limitations of NCP, a new protocol was necessary to allow the network to continue to grow; this led to the development of TCP/IP.

Vint Cerf, the man who is credited with co-designing the TCP/IP protocol with Robert Kahn, has said the new protocol was "designed to be future-proof and run on any communication system."

The switch created quite a bit of controversy among users, and it had to be forced on some who resisted the change. Fewer than 1,000 computers were networked when TCP/IP was implemented in 1983. Today, the number of computers that make up the Internet number in the millions -- proof, in my view, that Cerf and Kahn met their goal with TCP/IP.

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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