Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tech Tuesday Q and A: Does Your Mac Have the Conficker Virus?

Tech Q and A: Does Your Mac Have the Conficker Virus?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009
By Guy R. Briggs

Every other week or so, FOXNews.com tries to solve your most vexing technology-related problems. Send your questions to TechQuestions@foxnews.com and we'll reply to selected ones in our next installment.

Windows Vista Deathwatch, Mk. I

Microsoft has announced the "Release Candidate" version of its new Windows 7 flagship product. It's available for download now (as an ISO file which can be burned to DVD) if you're a TechNet or MSDN subscriber, and will be generally available on May 5th if you're not.

One of the more interesting features of the new OS is something called "Windows XP Mode." Assuming you have the appropriate hardware, you will be able to run a fully licensed version of Windows XP, Service Pack 3, inside a "virtual machine" under Windows 7.

It appears, to put it dryly, that Microsoft has come up with an solution for the software compatibility issues that plagued Windows Vista.

If you want to evaluate the Windows 7 release candidate, remember that this will likely be a new installation for you. There is no upgrade path from Windows XP to Windows 7. If you have Vista installed, it must be at Service Pack 1 before the upgrade feature will work.

Macintosh Malware Found in the Wild!

Q: You mentioned that Conficker does not attack Macs. [Are] there any viruses, malware or other security threats I need to worry about for my Mac PC ? Should I install security software?

A: Funny you should ask! FoxNews.com ran a story just last week. See http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,517610,00.html. According to the cited source, it is the "first Macintosh-specific worm to be found 'in the wild' on the Internet," although, technically, it's a trojan, not a worm.

It's called iBotnet, and you get infected by running a pirated copy of iWork, Apple's office productivity suite, that contains the malicious code.

Should you install security software? If you're the type who wears both belt and suspenders to make sure his pants stay up, you should.

Most of the major security vendors offer Macintosh-specific versions of their products and they will protect you against malware, however infrequent it may appear.

A note on the Apple support site posted Nov. 21, 2008 reads, "Apple encourages the widespread use of multiple antivirus utilities so that virus programmers have more than one application to circumvent, thus making the whole virus writing process more difficult."

The Apple site suggests Intego VirusBarrier X5, Symantec Norton Anti-Virus 11 for Macintosh — both available from the Apple Online Store — or McAfee VirusScan for Mac.

If you're a software pirate, you should definitely get one of the above, and get it installed as soon as possible.

Daylight Lost Productivity Time

Q: I work for a large company using Outlook on a network. For some reason, when Daylight Saving Time went into effect, meeting reminders we received from outside contacts reverted to Eastern Standard Time when they appeared on our calendars. Our IT guy said he installed patches to fix this bug last year, but here we are and it's happened again. Several of our staffers were late to important meetings as a result. I'd like to get this sorted out before we set the clocks back in the fall. Any ideas?

A: The general craziness with respect to time zones in general — and Daylight Saving Time in particular — creates several issues for Outlook users.

Meeting organizers need to keep three factors in mind when setting up meetings and appointments: (1) the clock setting of the computer where the meeting is created, (2) the local time zone setting on the computer where the meeting is created, and (3) the Daylight-Saving-Time-adjustment on the computer where the meeting is created.

Why? Because meeting times are stored in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) which, basically, answers the musical question, "What time is it in Greenwich, England?"

Along with UTC, Outlook stores the time zone setting and DST adjustment of the meeting organizer's computer.

Suppose a meeting organizer in New York books a monthly teleconference for 11:00 AM Eastern, and invites a delegate from Phoenix. The meeting time will be adjusted in New York, forward or backward by one hour to match the computer's clock setting, as New York moves in and out of DST.

Unfortunately, it also adjusts forward and backward in Phoenix, where no DST is observed, because it is being controlled by the rules in effect on the New York computer when the meeting was created.

Suppose the meeting organizer's computer is set not to adjust for DST. Then the meeting will always be correct for the person in Phoenix, but wrong for everybody else during the summer.

The 2007 DST rule changes, which expanded the DST period by two weeks on either end, added an additional level of complication. Now you have to worry about whether or not the meeting organizer's computer was patched/updated with the new rules when the meeting was created.

Fun, eh?

When the computer physically moves to a different time zone, appointments, events and meetings are all going to be displayed relative to the time zone rule in effect when the meeting was created.

For example, when I relocated from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City last fall, all of my recurring meetings and appointments changed by 1 hour, as they should have.

But so did events, like New Years Day, which showed up as starting at 1:00 AM on January 1st, continuing to 1:00 AM on January 2nd. Not exactly the answer you're looking for if you're depending on Outlook to remind you of Dick Clark and the ball drop in Times Square.

To deal with these problems, Microsoft offers the Time Zone Data Update Tool for Microsoft Outlook. You can download it here. [http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=e343a233-b9c8-4652-9dd8-ae0f1af62568&displaylang=en]

You might also want to look at the troubleshooting document here. It is specific to Outlook 2003, but contains examples and workarounds for appointment times run amok.

Other than that, make sure all servers and workstations have the latest time-zone patches from Microsoft. If your corporation uses Exchange, I believe there are specific patches which need to be applied in addition to the OS-specific patches.

Make sure all the computers synchronize with an Internet time server, and that all are set to automatically adjust for time-zone changes.

"Meeting reminders we received from outside contacts ..." is a little ambiguous, but if it means that you have granted external entities the ability to create events in your calendars, encourage them to be patched, synchronized and automatically adjusted as well.

Use the tool from Microsoft, and pay particular attention to appointments created during the extended DST periods, that is, the two weeks before the old DST rule in the spring, and the two weeks after the old DST rule in the fall.

More Chrome Than a '57 Chevy

Q: I have Vista and I want to use Google Chrome for my browser, but I cannot set it to be my default instead of Internet Explorer. Please help!

A: Reminds me of the dreadful pun about using chromium as denture material because it is the only substance which can stand up to the sauce used in Eggs Benedict.

Oh, there's no plates like chrome for the Hollandaise! But I digress.

Click on "Customize and control Google Chrome" — it's the little wrench symbol near the top right corner of the Chrome screen. Choose "Options." On the "Basic" tab, there is a button, near the bottom, labeled "Make Google Chrome my default browser." That will do the trick.

Of course, the next time you run Internet Explorer, it will ask if you want to make Internet Explorer your default browser. When that happens, uncheck the box that asks to perform the check every time you start Internet Explorer, then click on "No."

You'll likely have to perform that last step each and every time your system downloads a major update to Internet Explorer.

It really, really wants to be your default.

Speaking of Internet Explorer

Q: I switched to IE8 and really like all the new items available, but I have a big problem: As I read newspapers online, IE8 sends this notice, "Internet Explorer has encountered a problem and needs to close." When I click on a URL in the box I get this explanation: "Mode name URLMON.DLL, Offset 003e.819, ver. 8.0.6001.18702."

A: Not an easy answer to this one, I'm afraid. Could be a number of things. The best I can do is offer some troubleshooting steps to try and track down the root cause.

If you're lucky, the problem will be the news site, not the browser. If you've not done so already, go to "Tools" in the Menu Bar and select "Compatibility View".

From then on, when IE8 recognizes a Web page that is not compatible with the new browser, it will display a Compatibility View button in the address bar, and display the page as if it were an earlier version of IE. The button looks like a torn sheet of paper.

Didn't solve the problem? Well, it was a long shot. The next thing I'd look for is some sort of malware infestation in the PC. Make sure your antivirus/antispyware programs are all updated and then run a complete system scan.

Still didn't solve the problem? Consider yourself lucky. You've got a clean system.

Try starting IE8 in "No Add-ons Mode." Right-click on the blue IE8 icon, and select "Start without add-ons."

If that solves the problem, you've narrowed the issue down to one of the add-ons. Start IE in regular mode, disabling and re-enabling the add-ons, one at a time, checking the news Web site after each one to see if that was the offender.

If you find one that makes the problem go away, either remove it altogether or go out and find a newer — and presumably working — version. You can find a tutorial here.

Still have the problem? You're killing me here! Time to check all of the antivirus and antispyware applications you've got installed. Some of them might not be compatible with IE8.

Go to each manufacturer's Web site and check if the versions you're currently running are compatible. If you find that it isn't, you have the choice to upgrade or uninstall.

While you're at it, this would be a good time to get rid of any 3rd-party trial versions are still hanging around, such as the 90-day versions of Norton or McAfee that may have come with the system, which you decided not to buy. Ditto any third-party firewall applications you're not using.

Still have the problem? Read http://support.microsoft.com/kb/923737, and then reset the IE8 Advanced Settings. I know we're both guys, and all, but you really need to read the Knowledge Base article before you try it — at least down to the Network Administrator section.

There's even an embedded button that will do all of the heavy lifting for you. Let Microsoft fix the problem.

Still have the problem? We're running out of options. Try booting the computer into Safe Mode with Networking and see if that works. Be careful! Despite the name, stay in Safe Mode only long enough to test!

If that takes care of the issue, it means that some startup program is interfering with the operation of IE8. This is really an involved process, but try disabling the programs which run at startup, one at a time, similar to the process you used with the add-ons, above. This is the point where you may want to talk to a pro.

Still have the problem? At this point, the best option might be to uninstall IE8 and go back to IE7. Sorry about that.

State of the DTV Conversion

The FCC and Consumers Union have teamed up to distribute a consumer guide that will prepare consumers for the already once-delayed DTV conversion. The press release, and a link to the guide (in PDF format) may be found here: http://www.dtv.gov/web_revisions.html.

Forty-five days and counting!

Got questions about computers and technology? Send them to TechQuestions@foxnews.com and we'll answer selected ones in our next installment.

We regret that we can't answer questions individually. Neither FoxNews.com nor its writers and editors assume any liability for the effectiveness of the solutions presented here.

SOURCE: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,518205,00.html

Glowing Dogs Cloned by South Korean Scientists

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean scientists say they have engineered four beagles that glow red using cloning techniques that could help develop cures for human diseases. The four dogs, all named "Ruppy" — a combination of the words "ruby" and "puppy" — look like typical beagles by daylight.

But they glow red under ultraviolet light, and the dogs' nails and abdomens, which have thin skins, look red even to the naked eye.

Seoul National University professor Lee Byeong-chun, head of the research team, called them the world's first transgenic dogs carrying fluorescent genes, an achievement that goes beyond just the glowing novelty.

"What's significant in this work is not the dogs expressing red colors but that we planted genes into them," Lee told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

His team identified the dogs as clones of a cell donor through DNA tests and earlier this month introduced the achievement in a paper on the Web site of the journal "Genesis."

Scientists in the U.S., Japan and in Europe previously have cloned fluorescent mice and pigs, but this would be the first time dogs with modified genes have been cloned successfully, Lee said.

He said his team took skin cells from a beagle, inserted fluorescent genes into them and put them into eggs before implanted them into the womb of a surrogate mother, a local mixed breed.

Six female beagles were born in December 2007 through a cloning with a gene that produces a red fluorescent protein that make them glow, he said. Two died, but the four others survived.

The glowing dogs show that it is possible to successfully insert genes with a specific trait, which could lead to implanting other, non-fluorescent genes that could help treat specific diseases, Lee said.

The scientist said his team has started to implant human disease-related genes in the course of dog cloning, saying that will help them find new treatments for genetic diseases such as Parkinson's. He refused to provide further details, saying the research was still under way.

A South Korean scientist who created glowing cats in 2007 based on a similar cloning technique said that Lee's puppies are genuine clones, saying he had seen them and had read about them in the journal.

"We can appraise this is a step forward" toward finding cures for human diseases, said veterinary professor Kong Il-keun at South Korea's Gyeongsang National University. "What is important now is on what specific diseases (Lee's team) will focus on."

Lee was a key aide to disgraced scientist Hwang Woo-suk, whose breakthroughs on stem cell research were found to have been made using faked data. Independent tests, however, later proved the team's dog cloning was genuine.

SOURCE: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,518309,00.html

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A rival to burial: Dissolving bodies with lye

updated 5:48 p.m. CT, Thurs., May 8, 2008
SOURCE: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24526431/?GT1=43001

CONCORD, N.H. - Since they first walked the planet, humans have either buried or burned their dead. Now a new option is generating interest — dissolving bodies in lye and flushing the brownish, syrupy residue down the drain.

The process is called alkaline hydrolysis and was developed in this country 16 years ago to get rid of animal carcasses. It uses lye, 300-degree heat and 60 pounds of pressure per square inch to destroy bodies in big stainless-steel cylinders that are similar to pressure cookers.

No funeral homes in the U.S. — or anywhere else in the world, as far as the equipment manufacturer knows — offer it. In fact, only two U.S. medical centers use it on human bodies, and only on cadavers donated for research.

But because of its environmental advantages, some in the funeral industry say it could someday rival burial and cremation.

"It's not often that a truly game-changing technology comes along in the funeral service," the newsletter Funeral Service Insider said in September. But "we might have gotten a hold of one."

Procedure faces tough public relations
Getting the public to accept a process that strikes some as ghastly may be the biggest challenge. Psychopaths and dictators have used acid or lye to torture or erase their victims, and legislation to make alkaline hydrolysis available to the public in New York state was branded "Hannibal Lecter's bill" in a play on the movie character's sadism.

Alkaline hydrolysis is legal in Minnesota and in New Hampshire, where a Manchester funeral director is pushing to offer it. But he has yet to line up the necessary regulatory approvals, and some New Hampshire lawmakers want to repeal the little-noticed 2006 state law legalizing it.

"We believe this process, which enables a portion of human remains to be flushed down a drain, to be undignified," said Patrick McGee, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester.

State Rep. Barbara French said she, for one, might choose alkaline hydrolysis.

Graves go high-tech in Japan
April 3: A Japanese tombstone maker has invented a device that lets visitors view digital mementos at gravesites. MSNBC's Alex Witt reports.


"I'm getting near that age and thought about cremation, but this is equally as good and less of an environmental problem," the 81-year-old lawmaker said. "It doesn't bother me any more than being burned up. Cremation, you're burned up. I've thought about it, but I'm dead."

In addition to the liquid, the process leaves a dry bone residue similar in appearance and volume to cremated remains. It could be returned to the family in an urn or buried in a cemetery.

Down the drain
The coffee-colored liquid has the consistency of motor oil and a strong ammonia smell. But proponents say it is sterile and can, in most cases, be safely poured down the drain, provided the operation has the necessary permits.

Alkaline hydrolysis doesn't take up as much space in cemeteries as burial. And the process could ease concerns about crematorium emissions, including carbon dioxide as well as mercury from silver dental fillings.

The University of Florida in Gainesville and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., have used alkaline hydrolysis to dispose of cadavers since the mid-1990s and 2005, respectively.

Brad Crain, president of BioSafe Engineering, the Brownsburg, Ind., company that makes the steel cylinders, estimated 40 to 50 other facilities use them on human medical waste, animal carcasses or both. The users include veterinary schools, universities, pharmaceutical companies and the U.S. government.

Liquid waste from cadavers goes down the drain at both the Mayo Clinic and the University of Florida, as does the liquid residue from human tissue and animal carcasses at alkaline hydrolysis sites elsewhere.

One funeral home weighs option
Manchester funeral director Chad Corbin wants to operate a $300,000 cylinder in New Hampshire. He said that an alkaline hydrolysis operation is more expensive to set up than a crematorium but that he would charge customers about as much as he would for cremation.

George Carlson, an industrial-waste manager for the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, said things the public might find more troubling routinely flow into sewage treatment plants in the U.S. all the time. That includes blood and spillover embalming fluid from funeral homes.

The department issued a permit to Corbin last year, but he let the deal on the property fall through because of delays in getting the other necessary permits. Now he must go through the process all over again, and there is gathering resistance. But he said he is undeterred.

"I don't know how long it will take," he said recently, "but eventually it will happen."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bioengineered bugs could lead to malaria vaccine

By Elizabeth Landau

(CNN) -- For most Americans, mosquitoes are pests whose bites leave behind itchy bumps. But in other parts of the world, mosquitoes carry a disease called malaria that kills more than a million people each year.

Mosquitoes, especially those in Sub-Saharan Africa, may transmit malaria to humans.

Mosquitoes, especially those in Sub-Saharan Africa, may transmit malaria to humans.

A new malaria vaccine that's about to begin human clinical trials is dependent on mosquitoes -- a whole lot of them. Bioengineers have been growing millions of mosquitoes in a sterile environment, letting them feed on malaria-infected blood, irradiating the bugs, extracting the disease-causing parasites and storing them for use in vaccines.

The announcement of the Food and Drug Administration's approval for clinical trials comes just days before World Malaria Day, which is Saturday. Check out the World Health Organization's site about malaria goals worldwide

The vaccine is unique among other candidates in that it uses the entire parasite and not just parts of it, said Dr. Stephen Hoffman, chief executive and scientific officer at Sanaria Inc., the Maryland-based biotechnology firm developing the vaccine.

This technique was first shown to be effective in the 1970s, but the technology didn't exist to mass-produce it for the millions of people who need it, said Dr. Kirsten Lyke, principal investigator in the clinical trial site at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. At that time, people were immunized by being bitten by the irradiated mosquitoes.

"That is the only effective vaccine that anyone has ever really developed that works and does complete protection," said John Dame, chair of Infectious Diseases and Pathology at the University of Florida, who is not involved with the Sanaria trials.

The vaccine takes the same basic approach as standard vaccines in use for diseases such as measles and polio. In those vaccines against viruses, weakened bacteria is injected, creating an immune response without causing illness.

In the Sanaria vaccine, the body recognizes the malaria parasite as a foreign material, Lyke said. It goes to the liver, where a lot of the immune response is generated, but does not develop into a disease because the mosquito was irradiated, she said.

Clinical trials will begin in May, Hoffman said, and will include 80 immunized individuals and 24 controls. About 3,000 mosquitoes were used to produce the vaccines for the first clinical trials, he said. If these trials are successful, researchers will initiate trials on adults in Africa, and then children.

Among other vaccines in clinical trials currently, the one that is furthest along is RTS,S, developed by GlaxoSmithKline PLC. The company announced in December that this vaccine, based on a recombinant protein that uses part of the malaria parasite, was safely administered to African infants, with an efficacy of 65 percent in a three-month follow-up.

Both the Sanaria and the GlaxoSmithKline projects receive support from the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, a program at the nonprofit PATH established through an initial grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Dame, who used to be involved with the GlaxoSmithKline vaccine, said he would guess the Sanaria vaccine will be more effective, but clinical trials will provide more information. He also noted that mass distribution to developing countries would require appropriate infrastructure, and may be more difficult depending on how long the immunization lasts.

Each year, 350 million to 500 million cases of malaria occur worldwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most people who die from the disease are young children in Africa south of the Sahara.

Symptoms of malaria include fever, chills and flu-like illness, the CDC said.

Although preventive measures exist, such as insecticide-treated nets and medications, there is no licensed vaccine on the market.

Moreover, effective treatments are largely too expensive for the people who need them in poor countries. The parasite has become resistant to cheaper treatments, Lyke said.

"Individuals living on $1 or $2 a day can't even afford $8 medication," Lyke said.

The U.S. military also has a keen interest in a malaria vaccine. The antimalaria drugs available have side effects such as stomach aches, said Dr. Tom Richie, director of the Navy component of the U.S. military malaria vaccine program, who provides oversight to the clinical trials.

"Malaria has been one of the most significant infectious threats to our military personnel when we deploy to tropical areas," Richie said.

The disease was the leading cause of casualties in the South Pacific theater during World War II, and also a major problem in the Vietnam War, he said.

There are five species of the malaria parasite known to infect humans. One called Plasmodium falciparum causes the vast majority of cases.

Health Library

Malaria was eliminated in the United States in 1951, but there are still cases in the country, mostly from people who acquired it in high-risk countries. In 2002, there were 1,337 cases of malaria in the U.S., and all but five had been acquired abroad.

An international team at the Malaria Atlas Project recently published what researchers say is the most comprehensive map ever illustrating global malaria risk. Researchers told CNN the map offers hope that it is possible to eradicate the disease in many parts of the world.

Hoffman, former head of a U.S. Navy malaria vaccine team, started the Sanaria effort himself in the breakfast room of his house in 2003. The company now has a more official corporate headquarters in Rockville, Maryland.

"I thought that the world needed a malaria vaccine, there was no question this was the best way to make one," he said.

Source: http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/04/23/malaria.vaccine/index.html

Nobel Prize-Winning Scientist, About to Turn 100, Still Working

Sunday, April 19, 2009

ROME — Rita Levi Montalcini, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, said Saturday that even though she is about to turn 100, her mind is sharper than it was when she was 20.

Levi Montalcini, who also serves as a senator for life in Italy, celebrates her 100th birthday on Wednesday, and she spoke at a ceremony held in her honor by the European Brain Research Institute.

She shared the 1986 Nobel Prize for Medicine with American Stanley Cohen for discovering mechanisms that regulate the growth of cells and organs.

"At 100, I have a mind that is superior — thanks to experience — than when I was 20," she told the party, complete with a large cake for her.

The Turin-born Levi Montalcini recounted how the anti-Jewish laws of the 1930s under Benito Mussolini's Fascist regime forced her to quit university and do research in an improvised laboratory in her bedroom at home.

"Above all, don't fear difficult moments," she said. "The best comes from them."

"I should thank Mussolini for having declared me to be of an inferior race. This led me to the joy of working, not any more unfortunately, in university institutes but in a bedroom," the scientist said.

Her white hair elegantly coifed and wearing a smart navy blue suit, she raised a glass of sparkling wine in a toast to her long life.

SOURCE: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,517089,00.html