Stories by Scott Spanbauer

Get started with virtual machines

It's great to have multiple computers. On the first of them, you can install a database or crunch spreadsheets. On another, you can simply browse the Web, listen to music, and check your e-mail. Yet another can have a supercharged configuration for playing games. Sure, you could have all of your programs on the same, single computer, but some applications -- such as games -- can't run concurrently with other programs.

The top 10 social networking annoyances

The same question people used to ask about PCs can be asked of social networks: Were our lives easier or harder, better or worse, simpler or more complex, before they came around? The answer is yes. For some folks, social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace seem nearly as indispensable as e-mail, but creating and maintaining these virtual circles of friends turns out to be quite a bit of work, often necessarily so. Here are the ten things that bug me most about today's social networking services.

Linux replacements for your favorite Windows apps

For many users, getting started with Linux is surprisingly easy. New, friendlier versions of the free operating system, such as Fedora and Ubuntu, feature straightforward menus and automated installations that make switching from Windows to Linux a relatively simple process.

Top 10 April Fools' Day joke Web sites

What is it about April Fools' Day jokes that we love so much? Perhaps it's that, in the midst of the crushing influx of information that many of us cope with daily, a well-constructed prank provides a welcome break. For a moment, we smile, even when the joke is a tried-and-true chestnut.

The right social network for you

With hundreds of millions of user accounts, MySpace is the Internet's most recognizable (and reviled) social network. From teenagers to grandmas, seemingly everybody has a page. But Rupert Murdoch's online leviathan may not be the best option for satisfying your Web communication needs. Nimble new startup companies are creating both general-purpose and specialized services--all of them free, just as MySpace is--that could get you a job, find you a date, connect you with friends new and old, and fill your life with beautiful music.

Win XP Service Pack 1-- ignore at your peril

An initial Windows Service Pack provides patches and drivers missing from an initial release, traditionally signaling to businesses that the OS is safe to adopt. But Windows XP SP1 plugs a hole serious enough to make the update essential, even for users who have conscientiously downloaded XP bug fixes.

Great XPectations: Next Windows rocks

Windows XP, Microsoft Corp.'s next operating system, is shaping up as one of the most exciting--and controversial--products ever put out by the Redmond, Washington, technology behemoth.

Linux boosts its hardware support

Lots of us would love to love Linux. The operating system is stable, secure, and--best of all--free. But for many years, tales of installation and configuration hassles have discouraged most desktop users from giving Linux a whirl.

Audio Wars: WMA Tops MP3...Sometimes

When it comes to subverting popular computing technologies to serve its own stockholders, nobody beats Microsoft Corp. The company did it with graphical user interfaces, it did it with dozens of disk and file utilities, and it did it again with the Web. Now Microsoft wants you to leave the widely accepted MP3 file format behind and come over to the dark side: Windows Media Audio. It would be easy to dismiss WMA as a crappy substitute for the real digital- audio McCoy, but--surprise!--WMA may actually turn out to be better than MP3 for many of us.

Peek at Whistler--MS's Next-Generation Windows

The future of Windows is .Net--Microsoft Corp.'s initiative for simplifying interaction with computers and related devices, and keeping them connected via the Internet. With Windows 2000 and Windows Millennium out the door, Microsoft is well into development on the .Net successor to both, code-named Whistler.

You've Got (Real) Mail: Netscape Does AOL

America Online Inc. is popular, but it isn't a real Internet service provider. It's simply an online service that offers limited Internet support. AOL doesn't provide standard POP3 and SMTP servers for receiving and sending e-mail. The AOL Mail system's proprietary nature (more on that below) means you can't use the feature-rich e-mail client of your choice.

Use Your Cell Phone as a Wireless Modem

About a year ago I realized I was a prisoner in my own home office. Determined to venture out into the light more frequently, I passed my aging Pentium desktop to my 7-year-old and bought one of the latest ultraportables. Now, I figured, I could take the show on the road and work at the library, the airport, the coffee shop, or under a shady tree.

Get Those E-Mail Hoaxes Out of Your In-Box

As far as i'm concerned, e-mail is just about the best reason (after eBay Inc.) to have a computer. If the people you need to get in touch with are wired like you, sending an electronic message is quicker and cheaper than mailing a letter. It's also clearer, more concise, and way cheaper than a phone call. And e-mail enables you to attach and forward electronic documents, images, links, and other messages.

Windows 2000: The First 100 Days

We asked readers to share their first impressions of the new OS: good, bad, or ugly. Upgraders love the stability and power, but they hate the installation hassles.

Few Thrills in Microsoft's Windows Me Beta 3

Has the multimedia bug bitten you? Then Microsoft Corp.'s forthcoming successor to Windows 98 Second Edition, Windows Millennium Edition, may be for you. Windows Me Beta 3 sports a souped-up digital media player and a digital camera interface, plus a basic video-editing program.