Stories by Stuart J. Johnston

Should laptops come with a fire extinguisher?

When pictures of flaming laptops blaze across the Internet, and Dell and Apple recall nearly 6 million lithium ion batteries, it's natural to wonder whether we can trust our portable devices. Billions of these batteries power everything from cell phones to cameras to Segways. And the push is invariably to pack more power into less space, increasing the severity of the damage in a worst-case scenario.

PowerPoint under attack

A few months ago it was Microsoft Word. Last month it was Excel. Now PowerPoint is under attack through a critical hole. Why so many Office flaws so quickly?

Top tips for busting bugs

I'm a big believer in the Boy Scout motto: Be prepared. It's wise to follow that old adage in this era of seemingly inevitable computing snarls. Every month in Bugs and Fixes, I keep you up-to-date on the latest bugs, security holes, and other software and hardware glitches. This month, though, I'm going to share some tips on how I protect myself from bugs and bad guys.

Gates shows smarter software

Tired of scrawling notes on your Compaq iPaq? By early September, you may be just talking to it. That's when Microsoft Corp.'s Research (MSR) division will release a free speech dictation application that runs on the popular handheld.

Is Your E-Mail Safe from Intruders?

Lotus Notes users, watch your backs. In yet another security scare, experts found a flaw in Lotus Notes that would allow a devious imposter to have access to your e-mail box. The interloper could not only send e-mail in your name but authorize others to access your Notes databases. At press time, Lotus Development Corp. was still working on the problem (for updates, check For a closer look at the weakness, visit

Broadband Alternatives Debut

Residents in some areas of the US could be among the first to get 100 channels of digital video-on-demand, telephone service, videoconferencing, and high-speed Internet access all across fiber-optic cable to their homes as soon as next year.

Kinko's, FedEx Team for Fast Service

How would you like to be able to send your business document off to the printer and have it printed and delivered to your customers that same day, right from your desktop?

Manage Your Bandwidth

Do you get frustrated when your broadband connection slows to a crawl? Would like to have some ammunition for your Internet service provider's help desk personnel when they finally answer the phone? Then Broadband Wizard, a $19.95 diagnostic and optimization tool from Kissco Software, may be your ticket.

MSN Browser Requires a Commitment

Microsoft Corp. is doing something it hasn't done since the debut of the Microsoft Network in 1995: It's shipping a public beta of a branded version of the Internet Explorer browser. IE for MSN has a sleek, metallic look and a simplified user interface, adapted especially to take advantage of MSN content. Unfortunately, it's also a ham-handed play to make you adopt all things Microsoft.