From:         Patrick Douglas Crispen 
Subject:      Tourbus - 6 Jan 04 - Update Your Java


The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2239
Copyright © Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen - All rights reserved

Howdy, y'all, and happy new year from deep behind the orange curtain in beautiful Irvine, California, where our variety of featured meats is seasoned to perfection and slow-roasted over an open flame to capture their individual flavor. :P

The quote that appears in today's bus logo--which, by the way, is one of my favorite quotes of all time--comes from a review of the Marin County Fair (vaguely northeast of San Francisco) that appeared in the July 4, 1996, San Francisco Chronicle. The article starts out with a paragraph describing how kids attending the fair were more interested in playing the video games than looking at the farm animals.

"Animals don't do much," said Darren Gutenberg, 11. "Cows just walk around. The world is getting too high tech to spend time looking at cows."

Lisa Lavagetto, pig owner: "Kids have lost the ability to deal with creatures. A pig is a living and breathing animal. A lot of these kids have never seen a pig. All they know is computers. There's nothing wrong with computers, but they aren't pigs."

Amen, sister!

TOURBUS is made possible by the kind support of our sponsors. Please take a moment to visit today's sponsors and thank them for keeping our little bus of Internet happiness on the road week after week.

On with the show ...

Update Your Java! Audience: Everyone, especially PC users

Java, as you already know, is a large island in the Malay archipelago just south of Borneo. :P

Actually, in the context we're talking about today, Java is a platform-independent, object-oriented, compiled programming language created by Sun Microsystems. Programmers write Java programs--called "applets"--that automatically download from the web and run on your computer. In fact, if the Java applets are written well, they'll run on almost EVERY computer: PCs, Macs, *nix boxes, cell phones, refrigerators... chances are, your computer came with the ability to load and run Java applets straight out of the box.

What do these Java applets look like? Well, for example, there's a free Java applet on the web called "AirportMonitor" that lets you track all inbound and outbound flights at LAX (and a few other airports). You can find the LAX AirportMonitor Java applet at

Like most Java applets, just visit the site and the applet automatically loads in your web browser. And be patient: The AirportMonitor applet might take just short of forever to load. Your patience will be rewarded, though.

You can find a list of other AiportMonitor-enabled sites at

Oh, and if you want to find out where my beloved hometown of Irvine, California, is actually located, hop on over to

and play around with the map range. Irvine is in the middle of the map, just to the right of the John Wayne airport (SNA).

Now, remember how I said that Java applets automatically download from the web and run on your computer? Think about that for a minute. Considering the number of viruses and Trojan horses out there, do we *REALLY* want downloaded Java programs auto-executing on our computers?

Well, it depends.

Java applets run in something called a "sandbox" (actually it's called the "Java RunTime Environment"). The sandbox is just a special zone on your computer fenced off from your operating system and other applications. In theory, Java applets can't get outside of the sandbox and damage your computer. In theory.

The problem is that there are two major "flavors" of Java:

1. Microsoft's (which you already have if you own a PC) and 2. Sun's (which you don't have).

In Microsoft's version of Java, the sandbox is better known as "Windows." Okay, that's an exaggeration. But, it is not an exaggeration to say that in Microsoft's version of Java there are some pretty significant security holes in the wall between the sandbox and the OS. And that's a bad thing.

Even worse, Microsoft's Java Virtual Machine (the software on PCs that actually runs Java applets) is

  • Buggy,
  • Proprietary, and
  • Not long for this world.
  • By way of comparison, Sun's version of Java is

  • Newer,
  • Safer (because it has a MUCH better sandbox), and
  • Official (because, after all, Sun invented Java.)
  • Oh, and what did I mean when I said that Microsoft's Java Virtual Machine is not long for this world? Well, Microsoft will stop supporting their JVM version on September 30th, 2004. And, because of Microsoft's recent court settlement with Sun, there will be no replacement. Microsoft recommends that, after 9/30, you lock down Microsoft Internet Explorer security zones so that the MSJVM works only with trusted sites.

    Microsoft has even created a page that talks about transitioning from the Microsoft Java Virtual Machine [you can find the page at ] but a MUCH better solution for folks like you and me is to hop on over to

    and get Sun's official Java software. The process couldn't be simpler: Just click on the "Get It Now" button and Sun automatically downloads and installs the official Java software your computer. And Sun's free Java software is available for the PC, Mac, Linux, and (obviously) Sun Solaris.

    You'll [probably] be asked to reboot once the new Java software is installed. Once you reboot, though, you'll have the latest, greatest version of Java. And, if you are a PC user, you won't have to worry about what's going to happen when Microsoft's JVM officially dies in September.

    Neat, huh? And once you've updated your Java, you can find a BUNCH of free Java applets to play with at

    Enjoy! :)


    Linda from Marlinton, West Virginia recently wrote and said "The next best thing to Tourbus is the Smart Computing magazine that you guys recommend. I've been getting it since last summer and it has solved numerous problems for me and my friends."

    Thanks, Linda! We hope other Tourbus riders will discover the Plain English answers to their computing questions that Smart Computing delivers every month. Do you want to speed up your PC? Get rid of spyware and keep hackers out? Try Smart Computing today -- get your FREE TRIAL issue NOW!

    That's it for today. Have a safe and happy week and we'll talk again soon!

    The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2239
    Copyright © Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen - All rights reserved
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