Invasion of the Browser Snatchers And other tales of computer mischief

By Wassim Nassif

As translators, we have come to rely on our computers as our main tool for doing business. We cannot imagine being without it, and indeed, our business would surely suffer if we were. This is why, for those of us who depend on a Windows-based machine connected to the Internet, we must take constant precautions to protect this important, revenue-generating resource against the increasing—and increasingly virulent—threats against it.

Foremost among our modern-day computer “malware” is browser hijacking. Browser hijacking refers to malicious websites and software that forcibly access and alter your computer’s settings—settings that control default start and search pages, security levels, and other aspects of how the browser looks and feels. Internet shortcuts, for example, may be added to your Favorites folder without your permission or knowledge. Why? To force you to visit a certain website, artificially inflating that site’s traffic statistics, in order to command higher rates from advertisers.

While such actions may not affect you directly (other than perhaps wasting your time), and while these system changes could be and are easily reversible (under Internet Options > Tools menu), the danger goes far deeper: sometimes there is even a combination of registry settings and files clandestinely placed on your hard drive that recalibrates the settings every time you reboot the computer. There have even been cases where the Internet Options have been disabled or even removed from the menu to prevent you from controlling your own computer!

Even AOL has become a browser hijacker of sorts, by placing its website www.free.aol.com in Internet Explorer (IE)’s trusted sites security zone, with the intent to bypass the most-used security settings. This occurs after installing AOL software, AOL Instant Messenger, and the Netscape 6.x web browser. AOL then exploits this feature and downloads ActiveX components to your computer’s hard drive without your consent or knowledge. ICQ2001b and CWS Trojan have also reportedly done this.

Avoiding the problem

In light of the perniciousness of these activities, preventing hijacking in the first place is actually surprisingly easy. (Although it should be noted that no situation is always foolproof). First, for those who can, use a more secure browser than Internet Explorer, such as Mozilla, Firefox, or Opera. These browsers are more secure for two reasons: first, because they are less of a target for hackers than IE, whose popularity accounts for approximately 95% of users worldwide.

Second, Opera’s and Mozilla’s programmers take security very seriously and have made these browsers extremely secure, from a program standpoint. It is not possible to install software from compromised or predatory websites without at least a hint or a prompt of some sort asking your permission. As long as you exercise enough vigilance and common sense not to approve a software installation that you did not request or that simply appears out of nowhere, there will be no problem.

For some, and indeed perhaps for many—such as those who work in a company that has IE as its standard browser by contract with Microsoft—switching browsers may not be an option. However, even if you are tied to IE, you can still make it safer without disabling every useful function, by using some third-party software.

The most important thing, and this can not be overstated, is to keep your browser and operating system updated and to check for new releases frequently. From the time the software was manufactured to the time you purchased it, 50 or more threats may have accumulated. This is why you should, as a matter of routine, install software and then go online and update it immediately after the installation is complete. These days, threats are being introduced on a daily, if not hourly, basis.

Additionally, you should frequently log into the WindowsUpdates website and search for and install new patches, service packs, or sometimes even new versions of IE and Windows. As malicious programmers exploit Windows and IE, Microsoft programmers are “informed” of these security holes and produce patches to close them. This single action will save you from the overwhelming majority of browser hijackers and other threats as well.

Other software and email

By far the most common source of malware infection comes from third-party software that is bundled with other packages. Grokster, for example, a P2P (peer-to-peer) file sharing application, will install a dozen or more unwanted programs. Unfortunately, it is a very simple and cost effective matter for a noxious programmer to put his ominous programs on a site where millions of people go to download programs. If you want to kill a village, you poison the well.

What about email? This is an entire topic in itself, but there are a few simple things you can do. First, follow the advice we should all know now by heart: do not open any unexpected email that has an attachment, even though it might be coming from a friend or family member. Second, disable the preview pane in your email program. Simply by highlighting an email while the preview pane is active, even to delete it, risks activating any scripting in that email message.

Whether it involves a browser, third-party software, or email, remember: if you allow someone else to run a program on your computer, it is not your computer any more. Taking the proper precautions in advance can make all the difference in the world.

Happy and safe computing.

Members Exchange Valuable Help Online

By Yves Avérous, Publications Director

If you are not a subscriber to the NCTA Members mailing list, you are missing out big time! Some members could not be bothered by the registration process with Yahoo! Groups or were taken aback by the nature and/or volume of messages sent by the list. First, there are ways to minimize your privacy risk—even though it is minimal with Yahoo!, and second, you can turn off the flow of messages while keeping access to the thousands of valuable emails kept archived on the list site. Here is a sample of the information exchanged this past Summer.

Resources—Among the countless links exchanged on the list, two are particularly worth repeating since bad payers remain a sad reality: the Payment Practices list, www.trwenterprises.com/payment_practices.htm, and the Translation Client Review list, www.tcrlist.com. Read more on the site in the May messages. Also, in August, members shared the content of the cover letters they use to certify their translations to their clients—valuable information both for novices and seasoned professionals.

Terminology—It’s amazing how some itsy-bitsy words can generate big threads. Now I know what “Vo Bo” means. Jobs—More than 20 jobs were posted, of different kinds, for many languages, during the May-August period, an average of 7 per month. And we can do much better with a little help: we are close to 500 members, individual and corporate, with barely more than 200 on the list, and much fewer contributing. I was particularly impressed by the response to a new interpretation graduate who obtained two job leads shortly after posting to the list!

Events—We were alerted by fellow members of an international translation conference in Barcelona, a seminar in Rome, a meeting in Palo Alto to do business in Bavaria, and cruise opportunities during this Fall’s FIT conference in Finland. Interpreters were also informed through this channel of NAJIT’s latest Spanish examination.

Tech help—Advice comes in handy on the list, too, especially since we now have a programmer posting utilities, like a convenient word counting macro currently tucked in the Files section.

Community—And the list would not be such a great online forum without its literary and other cultural exchanges.

The Translorial’s Tool Kit

By Jost Zetzsche © 2004 International Writers’ Group, compiled by Yves Avérous

The Tool Kit is an online newsletter that comes to its subscribers’ mailboxes bimonthly. In Translorial, we are offering you a quarterly digest of Jost’s most helpful advice of the past season. If you would like to subscribe to The Tool Kit, visit www.internationalwriters.com/toolkit/ and mention Translorial during subscription, Jost will put your name in a drawing for one free Tool Box book per edition.

THE Solution to Spam

This heading probably got your attention, but I am only half-kidding.

AnchorDesk’s Brian Cooley wrote an interesting article recently in which he compared himself to Hiroo Onoda, the Japanese soldier who didn’t get the memo that World War II was over until 1974. Brian feels that he’s in the same situation with instant messaging.

A while back, the same thing happened to me (see the chapter on Collaboration Tools in my Tool Box book, www.internationalwriters.com/toolbox). Instant messaging had been around for several years, but I had filed it away as something that 16-year-olds used to chat about acne and boy/girlfriends. Only when I started to work in a workgroup where instant messenger applications was the preferred form of communication did I start to realize how powerful a tool this can be, and how much more effective it is than email. The fact that you can exchange questions and answers instantaneously with your workmates in virtual workgroups can save you hours over just a few days, especially in situations where communication is essential (and isn’t that what we as translators do?).

Even though many of us work in virtual workgroups for much of our time, very few translators use instant messenger applications as work-related communication tools (I would love to be proved wrong on that!).

Aside from the above-described misconceptions, another barrier to the effective use of instant messaging may be that most messaging networks (AOL, ICQ, Yahoo!, MSN, and many others) are not compatible with one other, so you have to agree on one provider in your group before you can actually communicate.

Fortunately, there are some applications out there that simultaneously support numerous protocols, making it possible to talk to your AOL, Yahoo!, and MSN “buddies” at the same time and from within one application. The one that I have been using is the open-source freeware program Miranda (see www.miranda-im.org). This comes in a bare-bones version when you first install it, but it can be added onto to your heart’s content with some of the hundreds of free plug-ins that are available on its website. Oh, and to come back to the title of this article—there is no spam in instant messenger (if you adjust your settings accordingly)!

Office 2004 for Mac

Office 2004 for Mac was released recently. Though it was praised by most reviewers, I don’t think it’s that much of an improvement over the previous version. Many of the new features are taken over from the Windows versions of Office (such as the review and research features or the smart buttons). There is one thing that most reviewers overlooked but I really like: the Notebook Layout view in Word. I’ve often complained that a Word document doesn’t offer several tabs (like an Excel spreadsheet) so that you can add notes or files to a document without actually inserting them into the text. That is exactly what this feature allows you to do. I don’t care for some of its features (for instance, if you switch to a different view, the tabs aren’t maintained until you switch back to the Notebook view), but this is a great step in the right direction and makes me hopeful for the next Windows release of Office.

Another Mac tool that was recommended by a reader (Greg Hopper Moore, greg_hopper_moore@sil.org) is the time-and job-tracking tool Clock and Track (see http://www.bdnsoftware.com/products/clockandtrack/intro.html). In some ways it is similar to the Windows tool Time Stamp I’ve mentioned before (see www.syntap.com), but it’s significantly more sophisticated (you’re able to track time by preconfigured client and project and to write invoices) and a lot more humorous (you’ll see what I mean when you start playing with the tool). It is available as a shareware download. If I spent more billable time on my Mac, I would certainly want to use it.

Embedding Fonts in Office Documents

Here’s a tip on the portability of fonts: Most of us have been in situations where we receive a well-designed document, but as soon as we open it up on our computers it looks like it was formatted by my four-year-old. Or worse, we spend hours making a document look perfect, proudly send it off, and then receive a screaming e-mail from the client because the document’s a mess at the other end. While there could be a variety of reasons for this, the most common problem is that a font was used which hasn’t been installed on the recipient’s computer. Fortunately, programs such as Word and PowerPoint offer the capability of embedding TrueType fonts (it isn’t possible to embed PostScript fonts), thus making sure that the document or the presentation will look just the same on the recipient’s computer.

In Word, select Tools>Options>Save>Embed TrueType Fonts (thanks to Rebecca Davis, rbcdavis@pacbell.net for this contribution); in PowerPoint, select File>Save As>Tools>Save Options>Embed True Type Fonts. The drawback of this method is that you end up with a slightly larger file, but considering the enormous size of files in the latest Office editions, this shouldn’t make such a big difference (unless you’re using an East Asian or a Unicode font).

Give Excel a Break

One of the most coveted keyboard shortcuts in Excel must be Alt+Enter. Anyone who has ever tried to add a line break into an Excel cell (i.e., force text to the next line within a cell) knows that the “normal” shortcuts such as the Enter key (for a new paragraph or “hard return”) or the combination of Shift+Enter (for a line break within a paragraph or “soft return”) does nothing but select the next cell (Enter) or the current cell (Shift+Enter).

As you will by now have already guessed, the magic bullet is Alt+Enter, which will break the text to the next line while still staying within the current cell.

For users of OpenOffice.org’s Chart program (the Excel equivalent), the shortcuts are a little different: Enter to select the next cell, Alt+Enter to reselect the current cell, and Ctrl+Enter to add a line break with a cell.

Office 2003 and the New Outlook

In my Tool Box book, I make a strong case for why it doesn’t really pay to update to Office 2003, with the possible exception of Outlook 2003 (if you choose to use Outlook as your email client). I’ve rarely been as happy with a program as I am with Outlook 2003, especially because of its outstanding junk mail filter.

Outlook users will also be pleased to find out about the sharpest little Outlook add-on that I’ve ever seen, pointed out by Ariella Germinario-Lingenthal (ariella.it@aliceposta.it): Lookout (see www.lookoutsoft.com), a search tool that makes your searches through your Outlook files (including attachments) and any other files on your computer lightning fast. It achieves this through a comprehensive indexing of all content in the files that you are searching.

Apparently, even Microsoft was impressed by this tool, because it recently purchased Lookout Software. What this probably means is that the next version of Outlook (and Windows) will have this as a standard feature. Until then, however, you can download it for free!

Microsoft Glossaries and Trados Databases

A few readers asked me again about the URL of the Microsoft glossaries in the last few weeks. It is ftp://ftp.microsoft.com/developr/msdn/newup/Glossary/. Unfortunately, the glossary site has been very unstable during the last few weeks, so if it gives you an error message when you try to log on, try, try again….

I recently talked to the person at Microsoft who is responsible for the Microsoft glossaries. She is presently in the process of rethinking and possibly redoing the way the glossaries are being published. One possibility would be to not wait a few months before publishing new glossaries but instead to publish a new glossary for a new product as it appears.

She is very eager to get some feedback. If you care to contribute some feedback, you can either write to termhelp@microsoft.com, or you can write to me and I can compile and forward the responses.

Trados expert Tuomas Kostiainen (EN>FI, tuomas@jps.net) reports on a freeware tool that allows for the conversion of the Microsoft glossaries (to be found at ftp://ftp.microsoft.com/developr/msdn/newup/Glossary/). It’s called MSGloss2TWB (see http://www.globalready.net/downloads.html) and, according to Tuomas, it’s very easy to use.

Downloadable Glossary of the EU

Walter Weyne of e-globalcom.net (see www.e-globalcom.net – a great company to work with!) recommended the downloadable Eurovoc glossary: http://europa.eu.int/celex/eurovoc/.

The Eurovoc covers the fields in which the European Communities are active. It exists in the 11 official languages of the European Union (Spanish, Danish, German, Greek, English, French, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Finnish, and Swedish) and has also been translated by the parliaments of Albania, Croatia, Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

There are literally thousands of glossaries available on the Internet, but the majority is not downloadable. For me it makes a huge difference whether I can integrate a glossary into my existing terminology database that I use with my computer-assisted translation (CAT) tool or whether I have to go somewhere and make a special effort to look for a term. The more I use CAT tools, the more I believe in the incredible power of well-kept terminology databases. Since I imported the 7,000+ terms of that glossary into my 100,000+ term main terminology database three or four days ago, I’ve already had five or six occasions where a new term was suggested to me that I may not have thought of otherwise.

CAT-Proofing Your Computer

If all this talk about CAT tools just doesn’t resonate with you, here is a tool that you might like: http://www.bitboost.com/pawsense/index.html. Have fun!

O’Reilly Offers Discounts and Review Books

As a general arrangement with Mac User Groups—extended here to the entire NCTA membership— O’Reilly, a Bay Area publisher or technology books, is offering a 20% discount on O’Reilly, No Starch, Paraglyph, Pragmatic Bookshelf, and Syngress books and O’Reilly conferences. You need only use code DSUG. You can find all their titles at http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/. Another benefit for you, is the availability of review books: find a book relevant to our profession that you would like to discover and critique among their new and upcoming titles at http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/new.html. Contact Yves Avérous at publications@ncta.org, and allow at least four weeks for shipping. Below are two titles that you might find interesting. O’Reilly has a web page for tips and suggestions on writing book reviews at http://ug.oreilly.com/bookreviews.html. Your review will be published on the TransMUG and/or NCTA Members lists.

OpenOffice.org Writer—This handy reference to using Writer, the word processor that comes with OpenOffice.org, is the open source alternative to Microsoft Word. You’ll learn how to write, edit, and review documents; use templates and styles effectively; control page layout; insert, edit, and create graphics; and much more—even how to make a smooth transition from Word. With the complete office suite included on a CD, this book makes using Writer an easy decision.
http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/openoffice/. Chapter 2, “Writing, Editing, and Reviewing Documents,” is available online:
http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/openoffice/chapter/index.html

The Spam Letters—From the man behind TheSpamLetters.com comes a collection of brilliant and entertaining correspondence with the people who send out mass junk emailings (a.k.a. spam). Compiled from the nearly 200 entries written by Jonathan Land, “The Spam Letters” taunts, prods, and parodies the faceless salespeople in your inbox, giving you a chuckle at their expense. If you hate spam, you’ll love “The Spam Letters.” http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/1593270321/

News & Tips from O’Reilly

PDF Hacks author Sid Steward posted a reduced-size file of The 9/11 Commission Report, with added bookmarks, and front-page HTML portal within hours of the report’s release. His upcoming book will reveal his many tricks.

21.5 Things You Can Do with Office 2004—Rather than covering all the new features of the software suite, Giles Turnbull shows you 21 and a half things you didn’t know your could do in Office. http://www.macdevcenter.com/pub/a/mac/2004/08/03/ms_office.html.

A Translator’s Website

By Catherine Theilen Burke

What are the advantages and costs of creating a website as part of your marketing plan as a translator? I consulted veteran translators on the need for a website as well as for tips on creating one, and asked project managers and those in charge of hiring at agencies if they judged potential translators on the basis of their websites.

Two years ago Frank Dietz led a workshop at the ATA conference entitled “The Freelancer’s Website: If you Build It, Will They Come?” Mr. Dietz’s presentation focused on whether or not every freelancer needs a website and evaluated tools for creating a website. He focused on “content creation as the most effective method for making your Website stand out of the crowd.” Mr. Dietz’s website can be found at www.FrankDietz.com and includes 2200 glossaries. These glossaries are what can be called an added attraction and can enhance your website as well as increase traffic. Frank Dietz is well known!

Added attractions to draw people to look at your site can consist of resources, links, glossaries, tools, conversion programs, news and information. Translators look to develop their resources and to expand their reference capability. Who knows when you’ll need specialized vocabulary? Translators function as information brokers.

Web Design Tools for Every Need

Yves Averous recently made a presentation for the TransMUG, NCTA’s Mac User Group, on the software program from Macromedia, Contribute 2. Available for both Windows and Mac users ($79-$150), this impressive program made it very simple to set up a website by offering a series of templates. The user is offered a variety of handsome designs laid out with buttons you click on and fill in your information. Mr. Averous gave the analogy of a website as a folder of papers. In this folder you have your resume, writing samples, references, your resources, clients and whatever you want to communicate to your audience. You then organize the pages in an attractive fashion by arranging the first page of your website. Once your site is up and running, it is quite fun to type in your name in Google and see your web page come up.

These template programs make it very easy for beginners. Web based template programs also exist. Type in, “creating web pages”, in your search engine and you will get a number of options to investigate (homestead, etc).Many of these sites offer packages for $7-15/month and up. The packages include a domain name and search, software for creating the site and somewhere to put your website. Everything is done through the company’s web page online, one stop shopping. Again, these sites are best for beginners or straightforward designs.

Perhaps your point of view is that these templates would rob you of the opportunity to learn how to make your website from scratch. Again, it is a matter of personality, style, time and money. Borrow a book on creating websites from the library; it has only gotten easier to learn HTML with these guides. Take a short three-hour class to get the basics, or a semester-long one. Use free programs on the web to help you (HotDog, Netscape Composer, evrsoft). Options exist to fit your budget and timeline.

Name, Registration, Hosting…Go!

Once your have designed the site, you need to decide if you would like to name it something specific and easy to find. You can register a domain name (your name.com or the name of your business.com) to make it easy for people to remember. The cost has gone down and extensions have multiplied (.biz, .pro, .name etc). Type in “registering your domain name” on your search engine and prices now start at $6/year. As part of registering the name you wish to use, you will do a search to see if anyone has already claimed the address you have in mind. In addition to registering your name, these sites advertise the ability to promote your domain name with search engines, something you can also do yourself.

After arranging the contents of your page and choosing a name, you upload your website to your host. Now comes the next part, deciding where your website will reside. Some ISP servers give you a certain amount of space to have a website and specify it your agreement. Bear in mind that the size of your website and the amount of traffic you have affects the cost of hosting your website. Your website can reside free at a site such as Geocities, but it is not recommended to rely on a free site if you are proposing a serious business website. The space allotted is very minimal, there are restrictions regarding businesses and the addresses can be very convoluted, discouraging even your closest relatives.

Content, What Content?

Back to the subject of attracting an audience, in addition to providing tools and references, some translators become cultural liaisons. Christine Lemor Drake is planning to set up her website as a way of both listing information about resources she already provides as a touchstone for many expatriates as well as letting people know she has a translation business. In listing all the associations and resources she works with, she can refer people more efficiently and create connections through links. Some translators come to the profession wearing many hats; a website can be a representation of businesses and avocations. Some translators are affiliated with language schools, tour companies or publishing ventures that can be included via hyperlinks.

One word of caution though, in creating a website that shows your many talents: draw the line at including material that is too personal. Make sure your content is business-oriented if your goal is to generate work. You can create another website for sharing photos of children and the gory details of family vacations. Concentrate on your translation glories and fine tuning your CV.

Promoting Your Site Promoting You

Include your website on business cards, emails and correspondence. Let your colleagues know you have a website. Consider the website one your many marketing tools. Agencies use referral sites such as NCTA, ATA, Translator Café or ProZ rather than searching the internet. Also many agencies get references from other translators and look at resumés sent to them. But it is possible a project manager could see your website listed on the email accompanying your resume and check it out.

One of the advantages of having a website is the possibility of having direct clients (bypassing agencies). Having said that, one must consider the advantages of working for an agency. Be honest about your own capabilities. Sadly, agencies often consider “vendors” (translators) a small part of the overall translation process. From the time the agency negotiates a contract to the delivered product, documents may go through many steps including preparation of the document for translators in a proper format, editing, desktop publishing, editing to make sure numbers and symbols are not corrupted if a translation tool was used, proofreading and final checks. If you have knowledge of desktop publishing or if your prospective client can do DTP, final editing and checks, then they can hire you directly rather than through an agency. Having said that, some jobs from direct clients might be very straightforward such as documents, manuscripts, transcripts and letters.

From Professional to Professional

For those translators who have too much work and not much extra time, they have the luxury of waiting to make a website. Personality plays a big part in deciding whether to build a website. If you have an interest in learning new technology in your non-working hours, then it will come naturally. If you consider it part of covering your bases and are motivated, then it can be incorporated as part of your job. Others might have time constraints (crying babies, etc.) and plenty of work as it is.

An alternative to creating your own website is to hire someone to do it for you. If you are very busy and don’t want to invest any time learning, there are freelancers out there who can help you at hourly wages comparable to a good translator’s, although website designers are fewer than in the heady days of the dot.com era. It may be more cost effective and get better results. Remember that you have to create all the content either way. Mr. Dietz recommends finding “someone who has worked with freelancers/small businesses and who realizes you have an international audience.” If you hire someone, ask for references, a detailed plan and nail down a price.

Keeping it Fresh

One important aspect not to overlook is the updating of your website. Revise your site at least once a year. Nothing is worse than a website that hasn’t been updated in years. In updating, check all the links and eliminate those which don’t work anymore. Add at least some current projects or documents. It is always more impressive to be looking at a site recently updated.

In the end, it is an individual decision as to whether the benefits outweigh the cost in deciding to have a website. The pluses are getting your name out there and networking, learning new technologies and tapping into a low cost method of advertising. Weigh this against your time and resources and how much work you already have. Happy explorations!

Here are the addresses of sample translator websites you may want to explore:
http://www.FrankDietz.com
http://www.linguabase.com

Thanks to Frank Dietz, Christine Lemor Drake, Michael Metzger Christoph Niedermair, Yves Averous and Jost Zetzche.