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Reading .rar, .php files

Question : I have downloaded .rar and .php files from the Internet, but no software on my PC seem to be able to read them. Please help.

Answer : .rar files are typically compressed with a RAR archiver. An "archiver" (or compression program/software) compresses a file so it becomes smaller than its original size. A popular compression format is PKware's Zip format. The RAR format, created by Eugene Roshal at Chelyabinsk University in Russia, claims to compress data more efficiently than the Zip format.

Whatever the format, data packed in this way has to be unpacked before use, the same way a shirt folded for packing has to be unfolded before wearing. A compression/decompression program that understands the RAR format has to be used to unpack the file before it can be used or executed. There are a few programs (both free and commercial) that can do this. One such program is 7zip (www.7zip.org). Released by Igor Pavlov under the GNU Lesser General Public Licence, it's a small and fast program that installs, executes and uninstalls cleanly.

While we were doing our research for this article, we tried several other programs that claimed to extract RAR files. In doing so, we found that a lot of software did annoying things like stuffed the registry with entries, left junk in the temporary folders, installed or modified file types, and installed desktop and "quick launch" icons.

In practically all of those cases, the default install auto- matically assumed the user wanted to install all of those bells and whistles. Sometimes the software failed to install completely, leaving pieces of themselves all over the operating system. Because of this, we were glad to find 7zip that worked, and worked well.

After installing the program, all one needs to do is right-click on the rar file, select Extract Files and then click on the OK button. The files will then be extracted under a directory named after the rar archive file. For instance, if the file name is "xyz.rar", the extracted files will be placed in a directory named "xyz" under the current directory.

Note, however, that compressed files (.rar, zip, etc) are sometimes used to bypass malware protection. Many malware scanners cannot de- tect malware in a compressed file. Because of this, it is ad- visable to scan the archive file and then scan the extracted files after they have been extracted from the archive.

PHP hypertext preprocessor (PHP) files are actually source code like hypertext markup language. There's nothing much anyone can actually do with them. The Web site visitor never actually see the PHP code because it's not sent at all.

PHP code consists mainly of instructions to the server to do various things such as retrieve data from a database. These instructions are then used to generate a Web page, which the visitor sees as a php page. In other words, from a Web site visitor's point of view, a .php page is the same as any "normal" Web page. There's not a lot anyone can do with it other than read it.

Some people do get confused, however, when they click on a link and end up downloading a php page instead of the file they thought they were downloading. This is sometimes because they right-clicked on the download link and selected Save As from the pop-up menu instead of right-clicking the link.

This is how it happens: The Web site visitor right clicks on a link that looks like it refers to an executable file and selects Save As. In usual circumstances, a Save As window would open with the name of the file in the File Name textbox. The visitor then clicks on the Save button to start the download. Some download links, however, do not work that way. Instead they work this way: the page displays a link to an executable file. In actual fact, the link points to a .php page.

One reason it looks like it might point to an executable file is because the link location (in the status bar) has been modified to look that way. If, however, the visitor right clicks on the link and selects Save As, the php file (the actual destination of the link) will be offered for download. Clicking on the Save button would then save the php page, and not the file the php page is supposed to locate and offer.

The only way to get the actu- al file is to left click (not right click) on it. If you right click on a link, select Save As and see a .php file in the File Name textbox of the Save As window, click on the Cancel button and then left click on the link.


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