Friday, December 23, 2011

I Do Not Sell Any Hardware


All too often I receive emails from customers with a stement similar to the following:
 "I just purchased an XYZ computer from you....".
To keep the record straight I have to correct such a statement because it gives the incorrect impression that I sold the computer which is not the case.

I advised you to buy this computer and you bought it in your own name and with your credit card from ..... (fill in your store name).

Because your computer was according to your own words not working at all or possibly virus infected or too slow we physically may have used my computer for the purchasing process.

I have to insist on this clarification for reasons buried deeply in the tax codes of the United States and of the State of Wisconsin and the implications it would have for me if I would actually sell any hardware.

I do not sell computers or any (other) hardware.

As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.

Email Client vs. Web Interface


If you use a regular email client program (I recommend and support Mozilla Thunderbird only) it helps to be aware of a few simple things about email.

Email client programs download the mails to the computer they run on and you maintain the emails and your filing system yourself. Once the emails are on your computer they should be gone from your ISP's server; IMHO this is an important security and privacy aspect.

I usually talk to my customers about the differences between an email client and an Internet based Web Interface and some of the consequences. "Normally" you should maintain your emails on your home computer, IMHO at least.The "Web Interface" is a complex web page that shows you the emails that are on the ISP's server in a web browser like Mozilla Firefox.

If you leave the emails on the ISP's server and access them only through a Web Interface you have no control whatsoever about who and what the ISP allows to scan and analyze your emails. Okay, I do not trust big companies' privacy promises, not at all; in the past there have been way too many bad surprises. 
If you travel often and want to see what new emails have arrived (and if the email client on the home computer is inactive) you typically go through a Web Interface, that is an Internet based way of accessing the emails that have not yet been downloaded to the computer at home. The three most common large Internet Service Providers in our area and the  URL to access their Web Interfaces are:
If at home you use a client program like Thunderbird you can only send and receive emails when your computer connects to the Internet through your ISP. When you are connecting through other services like at a friend's house or at a public hot spot you have to use a Web Interface through your web browser.

Many people do not want to deal with the "complexity" I described above. For these people I recommend an account with Google Mail at gmail.com. Gmail can be set up to automatically load emails from almost any ISP.

As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.



Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Worst Crapware Offenders - IMHO


If you are a customer of mine and if I have set-up your computer then you have an age old article about the gunk software on new PCs available; this article was first published in summer 2006. So far this old article was my only third party justification for offering my Set-Up job; finally here is more third party justification.

I really try hard not to rely on other people's writings for my blog posts. But sometimes I happen across something that comes right from my own heart. This is the case with Ed Bott's article on the ZDNet blog The Ed Bott Report. His articles  On consumer PCs, crapware is still a performance-sapping nuisance and  12 ways hardware makers screw up a perfectly good Windows PC tell the sad truth.  

Let's face it, there are many more than 12 ways how PC manufacturers mess up perfectly good computers! But alone the fact that someone of Ed Bott's stature and influence begins to write about this issue is not only new but almost sensational.

Another recent example of writing about the current "crapware" epidemic is in Michael Kassner's article Five Tips For Getting Rid Of Crapware on the TechRepublic web site. As interesting as this article is I do have to comment on his five tips because they are NOT AT ALL suitable for the non-technical home user. The author recommends in this sequence:
  1. Buy a computer free of crapware
    Well said but too late when you unpack the new machine, you have it already.
  2. Autoruns from Sysinternals
    IMHO a typical "tip" from a journalist lacking technical detail. Autoruns is an excellent utility in the hands of a knowledgeable technician to eliminate unwanted start-up programs but it is NOT a tool to remove, that is uninstall unwanted programs at all!
  3. CCleaner
    An excellent tool, I use it almost daily. BUT you still need to know what to make of the long list of installed programs you are presented with. Not a tool for the average non-technical home user at all!
  4. PC De-Crapifier
    This program costs money! It presents you with a list of third party (that is non Microsoft) programs and you have to make the decision if you want to remove it or not. Not a tool for the average non-technical home user at all!
  5. Win-Patrol
    Certainly a good program but just a tiny bit of googling gives the same and often even more information. And still the final yes/no decision is with the poor non-technical home user who generally just does not have the know-how needed to make these choices correctly.
Yes, we do have a problem with all the crappy software that comes pre-installed on brand new, brand name computers.

A significant part of what I do every week is cleaning crapware from new computers as part of my Set-Up Job. From the experience with this I venture to give my own, very individual and clearly opinionated version of a list of the IMHO worst crapware offenders; the worst being right up front.
  1. Samsung
  2. Sony
  3. Toshiba
  4. HP / Compaq
  5. Asus
  6. Dell
  7. Lenovo
  8. Acer / Gateway / eMachines
As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.

About Libre Office


When I help any customer order a new computer I always have this or a shorter version of this conversation with them:
If the customer owns a paid retail versions of MS Office then this gets installed and the conversation is over.If they do not own MS Office Then I will explain to them that on the new computer will be a trial version of Microsoft Office installed.
That usually means MS Word, MS Excel and MS PowerPoint are available. This trial version will fully work only for 30 or 60 days depending on the computer manufacturer and the MS Office version.

After this initial one or two month(s) the customer will have to buy a license to obtain a product key; with that  product key they can activate MS Office for full functionality. This license costs an additional $100 to $150.-

There is an alternative office suite named Libre Office available (formerly called Open Office). This software suite does about 95% of what MS Office does and it is free, free as in no money ever. It is widely used in Europe and many third world countries.

Do you want me to leave MS Office on the machine or do you want me to install Libre Office (formerly Open Office) instead?
More than nine out of ten of my customers decide to go with Libre Office. 

If I do the set up of Libre Office correctly it will open, read and write MS Word, MS Excel and MS PowerPoint files. Generally I do not install the Libre Office drawing and database modules which are of no interest to my typical home users.

As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Buying Computers at Best Buy


Many customers of mine ask me for advice what computer to buy. Often I have to send them to a Best Buy store simply because BB sometimes has rock bottom priced offers that can't be beat anywhere. 

Best Buy has perfected several techniques of power selling. As every big company does they see to their own bottom line first and customers are an unavoidable means to that end.
 
Here is some advice derived from my own years of experience at Best Buy stores and from stories customers told me. The following is not said to blackmail Best Buy, it is an attempt to help you to protect yourself. 

Their sales people are excellently trained to push additional "stuff" on you that you don't need. 

They use FUD to confuse you, especially when they realize that you don't know much about computers and/or are insecure.

Go there well prepared, best with a printout of the first page of the description of the computer from their own web site. Say "I want to buy THIS computer and nothing else, absolutely nothing else!".
  
Do NOT accept any additional "offers".
  • You do NOT need any of the anti virus or security programs they offer.
  • You do NOT need a worthless extended warranty.
  • You do NOT want ANY extras.
  • Be stubborn, buy the computer ONLY.
  • If the sales person gets too obnoxious ask them what part of NO they don't understand.
As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.

Slow Computer? Boot Your bleeping Security Suite!


In the last three days I had three customers who were complaining about their slow computers. Customer number one had an older but fairly well equipped Windows XP machine with paid AVG, number two a Vista computer with Kaspersky Security Suite (paid) and number three was running Windows Vista Basic on a computer with limited main memory and Trend Micro Security Suite (paid).

In all three cases the machines were between four and six years old, that is just on the border where I begin to evaluate the worth of investing money into an aging computer versus buying a new computer.

In all three cases the customers choose to have me try removing the installed "security suites" and replace them with Microsoft Security Essentials before they made their choice between fix old or buy new.

Number one was a no brainer; original words of the customer: "Wow; that box NEVER before worked that fast!". He still is using Windows XP and he is a happy camper.

Number two was trickier because his machine had over time caught about 340 pieces of malicious software, among others two very nasty Rootkit viruses, a couple of Trojan horse programs and it was missing half a ton of updates. The clean up and updating took some time, I removed Kaspersky and installed Microsoft Security Essentials and guess what, the customer said he'd happily pay me, give the computer to his daughter in college and asked me to advise him what to replace his computer with!

Number three is so happy they gave me an excellent tip in the form of home made dill pickles, yummy! Thank you Fred and Judy! They will keep using their computer until they can afford a new one. And I got an additional job from them, thanks for that too.

Why do I tell these stories? Because that's the reality out in the field of home computing, not what I witnessed last (Black) Friday in a local Best Buy store where almost every customer who talked to the Best Buy sales people about a computer got pestered to buy one of  Kaspersky's security suites.

All these by now massively complex programs in my opinion are not worth the money compared to Microsoft Security Essentials.

MSE "speaks" only understandable English,
MSE is absolutely unobtrusive,
MSE does not slow down your computer,
MSE does not block your computer while it is scanning,
MSE updates in the background when the computer is otherwise idle and on top of all
MSE is free, free as in no money!

Sounds like a no brainer to me.


As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Webroot Proven To Be Inadequate

Finally it has happened! Webroot Antivirus and Webroot Spysweeper software is gone. How did that happen?
Webroot, the manufacturer himself says it is not good enough for you!
They, Webroot, launched a new system based on completely new, unproven technology. You can read details on the TechWorld blog. And it costs money, naturally.

If your computer still has Webroot's Antivirus and/or Spysweeper installed then quickly uninstall it and replace it with Microsoft Security Essentials. You can read here how to do that correctly.
  • MSE is free.
  • MSE speaks simple English language that everybody can understand.
  • MSE allows you to work on your computer while it scans, even on weak older computers.
  • MSE employs massively proven techniques. 
Many people are not aware that Microsoft has many years of experience with combating malicious software. Okay, they had a rocky start but we are so long past these initial problems.

With first beginnings in 1997 many of MS's server customers have relied on Microsoft Forefront and these experiences have finally led to Microsoft Security Essentials.

As far as I know no other antivirus system ever had all of these advantages on it's side. 

As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.


Browser Toolbars - More Than a Nuisance

The following applies generally to ALL tool bars, no matter how well known the name of the company is where the toolbar originates from. I chose the Yahoo! toolbar only because it is so pervasive and comes in many disguises.

Over and over again I find the nasty (at least!) Yahoo! Toolbar on customer's computers. When I ask the rhetorical question "Who installed that?" mostly I get sort of a blank stare and the reply "I have no idea".

And I trust that the customer really has no idea. But then, how did it happen? Two possibilities:

1st possibility:
 
You installed a new program or an update to a program you have been using for quite some time. These install processes usually ask a lot of tedious questions and we have gotten used to "clicking through", that is to quickly click on the button for the positive, confirming choice. We want to get done with this, don't we?

This "clicking though" is the culprit. Right in the middle of all these windows is one window that may look similar to this example:

As you can see the example is from an installation of PDF-Creator. And it asks us for permission to install the "pdfforge Toolbar". Only the text by the second preselected check box gives us a hint as to what toolbar this really is. "Set Yahoo! as my ..." gives it away, it's my friend the Yahoo! toolbar in one of it's many disguises!
 
Do you know a rat when you smell a rat?

This is a typical example of how we get tricked everywhere and all the time to do the wrong thing. We have "trained" ourselves to click through and the people out there know it and use it to our detriment - if we let them.

Take the time to really read and understand what these little windows say and act accordingly. The correct action here would be to uncheck the two check boxes by "I agree..." and "Set Yahoo!...". Simple enough one would think...

2nd possibility:

Just a few minutes ago I did some researching for a specific issue in the Thunderbird email program that many of my customers and I myself use. In a legitimate related article in the Thunderbird support materials was a link to Yahoo! Help. I followed that link and ended up with this (partial) window:

 
Do you really understand what Yahoo! offers here? We have to sort of translate the words "...Firefox for Yahoo!". Yahoo! does not have any real updates to Firefox; we get those only from Mozilla.

Yahoo! has a slightly modified version of Firefox that locks you into some Yahoo! services, especially their search engine. Once you have the Yahoo! version installed there is no way to get rid of the "Yahoo! Toolbar" and their "search enhancements"  besides re-installing Firefox from a clean installer.

Do you know a rat when you smell a rat? 

Here Yahoo! takes advantage of the fact that most people don't know enough about their computer and seemingly are afraid to ask before they click on stuff like this.

Why is all this important you ask?
 
Here you have it directly from the horses mouth:
Yahoo! Toolbar "Causes excessive CPU usage"
Ask.com Toolbar "May cause redirected searches, failed keyword searches and/or the "File not found" error..." 
If you want it more technical see Mozilla's own list of problematic extensions for more similar goodies.

As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

What To Update?

Revised September 18th 2011 and October 3rd.

All to often I hear from customers remarks like “There are always these reminders to update this or that but I am afraid to do something wrong so I always say NO”. I do understand the basic impulse behind this reaction; I always ask “Why didn’t you ask me?”. And that is where we usually have to leave it because I am at their home to do a job.

There is an easy answer to the title question: “Every program you use”. But I realize that this answer raises for most of my customers even more questions; it appears that is not a correct answer.

Here is an updated attempt to put together a list of programs that IMHO should always be kept up-to-date. Please respond with as many suggestions, critical remarks and questions as possible right here in the blog by using the Comment feature. I hope this list will grow and become a good point of reference for the ubiquitous question “What should I Update?”. The bolded words are a list of what you should keep up to date.

Windows itself and all other programs from Microsoft need to be kept up-to-date all the time. My experience shows over and over that the standard Windows feature called “Automatic Update” is not really dependable. On computers I have set up you will find a desktop icon for Windows Update or Microsoft Update. Although the background color will be different on your computer they look like this:

     Windows XP              Vista/7






When Automatic Updates has worked it may show you a small icon in the tray area (bottom right corner of the screen).
image           image
Windows XP       Vista/7
When you rest your mouse cursor on one of these icons Windows will tell you for example that “Updates are ready for your computer. Click here to install them” or “Updates have been installed. Click here to restart”. Well, please do that; Windows is telling you that important security relevant changes have been made and you need to allow Windows to complete this process!

Any and all security programs like anti virus, adware- and spyware scanners and the like have to be kept up-to-date.

Your web browser, hopefully Firefox, has to be kept up-to-date. It should check for updates automatically but this sometimes just does not work. Firefox for example allows you in the Help menu in About Firefox to check for an eventual update like this:
Another important thing are Firefox add-ons (also called extensions), little programs that add functionality to the web browser like weather status, blocking of advertisements and color coding of dangerous web sites in Google search results. Currently I install three extensions: Adblock Plus (block advertisements from known commercial advertisement servers), Forecastfox (weather info) and Web Of Trust (warns of unreliable web sites in search results). Firefox may ask you to check for Updates for installed add-ons.

After you have done the check you may be told that there are updates available; allow these updates to be installed!

If it tells you that “No updates were found” just close the window.  

Another slightly more detailed representation of Firefox Add-ons on my blog is here.

Update 03/0/2016:
Java
is a computer system independent programming language that used to be widely used on the Internet. It has so extensively been abused to distribute viruses that it hardly used any longer.

I do no longer install nor support Java. If for any reason need to have Java installed keep reading, all others please remove Java from your computer(s) and skip to Adobe....

All too often I find computers with terribly outdated Java installations; this is like playing Russian Roulette with a revolver that has five of six chambers loaded. Java mainly gets updated to fix security risks and there are many Java viruses out there that just wait for a computer with an older version of Java. 

The newer versions of Java have an Auto-Updater that should check at least once every month for updates.You find the most current version Java on Filehippo.com.

If you get a Java update you are NOT done yet, sorry. Newer versions of Java since about one or two years will normally remove older versions but they can do that only in a limited fashion. You have to check manually that there are no older versions left on your computer!

In Control Panel click on Programs and Features (in XP click on Add/Remove Programs). In the resulting list look for any Java entry with a version number lower than the highest, that is the most recent one. If you find older Java entries highlight them and click on Uninstall (or Remove). Here is what is current per Sept. 19, 2011, example from Windows 7:

Java In Prog-Features
Naturally this will change with future updates or releases.  

Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash and Adobe Shockwave are ubiquitous on the Internet and important to be kept up-to-date. Here is how you can check for updates yourself:
  1. Adobe Reader: Help menu, Check for Updates will tell you...
  2. The About Adobe Flash Player page has to be visited with every web browser that you use regularly.
  3. Adobe Shockwave Player; when you see a version number in the graphics box then you have the most current version. If not then please update immediately!
Please see below the paragraph beginning with "For the technically inclined reader…".

If you use the Thunderbird email program it too needs to be kept up-to-date. In Thunderbird you can check for an eventual update in Help, About Thunderbird. You will see something like this:
For the technically inclined reader I recommend Secunia PSI, a free program that will tell you when ANY program you have installed needs to be updated. 

Here is the list of the most important things that have to be kept up to date:
  1. Windows (better: all Microsoft software)
  2. Security programs
  3. ‏Firefox web browser 
  4. Firefox add-ons
  5. Adobe Reader
  6. Adobe Flash
  7. Adobe Shockwave
  8. Thunderbird email client
  9. Thunderbird add-ons
Please help to improve this list by making suggestions in comments.

As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Danger - Wild Parsnip

Through a chain of emails from one concerned nurse to many others and so on finally to my wife I got a warning about Wild Parsnip, a non-native, invasive and poisonous plant that is appearing alarmingly fast and widespread now. I have seen lots of wild Parsnip along the roads here in the wider Hartford, WI area.

I want to pass this warning on to as many people as I possibly can. The original email read (some emphasis added and typos corrected):
I wanted to take a moment to write to you to tell you our county is now completely covered with wild parsnip plants and these plants are very dangerous. Unfortunately very few people know about them. I feel it is urgent that you be aware of these plants so that you may effectively treat your patients and also educate your community too.  
 

Wild Parsnip causes
phytophotodermatitis to the skin.  When plant juices come in contact with the skin nothing happens but when this same skin is exposed to sunlight a rash with significant blistering can occur.  The skin discoloration and sun sensitivity from this plant can last months, even years.
 

Please familiarize yourself with this plant as it truly has taken over our county and the accompanying burns will most likely be something you will be seeing more and more of in your practice.
In the beginning paragraph I have linked to Wild Parsnip on Wikipedia. Please read the paragraph titled Dangers.

And here are examples of what Wild Parsnip looks like:
"Harmless" little plant...
... with nice leaves and ...

... many of these plants by the roadside can actually look quite nice!

But the rash and the blisters show the plant's ugly side!
I hope many of you see this and take action when you see the plant! Thank you.

As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.
 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Dangerous Downloads - Even From Well-Known Sites


Why didn't I have the idea to write about that earlier?

For the longest time I don't use cnet's Download.com web site anymore. Why? Because they force-feed a "download manager" program to your computer whose sole purpose seems to be to offer additional gunk like toolbars, search helpers and so on. Okay, I understand that cnet needs to make money but that is just too much, for me at least.

If you follow this blog you have seen me referring to TechSupportAlert before; this web site is for me the source for finding information about free software and that's the reason that I am subscribed to their newsletter. This newsletter in turn lead me to a very interesting blog I had not heard of before. The currently newest post there is titled "Dangerous Downloads on Legitimate Websites & Search Engines".

Using cnet's download.com web site in his example the author describes in great detail how easily unsuspecting and uncritical users can be mislead to install an unwanted download manager and then to download exactly the wrong program.

The example is quite extensive but IMHO it's more than worth to really read the details.

What is described in "Dangerous Downloads on Legitimate Websites & Search Engines" is generally but in slightly different form more or less applicable to many, many so called "download" web sites out there. Common sense and diligence in reading, really reading these web pages is called for. We are never too old to learn, aren't we?

Or be consequent and heed all warnings from WOT (Web Of Trust); you did install WOT in the meantime, didn't you? If not please read the article on Siteadvisor being incompatible with Firefox 5 and up on this blog.

As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.

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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Virus Check Any File


Today a customer told me that she actually reads this blog and that she would like to see something about virus-checking any given file. Thank you Rose K. for reading this blog and for the suggestion.

I can think of many scenarios where you have a file, any kind of file, that you feel you better check for viruses before you "work" with it. And you may want something like a "majority vote" because just the other day you read in the newspaper that scary article saying that one anti virus program may not be enough to know "the truth".

As with increasingly many things around computers the Internet can help with a service that will allow you to upload any file up to a size of 20MB; this service then will submit your file to currently 40 (forty!) different anti-virus programs and give you the results.

This free service is called VirusTotal. Here is a partial screenshot of  an example output:


When you click on the Show All button the list gets much, much longer.

In the Result column on the far right you see what every anti-virus program says about the file. No entry here means that the AV program does not qualify the file as containing a virus.

Yes, above mentioned newspaper article is technically correct, one vote is not enough to really matter. But when only 5 of 40 results mark the file as virus infected you can with some degree of reliability assume that these five positive results may be so called "false positives". 

A word of warning: I can imagine that only a few AV programs mark a file as infected while the majority does not and the file actually contains a brand new virus that the majority of AV programs can not yet detect! Depending on the circumstances you may react super carefully rather than too trusting.

Again another good example that computer safety benefits from an open mind, common sense, a good measure of caution and careful consideration of all aspects of the given situation.

The only problem with common sense seems to be that it ain't that common..

As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Atlantis Resort - A Five Star Disappointment!


Sorry for the additional click but this grew step by step; it is done now.

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Siteadvisor Incompatible With Firefox 5

Currently I get many questions about McAfee Siteadvisor not working in Firefox.

If you have updated to Firefox 5.0 nobody can help you but McAfee; their Siteadvisor is not compatible with the new version of Firefox anymore.

An excellent example how a big company, here McAfee, ruins an originally outstanding utility and makes it unusable.

An IMHO decent replacement would be Web Of Trust, WOT for short. You can check out WOT here. Please read the descriptions first!

If you want to install WOT please uninstall/remove Siteadvisor first. Here is how:
  1. Open the Control Panel
  2. In XP open Add/Remove Programs, in Vista or Win 7 open Programs and Features
  3. Find and highlight McAfee Siteadisor
  4. In XP click Remove, in Vista or Win 7 click Uninstall
Then you can install WOT from within Firefox.

As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Wireless Disconnecting - Windows 7 64-bit mostly


Several Windows 7 64-bit systems (laptop computers mainly) seem to loose their wireless network connection at varying and not specified times under varying circumstances.

Searching in Google and in Microsoft's support forum I found three different methods documented that seem to have done the trick for various people. I post these methods here in an attempt to give at least some help.

Method 1: Disable IEEE 802.1X authentication
To disable IEEE 802.1X authentication, follow these steps:

  • Click Start, type ncpa.cpl, and then hit Enter.
  • Right-click your wireless network connection and click Properties.
  • Click the Wireless Networks tab.
  • In Preferred networks, click your wireless network and click Properties.
  • Click the Authentication tab, click to clear the Enable IEEE 802.1X authentication for this network check box, and then click OK two times.

Method 2: Remove and re-create the wireless network connection
To remove and re-create the wireless network connection, follow these steps:

  • Click Start, type ncpa.cpl, and then hit Enter. 
  • Right-click your wireless network connection and click Properties.
  • Click the Wireless Networks tab.
  • Under Preferred networks, click your wireless network and click Remove.
  • Click View Wireless Networks.
  • Under Network Tasks, click Refresh Network List.
  • Under Choose a wireless network, click the wireless network to which you want to connect and click Connect.

Method 3 requires to work within your router.
If you are not used to do that - frankly, you better call me.

But for those of you that are not faint of heart: Here it is, written for a D-Link 655 router. If you have a different router the same things may be called VERY differently; be cautious!

  • Un-check WMM (Wireless Multi Media)
  • Un-check Short GI (Guard Interval) and
  • Un-check Extra Wireless Protection.

Warning: These are methods that have helped other people with this problem to varying degrees. If you have a D-Link router I might actually try method #3 first.

Either way you apply any of these methods exclusively at your own risk. I did not have this problem and thus can not test any of the above.

As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.

Set-Up Job


Edited March 9th. 2016: Block Windows 10 from snooping and Picasa discontinued
 
Every brand name computer you buy in a store or on the internet brings with it three areas of concern: Gunk software, missing updates and costly and questionable "security" software. I'll address these three concerns separately and then offer my suggestion to deal with these concerns before they become a problem.

1. Gunk software: Brand name computers come with some (and sometimes a lot of) "gunk" software pre-installed. You'll find anything from trial versions of programs that will cost additional money to outright spyware and even back door programs.

It goes without saying that this gunk should be removed before you even connect the computer for the first time to the internet.

I even consider programs like Microsoft's Internet Explorer and MS's email programs and Microsoft Office trial versions to be "gunk". By virtue of the very technology used TO WRITE them (called ActiveX) they will enable a large percentage of malicious software to be executed on your computer. Just by using alternative programs that were built without ActiveX technology you avoid all this malicious ActiveX software automatically.

Microsoft's Office is by now always a trial version; it will cost you additionally about $100 to $150 depending on where you buy the product key that you will need to use MS Office for more than 60 days.

There is a commercial program being offered to do this removing of gunk software but the computer manufacturers regularly modify what they pre-install and the names of what they install. Thus a program attempting the clean-up will almost always be outdated and work only incompletely. Or it will offer you a list of installed non-Microsoft programs and ask for your decision on what to remove; and you bought the program because you don't know that in the first place!

2. Missing Updates: The brand name computer you buy was designed and originally configured months ago, sometimes many months ago. For good reasons software companies like Microsoft, Adobe and others regularly release security relevant updates. Microsoft does that on a monthly schedule, others do it when required.

All these mandatory updates from when your computer model was designed until when you bought it are missing. That mostly is a lot to download and install. These downloads should be done in a safe environment to protect the machine from eventual hack attacks before all required updates are installed.

3. "Security" Software: All of the commonly pre-installed anti virus programs or "security systems" will in the future cost additional money. Some are considerable, clearly perceivable heavy workloads making your computer slow; see this article for real life experiences with security suites slowing down perfectly well working computers.

Some others are not always working correctly and/or proving their questionable quality by not un-installing correctly or quietly stopping to work altogether.

After seemingly error-free uninstalling of some security suites I have found that they left sometimes parts of their software still running. Due to the nature of what these programs have to do these left-over drivers and orphaned processes can wreak havoc.

This clearly calls for a knowledgeable human doing the uninstallation and checking for left-overs.

My Solution: I offer a set-up job for new brand-name computers; I even offer a fixed price if I can do it at my house because I can overlap some of the time with answering my emails and other activities.
This set-up job includes:
  • De-gunking the computer (manually and completely removing unwanted, potentially risky programs and all kind of trial software)
  • Updating the operating system and all other software in a safe environment 
  • Installing and updating (or enabling) free security software (currently Microsoft Security Essentials on Win7, enabling Windows Defender on Windows 8.x and Windows 10)
  • Edit March 2016: On Windows 7, 8.1 and 10 I install a free program that blocks Windows from reporting back to Microsoft what you do and how you do it (I call that spying!).
    Since about November 2015 Microsoft has begun to "enhance" Windows 7 and 8.1 with some of the reporting features of Windows 10. That is called progress...
  • Installing Mozilla's Firefox web browser, my choice as alternate web browser including the best available advertisement blocker and a utility that warns you if search results would lead to known malicious web sites
  • Installing Mozilla's Thunderbird email client if so desired including the best available advertisement blocker
    • Installing Libre Office (Microsoft file compatible office software)
    • Installing Google Earth
    • Installing Picasa (photo management and editing program);
      Edit March 2016: Only upon request; the Web Album Service is discontinued by Google;
      you can keep using Picasa to organize, edit a.s.o. locally stored pictures just as in the past and  there will be no more program updates for Picasa (the current version is VERY stable!).
    • Installing an easy to use screen shot program (so you can send me the pesky error message that is bugging you)
    • Installing a remote control program that enables me to give you remote support  
    • Replacing the always out-of date pre-installed version of Adobe Reader with a free, faster and safer alternative called PDF-XChange Viewer
    • Installing a virtual PDF printer; it creates PDF files from anything you can print. You don't want to email a job application as a Word document that anybody could modify! 
    • Establishing desktop icons leading directly to Documents, Downloads, Pictures and so on. 
    • On Windows 8 and Windows 10 install a proven, small program that starts the computer directly into desktop mode and establishes a Start button and a Programs menu like we got used to in Windows 7 or Vista or XP.
    All above mentioned software is of excellent quality, officially FREE for home use and guaranteed to be free of advertisements and spyware.

    Should you be interested please send a personal email to ejheinze_at_gmail_dot_com; thank you.

    As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

    Stay safe!


    Tuesday, June 7, 2011

    LibreOffice - What Is It - Installed Correctly

    Once upon a time there was an office software suite called OpenOffice, worldwide free (as in no money!) and used in many European and third world countries. OpenOffice was an OSS system. The technical infrastructure (server computers, storage space a.s.o.) for this sizeable project was mainly supported by Sun Microsystems, a now defunct computer manufacturer. Then the software behemoth Oracle Corp. bought Sun and got OpenOffice as an Easter egg with the whole basket. They, Oracle, imposed some fees and apparently a whole lot of red tape and typical "big company" overhead which did not sit well with many of the major developers, that is the programmers who mostly as volunteers wrote the code and did all the nitty-gritty detail work.

    Quote from another blog:

    "Oracle's imposition of fees for some OpenOffice capabilities caused some of the venerable open source office suite's creators to head out on their own and create LibreOffice as a truly free OSS tool."

    So the developers of OpenOffice spoke, parted from Oracle's realm and alas, we had LibreOffice.

    Basically LibreOffice is almost exactly the same as OpenOffice, only better. Better because it can read files from Microsoft Works and Word Perfect and handle SVG graphics files.

    There are two major differences:

    1. OpenOffice came with an always outdated Java version and LibreOffice requires a Java environment already installed on the computer. If I have set up your computer that is covered. If I did not set up your computer you need to install the most current version of Java and remove all older versions.
    2. OpenOffice came with Help files integrated in one huge download, LibreOffice comes in two files; you need both.

    There are a few things you ought to know if you want to install LibreOffice.

    1. Install or update to the latest version of Java (as of July 2011 version 6 update 26 is current).
    2. Remove (un-install) all eventually still existing older versions of Java.
    3. Remove (un-install) OpenOffice - if it was on your computer at all.
    4. Download LibreOffice from this web page. As of end of July 2011 the current stable version id 3.4.2. You need two files:
      1. LibO_3.4.2_Win_x86_install_multi.exe, the LibreOffice installer program.
        Caution: This is a 214MB download!
      2. LibO_3.42_Win_x86_helppack_en-US.exe, the installer for the Help package.
      3. Above version numbers will be different for future versions!

    Some important installation instructions (not meant to be comprehensive!):

    Install LibreOffice itself by running the installer in file LibO_x.x.x_Win_x86_install_multi.exe.

    For everything here not explicitly mentioned you can accept the default values/selections.

    When you are being asked to select the type of installation please select Custom:
    ScreenShot001

    You will have to de-select the following features:
    In Optional Components the Python-UNO Bridge:
    ScreenShot002

    In LibreOffice Program Modules de-select Draw, Base and Math; it should look like this:
    ScreenShot003

    Then select all three Microsoft Office modules:
    ScreenShot004

    Install the Help package by running the installer in file LibO_x.x.x_Win_x86_helppack_en-US.exe.

    With these hints you should be able to install LibreOffice with the ability to open and write Microsoft Office Word, Excel and Powerpoint files. If you prefer to have me do the installation then please download both files that I mentioned above, I can do the rest remotely.

    After the installation you will find two folders named "LibreOffice 3.x (random) Installation Files" and "LibreOffice 3.3 Help Pack (English) (random) Installation Files" on your desktop. Please delete these two folders.

    As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

    Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.

    Monday, May 30, 2011

    Windows 7 - Everything Else Is FREE

    I read a two part article series on the WindowsSecrets blog written buy Woody Leonhard. If you follow my blog you have read about WindowsSecrets before. I like the skinny of these two articles so much that I "stole" their text from the second part of the article to post it here, with some textual changes and additions to enhance the readability and understanding by non-geeks, IMHO at least.
    Most if not all of the software that stores will try to sell you when you buy a new computer does not need to cost any additional money. But since stores and dealers live from selling you something they will try - and sometimes really hard. The most often applied method to up-sell an unsuspecting not-too-PC-literate customer is good old FUD, Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt. The sales guys in some stores can scare the daylights out of you just to get you to buy some additional software.
    The kicker is that if you steadfastly refuse these software add-ons they sometimes even will throw it in the bag anyway "because it's free"; stuff they five minutes ago wanted to charge you for! If my customers got any antivirus program in this manner I always tell them to give it as a gift to their best enemy.
    If you buy a new PC with Windows7 Home Premium pre-installed then there is hardly anything else you need to pay money for besides your fast Internet connection.
    Let me go into a few more details for the most commonly offered add-on packages. This first part is from the WindowsSecrets blog with some textual additions.
    Antivirus: Microsoft Security Essentials is free and works for the average PC-user just as good as commercial products and often even better.
    It runs totally unobtrusive in the background and it's work load balancing is so good that even on weaker older computers you hardly ever will recognize that it is running.
    Even while it is scanning your machine you can still work with your computer; I don't know any other antivirus program that does that in such a graceful way.
    And if it has to "talk" to you it speaks in clear, simple English; you don't need a college degree to understand what it's telling you.
    Backup programs: Windows 7 backup isn't particularly neat or fancy, but it covers the bases automatically and (almost always) works well.
    I strongly recommend to invest a little bit of time to learn the ins and outs; it's all right there in the Windows 7 Help and Support displays.
    And I strongly recommend to buy an external disk drive to keep the backups outside of the computer. A backup on the C: drive is no backup at all, at best it's a fig leaf.
    Defragmenters: Windows 7 defragments your drives automatically (once a week by default), and you don't need to lift a finger or spend a penny. But you can set it to your liking, like have it defragment daily at a certain time - or only manually started. The latter then very soon gets forgotten anyway.
    Disk Partitioning: Windows 7 does all you'll need!
    No, Windows 7 doesn't have a full-fledged disk-partition manager. But it does everything with partitions that most people need (if you need it at all!) -- and it gets the job done without messing up your hard drive. Which is more than I can say for some third-party disk-partition managers.
    Where is Windows 7's partition manager you ask? In an administrator account, click Start and in the Search box type "Administrative Tools", without the quotes naturally. In the resulting window double-click Computer Management. In the left panel, under Storage, click Disk Management.
    You will see all your disk drives and the partitions on the disk drives.
    Again, I strongly recommend to invest a little bit of time to learn the ins and outs; it's all right there in the Windows 7 Help and Support displays.
    Registry Cleaners: Some do more harm than good.
    I have never seen a real-world example of a Windows 7 machine that improved in any perceivable way after running a registry cleaner. Registry cleaners and Defragmenters may have been useful for Windows XP (before SP 2) and certainly were a good thing for Windows 98 and ME as long as these programs worked correctly - what sometimes they did not. With Windows 7 I think they're useless, if not worse than useless.
    In my experience, working with hundreds of Windows 7 machines, I have never found a single Registry cleaner that caused any perceivable change in performance.  The Registry is an enormous database, and all this cleaning really doesn't amount to much. It is like sweeping out one parking space in a parking lot the size of Texas.
    Even Microsoft has abandoned its Registry cleaners. E.g. Windows Live OneCare (precursor to Microsoft Security Essentials) once included an online scanner and Registry cleaner.
    (Disclaimer: I can not confirm this claim but usually Woody Leonhard is a dependable source of such information.)
    Windows 7's Firewall works only one way, that is inbound.
    Like its predecessors, the Windows 7 firewall only keeps outside threats from getting in — it is an inbound firewall. Outbound firewalls alert you when an unauthorized program attempts to send data out of your computer. At least that's the theory. In practice, many outbound firewalls bother you mercilessly with inscrutable warnings saying that obscure processes are trying to send out data.
    If you simply click through and let the program phone home, you're defeating the purpose of the outbound firewall. On the other hand, if you take the time to track down every single outbound event warning, you might spend half your life chasing firewall snipes.
    Some people think an inbound-only firewall is woefully inadequate. I think it's good enough for almost everybody. It certainly is big time good enough for the computers in my household.
    It's surprising how much old advice isn't valid any more!
    So much for the part that was inspired by and partly copied from WindowsSecrets. Let me add a few categories that are not part of MS Windows.
    Office software: Almost all new brand name computers I have seen over the last 6 or 7 years came with some Microsoft Office package pre-installed.
    When you just start to use these programs they will work for 30 or even 60 days. After that point in time you will have to buy a license from Microsoft or your favorite computer store. Depending on the version of MS Office the sales clerk talks you into that is anything between $100 and $300. Ka-ching says the cash register and sales guys in the store smile.
    You don't need to pay for this! There are at least three packages with office programs around that will not cost you a single penny! They can read and write files in the commonly used Microsoft formats, at least for texts, spreadsheets and presentations.
    Currently I favor LibreOffice; it covers 99% to 100% of what the average home user ever uses or needs; only in very "tricky" formatted text or spreadsheet files you will find some features that maybe are not 100% compatible; in this case the Help forum mostly has a workaround.
    A category by itself: Google Earth just because it is such a great toy. Whether you want to check out a new vacation location before you book or just see the Kremlin or Tiananmen Square from the birds eye view, it is worth trying it. Even on average decent basic computers like I recommend to my customers it works very well; the speed of the Internet connection is much more important.
    Photo Management and Editing: For the average home user Google's program Picasa IMHO is unbeatable. just watch it finding and removing the red rabbit eyes from the photos of your loved ones. And that for FREE! You can build albums with it, publish photos to the internet so the family members on the other side of the planet can see them and, and, and…
    Web browser: If you are my customer or listen to me on WTKM then you know that I strongly favor Mozilla's Firefox web browser. Although quality and security wise Google's Chrome browser is a very serious contender as well.
    Email Client: If you are my customer or listen to me on WTKM then you know that I strongly favor Mozilla's Thunderbird email client. I don't even know whether there is another alternative still around.
    Should you require any other software and don't know where to begin to look for it, I will gladly help. For much if not most of what you may want to do on your computer there likely is a free solution available.
    As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.
    Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.

    Saturday, May 28, 2011

    Help Requests - Correct, Complete And Courteous Please

    Just about a week ago an email conversation with an acquaintance and customer of mine went totally, horribly wrong. On first impulse I wanted to completely post the email exchange with my background thoughts added but all names except mine and all locations neutralized. My dear wife convinced me not to do that but rather try to explain why I asked the questions I asked. All this appears to be sufficiently important (to me at least!) to put it in a generalized form and to publish it here.

    I need to write something that truthfully and forcefully makes it clear beyond excuses, cop-outs and exceptions why I do request certain information. I have to get this across in a way that “hits home” with the vast majority of my customers; if I can't get this done I am going to burn out.

    Here we go:

    I receive many, many emails from customers with questions about technical issues and so far I believe not a single email has remained unanswered, either by an email reply or a phone call. And please consider that my email advice is a free service!
     

    Please remember, I do not retain any personal information about my customers! No phone numbers, no address information and no information about their computer configuration. Why you ask? Simply because I need to avoid any risk of eventually being accused of “leaking” any of that to someone who is not entitled to this info and may misuse it.

    From my side I see these emails with support questions as business communications, not personal ones. What I would expect in business communications is at least proper identification and contact info, that is the sender's full name, phone number and eventually address info. An example: A sending email address like risibisibear@isp.com signed with John is NOT correct identification. “risibisibear” does not resemble any name I know and I know at least twenty gentlemen named John.

    And I ask to please include that information in every email you send to me or I have to go on a wild goose chase, either scrolling and scrolling through a long thread or even read through potentially many old emails from that customer to find that info. Frankly, I don't have the time to chase this sort of wild geese. If this info is missing most likely you will get a standard reply asking for the missing info.

    As far as I know email is a fast and convenient way to send someone a written note, aka a little letter. Do you like to get letters that miss addressing you with your name and/or missing a signature at the end? I didn't think so.

    In this context I point you to one of the IMHO better web sites about Netiquette (etiquette on the Internet), especially the pages about email etiquette.

    Every week I see many customers and I get many support questions via email. If I were to remember all technical and environmental details of all the many installations I have seen there wouldn’t be space left for anything else in my scatterbrain. And if I had to hunt down contact information every time I get a request from a customer there wouldn't be any time left to do actual customer visits.

    Please include technical info on what you are asking about; that includes all technical details, like what operating system you use, what program you are asking about, the version number and so on. Simply give as much detail as humanly possible if you want fast and good answers. These details can be (but are by no means limited to)

         - a screen shot instead of re-typing lengthy messages
         - tell me what program you are using
         - what you were attempting to do or achieve  
         - please spell names correctly
         - please use the reply button; this leaves the context in a longer conversation so I don't need to go on a wild goose chase to establish the context again
         - if your question is about emails please tell me whether you “do” emails in a web browser and which one it is or in an email client like Thunderbird or Outlook.

    Did you see my request to please send a screen shot? If that seems too difficult please read this article on my blog for more details; thank you.

    Should you send your email from another than your own email account then please tell me so. I don't care for your reasons to do so but I do care about correctly addressing my reply!

    PLEASE remember above explanations and understand that I need to insist on everybody's cooperation. I do not want to get forced into a situation where I would have to charge for this service; that really is the last thing I want to do!

    Lastly I want to quote two snippets of text from this article on the NetManners blog:
    "Simply because one is the “customer” certainly doesn’t give them permission to e-mail without any details, courtesy or proper e-mail etiquette."

    "… when you e-mail with courtesy, details and clarity, you can bet the other side will value your business and go out of their way … to promptly answer your requests with the same! "
    Am I asking too much? Frankly, I don’t think so.

    As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

    Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.

    Friday, May 13, 2011

    Backup - My Final (?) Words

    Here a quickie, I've got to run.

    Okay, the skinny is that at least for Windows 7 and to some extent for Windows Vista users there is no longer any excuse not to have a backup and a Repair Disk if something serious happens.

    Please read this article on the Windows Secrets web site. Most of it is applicable to Vista as well.

    And if you are still on Windows XP. all I can say is PLEASE, your system is at least about 5 years old.

    You should upgrade to a Windows 7 computer rather now than later! 

    As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

    Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.

    Saturday, April 30, 2011

    Password Too Simple - What to Do About It


    Update June 15, 2013:
    I stand by what I wrote here but please read as well my article "Passwords - The Latest".


    Very recently a customer of mine asked me for help because a lot of obvious spam emails were sent from his Yahoo email account.

    First we ensured that his computer was clean, that is that there was no virus software or the like running. We found and removed a few remnants of apparently earlier removed malware but nothing showed up currently running. I wanted to know more about where the emails truly came from and with help from a tech forum we established Guam as the geographical source.

    And with help from the forum I realized that I had failed to give my customer the most obvious advice, that is to change his Yahoo password. LK, I apologize again for this dumb failure. Once the customer had changed the password the emails stopped immediately.

    This proved beyond a doubt that his password had been guessed. This in turn reminded me of questions about passwords that I permanently discuss with my customers.

    Tonight I stumbled over an article titled "The Usability of Passwords" that discusses password usability and security in depth but in understandable form and language. The latter truly is a positive exception.

    In the future I will base recommendations about passwords on this article; it is the first time that I found anything written about passwords with respect of usability and security. Many other discussions in this area focus on technical aspects of security only and all too often ignore that a really secure password like 5rF#2kLn7@ simply is impossible to fully remember and type correctly.

    Passwords are meant to secure and/or guarantee the privacy of our communications and data; correct? In this context I have to admit that the mentioning of Yahoo and/or Hotmail together with "privacy" always makes me cringe; "cringe" because I don't want to laugh deridingly about a customer who uses Yahoo, Hotmail, MSN, Earthlink, Gmail or any other email service that leaves the mails on the ISP's servers.

    Why do I cringe? Read this article about data mining on Yahoo and this one about privacy on Hotmail as examples.

    If all the articles I linked to here are too much reading that's fine. But please read and heed at least the article titled "The Usability of Passwords".

    Thank you.
    As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

    Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.

    Tuesday, April 26, 2011

    Words on Printing

    Considering the enormous troubles and cost of printing associated with commonly offered ink-jet printers here in condensed form my take on the average bunch of low cost ink-jet printers.

    A few things to keep in mind:

    1. Printer manufacturers don't make money on the printer, they make oodles of money in the ink. Printer ink is said to be the most expensive liquid in the world with up to $35,000.- for a gallon.
    2. Most pictures printed on ink-jet printers will fade after only a few years.
    3. Printing pictures on ink-jet printers is extremely expensive because it uses lots of the expensive ink to have good coverage.
    4. Many ink-jet printers can print pictures only in one format, 4x6 for example.
    5. Printing pictures on ink-jet printers is mostly very slow.
    6. Dried out ink cartridges or clogged nozzles are a major problem for many ink-jet printers that are not being used regularly on a daily basis.

    My recommendations for "normal" household usage is twofold:

    1. Photos:
      Edit the photo to be what you want it to look like (cropping, color correction and so on).
      Copy the file to a USB drive (at the time of writing $6.- and up at Walmart).
      Take the USB drive to Walmart, Walgreens, Sam's Club or the like and print your pictures on the machines there.
      Better quality and all in all much less money - but admittedly not quite as "convenient".
    2. Text:
      Drop the dream of color and print your text in black on white.
      Excellent quality b/w laser printers can be had at the time of writing from $60.- and up.

    IMHO the biggest advantage of laser printers: They can not dry out! And on top of that the cost per printed page is a fraction of what it is with ink-jet printers.

    As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

    Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.

    Thursday, April 21, 2011

    ComboFix Or Not To ComboFix

    Once more a question from a customer gives me a hopefully good idea for an article. This is what the customer wrote:

    We had a family get together last weekend, and during a computer conversation, our one son-in-law said he has this great anti virus software on his computer. This week he sent me the name, with instructions for downloading.

    The name is ComboFix, on Bleeping Computer.com website.

    I have Microsoft Security Essentials on my computer. Isn't this ComboFix just another piece of anti virus software? Why would I want two like programs running?

    I have done nothing, and won't until I hear from you.

    Here is my reply: (Begin quote)

    [Customer's name],
    Good question, Thank you and congratulations on the wise choice to ask first!

    Yes, no doubt, Combofix is a good and VERY powerful program. In this power lie the pits waiting for a normal user to fall into.

    Just read the first few paragraphs of the instructions "How to use ComboFix" on Bleepingcomputer.com (this is the only legitimate web site to download this program from).
    I have added red color to the important parts that your son-in-law IMHO might not fully understand in all consequences.

    ComboFix is a program, created by sUBs, that scans your computer for known malware, and when found, attempts to clean these infections automatically. In addition to being able to remove a large amount of the most common and current malware, ComboFix also displays a report that can be used by trained helpers to remove malware that is not automatically removed by the program.
    . . .
    You should not run ComboFix unless you are specifically asked to by a helper.
    Also, due to the power of this tool it is strongly advised that you do not attempt to act upon any of the information displayed by ComboFix without supervision from someone who has been properly trained. If you do so, it may lead to problems with the normal functionality of your computer.
    . . . .
    Please note that this guide is the only authorized guide for the use of ComboFix . . . . It is also understood that the use of ComboFix is done at your own risk.
    Let me summarize:
    1. It can detect but sometimes NOT automatically remove some malicious software.
    2. You run it at your own risk if you use it on your own.
    3. The information it displays is for trained people, NOT for the casual home user!
    4. If you run into problems there is NOBODY who might be able and willing to help you!

    If your son-in-law is a trained helper than he does well; if he is a "normal" self-taught user he will create problems for himself down the road.

    Since you asked here my advice to you:

    Don't touch it!

    Again, thanks for asking this question. This is so intriguing that I might make an article for my blog out of this.

    (End quote)

    And now a few additional remarks:

    Some things I did not mention in my reply:

    Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) is a full fledged anti virus program that is always running and continuously monitoring ALL file operations (and much more) during normal operations of the computer.

    ComboFix is an on-demand scanner that DOES NOT RUN continuously scanning file operations.

    Just having ComboFix sitting on the computer and occasionally running it can IN NO WAY be compared let alone equaled to the workings of a "real" anti virus program. It is beyond my understanding how someone can assume that to be sufficient protection.

    ComboFix gets updated fairly often; it has NO provisions at all to dynamically download new virus definitions or the like when it is being run. You would have to download it every time you want to run it just to have the latest and greatest version. That is a far cry from a dependably self-updating program like MSE.

    The people that maintain BleepingComputer.com know what they are doing; I depend since many years on their evaluations and advice. To ignore the clear warnings and instructions in the short quotes above IMHO is blatantly foolish and ignorant. Dear unknown son-in-law, I apologize for eventually hurting your feelings but that's how I see it.

    As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

    Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.

    Tuesday, April 19, 2011

    Phishing Revealed In Detail

    Here is an outstanding article on how to spot a phishing email. Although taken from real life this example naturally does not cover exactly what you may encounter. But the principal method to spot phishing emails is always the same, simply be observant and use common sense.

    Yes, I know, the problem with common sense is that it is not all that common . . .

    I suggest you stop reading when you reach the header line "The Attachment" unless you want to learn the geeky stuff. This has several reasons:

    1. When you already suspect an email to be phony than still downloading an attachment would be outright dumb and suicidal. Pardon my French.
    2. I REALLY don't want you to even try to download a suspect attachment! Way too many virus infections happen this way.
    3. After the discussion of the attachment it gets very quickly very technical.

    As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

    Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.

    Thursday, April 7, 2011

    How A Rogue Program Gets On Your Computer

    Folks, this is really important because rather sooner than later your computer will get nailed! if you don't know what to look out for, here is an excellent example to learn from. 

    I am a (paying!) subscriber of the Windows Secrets newsletter. The latest issue begins with an article on LizaMoon, the newest mass threat from the internet. The article begins with these words:

    A nasty piece of malware known as LizaMoon has hijacked links on millions of websites in the past weeks, including some normally safe iTunes and Google links.

    The author describes in detail what happened and that he had to deliberately co-operate four times(!) for the real infection with that rogue program to take hold on his computer.

    I highly recommend the article to all who read this!

    If you want to know how to avoid LizaMoon (or other rogue programs) if it shows up on your computer reading this above mentioned article is a must!

    Now that you know how to spot this sort of thing you want to know how to combat it? Firstly, know how to close these kind of program windows without giving them a chance to interpret your action as an invitation. This kind of infection needs your cooperation and at least one click on the "wrong" link or button. Please read this article here in this blog for more information. One of several methods to "kill" these attacks is detailed after the heading "How do I stop the attack that just started?" towards the end of the article.

    As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

    Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.

    Friday, February 25, 2011

    Recovery Disks vs. Repair Disk


    Recently I got this question from a customer:
    I got a message saying you need to create System Recovery Discs. Is this necessary with all the changes you did to our new computer?
    Please be aware of the difference between a Repair Disk and System Recovery (or System Restore) Disks. Some programs that can write System Recovery Disks can also write System Repair Disks.

    Repair Disks are operating system specific and can help to repair an operating system that does not boot anymore. They got introduced with Windows Vista.

    Vista and Windows 7 can create Repair Disks natively, that is without additional software.

    Recovery Disks (or Restore Disks) can restore a computer system completely to the exact state it was in when the Recovery Disks were created. On Windows 7 no special software is needed to create Recovery Disks. Many manufacturers now supply such software under various names pre-installed with their systems.

    But BEWARE: Many manufacturer programs will give you "Recovery Disks" that will recover the computer to the original, factory installed state. And trust me, you don't want to go back there and as a consequence loose all updates, additionally installed programs and personalized settings. And with one wrong selection you could loose ALL your data files as well! 

    In their own documentation Microsoft does not always clearly distinguish between system Repair and system Recovery (or Restore). Beware of the ensuing confusion.

    There is a fairly good explanation of the term "Recovery Disk" on Wikipedia. Only the sentence "OEM supplied recovery media is commonly shipped with most computers" is not correct any longer. Since the introduction of Windows Vista in late 2006 I see on new Vista and Win7 computers only software installed to create such disks; generally there are no disks being supplied any more. And any manufacturer supplied recovery disk will very likely restore your computer to it's original state; see the paragraph above that begins with "But Beware".
     
    After an eventual catastrophic event System Recovery Disks allow you to completely recover the system to exactly the state it was in at the moment the Recovery Disks were made, including all your programs and data. You need several DVDs for one set of Recovery Disks so you should buy at least 5 or 10 recordable DVDs, NOT CDs! Naturally your computer needs to be equipped with a DVD writer to be able to create the recovery disks.

    IMHO it is always advised to make System Recovery Disks, not even only once after a new computer has been set up but after every major change or update.

    And it is advised as well to create a System Repair disk; this needs to be done only once. If you did not do it or if this function got left out by the manufacturer of your system then I can help; I have a complete set of Repair Disks for Vista and Windows 7 in their 32-bit and 64-bit variants.

    After you have made the first set of Recovery Disks the reminder message mentioned in my customer's email will not come up anymore but the software should still be on your computer in the All Programs menu.

    In the past I have seen that some manufacturer in their eternal wisdom choose to remove the software after the first set of disks was created. Should that happen on your machine don't despair, there is other free software available that can write Recovery disks. Repair disks can be downloaded from Microsoft.

    If you got confused by the above please don't despair. The Windows Secrets blog has a completely different way to describe the same theme while talking about all these options quite differently.

    As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

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