Monday, June 9, 2008

Ordering from Dell

Ordering from Dell via their web site takes a few tricks if you want to save some $.

AND, Dell changes their web site often, The following is only a snapshot of what it looked like May/June 2008. Just look around.

  • Go to
  • Hover the mouse over the kind of computer you want; a menu pops up.
  • Click on Small & Medium Business.
  • On the next page find and click the tab Dell Deals.
  • Select the kind of system you want. (email or call me for advice).
  • 2GB memory
  • 120 GB hard drive
  • 24x CD-RW and DVD-ROM combo drive
  • UN-check Free Microsoft Live Business
  • UN-check Dell Network Assistant
  • UN-check Dell Computer Tune-Up

Generally, watch out for pre-selected options. Mostly you neither need nor want what they want to sell or there is "hidden" follow-up cost involved. Before you order please call me, there is some info I can not give here or in writing.

Recently (May 2008) I ended up with $454 total for a very well equipped XP notebook and today with $524 for a well equipped XP desktop including a 20" LCD screen!

Prices vary almost daily though.

Dell will just add tax, 3-5 day s/h is generally free.

Feel free to post any comment you may have.

Thank you in advance.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Real Life Lack of Common Sense

Just a little while ago I received the following email from a concerned customer of mine. I know it’s quite a mouthful but I believe it’s worth reading all the way through it so you understand my conclusions at the end.

> To:
> Subject: Bad virus
> Date: Fri, 6 Jun 2008 11:34:57 -0500>
> ---------- Forwarded Message ----------
> Hi All, I checked with Norton Anti-Virus,
> and they are gearing up for this virus!
> I checked Snopes (URL above:), and it is for real!!
> Get this E-mail message sent around to your contacts
> You should be alert during the next few days.
> Do not open any message with an attachment entitled
> 'POSTCARD,' regardless of who sent it to you.
> It is a virus which opens A POSTCARD IMAGE, which
> 'burns' the whole hard disc C of your computer.
> This virus will be received from someone who has
> your e-mail address in his/her contact list.
> This is the reason why you need to send this e-mail
> to all your contacts.
> It is better to receive this message 25 times than to
> receive the virus and open it.
> If you receive a mail called' POSTCARD,' even though
> sent to you by a friend, do not open it!
> Shut down your computer immediately.
> This is the worst virus announced by CNN.
> It has been classified by Microsoft as
> the most destructive virus ever.
> This virus was discovered by McAfee yesterday
> and there is no repair yet for this kind of virus.
> This virus simply destroys the Zero Sector of
> the Hard Disc where vital information is kept.
> Snopes lists all the subject lines this email
> could come with.

So far so good, all that is nothing new.

As you can see at the bottom of the Snopes page this thing is known at least since August 13th, 2007.

Somebody just got scared all over again and there goes the next avalanche of spam emails; yes, SPAM emails!

I try to explain to all my customers that greeting cards, even right around your birthday, anniversary or the like should ALWAYS be met with high suspicion; and that even if you know the supposed sender.

For those of my customers that listen it should be a question of honor NOT to give in to natural curiosity and click on a link in a “Postcard” or greeting card or the like.

In the example on Snopes the reader is asked to go to A simple check with SiteAdvisor will show that is a malicious web site.

My conclusion:

If you trust any old greeting card or postcard or the like it is your own fault when your computer gets wrecked! I’d love to help you getting it going again.

It is so easy to check these things out yourself that I am hard pressed to feel sympathy if anyone’s computer gets “nailed” because they forgot to check; it tells me that again somebody had taken their “common sense coat” off before they sat down at their computer.

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

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.

On Norton (Symantec) support

Most of you might not need disk imaging programs but the experience with Symantec’s support described below IMHO has relevance for all users of ANY of the Norton labeled products.

Here is a snippet from a web page on Tech Support Alert. The context is a comparison between disk imaging programs Norton Ghost from Symantec Corp. and True Image from Acronis. The comparison was for older versions but that is not the point here. The author reported serious technical issues that, if left unresolved, would have rendered the software packages useless and outright dangerous. Here now the quote:

However this problem proved to be a blessing in disguise as it allowed me to test out the support provided by Symantec and Acronis.

Symantec support for Ghost was abysmal; an odyssey of condescending replies, canned responses and the apparent inability of the Indian support staff to understand the English language. Eventually, I wrote a personal letter to the Chairman & CEO of Symantec, John W. Thompson, asking for his help and assistance.

My plea worked and I was put in contact with an “Executive Support” group. They seemed much more anxious to help and started off well by sending me the latest version of Ghost 10.

I was optimistic that with the receipt of this new version the problems I had been experiencing with corrupted Ghost image backups would disappear. Sadly, that was not to be. Even with the latest V10 release I had more invalid backup’s, completely baffling the “Executive Support” group.

After a number of emails back and forth, they adamantly pronounce that not one but BOTH of my U320 SCSI hard drives were broken and needed to be immediately replaced! After expressing my incredulity with this diagnosis, they decided to try blaming the problem on my CPU processor. Anything it seemed other than their product. Their last email to me was pure pathos:

“Do not bother responding to this email as there is nothing else I can help you with and it will not be responded to.”

So much for Symantec "executive" level support. I was clearly on my own.

The experience with Acronis’ support was much better.

The above quote is very similar to my own experience with Symantec’s support from about 2002-2003. That was when I dropped Norton products completely.

Can you imagine what could ensue if an inexperienced, normal home computer user needs to call Symantec’s technical support?

Feel free to post any comments you might want to make.

Thank you.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Can I manually update avast! anti virus?

Thanks for asking that question anyway. Actually it is fairly easy.

avast! is just as secure and regular a self-updater as AVG was. But if you want to do it manually here is the How-To:
1. Right click on the little "a" in the round, blue tray icon (right bottom corner of the screen).
2. In the context menu click "Updating". This opens a sub menu; it looks like this:
3. To update the virus definition database click on "iAVS Update".
4. To check for program updates click on "Program Update".
Seems easy enough, doesn't it?

Feel free to post any comment you might feel inclined to give.

Thank you in advance.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

From Ad-Aware Personal SE to Ad-Aware 2008

Somehow quite a few of my customers didn't get a notification about Ad-ware Personal SE going to be discontinued. Here are instructions on how to remedy the situation.
  1. Please uninstall ad-Aware Personal SE (Control Panel, Add/Remove Programs).
  2. Please go to this web site and download Ad-Aware 2008, the new and improved version.
  3. The download file is an installer program.
    Run it to install Ad-Aware 2008.
  4. At the end of the install you will be asked for a license number;
    just click on "Use Free".
  5. After the install there will be two new icons on your desktop.
    Please DELETE the icon labeled Ad-Watch; this is an attempt to suck you into paying for something extra.
  6. If Ad-Aware 2008 runs okay you should delete the installer.
The new program version works much like the old one, the differences are mainly optical.

Feel free to post any comment you may have.

Thank you in advance.

Prepare for Remote Assistance

I can give remote assistance if you have an Internet connection that is faster than dial-up. All we need is a telephone connection to talk to each other and we should both sit at our computers. 

From August 2009 until November 2013 I installed on my customers computers TeamViewer (see below under "Historical information"). 

Since December 2013 I prefer to use a new service with a different icon on the desktop. It looks like this: 
I switched to the new service because it works more efficiently especially if you have a basic DSL or any other slower Internet connection.
If you don't have this icon you can easily create it yourself to be prepared for our first remote support session.

Prepare for remore support:

Please go to my personal Instant Housecall Download page. Click on the big Download button; allow downloading of the small program that is required on your computer for safe remote support. After the download has finished you have to run the just downloaded installer program. You will get a new icon similar to the one above on your desktop; the text under the icon will read "Get Remote Support".

When we start the remote support session I will ask you to start this program, that is to double click on this icon.

The following is historical information:

If I have worked on or set up your computer between August 2009 and November 2013 you should not need any preparations. The program required should already be on your computer. The desktop icon looks like this: TV Icon 
The version number and your background may be different though.

Before August 2009 I have used the services of “FogCreek Copilot” or “Crossloop”. As far as my support services are concerned these programs, icons and services are defunct. If you want to prepare for remote support from me please follow the instructions above under "Prepare for remore support".
For remote assistance I charge by the minute at my normal hourly rate. 80% of all help sessions so far took less than 20 minutes.

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

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.

How to install SiteAdvisor

SiteAdvisor IMHO is almost as good an invention as sliced bread. Here are concise installation instructions.

1. In Firefox go to

2. Click the big orange button Download SiteAdvisor for Firefox now

3. Put a check mark in "I agree to these terms and conditions"

4. Again click the big orange button Download SiteAdvisor for Firefox now

5. Watch the top part of the browser; an info bar will show. Click on the button on the right end of that info bar.

6. Click on Allow and OK (this allows Firefox to download an add-on from McAfee's web site)

7. Follow the prompts to Install and to Restart Firefox

8. In the right bottom corner of the browser window should be a green button "McAfee SiteAdvisor"

9. Click on that green button

10. Put a check mark next to "Highlight search result links"

11. Click OK

12. Close and re-open Firefox

13. Search for anything; from now on Google, Yahoo and MSN search results should be highlighted

YELLOW: Caution, something is fishy.
GREEN: Good to go -- as far as we know.
WHITE: Not yet tested. Do you like to jump head over into unknown murky waters?

Feel free to post any comment you may have.

Thank you in advance.

About chain letters

Dear friend;

Thank you for remembering me and trying to stay in touch. This is my personal reply to the chain letter you recently sent to me.

I would highly appreciate if you took the time and read the text that follows this message.

I always love to get a personal message, especially from you; but please remove me from your address list for chain letters. Thank you in advance.



This letter has been sent to you to stop you from sending out chain letters. The original was written in the 3rd century A.D. by a deranged member of the Most Holy Post. That version vanished during the Spanish Inquisition (Nobody suspects the Spanish Inquisition !!!!!!!!!). More recently, it was communicated telepathically to Shirley MacLaine by monks on the planet Mongo in the eighth dimension. Now it has been sent to you. Good things will soon be happening to you if you follow the instructions given in this letter.

This is no joke! If you do what this letter says to do, every person who owes you money will repay you. The IRS will never audit you again. Hugh Hefner will invite you to house-sit at the playboy mansion while he and the missus go on a six month vacation. Finally, you will be spotted by a head hunter and whisked off into the fast paced life of an insurance salesman in Kansas.

To get all of this good fortune, you must keep this letter for the next five years. If at any time during that time you receive a chain letter, don't send out any copies of it. Instead, you must send this anti-chain letter back to the person who sent you the chain letter (If you don't know who sent it, send a copy of this letter to a random person). At the end of five years, do the following 'de-briefing' ceremony, and you will be done:

A. Throw salt over your shoulder.

B. Throw salt over Madonna's shoulder.

C. Throw Madonna over your shoulder.

D. Walk under a ladder.

E. Do the rumba under a ladder.

F. Pray the rosary.

G. Pray the zippity-doo-dah, zippity-ay.

H. Drink Vitameatavegimin (3 tablespoons at a time)

I. Mix 2 frogs, 3 locks of Michael Jackson's hair, 2 turtledoves, and the remains of this letter in a cauldron and boil at 375 degrees for 2 hours and 3 minutes.

J. Place the whole mixture in the microwave, sauté for 6:53 and place in serving bowls, let chill.

K. Gargle and spit.

Don't send out those chain letters and see what happens. You will be shocked to find that none of their curses come true. The person you send this anti-chain letter to will be heartily amused, and besides, it’s much easier to send out one copy of this than 5 or 20 copies of some dreary chain letter.

Remember, send no chain letters. Please do not ignore this letter.


Feel free to post any comment you may have.

Thank you in advance.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

My take on AVG 8.x Free

You probably have gotten reminders from AVG to upgrade to version 8. All these reminders sound like that is a for pay version only. This is NOT true. Grisoft has the AVG 8.0 Free download on this web page. It is quite a trip to get there though.

Here is my admittedly personal scoop on AVG 8; no claims to completeness either.

· With the advent of version 8 of AVG Free the program has undergone a major transformation. Even the free version has added features. Some comments follow:

· Anti-Spyware: Resident program feature that adds memory usage and asks technical questions that most of my customers will not even want to read.

· Safe Search: Searching for these words on AVG’s web site does not bring up any explanation for this feature; curious to say the least.

· Practical experience shows that it adds a marker to Google search results; this marker was explained similar to this:
“In our tests this web site did not exhibit malicious behavior.”

· The above is totally inferior to McAfee’s Siteadvisor; that actually says something about the quality of downloads, spam emails and dangerous links.
And with this new AVG feature it clearly took longer to get the search results.

My conclusion: AVG is on the way to become (yet another?) program package like a “Swiss army knife”; too bad.

I will not install it on my customer’s machines any longer.

I recommend and will be replacing it with Alwil Software’s program “Avast! 4 Home”. You can read details about this software on this web page.

I know of two other free anti virus programs, Clamwin and Avira's AntiVir. Both do not screen incoming emails and Clamwin has no on-access scanning; thus both lack at least one must have feature. This is why I choose Alwil Software's avast! program.

In May 2008 I posted instructions on "Switching to avast! anti virus". Please refer to these instructions if you want to attempt the switch.

Good Luck.

Feel free to post any comment you may have.

Thank you in advance.