Saturday, June 18, 2011

Set-Up Job

Edited March 24, 2018: Problems with Windows 10 "Feature Updates" (twice every year!)Edited March 9,   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 Thus a program attempting the clean-up will almost always be outdated and work only incompletely.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 used to do that up to Windows 7 on a monthly schedule; since Windows 8 MS updates more or less continually.

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.
Edit March 2018: Microsoft has a new method to upgrade Windows 10 every six months. These upgrades are HUGE and can take many hours to download and run. IMHO it is imperative to supervise this process and to know what to do (or not to do) when problems arise.
There sheer size and the volume of work to install them is the main reason that I recommend to buy computers with SSD drives; with HDD drives these big updates just take too long!  

3. "Security" Software: All of the commonly preinstalled 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
uninstalling 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 uninstalling and checking for left-overs.

My Solution: I offer a set-up job for new 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) if so desired;
      Edit March 2016: Only upon request; the Web Album Service was discontinued by Google;
      you can keep using Picasa to organize, edit a.s.o. locally stored pictures just as in the past; 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 a picture of 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 preinstalled 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 have been used to since Windows XP (that is since 2002)!
    All above mentioned software is of excellent quality, officially FREE for home use and guaranteed to be free of advertisements and spyware.

    All this can take many hours and will seriously confuse the normal "non geek" computer user.
    If I can do the Set-Up job at my house I offer it for a flat fee! 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!

    No comments: