Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Gunk Software

This time around it was not a customer but a friend from my trap shooting club who asked a question that I want to answer here. Thank you Steve. He sent me the following text:
My new Toshiba laptop seems loaded with a bunch of Toshiba software.  It seems to want to [do] things its own way. 

If I try to use Internet Explorer as my default browser instead of Toshiba-Google Chrome, my email at SBC-Yahoo does not always seem to work well... the cursor won't respond normally and always the Toshiba browser loads anyway. 

I suspect I might have to uninstall everything that says "Toshiba." 

What are your thoughts on this?
Good that you asked before uninstalling everything from Toshiba.

In my usual complicated manner I will probably tell you more than you wanted to know but I'll do it anyway.

All the following is valid for every brand name computer marketed to consumers, no matter what manufacturer we are talking about!

Sony, Samsung, Toshiba and lately ASUS are in my experience and opinion the very worst of companies as far as dubious or questionable pre-installed software is concerned. Sometimes it takes almost criminal investigative skill to find out what the software really does that they install on their computers.

Some of these programs your computer really needs to function correctly. Other programs have questionable purposes at best and still others are outright gunk. This mix is different from manufacturer to manufacturer and within manufacturers different from model to model or series to series.

The lowdown is that you as a "normal" human being will not be able to correctly discern what is safe to remove and what needs to stay. I have personally witnessed even experienced professionals failing at that and I am VERY careful and conservative when I do that.

In your case I assume hat you can at least uninstall the existing Google Chrome version. I don't want to say more because it could be just the wrong advice in your computer's case.

Besides that I strongly recommend, no urge my customers NOT to use Internet Explorer. Use Firefox instead, but please only the original version and not Yahoo's crippled version.

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

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Monday, August 13, 2012

FBI Warning "freezing" Your Computer?

Caution, the latest scam out there purports to be from the FBI. It is not!

In this warning the FBI states that:
There is a new “drive-by” virus on the Internet, and it often carries a fake message—and fine—purportedly from the FBI.

“We’re getting inundated with complaints,” said Donna Gregory of the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), referring to the virus known as Reveton ransomware, which is designed to extort money from its victims.

Reveton is described as drive-by malware because unlike many viruses—which activate when users open a file or attachment—this one can install itself when users simply click on a compromised website. Once infected, the victim’s computer immediately locks, and the monitor displays a screen stating there has been a violation of federal law.
The bogus message goes on to say that the user’s Internet address was identified by the FBI or the Department of Justice’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section as having been associated with child pornography sites or other illegal online activity. To unlock their machines, users are required to pay a fine using a prepaid money card service.
Mostly the fake message states that your computer was used for "illegal use of downloaded media, under-age porn viewing, or computer-use negligence". Naturally none of that is true.

It is a fairly primitive scam but quite a few people seem to be driven by their bad conscience to pay. They are out of some money and they have handed their credit card info directly to the crooks!

No US government agency would ask a perpetrator online to directly pay a fine. In the US you would get indicted in a court of law. "Direct payment" happens only in high corruption countries and/or under dictatorships; it's called a bribe.

The nasty thing with this virus is that the home user generally does not have the technical expertise to remove this nasty piece of software; you will have to call a competent technician.

My customers know who to call; do you?

As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.
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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Windows 7 - And Not Word 2007?

As so often again it is a customer's question that started this article; thank you Joan L.

Background: The lady recently bought a new computer with Windows 7 as the operating system. She had asked me to do the set-up-job that I highly recommend for every new brand-name computer. The set-up-job is described here.

She sent me the following question:
I was expecting to have Word 2007.   ???    Is it available "somewhere" and I have not found it?
Why where you "expecting" Word 2007? There is absolutely no connection between the numbering systems in Microsoft software. The Windows operating system has had historically names like
  • Windows 95. 98 ( and NT and 2000 for professional use)
  • Windows ME, XP and Vista and
  • Windows 7 (since 2009)
  • Windows 8 (per end of October 2012)
Microsoft's office software of which Word is only a part was historically named
  • MS Office 97, 2000, 2003 and then
  • MS Office XP
  • MS Office 2007 and 2010
You can see that in both product groups (Windows operating system and MS Office) Microsoft wildly jumps between names, years and numbers.

Again, there is NO correlation between Windows and MS Office.

I believe you said - as most of my customers do - that you did not want to pay another $100 or more to Microsoft because the free office suite LibreOffice enables you to create, modify and open the common MS Office file types .doc, .xls and .pps (for Word, Excel and Powerpoint files respectively). That is why I installed LibreOffice on your computer as part of above mentioned set-up-job.

The main and most obvious difference between MS Office and LibreOffice is that the latter still adheres to the time proven menu paradigm while Microsoft as of Office 2007 has switched to the new ribbon interface. 

I am an old menu user and personally have huge problems doing simple things in the ribbon interface. It is so bad that I installed a function that gives me back menus in MS Word and MS Excel. But that is besides your question, I apologize.

Not in my email response to the lady but worth mentioning in this context is that the Windows operating system and MS Office are licensed independently of each other. With the purchase of a Windows computer you buy a license to use the operating system. If you want to use MS Office you have to buy an additional license.

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

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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Tune-Up Utilities

The newest crooked trick is to tell you that your computer needs a "tune up" because it has so and so many "errors". You will be shown an impressively looking list with technical details. Please don't fall for this new trick.

This time around it's not virus programmers that try to scare you into doing the exactly wrong thing, this time well known companies use this old scare tactic to get their sticky finger into your wallet. The companies in question in the limited test I refer to are Corel, Norton and AVG.

When you try to use whatever is offered on your screen to "clean" the computer you are asked to pay! You can read about all the gory details here.

Please trust me, anybody, no matter how well known their name is, who tells you that your computer is full of errors or viruses or whatever and then wants money to correct the situation does NOT have your best interest on their mind! They are after your money, only after money!

Any commercially offered tune-up utility carries inherent dangers. Many are way too aggressive and some even have rendered well running systems unusable. Please stay away!

Read how the author of above linked detailed story summarizes his experience:
Scare tactics and hard sells should be a red flag. . . .

. . .  the software I test-drove for this article clearly seems aimed at inexperienced users who are more likely to purchase "repairs" when confronted with frightening reports of critical and numerous system problems. Unfortunately, these PC users often lack the skills to do basic troubleshooting themselves. 
My conclusions:
  • It's not only crooks anymore that try to scare unsuspecting computer users out of some money
  • Formerly renowned companies like Corel, Norton and AVG have begun to copy tactics so far only used by crooks; how desperate are these companies?
  • In the case of Norton software (marketed by Symantec Corp) they actually add insult to injury; IMHO Norton Anti-Virus has for years caused more trouble than done good.
As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Wireless Security - Why?

Once more it is a customer's question that triggers a generic reply. With minor editing here is what I got asked:
When you were over. . . you told me that my internet service was "insecure" because I didn't  have a password  to log on. We have wireless internet. I didn't realize until today . . . that I still don't have a secure network. . . . Should we do that, or am I ok the way it is now?
 Here is my reply:

The question is not if "you are okay" with a not secured Internet connection.

The question is: How do you see the risk of some crook driving by your house while nobody is home, realizing that you have an unprotected wireless network, stopping and using your Internet connection for illegal purposes? And some month later you will have to explain to the FBI that it was not you or your husband who uploaded child porn from your Internet connection. (Only an example.)

Programs to indicate wireless networks are available for free and for all major types of smart phones.

For me the only question really is "Am I willing to let some stranger into my wireless network or not?"
 That question you have to answer yourself.
As usual I welcome comments and suggestions right here in the blog. Thank you in advance.

Click here for a categorized Table Of Contents.