Thursday, December 29, 2005

Just one more item to deal with-stay up to date

Just released, the latest bug to drop in to the computer that I am sure will be something I will have to fight off and remove.

Best thing you can do at this point is stay current with your definintion files.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Is my system optimized? What can I do to make sure? What do I do to optimize? I am thinking of upgrading, what do I need to do?

Probably the most asked question and also probably the most important when it comes to simply using your computer and getting the most out of what you have invested in.

As a computer consultant it is my job to see that the computer functions to its optimum ability in every way the computer is used. Depending on the business that I visit, or the home/business in many cases, the computer has been configured for all kinds of use. But regardless of what the computer is used for, it must operate effectively as possible in order for you, the end-user to be happy with what you are doing. Believe me, I see enough frustration simply by attempting to keep my own computers up to what I consider "OK" with ongoing maintenance a key. Here is pretty much what I do.

First and foremost you have to have the hardware. A simple fix in many cases is just adding more memory to your system. Prices for this are constantly going down. That is, so long as your mainboard/motherboard is up to date using the latest type of memory. One good example is: If your mainboard requires SDRAM (pc133mhz), this would be considered "yesterdays news". If it uses SDRAM (pc100mhz) then this is even older. Either way, your only choice is with SDRAM which is currently almost twice the price of the more recent memory, the DDR Memory. In fact the latest uses DDR2 memory, but I consider this "bleading edge technology" and not the every day, run-of-the-mill hardware you will see in todays computer (December 2005 that is). With hardware, it all boiled down to "how much $ do you want to spend?" When you are looking to upgrade memory and you find you have the SDRAM, then sure, another 256mb SDRAM may be all you need, considering the next step would be to upgrade the mainboard/motherboard which usually means a new CPU (processor) which would then allow you to purchase the DDR memory. This may sound like "oh yeah, here we go.. Spending a tonne of money", but that doesn't necessarily have to be the case. A pretty typical mainboard/motherboard will now contain a pretty good 3d video card, 7.1 digital sound and 10/100 or gigabit ethernet LAN therefore eliminating the need for these items on your pci card slots. This also means you can usually go to an mATX mainboard which, if you so desired, could allow you to change up your computer case to a miniATX case. Since we are dealing with cases, this brings up the PowerSupply issues. The newer CPU's require more power as well as all these other devices, such as DVD burners and additional USB 2.0 devices including non-powered hubs. When buying a new case, they usually come with a power supply therefore you have a good chance of moving up to at least a 350watt and I suggest 400watt or more, depending on what you feel will suite your needs for a while. Note however, that most miniATX cases will come with 300 or 350watt which is usually pretty good since they also come with some sort of warranty (usually). The basic box should have a DVD burner which now-a-days should be the standard device for backing up data. Note that if you have an older cd burner, no problem as you are capable of at least saving data to a format that is removable. If you are using your computer for viewing those digital camera pictures, then this most certainly is something you will want to have. Consider the fact that if you were go through a disaster such as a house fire and you lost everything. The one thing you would have wished you could have saved would have been your photo albums. So now that you are using a digital camera and as you take those pictures, you are transferring them to your hard drive, and yet you think nothing of the fact that your hard drive could fail at any time, therefore you should be saving them to a backup source immediately after you have transferred them to the drive. Personally, I immediately signed up to a membership with WEBSHOTS as it allows me to immediately upload my pictures to my personal website where I can have the choice of making my photos 'public' or 'private'. Now, I no longer require the need to make my photos smaller when emailing them as I can simply send a link to the picture(s) I want the person to view and they can then visit the website directly, where they can then choose to simply view, or download to their computer for the purposes of printing. Note when you have a high quality camera such as 5 megapixel or more, one picture in its highest resolution will be over 4mb in size--too large to send in an email! For the small subscription fee that I pay on a yearly basis, it is well worth the piece of mind, knowing that all of my pictures are safe! This is something even home insurance will not cover!

First I will take a look at the programs that run on windows start up. You can view many of these by simply looking at the icons in the system tray (next to the clock). Next, you can view the 'quicklaunch' tray and note anything that is NOT a Microsoft product. This quicklaunch tray was initially created for the use of the Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, the Windows Media player and "show desktop" icons, whereas any time you install a new program these days, if you choose TYPICAL install, the odds are you will also get a new icon in the quick launch tray (and it will probably be hidden behind a little arrow since the quick launch tray size is too small to view). You can adjust this by RIGHT CLICKING on the taskbar and UNLOCKING it, then moving the small vertical line on the right hand side further to the right. Personally I will only show the internet browser, the email icon, media player, and the show desktop icon. Anything else will be placed either on the desktop or in the start menu. Note that my desktop will also be quite clean since the only programs I will have on the desktop will be programs that I want to run as I first sit down to use my computer. Any other programs I will run by clicking on the START menu.

Since the START menu has been adjusted to allow for 'small icons' and then 30 (the maximum amount) of recent programs which will automatically move the icon further up the list the more I use it, therefore I do not even require to 'PIN' the icon to the start menu (something you can do by RIGHT CLICKING on it and choosing this option). **ADDED TIP:You will also note many other options when you RIGHT CLICK your way through windows.

From this point, I will go through and make sure the latest spyware software is installed. For this, you should visit the SOFTWARE/SUPPORT page and install all the programs I have listed in the pink shaded section as these are what I will use for all spyware/malware/adware removing and optimizing of the computer.

If certain items are stubborn and will not remove the normal means, then I will utilize REGCLEANER or HIJACKTHIS to manually edit the registry ("NOTE: you can do serious damage to your computer editing the registry incorrectly so at this point, if you are finding a lot of things are not being removed via normal spyware scans I suggest taking your computer to a professional at this point). Although certain software out there now, such as Norton's GOBACK will certainly return your computer to the status it was before you started messing with it, that is, so long as you can start your computer again or know how to restart it using the GOBACK disk (NOTE: again this is territory where I suggest a professional fixes things since you do not want to lose important data).

Now, for backing up the data, I utilize Symantec's Partition Magic first, to create a backup image. Some ask how large the partitions should be. On my own system I will create a 'system partition' whereas the windows operating system is installed, and then create a second partition for other such items like internet downloads, storage of MP3's or things of this nature. NOTE: all installed programs will also go to the system partition, therefore I will make this partition no smaller than 5GB and highly recommend 10GB, that way you are not having to resize it as you start installing your software. This is key especially if you are a gamer and have many games that will be installed on your drive. Since some of these games can take over 1GB of disk space with full install. If I did create this second partition, this is NOT my backup partition. This is something that I will make last, once most of my programs have been installed. I do this because when using Partition Magic, and you select "make backup partition" it does a good job of sizing the drive(s) you already have and suggesting the size of the backup to be made. Typically it is around 40% of the drive size minus the amount being used. This can quickly make your useable drive space appear a lot smaller. Not to worry, since you can always resize if necessary, however I feel that when you get to this point, you should be looking at buying a larger drive. If for no other reason, the drive you currently have can then become the second drive and can be used for nothing but the backup image (NOTE: the two drive option is highly recommended if you are totally serious about having a true backup of your system since the second drive is physically different, if the main drive failed completely, you would still have a backup image of your data.) Also NOTE: the use of a DVD RW drive is highly suggested for backing up your account since this will backup not only 'my documents' but also your email and desktop items as well as your favorites and address book. You may end up using more then one DVD (RW) depending on the amount of data you are creating (to an image). When I say "image" I am referring to Symantec's GHOST which comes as a nice compliment to the Systemworks Pro (Premier edition). If you are serious about your computer and want a few tools that should go with your computer, Symantec's Systemworks (Premier) is what I would recommend.

Now, I realize there will be some techies out there that cringe over Symantec products, this is normal (as is the case with McAfee products in my case--another topic to blog about some day, but for now lets just say I find their products not as user-friendly as the Symantec products), since quite often right out of the box, if you install the 'typical' or 'recommended' installation you will end up with 'too much protection'. Basically it protects and monitors your system, using up system resources that really do not need to be used up. This WAS the way, however so far, the Norton Systemworks 2006 edition seems pretty flawless from a power pig point of view. The typical installation so far appears to work well as it will automatically adjust according to its built in diagnostics and monitoring. The one thing I did is remove or 'move' the norton protection center task to the systemtray as this is something I don't need on the tasktray all the time.

Back to dealing with the image. I will, on a fresh installation of windows, after I have completed all available windows updates that are available at the time, as well as any other software updates, I'll create a 'clean image backup'. This I will usually password protect, just so that I don't accidentally delete it, since this is the image you can ALWAYS fall back on if you reformat the system drive, knowing that you will have all the basics installed and you will not be worrying about potential spyware or viruses from this one. I would then proceed to create a 'drive image' of the system drive which would then be overwritten each time I created a new one. Now, with the latest Ghost software, or by using the Norton GOBACK, you can create restore points similar to the built in windows system restore (only this actually works!). I won't even go there with regards to the Windows System Restore, other then to say I still keep it running, but I do believe Norton utilizes it for the GOBACK therefore I just leave well enough alone. This goes for the windows security center. Yes, I still use it and leave it turned on, however if you are using Systemworks 2006, it will use the norton internet worm protection. Something that was introduced in the 2005 version however it has been somewhat refined and works without errors when the security center windows firewall is adjusted from outside the norton options, this sometimes leads to an error.

I will be incorporating a few system scans that you can do. If you get errors, in the case of the Stop Sign Threat Scanner, without signing up for their service, which is always up to you. Personally however, since I personally optimize computers that I work on, the use of this service would be redundant, this is why as a client of mine you have this remote service built in once I have serviced your computer once. Should you choose to use it is entirely up to you, however considering what you could be paying for repairs, it would seem rather foolish not to have some sort of safety net. This is why more and more security sources and resources will be found at a local server point, whether it be through the net services offered through your ISP or Antivirus Provider, there will always be the need for security and optimizing scanners. Should you choose to utilize my services do not hesitate to contact me directly. With routine scanning of your system using the spyware scanners "Spybot Search and Destroy" as well as "Ad-Aware", this should eliminate well over half and probably more like 75% of the bugs, at least the ones that will cause the most problems due to system resources and overall speed of your computer. In some cases with registry bugs, HIJACKTHIS will be required and/or REGCLEANER. I have also incorporated many other spyware programs only a few of which end up on my SOFTWARE/SUPPORT page however, since the others are usually only used in the case of one specific bug that is being tricky, I will do as anyone would and that is to SEARCH GOOGLE for the spyware bug and use whatever is advertised as a bug remover. Since this antispyware program hasn't proven itself to me at this point in time, I don't usually recommend it as a utility to use all the time. This is pretty much how I feel about CCLEANER, although if you only use the CLEANER part and omit the DIAGNOSIS/REPAIR utility, you shouldn't have any troubles with potential registry issues, although if you do elect to use this, you should always create a registry backup file save, which it does prompt you on. For this, I save it to a 'registry backups' folder in MY DOCUMENTS. As with other such backups like the Address book, the Favorites as well as any other essential files I may deem necessary for regular backups, this will be saved to MY DOCUMENTS, in a folder usually called BACKUP. Simple enough but very important.

This brings me to the FILE MANAGEMENT issues. This is very important, to know where your precious files are. I use the built in Windows System Folder of MY DOCUMENTS for just that.. My documents. This will include My Pictures as well as My Music, however in the case of MY MUSIC, if you want to keep this separate a good place would be to save your music to "all users/my music" that way it is available to all accounts. Sometimes using the built in software just seems right, such as the windows media player. Sure there are others, but for my needs it works great, has many user friendly features and can quite easily be manipulated with your choice of MP3 players. This is something I have found with most Microsoft installed software, it is best to use, however this is not the case with the Internet Explorer. Until they prove that IE 7.x is going to be worthy of going back since I have been a strong advocate of the AVANT BROWSER and have really found no reason to go back to IE, especially at this point when version 6.x has so many security problems. But then this security issues will not go away, at least not with the world #1 browser or internet mail program. If another browser does take over the lead role, it will become the one that gets hacked the most, therefore more security problems will be found then any other browser simply because there are more people using it. This only makes sense, considering the total amount of users using MAC computers for example. This is why you do not hear of as many problems with a MAC. There is no doubt that if the MAC computer, and I'm not saying that one day it couldn't rule the world, but if whatever computer becomes the #1 provider for the world market, it will also show to have the most problems. Open Source programming is wonderful whereas a user can implement changes based on the problems found which is a nice feature, but to implement it vastly on a world market may not be quite the same since the control on what is new and what is very new and untested would definitely create problems.

Constant change is inevitable and that is why you must take advantage of people like myself. When you read TIPS like these and can find a conduit such as what I am providing- a world wide customer service point where a lot of the research and trouble shooting has already been done for you. If nothing else, when you do take your computer to a consultant such as myself, they will be very impressed with your file management and cleanliness of your system from an overall maintenance point of view, and will without a doubt, help the techie fix your problem a lot more efficiently. Unfortunately however, I find more and more computers that I first get my hands on, to be backed up and reformatted in all sorts of fashion and this sometimes from another service center. It is unfortunate that not all can see the software for what it is and use it for all its worth.

I conclude by reminding you of the first issues I mentioned and that is being up to date, within a reasonable amount of time by comparing your hardware with what is available today. Typically if you are spending under $100 to get your system to work within the hardware parameters of the day, then it is well worth it. This could mean the installation of a DVD Burner, the additional Memory stick of RAM, a new hard drive, or even a new mainboard with CPU. Maybe the latter you would pay more then the $100 but if that means virtually getting an entirely new 'engine' to work from, it might be worth it! If you are within my service area, and yes, that could mean anywhere in the world with the use of remote technology, feel free to contact me directly.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Windows XP Clean Install

As you will see from these techies, two different methods of installing and maintaining their own computers.

I pretty much have to say I do a little bit of both of these methods. The typical installation for me would be as follows:

If I am dealing with a new installation of windows xp, I will then install all software that I consider "typical". I then create a back up image partition (using partition magic) and then create an image of the system drive using Norton Ghost. I then label this as a "clean install". The next time I create a backup image I will not overwrite this image but will create a new image, one in which can be overwritten in the future. That way, I always have the ability to go back to the 'clean install' image. Given the fact that this may be as much as two years old, it would still require a number of windows updates as well as other software version updates but that takes a lot less time then a complete reinstall, especially when I know that this image was clean to begin with.

Now on the matter of partitions. Personally I have at any one time, two hard drives in my main computer. This will always have one drive specifically for the recording of TV which I use the wonderful program Beyond TV which I highly suggest anyone that is planning on using their computer as a 'tivo', this is the solution. I am using this to record off of a satellite feed and view it using High Definition (HD) and it works great. Currently I am using a 300gb SATA drive which gives me 91 hours of HD quality recording! The other drive I will have partitioned in two with my system drive starting at 50gb with the remainder (of a 200gb drive) as the data backups. I will also have my internet downloads on this drive.

Since I also utilize the Microsoft Small Business Server (SBS) I have it holding the fort with MY DOCUMENTS and all the major installation files and system backup images that I supply as a typical part of my services for my clients, that is, in the case where their drive is not large enough to house a backup partition that is. In some cases, where the client has a DVD burner, I can,on request, also burn a backup image to the DVD. This is something that I highly suggest anyone do that has a DVD Burner, that is, to at least backup your ACCOUNT.

Backing up your ACCOUNT is as easy as going to c:\documents and settings (drive c would be whatever your system drive is) and then choosing the account. You will have to use a dvd burner software program such as NERO which should come with your burner as some of these files will currently be used by windows, be prepared for a few prompts which you can skip in that case. These are system files and would only be restored in the case of a complete backup image. What you are after is more the data from your own input, such as your email, address book, my documents folders which houses My Pictures as well as My Music, that is, if you use these system folders. I highly suggest you do. Now, if you are using such programs as Limewire, then you are on your own as I do not condone the use of this type of file sharing program.

Bottom line is, when it comes to repairing a computer that already has a clean image partition, you know that at least you are going to have a very solid foundation in which you can go back to and probably save you at least 5 hours of reinstall time.

You can always learn more about OPTIMIZING your computer as well as download many system maintenance and optimzing programs from my SOFTWARE/SUPPORT pages from my website.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Just how bad is spyware?

If you have been reading my blogs and/or have visited my website and the TIPS and SOFTWARE/SUPPORT that I have created, then you are probably quite aware of this ongoing problem. It doesn't seem to be going away and in many cases could be argued that it is only getting worse. As of Dec 20, 2005 ZDNet has come out with a list of the top 10 tricks causing spyware.

I believe it is in the education where we are going to beat this battle. You may be doing everything you have been told to do in the way of prevention, but what about those that you talk to and do business with online? Quite often the problem can be from your next door neighbor (so-to-speak) who has never even used a spyware scanner program therefore it is up to YOU to direct these people to such sites as my SOFTWARE/SUPPORT and TIPS so that they too can pass the word. This is also the case where more then one person in the home is using the computer and only one of the users is doing their part. If you have more then one user account set up on your computer, it is also important to get that person to run these scans.

You know things are getting bad when even your antivirus is at risk!

It appears that even the antivirus you use to prevent those bugs has a bug of its own. This just proves how important it is to run the 'live update' on a daily basis. If you do, then odds are whenever something like this happens, the patch to correct it will be not too far off, typically within a few days of the risk these issues are dealt with. This certainly doesn't make me feel like changing my antivirus provider as I have been and will remain a firm believer in the Symantec products as still being the best money can buy! If you haven't visited the SOFTWARE/SUPPORT page for a while, it too may be time to upgrade some of the spyware programs you have installed on your computer.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Obsessive Compulsive, A.D.D whatever you want to call it, it sounds like we have it in common

A fellow consultant, and staff writer for Lockergnome writes about his 'issues' much to the same tune as myself I am afraid. I too find myself surrounded by technology in a retirement town where everything works at one pace. This however is something that I don't mind in the least, in fact it allows me the ability to slow down when I am out and about. Using shopping for an example, I too made a stop in to Walmart this evening to pick up a few things, but completely forgot that the place would be swarming with Christmas shoppers. I guess I got my share of that during my last visit to Houston where I happened to take advantage of the sweet Thanksgiving day specials. Mind you, I did have to get up at 3am to drive to Houston to be in line for the 5am opening at Fry's electronics, but when they are practically giving away stuff, you just have to see it for yourself. I did, for about 30 minutes. We arrived at about 5:10am and by that time there were only two parking spots left, fortunately I was driving a small car and squeaked in before two larger Suburban SUV's tried for the spot and failed. The place was packed like you expect but people were waiting in lines for things they had no idea they were waiting in line for.. And my friend fell for it as well! I walked past all the people, carefully watching them watch me, thinking that I was going to jump in to line ahead of them when in fact all I was doing was asking at a low tone of voice to each of them as I walked past them, in question as to what they were waiting in line for.. I couldn't help but laugh after I had passed by the third or forth person,all of whom were waiting in line for different things. When I got to the front of the line, there was a Fry's employee getting the box-o-computer that they were selling. Apparently they were getting rid of a bunch of HP desktop machines at "blowout prices" of about $399! Umm sorry folks, to me that is NOT a blowout deal.. Especially when you examine just what you are getting.. Compared to what you can buy, this was certainly not worth waiting in line for. By the looks of the pallet, which had about half of the computers taken from it, you might as well cut the line in to 3rds as only the first 1/3 would be getting what they were waiting for.

I think for me the act of shopping, not necessarily buying anything but just browsing, does work for me, because of my definite short attention span. That is, unless I am intrigued with whatever it is I am doing, then I may not stop for hours at end. Anyone that knows me well enough, understands just how I will not stop a project until I get the job done. But then I also know how difficult it can be when dealing with lineups. My travels back and forth from the southern states on a pretty regular basis allows me to immerse myself in to the fast paced city atmosphere for a while and then return to what I consider one of the nicest places to live. Very laid back town the size of a big city community. When you can pretty much be anywhere within the city limits of this city in about 6 to 8 minutes.. That pretty much tells you what I deal with on a daily basis.

So where I usually find myself is back in front of my big screen (computer monitor that is), working on what else, but computers... Not one but many.. My current workspace allows for 8 computers to be worked on at one time, as well as the ongoing remote work that I will be doing for clients with small issues, it does keep me hopping, I guess that is a good thing if you are dealing with A.D.D. Not that I have ever been diagnosed with something like this... But I think you pretty much have an idea when you can't remember what you are doing next without the PDA telling you its time for your next appointment. When there isn't another appointment, there is always allexperts.com that I volunteer for which keeps my email hopping, not to mention my TIPS and SOFTWARE/SUPPORT sections of my website rather busy.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Want me to look at your computer problem?

I am asking that any and all of my existing clients begin to send along the page or 'copy' and 'paste' the IP address that your computer is currently using on the interne. You can do this the easiest by visiting my homepage and then clicking on the link that is displayed "Get your current IP Address Here
" If you click on the link from here, you will also see that it takes you to a specific web page with your current IP address. There are number of things you can do from this point. The easiest would be to click on the email icon from your browser and 'send page' to me. The other way would be to drag your mouse across the numbers so that they are all highlighted, then RIGHT click on this and choose COPY (or use CTRL-C) then open the new email message you are going to compose to me and PASTE (ctrl-v) this in to the body of the message, along with whatever it is you were having questions about.

Why do I ask for this? Because I am finding more and more, that the number I am receiving is either wrong, or I simply can't figure it out from 123456789 or 12/345/67/89. When it arrives with dashes or any other symbol instead of the period, it requires me to re-translate, just as I am sure you had to do by writing it from whatever you found on the website. In the translation, that is where things get lost.. By cutting out that translation, there should be no need for me to respond by asking for the IP address again.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The ongoing debate with Intel versus AMD

As Christmas approaches, many are in the market for upgrades to their current computer, or are looking to purchase an entirely new one. It is very easy to look at what you had and then figure you need something like what you had, just faster, as is the case with many clients I see that are currently using an Intel product (celeron or pentium). Most recently I was sent this information from someone who just decided to go with the AMD product even when they were initially planning on going with what they had before--the Intel Pentium.

I always love receiving mail like this, whereas someone has sent information to them, creating a great buzz within their own circle of friends that might be talking about the latest in computer technology.

From the test performed, the answer is quite clear and if you decide to further your research, it also becomes only logical, the results that are presented. As a consultant, it has always been my job to present this sort of fact to my clients so that they can make their own minds up on the choice of computer/processor. Now you can make your own mind up after reading this!

As always, my TIPS and SOFTWARE SUPPORT pages are intended to help those who are not quite sure what way to turn.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Tech Tip-Logging to Domain using Windows Media Center

One problem I recently had was logging in to my domain after installing WME. This was a reinstallation so I didn't go through the partitioning, etc...., so what happened was the inability to log in to a Domain because no network card was detected. This was because the network card was part of the mainboard, as is the sound and video in some cases and because they have not yet been installed, Windows, upon setup, did not detect the hardware. Therefore I was caught in a catch 22.. I couldn't install the mainboard drivers because the Cd requires a windows installation, but I couldn't install windows because it didn't detect the network card and after I install windows is too late with Windows XP Media Center edition. If it detects the network initially on install, it would then allow you the opportunity to log in. In any case, to quickly get around this, I threw in a 3com NIC in an available PCI slot and started the windows installation..all works fine now! Don't forget about my TIPS page if you haven't checked it out already, as well as the SOFTWARE/SUPPORT page where you can get the latest versions of programs I highly suggest you have installed on your computer.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Blogging Borders and Security

Just how far has blogging gone since the first few blogs hit the internet? Now it appears Google and it's search capabilities, along with the posting of blogs can incriminate you by your own submissions as it appears from this blogger in a recent EWEEK article.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

All Browsers Are Not Created Equal

I recently had a client email me with questions to why she could not move a window view to the bottom of the screen or see other parts of a window while visiting her online banking website. This place as well as pogo.com play site. I immediately figured it was a java thing and updated this to the latest version. This is something that everyone should check on periodically as it never hurts, especially with all the new security issues website are attempting to install due to the ever increasing phishing that is going on. When continued problems occurred, I suggested to try using Internet Explorer. You see, I have pretty much persuaded most of the clients to "try a different web browser" and my choice being Avant Browser, for more reasons then I care to mention in this blog but you can feel free to download it and enjoy, however be aware that not all websites may function correctly. Whether it is directly due to the browser not being compatible from the way the webmaster had created the site (note that most websites will aim to be Internet Explorer friendly due to the statistics that show IE is still number one, even if those numbers are dropping. Avant may very well be okay for these sites that were giving my client troubles but without actually viewing her online banking site to see exactly what she was referring to, I knew to try IE and if there were still problems then I would focus on the problem. Knowing that this fixed the problem for her, that was enough, but for me, I want to know why Avant didn't cut it. So I start to dive in to the options.. Unfortunately in most cases of R & D work, you must retrace the problems in order to see where things go wrong and therefore I still must say you have to either just use the other browser for the pages that you know you have troubles with, or figure out what settings must be changed in order for it to work in Avant. And, if no solution can be found, a simple email to the programmers should make them aware in which case you will see the fix in a new version soon to be released. This is the best part of open source software, the fact that the programmers are more then willing to take in any and all information about problems you might have while using their product. If you ever find yourself truly enjoying the program you are using, never feel you can't send your praise their way either. With most programs, you will have a 'help' option at the top menu and from there you will find "about" and this is where you can find the website information as well as the programmer or contact information and email in most cases.

With the power behind the Avant Browser, knowing that the options menu is full of great features that I have yet to completely explore, I am not going to knock this little browser at all because it failed the viewing of a few websites. As I see it, just be thankful you are not limited to only one choice!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Ok, I'll Bite--But Not McDonalds!

I must admit I am quite disturbed when I get the email chain letter stating that if we all boycott the specific gas station for a specific day, it will get the message across to the oil company, knowing full well this will not be the case, since they are just too darned big to try this. On the other hand, this little boycott for McDonalds for one day in Canada may actually make a difference, but the truth will be told come December 4th, the day after this supposed boycott is to take place. Count me in.. Then again, it has probably been close to a year since I have eaten anything McDonalds sells.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Latest Microsoft Security flaws, just one more reason to switch browsers!

Even though your computer should receive automatically, the latest in what has become a pretty typical day of downloads from Microsoft, I seriously suggest changing your browser habits and that starts by using a different web browser.

I have talked about this before, but now, even more so does it appear evident that the long awaited for Internet Explorer 7.0 is going to arrive a little too late. This latest article from zdnet explains.

If you haven't already visited my SOFTWARE/SUPPORT page, I suggest doing so. While you are there you can install the latest AVANT BROWSER which is full of great features not yet available through the Internet Explorer. One great feature is the fact that you are pretty safe, since one of the features with the Avant Browser is the ability to check for updates whenever you open the browser, and by clicking "ok" when there is a new version available will ensure you have the latest in security built right in. Unlike the Internet Explorer which depends heavily on the rest of the windows 'updates' to be completely safe and secure.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

14 questions answered in just over an hour

As a volunteer at allexperts.com I frequently get asked questions as to why a program doesn't install the way it was intended to. Others will ask a question and state 'I know I don't have a virus, but... What could it be?".. When in fact they probably do have a virus, just not a virus that their antivirus states as a virus, but more like spyware! Spyware has become, in my opinion a virus, simply because of what it does to your computer. Any program or file that causes another program or operating system to not function the way it was meant should be considered a virus since this is something that should not be there.

So here I found myself having to answer a slew of questions that rolled in over the past 2 days that I simply didn't have time to answer, but of the 14 questions, I found myself answering to over half of them with almost the same answer, and that is to "read my TIPS" and then visit the SOFTWARE/SUPPORT page and install the programs that I make available.

Since I try to give each question that I answer a personal touch but also keep it simple enough so that I am not spending all of my time answering 'free' questions when I have my own client computers to fix on my bench, I find myself creating more and more TIPS and adding them to my site which allows me to direct the person to the specific tip that deals with answering their question. It seems to be working as I have found it took just over an hour to complete what I would say is a somewhat lengthy answer for each question, since each question usually required more input, this will allow the person asking the question to do a little more research in to the problem and in most cases, solve the problem after understanding what caused the initial upset with regards to the fault they are now faced with.

One of the main reasons I volunteered with allexperts years ago, was so that I could do some research in to the problem that I was being faced with in the question. Unfortunately however, it seems that three quarters of my answers are very redundant by explaining the importance of installing, running, and remembering to continue to use the spyware software on a daily basis. Preventative maintenance is the key, but when you haven't been preventing it, you must first remove and clean the computer from the problems before you can truly say that you 'don't have a virus'.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Why do I get a blank screen that can not find the web page when I first open my web browser?

I get a question similar to this probably every other day and figured it was time to 'go public' with a response.

Basically, depending on the web browser you use, it initially 'detects the proxy server' when you start your browser, however in many cases, it will bring up the last page that you were using. This is common on the newer browsers such as Avant or Mozilla as the history of websites you have visited is being 'cached', basically to speed up your web surfing. However, if you are using a wireless network for example, it is very common for that first page to come up blank, stating that it can not find the page you were looking for.

Usually the easiest solution is to simply click on the REFRESH button which will then send the command to re-download the page. At this point, the 'internet' is usually detected and up comes the page you wanted.

One solution may be to change your initial home page, however in most cases this is not necessary if you simply remember to click on the 'refresh' key. One trick I have found, especially when you go to retrieve your email, using outlook/outlook express, is to open the web browser first so that you do see the internet and then when you open your email program, it too will already have the internet active and will not 'time out' searching. Note that your email in this case uses a different port to access the web, but because you are on a wireless network, that too still must find the router that distributes the internet signal, therefore opening the web browser first, allowing the computer to detect the proxy settings (the internet web addresses through the internet source in which case is your router) should make retrieving your email easier as well.

Many more TIPS can be found from my TIPS page as well, you can optimize and clean your computer utilizing the software provided on the SOFTWARE/SUPPORT page.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Would you like your computer fixed or what?

I recently got a disconcerting-toned email from a client that was having some computer troubles. Typically when we have troubles with our computer, it is when we are in a hurry and things tend to seem worse then they actually are, but regardless things can seem pretty intense, thus it is understandable to receive some 'heated' email with regards to a broken computer.

In any case, I must once again explain what I would say has become a policy with any computer that I work on. I have always tried to give 110% to every task that I do and hopefully tread each computer with the same "respect" as if it were my very own broken-down box. I also hope to 'prioritize' my work by the health of the computer, regardless of this however, I now have "employees" working for me! I have mentioned this before and currently, with three of them, there shouldn't be as much of a problem when it comes to a broken down computer, since it pretty much is only down for the length of time it would take me
1: connect to your computer remotely-in the case where it isn't too broken down and I can still connect to it, or in some cases, where there are more then one computer in the home network, which allows me to connect to one that is working and then work on the problem from 'within the local network', or
2: deliver a service loaner computer to you and have you up and running in as long as it takes me to get to your place of business/residence. In cases where the broken-down computer is still partially up and running, I will also then transfer any pertinent information/files over to the service loaner (ie: address book/email/favorites, etc) so that you are good to go once again, with hopefully a very short down-time.

This allows me to then remove your broken-down computer and get a much more thorough repair from my bench.

Typically this entire ordeal is to do with "time" and "time is money", whether you are losing it or you are making it, you can't be making it when your computers are down and therefore you must be the ultimate judge on what is important when you first find out that you have a problem with your computer... and on that note, this is why I continue to push each and every client to be sure and notify me upon the first instance that you may be having problems. Since this little task of connecting and running a basic diagnostic takes me all of about 10 minutes, I can pretty much make sure your computer is at least not ready to crash due to hardware or faulty software installs (up until that moment in time that I connect), therefore TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ME, or shall I say.. MY SERVICE. I do work around the clock when I need to, just like any good computer geek that takes his real job seriously!

Therefore, when I receive that rather heated email with comments like "are you going to fix my computer or what?" and then not elaborating on the "what".. since I am either a key click away using my remote services (which requires you to send me your current ip address, which you can get from my home page link or right here), an email/phone call stating that "help, I need computer services, come right away", this entire down-time can be prevented or at least preserved to a very short amount of time--and stress!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

How can you help me remotely?

A question asked by some who notice me mentioning the remote repair to my existing clients computers. I utilize Symantec PC Anywhere however another way to connect would be to utilize something built in to Windows XP Pro and something you can install on Windows XP home edition is the remote desktop connection. You can learn all about it from the following link including installation with easy to follow screen shots.

As a service, I can connect, diagnose and repair many items remotely so take advantage of these tools. It may very often save you from unplugging the beast and taking it to your local repair shop where you have heard rumours of "bad service"! Drop me a line for more information.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

How long can your computer last without antivirus?

One question I usually get once I return a computer after repairing it from a virus attack is "how long before I get another virus?". Since there are so many new variants of a virus that some spyware can be considered virus-like, it is very difficult to come up with an actual time as to when you will be hit with another virus. One thing for sure, if you let your antivirus definition subscription expire, you will not be receiving any new virus definitions so it is safe to say you are more at risk, especially since you could receive a virus and not even know it since your antivirus no longer "sees" the virus.

I am currently working on a computer that I have not seen for 1 month shy of two full years. I know this because my client is quite proud to say "the computer has been working great ever since the last time you were here", which was 1 month shy of two full years! At the time, I had pretty much rebuilt the computer since it required a new motherboard/cpu, hard drive and memory. Along with the upgrades and repairs, norton systemworks was installed which includes Norton Antivirus. This means you have one full year of virus updates at which point you will be notified that your subscription is running out and it is time to renew. (At this point typically I would get the phone call/email stating it is time for the annual update and cleaning). Since it has been a year, and if everything has gone well, then wonderful, you made it another year... But two... What happens if you don't renew? Two things, first you will inevitably be warned that your antivirus subscription is coming to an end and that you should renew and once you don't do this, you will continually get the warnings and second, your computer will get infected with whatever new viruses arrive since you are no longer protected. The "autoprotect" feature of any antivirus will continue to work but it is only protecting you from the definitions it finds in its database.

At this point, don't forget about the spyware/adware issues either, since each and every client of mine has a number of icons strategically placed on their desktop that will (hopefully) be run on a daily basis.. To keep the computer free and clear from the spyware/adware threat that is constantly there when you surf the internet. Even though these programs will continue to work, they too require updating (thus the blogs stating there is a new version available), but without knowledge that you are supposed to be upgrading the spyware components how is one to know for sure? I guess a simple email or phone call to your local computer tech might be a suggestion.

The end result on this computer that has gone 11 months without any new virus protection:

17 trojan horse viruses upon the installation of new antivirus. These were viruses found running processes on the computer.
227 total viruses detected on first complete virus scan, 11 of which had to be removed manually.

Then the spyware scans were done:
on the first pass with ad-aware and spybot search and destroy, just over 500 items were found in total with some still found running processes which required the system to be rebooted and scanned on start up. An additional 27 items were found and removed.

This is pathetic. Not only that there were this many viruses found but the simple fact that the computer was still running. Bring back the old days when a virus knocked your computer for a real loop and shut you down! This computer was like a walking disease.. Walking because it still had full internet access, something the spyware trojans love since it has full reign of the computer having no antivirus to worry about.

I forgot to mention that the antivirus component of this particularly computer had been completely removed! Yes, I figure the annoying warnings got the better of my client and they decided they would simply uninstall that component. I know this because the rest of systemworks was still running. In fact they had actually started the "system monitor" in start up to, what I can only surmise as their method of knowing if everything was working correctly. What was truly funny for me was the comment that "everything has been working well as I have been running the spyware thing".. Oh, you have? Could have fooled me. When I clicked on Ad-aware it told me it had been 442 days since the last time I used it and when I opened spybot, it was still the same version that I had installed almost 2 full years ago, with many new versions available, there is just no way this program was doing any good.

Why let this happen? I guess if you "think" the computer is working fine, then why the need for any further expense... Why not wait until it has been run right in to the ground and no longer works at all.

This is certainly one way of using your computer, but if your computer is used for any sort of "work" environment where, what I would say is "anything valuable" on the computer that you really do not want to lose by the "accidental" virus, then what is it that you are thinking?

I always used the analogies a dentist might use. When I return a computer, cleaned and updated, I make a point of going over the spyware components that require DAILY use, not to mention the antivirus scans that are automatic.. So long as you leave your computer on! Yes people, your computer must be turned on in order for any sort of maintenance to get done, therefore if you are unsure (ask me), but I will tell you to leave it on and make sure you run your scans routinely. This, to me is like the dentist telling you that if you do not brush your teeth you will get require a filling and eventually if they are not looked after, the teeth will have to be pulled out! The programs are there for you to use, but it is up to the owner to make sure they get done.

The main reason I actually got the service call was because "the computer just won't go on". There was a power outage in the area, even though the computer does have a UPS, if the power outage lasts any length of time, then the computer will eventually shut down. In this case, it didn't come back on because the power supply had had enough. No wonder really, since the computer was chalked full of some serious dust and dirt. The type of "sticky dirt" that had stuck to the fins of the power supply fan and weighed it down enough to basically burn it out. As for the CPU fan...After cleaning the system, it whirred without a problem.. But knowing what this computer was put through, I would seriously be concerned with the life of the CPU fan, therefore this client will be warned of potential future fan issues. Some might say, just replace the fan, but I am a firm believer in "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" maintenance and the preventative maintenance as being the key.

So, how long can your computer last without any sort of maintenance? I guess it all depends on where you live, whereas the amount of dust and dirt that will eventually smother your computer.. In this instance, 1 year and eleven months!

Preventative maintenance is definitely the moral of this story. Reading the TIPS from my website can certainly help, especially learning how to OPTIMIZE your computer, as well as making sure the SOFTWARE is up to date.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

My Documents Folder Opens on Windows Boot Up

My Documents Folder should not normally open on Windows Boot Up.

This is a problem I recently found occurring a lot on computers I worked on and the solution is as follows:

Note that this involves editing the windows registry which is the 'brain' of the computer. Therefore, if you feel uncomfortable doing brain surgery, please notify your computer tech on this problem.

Run regedit and navigate to:HKLM/SOFTWARE/Microsoft/Windows NT/CurrentVersion/Winlogon
In there there should be a value (on right hand side of screen) called Userinit.

The data for this value is probably something similar to:C:\windows\system32\userinit.exe,C:\windows\system32\userinit.exe

If you do see a duplicated string in there similar to the above - simply double click on the Userinit value and edit the data so as to delete everything to the right of the first comma (,).

In the case above you would leave only:C:\windows\system32\userinit.exe

Exit registry edit and reboot. No more My Documents on boot up!

As always, more TIPS can be found on my TIPS page as well as many free utility software programs for download from the SOFTWARE/SUPPORT page.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Does it seem you are getting more and more junk mail?

I often get asked if there is something that can be done to the computer since it appears more and more junk mail is showing up in your inbox. Typically, you should be running the Spyware programs that I make available on the SOFTWARE/SUPPORT page. Typical I mean, by running Ad-aware and Spybot Search and destroy DAILY! Yes, I mean DAILY, EVERY DAY, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Why did I mention all the days in the week? Because you should be running these programs on each one of them!

I am quite tired of hearing "oh, it has been a while since I ran those", when I am sitting at the computer starting my diagnosis of the problems. I just returned from one client's home where I clicked on the Ad-aware program to be greeted with the prompt "it has been 256 days since your last update".. Hello! Does this mean it hasn't been run since then? Yes, it does.... Looking at my calendar I realize that this was run only once since I had last updated this specific computer! I am quite tired of this, simply because of the attitude that I get when I say how important it is, usually a snicker as to "oh, I have been quite bad about that haven't I?" Yes, you have!

Education, I have found is a truly worthy component in the battle of Spyware. This is quite honestly why I have placed these components such as Ad-aware and Spybot on my website, along with many TIPS and other software programs to help in the fight against these villains. But if you are going to forget doing them, then you shouldn't feel bad when someone like myself comes to your home and whisks your computer away to the bench for "deep cleaning and updating". The fact that almost 8 months had gone by and this computer has now managed to get to the point where the user has also had enough dealing with the pop ups and not able to operate other parts of the computer properly due to "too many error messages". I am actually quite surprised it lasted this long, but then again, I guess I am not that surprised since the new generation of Spyware and Ad-aware works in such a fashion that it usually does not block your access to the Internet, however you will notice a drastic reduction in your computers' performance. I am also quite surprised when I visit a home that has an outdated Spyware program running. The owner usually feels quite proud in stating that "they use it every day", only to find out that they are currently using version 1.04 and now currently it is at version 1.06. This means they have completely missed out on one update and are now two updates out. This may not seem like much but when you are dealing with Spyware which in my opinion is just like a virus, you can't afford to be using an outdated program. In the case of Spybot Search & Destroy however, if you are an existing client of mine for example, you may not know what version you are using because I have configured the program so that all you have to do is click on the icon and it will automatically update and download the latest definitions and start the scan and then remove whatever it finds, leaving you with the log of what it found. So you will not really know what version, that is, unless you check. At the end, when the log comes up, you can click on HELP and then ABOUT and it will reveal the version number.

If you are reading this, then you will also be told when a new version is released because I will blog about it.

The best thing you can do if you are unsure of something is ASK... A simple email stating your problem/question goes a long way when you send it to me because I will usually take the time to include links to the appropriate place where you can get the updates or quick fix solution. Not to mention the ongoing ability to connect to your computer and repair things remotely. Note that if you haven't had me connect to your computer lately, then there is a very good chance that you have a number of problems that could be repaired remotely, without the expense of having your computer visit my hospital for a few days! Ultimately it is up to you, how you use/abuse your computer, but without the knowledge of what to look for, you probably aren't doing it right. Therefore a lesson on this may not be such a bad idea, especially if you can then pass on your recent knowledge that you may have gained by the lesson to others in your family or friends that have been "emailing you junk jokes" all the time.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

One more reason for you to switch from Internet Explorer to Avant.

Microsoft probes report of IE flaw

One more reason for you to switch to AVANT BROWSER... Forget Firefox and the others. You can always get software that I mention through my SOFTWARE/SUPPORT page.

It does go to show just how the big kid on the block is going to get hit a lot harder then the smaller guys when it comes to web browsers. Firefox, the number two choice by statistics, is now starting to also see the wrath of becoming a big player, by dealing with an increased security breaches.

If you are planning on giving a new web browser a try, whether it be Avant (which I would recommend) or Firefox, be sure to give it a fair trial, such as a month. Delete the Internet Explorer icons from the quick launch and/or desktop so that you don't accidentally choose that, and when prompted after installing the new browser whether "it should be the default browser", be sure to say YES, that way whenever you click on a link from within an email for example, it will open in the new browser. DO NOT try to uninstall Internet Explorer! This is something that belongs with your windows operating system and is what will be used for any and all "Internet updates" as this is what Windows uses as it's Internet browser.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

A common problem with all Computer consultants and the problems that we face

As written by Lockergnomes Sherman E. DeForest while helping a client with a small problem.

I see this quite often but then this is because I do try to "teach" while I repair some small issue such as this. It is very easy to get side tracked on to other issues as I see it and quite often computer settings are not set up the way "I" would use them, but knowing how everyone likes their computer options to be set up differently, unless you are willing to "teach" them a new way, you must be prepared for the answer, which more often then not, is that typical "I am used to it now" answer.

Just remember there is never a dumb question, only one that never gets asked!

There are other ways then to use Telus "E-Care"

Although I am never going to tell someone that contacts their internet provider for technical help when they are having troubles getting or staying connected to the internet, however I will say to think twice before simply installing whatever they tell you to. Learn more about these things by getting more information first. This is something you are doing right now, by reading this blog!

When things get very serious is when I usually get the call. It is in the "preventative maintenance" that I am trying to educate those that want to know. When I see how the internet providers are starting to help deal with spyware and spam by offering these, normally free,services I am usually all in favour of it. As is the case with the SPAM FILTERING that both the broadband (Shaw, in most cases in Canada) or ADSL which would be Telus or other telephone provider. Spam filtering on email is a must and I suggest using the "delete" from the server option as opposed to the "tag suspected spam". You can access this information by logging in to your account through the internet providers website. Note that you DO NOT have to install the "e-care" program that Telus recommends. Of course they will recommend something that allows them more access to pertinent information about your computer, usually to help learn more about where your problem may be happening. It is unfortunate however, that these "monitoring devices" end up causing more problems then they are worth. At least this would be the case with most clients that I deal with. This would be because these programs in most cases, are constantly in communication with the external server which is monitoring your computer. In the case of Shaw's "secure" package, (read more about this in a previous blog here), don't always believe you are more "secure" and in most cases you are worse off. Think about this.. When they say you must remove the antivirus program from your computer (because it will interfere with the monitoring of their equipment and could quite possibly be blocked due to the antivirus program believing there is a "worm" or "trojan horse" virus installed on your computer). This is because the monitoring software acts like a trojan horse, sending specific information, such as your current ip address, how long you have been connected, the ports that are in use, etc.......

I am constantly referring to the "KISS" rule of "keep it simple stupid" since this usually ends up becoming the means of diagnosing a problem. You quite often have to go back to the beginning and start from one end of the problem to find out where the problem starts. When you are dealing with not being able to get connected, this is where the internet provider would utilize this software to see if they can "see" their modem at your end of the computer. This is the first thing they will encounter, however if you have installed the "ecare" software for example, they can then read other information on your computer, such as the ip address settings and even your files that are being shared on the network. This is something that you are basically allowing when you install this software, therefore think about this before you simply install it. I always highly suggest contacting your local computer guru that helps you with the routine maintenance and upkeep of your computer. As always, this is something that I hope I am doing by providing you with TIPS and SOFTWARE/SUPPORT, not to mention the remote services I offer by becoming a TPS Client. Contact me if you have any questions. You can always ask through AllExperts.com here.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Protect Yourself from Fraudulent Emails

I recently responded to a number of similar emails from clients that are concerned about the safety of their computer and its use when loggin in to 'online banking' for example.

PayPal has this to say which helps understand the issues but once this is understood, you should feel more in control and should not feel it is time to stop using such services. It is still the safest way to do your banking!

Always remember to keep your spyware programs up to date. You can check the latest versions via my SOFTWARE/SUPPORT page.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Kazaa is finally getting what it deserves

The latest court order will hopefully put an end to what I consider THE WORST file sharing program on the internet. From computers that I have had to repair, if I have found Kazaa installed on it, it usually has at least one major virus (trojan horse) that essentially shuts down the computer over time. Since the internet and this technology is constantly changing with so many new laws being created, it is only a matter of time before the bad sources have been completely blocked. Learn about legitimate means of file sharing by using Bit Torrent.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Does it seem like you are getting more and more SPAM?

One question I constantly get is, "why does it seem like I am getting more and more junk mail (SPAM), what can I do about it?"

The first thing I do when I connect to a computer remotely, or deal with one on my bench, is make sure the programs we use to battle the SPAM/SPYWARE are up to date. Unfortunately about 8 out of 10 computers are not!

Please read my TIPS on OPTIMIZING your computer as this will explain just where the items of issue need to be dealt with. Such as the START UP folder (start menu/all programs/start up) this folder is where new programs that have just been installed will go in the case of starting when windows starts. In most cases you do not want these programs starting all the time. Then, you need to deal with the updating of the spyware programs. This does not just mean the definitions, but the actual program. For example, using Spybot Search & Destroy, the current version is 1.4 whereas version 1.3 will still work and the definitions will download and install, however you are not getting the best protection as certain areas of your computer will not be scanned to its fullest ability.

Programs I highly suggest each and every computer should have can be found highlighted in the red square on the SOFTWARE/SUPPORT page. I do attempt to keep these up to date, but in many cases a new update is available, therefore be sure to click on the link to the product homepage and check to see if there is a newer version available. As with any program, you can find the version number, if it is not already displayed, by clicking on the HELP and then ABOUT.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

STOP SENDING SPAM... Yes, I mean YOU!

It seems each and everyone of us get email from friends and family at one time or another, that has a very meaningful message that is trying to be promoted by as many people that can and will read it, unfortunately most of these are nothing more then SPAM and essentially VIRUSES are formed from them. This message could be, like the one I just received from a friend, telling me to boycott a specific gas station on a specific day to get that oil company to be "forced to lower the fuel prices" due to the fact that nobody is using the pumps...


Come on people, do you really think that, even if a city of 1 million people that had half that many people driving their car on that specific day, that required fuel, that just so happens to use that specific Gas station is going to make a difference? Regardless of the few pennies or dollars you may have saved by thinking you are saving the world by this, you probably have given those infamous spammers a new loaded weapon.. Your continual forwarded email that has literally hundreds of "legitimate email addresses" attached!

Please read my TIP-THE CORRECT WAY TO SEND AND FORWARD EMAIL. And for the love of your computer, stop sending these stupid email posts to me!

You probably have noticed the phone company charges YOU to have an unlisted number, whereas it costs nothing to get it posted in the phone book. Ever wonder why? Because it costs money to keep these things from publication. Why do you think companies sell email address lists to other companies, because there is some serious money to be made by having "legitimate" email addresses. Do everyone a favour, if you get email sent to you incorrectly from someone you know, by this I mean that you see more then your own email address listed, READ MY TIP and then SEND THEM THE TIP!

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Microsoft's Authentication tool is more of a problem then anything else.

So it would appear at this early stage of things that the latest "authentication tool" that Microsoft is providing when doing a manual windows update results in some computers coming back with negative results. From my early evaluations I am determining this as to be a problem due to the authentication or "registration" of the operating system as being "tampered with". Which essentially, it has! This is something that I would have personally done using the x-setup program. This is one more area that has basically been manually patched and now Microsoft has introduced their own version of the same thing. Only since this specific section of your operating system may have been "tampered with", the results come back with a negative outcome. When they first announced this, there were a number of "hacks" made available since apparently it was nothing more then a java script issue, however my early attempts at repair in the fashion that has been described as a cure, has not resulted positively as of yet. Therefore, for those that have not visited the Windows Update site manually, I suggest you continue to not do so.. Your windows operating system, if I have looked at it, would be set up for automatic updates which is good. Therefore you should not have to do this yourself. I have mentioned this before, whereas "if it aint broke, don't fix it". Although you may be experiencing some sort of problem whereas a device driver update may solve the problem, it is then that I would usually check the device drivers for update availablilty but I have found doing such hardware updates when you aren't witnessing any problems, usually ends up resulting in now having problems. Therefore, if it ain't broke--don't fix it. However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't still be running through the routine spyware and antivirus scans. Review the TIPS on this and if you aren't sure if you have the latest programs you can visit the SOFTWARE/SUPPORT for these.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

New to Blogging? Points to learn from a fellow newbie.

I will quite often mention in my blogs the name Chris or Pirillo or Lockergnome or Gnomedex, all of which are now under new management... yes, Chris is getting married to this great person and so you could say Ponzi will be the "head office" of Pirillo.lockergnome. In any case, she gives those of us not familiar with the geek speak, a little understanding in to the world of blogging.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Even Stats can be wrong and it is the one time that hurts!

Just reviewing my stats on the Allexperts website where I do some volunteering work with answering peoples questions regarding tv and computer work. It is interesting to see how, out of the last handful, that one person did not like the response they got, it did not help them, or they simply didn't think what I was talking about had anything to do with their problem. As a result this is what my stats look like currently:
Numerical Ratings from Other Users of AllExpertsKnowl Clarity Time Polite Date 10 10 10 10 08/08/05 10 10 10 10 08/08/05 10 10 10 10 08/07/05 10 10 10 10 08/06/05 8 10 6 10 08/05/05

Without understanding exactly what the problem might be, it sometimes is quite difficult to determine exactly where the problem is and as a result you find yourself looking, quite possibly at an entirely different area, since this is what leads up to the problem area. Sometimes the program you are attempting to use unsuccessfully is because of some other program that is no longer running, but the processes of the program still are and as a result, causes a bottleneck in the memory area of the computer. Generally this is why a re-boot sometimes helps, however, be aware that if you haven't restarted your computer for some time, this could actually lead to other problems, since a lot of Spyware will place things in the "prefetch" area of windows and/or in the "startup" folder which you will not see any affect of the results until the computer is restarted. I have come across this on occasions where, for example, the grandchildren came over and were using your computer and that was two weekends ago, however since then you have not had to restart your computer for any other reason until now, when you are having some problems with some other program.

This is usually due to some "spyware" that will run as it has been set to, when the computer is restarted. The spyware was the direct result of one of the kids installing some game off the web that automatically installed icons on the desktop that were to "try out this new program" . This is what is called as "trialware" and is completely pushed in your direction in hopes you will use it. A good example of this would be "incredimail" which, seemingly harmless enough, places an icon on your desktop after installing a game from a cereal box. This icon simply says "get your free 3D email now" and so you click on the icon and viola, all your email from outlook express and your address book gets installed to this new, fancy looking email program, only you do not realize the repercussions of this until, probably a few days later, when more and more spam starts to roll in.

So, getting back to the original title of the stats causing pain.. Well it does hurt to see such low numbers simply because I could not help this one individual. Oh well, hopefully the "average" which I pride myself on, is very high and I like to hope I am helping more people then tormenting with my answers.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

I guess I should have seen this one coming

After commenting on the plane crash in Toronto story CP news released and that I had blogged about before, I guess I should have seen this one coming.
What is the world coming to when even a miracle requires someone to require compensation for ?... What? Being alive? The way I see this is quite simply.. If this "class action" actually succeeds then anyone who has ever flown in an airplane might as well sign up! Since when should the airline have to act like a ski hill where you purchase your ticket to ride the lifts on the mountain and resume all risks due to you riding? Because that is what you will see happening next!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

History can be very helpful!

The last three computer I worked on, what I consider an "annual update", they all had one thing in common which at this point I am not sure whether it was by coincidence or if there are higher powers at work here, by means of Spyware? I guess this is the way I think when I see something peculiar with the workings of the computer. You see, I check the Internet Options (from Internet Explorer) for any settings, mostly in the security settings, however I do check all of them and the first one you see when you enter the options of the Internet Explorer settings is the "HISTORY" settings which allow you to set the amount of days to keep the page in history. Now I am not sure if these three people just decided they didn't like History in school so why should they like it on the Internet, but not usually the reason. Typically because they do not want others to know where they have been visiting. (at this point if you are feeling guilty for going some place that you shouldn't-DON'T!) We are all humans enjoying our freedoms and if that happens to take you down a road you have never been before, that doesn't make it wrong! The key is to simply know and realize where it is you are going. If you are male and reading this, I believe you know what I am referring to. If you are a female and just read my last sentence then I believe you know where I was referring to. Yes, there are accidents and there are many Spyware tools out there that can direct you by means of placing you right in the middle of some place you don't want to be.. This is referred to as "HIJACKING" and it is probably the most common element in Spyware.

There is nothing dumb about the people that are creating Spyware and you must understand the big business involved. These people have gone from being a nuisance to completely ruining peoples lives by cloning their identities. This shouldn't make you afraid of using the Internet however, since the Internet is merely a conduit to knowledge and information, pleasure, and yes... HISTORY. By turning this history button to 1 day, it makes your web browser only keep 24 hours worth of website url's (the address of the page you are currently viewing such as http:\\tpsconsulting.com\blog.htm). If you have ever used your FAVORITES then you will understand what the HISTORY is for, since this is the button you would use if you forgot to add the page to your favorites. You would want to be able to go back to that page and then probably add it to your favorites. At this point however, I am not finger pointing to any person in actually making this change, other then quite possible some Spyware that has made this change, although I would think from a Spyware point of view, they would want to keep this number higher, even though the Spyware has other ways of retrieving your "history of web pages visited" therefore I am telling you now, that you should NOT be changing this to 1. Strange part and the reason I say it is peculiar is that you can actually change it to zero days so I am not sure why, if you were worried about where you have been, why wouldn't you just turn it to zero so that you have no history? In any case, let me explain how I see this issue.

The HISTORY button is there to do as I just mentioned--go back to a page that you have visited in the past, once there (the second time) I would think you would be making it a favorite if you intend to go back to it yet a third time. Turning this to 1 or zero, pretty much means you just don't want to take advantage of a tool, even if it could help you. With the DAILY usage of the Spyware programs I make available on all existing clients computers, which would be, at the time that I write this (since this will change over time as these programs evolve with the Internet) Spyware Blaster, Spyware guard Live Update, Spybot Search and Destroy, and Ad-Aware. These are all available, usually the latest version (if I can keep up sometimes as they have been known to update every week at times) from my SOFTWARE/SUPPORT page, the 'history' that you would be worried about is completely gone. The one issue that you may be more interested in is the OPTIMIZING tip that can show you the areas to keep monitoring and cleaning as necessary. This is why people write software.. It is generally because they enjoy doing what it is they are doing and when they see that they can make it "easier" or "more productive" which basically means it does a lot more.. That is why there are Updates... This is also why there are constant debates over the cost of ownership of a computer, since some people seem to pay a lot more to get their computers cleaned then others.. When half of it deals with "hardware" and half deals with "software", it all depends on just how you use your computer. I still have family (my brother) that doesn't even have Internet in to their home.. Not even through dial up as they don't have an email account. Yes, they have computers but they don't have Internet.. It is completely their choice since their lifestyle has been to "get by" without it, and they have.. By keeping it at work. Sure my brother has email as he has it at work and even though I have said how he could get through all his morning mail while he is enjoying his bowl of cereal in his own home, he points out that : a: that would be doing work that I get paid when I am at work. This would be because he doesn't have Internet at home, therefore his only email is a work account. Not his problem, but what about when your buddy sends you that "special" joke email.. Not suited to be opened in the work environment, that is for sure. This sort of thing in many business won't happen because the mail is stripped of bad (or most) attachments, filtered down to TEXT ONLY or something like this. Nobody wants a virus or trojan horse, that is obvious, but then knowledge becomes something of necessity and so if they create a program that does everything for you.... Thus the computer programmer.. This is the sort of TIP that I hope to get across to my existing clients and for those that read my comments here. Education I have found, is the key to keeping MY VISITS only an annual thing, other then for the purposes of teaching!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Reading the latest news on the Toronto plane crash and actually hearing good news!

Reading the latest news on the plane crash in Toronto through (CP) news.

It is wonderful to hear that there were no deaths in this news, and as I read the article I truly began to seem as though I was there, with the Live quotes from the passengers. It wasn't until near the end of the article, when the mother of small children were complaining because of the "bad service". No matter how much I want to understand her as she sees things but you truly do have to remember that there were no deaths. Regardless of what the staff did or didn't do, the bottom line is the emergency doors opened when they should, slides came out and people scrambled. Whether the flight attendants were the ones directing traffic or not, everyone got out and are now safe. This should mean the entire staff are heros. When in time of any emergency services, they have to prioritize people in order to save the lives of those that are require the most attention. It is unfortunate we have to have such a negative feeling after initially reading of the wonderful news that there were no deaths and very few casualties.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Secure Password Authentication and Email

It appears SP1 for Small Business Server has many issues that really should be clarified before installation and thanks to the automatic updates Microsoft makes as a default with the SBS system, SP1 was to be installed whether you want it or not. True there was a patch that would prevent the download and eventual install take place but it was only a matter of time before you would have to install it. This is pretty much the way I felt when I first blocked the installation and managed to get a few more weeks before a new attempted installation occurred. I would notice this when my email started being bounced back to me stating there was a "delay" in the message being sent. Since installing the Linksys/Cisco vpn RV082 router which gave me the dual WAN capabilities I was looking for, it appeared it didn't like it too much when the SBS server wanted to take control via the UPNP. This being corrected I was next greeted with a problem when the SP1 install completed and I could not connect to the server. I figured two weeks of dealing with this was enough and finally took the server offline until the SP1 changes could be fixed. Unfortunately this was playing havoc with my email since each time the server would come online, it would go and retrieve my mail. I didn't think it would be too much of a problem since I could still read my mail from the server, however, what I wasn't aware of was that one account, which just so happened to be the main account, had the Secure Password Authentication turned on, which would still send mail but not receive. The other problem was that it would actually allow some mail but not all and so it wasn't until I actually was at a clients home yesterday where I emailed myself and then found I did not receive it that I knew something was up. Sure enough after spending a few hours in the exchange server I found the problem and the 186 messages that were blocked. Note that these were all legitimate messages that had already been screened from SPAM filters. This was 186 messages that required some sort of action. Needless to say it is now 12:15am and I have been at it for the past 6 hours and am happy to say all the mail has been processed. I apologize to any and all that had gone a few days without any response from me.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Are you using the spyware software on your computer? Are you using it correctly? Every Day?

I just read an interesting statistic from this lockergnome article regarding Spyware.

Sophos reports that 50% of all Windows PCs connected to the Internet are infected within 12 minutes of them being wired to the Web. This applies to all Windows PCs that have no serious anti-virus protection and an active firewall.
According to the same company, 7,944 new viruses were released in the first half of 2005, with a nearly 60% increase over the previous year.
That is indeed pretty bad news by itself, but what I find absolutely stunning is the amount of people I know who have plenty of viruses, Spyware, and malware on their computers and they dont even know it.
The same survey in fact found 77 percent of users believing their home computers are either very safe (28 percent) or somewhat safe (49 percent) from online threats.


If you have not already visited my SOFTWARE/SUPPORT page and installed all the software I make available without having to go searching for it and to make sure you have the latest version which I usually try to stay on top of since it is used every day by hundreds of my existing clients, it is always interesting to learn that many are using it, but not daily, even though you use your computer for internet activity every day or, that it is being used every day but it is not getting "updated". By this I mean you are clicking on it to do a scan but have not checked to see if there were updates available. Basically a Spyware scanner works the same as an antivirus scanner. It takes a known definition file that tells it what to start looking for and then scans. Without the latest "definitions" how can it possibly find the bad things and since there are new viruses and Spyware released daily, how can you be sure? As well, when you do run the updates, quite often there will be a quick note upon completion that states "new version available".. This is quite often overlooked and even though you are going through the correct paces in scanning your computer, if the version you are using is out dated, even though it may go through the same scanning and checking for updates, it will not complete it since the newer version will obviously be reading a different set of "definitions", therefore it is always good to look at the "version" of the program you are using. Currently Ad-aware is up to version 1.06r whereas Spybot Search and Destroy just recently released version 1.4. You can always find the "version number" of software by clicking on the 'HELP' and choosing "about" as this will show you usually the software name/author and version number and quite often will include a link to the manufacturers website where you can confirm things. Note that you can also get there from a direct link at the SOFTWARE/SUPPORT page.

For more information please be sure to read the TIPS.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Did your computer get the latest set of Microsoft Updates?-Updated

The following quote from me was initially created BEFORE the latest authentication tool from Microsoft. For existing clients that have experienced a problem, please read this first..

Even if you are the type of person that periodically checks the windows update site (http://update.Microsoft.com) which you can get to always, by starting the Internet Explorer and clicking on TOOLS/Windows Updates. Of course you should also be able to get to it directly from the Windows Update link found on your start menu under (all programs) in windows xp. When you get to the website, choose ADVANCED instead of the recommended "express" as you would only be getting the CRITICAL updates if you go that route. By choosing the other option, you get to see what other updates are available. In any case, you pretty much will want to get everything available and realize that some items may not install the first go-round and you may have to restart your computer and then run the windows update again. This is quite often the case where there are combined updates or one of such that requires all memory to be rewritten in which case a full restart is required.