Thursday, January 26, 2006


It seems to me that more and more email I receive is arriving with so many spam causing issues that my TIP that I have created many moons ago and placed in my TIPS page needs to be brought back to life here in the blog.

How many times do you receive email with addresses from many other people as well. You know, the joke or chain letter that wants you to forward to all your friends. Or, maybe you have a very important message that you want to send to many people and you would like to do it all in one email. In any case the following information is for you!
Using Outlook Express to explain it, this will work with Outlook or Netscape mail, as well as most other email programs on the market. When you receive a message, lets say a joke, and you want to forward it on this is what you should do.
press forward button which will automatically compose a new message with the contents of the original message as well as a fw: in the subject line and it waits for you to address it.
press the address book button on the TO: in the composition window which will open your address book with your list of contacts.
now create a new email contact by clicking new.
put the name Undisclosed Recipient in for the name and use YOUR email address. Yes, this is the email address you want others to send you mail to.
now place this new contact in the TO box by clicking on the --> arrow or by double clicking on that name from the list.
now for everyone else that you want a copy of the letter to go to, use BCC which is short for BLIND CARBON COPY. What this does is send a copy to the person you have in the BCC list but doesn't show everyone else.
Before you send it, take a look at the contents of the message.. you will notice all the other email addresses from previous deliveries. You can now start at the beginning of the "junk" in the mail and drag your mouse down to the beginning of the REAL MESSAGE. Now that all the junk is highlighted, press DEL on your keyboard. Note the bottom of the email as well, as there is quite often advertising or footers noting ISP information or "get your hotmail now" type of junk that can be removed. Basically you want to send the CONTENT of the email, not all the other stuff.
Now because you have addressed it to Undisclosed Recipient (yourself) and everyone else is in the BCC list then the message will come back to you after you send it. This works good if you want confirmation that your email is going out and is actually being received by someone.
When the recipient gets the message and, lets say it was a great joke, and they too forward it to someone, at least when they do it, (and I am sure they will probably not do it the correct way unless you have already passed this tip on to them), you have removed all other names from the list. up until you got it. Hopefully the more people that read this tip will also start doing this and eventually we will have clean mail.
Oh, on the note of "clean mail".. if you want to really make life simple for yourself and others and don't like having to do this manually (cleaning the mail that is).. why not get the free "email cleaner" program which works great for removing all those ">" in email that has been forwarded over and over again. Check out my
SOFTWARE/SUPPORT area for links to downloading this and other useful software.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Email Hoax hasn't gone anywhere-Email Lesson #101

I just received an email from a client, and then another client, that both were very disturbing since part of my job is to repair computer problems, I wished that more of my time was spent in enjoying the computer and doing so by teaching those that would like to know more on how to do something 'the right way' then to constantly be complaining about what is wrong with the system.

Unfortunately however, the system is YOU! You are the machine in which, without proper guidance, will allow those that want to outsmart you do just that!

First of all I want to say that I have blogged about Incredimail before as being spyware/adware.. whatever you want to call it.. it is just BAD! And for the president of Incredmail, if they were to contact me and prove otherwise then I am all for it. As I have blogged about this before.

Let me explain what happened from two seperate clients with two seperate emails sent to me.

They did send it correctly, by either sending it to themselves and then "blind CC" as you are supposed to, but in the first case, at the bottom of the message was the infamous "get your free smiley icons" and "click here" which of course if you do, it takes you to incredimail. This is bad in two ways, firstly, that is a direct link to their website which isn't a bad thing since you don't have to click on it so it is nothing more then advertising or a 'letterhead' as you will, for incredimail. Remember, they don't make any money until you purchase the pro version, which they hope you will do once you see just how great it is. Thing is, in the case you do purchase it, it doesn't mean all the advertising or spyware goes away. In fact all it does is allow you to remove the 'channel' that is open each time you use incredimail (you will also notice that once you install incredimail, like any messenger program, it defaults to starting on windows start up and if you are on a highspeed connection, attached to the internet all the time, you have now allowed this 'channel' to open and stay open for as long as you leave your email running. Of course the entire email may not be running, other then the little character that comes out and tells you when you have new mail, but realize the systemtray icon! This is where the problem is. 1: it starts on windows start up, so you should be immediately going in to the options and changing this. 2: the 'spyware' does not remove itself until you purchase the pro version and once you do, that does not 'close the channel' until you choose not to see this information any longer.

Now, the real problem comes when my own clients, of whom you would hope have learned about the virus and spyware issues through me in one way or another, simply because you have paid me at one time, to fix or update your computer or simply by using my consulting services to better your understanding of the computer and the internet or your life and how it can be integrated with technology in a positive way. You see, when said client FORWARDS an email message that they received from someone that is using incredimail, and even though you have removed all the addresses from the header, you have forgotten that the smiley icons on the bottom are still there. Thing is, when you go to delete these, you will find that you can't! The only thing you can do and the only thing you should be doing is COPY AND PASTE the information from the page that you want to send and then PASTE it to a new email that YOU CREATE yourself.

Now, the second client that sent mail to me was NOT directly sending mail either and unfortunately in the second case, the mail they did forward to me was a scam! The scam is quite simply a threat that there is a very bad virus out there... Hello, Guess what? There is ALWAYS a bad virus out there, and by forwarding on a message telling me that there is something I should be watching out for, the simple fact is, I should be watching out for any email I get from people that are forwarding on what they figure is important mail

Here is the content of the email message:

Subject: Worst virus ever (CNN announces)
WORST VIRUS EVER --- CNN ANNOUNCED PLEASE SEND THIS TO EVERYONE ON YOUR CONTACT LIST!! A new virus has just been discovered that has been classified by Microsoft as the most destructive ever. This virus was discovered yesterday afternoon by McAfee . This virus simply destroys Sector Zero from the hard disk, where vital information for its functioning are stored. This virus acts in the following manner: It sends itself automatically to all contacts on your list with the title: "A Card for You". As soon as the supposed virtual card is opened the computer freezes so that the user has to reboot. When the ctrl+alt+del keys or the reset button are pressed, the virus destroys Sec! tor Zero , thus permanently destroying the hard disk. Yesterday in just a few hours this virus caused panic in New York, according to news broadcast by CNN. This alert was received by an employee of Microsoft itself. So don't open any mails with subject: "A Virtual Card for You." As soon as you get the mail, delete it!! Even if you know the sender !!! Please pass this mail to all of your friends. Forward this to everyone in your address book. I'm sure most people, like myself, would rather receive this notice 25 times than not at All

and HERE is what you aren't seeing by simply forwarding this:

style="BACKGROUND-POSITION: 0px 0px; FONT-SIZE: 12pt; COLOR: #000000; FONT-FAMILY: "
bgColor=#ffffff background="" scroll=yes ORGYPOS="0">

----- Original Message -----

To: href="">whitetail hunter ; href="">Werner Plangg ; href="">Ursula Zyweck ;
href="">TINA ZUMPANO ; href="">Susan Plangg ; href="">Susan Neilsen ; href="">Steve Picton ; href="">Scott and Christine
; Richard Yost
; renata ; href="">princess
; href="mailto:riran@telusnet">Nolan ; href="">Nadine Tataryn ; href="">michelle maillet ; href="">Matt Zyweck ; href="">Les Jenner ; href="">Kim Kascak ; href="">karl yost ; href="">John Papenfus ;
Jentille ; href="">jan kascak ; href="">Heather Brown ;
Evelina Yost ; href="">Dirk & Stacy ; href="">Diana ; href="">denice wilson ; href="">Dan the Man ; href="">cousin Terry ;
cousin Cristal
; href=""> ; href="">Chris Zyweck ;
Cam and Sue
; C
& M Daniels
; href="">Brigitte ; href="">Brigitte ; href="">andrew

Sent: Tuesday, January 17, 2006 1:43 PM

Subject: Fw: Fw: Worst virus ever (CNN announces)


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style="FONT-SIZE: 12pt; CURSOR: auto; FONT-FAMILY: Arial"

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cellPadding=0 width="100%" border=0>

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style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial">

style="FONT-WEIGHT: bold; FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial">Subject: face=Arial size=2> style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial"> Worst virus ever
(CNN announces)

style="FONT-SIZE: 12pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial">

style="FONT-SIZE: 8.5pt; FONT-FAMILY: Tahoma"> face=Arial size=2> style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial">

face="Times New Roman" color=blue size=6> style="FONT-SIZE: 24pt; COLOR: blue">WORST VIRUS EVER --- CNN
face="Trebuchet MS" color=black size=5> style="FONT-SIZE: 18pt; COLOR: black; FONT-FAMILY: 'Trebuchet MS'">

size=5> style="FONT-SIZE: 18pt; COLOR: blue; FONT-FAMILY: 'Trebuchet MS'">PLEASE
A new virus has
just been discovered that has been classified by Microsoft as
the most destructive ever. This virus was discovered yesterday
afternoon by McAfee . This virus simply destroys Sector Zero
from the hard disk, where vital information for its functioning
are stored.
size=1> style="FONT-SIZE: 7.5pt; COLOR: black; FONT-FAMILY: Arial">
face="Trebuchet MS" color=blue size=5> style="FONT-SIZE: 18pt; COLOR: blue; FONT-FAMILY: 'Trebuchet MS'">
virus acts in the following manner:
It sends itself
automatically to all contacts on your list with the
style="FONT-WEIGHT: bold; FONT-SIZE: 18pt; COLOR: red; FONT-FAMILY: Arial">
"A Card for You".
color=blue size=5> style="FONT-SIZE: 18pt; COLOR: blue; FONT-FAMILY: 'Trebuchet MS'">

As soon as the supposed virtual card is opened the computer
freezes so that the user has to reboot. When the
ctrl+alt+ w:st="on">del
face=Arial color=blue size=5> style="FONT-SIZE: 18pt; COLOR: blue; FONT-FAMILY: Arial">keys or
the reset button are pressed, the virus destroys Sec! tor Zero ,
thus permanently destroying the hard disk. Yesterday in just a
few hours this virus caused panic in w:st="on">New face="Trebuchet MS"> style="FONT-FAMILY: 'Trebuchet MS'">York face="Trebuchet MS">,
according to news broadcast by CNN.

This alert was
received by an employee of Microsoft itself.
size=5> style="FONT-SIZE: 18pt; COLOR: red; FONT-FAMILY: 'Trebuchet MS'">
don't open
any mails with subject: "A
Virtual Card for You.
" As soon as you get the mail,
delete it!! Even
if you know the sender !!!
face="Trebuchet MS" color=red size=6> style="FONT-WEIGHT: bold; FONT-SIZE: 24pt; COLOR: red; FONT-FAMILY: 'Trebuchet MS'">

Please pass this mail to all of your
size=5> style="FONT-SIZE: 18pt; COLOR: red; FONT-FAMILY: 'Trebuchet MS'">

Forward this to everyone in your address book. I'm sure most
people, like myself, would rather receive this notice 25 times
than not at All
style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial">

style="FONT-SIZE: 12pt; COLOR: black">__________________________________________________ face=Arial size=2> style="FONT-SIZE: 10pt; FONT-FAMILY: Arial">

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align=center> style="FONT-SIZE: 12pt">

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align=center> style="FONT-SIZE: 12pt">

style="FONT-SIZE: 12pt">

style="FONT-SIZE: 12pt"> href=""
target=_blank> height=76
width=524 align=baseline

No virus found in this incoming message.
Checked by AVG Free
Version: 7.1.371 / Virus Database: 267.14.18/230 - Release
Date: 1/14/2006




Ok so if you managed to scan through the above information, you will have noticed a number of email addresses... don't worry, I have removed key letters from what you display so that hackers will not still attempt to use those email address as "real-legitimate email address" as they will not work.

Also, at the bottom of this last message from the code, you can see the information 'header/footer' which is the other annoyance.

I know this is a lot of information to try and understand but hopefully by showing the example you will see just how bad it really is to simply FORWARD anything that you deemed important for your friends to watch out for and then send it along from your FREE INCREDIMAIL account. Oh, one more thing you will see in this code is that the message was "scanned using FREE AVG Antivirus".. come on people, if you are going to do anything right, get yourself a legitimate antivirus program that does its job and not simply promotes itself by anyone that uses it! Imagine if Bill Gates got a dime from everyone each time you sent a message from your windows machine, wouldn't he be a rich man? Hmm, wait am I missing something? Anyway, you know my blog and you know my website where you can read more TIPS and get FREE SOFTWARE/SUPPORT, yes FREE, these are programs I have found to be of extreme value and quite often donate to such causes when I see they are helping not only ME in the constant repairs and updating of hundreds of computers, but allowing me to do many cleaning issues that would normally be done one by one. These programs inevitably save everyone money in the end so why wouldn't you use them? Did I mention reading my blog is also free? Therefore you can get any help you wish, depending on the urgency of course, you can always ask me a question through as well since I have volunteered there for almost 7 years now and have answered a couple thousand questions! Seriously.. take a look at my resume they produce for me! Although I have added links to Bill Gates, My Website and other places I find of importance you should not see any direct link from my site to Incredimail since I believe there are enough ways to screw up your computer without me helping!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Save Windows Activation File before the reformat-TIP

Not that I would ever recommend you attempt to reformat your computer on your own, there are some that feel they have nothing to lose. Not to mention you may learn a few things along the way as you attempt to reinstall everything. Hopefully tips like this can help.

Like any windows machine at some point you will need to format your hard drive and reinstall Windows XP. If you didn't prepare for that you will need to reactivate your Windows XP.
Now if you do not want all the hassle of reactivation you can save your old activation files and use them in your clean system (as long as you didn't make any hardware changes).
Follow these steps.
Backup your activation files:
1. Open Windows explorer and navigate to C:\Windows\System32. Copy the files Wpa.dbl and Wpa.bak to another media floppy, CD-R or another hard drive (if you have more than one installed)
Now you can reformat your drive and reinstall Windows XP.
At the end of the installation, when Windows asks you to activate your product, decline and do not activate.
Restore your activation files
1. Restart your system, and as your system boots up press F8 to access the boot options (Windows Advanced Options). From the menu options select to start Windows in safe mode (minimal). After Windows loads in safe mode, open Windows explorer and navigate back to C:\Windows\System32. If you find the files Wpa.dbl and Wpa.bak in this folder, rename the files to something like Wpa.dbl.backup and Wps.bak.backup5. Copy your original Wpa.dbl and Wpa.bak from the CD or floppy back to C:\Windows\System32. Restart Windows
You should now have a clean and activated Windows XP

As always you may find other TIPS useful as well as the SOFTWARE/SUPPORT page for the latest versions of the system tweaker and spyware removal programs.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Social Life, the computer, a geek and a good reason to marry one!

As quoted originally from Maryam Ghaemmaghami Scoble and re-worked by Chris at Lockergnome

10 Reasons why getting up close and personal with a geek!

1.He can fix your computer. There, I said it. Do you really need another reason? He is not a bum. He has useful skills that can make your life (at least the part that is spent on the computer, and lets face it, that is where we all spent most of our time anyway) run smoothly. Not enough? OK, heres number two.

2.He has friends who can fix your computer. So now you are in a relationship and he knows hes got you and doesn't feel like he needs to jump every time you call. All of a sudden he is too busy for you? He has work to do and cant get there fast enough? No problem. Call one of his buddies. Theyd love to help out. Geeks are the most helpful friends you'd ever make.

3.Not a computer person? OK, heres the killer. He can also hook up the TV, connect the DVD player, and TiVo your favorite programs. Hell also hook you up with the sweetest sound system you've ever heard. It would be like angels singing to you.

4.Looking further for another reason? Yes, you guessed it. He has friends who can hook up the TV, connect the DVD player, etc... Etc. etc.

5.And it gets better: Not only can he fix your computer and DVD player, he can do the same for your friends. All of a sudden your social life will pick up. Your phone wont stop ringing. Dinner invitations come up every night of the week. you'd be as popular as if you owned a truck and you dont even have to help anyone move.

6.Sigh... You really want more reasons to date a geek? Fine. Heres one for your vanity. Hell make you shine everywhere you go. No matter how clumsy your sense of style, no matter how awkward your social skills, you'll be a fashion star and a classy diplomat next to your geek. Hell make you look so good; you'll fall in love with yourself.

7.So you are not into computers, TVs, and DVDs, and you dont care about being popular and fashionable. What about the newest techie gadgets? Do you like cell phones, digital cameras, camcorders, or MP3 players? Forget bling bling. Let me tell you, girlfriend, you are going to be a proud owner of the latest gadgets if you ever decide to date a geek. Your cell phone will not only have your best friends numbers on speed dial, it would also be able to take pictures, make movies, and even do your nails. Your sleek, sexy, and very small digital camera will take pictures that will put Ansel Adams to shame and your brand new, top of the line MP3 player will make all the heads turn your way.

8.Not satisfied yet? OK, I hear you. You are saying gadgets and toys are fun, but they wont keep me warm in the middle of the night, if you know what I mean. Well, I didn't think I would have to tell you this, but I guess you are going to make me spell it out for you. Heres the deal, sweet and simple: Your geek will worship the ground you walk on. Hell be so happy that a pretty girl like you paid attention to him that hell be at your feet. Hell adore you as if you were his queen. In his arms, you'll feel like you are at the top of the world. Believe me, I know what I am talking about.

9.I know I got your attention now, but, wait! It gets better. He wont cheat on you, either. You dont believe me? Heres a test. Place the sexiest woman on earth in a room with a geek, say Angelina Jolie in Victorias Secret sexy lingerie. At the other corner of the room, place the latest model of some computer or other. I am willing to bet my bottom dollar that your geek would want to play with that computer much more than getting to know Angelina Jolie. In fact, he might not even see her if the computer is on and connected to the Internet. Cmon, he has to check his e-mail, surf the Web, and blog about the fact that he is in a room with Angelina Jolie ;)

10.OK, reason number ten. Did I mention he can fix your computer?

Yes, after reading this, I would have to, now agree, that any girl would be crazy not to have me... Or any other self proclaimed geek!

Monday, January 09, 2006

How important is time when even you think " it might be time to just buy a new one"?

So I am sitting here going through the steps that it takes to not only diagnose but also repair the problems that I am faced with when servicing a computer with a known virus problem.

As with any virus, it is one thing to remove the bug itself, but it is another to know whether or not you go it all, or what damage was now caused from said virus.

Typically if I were to start by building a system from scratch, the hard drive would be partitioned so that there was a backup partition which would then house the 'clean' image of the completely set up computer system. This 'clean' image would be clean simply because other then being online the internet to get all the windows and other updates, the system would have no actual internet time. The antivirus would have been installed BEFORE any internet activity was given to the computer therefore the 'clean' image would always be a 'go-to' image in the worst case scenario. As you use your computer, typically on a monthly basis or even more often if you so choose, you could create a new drive image of the current situation you have. This way, if you did have a major melt down, you could then simply go back to that time. This is where drive image technology has truly started to shine, especially with the larger hard drives of more recent times, whereas with a program like Norton's Goback, it can truly take you back to when things were working correctly simply because those files are still there!

Now, when I start the process of removing viruses and realize that after the virus has been removed, that new installations of certain files or other strange happenings are cause for alarm. It is the time that it takes to install something, reboot the computer and try it again, only to see that you are not making progress and have to return to an earlier method of repair. In this case, resort back to reinstalling. The first step I will usually take is to attempt a windows 'repair' whereas I am reinstalling the operating system over top of the old one, in hopes that this will repair the system files that have become corrupt or removed due to spyware/virus activities. When this fails, and remember a repair will typically take an hour to complete, you are now back to square one. That is, so long as you still have access to the original data, you want to be sure it is safely backed up. (this seems to be something most people forget how important it is until they lose it).

Now, starting from scratch will typically take about 4 hours to complete as this windows installation then requires antivirus installation then all of the windows updates are necessary, and then the restoration of backed up data must take place. This is where you can truly run in to trouble by simply reintroducing the problem! It can happen, by simply restoring all of your backed up files, such as 'my documents' which had been used for downloading files such as from programs like 'Limewire' or 'Kazaa' which are sure to have downloader trojans included. But you may ask, wouldn't these be scanned by active antivirus during the saving? Yes, but when you are creating a disk image, you are compressing these files therefore you are not really using them the way they were intended. It is therefore not until you restore them, that they are now 'in the open' again for any such program to scan through the directory for said 'bugger file' and shazam, you have a virus again! This is what is known as active script and this is what can kill you every time, that is why it is important to have some sort of file management to your computer system. My documents is there for you to save YOUR DOCUMENTS.. Not the stuff you download from the internet, not the install files for a game you copied from a friend, this is where you should be saving YOUR FILES.. Granted the My music folder falls in to this category therefore you could argue that when you are saving music, should you not save it somewhere else? For this I would say Yes, but where I typically would be saving it on a system that has more then one user, is to the 'ALL USERS' documents/my music folder. True, this is still found in 'MY DOCUMENTS' but not YOUR documents, and is located in : system\all users\all users documents\ therefore you do have the ability to keep it separate from your own account.

So where am I going with all of this? The simple fact that it is time and that is all, it is time spent rebuilding the system. Nothing more to it then that. So when (a client) says that it would probably be better to just buy a new computer, they are referring to what they would be paying the person to fix the old computer and how much they could have put that towards a new computer. So true, I say, but wait, are you overlooking a few things? Such as your new computer will not have any sort of antivirus, other then the free one that works for 3 months. Not to mention all of the other 'data' that you have saved over the life of the existing computer.. Is this not worth anything and aren't you going to want to transfer this to the new and improved computer? I say this because it becomes quite frustrating for the guy that is sitting there taking all careful measures to save the existing data and then repair the computer only to find that the only thing of importance seemed to be getting the computer back without paying what it would cost to buy an entirely new box. So what does the guy do that is fixing the computer? This would be me by the way. They 'cap' the amount that they will charge to the customer therefore knowing that the customer will be at ease knowing they will not have to go get a bank loan to fix their old box, and will end up with something they should be quite happy with, considering they were using it up until the virus took hold. Now, in the case of 'upgrading' versus purchasing something new.. That too brings up the one question as to what do you plan on doing with the old data? Is it not important? I guess this is the sort of thing that is quite easily overlooked when it simply boils down to 'how much' and unfortunately this is the way it is in todays society of mass production. It is quite often cheaper to just replace then repair and that is the case for most ink jet machines when you run out of ink. The purchase of colour and black ink can run you close to $100, which is what it costs for an Epson CX4600 all-in-one machine for example.

Again, where am I going with this? Well the fact that you must put a price on something, you try to be fair and when you have the ability to decide what you will charge for something as in the case of owning your own business or in my case, simply working for myself. Just how much 'money' should you charge, based on the amount of 'time' that you are going to be putting in to the project? That is something that not one person can tell me for sure, since each and every job will come with different sets of circumstances. In my case, I choose to come up with a dollar amount that would be considered an 'hourly wage' however by then placing a cap on this, that pretty much throws out the dollar/hour and becomes a simple case of 'good service' versus bad service. The bad service is always when the customer ends up getting very upset and that is typically because they feel they have paid too much for the service that they ended up getting. This is of course something that you can't seem to do anything about when it comes to trying everything to please said customer! The more 'time' you spend, the more irate some will get, so where is the winning solution for this? That would be in the communication! Communication is the key and regardless of having to explain what has already been done to the computer, the bottom line is 'when will it be fixed and for how much?" since we all know you can go out and buy a computer for around $795 these days that gives the service tech very little room to play with.. In my case, it is 7 hours! That is what would be considered the break point of when you start thinking of purchasing new parts if not the entire unit. I know this because this is how long it would take to basically built a computer from scratch as is the case for me on many occasion.

In closing, as I know I can rant about many things.. This being nothing more then communication skills at work, trying to explain what you are getting when you sign up for the repair job. In knowing that your system might be infected by a virus, or regardless of what the problem is, the current situation of your computer does not allow you to use it correctly therefore giving you the alternative to get it repaired or go out and buy a new one, remember that if you have absolutely anything at all that you wanted to keep on the old computer, you are going to need service work.. And that is where you can get screwed and tattooed.. Or you can let me help! Selling myself? Absolutely.. After what I see myself go through in dealing with computer issues, and knowing the countless hours I GIVE away to any and all that know me.. Don't go thinking you are going to get it done better for any price.. I know this, and I can stake my reputation on it! If you are reading this and haven't already visited my TIPS page or SOFTWARE/SUPPORT page where you can learn how to OPTIMIZE and keep your system free and clear of most bugs, please do!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

You can wait for Microsoft to release the Patch or you can get it now!

It is quite typical of ZDNet to badmouth Microsoft with the security issues as in the case of the latest WMF (windows meta file) breach. I do however, in this instance, agree with ZDNet as to the importance of said patch, therefore I suggest you install it now. I have added the link here or you can read the article and get it from there.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Telus and the data service plans for your phone

I just finished paying my monthly bill and have decided that since they raised the rates of the 'unlimited web/email' plan from $60 to $100/month I would give it one month. This, I did and then decided that I can find other methods of getting my data to my PDA then through the cellular line. I must admit however, that it being anywhere you have phone service, you also have the internet was a nice touch, but for $100? I don't think so! So I called them up and all seemed fine, but the girl wasn't sure if that was it as I just happened to ask "is there anything I will have to do at my end?", she passed me on to technical support and they said 'nope, everything should be good', and that was it. I hung up the phone and within 20 seconds I receieved a call back stating that they can't disconnect the data services because of the type of phone I had. My Audiovox 6600 PDA phone apparently 'must' have data, however when I first purchased the phone I didn't have this. In fact I went two months without it but because the phone doesn't have wifi (it has bluetooth), getting connected to a hotspot wasn't going to happen without purchasing an SD WIFI unit (approx $79). Therefore I ended up signing up for their plan. Knowing that if I am going to have it, I might as well not wonder how much I am using it and just go for the 'unlimited' plan which, at the time, was $100/month but for the first 3 months it was $50. But because I was an existing Telus client, I was not entitled to this special, therefore they came up with my own special plan of $60/month unlimited. I agreed to this (much to my dismay, knowing that I could purchase the WIFI card for a little more). After the first month, no problem, but the second month, I noticed almost $60 in 'overage fees'. Apparently the 'unlimited' isn't really unlimited and has a limit of 20mb (at the time, but has since been bumped to 200mb but also is now $100 which I am getting to). I never used this for email and only used the AvantGo services which basically uses an offline web browser whereas it connects and downloads all the data that you request so that when you are on the go, you can read the material just like you are connected but this is all stored in the cache. In any case this overage was apparently because my phone would just connect and update the services therefore the 2mb that it would download might be done a few times throughout the day. As a result I had virtually paid for two months with these additional charges.

Now, at the time when I phoned about this, and to get these charges reversed, I note that Telus was on strike therefore I was talking to management when I called. What a treat it was I must say, since I got to talk to someone that could actually make things happen and he quickly understood, removed the overages and that was that. The next month no problem, but the month after that, again, overtime charges but now that the strike was over, it was like going through city hall.. One level at a time, until I got to speak to a technician that could actually understand what I was talking about. The simple fact is that Telus offers an "unlimited' plan but does have to place a value on this just to stop the people from abusing it. I can understand that, but I could hardly be one to be told of abusing it since I wasn't even really using it for what it was. In any case, I learned that the rate was now $100/month but this was for like 200mb of data which as he stated 'you would never go over that' . Well I gave in to it simply because I wanted to believe that was the case, and because I was a 'loyal' customer with ADSL service, long distance service, two cell phones as well as data services, I was spending close to $600/month. Considering my business is communications, I had to chalk a lot of this up to the business and realize that in order to do business, you had to have the services. But after a month of this I figured that was enough and that $100 could be removed and put towards other services.

So now comes the fun. When I receive the phone call back from the Technician telling me that he can't take the data services off because of the type of phone I had (remember that I never had any services when I first bought it however). But apparently I would have to speak to the 'loyalty department' at which time I then was greeted by another representative that explained because of this phone (blah, blah, blah) that I would have to settle for the minimum plan of $25 which would give me 4mb (remember that one download was 2mb therefore I know it would mean I could sync my system twice in the month and I would have used up my plan).. Something they hope you will do so that they can bill you big time for going over the limit. In any case this really made no sense since I first purchased the phone it didn't have any services and now that I had them I couldn't remove them. Apparently that was the old days and now all phones of this type have to settle for a minimum. So asking for a manager was pointless (I tried but was given the runaround about how they manager wouldn't be able to do anything). I was then told if I were to 'sign up for a 1, 2 or 3 year contract.... "no thanks.. been there done that!" and I already knew that the phone in question did not have a contract. In fact it was on a grandfathered contract that if I were to change, I would lose all these great benefits that they no longer offer, such as 'by the second' billing and 'all incoming minutes are free'. So no, I do not want to sign up to any contract. So I settled for the $25/month plan which gives me 4mb. After hanging up the phone, I proceed to delete the telus connection so that my PDA will NEVER connect to their services so that I NEVER get billed for charges that I wasn't expecting because my phone just happened to connect to the services. At this point, less then 3 minutes after speaking to this representative, she is phone me back explaining that, along with this plan of $25/month and 4mb of data, the first 3 months of email/internet are FREE! Go figure! So now I have gone from spending $100/month on what is supposed to be an unlimited plan but was getting charged overages to $25/month for 'unlimited' for the next three months! And she was busy explaining how they couldn't remove the data plan altogether because they are a business, blah blah blah.. And yet I am getting more for less. It doesn't matter. I still disconnected the services as I can't wait to see my next bill as I am sure there will be something wrong with it.

The moral of this story is to always check your wireless phone provider's bill each and every month carefully. The simple fact that they offer an 'unlimited' plan but do not give you a way of monitoring just how much data you are using, like they have available for the internet users who can check their usage and bandwidth amounts, this is something that 'is in the works' .. The way I see it, they shouldn't be able to charge any overages if they are not allowing us a way of managing our time. The technician agreed with me and said he would be sending this to management.. I haven't seen any changes yet.

To add to this after just posting this and then checking the Telus website for the rate structure, the plan that I apparently signed up for which I was told had 4mb of data, only shows .5 mb of data. So I really have no idea what plan is what. Either the services they are showing online are outdated or they simply can't handle the structured setup they have based on each individual client. In my case I have two different phones and only one of them is under a contract. Be aware of any long term contract. Even though you may be getting a great phone that would normally cost you hundreds of dollars, in the end you will probably be spending more on services that you will be told YOU HAVE TO TAKE, just as I have! If I were to have never signed up for the services, then that would mean $300 less money Telus would have receieved from me, but now it appears you have no choice. Isn't this what the CRTC is supposed to be monitoring?

The Bug that Ate Christmas

I have to admit when it comes to health problems (knock on wood),I have been quite fortunate, however when I do get a cold, which usually happens once a year, it usually is a doozy. This time of year it seems everyone has the sniffles and typically blames the turkey dinner for what comes next. In my case I managed to get through the Christmas Turkey okay, but after a few visits to some homes where the bug had been, I was doomed. It began with a fit of sneezing that was uncontrollable for literally an hour or more, which then quickly landed in my chest. As a kid I got bronchitis and one other time when I was about 20. Now, it appears that is what I have and boy has it knocked me down and out! In any case if you have been one of the recent emails that I haven't managed to get to, please be patient as I am trying my best to get through it all. A great way to ring in the new year! Looking on the positive side of things, it can only get better, right?