Monday, April 30, 2007

The state of Tech Support from a Geeks perspective

A fellow geek, of whom I would like to call the King Geek (ok so I respect him for his geekyness leadership), Chris Pirillo, has recently had a problem with his computer as you can read from a recent blog post here.

Instead of commenting on his blog, I figured I would post this to my own for my own clients to read as I will make my comments below.

First of all, considering he bought a Gateway, in my opinion, was his first mistake. Why? Because a number of years ago when Gateway was doing quite well, they were doing so well because they really boasted about their tech support. My opinion on that is, "are you buying a computer based on it breaking down?". Second, he purchased the extended warranty which apparently included door to door service. That is all fine and good, but when you are admitting that you are the one that spilled coffee on it, why should a warranty cover anything at all, let alone have the tech support guy even give you the time of day? Well, because tech support realizes that the customer is always right, so even after going to his manager to find out what to do, the result was the same in which the computer would have to be sent in. My next question would be as to why, even though Chris knows what he is doing, and opened the box and determined what the problem was, why should this company honour anything when you cracked open the box? It seems to me that when you are going to believe in some extended warranty, like with any item that may say "no user parts" right on the package, should you be opening this to see if you can find the problem yourself.

Now why am I sticking up for the tech support in this case? Because I don't know how many times I have witnessed similar issues (only no admittance of guilt was given), where I will be diagnosing a computer problem and state that the problems are a result of "x" when the client rants and raves that they never did this or that, only to find out that Johnny's friend did in fact come over and do this and that to it because he knew more then the owner of the computer did, or the son of the owner did. It is typically only after things go from bad to worse that the call is made to the tech support people. In my opinion the results of what Chris faced were quite fair and the fact that the entire system would have to go in makes sense, after all, the admitted coffee spill happened, and even though he found the problem, who is to say that other components may have been affected but at this point have not failed, but could at any time as a result of the original accident?

The moral of this story is, if you are going to pay for some extended warranty, you should be well aware that opening the box MAY result in your entire warranty becoming null and void. What he should have done, again only my opinion here, but he should have phoned Gateway the moment the coffee was spilled on it and have the tech support send someone over, since the warranty he has apparently allowed for this door to door service. That way they could have then determined the problem was the video card and replaced it on the spot, along with charging him for the replacement part, since it was an accident and not a fault of faulty equipment. Making people aware of shotty tech support is one thing, but realizing what you get when you pay for something is an entirely different story.

Sorry Chris, my vote on this one goes to Gateway Tech Support.

Do you know what YouTube is?

YouTube is many things but all video and a way to get yourself heard, including through advertising. But when it comes to advertising, it doesn't get much better then this.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Leave your computer ON for best prevention of problems.

One of the most frustrating issues I am faced with is trying to help those that have computer problems that wish for me to connect and help them fix the problem, only to find the computer was turned off. Not only can I not connect to help you out, but your computer can no longer stay current with the latest antivirus definitions or windows updates, not to mention the disk defragging maintenance and other automated tasks that I would have typically set up to happen in the middle of the night.

Why do you have computer problems? Why is your computer operating very slowly? Probably because you have been turning off your computer, then, when you go to use your computer, you are turning it on, and probably, checking email, at which point your antivirus software has just re-detected the Internet connection and is busy downloading updated virus definitions. Unfortunately it might be a little too late if you are busy downloading email that may have a virus, one that your antivirus has not received the definitions for. Then when you are least expecting it, up pops a notice that a virus was detected... Your computer has most likely been set up to have the monitor turn off after a period of time, typically I set this to 45 minutes as well, the hard drive will spin down.

The hardest thing on a computer is when you turn it on. The sudden burst of power that happens as your power supply provides the correct amount of power to the mainboard, the fact that the components are cold, now heat up to optimum operating temperature in which is controlled by the cooling fans.

I like to call it the 'light bulb theory'... Think of a light bulb. If you leave that light on, it will last longer then if you were to turn it off and on because of the heating and cooling of the filament. Think of when that light bulb burns out, typically it will 'pop' when you go to turn on the light, right? So now place that theory in to what goes on with your computer and that should help with the reasoning why it is better to leave your computer on. I say this but then if you are not using your computer every day, then sure, maybe turning it off is okay but even then, you should be turning your computer on and allowing it to check for updates and to automatically get itself back up to date, before you decide to open your outlook express email and start downloading things to your computer. Of course if you were to use a web based email program such as gmail, hotmail, yahoo mail for example, then you are not really downloading anything to your computer (unless you save an attachment to your computer), so from a security point of view, web based email will always be safer then any 'pop' email account where the mail program connects to a server and then downloads all the messages to your computer. It is very important to understand these basic fundamentals to help with the ongoing security and maintenance of your computer system. A reminder that my TIPS page is full of these sorts of computer help issues.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Connecting to your home computer when you are away.

Since we are mostly all using a high-speed internet connection these days it makes things like connecting to your home computer a breeze if you know how to do set up the remote connection.

I have found when trying to explain something, it always helps to have screen shot images to follow and TechRepublic' Eric Eckel did a great job explaining this procedure here.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Email problems resulting from Google Premium

So it appears, even though I followed the step by step setup to start using the enhanced features of Google Apps, and that all was set up to have what was supposedly 'undisturbed service' for my email, it may take 24-48 hours!

What is done is now done and there is no going back... at least until I have given it the 48 hours or so it appears. Unfortunately when pulling the plug on one service to start using another, nothing can go without a hitch and no matter how much I read the instructions for this not to happen, it has!

Have you been trying to reach me through email? Don't give up, even though I am sure your mail server has already returned it. For now all I can suggest is to 'send it again' and eventually I am sure all the mail that is currently waiting to be processed will be processed. Considering I did this late on Friday evening, I am hopeful that it will be operating correctly by the end of the weekend.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Renewing Magazine Subscriptions online can save you a lot of money and trees!

I just recently received a notification in the mail that one of my magazine subscriptions was due. In fact the letter comes with big red letters stating that this is my 'Last Chance' to take advantage of these huge savings where I save $140 if I subscribe for 3 years (36 Issues) for $74 which is like 23 issues free (from the cover stand price). 2 Years (24 issues) for $51 or like having 15 free issues, or for 1 year (12 issues) for $ 28, a savings of like getting 7 issues FREE!

So I thought I should check online at the website to see if I let this lapse and simply renew online and was rather shocked to see just how much of a difference there was! As I am in Canada, I do not have an option to purchase 3 years (36 issues) but have both 2 years (24 issues) or 1 year (12 issues) at price of (already converted to Canadian dollars I am not sure, but probably not, as my credit card would be charged American dollars as I think the rate has already been adjusted or so I would think since I am give a 'Canadian option'). The rate is in US dollars from the mailer as well so... anyway the rate is $30 for 2 years (24 issues) or $22 for 1 year (12 issues). So if I do the math correctly, I am better off to miss the boat on the mailer and simply sign up online as I will save an additional (or difference of) $6 on one year or $19 over two years. So in theory, buying online for 2 years is pretty much like getting 2 additional years of service for free. Using this analogy, is it safe to say that this sort of 'push' to market more on the web is going to save, if nothing else, a few trees since they sent me this paper mailer which will now just be tossed in the garbage?

This is a classic example of how the Internet can save you money and a few trees at the same time!

This Microsoft ANI Patch does work

I was installing a new build with Windows Vista Premium last week and sure enough this patch does the trick in what appeared to Vista as the wrong device driver, now appears to work. At least this is where I have found the use for it.

You know you are a geek when Chris Pirillo's hate mail gives me the best laugh of the day

It never seems to amaze me how the Internet is wonderful for timing. Just when I was getting pretty depressed with reading about all the bad news in the world, up pops Chris Pirillo's latest blog where he posts a recent hate mail letter.

My thoughts after laughing about it was "hey Chris, if the shoe fits..." then laughed, ... awe Chris that's OK we still love you. But seriously, it is true you will never please them all, but just like podcasting where you can change the channel, or RSS where you can choose to unsubscribe, there will always be those that want to be heard, or written about and this idiot decided that was the way. You know Chris, we all think the same way this guy does and that is why we come to Gnomedex every year, so that we can enjoy laughing with you instead of at you from the other side of the computer screen.. :-) I know I am counting the .. well, months at this point, it is not days yet!

It is nice to see that both you and Adam Curry , who goes on holidays and leaves his laptop at home for Mark and the rest of his staff to do the podcasting, for his staff who make fun of those that apparently just phone in to be heard, but we know that is not true C.S.B we love you too!

It is no different then choosing to change the station if you were watching tv or listening to the radio, or just walking away from the computer altogether as Adam has done. But we know he still has the toys because he is still blogging! But then you already knew because you were already subscribed!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Your computer, the internet and security

If there is one thing I can't stand is 'accidentally' connecting to a client computer because I was given the wrong IP address and end up connecting to a different client computer. This is exactly why I ask that you send me your current IP address when you are through using the computer for the day. Why? Because when I receive an email with the current IP address, along with the message that "I am through for the night" then I will know the coast is clear to get whatever updates or repairs done that I must accomplish through the remote connection.

Now this connection is a secure connection to your computer. One that I have created that only I have the password for so you can rest easy knowing that it is only me connecting, however when I connect only to find the computer is still being used, I will immediately disconnect. Unfortunately however, that sometimes means noticing that there are things still open on the screen and I may have to wait to see if the mouse pointer begins to move, or the keyboard text is being written on the screen. (quite often it will be a simple game of solitaire happening) but regardless I am gone, on to my next 'case'.

I respect your privacy, just as I am sure you would expect your family doctor to respect it and that goes for information on your computer. It is (an unwritten) oath that I personally have taken, therefore image my shock when I connect and see a program such as "Microsoft Money" sitting there open on the screen. My initial instinct with any program running, is to wait a few seconds to see if someone is actually at the other end using it, or they had simply left the program running (like a solitaire game). So when I see the pointer move, I'm outta there! Then of course comes the email to that respective client explaining that I 'just connected but saw the computer was busy' and ask that you 'email me when you are through using it for the night'.

Well tonight.. maybe there is a full moon or maybe there will be one tomorrow night, because it seems like those people that have emailed me earlier in the day, stating that they will be off the computer by 'x-time' weren't.. and not only by a few hours. It is 2 hours later then what I have been told. But then I know what it is like. I would love to be able to say that I will be done all of my work by a specific time but that never or rarely happens that I would actually be done by when I say I will be. So then again, this is why I ask.. no, I demand, that you please, please, please, email me when you are THROUGH FOR THE NIGHT.. cause if there are three things I hate doing is 1: connecting when the computer is still being used and 2: connecting when the computer is still being used and personal information such as Microsoft Money (or other) is being used.. the final thing, is connecting to the wrong computer, because I was given an old IP address.

You must realize that most Internet connections from your Internet provider will be a 'dynamic ip address' which means it is pretty much up to the Internet server to decide when to refresh and redistribute the ip's throughout the network. This may happen a few times in a day or you may have the same ip address for a month or more, but that doesn't mean you should be writing this number down and then issuing it to me when you have a problem. This is why I have it set on my websites home page (, the display of your current IP address.

All that I ask is that you check this number and copy/paste it in to a new email message when you are through using the computer for the day.

To these two computers tonight that I have connected to, both cases I received email earlier in the afternoon saying that they would be off by 10 pm or 11pm... but that simply wasn't the case tonight I guess, or maybe you just couldn't sleep, but regardless, to me it is like I just walked in on something private and that bothers me... on the times when I connect, only to find I have connected to the wrong computer, this to me feels like I have broken in to your home.. of course I will immediately email that person, letting them know that I connected to their computer (by accident).. since I respect my clients privacy.

Friday, April 13, 2007

TIP-My computer just rebooted for no reason, why?

I must say when Microsoft decides they are going to 'release the hounds' that is what they do, and according to some tech firms, I guess some of the most recent security updates were not even part of the advertised patches that were going to be released. In any case with most computers, these updates would have either downloaded and installed automatically, or downloaded to your computer, waiting for you to click on the gold shield to say ok to the updates, and in saying this, you most likely clicked on what was their "recommended" choice. This, in my opinion was the big mistake, since Microsoft released their WGA tools (again, this is only my opinion) but I have seen more problems as a result.

Personally, when I was away from home for a few weeks, I was really looking forward to catching up on all the tv programs that should have automatically recorded to my computer as I use Snapstream Media's "Beyond TV" software which is wonderful. However, when I returned home, I found my computer sitting there waiting for me to log in and so I knew my computer had rebooted.... yes, that dreaded Microsoft Updates had been turned back on, on my system even after I had turned it off! Why? Because like most people (or at least the ones that know me and have followed my steps in attempting to keep their systems 'spyware/malware' free) I have run the spybot search and destroy program. When this program is completed, if you have it set up as I do, to automatically remove whatever it finds, or to 'fix' what it finds as a security problem, it had automatically turned this back on! So, the trick here is to tell the program (spybot search & destroy) to 'forget checking for this program error from now on" or to 'leave this security problem alone' Next step is to go and turn the windows updates selection to 'notify only' that there are updates available.. forget having them download to your computer, forget automatically doing it for sure! This is pretty much my new philosophy and it is mostly because I believe Microsoft has brought it on themselves. Since I am tech and sure, I can do whatever I want to my computer, but when I have a few hundred clients that have been also following in my footsteps, what security tools and settings should be installed and set to, it means I am either going to be answering a lot of questions when there are problems, or I can point them to my blog. To those IT people handling hundreds, if not thousands, of computers within their own company, they too require TIME in order to keep things up to date and sure it would be nice to take advantage of something that will automatically do this for you, but when rules are required to choose which is right and which is wrong, depending on your current winodws configuration, then this can really start to be taxing on the IT department. This is probably by far, the number one thing I like about the blog is the fact that I can search my own blogs and then point people to the results so that I am not repeating myself in some lengthy email or telephone dialogue. In many cases, Microsoft themselves aren't to blame because of the obvious holes that are found by hackers and security writers since new technology is being written and created every day. Technology that now finds a new way to open something up. Some new way that was not thought about at the time the machine was built. This is no different then the time that lead gasoline was removed from the gas pumps, some of the older engines had trouble with the 'no-lead' and required additives to operate properly. This is pretty much the same reason the patches are required for your computer's operating system, but because so many of these updates relate to the browsing functions (Internet explorer) by simply changing your browser choice can save you a lot of frustrations, but not entirely. That is the thing about using a computer, like riding a bike right... the more you ride it the better you are going to get at it. Well sure, that is the same however, if you are being taught incorrectly, or are simply not aware of the right and wrong procedures in say, downloading a file (saving it to your computer first and then opening it), with the web the way it is where you point and click and something happens, in the case of watching video on youtube for example, there is really nothing the person has to do but point and click So when prompted 'open or save', it is no wonder people choose 'open'. But with a little knowledge of the difference between streaming video and an application file, you would know the correct response when you click on the link in the first place.

So getting back to why my computer just rebooted on it's own. Well that is because the windows updates were performed and now the system needs to reboot to complete the installation and tell the windows registry of the changes. If you have your system set to automatically perform these windows updates, then your system may need to restart and in all fairness, a pop up message does tell you this and will even start counting down, depending on your version of operating system, so you can actually post-pone the reboot, but if you aren't at the computer, then there should be no problem, right? Well in my case a password is required to restart all the programs that would run once you are logged in, including my Beyond TV program, so not only did my system reboot on its own, but I was left with only a week of programming, missing a weeks episode of Survivor, The Amazing Race and Heroes! Thanks to the Internet and the fact that you can watch copies of programs that you missed--oh wait a minute, I live in Canada and you have to live in the United States to do that! What a bogus set up that is!.. so what is the solution to the problem? In my case, I first set my windows update to 'notify only' and then I also have the security center turned off (thanks but I am well aware of the security risks since I would be the person that would have to fix my own computer I'll take that chance), then I will perform all of my spyware scans using the set programs that I always recommend from my OPTIMIZING TIPS and always available through the SOFTWARE/SUPPORT page. When such programs as spybot search & destroy is finished finding the security errors including the security center being turned off (and possibly windows updates being turned off if you have chosen to completely turn it off), then you will want to create a rule in that program, telling it to omit searching for this security problem next time. Now, if all goes well, my system will not reboot.. on its own!

There are also ways I could have left the security settings alone and instead of changing these, by adding an 'auto log-in' feature through the program x-setup. The problem with this is you have thrown out the security of your account since anyone can reboot and viola, they are logged in, so if that is the case, you might as well just remove the password altogether and if you do this (and are set to using the welcome screen in the user accounts), and you only have the one user, then your system should boot right up to your desktop.

So as you can see, no matter how 'tuned in' you are with regards to the Internet and technology and computing, you will always be thrown some sort of snag that you have to work out.. it is called learning.. and for me it is something that I probably enjoy the most about technology, the fact that something you did last year that took 10 steps can now be done in 5 because of new ways of getting to the end result. That is what I call progress, since less TIME is required, even if more resources are used to accomplish this and that is exactly what you see with computing today--more programs and applications are running all the time on your computer then it did back in the windows 95 days and a lot of that is due to the fact that we have high-speed Internet and networking and file sharing and millions and millions of new users logging in to the Internet each and every day (for their first time).

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

RSS-What is it? Are you using it?

I know I have blogged about this before, actually performing a search on all of my previous blogs, I guess I have brought it up well over a few dozen times. But then since the blog is an RSS feed, it is easy to confuse what RSS actually is. Fellow "gnomedexer" Iggy, of whom I had found his feed through the same gnomedex feed that he refers to does a great job of explaining it for those that may not be so technically inclined.

Of course the Avant Browser supports RSS feeds and has a built in reader if you so choose to want to use it so you don't have to stick with Internet Explorer as you probably already know my feelings about this.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I'm sorry Windows Defender, but I think it is time for you to go.

As much as I would love to be able to push the move to Windows Vista, as a consultant I want to make sure I am giving the best advice that I can, from all angles that I can see, whether this be from a technical point of view, or from a security point of view, or simply for ease of connectivity and file/multi-media presentation.

Now with windows XP, I was never a big fan of the Windows Defender anti-spyware program and found that besides slowing down the computers overall performance, it rarely-if ever, found a spyware component other then what spybot search & destroy, ad-aware and avg'santispyware program would find and for that reason, would turn off/disable the defender.

With windows Vista however, I was reluctant to turn it off for the sake of just turning it off and wanted to give this a fair trial, since I had figured the windows team had now integrated it pretty well with the operating system and the various windows updates, to keep its definitions up to date so that it may very well save you from some potential Trojan horse. In any case I have found that besides the annoying and pretty constant pop up message that you receive when launching a program that doesn't have the windows certification, and no, this is not because of the DEP features either, but directly related to the Defender, I also realized by turning this off, the performance boost was quite substantial and this is because the computer only has 512mb of memory. (Before I placed the second stick of 512mb since I would never recommend running Vista without 1gb, and to top that, would highly suggest taking advantage of the very low flash memory card pricing and utilize the memory boost feature with at least a 512mb SD card which should set you back less then $20). It appears that once again Windows should just stick with building a good engine and allow the third party people to accessorize and protect the engine with various antivirus/security and antispyware scanning software. Which ones? Visit the SOFTWARE/SUPPORT page to get the ones I would recommend using.

Internet Security and Windows Vista

So how safe is your computer from the ongoing security risks from the Internet? It all depends on your operating system first. If you have the latest Windows Vista then you are going to be in the best shape since there will only be a few 'patches' required to get your system up to what Microsoft would call "safe standard". As much as we read about VISTA being dinged again, you must also realize that these hackers are obviously going to go after the latest piece of candy offered up to them, meaning it is a new puzzle for them to try and bust in to. It would be nice if we could say that with all this hoopla over Vista security issues, that if we just went back to, say Windows 98, that it would be the safest route on the Internet, but that just isn't the case. In fact even with Windows XP, there are the service packs that are a necessity in order to even stay close to 'up to date'. The simple fact is, when it comes to being safe on the Internet, you are always going to be the safest using the latest technology available, so long as you stay on top of the available patches that fix the holes found in the armour. Although I blog about this latest patch issue with Windows Vista, I will not give Vista a bad rap because of it, other then the fact that the Microsoft people probably shouldn't be trying to sell the O/S as the 'safest' since that is like prodding on the hackers to continue to drag its name through the mud. That fact that I even blog about this is simply to reiterate the importance of keeping your system up to date. But if you read my previous blog about the Windows Critical updates, it may be a good idea to still follow that rule and choose the custom installation method.

To give you and example of installing an operating system on a brand new hard drive. Windows Vista will take about 20 minutes to complete the initial install with an additional 15 minutes of patching and driver updates. Of course this is based on a typical system today which would be 1.6 ghz processor or better. A windows XP installation will take about 35 minutes to install and then another 1 hour of patching and driver updates. Windows 98 or ME is just not safe enough, even with all the patching available, to use the Internet. Plain and simple! No matter what you do with these operating systems they are not going to be safe enough and that is pretty much why Microsoft themselves have stopped supporting such old operating systems. Depending on the components you already have on your system, running windows XP, you may find it cheaper in the end to buy a new computer if you are thinking of upgrading to Vista. This is because of the fact that even though Vista will run on 512mb of memory, it is advisable to at least double that to 1gb which means for some computer motherboards, spending a lot of money for memory if the memory it uses is not the latest DDR2 memory. You may find it cheaper to simply buy an entirely new motherboard that does use the latest DDR2 memory, but of course with that you will need a new Processor (CPU) and so that is where the prices start to climb even more, but still quite possibly less then if you were to continue upgrading your old computer. It still makes sense, if you want to stay on top of things, not necessarily BLEEDING EDGE, but Leading Edge, you will need to get yourself on to a Windows Vista machine sooner than later!

More tips and tricks and help can be found through my TIPS page and SOFTWARE/SUPPORT page or simply contact me if you have further questions.

I don't have time for this!

I have returned to my home where I believe I will spend the next 24 hours resting! It seems that I have come down with, what I hope is nothing more then a 24 hour flu bug, but whatever it is, it has pretty much knocked me off my feet! So when you are a one-man-band with your day's schedule all booked up with appointments, it appears that time is the one thing I can't do anything about. But when you have moments of weakness, dizzy spells and a light head, it doesn't take a doctor to know when to 'slow down'!

Certain updates are very important, but which ones?

It goes without saying that when an update for a particular program is available, you probably should go and retrieve it, especially if it points this out when you first run the program. The reason I say this is because if the software is smart enough to recognize you are using an older version and the software has the ability to let you know this and even go as far as pointing you to where you retrieve the latest version then by all means, you should be doing this! That being said, windows itself has this built in feature, but does that mean you should be installing whatever they "recommend"? NO, by no means would I suggest you simply believe everything is necessary nor it is recommended. I say this because quite often there may be certain updates that are deemed 'critical' by Microsoft however this would seem only true if you had that certain piece of hardware that was requiring the software patch. A lot of the critical updates are directly related to the Internet Explorer and if you say "I'm not using the Internet explorer so I don't need this" then you may only be partly right. Since the Internet explorer web browser is one thing, but unfortunately windows xp relies on the 'explorer' part of the Internet explorer to handle pretty much any Internet related activity as it follows this 'path' through the various security functions of the operating system. To help make you understand this better. Take a look in the control panel and you will find the INTERNET OPTIONS relates back to the same place as if you were to click on TOOLS from within the Internet explorer and choose INTERNET OPTIONS. You will find that it is actually the very same place. Therefore no matter what web browser you use, even though it will have its own options, a lot of these will also depend on the INTERNET OPTIONS of the control panel itself. So if you are uncertain as to what exactly you should be installing, I always suggest you choose CUSTOM whenever you are prompted about something, no matter if it says "for experienced or advanced users", believe me when I say that you can choose CUSTOM option and the only difference is you will now be prompted more often, and, if you are uncertain as to what option you are supposed to choose, by simply clicking the enter button will automatically choose the software's default options, just as though you had chosen the 'recommended' installation, but the difference is now you will be seeing these specific prompts as to where the installation will be installed to (the program path) as well as quite possibly, the ability to choose exactly what features you want installed, which may save you a lot of time later on when you find that all of your settings have changed due to this program now becoming the 'default program'.

I recently blogged about the fact that maybe it is time to turn off the automatic windows update feature and go back to using a simple 'notify' so that you will see there are updates available but now you can choose if you really want to install them or not. Or, better still, if you are uncertain, a simple email to someone that is more qualified then you feel you are should be able to help you out (yes, I don't mind receiving email regarding this sort of thing if it is going to save you troubles down the road).

I personally use the AVANT Browser as my choice of web browsers and because it is not a Microsoft product, it is up to the program to let me know there is a newer version of the web browser available, and it does this by a prompt when you go to use the program. Thing is, if you select NO to not go and retrieve it, there is a good chance that you will never be prompted again, as in a lot of software, they are set to prompt only once on this and so if you select NO then that will be the last time you ever see this and now you are using an older web browser, which is certainly NOT recommended as with any browser updates/patches, they are a necessity to make sure your system does not become a sponge for spyware and other malware and possible trojan horse viruses. This is also the reason why I have created the SOFTWARE/SUPPORT page, so that you have the ability to go to one place to retrieve your updates, without finding you have installed the wrong items by clicking on the wrong file to download. As with most software programs, they will utilize some sort of 'sponsored' website to host the installation files and therefore you can quite often install not only the update you required, but some other 'free trial' software. Avoiding this sort of thing is key so if you know of a place where you can go and trust that you are only getting what you need, then take advantage of it, just like I suggest you take advantage of any other services your technical friends can help you with if you are uncertain!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Microsoft Updates-Good Patch/Bad Patch

It seems there is no quick solution to dealing with hackers that want to find holes in your system. Now the fact that hackers are out there trying to find holes is one thing but to be playing this cat and mouse game, attempting to patch a hole in the operating system that was found, only to find that the patch causes further problems for those with certain types of audio boards installed on their system leads me to believe the best solution is to TURN OFF the automatic updates altogether and deal with them on an individual basis when they are deemed 'serious enough' .

Personally for me, when I manage over 300 computers from various clients over the year, you can imagine what this is like, but when the email starts coming in with questions of 'what do I do now?" and it is not a simple 'restart your computer' problem and the system won't restart, then I must decide to take matters in to my own hands. Yes, the solution to upgrade to the latest Operating system would certainly help, since you would be dealing with the latest technology, but as you can see, most of these problems are still faced with windows XP issues. For those that don't even have windows xp, Microsoft has pretty much given up on you and expect that you will have at least windows xp installed. Therefore, if you are a client of mine and are wondering what is the best solution for you, now would be a good time to contact me on this matter. It's not going to get any better since that O/S is getting older and more insecure as time moves on.

I should also note that if you wish to comment on anything I do post to this blog, you can always comment here.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

What is a Blog? Just ask a blogger..

Blogging is something one 'does' as it is the act of writing notes and publishing them to a website. But then you probably already knew that, but here are 10 things your blogger won't tell you.

TIP-How to perform an in-place upgrade (reinstallation) of Windows XP

I have been asked this question a lot lately. Well, not exactly this question, but the problems that have been explained require that a re-installation of windows may solve the problems, since this completely reinstall the windows system files WITHOUT disrupting the other programs installed, it can quite often be used to cleanup a computer that was seriously infected with spyware/malware that has since been removed (using tools available on the SOFTWARE/SUPPORT page). Microsoft has many support pages but it nice to know exactly where to look and so I hope this helps. I have a similar and quite possibly more layman's terminology of this on the TIPS page found here.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Found two bugs in Vista today

While doing some training with a client working on the new Vista O/S (home premium edition) I discovered a bug. One in which I confirmed as soon as I got to another Vista machine. It seems when you click on the START button (not actually called that anymore I guess since it doesn't get a title, just a different looking logo, but I think they call that WOW don't they?) Anyway, from there, clicking on PICTURES opens the pictures, but then, if you point at one of the pictures without opening it, simply have it selected and then click on the ORGANIZE button it will crash the explorer-of course it restarts, thanks to a few years of getting it right with previous o/s crashes that would cause the entire system to reboot! Haven't started to investigate yet, but thought you should be the first to know.

The other bug, I haven't found the actual bug, but am still determining it, since Microsoft JUST released a few major critical patches today, it is after I restarted the computer that this bug seems to have disappeared. All-be-it, it was a major one! The problem: The laptop hard drive is a 120gb drive and it is about 4 weeks old therefore it is safe to say I have transferred about 20 gb of my own junk to the drive, so given the software installed, I should have used around 40gb meaning about 80gb remaining, however I happened to notice the other day when I clicked on "computer" to access a file folder, that drive C was showing RED and the fuel gage showed only 2gb remaining! It was only a day later that I got the drive full warning and sure enough, down to 400mb only! Yes, this was, what I had initially thought of as a potential virus/worm as it appeared it was propagating new files in some folder, causing my drive to fill up. But tonight was to be the night to determine this only when I went to do this, the updates had already installed and wanted me to reboot.. now I don't have this problem anymore.. but be sure I'll be keeping my eye on this one. I will be researching this one as well to see if anyone else has witnessed a sudden drive full notice and starting to wonder just what was involved in this latest set of updates that might have fixed it.

How far will you go to fix things on your own?

How far will you go to fix things on your own? Are you the type that gives up pretty quickly and simply says, " I'll get someone that knows how to fix this", or are you the type that says, " I'll get back to this later" and simply lower the priority of the repair?

I think this is a question all should be asking BEFORE THEY GO TO THE CONTROL PANEL in their computer! In fact this is one area that should have been locked up solid when Vista came out but no such luck (at least not through normal default installations). I think the fact you are prompted "are you sure?" when you press the delete key is a fair enough prompt as you are being asked "do you or don't you want to delete?" and since you know this means 'to keep something or to lose it forever', it shouldn't be too difficult, but what if you have manipulated this in a way (through the control panel) to use 'single clicks' and to turn off prompts, etc, now what do you do? Well I suggest you take advantage of online backup system like carbonite for one, since you can immediately retrieve what you just deleted, but more then that, you should have stopped to think before you even got in to the delete mode.

But before I continue to go off-track of what the important issue I was trying to convey here, which is how computer literate you feel you are. Then compare yourself to those around you, those that you work with or associate with on a regular basis, now how do you match up? Odds are if you put yourself in a room with 10 other people with about the same amount of literacy (when it comes computer knowledge/skill) and were given a problem to fix a number of you would have the correct method of fixing whereas a few may be able to fix the problem but by going about it a little differently (one in which may have caused other security risks to now occur for example), and I am sure a few would not be able to solve it but with the joint effort of the others that couldn't figure it out, you may be able to solve the problem, again quite possibly in the round-about method. This is exactly what I see on a daily basis... a computer that has been fixed by the grandson and his friend, or one that has had some technician fix a major problem but not truly solving all of the issues due to other software issues (or quite often the bug in the program was never fixed but masked by some other program and only discovered when that program was removed).

I guess you could say my own pride, when it comes to maps and getting lost, would have me probably one of the last to ask for directions and that goes with problem solving.. until I get myself in to water much too deep that I know there would be no turning back, I would stop at that point. This is important.. to know when to stop and get help. This is another reason why I try and try to point out that I am an email message away or you can contact me via the web (or phone call if you are an existing client and obviously can't get through using email due to your computer not working) . Don't wait until you know you have a problem, in fact you shouldn't be waiting until you 'think' you have a problem. If you know it has been some time since you have had anything really 'fixed' on your computer (this includes thorough software screening/scanning and updating due to the major amount of new versions of software applications that are available), you should be contacting your computer technician!

I really can't believe the difference in overall client satisfaction that I see first-hand, between computer that hits my bench 'dead' and the one that is in for 'routine maintenance and cleaning'. The latter computer's owner is always less frustrated simply because they knew when to stop and ask!

One more tip would be to read my TIPS, especially the OPTIMIZING one since this is always updated due to the changing nature of the computer industry.