Wednesday, December 16, 2009
From within Firefox, if you don't get a prompt to update immediately, click Help - Check for Updates and follow the prompts.
If you have a version of Firefox earlier than 3.0, or don't have Firefox installed, download the installer here: http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/
Release notes here: http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/3.5.6/releasenotes/
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Those of you using Outlook Express or Windows Mail and considering moving to Windows 7 should be aware there is no email client included. The most popular moves have been to Windows Live Mail and Thunderbird. You'll need to download and install either one (or both), and import your messages and contacts. If that doesn't make much sense to you, contact me and we'll do it together.
Current version of Flash (both): 10.0.42.34
Flash for Internet Explorer (IE): http://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/?promoid=BUIGP
Be SURE to uncheck any scans or toolbars they offer to install!
Flash for Firefox (FF): http://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/otherversions/
Occasionally, something goes wrong during the update and you'll need an uninstaller to fix the problem. Here's where to find it and how to use it:
Monday, December 7, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
- Click here to go to the direct download page at AVG: http://free.avg.com/us-en/download?prd=afg#tba2
- Click on the second link (not the Download Manager) to start the download; save the installer to your Desktop.
- When the download finishes, double-click the installer file to install Version 9 over the top of your current version of AVG. Be sure to pay attention to the questions you'll need to answer. Say yes to everything EXCEPT the AVG Toolbar and agreeing to send anonymous information back to AVG.
- Have patience and allow the installation and update to finish.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
1. If your antivirus program has expired, renew it. Or install a free one, after uninstalling any OTHER antivirus/security programs. Do not wait for a more convenient time. Now is more convenient than dragging your computer back and forth to get cleaned out.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Typically, antivirus programs don't stop or remove rogue programs, which is why we need and use more tools than just antivirus.
If you see a pop-up window that looks like a security or antivirus program (maybe even looks like your antivirus program) and warns that your computer is infected - and offers to clean it - do NOT click on it. Clicking on anything in the pop-up window activates the trojan.
Here you'll find more information on rogue programs:
Names of some known rogue antivirus/spyware programs:
WinAntivirus 2007 (2008, 2009)
Antivirus Pro 2010
What to do if your computer gets infected with a rogue program
Rogue programs can usually be removed with a combination of antispyware programs. It can be a long, detailed process if the rogue program has been allowed to run on the computer for some time. Worst-case results include damage to critical operating system files and/or your data, requiring data backup, cleaning of data, reinstalling Windows and restoring the cleaned data.
If you see the pop-ups for these rogue antivirus programs, or porn popups, or your browser goes somewhere other than where you told it to go, stop what you're doing and take care of the problem before it goes too far.
Self-help includes running the Security Tango (thanks, Nick!) http://securitytango.com/
Malwarebytes has saved many computers from further infection: http://www.malwarebytes.org/
Or, if you don't want to dive into it, call me.
And stop clicking on things that look too good to be true!
Monday, November 9, 2009
The IRS doesn't send unsolicited emails. Don't click on any links or open any attachments. Delete the message immediately and empty your Deleted Items folder.
Direct from the IRS web site about scam emails: http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=213862,00.html?portlet=6
Friday, November 6, 2009
You know the drill - open Firefox, and if it doesn't automatically start downloading the update, click Help - Check for Updates. Follow the prompts - don't install anything additional like toolbars or security scans - and carry on with your day.
Or download fresh here: http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/
Thursday, November 5, 2009
iTunes/QuickTime: Open iTunes and you may immediately be prompted to update to the current version of 9.0.2. Or you can click Help - Check for Updates, and follow the prompts to complete the update. If you're installing iTunes for the first time, be sure you get the correct version - 32-bit or 64-bit. The easiest way to do this is to go to Apple's web site and let it detect the proper version for you: http://www.apple.com/itunes/download/
RealPlayer: Open RealPlayer, click Tools - Check for updates and follow the prompts. Current version is RealPlayer SP 1.0.2
Shockwave: The easiest way to install the correct and current version of Shockwave is to go to the Adobe web site and click on the "Get Adobe Shockwave Player" link. Current version is 18.104.22.1682
Java: If you have Java installed with automatic updates enabled, you'll be familiar with the prompts in your System Tray to update. Do it. Don't be afraid, and don't be lazy. If you'd like to install fresh, go to the Java Downloads page and let them tell you what version you need. Follow the prompts and be done with it. This is another application that comes in 32-bit and 64-bit. If you have a 64-bit OS, you need both versions of Java. Read this and follow the instructions: http://www.java.com/en/download/faq/java_win64bit.xml
This is not an in-depth analysis of the architecture of operating systems - this is, after all, Computer Support for the Rest of Us. I'm just going to hit the highlights, and anyone interested can search out more information. Here's a good place to start: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-vista/32-bit-and-64-bit-Windows-frequently-asked-questions
The version of OS installed is important to know, because some applications and hardware must have the correct 32- or 64-bit version installed. You may have an HP printer, and need to know whether you should be using the 32-bit software usually included on the installation cd or you need to go to the HP web site to download the 64-bit version. Flash, Java and iTunes all have specific 32- or 64-bit versions (which is what prompted this discussion - more later).
To find out which version of operating system you have in Vista or Windows 7, right-click on My Computer, then click on Properties. Look in the window that pops up under System. Then go get the proper versions of your drivers and software - you might be surprised at the improvement in performance.
What about buying a new computer - which version should you get? I've been ordering 32-bit Windows whenever possible, since most software and hardware default to 32-bit and you don't have to do anything magical to make your stuff work. However, it's increasingly more difficult to find 32-bit, and Dell and HP are pretty much forcing us into 64-bit.
If you have a newer computer with 64-bit Vista, you probably already know that Flash isn't available in a 64-bit version, and probably won't be until mid-2010. Crazy. And more sites are demanding Flash - which prompts an error. The temporary work-around is to use a 32-bit browser (that's progress). Windows Vista 64-bit includes both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Internet Explorer - look at your Programs list to find them. Yes, Firefox lovers, you can use Firefox on a 64-bit OS and not have the Flash problem. Because Firefox is a 32-bit browser, of course! Mozilla is working on a 64-bit version.
So, back to choosing a new computer - 32- or 64- bit? You might as well get the 64-bit if you're getting at least 4 GB RAM. If you're using or buying a 32-bit OS, don't bother with more than 3 GB RAM - 32-bit can't recognize or use more than 3.2 GB of RAM.
We're moving forward with technology, kicking and screaming sometimes. It's part of the process, and if we can handle some inconvenience (and having to learn a thing or two), we'll be better-equipped to enjoy what's next.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Open Firefox, click Help - Check for updates, then follow the prompts. Or download the full installer here: http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/
Here are the Release Notes:
Fixed in Firefox 3.5.4
MFSA 2009-64 Crashes with evidence of memory corruption (rv:22.214.171.124/ 126.96.36.199)
MFSA 2009-63 Upgrade media libraries to fix memory safety bugs
MFSA 2009-62 Download filename spoofing with RTL override
MFSA 2009-61 Cross-origin data theft through document.getSelection()
MFSA 2009-59 Heap buffer overflow in string to number conversion
MFSA 2009-57 Chrome privilege escalation in XPCVariant::VariantDataToJS()
MFSA 2009-56 Heap buffer overflow in GIF color map parser
MFSA 2009-55 Crash in proxy auto-configuration regexp parsing
MFSA 2009-54 Crash with recursive web-worker calls
MFSA 2009-53 Local downloaded file tampering
MFSA 2009-52 Form history vulnerable to stealing
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Go here to read more about it: http://www.ccleaner.com/
Or download it here: http://www.filehippo.com/download_ccleaner/
Upgrade and run CCleaner today. Your computer will thank you.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Or, you can go directly to Adobe (be sure to UNCHECK the box for Norton Security Scan, or any other add on they want to include): http://get.adobe.com/reader/?promoid=BUIGO
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
- Look for a UL label that states "Transient Voltage Surge Suppressor", or UL 1449.
- Clamping voltage of under 400 V
- Energy absorption of at least 400 joules - 600 or more is better.
- Response time less than one nanosecond
- More details here: http://www.djsociety.org/Surge_1.htm
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Inkjet printers use ink, in disposable/recycleable cartridges. Manufacturers of almost any type of equipment will tell us to use only their accessories, usually "for best performance". Sometimes we listen, other times we are enticed by lower prices or convenience found elsewhere.
Inkjet printer cartridges should be one of our exceptions when we're looking for cheap or convenient. We make the decision to buy a new printer, perhaps studying the options and picking out just the right one for our needs. Then we fill it with cheap ink and ruin the printhead, carriage, rollers or the entire inside of the printer. I suppose it's human nature - wanting the best price for a consumeable that tends to be pricey in the first place.
Besides the fact that using anything other than the manufacturer's branded ink cartridges will void your warranty, it's not a matter of if, but when the generic or refill will ruin your printer.
You see, there's no good way to repair a printer that has experienced a leaky or explosive ink cartridge. You can find instructions online to attempt a cleanup of the internal parts, but I can tell you if you take a printer apart it will not go back together again the same way and there will be extra parts. And it still won't work, and even if it's in warranty the manufacturer will tell you "So sorry - we have a great deal today on new printers".
Why am I so sure about this, despite the handful of clients who insist they use remanufactured cartridges all the time and have never had a problem? Because I have twice as many clients who did have a problem, and suddenly had a new boat anchor.
Oh, and I did it myself. As usual.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Now, some of you Apple people are begging to jump in with "but they don't NEED service!", and I'll simply point you to a Google search for "Mac" and "problem".
Occasionally, when it's time to look at new computers, someone will ask me about getting a Mac. I've been at a bit of a loss to explain to people who've heard/read/believe a Mac will solve their computing problems that it's simply the result of a great rivalry and outstanding marketing campaign. Training and education - now *that* would go a long way to solving your computer problems.
So I thought I'd do some research about Macs and PCs. And I asked on Facebook and Twitter for people to tell me what it is that a Mac can do that a PC can't. Here's what some people said.
Mac people (aficionado sounds so... stuffy) will fall over themselves to tell you they don't get viruses or malware. Neither does anyone else if they pay attention, but that's another conversation. While it's true Macs aren't targeted for viruses and malware as much as PCs, it's not true that they can't get them.
They'll tell you Macs are so easy to use. Wouldn't anything that didn't give you any choices or ask to you make a decision be pretty easy to use?
One guy on Facebook even told me he uses PC software ON his Mac... to make it more PC-like, perhaps? (Thanks, Kirk - keep reading :)
There's nothing you can do on a Mac that you can't do on a PC. They both provide tools to do email, surf the Internet, watch videos on YouTube, make, edit and post your OWN videos, pictures and Great American Novel. You can balance your checkbook, save your recipes and grandkids' pictures and listen to music - Internet radio, cds, mp3s, whatever you like. iTunes works on both. You can even play Freecell and Spider Solitaire, though you have to pay extra for them on a Mac.
The best analogy might be that Macs are like Democrats and Liberals and PCs are like Republicans and Conservatives.
Macs tell you not to worry, they'll take good care of you. Just give us your wallet, because all this perfection costs money. Your money. Yes, Macs have always been much more expensive than comparable PCs.
Mac lovers, we'll make all your decisions for you and there will be no problems. Want a new program? Great! We'll form a committee, create something and release it in the next version of the operating system. Oh, you'll have to pay a bit more whether you use it or not, since it's for the good of all humankind.
PCs are pure capitalists. Anybody can build one, with parts they scrape up in the garage or at NewEgg. Anybody can sell one, and anybody with the desire can learn to feed and maintain one. Want a new program? Hey, so do a handful of others. Let's get together, build the code, release it to the public for their input and improvements and call it Open Source. Oh, you can download and use it free. However, the model works because people who like and use the free software make a donation to the people that built it.
Want more memory or a better video card? Grab it at Staples, or online. It'll be cheap and it will fit your computer if you paid attention to the specifications. Need some help? There will be a neighbor, or co-worker or grandchild that can help. Macs... not so much. You need to go through the Mac System and they'll charge you a lot for parts and more for the labor. Supply and demand means that the microscopically small demand for Macs and their parts will make them much more expensive. Oh, and pack up your Mac and take it to the store - they don't come to you.
Ok, I've had my Mac fun and veered dangerously into political waters and will now acknowledge Macs do have a certain draw for me.
They look great with that poodle you're carrying under your arm. And now I've got a poodle.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
You may then be prompted to update Adobe Flash - again, follow the prompts and let it happen. Be sure to uncheck any other "free" stuff they want to install along the way, like the McAfee Security Scan.
I've not been a huge fan of Firefox until version 3 - now I use it more than ever. It's especially useful when Internet Explorer 7 or 8 refuse to cooperate with certain sites. The first thing I tell people who ask why they can't do something online or even get online is to try doing the same thing in Firefox. Usually, Firefox just works. I install it on every computer I touch, so if I've seen yours you have some version of it already.
For those who want to download a fresh copy of Firefox, it can be found here: http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/
And for those who want to know the changes from the previous version, read about it here: http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/3.5.3/releasenotes/
This is not an optional update, considering the security and stability fixes - do it now.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Billed by some as the best version of iTunes ever, the changes include LPs (like bonus cds), Extra, and a redesigned Store and user interface. Read more here: http://bit.ly/21HXdN here: http://bit.ly/UhzCi and here: http://bit.ly/1PQlsg
The full download has now bloated to nearly 90 MB, and still takes 15 - 30 minutes to download and update, depending on your network and computer. This is not great news to those of us who update lots of computers. While I've seen alternatives to RealPlayer and Windows Media Player, iTunes doesn't seem to have much competition. If anyone knows of something else that syncs with iPods and iPhones and does what iTunes does, please let me know.
If you're downloading and installing the full version (it doesn't take any longer to install new over the old than it does to update the old), be sure you've got the right version. If you use Vista 64-bit, you need iTunes 64-bit. Go here and you'll be offered the right version for your operating system: http://www.apple.com/itunes/download/
As usual, unless you have a compelling reason not to upgrade (and there are few), take the plunge and get it done.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Computer hard drives are intricate pieces of machinery and many things can cause errors or corruption to occur - either on the physical drive itself or in the files on the drive. Bad downloads, files that didn't completely transfer, software or driver updates that don't complete properly and viruses and trojans all can spell disaster for your data.
If your data are important to you (documents, pictures, music, email, addresses - things you've added or created), they need to be protected for the time when a failure happens. Waiting until something happens to try to retrieve and repair or clean your data is time-consuming, expensive, and not always possible.
There are a number of backup solutions, many automated. An external hard drive is probably the safest and easiest way to make copies of things you don't want to lose. You can find fancy backup software to buy that claims to make your backup chores simple. Just be aware you don't have to and probably shouldn't buy anything; external hard drives ususally come with their own software. However, for me, the safest way to save your data is to simply copy it in it's current format to another type of media. Burning cds and dvds is another good, long-term solution. The best backup plan includes both external drives AND burning dvds.
Many people have become satisfied with using USB flash drives to "back up" their important data. While flash drives are a good way to transfer data from one computer to another, they cannot be considered safe or long-term storage. Although many flash drives have survived repeated trips through the washer and dryer, many others (my own included) have simply failed to read the data just copied to them for a multitude of reasons. Consider them convenient and temporary.
If you have questions or want help implementing a regular back up plan, send me an email and we'll put something together. Somewhere down the road we'll both be glad you made the effort.
Friday, September 4, 2009
Be SURE you are downloading the free version!
CCleaner 2.23.999: http://www.ccleaner.com/
SUPERAntiSpyware 4.28.1008: http://www.superantispyware.com/
RealPlayer SP 1.0: http://www.real.com/
Opera 10: http://www.opera.com/
Skype 188.8.131.52: http://www.skype.com/
Foxit Reader 3.1.1.0901 (Adobe alternative): http://www.foxitsoftware.com/pdf/reader/
Monday, August 31, 2009
There are two points I'd like to make. One, about Open Source software; the other, about using OpenOffice.org instead of or alongside Microsoft Office.
Here's the definition of Open Source, for those who'd like to read it for themselves: http://tiny.cc/r2RkB In a nutshell, products made available under the Open Source concept are developed by a community of interested and talented parties. The programming code (the "source") is made available to the general public in hopes someone can improve it. Free, in this case, doesn't necessarily mean "no money", but free, as in open and available without license.
I've been installing and using OpenOffice.org (OO) either alone or with Microsoft Office for about five years. OpenOffice.org (strange name, but they want to include the .org in the name of the product) includes a word processor, spreadsheet, database, presentation application and math functions. Hmmm. Sounds like Microsoft Office. The difference? MS Office Professional 2007 sells for $499.
OO will open, edit and save documents in Microsoft Word or Excel format. It's just that simple! When you start a new document, OO will default to it's native format, but if you want it in Word so your not-as-savvy friends can open it, use the Save As feature to save it as a Word document or any of about two dozen other formats.
I've been a Microsoft and Bill Gates fan for a long time. You are welcome to your own opinion and experience. To the haters I say, come up with something better or stop complaining.
However, even I, math-stupid as I can be, can subtract $499 from $499 and come up with Zero.
Get OpenOffice.org here: http://www.openoffice.org/
Monday, August 24, 2009
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Saturday, August 1, 2009
And if you haven't checked for updates since installing Adobe Reader 9, now is the time to do so.
More information here: http://blogs.adobe.com/psirt/
Friday, July 31, 2009
Here's more about the problem: http://www.adobe.com/support/security/bulletins/apsb09-10.html
People ask frequently if they should update things like Flash, Shockwave, Java and Adobe Reader when prompted. The answer is Yes! Usually, it's a patch to fix a security problem. The updates take very little time and could save you from a big problem.
Your security and update routine should include updating these add-ons on a regular basis, whether you've been prompted or not. I'll list some update links next time.
Monday, July 27, 2009
A peek back
In the early days of personal computing, Norton (Symantec) and McAfee were pretty much the only real choices of antivirus (AV) software. You could download a free trial, but then needed to pay for a subscription to continue receiving virus database updates. While it's important to install antivirus software, it's just as important to keep it up-to-date. Most AV programs handle this by automatically checking for, downloading and installing updates.
Today, Norton and McAfee are still very active on the AV/Security software scene, thanks in large part to the deals they've made with computer manufacturers to include at least a trial version of one or the other on virtually every new computer. But are they the best option for every day computing? Most tech people say no.
The Security Suite programs from Norton, McAfee, Trend Micro's PC-Cillan and CA have proven themselves to be quite intrusive, difficult to configure and manage, and easy to corrupt. Experience has show them to dramatically slow down even the newest computers.
There are several versions of AV/Security software available from each company. Viruses used to be the major concern; today, they are far less problematic than trojans and other malware. With the proliferation of adware, spyware, trojans and spam came the programs to protect us from them - the Security Software suites. Not only do they include virus protection, they've added a stronger firewall, spyware blocker, and spam protectors. You can see how all this protection, scanning just about every file that is opened on your computer, would begin to bring productivity to a crawl.
A better alternative
There are several very good, free antivirus programs available that have proven records for protecting your computer while balancing the hit on performance to your computer. Money is not the important factor here - if I found a better program that I had to buy, I'd do it. Nothing I've worked with beats these free programs.
- AVG - http://free.avg.com/
- AVAST! - http://www.avast.com/eng/programs.html
- Avira - http://www.avira.com/en/pages/index.php
Do you need a security suite rather than just antivirus? Not in my opinion. Windows Vista includes a spyware protection program (Windows Defender), and both XP and Vista include a built-in firewall. If you're using a wireless router you already have two firewalls; why pay for another and add more overhead to your computer's load? There are several good, free anti-malware programs everyone should install and know how to use. Here are two, and remember - I didn't come up with the names:
Be sure to read carefully to download the free version of these programs, not the trial. Be aware these free versions are strictly for home use; the license does not cover businesses, organizations or even non-profits.
VERY Important: Download the new software to your Desktop (ALWAY SAVE, not Open or Run) first, then remove your current antivirus or security program, then install the new program.
Friday, July 17, 2009
- Start the installation from the file you just downloaded. The current version is 221, so the file name is ccsetup221. Click Run.
- Select language, click Next, click I Agree, click Next.
- On the Install Options page, uncheck the bottom four boxes, then click Install, then Finish.
CCleaner Operation: (best done right after starting or restarting your computer)
- Double-click the CCleaner icon on your Desktop (red C with a broom on it)
- Don't change anything (options discussed later), just click Analyze and wait for the process to finish.
- After list of items to delete has appeared, click Run Cleaner.
That's it. Don't pay a lot of attention to the items on the list, just let them go! There's nothing you need in there, and a lot of stuff you don't want sitting on your computer will be removed.
Options: Running CCleaner will remove your History and Cookies, so if you like to keep going back to web sites by clicking the down arrow on your Address Bar, be aware they will be gone after running the program. Save your favorite sites to Favorites, Bookmarks, or on your Links toolbar.
Your user names and saved passwords will also be removed, which is a Good Thing (thanks, Martha) once in a while. Write down your user names and passwords, and the web site address (URL) of the sites you frequent! You'll be glad you did, and so will I when you're unhappy about having to put them back in and can't remember them.
If you are a creature of habit and don't want to lose your History and Save Passwords, uncheck the boxes for Cookies and History before running CCleaner.
Updating CCleaner: With no update feature built into CCleaner, except to check to see if you're using the current version, the only way to update it is to download and install the current version. Follow steps above. You do NOT have to remove the existing version to update.
There are many other good tools included with Ccleaner. I use them regularly. If you don't know about the Registry or Startup items and the consequences of messing with them... don't. This is a great program to simply and thoroughly remove Temporary Files - and that's where the spyware lurks!
Monday, July 13, 2009
In a nutshell, sometimes when you open IE8, instead of showing your Home Page you'll see a blank, white page and the status message "Connecting". The round blue status icon is spinning away, and nothing ever appears. I've read a number of suggestions about the cause of and fixing the problem, but haven't found a definite answer that works every time.
A common belief is that an addon or toolbar (particularly Google) in Internet Explorer is not working correctly. You can try running IE8 without the addons by going to Start - All Programs - Accessories - System Tools - Internet Explorer (no addons).
Another attempt at a fix would be to open a command prompt as Administrator and type regsvr32 actxprxy.dll
Then restart the computer and try out Internet Explorer.
Or, you could do what I've been doing while waiting for Microsoft/Google/whomever to fix the problem - install and use Firefox 3.5 http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/
And, remove those toolbars!
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
There are several options to take, details in the links below. Basically, you can choose to install Windows Search from the prompt in the Address Bar, or from Windows/Microsoft Update, or a direct download from here: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/winfamily/desktopsearch/getitnow.mspx
Or, you can choose to disable the prompt by clicking it once, then waiting up to seven days for it to disappear.
Or, you can "muck about" in the Windows Registry to make it go away now; details and automatic tool found here: http://www.winhelponline.com/blog/remove-windows-search-prompt-ie8-address-bar/ NOTE: I suggest you avoid this choice. It's just not annoying enough to risk messing up the Registry and rendering your computer inoperable.
I've successfully avoided installing Windows Search up until now. After reading this from Microsoft, I believe I've changed my mind and will now include Windows Search when downloading updates. http://support.microsoft.com/kb/968513 and http://blogs.msdn.com/ie/archive/2008/09/11/the-ie8-smart-address-bar-without-windows-search.aspx
However, I'll still avoid or remove Google Desktop!
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
How do I know this? I burned up my own laptop years ago in just this way. Check under the laptop often, whether it's on a hard surface or not. If it's hot, turn it off! Laptops generate a great deal of concentrated heat, which is death to electronics.
If your laptop is running slower and/or giving you strange errors - it may not be a virus or spyware. There may already be heat damage, which, unfortunately, is irreversible.