Friday, July 31, 2009

Flash Update

Adobe has identified vulnerabilities in its Flash player and today, released an update to fix them. Be sure to visit with both Internet Explorer and Firefox to install the update.

Here's more about the problem:

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

Which Antivirus program should I use?

One of the most popular questions in computing, everyone needs to know the options when it comes to security software. There are many types of security/antivirus software, but first we should look at what it is, what it does, and what it doesn't do.

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.

Security Suites
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.

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.

MOST Important: There are MANY rogue antispyware and antivirus programs out there. Don't install everything that pops up and offers to *help* you. If you're in doubt, send me an email, a text message or call me first!
text or call: 315-573-4905

Friday, July 17, 2009


Ccleaner is one of my favorite utilities and I recommend it all the time. Here's how to use it.

As with most of the useful utilities, there is a free version and a pay version. You should never end up with the pay version of any of the utilities I recommend - the free versions are just fine.

You can download Ccleaner from the website at , or from places like or NOTE: Always save a download to your desktop, then install from the Desktop. Do NOT choose to RUN when asked to Run or Save. If you chose Run instead of Save while downloading, your antivirus and spyware software cannot check it before installing. We'll chat more about this another time.

CCleaner Installation:

  1. Start the installation from the file you just downloaded. The current version is 221, so the file name is ccsetup221. Click Run.

  2. Select language, click Next, click I Agree, click Next.

  3. 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)

  1. Double-click the CCleaner icon on your Desktop (red C with a broom on it)

  2. Don't change anything (options discussed later), just click Analyze and wait for the process to finish.

  3. 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

Internet Explorer 8 and "Connecting" status

If you're using Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) you may have experienced the "Connecting" message, either when first opening the browser or when opening a new tab. This has been my only real frustration with IE8, and I thought I'd found the fix... until it kept happening.

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

And, remove those toolbars!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"Download Windows Search" prompt in Internet Explorer 8

Have you seen the prompt to "Download Windows Search to improve history and favorites results" in the new Internet Explorer 8? If you don't have Windows Search installed you'll soon see this prompt whenever you try to enter an address in IE8's Address Bar.

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:

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: 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. and

However, I'll still avoid or remove Google Desktop!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Laptops need air circulation

Do you like to use your laptop on your bed? Be sure to put a tray, large book, or other hard surface between the laptop and pillows, blankets or sheets. Or, better yet - get a laptop cooler. There are many that double as a laptop desk which is ideal to use while sitting up in bed.

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.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Expanding reach and readership

After working with Facebook and Twitter, I think it's time to get the blog rolling. Hang on, we're going to learn things together and make it all work for us. I'll be happy to receive suggestions and questions. And now, on with The Show. Thanks for reading!