Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies

This has nothing to do with computers. It is a story I have had in my files for a very long time. I received an email from a friend in Wisconsin and the story he told reminded me of this story for some reason.

An elderly man lay dying in his bed. In death’s agony, he suddenly smelled the aroma of his favorite chocolate chip cookies wafting up the stairs. He gathered his remaining strength, and lifted himself from the bed. Leaning against the wall, he slowly made his way out of the bedroom and with even greater effort forced himself down the stairs, gripping the railing with both hands. With labored breath, he leaned against the door-frame, gazing into the kitchen. Were it not for death’s agony, he would have thought himself already in heaven: there, spread out upon newspapers on the kitchen table were literally hundreds of his favorite chocolate chip cookies. Was it heaven? Or was it one final act of heroic love from his devoted wife, seeing to it that he left this world a happy man?

Mustering one great final effort, he threw himself toward the table, landing on his knees in a rumpled posture. His parched lips parted; the wondrous taste of the cookie was already in his mouth; seemingly bringing him back to life. The aged and withered hand, shaking made its way to a cookie at the edge of the table, when it was suddenly smacked with a spatula by his wife. “Stay out of those,” she said, “they’re for the funeral.”

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Windows 7 - My First Thoughts

Let me start by apologizing for the length of this post. I try to keep these post very short, but in this case there is much to say.

Windows 7 was released fall of 2009. Since then, I have had several clients that purchased new computers that came with Windows 7 (all Home Premium 64-bit version to the best of my recollection), and I bought a new Dell laptop in March 2010 with the 64-bit Professional version pre-installed.

So far I have had no major negative events on either my laptop or my clients computers. I have been able to fix or overcome all problems (there will always be problems). This is the first time I purchased a 64-bit version of Windows for my computer. The biggest benefit of a 64-bit version of Windows is that it utilizes more memory, which helps make it faster. Yes, my new laptop is pretty fast. But it is hard for me to know if it is fast because it has Windows 7 (last laptop was Vista), or because it has a faster processor than my last laptop, or if it is fast because it has 4GB of RAM (last laptop had 2GB). BTW, I was often heard saying "I hate Vista" even though Microsoft had dealt with most of the problems. I have yet to say that about Windows 7.

Overall Windows 7 has been a positive experience. There have been things to which I have had to adjust (like the look and feel of the SysTray), and things I found ways to fix (like the Missing Quick Launch Bar). I can happily recommend that my clients purchase systems with Windows 7. There is a learning curve. It will take some adjustment. But the adjustments are minor. The biggest problem is that there are several versions to select from, and you need to be sure you select the correct version for your situation. More on version concerns in a future post, but for today let me suggest that you stay away from the Starter Edition and I will steer most of you to the 64-bit versions of either Home Premium or Professional. If you want a jump on that post click here.

Bad news, there is no direct Windows 7 upgrade path from XP (there is from Vista, but I still recommend a clean install). In other words, you can't just go buy Windows 7 and install it over an existing Windows XP. Unless you are technically suave, you should plan to buy a new computer with Windows 7 pre-installed. You will need to install all your programs on your new PC, and then transfer your data. With only a rare exception, I will not install Windows 7 on your old computer.

Future posts:

When should I make the move to Windows 7?

Which version of Windows 7 should I get?

Should I consider a Mac?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

What level Service Pack is installed on my computer?

Many of you have asked the question above, so here is one of several ways to tell. Right-click on the "My Computer" icon on the desktop or in the Start Menu. Then select Properties from the menu that appears. You should get a dialog box similar to the one below. This computer has Service Pack 3.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Support for many Windows versions ends July 13, 2010

Support for Windows 95, 98, NT and ME ended a long time ago. It's a natural progression. Microsoft, or any software developer, cannot continue to support old technology indefinitely. If you have any computers with Windows 2000, support will end July 13, 2010. This means no more security updates or patches. Microsoft will also stop support for versions of XP before Service Pack 3. If you have an older version of XP you can update to SP3 using Windows Update (see my March 6 post).

Friday, March 26, 2010

What is a Key Logger

The link here shows a little device that fits between a computer and a keyboard. It can be used with a PC or a Mac. And it captures every keystroke. The concern? You are on a public computer somewhere and someone may be spying on everything you type, the websites you visit, your user names, and your passwords. The spy doesn't need to install any software, just unplug the keyboard and insert the device inline. My point is that you need to be careful! A key logger can also be software that is installed on any PC or Mac. You can check your computer with the software here (designed for Windows XP but may work with other Windows versions). If the program detects a key logger, you might try the program here to remove it.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Windows Updates

About once a month Microsoft pushes updates that help make your computer run better and improve security. It's important that you install these updates. There are actually two different products. Windows Update is the older of the products and just handles software updates for the Windows program. Microsoft Update is the newer, and includes all Microsoft products. It's good to update your MS Office programs as well. For a great explanation of the Microsoft Update process click here. In its entirety it's a long read, but very worthwhile.

You should make sure that your computer is configured to automatically download and install Windows updates. If you are using Windows XP, follow these steps:

  • Click "Start"
  • Right Click on "My Computer" and select "Properties"
  • Select the Automatic Updates tab and configure appropriately for your situation.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Threats on the Internet

The stories at the links below are just two examples of the dozens of articles I get every month.

Trove of 68,000 stolen logons in hands of 'amateur' hackers

Chuck Norris botnet karate-chops routers hard

The second article is particularly troublesome for small business and home computer users. Few reset the DSL or cable modems default administrative password, something that everyone should check.

The Internet is a dangerous place. Be sure you and your company are protected. And if you are on a business computer, or access financial or business data from your home computer, then protection should be redundant and up-to-date. You can't be too cautious! If you don't know for sure, contact a computer professional and ask for help.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Correction - bad link re: Spam

Sorry for the confusion. The link on the previous post was wrong. Here is the corrected link:

Click here.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Do your part to prevent Spam

Do you receive emails with dozens of email addresses scattered throughout the message. You can do your part to help prevent spam by eliminating them before forwarding, and by using the Blind Carbon Copy option when you send a message. Click here for a great article with some instructions.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Password Woes

Is the task of trying to keep track of all your passwords got you in a bind. Try installing LastPass with Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. Then when you save a password when using your office computer with Internet Explorer or Firefox, it is available on your home Mac using Safari. The process is much safer than writing down passwords or trying to remember what password you used on which site. It is also more secure than using the built-in password managers it the various browsers.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


First let me define Malware. From Wikipedia:

"Malware, short for malicious software, is software designed to infiltrate or damage a computer system without the owner's informed consent."

I spend a great deal of time trying to "protect and defend" my clients computers from malware. It is a never ending, ever escalating battle. And there is no silver bullet. You probably aren't interested in all the details of the attacks that confront every one of you, so let me just get to my recommendations.

First, have a good security software suite. There are probably several good products out there, but the only one I recommend is Kaspersky Internet Security. This changes frequently, but today it's Kaspersky. You can buy it at one of the links below:

Single Computer Version ($30 as of 12/2/2009)

3 Computer Version ($40 as of 12/2/2009)

Another tool you can use is OpenDNS. The process that controls your navigation about the Internet is DNS, or Domain Name System. I won't go into the details, you can go to to read more.

Lastly, you can get and install a Host file. This is pretty drastic measure, but it will do alot to keep you safe. You can download a host file and read more about it here. Don't forget to update it periodically.

That's it for today. I am sure I will have more on malware in the days ahead.