Taking a break from the blogging posts because I have something serious to bring up. It’s on the topic of computer maintenance. It’s on the topic of running your antivirus programs. And it’s on the topic of trying to be careful with updates.
by Jeffrey Beall via Flickr
Some weeks ago I updated my main computer with what was at the time the most recent Adobe Flash update. Immediately my computer freaked out, and it took me 2 hours to finally figure out how to get rid of it. Actually it should have come to me much sooner, but I was frustrated. What I did was run a system restore, and I went back 2 months prior just to make sure I was going to cover everything. I hadn’t loaded any other programs that I could think of so I wasn’t worried about losing anything.
I ended up having to run it twice. The first time it didn’t take. The second time it said it didn’t take, but when I booted the computer up it said it had restored itself to a previous time, and I’ve had no problems ever since.
So, when a week later the laptop started acting goofy, I said to myself “well, I guess that Adobe flash update is just going to mess with everything.” This time I went to system restore immediately, it said it worked, and I believed everything was fine.
Only everything wasn’t fine. The update was gone but the laptop wasn’t working. Actually it would work for about a minute, then I couldn’t type anything, couldn’t open most programs, and many windows I tried to look at disappeared as soon as I moved my mouse. What was troubling is that when I booted up in safe mode to look around I encountered the same issue; what the hey?
I knew this had nothing to do with Adobe. I knew this was either virus or malware related. But I tried to figure out how it got on my system. I have antivirus software, AVG, and a firewall. I figured I had pretty good protection; what was the deal?
I downloaded Stinger and ran it on the laptop, remembering to load it in that free minute I had. It ran and found nothing; that meant it wasn’t a virus, but malware. I went to look at my AVG program after another reboot. It said that my computer wasn’t fully protected, and to click some box to fix it. I clicked the box and it did its thing then said “fixed”.
I then looked at it and saw that it hadn’t run a scan of the laptop in 5 months; oy! I thought about that because my main computer runs a scan once a week, and I realized the problem is that I always have my main computer on but my laptop I might run an hour a day, if that.
Also, I tend to take more chances on the laptop than I do on my main computer, doing more surfing because my main computer is used for most of my writing and emailing. Bad idea, especially when I didn’t have all my protections on.
This time, I didn’t have to reboot to run the virus scan. I put it on the strongest setting, told it to scan the entire computer, and it did its thing. Turns out I had 78 pieces of malware and tracking cookies on the laptop; ouch! AVG cleaned them all out. Then, just to make sure it was all good, I went online and ran an online virus scan of the laptop, just to see if it found anything; all good.
The next night I ran Spybot, since I was up until 3:15 in the morning trying to fix the laptop (I spent 4 hours on it; ouch), and it found nothing new. That means AVG did its thing, and it taught me a very important lesson, one I knew already for my main computer but one I hadn’t thought about for the laptop. Make sure to scan your system at least once a week if you use your laptop or computer even once. It’s just a smart thing to do.
Although you may not care all that much, I thought I’d talk about the new laptop I just purchased earlier today. Why? Hey, it’s a blog post, but I have some thoughts on the general process as well. That and I figure I talked about the new computer when I bought it, so I have to give equal time.
As you can see, I didn’t buy a Mac; even if I were considering it, I wasn’t starting at $1,300 for any laptop. lol I purchased a Toshiba instead, officially the Satellite P755 from Best Buy. Yeah, I know, not always my favorite store because normally their customer service stinks. But they have laptops, many of them to choose from, and let’s face it, there’s no other store in the area that has so many you can actually touch in person anymore, at least in the Syracuse area.
The general specs are 640GB hard drive, Intel® Core™ i3 Processor. 15.6″ Display and 6GB Memory. It comes with the webcam and ethernet card built in. The battery supposedly can last up to 6 hours, it has a blu-ray player, I can burn videos and CDs and it has 4 USB ports, with one of them being a USB 3.0; I hadn’t even realized those were out yet.
So, why this one and what other considerations were there? Well first, I had a budget I wanted to stay within, and almost went outside of that budget by looking at its big brother, the 17.3″ monster with the 750 GB hard drive and the i7 Pentium chip. I felt that paying $850 for that was just a bit too much in the long run, and my friend Scott had another one of those talks with me in saying that a large laptop was just a bit ridiculous since I was already used to the 15.6″ which, when I bought that particular laptop back in 2004, was actually one of the larger screens on the market.
Second, I bought Toshiba because my first laptop is a Toshiba, since I still have it. You want to know the two reasons I bought the first one? It had the large display and it was blue; yup, I bought a laptop because it was blue, as there were almost no laptops with colors in the past. The new one is black, which is a bit distressing because it looks like every other laptop out there except for the Macs (and there’s no way I’d have a white laptop; please, it’s me!). Now, I had always wanted to buy the Superman laptop some time ago when it was still Alienware, but since Dell bought them & ruined them not so much now; yeah, I said it. Anyway, you know I tend to be loyal until a brand messes with me, and the ol’ Toshiba has held up really well for me. Truthfully, if I wasn’t having some problems with the power I might not have even considered buying a new laptop.
It was time to buy a new one though. Things have changed over the years and the old laptop has problems dealing with some of the latest software. I added an extra RAM chip a few years ago to give it a boost, but it still falls short of my needs these days, especially when I’m on the road. It wouldn’t handle Office 2007 and that’s problematic when I want to give presentations and create files using that program, then have to try to remember to convert them to the old office format; messed up last year in New Jersey because I forgot to do that and almost messed up again earlier this year when I went out of town. This renders all of that worry moot.
And this sucker just went on sale, which was lucky for the store because I had stopped by last night just to take a quick look and it was $80 more than it was online; luckily the price changed overnight and the guy in the store said they’d have matched the online price since it was still their company. However, even though I went in, knew what I wanted, and paid for it in cash, a transaction that should have taken 2 minutes took about 7 because the guy needed someone to come and recount the cash I gave him. We waited 4 minutes, then he said he’d just count it again and count that as the second person as long as I watched him count, which I did. It was good to see that even employees have to wait for people to wait on them; then again, I had to wait 5 minutes before anyone noticed me standing by the laptops. Customer service is still an issue at Best Buy; oh well…
I feel like I’ve rejoined the new world again. Sure, everyone else was at the Apple store today buying the new iPhone, and even in Syracuse there was a long line of people, so I shouldn’t overly complain about my wait. At least I have something new and shiny; and some time today I’m even going to open the box to look at it. 😉
Lately it seems I’ve been getting more and more spam email than I have in the past. The problem is that it’s all going through my business email account, and it’s been getting on my nerves.
Mailwasher gives you the option of bouncing emails back to where they came from, and you can segregate which email account you want to use. I decided I was going to do that for a short while, and set myself up to do it. And it works very easy as well; all I have to do is click on the tab that says “bounce” and before it deletes those emails it bounces them back to wherever they came from; problem solved.
Except the problem isn’t solved. Not only is the problem not solved, but it ends up creating its own problems as well. And I knew it; I just wanted a brief period of satisfaction, kind of like how I think I’d have felt if I’d been allowed to punch the guy I talked about here in the face… at least for 5 minutes before I realized I was going to sit in a jail cell for awhile and it was going to end up costing me more than what I was suing him for.
See, the problem is that most of the email addresses are false. And those that aren’t false often belong to someone else who doesn’t know their email address is being used for that purpose. I know this because it happened to me years ago, and sometimes it was strange receiving email from myself. Then that person’s legitimate email address ends up in a spam filter for many servers and it takes awhile for it to get cleared. Since this was my business account I knew I didn’t want to deal with that.
So I turned it off a couple of days ago, but I wasn’t done. I decided to allow the host’s spam filter to start intercepting more of this spam so I don’t see it. The thing is that with Mailwasher I see it, but it’s still on the server. But since I started getting business email on my smartphone most of it is spam, and I’ve decided I don’t want to see any of that garbage on my phone. Now, I know the spam filter on the host is pretty strong, but they’ll send me a daily email of all the accounts its intercepted so if there’s something in there that’s legit, I’ll just sign in and get it.
Unfortunately, sometimes we’re stuck going the long way to resolve some of our stupid issues. But I figure if I can bring that next level of peace to my mind then all is fine. However, I have to mention something else, now that I’m on the subject. You know that post I wrote about the Gasp/Akismet experiment? Well, it seems the live spammers must have read that post also because there was suddenly a major increase in that type of spam. So I’ve turned Akismet on just to see what would happen and more of that stuff is going to my spam filter. It seems that Akismet does a better job on live spam, probably because they have a better grasp of the IP addresses that some of this stuff is coming from. At least that’s how I’m seeing it so for the moment I’m back to running both of them; gotta do what ya gotta do.
Man, the things we do when we start getting popular. lol At least you know I’m not going to do any captcha’s or change my comment system, so rest assured your good comments are safe with me. 😉
I finally took the plunge and upgraded to Windows 7. I kept hearing from everyone just how much better than Vista it was. And Vista being such a dog, it sure sounded like nirvana was just around the corner; nope.
Let’s start with this; Vista was one of the worst operating systems ever. Yeah, I said it. With this computer I have it would freeze up, it wouldn’t save any of my settings, it didn’t like certain programs or certain hardware I’d attach to it… just a litany of things I hated about it. So, the upgrade to Windows 7 is certainly better than what I had before in that regard.
At least partially. The first time I loaded it (yup, had to load it more than once) it took more than 4 hours, even though everyone said it should only take an hour, if that. I didn’t lose any real work time since I started loading it around 10:30 in the evening but I also couldn’t go off and do anything else, including going to bed and just ignoring it, because like all other operating systems I knew there would be questions I’d have to answer and things I had to do.
It loaded, and I tested it for about 30 minutes before shutting it down and going to bed. It looked pretty good, everything moved around okay, but I didn’t notice anything better or worse.
The next day it was time to load all the updates, and there were a lot of them. It took 2 hours to load them all, not including the service pack or the new IE 9. I was able to work while all that was going on so it didn’t impede anything I had to do. Of course when it was done it wanted me to reboot, so I did; so far no real issues.
That is, until I decided to load the service pack. That sucker took 2 hours once again, and when it was done I had to reboot. The computer never came back… that is, it rebooted, then immediately went to a black screen, and it stayed like that for 2 hours. I let it sit there, thinking it was processing something, but I figured 2 hours was long enough. So I forced it to reboot, which it did, and when it came back to the wallpaper I figured that it was all fine.
But I have Mailwasher, my email program, automatically load and open at startup, and it didn’t start. I tried opening it and got an error message. Matter of fact, every program I tried to open, except for the explorer folder, gave me an error message. And once I got the explorer folder open, it wouldn’t let me open any files, executable or not. It wouldn’t even let me get into the control panel or system restore. I eventually had to boot up in safe mode so I could remove the service pack. I tried it a second time a week later; no dice, but this time I was able to get into a repair module which removed the service pack. I’m not trying it again.
There’s also a feature in Windows 7 that allows you to select which program you’d like to use to open certain types of files. Only it doesn’t work; it opens file with whatever it’s decided it wants to use. Especially irritating is Windows Image Viewer, which comes with Win 7, but you can’t do anything except view images with it. I use a different program for images, but the settings won’t remember it and won’t use it. I’ve researched it online and found that many people have this same complaint but no one can do a thing about it. I even went into the registry to look around and I thought about removing every reference to it, but then I might have to load Windows 7a third time.
Oh yeah, why did I load it a second time? It was working better than Vista but there were still some wonky things going on. A tech friend of mine suggested loading it again, so I did. Overall resources seem to be handled pretty well but I’ve noticed that, for whatever reason, if I’m not at the computer for a few hours sometimes it freaks and decides to shut itself down, then upon my return and reboot it says it recovered from an unexpected error; aren’t all errors unexpected? I’ve also tried to research this, but to no avail.
I paid more than $100 for this? Nope, I’m not satisfied, but I’m still not going Mac so y’all that are about to tout it don’t even bother. lol Well, at least I’m not going that route yet I’ll say, because I also said I was never buying a smartphone and of course I did.