In another arena, the inconvenience and damages inflicted
by viruses and malware can really be a blood-pressure-altering
experience. Shadetree Computer Services has a great
deal of experience reviving machines that suffer from
virus or malware infection. When a machine with sufficient
resources to operate at a decent speed gradually slows
down over a period of time, it is a good (re: bad) indicator
it is laboring under the burden of a virus or worm infection.
It's sheer insanity to practise POP3 email or open attachments
these days without a good antivirus program in place
with a frequently updated virus-definition file. Throw
into the mix all the trojans, worms, browser hijackers,
logic bombs and hoaxes rampant on the internet these
days and you have a veritable minefield that most computers
are ill-equipped to navigate. Damages from these malicious
programs can slow a computer to a crawl and the job
of extracting the pernicous culprit(s) can be long and
arduous, at times leaving a crippled operating system
in its wake. In-place protection and infection-checking
software such as Norton AntiVirus, Trojan Hunter, Adaware
and Spy Bot are absolutely essential to a computer's
Immune System. An ounce of prevention never applied
more than to the less-than-hygienic and highly communicable
waters of today's Internet. PCWORLD offers an analysis
of various anti-virus programs, electing the best
one in terms of speed, smoothness, and detection of
malware and viruses. You can also use an online anti-virus
service to diagnose your machine. TrenMicro has a free
service called Housecall
that does a good job of detecting and eradicating resident
viruses on your machine.
Watch what you download. There's nothing free on the
Internet. You pay for it one way or another. Many freeware
programs, P2P programs like Grokster, Imesh, Kazaa and
others are among the most notorious, come with an enormous
amount of bundled spyware that will eat system resources
(memory and cpu usage), slow down your operating system,
clash with other installed software, crash your browser
or even pull down Windows itself. Avoid installing any
Internet speed boosting software. This type of software
is often spyware and integrates with your Internet settings
and browser. If you use a spyware program to remove
suspected spyware, you will likely remove the Internetspeed
boosting spyware and can cripple your Internet connection.
Make sure your security updates are recent. Go to IE
> Tools > Windows Update > Product Updates
and install all Security Updates listed. It's important
to keep current with the latest security fixes from
Microsoft. Install the patches for Internet Explorer
and make sure your installation of Java VM is up-to-date.
There are some well known security bugs with Microsoft
Java VM which are exploited regularly by browser hijackers.
Go to Internet Options/Security/Internet
and click Default Level, then OK.
Now click Custom Level. In the ActiveX
section, set the first two options (Download signed
and unsigned ActiveX controls) to Prompt,
and Initialize and Script ActiveX controls not marked
as safe to Disable. Now you will be asked
whether you want ActiveX objects to be executed and
whether you want software to be installed. Sites that
you know for sure are above suspicion can be moved to
the Trusted Zone in Internet Option/Security.
Why is ActiveX so dangerous? When your browser runs
an ActiveX control, it is running an executable program.
It's no different from doubleclicking an exe
file on your hard drive. Would you drink anything a
stranger handed to you?
Don't download browser enhancements, helpers or toolbars.
The enhancements and BHOs are often spyware and are
detected by anti-spyware programs. When the enhancement
or browser helper is detected and deleted, your browser
could be rendered useless. Un-installing and re-installing
Internet Explorer is difficult if not impossible. Reformatting
may be the only way out.
in the Air
There's a lot that can go wrong with your computer.
Shadetree Computer Services can diagnose most physical
ailments and put your machine on the path to recovery.
For example, San Felipe is not the most tender environment
for a computer. Winter winds stir up tons of abrasive
particles into the air, damaging magnetic heads and
laser pickups on floppy drives, DVDs and CD ROM readers/burners.
Case fans create a negative pressure around the motherboard
that sucks in these particles through vent openings
and deposits them on the circuitry and expansion boards.
Add to this airborne dog and cat hairs from pets and
the inside of a San Felipe computer can often resemble
an ad for a felt hat. Airflow is important to a computer
and when the inside surfaces are covered by dust and
hair, heat is prevented from escaping and problems arise.
Installing an extra case fan or two is a good idea,
especially if you remain here for the summer.
The Body Electric
A potential health sinkwell for your system is CFE's
(local power company) tendency to keep their transformers
set to higher voltages than the average appliance is
rated for, which is about 120v. Some San Felipe homes
can have voltage readings as high as 135v. It's been
said the transformers are set high so the voltage will
drop to normal limits when the air conditioners are
switched on in the summer months. Of course this doesn't
contribute to the longevity of light bulbs or appliances
during the rest of the year. And cheap power supplies
in some computers, whose job is to convert AC input
from house plugs into the various DC currents required
by the motherboard, often fail during line surges and
voltage drops. Sometimes the power supply fuse protection
remains intact but the motherboard never recovers from
the ten count. A good UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply)
and, if your data is sacred, a Voltage Stabilizer, will
go a long way in the battle against unpredictable voltage
levels and the need to replace power supplies.
Meeses to Pieces
The venerable track-ball style of mouse is a thinly
disguised lint digester. Cloth-covered mouse pads support
a buffet of fibers and dust that roll up the ball and
happily braid themselves around the axis rollers. When
a sufficient mass has collected near the center of these
rollers, your curser starts to behave like a sailor
on shore-leave. It's important to drop the track ball
out and clean these rollers regularly. A better way
to address the problem is to purchase an optical mouse.
They do not have a ball to collect debris.
Assault and Battery
Wonder why your clock is losing time? Or why
the year suddenly changed on your calendar? It's likely
your CMOS battery is fading to black. The life span
of a dime battery (most motherboards take a CR 2025
battery, about the size of a dime) varies. But they
normally last at least two years. Never replaced your's
and the computer is five years old? Well, as long as
your clock keeps the right time. If it doesn't, then
a transplant is in order.
What's all that racket coming from the printer?
That shuddering, squeeking sound. Well, have you ever
oiled the rail that guides the printer heads? A light
coat of sewing mcahine oil may just rejuvinate that
old inkjet workhorse. After all, you change oil in your
car don't you? You don't? Hmmm.
A Lead Balloon
Ever wonder why it took forever to send that digital
camera photo to your daughter/mother/sister/cousin?
Well, somewhere on the front of the camera or in the
manual will be the maximum resolution rating (1.3 megapixels
or 4 megapixels, for example). When you take a photo
at the highest resolution, the camera saves it at an
increased pixel density. You can see by the pixel numbers
from the chart below that the image of a photo printing
out at 4 x 6 inches would overfill a monitor set to
an 800 x 600 pixel resolution. You would have to scroll
back and forth to view the image. And the size of a
file from a 2.1 megapixel camera set at its highest
resolution would be around 300k. This is a fair chunk
of information to squeeze through your modem line and
if the person at the other end is similarly equipped,
a long wait to download. What you want is something
the recipient can see readily without scrolling about
like a clerk at a microfiche machine. And to do that,
you will have to set your camera at the email setting
(640 x 480). This will produce a compressed file size
of about 35k, a significant difference in bulk.
Printing photos is an entirely different
matter. You want a lot of pixels involved. A good resolution
for a printer, one that results in a reasonably high
quality printout (300 dpi or dots-per-inch) is reflected
in the chart below. So a person receiving a 640 x 480
email quality photo must realize that printing it out
at 300 dpi will render a photo approximately 2 x 1.5
inches. Not understanding dpi numbers, screen resolutions,
etc will leave one wondering why something that filled
a monitor screen will spit out of a printer like a passport
4 x 6 inches
1200 x 1800
5 x 7 inches
1500 x 210
8 x 10 inches
2400 x 3000
11 x 14 inches
3300 x 4200
Strobing for Asprin
Ever wonder why you have a headache after an
hour at the computer playing solitaire? This is most
likely the result of a screen refresh rate set at a
low value. High refresh rates help eliminate screen
flicker. For most people, a rate of 72Hz to 75Hz is
enough to achieve the desired results; a rate less than
70Hz will result in obvious flicker and can lead to
eyestrain and headaches. Some cards support refresh
rates of up to 120Hz. If you need this kind of rate
to provide an extremely clear and stable image, make
sure that your monitor can support it. Before you rush
to the store to buy a graphics card, look carefully
at your current system and how you use it. Consider
your color depth and resolution requirements. If you
have a 14 or 15 inch monitor, you'll probably use 800x600
resolution. The preferred resolution for a 17-inch monitor
is 1024x768. Power users with a 21-inch display will
want 1280x1024. The higher the resolution you want,
the more video memory you'll need. If you just put in
a new $200 video card and want to crank up the refresh
rate, make sure your existing monitor supports the change.
More importantly, make sure you have the proper drivers
loaded for your monitor. Windows doesn't recognize every
montior on the market. It will automatically install
default drivers for montiors that aren't in its supported
hardware list. Look at the front of your monitor for
a make and model, or look for a tag on the back of the
monitor. Go to the website of the company and download
the drivers for your Operating System. This will ensure
that only the supported refresh rates are listed when
you go to change it (Control Panel/Display/Settings/Advanced/Monitor).
Stick it to Them
You may have noticed that floppies are quietly
going the way of the dodo bird. Many new computers don't
even have a floppy drive. So when you want to show your
friends your latest photos or a song you want them to
hear, you try emailing the enormous file(s) or burn
the data on a CD and shake your head at the wasted space
left on the disc. Instead of these less-than-efficient
answers, why don't you invest $20-$30 on a USB Memory
Stick? Called USB Flash Drives, these things can be
as small as AAA batteries and have as much as 2 or 3
gigs of storage memory. When you plug one into a USB
port on an ME, 2000 or XP machine, they are automatically
recognized and a new mass storage drive letter is created
for it. You can then do anything on it you would normally
do on a hard drive. Drag-and-drop files or folders,
rename, change attrtibutes, format, erase, create folders,
copy songs or photos to it, etc. Then simply unplug
it, take it to your friend's ME/2000/XP machine, plug
it in and access whatever you put on it. Quick and simple.
And it is not susceptible to scratches or dust like
CDs or floppies. If there is anything on it you want
to keep, THEN burn it to CD and erase the stick's content
to free up its memory.
BackUp Against the Wall
You turn on your computer and a blue screen
comes up with a bunch of sinister jargon and something
about something being unmountable. Is that a bad thing?
In a word: yes/maybe. The worst case scenario is that
your hard drive has flat-lined. You buy a new one, have
someone install it and then... what about all those
photos/documents/music on your old hard drive? You never
It's important to have a good backup strategy.
Whether you manually back up your data to CD, a hard
drive partition, a second hard drive or a USB Flash
stick, the important thing is that you DO backup.
XP Pro has built-in software to help you back up your
entire drive or specific information and allows you
the option of differential or incremental backups. The
Home Edition of XP also has the backup utility but it
is not installed by default. You have to pull it off
the installation disk. Simply insert the XP Home Edition
CD and run NTBACKUP.MSI (it might look like
just "Ntbackup") program from the folder D:\Valueadd\msft\ntbackup
where D: is the letter of your CD drive. This will launch
the Windows Backup Utility Installation Wizard, which
will install the utility automatically. When it is finished,
just click "Finish."