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Archive for the ‘Computing’ Category

Vista SP2 was released on June 30th, and appears an an ‘Important Update’ in the Windows update list.

It is a dangerous update. SP2 updates some 50,000 files. If any one of them is corrupt, your computer may stall on restart.

Prior to running SP2, take the following steps:

1.  Back up your important files and settings.

2.  Go to Accessories in the Start menu, and open Command Prompt. Type in the following: sfc /scannow   then press enter.

There is a space between the c and the forward slash. This command will check the integrity of your Windows system files. Have your Vista install disk handy – you will need it if any of your files have to be repaired.

Once this is done, restart your computer, disable your antivirus software, and download and install SP2.

It should now run smoothly. The file update on restart takes some time, so be patient.

If you install SP2 and the computer stalls when it restarts, you will see a message consisting of a numerical code and a filename. The filename tells you the name of the file which is preventing the update from continuing.

If this happens, note the filename. Start the computer into DOS mode (you may need to boot to your Vista install disk, choose “Repair Your Computer’ then choose ‘Command Prompt’). Find the corrupt file (try windows/system32 first, unless you know where the file is). Change the file extension to .old.

For example, if the offending file is trouble.dll, you would type: ren trouble.dll trouble.old   and press enter.

Then restart the computer. Repeat this process till you work through any other corrupt system files.

Windows should then start normally.

You should not have this problem if you run sfc /scannow before installing the update.

Good luck!

Yesterday Qohel was at the number one position on Bing for ‘leading conservative blog.’ Today it has dropped out of their listings completely.

Bing’s webmaster tools report they had trouble finding my sitemap last time they crawled the site. I’ve checked that and pinged Bing with the sitemap address. But Qohel is not showing as blocked, and surely a missing sitemap could not cause an already listed site to disappear completely?

I’m confused.

New internet search engines come and go so often that I don’t usually even bother to look at them.

Usually they fail because they do not return relevant usable results. Returning sites clearly related to the search terms entered has been Google’s greatest strength.

Yahoo was for too long compromised by the fact that you had to pay to be listed. That was fine for Yahoo, but meant that many sites useful to searchers could not be found.

That changed, but by the time it did, Google had already established a lead that was too hard to make up.

Another thing Google did well was to make a clear distinction between organic search results and paid search results. Again, this helped users/searchers, so they kept coming back.

But there have been two new entries over the last month which are worth considering.

The first is Wolfram Alpha.

This is not a general search engine. It returns information, not links. But what it does, it does very well. It’s never heard of me, but generally, if you need factual information, or information which can be calculated, Wolfram Alpha is a good place to start. It also has a sense of humour.

The other major newcomer is Microsoft’s Bing.

Microsoft Live Search was always hopeless. I don’t know why, but it just never seemed to return results which were useful.

Bing does a much better job. It is quick to load, pleasant to look at, and clean – that is, the screen is not jumbled up with a whole lot of  useless junk about the latest nude pics of Britney Spears, or why the world is falling apart because of misbehaviour by Australian footballers.

Most importantly, Bing returns relevant and useful results.

My impression is that Google gives more weight to blogs (John Ray agrees), or certainly that Google visits frequently updated sites more often. Perhaps this is because there doesn’t (yet) seem to be any way to send a blog ping to bing. There is a form you can use to submit your site to Bing if it does not appear in their results, and this form might also work as a ping, though I am just guessing about that.

From my brief experiments, it also seems to me that Google gives more weight to incoming links than Bing, while Bing gives more weight to page content. Both methods are reasonable. Google’s will return longer standing, popular results. Bing’s will return sites where the content matches the search terms more closely.

I like Bing. It seems to return more results that relate closely to what I was looking for.

However, for now, Google will stay as my home page.

I couldn’t get maps on Bing to work. But my major reason for staying with Google is that I search for news more than anything else. When you hit the ‘news’ button on Google without entering any search terms, it returns a wide variety of news stories from a wide variety of sources, in a well organised way. Bing returns nothing. This is a major shortcoming, one I hope will be fixed soon.

Results for search term ‘leading conservative blog’ (without quote marks).

Google:  Qohel is first page, third place.

Yahoo:  Qohel is first page, first place.

Bing:   Qohel is first page, first place.

Just received this email claiming to be from the Commonwealth Bank:

We recorded a payment request from “HostGator -www.hostgator.com- Reseller Web Hosting” to enable the charge of $74.95 on your account.

 

Because the order was made from an African internet address, we put an Exception Payment on transaction id #POS PAYM7284 motivated by our Geographical Tracking System.

 

THE PAYMENT IS PENDING FOR THE MOMENT.

 

If you made this transaction or if you just authorize this payment, please ignore or remove this email message. The transaction will be shown on your monthly statement as “HostGator – Reseller Web Hosting”.

 

If you didn’t make this payment and would like to decline the $74.95 billing to your card, please follow the link below to cancel the payment :

 

Cancel this payment (transaction id #POS PAYM7284)  (Warning – this is a phishing site – this warning was not in the email, obviously!)

 

NOTE: Because email is not a secure form of communication, please do not reply to this email.

The link takes you to a very plausible looking pretend Commonwealth Bank website, where you are invited to log in so you can cancel the unauthorised transaction. Once you log in, the owner of the fake site has your internet banking username and password, and can access all your online bank accounts.

Even if you think an email may be genuine, never follow links in emails to your banking website (or to PayPal, Amazon, or any other site where you have a password protected account).

Always open a new browser window, go to the official bank web site, and log in from there.

Over the last few months I have noticed an increasing number of computers infected with the virut family of viruses.

Some of these are very unpleasant. They can cripple your anti-virus software, replicate in various places on your hard drive, disable Windows updates, disable internet access, and delete or modify key Windows system files to the point where your computer becomes so unstable it cannot be used, or will not start at all.

According to viruslist.com, four of the top twenty malicious programmes infecting personal computers in April were members of the virut family. Nimda, a worm which disables your Windows desktop, is also high on the list.

I have also seen donwadup (conficker) infections, and script downloaders (also known as drive-by downloaders) which can infect your computer when you visit a malicious or infected website.

Some of these infections are extremely difficult to remove, because they make hidden copies of themselves. If even one is missed, the computer will be re-infected. Also, they can infect needed Windows system files in ways that cannot be disinfected without destroying the Windows files, so you can end with a clean computer , but a computer that will not start.

Once you are infected by one virus, the chances are that your computer security will be weakened and your computer will quickly have multiple infections.

Prevention

Use a good anti-virus/anti-spyware programme. For ordinary home use, the free versions of AVG or Avira are quite adequate. If you visit porn or gambling sites, or use p2p (file sharing) software, you will need a high end commercial anti-virus like Kaspersky or Vipre.

Keep your anti-virus software up to date. I have just fixed a computer infected with virut ce. This version of virut was only found in the wild for the first time in February. The computer had a good anti-virus programme, but it had not been updated since early February, so the computer had no protection against viruses developed since then.

Keep Windows up to date by allowing Windows Update to run automatically. Computers running automatic updates were at no risk from conficker.

No anti-virus software can protect your computer all the time, from every attack. The highest rated anti-virus products achieve detection rates of up to 97%.

You can still be safe on the internet if you are cautious.

Do not open files or run programmes if you do not know what they are or where they have come from. This includes email attachments. Take care with files from friends, school, and even commercial suppliers. Infections can come from CDs and flash drives as well as the internet.

Do not use p2p software. Or if you must, run a full virus scan after every download. Do not visit porn or gambling sites. Some people will anyway. If you do, make sure your antivirus is up to date beforehand, and run a full scan after you leave the site.

Run a full, deep or maximum security scan every week.

Do not, ever, respond to a pop-up on your screen telling you your computer is infected, and that you need to download or install an anti-virus product. Clicking anywhere on one of those pop-up boxes, including the ‘’No’ button, may give permission to install rogue anti-virus software which will cost you money, slow down your computer, cause lots of dire (but incorrect) warnings and achieve nothing.

Some fake security alerts are very convincing:

Fake Windows Security Alert

Fake Windows Security Alert

More fake alert pictures from Enigma Software.

Do not be fooled! Don’t click anywhere on such an alert. Shut your computer down, restart, and run a full virus scan.

If you are in doubt about whether your computer may be infected, and you still have internet access, visit and run Microsoft’s Onecare Live safety scanner.

One of the promises made by the Labor party during the last election was that there would be more transparency in government. I guess that means being honest about information sources, advice received, funding, and who will benefit from what.

That was obviously a non-core promise.

Senator Nick Minchin discusses this in relation to the government’s vastly overpriced and already outdated fibre optic broadband plan.

Mr Rudd and Senator Conroy have repeatedly said they are simply following the advice of an expert panel and also the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Yet they have produced no solid evidence to confirm that to be the case. ..

Its refusal to release key advice in relation to this proposal makes a mockery of its pledge to deliver a new age of transparency. And despite the scale of this project and the billions of taxpayer dollars that will be risked on it, the Government arrogantly dismisses the need for a cost benefit analysis.  It claims this network will be commercially viable, yet has also failed to produce a scrap of credible evidence to support these evangelical assertions.

And the key problem with the whole dumb idea:

The Government has no idea how many customers may choose to use this network and how much they will have to pay to do so in order for it to be viable.

It is not as if we have a spare $43 billion floating around that we couldn’t use for hospitals, roads, schools, or research.

You know all those annoying hoax anti-virus messages that people used to send around?

They described in breathless terms some new virus which antivirus products could not remove, which would cause your hard to crash, losing all your data unrecoverably.

Now there is a virus which almost matches that description.

virut ce can cause serious problems with key Windows system files, making your computer impossible to use. For example, disabling the Windows interface so you cannot access the task bar, start button, icons, etc, disabling internet access, Windows key functions and task manager.

And it is extremely, and I mean extremely, difficult to remove. It sometimes infects necessary Windows files which have to be deleted. Even if your anti-virus can remove the infection, and many commercial products cannot,  you may be left with a computer which will not start again without help.

I strongly suggest not using p2p programmess until standard anti-virus programmes can find and remove this virus. Stay away from porn sites. Be more than normally careful with web browsing and with opening email attachments.

Some removal tools:

Symantec Fix Virut

AVG Remove Virut

Current dual layer DVDs hold 9GB – enough for a couple of full length movies, or about 2,000 photos.

Researchers at Melbourne’s Swinburne University of Technology have found a way to store some 10,000 GB of data on a single disk the same size as current DVDs. This means they can hold up to 2,000 movies or 100,000 songs.

The new ‘Super DVDs’ should be available for home use within ten years.

Cool.

Some people just need to cool down and get a grip.

The CeBit Australian IT business exhibition is on in Sydney. Australian domain services retailer NetRegistry dressed its staff as doctors and nurses for the event.

It was a way to have a bit of fun, and draw some extra attention to their exhibit. They certainly got the extra attention.

IT worker Kate Carruthers said NetRegistry’s depiction of women at a trade show was unacceptable. “I was there and didn’t like what I saw,” Ms Carruthers, who is a member of Females in the Information Technology and Telecommunications.

Shades of something nasty in the wood shed. The blokes were dressed up too, Kate.

NetRegistry chief Larry Bloch defended his company against claims the stunt was distasteful.

“I think there are some people out there that just need to relax,” he said. “It was a bit of harmless fun.”

Mr Bloch admitted the IT industry was challenging for women, but offered no apology for his marketing department’s strategy.

It sounds like the whole concept of humour is a bit challenging for some people as well.

I have been running the Windows 7 beta on my home computer for the last month. Last night I updated my main work computer from Vista Business to the release candidate of Windows 7.

It is not possible to upgrade from the beta to the RC – that is annoying.

But the upgrade from Vista Business to Windows 7 went almost without a hitch.

The upgrade will not proceed if there are incompatible programmes installed on your computer. In my case the only problem was Raxco Perfect Disk – in my opinion the best defragmentation utility available for Windows systems.

Unfortunately, the Perfect Disk uninstall programme leaves a number of files behind, so that even after you have uninstalled Perfect Disk, Windows sees programme files on your hard drive and will not permit the Windows 7 upgrade.

To overcome this (this may work for other programmes as well), uninstall Perfect Disk from the Control Panel and restart the computer.

Then go to My Computer, C Drive, Program Files and look for the Raxco folder (or other folder if it is another programme which is causing the problem). Delete the entire folder. Make sure you only delete the folder of the programme you have already uninstalled from the Control Panel! Then restart the computer again.

Or use a programme like Perfect Uninstaller, which checks for left over registry keys, programme files and settings.

You should now be able to proceed with the Windows 7 upgrade.

Once I got past that little hiccup, Windows 7 installed quickly and smoothly, and kept all settings and shortcuts in place. It was the easiest upgrade I have ever done.

From the MSN Tech site.

Basically it comes down to clearing out the accumulated rubbish – unneccessary programmes and services that run automatically at start-up.

I would add deleting any fonts you don’t use, and defragmenting your hard disk every month or so.

Depending on your current configuration, adding more memory can also make a big difference – up to 1GB for XP Home, 2GB for XP Pro, and 4GB for Vista.

I have had two computers in today which were infected with the dreaded Conficker Worm. This was the first time I had seen it in the wild.

You can download a free Conficker (sometimes called Downadup) removal tool from Sunbelt Software, makers of the superb Vipre Anti Virus/Anti Spyware.

If you keep your computer up to date with Windows updates you should be safe. If you are already infected, Conficker will stop you accessing Windows update, and possibly other security sites. It may also stop you transfering files from CDs, DVDs or Flash drives to your computer.

If you find you are unable to access certain websites, including Windows updates, download and run the Conficker removal tool. If your computer won’t let you download the tool, take a flash drive you have not used in your computer (because otherwise you may infect any computer you plug it into), and go a friend’s house or wherever you can get internet access.

Download and save the SSClean.exe file, and take it back to your place. Run the SSClean program from the flash drive. If you are infected you will get a message saying you need to restart and scan again. Do so.

You should now be able to download and run any Windows updates. Then run a full virus scan with your normal anti-virus. Then run SSClean again.

1. Don’t install Apple’s Bonjour programme.

Bonjour is meant to simplify network setup and connectivity between your computer and ‘smart’ devices. In fact Windows handles network setup perfectly well, and Bonjour simply adds another layer of complication. In some cases it will stop internet access completely. If you are running Vista and install service pack 2 (still at RC stage), and then find you have no internet access, Bonjour is almost certainly the cause.

Google lists about 1.5 milion pages if you search under Bonjour problems. One of those problems is that it installs itself on your system without your permission. That’s just rude.

Check to see whether it is installed on your computer. If it is, uninstall it.

2. Don’t install Magentic wallpapers or screensavers.

You may be offered these, or already have them, if you use (why?) Incredimail.  They look pretty, but can cause a number of problems, including making Internet Explorer pop up a difficult to get rid of blank page whenever the screensaver kicks in.

3. If you use Office 2007 and have lost or cannot see the ribbon, right click on the menu bar and uncheck ‘Minimize the Ribbon.’

If you like the idea of becoming a hero or building an empire while interacting with people around the world, but want to play for free, these two games might be for you.

Travian – start as the chief of a small village and end up building a wonder of the world.

Or start as a raider and become a civilisation builder with Civony.

Development and server time is funded by in-game gold purchases, but you can manage perfectly well without buying gold.

Both games have had good reviews. Enjoy!

As for me and my house, we will stick with World of Warcraft!

Update. I forgot about Last Chaos, which is probably the biggest of the free MMORPGs (massivley multi-player online role-playing games). Again, I haven’t played it, but it looks great.

Because of lower margins

Why have chip prices gone up? Or when they say lower margins do they just mean that PC sales have been down in the first quarter?

I hope Intel CEO Paul Otellini is right when he says PC sales bottomed out in the first months of 09 and are now returning to normal. Not just because PCs are my business, but because spending on PCs is a good indicator of confidence in both home and business expenditure.

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