Category Archives: Software

Dell Inspiron Laptop

In my last post, I explained that my work had bought me a new Dell Intel I7 laptop with 16GB of RAM.  It came with Windows 8.1 Pro on it, and as an experiment for work, I upgraded it immediately to Windows 10 Pro.  (I have 10 Windows 7 Pro desktop computers that I manage for work right now, and knew at some point they will have to be upgraded to Windows 10 or later). I do have 3 newer desktop Dell’s running Windows 10 Pro running that I have made to look like Windows 7 Pro. Since I have to support the users within the company, it’s easier to keep everybody on the same “look and feel”.  Every computer that I manage has 16GB of RAM, and as they need hard drive replacement, I’m installed SSD’s in them.

Unfortunately, the new Dell laptop came with a slow 5400rpm hard drive, and it went from booting in about 5 minutes before the upgrade, to almost 10 minutes after the upgrade.  It was so bad, that I stopped using it, and kept using my Macbook Pro instead.  Since the new notebook is mine to do with as I please, I decided to install an SSD and load a different OS on it.

When I had more time years ago, I used to cruise Distrowatch trying different flavors of Linux & BSD.  For this project, I decided to download Ubuntu Desktop LTS 16.04, put it on a bootable USB stick, and installed it on the new SSD.  Boot times went from 8 to 10 minutes running Windows 10 Pro, to less than 15 seconds!

Granted, I have a bunch of stuff, (Dropbox, Adobe Creative Suite, MS-Office Pro, etc), that loads into Windows 10 Pro when it boots.  But a new Dell I7 laptop SHOULD boot faster.  And yes, I could have installed the SSD and loaded Windows 10 on it, but to be honest, I am not very impressed with Windows 10.  The final straw was how long it took to do “updates” to Windows 10.  Again, I know part of it was my fault for not using it all the time, so that it wouldn’t have to “pile on the updates”.  I took the Dell laptop with me on a business trip as a backup, and it took over 24 hours to update the damn thing!  Good thing I didn’t have to use it during that time.

The Dell laptop is now a pleasure to work on, (yes the touchscreen works), and I plan to start using it more and more.  If you have an older or even a newer laptop, I would encourage you to get a spare drive and install a Linux distro on it and have fun!


Carolyn’s iPad Mini

About six months ago, we bought an iPad Mini for Carolyn to use.  Her 17″ laptop had just gotten too heavy for her to use as her primary computer.  (Her hands are very deformed due to damage from Rheumatoid Arthritis).  We weren’t sure how she would like the iPad or a tablet in general, but we decided to go ahead and get one.

This little sub-1 pound unit has been a god send for her.  She can literally do anything that she needs to do with the Internet and Email.  We have a newer Brother Color Laser printer that is AirPrint certified, so she can even print any documents, web pages, etc, that she needs to.

On a recent camping trip, we even streamed video from Amazon Instant Video to it, using my iPhone as a wireless hot spot.  (Not something I would recommend as it eats up the data plan).

The explosion in tablet hardware, (Apple, Android, & Windows platforms), in the last few years is incredible, and means that consumers have, and will continue to have, many choices in the future.  For most people, I can see why they are so popular, and will eventually replace most desktop & laptop units.

Surviving Windows 8

Over the last few months, I’ve had to “customize” friends’ new computers that have Windows 8 installed on them.  Now none of them have had touch screens, (the real reason to have Windows 8).  I usually got a panicked call saying, “how the hell do I work this thing”, or “where the hell is the start button”, or something of that nature.  So for all of you that are supporting folks getting new computers, here’s what you need to do.

Try Classic Shell.  You can change the way the desktop looks.  You can change the way Windows Explorer looks.  Just about everything is customizable.  Best of all, it’s FREE.  This little “desktop enhancement”  will save you hours of phone support for those “friends” that just had to have a new computer!

(From their website):

Classic Shell is a collection of usability enhancements for Windows. The main features are:

  • Highly customizable start menu with multiple styles and skins
  • Start button for Windows 7 and Windows 8
  • Toolbar and status bar for Windows Explorer
  • Caption and status bar for Internet Explorer

Give Classic Shell a try if you want Windows 8 to look like the old familiar Windows of the past.

Test Driving Windows 8

I finally have had some time in the last few weeks to try the newest version of Windows, (Windows 8 Consumer Preview).  I do not own a tablet, and I believe that would be the optimal test platform, (more about this later).

The test machine is a Dell Inspiron Model 1501:

  • AMD X2 64 bit processor
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 15″ LCD Screen
  • 250 GB SATA Hard Drive, (my old Macbook HD)

This machine is at the bottom end of the “official” hardware requirements from Microsoft.  I felt that it would be an honest test of the new OS’s capabilities, since it runs Windows 7 Pro quite well.

When I went to download the CP from Microsoft, I was shocked to find a 32 bit version of Windows 8.  My understanding of the move to 64 bit everything, was that Windows 7 was going to be the last version available in 32 bit.  Since even the least powerful current Intel Atom processor is both dual core and 64 bit, this surprised me. (Note:  Since I started writing this article a few weeks ago, I have now downloaded and installed the Release Candidate version of Windows 8.)

The biggest difference, (and complaint), from end users is the “new” Metro desktop.  While I’m sure that this would be something “really neat” on a tablet, it is absolutely a royal pain in the ass on a desktop or laptop computer that doesn’t have a touch screen.  On the bright side, there are several 3rd party add-ons, that give you the traditional “Start” button back on your desktop.  The upshot is that you CAN make this version look and feel like Windows 7.  As a person who has to support large numbers of desktop and laptop computers, making existing users comfortable with change is never an easy task.

With the official release of Windows 8 in the fall of 2012, end users in the home market will probably not have a choice to “downgrade” to Windows 7 like they did when Windows Vista was introduced.  The fact is that home market end users are always the ones that get stuck with the least amount of choices.  Since most businesses are just now migrating to Windows 7 from Windows XP, I don’t see a huge rush to adopt Windows 8 into the business market.


  • While I understand that Microsoft had to build an OS for the tablet and smartphone market, the desktop and laptop market is already being well served by Windows 7.
  • Most end users are going to wonder where their programs and start button are.
  • Businesses will NOT be upgrading to Windows 8 anytime in the next few years.
  • Only time will tell if Windows 8 is a move forward, or just another piece of crap from Microsoft like Windows Millenium and Windows Vista.
  • Just like Windows 7, users may find that some of their existing software does not work with Windows 8.

MAC Virus?

Until recently, most MAC users were confident that their computers could not get viruses.  Most users don’t have any virus protection on their systems, because of the perceived view that “MAC’s can’t get viruses”.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  While the MAC OSX is impervious to Windows based viruses, it can become infected with 3rd party software viruses that infect Java, Adobe Flash, etc.  MAC users tend to not do their system updates on a timely basis, just like some Windows users.  I wrote about this problem in a previous post, which you can read here.

Last week, the Washington Post acknowledged that a major MAC virus was on the loose and took advantage of a JAVA vulnerability.    The F-Secure website published a set of instructions that required the user to type commands in “terminal”, something that most users are NOT comfortable doing.  Within a few days, the Mashable Tech website had published a zip file with 2 automated scripts that detected the infection.  I downloaded the file, and ran it on my MAC laptop, and was pleasantly surprised to find that my computer was not infected.  It seems that the virus likes to infect Safari, (the MAC web browser), so anyone that uses it should check your system immediately.

After checking my system, I downloaded Sophos Antivirus for MAC, and ran it on my laptop to make sure that I hadn’t picked up a Windows virus in my email.  (I use my Macbook to send and receive all my email).  I did a full scan of my hard drive, just to make sure that my laptop was clean, (it was).

This has just re-affirmed my reasoning that if you don’t do updates to your system on a regular basis, you are just asking for trouble!


Carbon Copy Cloner

A few months ago, (before the Thailand floods and hard drives prices went through the roof), I purchased a new 500GB 7200RPM 2.5″ SATA hard drive to replace the 250GB hard drive in my 2009 all aluminum 13.3″ Macbook.  Changing the hard drive was a preventive measure, a job of changing it now, rather than AFTER a hard drive crash.

Before changing out the hard drive, I did some research on the web about “cloning” my old hard drive onto the new one.  After a lot of research, I settled on “Carbon Copy Cloner“, a free, shareware program written by Mike Bombich.  I found this program much easier to use than Apples’ Time Machine, and was able to do exactly what I wanted to do, make an exact clone of the 250GB hard drive.  I used an external USB 2.5” SATA hard drive case that I already had, placed the 500GB drive in it, and “cloned” the 250GB hard drive to the new 500GB hard drive.  After cloning, I installed the 500GB hard drive into the Macbook.  All in all, a fairly easy job, removing a few small screws, installing the drive, putting the screws back in, and I was done!  The swap out process took no more than 10 minutes.

My old 250GB had OSX 10.5 on it, and I had bought an upgrade ($19) to OSX 10.6, but I decided not to “upgrade” before the drive swap.  I also did not “upgrade” to OSX 10.7 Lion, after installing the new 500GB hard drive.  After getting everything the way I wanted on the new 500GB hard drive, I cloned it back to the 250GB so that I would have a “backup” in case the new drive failed.

Since the hard drive swap, I’ve used the cloner to perform incremental backup’s without a hitch.  If you have a Mac, do yourself a favor and check out Mike Bombich’s Carbon Copy Cloner.  And Mike, my $15 donation to your project is in the mail.

Kaspersky Internet Security 2012

As most of you know, I’ve been a big fan of Vipre Antivirus from Sunbelt Software for about 4 years now.  However, they were bought out by a big corporation about a year and a half ago.  Since then, the quality of their product has taken a nose dive, so this year when it came time to renew my subscription, I decided to move to Kaspersky’s Internet Security 2012 package.  I have been using this at work, and we use Kaspersky’s AV on all our managed workstations and their Security Center software on all our Windows servers.

I can’t tell you how many computers that I fix every year that have Norton, McAfee, AVG, Avast, Vipre, or some other brand of either paid or “free” AV software.  I have yet to repair a computer with up-to-date Kaspersky software loaded and activated on it.

If you follow the link listed in this article, you will be able to purchase a 3 user license version of Kaspersky Internet Security 2012 for only $19.99.  That’s $60 off the regular retail price, and actually cheaper than just the AV product.  I don’t know how long this price will be available, but even if you still have some time left on your AV product, buy this to replace it with when the time comes.

Like most AV and IS products, there is a large download to do AFTER you install it to get the product up-to-date.  But once it is installed, you can just “set it and forget it”, because it works like a champ!

Do yourself a favor and take advantage of this special pricing right now!

Kaspersky Internet Security 2012


RIP Dennis Ritchie

Over the last month, all the tech news has been dominated by the passing of Apple Computers’ co-founder Steve Jobs.  Most folks can agree that Jobs changed the way computers  interfaced with people, and vice versa.

Dennis Ritchie, (aka DMR), passed away on October 12th, and the world barely noticed.  Most folks don’t even know who DMR was, or what he did to revolutionize computer programming.  Without DMR, there would have been no personal computers, MAC OSX, Windows OS, Linux OS, and a host of other OS’s and programs.

Steve Jobs may have changed personal computers for all of us, but he was standing on DMR’s shoulders when he did it!

I personally owe DMR a huge note of gratitude, as I made a living for a while as a “C” programmer.

Read more about DMR at Dr. Dobbs.


Why you should have multiple email accounts

SPAM.  Everybody gets it, and nobody wants it.  If you have only one email address, SPAM can drive you nuts.  Always guard your primary email address like you would your SSN.  Only use it for communication with your Internet provider.  Most folks hand out their primary email address to friends and family, but therein lies a big problem.  You can be as vigilant as a Marine Corps drill sergeant, but if one of your friends or relatives is a security slacker, (yeah, you know who you are), you can still be in big trouble.  But don’t worry, there is a solution, and it’s called having multiple email accounts.

Everyone needs to have at least three “throw-away” email accounts.  This can be an email account from Hotmail, Yahoo, Excite, or Gmail.  They are free to setup, have built-in SPAM protection, and when you start getting overrun by SPAM, simply stop using that account and create another one.  This email account could be used for all your friends and relatives.  Get another account just for your social media connections.  Get a 3rd account just to do all your online bill paying and banking with, and do not give this address out to any of your friends, relatives, or associates.

If you do a lot of online shopping, create another account just for that.  By separating email account functions, it will be easier to manage the amount of SPAM that you get in your inbox.  If you need to download something and it asks you for an email address, try using a free service like 10 minute email, so that you don’t give out a real email address that some spammer can grab.  Spambox is another free service that creates a dummy email account for you and forwards the mail one of your “real” email accounts.  When you start getting SPAM, simply delete the Spambox account.  There are other tools that you can use, such as Cloudmark, Mailwasher, and a host of other services,  (just Google “free spam blockers”), and you’ll see what I mean.  But in my opinion, the best defense is to have multiple email addresses.

Here are a few simple rules to reducing the amount of SPAM that you receive:

  1. Get multiple email addresses, one for communicating with friends and relatives, one for social networking, one for your banking and bill paying, etc.
  2. NEVER, EVER respond to a SPAM email.  If everyone would stop responding to SPAM, the profit motive would dry up, and SPAM would go away!
  3. NEVER give your primary email address out to anyone.  If you follow this rule and you start getting SPAM on this account, you can complain to your Internet provider, as they have sold their email list to someone.
  4. Tell your friends, relatives, and associates, that if they want to send you that funny email that has been forwarded all around to world, to use BCC:, (blind carbon copy), instead of TO:, so that your email address doesn’t show up.

These rules are brought to you by someone who has learned them the hard way.  Years ago, when I first starting getting my own domain names and developing web sites, I foolishly placed my real and primary email addresses on my websites.  That was over 15 years ago, and I still get SPAM email from all the spammer lists that those email addresses are on.  I’ve had to change primary email addresses, and create “dummy” email addresses that forward to “real” accounts, just to cut down on the SPAM.

Remember, the only good SPAM, is the one that comes in a can.



One of my clients called me a few nights ago, and was having problems getting and staying on the Internet.  After talking to him for a few minutes, I was able to determine that the computer system had been hijacked by a new variant of the program called PC Guardian.  I loaded up fresh USB stick with Simply Super Software’s Trojan Remover, and off I went to his house to “fix” the computer.  Unfortunately, this was the same computer I fixed a few months ago using Trojan Remover when another rogueware program hijacked it.  This computer has a current copy of GFI’s Vipre on it, but the virus definitions hadn’t been updated in over a month.  (This gentleman is rarely home, and does not leave his computer on all the time).

When I realized that SSS’s Trojan Remover was not going to work, (it wanted me to buy the software), I unplugged the desktop unit, and took it back to my house.  Once there, I removed his SATA hard drive, loaded it into a SATA external HD case that I have, fired up my desktop, and did a full scan of his drive using Vipre.  It quarantined the Trojan-Downloader.Win32,Fraudload virus, but did not get rid of all the underlying files.

I have been wanting to do a “wipe and reload” on this computer for over a year now, but the owner hasn’t agreed to it, yet.  By this time it was getting late, and I decided to get a fresh start on the problem in the morning.  The next day, after bouncing a few ideas off my buddy Ernie Hatfield, (who owns Heart of the Rockies Internet Solutions in Salida, Colorado), I decided to give the ComboFix tool a try.  (NOTE: only use this link to download ComboFix, as this is a trusted source.  There are some bogus versions of ComboFix out there on the Internet).  ComboFix is a great tool, but should only be used by a someone who understands the consequences of Murphy’s Law.  (There have been problems when using this tool on Windows Vista OS based computers.  This particular computer is still running Windows XP).

After reading the instructions, I loaded the ComboFix tool onto the infected desktop computer, and ran the program.  It took quite a long time, (being very thorough), to inspect all the files and remove the infected ones.  Once the computer rebooted, (which it did sucessfully), everything was fine, the PC Guardian icon was gone from the tray, and the computer had no problems getting, (and staying), on the Internet.

I returned the desktop computer to the gentleman, with a stern warning about updating Virus protection first, before doing anything else.