Apple Store Genius Bar

Last month, on a visit to the Houston VA hospital, Carolyn and I went by the Apple store at the Memorial City Mall.  I needed to have the power adaptor cord for my 2009 Macbook laptop replaced, as it was frayed.  It was to be replaced under a class action suit against Apple.  We did not realize that you could make an appointment at the Genius Bar before we went to the store.  We had to wait about 10 minutes before we could see the tech, so we walked around the store and looked at other Apple products.  The store was extremely crowed, with a lot of folks getting questions obviously answered about products they had gotten for Christmas.

When our time came, the tech looked at the power cord, went and got a new power adaptor and cord, and the exchange was done.  The entire process took less than 15 minutes total.  This was our first experience with an Apple retail store, and we both came away thinking that these folks know what they are talking about.  If you’ve never been to an Apple retail store, drop by one and take a look.

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.

RIP DMR

My Dell Inspiron 1501

In my previous posts, I had explained the trials and tribulations of upgrading my 5 year old Dell Inspiron 1501 laptop.  Knowing that the “not charging” problem was either the battery or the AC adapter, I ordered a replacement AC adapter from a reputable seller on Ebay.  After plugging the new AC adapter in, I still had the same problem.

A week or so later, I was trying to repair a customers’ Dell of the same model that was DOA, and I took their battery out and placed it in mine.  Voila, it started charging, both with the old AC adapter and with the new one.  After returning the customers’ battery to their unit, I starting looking for a new battery on Ebay.  Looks like I can get a new OEM battery for around $35.

 

Updating my Dell Inspiron 1501 Bios

In two previous posts, (Dell Hell Again and Dell Hell Again continued), I told my tale of trying to update the BIOS on my old Dell Inspiron 1501 laptop.  Well I finally took the old 80GB hard drive, and loaded Windows XP on it, and then tried to update the BIOS.  Once again I got an error -144 message, but this time I went and Googled the error message and found many pages to read.  The Dell official forum pages were absolutely useless, but buried in the results I found a forum with a posting from 2008 with the same problem that I was having.  It suggested removing the battery and then running the BIOS update.  I did that and sure enough, it worked!

There is a saying that “no good deed goes unpunished”.  After feeling really good at what I had accomplished, I then plugged the battery back into the laptop and heard a “beep”.  Looking at the battery icon on the tray showed that the battery was “charging”, but at 0%.  I left the laptop alone for an hour and when I checked the battery again, it still said “charging” and “0%”.  So, in short, my laptop has the latest BIOS now, but will not charge the battery!

After reading about the battery not charging, I will have to replace the battery and/or the A/C adapter.  Dell and HP both put an extra wire in their A/C adapters that tells the Motherboard to “charge” the battery.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress, (or lack thereof).

 

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.

 

Trojan-Downloader.Win32.Fraudload

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.

Where’s the ANY key?

In the early 1990’s, I was Sales Manager for the largest computer builder and repair shop in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  We sold a lot of custom built computers every month, and our clients included Sandia Labs, Los Alamos Labs, Albuquerque Public School System, and thousands of professionals.  We did very little advertising, we had no big yellow pages ads, mainly just a small ad every Monday in the Albuquerque Journal’s business section.  We also had a large client base of personal users, usually obtained by referrals from our business clients.  We even gave classes to new computer users on Tuesday and Thursday nights at our training center classroom, right in the store.

I personally sold a lot of computers every month, with most of my sales coming through the front door.  There were a lot of options that we had to cover when someone would order a new computer system.   Case style and size, processor type and speed, amount of RAM, hard drive number and size, operating system, how many floppy drives, (yes, floppies), perhaps a CD reader, monitor size and brand, mouse style, and selection of keyboard, as we carried about 10 different types of keyboards.

I had sold a new system to a retired couple, and they were taking advantage of our “newbie” classes.  They had taken our “introduction to computers” class together, and he seemed really interested in learning about installing software.  I was working the late shift one night, (we were open until 9PM, M-Sat), when in he came, madder than a wet hen.  He told me, (in a raised voice), that I had sold him a “defective” keyboard.  I said “no problem, let’s go pick out another one“, and we moved over to the keyboard section of the store.  He looked over all the keyboards, and exclaimed, “but all of these are also defective“.  When I asked what he meant by defective, he explained that he was installing a new piece of software on his computer, and when it finished, the message on the monitor said “Hit any key to continue….“.  He had looked all over the keyboard and could not find the “any” key.

Too bad we didn't offer this keyboard

 

When I explained to him what the message actually meant, we both had a good laugh.  I made sure that our class instructors added a section about the “any” key to our curriculum.

This experience taught me a lot about how you talk to new users.  I learned that no matter who you were talking to, always start at bottom, in the simplest of language without being condescending, because you can always ratchet up the “geek level” if need be.

Years later, I saw that an enterprising entrepreneur had developed a raised “any” key that you could stick on your keyboard.

New Website and Blog project

Over the last few months, I have been working with a client who needs to improve their web presence.  Together we have moved her primary business website to new hosting, created a new business website that matches the name of her business, started a professional business blog, and helped her create a business Facebook page.

Her new business website is: Rheumatology of Brazos Valley

Her new professional business blog is: Dr. Nancy Scheinost

Working with Dr. Nancy Scheinost and her office manager Kris Clifford, has been wonderful and a joy.