(updated 8/26/2009)

Tips, news and views, for 2008-10-20...

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When backing up is going forward, puttin' out the trash, dead threads, surviving the Falls, protecting and maintaining your PC, looking for Windows Search toolbar...


When backing up is going forward...

Jesus and Satan were having an on-going argument about who was better on the computer. They had been going at it for days, and frankly God was tired of hearing all the bickering. Finally fed up, God said, "That's it! I have had enough. I am going to set up a test that will run for two hours, and from those results, I will judge who does the better job."

So Satan and Jesus sat down at the keyboards and typed away. They moused. They faxed. They e-mailed. They e-mailed with attachments. They downloaded. They did spreadsheets. They wrote reports. They created labels and cards. They created charts and graphs. They did genealogy reports. They did every job known to man.

Jesus worked with sublime efficiency and Satan was going like a house afire. Then, ten minutes before their time was up, lightning suddenly flashed across the sky, thunder rolled, rain poured, and, of course, the power went off. Satan stared at his blank screen and screamed every curse word known in the underworld. Jesus just sighed.

Finally the electricity came back on, and each of them restarted their computers. Satan started searching frantically, screaming: "It's gone! It's all gone! I lost everything when the power went out!" Meanwhile, Jesus quietly started printing out all of his files from the past two hours' work. Satan observed this and became irate. "Wait!" he screamed. "That's not fair! He cheated! How come he has all his work and I don't have mine?" God just shrugged and said, "Jesus saves".

Contributed by S.M.


Puttin' out the trash...

I was asked recently whether a certain older computer was worth keeping. Perhaps this answer will help you decide about one you may have.

For Internet, email, word documents and spreadsheets, image editing and music-playing an average PC is fine.

For video editing, 3D gaming or simulations, an above-average PC is preferred.

A P4, 1.6 Ghz, 384MB RAM, 40GB HDD, CD burner, USB 2.0, I consider the new minimum.

A P4, 2.6 Ghz, 512MB RAM, 80GB HDD, CD burner, USB 2.0, is an adequate PC for many.

A P4, 3.2 Ghz, 1GB RAM, 160GB HDD, DVD burner, USB 2.0, makes for a comfortable PC.

It is a pleasure to set up a Core 2 Duo, FSB 1333, 1GB DDR2 RAM, 250GB+ SATA2 HDD with 16MB cache, 20X DVD burner, USB 2.0, with Windows XP Home or Pro. Anything older can be tedious. The hardware mentioned here is already available at commodity pricing. Higher levels of speed are attainable, at a slight premium.

Regarding operating systems, Windows 98 is passé, Windows 2000 still works well in a pinch, and Windows XP is preferred. Vista is actually quite nice, very stable and more secure. Each succeeding level of Windows introduces, and makes available, new features.

Adding a PCI-E video card to a modern PC can boost performance and complete the picture. Extra RAM, above 1GB, may help with multi-tasking.

Remember that your old hard drives should be properly cleared of data before you give them up. Deleting your files is a start, but a great deal of evidence of your use can remain on a PC's hard drive after you retire it or give it away. As a service, I can wipe a drive with software intended for this purpose, then destroy the hard drive mechanically - for $35. As a different service, I can wipe a hard drive, then reinstall a PC's licensed operating system on it again such that a working PC could then be given away more safely. This would cost $75.

A no-cost solution for someone retiring a PC would be to take the hard drive out and shelve it, and give only the rest of the PC away. This only involves removing a handful of screws and removing the drive from its "bay".

The kinds of data that present a security risk by remaining on your old computer would be...

A Windows XP license still holds a wholesale value of between $85 and $145, (although OEM versions are intended to be legally used only on the original PC). Valuable MS Office licensing can be migrated to a new PC, as long as it no longer remains installed elsewhere. Other software, such as Adobe Photoshop or Coreldraw!, can be migrated with the same caveat of just one installed instance.

The Registry, a part of Windows since 1995 and the successor to the win.ini and sys.ini files of Windows 3.1x, can contain valuable licensing information and compromising connection information. It is not something that can be readily cleaned unless you know what you are looking for in it.

Note: if you dispose of your old PC at a charitable outlet or at your municipal recycling depot, you can be sure that no one is taking any special care to remove your information before re-using it.


Dead threads...


Surviving the Falls...

This fellow is standing about six feet from the edge of Niagara Falls.

View the rescue here... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_mJnARxH3LY

This other fellow (below) is simply enjoying the view - from the edge of the gentler Victoria Falls.

Learn all about Niagara Falls here, including about the day the Falls stopped.



Protecting and maintaining your PC...

Several steps you can take to help keep your PC secure and running well are listed here.

  1. Delete any personal files, folders, favourites, and email that you don't need or want anymore. (Organize what you keep.)
  2. Avoid installing things you don't need. Uninstall anything you don't use, and remove orphaned files and folders after uninstalling.
  3. Uninstall (or at least turn off) browser toolbars, especially Google's Toolbar (which is a file indexer), to recover screen space and improve performance.
  4. Turn off Windows Search (a seldom-used file indexing tool, see procedure below).
  5. Run Microsoft's Scandisk and Defrag tools monthly to check and optimize the hard drive.
  6. Allow Windows to check for updates regularly. Go to the Windows Update site weekly to download and install them.
  7. Disallow updaters for programs like Java, Shockwave, Limewire and Adobe Reader whenever possible. (Wait until something you want to do is impossible without performing the update.)
  8. Disable updaters for hardware, that may come with your PC. (Again, wait until something you want to do is impossible without performing it.)

Maintenance software you should add to Windows (available at PCN's website and elsewhere, but also routinely installed by PCN - if you have had service done recently, you'll already have these)...

  1. Install an anti-virus program like Grisoft's AVG and allow it to run in the background. Permit all updates it requests, but daily scans seem unnecessary. Once a month should suffice.
  2. Install Lavasoft's Ad-Aware, update it fully, and run scans monthly.
  3. Install Web Eraser, run it at the end of your session every few days. (Do not install its tag-alongs.)
  4. Use Mike Lin's startup.cpl (StartUp Control Panel icon) to limit what starts on your PC every session. Notably, disable updaters (see #7, above).

If your PC shows signs of infection (slowness, popups, website hijacking)...

  1. Update and run these programs right now, removing anything they find, and repeating until all is clear.
  2. Visit trendmicro.com, and run their online scan, to get a "second opinion".
  3. If evidence of infection persists, the malware may need to be removed externally.


Looking for Windows Search toolbar...

...is a new file indexing element of Windows. Version 4.0 came onto most PCs as an optional Microsoft update. You will know if you have it if you see a search field down by your clock or if you right-click on the Task Bar and find it in your list of available toolbars.

Since users generally don't search their PCs for files, folders or text very often, I find this indexer to be just another unnecessary load on the operating system, the way it runs constantly in the background.

As a general rule, all available Microsoft updates should be done. Not installing this one would break that rule. As an alternative, you can accept its installation, then turn the search service off to keep it from automatically running in the background.

After it is installed, right-click on your My Computer icon and choose Manage. Look under the Sevices and Applications section and click on the Services icon. On the right half of the screen, scroll down to where Windows Search is listed. Right-click on it and "Stop" the process. Right-click again and choose Properties. Change the Startup type to "Disabled". Exit the Computer Management console. The service is likely already indexing, so right-click its magnifying glass icon in the System Tray and choose Exit. Right-click the Task Bar, and uncheck the "Windows Search Deskbar" toolbar. If your PC has been serviced by PCN, then there is a StartUp icon in your Control Panel. Use it to delete the Windows Search startup request in StartUp (common). When you next re-boot, watch to see that no evidence of the service remains.

The function of searching in Windows Explorer is still available for the few times you may actually need to search your PC for a file, folder, or fragment.

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