Month: August 2014

A virus to end all viruses!

 

My favorite Anti-Virus software was sullied by something this week.

 While downloading the hundreds of e-mails I get each day, my PC decided to “stall.”

 One of the reasons that we “who know these things” get paid well for what we do is this.

When a PC, server or any other piece of computer hardware fails to act as it should; is that we go through a methodical litany of troubleshooting techniques, that we know to do. 

 

  • This is a fairly old PC, is it hardware?
  • Is it software?
  • Is it operator error?

 

One of the first steps I do, is assume nothing.

 The answer to the three above questions is “possibly.”

 I check for viruses as that is what one does, checks for a virus.  If there is no smoke or other obvious hardware issue, you check for viri.

 The “only” way to do this properly is remove the hard drive from the machine, install it in an external device that hooks up to another “known good PC” with good anti-virus on it, and scan it.  I could explain why but it would add several paragraphs, so just trust me.

 One of the first mistakes one makes is use a machine that has the anti-virus on it that you already use.  Hello…. If it is a virus and it got past your anti-virus what makes you think it won’t screw up this machine as well?

As a professional, I have several top of the line packages that I purchase and keep up as there is “no silver bullet.”  I don’t screw with free, as free is not worth what you pay for it!  Anyone that does is playing with fire!

 This process can take hours, so I use the time to blow out the machine, check for bad caps, lethargic fans, change the CMOS battery, dust out the CD-ROMS and so forth.

 As part of the process I noticed that the video card fan was running, but not up to speed.  This was not an expensive card so I took this opportunity to upgrade it to something newer, faster, onboard GPU and a killer fan.

 Problem: Newer video cards need more power than the old 300Watt Dell power supply can muster; must change the power supply as well.

 Problem: Dell uses proprietary power supplies.  Getting a higher power, power-supply from Dell, if they even make one for this PC, would be cost-prohibitive.

Plan B: What exactly is different about this power supply vs. the standard off the shelf power supply?  The placement of the power receptacle is lower, and there is an off-on switch on a “generic” power supply.  The case has metal where that would be.

It did not take long to modify the case to accept a generic, higher power, power-supply with a larger fan and double the watts!  There is a tool called a “nibbler” that you can get that will allow you to remove small chunks of metal at a time until you make a suitable hole for the new power-supply.  I also used a dremel tool to smooth the metal, so there were no sharp edges.

After finishing the hardware upgrade with a larger power-supply and a video card that is really meant for gaming; as well as replacing the CMOS battery, the diagnostic screen came up just perfectly.  Removing lots of dust did not hurt things either.  The drive was still scanning, so a wait was still in order.  At 75%, Trend Micro had found no viruses….

 Finally; about 3 hours after the start, the drive was pronounced clean by Trend Micro so now it was back to possibly a hardware issue, or was it?

 Installing the drive upon boot up I was presented with the options of safe-mode or regular boot.  Always choose safe.  In safe mode you can poke around without all of the other files loaded.

 Once booted in safe, I installed the new video drivers and was happy that “in safe mode” the PC behaved as expected.

 Reboot to normal, normal quickly turned to atypical to say the least.

 I like to have the widgets on my desktop that show me the processor usage and the memory usage.  I know what they should look like so if they change, I can quickly react vs. waiting until things just die.

 Watching the widgets, the processor usage would tank at 100% and the memory usage would gradually increase until the PC was non-responsive.  That is the earmark of a virus, or a program that is behaving badly. 

 Manually shutting off the machine and bringing it back in safe mode I use something called CCleaner.  I actually pay these folks for this program as it is that good!  You can get it for free but anyone that writes a program like this I will support them.

 www.piriform.com

 I allow it to clean; which removes all kinds of crap hence “crap cleaner.”

I then run the registry cleaner and allow it to do its thing.

 After that I go through which programs and services I want to allow to start than kill everything that I don’t recognize.  I am different from the normal folk; as I recognize what those programs and services are.  If you are not sure about this; research with another computer what you are killing.  Failure to do so could result in you killing your operating system.

 The trick is to get rid of all the “junk in the trunk.”

 

“Junk in the trunk”

 

I use the analogy of hauling rocks in your trunk. 

 

Many years ago Lucy from the “I Love Lucy Show” and her husband made a movie called the “Long Long Trailer.”  If you have not seen it I will not spoil it but, part of the plot is that Lucy wanted to collect a rock from each place that her and her husband went on their honeymoon, while pulling this travel trailer with a car that was probably ill equipped for the task.  While the rocks in this case were in the trailer, the metaphor still works, as this car was now pulling more than it could possibly handle while traversing the mountains!

 

We do that with our PC’s every day!  We load them down with all kinds of programs that live in the tray. We have lots of different things running at one time, and unfortunately we have to add to this load an anti-virus software and anti-malware software and god only knows what else, just to surf the web!

 

Depending upon your car, Mustang with a 5.0 or Prius, it will allow you to haul some stuff.  As far as I am concerned, I want a PC that will get the job done and handle the software necessary to keep the computer safe and allow me to run production apps.  I drive a full size truck with lots of power.  My PC is not a gaming PC but, it could play WOW or some other graphic intensive game, if I so chose to do so.

 

If you are a gamer, you want a Ferrari or Lamborghini.  I advise those shopping for a new PC to get one that will play games; even if you don’t intend to use it for that.  Why?

 

If it will play games, it will run your production apps and the necessary stuff to keep it safe from the bad guys!

 

Having a sport car does not give you license to drive down the road faster than traffic or the speed limit; it merely gives you the ability to do so.  Just because you have a PC with lots of power, there is no need to install a bunch of stuff like “weather bug.”

 A PC is kind of like a baby.  Every thing that you do to it or with it from the day it is “virgin software” changes it.  Loading all kinds of stuff on your PC, even getting updates from the different software vendor’s “change it.”  PC’s are very dynamic and that is why it is important to use the widgets like I spoke of earlier.  Know what normal for your PC, and when it is not normal, get some help.  When your car’s temperature gauge goes out of the normal range; you take it to the shop don’t you?  If not, you certainly should.  Someone needs to write into the operating system a “check engine light.”

 Diagnostic software came about with the PC years ago; the first that I remember was PCTools. 

 After removing all of the junk, booting my PC back up into normal mode still left me with a PC that had a runaway program that slowly degraded the performance of the PC until it died.

 Another boot to safe and than another boot to normal allowed me to quickly bring up task-manager before the eventual slow down, so I could monitor all processes “from all other sources besides just my login.”  That is key as some services and processes will not show up under what you have loaded under your profile.

 Long story short, ESET was the malfunctioning process.  ESET would eventually use up over a Gig of ram and most of the CPU horse power and…the mystery still is that it was sending something over the internet or at the very least causing all sorts of network traffic.  I no longer have a hub so loading a protocol analyzer on another PC would have only shown me broadcast traffic.  I elected to simply uninstall ESET from “safe mode” and see what happened then.  That fixed the problem.  I installed Trend Micro and have run the PC for over a week with no issues.

 My guess is that someone wrote a program specifically to attack the anti-virus software and ESET was not equipped to handle it.  Next week or next month it may very well be Trend that fails.  There are many on the market and there is “No Silver Bullet.”  It came in through e-mail I suspect.

 

Moral of this sad tale is this: backup those things that you care about and back up often.

 

I would love to know what attacked ESET NODE32, so if anyone else has a similar story please share it.  I will make certain to share it with my readers.

Call me paranoid but here is my suspicion.  There are many different anti-virus programs out there all trying to get your dollar.  There are some really good programs and than there are some programs that are not so good.  While free is better than none, it is not much better.  You get what you pay for.

I suspect and this of course is coming from a 30 plus year veteran of working with this stuff, that someone who works for or worked for one of these companies wrote and released this bug.  Someone writes these things and if they don’t get remuneration from it, why do it?

Why in God’s name would someone sit around in their mother’s basement in their underwear writing programs that are meant to disrupt or destroy people’s software or ability to get on the internet or work or what have you?   Sorry for the visual but I can just see some pimple faced kid with empty candy wrappers, half empty red bull cans and possibly an ash tray full of butts and old pizza boxes typing away at the computer till the wee hours, trying to outdo his buddy.  I think I see roaches too…Another bug!  

I understand writing software to steal an identity and sell those things to the highest bidder. 

I understand robots to use millions of computer to attack some target with a DOS.

If a virus was written to attack a specific anti-virus package; that action would bespeak of an inside job, or possibly someone that had a grudge against that company.

 

Full disclosure: I do disaster recovery planning for companies.  Having been in this field since before the Internet, Bill Gates and Mr. Jobs, I have seen much, done much, and carry a wealth of both computer and business skills and acumen with me to the clients site.  

 

When I got out of school, the secretarial pool was still in vogue; and Greg Shorthand was still practiced.  I put dictation equipment on executive’s desk and later computers, replacing the all day process of creating a document to the executive typing his or her own document or e-mail.

I am also a science fiction / fantasy writer who enjoys blogging…

-Best

 

 

 

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The Great American Trailer Park Musical

Runway Theatre

trailerparkweb

 

For those of you who are into the theatre and who happen to be in the North Dallas area I have a treat for you.

 

In Grapevine Texas there is a place called the Runway Theatre.

 

http://www.runwaytheatre.com/TheGreatAmericanTrailerParkMusical.php

 

It is called this as it sits on the north end of DFW and frequently the sounds of Jets landing or taking off can be heard during a performance.  This does not take away from the play and most of the time it is not noticeable.

 

The historic area of Grapevine has many shops and places of interest so actually spending more than an evening there can be a good use of your time.  It is very close to DFW so, if you are in town for a day and have some time on your hands a quick cab ride to downtown for food and fun would also work.

 

Grapevine is rife with good restaurants, spending a Friday night or Saturday night in Grapevine is worth consideration.

 

Grapevine hosts a few restaurants which are landmarks.  Esparza’s, which is a great Tex Mex restaurant has a long history of satisfying their guest.

 

http://www.esparzastexas.com/home

 

There are others which I have tried and I will do a better job of talking about them in the future.  The cost varies, some are really overpriced; most are in the ball park of what you would expect.

 

If you are in the mood for something a little more traditional, try Tolbert’s

They boast a good chili and their fish is advertised as coming from Paris, Paris Texas…

 

http://www.tolbertsrestaurant.com/

 

Our usual evening consist of an early dinner with friends somewhere in the area, and then heading over to the theatre about 30 minutes before the curtain to visit with some of the other regulars and staff.   

 

These people go out of their way to make you feel at home.

 

The Great American Trailer Park Musical

Critics love this incredibly irreverent, hilarious musical which gives a whole new loving image of “white trash.” When a new tenant arrives at Armadillo Acres, she wreaks havoc all over Florida’s “most exclusive” trailer park. The bonds of friendship are sometimes closer than the bonds of family. When Pippi, the stripper on the run, comes between the Dr. Phil-loving, agoraphobic Jeannie and her tollbooth collector husband, the storms begin to brew, and hilarity ensues. 

Rated R *

 

Other than some language and suggestive situations, the show hardly should be rated R.  I would rate it PG 13.  I don’t know any teenager who has not heard those words but again, your mileage may very. Having said that, it is a laugh a minute and the cast and crew did an excellent job.  These are people that I would like to get to know... Some plays that you go to, you are looking at your watch wondering when it will be overI have been there and so have you.  This was over too soon for me.  One of the friends that went with us who admitted to not liking musicals, wanted to come back and see it again.  That to me was a breakthrough in and of it-self as if one musical can touch someone; maybe that will be open to others.  This was not Rogers and Hammerstein.  There was actually a live band for this performance which sincerely added to the quality of the play.

 

It is not unusual for the cast to come into the seats and involve the audience; so if you feel like being a possible bit player, sit on the isle and take your chances.  You never know if you will be involved in some small way.

 

One thing of note: this is an all volunteer production.  If you have time and would like to get involved, you can do anything from make popcorn to act, you have but to show an interest.

Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her. But once they are in hand, he or she alone must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game.

Voltaire

 

*Taken from their web site.

Who are they and why do we care?

Hollywood joins into the political; arena with  messages in just about every show they produce.  Aaron Sorkin produced a show called Newsroom which at the very onset looked as though it was going to be a “right leaning show,” which shocked me.  The first episode actually had staunch republicans passing around the rant by the leading man Jeff Daniels aka Will McAvoy.   

The entire first season was in fact an attack on the right, taking on the tea party; making them appear to be a joke which diminished them in the eyes of many people who cannot differentiate between fact from fiction.  One of the reasons this country is so screwed up is the fact we have far too-many who watch the Daily Show and “believe” that John Stewart is actually disseminating the news!  They do not know that this is comedy, written for entertainment! 

 The Newsroom I think was supposed to be about how the media works and journalism works but it failed with its biases.  I stopped watching it after the first season as I think Sorkin went too far in trying to make the right look lame.

Some would say that HBO and the Newsroom could not affect that many people but again, not true.  Even Aaron Sorkin admitted that he did not really know what he was doing when he crafted this program but, here is the truth to this.  Someone passing them selves off as Jeff Daniels has a twitter account under the name of Will McAvoy who commented on many political things.

This 28 year old “liberal thinking person” who is a fan of the Newsroom, borrowed the personage of Jeff Daniels aka Will McAvoy and has sent out 41.9K tweets, posted 214 videos, follows 1.943 other “tweeters” has 74.4K followers and has 1,704 favorites.  This nobody, is helping to shape this country by affecting the votes, minds and opinions of the uneducated or gullible voter. This is subterfuge using technology, and the people are clueless.

His tweets have been re-tweeted by thousands who believe that they are indeed re-tweeting the thoughts and opinions of Jeff Daniels aka Will McAvoy!  He is still doing this today, now, this minute!

I would contend that this type of activity should be illegal, but your mileage may vary.

We should most certainly care is this type of thing has an effect on the world.

The Company Store

Talking with people fresh out of college, or even some that have been out for a while, I have found that most are falling prey to unscrupulous companies that are working around Universal Health Care by hiring practices that are, well just wrong.

In order to protect the company from spending too much money on labor they are working these people at part time jobs.  Instead of hiring enough full time people to do things in a normal fashion “during daylight hours” they are in fact working several part time employees in several shifts.

While shift work is not unheard of, the amount of part-time employees is.

These companies, mostly retail, are hiring these people at just over the minimum wage working them for just under the amount of hours that would be considered full-time.  In this fashion they don’t have to give them any type of benefits’ including health care.  They don’t accrue vacation time and they must often find at least two jobs to make ends meet. They will in actuality be working more than a 40 hour week and possibly work a 50 or 60 hour week for multiple companies.

The carrot seems to be a verbal recognition of their “potential” for a management position “down the road.”

The other carrot is “in retail anyway” that they offer them discounts on any merchandise.  Knowing something about this; their margin is most likely 40 points and since a lot of this “stuff” comes from China, I would bet that their margins are closer to 60 or 70 points with the larger stores getting larger margins.

The discount to the employee is anywhere from 10% to 30% meaning that the company still makes money on the employee purchases. I know a lot of folks that work in retail who work for a particular store because they like what they sell.  This is probably a trait among those who work in retail.

What is it  like where you live?  Do the food service industry companies treat their employees the same way?

Which companies treat their employees well?

Which are the worst?

Why?

I hear a lot of people complain about how they can’t make ends meet and minimum wage needs to be raised to $15 an hour.

The economy took a hit and the unemployment numbers were off the charts.  A lot of folks who are now employed are working these types of jobs that are really intended for kids in school and not college graduates.  That is why they are minimum wage, because they were never intended to provide a living wage. On the flip side, these companies are now getting college graduates for pennies on the dollar.

Minimum wage does not need to go up to some astronomical number, as that will tank the economy.  Every action that congress takes has consequences.

“Universal health Care,” you know that 2000 plus page bill that we have to “pass before we read it;” had consequences.   The people who crafted the bill and the Democrats’ who pushed it down our throats will not be affected by this however.  They actually crafted language into the bill to the effect that exempted them from any of its mandates.  Why would you  vote for people like this?

One of these consequences now has people working as slaves for minimum wage jobs that are for school kids.  Companies are not in the habit of loosing money and getting bailouts unless you are “too big to fail,” aka a campaign contributor.  They work their business so that they make money.  If they do it right they not only make a profit for the stock holder and all of those who took a risk.  Their end goal is not to provide employment, just make money.  Employees are a necessary evil, as far as they are concerned.

Congress needs to fix this.  Companies will not fix this themselves, because they have no reason to.

I would argue that language needs to be crafted in a bill that would only allow a company some small percentage of part-time employees, and the same should be true of “contractors,” which is another way to scam the system.

Capitalism

People don’t create companies because they want to give people jobs.  They create companies because they see a need, and they know how to fill it. Employment opportunities come when the need is great enough that they cannot fill it by themselves.

Mechanization takes away many jobs.  Today the grocery store is a good example of job loss through technology.  Self-checkout kiosks are everywhere.  Either you as the customer check and bag your own groceries, or you wait in a long line where a minimum wage clerk will check you out.  They purposefully (so it seems to me anyway) only have a few working the register so that there is a wait.

I am one that will wait in line as, I want there to be a need for this person behind the counter.  The stupidity of this is that the kid behind the counter gets angry with you; because you won’t do the self checkout!  I am trying to save this idiots job and he is angry because he has to do it!  This is the attitude of this generation today.  Once I get out of school I go to the company of my choice and go get the corner office, boss people around and get a big paycheck!  One has to wonder what they are teaching is school.  I am thinking it is how to roll the perfect joint.

Robots have been taking jobs for years in the automobile industry and other manufacturing. Robots can work longer than 8 hours, don’t belong to unions, don’t need healthcare, don’t go to the bathroom, need breaks, and a host of other reasons to automate could be made.  There is also an ROI and a TCO.  With employees that is not the case.

An argument could be made that these robots had to be created by workers, software engineers etc.  To that I would agree.  The rub is that many of these things were done outside of this country.  While most reasons to do this are economical some would argue that Americans are not smart enough to do it.   Looking at school from when I was in school to now I would agree that something needs to change in the methods and materials that we teach.  Some of these kids today are real “low information people.”  It is like “Hey, don’t confuse me with the facts!”

Unless you can put groceries on the table with things that you purchase from the retail outlet from which you work, buying things from them is something you should most probably resist.

They tell everyone that they see management potential in them, and get them to “commit in their mind” to working months without so much as a raise.  They don’t get them to sign a contract or anything, they simply lead them to believe that there is a future for them.  After several months of being a slave, you come to realize that the light at the end of the tunnel was nothing more than a lighting bug.

You are quasi self-deluded and are “nudged” into thinking that this is going to turn into something.  Some companies do promote from within and Enterprise Rent a Car comes to mind.  These folks start you out cleaning cars and work you up from the bottom.  If you have it within you, that is a good company.

What other companies are out there that treat their employees well?

Ask around I would like to know.  We can make a list….  I would seriously like to give credit where it is due.

Here is the catch my young friends; you only have so many years to live.  Life is not eternal! One day you will wake up and realize that there are so many things that you wanted to do; and now it is too late.  It will be that day when the epiphany hits you that there are more days behind you, than in front of you.  That will be the day that you will get serious about your faith, if you are not already.

In school the weeks seem to never end, when you have a dead-end job, the weeks also seem to drag on.  When you have a job that you like “time” seems to move a little faster.

When you get out of college at 22 or so, the world is your oyster.  It is not long before the grand children are left with you while your kids take some much needed rest from working and raising kids.

As you look into their young innocent faces, you remember with fondness the days that you were that childlike.

I titled this piece “the company store” because when I was young there was a song on the radio that told the tale.

Tennessee Ernie Ford 16 Tons

Some people say a man is made outta mud

A poor man’s made outta muscle and blood
Muscle and blood and skin and bones
A mind that’s a-weak and a back that’s strong

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store

I was born one mornin’ when the sun didn’t shine
I picked up my shovel and I walked to the mine
I loaded sixteen tons of number nine coal
And the straw boss said “Well, a-bless my soul”

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store

I was born one mornin’, it was drizzlin’ rain
Fightin’ and trouble are my middle name
I was raised in the canebrake by an ol’ mama lion
Cain’t no-a high-toned woman make me walk the line

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store

If you see me comin’, better step aside
A lotta men didn’t, a lotta men died
One fist of iron, the other of steel
If the right one don’t a-get you
Then the left one will

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store

Many of you reading this wont know the tune, so I am posting a link for you..

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Joo90ZWrUkU

Years ago the company indeed had a store.

Typically these were in small towns that employed most of the people in that town.  They were remote enough that they could price their goods in such a fashion that they were not competitive.  There were no Wal-Mart’s back then. This led to the store extending credit, thus keeping the employee indebted to them.  Once you worked for the mine; in this case, you were there until they buried you. You either died of black lung, or cave-ins.  It would be interesting to know how many coal miners actually died of old age.

There is a lesson in this and I wonder how many will figure it out.

Guys, when you don’t know history you are doomed to repeat it, time and time again.  Either the schools are inadequate, or the books are lacking or possibly there is an agenda to give folks just enough information to be productive but, not enough to think. As always I would appreciate your thoughts.  Keep it clean, respectful and so forth, and we can talk about it.

-Best to you…