Tag: computer

Netflix Scam

Netflix Scam

 

No Netflix is not the problem, a phishing scam, however, is out that you should be aware of.

Since so many of us now receive our entertainment over the internet, it is a good gamble that you might have Netflix.

Again many of us have it set up to bill once a month from some sort of banking institution whether it be your bank, credit card or PayPal. The e-mail looks like it came from Netflix until you look a little closer at the sent from.

Netflix AT dallas180.arvixeshared.com  (don’t e-mail to it…)

You will notice it is not Netflix.com

The message is telling you that they were unable to get your payment info and if you don’t update the info soon you will lose Netflix.

Then, of course, there is a link that they want you to follow.

God only knows how many will fall for this. Considering it was sent to tens of thousands you can bet a percentage will click and update. Always check to see that the sending e-mail is legitimate. IE Netflix.com and, hover over the link and make sure it stays Netflix.com and not something like I posted.

If you question it at all, call the institution or get online, not following any link from an e-mail and check for yourself. Once they get money from your account, if that is indeed their ploy it will be gone. The ploy could simply be to get you to click so they can put some sort of virus or cookie on your computer. E-mail is an excellent way to get infected, and because the scheme requires input from you, your protection might just allow it.

Practice safe computing… -Best

 

What do I do when?

What do I do when?

If I had a nickel for every time that someone asked me this, I might very well be in Bora Bora or the Maldives working on a tan after that wicked winter that we did not have.

While I stress good anti-virus software such as Eset, no one program is the “Silver Bullet!” You must have some computer smarts when accessing the internet.

When we traverse the back alleys and the main thoroughfares of the “information highway,” it is imperative that we employ a little common sense.

I have written extensively about what to do and not to do in the past, but this latest phone call was rather unique.

While navigating the highways and byways sometimes, we are thrown a curve. Much like a roundabout in a city that does not have them, ever!

“What do I do if a dialogue box appears and it is in some other language?”

You are either surfing the internet or on Twitter or some other app and all of the sudden a dialogue box appears with prominent places to click but, the writing is in a language that you don’t recognize, what do you do?

“If you don’t know the answer to this send, me a nickel.”  I am joking but can you imagine someone spending .50 cents to send me a nickel?  I guess I could do a PayPal donation button. 🙂

What do I do when a dialogue box appears that I am not expecting and it might be in another language?

A:) Click on one of the boxes that appear to be the “no” box.

B:) Get out your smartphone. Look for a translation application and see what it is before clicking

C:) Pull up task manager, {ctrl alt del}, and kill the app completely (end task)

I realize I made that too easy but would you care to guess how many will just click the button to the right hoping it is the “go away” button?

Pop-ups are rarely a good thing.  There are settings in most browsers that will eliminate such things, but still, some brilliant programmer somewhere figures out a workaround to get the pop up to appear anyway.

With all of this talk about cyber warfare and cyber espionage, having real anti-virus software is not only critical but also patriotic.

I was giving a talk, and one bright young man said that his free antivirus was all that he put on his companies PCs. Later that evening I learned that he worked for his parents! I sure hope that they have good insurance and a great backup, disaster recovery plan when their computers are trashed, or compromised or both.  Free is not worth what you pay for it.  PS… Never hire anyone you can not fire!

If you love your kids (and your sanity) make them find a job with another company.

Why is it patriotic?

Infections of all kinds make it through and sit there waiting for the right moment to activate. Once someone, somewhere, wants to pull off his or her attack, they only “turn it on.” Your computer along with millions of others attached to the internet becomes active participants. The attack could be something as common as a DOS (denial of service) attack, or it is watching every keystroke you make looking for passwords and identity info passing that info back to some nefarious server in someone’s closet.

I have no deals or allegiance to ESET, right now I think it is one of the best out there.

Anytime your application is acting “wonky” task manager is your friend.  Pop-ups are rarely useful, especially if they make it through your no pop-up settings.

Bonus Question, Why is B not a right answer?

Think about it; some programmer wrote some interesting looking dialogue box to do something that popped up in the middle of searching for more information on March Madness “while you are working.”

You pull out your smartphone, the camera comes on, and soon you discover that some programmer tells you that you are a winner!  Click here to claim your free IPad!  You know that is a ruse because you have already won one and it never materialized.  Begrudgingly, still upset about the last fraud, you click the no thank you button with hopes that it will now go away.  What if the “No thank you” button activates some series of scripts? These scripts require your input to tell your antivirus software to ignore the threats.  Yes, you understand all of the risks, and you want to do this anyway?

By the way, that little X up in the corner could also be a “yes please screw up my computer and infect it as our IT staff does not have enough to do.”

Task manager good, Task manager is your friend, become one with Task manager….

“What if the pop up is in English and it tells me I won and iPad.”

Task manager good, Task manager is your friend, become one with Task manager….

Now get back to work!   🙂

The latest method of attack. #DisasterRecovery

The latest method of attack. #DisasterRecovery

 

As a matter of course, I try not to post too much about computer security, as I am certain that most have seen this before.

We know not to open attachments that are not expected as well as have good anti-virus software updated and running at all times.

This morning I received a different type of threat that I thought worth sharing, so here it is.

With the usual jargon about some sort of violation or someone suing me for something, open the attachment to see what it is, this was different.

The words included were, “for your security we use dropbox for the evidence against you. Please follow the link and respond within 3 days or a summary judgement will be made.”

Of course, the return e-mail address is bogus; the trick is to get me to open an attachment in this case on dropbox.  Once downloaded there is no telling what it would do but, most certainly nothing good.

No law enforcement or government agency would work in this way even if you were expecting something from someone in this manner; it would not come in from e-mail.

Unless you are expecting it and the e-mail address is correct only then would I make a call before opening anything as an attachment.

Ransomware is working with hospitals and even government agencies paying the perpetrators, which causes them to continue with more fervor.

 

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You do not want to see this so, practice safe computing.

 

Practice safe computing which includes a good disaster recovery plan.

 

-Best

(c) All Rights Reserved 2016

 

Time to #die #computer #PC

Time to #die #computer #PC

Time to Die

Before you think this is some macabre blog about life and death hold on! I am talking about time to let your trusted computer retire.

“Why the hell is my computer so slow!”  I substituted “hell” for the F word!  You get the point.  People are frustrated and just pissed off by the time I get a call.

The average life span of a PC is about 5 years, give or take.  The issues I have with that are many, and most of that revolve around the EULA. (End User License Agreement)

6a00d83451fb6769e200e54f64c4268833-800wi Does anyone read these?  I did a couple of times and boy oh boy, you need a lawyer to figure it out!

If you purchase a computer with an operating system that dies than the OS dies when the computer does.  Unlike the old days of DOS and or early Windows.

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When it gets right down to it the expensive part of the computer is not the hardware, but the software.  The OS is about $150 or so… Ok I can stomach that.

Office full blown is $500! Does it die with the computer?

microsoft-office-2013

The Adobe suite is off the charts expensive, does it die with the computer?

adobe-cs4-boxes

Why is it that a computer running an OS runs just fine and as time goes by it slows down?  Does the computer just get tired?

Resmon screen shot showing CPU busy calculationsThree finger solute brings this up…

It has a lot to do with the patches and ad-ons that we do to them.  A computer is much like a baby.  Everything that you do to it, or with it from its “birth,” has some effect on it.

Herbie-and-QEK-camper llt75cd1.2103

Herbie Pulling a trailer and from the 1954 movie the long long trailer Ricky and Lucy pulling a trailer full of rocks.

I equate it to a car.  Let’s say your car is a Volkswagen beetle that new, gets you down the road and does what you want it to do.  After a few months it is not quite as Zippy as it was earlier and after a year it starts showing its age.  You take it in for a tune-up, start using a higher grade of gasoline and for a while it works fair.  Then after a while going up hills are a struggle.  After downshifting to 2cnd you make it up the hills but you remember earlier in its life when maybe you only had to downshift to 3rd but for the most part; not at all.

After much head scratching you start looking at every little detail of your poor car.  Suddenly you find out that your partner in crime has secretly had a fascination with collecting rocks.  Your poor car is hauling tons of rocks in the “bonnet” under the back seat, and even the glove box!

Some of the rocks have been there so long that they have become part of the car!  After removing all of the rocks that you can; the car once again makes it up the hills but not as fast as it did when it was new.

Your computer when new; was the fastest thing around, if you are like me, you over buy!

After months and maybe years the computer much like the car has the occasional issue with web sites, or e-mail or loading a picture file to edit.

Time to look for rocks.

062912_0041_CCleanerthe1 CRAPCLEANER-CIPHER27

You buy a product like Crap Cleaner and you let it work its magic.  Not before too long, your computer is running “ok” so you push on.

After a few years Crap Cleaner no longer does it.  You enlist the help of someone like myself.  I hunt and kill malware and other viruses. I check for the latest drivers and work my magic and manage to get your computer running as it should, but it is not as good as it was new.

SWT Yep, that is me….

Why?

I can tell you that it is most probably not the hardware.  I can prove it to you by installing another hard drive and installing the virgin OS that your machine came with.  The machine will behave just like it did out of the box, until you put your “stuff” back on it, most of the time.

Uninstall Crap

One of the things that I find the most, is people install all of this “stuff.”  It all looks cool until you see that your computer is full of trial-ware, and other “stuff” that you don’t use.  Delete it or “uninstall it.”

670px-Remove-Programs-(Windows-7)-Step-3

Startup

A quick look at the startup software will usually tell you that you have too much crap starting up.

A CTRL ALT DELETE or three finger solute will bring up a menu which you can then bring up task manager.  Look at the processes utilization and so forth and see where it is.  Frequently I see machines that have used all of the allotted memory and are now into virtual memory.  Virtual memory is orders of magnitude slower than “real memory” as it is swapping to your hard drive.  Troubleshoot the issues and remove programs or processes that are starting up that you really don’t need.  The goal is to keep the machine using only real memory and not have to deal with a bunch of “Rocks!”

Hardware dust bunnies

dirty-computer-fan I have seen worse! IMG_0228

They are overclocking some computer so they have taken to using water cooling systems much like they did back in the days of the Amdahl MainFrame’s.

console2005_August_A3_Figure01

There is a special breed of animal that I liken to gremlins.  They live inside your computer and other electronic “stuff.”  They plug up the vents, restrict air flow and clog up fans and get inside your CD Rom drive stopping it from working, even inside your floppy drive if you still have one.  These are the ever present Dust Bunnies that once only lived under beds and furniture.  Now they have found a new occupation destroying electronic stuff and they are not even cute!

dustbunnies-by-suzanne-proulx Someone had way too much time on their hands…

17m7i2cvvjvovjpg gizmo

Just like Gremlins, don’t get water anywhere near them!

One thing that I never overlook is cleanliness of the machine.  These things are ecological disasters when it comes to dust!  If Hoover was smart they would build a combo PC / Air Cleaner as these things really do look like the inside of the vacuum cleaner bag.   If you have pets or maybe are in a warehouse etc. the problem is exacerbated.  While I really want to title this BJ, I decided that might be too crass.  You get the idea, take it outside and blow the crap out of it, “literally,” with an air compressor if you have it, or that expensive canned air. I clean mine out every 6 months and that goes double for laptops as people use those things in strange places, even on their bed where the machine can’t breathe correctly! Laptops should be used on a hard surface, not carpet, couches or beds!

These machine generate heat and must be adequately cooled.  If your machine is still running warm after the BJ, consider buying and installing a better CPU cooler and even more fans for the case.

While I am talking about hardware, make certain that your power supply is up to the task at hand.  It needs to be able to produce more wattage than you need and it should have a large fan in it that moves lots of air.  Today they have power supplies that have plug in cables that give you the ability to only use that which you need in the way of cables and not have a lot of extra wire floating around inside the box!  Anything in there that you don’t need can obstruct air flow.

While I am talking about cables, dress them properly.  They should be neatly tied together and routed where they do not obstruct a fan from turning and if possible away from air paths so cool air can make its way through the case.

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Antivirus

Antivirus is Key to computer users today and more critical than ever before.  While my tin foil hat side of me thinks that the creators of this software are all out to be better than the next guy by actually producing and passing the thousands of viruses out there; I don’t have the smoking gun.  I see that this is a huge industry and where there is money there is greed / motive.  I cannot fathom why anyone would sit around in their mother’s basement in their underwear writing destructive viruses if they cannot see the effect of their work and are not being paid.

the-most-epic-fat-guys-in-internet-history

Eww, I just about feel bad putting this here….

My current favorites are Eset Node 32 and Trend Micro.  I also have Norton running on a PC that I use infrequently and do not depend upon or even allow anything “free” other than defender on my network / lab computers / home computers.  Free is not worth what you pay for it!  Defender is not the end all be all product and I would never depend upon it as my sole protection.  That would be like people practicing the “rhythm method” for birth control, you know what they call those folks right?  Parents!

trend_micro_antivirus download

Get the latest updates

Allow the stinking updates from Microsoft as they have a vested interest in your machine working properly.  Like the antivirus folks who work tirelessly to constantly put out new updates, so does Microsoft.  It may be a simple tweak and yes, they frequently allow stuff out that should be tested more thoroughly so you may want to wait for a few days before you actually install it yourself but, most of the time they are the thing to do.

Turn off indexing

indexingoptionswindows7_thumb

By default Windows has indexing turned on.  As your computer ages and you fill up those massive terabyte hard drives with stuff, the computer uses valuable horse power to index all of your stuff.  That can slow your machine down to a crawl!  Unless you search for files constantly turn off indexing! If you still want to have faster access to certain files you can selectively index.

Defrag

After all else, run check-disk and then defrag your hard drive.  If during the checkdsk process you find bad sectors don’t wait, stop right there and back up everything and replace the hard drive!  Most all electronic equipment is rated in MTBF or (mean time between failure.)  It is not a matter of “if” but when it will fail.

Let it Die

XP is dead, get over it.  End of life software keeps those that write the stuff in business.  Software is an incredibly dynamic industry.  Linux is more static if you want to learn something totally new but even it changes.

Machines that run DOS have been re-cycled and are polluting third world countries where some send old boards and parts to allow low budget workers to re-claim precious metals at risk to the person and their ecology.  If old Al really wanted to something of value, he would tackle this issue as those people are seriously polluting their environment as our garbage is a job for them.  Bottom line, re-cycle your old hardware in a responsible manner.  PC’s are not an investment in hardware but rather for what they do!  They have a finite life and when they start sucking the life out of you by you having to baby them, wait on them and spend your hard earned money to “fix them” get a new one!

 trs80ii DSC06133 os2warp4xp_boot2000px-StartingMsdos2 If I had a nickle for every time the phone rang asking me what do I do now with this C thing….!

If you decide to re-cycle any old computer and you are worried about your “information, as you should be” remove the hard drive and hang on to it.  When you are certain that you no longer will need anything that possibly could be on it, take your drill and drill a hole, straight through it, hit it with a hammer multiple times, after dropping it on a cement surface, and then put the remains into the recycle bin. Wear your safety glasses just in case….

drive

I am experienced in forensic computing so trust me, if you do any of the above, or some combination, nobody will get anything off of it, ever!

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Crap Cleaner as part of its program has something called Drive Wiper.  That may very well do it, without all of the destructive energy being spent.  Once you run it everything is gone to the great bit bucket in the sky, or basement..

23ff9f96-3d1a-4e44-a67e-093de8e7a9d9

Who am I?

I am just a guy who has been working with computers since before Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were anyone, period!  The internet was not around and Al Gore was still inventing the calculator to determine how much to charge for green-house gas emissions, from the basement in his mansion!

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bill-gates_416x416 channel_3_section_110_panel1_0_fullsize-1349183829

120176 al-gore-internet-firstperson

Al, what can be said?  

download (1) Al+Bore+Chicken+Little

Actually a lot, can you say “MEME,” I bet you can…

There was no e-mail, no internet; and porn was not digital anywhere!  There was still Greg Shorthand and Secretaries were a hot commodity, as executives could not construct a proper sentence without them.

005184115 First picture of something racy that was found on the internet I think using “gopher.”

gopher2 Early Internet usage… This is actually advanced as there is a browser!

I lecture, consult, and when time permits, give back to the community with things like this “free advice or entertainment.”

Re-post this if you think that it will help your folks, or readers, or some family member that wonders why their computer is “so slow!” just don’t edit it and make sure proper credit is given.  Thanks!

STL1150

Just in case: There are no warranties expressed or implied with this “free advice” for the legal record, let’s call this “entertainment” as I know that there are those out there that will do something to their computer and try to claim that this blog was in some way responsible and they might even be the ambulance chaser attorney type, that sees a lawsuit in a free lunch!

So, anything that you read here is “entertainment” and if you should try this at home, you do so at your own peril, if something goes awry!  “Plain language…if you stuff it up” I am not responsible.

Stuffed Up!
Stuffed up!

-Best to you and those that you care about!

Copyright 2015 TimeDok, All rights reserved

Www.Guard-Protect.com

Www.TimeDok.com

An Open letter to those that can make a change, “You.”

Today I want to talk about the uber poor.

 Currently there exist three classes of folks; The Rich, the middle class and the poor.  I would argue that there are more than this.  I would argue that there are five classes, the Uber rich, Rich, middle class, poor and very poor.

 Anyone with over a Billion dollars is Uber rich.  When you get into this club you have enough “gold” to make the rules.

 The rich are really just upper middle class as they cannot make the rules and must live by the ones created by the uber rich however; since they are in the upper middle class they know some of the folks who make the rules and can have influence.

Before you write me and tell me uber rich don’t make the rules, I know congress makes the laws / rules but I am also savvy to Avenue K and lobbyist and who hires them…

 I am skipping the middle class at the moment to jump to the poor. 

The poor have apartments, houses, cable TV, one or more televisions, at least one computer and have most likely figured out how to get enough government assistance or other “invisible income” to make up the difference between being poor instead of very poor.  I would argue that these folks are really middle class; they for a large part just pay taxes as if they were poor or living in poverty.

Then there are the very poor, they are street folks who live under bridges and basically exist on the benevolence of others, charitable organizations or what they can find on their own.

 Now we have the middle class.  These are the folks that strive to be upper middle class or rich and really have too much pride to be anything else.  These are the people that get up every day and go to work whether they feel good or not.  These are the folks that take two jobs, take their kids to soccer, and do all of the other stuff that most do but they are driven to press on, to get ahead, to give their kids a “chance” at something better than what they have.

 Some would argue that their eye might not be on giving their kids something better but on having more “do dads, or gadgets” or trying to keep up with the millionaires.

These are also the folks who have little to no control over the rules.  These are the folks that try to vote for the right person, do the PTA thing, and use whatever influence they have to make a difference.

 These are also the folks who are most taken advantage of, not only by the rich and uber rich, but the poor as well. These are the folks who the 9000 pages of tax code screw the most because they don’t have enough power to anything about it!

 These are the folks who get the Cable, satellite radio, cell phones with data plans and other do dads to fill voids in their lives that life quite frankly is not fulfilling.  These are the folks who have the “universal fees” taken out of their ass-pocket, not knowing that they are one of the government’s ways of redistributing wealth!

 I was in a park not long ago.  While there, a guy, “street person” walked by me.  He smelled bad and was a good distance from me.  That is not however what got my attention.  He was talking on a cell phone.  He was in fact calling 911 because one of his fellow street people had taken his trash bag full of stuff or so he alleged.  I am certain that the local police were really happy that this gentleman was able to call 911 with his “emergency.”

This is the uber poor or poorest of the poor.  Not only is he relegated to living on the street, carrying his stuff in a trash bag but, he has no support system.  Even though this is Texas it still gets cold in the winter.  Instead of getting these people phones, would they not be better served with some other assistance?  Let’s start with clean dry clothes and a warm place to sleep and some warm food.  Let’s get them some medical care, including mental health.  Let’s teach them what constitutes and emergency.  While I am certain that was an emergency to him, that call could very well take away from a real life and death situation. There are other numbers for non emergency stuff and that should be the number he used. Truth be told if he had called sanitation he most probably would have learned that they pick up and discard full trash bags left alone.

Some folks are there on the street because that is where they want to be, I get that.  Some are there because of mental illness.  Some are there because they have no training to get a job or are wrapped up in some sort of substance abuse problem and waiting to hit “true bottom.” Some are undoubtedly there because of “shit happens.

These folks don’t need a cell phone or internet, they need help!  There is no money to be made in helping these folks however; giving them something tangible like a cell phone and allowing them to vote without a picture ID makes perfect sense to the government, and creates “more useful idiots.”

 The purpose of this diatribe is to offer a solution to the problem.  Unlike Washington and the uber greedy, I think outside the box.  So, take that cell phone money and cable TV money and all of those other “universal fees” that Carter started, Clinton pushed through and Obama expanded upon and do this.

 Set aside government land outside of large cities that is “farm worthy.”  Enlist faith based groups, and other groups like habitat for humanity and set these folks up farms. 

I am not talking about buying $150K tractors, just land and some modest accommodations and some hand tools while they make it a working business.  A mule pulling a plow worked for our forefathers, maybe that could be located until they could earn their own stuff.  Using the habitat for humanity model, they must put in sweat equity…  I would say they must stay clean, pass drug test etc but that is just common sense, isn’t it?

 Farming is not rocket science but, it is becoming a lost art.  Kids today who grow up on the farm are leaving it at alarming rates.  Involve the Aggies in teaching these folks the principles of farming.  As the population continues to grow, does it not make sense that we could use some more farmers?

 Offer this to the street people that don’t want to be on the street.

Offer this to the poor and downtrodden trapped in desperate situations; in neighborhoods that are virtual war zones with drug and gang activity.  Offer them a way out, a hand up.

 Find leaders among these people to self police themselves. Assist these folks to regain some sense of self worth. 

 First, get them medical help including mental and drug rehab.  Part of that is learning how to farm.  They can learn to farm, run a business and sell their product on the markets.  Subsequently they can make profits and purchase tractors and what have you.  If they could just feed themselves, that would be a huge win! It would be a “shot!”

I would also offer these types of programs to the 75 thousand currently in prison for non-violent drug offenses. Put ankle monitors on them and give them a chance to re-deem themselves.  Prison is no place to “rehabilitate oneself.”  Prison is a good place to learn how to be a smarter criminal. What if we had them help the others to become something more than a lost soul.

 If we could get 75 thousand out of prison which the American people are currently paying to house,feed and manage, as well as help the poor to re-gain their lives and self worth, would this not be “giving them a shot” Mr. President?  Would this not be “spreading the wealth,” in a way that makes sense?  

Wealth is not just money Mr. President, it is knowledge.  If I give poor people money and phones and other stuff I am enabling the poor to stay poor and in effect, I am crippling them.  I am giving them a handout, instead of a hand up!  All they learn is how to take.. Kennedy said, “ask what you can do” (paraphrased) Should we not teach them to fish?

 If I take currently non-productive people and give them a sense of purpose; is that not giving them a shot?  

Instead of kicking this can down the road people, we need to take ownership of it and make it our problem; instead of our grandchildren’s’.  We need more givers than takers and it starts now.

There are smarter people out there than I, and possibly with enough “think tank” collective from the American people, maybe something good can happen.  We have enough bad things on the news each and every day, it is time for something good, don’t you think?

Here is the challenge to you the readers.  I am not trying to get anything out of this.  This is my way of giving back. Writing a letter to the white house would end up in file 13…the bin.  One voice in the wind is one voice.  I need millions of voices.  The only way that this has a chance is to re-blog, re-post, re-tweet and make it as viral as possible.  If enough read it, someone with some “influence” will get this to the right person or people. Maybe some Hollywood type that is tired of his or her tax dollars going to keep non-violent drug offenders locked up might think outside the box as well.

Let’s give this administration a positive way that they can “fundamentally transform this country in a good way” by teaching those that need help, how to help themselves.

Yes there are details that need sorting out and I would offer that private citizens do it.  Maybe, just maybe some benevolent Capitalist might have some good ideas or contacts, or a way to help.  If the government gets involved too heavily with the details, we will have another 9000 pages of tax code, 60 thousand earmarks, amendments creating turtle tunnels in the tundra, and nothing will ever happen to help these people.  This process needs to be streamlined and someplace like Detroit might make a good pilot as that place “like Chicago” is a war-zone.

These kids need an out and learning how to take from the government is not it.  Learning how to not get shot walking to school, or how to look innocent in a lineup is not what they need to be learning.

This would also work at the state level.  How about it Mr. Perry, can you make this work and show the Country /World how Texans take care of things?

 

Some prisons have farms already, are some of those inmates candidates to teach others?

 

-Best to you and those that you care about, now get reposting… Thanks!

The case of the password vs insanity.

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We have all heard that the definition of insanity is: doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.  This was not lost on me when recently my password on my home PC was no longer accepted.

Imagine logging in to your own PC, that no one else touches, and the password no longer works.

I cannot tell you how many times that I tried the password that I know that it is supposed to be, and then doubting my sanity, trying every other password that it might be “just in case I changed it” without remembering I did. 

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The only reason there was a smidgeon of a doubt is that recently Yahoo forced me to change my password.  They would accept nothing less than a strong password which by the way is so strong that I have trouble typing it while looking at it, and there is not a chance of remembering it.

No longer are the days of the family pet or address or birthday acceptable as passwords.  Imagine having to type a password like this T4^s#hg^9? every time you logged on to your computer!

While the home PC’s password was not quite this strong, there is more than room for error.  This led to a rather frustrating afternoon as one might guess.

The trouble shooting process was difficult as Windows allows little room for error and certainly not much for diagnostics.  My first guess was the keyboard had to be messing up in some way so I changed the batteries.  When that did not bear fruit I hooked up a hard wired keyboard to the USB port and still nothing.  “Incorrect login name or password.” 

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Google produced nothing relevant other than an ad for some company that sells some software to recover your password.  Microsoft was no help.  If I were in a decision making role at Microsoft I would make some sort of option on the login screen that would allow for one to make certain that their keyboard is typing the correct letter and that the caps is on or off.  Wireless keyboards don’t have any LED on them to tell you about “num lock” or shift lock and , the screen was not giving me any hint of this either although it normally would.

Windows 7 offers a way to reset the password, but you have to plan for it first and oh yes, it requires the “A drive, a floppy.”  This too needs to be re-thought as few computers today have a floppy drive.

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Somewhere in the process of trying to boot into safe mode I get an error that says “keyboard failure.”

At this point I try the wired keyboard into several different USB ports with the same results.  I then installed a usb card thinking that maybe that would work, nope same results.

I could do things in Bios but not in Windows.  The thing that would have helped is a way to check the keyboard, in Bios.  My guess is that Bios is not as picky about what it sees from the keyboard and since you are only using limited keyboard functions, curser movements, enter and tab, one would not have guessed that the USB was having issues.

I just happen to own another machine of identical configuration, so a swap of the hardrive to the other machine rendered a machine that worked with my password that worked all along.

I can only conclude that there is an issue with the USB controller on the motherboard.

I am considering clearing out the Bios on the old board and trying a re-install of the software just to see if that fixes it.  There may also be some sort of update from Dell for that Bios.

For you hardware junkies out there, this is probably standard fare.  While I could have purchased a new machine for the $$ wasted in time to diagnose this, I have a new found empathy towards those who just use the machine and have no clue how it works.

Can you imagine Joe Q User out there that really looks for the “any key” having an issue like this?Image

If I was frustrated (and I have been at this when DOS 1 was new,) I cannot even fathom what something like this would be like for others who have less experience than I.

I hope that this helps someone somewhere possibly saving some time and frustration as this type of bugaboo should not happen.

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Best to you and those that you care about!

 

 

 

 

 

Certifications a good idea or bad?

Certifications a good idea or bad?

 

Is the person with the most certifications the best hire?  Maybe yes, maybe no. 

 

The history of the certification for IT really started with Novell.  Novell used to charge computer manufacturers to “certify” that their equipment was compatible with their software.  This was no inexpensive proposition.  Somewhere around the release of V2.15 there was the invention of the CNE or Certified Netware Administrator.

 

Back at this time this was no easy certification to obtain.  Proficiency in hardware, DOS, NetWare, Networking equipment and topologies, datagram’s, IPX XPS, NetBIOS and the list went on. 

 

As the certification idea took off, adaptive test were created.  If the test found a weakness, it would give you more questions around that weakness which may very well be your doom.  These tests were not inexpensive.  The study material was not cheap and when you boiled it all down, unless you are really good at taking test; you had to have the experience and knowledge the back it up.

 

So in theory this was a good idea and should have given employers an excellent way to gauge someone’s level of expertise. 

 

What changed?

 

It is human nature to cheat.  I am beginning to think that making ones way through college was in part, how good you were at gaming the system.

 

This is true of the certifications today for the most part.  There are too many websites and groups dedicated to giving out information to the applicant, that we really have no idea how much the person knows.  That is why it is paramount that you, the hiring manager know the technology and not just look at his or her pedigree.

 

We don’t like to take test and I appreciate that.  As a professional I want to know that I know the material.  Would you want your doctor or Pilot to “game the system?”  Why would we hold them to a higher standard; other than the obvious of the life and death thing?

 

Do we not put the company at risk if we are not qualified?   The people that you hire absolutely can make bad decisions and as one who sells disaster recovery, that is one of the things to consider, “an oops.”  I have seen this happen more times than I would like to say and it is never pretty. (No, it never happened on my watch.)

 

After my company hired a person on their credentials alone, I soon learned that you had better know more or at least as much about the subject as that person who you are looking to hire.  The person was a paper certified pro meaning he could take test, not actually do it.

 

I look for someone with a good track record in the field that they want to pursue, a solid work history and lastly I consider their certifications.  I need to know if they can do the job and not just take a test.  I also check their references and backgrounds if they make it past the first few hurdles.

 

Technology is an extremely liquid entity. The books and materials that you buy today may not be salient tomorrow.  Spending thousands of dollars on classes, books and test is only good for such a short time, before you have to hit the books again.  

 Your “technologist” the CIO in most cases should understand technology better than anyone else in the company.  He or She should have a very in depth background and not only understand the nuts and bolts of things but, should possess enough business acumen to know what products or services are relevant for their company; and those that would have a poor ROI or high TCO not to mention poor application. 

 

All purchases and changes to the architecture should make sense.  Anyone that you hire to administer that equipment should not only grasp the equipment or technology, but also the company’s vision.   

 

In short, I am not given to looking solely at certifications.  Can they do the job and how did they do it before?  Were they successful? Are they willing to go to classes if the job requires it?

 

The trick to committing to obtaining a certification is to determine the viability of the company or product, and if that product will take off or die on the vine?  That is the rub in that I have seen technology come and go.  Xerox had the best of the best, 30 years ago and had their marketing been better, and they not try to recover their total development cost with the first few sales, Bill gates might still be working out of his garage.

 

Xerox had the GUI and the Mouse before Steve and Bill.  That is another story.

 

If you are looking to the information technology field as a career I can tell you from experience that the length of your job at that company will only take you until you have maxed out on the salary that they want to pay; or they find a way to outsource what you do.  There are fewer and fewer indispensible employees any more as most CEO’s or owners have figured out that everyone should be replaceable.  If you are one of the people who have stayed in one place for a long time you are either underpaid, or the company does not have the guts to replace you with a less expensive alternative.  Keep doing what you are doing as it is working for you and for the boss, get real; nobody is indispensable.

 

It is therefore paramount for you the job seeker to keep your resume up and current, analyze trends in the market to see what company is doing what, and who is using them.  Most of us will get into the rhythm of our jobs and get comfortable.  This can no longer be the case, as very few companies have any loyalty to their employee’s . Employee should empower themselves to become even more marketable.  Accomplishments are a great thing to put on your CV especially projects with dollar figures or some other quantifiable metric.  “saved the company $13 million dollars a year by changing the way that they did business.”

 It is up to you the worker to maintain your marketability through skills, career choices, education and even personal appearance plays a role.  I cringe when I see these young people today with piercings and tattoos.  I personally see this as not a real bright decision and a possible impediment to getting a good job as I know that most serious business people feel the same way.  You now will have to go with some young company that is really out there like Google or Microsoft or, find a way to cover up your decisions…  I don’t mean to sound critical but, it is a shame that youth is wasted on the young.  

These are pearls from me to you…

 -Best to you and those that you care about!

Dot Zero

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After 30 odd years of being in the field of Information Technology; one might have guessed that I had picked up a thing or two.

 

When a project does not go as planned something called a root cause analysis needs to be performed.  Basically why did the project fail?   Was it poorly planned, poorly funded, poorly thought out, were the deliverable s too much or too little? 

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There are a host of things that should be considered before embarking on any project.  One really needs to play the “what if” game.  We are not striving for analysis to paralysis here but, we do need to know that everything is well thought out and a fallback plan is in place.

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Is the project necessary? 

What are the driving factors for the project?

What are the deliverables?

What will the TCO (total cost of ownership) be?

What is the (Return on investment), ROI? 

How long to implement? 

What impediments to business will the project cause, if any? 

Are those impediments accounted for with workarounds?

What are the risk?

Are the milestones clearly defined and; expectations set with all members of the project?

Are the tasks clearly defined and assigned?

Is there a test plan to determine feasibility as well as to determine a baseline?

Is adequate documentation of the project occurring?

Are key players involved through a process like a change control committee?

Will training be necessary and if so; has that documentation been planned for and prepped?

If tweaking was necessary, what was it and why?

Did the project perform as expected, if not why not?

Did the project come in at or under budget?  If not why not?

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Some manager’s think that upgrading to the newest latest greatest is the thing to do and press on.  I for one, have learned never be on the bleeding edge of technology.  I always wait until a service pack has been released, especially if Microsoft is any part of the equation. Never load Rev.0 into a production environment, unless you really don’t like your job or company as you will most certainly have to explain why as it most likely will fail.  As the sysadmin you really have to be able to tell your manager “no,” and back it up with sound logic and reasons.  Some will ask for the .0 not realizing the inherent dangers that go along with that.  You will be the one with the arrows in your back from the users, and the owners / manager  and CEO.  They wont see the software bugs as the issue, they most likely will blame you and or your staff, or anyone that had their hands in it.

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The hallmark of a PM is to be able to communicate every aspect of the project with everyone involved.  To be able to manage their resources in such a way as to not have any wasted dollars or time.  The project should be on track and on budget at each and every milestone.  Having a good Gantt chart, or at the very least a good plan of the project in excel will help to keep you from getting off track.  There are no good surprises in business and hardly ever any good surprises with projects!

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-Best to you and those that you care about.

 

 

 

 

Electronic News

Many of you will not really have much knowledge of what I am going to talk about here as it relates to the electronic industry and your pocket book. By the time your done reading this, you will be enlightened somewhat.ImageImage

Not too long ago some Chinese company produced something known to me and anyone who knows technology as a capacitor.  These live in just about any electronic device that you might have.

The problem is that the formula for these was invented in Japan and it was liberated “Stolen” from the Japanese plant and sold to someone in China.  Industrial espionage happens all of the time and there are many famous cases that I could site; The TV and Radio are two off the top of my head.

The problem with this formula is that they did not get all of it.  They got the part for the dielectric, (the part that separates the internal plates from shorting) but they did not obtain the stabilizer for the dielectric; so after a few months to a few years the dielectric breaks down and fails.   These capacitors were sold to many different manufacturers including Dell and LG to name two.

Other computer board manufacturers are also loaded with these defective capacitors.  One of my LG monitors stopped working and for about $6 and change and about one hour worth of work, I replaced all of the capacitors on the power supply/ inverter board and, Viola; the monitor is as good as new.  The most difficult part of the procedure was taking the monitor apart without damaging it.

Last night one of my desktop crapped out.  The power supply went south.  I happen to keep new power supplies on hand so I simply upgraded the power supply from 300 watts to 600 watts which also sports a larger cooling fan.  It was a win win!

As the power supply houses some pretty cool parts for those of us who still build things, I took it apart and there it was, a capacitor that was bloated, standing out like a sore thumb.  The fix probably would have cost me $.50 but as it was a 300 watt power supply I elected to scrap it.  300 watts is really too small, and of course much cheaper than a 600watt.

A few weeks ago I was working on a dell for a gentleman and the onboard video card was working terribly.  There were lines in the picture and it was not syncing correctly.  Examining the board around the GPU I noticed, you got it, puffy capacitors.  I installed an inexpensive video card and turned off the internal one. Problem solved until some of the other capacitors in the box fail.

A friend of mine works for a City here in Texas and part of his job has him traveling to the Dump of all places.  There in some building at the dump are flat screen TV’s microwaves and so forth that have been discarded.  He picked up several flat screen TV’s that were discarded and for a few dollars repaired them.  While he is the ultimate recycler, it is a shame that we do not repair things any more.  One has to wonder if we are spending too much time with video games instead of tinkering. One night at dinner with some friends I was gob smacked to learn that one of the guys at the table had no idea how to change spark plugs.   These are the type of people who call on people to do things for them.  While it may make financial sense to do this I simply cannot pay someone to do something that I am perfectly capable of doing with a few exceptions.

This week being “earth week” I would encourage you to think about getting things repaired instead of trashing them when they break.  Electronics are known in the industry as Ejunk.  There are companies that specialize in recycling this type of thing but, they are becoming harder to come by.   I suspect that the EPA makes this type of business a tough one to run, and not be out of compliance in some small way.

Most of us have no reason to know this but, the dumps all over the country are filling up.  There is a dump not too far from me here in north Texas that at one time was low land covered in water; and is now reminding me of the foothills in NorthernCA.

A lot of this e-junk is shipped to third world countries where families hover over open fires, melting the solder with the fire, removing the parts off the circuit boards for the metals that they contain.  Since it is an open fire, the board is blackened and the people doing this breath in those toxins along with their children who are helping.  It does not even stop there as this residue litters the grounds, the water supply, the air, and what have you.  We here in this country do not have a clue; we simply think that we do our part by most of the time, throwing that soda can in the blue bin.  Once we toss stuff into the bin do we ever think about it?

I come from a time when there was not so much stuff trashed.  I bought a broken TV at a garage sale for $5 as a kid; and learned how TV’s worked and for about $3.50 for a new high voltage rectifier tube, I had a nice looking portable TV at the age of 10. At 13 I wanted money to buy a new CB and antenna.  Mowing lawns seemed like a good job. One could make $4 a yard…. Currently I pay $25 a week, and this is one thing that I will not give up.  As I put my plan in the early 70’s together, I would first need a lawnmower as my dad was dead set about me not using the family lawn mower on others peoples yards.  He was right to be concerned as I killed 3 lawnmowers on one person’s yard for $2. That is another story..

Again I went to garage sales and found a lawn mower that did not work.  I pulled it through to make sure that there was compression and nothing bent, and bought it for $15.  After a trip to the library checking out a book on small engines, I digested the book.  Lawn mowers have points and a condenser under the flywheel and those are known to be problematic.  I checked for spark and there was none.  The local grocery store sold parts such as these and for a few $$ back in the day, so I now had my own lawn mower.

I purchased three lawnmowers all together in similar fashion along with an edger.  Gas cost about a quarter to fill up my can and that would last me about a week.  I created my fist direct marketing campaign at the age of 13 with three sheets of paper, two pieces of carbon paper and my best penmanship that I could muster.

I mow yards

Please call 242-XXXX

For an estimate, ask for Scott.

I wrote this until I filled up a sheet of paper and then cut them out much like Avery labels would look today. Armed with a shirt pocket full of “flyers” and some scotch tape I went door to door canvassing my entire neighborhood.

The interesting thing about all of this is that those types of campaigns have about a 2% return or hit rate.  That was the figure 42 years ago and oddly enough, that is still the figure today! I still do direct marketing campaigns; just not to do yard work. J

I did this for several summers; it paid for my first car, and lots of photographic equipment, and oh yes a CB that quickly turned into Ham Radio equipment.

Where are those entrepreneurs today?

As you can tell, I still do this today.  Not that I go buy things at garage sales to repair but, I do restore antique radios that I have purchased either online or from individuals. Some just make their way too me as friends know that I do it, and they are tired of storing it.

So when your flat screen TV dies if you know anyone with any technical prowess, have them search the web to see if someone has posted a fix.  It may very have been me.  Have them try it.  The parts are available in the form of a kit from some people online for as little as $12.

There is a good feeling that comes from repairing something that otherwise would have been put into that growing mountain of pampers, kitchen waste, and of course defective electronic devices that needed about $6 to $10 in parts.

As a side note I did this with cars as well.  At one time I had 13 cars which I bought for next to nothing as they were broken. I picked up parts from a junk yard that the owner had an old TV, which always needed fixing.  I would fix them and sell them and I enjoyed the process.  That was back before the computer was installed into the car which controls everything relying on sensors for information.

Like the lawnmower, back then you needed spark, gas, air and compression.  Today you need an analyzer of some sort that can interrogate the onboard computer and find out what the failure is.  Usually some sort of sensor that you did not know that you had.

-Best to you and those that you care about!

Scam of The Day!

Scam of the day!

Every day someone somewhere tries to embezzle money from someone.  If not some Nigerian trying to get your bank account number so they can give you free money, than someone somewhere through e-mail tries to get the unsuspecting, to click on a link that is not what they think it is.

Through the years I have received e-mails from all sorts of alleged government agencies telling me that I need to click here to resolve some complaint.

If you have a business like I do, and you have a website, you are more vulnerably because you are more visible.

As I have explained to people for years, the government would not contact you via e-mail.  Still I get computers in here that have been infected by someone clicking before thinking.

Today I got a rather unique e-mail from PayPal or so it would seem.

Looking at the e-mail notification one thing pops out at me immediately in that, it is flagged urgent.  PayPal does not flag things as urgent.  The perpetrator of this hoax wants to get my attention.  Secondly I have set up rules which automatically move certain e-mails from certain people. Upon receipt they are put into a specified folder arranged by who they are and where the e-mail is from.  This was my second clue that something was amiss, as this was in my Inbox, not in the folder where it should be.  So why didn’t the rule work, it was not from PayPal.

Looking at the e-mail itself, it looks fairly normal at first glance.  Notice it says that I sent $149 dollars for a watch to someone on eBay and that the shipping address is somewhere in New York.

I do purchase things on eBay, as do a lot of people, and it would not be unlike me to buy a watch for a $149.  Firstly, I did not buy a watch so now I am looking at this e-mail a little more closely and see that it is to be shipped to someone in New York!

Someone not paying too much attention to this would quickly see the link that offers you “dispute resolution” and then click upon it.  That is the gotcha and most likely the intent of this ruse. They want you to click on the link. Hovering over the link you will quickly notice that it does not go to PayPal or eBay.

Looking at the link, I really have no idea where it would take me or what it would do to my computer, if anything.  The trick here is not to be a victim of some nefarious person or people.  It may very well be a link to some website that tries to sell you something and they are driving traffic to it by disreputable means.  It could however be a link to some site which will infect your computer with some type of Trojan or malware or both.

One other trick that I will share with you is this.  As well as having good anti-virus software running and updated at all times, have a user account set up that does not allow administrative privileges on your machine.  Use that account for your normal daily computer use and only use the administrative account when adding or changing hardware and or software on your computer.  The virus and or malware may very well be limited to whatever rights that the user that got it, has.  If the user has no rights to modify the way a program behaves, the virus might be limited to those rights as well.

Remember that not all anti-virus software will protect you from all attempts to hijack your computer.   Not all viruses are created equally. The more sophisticated the virus, the more intelligence or (computer smarts) on the part of the user is necessary.

-Best to you and those that you care about!

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