Novice Guide to the Internet and computing part 1.

The Internet is a savage old west environment lacking real structure and law. You have to be wary around every corner or your computer could get proverbially “shot in the back”. While the Internet is the wild west full of mad men and killers, your PC should be a fort allowing access only to the friendly and wanted visitors.I intend to help guide you on setting up your walls and gates to keep out the bad guys and keep your operating system from becoming a haven for no goodnicks.

I’ll start by addressing Spyware and Adware. These twins are running rampant around the WWW (Wild, Wild West) wreaking havoc on all computers they come into contact with. Sometimes they sneak in when you tell another program to come in. Sometimes they are dressed up as something they are not and hide out causing little irritations like system lockups and general unresponsiveness.

How can you tame these outlaws and make your PC peaceful again? Hire on Spybot Search and Destroy.

You can have it round up the baddies and throw them out of town. Spybot is also really good with it’s wall building capabilities. Tell it to give “Tea Timer” a go. It gives you full control over registry changes made to your system, so the only changes that happen are the ones YOU make happen.

The next Deputy to hire on will be Adaware, for the longest time it reigned as the top hired gun for getting rid of the riff-raff and when used along with Spybot you have yourself one hell of a anti-Spyware / Adware force to be reckoned with.

Viruses. One of the most feared groups of outlaws on the internet. They can sneak into your walls and send your information back to the enemy. They can recruit or force otherwise good files into being bad. They can eat up important files or simply burn your place to the ground. You need something with a sharp eye watching over your town to keep it clear of these dirty scum.

Try AVG on for size. It’s not so big as to get in the way constantly like the McAfee and Norton brothers do and does the job just as good. Just make sure to keep it up to date and it’ll nab the intruders and have them hanging at the gallows by dawn.

Hypothetically speaking, let’s say some baddies are in town. Your hired guns Spybot, Adaware and AVG have all been taken hostage and just can’t get the job done. You need something that is up to date, something that can get all the bad guys in one trip.

You need to hire some help on from the outside. Try Housecall from TrendMicro. Housecall is kept up to snuff everytime you use it. It also tackles all the WWW’s worst scumbags from A to Zlob, whether Adware or Spyware or a Virus.

Sometimes these big killers are just too much for your needs. Maybe you’ve got a bad feeling about one file you downloaded from some website and just want to check it out in a hurry. You could use AVG’s context menu scan by right clicking or you could use something else. Something like Virus Total’s online scanner. Fast, full of finesse. Sleek and all done on their website, so no extra occupants in your place.

Sometimes the best solution is to just lock everything down except for one door. That way everything coming in and out can be monitored as if there was an invite list. That’s a firewall for you. They all act basically the same way to the intruders. They are the doormen into your fort and check to see if the visitor is on the invite list, if they are not they kindly tell them to keep heading on down the road.

The thing that makes one firewall different from another is just how bossy, loud and obnoxious they will be toward you. This all comes down to how much you can tolerate and feel comfortable with, but if I might suggest a few….

Sygate I can personally vouch for. I used Sygate for years and once you tell it who is welcome and who isn’t it’ll basically leave you alone.

Comodo

Tiny Firewall with a name like that it sounds like it’ll be well mannered.

Now that you have rounded up all your deputies they need a Sheriff to keep them all working and in line. That’s where you come in. You need to make sure your defenses are all up to date. That means scheduling automatic updates, manually updating if required and changing your habits to make sure you aren’t inviting any baddies into your forts walls.

Common sense is the most powerful defense against your PC becoming the home of the nasties. Always use trusted sites for downloading. Softpedia is a great site for downloads, as is Download.com but mind the fine print when installing those downloaded files. Sometimes they come bundled with legitimate software that you just don’t want. Yahoo Toolbar is a fine example of this software. While it may be completely legitimate, I personally have never wanted it, but it is bundled with many different freeware applications.

Another great point I missed above is to check the license of the files before you download them. Some are Freeware, Open Source and Gnu while others are Shareware (free to try), or you just have to out right buy them. All the applications I have listed above are freeware. They cost nothing to use.

The Internet can be a rough place for novice computer users. Taking the time to read up and understand how to maintain your computer will make your experience with it much more enjoyable in the long run. There are almost always free legitimate alternatives to any pay for program, so you don’t have to shell out the bucks to feel secure. Just maintain your updates, run a scan for the nasties from time to time and keep things cleaned up and your PC should not experience that unexplainable slowdown I hear from most of the people I do work for.

Maintaining your computer isn’t nearly as hard as you might think. The programs do most of the work for you. Perfectly capable programs are available for free. So before you shell out upwards of $80 an hour for someone else to run a few scans with software they acquired for free, try it yourself and save some cash.

Two Notes found in a parking lot.

I don’t have the words….
Found in the local area.

Oh Geez guys. I am 30 now. That’s a huge milestone that seems like it should seperate the fickleness of youth from the quiet screaming desperation of adulthood. I should own a house, have a child maybe even be on the second one by now. I should be working that 9-5 or 8-5 with an hour lunch, a week or two of vacation each year, 401k, retirement plans, good credit or something similar to that.

That’s just not how it works out sometimes I guess. Sometimes you have a wife or even a second wife and that’s all you really have to show for 3 decades.

I’m not particularly depressed about all of this, though I feel like I should be. It’s sort of embarrassing to be unemployed, 30 years old and still living at home with your mom, especially when you are in fact married and your wife has to live here too, but that’s the extent of it all. Embarrassment. Sure the economy is bad, I am unemployed through no fault of my own, and after all my money was really just play money for me and Kelly so me being unemployed doesn’t really impact us too badly, but would be even less painful if the unemployment people would get my money to me.

Back in the biblical days 30 was considered to be old and wise. Now look, we live to be 80-90 fairly routinely and 75 is fairly common even.

Oh well, I can’t even remember what point I was trying to make about age anymore.

Peter Stampfel, He was one of the co-founders of The Holy Modal Rounders, which is possibly my favorite band ever.

He also has some of their merchandise as well as his solo stuff for sale on his Myspace page.

Freeware Update : Malwarebytes Trial Version.

I was combating the nastiest bit of adware/spyware I had ever seen.

It was July 3rd and I had just sat down to draw out some characters for a few handbills when the phone rang.

The phone in my room is a Mario Kart phone and it has a plushy made by my wifes friend on top of the handset.

I stretched out across the room carefully balanced on the edge of the bed with one knee while my other leg was extended in the opposite direction counter balancing my 275 pounds into perfect balance.

It was my Uncle. He explained he was having problems sorting out his computer issues and Adaware, Spybot search and destroy and his copy of McAfee were not fixing the issues. He wasn’t able to uninstall a program called “Antivirus XP 2008“.

I told him I would be right over. He lives less than a mile away and I can in fact look out of my office’s window and see his house.

I hopped on my wife’s scooter and putted down the road, unprepared for what I was about to fight against.

I double checked the obvious solutions. Add/Remove Programs, Adaware, and clicking the uninstall option from the start menu. It wasn’t present in the Add/Remove Programs, Adaware found nothing and the Start menu option to uninstall went through the motions but it wouldn’t uninstall.

I tried running Spybot but it never started. I tried heading over to Trend Micro, but was redirected to some gibberish page that redirected me to other sites. Lavasoft.com was redirected in a similar way, so were almost every page that pulled a hit for the initial redirect’s gibberish address. I decided the best way to get around the redirects was to use Firefox instead of IE. Firefox would not start once installed. Opera would not install either. I  just knew we were screwed.

I had him back everything up in preparation for the formatting I felt would be coming.

I don’t use System Restore normally, but the next day I decided that could be an option. I checked the restore points. The only restore point available was for July 3rd when he began having issues. The PC was usable, but I wouldn’t stand for the redirects.

I brought my laptop over this time and used it to research more. I discovered that he was possibly infected with Smitfraud. I downloaded the Smitfraud fix, but it didn’t actually fix anything. Also Windows DEP was refusing to display the log file in notepad.

My Uncle hadn’t backed everything up yet, so I backed up everything for him and went to the In-Law’s house for an Independence day cook out.

I returned on the 5th. I brought a copy of Windows XP SP2 home edition so I could begin the reformat, but before I dove in I checked around some more.

I discovered a description of Vundo and found out my Uncles comp was infected with it too.

I found a reference on a forum that basically said “if Smitfraud fix doesn’t fix it then Malwarebytes will.”

As a last ditch effort to avoid reformatting, I attempted to download Malwarebytes, but was redirected. I went home and downloaded it. I brought back the proggie and transferred it over to his PC. I couldn’t install it. I renamed it and tried it again. It installed perfectly.

I ran Malwarebytes and it found 33 infections that Adaware missed, not to mention it fixed all the problems with his PC including the issues with Notepad and removing certain rogue programs from his system.

I am so impressed with this program that I include it on my repair thumb drive with all the tried and true methods mentioned in my other posts on freeware and spyware.

Nintendo focuses on Europe as Dollar weakens.

Anyone can look at the numbers and realize the most popular console in the “Next gen” console war is the Nintendo Wii. The Wii is still selling out at most retailers on the day the systems hit the floor. The reason for the sell out was due in part to Nintendo limiting production to keep demand high and partly due to the interest in the way the games are played using the remote and nunchuck.

Word has come out recently that Nintendo is beginning to focus on Europe for the majority of it’s sales due to the Strength of the Euro in comparison to the US dollar. Europe is receiving as many as four times the amount of product as the US.

Link to the LA Times story.

This entry is mirrored at Console Giant.

Update on GTA4

Okay folks, they just released a “patch” for GTA4. Great.

Maybe my first review was actually a bit to hasty.

Consoles are becoming PCs. I guess to some extent that’s true and I’ve mentioned it in previous posts, but when I pay $60 for a console game, I really expect it to be the game and not some beta version with obvious bugs like loading screens that lock up requiring restarting the game, or if you’re in too deep for that a series of convoluted work arounds like making new profiles and turning off network connections.

The long load time is starting to wear on me along with the long periods of time with no saves that end up causing half of my game play from the last two days to be redundant trips all the way across town to pick up packie and his crew for the 3 leaf clover mission, which I failed a total of 5 times, 3 times were do to bad A.I. on Packie’s part, you know, just standing around being shot in the head by the cops while you and Derrick are halfway down the subway tunnel kind of thing.

Oh well, it’s still worth the 5 stars for the times where you just saved and just run around beating people to death with a bat or shiving them with the knife.

This, like all my other video game blog content can be found on Console Giant.

Mississippi Gulf Coast Bargain Shoppers and Sellers

Scheduled to open officially on the 15th of this month, Gulf Coast Swap Meet may very well revolutionize your bargain shopping experience. Even if you don’t use the flea markets, swap meets, yard sales or other local solutions to save some cash and instead frequent eBay, craigslist and the like you’ll feel at home using either the classified ads or the auction section on the site.

Gulf Coast Swap Meet is currently only for residents of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Use of the site is totally free with no catches. The site is ad supported and currently looking for sponsors from the local area. Local area businesses must be based in the area in or around Gulfport, Biloxi, Ocean Springs, Long beach, Gautier or Pascagoula.