Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Few Common Computer Errors (And What They Mean)

Computer errors can pop up when least expected, they can cause the entire system to suddenly shut down, and they can inadvertently corrupt data to the point where it can't be deciphered. Although they can't always be avoided, it's important to remember that computer errors can be corrected. The key is to understand what computer errors are, understand what they mean when they show up, and understand how to minimize their occurrence in the first place.

Basically, computer errors are the result of a number of things that may or may not have anything to do with the way the computer is used. They "operate" whenever there's a conflict among commands. Remember that computers essentially run off of a series of commands and it's usually a smooth process. But when one command conflicts with another command - or when one command asks for a process or information that isn't available, the computer returns results that aren't useable. That's an error.

A prime example of this kind of error is when users attempt to use software that isn't applicable for their system. Almost all software accompanies a list of system requirements which dictates what a computer needs to have in order for the software to work properly. To minimize errors of this sort, always verify that your computer has the required components. A project management program that you're interested in may require a specific operating system, like Windows XP for example. And although this program may install just fine on a Windows 98 machine, it will generate a multitude of errors once its started (there are ways to get around this).

Insufficient memory will cause errors as well. That's why software programs include minimum memory requirements. A program that needs 500MB of memory will generate errors on a computer that only has 400MB of memory if it runs at all. The same goes for disk space, monitor color depth and resolution. In these situations, problems occur the moment that a piece of software attempts to access the things (hardware, memory, space, resolution, etc.) that it cannot find.

Because some programs share common files, errors can also occur when these shared files are not up to date. For instance, let's say that Program A is already installed on a computer and it's working just fine. Then let's say that the user of that computer downloads and installs Program B. Program B uses a file that Program A installed much earlier, but when Program B is run, errors popup. Those errors are the result of Program B attempting to use an outdated (shared) file that was installed by Program A. In order to fix that problem, the user would have to download an updated version of the shared file (which to say the least - is not an easy thing to find or do).

Sometimes, errors occur because a system doesn't have the required drivers or the drivers that are on the system are the incorrect version. Both errors in these cases can be resolved by updating the computer on a regular basis. Microsoft provides a section on its website that can automatically update a computer online and it does this at no cost in an effort to reduce errors like this. Always try to keep your computer updated so that should a program share a file, it will share a file that has been updated on hundreds of thousands of computers, like yours.

This article doesn't even begin to cover the entire gamut of computer errors - but additional information regarding how to get help with a computer issue (including computer errors) can be found by Googling for it. If your monitor display doesnt work properly after installing a new software, just query Google for "monitor doesnt display properly after installing XXX software." Google will then display a list of websites that describe the rror and possible solutions.

The next time you're facing a computer problem, try going online (if possible) to see if there's already a solution to your problem. Most of them, the answer is yes.

Cheap and Fast Software - An Introduction to Shareware


Visit any computer store today and you'll find what seems like miles and miles of software on sale. Certainly enticing buys, there are a few problems with buying software off the shelves. On the shelf, software - otherwise known as "commercial software" - can be expensive, and incompatible, and outdated when compared to what's available online. Fortunately, there's an alternative to commercial software and although it isn't new, it's one of the most under-exploited opportunities in the computer industry.

We're talking about shareware - software that you can try before buying.

Shareware has a long history and was rather popular in the days where BBS (bulletin board systems) reigned the online industry. It hasn't gone anywhere, but its competition with commercial software is fierce - so fierce that it tends to fall on the back burner among new computer users. This is unfortunate because shareware has so many advantages over commercial software.

One of those advantages is its cost. On the whole, shareware is generally cheaper than commercial software. But don't misinterpret the cost. With shareware, cheap does not equal low-quality and there are plenty of examples that prove shareware often outperforms the quality of commercial software time and time again. How much savings are we talking about? You could purchase a quality word processor, spreadsheet, database program, or system utility anywhere from a mere $15 to under a hundred. This is almost unheard of in stores like Best Buy, Circuit City, or Egghead, yet the shareware programs offered within this price range rival even Microsoft's Office suite.

Another advantage that shareware has over commercial software is its compatibility. We're not saying that shareware is compatible with all operating systems. What we're saying is that since we can try shareware before paying for it, we can determine if the software is completely compatible with our systems first. In other words, we can discover whether the software performs the way we want them to and should anyone try to do the same with commercial software, they'll be in for a big disappointment.

Commercial software policy doesn't even allow for returns, let alone "borrowing" them to try them.
 
The last advantage that shareware has over commercial software (but certainly not the least) is its applicability. Plain and simple, shareware is the best bet when you want to keep on top of the latest release of a particular program. Sure, computer stores do their best to keep their inventory up to date, but when you can download version 5.6042 of a shareware program as opposed to buying a commercial 3.0 version from the local computer shop, there's just no comparison.

Which brings up our next point. Just where does one get shareware? Shareware is all over the Internet and it's really hard not to bump into it. The most popular places to find shareware is within thousands of download libraries, however the companies (and even independent programmers behind shareware) are increasingly offering shareware from their own websites. A simple Google or Yahoo search for a particular type of program will yield all sorts of results that point you toward items that you can try before you buy. If you're still stumped, try Download.com, Zdnet.com or CNet.com

Be aware however, that because shareware is not commercial software, you may not experience a full program the way you would if you bought the software out of a box. Shareware may or may not be limited - meaning that some functions may not be available to you until the program is paid for. These limitations are often small and don't interfere with the way its full version operations. They're really just implemented as a way to prompt payment. Remember that shareware is not freeware. You shouldn't try to use shareware as commercial software without paying for it.

About the only thing that's similar between shareware and commercial software is the way in which they may be bought. With a credit card, you can be the new owner of your own software within minutes. You might think that without an actual box and CD, you might lose the software you bought online if your computer crashes. Don't worry about it. Once you're back online, just go back to the seller's page and download the software again. You will need your receipt number as proof of purchase. Even if you have lost your receipt, you can still get your software by writing in to the seller's customer service department and providing as much information about you and the software as possible. This will allow the to verify your authenticity and provide you with the download link again. Just imagine this. If someone stole your software box and CD from your home or car, will you be able to go back to the store (assuming you still have the receipt) and ask for a replacement set?


Spam Busting Software

SPAM.  Nobody likes it.  Nobody wants it.  No, we aren't talking about the canned meat, but those unsolicited, unwanted, irrelevant, or even inappropriate messages that hit our email in mass quantities.  While most mailboxes have some type of spam filtering software built into their system, they never seem to do a very good job of catching what you want them to catch, and letting through what you want them to let through.  Therefore, it becomes increasingly important to turn to some type of additional spam filtering product.  One such filtering system, designed for Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Outlook Express users, is receiving rave reviews for its superior detection and low rate of false positives (i.e,. what you want to get through does). [If you're using Mozilla Thunderbird, you're well covered as Thunderbird has a very good built in spam detection software. And yes, Mozilla Thunderbird can easily import your emails from Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express.]

Cloudmark Desktop, formerly known as SpamNet and SafetyBar, uses a unique community-based filtering process.  This community-based filtering system relies on users to report any new spam.  Within minutes of a spammer being reported, they are placed on a blacklist.  At that point, no other member will receive that particular spam.  Cloudmark also applies the same basic process to phishing email scams.

What is interesting is how Cloudmark creates a digital reputation model of reporting spam.  Each user starts with a neutral reputation. A user's reputation will rise if they are among the first to identify undesirable content.  On the flip side of the coin, a user's reputation falls when they falsely reports spam.  The result is a system that is automated, highly scalable and resistant to tampering.

An added bonus is that because the software doesn't depend upon the user to configure its settings, it installs in minutes and is easy to use.  Cloudmark blocks over 98% of spam from reaching your inbox and boasts over one million users worldwide.

The cost of program is $39.95 for a one-year subscription.  The subscription is renewable annually.  For those wanting to test drive the product, a free 15-day trial period for either your Outlook or Outlook Express is available.

The Best Way to Fight SPAM

How prevalent is Spam? 

According to Scott McAdams, OMA Public Affairs and Communications Department (http://www.oma.org):
"Studies show unsolicited or "junk" e-mail, known as spam, accounts for roughly half of all e-mail messages received. Although once regarded as little more than a nuisance, the prevalence of spam has increased to the point where many users have begun to express a general lack of confidence in the effectiveness of e-mail transmissions, and increased concern over the spread of computer viruses via unsolicited messages."

In 2003, President Bush signed the  "Can Spam" bill, in December of 2003 which is the first national standards around bulk unsolicited commercial e-mail.  The bill, approved by the Senate by a vote of 97 to 0, prohibits senders of unsolicited commercial e-mail from using false return addresses to disguise their identity (spoofing) and the use of dictionaries to generate such mailers. In addition, it prohibits the use of misleading subject lines and requires that emails include and opt-out mechanism. The legislation also prohibits senders from harvesting addresses off Web sites. Violations constitute a misdemeanor crime subject to up to one year in jail. 

One major point that needs to be discussed about this:  spam is now coming from other countries in ever-greater numbers. These emails are harder to fight, because they come from outside our country's laws and regulations.  Because the Internet opens borders and thinks globally, these laws are fine and good, but do not stop the problem.

So what do you do about this? 

Here are the top 5 Rules to do to protect from spam.

Number 1:  Do what you can to avoid having your email address out on the net.   
There are products called "spam spiders" that search the Internet for email addresses to send email to.  If you are interested, do a search on "spam spider" and you will be amazed at what you get back.  Interestingly, there is a site, http://WebPoison.org, which is an open source project geared to fight Internet "spambots" and "spam spiders", by giving them bogus HTML web pages, which contain bogus email addresses

A couple suggestions for you:  a) use form emails, which can hide addresses or also b) use addresses like sales@company.com instead of your full address to help battle the problem. c) There are also programs that encode your email, like jsGuard, which encodes your email address on web pages so that while spam spiders find it difficult or impossible to read your email address.

Number 2:  Get spam blocking software. 

There are many programs out there for this.  (go to www.cloudmark.com or www.mailwasher.net for example).  You may also buy a professional version.  Whatever you do, get the software. It will save you time.  The software is not foolproof, but they really do help.  You usually have to do some manual set up to block certain types of email.

Number 3: Use the multiple email address approach.
There are a lot of free email addresses to be had.  If you must subscribe to newsletters, then have a "back-up" email address. It would be like giving your sell phone number to your best friends and the business number to everyone else.

Number 4:  Attachments from people you don't know are BAD, BAD, BAD.

A common problem with spam is that they have attachments and attachments can have viruses.  Corporations often have filters that don't let such things pass to you.  Personal email is far more "open country" for spammers.  General rule of thumb:  if you do not know who is sending you something, DO NOT OPEN THE ATTACHMENT.  Secondly, look for services that offer filtering. Firewall vendors offer this type of service as well.

Number 5:  Email services now have "bulk-mail" baskets. 
If what you use currently does not support this, think about moving to a new vendor.  The concept is simple.  If you know someone, they can send you emails.  If you don't know them, put them in the bulk email pile and then "choose" to allow them into your circle.  Spam Blocking software has this concept as well, but having extra layers seems critical these days, so it is worth looking into.
 
Hope this helps you as much as it did for me.


Can You Really Surf the Web Anonymously?

When you surf the web it is possible to learn information about you even when you don't want to advertise who you are. This is true even if your system contains no virus or malware software. Specifically information that is easily available online includes your IP address, your country (and often more location information based on IP address), what computer system you are on, what browser you use, your browser history, and other information.  It gets worse.  People can get your computer's name and even find out your name if your machine supports programs like finger or identd. Also, cookies can track your habits as you move from machine to machine.

How do people get this basic information about you?

When you visit another web site, information about you can be retrieved.  Basically, information is intercepted and used by others to track your Internet activities.  

How do you stop this from happening?

First of all, it is possible to serf the web anonymously and thereby stop leaving a trail for others to find. Note that this is not fool-proof, but it makes it much harder for people to know who you are. There are products called anonymous proxy servers that help protect you.  The anonymous proxy server replaces your Internet address for its own.  This has the effect of hiding your IP address and making it much harder for people to track you.

How do I get an anonymous proxy server?

There are many vendors who sell anonymous proxy servers. There are also free proxy servers available to you. Two such products are ShadowSurf and Guardster.  Guardster (http://www.guardster.com/) offers various services for anonymous and secure access to the web, some paid as well as a free service.  ShadowSurf  (http://www.shadowsurf.com/) ShadowSurf provides anonymous surfing at their site for free. Go to it and you will find a box to enter a URL that you want no one to track. There are many others, but here are two that are frequently used.

Another interesting product, given the recent news about the Google search engine filtering its findings for the Chinese government, is Anonymizer (http://www.anonymizer.com). This company, among others, recently (Feb 1st, 2006) pressed that it "is developing a new anti-censorship solution that will enable Chinese citizens to safely access the entire Internet filter-free" (http://www.anonymizer.com/consumer/media/press_releases/02012006.html).  

Does an anonymous proxy server make you 100% safe?

No.  Still, you are much better off if you use such technology.

What other things should I be concerned about when trying to keep my private information private?

Three other items come to mind when trying to keep your information private. First, you can use an encrypted connection to hide your surfing. This article does not go into detail on this, but search the web and you will find a lot of information on this.  Secondly, delete cookies after each session.  Third, you can configure your browser to remove JavaScript, Java, and active content. This actually leads to limitations, so you need to think about the cost/benefit of this course of action.

Wishing you happy and safe surfing!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Computer Encryption and Making Your System Secure

What does encryption do for me?

Encryption and cryptographic software has been used in many different ways to make systems more secure.  This article discusses only a few ways that such software can make your system more secure, including:

1) Encrypting your email

2) Encrypting your files


Two programs are mentioned that will help encrypt information. There are many more programs out there that will help, but these programs are good and a good place to start as any. They have the added benefit of both being free with source code available.

Will encryption stop people from accessing my information?

Encryption simply makes it harder for people to gain access to important information, like passwords or sensitive information in a file. The first thing you should know about encryption is that the algorithm that is used to encrypt can be simple or more complex and that affects how securely what you have encrypted is protected.  Encryption systems have been broken when the method of encryption is understood by hackers and is easy to break.  

Why bother to encrypt my email?

It should be noted that email is far less secure than paper mail for two very good reasons:  first, electronic data can be accessed easily over an Internet and secondly, electronic data is really simple to copy. There is a very good chance that someone has snooped around in your email despite your best intentions to stop it.

How do I go about encrypting my email?

There are many programs out there that can help you encrypt your email.  A very popular one is PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) or its Gnu offshoot GPG.   

PGP (http://www.pgpi.org/) self-describes itself this way: This "is a program that gives your electronic mail something that it otherwise doesn't have: Privacy. It does this by encrypting your mail so that nobody but the intended person can read it. When encrypted, the message looks like a meaningless jumble of random characters. PGP has proven itself quite capable of resisting even the most sophisticated forms of analysis aimed at reading the encrypted text."

PGP works as a plug in to your email software. When sending emails, just before you hit the Send button, you hit the Encrypt button. This will encrypt your email and send it away to the intended recipient.

So how does the recipient open your email. This is where a passkey comes to play.A passkey is just a password. You have to inform your recipient of the passkey. You can do this either by phone or in person. Your paskey could be James1975. The recipient should also have PGP installed on his email software. When your mail arrives, he hits the Decrypt button, which will then ask for the passkey. If entered correctly, the email message will be properly displayed. Else, all the recipient will see is garbled text.

Why bother to encrypt my files?

The answer to this boils down to what you store on your computer.  If you have financial data with important information like social security numbers, email addresses, account numbers and passwords, then you open yourself up to losing very valuable information.  Most corporate Internet security employees will attest to the widespread theft of very valuable information. As long as you are connected to the Internet you are vulnerable.

How do I go about encrypting my files?

AxCrypt File Encryption Software  (http://axcrypt.sourceforge.net/). Self-described as "Free Personal Privacy and Security for Windows 98/ME/NT/2K/XP with AES-128 File Encryption, Compression and transparent Decrypt and Open in the original application." This is an easy software to use to protect sensitive information on your computers.


When Someone Spoils Your Kodak Moments...




Babies Know (US Presidents)



A picture speaks a thousand words...


Is Blogger Still The Best Site for Free Blogs?



I was just wondering if Blogger.com is still the best sit for free blogs?


Monday, January 19, 2009

Where Airbags Should Be On Cars




Monday Morning Jokes

1. Brother wanted
A small boy wrote to Santa Claus,'send me a brother'....
Santa wrote back, 'SEND ME YOUR MOTHER'....


2. Meaning of WIFE

Husband asks, 'Do you know the meaning of WIFE? It means 'Without Information Fighting Everytime'!'
Wife replies, 'No, it means 'With Idiot For Ever'!!!'


3. Importance of a period

Teacher: 'Do you know the importance of a period?'
Kid: 'Yeah, once my sister said she has missed one, my mom fainted, dad got a heart attack & our driver ran away.'


4. Confident vs. confidential

A young boy asks his Dad, 'What is the difference between confident and confidential?' Dad says, 'You are my son, I'm confident about that. Your friend over there, is also my son, that's confidential! '


5. Anger management?

Husband: 'When I get mad at you, you never fight back. How do you control your anger?'
Wife: 'I clean the toilet.'
Husband: 'How does that help?'
Wife: 'I use your toothbrush .'


Sunday, January 11, 2009

MAC Address


What's the one unique thing that identifies your computer?

It's your MAC address. MAC stands for 'media access control'. It's a unique number that is burned into the firmware of your network card. No two network card in the world will ever have the same MAC address. It's truly a unique number. Your network card is a little piece of hardware inside your computer that allows your computer to connect to other computers. It's the place behind your computer where you plug your network cable into. The slot where you plug your network cable into is connected to the network card.

How can you identify your computers MAC address?

In most windows machines, open up your command prompt (Start-Run and type  cmd  ). A small, black window will appear. Key in the command  ipconfig /all

This will generate the following information.


Windows IP Configuration



        Host Name . . . . . . . . . . . . : borg

        Primary Dns Suffix  . . . . . . . : 

        Node Type . . . . . . . . . . . . : Unknown

        IP Routing Enabled. . . . . . . . : No

        WINS Proxy Enabled. . . . . . . . : No



Ethernet adapter Local Area Connection:



        Connection-specific DNS Suffix  . : 

        Description . . . . . . . . . . . : SiS 900-Based PCI Fast Ethernet Adapter

        Physical Address. . . . . . . . . : 00-18-8B-BA-8F-D6

        Dhcp Enabled. . . . . . . . . . . : Yes

        Autoconfiguration Enabled . . . . : Yes

        IP Address. . . . . . . . . . . . : 192.168.1.100

        Subnet Mask . . . . . . . . . . . : 255.255.255.0

        Default Gateway . . . . . . . . . : 192.168.1.254

        DHCP Server . . . . . . . . . . . : 192.168.1.254

        DNS Servers . . . . . . . . . . . : 192.168.1.254

        Lease Obtained. . . . . . . . . . : Sunday, January 11, 2009 11:13:37 AM

        Lease Expires . . . . . . . . . . : Monday, January 12, 2009 11:13:37 AM



PPP adapter Streamyx:



        Connection-specific DNS Suffix  . : 

        Description . . . . . . . . . . . : WAN (PPP/SLIP) Interface

        Physical Address. . . . . . . . . : 00-53-45-00-00-00

        Dhcp Enabled. . . . . . . . . . . : No

        IP Address. . . . . . . . . . . . : 60.10.127.168

        Subnet Mask . . . . . . . . . . . : 255.255.255.255

        Default Gateway . . . . . . . . . : 60.50.111.186

        DNS Servers . . . . . . . . . . . : 202.188.0.133

                                            202.188.1.5

        NetBIOS over Tcpip. . . . . . . . : Disabled


A couple of things to take note off. The host name is the name of your computer. This can be changed within Windows to suit your liking.

Your MAC address is always listed under Ethernet Adapter Local Area Connection. Look for the line listing its Physical Address. That is your unique MAC address. In my case, the number is 00-18-8B-BA-8F-D6   The number is listed in hexadecimal format. Its a numbering system only used by computer nerds.

Lastly, take a look at your PPP Adapter Streamyx. In my case, my connection is called 'Streamyx'. Yours will have another name. But what I want you to look out for is the line called IP Address. This is the public IP address your machine displays to the Internet when you're surfing the net. Don't worry, there's no harm done with this IP being public. Every machine in the world does this and its the only way to differentiate one PC from the other in the Internet.

That's all for today.

Do comment if you require further information.


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

A 15-year old Cartoon Explains the Current US Economy






Why Women Hate Soccer

video video video


Do Good To Others


His name was  Fleming, and he was a poor Scottish farmer. One day, while trying to make  a living for his family, he heard a cry for help coming from a nearby bog.  He dropped his tools and ran to the  bog.

There, mired to  his waist in black muck, was a terrified boy, screaming and struggling to  free himself. Farmer Fleming saved the lad from what could have been a  slow and terrifying death.

The next day, a  fancy carriage pulled up to the Scotsman's sparse surroundings. An  elegantly dressed nobleman stepped out and introduced himself as the  father of the boy Farmer Fleming had  saved.

'I want to repay  you,' said the nobleman. 'You saved my son's  life.'

'No, I can't  accept payment for what I did,' the Scottish farmer replied waving off the  offer. At that moment, the farmer's own son came to the door of the family  hovel.

'Is that your son?' the nobleman asked.

'Yes,' the farmer  replied proudly.

'I'll make you a  deal. Let me provide him with the level of education my own son will enjoy  If the lad is anything like his father, he'll no doubt grow to be a man we  both will be proud of.' And that he  did.

Farmer Fleming's  son attended the very best schools and in time, graduated from St. Mary's  Hospital Medical School in London, and went on to become known throughout  the world as the noted Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of  Penicillin.

Years afterward,  the same nobleman's son who was saved from the bog was stricken with  pneumonia.

What saved his  life this time? Penicillin.

The name of the  nobleman? Lord Randolph Churchill .. His son's  name?

Sir Winston  Churchill.