Tales from the Dark Side
Troubles with Computers

This is a non-Comdex aside but thought I should tell you of this experience and if you are a Gateway Computer owner, you might want to take note. I had the opportunity to look at one the other day that had died. I do mean died. When you start it up, all you see is a blinking cursor in the upper left corner of the screen and nothing else. What we discovered when we called Gateway was that the onsite warranty that my friend had purchased on this Pentium 4 system, won’t send someone out to fix it unless they (Gateway) can tell exactly what is wrong. Unfortunately, to them, a blinking cursor doesn’t tell them anything so my friend has to send the computer back to Gateway or deliver it to the store, which will then send it out. We are talking a week or two here when they bought an onsite warranty. Go figure.

Part two of the problem is that we thought we would just take the Gateway hard drive, stick it in a new computer as a “D” drive, and then copy over her documents and files so she could use it on another computer. Guess what, can’t do it. It seems that the Gateway (which was running Windows XP) also had a version of Goback installed on it, which we discovered later, prevents any other computer from seeing a valid partition on the hard drive. Even Partition Magic, which saw a partition type 44, couldn’t do much with it. So I thought I would try some file recovery software and really didn’t have much luck at all until I tried File Recovery from Ontrack. Even it had a really difficult time reading the data files all the while when the old Gateway hard drive is probably just fine.

I could have taken that hard drive and put it as the “C” drive in another computer, but then, Windows XP would have had a time figuring out all the new devices and I didn’t want to muck up the registry or the drive with all these new components. At least, that way, we could have recovered the data files. Another option might have been to make a copy of the drive, then use that in a new box to at least get the files to a CD. A diagnostic and recovery task that should have taken just a few minutes has stretched into days - From January 2004.

Viruses, Spyware, and other pains in the can.

I have had to clean out a couple of systems recently and most of the problems that they encountered was as a result of downloading a piece of software from the internet. My first rule of thumb is to never, absolutely never, buy a piece of software from a popup ad. They had gone to an internet site that popped up an add that says that it will remove all their spy ware and stop further pop up ads from hitting. You betcha. It proceeded to further make a mess of everything. The second instance was someone who saw a cute smiley face and screen saver. You know how often you see the license agreement when you download something and you just click ok? Well, this time, it not only sent them the screen saver, it also sent them spy software, ad software, and kept their computer dialing out at all hours of the day. Seems the license agreement allowed the screensaver people to download all sorts of things to the computer and run it.

So, what do I use? Spybot is the first from http://spybot.safer-networking.de/. The second program is Ad Aware, from Lavasoft, www.lavasoftusa.com. I also mentioned last month, an new anti virus program that I think has some great technical merits but lacks a good user interface. Take a look at it at www.globalhauri.com. I also looked at McAfee http://us.mcafee.com/, but still don’t particularly like its user interface. Stick with the Norton, www.sarc.com. What I really like about it is that it shows you on one screen that your auto protection is turned on, it is working, what was the last date the anti-virus definitions were updated, and when your subscription expires. Yes Norton has been a pain at times and is a resource hog on your computer but it works and you know where you stand.

If you think you are at risk, two good websites to check for viruses are Symantec’s and Trend Micro, www.trendmicro.com. Look for their Personal Tab, and hit the Housecall scan. At the Symantec site, www.sarc.com, scroll down and look for the “Check for Security Risks” label. Finally, a good firewall can be had at www.zonelabs.com. They have one free for personal use.

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Copyright 2004 Sanborn Software Systems LLC
This Page Last Updated: December 5, 2004.