2003-10-24 / Columnists


Ok, lets see
By L. Robinson
WaveTech By L. Robinson Ok, lets see… where were we were…

Yeah.. right! We had just left off on the computer safety issue! Hopefully since last time you have at least gotten your anti-virus software installed into your machine and you are regularly getting your patches and updates via BigFix.

If, by chance, you just joined us, and need to catch up, just go online to the http://rockawave.com and hit the archives section.

Now if everyone is caught up, let’s get back to the business at hand!

The Internet is not the only place that your machine can pick up a nasty virus or bug from! Granted most viruses worms and Trojans do come from the World Wide Web but they sometimes travel offline as well. And as always, not being vigilant with what you introduce to your machine is usually the culprit.

Bootleg software- You know what? I agree! Sometimes software prices are a little ridiculous! And then you turn around not three months from buying ‘such and such’ suite only to find out that they have just put out an updated version on the market!

So, sometimes you think, what the heck? You go to a computer show, see the salesperson selling the ‘bootleg’ updated version of ‘such and such’ suite for only $20 bucks as compared to the $150 that the ‘such and such’ company is asking for. So you look around and you go ahead and buy it! Maybe everything installs fine. Maybe the program does everything you expect it to. So you turn your machine off. Walk away. But later when you come back to turn on your PC you get the blue screen of death (that’s geek talk for the screen that says "Windows has just performed an illegal/fatal operation and needs to be shut down)! What happened? If you’re lucky, it won’t happen again. Worst-case scenario? You may have to restore your system back to ‘day one’ using System Restore or Backup.

Not all illegal/bootleg software is a clone of the original! Sometimes ‘bad’ people add their own little lines or snippets of code in hopes that you will spread their just created virus or worm, or just maybe they could have written some code to introduce a Trojan to your machine. Yes, right now you are probably thinking that the chances of this happening to you are very slim…but are you willing to risk the off chance that it ‘might’ happen to you? Always buy programs that are manufactured by the company. Stay away from the bootleg software!

Label your discs – Guess what? I have never been voted the neatest person! But I do try to keep my desk and computer related items labeled and in order! Let me tell you how I learned the hard way…

Years ago, I would burn CDs and just toss them on my desk! When I would leave work and if I needed to finish something else up at home, I would just pop in a floppy, save whatever document and throw the floppy in my pocket and take it home with me! The next morning, throw it on the desk when I got to work! Soon my desk at home and work began to look like a mini tornado had just flown by! Of course, it was organized confusion, and I knew where everything was…. That is until I tripped on that one floppy disc on the floor…

I really thought it was mine! I found it close to my cubicle and I never labeled anything anyway… so what the heck! I threw it in my pocket and headed home.

When I got home, as usual I booted up the machine and began to work on some project or other. Out of curiosity, I put the disc that I picked up earlier into my machine, clicked on ‘my computer’ then the ‘A’ drive to see what was on the disc…. (The fact that the sky turned dark and I could hear thunder in the background should have told me that I might have really screwed up this time!)

Needless to say the disc did not belong to me and it was infected! I spent the next six hours cleaning out and restoring my machine back to a semblance of its old self!

Lessons Learned: Keep your discs, zips, and floppies labeled and dated! Not only might you avoid a similar situation, you might find working a little more efficient!

If you find a disc, leave it! Especially if it is not labeled as one of your own! Would you pick up gum off the floor and eat it? Well, picking up a strange disc and putting it in your machine is essentially the same thing! Avoid placing strange discs into your machine at all costs!

Send work home via E-mail…

First off, floppies are really kind of unstable anyway (I think that is the reason PC and laptop manufacturers are phasing them out in favor of the USB flash drives). If you need to finish up a document at home, you should email it to yourself, and remember to scan the attachment with your anti-virus software on your machine before you open it!

Trading Places - Usually people who seek attention create viruses, Trojans, and worms. Then, you have the ones that want the attention and get a special ‘rise’ out of destroying someone else’s personal property and of course you have the people who just want to get important info off of your machine! All of these people need to find a way to get their snippets of code distributed so that it ultimately ends up on your machine! Your goal is to keep their handiwork off of your machine. Although it all sounds simple, sometimes we slip up!

There are things you can do to keep your machine free from infection while it is offline.

Also known as preventive medicine… Be wary of using discs borrowed from co-workers, family and friends. This is not to say that they would purposely give your computer an infection, but do you know if they safeguard their machine as well as you do?

Try to e-mail work to yourself instead of using floppies whenever possible! Try not to use floppies that have been passed from machine to machine. If you must use floppies to backup info, make sure that they are only being used for your machine!

Stay clear of bootleg software! I mean really, if you infect your machine by using pirated software, who is it that you are going to call? Who runs customer service for bootleg products?

And, just by the strange chance that your machine catches a bug… sometimes if you are lucky the only option that you may really have is to send your PC back to day 1 (factory configuration)! To make restoring your computer less painful, you should always back up your data at least once every two weeks to some sort of external storage, such as CD-R media or an external hard drive! As well as using System Restore to set new restore points any time you add new hardware/software (or see that the sky begins to turn dark as you introduce something new into your machine).

I really hope that these last few columns have been helpful. But now that we have gotten your machine fortified to acceptable standards, I think we will begin to do some fun stuff in the next set of columns! Maybe find some cool stuff on the ‘net or maybe build your own spot on the web! Hey! Who knows?Till Next Time… Leave a lane on the information highway open for me!

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