Leo's Answers #211 – December 29, 2009

A Weekly Newsletter From
Ask Leo!
Leo Notenboom

Hello!

Do you have a question for me? Don't hit reply! Head instead for the Ask Leo! home page and search the site first - seriously, around half the questions people ask are already answered there. You can also browse the archives, past newsletters and more. If you still can't find the answer you're looking for then by all means ask your question here (it's the fastest way).

Newsletter questions? Check the newsletter administration page. You can also unsubscribe using the link at the bottom of this email.

*** New Articles

Do I need a firewall, and if so, what kind?

I keep hearing about "firewalls" for my computer and that there are different types. Do I need one? If I do, what kind of firewall do I need?

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The very short, very easy answer is: hell yes! Absolutely, positively you need a firewall.

With all that happens on the internet these days it's simply too risky to let your computer sit "naked" on the internet unless you really know what you're doing.

The real question is then: what do you need?

Heck, it's even possible you already are behind a firewall and don't need anything more.

Continue reading: Do I need a firewall, and if so, what kind?
http://ask-leo.com/C1911

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Why, or how, do files become corrupt?

How are files "corrupted" and why do they go "missing"? I had this happen recently and was told that it was not a virus that caused it: that it "Just happens". Whatever! Windows had to be re-loaded.

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Yes, it does "just happen".

That should make you a little nervous, and perhaps motivate you to invest in that backup strategy you've been putting off. Smile

The fact is, things occasionally break, and when they break the failure can be catastrophic - as in suddenly your machine won't turn on - or much more subtle, not showing up for weeks or months or sometimes never.

Continue reading: Why, or how, do files become corrupt?
http://ask-leo.com/C3962

* * *

Is it safe to let my browser remember passwords?

If I consider my computer to be physically secure, am I reasonably safe letting Firefox remember my passwords (without using a master password), or am I being incredibly stupid to do that? What if I do use a master password?

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I certainly wouldn't say incredibly stupid at all. But it's definitely an additional risk, and one that needs to be understood.

But you're correct in considering physical security first. The problem is that people often assume they have more physical security than they actually do.

And master passwords? Well, they're nice, but they too have their limitations.

Continue reading: Is it safe to let my browser remember passwords?
http://ask-leo.com/C3961

* * *

How do I know what programs are safe to uninstall?

I use Windows XP and am wanting to rid my computer of programs that I never use or rarely use. I know about using the removal function in the control panel. My question has to do with "How do I know that it's okay to remove these program?"

For example, I have a program that's called "Java2 Runtime Environment SE v1.4.2_03" This program takes up 135.00MB and it's used "Rarely." I have several programs like this that are used "Rarely." It is okay to remove them?

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It's my experience that "rarely" is rarely accurate. I have no idea how that moniker is created, but for the most part my sense is - it ain't right. I just checked, and a program that I use quite literally every day (the HTML editor in which I write these articles) is listed as being used "rarely", and last used about 5 months ago.

That's so wrong as to completely remove any trust I have in any of the other tags of "rarely" in the Add/Remove entries.

Unfortunately that kind of limits the information we have at hand in order to make our decisions.

Continue reading: How do I know what programs are safe to uninstall?
http://ask-leo.com/C3960

* * *

2009 Most Popular Questions

It's interesting to watch for what changes in popularity from year to year, and also what's new.

In 2009 we saw a couple of new Top 10 entries and of course some old standby's continue to make a strong showing. I think there are some interesting observations to be made about the industry based on what kinds of questions people ask most often.

Continue reading: 2009 Most Popular Questions
http://ask-leo.com/C3959

* * *

How can I know that email's I sent were received and opened?

In my business, it is critical I know that emails I have sent were received & opened. The emails are time sensitive and contain deadline dates for the information requested.

I have searched & asked questions... but all that has been futile.

I am certain I am not the only person unable to find an answer to this problem.

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That's because there is no answer to this problem.

And you're quite right, you're not the only person wishing otherwise.

But wishing - or even the statements of some companies that claim to be able to do it - doesn't make it so.

I'll explain why.

Continue reading: How can I know that email's I sent were received and opened?
http://ask-leo.com/C3958

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*** Comments

A sampling of some of the comments that have been posted recently on Ask Leo!

* * *

How long does Hotmail keep email?

Carl G. writes:

Can we PLEASE stop seeing Hotmail questions (pretty please!!!)? If people can't figure out WHAT Hotmail is all about by now, is there ANY help for them? Hotmail is a free (you get what you pay for) front for Microsoft to sell ad space - that's all. ;)

Sorry, but it's unlikely that Hotmail questions will stop. There are real people with real problems that need help. That's what I'm all about. I agree that they're often using Hotmail improperly and should be doing something different, but the fact is a large number of questions I get are all Hotmail related. I'd be doing a lot of people a huge disservice if I ignored the tide. I do try to expand the Hotmail questions in to more general purpose questions (i.e. the lessons, including this article's, often apply to "all free email accounts").

-Leo

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Can someone I'm IM'ing with see my machine or hard disk?

Gabe writes:

An important side note...I fell for this one...it's quite possible to be spammed through IM's...please read on.

I'm an IT guy and my friend is also an IT guy. While chatting about something technical in Google Talk, we were sending each other links. We also routinely make fun of very bad English (aka "Engrish"). This particular day, in the midst of our tech chat, I get a message through Google Talk from him, it's written in very bad "Engrish" and it has a link. Thinking my friend is just being goofy, I clicked the link and it took me to a very strange web page. I looked around on that page and then replied in Google Talk to my friend, "What is this?" At that point, he was completely confused how that message was sent to me because he DID NOT SEND IT. This is a close friend and I trust he was just as confused as I was. Our conversation was somehow hijacked and this simple spam message and link were inserted into it. I got off lucky because it did not ask me to "log in". If it had been a Google-style login, I very possibly would have tried logging in because again, it was a perceived good link from a trusted friend. He and I both reported this too Google on a message board along with many others...so apparently I'm not the only victim of this sort of thing.

Scary. Every link in IM needs to be viewed with skepticism.

-Leo

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Dell - PC Desktops, Laptops and Accessories

PJ Salvatore writes:

A couple years ago I purchased our 7th Dell. All 7 are still in service and I can even say going strong. My son's laptop for college was our first in 1999. Like any technology of that age it has outlived its usefulness... OUTLIVED being the operative word!! It is still running and still in use, though we've since gifted our son a new one. My desktop is going on 8 years old, has been expanded to capacity, (fortunately external hard drives make expansion of storage limitless) this one has taken 7 years of nearly constant use. I won't bore you with more details, but all of our computers, except one Vista-encumbered desktop that we call our evil step-child, have been a delight to own (the computer actually behaves quite nicely, Vista seems to be a bit ADHD). As for service, we couldn't have asked for better! In the middle of a major project, tech support even saved my bacon by walking me through the recovery of files in safe mode, for THREE HOURS!. (the wireless mouse, not the computer, proved to be the issue in that case) We've gotten a wonky laptop replaced when the warranty clearly stated that they would only repair. And a monitor that was months out of warranty was replaced as well with no argument. I have of course heard all the horror stories but you couldn't prove them by me.

*** Leo Recommends

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Ever come across an internet or computer related term or acronym that made absolutely NO sense? And yet the writer, perhaps even me, uses it as if everyone on the planet should know what it means?

Webopedia is the site for you. "The only online dictionary and search engine you need for computer and Internet technology definitions."

Continue reading...

Webopedia - Internet and Technology dictionary and search engine
http://ask-leo.com/C3648

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Each week I recommend a specific product or resource that I've found valuable and that I think you may as well. What does my recommendation mean?

*** Popular Articles

We should all run fully protected on the internet, right? I mean, anti-virus, anti-spyware, firewalls and who knows what else are all pretty important. Right? What, then, about those brave folks who are:

Running Without a Net

Every so often I hear of people who run Windows without anti-virus or anti-spyware software. A good friend of mine runs this way, and the other day I happened to hear that a couple of high profile tech industry folks do the same.

Now, while it might be OK for them, I'm concerned that it sets a misleading example, and might cause others to think that they can get away with doing the same.

Here's the deal.

Continue reading...
Running Without a Net
http://ask-leo.com/C2885

*** Thoughts and Comments

I hope you're all having a great holiday season! It's been the usual alternating states of relaxation and frenzy out here at Ask Leo! world headquarters.

It's hard to believe we're wrapping up another year too! This is the last newsletter of 2009. I remember as a child thinking how cool it'd be in the year 2000, and here we are 10 years past! Time flies - whether or not you're having fun.

It's also hard for me to believe that we're approaching 100,000 subscribers to this newsletter. I'm at once surprised, awed and humbled that I get to share a small place in your inbox every week. It's something I try not to take for granted. I want you all to know how very grateful I am for you, your attention, your feedback and your subscription. I hope I can continue to live up to your expectations and provide something useful every week.

Here's to a happy, healthy, peaceful and prosperous 2010!

Leo
Leo A. Notenboom

*** Administration

Need more help with or have questions about the newsletter? Check out the newsletter administration page.

Newsletter contents Copyright © 2009,
Leo A. Notenboom & Puget Sound Software, LLC.

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