Ask Leo! #317 – Why I dislike System Restore. Also: backing up e-readers, anonymous surfing and more…

The Ask Leo! Newsletter

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Ultrasurf and anonymous browsing

I have a difficult time using Ultrasurf; whenever it's on, I can't surf webpages. What should I do? Should I use another program?


Ultrasurf is an anonymization service that in all likelihood requires some configuration to your system and/or browser.

There are alternative services, but they all share one characteristic: To varying degrees, they will impact the speed of your browsing experience.

In this video from an Ask Leo! webinar, I'll discuss anonymous browsing.

Continue reading: Ultrasurf and anonymous browsing

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Why I don't like System Restore

I have Windows XP SP2. When I go into the System Restore application, it doesn't give me the option to create a restore point; it only allows me to restore to an earlier point and it never creates restore points. Any ideas on what might be wrong or how to fix it?


I'll be honest and tell you right off that I have no answer for your question.

There are many possibilities, the most likely being that there is not enough room allocated for restore points. But in my experience, increasing that may or may not resolve the issue.

System Restore is so difficult to diagnose and I hear of so many problems and misunderstandings with it that I avoid it completely.

I turn it off. Completely. It's not worth it to me.

I'll tell you what I do instead.

Continue reading: Why I don't like System Restore

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How do I back up my e-reader?

We readers know how you feel about making back-ups for our computers. Yes, I do have them, but how about making back-ups for e-readers? We can spend hundreds of dollars buying reading material; if the e-reader fails, it's all gone. Is there a way to do this?



In fact, believe it or not, there are scenarios here where backup is actually not required!

That's probably something that you'd never expected to hear me say. Smile

It depends on two things: the e-reader that you're using and where you got your books.

Continue reading: How do I back up my e-reader?

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*** Comments

Why can't I send mail unless I'm at home?

Ken B writes:

You mention gmail as a possible solution. However, I think you missed a possible "simple" way, using gmail, to solve this problem.

I have Verizon at home. While at my sister-in-law's house for a while, I was unable to send e-mail, even with "sender authentication" enabled, simply because Verizon's outgoing e-mail servers wouldn't accept a connection from a Cablevision (my SIL's ISP) client.

I found that I could tell my e-mail program (Thunderbird in my case) to use the gmail servers I had already set up for my gmail account as the default server while not at home. Since Thunderbird was already taking care of all the housekeeping with the "correct" e-mail address I was sending from, that wasn't an issue. The only thing that changed was, behind the scenes, Thunderbird would contact gmail's outgoing e-mail servers rather than Verizon's. The "from" remains the same; it's still copied to my "outbox" folder"; nothing else is different from my point of view, aside from the fact that it "works" from non-Verizon connections.

I would suggest getting a free gmail account (even if you have no plans on actually using it for anything else), and setting it up as a personality/account/whatever your e-mail program calls it. Make sure you can send e-mail with your gmail account through the gmail servers. Then, when you are on the road, simply tell your e-mail program to use the gmail settings you have already set up, and use then as the "default outgoing SMTP server". (In Thunderbird, it's pretty simple. Just go to "Tools / Account settings", scroll down to "Outgoing Server (SMTP)", click on your gmail server settings, and click "Set default".)

In fact, you could keep gmail as the default server even when at home. (Though I always put things back to Verizon when I come home.)

Your solution is kinda what I was hinting at :-).



How do I avoid trojans like Win 7 Home Security 2012?

Michael Horowitz writes:

A *big* step for safety is to be logged on to Windows as a restricted user ("limited" and "standard" are the terms used by Microsoft). This is not perfect protection, but its a big barrier for malware to overcome. And, if something does get installed, you should be able to logon as an admin user and remove it. When logging on as the admin user its very likely the malware will not auto-start giving you a huge advantage in removing it.


How do I avoid trojans like Win 7 Home Security 2012?

Mike writes:

It showed up on my wife's computer. She was probably lured by the "official" Win 7 tag. I used Leo's recommendation of the Microsoft Standalone System Sweeper as a boot disc, and it tagged the offending malware so it could be removed. Note that it's necessary to run the latest update, so you'll need access to another computer for the free downloand. I also ran an updated version of Malwarebytes afterward, which identified and took out a couple remnants of the trojan, too.


My machine won't boot, how do I get at the files on it?

Byron Miller aka Teddybearmiller writes:

I had a similar problem recently. First, I and my wife started getting warnings that our version of installed Windows was illegal and not registered. Then my computer wouldn't boot to windows. I started getting an error message with a link redirecting me to a solution which took me to a Microsoft site advertising Windows 7 and Microsoft Office. I Tried everything. I had backed up most of my files on another networked computer, my wife's laptop :) I started getting the error message that my version of Windows was illegal or not registered every time I tried to do a repair or system restore from a previous time. Then another message came up saying that my license/registration number had been changed without administrator permissions. There was a link which said it would take me to a site to remedy the problem. The same link took me to a Microsoft site with an advertisement to purchase and install Windows 7 and Microsoft Office. After a few tries with the same results I put the original install disc in. I boot started from my original Dell Windows Vista disc. I re installed the program over the already installed program, not a new install, because the repair did not work. There is a feature which saves all of the folders and files to what is called Old Windows Files so that they can be recovered if I just install over the already installed version of Windows Vista instead of deleting the partition and doing a New Install. Once I had reinstalled the program, which took forever, I went straight to the registration. And yes, my number which requires an administration pass word had been changed??? I entered the number from the sticker on my computer to authenticate the program. I rebooted the computer and checked that the windows version had been authenticated and activated. That solved the problem. But I still had to spend three days reloading programs, updates, folders and files. I still wonder How did that number get changed without the administrators pass word is still a mystery. And why did the link which directed me to a solution take me to a Microsoft site and an ad for Windows 7 and Microsoft Office????? Makes me wonder who could possibly have accessed my computer, changed the number and put a link to Microsoft advertising...raises my suspicions about Microsoft since my wife had been getting the same warning for the past month that her version of windows was not legal or registered and she has Windows 7. I have BitDenfender Internet security installed on my computer and my wife has MacAfee installed on hers. Still scratching my head over this one and hoping it doesn't happen again. Three or four days to reload my computer was frustrating and interfered with my online projects and activities. Any comments Leo on this experience?

Think of it from Microsoft's position - their tests have detected that you're running an illegal copy of Windows. The only thing they could possibly offer as remedy is to sell you a new copy, and the only version of Windows that they sell is Windows 7.

"But my copy is legal!" - absolutely, but the tests indicate otherwise. That's either a bug in the test (yes, absolutely that would be Microsoft's fault), or something has happened on your machine to cause that test to fail. A failing test to Microsoft means exactly what it says - they honestly believe that the copy is illegal, even if it's not. Once you correct the problem it validates properly.

There's another, actually more likely cause here: malware. It's very possible that wasn't a Microsoft page at all (I'd need to see the exact URL to confirm). It's unlikely that Microsoft would redirect you to a site selling both Windows and Office in order to correct a Windows problem. More likely malware - a form of scareware I'd say - was redirecting you to a bogus site trying to get you to either buy something from them or steal your credit card info.


*** Thoughts and Comments

Welcome to the all new Friday edition of The Ask Leo! Newsletter! Hope you enjoy the new publishing schedule.

Don't forget to check out The Best Of Ask Leo! for full text email copies of hand-selected articles from the Ask Leo! archives.

The full video for Webinar 7 - Your Questions has been posted. You'll also see some individual articles based on segments from the webinar showing up as well.

Webinar 8 - Photo Manipulation happens this Sunday! For more information and the registration link, click here. Hope to see you there.

Last week I asked the question "What's the biggest computer-related issue that you'd love to see resolved in 2012?" - I got a lot of responses. I want to thank everyone who took the time to share their concerns.

There were definitely a few big themes that came across in your responses.

By far security and malware were number one with a bullet - and a bullet (or worse) is what several folks suggested be used on the hackers and scammers behind so many of today's problems. Even if you've never experienced a problem the constant barrage of warnings and updates and extra steps required to stay safe is an incredible and frustrating burden.

Spam was #2. Apparently you're getting a lot of it, and would love to see spammers face some serious penalties (or worse). Getting rid of spam, as well as the issues caused by spam filtering and protection is a clear priority.

Those were clearly the most common concepts that you'd like to see addressed. Other topics include:

Buggy software, the number of updates that software seems to be consistently taking, and a general wish for better quality in the software you use every day.

The continued forward march of Windows versions, the incompatibility that is eventually introduced and the resulting lack of backwards compatibility and support for systems that used to work well.

Backups. As important as they are they're too confusing and the software to user-unfriendly.

Usability and complexity in general. Many of you feel that software - from the operating system to applications in general - are continuing to become more and more complex over time - and unnecessarily so.

The most frequently mentioned program was Internet Explorer. Specifically mentioned were issues with it crashing or misbehaving in general.

And of course quite literally hundreds of other irritations, confusions, crashes and worse.

I have my work cut out for me. Smile

One thing I will mention is that some of the comments expressed are actually already addressed by articles on the site. If you haven't already, I'd recommend spending a little time with search on Ask Leo!.

Finally, I do have to mention another comment that accompanies many of the items that were suggested:

"we can dream."

Yes, for some items that's all the control we have; but for many, many others there's hope.

Here's to a hopeful 2012.

'till next week...

Leo A. Notenboom
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