Ask Leo! #456 – Ten Years of Ask Leo!

*** Featured

Internet safety: 8 steps to keeping your computer safe on the internet

Viruses and spyware and worms … oh my!

The very concept of "internet safety" is almost an oxymoron these days.

It seems like not a day goes by that we don't hear about some new kind of threat aimed at wreaking havoc across machines connected to the internet.

Anti-Microsoft sentiment coupled with the massive installed base make Microsoft products, and particularly Microsoft Windows, an irresistible target for hackers and "script kiddies." In recent years, products like Adobe Reader, Java, Flash, Firefox, and more have come under attack as their popularity has increased. Even Macs are no longer invulnerable.

Here are some things you can (and should) do to stay safe.

Continue Reading: Internet safety: 8 steps to keeping your computer safe on the internet

How do I remove a virus if it prevents me from downloading or installing anything?

I am trying to fix a computer that has adware that is preventing me from getting into regedit and task manager. It will not let me boot into safe mode. It will not let me install any anti-spyware or anti-virus software. I'm not sure where to go from here. It has stopped me from doing much of anything to get the malware off the computer. Any suggestions? I am not sure what the malware is, but I keep getting alerts that I am infected and when I click it, it opens a browser window and tries to take me to a website.

Sadly, this is all too common. Malware is getting pretty nasty. At best, it may extort money from you for a real repair. At worst, it'll extort money from you and do nothing.

I'll save the "prevention is so much easier than the cure" missive for a moment. We just want this fixed.

There are things that we can try, but unfortunately, there are no guarantees.

Continue Reading: How do I remove a virus if it prevents me from downloading or installing anything?

What's the difference between an ad and your recommendation?

For some, this answer will seem both obvious and somewhat odd for me to address at all.

For others, however, there's an extremely important lesson here. I've come to the conclusion that this concept needs some serious clarification.

And it's not just about what happens here at the Ask Leo! website, but rather how people view the content that they see everywhere on the internet.

You need to recognize advertisements.

Continue Reading: What's the difference between an ad and your recommendation?

*** Answercast

AnswerCast #119 - Distorted monitors, dated searches, doomed PCs, exploits and more...

Having troubles with your monitor resolution or a failing hard drive? Do you wonder if PCs are doomed or about ruining your SSD? Curious about exploits or anti-virus? All that and more in this Answercast from Ask Leo!

Listen Now!
(Includes the raw transcript on which the articles below were based.)

Why do search results not have dates?
Google's search tools can help you find websites that have been tagged with particular dates. But be cautious. Dates may not mean what you think.

Continue reading: Why do search results not have dates?

Why does my monitor stretch and distort my display?
To get the clearest image possible it's important to have a graphics card that can produce the native or prefered resolution of your monitor.

Continue reading: Why does my monitor stretch and distort my display?

What's an exploit?
Industry experts use the term "exploit" in several ways, which makes warning messages pretty unclear. Stay safe by assuming the worst.

Continue reading: What's an exploit?

Do I really need to uninstall these programs to update my anti-virus?
When you install a new anti-malware tool on a machine that has similar programs already, you may see a warning about possible conflicts. Basically, you have three choices to continue.

Continue reading: Do I really need to uninstall these programs to update my anti-virus?

Will a power loss cause data loss on SSDs?
When the power goes out, data loss can happen. Fortunately, it's not more prevalent for Solid State Drives. No matter what kind of a drive you get, you should always protect yourself.

Continue reading: Will a power loss cause data loss on SSDs?

Are PCs doomed?

While the ratio of PCs to mobile devices may change over time, I believe PCs will not be going away any time soon. They're just too darned useful.

Continue reading: Are PCs doomed?

Why is my picture showing up next to emails I send?
It's really nothing to worry about; the recipient's email program is likely grabbing information from your profile. There may be something you can do about it, if you care.

Continue reading: Why is my picture showing up next to emails I send?

Will a failing hard drive have warning symptoms?
Hard drive failures happen. Everyone needs to realize that. You can probably guess my recommendation for staying safe.

Continue reading: Will a failing hard drive have warning symptoms?

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*** Last Issue's Articles

*** Word o' the Week

aspect ratio

Aspect ratio is the ratio of the width of a TV screen, computer or device display to its height.

While the height and width might be naturally measured in inches or centimeters, for the purposes of aspect ratio the actual screen resolution is used. For example a device capable of displaying 1920 pixels by 1080 pixels is said to have an aspect ratio of 1920/1080 or 1.77. This is most often expressed as 16:9.

So called "standard definition" television typically has an aspect ratio of 4:3.

With the advent of high definition the aspect ratio was changed to 16:9, meaning that an HD display is somewhat wider and more rectangular than then the older standard definition format. All HD television formats – 720i, 720p, 1080i and 1080p – use the 16:9 aspect ratio. The 720 or 1080 corresponds to the height, so a 720 HD image is actually 1280×720, and a 1080 image is 1920×1080.

There is no standard aspect ratio for computers. Older common screen resolutions like 640×480 and 1024×768 have aspect ratios of 4:3 (1.33) mimicking standard definition televisions, while resolutions such as 1920×1200 have a non-standard aspect ratio of 1.6.

Word o' the Week features a computer term or acronym taken from the Ask Leo! Glossary. If there's a word you're not sure of and would like to see defined, click here to let me know.

*** Featured Reader Comments

Did someone login to Google with my password?

John.P writes:

If you haven't already done it I would also activate Googles two step verification by installing Google authenticator on your phone, Its a really great security feature!

Steve writes:

Bingo -- if you're using a Google account, enabling two factor really is a MUST!

For those who need more info -- here's a full rundown on enabling Google two step authentication.

Can I get someone's name and address from their IP address?

Bill Pytlovany writes:

This is great info and in context of the subject line Leo has provided all the facts about what is available from just using the IP address. Unfortunately, with the combination of other meta data most web sites can easily connect you with what you may think is an anonymous post and keep a history of all your activities.

Every time you connect to a website your IP address is included and available.

So when you register for any site that includes your name and/or Email your IP address is going to be included as a gift to the website. Any future communications with that site could easily be connected to the IP address used when you registered.

While it was once common for ISP's like Time Warner or Comcast to assign dynamic IP addresses it's easier for them to keep you using the same. ISP's make a point to tell you they use dynamic IP addresses to prevent you from running servers or other high volume services. So while they won't guarantee a permanent IP address they rarely change it. I don't remember the last time my IP address changed.

So anytime you sign up for a forum, register your software or make an online purchase that company could create a database with your history including every time you visit.


Three tips to make Windows 8 less annoying

Mark Jacobs writes:

It's finally dawned on me why Microsoft is trying to force people to use the tiled interface. It's basically an ad for the RT OS to sell Windows phones and tablets. They are gambling that people will get used to that interface and desire a similar experience on their phones. Unfortunately, since the Modern interface adds no value to the Windows experience, and in fact, causes a lot of confusion, it will probably have the opposite effect. Sure, you can work around all of the confusion, and with Classic Shell, I'm just as comfortable with Windows 8 as with Windows 7. But I pity the poor casual users, business users and the IT support staff that has to deal with the changeover.

*** Thoughts and Comments

This past Saturday marked the 10th anniversary of the very first Ask Leo! answer being published.

What a long and interesting trip it's been.

And, yes, occasionally a strange one. Smile

As I do each year, over on my personal blog you'll find a collection of some of the more ... "special" ... questions that I've received over the last year. Check out 10th Anniversary Randomness.

I've also taken this opportunity to reprint a couple of important articles above:

Internet safety: 8 steps to keeping your computer safe on the internet is what I consider perhaps my most important article. It's so important that I encourage you to read it, share it, republish it, whatever - just to get the word out.

What's the difference between an ad and your recommendation? is an equally important lesson, not just for Ask Leo!, but in fact for any and every site that you visit on the internet. Advertising is what keeps the free internet free, including Ask Leo!, but it's critically important to realize what advertising is and is not.

OK, now, on to even more fun stuff...

I'm giving away backup software!

I decided that the best way to celebrate my 10 year milestone is to give you a gift. Or, rather, give you a chance to win a gift.

I've purchased 10 copies of Macrium Reflect Pro and I'm giving them away, along with a copy of my ebook Maintaining Windows 7 - Backing Up which details how to backup your machine, not coincidentally showing you using Macrium Reflect.

All you need to do to enter to win is fill out and submit the form on this page. There's more information on that page, including some simple rules, but all it boils down to is entering your email address (used only for this), your name and some optional comments.

If you already own Macrium Reflect you're welcome to enter anyway, and if you win use it to backup an additional machine or even give it to someone else you know who needs it. (And don't we all know someone who should be backing up but isn't?)

The sooner you enter the better the odds of winning. I'll be drawing one winner at random for each of the next five days (Wednesday through Sunday mornings), and the remaining five copies once a week starting that next Friday. I'll be encouraging people to enter the entire time, so the sooner you get your entry in the better your chances.

I'll announce the first five winners here, next week.

Click here and enter now.

Thank You Thank You Thank You!

I probably don't say it often enough but I am extremely grateful that you're here and for the support that has allowed me to publish Ask Leo! for these past 10 years. It's an honor and privilege and I hope to keep doing it for some time to come.

(And completely off topic, I spent the actual anniversary day, Saturday, with over 120 of my closest four-legged friends running around my back yard. Links to photos and even some local news coverage here. Smile)

Leo A. Notenboom
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