Leo's Answers #169 – March 10, 2009

Leo's Answers
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Leo Notenboom

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*** Contents

*** This Week's New Articles on Ask Leo!

Do I need a file shredder for my USB Flash Drive?

I have a question regarding file shredder software and its effectiveness when used on flash drives. I recently tried to shred some files on a flash drive. I applied various aggressive shredding methods - 35 passes, 7 passes, 3 passes, etc.. Each time, using a relatively old recovery software, I was able to easily recover most of the supposedly shredded files!

Are these shredder softwares not intended for use on flash (solid state) devices? If so, why not? Are they effective only on hard disks devices?

I will say that I'm surprised that the file recovery tools were able to recover files after being shredded. I would have expected the files to be gone.


Using a file shredder on a flash or solid-state drive isn't something I recommend doing, at least not in the same way as you might on an actual hard disk. The problem is that you could be wearing out the flash drive faster than you need to.

Continue reading: "Do I need a file shredder for my USB Flash Drive?"

* * *

How do I secure my router?

I'd like to know how to clear the history of my Linksys Cisco router. I'd also like to know how I can protect it from hacking and who else besides the people that know my router's WPA code can view browsing history.

There are a couple of misconceptions in your question, which I'll clear up in a second.

The more general topic is an important one: how do you make sure that your router is secure? After all, as your firewall it is your first line of defense against malware trying to get at your computer from the internet.

Continue reading: "How do I secure my router?"

* * *

How do I block porn?

I would like to block porn from coming into my house. I am sure many people feel the same way because they have children but my reason for wanting to block it is my idiot son-in-law.

My daughter, grandchild, and idiot son-in-law live in an apartment in our basement because he cannot support his family. They were using a dialup modem but I got tired of them tying up the phone so I agreed for them to connect wirelessly to my router.

Since then, and before I suspect, my son-in-law has been viewing porn and I really do not want it in my house but I do not want to start a fight with my daughter by taking away the DSL. Especially since he says he needs it to look for a job.

I tried installing OpenDNS and configuring the router to use it but it did not work. I posted to their forum and was told that each computer had to be manually reconfigured to use OpenDNS for it to actually block certain websites. Since I do not have the password to their computer and do not want to snoop on their machine, that option was out.

I have been reading your blog for years now and you are always telling people that your ISP can see anything and do anything. Well, I am my SIL's ISP so how do I use the router to block porn without having to access their machine?

Well, I believe you were on the right track with OpenDNS, but I suspect that the advice you got was a little off the mark.

That being said, I also have to throw out a big fat caveat as well, that you probably won't like.

Continue reading: "How do I block porn?"

* * *

How do I set up an Out Of Office (OOF) message?

I know you think they're evil, but I have a very legitimate reason for setting up an automated out of office response message. How do I do that?

It's true, I've long held the position that Out of Office Replies are Evil. Mostly because they're most often misconfigured and used inappropriately.

And that's if your email system even supports them.

So I'll look at how, or even if, you can set one up, and then I'll review how they can be used safely.

Continue reading: "How do I set up an Out Of Office (OOF) message?"

* * *

I formatted my machine and now all my programs and data are gone, how do I get them back?

I formatted my computer and I lost all installed software. I don't have any of those to install again. What do I do?

For those of you shaking your head at this point, I need to tell you that this is a more common question and scenario than you might imagine. I'm sure you already know what I'm going to explain and suggest, so you probably don't need to read further.

This article is for the rest of you.

We need to understand exactly what formatting means, and what you need to do before you format to prevent the experience you, and others, just had.

Continue reading: "I formatted my machine and now all my programs and data are gone, how do I get them back?"

*** A Word from our Sponsor

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*** Featured Comments

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

* * *

Why didn't you restore from a Disk Image?

Dale Orwig writes:

Other reasons to restore from scratch:

Any yet undetected viruses, worms, torjans, registry errors, annomolies you've not been able to solve but have gotten used to, ... all will be reproduced from your latest reasons.

If before the crash, your operating system was an upgrade to a previous one, you can take this opportunity to restore with a fresh version without the old/version new/version adjudications you had before. Put another way...

when finished, your machine will look much fresher without leftover uninstall tails. Eg.: tight registry.

This restore opportunity becomes an excellent time to weed out programs you no longer use or have forgotten what they were full. My "start" menu is half the size it was before one of my computers crashed last month -- without any loss in what I've been doing over the past six months. For instance there's a 2004 mapping program I've been using less and less ... as a "collector" I couldn't drop it, but now, I'll not reinstall it., etc.


Why is attaching a Word document to email such a bad idea?

Gary writes:

Soon we will be using online documents, ala Google Docs and won't have to send any documents to co workers..

There are a lot of reasons that will not be universal ... at least not for a long time. (Privacy, corporate policies, the assumption of internet connectivity, among others.) But I agree it is often a better approach than sending docs around as attachments.



How do I set up an Out Of Office (OOF) message?

Ken B writes:

And for those who don't fully understand your two rules, consider what happens when someone violates both:

* A message to a mailing list arrives.

* Your OOF message is sent back to the list.

* You receive a copy of your OOF message via the list and send another OOF reply.

* You receive a copy of your second OOF message via the list, and generate a third.

* Repeat ad nauseum.

* Get banned from the list, and await the hate mail from every list member who received your hundreds of OOF messages before the list manager kicked you off.

And, for those who say "I don't get copies of my own postings", consider a large list with two (or more) subscribers who have violated Leo's rules, and send OOF replies to each other (via the list, of course).


How do I block porn?

Rahul Mehta writes:

Resetting the router also resets the DNS settings that were pointing to OpenDNS.

Besides that will be only a temporary access as such a reset is soon observed and you can take appropriate counter measures. Protect your router physically, if such case is to be expected.

Yep. As I mentioned in the article someone dedicated with just a bit of knowledge may work around whatever you do. There's no 100% solution. (But this is a good reminder: secure your router.)


*** This Week's Most Popular

The ten most popular articles in the last 7 days on Ask Leo!

  1. I accidentally deleted my Recycle Bin in Vista - how do I get it back?
  2. How do I make a new MSN Hotmail account?
  3. How do I change my MSN Hotmail password?
  4. Can I send text messages between a computer and a cell phone?
  5. How do I delete history items from my Google tool bar?
  6. My desktop Recycle Bin has disappeared - why, and how do I get it back?
  7. How do I delete my Hotmail account?
  8. Svchost and Svchost.exe - Crashs, CPU maximization, viruses, exploits and more.
  9. Why is my Task Manager disabled, and how do I fix it?
  10. How do I put a picture into the caption of a picture on myspace.com?

*** Leo Recommends

Mouse and Keyboard Remapping, Macros and Hotkeys

How do I create a hotkey for entering my email address? I seem to do this dozens of times a day and it seems to be a chore!

Have I got a recommendation for you. The only caveat is that it's a tad geeky to set up, but it's incredibly powerful. I run it on both my Windows XP desktop and Vista laptop.

AutoHotkey is a free, small program that remains running in your notification area. It intercepts keystrokes (and mouse activity, if you like), and allows you to configure anything from simple remapping of one key to another, to simple text insertion, as you've described, to complex actions that are nearly little programs in and of themselves.

One thing that's easy to overlook is that AutoHotkey works at the keyboard level and is not tied to any application. So anything you use it for is available at any time, regardless of what program you happen to be using.

My needs are fairly simple, so let me show you some of the things that I have AutoHotkey configured to do.

Continue reading: "AutoHotkey - Mouse and Keyboard Remapping, Macros and Hotkeys"

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 from the Archives

Ever buy a nice new 300 gig hard drive only to find that the actual space on it is perhaps about 10-20% less when you plug it in? Happens all the time. And the catch is ... no one's really lying, they're just selectively choosing how to count.

Why isn't there 80 gigabytes of free space on my empty 80 gigabyte drive?

I have just purchased a new computer with an 80 GB hard drive, and When I was installing Windows XP Home edition it said I had 76,000 MB of disk space. I don't get it. Shouldn't it be 80,000 MB? Is there anything I can do to recover the other space? If I go to My Computer in windows XP and Click on the Hard drive symbol it will show me the space on the hard drive. It said the total available space is 74 Gigabytes. What happened to the other six gigabytes?

They were never there.

Believe it or not, there's no real agreed upon definition of what a gigabytes is.

Let me clarify: there are definitions. Plural. And which one gets used depends on ... well, it depends on how you think.

Continue reading...
Why isn't there 80 gigabytes of free space on my empty 80 gigabyte drive?

*** Thoughts and Comments

I published a new article this week out at EzineArticles.com: Embrace Change For a Better Computing Experience. Remember that all of my articles at EzineArticles.com are available for reprint for free, simply by following a few terms of service guidelines (which boil down to: don't make changes, leave the links in, and include the authors bio ... OK, there are more, but those are the biggies Smile).

Check out http://ArticlesByLeo.com for the full list.


My apologies to the people I confused this week with the following "tweet" out on http://LeoOnTwitter.com: "Sad. Took 5.5 years, but I finally had to create this page (and the tech it implies): http://tinyurl.com/bason2".

I got several reports of people who were concerned that they couldn't see the page because their IP address had apparently been blocked. That wasn't the case at all. The page I was pointing at was my new "IP Address Banned" page.

Early this week I started getting a rash of abusive comments from what appeared to be a couple of kids with too much time on their hands. The IP address from which they were posting resolved to an educational domain in New South Wales, in Australia. After attempts to contact the administrator of that domain failed, I had no real recourse: after over five years of not needing it, I implemented some IP address banning technology, and banned the IP address from which they had been posting.

So if you're with the New South Wales Department of Education and Training, and you suddenly can't get to my site, now you know why.


'till next time...

Leo A. Notenboom

* * *

A selection of Leo's articles are available for free re-use at http://articlesbyleo.com.

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

Posted: March 10, 2009 in: 2009
Shortlink: https://newsletter.askleo.com/3671
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