Leo's Answers #170 – March 17, 2009

Leo's Answers
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Leo Notenboom


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*** Contents

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

How do I keep using a program past its free trial period?

Where is it recorded that a program can be used only for 30 days and then must be purchased? Though I've uninstalled it, it remembers the previous installation and will not let me re-install it.

Free trials are a great way to try-before-you-buy software, so that you can determine whether or not an application is in fact the right solution for you, before you put down your hard earned money.

Applications use different techniques to track the free trial period.

But using the application after the trial period is over, is often still very, very easy.

Continue reading: "How do I keep using a program past its free trial period?"

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Someone has stolen my Windows Live / MSN Hotmail Account and is scamming my contacts. What can I do?

Someone, somehow get into my MSN Hotmail accounts (I have 2) and changed my passwords and all the security info, blocking me completely out. Then all the contacts I have in both accounts are being sent scam letters saying it's me and to send $2300 to Lagos, Nigeria. What bothers me the most is having my name used for scamming.

I've tried to contact Hotmail, letting them know what has happened and asking if there is anything that can be done about stopping them and closing the accounts.

Do you have an email address, or phone number, any way to contact them or who to contact. It's so confusing because its MSN, Hotmail, Hotmail MSN.

Actually, it's even more confusing since it started as Hotmail, then MSN Hotmail, and now Windows Live Hotmail.

Unfortunately, your story isn't all that uncommon. It seems to be the latest fad among scammers: steal someone's account and then impersonate them to their contacts - make up a fake emergency and hope that some of your friends will help "you" out by sending them money.

Also unfortunately, I'm not at all hopeful there's much that can be done.

Continue reading: "Someone has stolen my Windows Live / MSN Hotmail Account and is scamming my contacts. What can I do?"

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How do I stop my computer from being a zombie?

My computer is a zombie. My IP has been blacklisted as a spammer. I am not and never have been a spammer. I don't know how to liberate my computer. The spammy network grabs control for 48 to 72 hours at a time, and won't let me log on to the internet. My ISP is unfamiliar with zombies.

Unfortunately, while your visible symptoms are more severe than most, what you're experiencing is frighteningly common. It seems like every day there's another study out showing that some incredibly high percentage of machines are infected with malware that can turn them into zombies at a moment's notice.

I'll look at exactly what we mean when we say "zombie", how to tell if your machine is one, how to prevent it and how to try to recover if your machine has been taken over.

Continue reading: "How do I stop my computer from being a zombie?"

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How do I change my router's password?

How does one change the router password? Where are the controls and settings for the router?

I recently wrote about several steps you should take to secure your router. One of those steps is to change the default password.

Several people wrote in to ask how to do that, as it's not at all clear how you access your router settings at all, much less the password screen.

I'll show you, step by step, how I access the settings on my LinkSys router.

Continue reading: "How do I change my router's password?"

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What does it mean when a window turns white?

About 5 minutes after booting up Vista, the taskbar turns white. It does the same thing after rebooting. Changing the settings to Aero under appearance settings will sometimes return it back to its "glass" state, but it turns white after another 5 minutes.

First the "Blue Screen of Death", then the "Black Window on Boot", and now... a white window?

When an application's window turns all white, that actually tells us something about what's happening to that application. And I can tell you that what's happening usually isn't good.

The other thing to know is that the Windows taskbar is just another application. A special application, perhaps, but when push comes to shove, it's an application just like any other.

Continue reading: "What does it mean when a window turns white?"

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*** Featured Comments

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

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Why is there no Windows Live Hotmail https connection?

Naomi Paulette Hamm writes:

Yes, I am having troubles logging on as always. As for as reading all that stuff, takes too much time, would cost too much to print and I still don't understand it anyway. I have had an on-going troubles with my windows live hotmail, such as even now. As it seems a lot of us have had. Some people seem truly, understandably annoyed. Please I wish you'd fix this problem ASAP thank you Naomi Paulette

You wish I would solve this problem? I can't. I'm not Hotmail. I'm not Microsoft.
Reading this stuff takes too much time? Unfortunately using computers requires education of some sort, and that means that yes, you need to read and understand information about the services you're trying to use. While it would be nice if everything "just worked", it's not going to happen. We all need to understand the tools we're using, there's no escaping it.

-Leo

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DropMyRights - Login as Administrator, but run select applications with limitations

Rahul Mehta writes:

The opposite approach is to log-in as a restricted user and run "those" special programs by using right-click and "Run As" command where you can choose to be administrator for that application. It requires admin password to be keyed in. That improves overall security of the PC.

The advantage is that you raise the privileges only when required and that too making a conscious effort.

This has been my approach for overall safety for all my Windows installations. I also recommend this to my clients.

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How do I secure my router?

MajorDad writes:

Forgot to mention that it's also good practice to stop broadcasting your SSID.

There's not much value in hiding the SSID. As I understand it, the SSID is still visible within packet traffic and sniffable. Once WPA with a strong passphrase is by far your best protection - with that it doesn't matter if your SSID is broadcast or not.

-Leo

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How do I secure my router?

Mishel writes:

If this is a wireless router, you may also want to enable Wireless MAC filtering.

As I understand it, MAC filtering is kinda pointless. For one thing, MAC addresses are not part of the encrypted data, so they're sent in the clear, and they're also very easy to spoof. Someone could sniff your traffic, find a MAC address that you've allowed through, start spoofing that address and get on your network. Using WPA with a strong passphrase is much more secure.

-Leo

*** 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. Can I send text messages between a computer and a cell phone?
  4. How do I change my MSN Hotmail password?
  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. Svchost and Svchost.exe - Crashs, CPU maximization, viruses, exploits and more.
  8. How do I delete my Hotmail account?
  9. Why is my Task Manager disabled, and how do I fix it?
  10. How do I uninstall Windows Messenger?

*** Leo Recommends

DropMyRights - Login as Administrator, but run select applications with limitations

I am using windows XP. I want to use my computer with administrator privileges. For browsing or using reading e-mails, I'd like to act temporarily as a guest with limited privileges. My aim is to increase safety. Is there a way to do it easily?

Running as a "Limited User" in Windows XP is the ideal scenario, where everything you do is subject to administrative restrictions. Unfortunately, for many people it's simply not practical to do so. Many applications require administrative access either to install, or occasionally even to run. It doesn't always make sense, but it's also something we seem to have little control over.

The result is that we regularly login to our Windows XP machine as Administrator, or as another account that has Administrator privileges. We can do anything.

The problem is simple: if we can do anything, so can any malware we might accidentally execute.

Continue reading: "DropMyRights - Login as Administrator, but run select applications with limitations"

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

This happens all the time.

How do I remove my email address from a malicious blog post?

Someone has posted an entry on a blog that contains my e-mail address and a picture of me. I can not find this info and people are sending me e-mails asking to date me. I am married and have never put a blog on the internet like this. This is causing problems in my marriage. I just want to find this and delete it. What do I do?

Sadly, this kind of harassment isn't all that uncommon on the internet, basically because it's so easy to do. Normally I see it among teenagers or kids with nothing better to do.

It's also one of the reasons I firmly believe that the days of having a single email address are over. As part of maintaining our privacy for both this, and things like spam, I advocate a multiple-email address strategy that would allow you to discard the email address being used in this harassment. More on that in my article over on TamingEmail.com: How many email addresses do you need?.

Your options on what to do next are limited.

Continue reading...
How do I remove my email address from a malicious blog post?
http://ask-leo.com/how_do_i_remove_my_email_address_from_a_malicious_blog_post.html

*** Thoughts and Comments

An acquaintance of mine, Nathan Segal, recently released a new downloadable book How to Speed Up Your Computer In 30 Minutes Or Less. You can get a free excerpt, including free videos, through that link. The free excerpt covers getting rid of unneeded startup entries, and is certainly by itself worth your time to download and view. The full book covers many more techniques, the majority of which are completely free, simply using tools already on your computer. And of course if you do purchase the full book Nathan offers a 100% money-back guarantee if you're not satisfied.

If your computer's slowing down (and who's isn't? Smile) it's worth a peek.

A few weeks ago it was a Denver newspaper, and as I write this, one of Seattle's two newspapers has announced their final print edition will be today - they're switching to an all-digital format.

There's more than the recession at play here. The landscape is changing, and it's an interesting thing to watch. I know that I no longer get the majority of my news and information from a piece of paper delivered to my door in the wee hours of the morning. Of late I get informed about more breaking news over Twitter than anywhere else, and I get more detailed information for the things I care about from various online resources.

Newspapers are in a tough spot. In order to be relevant as they switch to digital products (which I suspect will happen more and more), they need to figure out how to add value above and beyond the hundreds, if not thousands of other sources of information you and I have available at our fingertips.

I know, because it's a problem I face every day. There's tons of tech support sites and services out there - my challenge is to provide enough unique value to enough people to stay relevant and interesting.

It'll be interesting to see the newspaper industry attempt to do the same.

'till next time...

Leo
Leo A. O'Notenboom

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