Leo's Answers #181 – June 2, 2009

Leo's Answers
A Weekly Newsletter From
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Leo Notenboom

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*** Contents

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

Just how do websites track or monitor our activity?

Other than using spyware and cookies which can be deleted from our PC (hopefully), how can websites or search engines continuously track and monitor our internet activities from our home PC? I read from one of your earlier articles that most people probably have a "dynamic" IP address. Assuming that is true for me, and my IP address constantly changes, how can an IP address be used to identify me for any significant length of time? (My IP address today could be yours tomorrow.) And even if the website/search engine knew my IP address at a single point in time, how can they connect that IP address to my name (if I don't register it) and physical location? I'm guessing that my ISP can make this connection, but I assume they won't provide that information to just anyone, right?)

That question covers a lot of ground, from cookies to IP tracking. It also misses a couple of areas that are worth thinking about as well.

But I do have to point out one important thing for most people: you, as an individual, just aren't that interesting. Sorry to burst your bubble, but it's pretty likely no one really cares where you go or what you do.

Let's see what they might care about, and the ways that they can collect it.

Continue reading: "Just how do websites track or monitor our activity?"

* * *

What if I just can't get installation media with my new machine?

You've always said a person should try to get a full install disk when purchasing a computer. Any suggestions on how to convince a manufacturer you want more than a recovery disk? Reason I ask is I'll probably be getting a new computer some time next year after Windows 7 has been out for a while. I contacted Dell, HP, Acer, Gateway and Toshiba customer support. They all say the same thing: no full install disks are available for consumers... even for an additional price. That means I'll have to spend another $200 - $400 to buy a full install disk (if rumors about Windows 7 prices are correct.)

First, I've never had a problem getting installation CDs with my Dell computers at the time of purchase. It's an option I have to specify, and it adds maybe $20 to the final price, but it is so worth it.

If you're asking after the purchase - say a year later you realize that you didn't get any - then perhaps I'm not surprised they might be reluctant to just hand out another copy, even for a fee. I'd guess that the manufacturers need to protect themselves from people trying to get copies they aren't really entitled to.

There really is no true alternative to having installation media, but I'll throw out one idea to help mitigate the problem in case you find yourself in this situation.

Continue reading: "What if I just can't get installation media with my new machine?"

* * *

How do I remove uninstalled software "leftovers"?

How do I go about removing various left-over traces of software that has long been uninstalled from my machine. I'm talking about things like extra paths when my PC starts up, as well as left behind directories and files. As you know, just because you uninstall the software it doesn't mean every trace of that software is gone.

Indeed, it's not at all uncommon for software to leave traces of itself behind after uninstalling. Sometimes it's on purpose; sometimes it's just sloppy programming.

It all contributes to something called "software rot".

There are lots of tools that can help clean things up, but with some risk. I'll talk about some of them.

I'll also tell you what I do, and recommend.

Continue reading: "How do I remove uninstalled software "leftovers"?"

* * *

Is it ".html" or ".htm", and when do I need a trailing '/' when typing a URL into my browser?

Is it necessary for some sites (& for me when going to them) to put a / at the end of their address? Life is hard enough!

I'm going to expand on your question a little, because it actually opens up a small can of worms ... a small, but confusing can of worms.

You see, the answer is "yes", "no", "sometimes" and "usually not".

There's an amazing lack of consistency.

Continue reading: "Is it ".html" or ".htm", and when do I need a trailing '/' when typing a URL into my browser?"

* * *

Why is my computer picking up radio stations and sounds?

Somehow my computer seems to be picking up radio sounds. It makes it difficult to hear a message that I want to hear because it is on all the while I am on my computer. It's on even if I delete everything right down to the desk top. Can you tell me what is happening and how I can resolve this problem?

There are many, many possibilities which may have caused what you've described. It's unclear if what you're hearing is true radio, some kind of interference, or perhaps something cross-connected in your computer or audio system wiring.

Let's look at the most common causes and solutions.

Continue reading: "Why is my computer picking up radio stations and sounds?"

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*** Featured Comments

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

* * *

How do I contact Windows Live Hotmail customer service?

Moamen writes:

I received an a message while logging on that my account had been closed or access denied due to a violation of the terms and use agreement. I have no idea why this would have occurred. I do not send out mass e-mails creating a spam issue and I do not send pornographic e-mails. I have no idea if someone else could have hacked into my e-mail and done so, but feel that someone should have asked me for some sort of response before they just close my account. I have very important saved filed and all of my contact information is in there and I can't access it. I have sent 2 e-mails to the address I was provided by the on-line support team, one Monday and one Tuesday and have yet to receive an answer. I even told them if they need me to change the address and they can just transfer my files and contacts over I would do that, but I have heard nothing and I have information in there I need to get at.

This is a classic reason I so strongly recommend never keeping important information in only a free email account. If something happens your chances for recovery are often slim.



How do I remove the latest IE update - Internet Explorer 8?

Glenn P. writes:

Sorry to sound smug, guys -- but by far and away the easiest way to "remove" MSIE8 is simply to make a full, complete backup of your system just before you install it. THEN if things go south, you can simply restore from your backup -- hey, presto! You're back to your old version of Internet Explorer again, and no fancy "uninstall" procedure required!

For that matter, this same technique will work with ANY new software installation, not just MSIE!

I don't see it as being smug at all, I see it as being appropriately cautious. And if people are performing regular backups anyway, as they should, then it's also very little additional work.



Can I prevent phishing attacks by using a bookmark?

Linda writes:

I'm with all of you. Any bank that keeps you logged in to a secure site is NOT a bank I want to deal with. My bank has a 10 minute interval until you must sign in again. I like it.

For the record, this has nothing to do with bookmarking. It's very reasonable to have a bookmark deep in the bank's site, and have it bounce you to a login page if that's required. (The best will then return you to the page you bookmarked, after you've logged in).


*** 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 change my MSN Hotmail password?
  3. Can I send text messages between a computer and a cell phone?
  4. How do I delete my Hotmail account?
  5. How do I make a new MSN Hotmail account?
  6. My desktop Recycle Bin has disappeared - why, and how do I get it back?
  7. How do I delete history items from my Google tool bar?
  8. How do I uninstall Windows Messenger?
  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

Security Now

From the site:

"TechTV's Leo Laporte and [Steve Gibson] take 30 to 60 minutes near the end of each week to discuss important issues of personal computer security. Sometimes we'll discuss something that just happened. Sometimes we'll talk about long-standing problems, concerns, or solutions. Either way, every week we endeavor to produce something interesting and important for every personal computer user. "

I subscribe to a number of podcasts, as you might imagine. There are few - very few - that get my attention nearly 100% of the time.

Security Now with Steve Gibson and Leo Laporte is one of those podcasts.

And it's not because the co-host's name is also "Leo".

Continue reading...
Security Now


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

I wish more people would interpret "Beta" - or even "pre-release" - as "stay away, not ready for me yet".

What does "Beta" mean?

I'm having a problem with -some non-Google software package- version -something- Beta. Can you help?

Before I answer that, I want to make sure you understand what the word "Beta" means. It's not exactly the same everywhere, but as long as the software isn't a Google service, the meaning is fairly consistent.

It means you're going to have problems with it.

Continue reading...
What does "Beta" mean?

*** Sites of Interest

Two sites you might find of interest this week, both of which I happen to subscribe to:

Blogger LinkUp

Pretty much what the name implies, Blogger LinkUp (or "BLU" to friends and family) is a venue with people who have blogs to solicit guest posts, and for people interested in getting exposure on other blogs to offer guest posts. It's a pretty neat system actually.

"Here is how it works: Join the BloggerLinkUp list and you will get emails once or twice a day, Monday through Friday. These emails will list bloggers looking for expert sources, requests for guest posts, bloggers and web masters offering guest posts, and PR reps and others seeking reviews of products. When you see a request that you can fulfill, just respond directly to the requester. Have a request of your own? Simply submit a request, and it will be forwarded to the list."

Oh, and it's all free.



TalkBiz is a an incredibly informative and thought provoking newsletter from Paul Myers, someone who's been doing business on the internet for years and years. If you're at all interested and motivated to try and do the same, or you already are, I can't recommend Paul's free newsletter enough.

Even if you don't stick through the newsletter, I'd strongly recommend you sign up anyway, just so you can get "Need to Know", a 112 page ebook full of the most important lessons Paul's learned in his years online. He's got a great writing style and pulls no punches when it comes to calling things the way he see's them.


Sites of Interest are just that: sites I find interesting and just want to share. (Not an endorsement or guarantee.) If you have a suggestion or a website of your own that you think might be interesting use the regular ask a question form to suggest it. (Of course I can't guarantee I'll use your suggestion, I simply get too many.)

*** Thoughts and Comments

I'd like your help.

I have an extremely short (one question!) survey, and I'd love to get your opinion. If you could pop over to the survey and give my your ideas, I'd very much appreciate it.

It's all about making this newsletter more helpful to you.


Speaking of asking for your opinion: work on "Nailing Your Interview - Insider tips on nailing your tech interview" continues.

On the signup form, where you can sign up to get notified when the book is ready and become eligible for the "early bird" discounted price, I ask a single additional question: "Your biggest question about interviewing?" What a great set of responses I'm getting! It'll make for some great discussion on the email list.

If you haven't already, consider checking out Nailing Your Interview.


Slightly personal: every so often I mention our dogs, Jerome and Helen, two Pembroke Welsh Corgis. This last weekend they had a few friends over. Photos here: http://leoonflickr.com/sets/72157619020416412/. Smile

'till next time...

Leo A. Notenboom

What I'm Reading

Hacking Knowledge: 77 Ways to Learn Faster, Deeper, and Better

This article was recommended to me some time back. I ended up printing it to PDF, and then sending it to my Kindle where I've been reading it off-line.

I'm all about learning - it's a theme of many of the decisions I've made throughout my life. This is an interesting survey of several of the different ways we can improve our ability to learn.

More of what I've been reading in
Leo's Reading List

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*** Newsletter Administration

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

Posted: June 2, 2009 in: 2009
Shortlink: https://newsletter.askleo.com/3750
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I'm Leo Notenboom and I've been playing with computers since I took a required programming class in 1976. I spent over 18 years as a software engineer at Microsoft, and after "retiring" in 2001 I started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place to help you find answers and become more confident using this amazing technology at our fingertips. More about Leo.