Leo's Answers #182 – June 9, 2009

Leo's Answers
A Weekly Newsletter From
Ask Leo!
Leo Notenboom


I would kiss you if I could ...
- Carl

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*** Contents

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

Did someone really send me photos on Tagged?

This is less of a question than it is a warning about what many believe is malware or a scam, but is more closely related to simply super-aggressive and perhaps deceitful attempts to hook you in to some kind of social network.

No, no one sent you pictures on Tagged, and contrary to the "they may think you said no" guilt-trip, it's more likely that they had no idea that the email was sent in their name.

And likely without there knowledge (though whether or not it was with their "permission" is one for the lawyers to figure out).

And yes, as I understand it, lawyers have become involved.

Continue reading: "Did someone really send me photos on Tagged?"

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Can I tell when someone logged into my machine, and what they did?

I suspect that somebody has attempted to access my computer when I was thoughtless enough to leave it physically unsecured for some time. (I've now read your article on securing and will comply in the future.) Is there any way of checking to see times and dates of when the computer was booted and if files have been copied off your computer? Date and time of when the file in question was copied last, if at all? I know when the laptop (Dell Inspiron 9100) was unsecured so if this type of information is logged somewhere on the (C:) or elsewhere I'd be able to know if someone other than myself used my computer.

Yes, we can probably tell when your computer was booted, and even when it was logged into.

But no, we can't tell what that person did once they were logged in; at least not to the granularity that you're looking for.

Continue reading: "Can I tell when someone logged into my machine, and what they did?"

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Why do some web pages not update like they should?

Every once and a while after I visit a website (such as MLB.com and NASDAQ.com) when I go back to it old information comes up on the website. For instance, I went to MLB.com a week ago and now every time I go the scores, news stories, stats, etc. will all be from that day a week ago. Certain pieces of info on the website are current and sometimes clicking a link will bring up current info, but most is old. I clear the browser, delete history, cookies, etc. but no luck. The only thing that solves the problem is running defrag, but only temporarily, as soon the issue will reoccur. It only seems to happen on one of my 3 computers. Any ideas?

What you're experiencing isn't all that uncommon, though its persistence through the steps you've taken to clear it up is. The fact that defragging has an impact is completely mysterious.

Let's look at what happens under the hood, what steps we would normally take to clear it up, and then make some guesses as to what else you might try.

Continue reading: "Why do some web pages not update like they should?"

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How do I determine the subnet mask I'm supposed to use?

How do I find my subnet mask number. I'm trying to log onto my router and I need my subnet mask number, gateway, dns 1 and dns 2 numbers.

I'm guessing you're not actually trying to logon to your router, but rather configuring your router so that you can use the connection to the internet provided by your ISP.

Exactly how we do what we do next depends on the specific router, so I'll use mine as an example.

But here's a hint: none of it depends on knowing a subnet.

Continue reading: "How do I determine the subnet mask I'm supposed to use?"

* * *

Why do I get "This operation is canceled due to restrictions in effect on this computer"?

For the past several weeks I have been getting a notice every time I try to open a link that is within an email. "This operation is canceled due to restrictions in effect on this computer. Contact your systems administrator". I am the systems administrator and I must have changed something, but I cannot figure where to reverse this error. I am running Vista Home Premium, Norton InternetSecurity with 4GB of RAM and a 320 GB Hard Drive on my system.

This is a very common error these days, and manifests in various situations.

It's not something you did, per se, but in all likelihood it is something you allowed to happen.

And it's not good.

Continue reading: "Why do I get "This operation is canceled due to restrictions in effect on this computer"?"

* * *

How much can people find out from a photo I email them?

I am curious: how much information is made available to someone if I send a photo through email (if any at all)? For example, if I attach a photo through a provider such as Yahoo!, can the receiver of that photo find out any information about my computer or me? I know my IP address is viewable in the email - but I am curious about the photo.

More than you think, but most of it's pretty boring. And none of it is about the computer.

I'll set aside the obvious fact that whatever's in the photo is part of what you're sharing. That's the point, after all.

But modern digital photos often include a lot of additional information you might not realize is present.

Continue reading: "How much can people find out from a photo I email them?"

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*** Featured Comments

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

* * *

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

Robert writes:

One of the things to remember about making full image copies, if you use full disk encryption (getting more and more popular on laptops), the current generation of image making software doesn't work (at least all the ones I've tried failed).

I wouldn't have thought of that, but on reflection it's good to know. It's a good idea to test backup strategies before you need them to make sure they work.

-Leo

*

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

Jay Dishong writes:

One concern I had with the reader's question is that even if he does successfully create an image of his current system, he appears to want to transfer this to a new PC in the near future. This could be disastrous to the new PC as it would likely wipe out any drivers or other special utilities, apps, etc., that came with the new PC.

Absolutely, there are definitely limitations with this approach. It serves as a good backup strategy, but fails in many cases for migration.

-Leo

*

What backup program should I use?

zman writes:

I agree with your emphasis on protecting against data loss by regularly backing up data and/or by imaging the HDD. As you reported recently, recovering a computer in the event of a HDD failure may be impossible if you only have a manufactures recovery CD and do not have a full Windows CD. Imaging for that near certain eventuality has saved my butt several times.

Another good solution for me is "snapshot" software like AyRecovery and RollBack RX Pro, both of which I have purchased. These do not protect against HDD failure but I find them invaluable for other purposes. There primary purpose is to allow you to "rollback" the computer to a earlier time in the event you loss data, pick up a virus, etc. Also, when adding new software or doing major changes you can take a snapshot before making changes and if you are dissatisfied or run into a problem you can restore the snapshot and be right back to the point before the changes were made. These applications are somewhat similar to the old Norton GoBack, but with far greater capability.

*** Leo Recommends

WebDrive
Make FTP connections appear as virtual drives.

If you do anything on the web, particularly things like web development or other types of website maintenance, you're probably aware of "FTP" or File Transfer Protocol. The FTP protocol, and its sibling SFTP (Secure FTP), are two of the quiet workhorses of pushing bits around the internet.

The current traditional approach to dealing with file transfers via FTP is to use a graphical utility such as FileZilla, CuteFTP, WinSCP or others, and then drag-and-drop files to and from the remote site. The previous approach was to use the "ftp" program to perform the same operations at the command line.

I've become addicted to WebDrive which allows you to do both and much, much more, by simply making a FTP connection appear as a virtual disk drive on your machine.

That's an incredibly simple approach that enables a world of flexibility.

Continue reading...
WebDrive - Make FTP connections appear as virtual drives.

*

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

Getting information onto the web is actually fairly easy. Removing information from the web is darned near impossible. That lead me to ask:

Googled Yourself Lately?

Do you know what the internet says about you? And would you want your mother, or your boss, to see?

I occasionally get questions from people that boil down to: "how do I remove myself from search engine results?" The answer of course is track down every site that mentions you, convince each of those to remove you from their content, and wait 3 to 6 months for the search engines to re-index. Even then, there are sites and archives and search engines that didn't remove you, won't remove you, or just don't care.

So when you Google yourself, do you like what you see?

Continue reading...
Googled Yourself Lately?

*** Sites of Interest

Reader Barbara sends in:

www.puters4u.net

I have fun with computers and my friends were asking all the time for help so I decided why not charge for my services. Because of my price I am able to help the elderly and differently abled. I find it very rewarding. It feels good to teach them how to use their computers better and how to stay away from malware.

As you can imagine, I like hear from people who are helping others, in particular those who are making it easier for more people to connect, I agree with Barbara - it can be very rewarding.

*

Full disclosure: there was never any doubt that I would, but it kinda hurts to publish Barbara's site.

Why? It's a fine, fine site, with good information on it, but it propagates one of my biggest pet peeves: "Puter" is not word! Neither is the slightly less incorrect 'puter.

It's a computer. Always.

The word (that's not a word) "puter" just makes me cringe. (And seeing the responses to having tweeted that a while back, I know I'm not alone.) I know, it's a personal thing, but I just had to get it off my chest. Smile

*

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

OK, I admit it. I screwed up.

Last week I asked if you would go fill out a one-question survey for me.

The lesson I learned was this: check out the limitations before using a free survey service. Sending out a request to 70,000+ people, when the survey will only accept 100 answers before closing down is just wrong.

And yes, the irony of my getting bitten by a free service, when I regularly rail against relying heavily on free services for important things like email isn't lost on me either. I was lazy.

What I should have done is implemented the survey technology myself, and that's what I've done.

So, to the 100 of you who made it in: thank you very much.

To the additional folks that also made it in after my mad scramble to replace the free service: thank you very much.

To those of you who tried, but were locked out: I apologize.

The (new, unlimited, and totally in my control) survey is still up at the original link here. I'd very much appreciate your feedback. This time I'll close the survey on schedule, on Saturday.

"When you take shortcuts in life, life will cut you short."
(Courtesy of @IACEZ)

*

In great news, the feedback I've been getting from the surveys I've received from people who made it in has been absolutely fantastic. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it. In fact there's been one change made already, as the survey somewhat confirmed my gut instincts on something.

I'll start sharing some of the results next week after more of you have had an opportunity to weigh in.

'till next time...

Leo
Leo A. Notenboom

What I'm Reading

How We Decide

How We Decide
by Jonah Lehrer

A great companion to "Brain Rules", this book give lots of insight on how irrational, or rather emotional, our decision making process really is, and why it often is exactly the right thing to "trust your gut".

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

* * *

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