Leo's Answers #184 – June 23, 2009

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


You actually give easy and detailed steps to solve the problems. Thanks!
- Fred

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*** Contents

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

My old computer is too slow for anti-virus software. What should I do?

I got an old computer from my office, with Intel P4 and just 128mb memory. I do not use it for the internet but just some personal work, load photos from camera and mp3 files. If i load some downloaded internet files or programs, I first scan them on another computer for virus/malware. Do I need an antivirus software for this computer? I loaded a free version from the internet and i slowed down my system considerably, so I removed it. How much risk is there in this case?

The scenario you're describing is very common as we try to extend the life of older machines.

The concerns are also very real - viruses and malware don't go away just because your machine is old, but current tools to keep you safe may require more power than your machine has.

This can be managed, in several different ways.

Continue reading: "My old computer is too slow for anti-virus software. What should I do?"

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Is it safe to allow a technician to remotely access my machine to fix it?

Is it safe to allow a tech support person from a reputable firm to have remote access to your computer to solve a problem? I recently had an issue that required me to contact such a company, and permitted the tech to view my desktop. My problem was solved, but I couldn't help thinking that this was a bad idea. Can they browse around inside your machine if you give them this kind of access?

How much do you trust them?

No, seriously, how much do you really trust them?

Because, all other issues aside, this is all a matter of trust.

Continue reading: "Is it safe to allow a technician to remotely access my machine to fix it?"

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How are upload and download speeds related, and why are they different?

ISP connections seem to be rated in download/upload speeds, with download speeds being substantially higher. I'm often urged by my ISP to upgrade my service to a more expensive option that provides higher download speeds. What no one can explain is, how much faster can my download speed be if the servers I visit are limited to the slower upload speed?

There's a bit of a misconception built into the question that I want to try to clear up.

Upload and download speeds aren't related. Well, technically I suppose they are, kinda, but for all practical purposes you should think of them as completely unrelated.

So the fact that a much faster download speed is available actually has nothing to do with the fact that your upload speed is much slower in comparison.

I know, it's confusing.

Continue reading: "How are upload and download speeds related, and why are they different?"

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How can I password protect a desktop shortcut?

Is there a program that offers desktop password protection for shortcuts? My system is Windows Vista Home Edition. I have a few shortcuts/Icons on my desktop I want to keep private. I've seen answers about managing administrator controls and user accounts, etc but that won't help me. I keep my computer on and signed in at all times so there is no changing of users, if I step away from my desk I'd like to be sure no one can click on a desktop Icon and access these files. Logging off and on throughout the day to avoid unauthorized access is not an option for me. I am looking for one that will prompt for a password when the icon is clicked.

The short answer is no - I know of no way to do exactly what you describe.

And to continue along that line, doing exactly what you describe - password protecting the shortcuts - won't help. Protecting a shortcut to a document is not the same as protecting the document itself.

Let's look at some possible alternatives.

Continue reading: "How can I password protect a desktop shortcut?"

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Why does mail to me bounce with "mailbox full" only if it's over 1 megabyte?

I cannot receive any emails larger than 1MB but am able to receive emails less than 1MB. The email delivery statement reads that my mail box is full and cannot receive any emails. I just got done deleting all of my old emails. So my inbox should be almost empty. Could you please help me and let me know what I can d in order to fix this problem.

Without knowing exactly what email service and/or program you use, it's hard to be specific, but I do have some ideas.

You might not have deleted what you think you deleted.

In fact, you might not have deleted anything at all.

Continue reading: "Why does mail to me bounce with "mailbox full" only if it's over 1 megabyte?"

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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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I let a stranger send email from my computer, what could that have done?

Ragnar Barefoot writes:

Come on guys! Let's not be paranoid. I would think the bad guys would go for more efficient efforts to do a thing like this. Unless the subject is specifically targeted for some reason or another, I think chances are pretty negligible that there was a heinous intention in this young girl's action.

You are of course correct, and I'm certainly not one to stir up paranoia. The problem, and the reason I ran this question, is that letting a stranger in an airport use your computer is a really bad idea and people need to be more security conscious. The chances may be negligible but unfortunately they're not zero.

-Leo

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What's the best thing to do when my hard drive fills up?

Lee writes:

Could you discuss freeware and shareware that seeks and deletes duplicate files on the Hard Drives? I have multiple copies of photographs mostly created by trying different photo editing programs that automatically created duplicates. The programs sound good, but I read some "horror stories" on forums saying running these programs could be dangerous.

I would never, ever let a program delete duplicate files. This article explains why: Is it safe to delete duplicate files?. At best, I might allow such a program to identify the files and the manually delete only the ones I knew were safe to delete - such as your duplicate pictures.

-Leo

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What's the best thing to do when my hard drive fills up?

Gwyn writes:

When deciding whether to spend money on an external drive, should not the age of the computer be taken into account? After how many years should you think that perhaps you should be buying a new machine instead of an external drive (or whatever)?

There's no single answer to this. It depends on the machine, how it's being used, what shape it's in and so on. I just added an external drive to my one 10 year old Dell - for how it's used, and the shape it's in, it's a fine place to hang some external storage. Your situation might be completely different. The good news is that even if you change your mind, an external hard drive can easily be moved to your next machine.

-Leo

*** Leo Recommends

The Internet Archive

The Internet Archive is one of those sites that you could spend hours just browsing around. They've really gone the extra mile and are providing video and audio archives as well. It's an amazing site.

The Internet Archive's "Wayback Machine" is extra cool, and a great resource if the website or page you were looking for has dropped off of the internet. It might still be in the Wayback Machine! Quoting the site: "The Internet Archive Wayback Machine puts the history of the World Wide Web at your fingertips. The Archive contains over 100 terabytes and 10 billion web pages archived from 1996 to the present."

Continue reading...
The Internet Archive

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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

Could someone be trying to break into your account? Perhaps. It could just as easily be a typo on someone's part as well.

Why did I get a password reminder I didn't ask for?

On my Hotmail account I received an email from AOL stating "here is your password you have requested" and it gave me the correct password to an old email account that I have not used in years. No one from my household requested a forgotten password. Why would I receive this email? Is this something a virus could do or an outside source? I am concerned someone out there is trying to gain access to my computer.

It's kinda spooky when that happens, but happen it does. It's particularly unnerving when the password reminder is "correct" - meaning that it's reminding you of your correct password. That tells us something, but for the most part what to do next is usually the same regardless.

Continue reading...
Why did I get a password reminder I didn't ask for?

*** Sites of Interest

(No sites of interest this week. No submissions, and I'm short on time due to travel.)

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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 do need to clarify something I said last week. When I said that I'd gotten "Nothing. No suggestions." as the most common response to my survey, I meant that I had gotten many responses and the majority (well over half) simply indicated that they had nothing to recommend. I did not mean that I'd gotten no responses.

Another very common class of request was for things that I actually already have! That means I need to do a better job of making them visible. But for the record:

Based on the feedback around this topic I'll be working to make these more obvious and visible on the site.

And I'll reiterate my most common recommendation: use the search. It's by far the best way to find stuff on Ask Leo!

If you're wondering why pictures of dolls showed up on my Flickr photostream, it's because my wife and I just returned from a trip to a doll convention in San Francisco. Even though she's "out of the biz", as they say, it's still her hobby. Me? I'm along for the ride. Oh, and I'm the designated photographer as well. Smile

We definitely played tourist while we were there - it'd been a long time since I last visited San Francisco. We had a good time, rode lots of cable cars (when they had room; walked steep hills when they didn't), shopped, ate clam chowder out of a sourdough bread bowl, and so on. Like I said, stereotypical touristy stuff.

And, as fate has it, after not visiting the bay area for years, I'll now be back this fall for a conference.

Anyway, if you're so inclined, keep an eye on my Flickr photostream - as I have time in the next few days I'll be uploading a few more photos.

'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".

Midshipman's Hope

Midshipman's Hope
by David Feintuch

This was on my pre-Kindle reading stack, and I started it recently and quickly became engaged. I'm a little over half way through, and enjoying this spacefaring science fiction. It's the first of a several-book series.

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

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