Leo's Answers #185 – June 30, 2009

Leo's Answers
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Leo Notenboom

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- Richard


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*** Contents

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

I closed my email account, but people are still getting email from it. Why?

A hacker got into my previous email account. I canceled the account. I received information from friends that they are still receiving email from it. Is this account shut down completely to prevent emails being sent out in my name? This email from the hacker is a virus.

There are several things that could be going on here, and at least one misconception.

It's possible your account was never hacked.

It's possible your account was never closed.

It's possible your account, once closed, was reopened.

Let's look at those one by one.

Continue reading: I closed my email account, but people are still getting email from it. Why?

* * *

Why does my computer crash after adding RAM?

My nephew has upgraded his computer's RAM from 256MB to 512MB. It operates much faster and the system recognized it fine. But after launching his browser the system freezes up. It does not do this with 256MB. His computer has 2 slots capable of 256MB max for each. We have since purchased an additional new one to match the other but the problem still exists. He added a 128MB chip to the open slot and no problem, it reads 384MB. We performed a full factory restore, same problem. We're both scratching our heads on this one. I've assisted many family members with memory upgrades and never a problem. Any ideas or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Adding RAM is one of the most cost effective ways to improve your computer's speed and overall efficiency. Windows loves RAM.

Except, of course, when it doesn't work.

I'll look at some of the issues to consider when adding RAM, and of course what I think has happened in this specific case.

Continue reading: Why does my computer crash after adding RAM?

* * *

Does the Flash Player store things in my computer? Is that safe?

I had a problem installing a program on my computer. After 20 minutes with tech support we found the problem was my Macromedia Flashplayer settings. Sometime in the past when Flashplayer asked if it could store stuff on my computer I had changed the memory setting to NONE. Changing the setting to allow Flashplayer to save stuff on my computer solved the problem.

What are the benefits/dangers of allowing Flashplayer to store stuff on my computer. What are your thoughts on these settings, and what the best/safest setting should be?

Macromedia Flash (long since purchased by Adobe) has exploded in the web as the platform-independent dynamic content player of choice. If you've ever watched a video on YouTube (and who hasn't?), you used the Flash Player to do it.

What many people don't realize is that, yes, Flash can store information in on your computer for site you're visiting.

You've heard of "cookies", as used by your internet web browser? There's a new term in town: flash cookies.

Continue reading: Does the Flash Player store things in my computer? Is that safe?

* * *

My Windows Live Hotmail account was closed for a "Terms of Use Violation" - I did nothing wrong, what do I do?

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.

I'm actually hearing about this frequently, and what I'm hearing is not good.

As you can imagine, there's a lot of frustration around this issue. I can understand why Hotmail would "close first, ask questions later", but if that's the approach then I also understand why their lack of follow up response would be so very frustrating.

Let me explain what I think is going on.

Continue reading: My Windows Live Hotmail account was closed for a "Terms of Use Violation" - I did nothing wrong, what do I do?

* * *

How much does my encrypted wireless connection protect me?

I use a wireless internet connection (secured WPA-personal) and no one other than me knows the password for it. Can anybody/ISP see what I am doing on the internet? I use Skype and Yahoo Messenger to talk to my family overseas. Can others hear and see what I do on the Skype & Yahoo video? If the answer is yes, can you please tell me how can I secure it?

There are a couple of important potential misunderstandings of just how wireless security works, how far it works, and what you can do - if anything - beyond the reach of that security.

Let's look at exactly what kind of security wireless connections give you.

Continue reading: How much does my encrypted wireless connection protect me?

* * *

Did I really get a critical update notification for Outlook Express in my email?

I recently received a "Critical Update" notification for Microsoft Outlook / Outlook Express in my email. I'd not gotten these before, so I wanted to double check. What should I do?

Delete that email immediately, and ignore any more copies you'll likely get.

Malware authors are constantly looking for ways to fool us into clicking on their links. Since I also got the same email, I'll use it as an example of what to look for.

Continue reading: Did I really get a critical update notification for Outlook Express in my email?

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*** Featured Comments

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

* * *

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

Nicholas Gimbrone writes:

As Mike points out, the question seems to be one of "how is the remote server's upload speed affecting my download speed" and "if the remote server is bandwidth limited for its upload, doesn't that limit my download". The answer is that the remote server is likely not connected to "the internet" via the same bandwidth limited connect as your client machine is. Most servers are sitting on high bandwidth connections to the internet, often far in excess of 100Mb. Their connection speeds (up and down) are completely unrelated to your connection speeds. The net bandwidth that you have to any one server will be affected by factors which include: the server's bandwidth, the client's bandwidth, the load in all of "the pipes & switches" between the two, and even things like the distance between the two and how well tuned the software is on each of the two... its a complex equation.

One unmentioned large reason for asymmetric bandwidth for many client's connections is... well... to prevent them from becoming effective servers. Your ISP can control via such knobs how much data you put on the net, and thus their costs. Likewise, the can employ technologies such as "caching proxies" to provide the client with an copy of a commonly fetched web page without even visiting the server (or just asking the server to validate the proxy's cache with a low cost transaction really ;-). Taken to the extreme, this is (in essence) the whole idea behind technologies such as Akamai's (a whole business built on this ;-).


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

Hughon writes:

I understand the concern for security and safety with having someone you know nothing about, gaining access to your PC remotely, granted or not. But you must ask yourself this question. Is it any safer to bring your PC to a local support shop for repair, when you know nothing about them either?

I looked at it this way. When you give access to a technician remotely, of course there is the risk they may access more than you hope. But at least you can terminate the connection at any given time you don't feel comfortable with what they are accessing. Yes, you have that much control over the entire process, thanks to today's standard of connectivity. You have to actually say yes to it before they actually connect to your PC, and can stop the process anytime.

However, what about the process you can only control to a point when you bring your PC to a local repair shop. You bring your PC in, you gave your information to someone(could be a technician), and then was told to come back the next day for pickup. But what you may not know is the level of invasion into your privacy that took place in this process, and the big thing is, you can't stop it and you don't really know what they did.

At least with remote access, you can see everything the technician is doing.


You're raising some good points, however the issue to me is one of accountability. While there are risks in taking your PC to a shop (I've talked about them before), you know who they are, and if there's an issue you go back to the repair shop an talk to the same person. There's an individual involved, that you can see and meet and talk to face-to-face. That changes the relationship.

With remote assistance from many large vendors you have no idea who it is that you're letting access your machine. They could be next door, they could be on the other side of the planet. If you call back with an issue, you'll likely get a completely different person who won't know what the first one did. IMO it's just too anonymous, and too risky.

I totally understand the appeal to the technicians themselves - they, of course, know who they are and know that they are trustworthy. Unfortunately customers don't have that knowledge, they can only make assumptions.


*** Leo Recommends


Several of you are going to think this is the stupidest, most obvious recommendation ever.

And I know that most of you already know, love and use Google as your primary search engine. In fact, that's how most people find Ask Leo! in the first place, and it's what powers the search you'll find on every page.

I probably don't need to convince you that it's useful.

The problem is that most people don't use it well.

Continue reading...


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

It's important to understand what can happen behind your firewall.

Can a computer virus spread behind my firewall?

My house has multiple computers (usually a few are connected to the internet and running at a time) all connected to the internet through a Linksys ethernet router. Hypothetically, if two computers were connected to the internet, and one of them contracted a virus or two, would the virus be able to get to the other computers connected to the router more easily? Meaning, would the fact that the virus's entered one computer also mean they had gotten into the household network?

The short answer is "Possibly".

Your setup sounds very much like my own. Several computers, most are always on, and all sharing a connection to the internet.

There's good news and bad news here, and it all depends on the virus.

Continue reading...
Can a computer virus spread behind my firewall?

*** Thoughts and Comments

On person commented in my recent survey that Ask Leo! is too much about Hotmail. I thought about that person again this week since I posted another Hotmail question.

The fact is that, in part, I choose which questions to answer based on how many of the same question I get. This week's question about people losing access to their Hotmail account due to a "Terms of Use Violation" isn't just from one person - it's from perhaps a couple dozen in recent weeks, perhaps even more - it became clear that addressing that question would hopefully help a lot of people.

Given that I get 50 to 100 questions every day, I clearly can't answer them all, so I look to what seems to be causing the most people the most pain as one of my criteria for selecting what to answer.

And, sadly, Hotmail can cause a lot of people pain.

But keeping that in mind, I certainly don't want to be all about Hotmail either - I do try to be more diverse than that.



I just decided to pull the "Sites of Interest" feature. Too off-topic, and ultimately a distraction from the focus of this newsletter. If you have a site that relates to tech somehow, then by all means, let me know and I may mention it here in my free-form ramblings.

In other changes, you may note that the site has a more streamlined look. I took more of that survey feedback that indicated people were having trouble finding things and turned it into some cleanups. I'm hoping that the individual pages are more focussed and less distracting. The home page has also been reorganized to focus on getting you to the answers you're looking for.

There may be some similar cosmetic changes to the newsletter itself in the not-to-distant future. Smile

'till next time...

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".

Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits

Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits
by Leslie Crutchfield, Heather McLeod Grant

Non profits have an opportunity to more than just address symptoms, but actually address the root cause.

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

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

Posted: June 30, 2009 in: 2009
Shortlink: https://newsletter.askleo.com/3797
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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.