Leo's Answers #193 – August 25, 2009

A Weekly Newsletter From
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Leo Notenboom


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*** New Articles

How can I best connect to the internet while driving?

When we go on vacation I figure if I’m in a car for 8 hours at a time, I might as well be doing something constructive! What’s best way to stay connected? WiFi? Something else?


First: if you plan to use your computer while in motion I hope that you’re not the one driving. Smile

Second: WiFi is a great solution when stopping at a rest stops that offer it, or at local coffee shops that have WiFi hotspots along the way.

Unfortunately, WiFi is not a general-purpose, connect-anywhere solution; it has a very severe limitation that rule it out for this connectivity as you drive down the road.

However there is an alternative.

Continue reading: How can I best connect to the internet while driving?

* * *

How do these emergency recovery options compare?

The scenario is that something ‘ain’t right’ and I have the option of 1 – format & reinstall: 2- manual repair. 3 – run sfc(/scannow). 4 – use a reimage site. I can understand what option 1 is, but what are the pros and cons of options 2, 3 & 4 and how do I know which is the best option(s) for any given situation?


What you’ve run into is a very common situation people find themselves in from time to time.

It boils down to “what the HECK do I do?”

I’ll run down the options you list (at least the ones I understand), and throw in two more.

Continue reading: How do these emergency recovery options compare?

* * *

How do I scan computers at my nuclear power station for viruses without an internet connection?

I currently work at a Nuclear Power Station and recent developments towards the digital arena has resulted in the implementation of many Windows based computers. I have heard of incidents in which viruses have crippled power stations, hence my dilemma.

The Problem: We require to perform a yearly virus scan on these computers, but with the following restrictions:

1) We cannot install an anti-virus on these computers as it conflicts with custom design turbine control applications

2) No internet connection allowed for security purposes

3) No windows updates are allowed to be installed as it results in software conflicts once again

4) Not allowed to open computers

5) There is a 1 month window period each year when these computers are not in service and is available for detecting viruses

6) Fully kitted computers with Xeon processors, LAN etc.

What is the best method/s possible with the above mentioned restrictions to ensure that these computers can be properly cleansed from viruses?


I love Windows, I really do. Yes, it has plenty of flaws and detractors, but let’s face it – in the last 20 years it’s enabled a level of ubiquitous computing for the masses that I just don’t think would have happened as quickly any other way.

That being said … it makes me really uncomfortable to hear “Windows” and “Nuclear Power Station” in the same sentence.

Continue reading: How do I scan computers at my nuclear power station for viruses without an internet connection?

* * *

Making a Full Backup using Acronis TrueImage

Now that we’ve both installed Acronis True Image and created rescue media we can move on to actually backing up.

Our first effort will be a simple full backup of the machine.

Continue reading: Making a Full Backup using Acronis TrueImage

* * *

Why can’t I copy/paste out of a PDF document?

I seem to be “out of step” concerning your delight in pdf documents, which I find totally user unfriendly. I do a lot of editing, copying and pasting (for personal commitments and study purposes). I cannot do that with pdf documents and often finish up frustrated after wasting a lot of time trying to buck the (system) document or by laboriously ‘copy typing’ a particular extract that I need. Am I missing something here in my understanding and use of pdf documents, which would account for my inability to edit or copy and paste extracts in the same way that I can with, say, WORD documents ?


Yes, there is something you’re missing.

But you’re very much not alone.

The missing link is simply this: what, really, is the purpose of PDF format?

Continue reading: Why can’t I copy/paste out of a PDF document?

* * *

Why do I have Internet Explorer temporary files if I never use it?

Why is it that when I run Ccleaner (weekly) it always shows about 4K of temp files in IE, but I don’t use IE except once per month to check for the Tuesday updates?


Some years ago there was a big ruckus about removing Internet Explorer from the operating system, and Microsoft saying that it was impossible or impractical or something along those lines. They may have made some of the more visible parts of it go away to keep the legal folks at the time happy, but the fact is parts of what you think of as Internet Explorer are actually part of the operating system.

Why? Because those parts of Internet Explorer are used by more than just Internet Explorer.

Continue reading: Why do I have Internet Explorer temporary files if I never use it?

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*** Comments

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

* * *

Just what service packs do I need?

Urso BR writes:

From what I’ve been reading lately, there is a consensus among security experts that unpatched systems and software are the single greatest security threat, and keeping them up-to-date is the single most effective way of keeping malware out – more than antiviruses, firewalls, etc. (though I wouldn’t go without them either). In spite of an alarming growing number of “zero-day attacks,” most malware out there exploits vulnerabilities that have long been patched.

It’s not guaranteed that service packs are part of that equation, but it’s also not guaranteed that Microsoft and other vendors will send you all the proper security patches if the latest service packs are not installed. I would strongly recommend everyone to install them (and I never had a single problem installing them – and mind you, I use A LOT of software from many vendors and for multiple purposes).

If you are having problems with just one specific application, replace it or contact the vendor – probably, lots of people will be having the same problem, and they will quickly have a fix. If lots of applications break at the same time, then most likely there is something wrong with your system – either software rot or outdated software and/or drivers. So, first try to be sure to update EVERYTHING you have (this doesn’t mean you need to have major paid upgrades like, for example, going from Photoshop CS2 to CS3 or CS4, but it does mean having all the patches and updates for CS2 installed). Secunia Software Inspector, which is free for personal use and I always recommend to everyone, will help you detect most outdated software, but a direct check at each vendor’s Web site (usually in the “Support” page) won’t hurt either.

If it still doesn’t work, I agree with Leo: backup your documents and data, then format the disk and perform a clean install. Apply the service packs and all security patches BEFORE installing anything else (in the most up-to-date versions, of course), and my bet is that everything will work.


Is an online backup service a good idea?

Mike writes:

I’ve only recently started backing up my files, but I’ve been using Mozy and Acronis in tandem for about a month and loved both so far.

I just wanted to chime in and suggest using both a physical and online backup service. Backing up to physical media (an external hard drive, DVDs, etc.) does you no good if you are the victim of a housefire, flood, or theft…unless you diligently put your backups in a fireproof safe every night.

I use Mozy to backup my absolutely critical data, but the non-essential stuff (like mp3s) I only back up to an external hard drive. I figure if I have a housefire, then losing my mp3 collection will be the least of my worries. 🙂


Why do I have Internet Explorer temporary files if I never use it?

Chris writes:

Its the other way around Curtis…. Windows Update patches areas that used to be exploitable, making them UN-exploitable by the same version of the application. By opting out of Windows Update, you are simply widening that possibility that your machine could get infected/exploited, but that’s entirely up to you…

Some people can keep fairly safe internet lives by keeping extremely low profiles on the net and avoiding almost all areas where you can be “used” by another party.

Software and NAT firewalls could help with port scanner searching your ISP’s IP range, but once they get through that, your machine is open for business to 100s, if not thousands of exploitable pieces of code. I say Good Luck and God Speed!

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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

Privacy and security are always popular topics.

Secure Delete: what is it, and do I need it?

Although there are many software utilities that claim to be able to delete data files from hard drives securely and thoroughly, can you accomplish the same thing simply by overwriting sensitive files with large, non-sensitive ones.

To be honest, it depends on your level of paranoia. I suppose that also depend on the level of sensitivity of your data.

But you are correct in the implication that a plain old “delete” isn’t nearly enough.

Let’s look at that, and how far you might need to go.

Continue reading…
Secure Delete: what is it, and do I need it?

*** Thoughts and Comments

I realized the other day that occasionally I say things on Twitter that might be of value to you. But of course not everyone follows me on Twitter (though of course you can). So I may start throwing a few of my more relevant “tweets” here.

  • RT @KING5Seattle internet addiction treatment center opens in Fall City: http://bit.ly/G3ZY9 [Leo: internet addiction? whazzat? :-)]
  • MalwareBytes reported two false positives this AM: netsetup.exe and wextract.exe in system32. Update mwb database to resolve.
  • Why CD-R’s are harder to read than CDs and often less portable (and what to do): http://ps0.us/yt [Leo: Good writeup in local paper.]

And if you’re wondering what “ps0.us” is, it’s my private URL-shortening service.


Last week I mentioned that I have some really smart friends, and every so often I like to tell you about them.

Sure enough, at about the same time I was telling you about one friend releasing a new product, my other friend Heather released a somewhat similar product, aimed slightly more towards small businesses and entrepreneurs.

WordPress in a Second walks you through setting up a WordPress based website, but then goes on to expand on ways to generate more business and more profit from that site. To quote Heather “It’s like having two expert business coaches on speed dial who can walk you through, step-by-step, EXACTLY what you need to do to set up your website and turn it into a business-producing machine.”

I know, there are tons of folks out there that will tell you they can help you do this, with varying degrees of experience and success. Take it from me, Heather’s the real deal. She’s the owner of Contemporary Virtual Assistance, providers of Virtual Assistance services to many different businesses around the company and around the world – including Ask Leo!.

Be sure to check out the bonuses offered with the book – they may make it well worth the purchase price alone. But, of course, if you’re not satisfied, Heather also offers a 100% money back guarantee.


Finally, I normally save the odder questions for my annual round-up, but I thought I’d share this one as it’s not as much odd as it is … unexpected? Though it didn’t warrant an article of it’s own, it’s worth mentioning…

If a popcorn kernel trapped between the cpu fan and the processor pops, what damage could it have caused? I don’t know how it got there.

What’s funny is that this could happen, and the kernel could absolutely pop at some point – things do get hot inside your computer. It could: do nothing; pop the CPU fan off and lead to overheating; shift to some other spot such that when it pops it actually dislocates some other piece of hardware; or even catch on fire after it pops.

Remove the kernel, and take steps to avoid the problem in the future.

’till next time…

Leo A. Notenboom

Many thanks Leo, and keep up the good work! No doubt I’ll be back again.
– Gary

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Posted: August 25, 2009 in: 2009
Shortlink: https://newsletter.askleo.com/3852
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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.