Leo's Answers #261 – December 14, 2010

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Leo Notenboom


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*** New Articles

Does a router stop viruses?

I have FIOS which includes an Action Tec router/switch combo device. The router's security is at factory defaults. Is it possible for a virus/spyware to jump across the switch? I just found exceptions that other programs put there without my knowledge. Like Skype and Google earth. I do not remember these programs asking me to make the exceptions. I just turned all exceptions off. An IT guy thinks so, I always thought the answer was no.


The short answer is: yes.

The longer answer is more involved, and involves the differences between a router and a switch, how a router protects you, software that's makes changes to your router without asking, and ultimately different kinds of viruses and malware and which a router can and cannot protect you against.

Continue reading: Does a router stop viruses?

* * *

How do I create a filter in Gmail?

I know I can use Gmail filters to automatically mark everything from a specific email address as spam, but I looked at the filter but couldn't figure out how to use it.


Gmail's actually got a pretty powerful filtering utility, however it seems that the one thing you cannot do is set up a filter to automatically mark it as spam. If actually marking it as spam is important, then you'll have to keep doing that manually.

However, a slightly related filter might serve your purposes just as well: "if it's from this email address delete it" is a fairly easy filter to create.

Continue reading: How do I create a filter in Gmail?

* * *

What is 'whois' protection, and do I need it?

I'm part way through purchasing a domain and I've been offered something called "whois protection". What is "whois" and why would I need protection from it?


As the owner of an internet domain (I'll use "somerandomservice.com" as my example here), there are certain requirements that information about you be published.


Now, if you don't mind having your name, address, email address and phone number published publicly, then you can stop reading now. You don't need whois protection or any of the alternatives.

I expect most of you are still reading.

Let me explain and outline an alternative as well.

Continue reading: What is 'whois' protection, and do I need it?

* * *

Is it possible to wipe my hard drive and start over myself?

I have an Asus laptop running Vista Home Premium (32 bit) and I would like to know if it is possible for me to wipe my hard drive and reinstall everything myself, without having to take my laptop to a shop and have to pay to have it done. I would like to make my computer like it was when I first had it because I have had it for about 5 years now and the hard drive is almost full. There is nothing wrong with it as it is, but would like to start over so that I can carry on using it as I like it very much. Please let me know if this is possible and how do I do it?


Yes, most people certainly can do exactly what you describe. It's not a terribly difficult process, but does require care and caution along the way so as not to lose anything that you have now and consider important.

It also requires that you collect a few things to prepare, and I'll go over that.

Continue reading: Is it possible to wipe my hard drive and start over myself?

* * *

My hard disk is filling up, what should I do?

I've had a laptop running Vista for about 5 years now and the hard drive is almost full. What should I do?


Sometimes it definitely feels like the longer you use your computer the less space is left on the hard drive.

That shouldn't really happen, but as a practical matter it does - or at least it feels like it does.

I'll throw out a few quick steps you can take to alleviate, or at least understand, the problem.

Continue reading: My hard disk is filling up, what should I do?

* * *

Can I just use my cellular service for all my internet needs?

I do not believe that I need both an internet service at my house and a cellphone data service for on the road. When I am not at home, my computer and internet sit idle. I would like to explore an iPhone option. However, it is very costly to have both a service for a cellphone data plan and an internet plan at home. Can I hook my laptop to a cellphone data plan and get rid of home internet? what is your advice?


My advice is to be careful and read the fine print.

While what you're proposing sounds lucrative, and may indeed be appropriate for some people, there are a few drawbacks you should consider before taking the plunge into cellular-only internet.

Continue reading: Can I just use my cellular service for all my internet needs?

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*** Comments

Should I unsubscribe from things I've signed up for to avoid spam?

Sandra writes:

If a company with whom I have legitimately done business sends me email, and I later unsubscribe using their unsubscribe link, and they continue to send me their email, I consider that spam. Likewise, if their unsubscribe link doesn't work or takes me to a page that requires me to complete a bunch of personal information just to unsubscribe (rather than simply requiring my email address), that's also spam in my opinion.

I agree. I also strongly dislike those that say "it may take up to 14 days to process your unsubscribe". No. There's no reason in this day and age for an unsubscribe not to be immediate. Once I unsubscribe any further email from that source is spam (I may give them a grace period of an hour or two, since I, too, run servers and know that there can be occasional delays - just not 14 day ones).



How do I remove a document stuck in my printer's queue?

Paul Gesellchen writes:

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I wrestled with this issue for several hours before I found this site. I followed your instructions exactly and it solved my problem immediately! I really appreciate you putting down these instructions in such a clear fashion. Thanks again.


How do I keep my USB device from becoming infected?

NewDimTech writes:

As a bench tech, I use my USB drive on just about every machine that gets to our bench. The only machine I trust is my own. I have a program on it called DFC (Dummy File Creator), and it does just that. After the occasional update of the software I carry, I use DFC to create a dummy file to fill the remaining unused space on the drive. Instant drive protection, if there's no free space, it can't be written on by anything. Not the most elegant solution, but it works.

I like it. (Except for viruses that modify files in place, though. Not sure how prevalent that is in USB-payloads.)



What are my Lost Hotmail Account and Password Recovery Options?

Mohamed Zaghloul writes:

You have an article named "I've forgotten the answer to my MSN Hotmail secret question, and my password, what do I do?". I have a question, what if i know my password, but from unknown reasons it didn't work when i input it and my account was blocked, and i don't have alternate e-mail and i forgot the answer to secret question....but i know the password, i was using it everyday. I have followed the steps for recovery and submitted the form with information, but were not enough, so it was rejected, because i don't remember most of the data i input when i created my account years ago. All i need is my account to be unblocked, i repeat, i know the password, i just don't know the other details, and i know is my fault i never paid attention to all those, but is too late now to change that

99 out of 100 people who swear to me that they KNOW THE CORRECT PASSWORD - don't. It's not because they were wrong, but it's because the account has been hacked and the password changed. If you can't provide the backup information that Hotmail (or any email service) requests then there's no way that they have to know you're not trying to scam them into gaining access to someone else's account. They MUST have some kind of reasonable proof that you really are the account holder. If not, you're just not going to get the account back. Sorry.


*** Leo Recommends

Inexpensive Domain Registration ... with Service

As of yesterday, I own 69 70 78 internet domains. I've registered them all through SimpleURL, a service of Simple Online Solutions.

It's easy to get wrapped up around pricing when looking to register a domain. SimpleURL's prices are quite inexpensive, but certainly not the absolute lowest that you'll find around. You might be able to save a buck or two by going elsewhere.

But in my experience - it'll cost ya.

Continue reading...

SimpleURL - Inexpensive Domain Registration ... with Service


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

A common question.

What is disk partitioning?

What is disk partitioning and how do I use it?

Most folks actually never need to worry about disk partitioning. Your machine will have come pre-configured and that configuration is probably just fine for most uses.

There are some times when it might make sense to revisit how your hard disk is used at the lowest level, and that's where partitioning comes in.

Continue reading...
What is disk partitioning?

*** Thoughts and Comments

My friend Cathy Stucker who runs Blogger LinkUp, a service that matches bloggers writing guest posts with blogs that need them, began her Monday email stating "My Name is Cathy... and I am a domain-aholic."

Yes. Well.

It appears she and I attend the same meetings.

I own 78 domains right now. In some circles that makes me a lightweight, but in others I'm the "why would anyone need that many domains?" guy. (They're all registered at today's recommended service, by the way: SimpleURL.)

Some are variations of ask-leo.com, others are other projects in various stages of development or planning, others are personal domains, and there's a set of domains relating to my wife's former doll business. It adds up. It's also made my server moves ... interesting.

And for the record, those meetings? They're not recovery groups - more like acceptance groups. I end up buying most of my domains because of ideas generated there.

You see, I don't really have a problem. Smile


My Windows XP webinar is scheduled for the Wednesday 29-Dec-2010 at 9AM (US) Pacific time. As I said last week, no matter what time I choose it'll be bad for someone, so I chose a time that works for me (and during which the dogs stand a chance of being quiet. Smile)

Invites will go out to the XP Book list in the next day or so, and then if there are spots remaining I'll post on Facebook as well.

'till next week...

Leo A. Notenboom

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Posted: December 14, 2010 in: 2010
Shortlink: https://newsletter.askleo.com/4680
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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.