Leo’s Answers #300 – September 13, 2011

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Leo Notenboom

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*** New Articles

Why can't I access Hotmail?

Why can't I access Hotmail?

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As I write this, I'm receiving many reports of people having problems accessing Hotmail. The typical problem is simply "page not found".

This happens occasionally when Windows Live Hotmail's servers go down, or there's a network or other issue preventing a large number of internet users from being able to reach the Hotmail servers.

There could be many, many different reasons for this to happen, and almost all of them are out of your control.

Continue reading: Why can't I access Hotmail?
http://ask-leo.com/C2191

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Why didn't Microsoft fix this horrible bug?

I've complained about this bug for years and no one has an answer. It's horrible - forums are full of people who are experiencing this bug and no one has an answer. It's been there for years and Microsoft continues to just ignore us. Obviously, Bill's too busy trying to make more money by forcing us to upgrade and doesn't have time for bugs that impact lots of people. WHY WON'T THEY FIX THIS HORRIBLE BUG?

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As you can probably guess, that's a composite question representing questions (and comments and rants) that I get a lot. Basically, someone is convinced that they're dealing with the Most Important Bug Ever and Microsoft - no, Bill Gates himself - is ignoring them.

Typically, there's no satisfying the folks who have landed in that extreme position. I often do suggest - and it's an honest suggestion - that they might be better served by a Mac or Linux solution because they're not satisfied with Microsoft and Windows.

However, for those who are interested, I'd like to go over some of the things that factor into the process and why your Most Important Bug Ever might not get fixed.

And yes, why Bill Gates is not only ignoring you, but why he probably has no idea that you or your Most Important Bug Ever even exist.

Continue reading: Why didn't Microsoft fix this horrible bug?
http://ask-leo.com/C4927

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How do I force Windows to reinstall a driver?

My machine is an emachines T2792 and has six USB ports. No matter which port I plug into or what type of hardware that I try to use, my computer tells me that the “hardware has malfunctioned” or “hardware not recognized”. My OS is XP-Home edition. I've tried no fewer than a half-dozen driver repair and PC rejuvenators - all to no avail. What do you think is the most likely culprit?

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My knee-jerk, snarky reaction is to say that the half-dozen driver repair and PC rejuvenators are at fault. Many are no better than snake oil and they either add problems where there previously had been none or make existing problems worse.

However, there was at least a problem before you tried them, so they can't be completely at fault.

We do need to seriously consider that the hardware here has a problem and no amount of driver fiddling is going to fix that.

But before we throw in the towel on a software solution, there is one thing worth trying.

Continue reading: How do I force Windows to reinstall a driver?
http://ask-leo.com/C4926

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Encrypting Using AxCrypt

I frequently get asked how to encrypt a file. Tools like 7-zip and TrueCrypt, my most common recommendations, are designed to work on collections of files. AxCrypt, on the other hand, encrypts single files quickly and easily.

In this video excerpt from an Ask Leo! webinar, I'll walk through using AxCrypt.

Continue reading: Encrypting Using AxCrypt
http://ask-leo.com/C4925

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Does keeping an unencrypted copy of encrypted data make sense?

In a previous newsletter, someone was explaining how they lost data because they encrypted it and they couldn't decrypt it. You said it is always a good idea to keep an unencrypted copy of your data to prevent you from losing it. Doesn't doing this completely defeat the purpose of encrypting your data in the first place?

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Not at all.

In fact, as that reader discovered, it's actually an important part of keeping your data secure - both from prying eyes and from failure.

The "trick", if you want to call it that, is in how you do it.

Continue reading: Does keeping an unencrypted copy of encrypted data make sense?
http://ask-leo.com/C4924

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Is there a way to get an internet connection for free?

We want to know if there is way to connect to the internet without having to pay the high fees that our cable company charges for internet access ($55 a month). We are on a fixed income and in our sixties. We enjoy being connected to our friends thru the internet and playing games like Mah-Jong and Farmville on Facebook. But when it comes right down to it, when being forced to choose between our cable and internet connection (which together cost $115 a month), the internet would be the one that we'd have to cut, as without cable, we receive no television signals. We are homebodies and love each other a lot (married 42 years), but we need the entertainment factor that watching TV and being on the internet provide us. ;-) We read today's edition of your newsletter about a person asking if they could share the password for their router with their neighbor. We think that we got the gist of what you were saying and wonder... Can this “router thing” allow us to connect to the internet without having to go through a separate company? How much does a router cost? Is it hard to hook up? Is it something that we could do ourselves?

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A router is not going to get you free internet, no.

Besides, you probably already have one.

I like to compare internet service to your landline phone service: if you want your own phone, you gotta pay for the connection. Without that, all that you can really do is borrow your neighbor's phone or maybe that of a generous business.

But if you want your own connection at home, that's a service that needs to be paid for, I'm afraid.

I'll look at a couple of alternatives for internet, both free and paid, and talk a little more about that router.

Continue reading: Is there a way to get an internet connection for free?
http://ask-leo.com/C4923

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*** Last Week's Articles

*** Comments

What is the Event Viewer, and should I care?

Paul writes:

Just had a call ( 2215 MDT ) from an very impatient East Indian woman that said she was from Microsoft and that she was calling me because my computer was sending infectious emails. Woke me up actually. Stupid me went and turned on computer and she had me open event viewer ( first time I have ever been in there to be honest). Asked me to scroll through one of the pages and tell her if there were any red or yellow icons with warning beside them. There were 57,000+ events and after 3 or 4 seconds she was asking me what I had found. I told her I was still looking and she kept asking. I became impatient with her and told he to just relax and give me a minute. When I found a couple she said "Oh my god, you have more than 3 ?!". I said there were a number of them. Told me to wait till the supervisor came on. Another East Indian chap ( Joe I think) came on and said that he was there to help me. I became a bit suspicious at this time and asked how they got my phone number and who they were. Said he got my name from my URL and that they were with "pc live support" or something like that. I asked what he was selling and he said for me "not to worry he was not selling anything but merely here to help me". I became very suspicious at this point and said that I will have my I.T guy look at it in the morning. He became a bit excited at this time and asked; " Do you trust your I.T. guy? Do You? , if you do why does he not know about the event viewer and all these errors, tell me, why". At this point I think I may have mentioned something derogatory towards him and hung up. Started to think about it a bit more and came back online and found this page. Good scam they have and after reading the above info about the event viewer I am glad that I did finally hang up. They did however, have me for a minute or two. I will still mention it to my I.T. guy and watch him smile at me and shake his head roll his eyes and call me stupid for not hanging up sooner and even opening anything they had me do. Lesson learned.

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Is it safe to share my Internet connection with my neighbor?

Ken B writes:

Note that you might not hove to buy a second router. For example, our wireless router has built-in support for "guest access". This has a separate SSID (along with separate security and keys), and a separate subnet, and the router keeps the guest part of the connections away from your main network. And you can change the guest access password any time you want, without affecting your main network.

You still have the same issues of them using your ISP's connection, but it makes for a much easier setup.

Those aren't very common (yet) but they do make this scenario much easier indeed.

-Leo

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How do I fix "The Windows Installer Service could not be accessed"?

Alex writes:

"I can,t believe that some people are still using Vista ! Dump it and move on~ download Ubuntu 11 for free and see your computer come alive."

Sure, if you can understand it and have a PhD. in computer skills. I like what Ubuntu has done, but I don't think it's ready for Grandma yet, the test of a real desktop system. My last trial of it, I had to open the command line too often to install what I wanted, and the boot loader somehow h0sed my system, and I had to format the whole hard drive, in the process h0sing my recovery partition. Had I not made a recovery DVD.... well.

My machine came pre-installed with Vista, and I love it! I haven't had ANY of the problems described by people who tried to install it over XP (or ME???); the machine just runs, is reliable, and I only paid about $300 US new! (2.2 Ghz dual core Athlon 64X2, 2 Gb DDR2, 320 Gb SATA, Windows Vista Home Premium.) I have been amazed since I got it, and like it at least as well as my wife's laptop with Win 7.

When new computers start shipping with Ubuntu and an emulator (so I can play my few Windows games I enjoy), I will think about it. For now, I'll "dance with the one that brung me".

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Is it safe to share my internet connection with my neighbor?

Texan 2000 writes:

One other little thing, the legality. I don't think that the ISP wants you to be providing a contractually leased connection to people with whom they do not have a contract. Result, the ISP could remove your service and blackball you with other providers.

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Encrypting Using LockNote

GREG JACKSON writes:

FYI - if LockNote is kind of a fun little application, you'll love "Hide In Picture" (HIP). It is a program that allows you to "hide" any kind of file inside standard bitmap pictures. via GUI application (drag and drop the file into the picture).

While it's fun, easy, and even cute, strong security remains a primary concern. The "Read Me" alone is worth getting the download. The information behind this small package, and additional security recommendations allows one to better appreciate it. And it really works. http://hide-in-picture.sf.net/.

*** Leo Recommends

Thunderbird - A Free, Open Source, and Powerful Email Client

Mozilla's Thunderbird is my choice for email. I use it all day every day, and I can heartily recommend it as an often more powerful and capable replacement for mail programs like Outlook Express, Windows Live Mail and many other desktop email applications.

The feature list is long, but I want to call out some of my favorite features and some of the things that personally draw me to Thunderbird and cause me to make it my recommendation for almost anyone using a desktop email program.

Continue reading: Thunderbird - A Free, Open Source, and Powerful Email Client
http://ask-leo.com/C3451

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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

I regularly hear from people who've lost family members and are left with critical data inaccessible.

What happens when I die?

This is actually a question I heard on an episode of Security Now with Steve Gibson and "the other Leo", Leo Laporte. They speak frequently about tools and techniques to keep data secure, and the question was - in that light - how to make sure that data is actually available to those we might leave behind on our death.

It struck a chord because I regularly hear the other side of the scenario. I frequently hear from those left behind, frantically attempting to access important, sentimental, or highly critical data that a recently deceased friend or family member has locked up extremely tight.

Think about it; what happens to your encrypted data, your online accounts, your pictures, or your "digital-whatever" if for some reason you're not around to access it?

What if you're the family money manager and suddenly your spouse needs access or information and has none?

It's not particularly pleasant to think about but with all the security measures we put into place these days to keep bad people out, it's worth also having a plan for letting the good people in, should the need arise.

Continue reading...
What happens when I die?
http://ask-leo.com/C3495

*** Thoughts and Comments

My change of topic for last Sunday's webinar turned out to be helpful for me - it forced me to evaluate some backup alternatives, and I may have stumbled onto the next one to be investigated more deeply. (Hint: it's not Windows own backup utility - that still confuses the heck out of me.)

I encountered a couple of solid free solutions, and have a fairly clear understanding of what you get by upgrading to the paid versions of both - and why you'll probably want to.

Three video segments culled from the webinar will be posted in the upcoming weeks. Thanks to everyone who attended - we had some great Q&A that I think helped quite a bit.

Issue #300!! Whoo hoo! Thanks to all of you for being here and making this possible.

'till next week...

Leo
Leo A. Notenboom
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