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Monthly Archives: February 2011

What Is Spyware?

A survey taken in 2005 concluded that 90 percent of all computers contain at least one type of Spyware! Many computer users do not know what Spyware is or how it can affect them personally. Once the threat is understood, steps can be taken to prevent further infestation. Spyware is a software package that installs itself into a computer and hides itself neatly away so it is hard to detect. It may also use another program as a shield so the common computer user does not know of its existence.

It may be easier for you if you image that Spyware looks like an everyday spider that tucks itself into your software. Once lodged, its legs penetrate the wires in your computer that carry data from your computer to the internet. Once the connection is established, it begins to siphon private information.

There is a lot of information Spyware can accumulate and send back to its creator. The extent of data that is being retrieved depends solely on what the creator wants from you. There are a lot of Spyware programs that extract information on your shopping habits, or your Internet browsing choices. This is a mild Spyware that wasn’t created for malicious purposes, but these bugs can also obtain more personal information about you. There are people who sell names, addresses and phone numbers to telemarketing firms. A Hacker may develop a Spyware program to copy your contact lists and email addresses of family and friends. Or if that isn’t enough they can be made to obtain your credit card information, banking information, passwords, and identity information.

So the less information that you store and access, the less information Spyware can obtain. However, if your computer is being used like everyone else, then all of the information listed in the paragraph above and more is stored in your computer and is potentially open to Spyware.

We hope you find this scary and invasive, because it is. Your privacy can be taken away without you being aware of it. This is worse than house robbery!

In the event you have these little electronic bugs in your system, there are a few telltale signs to help: There is a sudden drop in performance speed. You are suddenly low on memory and resources. Pop-up ads appear when you are off-line. Your hard drive is constantly working even if you are not working on the computer. It takes much longer to start up the computer. Components of Windows aren’t working normally. Common applications you use every day suddenly aren’t working properly. Your internet browser setting has changed like your home page and search pages. Odd favorites appear in your bookmarks or favorite’s folder.

Any or all of the items listed may indicate Spyware. What you need is protection and that starts with an antispyware program to provide your system with real-time protection. Many experts do recommend running two types of Spyware programs, one to run in the background at all times, the other to scan your system once a week to find what the first one missed.

If you have a Windows based operating system, you may not need to purchase two independent products. Many versions of Windows come with an anti-spyware program called Windows Defender. This is a good backup program. There is a ton of anti-spyware programs on the market and you will find the industries top leaders in most computer Magazines.

Whatever you do, try to stay away from “free” downloads on the internet. Nothing in this world is “free” unless the other party is gaining something for giving something away. What many companies get from you is permission to install a Spyware program. This does not mean all companies are out to steal your personal information, but they will sneak information pertaining to your shopping and spending and browsing habits. So make sure you purchase your product from a reputable company, even the cheapest program on the market is a lot safer than downloading a “free” program.

With this in mind, you can prevent additional problems by being aware of what you do and what you download online. There are plenty of tricky ways companies snag even the most experienced internet users. Don’t fall victim to their sly games. Avoid clicking on pop-up ads, even if they tell you that it has detected a virus on your system. These ads are games to get you to click on the ad. Once you do, you just gave them access to your drives. Do not open emails from people you do not know, and never click on any links in emails even if you know the person because they may have forwarded something to you that contained Spyware. Run a check on the email first.

Be smart and browse safely.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2011 in Computer, Desktop, Laptop

 

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Wireless Connectivity

In 2007 the US Census data determined that 88.7 million households had computers. That was 78% of all households in America! It is likely that in 2011 we have reached 90% or better. Computers can do so much for us, but it all comes down to connections. One small wire opens up a portal that allows us to do and go practically anywhere. Congress is already putting together a National Broadband Plan to bring high-speed internet to rural America. This means almost every computer user will have some type of connectivity.

There are three types of connectivity names that everyone needs to understand. They are: LAN, WLAN and WWAN.

LAN, simply means a physical connection to the computer. This is a wire that plugs into the port in your unit and goes to the router box provided by your phone or cable company.

WLAN, is a Wireless Local Area Network. It is commonly called Wi-Fi and is what HotSpot locations use, such as Starbucks. Almost all computers and laptops that are sold today have wireless capabilities needed.

WWAN, means a Wide Wireless Local Network. It is a mobile broadband that cell phones use and is commonly called 3G or 4G, and means 3rd Generation and 4th Generation. Other former names were 2G and 2.5G.

Unless the device you have is meant to travel far distances most home owners and business owners use either a LAN or WLAN connection. Wireless connections out beat LAN connections because wireless connections are more convenient for today’s society. The wireless connection allows you to move around your home, office or property without losing your Internet connection. This is the main reason why laptops are so popular as they have just as much speed and memory capabilities as desktop computers, but have the ability to travel with us.

One major difference between LAN and WLAN is security. A wireless device uses bandwidth signals, and those waves can be picked up by other people beside you. An open network allows outsides to gain access to your device and your information.

Have no fear, as you can protect yourself. Be sure your wireless router is password-protected. Your password should be as difficult as possible without making it ridiculous to remember. Avoid using simple combinations like your phone number, birth dates, social security numbers and other information that can be easily obtained by professional hackers. Always use a combination of upper and lowercase letters along with numbers. Instead of your regular birth date 05211970 (May 21, 1970), change it to something like M05a21Y1970. This still contains the birth date but also contains the work May. Many new routers won’t allow you to use simple codes, but as a rule of the thumb, all of your passwords you use daily should be difficult enough to deter an adequate hacker.

Your next defense is a Firewall. A Firewall protects your data from Internet hackers. In today’s world we hear all too often the affects that identity theft play in peoples lives, and the devastation of viruses hitting the internet. There are actually two types of Firewalls. One is used by your computer, the other is network based and safeguards all of the computers sharing your wireless network. More is better, every personal computer devise should be protected by its own Firewall and your wireless network should be protected.

When you first purchase your wireless router, the manufacturer provides you with a website to enter your information and username/password. These initial settings can easily be hacked over the internet. The moment you have confirmation that your router is working, immediately change your administrator passwords and all usernames. Again, your usernames and passwords should always be difficult for people to access. Do not use simple combinations like: Admin: Fred, Password: Flintstone.

The wireless router will also come with a default network name which is known as SSID or Service Set Identifier. The SSID needs to be the same for all of the devices in your home or business that you wish to have connected to the wireless network. If you leave the default SSID, it may indicate to a hacker that you have little computer knowledge and can be easy prey. Just like everything else, avoid using the simple elementary names. Personal information about you and your family is easy to obtain. Your memories are not. Try mixing up something like where you first met your spouse: in London in 1985 on Canal Street. Your new SSID number can look like: 1L0nd0n9Cana18Str33t5. What we did in this example is use the year 1985 and broke it up evenly, then we took the key words: London, Canal, Street and made it a combination of upper and lowercase letters and changed easy alphabet letters to numbers. An ‘O’ can be substituted with a Zero. An ‘L’ becomes a 1 and so on. Be creative while maintaining an easy-to-remember combination.

If you are a home network, you need to make sure you disable the SSID broadcast. This is a feature used by businesses and hot spots. This can be disabled by logging into your network using the admin password. Not changing this broadcast feature will also single hackers that you may be easy to hack.

When you are setting up your wireless router, be sure to set the unit as close to the center of your home as possible. This will help confine the signals closer to you and away from the street and/or neighbors. So a hallway closet is better than putting the unit on a table by the front window. Also, keep the devise away from household appliances like telephones and microwaves.

Finally, if you are going away on vacation or for a few days, shut the router off if you do not need it. Why leave something open for attack while you are away? This is only feasible if you only use the network for your computer and not for VOIP phones, security cameras, servers or other devices that require a steady connection.

More and more people are going wireless and are staying in contact with family and friends by using their computers, laptops and mobile devices. We are all connecting and need to make sure we keep our data safe. Always be sure to safeguard yourself.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2011 in Computer, Desktop, Laptop

 

Earth’s End – Story

Doomsday.

One word, yet filled with such dreadful power. Just speaking the word is enough to bring forth disturbing mental images. Perhaps I should circle that word, caging it in like a prison for that is exactly how I feel.
I am sitting at a school desk beside a window overlooking the street and a portion of New York’s Central Park. The world has settled since earlier, although the wind continues to howl against the window in frustration. I’m quite sure it would like to shatter the glass and send its sharp wedges into my skin. The candle I am using for light dances before me, the wind is so blowing hard that invisible currents have penetrated the window frame. The draft I feel caressing my skin is cold and damp and it frightens me. The blizzard started hours ago and shows no sign of stopping.

In the next room the teacher’s voices are a murmur sometimes raising in sudden bursts of anger, sometimes falling into a whisper. Images of the day stabbed at my mind. I look out the window at the darkness beyond that fragile piece of glass.

The fire alarm rang between classes and the crowded hallway became congested as teachers joined the flow of students. A prank, I thought because I did not smell smoke and knew that a scheduled fire drills only took place after students were safely inside their classrooms.

“At least we’ll get out of math class for twenty minutes,” my best friend Shane said as the two of us were shoved forward.

“Good, because I never got the chance to study last night.” He ran his fingers through his hair, paying special attention to the abnormal gray patch of hair toward the top back of his head. I never fully knew if Shane purposely messed up that portion so it stuck up, or if he tried to mentally rub the abnormality away.

“You would have aced the exam and you know it.” I said to Shane.

“Yeah, we both know I’m the smarter one.”

We were walking side by side in the center of the hallway.  A surge of seniors bulldozed me to one side of the hall and Shane to the other. They moved through the crowd like bulls among sheep. The resulting bottle-up shoved me up against a window, the other kids eddied around me. I stood on my toes but couldn’t find Shane, I searched heads to see if I could find a gray patch in the flowing sea of hair.

Mrs. Schroder leaped from room 313. “Up against the walls. Everyone, this is not a fire drill!” The fire alarm went dead in mid-ring. All around Manhattan, sirens were blaring. A dreadful silence settled among us.

“Everyone!” The teacher shouted. “The Government has issued a State of Emergency. We need all of you to line up against the walls and tuck your heads between your legs. This is not a drill. If you cannot find a spot I suggest you go into the nearest classroom.”

My mind screamed for me to run and hide, but my legs remained firmly cemented to the floor. I was paralyzed like a deer transfixed by the sudden glare of headlights as it watched a car speeding toward him, heart thumping furiously, mind pleading with the body to move. It was exactly how I felt. The skin beneath my watch began to grow uncomfortably warm, almost hot.

I turned away from the crowd and focused my eyes outside the dirty window, my blood solidified, every muscle locked, except my eyes, I could feel them growing wide.

It was the sky.

Something wicked was stirring up the atmosphere. Black clouds were boiling as they raced across the heavens, gobbling up the blue as they went. Sharp bright lines of lightning shot from these clouds like arrows of death. It was a dazzling display, mesmerizing the senses. An instant later, threads of grayish-black clouds passed beneath the sun, they were joined by denser clouds. I could see the sun as a silver glistening orb as if I was looking at it through a curtain of fog and then it too, was gone.

A sharp pain in my wrist brought my eyes down. The hairs on my arms stood straight up in the air. The watch seemed to be burning a hole into my wrist. The very air around us seemed to be charging up. People’s hair began to stand erect like weird statically charged balls. My wrist was burning so badly, I had to pull off the watch and tossed it aside. My skin was red where the metal of the watch rested. The hair on my arm immediately collapsed against my skin. Was this phenomenon related to the electrical storm in the sky?

The lights flickered, dimmed, snapped back on, then went out, leaving us in darkness. An iron vice of cold fear clamped around my heart. I have never seen darkness so complete, or so terrifying. All I could do was wait for the shock wave of intense heat to boil me alive. Waiting for death is not easy. Time passes too slowly.
I looked outside again. A red mass of smoldering matter was speeding toward us. It lifted buses into the air as if they weighed less than a cotton seed, it engulfed people. Everything in its path vanished. A woman was running away from this mass when a bolt of lightning sliced out of the air behind her. It made contact with the back of her neck she was thrown into the air, and as she flew I watched as her skin disintegrated, her bones turned to dust. Within two beats of my heart the woman was literally gone. Her empty clothes fell to the ground still smoldering.

Shoving myself away from the window, I dove for room 313. Just as I crashed onto the floor the window where I was standing exploded, driving sharp wedges of glass into the kids I left behind. The force of the wind lifted them into the air like dolls and pinned them against the brick wall. Lightning balls appeared suddenly and jagged bolts shot off in all directions, vaporizing all of those statically charged. The metal! The lightning was only striking those who were wearing metal.

Screams filled the air as I slammed the door closed with my heel and crawled across the room toward the closet. Behind me the door blew off its hinges, flew through the air end over end and smashed its exit through the north windows. The wind whipped around me, but it was not hot as I first assumed. Grabbing onto the leg of the teacher’s desk, I gasped as the desk slid across the room with me in tow. Then it was gone. Shaking in fear, I released the desk, taking deep slow breaths.

The emergency lights flickered on. I got unsteadily to my feet and looked around dumbfounded. Outside it was still dark. I stepped into the hallway and noted other kids were just getting to their feet. We all shared the same dazed expression. Some kids were touching themselves and the things around them as if they expected to wake from a bad dream.

Emergency lights bathed the hallway at even intervals, leaving sections of the hall in grim shadows. All the students who stood by the window were dead. My stomach felt loose and watery and I had the sudden urge to pee.

Further down the hall something caught my eye, a brown head of hair with a patch of pure gray. “No! Oh, God no.” I dashed forward, slipping on blood and tripping over bodies, and sank to my knees beside the head. I knew of only one person in the entire school who had a gray patch of hair, and yet I refused to believe it, hoping against hope that I was wrong. I rolled the bodies off the still figure below and felt tears sting my eyes.

Shane’s eyes were open and glazed, staring at something only he could see. Thrusting up from his chest was a large piece of twisted aluminum, torn loose from the window. Memories of the two of us coursed through my mind. Shane was my best friend, my only friend. He and I shared one thing, our intelligence, in a world filled with jealousy and hatred it was enough to forge us into a treasured friendship.

I don’t know how much time passed, probably not much, because only a few people staggered past me.

Mom! I’ve got to get home! What if . . . if—

I forced the thought away. Before leaving I pulled off my sweater, and draped it over Shane’s face. “I’ll come back for you.” Stumbling to my feet, I hurried down the hallway.

We stopped on the school’s steps. It was totally dark outside. A bitter cold wind rushed past us. I looked up into the murky black sky. The sun was gone!

It started snowing then and hasn’t stopped since. The temperature continues to drop. The end is near.

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2011 in Sci-fi, Short Story

 

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Check Disk, Windows 7

Windows Check Disk utility works on any drive that is formatted with a Windows Operating System. The size of the drive does not matter, it does not matter if the drive is partitioned. Nor does the utility care who manufactured the drive. As long as the drive is Windows based, the utility will work.

To keep your computer system healthy, it is advisable to run Windows 7 Check Disk program at least once a month. Check Disk deals with two types of errors, correcting these problems early can save you a lot of time and energy later. Check Disk can find and repair logical errors in the disk’s table of contents. If these errors are not corrected, a computer system may have difficulty reading and writing files. The result, Windows 7 will crash. This is why it is important to run the application once a month, or immediately after a system crash.

Sometimes a system may have a physical bad sector on the disk’s surface. Check Disk can sometimes fix these problems as it will attempt to relocate the files to a clean sector and then mark the bad sector as unusable so the system will not attempt to write new files to that sector. This process of locating and repairing bad sectors can be a time-consuming process. You must check the dialog box for this feature or Check Disk will only scan for logical errors. This feature should be used if you are experiencing problems reading or writing to the disk.

Keep in mind that when you do a “Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors” it could take several hours for your computer to complete this task. It is advisable to perform this overnight so you do not feel the urge to play with other programs while it is running. All programs and Internet browsers should be closed for this process.

In order to start the Check Disk process, please do the following:

1) click Start
2) click Computer
3) Right-click on the C Drive
4) Select Properties
5) Select the Tools tab
6) Click Check Now
7) Adjust settings depending on the type of scan you want
8) Select Start

A Windows message may appear stating that the action can be performed only after a reboot. To continue with Check Disk, click Schedule disk check. The process resumes when you restart your computer.

If for some reason you encounter a Check Disk error, try running the program in Windows Safe Mode.

My Article also appears in: National Repair Center News, Helium.com

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2011 in Computer

 

The Walking Dead – Story

Death. It is not something you normally think about. Now that it is upon me, it is the only thing I can think of. I am not fully dead yet, I may have a few hours left.

It started two weeks ago when I came home from school and found Dad hastily packing his travel bag. “Hi, Dad. Are we going somewhere?”

“Hey, Aaron. I’m sorry but this trip there is only room for me and a small bag. I should be back on Friday.”

“Oh,” I loved traveling with Dad. He was a well-known anthropologist and worked for various organizations. We’ve been in some really awesome places together. “Where are you going?”

He was currently bent over his duffle bag, trying to snatch a sweater from the other side of the bed. “Antarctica.”

“What! No way! Dad, you gotta take me.”

He shoved the sweater into the bag and zipped it closed. “I can’t, son. This call came from high up.  They won’t allow it.”

“How high up?” I asked, dumping my school books onto the sofa.

“I just got off the phone with the Secretary of Defense five minutes ago. They are sending someone to take me to Suffolk County Air Force Base. I fly out immediately.”

“The United States Secretary of Defense? What does he want with an anthropologist?”

Dad rubbed the balding spot on the back of his head. I used to kid him that he rubbed his own hair away. If I still had tears left, I could cry now, I miss him terribly, and I miss that absentminded way he would scratch his scalp when he was dumfounded.

“Listen, Aaron.” He swallowed hard, then sat down and took my hand. “I have a bad feeling about this and even if I could take you I wouldn’t. I’ve received calls from friends, something bad is happening down there.”

I could see the worry in his faded blue eyes. “Like what?”

“What I know is a tremendous chunk of ice broke off a mountain side and exposed what was once a human settlement. They found human remains and evidence that this settlement was in the middle of an ancient tropical rain forest.”

I shook my head. “But that would mean this settlement was more than 40 million years old? Dad, the oldest human-like bones ever found were carbon dated to be about 3.2 million years old. A discovery like this would change everything!”

“Yes. That may be one reason why the government is keeping a lid on this. The other more serious reason is the original team sent there got sick and stopped reporting in.”

This put a whole new spin on the subject. An ancient virus, if it was able to withstand forty million years in deep freeze and still obliterate a team of scientists could possibly mean a new pandemic. “Why you? Why not the CDC?”

Dad gave me a grim smile. “The CDC is going. Actually Kipp will be with me.” Kipp was a good friend.  He worked in the CDC’s biocontainment lab on string viruses like Ebola. They must think it extremely dangerous if they were sending Kipp to set up a mobile containment lab. “Listen, Aaron. Make sure you keep the walkie-talkie active. If something goes wrong, I will send word to you. Will you be alright?”

I did not want him to see me worry or he would worry more. “Of course, I’ll be eighteen in two weeks. I’m an adult now, right?”

An Army Jeep pulled up the driveway. Dad gave me a crushing hug. “Love you, son.”

“Me too.”

Dad did not come home Friday. But the walkie-talkie came to life on Friday night. Dad and I took a standard set of old-fashioned units and modernized them. I was able to program the units to bounce off several satellites so we could talk or send messages anywhere in the world. These were not text messages, but encrypted data that printed out of the unit on thermal paper. He wrote that he loved me and followed that with all the data I needed to understand what was happening.

I am sorry, but it is becoming extremely hard for me to write. I can feel my muscles tightening up as something akin to rigor mortis sets in. But I am not dying as fast as the others. Take Mrs. Winston for example. She is shambling past my house as I write these words. Yesterday she was a hard-working woman raising three kids on her own. Today, her movements are jerky as if the very act causes her severe pain.

She now stops directly in front of my house and turns to face me. Her right eye is missing, along with a good chunk of her cheek. Can she smell me? I wonder. If I opened the door, I know she would, and then rush over to eat me. I use the word ‘rush’ loosely because the dead aren’t very fast.

You may be wondering how I got sick if I knew what was happening before the virus spread across the globe. It was really stupidity on my part. I only had enough food to last me three weeks. So engrossed in the news reporting the virus that I failed to prepare myself for survival. I could also blame it on my grief over losing dad, but it really boils down to stupidity.

Our community has it own small grocery store. I had noticed that the dead don’t travel as much around noontime, so I strapped a machete to my back and loaded dad’s shotgun. I made it to the store, filled my bags and was halfway home when they attacked.

Hmm. Not the right choice of words there. The dead don’t attack.  They cannot move fast enough for that. I dodged them easily and quickened my pace. Suddenly thirty of them crept out of the nearby woods and shrubs. They neatly cut off my path home. I turned to run, only to face more of them. They had me trapped!

My heart felt like a jackhammer it was thumping so hard as I whipped up the shotgun and pulled the trigger. The shot caught Jonathan Martin in the shoulder. It actually vaporized his arm, but it did not stop him. Nor did the wound bleed. But a thick syrupy puss-like substance did ooze from the wound.

I lost a moment of time in utter shock, then shot Kimberly Raye and Mark and others to no avail! They paused their forward march for the barest moment upon being wounded. I shot Adam Tripp in the face at point-blank range. Headless, the body advanced two steps and fell, spilling yellow gook onto my Reeboks.

Out of ammo I unsheathed the machete and started swinging madly. Unlike a living target the walking dead do not care about being wounded. They do not pause to consider other options. There is no thought process that takes place. They just keep advancing. Sweat pored off me as I frantically fought. Finally out of room to maneuver I dove low between two of the dead. It was during that dive that one of them scratched me although I felt nothing at the time.

The second I cleared their legs I leaped to my feet and ran for my life. I did not look back, not daring to fall victim a second time. Once inside the house I bolted the door and collapsed on the floor and for some unknown reason I began to laugh! Can you imagine? Facing thirty or so dead and then falling into galls of laughter. But my hysteria died with a hiccup when I saw the thin bleeding scratch on my arm!

It was nothing really, thinner than a paper cut and not as deep. Regardless I poured peroxide on the cut, then liberally applied iodine and anything else I could find.

The next day the wound was red and swollen. I remembered I had two bottles of antibiotics in the medicine cabinet that the doctor gave me when I had my wisdom teeth removed two months ago. I read the dose and doubled it! I made sure I followed a strict timetable so no pill was missed. Daily I washed the wound with sea salt and warm water, and made carbonic acid by combining baking soda and white vinegar into a thick paste and applying it.

It worked! “Praise God and all his angels!” I shouted when the cut noticeably shrunk in size and the swelling disappeared, leaving just a thin scabbed line on my arm. The next day I began to feel feverish. My flesh also seemed to change just enough for me to notice. It turned paler and molted.

On the twelfth day I took a razor blade to on of the largest knobs on my arm. I was not surprised to see yellow ooze flow from the wound, nevertheless, I cried as I wiped off the foul smelling goo.

Day thirteen I spend with the shotgun loaded and the cold barrel between my chapped lips. I could not take my life! I could not pull the trigger! Even knowing that I would turn into a monster. It was my mother that stopped me in the end. I remembered the day she died, the day the cancer won. The day she spoke about how sacred life was.

Day fourteen I write this in a spiral notebook that I am going to seal in a dozen bags and tape shut with several rolls of packaging tape. Once that is done, I will place this book in a stainless steel box with the hopes that maybe, one day, someone will find this and understand the danger. Included is a medical transcript of what dad sent to me.

Will it be enough? I hope so. I must go now, I fear my end is near.

See Amazing new discover: Zombie Ants, article on my blog

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2011 in Fantasy, Sci-fi, Short Story

 

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