Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Paris Hilton video — infection spam alert

The latest wave of spam includes videos or links to videos and usually includes Paris Hilton or Brittany Spears in the title.

Clicking the link WILL infect your computer..

.

August 24, 2008 Posted by | computers, cyber crime, e-mail, spam and junk mail, tech | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Is Your (inner) Child Addicted to the Internet?

Two recent events have reminded me to ponder the social implications of Internet Addiction– one, the power (once again) went out for a lengthy duration here at T4E Headquarters; and, two, my nephew’s father wanted to take him for his first fishing trip.
At a lake.gaming-addiction
Out in the boondocks.
Where there is no Internet. (Thus, no Swords & Dragons Quest Guild Wars*) My nephew is 12.

We use our computers, and the Internet, for lots of different purposes (see Why We Compute) and some of us, like me, even conduct our businesses online. For us, service interruptions can seem minor inconveniences, or disastrous business events.
12 year-old boys (well, my nephew anyway) use computers and the Internet to play games, and an interruption seems like the END OF THE WORLD.

, a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment of cyber-addiction, and member of the Harvard Medical School faculty, lists the Symptoms of IA:

* Having a sense of well-being or euphoria while at the computer
* Inability to stop the activity
* Craving more and more time at the computer
* Neglect of family and friends
* Feeling empty, depressed, irritable when not at the computer
* Lying to employers and family about activities
* A child’s grades fall and the teacher notes that he/she is falling asleep in class

When I lose my Internet service, not only am I unable to assist clients with , but I experience a good dose of #5 on that list. I joke with friends that I experience Internet “withdrawal” (and I show them my trembling hands). But I am not an addict, not like some of the people who have appeared in the headlines– I have not lost my wife/house/job/friends.

And, honestly, I don’t think my nephew is that bad off either.. he did go on the fishing trip and enjoyed it.
But I am concerned. I know that these MMORPG’s are designed to be addicting, and that they take hundreds of hours to play enough to “advance” in. I know that my nephew spends far too much time with his online games (like, all his free time).
And.. I know that his behavior (getting home from school and going straight to the computer) is considered “normal” these days.
(And mom can keep an eye on him.. and he’s not out doing risky things like skateboarding, climbing tall trees, riding motorscooters, or running with sharp sticks..)

I am not an expert. I cannot tell you if you, or your child is an Internet Addict. I cannot predict the future, and see how my nephew is “going to turn out”. I can only tell you that Internet Addiction is real, and that it is a subject worth consideration. And, there’s an online addiction assessment test you can take if you have suspicions/concerns.

If you think you, or your child is an addict, there is a large community of help available. Enter “Internet Addiction” into a search engine, and start seeking it.

* A game name I made up.

Photo courtesy of WiredParentPad, What Every Parent Ought to Know About World of Warcraft.
Also, please see Video Game Addiction – True or False? and Detox Centers for Computer and Internet Related Addictions

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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August 23, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, Gaming, Internet, kids and the Internet, tech | , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

I want to party all the time…

There’s just something about Fridays that you gotta love.

We humans simply must have some light at the end of the tunnel, or we will flag, sag, and eventually quit trying. Friday (for most of us) is that light — the end of the work week is not only in sight, it’s mere hours away!
And Friday for a lot of us (me too… when I was younger) means that we will “go out”; we will “celebrate”; we will eat, drink, and (maybe) dance with friends, co-workers, and complete strangers. We will make merry. A joyous break in the routine.
clubbing

Friday means the weekend is here. Isn’t that a magical word? “Weekend”. (I smile just thinking it.)
Sure, the weekend isn’t all fun-and-games.. there’s lawns to mow, and cars to wash-and-vacuum, and a “Honey-Do list” a mile long, and grocery shopping.. there’s church, weddings to attend, children’s birthday parties, friends-who-need-help-moving-to-a-new-apartment and,.. have you cleaned out your gutters yet?
Weekends are never long enough.

Tip of the day: Weekends means tackling some household chores and so I am going to remind you that your computer needs an occasional cleaning too. (Nice transition, eh?)

1) Get rid of the dust and lint: Dust and lint can reduce your computer’s performance, cooling efficiency, and even cause fatal short-circuits.
* For desktop PCs, unplug your clean computer’s powercord from the wall and open your computer’s case so you can see all the kewl circuitry inside. How, exactly your case opens will vary with make/model, but it is usually a side panel, and the side panel is held in place with two thumb-screws (the manufacturer’s Website will have instructions, also).
Once the case is open, use the techniques I described in my recent printer maintenance article to remove the built-up dust bunnies. Pay special attention to air venting areas (and screens), such as by the power supply. (And, be careful and be gentle.)

* For notebooks, your cleaning is going to be a little different: you will want to get all the debris from out from under your keyboard keys, as I describe in this article. And you’ll want to wipe down your screen with an anti-static cloth (which may may require the slightest [just a drop or two.. in one corner..] moistening with plain water.

2) Get rid of disk clutter: Empty the trash that accumulates on your hard drive for a leaner, meaner file system. Fortunately there’s a one-button tool for that in Windows, https://techpaul.wordpress.com/2007/11/07/more-than-you-wanted-to-know-about-the-disk-cleanup-tool/

So let’s not be “all party”, let’s also get busy and do some “Spring Cleaning” and give those machines the attention they deserve.

Today’s free link: is a tool that creates a “sandbox”, or virtual environment, in which you run other programs (namely, your web browser) and those programs and the data they access can’t write to your hard-drive. This is an excellent way to prevent poisoned websites from downloading malware.

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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August 22, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, file system, hardware, how to, keyboards and mice, PC, performance, printers, tech | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Empowering the Blind– Assistive Technology

Folks, I am a bit timid writing today’s article because there’s simply no way I can write it without showing my ignorance. I am not blind, nor otherwise physically impaired. I have no first hand knowledge what agencies or organizations are operating in your area, nor what the pertinent laws are.
I hope you’ll bear this in mind as you read this.

A few days ago I received a call at my online Tech Support biz from a gentleman who wanted me to look over his computer and make sure it was “up to snuff” and working optimally, because, he said, “hopefully, Ill be using it for a job.”
After answering a few of my routine questions, he had a question for me– was I familiar with JAWS?

I said I’d never heard of it. He told me “I can’t use my computer without it. I’m completely blind.” (He had a very old version, and there were some issues; thus, his call.)
We talked about life as a blind person for a while.. what impressed me most was this man’s desire to work.

Later on, I did some research, knowing that there may very well be a Tech–for Everyone topic there. It turns out that JAWS is the premier screen reading AT program.. and the most expensive– $895 for the Standard version.

[A screen reader is a software application that attempts to identify and interpret what is being displayed on the screen. This interpretation is then represented to the user with text-to-speech, sound icons, or as braille output. Screen readers are a form of assistive technology (AT) useful to people who are blind, visually impaired, illiterate or learning disabled, often used in combination with other AT such as screen magnifiers.]

My client was caught in a classic “catch-22”. He wanted to work so he could “be a man” and have some money. He needed the software to work. He could receive some financial assistance to pay for the software, if he was employed (and could prove the software was vital to that employment).
Sigh.

What is available: If you, or someone you know needs access to assistive technology– here is what my research has uncovered.

Built-in AT: Recent versions of Microsoft Windows come with the rather basic text-reading Narrator, while Apple Mac OS X includes VoiceOver, a more feature-rich screen reader. The console-based Oralux Linux distribution ships with three screen-reading environments: Emacspeak, Yasr and Speakup. The open source GNOME desktop environment includes Gnopernicus and now Orca.

Free/Open Source:
For Windows
* NonVisual Desktop Access (NVDA) is a free, open source, portable screen reader for Microsoft Windows. The project was begun by Michael Curran  in 2006. Although development progress has been rapid, it should still be considered alpha software.

Those listed above are it: the rest are commercial products, and range in price. All are a significant investment. Wikipedia has posted a list/comparison chart of screen readers that is a very good place to begin looking at your options.
Also, the Website Disabled World has a , complete with short reviews.

My compassion and empathy were stimulated by speaking with my client, and grasping his catch-22 dilemma. I wanted to help him be a productive member of society, and get him the proper tool, but felt powerless.
Maybe something can be done.. but what? If I am missing something, would you let me (us) know? Post a Comment.

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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August 21, 2008 Posted by | computers, PC, software, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

News Items: Death of Web Radio, ISP Spying

A couple of recent tech headlines have caught my eye, and because of their dire implications, I thought I should pass them on to you.

Loyal readers may remember that a year ago now I wrote about the “day of protest” and the Internet Radio Equality Act which was vital to the future of free, public Internet radio and webcasters. (to read my article, click here.)

Today’s title is premature, but not by much. The Copyright Royalty Board ruling that we were warned about is set to take effect. This is all about DRM and “protecting artists”, and so an obscure Federal judge is going to change our current ability to listen to music. Forever.

Pandora is one of the nation’s most popular Web radio services, with about 1 million listeners daily. Its Music Genome Project allows customers to create stations tailored to their own tastes. It is one of the 10 most popular applications for Apple’s iPhone and attracts 40,000 new customers a day. Yet the burgeoning company may be on the verge of collapse, according to its founder, and so may be others like it.

“We’re approaching a pull-the-plug kind of decision,” said Tim Westergren, who founded Pandora. “This is like a last stand for webcasting.”
To read the rest of this Washington Post article, click here.

Your ISP is spying on you:
The second headline probably really won’t surprise anyone — there’s a lot of people watching our surfing habits, and developing profiles on us (for the purposes of bringing us “more relevant” ads). I almost ignored it, as the lead paragraph wasn’t all that shocking..
Cable One last fall conducted a six-month trial of a network-based technology that tracks consumers’ Internet movements in an effort to amass refined data on Web-surfer habits that can be sold to advertisers at premium rates.

But I was intrigued.. what did they mean by “network technology”??? Then I did get shocked and alarmed.

Someone has decided that the firewall technology known as DPI (“deep packet inspection”) may as well be used for full data mining of the traffic flowing through the service provider. Evil, evil someone.

You see, DPI is a method that can see through encryption. It is used for security purposes as it can read every word going over the wire and look for viruses and malware, and sensitive corporate data.

Basically, those Cable One customers had every word they typed read and recorded.. every website they visited.. and any attempts they made at maintaining their privacy (using proxies, anonymizers, or encryption) were foiled at the wire.
To read the whole article, click here.

It’s for better advertising! Yay!
[Attention advertisers: Haven’t you figured out that we ignore you? What do you think the mute button is for? The TiVo? AdBlocker software? Stop wasting your money! You’ve all been duped into believing a huge fallacy.]

Today’s free link: is a repeat, it’s the word “Pandora”, above.

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.
jaanix post to jaanix

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August 19, 2008 Posted by | advice, computers, Internet, News, privacy, security, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Modern Nightmare

It’s like we woke up inside a horror movie– we are under attack by zombies.

Night of the Living Dead

Yes. It’s true. Real life is imitating art (if you’re willing to call Night of the Living Dead “art”). We really are under attack by zombies– only our zombies aren’t trying to eat our flesh, they are trying to sell us bootleg f@rmacuticals and cheap Vl@gra, fake Rolex watches, and steal our identities. [note in the photo how the zombie is reaching for the wallet?]

In real life, our zombies can’t claw at us directly and they don’t have teeth. Our zombies are computers. Our computers. And they attack via e-mail and the Internet. Like the zombies in Night, they spread the zombie disease by infection. Differently, our zombies aren’t mindless; they’re controlled by villains (aka “cyber-criminals”).

Yes. Your computer may be a zombie.

If it isn’t a zombie (yet), it is constantly under the attack of infection via the Internet. An unprotected computer, connected to the Internet, will be infected within 8 minutes.
90 to 95% of all Internet traffic traveling the wires (using “bandwidth”) is zombie-generated junk e-mail that’s either a fraud attempt or (and?) loaded with malware– the “attack”.

How did this happen? Well, part of it is the Tech Industry’s fault (see, How the Tech Industry is Failing You), either unintentionally, or through lack of foresight, or through willful negligence and the rush to market. Security either wasn’t considered, or it was too expensive.
Nobody predicted the nerdy hackers evolving into organized, well-financed, criminal gangs of today.
And they put too-powerful, fully capable machines into the hands of the unwashed masses– us. The rest of it is our fault.

* We let our antivirus expire and everyday close the warning.
* We think we’ve just won the British Lottery.
* We still run Windows 98 because we’re “comfortable with it”.
* We cannot resist ‘free’ pornography.
* We cannot be bothered with those REALLY ANNOYING little windows that pop open at the worst times and tell us that a “newer version is available.”
* When someone tries to tell us about our machines, they start using big words in a funny language and we ‘tune out’.
* We believe that everything computer-related should be free, so we download cracked (aka “pirated”) software, bootleg music and video, and we don’t care who or where it comes from.

I could go on and on and on.

Yes.. we are our own worst enemies. But, you don’t have to be a part of the problem. And you don’t have to learn a big word-filled foreign language (aka “Geek speak”) to avoid the zombie attack.
Today’s free link: I have put together a list of proactive steps every computer user should know.. a checklist. In it you will find links to free, safe, and effective methods for protecting your computer, and keeping it safe. Please look over, Top 10 Things You Should Do To Your Computer. And then do us all a favor, pass the list on to your friends who have computers.

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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August 18, 2008 Posted by | advice, anti-spyware, antivirus, computers, cyber crime, e-mail, how to, Internet, Internet scam, PC, Phishing, phraud, security, tech, Web 2.0 | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Charity Purpose From Mrs Susan Morgan‏ — scam alert

Immediately delete (unopened) any e-mail from “Susan Morgan”.

It is just a variant on the Nigerian scam with a “good Christian” twist.

[update: this is making the rounds (again) with the name “Jean Brown”.]

August 17, 2008 Posted by | advice, cyber crime, e-mail, Internet scam, Phishing, phraud, security, spam and junk mail | , , , , , , | 11 Comments