Archive for August, 2008

Even a Good Comedian Cannot Fix a Comedy of Errors!

Posted on August 22, 2008. Filed under: General, Software | Tags: , , , , , , |

Microsoft hires Jerry Seinfeld to improve the image of Vista!

But know where near as funny or damning as this Apple ad!

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It is not so…

Posted on August 19, 2008. Filed under: Software, Trends | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

…easy to understand PC warranty.

If you own a computer with any Microsoft product pre-installed on it usually you are recommended to go to the OEM for support on the Microsoft product. It even says so here:

If your Microsoft product was installed on your computer when you purchased it, the computer manufacturer is your primary source of technical support.

In the case of Vista this is patently NOT the case. The moment you mention Vista to a Dell tech support technician they won’t support you unless you are willing to pay an incident fee. If not they direct you to call Microsoft. Support for Vista Service Pack 1 is currently free (and was very good and thorough) but there is a disconnect between what Microsoft says and Dell:

Dell’s limited hardware warranty does not cover:

  • Software, including the operating system and software added to the Dell-branded hardware products through our factory-integration system, third-party software, or the reloading of software

This issue hi-lights one of my pet peeves with the PC industry. Just who is responsible for software support? As far as I am concerned if a PC manufacturer REQUIRES an OEM licensed copy of the operating system to be installed in the computer you own then they have a responsibility to support it. The brand recognition is a Dell computer with Vista…not it is Vista on a Dell computer.

The end-user’s perception does not seperate the two entities and nor should it. But, if you call Dell and do not purchase additional support services they will only address what THEY determine to be hardware issues. If it is a Vista issue you get directed to their software support group and that support is fee based.

Luckily Vista Service Pack 1 issues are currently covered at no cost by Microsoft.

Remember though, there is an interaction between the hardware a computer manufacturer provides and operating system. If a manufacturer delineates a clear separation of these two areas of support there may be a tendancy for the manufacturer to “blame” the operating system and direct issues that clearly are related to the interaction of the two systems that make your computer work. Most end-users cannot delineate what and where the problem lies. They count of the manufacturer’s tech support to tell them and this knowledge could be leveraged by support to direct the client to other support options that may not be appropriate.

I have seen this before. In the days of DOS WordPerfect there were several technical problems related to printing and WordPerfect tech support would ALWAYS blame hardware when, in fact, it was the interaction of their program with video and printer drivers.

A good hardware and software vendor knows this and works with ALL parties involved to solve the end-user’s problem. The bad ones generally pass you off to another resource. After those resources are exhausted then they may help.

See this issue in context of Vista and Nvidia…

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BBC Spam Emails

Posted on August 14, 2008. Filed under: Service Alert, Trends | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

According to Websense over 5 million spoof emails about the Olympics are being generated per hour. Add to that the fact that now spam emails with the BBC moniker attached to them are now being generated.

This is what the BBC email looks like.

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Vista Versus XP Restore Points

Posted on August 14, 2008. Filed under: Software | Tags: , , , , |

One of the tools to recover from a software problem is Vista’s Restore Point utility.

I had cause to do a restore using it recently and was SHOCKED to see only 5 restore points. With Windows XP you on my main computer I can see back 2 weeks. The number of restore points is dependant on the disk space you reserve for it. It would stand to reason that the restore points for Vista are bigger but in some cases you may want to go back more than 5 (or whatever number of days) to do a restore.

This problem is further excacerbated by the fact that any software install or update, likes a service pack, necessitates the creation of a restore point which could mean that if a service pack fails 2 or 3 times your restore point is now only 2 or 3 days old.

So, Restore Points, if not properly configured, can cause problems because it may take several days before a computer user realizes the need to do a restore.

For reference you can download the Vista SP1 Service Pack here.

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CNN/MSNBC Email Spam Service Alert

Posted on August 13, 2008. Filed under: Service Alert | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Reliant PC Consulting Service Alert

 

Date: August 13, 2008

 

Subject: EMAIL SPAM from CNN and MSNBC

 

Purpose

 

This alert has been generated due to an issue that affects my clients’ computer security. A new email spam purportedly coming from CNN and MSNBC is spam and should not be opened.

 

  1. The email looks legitimate. It contains the CNN or MSNBC logo.
  2. The email contains links that direct the user to a malware hosting site.
  3. The MSNBC spam is not being reported on but I have evidenced this spam email myself.

 

Background

 

During a service call to a client they made me aware of this spam email. Research indicated that this email was spam and in this case is particularly pernicious as it appears to come from a legitimate company. Upon opening the email the user will see a professional looking email with the CNN company logo.

 

Clicking on the “Full Story” link will direct them to a fake CNN site and be directed to download a Flash applet. This Flash applet will generate an endless loop of computer activity. Several pop ups will be generated. If they click cancel the loop will continue.

 

Clicking on any other links may take you to legitimate sites whose security has been compromised.

 

What the CNN Email Looks Like

 

The email is an html email and looks like this:

 

 

The spam has also morphed into this:

 

 

 

 

Resolution

 

  1. Keep your operating system, web browser and anti virus software up to date.
  2. Be aware of this email in general. Clients may get several “CNN” emails and the spam emails seem to be generated in response to the increased public awareness of the Olympics in the news.
  3. Delete the email immediately.
  4. If you use a spam filter program be sure it is up-to-date.
  5. If you are infected contact me ASAP and I will assist you on the removal of this software.

 

References

 

http://www.itworld.com/news/54157/fake-cnn-spam-mutates-attacks-continue

http://www.circleid.com/posts/88184_cnn_spam_outbreak/

http://securitylabs.websense.com/content/Alerts/3154.aspx

 

Conclusion

 

This Service Alert addresses a new and emerging threat. There is a good chance you may not be affected by this particular threat but an awareness of it existence will make it less likely to affect you.

 

If you have any questions or concerns please contact me.

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Back Up Solutions

Posted on August 13, 2008. Filed under: Hardware, Software | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Why you want to do a backup…

I was recently asked to comment on an online back up soltution. This is my response: (more…)

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PC Decrapifier

Posted on August 12, 2008. Filed under: General | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Interesting Utility.

I love this entry:

All versions of Norton Anything are completely incompatible with Norton AnythingElse. Searching the Symantec support site, you’ll see that there are more entries there for REMOVING their products after something’s gone wrong than for any other issue. Multiple uninstallers must be downloaded, and pieces can still be left behind.

CrapWare all the way! All versions and all variations of Norton and Symantec software must be removed with all due prejudice!

LOL!

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It’s My Bread and Butter…

Posted on August 11, 2008. Filed under: General | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

…but I’ll cry if I want to.

The state of the Wintel/XP/Vista industry is a shambles. Seriously, I get paid to wade through the minutia of the various intricacies of computer maintenance and ownership and I am pleased to do so. But there has to be a better way. I do not think that certain aspects of computer ownership are properly communicated to computer owners. The issues of OEM versions of XP/Vista and the impact to a client if they have a problem and do NOT go to a OEM service provider often cause problems and additional expense.

In one particular case, the non-OEM service provider (whom will remain nameless in this post) did not adequately address their client’s needs. They simply and correctly should not have fixed the laptop. They did thereby incurring an additional expense for the user and may have made it even more difficult to solve future operating system problems. The work order description is simply inadequate. No traceability of the work completed can be done. “Back up documents. Re-install Windows.” just does not cut it. I will add a redacted version of a work report sometime to give an idea of what is adequate.

We have a duty to communicate and assist our clients. The industry has to do a better job of making computer ownership easier. Frankly, the out-of-the-box experience for low knowledge users is in a sorry state.

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CNN Bogus Email Alerts

Posted on August 8, 2008. Filed under: Service Alert | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Note:  This issue is now a Service Alert

 Reference this link for more information.

Outlook 2007 does not identify this as spam even after adding it to the spam folder and blocking the address. Upon further research a suggestion of creating an email rule as a work around seemed like a good idea. Used CrossLoop to create the email rule.

Time for problem resolution:  5 minutes.

Saved gas and time as it would have taken me 5 minutes to get there.

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Using CrossLoop Remote Desktop Software

Posted on August 6, 2008. Filed under: General, Software | Tags: , , |

OK… Let me say it! WOW!

I am impressed. I have attempted to implement Window’s Remote Desktop and various similar clients like VNC but CrossLoop simply is, as far as I have tried, the simplest, smoothest, and powerful remote desktop tool.

I have chance to use it several times in the past week and not only can I resolve (an estimate) about 60% of my clients’ problems remotely. I know install the program on each computer I service and I do not charge for that time since the power and ease of use of this program simply speaks volumes to the greater level of service I can offer my clients.

I know there are other solutions out there. I have tried them but for ease of setup, use, and the low cost (free!) CrossLoop offers so reliably I have to say I am committed to this software for supporting my clients’.

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