To The Company That Infected My Computer

A quick GTH and FU to the company that somehow infected my computer with a nearly uninstallable extension. Thanks for adding ads and pop-ups to my browser. I hate you

A quick GTH and FU to the company that somehow infected my computer with a nearly uninstallable extension. Thanks for adding ads and pop-ups to my browser.

I hate you.

Your software package has been removed permanently. It didn’t go without a fight.

I am extremely diligent. I read EULAs… or at least scan them. I don’t click blindly. This must have snuck in with something else.

It made it past Microsoft’s normally respectable Windows Defender. It wasn’t found on a second more thorough Defender scan either.

Malwarebytes got it. Hats off to you.

The people who design these browser hijacks are hardcore. If this stuff is on your PC the number of ads you see has multiplied! Mine also picked keywords and highlighted them. Using javascript, popover boxes were spawned when you moused over the words. Annoying.

The culprit is a browser extension. It seems to be randomly named, because when I entered it in Google I got no returns!

If you remove it or disable the extension, it respawns! Remove what seem to be the executables, it finds another way to execute. You might kill it for a session, but it’s back after every reboot.

It took around an hour to truly kill it. Malwarebytes found 14 instances of suspicious code on my machine. Gone-zo… but not without some serious sweat.

I’m a techie. I know how this stuff works. It wasn’t particularly fun nor easy. You’re mucking around near critical files. Think surgeon.

Anyway, it’s gone. I’ve rebooted a few times All is well.

I asked Helaine how non-techies deal with this? She didn’t have to stop and think.

“They buy a new computer.”

21st Century problems.

Fixing My Computer Until It’s Broken

When I woke this morning everything was good–except no Internet! Hold on, I didn’t install anything for that.

Every few weeks the little bots inside my computer go to work looking for software updates. A tweak here. A bug fix there. Mostly they’re obscure little changes that affect few users–probably not me. I install them anyway.

This computer is custom. Each of the pieces was bought separately. There’s no Dell or HP to ship these fixes, only the individual component manufacturers.

Last night there were updates waiting from MSI, the motherboard manufacturer. They were for the computer’s BIOS, the basic input/output system which controls the booting process, and an ethernet port I’m not using. I ran them both then went to sleep while the computer was doing its thing.

When I woke this morning everything was good–except no Internet! Hold on, I didn’t install anything for that.

It’s tough to say, but more than likely the new ethernet driver killed the WiFi card I’m using. It took around an hour to fix, no thanks to the Internet which was less than helpful.

First I tried turning back the hands of time using Windows normally reliable System Restore. Unrestorable, it said.

Next I looked for a new driver. Of course I had to look on a different computer since this one was now Internetless. Again, nada.

Finally I uninstalled the WiFi hardware’s drivers. It only took a few seconds for Windows to find the now dead card and get things going. It didn’t ask. It just did it.

Everything’s working again, though I can’t exactly tell you why what I did corrected the problem.

All of this part of my lifelong work to fix things until they’re broken. It’s not the first time. It won’t be the last.

Job well done.

I Love My New Computer. I Hate Windows 8.1

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I’m typing on the new computer I ‘built’ a few weeks ago. It’s ‘built,’ not built, because I didn’t actually put the components into their slots. That honor went to a tech at Fry’s. It was built with parts I specified after lots of research and angst. It is custom in every sense of the word.

In nearly every respect this box performs better than anticipated. Because its system drive is an SSD, instead of a mechanical hard drive, it boots in under 20 seconds. Photoshop, a major beast of a program, lights up in under three seconds!

The system was built to manipulate stills and videos while being quiet. It does both very well. High def video is often rendered faster than its realtime running length!

Having two 1920×1080 monitors (which I bought at BestBuy) has given me loads of desktop real estate, making nearly everything I do easier. Two, three, four or more programs can be open simultaneously. That’s a web design game changer.

All that being said, Windows 8.1 is the weakest link. For a longtime Windows user this latest Microsoft iteration is non-intuitive while adding extra steps and hoops to jump through.

What were they thinking?

The problem is Windows 8 was built to be used in touchscreen and keyboard scenarios. It comes up short when you are forced to use actions more suitable to a tablet on a keyboard and mouse computer. It is frustrating.

My friend Peter Mokover is in the final stages of building a similar computer. He asked which OS to use, Windows 7 or 8.1?&#185 I’m not sure.

Windows 7 is a better bet right now. But, as a geek, it’s tough to not use the latest operating system which is still in active development. I won’t be surprised if he grits his teeth and goes with Windows 8.1, even knowing it’s bad.

For my purposes (and Peter’s) a Windows alternative is not an option. Too many of the specialized programs we need only run on this platform.

For most general users who basically surf and read email, Microsoft is shooting themselves in the foot! Nowadays web based apps are replacing OS specific programs. This debacle will only push more people to Android or Apple’s OSX and IOS.

Here’s my rundown:

  • Windows 8.1 (x64) (build 9600)
  • CPU: 3.50 gigahertz Intel Core i7-4770K
  • Motherboard: Z87-G45 GAMING (MS-7821) 1.0
  • RAM: 16328 Megabytes Usable Installed Memory
  • Drive: Samsung SSD 840 EVO 250GB [Hard drive] (250.06 GB) — drive 0
  • Drive: WDC WD2002FAEX-007BA0 [Hard drive] (2000.40 GB) — drive 1
  • Video: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 [Display adapter]
  • Monitor (2): AOC 2367 [Monitor] (23.1″vis, s/n BEGD89A000462, August 2013)
  • Case: Thermaltake Soprano

&#185 – Windows 8.1 is a free, service upgrade to Windows 8 after the original cry from users. It is a small, incremental improvement over the original.

Helaine And The Penguin: My Wife’s Linux Laptop

To Helaine Ubuntu and Windows are functionally equivalent. To a hacker or virus planter there’s a huge difference. Their voodoo won’t harm her!

Just a few feet to my left Helaine is sitting with her laptop. I can’t see what she’s doing, but whatever it is she’s doing it without complaint. Her laptop no longer runs Windows. She’s running Ubuntu Linux.

After a few pointed questions I’ve come to the conclusion she doesn’t care. That’s great.

To Helaine Ubuntu and Windows are functionally equivalent. To a hacker or virus planter there’s a huge difference. Their voodoo won’t harm her!

The anticipation of this switchover was more painful than the switch itself. I backed up her critical files, inserted the Ubuntu disk and it just installed. Both the sound and WiFi were recognized and proper drivers installed.

Beyond logging onto our encrypted wireless network there was nothing to do. The laptop just worked on the first try!

That’s not to say there weren’t challenges. The current Linux version of Picasa has a well documented glitch that kept it from running. Of course the well documented glitch wasn’t seen by me until I installed it three times!

Some of what I did wouldn’t be obvious to a new user. That’s a Linux problem, though new Windows installation from scratch would bring some similar concerns.

I understood WINE needed to be installed for a few Windows only programs to run. No problem for me, but it must be frustrating to someone who can’t conceptualize why and just wasn’t expecting it.

Converting Helaine’s email files demanded some scrambling. She’s an Outlook Express user. I set up Thunderbird as her mail client because it’s quite similar.

Unfortunately Thunderbird won’t import Outlook Express files natively. There is a separate command line program that does the conversion. Files then have to be manually renamed. Again, not a big deal, but only if you know you have to do it.

I’m pretty impressed with Thunderbird. I hadn’t configured an email program in a long time, but as soon as I told Thunderbird Helaine’s mail address it went into its database and set all the server parameters automatically. Sweet.

The default Ubuntu look is a little utilitarian and dull. The default type is very small. I reconfigured the fonts and colors and even added Helaine’s desktop background from her Windows machine. It’s a little more finished now.

So far it’s running like a champ. It boots quickly. It’s been stable. All the functionality she wants and needs is there.

By the way, all of this is free! Where have I gone right?

I’m About To Perform The Great Linux Experiment On Helaine’s Laptop

I can reload Windows XP and take the chance of it happening again or just maybe I can switch her to the virtually virus free Ubuntu Linux.

Helaine’s laptop is infected again! Though I’ve removed most of the infection her browser is still being hijacked. Google results bring spammy non-Google ‘search’ sites. There’s surely stuff I can’t find. Other functions like sound are no longer reliable.

This virus is so good it managed to shut off Microsoft’s own Windows Security Essentials program! Thanks Bill.

This is not Helaine’s fault! Considering where I found most of the infected files it looks like she was fed an infected Java jar. It probably came from an otherwise trustworthy website via an infected ad.

A day after the infection Java posted one of their ‘too damn often’ security updates. Come to think of it Microsoft was in the midst of rolling out Security Essentials 2 then too. Coincidence? I think not.

I have two choices. I can reload Windows XP and take the chance of it happening again or just maybe I can switch her to the virtually virus free Ubuntu Linux.

She was at first skeptical. OK, she was skeptical at second too. Linux sounds geeky.

Certainly there will be a different look and different programs to use. Her browser will remain the same. Her email program will change.

Helaine is primarily a web browser. She doesn’t run very many discrete programs. Those she does use have native Linux versions or claim to run through WINE the Windows emulator.

Linux comes with a ‘live’ version allowing a quick try without committing to an installation. I loaded the CD and it works.

Tonight I’ll back up Helaine’s files and install Ubuntu. Wish me luck.

Better still wish Helaine luck.

Tech Support Here. I’d Like A Few Words With You

Hi, tech support here. I’m the friend/relative who fixes your broken PC. I am part of an army of nerds that cleans up other people’s computer troubles.

Hi, tech support here. I’m the friend/relative who fixes your broken PC. I am part of an army of nerds that cleans up other people’s computer troubles.

The good news is I can probably fix your computer even though this is the first time I’m seeing your particular problem. It’s not that I know how to fix everything. I just know where the answers are. That’s the secret of the nerds!

Unfortunately I can’t find the answer unless I know exactly what the problem is. No abbreviating. No paraphrasing. I need the error message verbatim. Don’t leave stuff out. Let me decided what’s important.

Writing all that stuff down is a pain in the butt. Do it anyway. Trust me–you’re still getting off easy.

I have to research. I can’t unless I have real specifics. This is why computer geeks are often perceived as snippy. Put yourself in our scuffed shoes.

If your computer stopped right after you did something tell me.

One of my tech ‘suportees’ downloaded the ‘free Flash player’ from a porn site. It was the only way to get the free porn. Wow, how public spirited. I won’t be judgmental.

Yesterday my daughter’s computer lost Internet access after getting some Microsoft updates… except it wasn’t connecting to the Internet before the updates either. I discovered that by accident. It allowed me to say, “wait.” Sure enough today this problem fixed itself.

Speaking of my daughter, she knows I don’t snoop at her stuff. She’s a grownup and deserves privacy. However, understand we tech supporters can see pretty much everything on your computer including a list of the websites you’ve recently visited.

A friend’s teenage daughter decided she didn’t need my help when she found that out.

Sometimes problems can be solved by restoring. It’s a function built into Windows and brings your computer back to an earlier state. Documents remain untouched. Whoever’s responsible for that gets my undying gratitude. Of course if you tell me the problem started three months ago restore won’t help.

If you’re infected with a virus I’m going to recommend reformatting and reloading from scratch. Maybe I could clear the infection, but it’s painstaking work which will take forever with no guarantee I’ll fully succeed. Virus writers try and protect their work from my repairs and they’re much more computer savvy than I am. Reloading take a fraction of the time and I don’t need to supervise most of it.

I don’t have virus protection on my computers and I don’t get infected! Think about that a second.

Today most… no nearly all virus infections happen because you bring them in! It’s called social engineering. The virus writers convince you to do it willingly! Most computer users click on anything without understanding what they’re doing. You’re not doing yourself any favors.

Microsoft takes a lot of the credit here. Their methods of security have numbed users who just assume all clicks are good.

If you’re using a Mac I don’t want to hear it. OK?