Boulder Computer Maven Newsletter - August 2004

 
Dear Friends,

I hope that you're enjoying our rainy summer, and I want to thank you for letting me help you with your computer needs in the past.  I'm writing to give you some computer tips that I hope you’ll find helpful and interesting.  If you don’t want to receive this newsletter, please let me know, and I'll remove your name from my mailing list.

Please contact me with any and all of your computer questions.

Best Wishes,
Steve Winograd, Boulder Computer Maven

Phone: 303-444-8247
Web Site: http://www.bcmaven.com

Helping People Use Computers in Boulder for Over 20 Years




Important Update for AVG Antivirus

If your computer is running the free version of the AVG Antivirus program, you might need to install an update to continue using the program.  Please go to this web page for details.  I've recommended and installed AVG for many of you.  To see if you have AVG, look for the yellow-black-red-green square in the system tray at the lower right corner of the screen.  If you're not sure how to determine which version of AVG you have or how to install the update, please phone me, and I'll help you at no charge.


"Phishing" and Other Internet Scams

Internet criminals are sending E-mail messages designed to trick people into giving out confidential financial information.  These messages typically claim to be from a bank or credit card company and instruct you to go to a fake web page, owned by the criminals, to confirm your account details.  Legitimate businesses never send E-mail messages asking for confidential information.  Never give confidential information to anyone over the Internet unless you've initiated the contact yourself for the purpose of establishing an account or buying a product.  For more information on "phishing", click here.

Another common scam involves E-mail messages that claim to contain security patches designed to protect your computer from hackers and viruses.  Microsoft and other software makers never send security patches by E-mailAny E-mail message claiming to contain a security patch is certain to contain a virus, so delete the message immediately, and don't click on any attachment to the message.


Beware of Spyware

Spyware programs can invade your computer, send your personal data out to Internet hackers, and even allow hackers to take over your computer and control it remotely.  Your computer probably has spyware if it suddenly starts to run slowly, you have trouble getting to desired web pages, your home page changes, or undesired web pages pop up on the screen when you connect to the Internet.  I can remove spyware from your computer and show you how to prevent it from coming back.


Back Up Your Data

Your computer stores files on its hard disk.  Hard disks are designed to work for decades, and they're ususally so reliable that we don't even think of them.  However, the hard disk in your computer could fail at any time.  If it does, all of the information that it contains could be lost. 

You can buy a new hard disk and re-install Windows and other programs.  But what about your stored documents, financial records, pictures, E-mail messages, etc?  In an instant, you could lose irreplaceable data, like the novel that you've been working on for five years, or a collection of  family pictures.

The answer is to back up your data.  Most recent computers have a CD writer that you can use to create a CD copy of your data.  For highest security, write a CD and then store it in a location away from your house, such as your office or a safe deposit box.  Make it a habit to do a regular weekly or monthly backup.  I can show you how to make CD backups.  If your computer doesn't have a CD writer, I can install one.

For small amounts of data or frequent backups, copy files to a USB flash drive (also called a thumb drive, because it's about the size of your thumb).


Beware of Automatic E-Mail Scanning in Your Antivirus Program

Some antivirus programs, such as AVG, McAfee, and Norton, offer what looks like a helpful, or even essential, feature: scanning incoming messages for viruses when you run an E-mail program such as Outlook Express.  However, that feature isn't necessary, and, under some circumstances, it can actually cause your E-mail program to lose messages that you've received.  A properly configured, up-to-date antivirus program protects you from viruses in E-mail messages even with E-mail scanning turned off., and I recommend turning off E-mail scanning to avoid possible problems.  For more information, please see this Norton web page or this news group article.

Viruses typically come from attachments to E-mail messages.  Never open an attachment that you weren't expecting, even if it appears to come from someone you know.  Even if you think that an attachment is legitimate, the safest procedure is to save it to disk and manually scan it with your antivirus program before opening it.


Windows XP Service Pack 2

Microsoft is expected to release a major update to the Windows XP operating system in August.  I've been testing preliminary versions of the update for several months, and it will be a must-have for all Windows XP users, with significant improvements in computer security, wireless networking, and many other areas.  I'll send an announcement when Service Pack 2 becomes available.


Microsoft 2004 MVP Global Summit

In April, Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals from around the world met in Seattle for the 2004 MVP Global Summit.  Top Microsoft executives, including Steve Ballmer and Jim Allchin, spoke to us and answered our questions.  We met with product developers and managers for briefings on upcoming products and to give them feedback, as representatives of you, the users, on what works and what needs fixing in their products.

During the Summit, I was honored by the Windows Product Group as the top MVP in the Windows Networking area.  As a winner of the 2004 Windows MVP "Winny" Award, I received a Tablet PC made by Motion Computing