Archive for the “Computers” Category

Ramblings about computer problems, observations, solutions, etc.

Shelley, Sam and I just got back from an extended vacation. I didn’t take a laptop, I didn’t take my cell phone. We slept in tents, cooked outside, endured rain, wind, cold and general unpleasantness. Of the four days at the campsite, one was comfortable, sunny and warm.

We survived.

After a total of about seven days, I got home to an inbox brimming with about 320 new emails. Not bad actually, that was just my personal account. A quick check of my cell phone (for work) and I find about 100 more. Seems about right. It’s time to get back into the swing of using technology to improve my life. But is it really?

For seven days, we went without most modern conveniences. I didn’t really miss email, or my cell phone. Having email has opened communications to a new level, but do I really need it that much? It helps support my hobbies and my work. Do I really need it for my hobbies? Well, a question beyond that really is, do I really need my hobbies?

Amongst my emails are the standard daily notices from the Barracuda Spam and Virus firewall. Prior to my vacation I was probably getting maybe 5 to 10 spam messages in there a day. After my vacation, it’s brimming with over 100. Since coming home the daily total is hovering around 30. What just happened?

What probably just happened is a bunch more computers out there got taken over by a spam zombie program and are sending out emails out the wazoo. The authorities find and shut down one spam house… and there are several more waiting in the wings to be top dog. It’s an ebb and flow of sorts, it gets heavy for a while, the somebody gets caught, computers seized, accounts frozen, servers taken down and the spam load goes down. A little while later, it starts coming up again, and usually heavier than before. Rinse and repeat, only it never goes away and it only gets worse.

With the modern convenience of of the computer, email, web sites, etc. I also now have the added -inconvenience- of having to sift through crap just to find the valuable content. It’s rapidly coming to a peak where the inconvenience of it all outweighs the convenience. Let’s take a look:

– I have anti-Virus software installed to try and catch nasty things hoodlums try to send me in emails or downloads. Sometimes it’s silly. I’ve recently been getting emails from a noreply address at my -own- domain. I -own- the domain; I -am- the administrator; there is no “noreply” address in my domain. The emails are trying to get me to open a file with a virus in it in order to compromise either my computer or my domain. My virus software scans the emails on incoming and removes the virus. It’s safe, but it’s a damn bit inconvenient that I have to put up with it.
– Anti-spyware software. Same reasons… jerks who have nothing better to do than try to take over the world by using my computer. Increases the time it takes to boot my computer; increases the time it takes to load web sites, increases the time it takes for me to browse, learn, buy, whatever. A brand spankin’ new fast computer and it’s been slowed to a crawl by all the anti-this and that having to scan every bit that flows through in order to keep cretins out of my system. That’s all a damn bit inconvenient if you ask me.
– Parked domains for sale. Here’s a good one. I did a search for something today at work; I used my favorite search engine. One of the hits appeared to be just what I was looking for. Nope, turned out to be a scam site that appeared to be everything I wanted, but in reality only linked to a bunch of ebay auctions with similar key words, and pasted in various places on the page were offers to have me buy the domain. That wasted a few minutes of my work time; don’t believe that was convenient for a second.
– Spam, not the kind that comes in a can, but the kind that clogs my Barracuda spam firewall. Sure, it’s nice that I don’t get all the extra crap in my inbox, but I still have to go out once a day, scan the subjects and “from” lines in the quarantine and either verify they are spam or friendly. That wastes several more minutes of my day. It wouldn’t be so bad, but it keeps classifying as spam, several email addresses I’ve whitelisted. So it’s not perfect. And those I’ve blacklistd keep showing up in the quarantine too. If I’ve blacklisted them… I don’t even want them in the quarantine, throw the damn things away.

Should we talk about the cell phone? No, let’s not go there. Just focusing on email can get me pretty riled. Sure it used to be a great convenience, but now with all the extra hassle, I’m not so sure. And it’s all because some dirt bags are either trying to scam things out of me like bank account numbers, logins and passwords, or they are trying to plant things on my computer to use it as a zombie to do their dirty work, like spam other users, or run denial of service attacks on others, or attempt break-ins at banks, or military installations. It makes me want to scream.

My wife, who runs a work at home business, nets over 100 spam messages a day. That can really eat into her day especially if she’s trying to make sure a legitimate customer didn’t end up in the spam quarantine. Our time is worth something too. It’s like I have to -work- in order to use these neat little conveniences. All I really want to do is use the computer as the tool it’s designed to be; not have to keep one step ahead of the criminals by constantly upgrading, scanning, checking, verifying, wondering, worrying, etc. I’m rapidly becoming sick of it, entirely.

For all the conveniences of the modern computer to bring me useful information, news and entertainment, I’m just not sure it’s worth it anymore.

Asa Jay

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I’ve needed to post something here for a while now. I guess now is as good a time as any for you see, I have a plethora of other activity going at the moment and I can’t actually interact with -any- of it, so I might as well write.

On my primary Windows machine, running XP SP3, I’m engaged in a huge backup. I’ve not accomplished a full backup for better than a year so I’m due. The size is approximately 50GB and I’m only backing it up to a local external USB drive. It’s now on day three. I calculate is has a few hours left to go. In order to allow that machine to run with as much CPU and RAM available to the backup, I’m avoiding using that machine. Please understand, that machine is nearly 10 years old, running a 1GHz processor and a maximum of 512MB of RAM. Yes, I’ve checked and double checked, that’s the maximum the motherboard will take. Sigh.
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I had the hard drive in my Home Linux system crash a couple months ago. Since then it’s been an interesting experience getting things back together and “normalized” again. Fortunately I’m using removable drives via the front of the case -and- my previous system is still sitting on a functional drive. I was able to use the old hard drive in the system while I strategized on a plan going forward. That plan was executed, well, let’s just say “attempted” a little over week ago when I was on vacation.

Nobody usually starts a vacation by saying “hmm, I think I’ll get that Linux system upgraded and back to normal.” Nobody except me. What in the world was I thinking? It should have been simple, yes my last backup was a few months old but no matter. Let’s install the latest version of Ubuntu and just keep on trucking. That seemed to be my first mistake.

I’ve used Kubuntu in the past and I’m running Ubuntu Studio Edition for video and audio editing on another machine. The Ubuntu series of releases seem to be redefining ease of use for Linux users; bringing the idea there is a replacement for Windows into reality. So I start off by downloading an ISO for Ubuntu and then Kubuntu. I burn the CD’s and I’m ready.

The install takes a couple of tries to get started. Darn video thing again, need to shut off APIC or APCI or… I forget… anyway, I finally get the installer running. Now to configure things.

I worked on configuring the video, for hours. I could -not- get the default drivers in Kubuntu to properly display the Operating System on my NEC Multisync LCD 1850E. Kubuntu recommended a download from NVidia. Well… okay, I’ll bite… … Wrong answer.
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I currently receive an email newsletter called WinXP news, which is also available on their web site. Vol. 7, #16 – Apr 17, 2007 – Issue #273 talks about Open Source and asks the question if one is really better than the other. I just had to respond to this in several ways, here are some of my thoughts.
When talking about Open Source, the author states:
“If I find myself stuck with a hunk of junk that some stranger gave away or my free
download hoses my system, what am I going to do? Ask for my money back?”

. . . and I say. . .

Try doing that with Windows, or any other proprietary Windows Software product. You’ll get the same answer, “sorry.” When was the last time you read (really took the couple hours it takes) to read a EULA? There are no warranties that protect you or your data. At best, you might get an acknowledgment from the proprietary vendor that they know of the bug, and might fix it, or might not. With Open Source, chances are less than five minutes with Google, and 10 minutes on some forums and you’ll find others who has suffered the same fate and have already fixed it. In each case there is no way to get your money back. So what was the author’s point?

Later, the author asks the question:
“Do you buy the idea that being “open” makes software more secure, or automatically makes it “better” or somehow morally superior to closed source software?”

. . . and I say. . .

In the author’s own editorial, they never even approached real answers of security. The only thing they got into was how a proprietary kernel (MS) is closed source so no one can figure it out, while an open source kernel is open so everyone can peek, poke and monkey with it. Nobody can draw conclusions of security with such generalities. As for the MS kernel being more secure, BAH! When programs like most of Symantec’s products actually MODIFY the kernel, what kind of security is that? I’m in week number two of a WinXP rebuild because a Norton product failed it’s install in the middle of modifying the kernel. Talk about being screwed and having no warranties!

Next the author asks:
“Have you tried open source operating systems? Did you come back to Windows or do you still use Windows for some of your computers?”
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My HP ze2315us notebook computer recently developed a problem and it’s going to be a pain to get fixed.  The display has developed a single-pixel wide vertical line about two inches in from the left edge of the screen.  It’s enough to be annoying, but not enough for me to let it loose at the moment.

At first, I tried to find anyplace in town that might service the computer while I waited.  I figured a qualified service center could get a new display on order, then have me in, replace it and we’d be good.  The computer is still under warranty and as it turns out, there are -no- HP authorized service centers that can do warranty work.  What?!  I turns out I have to box up and ship my notebook to some other place for warranty work.  I’m really not a big fan of such practices, especially when I’m fully capable of replacing the display on my own.  To make matter worse, they have this nice disclaimer that you have to sign prior to them working on it. Read the rest of this entry »

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Copyright 2014, Asa Jay Laughton