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Getting Along With Your Computer

Quick tips

Three simple fixes for three kind of obscure problems.

 

Just a minute…

Here’s a weird problem: After about a minute of inactivity, a computer would jump out of Windows 7 and back to the logon screen. And by inactivity I mean the customer could be sitting there watching a YouTube video, and suddenly be dumped out to the logon screen.

I changed the Power Plan settings (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-ie/windows7/change-create-or-delete-a-power-plan-scheme) to increase the time before the screen would blank and before the hard drive would shut down. Then, I turned off hibernation. I sat there for a minute and … the computer was back at the Logon screen.

Eventually I realized that the computer was acting like it had a screen saver set. So I checked there. Nope, no screen saver. But one little option was causing the problem. The screen saver was set to None, but the time was set to 1 minute AND the box saying "requires a password" was checked. So after a minute, we were going out to the Logon screen. I hate it when computers do just what we tell them and not what we mean.

If you’re having this really weird problem in Windows 7 or Windows 8.x:

  • Right-click on an empty spot on your desktop
  • Click on Personalize
  • Click on Screen saver
  • Clear the checkmark in the box that says “On resume, display logon screen”
  • OK your way out

And by the way, if you want to change your power plan settings, there’s a link to that right in the Screen saver properties. If I had used that shortcut in the first place, I’d have seen the problem right away.


Tell Apple you’re not using your old computer any more. Seriously.

The last couple of columns (http://rlis.com/columns/column467.htm and http://rlis.com/columns/column468.htm) dealt with the current iTunes scam. There’s something else you need to know about iTunes. If you use iTunes one thing you really need to do before you get rid of an old computer is “deauthorize” it.
 

iTunes allows a maximum of five computers associated with your Apple ID. (And by the way, why isn’t it an "Apple iD”?) If you give that computer to someone else without deauthorizing it, that person has access to all your iTunes content ---- music, apps, and of course the associated credit card. Whoa.

If the computer is still able to connect to the Apple store:

  • Open iTunes
  • Click on Apple Store
  • Click on Deauthorize this computer
  • Type your Apple ID and password
  • Click on Deauthorize

If you can’t get your old computer to connect to the Apple store, or if you’ve already given it away, you need to go to a different computer, go to the Apple store and deauthorize ALL your computers. You can then authorize just the ones you want. (You can only do that once a year, for some reason, so be careful.)

More information on the Apple support site, here: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1420.

 
Get your Google back

If you have a Windows 8 computer, you have likely noticed how Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and the Microsoft search engine, Bing have pretty much taken over your browsing and searching. The folks at Google want you to get your Google back, and they’ve made it pretty easy to do that.

The Google Search app for Windows 8 is pretty cool. Visit the new Google for Windows 8 page, http://getyourgoogleback.com for a quick way to get either the Google search app or the Google Chrome browser or both. You just need to click on a few things and you’re good to go. If you want a little more help, check out this fun video: http://youtu.be/TGplftLI9Fo.


Do you have a tip to share? Do you need a quick tip to fix something annoying? Email [email protected] and let’s talk.

 

Do you need help with your computer? I'm here to help you and your home or business computer get along!

Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna (http://computercarekelowna.com/) a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. Cate also welcomes your comments and suggestions. Send email to [email protected].

You can read previous columns here: http://rlis.com/column.htm . If you'd like to subscribe to this column by email, please visit this link: http://www.feedblitz.com/f/f.fbz?Sub=20618 . It's easy, and free. If you'd prefer the RSS Feed, click here: http://rlis.com/rlis.xml.



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Reader feedback

Thank you to everyone who writes with things to ask or tell. Here is a sampling of recent reader feedback. Please keep it coming!

 

iTunes scam feedback

Last week’s column about the current iTunes scam (http://rlis.com/columns/column467.htm) generated plenty of comments. Many of you wrote to say you’d just received the iTunes email too.

Several readers wondered how spammers got their email address in the first place. The short answer: People use “harvesting” programs to scour the internet and copy text that contains the @ sign, or they might use a brute force program (which is just guessing words from the dictionary at a very high speed) to produce a list of possible email addresses. Spammers then buy the email addresses obtained or guessed at and bombard the addresses with spam. Or, you might have actually provided your email address to a spammer on a website without realizing it.

This article provides a good, brief overview: http://netforbeginners.about.com/od/scamsandidentitytheft/f/spamemailaddresses.htm. An excellent, more detailed discussion is here: http://computer.howstuffworks.com/internet/basics/spam.htm.

A few readers were confused about what “hover your cursor over the link” in an email means. What you need to do is place your cursor (without clicking anything!) on a link in an email. That link might look perfectly fine until you look at the bottom of your email window to see if the link does not actually go to the correct site.

Additional feedback came from people who warned of the Netflix scam (http://www.cbsnews.com/news/netflix-scam-put-users-credit-cards-personal-information-at-risk/) and several Facebook scams (http://www.2dayfm.com.au/scoopla/trending-now/blog/2014/8/10-facebook-scams-people-actually-fall-for/). An interesting twist came in an email from someone with an actual Amazon account who found he’d been charged for an Amazon Prime membership without consenting to it.

My advice up to that point was, “If you get a message about an account you don’t have, ignore the message!” But now I have to add that even if you HAVE an account with someone, watch the account activity and the credit card activity closely. Some banks offer a service that sends a text message or an email or both every time your credit card is used. Irritating, but apparently necessary.


Up or Down Feedback

The July 8 column (http://rlis.com/columns/column466.htm) mentioned several websites you can use to check if Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, or other websites are unreachable for everyone or just for you. I received an email from the owner of a similar site, CurrentlyDown.com, here: http://www.currentlydown.com. He points out:

What's cool about it that it provides historical outage data for you to explore. We also try to research the cause and the status of the outage and take screenshots whenever possible.



Antimalware Feedback

Faithful readers will know that I recommend an antimalware program such as Malwarebytes or SuperAntiSpyware in addition to whatever antivirus program you’re using. A customer wrote me last week:

I am concerned about the number of tracking threats when a scan is done on SuperAntiSpyware. They are quarantined and removed after each scan.

I’ve long maintained that while SuperAntiSpyware is a good program, calling Tracking Cookies a “threat” is overstating it. And it turns out that the makers of SuperAntiSpyware kind of agree. This comes from the SAS website (http://www.superantispyware.com/supportfaqdisplay.html?faq=26):

Are cookies really spyware and are they dangerous?

This subject has been the debate of many newsgroups and online forums. Cookies are simply text files stored on your hard drive and cannot themselves harm your computer in any way. Typically cookies are used to remember logins and keep track of user settings on web-sites.

Cookies can be used to track your movement on the Internet ONLY if a site is aware of the cookies and is designed to use the specific cookies. Because of their use in tracking, many feel that this constitutes spyware.

We do not consider cookies to be threats of anywhere near the same level of severity as actual malware threats that can steal real personal information, serve ads, or render a computer unusable.

SUPERAntiSpyware will detect tracking cookies as "Adware.Tracking Cookies" and you can choose to remove them or leave them on your system. You may turn off this feature in the Preferences -> Scanning Control tab of SUPERAntiSpyware should you not wish cookies to be scanned, detected and removed.

 

Do you need help with your computer? I'm here to help you and your home or business computer get along!

 

Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna (http://computercarekelowna.com/) a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. Cate also welcomes your comments and suggestions. Send email to [email protected].

You can read previous columns here: http://rlis.com/column.htm . If you'd like to subscribe to this column by email, please visit this link: http://www.feedblitz.com/f/f.fbz?Sub=20618 . It's easy, and free. If you'd prefer the RSS Feed, click here: http://rlis.com/rlis.xml.



Go phish

Tricksters are getting trickier. Here’s how to stay safe.

 

The latest iTunes phishing scam is convincing

This one nearly got me.

An email arrived “confirming” my latest iTunes purchase and providing a link for me to click on if there were any problems. Well heck yes, there was a problem --- I have an iTunes account, but I didn’t purchase the items shown in the email. I was just about to click that link when I remembered that the email was to a different address than the one associated with iTunes.

That’s when I began to look more carefully at the email. It was a phishing email, and it was very, very good.

Phishing (pronounced “fishing”) is attempting to obtain sensitive personal information such as passwords, credit card numbers, and bank account information by posing as a trusted entity in an email. (See this Wikipedia article for more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phishing).

This email implied that there’s been a fraudulent purchase. Naturally we want to click on the link to report the problem! The link looks legitimate in the body of the email, but in fact it directs us to an infected website where we are then redirected to a very good copy of the Apple Store website. If we enter our Apple ID and password, the bad guys can use that to log in to our real account which is tied to a credit card and it’s all downhill from there.

How can we spot a phishing email? Sophos provides an extremely clear and detailed explanation of the fake iTunes email here: http://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2014/07/28/anatomy-of-an-itunes-phish-tips-to-avoid-getting-caught-out/ and I encourage you to read it if you want to know more. But to summarize, there are a few things to look for when you suspect ANY email might be a phishing attempt.

  • Hover your cursor over the link. Often, that reveals the actual link is to an unrelated site.
  • Look at the To: field. It might not have your actual email address in it. It might say Undisclosed Recipients. That’s a tip off. BUT --- it really might have your real email address, so keep checking.
  • Look at the From: field. It might not have a legitimate address. BUT --- again, addresses can be spoofed, so even if it looks right, keep checking
  • Use your common sense. If you receive an email asking you to provide account information to a bank or store or credit card company where you do not have an account for heaven’s sake don’t click on anything. That is a phishing email.

 

Microsoft does not make unsolicited phone calls to help you fix your computer

The Fake Microsoft Technician scam is, unfortunately, alive and well.

What am I talking about? You receive a phone call from someone claiming to be with the “Technical Department” at Microsoft. S/he says s/he has information that your computer is spreading viruses. The “technician” convinces you download a program that will let them access your computer remotely.

Don’t do it. Just hang up.

The technician installs a malicious software program, and that program likely drops other malicious software on your machine, and then offers to fix the problem and sell you protection.

Law enforcement know who is responsible for the attempted fraud, but have been unable to reel them in. Microsoft is aware of the problem and has issued a warning on their website: http://www.microsoft.com/security/online-privacy/msname.aspx.

It’s all about getting your credit card information. At best, you end up with software that doesn’t work and a hefty credit card bill. At worst, it’s identity theft. These guys are really, really convincing. Don’t fall for it.

If you have already been talked into this:

  • Check your credit card and bank statements immediately.
  • Whether or not you see any unauthorized activity, contact you bank/credit card company at once and let them know you think your account might have been compromised and why.
  • Clean the malicious software out of your computer or have a professional do that.
  • Change your passwords for all your financial information and your email. (Do this AFTER you know your computer is free of malware, or from another computer.)
     

Let’s be careful out there!
 

Do you need help with your computer? I'm here to help you and your home or business computer get along!

 

Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna (http://computercarekelowna.com/) a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. Cate also welcomes your comments and suggestions. Send email to [email protected].

You can read previous columns here: http://rlis.com/column.htm . If you'd like to subscribe to this column by email, please visit this link: http://www.feedblitz.com/f/f.fbz?Sub=20618 . It's easy, and free. If you'd prefer the RSS Feed, click here: http://rlis.com/rlis.xml.
 



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Up or down?

Have you ever wondered if a website is available for everyone except you? I’ll show you how to find out. And if you’ve ever encountered the weird “Your PC is offline” error in Windows 8, you’ll want to see how to get past that. Read on.

 

“Is Facebook down, or is it just me?”

Some days on the Internet are better than others. If you’ve ever tried to get to a major website --- Facebook, Gmail, Hotmail, Twitter, Google --- only to wonder if it’s not loading for anyone or just for you, here are two handy ways to check.

A new site to me, isDownOrBlocked.com (http://isdownorblocked.com) lets you type the name of any site into a search box to check the site’s availability. That causes isDownOrBlocked to query the site from two different network servers and show you the results. If typing is too much trouble, click on Top domains near the top of the page and then on the site you want to check.

The site I’ve been using for sometime now is called DownRightNow (http://downrightnow.com/). DownRightNow lists the major websites and shows the status of each. They get the status by monitoring official announcements and user reports. You can see a performance graph for sites you’re trying to reach. And because DownRightNow relies on user reports, you can generate a trouble report when you’re having a problem. Follow DownRightNow on Facebook and/or Twitter to stay up to date, assuming Facebook and Twitter are working!

 

“Your PC is Offline. Please sign in with the last password used on this PC”

One of the stranger errors we encounter on Windows 8 is the one that informs us that our PC is offline and instructs us to sign in with the last password used on this PC.

Wait. What?

Possible causes and fixes:

You are typing in the wrong password. Type in the correct password for your Microsoft Account. If you don’t remember your password, go to another computer (or login to another account on that computer), point your browser to http://login.live.com/ , click on “Can’t access your account?” and follow the instructions to reset your password.

If you’re sure that you’re typing in the right password, and you can go to another computer and login with that password at http://login.live.com/, there is an excellent chance you have CAPS LOCK turned on. (Or off, if you created a password using all caps.) Get that straightened out and try again.

If that’s not the problem, something might have changed the keyboard language. Check the lower right-hand corner of the screen. Do you see the correct language there? (For most of us it will be ENG). If it’s wrong, press the WinKey and Space bar simultaneously, select the proper keyboard, then try your password again.

Finally, an extremely annoying cause of this problem is no connectivity. That’s right. If you’re not connected to a network, Windows 8 sometimes doesn’t let you login. Good grief. Make sure you have a working internet connection, then try again.

 

Do you need help with your computer? I'm here to help you and your home or business computer get along!

 

Cate Eales runs Computer Care Kelowna (http://computercarekelowna.com/) a mobile service helping home users and businesses get along with their computers. To arrange an appointment phone her at 250-764-7043. Cate also welcomes your comments and suggestions. Send email to [email protected].

You can read previous columns here: http://rlis.com/column.htm . If you'd like to subscribe to this column by email, please visit this link: http://www.feedblitz.com/f/f.fbz?Sub=20618 . It's easy, and free. If you'd prefer the RSS Feed, click here: http://rlis.com/rlis.xml.



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About the author...

Cate Eales has been helping people make online computing safe, accessible and fun for over 20 years. She lives in Kelowna with her husband, Eric, and her dog, Sandy. Cate is a partner in Computer Care Kelowna, helping individuals and small businesses with virus, spyware and malware eradication; personal computer training and management; digital image management; music transfer; and website design, hosting and management.

E-mail Cate at [email protected] with your comments, suggestions, or questions. To browse the column archives, visit the Real Life Internet Solutions website at www.rlis.com.




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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.


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