Saturday, November 1st3.9°C
23888
Getting Along With Your Computer

Should I allow it?

Keeping critical programs up to date is an important element of safe computing. I get phone calls and emails from customers who need to know whether to allow something to update. That’s actually the good news. The not-so-good news is when I find someone’s computer with risky non-updated programs. This week I’ll try to help you sort out the good and bad.

Say yes to these updates

There are some updates you always want to allow:

Windows Update – Allow these. Learn how to do this in Windows 8 here: http://www.eightforums.com/tutorials/25343-windows-update-check-install-windows-8-a.html, Windows 7 here: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows7/install-windows-updates, and Vista here: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-vista/install-windows-updates. Problems do occur, but are rare.

 

Adobe FlashPlayer – Be sure that it’s the real Adobe FlashPlayer (http://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/). I’ve spent many hours cleaning malicious software out of computers because a rogue program, pretending to be FlashPlayer convinced someone to install it. You might have more than one version of Adobe FlashPlayer, and they all need to be updated. Firefox and Internet Explorer use different versions. Update them both.

 

Java – Java is a program that enables certain website content and certain other programs to work. If you are using Java at all (http://java.com/en/), you absolutely must keep it up to date. There are security risks with Java, but if you need or want it, you can’t uninstall it. Do you use Shaw Webmail? You need Java. Are you using Sage/Simply Accounting? You need Java. Keep it up to date. And remove out of date versions!

 

Adobe Reader – Allow these updates. (http://get.adobe.com/reader/)

 

Antivirus and Antimalware Programs – Please, please, please. When you set up your antivirus program make sure it’s set up to get updates to the virus definitions daily or even more frequently. (Also make sure you actually have it set up to scan and turn on the real-time protection, but I have covered that many times before.) You should also allow the antivirus program itself to update.

Like antivirus programs, antimalware programs need to update their definitions frequently and the programs themselves from time to time. Be aware that updates and upgrades are not the same thing.

Updates are changes to a program or operating system. An upgrade, however, generally means an entirely new version of a program.


Say no to malware

Malware is a term for malicious software and unwanted programs. It can take over your browser’s home page and search engine, and it can work its way into every part of your computer. It often disguises itself as legitimate programs, and it sometimes disguises itself as familiar update requests. Often it piggybacks on other sketchy downloads. The best way to avoid it is to pay close attention to what you’re agreeing to download and install.

Avast! (http://www.avast.com/en-ca/index) antivirus (the paid and free editions) includes a “software update” component that will alert you to important updates and guide you to safe ways to apply those updates.

If something pops up encouraging you to download, update, or install something and you don’t understand what is going on, don’t agree to install it until you know whether it’s safe. Check the first item in this article for a list of updates you should always apply. Check last week’s column (http://rlis.com/columns/column478.htm) for a tip on how to find out if a file is safe.

 

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.



23255


Quick tips

Is that file safe? Why does your mouse have two buttons? Where is the “No to all” button?

 

Check a file or a website with VirusTotal

When you visit the VirusTotal website (https://www.virustotal.com/en/) you’ll see a very clear explanation of the site’s purpose:

VirusTotal is a free service that analyzes suspicious files and URLs and facilitates the quick detection of viruses, worms, trojans, and all kinds of malware.

Not only that, it does it quickly, efficiently, and with a high degree of accuracy. VirusTotal aggregates information from 50 or so antivirus engines and checks files, URLs, and IP addresses. When you search on any of those, VirusTotal returns a result that shows how many of the AV engines returns a positive result. You can then decide if the file/site is likely to be harmful.

It’s dead easy to use, but if you need help, check the excellent documentation here: https://www.virustotal.com/en/documentation/searching/.

 

Learn to right-click

When I’m fixing a computer, setting up a computer, or tutoring a computer-user, I find I can amaze a lot of people by using the right mouse button. By “right” I don’t mean “correct.” I mean “the opposite of the left button!”

People are used to doing things by clicking or double-clicking the left mouse button. When you click once, you’re selecting something that you want to act on, or in a browser, you’re selecting a link that you want to go to. When you double-click the left mouse button, your are doing an action on the thing you’ve selected with that first single click.

Here’s what I mean. You have your Pictures folder open, and you double click on a picture. That causes a program to open in which you can view and/or edit your picture.

But if you right-click on that picture, you’ll see a context menu with a list of actions you can do. It’s called a context menu because right-clicking on different items brings up different things --- the list is context-sensitive. Move your mouse cursor over the action you want and click again to make it so.

Right-clicking has been around in every version of Windows, and is still largely unrecognized. It’s a powerful tool, and will make your life easier in whatever version of Windows you are running.


Just say no

Sometimes it's a good thing that Windows protects us from ourselves. For instance, when you try to copy a file from one place to another place, and there is already a file of the same name in the destination, Windows politely asks if you are sure you want to replace the existing file with the new one. The same thing happens --- only more so --- if you try to copy a bunch of files to a destination full of files with those same names. And this is annoying, because you have four choices: Yes, Yes to All, No, and Cancel. What? Where the heck is No to All?

It's a simple trick...once you know it. Hold down the SHIFT key and click on the No button. Windows then assumes you mean No to All.

 

Got a quick tip that impresses people or makes your life easier? Email [email protected] and I’ll share it with everyone!

 

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.



8 + 1 = 10

Microsoft previewed the new version of Windows last week. You know, the version that comes after Windows 8. Guess what they’re calling it. Go ahead, guess. I’ll wait.

Nope. The new version of Windows is Windows 10.

 

Wait. What?

This means that instead of having a new, incrementally better version of Windows by the end of this year, we won't have a new version of Windows until mid-2015. And once again, I have never known Microsoft to make a due date. So there's no real guarantee that mid-2015 is realistic or that what we see in the preview (which reviewers say is pretty rough around the edges) is what we will get in the actual release.

The reports I've read and the pictures of the preview I've seen indicate that yes, it will be more Windows 7-ish, with the familiar desktop interface and Start Menu, and less Windows 8-ish "tile world." (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/17/technology/personaltech/reconciling-the-2-worlds-of-windows-8.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0)

 

Yes. The Start Menu is back

With Windows 8, Microsoft introduced the Start Screen to replace the Start Menu. Honestly, that’s not a terrible idea on a phone or a tablet, but lots of folks who use desktop computers either never moved past Windows XP or never embraced the Start Search concept in Windows 7. Those people and others who just want to get work done freaked out when they couldn’t figure out how to open a program in Windows 8.

A few third-party Start Menu replacements, like the beautifully implemented Classic Shell (http://www.classicshell.net/) and the annoying Start8 (http://www.iobit.com/iobitstartmenu8.php) are so popular that Microsoft finally relented. Windows 10 will have a Start Menu. But it’s not your father’s Start Menu! The Start Menu in the Windows 10 Preview includes both programs like you’re used to and the new Modern apps. This should make it easier to toggle between the old and new environments. Read Microsoft’s somewhat breathless announcement here: http://blogs.windows.com/bloggingwindows/2014/09/30/announcing-windows-10/


Modern apps can run in Desktop windows

A truly irritating feature of the Modern apps in Windows 8 is their insistence on taking up the whole screen. This drives power users of previous versions of Windows to distraction. We are used to having more than one window open at once. There are ways to have more than one app displayed in Windows 8, but this feels kludgy, and it’s complicated.

Windows 10 will run Modern Apps in a window on the Desktop. You can move those windows around, you can resize them, and you can have more than one window open. This giant improvement gets us back --- finally --- to the way we were able to do things in the last century. It’s a welcome development.


You can try the Windows 10 Preview

Microsoft has made Windows 10 Technical Preview available free to advanced computer users who want to try this pre-release version. This link will take you to the download page: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/preview-iso. The conventional wisdom is that Windows 10 will run on any machine capable of running Windows 8 or 8.1. Please review the system requirements before you install Widows 10. And please do not install the new Windows on your only computer. This is test software and you can completely foul up your computer. More here: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/preview-faq#faq=tab0.


It should be an interesting next twelve months. Or eighteen months. Or whatever number comes after eighteen.

 

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.



23077


Recently answered questions

An easy way to safely remove your USB devices, even iPods. Something weird is going on with Windows Live Mail 2012.

 

Remove your iDevice carefully

If you have an iPhone, iPad, or iPod connected to your computer, you don’t want to just yank that thing out while it’s communicating with iTunes. You can really mess it up that way. (Newer devices can simply be unplugged as long as iTunes isn’t running. If you have an older iPod, always do the Safely Remove procedure.)

A customer contacted me recently because she remembered me telling her that, but couldn’t remember how to remove the device gracefully. Here are a couple of ways.

The normal way

  • Move your cursor to the lower right-hand corner of the screen (by the clock) and look for an icon that’s a grey USB plug with a green check mark
  • Click once on the icon
  • Click on the drive letter for the device you want to remove
  • Wait for the popup that says it’s safe to remove the device, then remove it

The iTunes way

In the sidebar on the left part of the iTunes window, click on the Eject button

Another way

Get the free utility called USB Disk Ejector, here: http://quickandeasysoftware.net/software/usb-disk-ejector. This thing is great. It will allow you to eject iDevices, flash drives, external hard drives, memory cards and Firewire disks. It’s fast, it’s portable, it’s easy and it just gets on with it.

You can have it in the Notification Area if you want, or as an icon on your desktop where it’s easier to see. It will often eject disks that Windows can’t eject.

I have been using USB Disk Ejector since XP. It works there, on Vista and on Windows 7, according to the developer. He hasn’t updated it for Windows 8, but I have used it successfully on Window 8 and 8.1

The Sure-fire way

Turn off the computer and remove the device!

 

Something weird is happening with Windows Live Mail 2012

It’s actually pretty rare to see errors in Windows Live Mail. Quirky behaviour, yes, but actual errors? Rare.

So I was surprised to hear from a customer that she couldn’t open WLM. And I was surprised again a few days later when another customer reported the exact same problem and error message. Maybe there’s something out there that’s breaking WLM 2012 on Windows 8.1.

What they saw when they tried to open up their email was the splash screen for Windows Live Mail 2012, a spinning blue circle, and then a box with this error message:

WINDOWS LIVE MAIL COULD NOT BE STARTED.  IT MAY NOT BE INSTALLED CORRECTLY.  MAKE SURE THAT YOUR DISK IS NOT FULL OR THAT YOU ARE NOT OUT OF MEMORY (0x80041161)

In both cases the program had been working well for some time, and there was plenty of RAM and hard drive real estate available.

Here’s what fixed it:

  • Close Windows Live Mail completely
  • Close all browsers
  • Go to Control Panel | Add or Remove Programs
  • Locate Windows Essentials
  • DO NOT CLICK ON UNINSTALL! Instead, click on Repair
  • Follow the prompts to repair Windows Essentials. It will probably take some time.
  • When the repair is finished, restart the computer

Have any of you experienced this? How did you fix it?

 

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.



Read more Computers articles

23479


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.




23981


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.


Previous Stories


23884
RSS this page.
(Click for RSS instructions.)
23910