Friday, February 24, 2012

PC Viruses

It has been a while since I posted about PC viruses

Why now?  Because I encountered a resident with one today for the first time in years.   I don't see a lot of them.   When a virus occurs, it is extremely bothersome.   And dangerous.   Then, if its outward signs are removed, is it really gone?   Will it come back?    Is it still watching?

My role, of course, is not to clean out viruses, but to help others deal with them and preferably avoid them.   My role is to provide the tools for others to help themselves, which are usually the latest and newest tools.

The first rule is not to get viruses.   The best way to deal with any problems is to avoid them, such as  through care in accessing suspicious sites and responding to questionable EMails and attachments.    Note the last especially.   Just don't open every attachment from anyone.  You will absolutely get a virus sooner or later.

There are ways to avoid such exposures, such as so-called tunneling software and virtual private networks.   Better that we avoid the complexity.

There are indeed those who deal with old systems and their particular vulnerabilities, even viruses.     It can be costly for a larger enterprise to shift into new systems.    My old C-language teacher, an expert in new computer languages, travelled the world updating aged Cobol programs.    Cobol programmers were getting scarce.

It is simpler to avoid problems.    Internet Explorer especially has been found to create an exposure.   Windows itself is the largest target for computers.  Users themselves are the biggest exposure.

Meanwhile, Consumer Reports can guide us to the more desirable protective software.   And make sure that software is working and not expired.     CR recommends AVG and Microsoft's own Microsoft Security Essentials.   Both free.  

But suppose you get a virus anyway.   What to do?

The safest solution is just to reinstall the OS.   You can make that simpler with advance preparation.

Elsewhere I have made the case for keeping everything safe in the cloud.   If you do, it is a lot simpler to reload the OS than to deal with the virus at all.    And safer.   And very quick to do.   The coming Windows 8 is very fast to install.    Rather than install Windows 8 this spring on an old  relic of a machine, buy a new computer which will outperform the best of the old machines.    My Dell dual processor workhorse is less than a year old and cost just $280.

You might first try tools like Microsoft's Malicious Software Removal Tool.     Then, there is Ad-Aware.   At some point, with so many viruses, nothing will work.    No software provides complete remedies or safety.

Obviously the most recent operating systems are best protected.     Like cars, the newer computers are safer.

You could get a Unix based device like a Mac, iPad, Kindle Fire, Chromebook, or even smartphone.   All of these are structured and engineered more safely than Windows.    I have never had a virus reported with any of these.  

Ubuntu Linux can be installed in parallel with Windows as a backup, with full access to old files.

The old big unwieldy systems are being replaced by smaller systems as cell phone based  systems like iOS and Android grow up to ever larger computers and...take over.  Example,(click for) the ASUS Transformer.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What about the Nook and the Future?

I get questions about the Nook, sometimes as compared to the Kindle Fire.

The Nook is restricted as to what it can do but there are fixes.    Whereas the Kindle Fire does not make it easy to expand capabilities to a full tablet, the Nook puts some bigger hurdles in your way.    You may not access Kindle books.  It will require rooting (technical) to install most apps.   However, if someone gave you a Nook, and you would like more tablet features, you may still be able to stay with it and overcome restrictions.   Also, the Nook has help people in their stores.

Here is the fix:,2817,2392968,00.asp

Simple and cheap.

Another fix:

Now, I have not tested the fixes.   But what I have done is to similarly convert an EEEPC 7" tablet.   Most apps work: Google Books and OpenLibrary and Overdrive (your local library).    The Kindle app did not work.  Otherwise it was surprisingly easy to expand tablet capabilities.    The old EEEPC is still old: an hour of battery life and weak WiFi---you need a strong signal.   Yet it is far more useful than it ever was before, and mostly free of restrictions.

Click here for the EEEPC fix:

It should be noted that actions to limit our access to internet, especially to serve the (marketing) interests of the provider of our equipment, are abhorrent and a looming threat to free speech.

For example, even the Kindle Fire, which is fairly open, cannot download apps (apks) from the main Android site, Android Market---however, they are generally available elsewhere.   The Nook is more limiting.

And the development of the above fixes counteracts such measures.

So, then, as a resident commented, IF we had unfettered access to internet, do we need anything else for a computer?    Well the EEEPC has a keyboard.   We could benefit with: a camera and bluetooth (I use an adapter for the latter).   And why not GPS?    Maybe an exteral mic.

If you buy new, for now, buy a Kindle.     Your next tablet may be something else altogether, hopefully to give you free unfettered access to media without even making it difficult.

These devices are in their infancy.    Better, and broader, will be coming, and soon.

Here is one (click).

And for the fearless, (click for it) transform the $99 Nook Touch into a full tablet.