Categories: "computer/tech"

Feeds are live again

If you use Bloglines or something similar to watch for updates on this site, then you probably haven't seen anything for several days. But I have been updating. I made some changes to the robots.txt file to try and keep search engines from spidering the admin area of b2evolution. Little did I know that I was also blocking them from my RSS feeds. So, I basically told the Bloglines indexing bot to go away and never come back. It took a couple of days to catch my mistake and a couple of days after that for the bot to come back, but all is well again.

Abakt - Open source backup utility for Windows

I've been watching for an open source solution for doing backups in Windows. I haven't tried it yet, but it looks like Abakt might fit the bill. Here's a screenshot, and here is the manual.

(via Newsforge)

Can you recognize a phishing email?

Take this quiz and see if you can tell which emails are legitimate and which are phishing. I got an 80%.

If you're using Firefox, make sure you upgrade to 1.0.1, which fixes a flaw that allows phishers to trick your browser into thinking it's at a real site. If you're using Internet Explorer, then you should also upgrade to Firefox 1.0.1.

For more information on phishing, see
Anti-Phishing Working Group
Federal Trade Commission
Wikipedia: Phishing

Which Polyhedral Are You?

Reading list

Scratch this off the short list of things I had to leave behind when I switched from Movable Type to B2evolution. I had a very nice MT plugin that let me post books that I was reading. It would create links to with more information about each book (or cd, movie, whatever). If someone clicked through and bought the item, I would get a few cents for referring them. B2evolution doesn't have a plugin like that, but I can include a second blog and post my links and images to it (which I have to build at I've got three titles posted on the right. So, it's not quite as nice as the plugin, but it works. And I'm still working on it.

Cleaning up a computer

I've been cleaning up some computers for people, getting rid of spyware and viruses. Here are the steps that I've taken to deal with malware problems without spending any money on software. These work well as preventative measures, too.

  1. Start the computer up (without being connected to the internet) and close any programs that will slow you down (such as MSN Messenger or any other junk that runs at startup for no good reason).
  2. Sometimes the computer will get really slow and freeze up in just a few minutes. I restart the computer and hit Ctrl + Alt + Delete, then go to the processes tab and end any processes that seem to be spyware. If you're not sure what something is, search for the process name on google. You'll usually get results that tell you if it's a good or bad process. Be careful.
  3. Now you're ready to connect to the internet. Broadband is highly recommended, as you'll be downloading several large files.
  4. Open Internet Explorer (or whatever browser you have) and go to Download and install the Firefox web browser. Now, close Internet Explorer and use Firefox to browse the web and download the programs in the following steps. From now on, don't click on the big blue E. That's the door that most of your problems have come through. Leave it closed.
  5. Download and install Adaware. It's free and very easy to use. Once it's installed you can download the newest adware definitions and scan your computer. This takes a while. If your computer crashes before the scan finishes, then go back to step two, or skip this step and come back later. When the scan is finished it may have found dozens of pieces of adware. The most I've ever seen is around 700. Right click and choose 'Select all objects.' Click 'next' and Adaware will remove the offending malware. You may want to come back and do a full system scan later.
  6. Now download and install Spybot Search & Destroy, which is also free. Check for updates, scan your computer and have the bad stuff removed. This is very similar to Adaware, but it will catch a few things that Adaware doesn't get. Also, Spybot has a nice feature called Immunize, which prevents bad programs from even installing.
  7. Now let's check for viruses. Download and install AVG Free. Update, scan, remove. Just like before.

  8. Make sure you have all the latest security updates for Microsoft Windows. There should be a Windows Update icon in your start menu somewhere. If you can't find it, then you can open up Internet Explorer (just this once) and go to Download all the critical updates. This may take several passes and several reboots.
  9. That should clear up most of your problems. If it doesn't, then consult a professional.
  10. Maintenance. From now on you'll need to update and scan with Adaware, Spybot and AVG Free once every one or two weeks. Keep Windows updated and use Firefox instead of IE.

If you get tired of this routine, then you could always consider switching to an operating system that doesn't have these problems.

Firefox hits 25M, Bill Gates interview

25000000_firefox.pngLess than 100 days after the 1.0 release, Firefox has reached 25,000,000 downloads. Most of my readers have heard me talking about how great of a browser Firefox is and how much better it is than Microsoft Internet Explorer. But if you're a new reader, or you've never tried it before, then by all means, get Firefox.

Bill Gates sat down with Peter Jennings in an interview recently. Jennings brings up Firefox:

JENNINGS: I read an article coming up here on Firefox (Web browser) and its perceived ability to do this better than you. Is that fair?

GATES: Well, there's competition in every place that we're in. The browser space that we are in we have about 90 percent. Sure Firefox has come along and the press love the idea of that. Our commitment is to keep our browser that competes with Firefox to be the best browser — best in security, best in features. In fact, we just announced that we'll have a new version of the browser so we're innovating very rapidly there and it's our commitment to have the best.

The fact that Gates admits that Firefox is even worth being called a competitor is fairly impressive. I think their public strategy has been to write Firefox off. He uses a very Bushian style when he sort of dismisses Firefox's popularity and blames it on the press. Gates and Jennings go on to discuss open source software in general.

In other Firefox news, I've switched a few people over at the office, and my dad has started telling his coworkers about it, too. I'm just waiting for the day when computer manufacturers start preinstalling it.

Learning Computer Basics

Today a co-worker told me she wanted to learn how to do more on her computer. She just learned about Google, which will help her find a lot of information. She's still afraid to mess with her computer much because she doesn't want to ruin it. So, I'm looking for some online tutorials that can give someone some basic skills to build on. I looked at, which usually has good stuff, but I wasn't impressed. I looked through several directories at and found a lot of crap, but not much that would be useful. I know that the internet is roughly 93% worthless junk, but there's also a lot of good, free information out there. If you know of any good tutorials on the basics of using a computer and the intetnet, let me know.

Steve Balmer's two opinions of PCs in developing countries

Steve Balmer, CEO of Microsoft, needs to make up his mind. Out of one side of his mouth he says that there needs to be a $100 PC for people in developing countries, but out of the other side of his mouth he threatens that poor countries who use Linux may get sued. MS is now denying that this was really a warning, and they've had news stories that said so taken down, but I think his motivations for saying those things are pretty clear. FUD. How does he expect anyone to make a $100 PC that runs on Windows? Windows itself costs more than that. Even the ultra-cheap, pared down version of Windows that they're making for the Asian market costs $30. So, he's basically saying we should make a $70 PC. But wait, his idea for $100 PC isn't to make life better for people in poorer countries, it's to stop piracy of MS products. There's a reason that the real $100 PC project will be using Linux and other open source software. Oh, and in case you haven't figured it out yet, I think Steve Balmer is a jerk.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is planning to stop offering security updates for pirated versions of Windows. That's certainly within their rights, and I'm surprised they haven't done it sooner, but it's going to make the worldwide install base of Windows even less secure than it is now. It's also going to highlight the high prices that they charge for their software, and probably drive more people to alternative operating systems. ("Microsoft cracking down, making Linux look good" - ZDNet)

Orphans of the Sky

I just finished reading Orphans of the Sky by Robert Heinlein. This has got to be one of my favorite concepts for a sci-fi story. It's set on a giant ship that is making a voyage to a distant solar system. Several generations have passed since the launch and since there aren't any windows in most of the ship the people have stopped believing in the trip, earth and anything outside of the ship. They consider those things to be legends. When someone discovers the controls and the stars, he has a hard time convincing others that the legends are true.

When I first read this in junior high I really liked the religious undertones. It's always been one of my favorite from Heinlein, but for the longest time I couldn't remember the title, just the premise. Then I was listening to X Minus One recently and I heard a radio adaptation of the first half of the book. Then I was able to find the title, request it from the library and read it again.

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