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Mon, 15 May 2006

Once again. . .

I apologize for my absence. Not all that much has changed in the past few months. Anti-vir did update their software to a new version, but any of you who use it regularly would have gotten the new version automatically while updating your virus definitions. If you haven't updated your virus definitions lately . . . SHAME ON YOU! I haven't, however, heard from some of you for quite a while, so either you're doing what you were told to do and it's working, or . . . your system is all messed up again and you've just got a high tolerance for pain.

I'd like you to remind you to make sure all your Windows updates are current, and that you have *one* functioning firewall. Don't forget that more isn't better when it comes to firewalls, virus scanners, and malware software. A few, properly functioning, programs will do the job. Too many programs running background jobs will bring your computer to a screaming halt. POOF, the solution has become worse than the problem!

If your system is running slow but you have no evidence of malware or viruses, it's possible that you have other configuration issues. It's also possible that your computer could use a bit more memory. We can take care of either one of those problems for you. Feel free to call.

I'll try to check in with you more frequently here on the blog. Have a great summer in the sun, but don't neglect the care and feeding of your computer!

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Thu, 18 Aug 2005

More Ramblings. . . Maybe it's the heat!

Let me see, what have I been meaning to tell you? I know I wanted to remind you all that both Spybot and Adaware have updated their main programs. I suggest you visit their web pages to make sure you're running the latest version. I also wanted to remind you to keep your Windows machines properly patched. Heck, Microsoft is so nice they've now got automatic updates set up so you hardly have to think about updating. Of course we all know that if you don't use it, you lose it. This applies to the brain too, so having everything done for you on your computer could lead to brain atrophy. Nevertheless, I'd suggest you make use of Microsoft's updates even if some of them are meant for purposes other than the protection of your computer. The need to patch the holes in the operating system negates the intrusion on your personal life I guess. Personally, I'd rather do it all manually, and pay attention to what they're loading on my computer, but it would require quite a commitment on my part or yours. However, choose that option, you will earn my admiration and I'll take back anything bad I've ever said about you!

I found a neat little script that gets rid of several really nasty desktop hijackers, but don't think it's for use by the general public. It's a great tool though, makes my job a LOT easier. Those desktop hijackers are *evil*! I have also found Spysweeper by the people at webroot.com to be a fine program for scanning for adware and spyware. It is, however, a program you have to pay for, and it also needs to be configured carefully, or some of its benefits will be overshadowed by some of its *features*.

AOL's adware/spyware stuff (version 9) seems to work fairly well. They've also apparently tamed the software somewhat, and with a little tweaking it can be made to work acceptably. I'd still suggest avoiding the AOL 9, Norton or McAffee combination. I'd also suggest that if you want a firewall, and I'm in favor of them, you invest in some kind of broadband router. A router will have a firewall built in. This option is far better than attempting to use a software firewall on your Windows machine. We usually have a router or two in stock if you want to take a look at one.

... Last reminder. If you find yourself infected or infested with malware, and are running Windows XP or Windows 2000, remember to clean from safe mode first. Make sure you clean from any accounts available in safe mode. Then boot to regular mode and clean all accounts on the machine. It's worth the time it takes.

Speaking of "the time it takes". . . If you're on a dialup connection, you're probably going to find it increasingly impossible to update and patch your operating system and all the programs you need to keep everything running. The patches and updates are large, and with limited bandwidth it can be a bit overwhelming. Should you find yourself in this situation, you can always bring your machine in every few months to have all the updates and patches installed on your machine for the modest fee of 30.00.

I guess that about covers everything for the moment. Enjoy the rest of your summer, and feel free to call if you have a computer problem of any kind.

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Tue, 19 Apr 2005

You had to know the day would come...

... and it has unhappily arrived! The cure has managed to become worse than the disease. I'm sure we all know people who believe that if one pill will get rid of their headache, then two will get rid of their headache faster and better. That's a good way to end up getting your stomach pumped!

The same can be said for our little adware/spyware/virus problem. If one program will help ease the pain, then five, six, or seven will send you into a state of computer nirvana. In reality, this will result in the need to have your computer's stomach pumped (metaphorically speaking).

It seems that everyone is jumping on the adware/spyware/virus prevention/cure bandwagon. Recently I've noted a lethal combination seems to be AOL 9 with all its seemingly beneficial features, coupled with a full install of either Norton Anti-Virus/Internet Security or McAfee Anti-Virus. This combination, while making your computer *secure*, also renders your computer unusable for the most part. Though a computer in this condition isn't likely to get adware, spyware, or viruses, I'd prefer a solution that allows for browsing, email, and other computer activities I've come to enjoy.

What to do!? At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I am going to once again recommend that you rely on AdawareSE, Spybot Search and Destroy, and Anti-Vir. I STRONGLY recommend that you resist the temptation to install anything that promises you trouble free computing, as a large percentage of these programs cause more problems than they'll ever cure. And I *EMPHASIZE* the apparently counter-intuitive concept that you don't have to pay for a program to have it be the best tool for the job.

I'm still working on AOL 9 to try and figure out how well its built in tools work and how to disable unwanted features. I will let you know what I discover as I go along. The bottom line here is that this problem isn't going away anytime soon unless you take the nuclear option of using an alternative operating system. You either have to learn to cope with the reality of it all, or simply give up on computers entirely and find another hobby. ...They tell me needlepoint is relaxing.

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Sun, 27 Feb 2005

No, I didn't go on a world cruise!

I've been right here doing what I usually do. I'm still fighting the good fight. My side wins in the end, TRUST ME! I felt the need to reiterate a couple of points to you. First, there will be NO magic bullet to deliver you from the curse Microsoft has put on you as long as you continue to live under their roof and eat their food. We've already discussed the Open Source options available to you to get yourself out from under the Microsoft *spell*. More and more of you are availing yourself of that option. Others are still not quite willing to make what seems to be a very large leap off a very high cliff, but given enough time and torment, you will be... Meanwhile, I'm willing to do what I can to help you out but this brings us to my second point.

The tools I can provide to help you keep your computer running do NOT run themselves, nor do they update themselves (unless you set them to do so, which I do not recommend). You MUST be willing to participate in care and feeding of your computer. This means keeping the definitions for Adaware, Spybot, and Anti-vir updated. These programs will all tell you when your definitions are out of date and will offer to "update them now?" The answer to this query is YES! After updating the definitions the programs need to be run. I don't think once a week is too often. If you notice something odd inbetween times, run them again, it won't hurt anything.

You *can* automate the running of these programs in a couple of different ways. I'm not going to go into how you can do this here, because *A*, it is a bit too involved for this blog, and *B*, I don't think it's a particularly good idea. The reason why I don't like the idea is simply because alot of malicious programs immediately disable your anti-adware/spyware/virus protection. If you're *assuming* these programs are running themselves, you might not notice they're gone, or disabled. Next thing you know you're in DEEP trouble and you have to call me again... and as much as I love you all, you KNOW you don't *want* to have to call me again!

To those of you who have reached or exceeded your tolerance for pain with all the pop-ups, slow downs, and browser hijackings, we can help. If the fact that your brand new P4 3.4G machine is now running like the 386 you threw out ten years ago bothers you, there's a solution! I invite you to give us a call and ask about Linux, or to drop by and take a tour on one of our Linux demo machines.

That's it for now. Hope for warm weather, check out our *Spring* specials, and run that virus scanner NOW!

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Mon, 20 Sep 2004

It's been awhile...

... since we last chatted. I probably don't have to tell you that things on the virus/adware/spyware scene haven't improved one iota! I have, however, learned a few more things that may help you, and I've got another *offer* to dangle in front of you.

First for some new hints. This one is so obvious I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't mention it before. When cleaning your system of any malicious software, it's best to do so from safe mode. This affords you the maximum probability of actually getting rid of the bad stuff without it reappearing on next boot. HOW, I can hear you say, do I find safe mode? For Windows 98 and Windows ME hold down the *left* control key while booting the machine. This should produce a menu that offers you a safe mode option. Choose it by arrowing to it and hit enter. In Windows 2000/XP you'll need to hit F8 at bootup to get to the same style menu.

Something else I'd like to make you aware of is that Adaware has a new version available for download, it's called AdawareSE and, as with the version you probably have, it's free for personal use. You should download and install it. For those of you who have been using Spybot for longer than a few months, make sure to check their website for Spybot Search and Destroy for version 1.3. With Spybot it's crucial that you update the installed program as if you're using version 1.2 it will not update to the current spyware definitions and immunizations.

Ok, now for the sales pitch! I'd like to have you all think about bringing your Windows computer in and having us give you an estimate to load Linux onto your existing computer. We won't delete your existing Windows load but will use unused space on your hard drive to make your machine *dual boot*. I'd then encourage you to take some time to get aquainted with Linux, and primarily it would be beneficial to use Linux to do your web browsing and email. Linux isn't subject to adware and spyware, and it doesn't *catch* Windows viruses. It will really put the fun back in your internet experience. When you need to play that favorite game, or use your MS Office, you can boot to Windows and do so. At least let us explain this option to you. We won't charge you anything for the consultation! I'm talking to people every day who've finally "had enough". If you fit into this category, give us a call. If you don't, just wait a week or two and you will.

Check out our end of summer computer special and remember that we're here if you need us.

P.S. Drop by and mention you saw this blog and we'll give you a free Knoppix CD, which allows you to boot an entire Linux system from your CD drive. No installation required.

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Mon, 05 Jul 2004

The sparks coming from 125 Ashman...

... were not part of the Midland 4th of July celebration. They were coming out of my ears as we wrestled with one more Windows XP implosion. For what it's worth, and for your sanity, do NOT buy a computer with 128M of RAM running Windows XP. Windows XP doesn't run in any meaningful way in 128M of RAM. AND, perhaps even more importantly, do NOT attempt to put a computer running Windows XP that hasn't had SP1 applied online. Windows XP cannot operate online in any meaningful way for longer than about five minutes without SP1 (service pack 1) installed.

Should you find yourself in one, or both of these situations, do not despair! Empire Industries has memory ready to install for just about any computer. We can also load SP1 and any other patches your Windows computer may need. (Ok, that was a shameless advertisement, but I need my sanity as much as the next guy!)

Don't forget to update your virus definitions and check for updates for Adaware and Spybot.

Checkout our 4th of July Special, and have a great Summer!

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Sat, 26 Jun 2004

Just when you think it couldn't get any worse...

... it gets worse. I fear you're losing the virus/adware/spyware battle! It's not really entirely your fault. In fact it's not even mostly your fault. In past months I suggested to you that you might want to try using an alternative browser, today my suggesting has turned to a strong urging. I'd demand it if I could, but I fear I'd get the same response from you that I do with my children when I make demands. It has now reached the point where simply opening a url can result in malicious code being deposited on your computer. The possibilities here are too numerous to list and all possibilities are bad. Your keystrokes could be logged and sent off to someone sitting ready to collect your account numbers and other private information. I'm sure there'll be some sort of *patch* but the bottom like is this: Internet Explorer needs to go away, be replaced, euthanized. It's for the good of us all. To do what we can to help (since Dr. Kevorkian is tied up at the moment) we have decided to offer a free installation and configuration of an alternative browser for anyone who'd like to take us up on the offer. We'll load Mozilla, Netscape, or Opera for you at no charge. How good is that!?

Give us a call today and make an appointment. Your computer will thank you!

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Fri, 26 Mar 2004

Food for Thought

I've come across some good reading that I'd like to encourage everyone to consider. It seems that average computer users are finding it more and more difficult to keep their computers online and functioning. If it's not a virus, it's adware and spyware. If it's not those, it's some poorly behaved piece of software rendering your computer crippled or useless. Since I haven't signed any agreement with Microsoft, I'd like to lay a good portion of the blame at their feet. It is my contention that as you free yourself from the entanglement of Microsoft software, the enjoyment of your computing increases dramatically. (unless you're into pain as entertainment) I found a nice concise article that gives good suggestions to aid you in untangling yourself from the Microsoft mess you find yourself in. Lovers of Freedon and Justice

And for those of you who might be interested in exploring the philosopy of open source and its implications take a look here: Free Culture. You can download the entire book for free in PDF format. There's so much more to this subject that trying to deal with poorly written software. If you think that since you only do a little browsing and some email that this doesn't affect you, you're wrong. Educate yourself, you'll be glad you did!

I hope you find this information interesting and helpful. For those of you who are becoming increasingly frustrated with your computer and computing, we're here to help. Give us a call.

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Fri, 20 Feb 2004

...And while we're on the subject

I installed another browser last nite. Mozilla's Firefox is quite impressive and could also help prevent adware/spyware problems. You can find Firefox at www.mozilla.org. It's available for any pc platform and it's extremely easy to customize to your needs. Both Opera and Foxfire are incredibly fast too. I encourage you to give one or both of these browsers a try... After all, what have you got to lose but your spyware!?

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Wed, 18 Feb 2004

Happy Valentines Day!

Time sure flies, and I'm not even sure I'm having fun! The recent epidemic of viruses and continued infestations of adware and spyware continue to keep us busy. My tip for the month is to recommend that you Windows users consider changing browsers. Installing a third party browser like Opera can greatly help mitigate problems with the plethora of vulnerabilties housed in Internet Explorer. Let's just say that IE isn't Microsoft's best piece of work. Of course I think Microsoft's best piece of work was DOS and it's been down hill ever since. You may find Opera at www.opera.com. It's written by nice people who appear to care! Remember to send LOTS of valentines... and check out our Valentine Special!

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Wed, 31 Dec 2003

Ring Out The Old, Ring In The New .

I made it through Christmas with minimal trauma and now am looking forward to celebrating the arrival of the New Year. For Empire Industries, 2003 was the year we began to see a real interest in the *other* operating system, Linux. We are delighted with the trend. Here's hoping that 2004 brings even more interest in the "Little OS That Could". If you've never seen Linux, stop in and we'll be happy to give you a tour. We have some very cost effective used computers loaded with Linux and ready for you to take home and enjoy.

But what ever operating system you favor, here's wishing you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2004. As always, we look forward to helping you with your computer needs in the coming year.

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Tue, 23 Dec 2003

WOW! A Blog of my very own! Thank you, Santa!

Two days until Christmas, and as usual, I haven't got my shopping done. In the Empire tech room the guys aren't seeing visions of surgar plums, but are wrestling with the latest wave of adware/spyware that seems to be pandemic. Dan and Wayne recommend two pieces of software to help customers restore their computers to working condition. Ad-aware and Spybot seem to do a decent job when used together, provided of course that they're kept up to date. I hope to have Dan add to this blog to give a little more information about just what all this adware/spyware is, and where you can find the above mentioned software to help remedy it. If, of course you find you are unable to get all the bugs out, feel free to drop your computer by the Empire tech room and Dan and Wayne will be happy to work their magic and fix your computer up good as new!

Well, I need to go plan my last minute Christmas shopping. Hope this holiday season finds all of you well and happy.

Happy Holidays from the Empire Industries crew!

And... most importantly,a round of applause and special thanks to Derek for this absolutely MARVELLOUS new web site!

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 Empire Industries
125 Ashman #3,
Midland MI 48640
 Phone: 989-835-2151
Fax:      989-837-5644
Email:  sales@empireind.com