I help several folks with computer "stuff" who are not advanced computer users who have rising concerns about
privacy and security. Since I get the same questions repeatedly I made this page as a simple list of basic things everyone
needs to be aware of for safe computing. I'm not going to go into much detail because 1) it makes most people's eyes glaze over and 2) there are a multitude of sites that have comprehensive info on these topics and I really don't feel like reinventing the wheel.
- GET A GOOD ANTIVIRUS PROGRAM. Run a full system scan. Set up a schedule to run a scan at least once a week.
Pay the annual fee to subscribe to regular updates (these are usually automated to happen weekly.). Set it up to also scan incoming emails since your friends might not be as savvy as you are and could
send you a virus, Trojan, or other nasty item as an attachment.
I used to use Symantec's Norton
System Works which includes Norton Antivirus (which can also be purchased as a stand-alone product).
However, it tends to be a resource hog and I've moved on to using
- DOWNLOAD AND INSTALL AN ADWARE/SPYWARE PROGRAM such as
It's free as are the updates. Run a deep system scan. Schedule a regular scan.
- GET A GOOD FIREWALL PROGRAM such as the free
ZoneAlarm (or the more
powerful commercial version ZoneAlarm Pro). Learn to use it. Disable the built-in Windows XP firewall.
- GET A ROUTER. On a broadband (always-on) Internet connection it provides another level of firewall protection.
- WATCH YOUR INBOX! If you receive an email from a bank, credit card company, Internet service provider, eBay, etc. telling
you to update your account info (or anything requiring entry of your personal data such as account numbers, passwords, etc.)
it is 99.9% bogus. This is called "phishing," whereby an unscrupulous person tries to get you to reveal personal data and then
uses it to steal your identity, access your accounts, etc. DELETE SUCH EMAILS!
- GET A MODERN BROWSER AND EMAIL PROGRAM. Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) and Outlook Express (OE) are the major
targets of the virus writes and other evil people out there. They are getting better and they can be made more secure but
it's difficult for a casual user to deal with. The Mozilla Foundation Open Source products are more modern and secure.
The SeaMonkey Suite (my choice) combines a browser and email/newsgroup programs into one unified product. Mozilla's Firefox is only a
browser (ala IE) and Thunderbird is a separate mail/news program (ala OE). They are free.
- EDUCATE YOURSELF! The more you know and understand the better able you are to protect yourself.
- BE SENSIBLE. If you're visiting porn Web sites and the like (and I'm not making any value judgment here!) you are asking for trouble. Likewise, if you just click and visit any link anyone sends you you're asking for unwanted consequences. If it looks too good to be true or looks suspect, it probably is.
- BE SUSPICIOUS. If your friend tells you about some marvelous toolbar that you just must download,
DON'T! In the most benign form these are usually ad supported. Worse, they will track and report your Internet usage.
Far worse is when they take over your browser's home page, install other junk programs, etc. In the very worst case they
may be (or lead to) a virus, Trojan, keylogger, or other nefarious thing you definitely do NOT want on your system.
A word about cookies. For the most part they are harmless. In many cases they are extremely useful (enabling you, for instance, to access a site repeatedly with the same options remembered from visit to visit). In some cases
you must allow them for certain Web sites to work properly (notably online shopping where the cookie helps
keep track of your "shopping cart" as you browse the site). In my opinion there is far too much FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) on this topic. Much ado about nothing. At any rate, you can set preferences in every
major browser to manage how cookies are dealt with.
Which I guess brings me to my final point: DON'T BE OVERLY PARANOID.
A healthy dose of skepticism is good. Just surf defensively (like you drive) without having anxiety attacks.
windows help files - January 2007
Windows Compiled HTML Help files (with the extension .chm) are the most common form of help provided with Windows programs.
Just do a global search of your hard drive(s) for *.chm and you'll see what I mean: The search I just did found 649 .chm files.
The one supreme gripe I have about these help files is that they usually don't have any way to adjust the font size. The
author could put that control in but most don't. I'm running 1920 x 1080 on dual 22" LCD panels. The default
font size for the help files is uncomfortable to read. However, after a quick
search on Google
I found an easy answer.
- Open Control Panel
- Click Internet Options
- From Internet Options window click the Accessibility button
- Check the box Ignore font sizes specified on Web pages
- Click OK
Open a .chm file. It should now have larger fonts.
A better way is to download either of these utilities:
By using one of those instead of changing your IE browser setting you won't over-ride Web pages' font specs.
frozen Windows print spooler
Ever try to cancel a print job in Windows' print spooler? And it won't cancel?
And then the queue is frozen so you can't print anything at all?
This used to drive me insane because the only apparent solution was to reboot the whole
system. Well, here's a simple answer: Restart the “Print Spooler” service.
Open Control Panel and double-click "Administrative Tools. " Then click "Services."
Scroll down and find "Print Spooler." Right-click it and select "Stop." Once
it's stopped, right-click and select "Start.
I have a few other tips and handy utilities on this page.
This page last changed: April 23, 2013 - 12:27 PM
Copyright Ed Mullen |