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A Brief Word from Our Sponsor May 3, 2010

Posted by regan222 in Computer and Technology.
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Good Evening.  I just have time for a short entry tonight.  This is more of a status report than a real blog entry or tutorial.  In previous entries I have talked about the importance of writing valid code and sticking to standards even when it seems like an inordinate amount of excess work.  In keeping with my convictions I have finally gotten HauntedRadio.net validated correctly.  It is validated as xHTML transitional and the CSS also checks out according to W3C standards.  (If you don’t know who the W3C is, hang around and you will.  My next entry will probably be a history lesson about them.)  Essentially validation says that I care enough about my web page to make sure that everyone who sees it gets exactly the view that I want them to have and sees all the elements of the page as they were meant to be seen.  I use conditional comments so that Internet Explorer and Firefox users all get the same view, and I validate my code with the W3C validation application so that every browser knows what to expect.


Thats No Moon! It’s a Rogue Spyware!! April 30, 2010

Posted by regan222 in Computer and Technology.
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Well, I guess it’s about time that someone did it.  For so long it has been easy to get rid of rogue spyware applications that download themselves onto your PC and try to weasel your credit card info from you by holding your PC hostage.  As I posted last time, all that is necessary is to start up the PC in safe mode and start up a reputable scanner and the bug would go away.  Well, this new breed of bug does not care what mode your PC starts up in.  Safe or Normal mode, the bug will run the minute you try to start up an application.  If you should see something on your PC that resembles this…

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whatever you do, DO NOT CLICK OK, GO, CONTINUE, OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT.  Use ctl+alt+del and stop all applications.  You might get lucky and catch this before it installs.  This is not, however, likely.  Once these screens show up you are usually too late.  This bug is installed by a trojan that comes in on a drive-by download.  What makes it different is that when it installs it makes a minor registry change that makes removal almost impossible unless you know what you are doing.  This program changes your registry so that any program you try to run, whether safe mode or not, will not start but the virus program will run, even in safe mode.

You can follow the steps from the last post but you need to do something first in order to get rid of this little monster.  Download this registry fix.  Right click and save it to your desktop.  You will need to unzip the download once you save it.  It is a registry file that you can merge into your registry to repair what the bug does so that you can use malwarebytes to get rid of it.  Once you have saved the file, find it on your desktop and right-click on the file.  The menu will include an option to merge.  Select “merge” from the menu and in a moment you will see a box that says you have successfully accomplished this.  Now you can remove the bug.  Make sure your PC is in safe mode.  Start malwarebytes, update it,  and run the scan.  This bug, like all the others,  falls quickly and permanently.

Remember, once you have completed the scan and you believe you have removed the bug, reboot your PC and run DiskClean to get rid of the scraps.

OK Where was I?? Oh Yes, that Horrible Growth on Your PC April 24, 2010

Posted by regan222 in Computer and Technology.
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Well, having dealt harshly with the evil foe I return to my original task with frightening singleness of purpose.  We were talking about making sure that your PC was clean before I was so rudely interrupted.  We just zapped the evil box using Task Manager (if you don’t remember, make sure and read the last two posts before you continue).

It is likely that you caught the bug and zapped its setup application before it had a chance to infect you.  You will know if we failed by the little box that pops back up and asks for your credit card numbers.  Either way, this method will fix what ails us.

Step 1: Get the Tools You Need.  Everyone should have a shortcut in their web browser to http://www.malwarebytes.org  (this is the best in the business at cleaning and removing this sort of bug).  Click on the link and, once the page loads, click on the large download button.  You will be taken to C-Net  and you will need to click on another download button.  It looks like the following:

malwarebytes download button

Click the green image or the “download now” link and you will receive the setup file.  Remember where you save it.  Once you have the file saved to your drive, close all programs including Internet Explorer.  Find the install file and double click the application.  The setup process is short and simple.  Click “yes”, “next”, or “continue” until the program tells you it has successfully installed.  The last window will ask if you want to update the program and run.  Uncheck BOTH BOXES.  DON’T DO IT YET.

Step 2: Time to Clean.  You need to reboot your PC at this point and you need to bring it up in safe mode.  To do this, wait until the screen goes dark and start tapping the F8 key on your keyboard about once every 3 seconds until you see a screen similar to an MS-DOS screen that gives you several boot options.  The first should be “safe mode”.  The second should be “Safe Mode with Networking”.  Select the second one and let the PC boot.  It may give you another screen that asks what operating system you wish to boot.  Make sure it say whatever flavor of Windows you are running and hit the “Enter” key on your keyboard.  (This will happen if you are using Windows XP).

Once you have booted up in safe mode (I know the screen looks funny, ignore it)  you will need to run the malwarebytes application you recently installed.  Find the large red “M” icon on your desktop and double-click.  It should load the application.  You will see a window with tabs across the top that look like this…

Select the UPDATE tab and click the update button.  Let the process run until you receive the message that the update was successful.  If something does not work, skip the step and move on.  It will still work.

Select the SCANNER tab and be sure the dot is next to “Full Scan”.  This takes longer but you don’t want to take any chances.  Click the “Scan” button and let it run.  It should take about 30 minutes or so.  When complete you will see a button that says continue and likely a text file will open.  Close the text file and click the “Next” button.  You should then see a button that says “Remove All Selected”.  Click the button and the program does the rest.  It will likely ask you to reboot.  This time, let it come up in normal mode. 

Step 3: Finish The Job.  Once you have completed the scan process you need to make sure all the trash is cleaned up.  Close Malware Bytes and click your “START” button.  Select “Accessories”, “System Tools” and “Disk Cleanup”  When the program opens it should look like this…

If you should see a box that asks what drive you wish to clean, select your boot drive and the above box will show up.  It make take 10 minutes to scan.  Once it does you will be presented with many options, each with its own check box.  Select all check boxes and click to continue.  The clean process may take up to 15 minutes or so.  Don’t panic.  Once the process is over, the drive will be clean.  This process will clean the recycle bin, the Internet cache, and all temp files.  This process will make sure that even if you stopped the install process you also deleted the installation files of the bug. 

These steps will absolutely sure that your drive is clean and that whatever you ran into will not trouble you any further.  Hopefully this will take care of the problems.  Should there be other issues, you may need to reboot into safe mode and run the scan again.  Make sure you get the program to update before doing this.  If I can be of further help, please let me know.  Nity Nite.

I’m Gonna Hijack this Bus To Cuba!! April 23, 2010

Posted by regan222 in Computer and Technology.
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Help Help!! I’ve been hijacked.  I know I promised to get the other part of cleaning up rogue spyware apps from a PC up and running but this evening has been too disturbing for me to create a new tutorial.  I have been hijacked!!  I noticed that one of my tutorials about Dreamweaver sites only had 19 hits while the second part of the video had over 300 hits in one month.  Why would you watch the back half of a tutorial and not the front?  Well I discovered that the hits were being referred from a site called dreamweavertutorial.net.  I dropped by and discovere that they had embedded my tutorial that I posted on youtube.com into their page.  I would not ordinarily mind but they gave NO credit to the author at all.  They put my video up as if they had posted it themselves with no mention of me or my site.  How RUDE!!!

Sooo what to do?  I might have seized the moral high ground,  removed my video from Youtube and sent a scathing letter to the admin of the site.  I have never been a big fan of heights so I did not seize the high ground.  Instead I went back in to Youtube and edited my video slightly and added some captions.  I will let you decide if you want to go the dreamweavertutorial.net site and see what I did.  I also found that every video tutorial on their site had been hijacked from Youtube and no one had been credited so I notified all the Youtube account holders of what was going on.  Hopefully everyone will add comments and subtitles and captions to these videos and let them keep playing.  I will do my BEST to get the other half of my spyware article up tomorrow night.

Doctor, It Hurts When I Do This… April 22, 2010

Posted by regan222 in Computer and Technology.
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If you are even a casual Internet user, chances are you have come across this scenario or something similar while surfing the World Wide Web. There you are, innocently perusing http://www.wildweaselswarezofallkinds.com and just as you start to download Visual Studio 2012 (giant monster corp. version), for educational purposes only of course, when suddenly something like the following image appears on your screen…
My My Doesn't this look official.  It MUST be real

This alarming message that you have been exiled from the Internet due to digital herpes is followed by something that looks similar to this…

My Hero  NOT

Oh Horrors!! According to these friendly people and their conveniently placed program, your PC’s hard drive is one solid virus from the boot sector to the last byte. Whatever shall you do?!?! The friendly program runs for a bit and then a box pops up from somewhere and asks if you would like to have all the bad ol’ spyware removed from your innocent little PC. Well who wouldn’t?? You click on the button that says, “Please Please Save My PC” and another box pops up that says “OK, it looks like we can save it…Do you prefer Visa or Master Card?” HUH???

This scenario is played out daily as more and more new computer users join the ranks of the digitally diseased. The friendly program trying so desperately to save your hard drive is, in fact, the source of the malware infecting your precious baby. In this article, I will offer some tips that you can use to protect both your digital data, your credit history, and your bank account from the nefarious ne’er-do-wells who would prey on the inexperience of others.

Rule 1: Don’t go there. The Internet, by definition, is the great clearing house for data. It does a great deal of good; makes wonderful collaboration and communication possible, and shrinks the entire world to the size of your computer desk. On the other hand, the Internet is a community and like any community there are good and bad people. It is not always easy to tell the difference because of the anonymous nature of the online experience but common sense will take you a long way. If it sounds too good to be true, IT IS. People design traps with bait that looks appealing. The newest version of MS Office or Visual Studio can cost over $1000 retail. Why wouldn’t someone go out and unload that kind of money in order to upload it to a warez site so everyone can have it for free. Does it strike you as suspicious? It should. What makes it more suspicious is that the version they are claiming to offer won’t be out for another month but somehow they have by-passed some of the highest security known to man to get the program to you. Porn sites, warez sites (if you don’t know what warez are, hang around the Internet a while and you will), torrent sites, and “get rich quick” sites are common lures to trap inexperienced surfers drawn by the lure of “Madam Spanks A’Lot’s House of Perpetual Paddling”. Short and Simple…Don’t Go There. Stay away from those sites and you will reduce the likelihood of contracting virtual VD 1000 fold.

All right, I ignored your advice and now I see this little box on my screen telling me that I am infected by every virus and trojan known to man. WHAT CAN I DO??

Rule 2: DON’T PANIC. First, do nothing. If you are already infected it won’t hurt anything to wait a moment. It is also possible that you are NOT actually infected yet. Look at the box. It probably has a button that says “OK” or “Continue” and one that says “Cancel”. What ever you do, DO NOT CLICK ON EITHER BUTTON. “But the button said “Cancel”. Thats what I want to do. I don’t want anyone to get my credit card number. Shouldn’t I cancel the program and won’t it go away”. <sarcasm>Of course, the guy that wrote the virus was so considerate that he hooked up a cancel button in case you didn’t want to be a victim of identity theft. Wasn’t that thoughtful?</sarcasm> If you click on anything concerning this program it will install a load of malware on your hard drive. The buttons and even the little box that contain the buttons are clickable controls and doing anything with the mouse will trigger a mess. Don’t click on anything.

Rule 3: ctl+alt+del is your friend. Look at your keyboard. Find the ctl or control key. Should be on the bottom row near the side of the keyboard. There are usually two (windows keyboards not Mac). The alt key should be within one or two keys of the ctl key. The del or delete key is usually found on the right hand side in a group of 6 buttons that say “home” “insert”, “page up”, and “page down”. Hit the ctl key and hold it down. While it is depressed, hit the alt key. While holding these two keys down, hit and hold the del key. You should see something similar to the following…

       Click the image to Enlarge

This box is called the Task Manager. It will allow you, among other things, to start and stop applications. Notice the tabs at the top. The active one says “Applications”. Listed in the main body of the window are all the programs currently running. As you can see, I am currently running MS Internet Explorer and Adobe Dreamweaver CS3. Begin with the first one in your list. Click on the application name to highlight it. It will turn blue. Below the list are three buttons. One says “End Task” With the first application highlighted, click “End Task” and it will close. Repeat until you see nothing left in this list. If you are lucky (and fairly quick), everything will close and you will eventually be back to your desktop. Congratulations, you (hopefully) just saved yourself the cost of a computer tech visit to clean spyware from your PC. Tomorrow I will continue this post and tell you what to do to make sure that nothing got through to harm your PC.

So You Wanna Build a Web Site… April 21, 2010

Posted by regan222 in Computer and Technology.
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Silly Computer Graphic

I am forced to install multiple browsers in order to keep up my position as a web designer. I don’t understand why we can’t make standards standard??? I have spent the last 3 hours debugging a CSS problem with Firefox. It works in IE (few things do) and it works (oddly enough) in Opera but it refused to work in Firefox. I suspect it is a server error on the host side because when I look at the pages on my server from Firefox it works but when I look at the pages on the host server, the browser completely ignores all CSS instructions.

Should you ever decide to develop web sites there are some very important things you should consider.

  1. Make sure you have access to the host web server so you can upload your files your self. It is almost impossible, I am finding, to finish a page, upload to my server, get the customer’s approval, and then zip and email it to the host so that they can upload.
  2. Make sure you get, IN WRITING, the target browser that your client expects the site to work perfectly in. I know that everything should be perfectly accessible by any browser and that everything should work together regardless of the company that makes it, but save yourself some time and tension and accept the fact that it won’t. Give your clients ONE browser that everything works perfectly in and then make sure that the pages are at least usable (navigable) in the other main browsers.
  3. Make sure that who ever you’re dealing with does not have friends in tech places who are trying to get their toes in the door. Establish up front that you are not in the business to tear someone else down (and mean it) and demand that same respect from your clients. The most annoying thing I can think of is for you to get a web site up and running for a client and then have some other IT person from another company start talking to other members of your client’s organization and asking questions like “wonder why he didn’t use this or that technology?” or “wonder why he didn’t optimize that for Unix users?” This issue needs to be discussed long before a design is ever begun. Nip it in the bud and it won’t come back to nip you later.
  4. Be familiar with standards and make your clients familiar with them. You should already know who World Wide Web Consortium is and your clients should know before their web site is complete. This organization provides the standards for the web (such as they are). If you abide by these standards and show them to your client before the design ever starts then you will have an authority to fall back on when someone else asks why you didn’t incorporate some obscure and esoteric bit of html that they use to appear superior.

Meanwhile I am still working on the Flanagan web site.. This is one you should check out. It is completely CSS formatted, 100% XHTML compliant, and the pieces of code (navigation and header information) that are the same from page to page are server side includes. THAT is the way to set up a site. You can change colors, layouts, and everything about the design by editing one file. You can change content on every page just by editing a text file. It is a little bit more tedious to design but it is infinitely more convenient to maintain.

By the way, if anyone out there were to have a tech related question (or even a non-tech related on) I would probably do my best to answer it. Just comment on the latest entry with your question and I will help if I can. (No guarantees though, Not responsible for damages resulting from advice, I reserve the right to refuse service to any one, no shirt, no shoes, no service, if you break it you buy it, etc…)