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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.

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

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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

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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.

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…)

Content Generation Continued April 9, 2010

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As promised, here is a step by step guide to content creation using Cam Studio to create a “how-to” video.  I would do this using Cam Studio but you can’t look at the program and run it at the same time.  The program is free.  You will need to download and install it first.  Go to www.camstudio.org and scroll to the bottom of the page.  You will find two links.  Download the application first and then download the loss-less codec.  Install the app by double-clicking on the file you have downloaded and click yes, next, or continue until you have the application downloaded.  Install the codec by either running the install application (if you chose to download it) or by unzipping the archive, right-clicking on the .inf file, and selecting INSTALL from the context menu.  Either way will get the files copied to the correct location.  You are now ready to begin

As previously stated, you need to have a plan.  It should already by prepared at this point.  You should know exactly what you are going to do.  We will assume that you have created a script and gone through it a few times.  Be sure that you have your microphone hooked up and are ready to record.

Step One: Open the Cam Studio Program.  We need to make some setting adjustments before we begin.  When the program opens you should see a small window appear that looks like this…

View of cam studio interface

Click on the OPTIONS menu and select VIDEO OPTIONS.  You should see a dialog box similar to the following image.

Fill the boxes in your options box with the same settings you see above.  If you do not have the DivX codec then you can substitute the MPEG3 codec and it will work just as well.  The reason for using these settings is so that you will not have lag between your video and audio.  Once the settings are in place, click OK.  You will find yourself looking at the main interface for Cam Studio.  At the top right of the window you will see a button that says “SWF”.  This setting allows you to save in either .avi or flash .swf file format.  Select the .avi format.  It will save the video in a much higher resolution mode.  If you plan to upload to youtube.com (and you should), you will be able to easily upload and convert the .avi file.

In order to begin the recording process, click on the red recording button as pictured below.  Once you have started the recorder, speak clearly and slowly.  Don’t read the script but do follow it.  Don’t try to impress with your vocabulary.  The average reading level in the USA is 6th grade.  Just present your ideas as clearly and concisely as you can.  As you describe parts of the program interface, make sure you indicate what you are talking about with the cursor.  Do everything you can to make your tutorial as easy to follow and understand as possible.

When you have completed recording, click the STOP button and you will see a dialog box to facilitate saving your movie file.  Name the file and select “SAVE”.  DO NOT CLOSE THE PROGRAM IMMEDIATELY.  Wait until the file is completely saved or you will loose all your hard work and have to start again.  Once the file is saved, close Cam Studio and open Windows Movie Maker to polish your video.

Import your video using the “Capture Video” section of the menu.  You can add titles and text using the “Edit Video” section.  Click “Add Titles or Credits” and you can add your URL or business name to the movie.  Once you have polished your movie it’s time to export.  Be sure you export as DV-AVI with the best possible quality.  When you convert to a lossy format like .flv you will need as much resolution as possible.

Once you have exported your video you can upload to youtube.com.  Remember that youtube will only accept movies shorter than 10 minutes.  You need to consider this when you are building your tutorial.  If the movie runs longer than 10 minutes you can use Movie Maker to break it into sections.  Be sure to provide a good transition between movies and also be sure to include the section number when you are setting the video title in youtube.

The path to success on the Internet is content creation.  You will be surprised how fast you can build a collection of tutorials.  Watch other people’s work and learn from them but don’t copy them.  When editing your video, remember that if the scene does not directly enhance your tutorial, it does not belong.  Be sure to track your hits and see if you can tie anything in your content to an increase or decrease in hits.  If you do something that increases your traffic, keep doing it.  Once you have a steady traffic flow there are many ways to market it.

To give you an idea of what can be done, I am including one of my early tutorials.  This is a two-part tutorial showing how to set up a static HTML site using Adobe Dreamweaver CS3.  It is posted on youtube.com

Adobe Dreamweaver at a Glance April 8, 2010

Posted by regan222 in Computer and Technology.
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Howdy friends and neighbors.  Boredom has overtaken me so I decided to generate some content.  Almost everyone today is interested in making their fortune on the Internet.  The one common thread that all the successful money-making plans have is the generation of content.  The Internet is driven by text, audio, video, and images created by people like you.  If you allow a website or blog to sit for a week without updating it will die.  Generating content is the key to bringing people to you.  Once you have the people you can find a way to convince them to pay you.

One popular method of content generation is creating “How To” tutorials for popular software packages.  This is a great method because 1) it generates content that holds interest and generates traffic and 2) it perpetuates content generation by teaching people how to create on the web.  This keeps the Internet at large churning.  My blog today is a tutorial on content generation.  I would like to show you how to show other people how.

First, you need a few pieces of free software.  The first and most important is a freeware program called Cam Studio.  This program allows you to record video screen captures and record audio for your tutorial.  You can download it at the Cam Studio Web Site.  The next piece of software you need is already on your PC.  Windows XP comes with a very primitive but effective movie editing program called Windows Movie Maker.  You can use it to add titles, URLs, and other text to your movie.  You can clip frames, order sections of the movie, or do just about anything you need to create your own “how-to” video.  Certainly there are more expensive tools you can use but these programs will do nicely to start with.  You will also need a microphone attached to your PC’s sound card.  You will use this to record your script.

Next, and possibly the most important phase, is to PLAN PLAN PLAN exactly what you are going to do.  Write a script.  Don’t just think that you will be able to start working in a program and then ad lib a great script while you work.  It won’t happen.  How often do you start working on a project and not mess up.  You do not want to waste your viewer’s time with “do-overs” and you don’t want to confuse them with jump cuts and abrupt edits to fix errors.  Run through the project that you are basing your tutorial on and then run through it again.  Make sure you have it down so well that you can go through it without error.  When you are recording you will not want to read the script word for word but you will want to be so familiar with it that you don’t have to consult your notes every few words.  Don’t try new things as a tutorial.  Do things that you are VERY familiar with.

Find a quiet place to work.  It is very annoying to view a tutorial trying to learn a new technique and be forced to listen to some bizarre TV show soundtrack in the background.  You can add music before or after the tutorial but not during.  It is a distraction.  Likewise, be sure your sinuses are clear.  Speak clearly and enunciate carefully.  If your voice is not pleasant consider having someone else record the audio.  Do everything you can to make watching your tutorial a pleasant experience.

Don’t try to do too much.  A tutorial that is more than 20 minutes long will not hold your listener’s attention.  10 to 20 minutes is optimal.  Also, if you make your tutorial too long they will not be viewable on Youtube.    This is where you want to put your tutorial.  Even if you host a web site somewhere else, upload the tutorials to youtube.  The bandwidth available to you on youtube is much better than anything you can come up with and you can easily embed the video into any site or blog.

Be sure to use a fairly recent version of whatever software you are teaching.  Notice I don’t say latest and greatest.  Most people don’t have the most recent version unless it has been out for a while.  You will not, however, want to use some ancient technology that is not relevent in today’s software market.  Stay within the 2 or 3 most recent versions. 

While you are creating your tutorial, don’t forget to promote your self.  You need to have your website, email address, or company name plastered all over the screen while you are teaching.  As long as the graphics are not a distraction for your viewers, make sure that your information is on the screen the entire time.  This is your purpose after all.  You are selling, not just teaching.

Finally, try to do something original.  There are 20 million versions of “Hello World in Visual Basic.net” currently on the Internet.  You should watch several of them but don’t base your work on any one of them.  Do your own thing, especially if is something that you are known for and is something you came up with that no one else does.  This kind of tutorial will get you noticed.  Start slow and short and build up from there.

Well that’s it for another edition of Regan222.  (I really need to come up with a cool name)  Tomorrow night I will go through the step by step process of using Cam Studio to create a tutorial video.  Til then, good night all.