Tag Archive for Technology

Malware and Virus attacks get more “life-like”

I spent a few hours pulling a serious malware infection, actually a set of 8 different ones, off a client’s main system yesterday. He contracted the mess at 5:40 PM last Monday.

My contention os these attacks are getting more “life-like” is based on the manner in which he identified the moment of problems: He has a major customer and he ships mountains of product to them via UPS. On Monday afternoon (consider what else was going on in the Post-Christmas days and UPS), he received and email indicating an updated delivery status for his UPS shipment. His comment was it appeared to look very much like others he had received via the major customer, so he clicked on it. He said it didn’t have fancy graphics, but it certainly was a detailed looking email, not a one liner with a link.

It also reminds me of the 1-3 emails I get a day into one of my other blogging emails that obviously some scraper picked up off that site. They tend to be advertisements, but they are mixed in with emails that are my accounts at (fill in the banking institution) suspended, blocked, etc. Some of them actually are all dressed up with HTML graphics layouts, too. I stay away, but then I deal with this daily. For others, like my client, when one comes that makes sense to their work flow/life/personal business/social networking, there is a likelihood they will allow the malware in, and their firewalls may not stop it.

For the user: You have to be wary of things that look kinda true , but something still tells you it’s not kosher and look closer before clicking.

Be careful out there and practice safe computing!

For you techs, looking how to get rid of this:

Anyhow, it really embedded itself within his system, flagged as a Win32 password stealer by Microsoft Security Essentials. The good news, in early Tuesday, I convinced him to take the rest of the year off and reward himself for a great year, and I’d be over Thursday morning (since the malware would allow a network connection for a few moments, then cut it off, so a remote session was out of the question.

I used MalwareBytes, Microsoft Security Essentials, Kaspersky TDSS Root Killer and old school digging through the entire registry, after seeing the names in the user appdata roaming and local files under nonsense random lettering named .exe files and folders.

I called this one a “repeater,” as MSE would identify it, clean it, then it would fire itself back up about 30 seconds later. I would see 8 different start up program listings named BitNefender 2016, turn them off, and they would be back, activated in the next reboot. Interestingly enough, searching for that name in the registry never found anything, even after several tries.

It was the searching for the keys and values in the registry and manually deleting them) that, in combination of the MSE and MalWareBytes scans that finally got things working normally, including restoring a constant network connection.

SSDS: A blessing, a curse and a cautionary approach

Just built another systems up, with a Samsung 840 240GB SSD. While I’m used to spending the next few hours wandering by the bench, clicking restarts, get updates, etc (some of you know the drill well), it was strikingly different last night.

I pieced a small form factor Dell Optiplex together (and saw issues with cable routing and screw heads and fan blades – another post worth making) and fired it up with the install disk inserted.

About 1.5 hours alter, I had gone from Win7/SP1 to all updates loaded (more than 103), and application software loaded (Office, Reader, Flash, and security). Usually I get most of the way there and then it’s a few more overnight hours and a few more reboots first thing in the morning.

I’m getting jealous of these systems, as they go from off to Desktop in about 15 seconds…

Oh, an high speed cable connection (about 39M download) didn’t hurt either, but I’ve used it for builds before, too.

As I was being dazzled at the rapid completion of progress bars, I reflected on a comment from a shop owner here I occasionally drop in on regarding his experience as an early adopter.

Kirk mentioned he had gotten and SSD about a year ago. It was great, but one day it was dead…as in really, really dead. Think about it: While disk errors send shivers up our spines, unless we hear that horrible grinding, and/or screeching noise, we techs have a degree of comfort that the data is not really gone, just accessible as a non-boot drive, and all is mostly right in the world.

An SSD? It’s common failure mode is DEAD! no connecting via a USB adapter (which is ever present with me, like a credit card, when I leave the house), as it’s DEAD!

Blessing: FAST!

Curse: Dead usually really means dead.

Cautionary approach: Back up, back up, and back up. And did I mention backup? Expensive? Not near as much as a data recovery specialist…and I haven’t even done my homework to see if that’s a function out there yet (I suspect it is, and I also suspect it’s costly).

How to resolve the risk? RAID 1. Bite the cost bullet and get two, if you’re going to get one…and than have a “conventional” drive the same size you can clone to, or a partition on a larger drive you can image to….Couple that with an offsite cloud service to ensure a redundant, real time data set is stored for a rainy day SSD drive failure.

Those who know this know I don’t need to say anything else on the topic. In many ways, it’s current common sense, even for conventional, mechanical drives, but it’s one now where a safety net for data recovery from the local failed drive isn’t really there anymore.

UPDATE 3/8/13: As I stated about, the end of life of an SSD drive is way closer than we’re used to when it begins to let you know it’s about to fail, as discussed in this article at MakeUseOf: Can Data Be Recovered From A Failed SSD?

Time to rethink the dpi for your main web and mobile site images

Just bumped across a review on the new iPads and two sentences caught my eye. The reviewer mentioned surfing to Zillow, the site that lists houses for sale. He commented on how the pictures looked all pixelated.

That’s important, and it’s also a sesimic change in the digital world of our websites and images on the mobile devices viewed by our clients. In “the good old days,” the way to keep your web pages loading fast, and not bust through your storage and bandwidth limits of your hosting provider, the best bet was to “downsize” the images to be 100dpi (dots per inch) down to no less than 72dpi.

In a world where the masses of display devices could not get above 75dpi, it was a great way to help yourself in the ways mentioned above. If you had been loading those 5 mega pixel pictures from your digital camera, and then wondered why your web pages took so very, very long to display, and you figured it out, you know what I’m talking about.

So….what’s the point? The new Retina displays for the iPad3 and iPhone 5 devices leapt forward to now display 286dpi. Your 100dpi pictures, all slim and trim electronically images UP TO NOW now look all pixelated.

Time to consider just how smooth and life like you need your site images need to be for the growing market of Apple product users.

If you don’t consider this an issue, and think you can just leave those users behind, you need to understand much of what is before you in the non-Apple/Mac world came to be as a result of everyone trying to copycat the innovations coming out of Apple. USB came from Apple Desktop Bus (ADB), which also gave us back all sorts of things attached outside the computer (like Macs were n the early days), after the PC people were trying to put everything inside the box. Windows…bless Bill Gates and his merry band of workers, was a twinkle in Bill’s eye because Steve and Steve (and realistically, Mike) put out a ground breaking new interface to the computer, and once seen, Microsoft then began to work on it.

Displays, the actual hardware, now will begin to see an evolution very soon, as the consumer market will begin to want it, but without the price tag, and the electronic manufacturers will position their products to meet the demand, and therefore, your site better be up to speed in the near future.

If those old images aren’t on file, in their original, high quality format, consider replacing them, or reworking the sites to remove them from their digital surrounding.

Next: No more low resolution setting on your cameras. Get the high quality version (at the minimum to allow you to extract a nice 300dpi version), and store them for the future.

Update 11/10/12: Google and Samsung are now using 300dpi (or “ppi” pixels per inch) displays on their new tablets. One more “call to action” to get into all your website graphics and consider “upgrading” the dpi of not only your photos, but any artwork/logo you scaled down for fast loading web pages! End of update, now returning to your original text.

The quick thinkers, who rely on high quality impression for their business would be well advised to make a review of their sites a top priority in the near term.

Words to the wise…prepare for the shifts in technology, or at least, in this case, start paddling now to catch the wave.

Windows 8, Microsoft Surface and a Big Touch Screen Monitor – I’m Living Bill Gate’s Dream!

Click the picture for a bigger version!

Well, maybe it’s Steve Ballmer’s dream now, but that’s in the details.

Microsoft announced the Surface two days ago. Yesterday, on my current build, I put the Windows 8 Consumer Preview operating system on an i5-2300 with 16GBs of RAM, attached to a Dell SX2201T touch screen (multi-point) monitor, which also has a microphone and a webcam built in to interface to the main tower with a USB cord.
So, what have I done? I basically built myself a non-portable, and maybe not as water/shock proof desktop Microsoft Surface.

I have my “tiles” (get used to talking about them instead of “apps,” and an ability to tap and run the different programs. I’ll admit, having had the Windows 8 on a netbook for about 6 months, my fingers can’t get to those discrete sensors in the extreme lower left and right of the screen to activate the Start Screen and the access to the Settings.

But….I don’t mind that much, as I can get the experience of having a desktop like many will be using in the fixed desk settings of business and large corporations, without the expense of a Microsoft Surface, which isn’t on the store shelves until about the time Windows 8 comes out, in the second half of the year….Hey! We’re almost there!

I will be installing the full set of applications I have been running on a Windows 7 Ultimate Q9650 *GB computer for the last two years, and see just how things compare.

More later on adventures in the almost future!

Random Bits From the Digital Trenches

Technology is creeping ahead…quickly. iPads are making it off the shelves in massive numbers, and…yes, there is a security issue. Interesting, isn’t it: The more connected we become, the more we are “exposing” our information. And, as the old saying goes, you can make mistakes with computers so much faster and many more times!

The “bad guys” are hard at work. About 6 months ago, people called me with “scareware” viruses and I could eradicate them in under an hour. Since then, a new wave has appeared, and they not only have a propensity to fake where they are installed, they also now find the more common anti-spyware database files on your systems and remove the identification data, so you can scan your system and they are not recognized. Net result: The “infection” hangs on longer and takes more effort to find and eradicate them. Are you practicing “safe computing?” If you don’t have anti-virus and anti-spyware and a firewall besides the one that comes with Windows, shame on you! By having those installed, you have a much better chance of not having to call me in to get you back to work, and writing me a check.

Smartphones. Geez….the iPhone 4 is very, very cool. That, along with the many others hitting the market, both in the Android and Windows based ones, cell phone band width will become an issue. We consumers will be amazed that “unlimited” plans really aren’t. In defense of the carriers, it takes money and technical expertise and time to keep the “backbones” upgraded for us to use. Think of it as road construction, and it’s going to be a massive rush hour. Just as we see our digitally connected worlds expanding exponentially, there will be the just one more customer that sends your connection speed down the tubes. It’s a problem of aggregation, not that one users.

Next issue: Apple really upped the ante with the “retina” display technology. Think you have a nice screen now? Think again. We have been living on display surfaces, both in the cathode ray tube and now the LCD/LED era, at resolutions of no greater than 75 dots per inch (dpi), at best…usually 72 dpi.

drool over this: 326 dpi! Math: 326/75 = 4.3X improvement in picture clarity. It used to be, I “thinned” out pictures for web use to 100 dpi, because above that, you couldn’t tell the difference, and it also less data to transfer, so the pictures on a web page loaded much faster. Now 400 dpi wil have to be the default standard for high quality on the net. That also means more data flying about, clogging the pipes. In actuality, it will be a while before we really have to worry about this, as only the really big corporations, and “bleeding edge” early adopters will have such displays, but maybe 5-8 years down the road, this resolution will become an accepted common standard. My prediction, not connected to anything I’ve read…yet.

WordPress is no longer just blogging software. It’s now a true “Content Management System” (CMS). I’ll be revamping the site one day, to take advantage of this functionality, but It will be a planned, staged retooling, as I see potential for dropping all the blog posts into thin air, if the right steps aren’t taken. I have a “sandbox” out there in the net, just so I can see what steps to take, in what order. Part of my self-educating process, so I can do it for clients.

Windows 7 is still doing well. I like it more and more. I still haven’t migrated my trusty workhorse, the laptop, but that is another staged, well planned event, so as not to come up saying “Hey! Where did ________________ file go?” Sort of like the locker room scene in “Top Gun,” where the “best of the best” discussed their first day of practice air combat maneuvers (ACM). That part of the locker room scene isn’t on YouTube…

There are a few notes from my world, to give you some insight into yours!

Computer Problems: An Easy Fix is…

Found on a forum “out there” on the net. Sage advice:

If none of that works, purchase a Handy Allpurpose Multi Matic Electronic Repair tool (H.A.M.M.E.R) from your hardware store, or for more advanced repair options, get a Sychronous Linear Electronic Distribution of G-force Energy Handy Allpurpose MultiMatic Electronic Repair tool(S.L.E.D.G.E.H.A.M.M.E.R).

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Welcome to vBlogging!

Ok, here it is….post #1 in a series to…well…video blog.  Simple, easy, to the point.

Title: How not to video blog. Lesson number 1 is to pay attention to your “environmentals.” That means, the light and the sound, and anything that will be in the frame of the camera’s view (like the cat..a mobile distraction).

To do this one, I had to do some testing to get some feedback and some white noise out of the sound, before i started. Where the computer had the default settings for the microphone, it was way too noisey. Bringing the volume of the input down helped clear that up.

So, there’s number on in a series. Check back for theo thers coming soon!

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Nothing isn’t learnable, but what’s that time worth?

Think about it: We all have learned what we know and do for a living. Part came from the books, part from experience and immersion.

From my perspective, I bring those immersive experiences of my learning, and apply them to your needs. I’ve played with lots of hardware, software and systems over the past 28 years, and I strive to show my clients exactly what is effective for them.

Yes, there are many ways to solve the problem of applying technology to make you efficient, but do you have the time to cease working your core expertise and develop a new one in the field of what I know, as well as who I know?

Do the ROI: You can keep after your income generating core potential, and have me coach you towards new capabilities targeted at your needs now, and later. It’s a win-win.

Questions? Just email me…..let’s see how I can help you grow your business from your central expertise.

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Tuesday Tech Tips

Black Friday is coming….are you ready?

Just what do I mean by that?  Her’s some information on the basic cycle of the electronics industry tha will help you each year, about this time, to make some great decisions on how to spend your money.

The sales are great this time of year.  Beginning with Black Friday, you will see what looks to be incredible pricing.  Some of it really incredible if you want to get to the front of the store and camp out all night and be ready for the rush when the doors open.  Why?

Generally, new technology hits the market in late January/Early February.  New processors, new video cards, and all sorts of extra capabilities in existing equipment.  I suspect there will be plenty of “multi-touch” toys coming our way in the coming year, and possibly many more than just seeing two points of contact.  “Gesturing” will become more of a capability, as we find computers can recognize certain motions we can agree to have common meanings.  So, all this being said, why do I mention early 2010?  Simple:  You have to clear the warehouses and logisitics pipelines of the “old” stuff.  There you have a reason for the timing of the sales.  And…it also doesn’t hurt the retailers to make some bucks…

The deals will be good, on newly manufactured equipment, that may have been in the supply chain for many months now, and they aren’t even making that model any longer, but it has to be sold at the best price possible.  What will be on the shelves coming 1st Quarter next year?  New stuff, and some people will be lamenting 1)  Hey, I paid that much for a system that can’t do that! and 2) I got ripped off!

Well, if you always wait for the next best thing, you’ll never get to buy anything.  So…take you lumps, and know this:

  • You get to write it off for this year, if it’s a business related item.  That adds back some of the value
  • For most people, unless you must be on the bleeding edge of capability, you probably got a perfectly capable system for your needs.  If all you do is basic office type documents, and email, and use something like QuickBooks, you’re fine.  Most of those programs don’t demand even a portion of the computer’s power you have right now, that you are replacing.

Bottom line:  If you need a new system for routine business work, shop this holiday season and go for it.  If you need the cutting edge, at least wait until ‘the cutting edge” is the majority of what’s on the shelves come early next year, then buy it.  Some of that equipment is available now, but it’s very pricey still.

Bonus information:  You can have all the “cores” in the world, but there is a very limited amount of software that will use more than one processor (core) at a time.  It will be sometime before multi-core functional software is mainstream, so short of doing very high end video/photo editing, two cores are fine for just about everyone.

Tuesday Tech Tips

Technology is both a curse and a blessing. In the case of the Soldier’s Angels VALOur-IT, it is a real blessing. Think about sitting at your computer, looking at the screen, and, if you choose, leaving me a comment on this post. If you can use your hands, even if you are a hunt and peck typer, you are blessed.

Now, consider those who have been wounded and can either not see to type and read, or use their hands to operate the keyboard, as a result of an injury while serving in combat, or even an accident while wearing the uniform of the Nation.

What if you could help them be able to communicate as you and I are now? What could that mean in the end game of a few bucks, or a lot of them? The widget on my sidebar gets you to the donation page. You can also help out and get some good things in the eBay, as there are many, many cool things there, too.

My best guess? well, the first part isn’t a guess: I heard Chuck Ziegenfuss say that the ability of the laptop with voice activated software had him asking the medical staff to cut back on his pain medication so he wouldn’t doze off while trying to use the notebook. I’ve also heard him say (and he’s stayed plugged into the program) others have done the same thing. He says the computers are used to talk to friends and family, but even more importantly to get in contact with their units and that has been a huge morale booster. The bonds formed in the service, and especially in combat, are strong and the drive to stay in touch a primary goal. Chuck indicated the people still in theater are excited to hear from their buddies, as they last saw them headed out in a MEDEVAC and the contact lets them know how their friend is doing.

This part, I speculate on, but I think I’m pretty much on target: The exposure to using a computer by voice control provides skills to operate computers anywhere, such as in an business environment, be it the retired service member’s own business, or one they work for.

The long term effect? Skilled men and women who can enter the work force and be productive, like their able-bodied counterparts.

To wrap it up: Your donation helps individuals, but also the economy.

Your choice. How about it? Put some port to the troops in the form of a few dollars. Trust me, you’re helping the country and people, too.

And, if anyone reading this works with the disabled, I bet the staff at Soldier’s Angels would be happy to consult on the best way to make this happen for anyone who has suffered injuries that limit their normal abilities to use a computer. They’ve been there, done that and they are great, giving people.