Computer Tips


Virus, Malware. and Hijacker Problems

1. It is very difficult for most people to stay virus and malware free these days…I use four programs to check for viruses and eliminate them…the best one being Avira (free edition is fine). Of course, if you get infected by a malware hijacker, it is often necessary to remove the hard drive and check it on the bench, to manually delete some hidden files the hijackers routinely put on. This is because the viruses change security setting and disable normal Windows services.

2. If you see a screen that says your computer is infected by multiple things enumerating them, or a security tool pops up, this is bogus…turn off the computer by holding in the power button as hitting any key could allow the hijacker to download into your computer…if the message appears again after you turn on the computer, it has already gotten in and it will need to be serviced.

3. Using system restore: this can be a starting point to remove a hijacker, but often system restore is disabled or does not work, even in safe mode, and there will still usually be other trojans and malware that existed before the hijacker got in…this is why it is better to have us look at the computer in a thorough and systematic way. I have never seen a computer that only had the common hijacker and nothing else. There are always other things as well as traces of the hijacker in files.

4. Often the problem of a corrupted operating system is both hardware and software, such as a virus or rootkit. So if you have really important data it is better to check the hard drive integrity first and back it up before doing the virus removal. This is what we do. If the hard drive is failing, the data is easy to become corrupted by playing at virus removal yourself. We use software that can recover data form failing hard drives most of the time. We can even manually repair the registry so a clean install is not usually necessary.

5. I like to have multiple operating systems so that I can boot off one to fix the other…such as both XP and Windows 7. I still prefer to work off XP Pro as the base for removing viruses and data recovery on any Windows OS. We specialize in giving you the new Windows 7 plus keeping your old XP, and maybe even adding Ubuntu for for secure browsing of the internet (good for those who get infected multiple times through dangerous surfing).

6. Which OS is better for recovery from a virus attack…Vista is actually less work now in this regard…as it does not get as corrupted as XP…With Windows 7, I usually need to put it on the bench to remove the viruses first and then it recovers very well, as it can heal itself one the infected code is gone. Sometimes with XP we have to do a system repair…we have other utilities to fix XP and can almost always do this without having to do a clean install.

7. We recommend using an external or second hard drive to make a backup image of the good installation, before it gets corrupt. We like Acronis software for this. This is preferable to online backups which tend to slow the system down and may be corrupted as your system gets corrupted with a virus. With the external drive, you can make several backups. It is better to have more than one archive in case it gets corrupted. Ideally one has two internal hard drives and one removable one for offsite storage. The backup can be set to automatically backup the main drive to the internal one…and this is fairly fast with Acronis.

Laptop vs. Net-Top Computers

Now I am developing some small computers that are good for home video. One case/MB is by Foxconn and is very inexpensive, a little over $100.  The advantage of this computer is that you can use a regular 775  CPU instead of having one built in, such as in Atom based systems.  It is necessary to add RAM (2gb max unfortunately), 500 GB WD green hd, and CPU, such as Celeron, and DVD.  This system works well with either Windows 7 or XP. Many of our customers still prefer XP because one has the feeling of more control with it, and they are more used to it. We also do dual systems, or even add Ubuntu as a second or third OS. It is nice to learn many things. In this system, a wireless KB/Mouse and PCI Express video card that has HDMI out is useful for home entertainment system, as it can be used with a HD TV display or large monitor. This is good for watching Netflix and you do not have to have the monitor stuck so close to you as in a laptop.

Now many people buy laptops not because they want portability but because they want a small computer. But then they buy a 17″ screen which makes the whole thing very large, particularly when all the cables are hooked up to it.

If you just want a small computer, then the nettop is preferable because you can have any size screen you want, and it is more comfortable to put a wireless computer on your lap than a whole big laptop.

Many of our customers are downsizing, rebuilding their computers in smaller lighter cases. This makes it easier to bring in for service! The nettop is very convenient in this regard.

Other disadvantages of laptops are that they tend to break easily and are more expensive to repair. OK, compare $280 or $380 for an HP dv series motherboard versus $100 for a whole Foxconn bare bones! Or you can rebuild it with another kind of small barebones system. Laoptops are always going to be the same and if yours is broken, chances are it will break inthe same way again in the future, i.e., the mb  will probably go out again in the same way, such as faulty video circuit (as laptops want to become more powerful, they become more unreliable in that the system boards run too hot, particularly the video chips).

For a laptop used as such, I prefer a 15 inch display, or even a 14 inch one. I personally use an old  12″ Dell Latitude laptop when I travel or watch TV (who can watch TV without also surfing the web?).  It also runs Ubuntu. I like old laptops for travelling in case they get trashed or lost. There are 10″ netbooks but these are too hard to read. I think 12″ is the minimum screen size. The little 9″ or 10″ netbooks I have seen are not very reliable as they have miniature hard drives that are easy to break. I would consider them as disposable as a fancy cell phone.

I think the nettop has more of a future next to the TV as it is the same size as a VCR.

Future Computers

Soon to be marketed (January 2011) is a chipset with wireless video. This will make it possible to hook up a laptop or nettop directly with a TV, without the need for any cable. It would also be possible then to just have a portable display for a cell phone like device. I think that displays should not be tied to the computer, and clearly this is the wave of the future.

So with a portable display that is wireless, you can use a more powerful base and maybe have two or three people using the same computer at the same time, all using different input and output devices. I think this direction hold some promise for the desktop of the future.  This is particularly true as more and more will be done in the clouds so there is little need for a personal desktop per se, a storage area on a particular machine. So the operating system will evolve to provide greater user flexibility in use, multi-use, supporting different kinds of devices.

In the past people often thought that one kind of computer would take over and dominate the market. This has proven not to be true. This is because there are unlimited needs and desires and there are always new kinds of devices and applications that can be developed. So the trend should be towards more diversity. People will have more and more kinds of gadgets to do different things, many of which will communicate with each other via the net or in network, or directly. There are so many possibilities. So a lot will depend on what people like, not what they are forced to use, as in the past.

From this perspective, the operating system will be less important as a hindrence to technological development, as the operating system will have to evolve to allow the kind of interoperability that people will want.

This is one of my passions, to apply technology in new ways and to invent new kinds of computers and information systems.

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