The Amish Virus

You have just received the Amish virus. As the Amish don’t have any technology or programming experience, this virus works on the honor system.

Please delete all the files from your hard drive and manually forward this virus to everyone on your mailing list.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Volume Control Mystery

Question: The volume control that has always been on my task bar, no longer shows up when I turn on my computer. I have gone to sound device and it is checked to be it the task bar. I tried unchecking it, apply, the checking it again, the apply. It will show up then. But when I turn off my computer the turn it back on, it is gone. I am running Windows XP. Thank you for any help you can give me.

Answer: It’s amazing. This just happened to me. I was as perplexed about this problem as you were. So I tried it and I did exactly as you did. But in my case, it worked. I was able to anchor it to my task bar again. The only thing I did extra was to restart my computer immediately after. I have dealt with similar problems throughout my career with mysterious re-occurrences. I also noticed that whenever I fixed the problem, and did not restart the computer immediately, the problem was prone to come back. Try restarting, and if the problem comes back, we’ll explore it further.

How Did I Get Spyware?

Spyware is a phenomenon of the Internet and it is protected by legal contracts that you agreed upon. Why would you agree on something so horrible? Easy. Remember the song in Mary Poppins “Just a spoon full of sugar, makes the medicine go down, the medicine go down?” Here is how you agreed to spyware.

If you are like most people, concerned with things like the weather, you might be enticed to download a small weather program that attaches itself to the bottom right hand corner of your computer screen, known as the “system tray.” This program informs you of the exact temperature and the possibility of rain in your area. In addition, this program is absolutely free. Or, is it?

When you downloaded your new personal weather channel, you were presented with a legal contract that you had to agree to obey before you were allowed to install the “free” program. Most of these agreements are long and convoluted. In order to read the entire agreement you might need a law degree or spend hours reading it in order to understand what it is actually saying. Therefore, most people just skip actually reading it.

The installation process does not know if you read it or not. As long as you clicked the button “I agree”, the installation continues. That is where we humans lose the battle against the marketing giants. The agreement we glossed over or completely ignored spelled out exactly how they are going to stick it to us.

First, they explain that in order to offset the cost of production for your display of the temperature, they must provide you with ads from their sponsors. That is, someone paid big money for you to see their pop-up ad. And, as they say, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”, because you are actually paying for your free weather channel via pop-ups.

In summary, if you are truly lost without that free program that predicts rain and if you are willing to endure those endless pop-ups, I would suggest you get up off your seat and look out your window. Go outside and put your hand out. If it gets wet, it’s raining. If you feel like you need a jacket, it’s cold. If your hat gets blown away, it’s windy. Not only that, it is pop-up free and you don’t need a lawyer to interpret any lengthy contracts.

Beware! some disreputable web sites have pop-up ads that advertise “free monitor”, “free dinner”, “you might be infected with spyware”, etc. and ask you to “Click Here for Yes” or “Click Here for No”. Both of these options have the same link. Why would it have the same link? Because even by clicking “No”, you are enabling the spyware to be installed in your computer.

How do I get rid of Spyware?

Once you have spyware, it can be difficult to do any real work on your computer. You might even be crippled to the extent that your computer will not be able to respond as it is busy processing all the pop-ups. Remember the earlier example of you driving in your car and being unable to get to work due to all the interruptions; the same is true of your computer not being able to perform the tasks you want due to all the pop-up interruptions it is receiving. The best solution is always prevention.

Prevention can best be achieved by not installing “free” programs. However, the assistance of an expert is always a good idea since spyware can also be installed accidentally. One program I recommend is AVG Internet Security It is very easy to use, and very inexpensive.

What Is Spyware?

Spyware is a kind of program that is created by some marketing companies to keep track of your Internet surfing trends. Why would they care, you ask? Well, imagine having your own personal shopping agent that follows you around the city throughout the day, noting everything you do, everything you buy, and even everything you window-shop. The information the agent collected is relayed to companies that want your business.

As you begin your next day, your shopping agent is now armed with the information collected on the previous day. The shopping agent will now go out of their way to show you advertisements that closely resemble your likes and needs. More specifically, say you were driving around town the previous day looking for a new car. Along the way you stopped for lunch at the local Mexican restaurant, “El Taco Grande.” After your tasty lunch you passed by a pawnshop and saw a guitar on the window. You did not stop, but your agent noted your interest anyway.

The next morning as soon as you pulled out of your driveway, a taxi cut you off with a roof ad that stated “Follow me and test drive a new Hybrid-Off-Roader.” You had to honk your horn repeatedly to make him move out of your way. Not long after you persuaded the taxi ad to move out of your way, a flyer landed on your windshield with a coupon for “Buy one get one free burrito” at the nearest Mexican restaurant. You had to pull off the road to remove the “coupon” that was blocking your view.

Once you were back on the road, a group of teenagers flagged you down to entice you to attend their yard sale where they featured a used 12-string guitar. At this rate, you never get to work because of all these interruptions. This is the job of Spyware — to report on your Internet surfing trends and then bombard you with pop-up ads in hopes of getting your business. But it’s annoying as heck.

Where is My Email Going?

Question:
Dear Juan, I have Windows XP and have Norton Internet Security. I can’t get e-mail from two separate people but they can get mine. Could it be a conflict with the security or something else? Thanks for the help.

Answer:
C., There are several things that come to mind when I read you question. Immediately I am tempted to go through all the possibilities that are too many to explore in a quick question answer session. However, I would like to take you trough some troubleshooting techniques that might help you find the answer.

First, look at the obvious. Did you recently change email addresses and fail to update your two friends. When they reply to your messages, do the messages still fail to arrive?

Then, look at the not so obvious. Did you set up email rules that accidentally delete your friends’ messages? Do you have a super sensitive spam blocker? Are your friends getting Undeliverable messages from their email service? If they are, what does the message say? One thing about failed email is that it will bounce back if no one receives it.

Finally, take appropriate action to fix the problem. Go down the list and eliminate each possible roadblock. Start by the first question and do not continue until you have answered it adequately. Make sure they have the right spelling, etc. If you suspect your security software, turn it off for a few minutes and test your theory.