Monday, March 29, 2010

Twice as Nice: NOT

Plugging in...

You know that pesky message most of the new computers are throwing at you, the one that states you should make backups of your system RIGHT NOW using DVDs in case you need to re-create the entire thing? Take Nike's advice: JUST DO IT.

The Tutor has in posession a laptop that just went through a return to manufacturer's status in December, 2009. It needs it again. Heard of trojans, malware and backdoor exploits? No? Good, because if you have, chances are you've experienced one and also run into this problem and either had the machine returned to what is commonly known as OEM (original equipment manufacturer) status or you gave up and bought a new one. Not good for the pocketbook or the world of re-using, re-making, re-cycling.

What problem? The one where the computer won't do anything YOU want it to, when you want, or where you want. The one where it acts like Sybil, with a hundred other personalities. The one that is truly possessed by software gone awry. The one that won't let you go on the internet anymore. Kiss email goodbye, twitter gone, and facebook? No friends for you.

The particular laptop ready for the repeat transformation was taken over when a link to a youtube video brought down the house, and not in a good way, as the house, was the owner. So here the laptop sits again, awaiting a 4-6 hour resurgence. Although having the backup DVDs of the entire system would shorten the length of the "possession", work still has to be done to make the computer once again a contributing part of society.

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, did you make the REQUESTED backup DVDS, and is it turned on?


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hijacked to Nowhere

Plugging in...

Hi-jacking is never good, in the air or on the ground. But when it happens to your computer, look out! The Tutor's client had been having computer issues for, ahem, a year, before seeking help.

The situation: anti-virus had expired, computer was slow as frozen molasses. It finally became unusuable which is when the Tutor was called. After an initial cleanup that hadn't been done EVER (over five years of ownership), the computer leapt to life and had acceptable, reasonable response time. The internet: check, email: check, favorite websites accessible: check Almost bliss.

Eternally optimistic, the Tutor removed the expired anti-virus program and attempted to install another security program. (One computer cannot have two anti-virus programs installed simultaneously - they conflict.) ENTER stage left: the hi-jacker. When attempting to go to ANY website that remotely smacked of safety, security, on-line scanning or windows updates, the browser (didn't matter which one, Tutor tried several) was re-directed [hi-jacked] to myriad websites that had absolutely nothing to do with the requested web addresses. Although the Tutor knew what was happening, most users would have checked their spelling, tried again, and scratched their heads wondering why did a tennis site appear when they had clearly typed [fill in any security website name here]? FYI: crying "why me" doesn't help at all.

Given the age of the computer, and its hardware (memory, processor speed), the amount of effort to "pay the ransom" if you will, far exceeded the value of the computer. In order to fix the computer, since the quickest solutions had all been disabled by the hijacker, the computer would need to be restored to factory condition. Meaning, everything on it would be erased and it would have returned to new status. Another alternative: install a new hard drive.

Sounds OK, doesn't it? Either of those: about 30 minutes. It's the rest that is time consuming. All software except Windows would need re-installing, all data backed up before the restoration so it wouldn't be lost, all devices such as printers, cameras, iPods, routers, etc would need re-installing.

Getting the picture? Time, more time, more money spent on older technology. And then five years of Windows updates would have to be done (this part could be eliminated IF the new hard drive option was chosen).

Bringing a computer back to factory condition also means it doesn't have all the security updates that occurred from the day it was put into use.

Sometimes, even when the security software is current, a hi-hacking can occur. That my friends is WHY BACKUPS are so important. Not just data backups, but IMAGE backups. With an IMAGE and a regular data backup, a computer can be restored in less than two hours.

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, is it regularly maintained and secure, and is it turned on?


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Double Trouble

Plugging in...

How annoyed would you be if you still received email from an email account that you DELETED from your Outlook program? The Tutor's client was on the verge of ledge jumping, figuratively, of course as this continued to haunt.

It took a bit of digging, but the problem had nothing to do with Outlook (for once, yeah!) and everything to do with the client's office and a forgotten request.

At one time the client wanted both personal and work emails to go to the same Outlook account, on two different computers. Fairly straight forward to accomplish for those in the "know". Fast forward to new computer purchase and the use of the free Log Me In PC website which allowed the client to view the work computer, including emails, while at home. This negated the original reason for the personal/work email combination.

The Tutor deleted the personal email account in Outlook but lo and behold, those personal emails continued to arrive as if by magic. Magic only exists in Harry Potter so, how was it happening and how to stop it?

The culprit? The client's workplace network administrator. Way back in the "olden" days, before the likes of Log Me In PC and other cool remote utilities, the client asked if it was possible to have work email sent home and personal email sent to work. The administrator complied, without using the client's computer or the Outlook program. The request was made so long ago that it was forgotten... until recently.

A simple request to the network administrator to reverse the process took care of the double emails quicker than a spell cast by Hermione! (Don't know her? READ some Harry Potter books...)

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, did you ask the network administrator first, and is it turned on?


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Halfway to Crazy

Plugging in...

Why on earth would a printer print a one page document beginning halfway down the page, so that it extends onto a second page?

The Tutor's initial inkling was someone inadvertently set the document to center vertically, which means, center top to bottom. Useful for a cover page, but certainly not for a document. But, no, that was not the issue.

So off we went into Printer Properties and the foraging began. Although it shouldn't have caused the problem, the printer was set to print Back to Front on the Basics Printer Properties tab. That is supposed to mean the printer prints the first page last, so a multi-page document prints out already collated. But the client had a single, solitary page...

Apparently the printer had a mind of its own because this setting caused a one page document (yes, we're positive it was a one-page document, 8.5 by 11 paper) to print out a half page of print at the top of page two and a half page of print beginning in the middle of page one. Once the settings were reversed to Front to Back, the problem disappeared.

The really niggly part of this whole thing is, it wasn't a new printer, and just "automagically" started printing like this, willy-nilly. Of course we all know that willy-nilly can mean some piece of software received an update and it affected the printer. But try to prove THAT one in a court of law!

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, is it printing Front to Back and is it turned on?


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Missing Sync

Plugging in...

Syncing is typically done between two items to make them contain the same information on both items. In this case the syncing was from a laptop computer to a Blackberry. Usually an almost mindless activity once it has been set up properly, but it doesn't always go smoothly.

Outlook is a powerful and popular email program made by Microsoft and it handles just about any personal information to manage that you throw at it, including calendars that sync appointments to "smartphones", of which a Blackberry can claim allegiance to that genus.

To sync, one merely plugs the cable into both the computer and the phone, and with little fanfare, the comparison and updating takes place immediately. And it did, except for the calendar. The client's Blackberry had many appoinments that didn't make it over to Outlook on the laptop. And why the reason for the missing appointments?

The client mysteriously and accidentally created 4 additional calendars in the Outlook program and the appointments were not always added to one main calendar. Poor Mr. Blackberry can only sync to the calendar with the check mark next to it, and in this case, the check mark wasn't in the same location each visit to Outlook.

The client was going crazy trying to understand where were the appointments that were painstakingly typed into Outlook just yesterday? They were there all righty, on three different calendars and two calendars were blank. Once the calendar culprits were removed, the syncing bewteen phone and computer went flawlessly.

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, is there ONE calendar in use in Outlook, and is it turned on?