Monday, February 28, 2011

The Tutor Wears 3 Hats

Plugging in...

Although the Tutor was originally called for a visit to explain the unusual behavior of the MacBook trackpad, you know, the little glassy-like rectangle that substitutes for a mouse, the visit quickly turned into an all things electronics visit.

After the trackpad was explained, from using two fingers to scroll, two fingers to pinch, tapping and double tapping, tapping far right for a right click, and changing the sensitivity, the Tutor changed hats when asked "can you fix the audio on my new HD TV and Bose sound system"? Umm, OK.

The audio problem was simple - the incorrect INPUT had been selected from one of the three remotes required to run the TV, Cable and Bose sound system. The owner chose TV, a logical choice. But the TV wanted HDMI 1. Through a quick process of elimination, we started at the top of the list, and chose each option in order until the sound burst out of the speakers.

TV hat off, third hat on: "can you show me how to set this new alarm clock from A Sharper Image"? Thankfully, the client had kept the single, tiny sheet of paper packaged with the alarm that masqueraded as a manual. The three buttons on the alarm were simple enough to operate, but without the paper explaining which one to hold, for how long, then move the other, etc, etc. I think you get the drift. A wind up Baby Ben would have been easier... but do they make them anymore??

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, do you have the remote, do you the manual, and is it turned on?


Friday, February 25, 2011

The Trojan War

Plugging in...

Not the war with Joan of Arc, but the insidious war of computer hackers who are constantly re-writing their little nasty programs to sneak into our computers without our express permission. More often than not, they are able to invade one's computer because the computer's security hasn't been kept up to date (service packs, weekly updates, anti-virus software, etc). Basically, a compromised computer immune system. Vitamin C can't help here.

This little devil, known as the Alureon.A trojan, infected a Windows XP computer which did not have the latest service pack (3) installed. SP3 was released in May of 2008. In July of 2010, Microsoft announced if anyone was missing the free SP3, they could no longer obtain the regular and systematic security updates. Even though the Tutor was able to download SP3 and update the antivirus software, run several anti-spyware programs, the trojan horse was already in the barn, and the door was closed, so to speak.

With a bit more research, the problem surfaced: the master boot record (MBR) was infected so each time the computer restarted (rebooted), the infection [trojan] returned. The solution required the original Windows XP disk, use of the repair and recovery console and the fixmbr command. The fix took seconds, the research and diagnosis took at bit longer. And of course, there is no substitute for experience.

Deep breaths all around as the computer was re-started after the fixmbr was done, and miraculously, the infection disappeared. Like magic. Like how quickly an anti-biotic can make a very sick person feel so much better!

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, is it up-to-date, and is it turned on?


Stand by Your Modem

Plugging in...

While Tammy Wynette is famous for Stand by Your Man - a recent client was singing the Comcast blues while standing by the modem. It all started with a visit from a Comcast technician to fix a digital TV problem. Who knew that when the tech left, there would be an Internet problem!

The TV problem was a minor issue, quickly resolved. The TV though, was located in the same room as the Comcast Internet modem. Usually not a problem. In this case, the technician moved the modem out of his way while working on the TV, then put it back when he was finished. Nothing was unplugged, yet the modem failed to connect to the Internet. Of course no one thought to check the Internet connection before the technician left the premises. Note to self: always check Internet after a tech visit.

First line of defense was taken without the Tutor on-site which was: unplug the power to the modem, wait 30 seconds for it to recycle and plug the power back in. Didn't do anything to reconnect to the Internet.

The problem? The modem was in STANDBY mode. It got that way when the technician accidentally pressed the standby button which is located on TOP of the modem (hard to see - same color as the modem) when he moved the modem out of his way to fix the TV problem. With one tiny push of the button, all the lights on the modem came back on, and stayed on. The Internet was BACK!

While in standby mode, there is only one light lit on the modem and it is amber. If one recycles the modem, as described above, all the modem lights come on briefly, then turn off... except for the amber light. It does say standby near the light, too.

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, is the modem in standby mode, did the tech test the internet before leaving, and is it turned on?