Friday, October 12, 2012

FBI: Ransomware Demands Money

Plugging in...

A law-abiding client of the Tutor's had their laptop infected by what is formally known as the Reveton virus. This locked the computer and carried a fake message purportedly from the FBI requesting a $200.00 payment to unlock the computer. The software installed itself when the user clicked on a compromised website. Not that the user could tell visibly that anything was wrong with the website, which made it all the more frustrating.

This client had antivirus/anti-malware software on the computer and it was up-to-date. Just because one gets the flu shot though, doesn't mean the flu can't still "get in", right? When a newly written piece of malware hits the streets from the "bad guys", the protection that our computers use, doesn't have the ability to detect the new strain of malware until someone reports it one time - then all the antidotes are created and sent to users through antivirus/anti-malware definition updates.

The user deduced it was a scam, but that didn't make the problem go away or the computer usable. This malware was very well written. Meaning, it had disabled any and all software avenues (sometimes known as backdoors) to bypass the malware, remove the malware, access the internet, install any software, etc, etc, etc. A fine piece of malicious programming. THEY should be working for Homeland Security, the good guys!

The Tutor called in all levels of knowledge and resources, right down to the DOS level and had but one recourse: return the laptop to factory condition using the recovery area that this laptop had internally - the only area of the laptop the malware didn't affect.

It took several hours to return the laptop to factory status, followed by re-installing purchased software, printer drivers and backed up files.

Users may file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center where updates about the Reveton virus can be found. They provide a method for reporting the crime, but not how to remove it. Their suggestion? Call in a professional (like The Computor Tutor). Thank you, Internet Crime Complaint Center, for the referrals.

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, is it a SCAM, and is it turned on?


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Simple Office 2010 Upgrade - NOT!

Plugging in...

How's this for an error message, and it arrived at the END of the upgrading process, not the beginning:

so much time was already spent, and the cycle of frustration began for the Tutor's client. How to remove or repair the Office 2003 product? The client tried installing Office 2010 again, same message, more time spent, then made a plea for the Tutor's assistance.

Microsoft was forthcoming with this message on their website: "Office 2010 setup may fail when upgrading from Office 2003 if the Office 2003 Local Installation Source (LIS) is corrupt." Huh? The long story short: when Office 2003 was installed, at the end of the installation there was a question - do you want to delete the installation files? It's like throwing away the box, after you've unpacked something. Clearly, that choice was a YES, delete the installation files, and shouldn't have caused a ruckus. But, on some computers, this became a problem when the unsuspecting computer owner bought the Office 2010 product and proceeded to do what should have been a routine upgrade.

The solution was to download a file named LISTOOL.EXE, which cleared up the error, which then allowed for the successful installation of the Office 2010 product. Microsoft's response: Office 2003 presents a unique challenge when upgrading to Office 2010.  Fortunately, the projected scope of affected computers is small. How does that make the computer owner feel any better?

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

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

One of Those Days

Plugging in... 

I'm sure the reader has had "one of those technology days". Want to read about the Tutor's?

It all began with downloading, saving, and attempting to print some PDF (portable document format) documents. Opting for the electronic version of some financial papers, not knowing how large they were, proved to be the downfall that led to "one of those days".

The Tutor's fabulous HP 4050T Laserjet printer with 8 mebagbytes of memory could not handle some of the PDFs - a simple error message: insufficient memory. Huh? With 8 meg of memory, this is the first time in over 12 years on this printer that the Tutor received this message.

Tutor's not totally frustrated yet. There is another printer in the office, an inkjet. Oh yes, the ink cartridges needed replacing, and thankfully, 4 new ones arrived yesterday from So, five more minutes to unpack the ink cartridges (you ink jet readers know the hermetically sealed packaging can be challenging). Once again praying to the Technology powers-that-be, clicked the PRINT button for the inkjet... and it too fell short of printing the lengthy PDFs. The first 4 pages of document one print, and then nothing. And the Tutor does mean nothing. No printing, no error, no canceling the print job, NADA!

Frustration is here, head is now in a point. Computer and both printers must be shut down completely to re-set and purge the faulty data streams. A few more minutes pass... and the Tutor is back up and about to try changing a few printer settings: changed the resolution, changed the memory usage, changed to black ink on the inkjet, tried 1 of 3 HP alternate printer drivers. And one final change: tried to print a different PDF document from same company. Partial success, several pages printed on the HP Laserjet, nothing on the inkjet. Partial in this case, was still a bust.

Results are in: the US Postal Service wins after wasting time, and too much paper. The documents are in now in the mail to the Tutor but the Tutor's head is STILL in a point! And I know the documents will be here in the morning, with nary a pointed head in sight.
ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, is there an ALTERNATIVE method available before head juts into point, and is it turned on?

PS It is rumored that some clients LIKE to see the TUTOR sweat...


iPad, ePub, iTunes, eBooks

Plugging in...

What a title, just to write about one method of using an iPad to borrow books from the library. I have to say... using a library card is still simpler. But let the reader be the judge of that!.

Distributed by the Danvers Peabody Institute Library

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, have you TAPPED correctly, and is it turned on?


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Running Around the Office

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A recent Microsoft Office 2010 installation proved to be an exercise in skill and imagination. One would think Microsoft had this installation nailed, after so many previous versions of Office. Here's what happened: the Office 2010 installation failed due to lack of space on the intended laptop hard drive. OK, so what happened to checking for space BEFORE the installation begins? Anyway, the failed installation claimed it "rolled back" whatever changes it made.

After a short but thorough hard drive cleanup to achieve more free space, the installation appeared to proceed about 75% of the way, until the dreaded error message: error 1311, source file not found on E:\ Hmm.

The Tutor scoured the installation CD for this file, and true enough, it did NOT exist on the CD. So where and why was it asking for this file? After much thinking, internet searching, and trying other installation ideas, a tiny light bulb went off in the back of the Tutor's head. The laptop had Microsoft Office 2003 installed on it. Could it be that the missing file was the on the Microsoft Office 2003 installation disk?  BINGO. Once the Microsoft Office 2003 CD was inserted when the error message occurred looking for the file, the installation proceeded without a hitch. The original Microsoft Office 2010 CD was not inserted again during the installation. Why Microsoft, why?

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


Monday, April 23, 2012


Plugging in...

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is this?

Had enough time to contemplate the artisitic rendering? It is... a laptop screen, still attached to the laptop, after it fell out of it's protective case, bounced on a rug, and voila!, became art! Add the price of an external monitor to use the laptop while waiting for a replacement screen, and the cost to replace the 3 month "new" laptop screen and the Tutor's client had a Monet masterpiece!

Seems the protective case the laptop was being transported in, wasn't zipped up. The laptop unceremoniously slipped out. Oops and double ouchie: an ouch for the laptop and and ouch for the wallet. Thankfully, there was no internal bleeding, all other parts were tested and deemed stable.

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, is the ZIPPER zipped, and is it turned on?


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Bongo Playing

Plugging in...

The distressed voice message said "please help,  the computer is playing the bongos". Really?  A repetitive bongo-like noise was coming from the all-in-one MAC computer upon awakening. And, after a new wireless, large-print keyboard was installed the day before, a message flashed "wireless keyboard batteries low".

Who would have known that BOTH problems were caused by keyboards, albeit, not the newly installed one. The large-print wireless keyboard was replacing a Logitech wireless keyboard, that had replaced the original Apple wireless keyboard that came with the MAC upon purchasing.

The bongo noise certainly caught the Tutor's attention. Turns out, when the Logitech keyboard was placed out of the way for the new keyboard, it was resting on top of the Apple wireless keyboard... which shouldn't have mattered except... it still had the batteries in it, and was still active, even though it wasn't being used by the owner of the MAC. Many readers may know, if one presses a key on a keyboard too long, it begins to make a noise, to get your attention. It's really screaming "GET OFF OF ME".

The unused Apple wireless keyboard had been sitting behind the large monitor, looking harmless. It still had the batteries in it, and the MAC was still "discovering" it via the bluetooth feature that allows the MAC keyboard to be used WITHOUT a separate USB component (sort of like the way a remote finds a TV).

The discovery of the bongo sound, led to the solution for the "low battery" message as well. The entire low battery message began with "the Apple wireless keyboard" has low batteries (great example of why the ENTIRE error message needs to be written down).  Indeed it did. It had been sitting idle for more than a year (impressive battery time) but no one had known to:
  1. Take the batteries out of the Apple keyboard upon replacing it with the Logitech keyboard.
  2. Stop the Bluetooth* wireless discovery of the Apple keyboard.
  3. OR move the Apple keyboard to another room, so the Bluetooth technology couldn't "find" it.
Once the Apple keyboard was moved from under the Logitech keyboard, the bongos stopped playing and the battery message disappeared as the keyboard was moved so far away, that Bluetooth couldn't find it.

Another chapter closed in Tutor sleuthing.

* Bluetooth: short-range wireless service, about 30feet

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, is anything laying on it, and is it turned on?


Monday, April 2, 2012

Can You See the Technology?

Plugging in...

Anyone remember the Highlights Magazine, with the hidden pictures the reader was challenged to find? The Tutor remembers, as the magazines were a staple at her pediatric dentist's office. Well this is a technology version of Highlights:  how much technology can the reader "see"?  Take a look at this photo of the Tutor behind a sponsorship sign for the Danvers Rail Trail. Can you determine the number of technology components required from Tutor to signage?

The Computor Tutor
The Tutor Sponsors Mile 1.9, Danvers Rail Trail
Read online article about Rail Trail through Danvers Wicked Local.
Browsed the Rail Trail website via laptop in the Tutor's home office.
Filled out online sponsorship form on the rail trail website.
Electronically paid for sponsorship through the Danvers Recreation Paylpal website.
Tutor provided link to own website for inclusion on rail trail website.
Additional emails requested CT logo.
CT logo was created by the Tutor using Adobe Photoshop.
Digital CT Logo was emailed as an email attachment via
Digital artwork was submitted to printer.
Emailed digital proof of design to Tutor.
Tutor approves proof via email.
Printer prints batch of mileage signs.
Postholes dug and posts placed by volunteers.
Volunteers placed signage on mileage posts.
Town enjoys recreational path, public welcome.

Could you identity ALL the technology required for ONE sign??

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, is the technology in place, and is it turned on?


Thursday, March 15, 2012

By Hook or by Nook

Plugging in...

The reader may know enough to banter about the terms Kindle or Nook, but does the reader know and understand the usage and costs of the very cool, hand-held book readers?

The Nook was recently given as a gift to a Tutor client and the Tutor was asked to assist in the intial setup and usage of the gift. The Nook did NOT work right out of the box... it needed to be charged at least an hour before we could initiate the setup.

Once the setup began, an account had to be established at Barnes and Noble (maker of the Nook) to buy books, and a thorough discussion of electronic book formats, downloads and borrowing books from the library took place. Although using the Nook isn't difficult, once charged, setup, account established, Overdrive downloaded from the library for use with borrowed books, and prices seen for e-books, the Tutor's client was exhausted and the original glee associated with receiving the Nook had dimmed.

Reading a book just got a lot more complicated! The client's goal was to read borrowed books on the Nook. The technical side associated with using Overdrive and the short expiration of the borrowing time for library books, changed the client's mind. Although the Tutor completed the borrowing of two library books for the client, the "gift" was returned.

The final thoughts: too expensive to buy the e-books, and too much technical prowess required to borrow from the library (the library also didn't have e-books for 90% of the books we searched for).

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, CHARGED, account established, and is it turned on?


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

"Waking" the Mouse

Plugging in...

Waking the mouse could be interpreted two ways: the popluar input device used to point and click has gone to sleep and needs a wakeup call, OR the mouse has left its life of usefulness behind and has sought greener pastures. The Tutor's client greeted her with "the wake for the mouse will be held in the living room" from 2:00-4:00pm.

All computer mice are under-appreciated. They are pushed, pulled, dropped, clicked, dragged, and unceremoniously bumped. And some days, they refuse to behave and play "dead". That is what this client's mouse did. Wouldn't budge. The white arrow that usually gracefully flowed across the montior, wouldn't move. It was also a wireless mouse, meaning, more things to check when death appears imminent like batteries and the infra-red connect associations.

CPR was administered to the mouse, pushing, pulling, dragging, a change of batteries, and calling a friend didn't raise the little guy either. The Tutor was called to rescue the client (and the mouse). The Tutor brought along a traditional, working, wired mouse which when plugged in, worked perfectly. Now we knew one thing: it wasn't the computer. A second and very important piece of information was provided from the very observant client: the client knew the mouse was pointed somewhere near the top, right corner of the screen when POOF - no more mouse movement.

The computer was a MAC all-in-one. The top right corner of a MAC screen has a menu bar with various icons on it. One of them controls wireless, short range connections called Bluetooth (mouse, keyboard, headphones, etc). Bluetooth must be turned on for the MAC to find the wireless mouse. Can the reader deduce what happened? Top right corner, mouse no longer worked... Bluetooth menu was accidentally selected and Bluetooth was turned off.

The Tutor took the wired mouse home, the client removed the new batteries and put the old batteries back in, the client's friend was notified that news of the mouse's death, as Mark Twain so brilliantly wrote years ago "was greatly exaggerated".

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


Monday, January 30, 2012

Hijinks with Hijacking

Plugging in...

What do you do when ALL programs (files that end in .EXE) won't run on your computer, except the Internet Explorer?? This is what appeared each time an icon was double clicked, OR a program was chosen from the menu:

You might initially wonder, how could that happen? It's called hijacking and it's done by some nasty malware that usually can't be traced to its origin. No matter what program was chosen from the list above, NOTHING would run. Nada.

This perplexing problem had a two-step solution. The Tutor downloaded a free malware scanning program via the only thing that worked on the computer, the Internet Explorer. When prompted to RUN or SAVE, the Tutor chose SAVE. Instead of accepting the original name of the program being save with an ending of .EXE, the Tutor changed the ending to .COM (.COM files are also executables). After double clicking on the .COM file to install it, the Tutor scanned the computer for malware - it found 9 ugly infections which it handily identified and removed. Once the computer was restarted, ALL the programs ran just fine.

Thankfully, it only affected .EXE files. If it were written to affect both .EXE and .COM files, the paddle and the creek would be forthcoming!

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, is it infected with malware, and is it turned on?


Trials and Office Tribulations

Plugging in...

Microsoft is very cozy with many computer manufacturers. Some computer manufacturers include a trial version of Office on their computers when you buy them. A lovely little Office Trial icon sits on the desktop. All this, for your convenience, of course, or your confusion. Both Microsoft and the hardware vendors have neglected to educate the consumer as to how the trial version works, and how it can become a full working version, or how it can become a frustrating trial. Pun intended.

One unsuspecting client had a laptop with not ONE trial version on the laptop, but two, Office 2007 and Office 2010. Someone should have explained to the client that to make a full working copy of the trial software, a mere purchase of a product key (25 digit number) would be required - a key that matched the version of the Office trial product (there are several versions). Upon opening any program (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc) of the trial version for which the key was purchased, a prompt to type in the product key would appear. Still with me?

The Tutor's client purchased the product key AND the capability of downloading the Office 2010 Student/Teacher software, not realizing the trial software was already installed. Upon downloading the software, there were now THREE versions of Office on the computer. Three different versions: Business and Professional, Student/Teacher and Standard. The product key worked with the Standard edition. And we thought we were done... until the activation wizard popped up and claimed "the multi-product key had already been used". The Tutor's client had NEVER used the key because they didn't understand what they were supposed to do with it.

Up the stream without a paddle? Not yet. The Office activation wizard provides an option to activate by telephone. Upon selecting this option, the Tutor's client was allowed to proceed and was issued a new activation code - not to be confused with the product key.

To cleanup the confusing and excessive number of Office installations on the computer and really do this right, all versions of Office should have been uninstalled. Then a downloaded, fresh copy of the Office product which was PURCHASED (not a trial version) should have been installed, product key typed in and activated.

To avoid the trials and tribulations above, look at the computer FIRST to see if there is a trial version of Office on it. If there is, and it is the version desired, buy the PRODUCT KEY. One can buy a single or 3 installation key.

If it is NOT the correct trial version, UNINSTALL the Office trial version before buying the CD of the desired Office version. Install from the CD and when prompted, type in the product key which comes with the CD. You will later be prompted to activate the sofware.

It is the Tutor's strong suggestion to always purchase software on CD/DVD in case re-installation is required either on the same computer or a newly purchased one.

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, is there a TRIAL version installed, and is it turned on?


Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Cup of Java, just what Verizon needed!

Plugging in... 

How many readers have NOT been enticed by the inexpensive bundles from Verizon or Comcast?? I thought so. Many savvy consumers have done something to trim their communication expenses, and a client this week was no exception. Verizon rang, client answered, voilĂ , bundled phone, internet and TV service for two years at a HUGE savings.

How nice that voice messages can be read and/or heard on the computer. Or not. The Tutor's client wanted to hear the voice messages, not read them and there began the research to find out why the audio player wouldn't even show its cute little face on the Verizon webpage.

The computer was a MAC. The internet brower? Safari. The operating system: OS 10.4. And Verzion posted a message at the top of their webpage: this browser is unsupported. The Tutor's client said a resounding HUH and shrugged a "now what"?

Indeed the MAC operating system was dated, as was Safari. Safari couldn't be updated without updating the OS and the MAC computer was old enough that it didn't warrant the attempt and expense. But the Tutor looked at software updates for the computer anyway. And lo and behold... a potential answer sat lurking in the update window. Java. Not a vente decaf, extra cream, mocha, whipped java. But full strength Java updates (notice the plural) for the MAC.

The Tutor suggested the MAC grab a couple of cups of Java*, drink them straight down, and see what would happen. As it turned out, the Verizon webpage message of "unsupported browser" still headlined the webpage BUT, the audio player showed up, and when clicked on, played every voice message - perfectly.

*Java: high-level, object-oriented computer programming language used especially to create interactive applications running over the Internet.

Even though Verizon clearly stated the browser was unsupported, THAT was not the problem. Don't you just love an error message needle-in-the haystack? 

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, is JAVA updated, and is it turned on?


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Dueling iPads and iPhones

Plugging in...

Someone got a new iPad from the north pole in December, 2011. And someone else took over the old iPad (not new, but a nice gift never-the-less) and made changes to the OLD iPad before the new iPad had anything transferred to it from the old iPad. Hmmm. Add another wrinkle: the same someone got a new iPhone, and the old iPhone went to same person that received the old iPad.

The lesson: DON'T make ANY changes to the older iPad or iPhone before the new iPad and iPhone have ALL the information transferred from them. You and iTunes won't be happy if things are done out of sequence.

The challenges? Too lengthy to go into! If you do as suggested, the transfer and usage of both old and new iPads and iPhones will be less problematic, and maybe, smooth as silk.

ALWAYS REMEMBER: before calling for help - is it plugged in, was the information successfully transferred, and is it turned on?


Saturday, January 7, 2012

New Year, New Phone, New Problem?

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Just because you WANT your new "toys" to play nice with one another, doesn't mean they will. Take an iPhone for example. And a Blackberry, which in this case had never been synced to Outlook. Why should that matter?

The Blackberry had phone numbers in it, but no email addresses. Outlook had email addresses in it, but no phone numbers. The unknowing client activated the iPhone and transferred the phone number from the Blackberry to the iPhone. The iPhone willingly was able to sync with Outlook through iTunes (have I lost you yet?) but wouldn't take the email addresses in Outlook because... there weren't any associated phone numbers. Hmm. Who da thunk THAT would happen! Certainly not the new iPhone user.

The Blackberry now won't work as a phone, the client boarded a plane for warmer weather and took the NEW iPhone without any phone numbers and the computer with Outlook that won't talk to the iPhone.

The solution? The Berry. The Blackberry and the Blackberry desktop software must sync with Outlook. But wait... the Blackberry didn't make it onto the plane! Fed Ex to the rescue. With Blackberry, iPhone and computer in hand, will the client solve the problem? Or will the Tutor get a phone call to aid a wayward iPhone on the client's return?

It is just SO DANG EASY to buy a new phone. But using it? Well, that may require a Tutor!

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