The Writer's Life: Film & Book Reviews, Observations, and Stories
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Category — Wordpress & Tech Stuff

Learning the hard way

Brian Krebs (in KrebsOnSecurity) has stated the obvious in a recent post—that security programs are playing catch-up with most viruses (sometimes lagging weeks in detecting them) and that Windows users cannot depend on their anti-virus programs as fool-proof defenses. Common sense is also required. He states: “If you’re depending on your anti-virus product to save you from an ill-advised decision — such as opening an attachment in an e-mail you weren’t expecting, installing random video codecs from third-party sites, or downloading executable files from peer-to-peer file sharing networks — you’re playing Russian Roulette with your computer.” Those really are the three main culprits: (1) untrusted e-mail attachments, (2) untrusted codecs for video players, or (3) executables from unknown sources. You are crazy if you open any of these. Trust me. I’ve learned the hard way.

June 26, 2010   Comments Off on Learning the hard way

Windows 7 and the Missing Memory Stick

Another issue I discovered after installing Windows 7 on my Sony laptop was that the drive for the memory stick disappeared. Luckily, there was a simple solution. I went to Sony’s eSupport website, keyed in the model number, and downloaded the Vista driver for the Texas Instruments card reader.

After that, the drive for the memory stick appeared, but not the icon. This required a second download, and all was well.

May 27, 2010   Comments Off on Windows 7 and the Missing Memory Stick

No Sound

I haven’t had sound on my Sony laptop since I installed Windows 7. Today I finally got around to fixing it. It involved downloading and installing the Realtek driver and then fiddling around until Windows finally recognized it. Annoying, but not that hard to fix. Microsoft can’t anticipate every possible configuration, I suppose.

May 24, 2010   Comments Off on No Sound

Beware of Hotbar!

The company that fixed my Windows portable after my hard drive died (too many corrupted clusters to function any longer) restored the image from the old drive onto the new one they installed. They did this so that I wouldn’t lose data. The problem was that it left XP functioning in a strange state, and I had to either reinstall XP or buy and install Windows 7. Since my Sony portable does not have a graphics card, has limited horsepower, and only a gig or so of memory, I had some misgivings about installing Windows 7. But it was either that or reinstalling an operating system that would no longer be supported in the future, so I chose to install Windows 7.

The installation went swimmingly until I began to add programs I normally use—browsers, a word processor, and the like—and then added VLC, which I think is an awesome video and music player. Because I was in a hurry, I downloaded it from a bogus site that paired it with a program called Hotbar. I tried to stop the installation, but couldn’t. I then tried to uninstall Hotbar, but couldn’t. Microsoft’s Security Essentials kept identifying it was adware, but would not remove the program itself. It’s hooks were too deeply embedded into the OS. It was frustrating, though normal in today’s world. So I had another decision to make. Download a program that would actually get rid of Hotbar or start over. Because the installation of Windows 7 went so smoothly, I started over. A half an hour later I was up and running.

All I can say is beware of what you click on. There are so many shits out there using every trick imaginable to get you to install crap on your computer. Hotbar is one of the worst. Avoid it like the plague.

Anyway. Despite the hiccup, I’m very pleased with Windows 7 on my old portable. It’s fast and easy to use. Definitely better than what I had going with XP.

April 19, 2010   Comments Off on Beware of Hotbar!

To the engineering department at Dell

It’s hard to know exactly what’s wrong with my new computer, but the odds are that you guys did not test your ST2010 Dell monitor driver with Windows 7. (I’m fairly confident of this because both the physical monitor and graphics driver have been replaced.) This is a major annoyance because when Windows comes up, it assumes I have a generic monitor. My screen, which is set for the ST2010, assumes surrealistic proportions. Like something from a Odalisque landscape. I’ve had several guys from the Philippines poking around inside and several other guys from the support center in India giving me polite but useless responses by email. It seems “engineering” is working on it. In other words, I can wait until the man or woman who’s responsible for the monitor driver (you!) gets around to fixing it. The only saving grace is that if I’m patient, wait for half an hour, and then force Windows to detect the monitor, it eventually does, and the stuff on my screen assumes normal proportions.

My advice to the rest of you: System 7 is great but there is still a lot of catching up to do on the part of the vendors. Perhaps it would be wise to wait to make the switch from XP. Switching from Vista is probably a no-brainer, however.

Oh, and don’t buy a Dell XPS with an ST2010 until I give you the high sign!

February 3, 2010   Comments Off on To the engineering department at Dell

Brian Krebs

I don’t subscribe to many feeds, but there is one I consider essential, Krebs on Security. This is because Brian Krebs is always the first to alert me when essential updates are available for the software products that are often found on Windows machines. He’s also very interested in protecting the rest of us against viruses and cyber crime, and his tips and insights are invaluable. Moreover, he will return an email if you have something interesting to say. In short, he’s a very cool guy. Check him out at

January 21, 2010   Comments Off on Brian Krebs

Cindy Lauper and Windows 7

I feel like Cindy Lauper. Grey is my new black. After only a few days, I managed to corrupt my copy of Windows 7. Hey, it’s a talent, not a shortcoming. I tend to do everything wrong the first time. Windows got to the point where it wouldn’t even recognize its own Windows Live programs. So, of course, I had no choice but to rebuilt the system from scratch.

I enlisted the aid of Dell, though it wasn’t hard. You simply bring up your machine in safe mood and nuke it. It was the weekend, so the support guy was probably from the Philippines. He was very polite and smart. Interestingly, he used my moment of vulnerability to try and sell me extended software support. “I’ll talk to my manager and get you a better price,” he said, while I started laughing in the background. There are no depths to which some companies will not go to sell you stuff. I declined. When I inquired about Rapidboost, a facility for supposedly speeding up disk access, he tried to sell me a new card reader for various kinds of media. “Hey,” I asked, “what about the four card reader slots on the front of the computer? Or using USB?” He had no answer for this, but I didn’t blame him. He probably gets a commission on everything he sells.

Of course, the real fun began when I reinstalled my programs and customized Firefox. You never realize how much shit you have on your computer until you rebuilt it. It took hours. Probably not unlike the routine Cindy goes through with her makeup.

November 16, 2009   Comments Off on Cindy Lauper and Windows 7

Windows 7

Windows 7 is a huge improvement on XP. Glad I took the plunge. The interface makes sense and is easy to use. Everything is organized in a logical way (if you already have some knowledge of Windows). And, the most wonderful thing of all, IT DOESN’T CRASH every few days. The downside, of course, is that some devices and programs may be incompatible with the 64 bit OS. For example, my HP 1200 will not work if networked. But, hey, it’s just a small price to pay for progress.

November 9, 2009   Comments Off on Windows 7

WassUp with Spam

WassUp is a WordPress plugin that gathers statistics about visitors to your site. I prefer StatPress Reloaded myself, but only because it provides a single comprehensive view of site activity that I like. A feature that WassUp has which StatPress doesn’t is a record of users by Internet address who are spamming or trying to spam your site. The Internet address is in the form You can do two things with this information: (1) look up the host and contact the ISP to report the problem, and/or (2), plug the address into your own provider’s IP Deny Manager, which is usually provided as part of the tools you have for managing your site. Once the address (or range of addresses) is entered, your ISP will block the spammer from accessing your site. Of course, this only works when the offender utilizes a narrow range of addresses.

Of course, you should always use another WordPress plugin called Akismet to eliminate spam from being posted to your site. Akismet is the first line of defense. It works in the background through an effective set of heuristics to identify and discard inappropriate comments. The neat thing is you don’t even see them. They just disappear into the bit bucket. Since most spam is computer-generated, it only seems fair that eliminating it should be automated as well.

October 20, 2009   Comments Off on WassUp with Spam


I use Akismet to eliminate spam on my website, though, of course, it doesn’t stop people from trying. Since March 20, 2009, I’ve had 88 spam comments, which Akismet automatically eliminates. I don’t even see them. What some spammers don’t know is that their IP addresses are recorded, and with enough ingenuity and the cooperation of their ISP, these individuals can be identified. Of course, I don’t care enough to do this. Very few people do. What I find amazing is that anyone would waste his time trying to spam my site. I have no more than a handful of readers each day. Why bother?

August 25, 2009   Comments Off on Spam