Tag Archives: Windows

Computer Myths – No 1

PC Pro magazine recently published an article on myths about computers, and I thought it would be a good idea to pass on some of the ones that concern everyday computer users.

Myth No 1
USB memory stickYou don’t need to disable memory sticks (based on flash memory technology) from Windows computers by first clicking on the Remove Hardware icon in the system tray. So long as what you’ve copied has been completed, you can happily pull it out without any damage to the memory stick or its contents. So be brave, and have a go next time.

The way that copying is done on Apple Macs (and iPads if you’ve the attachment) means you still have to ‘eject’ any device that you’ve copied from, including camera flash cards.

More next time. Please feel free to leave a comment.

Time for some housework

There’s not many of us who like to do housework. It’s the routine that gets me down, and living in the city means that dusts accumulates very quickly after you’ve finished.

CCleaner logo

When it comes to cleaning, computers are like houses. They can’t clean themselves. Computers use all sorts of system files to run on a day to day basis, and sometimes they leave behind remnants of these files which accumulate like crumbs down the side of a sofa. You don’t know they’re there until you lose some change down the side and you find the remains of all those snacks you’ve had. It’s also like driving your car around the city and rarely getting above 40mph. The result is a sluggish engine, until you give it a good blast on the motorway. Well your computer will also start to slow down over time, unless you do some housework on it.

Windows has a useful cleaning tool and you can clean up unwanted internet files in your browser, but there is an application that will do both jobs at the same time, and it does it more thoroughly. The program is called CCleaner. Note the double ‘C’. The first refers to your hard drive (lettered ‘C’) where all the computer’s system files are stored. CCleaner will not touch your emails, pictures and any documents you’ve saved. It’s only interested in the files your computer uses – its system files.

If you’ve never used CCleaner before, I’ve made a short video on how to download and install it (it doesn’t work on Apple Macs or iPads). Click here to view it. The procedure is very straightforward, but you may want to watch it a couple of times before you take the plunge.

For those of you who already have CCleaner installed, this is a timely reminder to do some cleaning. So run it now. CCleaner is being constantly updated, so always agree to updates when you’re asked, and follow the steps in the video. Updating CCleaner is just like installing it.

Please feel free to leave a comment.

More on Java and other updates

You may remember that I mentioned security flaws related to Java in a recent blog (Do you really need Java? – 17 Sept 2012). Well a report from Kaspersky, the security giant, details that Java is now the number one attack target, accounting for more than half of all malware exploit attempts. In other words, hackers are using the flaws in Java the most, to gain access to people’s computers.

Kaspersky doesn’t give any firm figures, but I’m assuming we’re talking significant numbers. According to Java, it is installed on 1.1 billion computers around the world. So rich pickings for hackers. Number two in the attack list is Adobe Reader.

According to W3Tech 0.2% of websites use Java. That’s 2 in every 1000. Confusingly, Java is not the same as Javascript which is used by 92% of websites. Websites that offer you the chance to book seats (say at a theatre or on a train), games sites, some learning sites which use animation all require Java. If you use OpenOffice or LibreOffice, or Adobe Creative Suite, then you’ll need Java.

In my recent posting I suggested that you could keep Java (in case you came a across a site that worked better with it) and change the update frequency, with the thought that Java would take these security flaws seriously and issue updates more regularly until it was fixed. The Kaspersky report is dated late October and implies that Java is not playing its part.

You have to make a decision. If any of the above apply to you, don’t ignore Java updates. But, if you are in the habit of ignoring requests from Java to update itself, then I suggest you uninstall it altogether. Far better ridding yourself of it, than hanging on to a version that is out of date. To uninstall Java:

  1. Go to the Control Panel through the Start menu
  2. Click Add/Remove Programs (in Windows XP) or
  3. Programs and Features in (Windows Vista and 7)
  4. Click the Java entry followed by the Install button the toolbar
  5. Follow the instructions on the screen
  6. Repeat for any reference to Java in the list.

If you then come a cross a webpage that requires Java for the page to work properly, then install it again and if the service that webpage is offering will be useful to you in the future, then make sure you don’t ignore Java update requests.

Adobe Reader, not surprisingly, is the number two target. I travel around and see a lot of different computers in a week, and frequently the session is preceded, or interrupted by a request to update Adobe Reader (and Java, for that matter). Too many people ignore these requests either because they think they have to pay something, don’t know what it means, or don’t have the time.

Think about it. An update request is coming from a program or feature that is already in use on your computer. The program’s engineers have developed a better way to run the program, or more likely have discovered a security flaw which can be exploited by hackers and have issued a patch (to use the jargon) to repair the flaw. The fact that a patch has been issued means that the hacker can then work out where the flaw is and exploit it on any computer that hasn’t applied the patch. So if you ignore update requests you are running software that is vulnerable. No matter how good your anti-virus and anti-malware protection is, your system is potentially open to attack.

Updating Adobe Reader is even easier than updating Java. Just don’t put it off. Adobe Reader is needed in lots of instances when you’re on the internet, so don’t uninstall it. It would be too inconvenient to be without it. Just keep it update.

What we need from companies like Java and Adobe is updates that are handled automatically (as Windows updates are) by default, without us having to intervene. Out of date software is like a free meal to hackers. So why not withdraw the invitation?

This article applies to Windows users, but if you’re using an Android smartphone and have Adobe Reader installed on it, this article applies to you too.

Please feel free to leave a comment.

Online Support

Did you know that it’s very easy to set up your computer so you can have an online support meeting with me? This allows me to look at your computer and even take control of it, with your permission. Any problems you’re having can be quickly and easily remedied.

There are various ways of setting up your computer for an online meeting, and the easiest is to use a program called Crossloop. You can download it from crossloop.com with no charge.

A microphone allows us to talk to each other. If you have a microphone as part of your computer setup – most modern laptops do – then all well and good. However, we can also talk to each other using our phones, particularly if you have a portable phone that has a speaker facility. This allows you to hear what I’m saying, while the phone lies by your computer.

So if you’re interested, let me know by email and we can fix a date and time and agree a fee in advance. For the moment, I’d prefer it if you lived locally – in Edinburgh or the Lothians – and have been a client of mine in the past. And Crossloop is only available for Windows computers.