Tuesday, February 24, 2009

When (Real and Virtual) Worlds Collide

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WXPNews: Your Source for all things XP
Vol. 8, #59 - Feb 24, 2009 - Issue #367

 When (Real and Virtual) Worlds Collide

  1. Editor's Corner
    • When (Real and Virtual) Worlds Collide
    • Follow-up: Internet Indiscretions
    • Follow-up 2: Results of the Manuals Survey
    • Quotes of the Week
  2. Cool Tools
  3. News, Hints, Tips and Tricks
    • My Blu-ray Rant
    • What's the best netbook OS: XP, Win7 or Ubuntu?
    • Make XP look like Windows 7
    • Should you upgrade from XP to Windows 7 or start over from scratch?
  4. How To: Using XP Features
    • How to recover a damaged user profile in XP
    • How to make your XP desktop look like a Mac
    • Security Release ISO image
  5. XP Security News
    • Security Release ISO image
  6. XP Question Corner
    • Help - my taskbar is missing
  7. XP Configuration and Troubleshooting
    • Options to hide or change wallpaper missing on XP computer
    • How to access the System Volume Information folder
  8. Fav Links
    • This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
  9. Product of the Week
    • Luxor 3: Battle The Power-Hungry God Of Chaos!

My Antivirus Is Killing My Netbook - Now What?

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 Editor's Corner

When (Real and Virtual) Worlds Collide

Once upon a time, there was a pretty clear line of demarcation between RL (Real Life) and cyberspace. When I first started using the Internet, those worlds only occasionally merged. Oh, sometimes a friendship that started out in a chat room or on an email discussion list progressed to meeting in person, even eventually - for me and a number of others - to marriage. But once a relationship "went live," its status changed, and it moved from the "online" category to the "real world" category.

Even now, I think there is a subtle difference in the way I relate to those of my online friends that I know in person and those who remain words (and sometimes photos) on a computer monitor. But the distinction between the two is blurring more all the time. A couple of years ago, we threw a party and invited the members of one of the mailing lists I'd belonged to for a dozen years. People came from as far away as Australia, and we were meeting some of them in person for the first time - but it didn't feel like a first-time meeting. We had shared so much for so long I felt as if I knew those online friends much better than, for example, I knew my neighbors.

On the list, this little group had become almost like family. We'd helped each other through illnesses, divorces, deaths in the family, job changes, and other traumatic life events. We'd celebrated one another's birthdays, marriages, new children/grandchildren, promotions and other happy times. We'd had friendly (and occasionally not so friendly) disagreements about politics, religion, lifestyles, and values. We'd lost list members along the way - some who got mad and left when the arguments got heated, one who passed away after months of battling cancer. We had talked to each other about things we couldn't discuss with our "real world" friends or even our spouses. Finally being together geographically was less like "meeting" than like going home.

But the convergence of the virtual and real worlds isn't just about relationships. What we do online now often leaks out into our offline lives. And it can go the other way around, with things in the real world affecting our computers. We think of malware threats as something that comes to us over the Internet, but hackers are going "real world" now, too. Recent reports tell of a new scam that uses the credibility of the offline world, along with your fear of the law, to launch a phishing attack.

Here's how it works: you find an official-looking "parking violation" notice on the windshield of your vehicle, but instead of (or maybe in addition to) a phone number, it lists a web site you can visit to find out how to take care of the ticket. The site installs malware on your PC, giving the hacker a back door by which he/she can steal your data and/or take control of your computer.

The first incarnation of this scam is not very well done and has been limited in geographic scope, but it's a good bet that others will follow suit with more sophisticated versions. With more and more government agencies encouraging people to do business with them through the web, it's likely that a well done fake could lure quite a few folks to the malicious site. After all, your guard is up when you get an unexpected email message, but many people are much less suspicious of a printed document that appears in the "real world."

Scammers have also taken to using the telephone in a similar way to initiate their attacks. You might never click a link in an email purporting to be from your bank, but what if someone from the bank called you on the phone and informed you that your account may have been compromised, and asked for your credentials? The best of these scammers will express concern for "security" and insist that you call them back to "verify" that the call is legitimate. And of course, the number that they give you to call is answered with the bank's name. Some even go so far as to spoof the caller ID information so your phone displays the name of the bank when they call.

Once you're satisfied that they are whom they claim to be, they may direct you to a special "secure" web site (one that they've set up with an SSL certificate so you'll get that comforting little "lock" displayed in your browser to assure you that it really is secure) or they might just bypass the computer altogether and ask for your logon credentials over the phone. Unfortunately, many people will comply.

Phishing attempts may also come through the postal service. Ever received a letter from a collection agency, stating that it's attempting to collect a debt? The problem is that you've never heard of the "original creditor" nor do you owe any money, or at least not in the amount that the letter claims. Usually these letters offer to allow you to pay off the debt for a much lesser amount, but only if you send the check right now to the listed P.O. box or mail drop (they never give a real physical address). Of course, legitimate collection agencies use the same tactics, so it can be difficult to know the difference if you really do have outstanding debts. In today's economic climate, with many people falling behind in their payments, we can expect more scammers to get in on the gravy train and send these letters, hoping the victims will assume they're real and send the money.

Sometimes when the paths of your online and real world lives cross, it's a good thing. Other times, it's not. Most of us have raised our awareness about the threats that come through email and other online venues, but it's important to realize that those same scammers are getting smart and taking their games offline in an attempt to con more people.

What about you? Have you ever been the victim of a "crossover" scam attempt? Do you tend to put more trust in a phone call or letter you receive in the mail than you would place in an online contact? Do you know someone who would fall for the parking ticket scam, or would you have been likely to fall for it yourself before reading about it? How about the good ways in which the virtual and real worlds collide? Do you find that those two worlds are much less separate now than they used to be? Tell us what you think at feedback@wxpnews.com

Note: In order to have your response printed in the next week's Follow-up section, please response on or before the Sunday following publication of the editorial topic that you're addressing.

Follow-up: Internet Indiscretions

In last week's editorial, we talked about those online faux pas that all of us have committed at one time or another, how we handle them, and how to avoid them. A number of our readers offered their thoughts on the matter.

Some of you wrote to tell us about your own experiences with Internet indiscretions, either as the one who slipped up, or as the victim of someone else's slip-up. Alan C. recounted this story, "Many years ago my employer took away Outlook and gave us Oracle Mail, which soon earned itself the name 'Orrible Mail. At the start of each new project I create two e-mail distribution lists, 'ProjTeam' for everyone on the project including the client, vendors, etc., and 'ProjTeam (Internal)' for just our own staff. Several months into the project, after a difficult client discussion, I e-mailed my account of it to 'ProjTeam (Internal)' and was shocked to receive a testy reply from the client. Only then did we learn that Oracle Mail ignores anything in parentheses, and had been sending all our internal mail to the full team right from the start!"

Mark N. had this experience: "I recall working really late one night, and a number of people just leave their computers on and this guy sent a message intended for his friends, but had sent it to a mail list that sent it to all 3,000 IT people world wide (which included the CIO). I remember all the computers around me going beep with notification that a mail has been received. I got the message, I read it, and thought, 'Oh my God.' I was lucky that I was just on the All IT mailing list and not in the To list. That guy was fired, [and] the recipients were warned."

And Bob T. wrote, "It does amaze me how many naive people are 'driving' around out there. And then technology has a way of bringing one down from that holier-than-thou perch. I have done the doh! at least twice. Once when I replied to the CFO's email about how we should cut back, yadi ya... I thought I was forwarding to my immediate boss. It was only weeks later, looking through my sent items, I thought Hey! What is this email to Joe Finance? Oh Oh...OMG!!! No wonder I never had a reply from my immediate boss; he never received it! Lucky for me I had not used any expletive deletives. whew."

Some of you have taken steps to prevent indiscretions. Fred W. said, "I never worry about 'Reply to all', because long ago I removed it from my Outlook toolbar. I had heard bad stories about it, and solved the problem before it happened to me!" That's one solution, but unfortunately many of us have to have that "reply to all" option for business correspondence. The problem occurs when you use it so much that it becomes your automatic default, and then you end up sending something to someone for whom it wasn't intended.

Daniel T. does it this way: "When I have an item about which I am adamant, I usually compose a document in a word processor. Most of the time I am not privy to a proof-reader. So I walk away, and then 'study' it for several days (or hours/minutes if it is urgent) for the very items you are addressing. That way I avoid the "forest for the trees" syndrome and usually DO find necessary changes. When satisfied, I Paste and Copy to a mail document for sending. This helps me reduce egg on the face!"

Bill H. suggested: "Why go through all the hassle of having someone setup a rule about sending email. In Outlook, simply go to the tools tab, options, then mail setup and uncheck the box for " Send immediately when connected. It will save a lot of headaches for people not familiar with setting up rules." This will certainly work for some folks. My only problem with it is that you will then need to remember to manually send the mail, and it may result in your mail not getting through when it needs to. When you set a short delay time in a rule, the mail will automatically go out at that set time.

Matthew P. said, "As written communications become more and more common, indiscretions are bound to pop-up as equally as often. I think it will become increasingly important for people to realize that these indiscretions really are mistakes and that they should let go of them even if they are recorded forever ... These written communication indiscretions should not be taken anymore seriously than spoken communication indiscretions."

And Scott W. also thinks maybe we're making too much of simple mistakes: "Great article on the internet 'faux pas' thoughts. I often wonder, what about the other side of the issues? Those that take action against others for mis-steps? Why are there not "unwritten rules" to keep those from over-reacting to human nature? ...The internet is becoming a stone throwing arena. Too many stone throwers, and zero 'non-sinners'. Nobody is perfect, yet we have built a society that loathes imperfection. To a point of vindictive retribution."

Meanwhile, it seems Google has come up with a way to help you avoid those embarrassing slips of the fingers when using Gmail - at least the ones that are caused by having a little too much to drink. It's called Mail Googles and when you enable it, it won't send your outgoing messages until you complete several simple math problems. By default, the feature only kicks in late at night on the weekends. You can read more about it here:

And finally, Nathan C. puts it simply: "I follow one simple rule, if I wouldn't say it to the person(s) directly, I wouldn't say it at all. If someone has a problem with a comment that I have made, it is my opinion and they have to deal with it. May be a harsh statement, but my opinion is part of who I am. :)" Thank you to everyone who wrote on this topic!

Follow-up 2: Results of the Manuals Survey

Two weeks ago, we discussed how software manuals are disappearing and whether or not you miss them. We also posted an online survey to help us more accurately gauge how computer users handle software problems. Based on 982 responses, 69.5% of readers said that when they have a problem with their security software, they go to the vendor's web site. Almost as many, 69.2%, check the Help file. 65.5% do a web search and 60.6% just click around to see if they can fix it. Only 38.6% say they check the manual and even fewer - 29% - call Tech Support.

'Til next week,
Deb Shinder, Editor

PS: Did you know this newsletter has a sister publication called VistaNews? You can subscribe here, and tell your friends:

And for IT pros, there's our "big sister," WServer News, at

Quotes of the Week

Forget injuries, never forget kindnesses. - Confucious

Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself. - Lois McMaster Bujold

Justice consists not in being neutral between right and wrong, but in finding out the right and upholding it, wherever found, against the wrong. - Theodore Roosevelt

Keep The Bad Guys Out With The Sunbelt Personal Firewall

Why do I need a firewall? Together with antivirus and antispyware, a firewall is a "must" to protect your computer. PC Magazine gave the Sunbelt Personal Firewall a "Very Good" rating with 4 Stars and a conclusion of "good protection". Check out the Reviews on the site and it will be clear why you need the Sunbelt Personal Firewall to protect your PC. One good example: Unlike the Windows XP and Vista Firewall, you can tell the Sunbelt Personal Firewall to look carefully at the data leaving your browser, so that sensitive information like your credit card numbers, email address, bank account, social security number and PIN code do not get stolen by hackers!

 Cool Tools


Turn your webcam into a CCTV with alarm and email notification! Try it before you buy it:

Rip DVDs for your iPod/iPhone or Apple TV. Bundle includes video converter too! Try it free!

Vista gets bogged down very quickly! Advanced Vista Optimizer will tweak Vista for Max performance. Easy to use:

Backups? We don't need no stinking backups! Syncronization is easier, faster and much more current than backups!

Spotmau PowerSuite Professional 2008: Fantastic! All the tools necessary to fix most common computer problems. Clone and backup too!

Print Screen Deluxe is the realistic upgrade of the Windows version. You can crop - before the capture! Very quick!

One password gives automatic, secure access to all my online passwords and usernames. The autofill feature is a major time-saver! Not a widget.

 News, Hints, Tips and Tricks

My Blu-ray Rant

According to reports, Blu-ray sales have been "disappointing." Some blame it on the economy, but personal experience tells me there are other reasons people aren't buying the hi-def discs that have nothing to do with money and everything to do with how they feel they're being treated (or mistreated) as customers. Read my rant at

What's the best netbook OS: XP, Win7 or Ubuntu?

Netbooks are all the rage but along with their small size and price, they come with limited system resources. Tech blogger Adrian Kingsley-Hughes tried out three different operating systems on his Samsung netbook: Windows XP (with which it came installed), the Windows 7 beta, and Ubuntu Linux. Which one did he like best? Find out in this Wi-Fi Planet review:

Make XP look like Windows 7

Not ready to give up your Window XP but longing for the look and feel of Windows 7? Now you can have it all - or at least you can fake it. This download makes XP look a lot like 7, and there are also links to programs that can give your XP computer some of the same functionality, as well as the look, of the newest OS. Check it out here:

Should you upgrade from XP to Windows 7 or start over from scratch?

If you're one of the many computer users who skipped Vista and now you're looking to switch over to Windows 7 when it's released, you may be wondering which is the better way to go: wipe the disk and do a fresh install, or upgrade to Vista first and then upgrade that to Windows 7? An "in-place upgrade" from XP to Windows 7 isn't supported. Find out here what your options are:

 How To: Using XP Features

How to recover a damaged user profile in XP

Oh, no - you've rebooted your XP computer and when you try to log on with your usual account, you get an ominous message: "Windows cannot load your profile because it may be corrupted." What's up with that? Your profile contains all your custom settings, wallpaper, desktop icons, your My Documents folder and your IE favorites. Is there a way to get it all back? Find out here:

How to make your XP desktop look like a Mac

Prefer the functionality of Windows XP but like the look of Mac OS X? This free download replaces the Windows taskbar with a customizable Mac-like "dock." Read more about it here:

Security Release ISO image

If you prefer to install security updates from a DVD, Microsoft is making an ISO image of its monthly security updates for XP and Vista available through the Download Center. The February 2009 ISO image is available now. Read more here:

 XP Security News

Security Release ISO image

If you prefer to install security updates from a DVD, Microsoft is making an ISO image of its monthly security updates for XP and Vista available through the Download Center. The February 2009 ISO image is available now. Read more here:

 XP Question Corner

Help - my taskbar is missing

I've been using this XP computer for three years and this is the first time this has happened. I booted up (it's a Dell laptop) one morning and the taskbar was gone. The wallpaper is there but no Start button or taskbar. Can you tell me what's going on and how to fix it? - Bev K.

The simplest answer is that somehow the "Auto-hide the taskbar" option got selected in the Start menu properties. To check that, press CTRL+ESC. This should make the Start menu appear. Right click it and select Properties, click the Taskbar tab, and make sure "Auto-hide the taskbar" is unchecked.

If that's not the problem, it gets more complex. A virus or malware could be causing the problem. Start the computer in safe mode and try running a virus scan. You should also apply all security updates.

If that doesn't work, try logging on with a different user account. If the taskbar displays properly with the alternate user account, your user account settings are probably corrupted. You can try creating a new user account and copying the settings from your old account to it. You can find the instructions for how to do that in "Method 2" under the Resolution section of KB article 318027 at

 XP Configuration and Troubleshooting

Options to hide or change wallpaper missing on XP computer

If you try to change the wallpaper on your XP computer, you may find that you can't do so because the options are missing or grayed out. Sometimes this happens after you've removed spyware from the system and occurs because a registry key has been set to hide or lock the display settings. KB article 921049 tells you what to do about it:

How to access the System Volume Information folder

The System Volume Information folder contains data used by System Restore, and sometimes you might need to access it when troubleshooting problems with System Restore. However, it's a hidden system folder, and how to gain access depends on the file format you're using and whether your computer belongs to a domain or workgroup. Find out more in KB article 309531 at

 Fav Links

This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff

Disclaimer: VistaNews does not assume and cannot be responsible for any liability related to you clicking any of these linked Web sites.

 Product of the Week

Luxor 3: Battle The Power-Hungry God Of Chaos!

Part strategy game, part action & adventure game, the most critically acclaimed puzzle game of 2008, Luxor 3, challenges you to combine your thinking and shooting skills to conquer the Egyptian God of Chaos and save the other Gods from his wrath.

 About WXPnews

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