Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Dell Dimension 1100

This morning a customer came into the shop with a Dell Dimension 1100 stating the typical remark of "It just stopped working," though I have to give the customer credit. At least he was able to tell me it booted. Most of the time customers will tell me it doesn't even turn on when in all actuality it powers up and POST's just fine. Right from the start I knew it was software related, so I did what I always do with software problems. Fire up some msconfig and start turning things off. In this case I had to do it in safe mode, but after disabling everything under the start up tab and all but Microsoft's services in the services tab, it booted up just fine.

Software issues likes these are usually related to malicious software. I include viruses, adware, spyware, malware, just about anything you can imagine that any normal person wouldn't want. Malicious software being the obvious culprit I went straight to AVG's website to download their free anti-virus program. Opening IE was horrifying; I counted no less than six tool bars. How many tool bars do people really need? Personally I've done just fine with zero for years. Although I was able to connect to the Internet I was unable to download on the customers computer. Coming back to my bench machine I proceeded to download both AVG and their free anti-spyware program called Ewido and copy those to my trusty Corsair thumb drive.

Side note:
Disappointingly, as I used the customers computer I saw a familiar "G" show up in the system tray by the clock with a bubble that said something to the effect of, "Your default search engine has been changed." Now I'm a big fan of Google and anything they do, provided it stays on the Internet. Gmail, Google Video, and Calendar is just the tip of the online miracle iceberg Google can preform. Anything Google makes as a download, on the other hand, I'm not a big fan of. I'm not saying they make bad software, I'm just saying Google's IE toolbar feels just as dirty as Yahoo's and Google Desktop Search feels just as clunky as Microsoft's. Googles downloadable programs make me cry a little inside because they came from the same place as the ingenious Google Docs & Spreadsheets. Google Earth is the only minor exception to this rule, but I find Google Maps, the online equivalent, just as useful. I am interested to see how much cooler Google Earth gets now that I know about Google SketchUp, a program designed to make 3d models for the 3d portion of Google Earth.

Getting back to the Dell, no surprise to see a lot of spyware was found. Fortunately there were no viruses, but it'll take some time before I find out if removing all this spyware does it any good.

Side note:
Ironicly, the reason I was having trouble downloading AVG Anti-Virus and Ewido on the customer's computer had more to do with Grisoft's website than the customer's computer. Turns out they were updating to release AVG Anti-Virus 7.5. The new AVG Anti-Virus 7.5 is very similar to it's predecessor, but Ewido has been renamed to, go figure, AVG Anti-Spyware 7.5. I'll take this opportunity to play with the new AVG.

After taking a few moments the only differences I really see are visual. I like the new visual changes, but I like to know about the more substantial changes. Checking out the Grisoft website I found this short list of new features.

  • Improved virus detection based on better heuristics and NTFS data streams scanning
  • Smaller installation and update files
  • Improved user interface
  • Windows Vista ready

I'm glad to see they made the installation file smaller. The small foot print AVG leaves on a system is exactly why I recommend it to customers over other anti-virus programs like McAfee and Norton. For those, like me, wondering what the heck heuristics are check out wikipedia's two articles on it.

Later in the day I got a custom built machine still running Windows 98. I was able to use AVG Anti-Virus 7.5 on it. However, AVG's new Anti-Spyware 7.5 program requires Windows 2000 or better.

Without all that spyware, this Dell is starting to run normal again. Usually I run a couple of different anti-spyware programs. Grisoft's and Lavasoft's respective anti-spyware programs are my preferred choice, but sometimes I mix it up a bit and try new ones. is a great site to make sure you're trying a legit program and not some Internet scam. I also check with that sight for computers that come in with questionable anti-spyware programs already installed. I also took the liberty to remove some programs that are rarely used from the Add/Remove Programs in the Control Panel. I used to be very hesitant about this, but over the years I've found most customers don't care about what I take out. Usually I only take out programs I know shouldn't be there, free trial programs, and rarely used programs.

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