Helpful Tips from your Freindly Neighborhood Geek

Helpful Tips from your Freindly Neighborhood Geek

This is a discussion on Helpful Tips from your Freindly Neighborhood Geek within the Off Topic & Humor Discussion forums, part of the The Back Porch category; An excerpt from my blog. This originally started as a bit of a rant about stupid things users have done, but I tried to turn ...

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    VIP Member Array paaiyan's Avatar
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    Helpful Tips from your Freindly Neighborhood Geek

    An excerpt from my blog. This originally started as a bit of a rant about stupid things users have done, but I tried to turn it around and make it useful rather than just ranting at people. It turned out so much longer than I anticipated....

    Hello, I'm a geek. I don't just mean I like computers. It's my job to fix and support computer systems. It's what I do, and I love it. Usually. Most of the time I enjoy interacting with users and helping them with their issues. But sometimes I just have to close my eyes, lean my forehead on my palm and contemplate just how much damage I might cause were I to smash my head into my keyboard.

    So here for you today, for my stress relief, your reading pleasure and maybe even a little education, are some helpful tips from a techie.

    1. Anti-virus programs are your friends. There are dozens available. Free ones like AVG, Avast and BitDefender, and paid ones like Norton, McAfee and Kaspersky. Contrary to what you may think, the free ones work quite well, so there's no reason not to have one. Just be careful and stick with one AV program. They often don't play nicely with the other kids.

    And do learn a little about them. None of us techies expect you to know everything, otherwise we'd be out of a job. We just like you to know enough to utilize them properly. Learn how to set automatic updates, schedule scans, run manual scans etc. If you don't know how, surely you know some kid around the street who does. Here's a tip: If you ask nicely and offer to buy him pizza, he'll probably help. This is all assuming we're not talking about a company computer. If your company has its own anti-virus, leave it alone and let the guys who get paid to take care of it do so. Still, learn what it looks like so you know what's going on.

    And remember, anti-virus programs don't let you do whatever you want with no consequences. Forgive the crude analogy, but think of them like a condom. They work most of the time and keep bad things away from places you don't want them. Sometimes they fail and something gets through. If you don't use one you might get lucky for a while, but eventually you're going to get burned. So please use a good anti-virus and at least know the basics of how it works and looks. Which leads me to the next tip.

    --------------------------------

    2. Fake anti-virus programs are NOT your friends. Remember when I said you should at the very least know what your anti-virus looks like and know its basic functions? This is where that comes in handy. So you see a popup on your computer that says "Internet Antivirus 2011" Does it look like your regular anti-virus program? No? That's because it's not. Do you remember installing it? No? That's because you didn't.

    LEAVE IT ALONE. Call that kid you know and get ready to buy him pizza again. While you're waiting for him to arrive, here's the scoop on what you're seeing. It's called malware, and it comes in many forms. You've probably heard many of them before. Spyware, trojans, viruses, worms etc. Your particular variant is called scareware, and it's pretty much what it sounds like. It's a piece of software you stumbled across somehow that tries to impersonate real anti-virus software in order to accomplish several things.

    You see that notice that you need to activate the software to remove the infection? Protip: don't click that. They want to steal your credit card information and buy lots of things on your dime. Then it's probably going to install itself even deeper on your computer, mess with your privacy, send a bunch of emails to your friends in your name prompting them to download the same scareware and generally just cause havoc.

    --------------------------------

    3. Only you can prevent forest fi, er, malware. I can hear the wheels turning already. "Isn't that what my anti-virus program is for?", you ask. No. Your anti-virus program is there to try to save your backside when you have an "oops" moment. Your AV program can be rendered completely unnecessary if you play by the rules. Conversely, if you insist on breaking the rules the whole thing can be rendered completely impotent. It can only do so much. "How do I avoid getting malware?", you query. Why, I'm so glad you asked.

    I'm no statistician, but I have a lot of experience with removing malware and I'm of the opinion that no less than 80% of malware could be avoided if people would follow a few rules. Rule #1: Be careful on facebook, myspace, friendster, xanga (I know you're out there. I'm staging an intervention) etc. Of course facebook is safe. But do you really think everyone on there is as nice as you are? Avoid everything but the major apps, be extremely wary of every link you click on, especially if it takes you off the official facebook site, and lock down your privacy settings while you're at it. There are thousands and thousands of people willing to take advantage of facebook to further their devious little schemes. Don't let them.

    Rule #2: Be careful with email. A while back we had a huge string of PCs infected with malware because users opened Zip files attached to emails that looked like they were from FedEx, UPS etc. Most of the time the Zip file would contain something that looked like "invoice.doc". The problem with this is, they weren't due to receive any shipments, and by default Windows hides known file extensions. So, unbeknownst to them, the users were actually opening files named "invoice.doc.exe". A word to the wise: .exe files are bad juju if you don't know exactly what they are.

    Rule #3: Stop. Watching. Porn. No, I'm serious. The people who make porn want money, and they're obviously not the most morally upstanding people you'll ever meet. Is it really such a stretch to believe they would resort to underhanded tactics like installing spyware and adware on your PC to cause more advertisements and try to make more money? Trust me, they do.

    --------------------------------

    4. Don't lie to us, we're not stupid. Two reasons for this really. Number 1: our job is to fix problems. It's a lot easier to fix problems when we know what they are.

    Reason number 2 ties in with the first. We either already know what you did, or we will find out. I'll say about 60% of the time we already know what you did and we're just asking to confirm our suspicions. 35% of the time we may not start out with an idea of exactly what's happened, but we will figure it out. 4.9% of the time we just don't care enough to figure out exactly how you broke something. We'll fix it and go back to our windowless basement office. .1% of the time you'll have us completely fooled and we'll never know that you secretly did X to break it.

    So if you spill coffee on your keyboard and it stops working, please don't clean it up, then call us and say "I don't know, it just stopped working." Just tell us so that we can grab you a new $10 keyboard out of the stockroom we probably have and call it a day. This saves us time and ends in the same result. If you're getting a fake anti-virus or weird popups, we know you went somewhere you're not supposed to. Despite our relentless campaign to make you a safer user, you did it. Oh well, sometimes it happens. Be more careful.

    Porn popups only happen when you go to naughty sites. Don't lie about it, we know. If you visit a shady link on facebook and end up with a fake AV, you call us, we clean it up and go on our way. If you visit naughty sites and get porn popups, you call us, we come, we raise an eyebrow, we clean it up and we tell you to keep that crap at home. Then we make a mental note of who you are in case it happens again.

    If you visit naughty sites, then lie to us about it, here's what goes down. We come, we raise an eyebrow and immediately know what you did. You lie and pretend to be innocent. We tell you it's going to take a long time to clean up, why don't you take an early lunch. Before we clean it up we look at your history and other items and take screenshots so we have proof. I have a nifty little program that makes it easy. We save the evidence, then clean the computer up. Before we lock your computer we "accidentally" leave that program up so you see it when you come back. Now you know that I know, and you can safely assume I'm a bit miffed. We don't like being lied to.

    So don't lie. Most of us probably aren't going to report you unless it's something heinous like child pornography. If that's the case you're out of luck because I'm locking down your system without cleaning anything up, locking out your user account so you can't access it to cover your tracks and I'm calling the cops. That's pretty rare though. So long story short, if you lie to me, I'm going to get evidence of what you did. Then the next time you do it, I might just be more inclined to report you.


    Read more here.
    My blog

    WARNING: This post may contain material offensive to those who lack wit, humor, common sense and/or supporting factual or anecdotal evidence. All statements and assertions contained herein may be subject to literary devices not limited to: irony, metaphor, allusion and dripping sarcasm.


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    Array msgt/ret's Avatar
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    Nice article with lots of good info.

    Other email scams are a little trickier, I'll admit. There are a fair number of bank-related and PayPal scams out there. The same rule applies though. If some random person called your home claiming to be from a bank and asking for your name, social security number, credit card numbers etc., would you give it to them? If there's ever any question about matters regarding accounts, always contact the business directly by going to their website, not by clicking a link in an email.
    These are my favorites. When I receive one I do a search for the legitimate website then use their contact us link for scam reporting and forward it to them.
    When you have to shoot, shoot. Don't talk.
    "Don't forget, incoming fire has the right of way."

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    Senior Member Array Tala's Avatar
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    Even "safer" games (real ones, not FB apps) sometimes come with malware. My AV kicked out a few files from a game download for a big WOW-knockoff type game. I deleted them or quarantined them or whatever Avira does to them.
    The game techies told me it was just a glitch that AV software didn't like the filename and that I'd have to re-install the files. I did no such thing and my game still worked. My money still says it was really malware, despite what the gamers wanted me to think.

    I like your tip about cleaning out your computer. We have dogs, and I shop vac mine (carefully of course). Heat kills and hair clogs the fans big time.

    You should do a note about passwords. Your wife's name just isn't secure enough (hint hint hubby). And I have learned that your accounts are FAR safer if you write your passwords on post it notes (or in a closed notebook if people can see your post it notes) rather than telling your browser to "remember" them. Type them enough times (daily) and you will memorize them without saving them into anything that can be easily hacked.
    I won't be wronged, I won't be insulted, I won't be laid a hand on. I don't do these things to other people and I expect the same from them. -- John Wayne as John B. Books in "The Shootist"

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    Good points. I'd like to reiterate about being careful about what sites you visit. If your mom wouldn't approve, just don't go there. Anti-virus software can only do so much.

    A friend of mine had me fix his 'puter, and it was clear that he'd been visiting some really nasty sites . I didn't say anything the first time but the next time that I had to drag it out of the muck, I suggested that he stay away from the barnyard-porn.

    Yeah it embarrassed him. Yeah it should have.
    __________________________________
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    VIP Member Array paaiyan's Avatar
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    Added a section on passwords. Not sure how I forgot that one.... Tala, I added a paragraph about writing them down and gave a better suggestion.
    My blog

    WARNING: This post may contain material offensive to those who lack wit, humor, common sense and/or supporting factual or anecdotal evidence. All statements and assertions contained herein may be subject to literary devices not limited to: irony, metaphor, allusion and dripping sarcasm.

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    Senior Member Array Daddy Warcrimes's Avatar
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    A lot of AV programs out there are absolute crap. I severely dislike Norton and McAfee (Norton I would consider a virus on it's own). ClamAV won't catch much. My wife recommends Avast and AVG; she is the Windows user in the family.

    Not uncommon for AV or anti-malware services to misdiagnose. I once got locked out my my account at work because the admins mistook a lighting plugin for Gimp as a peer to peer sharing application. Anything that uses file names as a sole metric for banning files is probably not worth while.
    "and suddenly I can not hold back my sword hand's anger"

    DaddyWarcrimes.com

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    VIP Member Array paaiyan's Avatar
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    For a power user, you're probably right. I liked Kaspersky when I used it. Here's my dirty little secret though. Right now I don't have an AV program installed other than Malwarebytes which I use once every few months to scan. It's never found a single item to clean up, because I know how to be safe. For your normal users though, AV is is important and even something like Norton will be better than not having one. The people this article is directed at probably don't even know what Gimp is (Great program by the way. I pass files back and forth from Gimp to Photoshop because each of them has features the other doesn't).
    My blog

    WARNING: This post may contain material offensive to those who lack wit, humor, common sense and/or supporting factual or anecdotal evidence. All statements and assertions contained herein may be subject to literary devices not limited to: irony, metaphor, allusion and dripping sarcasm.

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    Senior Member Array Tala's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by paaiyan View Post
    Added a section on passwords. Not sure how I forgot that one.... Tala, I added a paragraph about writing them down and gave a better suggestion.
    Yes is true that post its probably aren't good at work, but they seem to work fine at home if it's just me and the dogs. Last I checked they still couldn't read.
    After getting a few accounts hacked (yes my gmail was one of them, and I had a "decent" password 8 letters + numbers, but it was saved in my browser.....) I now have 20 character passwords on almost everything. The ONE place my gmail pass is saved is in my cell phone app, haven't found a real good way to get around that if I want my emails to pop up when they are received.
    I won't be wronged, I won't be insulted, I won't be laid a hand on. I don't do these things to other people and I expect the same from them. -- John Wayne as John B. Books in "The Shootist"

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    Senior Member Array BruceGibson's Avatar
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    Excellent forum/blog post. You've got a future as a writer if the IT gig ever gets old.

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    Senior Member Array Bubbiesdad's Avatar
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    I keep getting phishing emails , usually in my spam file. I just forward them to the investigative email of the named institution. If I get one in my regular email, saying I need to update info, I exit, log into my account through the normal method and see if I have any legitimate messages.
    Always remember that others may hate you but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself.
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    Distinguished Member Array INccwchris's Avatar
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    i had a virus just last night that it took three hours and 200 bucks for a windows tech to fix,on the upside, the repair came with three anti virus programs and malware bytes, plus immediate connection software that he wrote into the software of the operating system that will not be affected by any viruses or malware known to date, so even if the computer crashes from a virus i can reboot in safe mode and automatically connect to a live tech support for remote control
    "The value you put on the lost will be determined by the sacrifice you are willing to make to seek them until they are found."

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    VIP Member Array paaiyan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BruceGibson View Post
    Excellent forum/blog post. You've got a future as a writer if the IT gig ever gets old.
    Thanks! I do enjoy writing, and if I thought I could make a career out of it I'd be willing to give it a try. I also love my job as a tech and don't think I'd give it up. I'd be willing to do writing on the side if an offer ever came though. I don't update my site often enough, but maybe I'll try to start making some more tech-related posts and see if I can keep it up.

    If you guys have any more suggestions for stuff to add to this one, or if you have any random questions about computers, give me a shout!
    My blog

    WARNING: This post may contain material offensive to those who lack wit, humor, common sense and/or supporting factual or anecdotal evidence. All statements and assertions contained herein may be subject to literary devices not limited to: irony, metaphor, allusion and dripping sarcasm.

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    Ex Member Array JOHNSMITH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by paaiyan View Post
    I also love my job as a tech
    Hmm, as a fellow technie nerd, do you ever get any of the following requests from family? (slightly NSFW content in the link)

    Why It's Better To Pretend You Don't Know Anything About Computers - The Oatmeal

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    VIP Member Array paaiyan's Avatar
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    I've read that comic, and yes I have. I had a friend text me saying his PC wouldn't boot. Asked him a few questions and deduced it was a PSU (power supply unit) problem. I went over to double check and make sure I was right, and to get the model so as to order a replacement. I get under his desk and it's nasty. Food crumbs, dead bugs etc. I look up and there are dozens of them crawling on the underside of the desk. I begin to develop a theory as to why his PSU has crapped out, as he told me it made a sizzling sound and then stopped responding completely. No lights, no sounds, nothing. My suspicions are confirmed when I see roaches nesting in the case of his PSU. They came into contact with the wrong electrical components and fried it. Or perhaps it fried them? Either way. Dead bugs and a dead PSU.

    TL;DR: Oh yeah, I've been there.
    My blog

    WARNING: This post may contain material offensive to those who lack wit, humor, common sense and/or supporting factual or anecdotal evidence. All statements and assertions contained herein may be subject to literary devices not limited to: irony, metaphor, allusion and dripping sarcasm.

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    Member Array Ghuqu2's Avatar
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    I truly feel your pain. I to am in the PC biz, but now I do remote support, and mostly on servers (thank goodness). I have been in the trenches and love your "don't lie" section. I really won't judge you on what you did, I just need to know so I can fix it, but I charge by the hour so it's your dime. You also need a section about backups, and testing them. We got a new client a few years ago when their server failed and the tape backups were blank. No one monitored the tape jobs and tested the backups, they had been failing for over a year. They paid over 10k a drive to transfer the platters to get most of the data back. The online backups kill me, most companies don't overnight your data to you on a drive after a failure, so how many days will it take to download that 100gb backup on your dsl stream? How many days can you be out of work? Sorry, going on my on rant. Good job.
    "The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us." Patrick Henry 1775

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