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Issue 2

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Welcome to the PC-Advice Newsletter

Welcome to the second edition of the PC-Advice.net newsletter. I hope you had a great start to the new year and that the rest of the year continues in a similar manner for you and all your family.

If you have any suggestion for topics you would like covered, or specific questions then please email editor@pc-advice.net

If you wish to unsubscribe then simply click here and enter you email address.

System Maintenance

Last month I explained how it is important to keep you computer defragmented and to run the scandisk utility regularly. This month we look at how and when to do this.

To access the disk defragmenter go to My Computer and then Right-Click on the C: Drive icon. On the menu which opens up click on Properties. Then click on the Tools tab at the top of the window. This opens a window which shows you when the scandisk utility and the defragmenter were last run (I have seen it at over 1000 days!!). Clicking on the buttons will run the programs and if they have not been run for more than a month then now is a good time.

  • If you get an error message about file access or a you are having problems saving files then it is time to sun a full system scan in Scandisk.
  • If you have recently installed or uninstalled an application (e.g. Microsoft Office, or an Antivirus program) then you should run the Disk Defragmenter to tidy up your drive.

Another important area of system maintenance is to ensure that all your software is working properly and has been updated. From time-to-time Microsoft release updates to windows to address issues that have been reported to them by users like yourself. Some updates simply fix problems, while others add extra features.

While you can often read about and download patches from lots of sites, it is always best to go straight to Microsoft and the Windows Update site: Windows Update - http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com/. Here your computer will get a quick scan which simply checks to see what versions of specific programs are installed. It is the same as the checklists that mechanics use when they service your car. Windows Update allows you to scan to see what updates are available and then to download them all onto your machine. All you have to to is simply read and follow the instructions.

Virus Protection

With the new year comes a new wave of virus warnings, and the flavour of the month is called Yaha.

"The W32/Yaha.M variant, which appeared just before Christmas, has proved contagious, infecting thousands of computers worldwide ... A new virus, which is believed to be a variant of the Yaha virus, has proven contagious and is infecting thousands of computers worldwide." - ZDNet UK - News - Story - Yaha virus variant heats up

With over 21,000 copies of the virus detected already it is important not to overreact. If you have a fairly current version of Norton, McAfee etc. then you will be protected, but if in doubt then select the update option on you AV (anti-virus) software.

For a virus to infect your system it must first get access to your system. This can happen in different ways, and for each method of infection there is a way of protecting. Real-Time scanning is the most common method of detection and is the best way of ensuring a clean system. Every time a program attempts to access any file on the computer it is compared to a list of know threats. If it is a virus then the file action is cancelled and the file might be deleted or quarantined. If the file contains information, e.g. a Word document,  then the scanner might be able to disinfect the file for you.

A second method of infection is through your email system as an attachment. If you think of an email as a postcard, then the attachment is a parcel attached to it. If someone places a parcel on your doorstep and you weren't expecting it then would you open it? (especially if it was ticking!!!) An attachment is safe until it is run, and unfortunately the security in early versions of Outlook Express (the email client installed with windows) had a few cracks in it, and attachments can be run unintentionally. It is for this reason that you should always keep up-to-date with email and internet software.

AV packages protect your email by 'sitting' between the your email software and your email provider
e.g. Freeserve <> AV Software <> Inbox
where they monitor emails and can remove suspect attachments leaving a note to explain their actions. They also monitor emails sent out by you in a similar manner.

If you want to check that you AV software is working then go to www.eicar.com and there you can try to download the Eicar test virus. This simple triggers your AV software into reporting that the Eicar test virus has been detected. If you want a further test then try sending it in an email to yourself (now there's a challenge).

Software Upgrades

As mentioned previously software need to be upgraded to fix problems and to add new features. In an ideal world all upgrades would be free, although some are.

I recently had a problem with a version of a graphics package running under Windows Me. The main problem was that the software was written at a time when scanners connected through the printer cables, digital cameras cost thousands of pounds and a typical PC was running windows 95. There were patches which could have got some of the features working, but it was a lot easier to buy a newer version of the software.

When you buy a piece of software (or get it supplied with your computer) you are paying for a license to use the software. Some software comes as a full retail product with a box and a manual, while other software comes as an OEM (own equipment manufacturer) version which is preinstalled on you machine (like Windows). In general you can install retail software on one computer that you are using while OEM software must stay with the machine on which it was first installed.

For upgrade software the license includes the original version. So if you have Microsoft Office 97 and then you upgraded to Office 2000, and then to Office XP, you are still only allowed to use one version of Microsoft Office on one machine and you are not allowed to use the other versions. Each upgrade has conditions and checks to see that you have the correct previous version before you install it. e.g. Windows 95 will not upgrade to Windows XP.

20 Years of the Internet

On 1 January 1983 Arpanet started using the TCP/IP Protocol, which is the language common to all machine on the internet. Arpanet, the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, was commissioned by the US Department of Defence to research into networking and their first Node (computer) was connected on the 2nd September 1969.

In 1983 the total number of machines connected was between 200 and 500. This has been growing every year and the estimate for summer 2002 was 162,128,493.

The World Wide Web is a different system which sits 'on-top' of the internet. The web started in 1993 and has grown to over 40,000 sites in just 10 years. For more numbers (and some pretty graphs) take a look at Hobbes' Internet Timeline

Latest Trivia

Do you know the difference between your octothorpe and your ampersand, your pling from your query: www.tuxedo.org/~esr/jargon/html/entry/ASCII.html

SHOULD you accidentally toast the new year in antifreeze tonight, donít panic. The correct antidote is plenty of good Scotch whisky: www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-528566,00.html


The contents of this newsletter are for information only. The views expressed are those of the editor on the date of publication and reflect the current state of technology at that date.

This document may not be distributed without the permission of the editor unless it is complete and without alterations of any kind.


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Updated: 07 Oct 2003

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