Friday, March 31, 2006

A word from the wise

Steve is a good friend of mine who I've known around 20 years. It's not often he issues some advice like this, but when he does I take it to heart since he's one of my go-to people when my computer problems start getting serious.

Spyware is a serious problem, and just this morning I was fighting it trying to get some stuff done. Here's an email he sent out today that I really liked.

Give me a day or two and I'll try and link everything up. For now you can Google these titles and find them.

I can't tell you how many people I've had to help with their spyware infested computers at home. This problem eclipses all other problems. In the course of helping these folks I've built up a check list that seems to work and doesn't cost anything. I thought I'd share it...

1. Use Mozilla Firefox instead of Internet Explorer. Use Internet Explorer only when necessary. The latest version of Firefox works on 99% of sites and is much much less prone to Spyware. Firefox is also a fantastic browser when you spruce it up with Extensions. Extensions is a whole other list that I won't get into here but trust me, you can turn Firefox into something that makes Internet Explorer look pathetic. P.S. Firefox won PC Magazine's product of the year for 2005.

2. Use Mozilla Thunderbird instead of Outlook Express for your email needs. Thunderbird protects you from ActiveX attacks that happen in Outlook Express and you can block images by default and handle junk mail. Thunderbird does everything that Outlook Express does and more.

3. Patch your Windows to the latest patch level. Most problems with Spyware are related to Internet Explorer, but not all. Patching is always a good idea.

4. Use antivirus software that also blocks Spyware. Two products that are free are AVAST and AVG. Avast is my favorite.

5. Scan your PC with several free anti-spyware tools (don't use just one). I use Ad-Aware, Spybot Search & Destroy, SpywareBlaster and Windows Defender (beta product from Microsoft). Here are some details on the products:
a) Ad-Aware - the personal version is free. It's great for cleaning up spyware but it doesn't protect you from getting them.
b) Spybot Search & Destroy - free for personal use. This cleans spyware and also protects you if you use "Immunizations" (which protect you from some websites).
c) SpywareBlaster - the free version requires you to download updates manually but it helps with spyware removal and protects you actively.
d) Windows Defender (beta) - This Microsoft product will be part of the upcoming Windows Vista. It's purpose is to scan for and actively protect you from spyware.

6. Hide your Internet Explorer and Outlook Express icons so you (or anyone else) are tempted to click on them (after replacing them with Firefox and Thunderbird).

7. Teach your whole family (and anyone else using your computer) to "just so no" when they get prompted on various websites to install any software. Kids love to visit sites like "Playstation codes and cheats" that are riddled with spyware. This is especially true with boys. I thank God I had a daughter. :)

8. Make friends with a good computer geek and buy him/her lunch. I personally like Herrera's, Empress Cafe and Ton's Mongolian Grill. :)

Hope this helps. I also hope that the next version of Windows is a lot less vulnerable to spyware.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

It's Raining It's Pouring . . .

I cannot believe the amount of rain that has fallen in the last 24 hours. I love rainy mornings, especially ones that I can sleep a little late on, but this has got to be some kind of record. Spring Break is slowly slipping away and I look at my to do list realizing that my plans and reality didn't quite jibe, once again.

So the post isn't a total loss, and to recall drier times, here is a picture of Spooky, one of our cats. She was a stray that followed my wife home one day and stayed. She's fun, a jumper, and has a stuffed frog fixation that we haven't quite figured out yet.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

It's done

Amy's funeral was today. I got through it without losing it, but when setting up for the event yesterday, it felt wrong. I've done hundreds of these events in my 16 years of working there, but this is the first time that it felt completely wrong, like a bad dream.

Last week things were fine. I was getting ready for (and looking forward to) Spring Break. Last Thursday I was prepping for class. Today I was mourning a friend who hadn't even turned 30. Last Thursday I was business as usual. Today I was trying recall the last time I'd seen her. What was the last thing I said to her? Amy was such a normal part of life around there that when she left us, it was as if the sun wasn't going to come up ever again. When working on my class today I still had to fight the urge to pick up the phone and call her for some help.

I know that with time all wounds will heal, but this one may take awhile. Tonight my wife and I sat out on the deck while I cooked burgers on the grill and we talked. Life was slowly returning to normal. I'm lucky to have my wife. She knows me better than I know myself most times, and she's good therapy. She's also one of a kind.

To quote one of my favorite comedians:

I shall pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again!

I realize that someone may have said it before Jerry Lewis, but I'll let the attribution and the sentiment stand. Amy, you were one of a kind, and I'm a better person for having known you.

And to my wife, thanks for getting me through this. You were there when I needed you, and I'm lucky to have you in my life. I love you

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Amy Walker: I’ll miss you

I realize this is an odd post, since I've been out for the last month, but I felt the need to do something constructive tonight.

I found out a few hours ago that a close friend of mine passed away suddenly. The actual cause of death is still to be determined, but I’ll miss her nonetheless. She died way too young, and had a lot ahead of her.

I'd appreciate it if all of you would keep her family in your prayers.