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Tuesday, June 23, 2009
As of today Microsoft has made available a Beta edition of security software that will be free for use. From what I've read so far it has a very light foot print on the system and ranks high in how well it works at prevention. The only catch to download this Beta software is you need a Windows Live ID of some sort. That can be a Hot Mail account or an MSN account and the like. Also be warned that MS is only making a limited number of downloads available of 75,000 so they may go quick. But they may also pull that limit or simply stated that to get people to jump on the Beta bandwagon so it can get tested. Anyway if you are not scared of Beta software then give it a try and see how it works for you. This software works in XP/Vista/Windows 7 32-bit and Vista/Windows 7 64-bit.
Just for test reasons I do plan to install it and see how well it works. I don’t see me changing my habits and the way I do things as far as anti-virus protection goes. But I think it is great the Microsoft is making available free software to those who do need or want it and use it.
Just remember this is Beta so it may break your PC. But my experience with Beta software from Microsoft is it works pretty well and the risk of a broken PC is very low. And as I always say if you are not comfortable doing any of these things I post then by all means don’t! I just wanted to get this posted before the downloads are all gone. If you can’t get the download let me know via email, link in profile.
Update: Sorry the download is dead already, which is too bad. But I’m sure if you wanted it you could find a friend who has copies of the installs. Maybe if you emailed them they could tell you where to find the installs now.
As promised I did install this Beta software and was rather surprised at a few things. First it does in fact have a very light foot print on system resources. I don’t notice any longer boot times or any lagging of my machine at all. The first thing MSE wanted to do after install was update itself and run a quick scan, which is normal. During the quick scan it even scanned my network shares which was all part of the default settings of the install. So to find that it found my network shares and made it part of the scan by default was impressive.
What happen next I wasn’t quite ready for. Now I’ve said I haven’t had a virus in years and this is technically true. But this software found a ticking time bomb in a file that I have had since 06/08/06 but had never opened. In a WMA file (a music file) that a good friend had gave me back then had DRM (digital rights management) embedded in it, which isn’t bad (more or less) in of itself. But in order to play this file, if I would have opened it, the first thing it would have done was go on-line to download “the rights” to play this file. I bet you can guess what was going to happen next. Yup, the site that the embedded link pointed to was a known Trojan site.
If you followed the above link you can see this file was going to try and do just what I talked about in my last post. Basically it was going to try an trick me into installing the Trojan by making me think I needed to download “the rights” to view that file. I might have even done it except for the fact I didn’t expect it to want to download a program just to view a file. In simple terms this software found just a LINK that was embedded in a file that pointed to a known Trojan site. Impressive. But my point is valid and goes to show just how sneaky these virus writer can be.
I know for a FACT that file has been scanned in the past by other anti-virus software and none of them ever found this. I’ve had that file for three friggin’ years waiting to turn my PC into a zombie! Impressive in my book.
Monday, June 15, 2009
I had a post awhile back in which I stated I don’t run Antivirus software and don’t get infected. Someone wanted to know how I do this and what steps I take to prevent virus from getting to me. It’s not really all that hard and just takes a little bit of your time to set up your PC so it is more secure and the most important part it takes just COMMON sense. Now before someone asks “how do you know your not infected if you don’t have antivirus software?” It’s simple to anyone who has ever dealt with Malware, your PC does things it never did before and nags you about things it never did before. Trust me you know when you’re infect, your PC is just plain flakey. Have I ever had a virus? Of course. But since I’ve done what follows and gotten smarter about computers I haven’t had a virus in years.
Why don’t I use anti virus software? I don’t like the impact it has on the performance of my PC. I’m a Power user and extract ever last cycle of the CPU to get the maximum performance out of it. The last thing I want is some software hampering the hardware I spent good money on slowing my system down. Plus I see no need to pay for something to protect me from myself. That is not to say all this type of software is bad. Some have less impact then others. It also has it’s place if you have kids who use your PC which is all the more reason to do the following and use anti virus software.
Disclaimer: If you don’t feel comfortable making any of these changes by all means don’t and keep using what is working for you. But if on the other hand you have had to deal with the Pain In The Ass virus/spyware then give these sound principles some thought.
First thing is patch patch patch. Turn on Windows Update and use it. If you don’t set it to install automatic updates at least set it to notify you of updates. This way you can go through the list of what Microsoft wants to install and choose accordingly. For the most part there is no reason to not install these updates. The first Tuesday of every month is Patch Tuesday. Microsoft issues patches every month at this time and sometime more often then that with what is termed “zero day flaws” where a new bug is found and patched quickly if it is a major hole.
The next and best thing you can do is stop using your everyday Desktop in the Administrator account profile. By default this is the account created the first time you fire up your new computer. I’m not going to get into why Microsoft still thinks this is the way to do it but it needs to be changed. So the first thing you do is create a new user for you, and anyone else that will be using this PC for that matter, and give that account “Limited User” status. This is easily done by going in to Control Panel and adding a New User and following the prompts. Once this is done Log In with your STRONG PASSWORD using that account. There really is no reason to run as the Administrator unless there’s a real reason you need to be in the guts of the system. Unless you are a Power User and, even if your are, you can do everything you need to for the most part using this type of account. If you are a Power User you have no need to read any further because you already know as much or more then me already.
Several things happen when this is done. First is it isolates the “root” (read guts) of the system from the user which causes the system to start asking questions. The bad part about this is you start to see more Nag windows. The good part is you start to see more Nag windows asking for permission to change something. If you’ve done something on purpose to cause these Nag pop ups, like installing software, then you can be pretty confident that the changes you are about to make are ones you asked it to make. On the other hand if out of the blue these Nag window popped up chances are this is something you didn’t ask your PC to do and something else is trying to make the change which has the risk of being bad. Think. Did I ask my PC to do this?
The down side to this is it does take some time to get to where the system stops asking questions and stops bothering you. The up side is you learn more about what you system is trying to do and you can make proper and informed decisions accordingly. You learn when to expect these Nag windows so when they pop up out the blue it should make you raise an eyebrow and take notice. If you’ve had your system running for sometime using the Administrator account it can and will be a major pain for awhile. You will have to “import” and change a lot of your personal settings to get it back to where you were. The up side is all users can now have a system set to the way they like to use it instead the way one user has it set. All users now have there own desktop, favorites, email accounts and so on.
The simple rule here is did you do something that is calling for the change to the system? If you didn’t stop, think, read, decide.
Another common way to get infected is via email which I’m sure we’re all aware of. Here again some simple tips can save you hours of grief. Consider signing up and using a free Web based email service like Hot Mail or Yahoo or similar services. I’ve got a Excite account that I’ve had for years that I use for junk. Anytime I go to some web site that wants me to sign up and create an account that needs to send an “authorization” email to I always give this address. I don’t care how much spam this account gets since to be honest that is what it’s job is. The only time I log in to that account is when I’m looking for that email from that place. This keeps my “real” personal email address from being exposed and or sold to spammers. Can you guess how much spam I get in my real account? Yup zero, zip, zilch, nada. That Excite account on the other hand is full of it daily and I couldn’t be happier. The added bonus to this is it stops infected attachments form auto-executing in my inbox. Can you believe there was an email in this account the other day with the subject line “Open and Install the Attached File.” Believe it or not people are stupid enough to do that. Just say NO to spam. Never click a link, never click “unsubscribe to this email” because all that does is inform that in fact this is a valid email address. Another advantage of using Web based email is you can get your email from any web connect PC.
On the subject of email and attachments. Between this and using file sharing services is the simplest and quickest way to get infected second only to rouge web sites which I will get to shortly. Be leery of any and all of them. If you have someone who likes to send you funny pictures all the time chances are they are safe. There was a time when a JPEG file was one of the last safe files to open without worry, not so anymore. Just because it looks like a friend sent it doesn’t mean they did. If you have any doubt send them an email and ask then if they sent it. If it is a file type they don’t send normally then be on high alert. When I want to send a file to a friend I always send a quick email first to tell them to be looking for XX type of file.
Here is the beauty of running with a limited user account. Say you did just open that email and it was infected. What do you suppose your system is going to do? Yup it’s going to pop up a Nag window. Did you expect it to do this? For the most part you are not going to be looking at changing system files by just opening a file. So if the pop up is asking to open a program on your system to view it chances are good this was expected. But on the other hand it it wants to install something before it will allow you to view the files it’s not a good thing.
While on the subject of sending emails I got to get this pet peeve out here. Want to know the fastest way to get on fasthair’s shit list? Forward me an email with my email address in the “To” line instead of the BCC, Blind Carbon Copy and send it to everyone in your address book that I don’t know. And if you forward me a chain letter asking to find this lost kid or the like this way I’ll get real pissy quick!!! Hey I like a good laugh as the much as the next guy but just send it using BCC and Copy and Paste the funny part in a new email. I refuse to click through 20 forwarded emails just to see a photo of some dumb shit. This is email etiquette 101 and helps protect you and all of your friends email from spam botz. OK rant over, back to our a regular programming.
This type of attack is getting more and more common and even fooling friends that I know know better. The “drive by” attack. You’re cruising the web and all of sudden you get a pop up that says something to the affect of “A virus has been detected on your PC. Click here to clean your system.” For the love of God don’t do it because the only virus on your system is the one they are about to drop on your system. Your system is going to try and save you and pop up a Nag window because of this install trying to get into your system. But since you think this is something you need to do you will click Yes. This gets back to did you really expect this to happen? The only time you want to click Yes on the web is when you expect it to download or install something. Examples of this is you are a trusted site and it wants to install an add on or download a file. By trusted I mean some site like Harley Davidson’s web site or Microsoft and the like. If you are some place you’ve never been before beware. These add ons are mostly Active X type of add on which are a major security headache. Unless you have a specific need to run these add ons don’t.
Lastly I think this goes without saying but stay off the webs Red Light district. Red Light sites include porn, file sharing and warez (hacked software) sites. File sharing and warez sites are full of malware and you’re asking for trouble. If you must view these sites make and use a User Account that has no rights to install anything! Those “click here to install the viewer” are nothing but trouble. Consider these sites like you would AIDS. Nuff said?
So in review:
- Patch your system.
- Run with Limited User account and use Administrator account only when you must.
- Use Web email for all but your most personal and trusted email friends.
- Stay out of the Webs Red Light distinct. If you must go there use a even further restricted User type of accounts and DO run AV software.
- Use common sense. If your system is asking to do something did you do something you expected to see this type warning?
These are five simple easy steps to help protect and secure your system while still getting the performance you paid for out of your system.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Update: This little Road King showed up at the shop wanting to know if Whiskey wanted to go for a ride. How could he say no to such a pretty face? So I thought for a minute about where to go and came up with this little park. When the river is lower you can ride across that little dam but it doesn’t go much of anywhere. In fact it leads right in to… wait for Ms. IHG… a CORN field! The bonus of going here is I get to ride the Cummings Highway, one of my favorite roads. You might remember that name from another post I did sometime back.
A lot of people were there wetting a line but that was about it. During the hour spent enjoying the sound of the river not a single fish was pulled in. The funny part is just above this little dam I counted no less then ten fish jump out of the water. I had to teach a young dumb kid about driving fast through water when his car stalled after blasting through the water. Water drained out of this car for a half hour before it would start again. I just stood there and told him do this and do that. Hey I was off work with a cold one. No way I was going to let him ruin my peaceful time!
I hope everyone enjoys Posts From The Phone. I just like sharing some of the nice country side we get to ride in here. I do post them right from the spot they are taken at the time they are taken. Have a great weekend and I hope you get to get out for a nice ride yourselves.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
What follows is my response to a post by Dr. Wrench about tire pressure. I wanted to repost it here not because I think I know it all, but because it is very important and to the best of my knowledge accurate. Also, second only to your brakes your tires are the most important thing on your bike for your safety. This is only slightly edited because I’m too lazy to do it all again. So if it seems I’m talking to a third party it is because I was responding to a response in the good Dr’s. post. To understand this it might be worth your time to read the Dr’s. post if you haven’t done so already. With that out of the way…
I'll add my two cents here. As mentioned weight is also a factor. If you are going to be riding two up with lots of stuff (face it if your riding two up number two SHOULD be a female and they always have to bring lots of stuff) Then max out the pressure. If you read your owners manual (yah I know who does that?) it will even state this.
And Mr. Baron with all due respect you got the logic wrong. As you might know I work on Mercedes-Benz for a living. During service of these fine high performance machines I always check and set tire pressures. Each model has different settings. How do I remember all of these settings? I don't, I look in the gas door. Guess what? I quote, "for driving 100+ mph + 4PSI, for warm tires add + 4PSI."
Here is why your logic is wrong. The extra pressure actually helps the tire hold it's shape and NOT expand as much as if it had lower pressure. Just as someone else said, lower tire pressure will also affect the contact patch of the tire, i.e. the shape. Now before you say "but drag slicks only have about 5 to 6PSI" remember this, these tires are designed (Edit: and sometimes don’t last even the quarter mile because of this) to run at these pressures. Plus have you seen how that tire looks at speed? The back side (in direction of travel) is almost flat against the wheel and it has grown several inches in size. This is all the effect of low tire pressures. There is also this. Lower pressures cause higher tire temperatures too. Why? Friction. This is why properly inflated tires give you better gas mileage, less friction. Less friction equals less heat. A under inflated tire will actually fail sooner (Edit: because of heat… Ford Explore anyone?) then an over inflated tire because of high heat. Which all add up to longer tire life. So in the end, for high speed riding, max it out.
So after saying all of this can you guess where I run my tires? Yup, maxed out, 45 rear 42 front. For all of the reasons above but also because the bike does handle better and it does promote longer tire life.
Last thing for you others who don't check your tires. For the love of God please do so! Not only will it be safer for you but you will save money!
Of course your comments are always welcome.