ABC Nightlife 19 April 2002

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26 April 2002

The 19 April Nightlife theme was viruses, what they are and how to avoid them. We also quickly touched on the domain renewal scam and the Kazaa/Altnet "sneakware". We got through quite a few calls as well.

Much of what we discussed about viruses is covered in our Virus Watch section. The important thing to remember is that we are all at risk from viruses. Make sure your anti-virus definitions are up-to-date and you have installed any available updates to your operating system or software.

Some people cause as much damage spreading virus myths. Just as you should think before opening a strange looking e-mail, you should also check the facts before passing on the latest virus warning.

Viruses are not the only threat to your data. For every computer that loses data because of viruses, dozens lose their data because a hard drive’s died or someone deleted wrong files. Your data is irreplaceable, that is why you must back it up.

It’s not just viruses you need to be careful of running on your computer. The Alnet/Kazaa "sneakware" shows that you have to be careful of downloading free software. Software developers have to eat as well, so they have to be getting some return for their efforts. The question is how much is that free software going to cost you.

We also discussed the domain scam. The ACCC has now stepped in and commenced action against the main culprit. Hopefully we’ll be seeing less of this sharp practice in the future.

Korean Spam
For some time Alan has been receiving Korean e-mail spam. Somehow Alan’s e-mail address has found its way onto a Korean spam list. Regardless of where the spam list is, the same advice applies; never reply to spam. At least receiving the Spam in Korean makes it easy to identify.

Is it safe to use e-mail?
Julius asked whether it is worthwhile using e-mail with the all the threats to your computer. The simple answer is yes, e-mail is probably the "killer app" that made the Internet essential to businesses. To do without e-mail would be to cripple your net usage. Like "free software", we have to accept there are costs with e-mail and deal with those costs.

Slow loading Outlook Express
Mark’s Outlook Express was loading slowly. This is almost certainly a corrupt pstores.exe problem. Microsoft have a solution posted in their knowledge base. We’ve seen this problem start appearing in Outlook 2002 as well

Strange date and times
When a computer jumps to 2006 on it’s own you have to be suspicious. When we encounter a problem like Graham’s we suspect the motherboard. Unfortunately if it an older computer, replacing the motherboard may be expensive or impossible.

Opera Browser
It’s easy to forget that you don’t have to use Microsoft products. James reminded us that the Opera browser is an alternative to Internet Explorer and less prone to the security bugs of the MS product.

Using a non-Microsoft product doesn’t make you invulnerable however. All software has bugs or features with unintended consequences and Opera is no different. All computer users, whether you use a PC or Mac, Windows or Linux, Internet Explorer or Netscape, should be aware that there are bugs that can bring you unstuck.

Be cautious, keep your anti-virus up-to-date, install a firewall and don’t assume that e-mail or disk from your grandmother is safe to open.

Illegal operations
Bernie has one of the most frustrating problems on a Windows computer: Illegal operations. Illegal operations are a catchall term for all sorts of problems. Tracking the cause down can be time-consuming and difficult.

Some solutions include cleaning up your computer, disabling power saving and screen savers. Another is to uninstall all unnecessary software. If you are running Windows 98 or later, disable everything that starts up with the computer and see if that makes a difference.

Worms and viruses
Peta wanted to know the difference between viruses and worms. This is something we’ve covered in the Virus Watch section. For most users you don’t need to worry too much about it.

Disconnecting from the net
Difficulties with Internet connections are one of the most common problems we encounter. Stella was finding she was being disconnected every four minutes unless she printed something. This sounds like a auto-disconnect or power saving problem. Checking both those Control Panels may find the answer.

We covered a lot of ground in the show, but as usual, couldn’t get through all the callers. We don’t know when the next spot will be but if you’d like to be informed when we are next on, please send us an e-mail.

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