Weekend Show 22 April 2002

Tips & Hints

Posted 26 April 2002

On the April 22 Weekend spot we re-visited spyware and the twist that the Kazaa/Altnet "sneakware" has presented. Our callers covered uninstall programs, spyware and missing e-mails.

Sneakware, where less than desirable software sneaks onto your computer along with useful programs, is a continuing irritant. It’s not just restricted to free software either, more than a few times we’ve found commercial products have snuck something into their package.

Usually the sneakware reports your computing habits back to head office. Altnet, the software bundled with Kazaa, has gone one step further by using your computer’s spare processing power. This has been done before by the SETI project, but SETI@home was open about what it does.

Apart from using your computer to do work for other people, it could affect your Internet bill. If you have a broadband connection Altnet may push your usage over the download limit, leaving you with a big bill. This is another reason why it is a good idea to uninstall unwanted software and having a firewall.

Uninstalling software
Despite the warnings, people will download undesirable programs, Greg wanted to know what you can do about them. Are uninstaller programs any good?

The problem with uninstaller programs is that they take a snapshot of the system at a given point. So if you go back six months, you will find you have lost all the programs and settings you have changed in the meantime.

Our advice is to use one of these programs, or a cloning program like Ghost, to take a snapshot of your computer when you first set it up. Once you have all the settings correct, create a restore point or drive image and save that along with your data backups.

Of course, it’s a good idea to run an uninstaller program while you install some free or trial software just in case it doesn’t work out.

After installing a firewall program, Peter found warnings of being accessed by sites from all over the world. After running a cleaning program he found they stopped.

This is classic spyware behaviour. Who knows why these sites were querying Peter’s computer? This is why having a good firewall program is useful. At the very least you will be informed of the activity.

Lost e-mails
Evelyn found her e-mail program is not receiving e-mails. At first we thought this problem was in Netscape Communicator, perhaps her mail settings had been set incorrectly. But on researching the query we couldn’t find any such problem.

Some listeners have suggested it could be some e-mail filtering. But this wouldn’t result in the mail being left on the server.

We’d suggest upgrading the Netscape or trialling a different e-mail program such as Eudora or Outlook Express to see if the problem goes away. If it doesn’t then the ISP has a problem.

Because we were running a little late, we only got through three calls. If you missed out, our next spot is 10.30am on 26 May, 2002. Please e-mail if you want to be informed of upcoming information and radio spots.

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