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PC Rescue Newsletter January 2009

2009 promises to be another interesting year with the economy affecting the IT industry as much as the rest of the world. For users that means some familiar names will go out of business while others will change how they operate. Over this year we'll be discussing how you can use these changes to get more value from your computer systems.

This month's newsletter looks at one of fastest growing and most mysterious viruses we've come across. We also look at the next versions of Windows which is currently being tested. First we start with a plea for good manners and common sense.

The ettiquette of the Internet

One of the delights of producing this newsletter are the interesing and satisfying notes we get from subscribers and listeners. Sometimes we make mistakes and often readers have good suggestions on how we can do better. We value them all and hope you keep sending them.

Unfortunely not some can be downright rude.A good example was one from "Mike" whose entire email read "you'd have a lot more credibility if you fixed the first paragraph of your website".

Mike's encouraging amd constructive comment illustrates our previous discussion on Internet ettiquette and Mike reminds us again why it's important.

Remember the key rules: never write anything on the net you wouldn't like to see next to your picture on the six o'clock news and that manners go a long way. Both of these are good rules to remember off the Internet as well.

Be humble, grasshopper

Over January we had a Nightlife spot on short notice where we covered issues like spam and phishing. One of the worrying things were the callers who claimed they wouldn't be affected because they used Macs or they had friends who are computer programmers.

Sadly, they're wrong. Scams and tricks like phishing, online fraud and spam aren't restricted to any one system or group of people. If you have Internet access, you could be caught by the online scammers.

Some people also believe those who fall for these scams are simply dumb and nobody smart, like them, would fall for these tricks. That's also risky as many online frauds are elaborate and credible looking. Crooks, both on and off the Internet, are often cleverer than the rest of us.

Don't assume you're safe simply because you and your friends are smart or because you use a Mac, you still need to be on guard against online fraudsters and the tricks they use.

Computer services

Need a computer tech? We can get technicians to help you with your home and office computer problems anywhere in Australia.

If you need a new computer set up, a virus removed or would just like to make sure your computer is running as it should be, we can help you.

Call 1300 798 957 and our call centre can arrange a visit or online service.

Fifteen million computers infected by Windows worm

Where Mac users do have a right to be smug is viruses. Despite the hype from panic merchants, Mac users suffer nothing like the problems Windows users encounter from viruses and the latest worm is a corker.

The Downadup worm may not be the fastest growing virus we've ever seen but it's growth is pretty impressive. Over the Australia Day weekend it's estimated over six million more computers were infected around the world.

Most worrying about Downadup is we don't know what the writers are up to. Some versions have crashed networks when they have tried to guess passwords, but most versions are just patiently waiting and spreading.

Our protecting your computer checklist is a good start to protecting yourself. Given the worm exploits an already fixed hole in Windows, visiting Windows Update is a good first step to avoiding this problem.

Fake software audits

Courtesy of the Whirlpool website, we're hearing reports of fake software audits. These are a variation on the "fake invoice" scam where a letter looking suspiciously like an invoice appears in your letterbox.

In reality, these are just a bluff hoping to either scare or fool business owners into paying for something they don't need. If you recieve one of these letters contact the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to make a complaint.

If you are concerned your business may have pirate software or may be in breach of vendors' licences, then the Business Software Alliance has a set of tools and checklists you can use to ensure you aren't at risk from an audit.

Incidentally, if you do receive a letter from the BSAA treat it seriously. They are a legitimate representative of the big software vendors and have been involved in serious legal action against software theives.

Computer books

The new edition of Internet for Dummies is on the shelves. Look for the Australian edition at your local bookshop.

Who says you can't get a good computer manual? Our Dummies books are available online. If you want to learn more about your computer, we have the answers.

The current version of PCs for Dummies covers Vista computers and the earlier version covers Windows XP. So we can help you get the most from both versions of Windows.

A tidal wave of rejected messages

We've had a few people asking why they are receiving dozens, sometimes hundreds of bounced email messages. Many people are concerned they may have a virus.

While this can be a symptom, it's generally not the case. Modern viruses have a nasty little trick of spreading by emailing themselves to every address they find on an infected computer. To make the infected email look more credible, they choose one of the hundreds of email addresses they find on the computer and use it as the return address.

If that return email address happens to be yours then bad luck, you are about to get buried by rejection messages.

Unfortunately there's little you can do about it, you can use mail rules to block them but that's not particularly reliable and may block legitimate returned messages. So we recommend just grinning and bearing it until the storm passes.

Windows 7 beta released

The successor to Windows Vista has been released for Beta testing. This means keen people are working as unpaid crash test dummies with the trial version of the next Windows.

So far the reports have been fairly good about the new system, but for the moment most users should stick with what is working for them. Because beta software is still in the test phase, it's risky to trust valuable data and important systems to something that may not work.

We'll be watching Windows 7 closely for the rest of this year, but our standard advice of not trusting a new software product until the first service pack is released stands so we can't see recommending Windows 7 until at least Easter 2010.

Jargon of the month: What is a blog?

It's hard to believe we haven't answered this question before. Basically a blog is just a diary put on the Internet, the name comes from Web Blog.

Blogging has been around for since the early days of the net. The founders of Lonely Planet and O'Reilly Press, Tony Wheeler and Tim O'Reilly, claim to have had the first blog when they wrote an online diary about their roadtrip across the US on the then new World Wide Web in 1995.

It was the arrival of easy to use Web2.0 tools (a term invented by Tim O'Reilly) that saw online diaries explode in number.

Today blogging tools are so easy to use they have become the most popular way of publishing websites and tools like Wordpress and Blogger are free and have a vast array of tools for the would be web publisher.

If you want to try your hand at blogging, visit either Wordpress or Blogger and set up a free account and website.

ABC Radio Spots

The next Nightlife is scheduled for Friday, January 30 at 10pm where we'll be talking about using social webtools for business. If the cricket is on, the show will be held over until the following Friday.

Unfortunately we weren't able to get a newsletter out in time for the show we did on January 15. We also post the details on the front page of the website before the show. Generally if you miss a program, it well be accessible from the Nightlife website for a week afterwards.

As yet we don't have a date for the next Sydney 702 Weekend program and when we do, it will be up on the website as soon as we know.

If you'd like to offer any suggestions about topics or improvements to the shows please contact us.

Next month on the website

2009 promises to be a challenging year for homes and businesses. For most of this year, we'll be looking at how you can use technology to meet these challenges.

In February, we'll discuss how to bust the recession with cheap computers and free software. If you have a topic you'd like us to discuss on the websites, Smart Company blog or the radio spots please contact us.

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©Technology Publishing Australia, 2008