Thursday, November 18, 2004

A Necessary Precaution

At a business meeting tonight, sitting across from some wonderful people, I was thinking about the power of networking and the reliance on person-to-person communication even in today's fast paced world. Computers emulate this human life form with the electronic version of neighborhood chats, friends helping friends, and people learning from each other.

Much has been written about Windows SP2, and I've posted a few related articles here is my blog. Common wisdom is that the Microsoft patch is essential for all XP users, but that some precautions are required.

What does this mean for you?
Read what your neighbors are saying at or

A recent survey compiled by, with over 3,000 site visitors who own WinXP and have installed Service Pack 2 on their machines led to these results:

" ... Service Pack 2 is an important upgrade with many desirable features, especially for the security-minded. If you follow Microsoft's installation guidelines and check the lists of known conflicts in advance, you'll probably get through the experience unscathed -- or at worst have to overcome only mildly irritating conflicts.

Percentage survey respondents who installed SP2: 62%
Percentage of those who had no problems: 74%
Percentage who reported mild problems: 10.3%
Moderate problems: 9%
Severe problems: 4%
Most common problem: Malfunctioning software
Favorite new feature in SP2: Pop-up blocking
Least favorite: New security features that conflict with 3rd-party security software ",aid,117990,pg,2,00.asp

So if you have a problem you'll be in the minority, but check the sites listed above for solutions to common problems. Most problems I've seen at Computer Clarity are firewall conflicts or Norton being disabled by Microsoft. Both are fairly easy to resolve with a little research.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Music Downloads & Spyware

One reason to avoid the "free" music download sites, like Kazaa and Limewire, is because you're almost certain to be plagued with spyware on your computer if you use those sites to download. When you agree to the license to use their software for free, you are also agreeing to let companies plant information on your computer, and even use your computer for their own purposes.

Legitimate alternatives are being launched all the time. Here's a brief update on two.

1. Best Buy, the retailer, advertises Napster subscriptions at only $16.99. This includes a two month subscription and ten prepaid downloads. Offering over one million tracks of music, and additional prepaid download cards, it may be the holiday solution for a teenager and the end of spyware on your computer.

You can help your teenager avoid illegal music copying, and teach them to use their downloads for good music they really want, instead of downloading megabytes of junk just because they think it is free. Free has a price.

2. Dell Computer Corp. reports that calls for tech support have increased dramatically because spyware makes computers inoperable. While they are not responsible for spyware, they have been advising customers to download solutions, such as the AdAware and SpyBot products used and recommended by Computer Clarity.

Dell has now become a partere in an Internet safety organization. Take a look at the Internet Education Foundation at for video tutorials and tips to prevent spyware.

Why does Dell care? In the last 18 months, their tech support calls related to spyware have jumped from 2% to 20%. That illustrates how the magnitutde of spyware has reached outrageous proportions, and why large vendors of hardware, software, and high speed connections are beginning to offer assistance to users.