The AnswersThatWork Blog


Monday, 28th August 2006

AntivirusGolden

Or is it  AntivirusGold.com,  or  Antivirus-Gold.com,  or  AntiVirGold Inc ???

Isn't it strange how things happen in twos and threes sometimes....  One day you're fine, then on the next you suddenly suffer from vertigo just sitting in your chair, or lying in bed.  You are doing absolutely nothing and yet the whole world keeps swirling around you, you are constantly dizzy, the screen you're looking at keeps swinging from right to left, you are unable to read anything, it's all moving, you can hardly walk without the help of a friend or an adjacent wall, the constant dizziness makes you vomit, you get headaches, you're even dizzy just trying to sleep !  It's scary, very scary, it's serious, it's a living nightmare.

Ambulance to the hospital, endless tests, including an immediate catscan (that in itself is scary!), and, eventually, you're diagnosed with BPPV, or Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo, or Ear Crystals.  Benign what ???  Ear what ???  You've never heard of such an ailment.  The only thing you remember is that the hospital consultant told you, thankfully, that you do not have a brain tumour, that it is benign, and that it is curable.  After initial treatment, and under heavy sedative and dizziness blocking pills, you finally have your first night of proper restful sleep.

On the next day, concerned calls from friends, so you tell them what happened to you.  And to your immense surprise, one of them tells you he's had it, friends of friends have had it, an uncle has had it, and there are more.... BPPV.  You'd never heard of it, and now that you've got it, you learn the whole world knows of it and knows someone who's had it.

Isn't it strange how things happen in twos and threes sometimes....?  Well, just as with BPPV, on the back of the infamous  WinAntivirus Pro 2006  we now get  AntivirusGolden.

If it weren't for the fact that some innocent regular non-technical users have already got caught paying $49.50 for this conware (software that cons you into buying it), we would put this one into the "Hilarious software" category.

The hilarious part :  the website calls the product  AntivirusGolden,  the properties of the program itself tell you it belongs to  AntivirusGold.com,  but there is no website to be found at AntivirusGold.com;  the License Agreement mentions  Antivirus-Gold.com  which takes you to a holding page where there is nothing about AntivirusGolden;  and, finally, the "Company Info" page mentions yet another name,  AntiVirGold Inc.  Absolutely hilarious – do these guys, registered with a bogus Australian address but operating from servers in the Ukraine, know who they really want to be !!?

The con :  you can download an evaluation which after installation immediately starts a scan of your PC and, low and behold, pops up an extremely alarming screen telling you you are infected with Spyware.  Guess what happens next :  you've got it – to get rid of the infection you have to pay for the full product, $49.50 altogether.  And the spyware that AntivirusGolden supposedly found ?  This one is easy :  AntivirusGolden picks up the first two cookies it finds in your Cookies folder and tells you they are spyware.  We ran that test at least six times, on Windows 2000 and Windows XP, and it's the same every time – whatever the first two cookies are in alphabetical order in your cookies folder, the software will take those two and tell you you have spyware.  Unreal.

Another one for the Trash Can.



Sunday, 27th August 2006

WinAntivirus Pro 2006 (software you do not want!)

Earlier this week we decided to investigate WinAntivirus Pro 2006.

Our database started alerting us daily that this program was coming up increasingly in tasks submitted by our TUT users.  What was puzzling us, given all the TUT users out there, was that it only started being submitted to us about two months ago, and it is only in the last three weeks that the number of submissions started reaching significant levels.

The other thing that was puzzling us was that we'd never heard of this antivirus program as a significant antivirus program.  Given all the submissions that have hit our database daily over the years, this was very strange.  Now, at this juncture, we had to be careful to remember to be fair and objective :  after all, when we ourselves first appeared on the scene in 2000, everyone said "Answers who ???".  Thus, mindful of our own history, it was important that we treated WinAntivirus with respect – for all we knew this could be the next Norton or McAfee in the making.

So, off to the Test Room where we decided we would install the product on an actual XP partition rather than on a Virtual PC image – antivirus programs scan boot sectors, so we wanted to give WinAntivirus a real boot sector to scan.  First off, a backup of the XP partition – if you saw how easily one can get infected with some of the websites or products we test, you'd be horrified, so we always backup entire partitions before testing, and then restore after testing.

We first took a trip to the WinAntivirus website :  it looked professional enough, on a par with a number of other long established antivirus vendors.

Next, we Googled WinAntivirus.  This was not so good, it was downright bad in fact :  accusations of malware, of entrapment through web page popups followed by virus scans with countless false positives, of total inability to uninstall the software, etc..., etc.  It really wasn't good.  However, in the interest of fairness we continued :  the web is great, but sometimes there can be a lot of unfounded bad mouthing against newcomers like WinAntivirus, so we still had to check for ourselves.

So, our next step, hit DOWNLOAD.  Ahhh, there is no evaluation available.  Not a problem, and not a concern either – they have every right not to offer an evaluation, Symantec and McAfee do not !  So, we readied the credit card to purchase the product.  Before that, however, our customary look at the Terms, License Agreement, and Privacy policies.  That is where it all stopped !!!  We never got to buy the software as what we found in the Terms of Purchase was beyond belief.

"If you think that there is an error on your account, including an incorrect amount or unauthorized transaction, you agree to contact winantivirus.com immediately. In the event that you contact winantivirus.com within two business days after learning of the loss or theft, you will only be liable for $50.00 or the amount of unauthorized transactions that occur before notice of the loss or theft. If you fail to notify winantivirus.com within two business days after learning of the loss or theft, your liability shall not exceed the lesser of $500.00 or the sum of (i) $50.00 or the amount of unauthorized transactions that occur within the two business days, whichever is less; and (ii) the amount of unauthorized transactions that occur after the close of two business days and before notice to winantivirus.com. If you fail to report an unauthorized transaction that appears on a periodic statement within 60 days of your financial institutions transmittal of such a periodic statement, you liability shall not exceed the amount of the unauthorized transactions that occur after the close of the 60 days and before the notice to winantivirus.com. Upon proper notification, winantivirus.com, in its sole discretion may issue a credit to your checking account. winantivirus.com may be contacted at: support@winantivirus.com; www.winantivir
No Spam. winantivirus.com will immediately terminate any account that it believes, in its sole discretion, is transmitting or is otherwise connected with any unsolicited bulk email. In addition, because damages are often difficult to quantify, if actual damages cannot be reasonably calculated then you agree to pay winantivirus.com liquidated damages of $5 for each piece of spam or unsolicited bulk email transmitted from or otherwise connected with your account, otherwise you agree to pay winantivirus.com's actual damages, to the extent such actual damages can be reasonably calculated. Such payment may be deducted directly from any monies owed to you from winantivirus.com.".

We have never ever ever seen clauses like this from any reputable software company.  One should NEVER buy software from a company which has clauses like these !

Let us explain the above paragraphs :

Paragraph 1 above :  What this is saying, effectively, is that if you notice an error on your bill indicating that WinSoftware have taken incorrect amounts from your credit card, or that they have taken money which they should not have taken in the first place, then you are still liable at the very least for $50 or for the very errors you are complaining about, regardless of how the issue is eventually resolved !  In our view, this is a license to somehow, accidentally, make mistakes and accidentally take money from your credit card We do not know if this has ever happened but, in our view, that is irrelevant – you should simply not buy or use software from a company with such Terms & Conditions.

Paragraph 2 above :  This paragraph is just as bad and is absolutely extraordinary. WinSoftware have actually made an interesting translation mistake in the last sentence of this paragraph (winantivirus.com is based in the Ukraine), but if we go by the intended meaning, this paragraph is effectively saying that if WinSoftware (winantivirus.com) were to receive spam from you, then you agree to them charging you $5 for every single piece of spam emanating from your email address ("account") !  This is an unbelievable clause.  This is another license :  one to either deposit spyware on your PC which will send spam to winantivirus.com, or to simply use your email address (which they now have on their records since you purchased the software!) from some PC supposedly not connected to winantivirus.com, and send spam from that PC, using your email address, to winantivirus.com.  Again, we do not know if this has ever happened, but, once again, no one should buy from a company which goes through the process of including a clause like this.

So, there you are, our worldwide web is full of surprises, most of them are great surprises, but, once in a while, there are some shockers like WinSoftware's Terms of Purchasing.



Friday, 25th August 2006

Mice and Keyboards

We all touch type here at AnswersThatWork.  Company Policy :  since we use computers all day long, it is company policy for all new employees to learn to touch-type before they're allowed to do any useful work.  As a result the subject of keyboards and mice is an ever present subject here since we build, supply, and maintain PCs and networks, and our suppliers are constantly either trying to interest us in new brands and models of keyboards and mice, or changing their stocks altogether.

So, let's talk keyboards and mice today.

First, a little sadness :  does anyone know what has happened to the  Mitsumi ECM-S6702 PS2 Optical  mouse ?  That mouse is a top class mouse, brilliantly priced, fantastically responsive, it feels great, whether used left-handed or right-handed, and it has a nice positive click action.  We love it.  We're down to our last three on the shelves and it has been impossible to get stock since March.  Goodbye Mitsumi ECM-S6702, we loved you !  Misty Eyes....

Still, Life moves on, and after trying endless alternatives for our beloved Mitsumi mice, including some absolutely terrible brands (we simply cannot believe that the designers of some of the mice we tried actually use those mice on a daily basis themselves, impossible!),  we discovered a gem of a mouse from a source we did not initially consider because of past expensive pricing :  Microsoft !  The  Microsoft N71-00008 Black optical USB/PS2  mouse is almost almost as good as our revered but now departed Mitsumi mouse.  It's a little bigger than the Mitsumi, but apart from that it has the same qualities as the Mitsumi. If you've had mice problems and you are looking for a no frills, functional but aesthetically pleasing, glider of a mouse, then this excellently priced gem is the business.

Don't get too excited Microsoft, hold your horses, because we're now moving on to.... keyboards !

We cannot stand Microsoft keyboards. In the interest of fairness, let's be specific :  as fast touch-typists, 80wpm to 105wpm, we absolutely cannot stand Microsoft keyboards.  We bought 40 recently and had to put some on eBay two weeks later.  Microsoft keyboards have a very good feel, they type reasonably fast but not fast enough for the fastest of us;  they are solid, very solid in fact, but, for us, the one overriding sticking point is that block of 6 keys which comprises the following keys :  Insert, Delete, Home, End, Page Up, Page Down.  While the rest of the keyboard manufacturing world has had those keys in the de facto horizontal layout standard for centuries (well, years!), Microsoft have gone on their own with a vertical layout which confuses any fast-typing IT consultant who moves from client to client effortlessly till he/she comes to a Microsoft keyboard :  suddenly a Page Down becomes a Delete, an Insert becomes an End, a Delete takes you to the top of the document – it is total hell.  Never has a range of keyboards attracted such hatred in our office.  Microsoft : Please sort this out – on this one please stick to the de facto standard as you're losing the hearts of the fast typing IT consultants....

Now to the good stuff, the really good stuff.  In-house we use a very specific model of keyboard.  In our view it is the best fast-typist keyboard ever made :  the  KeyTronic KT2001 Pro.  It's an oversize keyboard, so you do need a large desk, but that's okay, we've all got oversize desks here.  It's a keyboard engineered to perfection for fast typists, the shape, the slant, even the curvature of the keyboard, the spaces between the keys, the feel, the sturdiness – everything is beautiful about it.  And to top this, it has a 5-year warranty, yes, 5 years !  It is an expensive keyboard, so it is not one you can bundle in thoughtlessly with a PC as it costs the best part of $60 to $80.  The bad news :  it is no longer being made.  Just like our beloved Mitsumi mouse, it is no longer being made.  We're OK, as as soon as we realised it was becoming difficult to buy this keyboard, we stocked up plenty.  As for you, if you are a fast touch typist and have been hankering after a top class keyboard, check eBay and Google to see if you can get one of the last unsold specimens – you will not regret it.  The name again :  KeyTronic KT2001 Pro.



Tuesday, 15th August 2006

Nokia 6234 vs Nokia 6233

Okay, here is the scoop.  You're eligible for an upgrade of your cell phone (mobile phone), you're with Vodafone, you want a business class phone which looks good, which has a good range of features, which is not necessarily the best but which has all the essentials for the self-respecting businessman and businesswoman :  3G, Tri-band so you can use it in the US, Europe, Asia, and Australia, large screen, 2MP camera, can work as an MP3 player, and has stereo speakers for hands-free use on your desk, you want Nokia and nothing else, and, best, you don't want to pay for it.

So Vodafone offers you the Nokia 6234, free, or the Nokia 6233 for a little charge.  You do your web research and find that the 6234 and 6233 are essentially the same phone except that the 6234 has a different fascia and you can only get it from Vodafone.  In fact, the 6234 looks quite cool and it's free, so what the heck !

The next day it turns up and it's a stunner.  It really has a very classy and eye catching classic but modern look – none of the pictures on the web are remotely close to how good this phone looks in real life.  You unpack it in 2 seconds flat, insert the cards, sling the battery in (too bad about charging it first, we'll do that later!), and you start punching the keyboard.  Oh Dear, why do I keep making mistakes ?  And again !  And AGAINNNN !  You work out the problem real quick :  those four keys right below the screen, the ones that give you the menus and the ones to make or end a call.  They are a designer's dream, and an end user's total utter nightmare.  Those four keys look gorgeous, they make you want to exhibit your phone to every passing man and woman, but when you start using them the level of profanities emanating from your mouth reaches dizzying levels.  After half an hour, you're so desperate to keep such a good looking phone, but so frustrated at the same time, you go and get all your colleagues' opinions just to see if, somehow, you may still decide to keep the phone.  No can do.  Everyone who tried it hated the operation of those four keys, they're simply too thin.

Called Vodafone, explained the problem, and a very understanding operator knows instantly what you have a problem with;  she even has a menu on her computer for "usability problems",  and,  best,  finishes your sentence when you ask for the Nokia 6233 instead !  Ahhhh, so you're not the only one to return this beautiful 6234 .....!!

Reading between the lines of that phone conversation, clearly this phone has been a disaster for Vodafone.  Nokia don't care, they will have been paid already, but this story shows how designers with little practical sense can create significant losses.  Of course the 6234 won't take Vodafone down, but it's a guarantee they would have preferred not to lose the $1 or $2 Million they will have paid for this branded phone.  It is this perennial unanswered question :  when you see a terrible advertisement on TV, you simply want to have been the fly on the wall when someone at BigCompany Inc said :  "This is a brilliant ad, and I want to sign a $2 Million cheque right away for you to run it for the next three weeks !".  Don't you just want to see in the flesh the people who authorize such terrible ads ?  And 6234s ?

As for the Nokia 6233 :  it's a great phone, and it looks good too, not as stunning as the 6234, but the grey version looks very good regardless.  If you are currently considering it, you'll love it !



Sunday, 12th August 2006

Software will not install (Inaccessible Registry Keys)

One for the Techies.

Ever since the introduction of Service Pack 2, one of the worst problems one can come across in Windows XP SP2, has been the inability to install a software update, or a new version of a particular program because the install process is unable to write to specific registry keys.  Typically you will get cryptic errors which after thorough investigation usually point to some sort of Access Rights problems.  A recent classic involves upgrading Apple's QuickTime 7.0.4 to any other subsequent version.  When such a problem happens, in all but a very few instances, you will  never  solve it, and it will drive you mad :  clever uninstalls, registry editing, exporting, importing, changing access rights, working in Safe Mode, trying to fool the install process – nothing, absolutely nothing will work, and 5 hours later, a day later, a week later, thousands of newsgroups posts later, you simply admit defeat, swear at SP2, threaten your PC one last time, and, finally, finally, re-install Windows from scratch !

The next time you experience this, and any future time you install Windows from scratch, implement the tip below as soon as you've just re-installed XP SP2, and before you even install the first lot of Windows Updates.  MM here discovered it a few months back and it has eliminated those upgrade nightmares forever for us :
 

"Administrative Tools \ Local Security Policy"  while logged in as Administrator.

Drill down to "Local Policies \ Security Options".

Locate  "System Objects: Default owner for objects created by members of the Administrators group"  and change it from  "Object Creator"  to  "Administrators Group".

Corporate Techies :  you most probably work off Sysprep hard disk images.  It is still not too late to implement the above change.  Boot your Sysprep image on a new PC, do not Reseal, make the above change, shut down, re-image your new Sysprep setup.

Phew, let's bring some technical sanity back into XP SP2 !



Friday, 11th August 2006

SeaMonkey vs FireFox

We'd love to know the answer to this one :  the vast majority of us here use SeaMonkey as their preferred Internet browser;  20% use Internet Explorer.

All of us who now use SeaMonkey used to use Mozilla, the browser.  When Mozilla.org released FireFox, we here all tried it.

Clearly, first time users of FireFox with no previous experience of a Mozilla.org product, will either like it, and stay with it, or not like it and go back to what they were using.  We would love to know, however, what the stats are for former users of Mozilla, the browser :  would they reflect our in-house stats which show that most users of Mozilla found FireFox, despite some great features, too approximate and somewhat unwieldy, and went back to Mozilla, and now SeaMonkey, its successor?

It may feel like useless musings to most, but despite the FireFox marketing hype, we SeaMonkey users would love to know if we actually do have the best browser...



Tuesday, 8th August 2006

Major security updates from Microsoft

OK – Officially, given the issues involved, we have to recommend that anyone who has Automatic Updates turned off now does a manual Windows Update  (go to www.windowsupdate.com).  Privately, we hope it won't cause the same mayhem as the April 11th updates...



Friday, 4th August 2006

McAfee users start complaining

We thought it would happen, it simply had to.  Today we started receiving the first emails from TUT users, or visitors to our site, about the new McAfee Internet Security 8.0 and the problems it is giving them.  Normal users, with a mere 512Mb of memory (did we say mere ???), were struggling with virtually inoperable PCs.  Here was the first email :

'Your service has been invaluable in increasing the performance of my aging machine.  Each software upgrade added increased challenges for my machine.  The information on your web site has helped it meet them.

Now, I am very vexed.

I had been using McAfee Personal Firewall and Virus Scan, version 6.x (Downloaded Dec. 06).  They did not significantly interfere with the operation of my machine.

August 1, McAfee downloaded a new version of these programs, bundled in what is termed McAfee SecurityCenter 7.0.  The results have been calamitous to my machine's operation.

Now, web sites take forever to open, and trying to download my eMail from sites has become an exercise in patience.

The following task list programs now show up that are not listed on your web site.  I have to find some way to workaround this stuff.

I uninstalled SecurityCenter 7.0 and then went to McAfee's web site to reinstall the previous products that I had purchased.  When I went to my account and tried to download my previous programs, the download got redirected to SecurityCenter 7.0 and once again installed it.

Can you help identify the task list programs below and determine what can be shut down?  They are not listed on your web site.

Many thanks,  H.K.'

Some of those emails were much too much to bear, so we took a decision.  One day we will objectively test all Internet Security suites out there and do a report on performance impact on the host PC, usability, and Quality Control of updates and upgrades.  That should prove interesting.


Thursday, 3rd August 2006

The funniest day in our history

What a day today was.  One of our clients operates out of five separate offices here in town.  They use a generally very good software suite which works in real time across all offices and without which they would not be able to operate.  It is a very good program, but sometimes the makers of that program, let's call them BBB, are really not too careful before they release a new version.  Our role :  we provide and maintain the IT infrastructure, hardware and software, of our mutual client. 

This morning we picked up an email from BBB.  BBB had recently introduced a number of new features, including an industry specific diary, and a small email system embedded in their software and for use purely for matters to do with their software;  in other words it is a small application specific email system intended to run alongside a client's normal email software.  The email we picked up was to inform our mutual client of some bug in the email software which could be summarized as follows :

  1. You will be in trouble if you happen to receive more than 2 emails a day.  The system won't cope !

  2. You're in worse trouble if you receive an email with the same subject line as a previous email – the first email gets zapped !

  3. Similarly, if you received an email, deleted it, and then receive another email with exactly the same subject as the now deleted previous email – that new email will go straight into the Deleted Emails folder !!!

No, this is not April Fool – we're in August !  Our CEO had to be taken to hospital with stomach cramps from permanent hysterical laughter from reading BBB's email – other staff were allowed to go home early to recover from excessive giggling.  Stunning stuff.


Wednesday, 2nd August 2006

McAfee Internet Security 8.0

McAfee released a new version of Internet Security yesterday, version 8.0.  A TUT user sent in an email to let us know.  So we headed for the McAfee site, purchased the latest copy, and off to the test room.

Installed it on XP Pro, with all features enabled, and, wow, 143Mb of memory wiped out !  Surely it had to be a mistake.  So booted into the Win2000 partition, installed it on there, and... 120Mb of precious memory gobbled up, gone, vanished.  OK, let's reboot into XP Home – 145Mb of memory wiped out again.

Someone in our office joked that soon all McAfee home users will need a separate Internet gateway PC with loads of power just to run McAfee, sift out Internet and email threats, and a separate PC to do... normal stuff !

Seriously though, this is shocking.  As we continued our testing, the anti spam, HackerWatch.org, and parental control services simply grabbed more and more memory.  We stopped testing when it got to 198Mb on XP Pro.  At this rate users with 512Mb PCs are in for a big surprise, a very big surprise :  an Internet Security Suite that is using more memory than Windows itself in a baseline Windows installation.  Give me strength !



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