The Number One Rule of Computing

The Number One Rule of Computing: Back it up! (imho)

target audience: home user

If you are reading this blog, then you probably live in a world full of data. Data that you depend on, for work, finances, travel, entertainment, and more. Without this data you day-to-day life would be turned on end. And yet, this data along with the technology that reads it can be fickle and fragile. I think most everyone has at some point tasted the bitterness of failure from forgetting to save a document. Many people have hung their heads in defeat as critical hardware went to an early grave. And a few people have even suffered theft, fire, or floods. Murphy can visit in many forms, so it is critical that we back-up all of our important data. It is not my intent to discuss specific products, or deliver a complete how-to (look for future articles) but rather to explain several varieties of back-up. Read on to find out the basics of back-up solutions for the home PC.

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Why do you care? If you are running Windows XP you are vulnerable to a staggering amount of exploits including rootkits, and buffer overflow attacks. Many malicious programs will use these exploits to get into your systems without your (or your anti-virus’s) knowledge. One of the best ways to prevent Malware is to use a sandboxing program to isolate your system. Sandboxie is one such program. Check out these excellent posts about Sandboxie:

What is Sandboxie, and remembering to use it:

Recommended settings:

Remember: be safe out there.

Can’t install Office 2010?

Recently I attempted installing Office 2010 on an Windows 7 box. However, on this particular system the installation failed with the warning that:

Setup is unable to proceed due to the following error(s):
Microsoft Office 2010 does not support upgrading from a prerelease version of Microsoft Office 2010. You must first install any prerelease versions of Microsoft Office 2010 products and associated technologies. Correct the issue(s) listed above and re-run setup.

Clearly the owner had been Beta testing Office 2010. So, I uninstalled the Beta and then tried to re-install the release version… and I received the same error. “No problem,” I thought, firing up The Control Panel. I found one program of the Office Suite that was still there. I uninstalled it and tried once again to install the release version. Same error. (Maybe I should have used good ol’ Revo Uninstaller. .) So what was I to do? Dive into the registry searching for all references to the Beta? No thank you!

Tip: select "Save" instead of "Run"

Microsoft KB to the Rescue

Microsoft Knowledge Base to the rescue: . Microsoft has actually made a tool to solve this exact problem. (Office buggy? no way!) You’ll note that the on screen instructions say to choose “Run” when you click on the tool. I found, however, that I had to save the .msi first in order for it to work. Once it did run successfully, I tried again to install the release version of Office Professional 2010. Bingo! installed without a hitch. One more satisfied customer.

-Remember, your computer should work for you. Enjoy.

P.S. If you want to beta-test software you should look into virtualization, or building a spare computer that doesn’t fulfill a critical role.

Firefox Add-on of the Week

So you’ve Googled for that latest song, software, screen saver, whatever, and you’ve got a long list of search results. But which of those websites are safe? Enter WoT.

WoT stands for Web of Trust, and it is a community-based rating system for websites. These ratings are then used to place a color coded dot on the WoT tool bar indicating whether or not a website is safe. WoT also intrigrates with many search engines and other websites as you can see here:

Colored dots on WoT

look at all the pretty colors......

Websites are ranked on 4 criteria as seen here:

Site rankings

Site Rankings

The little silhouettes indicate how many people have voted on the site (0-5). Furthermore community members can leave comments about a site such as “spam” or “contains Malicious ads.”

My recommendation is to stay away form websites with red, yellow, or gray (unknown) ratings… in fact, WoT will block the “poor” sites for you. Note that this “poor” website is grayed out (a la UAC). At this point you can not interact with elements of the site and should just close the tab/window.

WoT blocks sites with a poor rating.

Blocked Website

To install WoT simply download and install the add-on from their website. Please note that it is available for Internet Explorer too. Once you restart your browser you’ll be presented with a screen to configure your settings. I recommend the basic setting. If you want to provide ratings to the community you should also create a profile now. From this point on WoT will be providing you with rating information for the websites you visit. To get more info on a site (such as comments) , and to provide your own feedback, just click on the corresponding WoT dot. (For more information see this video tutorial.) I think this is a particularly useful add-on for “grandma” as it greatly reduces  the need for web savvy and paranoia while surfing. So, what are you waiting for? Try out WoT today.

Firefox Add-on of the Week

“Safer and more productive browsing. See where links actually link to.”
“Why are all these pop-ups on my screen?” Perhaps its because you went to a malicious website. No? You’re always careful about where you go? What about those shortened links you see on Twitter, and else where. Things like and tinyURL? Where do those go? Wonder no longer with this handy add-on: Long URL Please.

As in real life, awareness is very important on the internet. Pay attention to where you are going, and hopefully you will avoid trouble. Its a dangerous world out there, and now its all connected. (Its also full of wonder and great, worthwhile things 🙂 )