Errant Data

A Dataflow Diagram of backup and recovery procedures.Image via Wikipedia

Wordout has lost some data. Posts from the entire year of 2008 were lost today. Then I found out that my last backup (June 1st) was corrupted. All the posts from May and June are still missing. I’ve been able to recover much of it, using a hit-or-miss technique in Google caches, but that will require reformatting before I can republish.

Believe me, this hurts me more than it hurts you.

I am Jon, and I think it’s time to move to a DAILY backup.

EDIT: Just remembered that I have Wordout sent to my email every day, so I will be able to recover everything using those copies. May take a few days, but at least I can recover…
EDIT2: But that means the comments are lost. Crap!

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Homemade Telescope for About 5 Bucks

The View From The Cheap Seats

So there you are, at the game beach parking lot of a super secret facility just out enjoying the night sky doing absolutely nothing wrong and you think to yourself, Wouldn’t it be great to have a telescope right now! I can remember when I was young, my brothers and I would make “play telescopes” out of toilet paper cardboard… remember that? I don’t remember them working very well, though. Real telescopes were just a fancy fancy.

Thanks to the folks over at Metacafe for pointing us to the following video. All you need to make the telescope are 2 empty 2-liter bottles, two easily found magnifying glasses and some tape. For tools you’ll need some scissors and a screwdriver. I suppose in a pinch a single knife would do the job of both.

The video is 90 seconds. Enjoy!

Make A Telescope In 90 Seconds

Home Made TelescopeThe funniest bloopers are right here



I am Jon, but I remember feeling like Galileo.

Hack Your Registry For Speed and Stability

Designed for Windows XP computer hardware logoImage via Wikipedia

You Won’t Find That Here, You’ll Find Something Better

There are many ways to make your pc run faster without messing around in the registry. But sadly, there’s an abundance of sites out there that try to lead you to believe that some simple registry editing will make your pc run faster. I’ve adopted the contrary opinion. My love for Microsoft isn’t even close to passion, but if you’re running XP (and most of you are), I believe the registry is generally best left to them. I’ve put together several thoughts on the subject, and I present them below.

General Thoughts

1. Hacks that speed you up and make you more stable don’t exist. Nearly all of the registry hacks I’ve found online either don’t work, or make the system unstable, or Windows already does it better. In some cases they can actually make things worse.

2. I’m not talking about legitimate registry cleaners. If you’ve had your machine for awhile and installed and uninstalled lots of programs like some people have, there are probably lots of entries that are meaningless, and should be removed.

Free Speed “Hacks”

1. If you really want to keep it running fast, the first step is to keep it updated. This includes Windows and all the programs you normally use. Go to their sites and look for updates, or look in the program menus for an Update function.

2. Use a good AntiVirus program and a firewall. For most of us, the built-in XP firewall in SP2 should be sufficient. Any kind of malware will slow you down. System scan at least once a week.

3. Get rid of all the bling. Windows XP features a signature look and feel. Things are so colorful. They slide and fade. Turn that stuff off and use the classic style. Right click on MyComputer and select Properties. Click Advanced and then Performance Settings.Click the button for Best Performance and hit Apply. You’ll be amazed at how much of a performance boost you’ll get out of this one suggestion.

4. Clean temp files, uninstall files and recent documents. You can look here for a great post on how to do that.

5. Disable unused devices. Once again, right click on MyComputer and Properties, except this time select Hardware, and then Device Manager. One quick place to go is your modem, if you have one. Chances are really good you’re on a broadband connection, and aren’t using the modem ever. So right click on it and disable it. Do that for everything you see that you know you aren’t using.

Not So Free, But Worth Considering

1. Upgrade your RAM speed or size. Sometimes pc’s can handle a faster RAM than they were originally shipped with. You might be using PC2700 and you could be using PC3200. They run at speeds of 333Mhz and 400Mhz, respectively. The difference in speeds is noticeable. To see what RAM speeds your machine can handle, look it up at your manufacturer’s website.

2. Install a faster CPU. Again, chances are really good that your machine can handle a faster CPU. If you’re using a Celeron, or a Sempron, you can definitely see some results by upgrading to a Pentium or Athlon, respectively.

3. Go camping without the pc, read a book, listen to some music. Spend some time away from the busy-ness of technology. Watch a bird fly, look for something in the clouds. Take your time. When you come back your pc will seem faster. Sometimes it’s not the machine that has slowed down. It’s us that have sped up.

As an Aside

You’ve no doubt noticed the many SnapShots I’ve used in this post. Even though I have found no end to the uses of SnapShots, the guys over at put together a little contest to see what bloggers would come up with if they had to use the 12 main SnapShots in an article, in list form. Since there were several cash prizes up for grabs, and seeing as how I kinda like SnapShots and the guys over at, and considering that I like stuff like this anyway, I decided to use this piece as my entry.

I am Jon, and I hope you’ve enjoyed it.

If you like this article, and you want to help me win the contest, go over to the blog at and make a comment there! Contest runs until around April 8th. Thanks.

This article was awarded one of the three prizes in the contest. Thank you!

Thanks much to Adam, who left the comment below, unintentionally alerting me to the broken link in item #4 above. The link now works and takes you to a post about keeping your pc running smooth through easy, regular maintenance, called 5 Things You Can Do to Start Your PC Faster. Thanks again, Adam!


What Will I See When I Look Out The Window?

Window Ride

Tune in tomorrow for an article about hippies, alternative lifestyles, saving money while eating out every meal, 48 rolls of tissue, conservation, reducing your net effect on global warming and washing pigs.
Dude! Where’s Your Fridge? Only at Wordout, tomorrow morning when you wake up.

Meanwhile, have you ever wondered what your children are doing in the back seat when they’re actually being Good? Chances are, they’re staring out the window at the scenery passing by. Click the link below to see what the world looks like from the inside of a Ford SUV, through the eyes of boy growing up in New Mexico. This is re-publlished from awhile back, but the video goes full-screen this time. I think it adds a bit to it. Maybe it’s just me, but after watching for a minute, it seems quite artistic…

I am Jon, and I’ll remember that.

.Flash footage courtesy of Evan from a long time ago….

Firefox Setup, Nice and Easy

The information in this post applies specifically to Firefox versions up to version

First Things First – Get Firefox!

According to what I read and hear, Firefox has garnered between about 12 and 20 percent of the browser market so far. But from what I can see in these little charts from Feedburner and Google, more than two-thirds of Wordout readers are using Firefox. Not all you guys are up to date, though, so the first thing to do is to make sure you have the latest version of Firefox.

. .about2

Click The Thumbnails for a Full Size View
(if you need to).

To find out if you are running the latest and greatest, click on the Help menu. All the way down at the bottom of the list, click About. A window will appear. You want to look at the very last thing written there, a number. As of December 10th the current number is, so if your version number is lower than that one, you need to upgrade. (If you have any doubts, select the option “Check for Updates” in the Help menu.) If don’t have Firefox installed yet, or if you need to upgrade, click here and download it to your desktop. Or you can just choose to run it from it’s current location, if you have that option.(Vista owners, just click through all the warnings and confirmations and whatever, as long as you’re installing Firefox from that link.) If you downloaded the file, run it now.

As you’re installing Firefox, the installer program gives you a few choices. It’s safe to simply click through these choices, leaving them at their defaults. Once the installer is finished, Firefox will start. The first time Firefox runs, it will ask you if it is the default browser, and if you want to import any settings from Internet Explorer (or whatever your default browser was). Saying yes to both questions is fine with me, and ensures your favorite sites and your homepage will travel to Firefox with you.

“Firefox Is Ugly”

You’ll notice that Firefox, without customization, is rather ugly. I’ve heard that repeated alot over the last couple of years. But that’s the thing about Firefox. It expects you to mess with it. There’s very little more than raw “Go” built into it when you first get it. Luckily, messing around with Firefox is pretty easy. You go to a page and click a big button that says “Install Now“. Then another window appears and you can see it countdown your place in line. As soon as the file is available to you, the second “Install Now” button appears, you click it, and you are good to go.

Add Ons – Not Just Another Useless Toolbar

Below is a list of links that not only spruce up your new browser, but add real functionality to it as well. Trust me, none of these are just another useless toolbar to clutter your screen. (Except for one. Can you guess which?) Go ahead and click each one with your MIDDLE mouse button (that scroll wheel is a button, too), so they open in new tabs without having to leave this page. You can open them all, one by one. Note: If you click your middle mouse button anywhere but a link, your screen may start scrolling in the direction of the mouse. Just click the middle button again to stop it.

Noia Extreme – My favorite way to look at Firefox.
Adblock – I have it, but I see no need for it.
BlueOrganizer – The best way I know to store your bookmarks.
Forecast Fox – Gotta have my weather.
FoxClocks – You might know somebody somewhere else.
Foxy Tunes – Full control over music players like Winamp, Media Player.
Homeland Security (cynical) – Normally yellow bar that usually says “Scared”.
Homeland Security – Normally yellow bar that follows the DHS color scheme.
Pong – Who knows when you want to play?
Quicknote – Perfect for taking notes while you’re researching on the net.
Session Manager – Never lose a session, even when you crash.
Text Size Toolbar – For tired, old eyes. And tired young eyes.

Feed Me!

Adding feeds is easy, too. Just click the link below and go to the page. As you go to each page, look at the address bar up above. Over to the right, just before the “Go” button, you’ll see an RSS icon. Just click it, and tell it to always use “Live Bookmarks“. As you OK each one, you’ll see it appear on your Bookmark Toolbar, below the address bar. You can type in your own abbreviated names for these feeds as you’re approving them. If you forget, and want to change them later, just right click on them and select Properties. Remember, in the future you can subscribe to as many RSS feeds as you want this way. Go ahead and click these with your middle button, too. You’re getting quite a few tabs opened by now.

CNN . AP . Reuters . Wordout . F-Secure

Over on the far right of your screen, just above the top of this window, you see all your tabs and a little arrow pointing to the right. Click the arrow to get all the way to the last tab. Once you go to that tab and get the RSS feed, you’ll want to just close that tab by clicking on the little “x” on the right side of the tab. When that tab disappears, the next one will be in front of you. Go ahead and subscribe to all the RSS feeds you chose, and then install the add-ons, one by one. The last one you’ll get to is Noia Extreme, and it requires you to do a bit more.

Noia Extreme is a Theme. You can have many themes installed, but you have to select which one you want to see. When you click to install Noia, a different kind of box appears. Just agree with it. Then, in the add-ons box, under themes, you will find Noia 2.0 Extreme. Click the “Use Theme” button and close that window. Then restart Firefox.

Click To Enlarge

Just The Way You Want It

You’re going to think something has gone radically wrong. Nothing has taken this long since you accidentally downloaded that… well, we won’t discuss that here… but don’t worry about it. Firefox takes a bit of extra time during this startup. We’ve just added alot to it, and it needs just a moment to get its face on.

It will need your help. Several of these add-ons are going to need some information from you to work right. Forecast Fox will present you with a list of options, one of which is your zip code. Without at least that much, it can’t do its job. There are also options for how it should display itself, and where. I usually like it up top, towards the right of my Menu toolbar.

Look through all the options in all the add-ons. Take your time, there’s no real hurry here. You can choose to set some of them up later if you want to. There’s nothing wrong with that either. This will take some getting used to, and you will probably change things around a few times before you get it just the way you want it.


Once you’re done with the configurations, and all you have open is Firefox, you want to place your mouse kind of between the address bar and the bar above it, and right click. Select “Customize“, and the Customize Toolbar will appear. Here you see many of the features you just installed. You want to grab them with the left mouse button and drag them onto one of the toolbars up above.

Grab And Drag

The first thing I usually do is grab the Google Search bar and drag it onto the top bar, so that the address bar and the search bar are stacked. Then I grab a couple of Flexible Spaces and place them on each side of the search bar. I cram FoxClocks all the way to the top right and throw a Print button up there too. I drag the Bookmarks, Downloads, and History and place them on the left, bottom toolbar, beside my feeds. Then I grab 2 more of those Flexible Spaces and put them on either side of my feeds. I like to have the Text Size Toolbar on the right, beside the feeds.The Session Manager goes right beside my Go button, and the Undo Close button goes to the right of that. I put my BlueMark in between the Home button and the address bar. While you’re in there, you might want to change the size of the icons, and either add or remove the text. When you’re done dragging things around, close out that window.

Oh yeah, one more thing. Click on the “G” inside the Google Search Bar. All the way at the bottom click “Manage Search Engines“. In the little window that pops up, click the link that says “Get more search engines”. This will open a new tab with a list of different search engines you might like to have right at your fingertips. I like to have a dictionary, at the very least. The Mycroft link at the bottom of that page will take you to even more selections.

By now you should have something that looks similar to this:

Click To Enlarge

Don’t worry if it doesn’t look exactly like mine. On 3 different computers, I have Firefox setup in 3 different ways. Once you get a bit more familiar with these add-ons, you might find that you like them better some other way. And that’s okay. That’s what Firefox expects. Once you’re comfortable with it, go back to Firefox and look through the add-ons. See if there are more you might like. Trust me, these only scratch the surface.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask away. Either leave a comment or click the AskAway! button at the top of this page.

I am Jon, and Firefox is my browser of choice.

5 Things You Can Do to Start Your PC Faster

Designed for Windows XP computer hardware logoImage via Wikipedia

This article generally applies to Windows XP, although the principles can be applied to any Windows based system.
Keepin It Real… Fast

Does it seem like your computer is booting slower than it used to? This is one of the most common complaints I get from new customers. Most are certain they have a virus or have been “hacked” in some way. Even though that is a real possibility, I have found that it’s usually not the case. Here are some tricks of the trade that I and countless other geeks use all the time to get Windows into high gear at the startup.

Some of this stuff may look technical, but it’s not. For it to be technical you would have to use your keyboard. You can do everything here with your mouse. (Well, there is a little bit of typing, but just a little!)

1. Scan For Malware

Any virus, worm or piece of spyware that gets on your system is going to slow it down. These things aren’t there to do nothing, after all, and no matter what they do they use up your resources. Many of them will try to attach themselves to real Windows processes, which makes it harder to shut them down and ensures to a degree that they will run every time you start your pc. Removing them is mainly a security matter, but it is certainly a performance issue as well. Always keep your antivirus up to date and perform a full scan at least once a week.

2. MSConfig/Startup Items

Instant messenger programs, pdf readers, office plugins, antivirus and other security products… you name it, somebody has made it start at the same time as Windows. If you want your pc to start faster, you positively have to cut back on some of these. Click on START and then RUN. Type in “msconfig” and the System Configuration Utility will appear. Select the tab that says Startup. You will see a window containing a cryptic list of items with little check-boxes to the left. Hold your curser on the dark line just to the left of the word “Location” in the columns at the top. Hold your left mouse button and drag the line to the right, so that you can see the middle column better.

Note: If you see an entry with no information in the center column, you definitely want to uncheck that one. Then, with an updated antivirus scanner run a complete system scan. This is probably a piece of malware of some type, and must be removed before you want to go any further.

If no one’s ever been in here, all the little boxes will be checked. These are the programs that are starting up with Windows and constantly running in the background. When you uncheck the boxes, these programs will no longer start when you boot your pc. You will still be able to use the programs, and some of them will start up on cue, right when they’re needed, without any help from you.

Look through the list. You want to make sure you DO NOT turn off your antivirus programs. In the center column, labeled “Command”, you will see the path that tells your pc to run these programs. If you’re running Norton Antivirus, you don’t want to turn off anything that has the words “Norton” or “Symantec”. If you’re running McAffee, leave the commands that have the word “McAffee” in them. If, like me, you only use products from F-Secure, then leave their commands alone. Other antivirus/firewall/intrusion detection programs should be recognizable to you as long as you know the names of them. We want to leave those settings as they are.

But you can feel good about turning off alot of the rest of them. Common boottime parasites can include anything from AOL, any instant messenging program, the Adobe Launcher for their products, Microsoft Office, Quicktime and most other commercial players. You will probably also see entries for updater services which don’t need to be started with Windows. Common entries are Jusched from Sun Java and Quicktime or iTunes and the updaters from major pc vendors. You might also find other items that you don’t recognize and I haven’t mentioned here. Turn off the obvious ones first, and see how it affects your start up time. To turn them off, just uncheck the box beside it. When you’re done hit APPLY and OKAY. A prompt will appear asking to restart your pc. We’re not done with this step yet, so click CANCEL.

Click on START, PROGRAMS and the STARTUP folder. If there’s anything in there, right click on it and delete it. Then you want to restart your pc. We’ll be restarting a few times during all this.

3. Temp/$NTUninst/Fonts

As Windows is starting up, it scans several folders on your hard drive. If we get rid of the unnecessary clutter in these folders, the pc should start faster because it’s not looking through all those useless files. One of these is the Temp folder. It’s buried deep, so getting there can be a chore for the inexperienced. But you can do this. Here’s how:

1. Open My Computer. Click on Tools and select Folder Options. Select the tab “View“. Towards the bottom of the window, check the box that says “Show hidden files and folders”. Select Apply to make it permanent, or just hit Okay.

2. Double click the C drive, then “Documents and Settings“, then your “username“, then “Local Settings“, and finally “Temp“. You can find your username normally at the top of the Start menu.

3. Click on EDIT and Select All. Then click on FILE and Delete. A box will appear confirming the delete. Just say yes. If there’s alot of buildup there, it might take a minute or two to delete it all. When it’s done, hit the Back button until you are back to the C drive.

4. Next we’re going to the place you’ve always been told not to go: the Windows folder. Open the Windows folder. A warning message may appear. Just tell it to show you the files. You will see that there are alot of them that are blue. The ones that have names starting with “$NtUninst” are the ones we want to get rid of. This probably will still leave some blue colored files in the folder, and that’s okay. The NtUninst files are left overs from all those Windows Updates you’ve been getting. You can select them all by clicking on the first one, then scrolling to the last one and while holding the “shift” key, click on it. This should highlight all of them between the first and last. Check again to make sure you only selected the ones beginning with $NtUninst. Then click on the File menu and select Delete.

5. Now that these files are gone, we need to check out the Windows Temp folder. You should be able to see it there in front of you. Open it up and select Edit, and Select All. Then select File and Delete. Some of these files may refuse to be deleted. Don’t worry about that. If you get a message saying a file cannot be deleted, just say OK and close out the window.

6. Now go to your Control Panel. Open the Fonts folder. Windows has to scan every font you have as it starts, so the fewer the better if you want a shorter boot time. Look through the Fonts folder and delete any you don’t think you will ever need. Be careful here. You can always get the fonts back, but that might not be something you want to have to worry about. When you’re done just close out that window and restart your pc.

4. Registry

Over time the registry just gets cluttered with old and useless information which Windows reads every time your pc starts up. There are lots of tools out there for cleaning up your registry, some good and some not-so good. Registry Clean Pro is a good one. I usually see a noticeable improvement when I use it on a customer’s machine. I won’t go into other registry cleaners here, except to say that Any time you make changes to the registry you should back it up first. Period. In case you want to know how, here it is:
Click on Start and Run. Type “regedit” and hit Okay.

Select File and then Export and then Save. This will save a backup of your registry in your My Documents folder. Now get out of there. Trust me, you do not want to experiment with settings in here.

If you have used a registry cleaner, then you will need to restart your pc again now.

5. Defragment

Now that we’ve made massive changes to the files on your hard drive, we probably need to defrag the hard drive. Open My Computer and right click on the C drive. Select Properties, and then Tools. Select the Defragment Now option. Select the Analyze option. Chances are, Windows will tell you that “you should defrag this volume now”. Go ahead and select Defragment, then get up and walk away for awhile. Depending on how much work Windows has to do to defrag the drive, this could take the rest of your night. There are situations when Windows will say it needs to perform a scandisk operation before it can defrag. If this is the case, you really should let Windows scan the disk.

Luckily, it’s the last step in this little dance and it will generally finish on its own. Seems like a great time to find a… a book. Good time to find a great book and relax for awhile. Remember? The way you used to?

I am Jon, and I recommend reading a great book.

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Spam Control! – Update

Spam Control!

Thanks to the guys at Windows Secrets (see their feed in the sidebar), I have a little more info on spam control. Mark Edwards provided a couple of links that I am going to pass on to you guys.

Before I do, though, I just want to say that once again, I have proven myself to be just a bit “dee dee deee”, because I didn’t think of it first. I’ve been using “dead” email addresses since the 90’s, and I never thought to create a site that provides, wait for it…… Temporary E-Mail addresses.

Yep, there’s at least a couple of sites out there that do just that. And here’s the great thing: you can make up a temporary address “on the fly”, without having to go and register for it first. Say you’re slipping around the web and you see this great thing you want to sign up for, a game or whatever. When you get to the part where they ask for a “valid” email address, you just make one up and type it in. The temp service automagically creates it for you on their server and you can go there to validate your subscription or whatever, and then forget about it.

Each of the two have different features, and what might work for one of you may not be what another one wants, so check them both out.

Temporary Inbox is maybe my favorite, mainly because of the extensions for Firefox. If you use the big blue “e”, they have a toolbar that fits in there. Same for Opera. These add-ons will automagically generate a random mailbox name for you, plus you can check that email with a single click of a button. (That’s alot easier than using Yahoo! or GMail…). The emails received at that box are deleted after 6 hours.
The other cool site is Mailinator. They give you the ability to put your mailinator inbox right on your website (if you have one). This way, you don’t even have to leave your site to check your mail. Again, your emails will be deleted after a few hours.

Remember, these email addresses are totally NOT secure. Anyone can read the emails sent there if they can guess your login and password. There is absolutely NO security in a service like this, except for the oblique security you get from not revealing your real address.

Check them both out. I think you will find one or both of them to be a great help in controlling the spam.

And let me recommend Windows Secrets newsletter as a great investment of time. The free version, which I have linked to in the sidebar, is good for learning alot of things you might not ever learn any other way. But the Paid version is great. There is always something to be learned in there, even for a guy like me, who’s been geeking around these things since windows were something to be looked through, not at.

I am Jon, and I still hate spam.

Spam! You Can Control It

Scourge of the Net

If you’re old enough, you’ll remember seeing for yourself the somewhat prophetic and funny skit by Monty Python. It’s estimated that probably 60% of email traffic is spam. Where does it all come from? If we all hate it, why is it there? Does it work? Why does it keep filling our inboxes, regardless of what we do? Is there anything that will keep it away?

Luckily, you can keep most of the spam from ever reaching you. There’s a cool little program you can use and it’s pretty much free. There’s nothing to download. You already have everything you need.

Signing Up For Spam

You may not realize it, but the ONLY reason you get spammed to death is: you sign up for it. You do it without thinking, over and over again. Ever sign up for something online? You got asked a bunch of questions, right? One of them amounted to a statement saying you read and agreed to their terms of service. Did you really read that? If you’re like the majority of us, you did not. You checked the box or clicked the button and got what you were after. And so did they.

They, in alot of cases, are interested in collecting your information to sell as part of a mailing list. Almost everybody is doing it nowadays. If you don’t believe me, just look at the ads on your browser next time you’re on the web. Chances are good they are specifically aimed at you, personally. There’s a reason for that, too.

The Social Connection

Seems like everybody has a MySpace account lately, or the social equivalent at a competing site. And, since the “purpose” there is to “network”, most people put alot of private data on the profiles. All this data is harvested and used by advertisers who pay MySpace for the use of it. Even the profiles marked as Private are used in this way. ( Private just means that your MySpaces pages can’t be viewed by the general public.) This is what “Social Networking” is all about. MySpace and Facebook and Twitter and all the others are nothing more than tools for advertising. And one type of advertising is, whether we like it or not, mass mailings, ie., spam.

I have a MySpace account, where I have maintained a poetry blog for most of this year. Before I opened the account, ads on my pc were pretty much random with a slight technology slant. Since starting the poetry blog, nearly all my ads are now dealing with poetry, writing contests, videos of poetry readings and Pat Benatar (I have one of her videos on my MySpace profile). I wonder what will happen when I move my poetry over to, where no ad mechanism resides?

Opting Out

The government was going to step in and help us all out a few years ago. They passed the CAN SPAM Act which required mass mailings to have a link at the bottom, the Opt Out link. This was supposed to be the mechanism that allowed consumers to remove themselves from mailing lists they had inadverdently been added to. It was assumed that only legitimate companies would add the links, and the scammers would not.

The legislation was enacted. All the legitimate mass mailers (?) promptly inserted their links. As a matter of fact, everybody started inserting the links. The scammers loved it, because they use more bandwidth than all the rest of us put together, and scammers or not, that costs money. Now they had a way to find out if the emails they were sending out were getting to a real person.

Every time you click an Unsubscribe Link in an email, you are verifying that yes, indeed, someone does actually use that email address. And your address just became five times more valuable. Because the current line of thinking in the Web 2.0 era, just as it was in the last century, is that mass mailings work.

Controlling Spam: It’s All Lies!

There is a way to control spam. I get, on average, less than 10 pieces of spam in a week. Believe me, that’s being generous. There are weeks on end that I receive absolutely no spam in my inbox at all. So I know this program works.

The program is lies. Lie to the spammers. Don’t fight them, misdirect them. And then watch your back. Let me explain.

How do we lie to the spammers? Well, this is my logic: I can’t talk you into never signing up for anything online, so I need to show you a way to do it without opening yourself up to constant spam. This is how: Open a web based email account that you never plan to use. Go to and make one. Give it a name, something like Once you’ve got that done, just use that email address as your email during the sign up. Believe it or not, that’s pretty much the whole program. You might have to go into that email box to activate your new subscription or whatever, but then you can forget it. Well, until the next time you sign up for something, at least.

The biggest part of this is you. Be aware of what you’re doing. If the address bar in your browser turns red, and you’ve never seen it do that, PAY ATTENTION. If you get a warning from your antivirus program, PAY ATTENTION. Infections of all types nearly always carry as part of the payload some way of harvesting your email address as well as your address book.

Eliminating spam can’t be done overnight unless you just decide to start using a different email address. For some people this is an option, for others it’s not. If you can, try to get an email address that doesn’t depend on your service provider. A good idea is to purchase your own domain. Most hosting plans include email addresses at your domain. You would need to protect this email address like it was your driver’s license, and only use it with folks you are sure of. And if the rare piece of spam does get to you, never click the unsubscribe link. You can simply tell your Thunderbird EMail program, or whichever one you use, to mark all mail from that address as spam or junk. Now that there’s only a few pieces a week, that becomes a real option.

I am Jon, your host here at Wordout, and I don’t like spam.

Protect Yourself From Internet Threats? Easy!

(Note: This was originally published in 2005 and has been slightly edited for this presentation.)

The Basics

I am assuming you are using a Windows operating system.

First, make sure you have all the latest critical and high priority updates for whichever Windows you are using. There should be a “Windows Update” in one of the lists you can get to from the START button. Use it to get the critical and security updates you need. If you’ve never used it before, Microsoft will require you to install a couple of items first. You really have very little choice in the matter if you want your updates this way, so let them install and run their programs. After they scan your system, you will be given a choice on downloading and installing your updates. After the updates are installed, you will probably need to restart your computer.

Make sure you have a firewall installed and turned on. For general use, the included Windows firewall is adequate. If you even rarely visit “questionable” sites ( in your judgement), then you will need a more thorough firewall. If you are behind a router, make sure the router’s firewall is turned on. Regardless of the router, make sure you have a firewall installed on your pc that monitors both incoming and outgoing traffic. An intrusion attempt monitor is recommended. A good antivirus program is essential these days. Make sure you have it set to scan all incoming and outgoing emails, as well as inside of compressed files. It should also be able to detect the presence of rootkits on your system. It’s a good idea to scan every file on your system at least once a week. I scan my system every day at 430 am. To really protect your computer from the latest spyware threats, you’re going to need a spyware removal program. I once used Spybot – Search and Destroy, and have had great success with it. Although I use a different program now, I still keep Spybot S&D around for other functions it has built into it. Occasionally I find the need for another specialized program, Hijack This!, which is indispensable when removing some infestations. Each and every one of these programs, Windows, antivirus, spyware remover, and Hijack This!, need to be kept current. In other words, to make all this stuff work together and Really work, you will have to make yourself check for updates at least once a week. I check for updates on each of these plus the other main programs I use on a daily basis. If you don’t keep your programs up-to-date, you cannot protect yourself at all on the internet.

Okay, you say, I’m all set. Now what?

Becoming a Smaller Target

Nearly all viral threats are directed at Microsoft products, and for good reason. More computers on this planet use their software than any other software, mainly because it comes preinstalled on most computers when you buy them. This doesn’t make Microsoft or the products they make, bad. I personally am very grateful to Microsoft. Their business practice of “giving away” software helped make computers inexpensive enough to fuel the outrageous growth of the computer culture as a whole. They might not be the “best” guys, but I think they are at least some of the “good guys”.

The real bad guys are usually playing a “numbers game” when they release their latest nasty. They target known issues and security flaws in all software, but Microsoft products just give an easier payoff. Another way of looking at it is like this: Security on the internet can be looked at as a war zone. There are lots of little terrorists (the virus and spyware creators) who want to attack and do as much damage as possible with each effort. Microsoft is the biggest presence on the internet, and therefore the easiest to hit. So when the latest script kiddie comes out with a new bug, he will probably target everyone using Microsoft products to get the best bang for his effort. After all, he has a reputation to create.

Since we know that the next big outbreak will probably be targeted directly at Microsoft products, the easiest way to protect ourselves from this future threat is to find another product that works as well for us. There are pretty much two other choices for you. The first is Apple. The cost factor usually rules them out. Their machines are better, in my opinion, from a security standpoint. But the cost of an iMac is considerably more than a pc. So if you stick with a pc, the main competitor to Windows has been the several different variations of Linux ( an alternative to Windows). Some are free and some cost money. The free ones are pretty good, but you would want at least a little real guarantee of support for your operating system. That will cost money and it’s really hard to spend against something you aren’t sure is ever going to happen anyway. So, keep your Windows, and keep it updated at Windows Update.

Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird

And that big blue “e” on your desktop has always been there, free. How much will it cost to replace that thing? It seems like the most complicated thing on the whole computer! Well, honestly, Mozilla Firefox doesn’t cost you a penny. I have been using it since the middle of 2004 and would never use anything else. At first, the big blue “e” seemed fine to me except for the security problems. Nevertheless, I am old school and had always used Netscape. After using Firefox, I can just say that there is no other browser out there that can really compare. It’s fast, reliable, and what can I say, I Like it! Do you want a browser that will do what You want instead of what some geeks in Redmond want? After you install Firefox go to Firefox Central and customize it to your heart’s content. Extensions allow you to add features that you actually want, instead of yet another useless toolbar to clutter your screen. On mine, I have a constant feed for the weather (ForecastFox), an adblocker that gives me control over what ads I want to see, if any (Adblock), complete controls for my Winamp MP3 player (FoxyTunes), the ability to increase the size of the text or pictures on the screen, and constant news feeds via RSS from the BBC, CNN, ABC, Slashdot, and ESPN (LiveBookmarks), just to name a few. And anti phishing has been standard on it for awhile now. I can even make Firefox tell the internet that it’s Internet Explorer, so that sites that require IE will display properly.

Themes will give you the ability to change the way your browser looks and feels. My personal favorite is the Noia Extreme theme. There are lots to choose from. You will find one that’s just you.
The other main program from Microsoft that people use is Outlook Express, for email. Once again, just because I’d rather ride in a truck with a red cross on it than a bullseye, I recommend using a different product. The Thunderbird Email program from Mozilla is an excellent replacement. It has all the same features and more. Plus the extensions and themes for Thunderbird are available, as with all Mozilla products. There is even a fully functional calendar extension that rivals the full Microsoft program Outlook, so a Thunderbird download with the calendar extension is kind of like a free upgrade.

Lest you think this is just an ad for Mozilla, let me tell you truthfully: I believe in these two products. Firefox isn’t the only browser if you don’t want IE. There are several, and I’ve heard that even the free version of Opera rivals anything on the market. I have simply had a great experience with Firefox. Fewer worries and all that. And Thunderbird without any extensions is just the best email program I have ever used. I have a couple of extra buttons on mine to deal with junk mail more efficiently and that’s it.

Other Common Programs

Regardless of which browser or email you choose, you must keep them updated. In addition, there are several programs you use that you might not be familiar with. Adobe Reader, for viewing pdf files, Flash Player, Quicktime, Real Player, Sun Java. These are just a few of the programs that also need to be kept current. Even though they have built in updaters, some of them don’t remove the old versions from your computer, and that leaves you still vulnerable. So it’s up to you to protect yourself. Go into the Control Panel and select ADD/REMOVE PROGRAMS. Look for more than one entry for each of these programs and uninstall the lowest numbered for each of them. If you don’t see an entry for one of them don’t worry, you probably have a different program to handle those files. For instance Windows Media Player will handle most video files so Real Player is not a necessity. Note that both Java and Adobe are notorious for leaving their old versions behind. Don’t remove all the entries. If you do some of the internet will either not work for you, or will look rather strange.

Use Good Judgement

One last thing: You can have an army of security between your pc and the internet, and it does no good whatsoever if you don’t exercise some good judgement out there. If you go to the “seedier” parts of the net, expect to catch something. Porn surfing? Expect to catch something. Downloading illegal files? Expect to catch something. It’s like this. The internet is just like where you live. There are places nearby you wouldn’t ever drive to, get out and hang about. For a variety of reasons it’s not in your best interests to go there. So don’t go there.

I am Jon, your host here at Wordout.