Monday, September 28, 2009

Beware of Alpha Antivirus

Today, I was doing some research on a client's motherboard and found myself clicking a link which promised more information about that model.  But when I clicked the link, I was faced with a white screen and the following message:

Making matters worse, when I tried to "X" out of the screen, I was hit with several more windows which gave me the impression the software was already downloading itself to my computer, followed by several virus warnings.   And of course, it was impossible to "X" out or "Cancel" the screens.

Luckily for me, I've seen this rogue malware program before under different names.  It's basically the Windows Antivirus malware program renamed and redistributed.  Only this time, it was called, "Alpha Antivirus". 

This message was intended to scare me into downloading this malware software.  And of course, programmers fixed it so that when you hit the red "X" or "cancel" to close the window, more messages popped up giving the impression the software download was in progress.  They also wanted you to believe that your computer was horribly infected with viruses as seen on the screen below:

If you should fine yourself in this situation .... here's what you do.  First, don't panic!  This is a very effective scare tactic designed to persuade you into downloading rogue software.  But if you follow the instructions below, Alpha Antivirus (or Windows Antivirus, or whatever name it's going by) will NOT be downloaded to your computer.

It's impossible to "cancel" or "X" out of the warning messages.  So don't waste your time.  Instead, go to your keyboard and hit the CNTRL + ALT + DEL keys to bring up the task manager (some computers will see a blue windows screen with the option to click on Task Manager).

Once the Task Manager is open, click on the PROCESSES tab (if you're not already on it) and then scroll down the list to find your internet browser. In my case, I was using Firefox when the Alpha Virus warning messages started popping up, so I wanted to find the process "Firefox.exe"  If you're using Internet Explorer, you'll want to find the process, "Iexplorer.exe.

Once you find the process, single left click it once to highlight it in blue and then click the END PROCESS button at the bottom of the Task Manager window.  This will close your internet browser.

The next thing you want to do, is a health check of your computer.  There's a program you can (and should) download called, "Malwarebytes AntiMalware".  This is on the best programs you can have on your computer. It's also one of the few programs that will erase Alpha Antivirus (Windows Antivirus, etc.) from your computer. The free version will work.

So if you don't already have Malwarebytes AntiMalware on your computer, download it and run a Full scan just to be sure that you don't have Alpha Antivirus on your computer.

If you do already have Malwarebytes AntiMalware on your computer, update it and run a full scan. 

If you love Malwarebytes AntiMalware as much as I do, you can buy the full version which will also let you automate the software (for auto updates and scans).  The free version works great, but there's no automatic features in it.  To buy the full version of Malwarebytes AntiMalware, click here.

Oh yeah ... one more thing.  When you go to reopen your internet browser, you may the option to "start a new session" or "restore previous session".  If you do, be sure to choose the "new session" option.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

How to Hide Mafia Wars & Other Game Messages in Facebook

If you have a lot of friends on Facebook, chances are some of them are playing the farm games (Farm Town and Farmville) or Mafia Wars. These are some of the most popular games on Facebook.

But if you're not playing these games, it can get annoying to look at all the messages these games post as players advance in levels and complete other tasks.  

So what do you do when you really don't want to look at these messages but still see status messages from your friends?  Simple ... Just hide the messages from these games.

Find a farming or Mafia Wars post (or any other game) on your Facebook page.  On the right of it, you'll see the word, "Hide" and if you click it, you'll have to option to hide all messages from that person or just hide the game messages.

That's all there is too it.  Hiding farming and Mafia Wars messages can make Facebook more enjoyable for those who don't want to play those games.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

How to Delete a Friend's List in Facebook

Facebook let's you separate your friends into categories. There are many different reasons why folks might want to do this.  But sometimes, you may also want to delete one of the lists you've created.   And doing so can be a tricky if you're new to Facebook, so I thought I'd share the secret with you.

A couple of days ago, I created a friends list called, "Mafia Friends" and added all of my friends to it that were playing Mafia Wars.  My hope was that I could use this list to publish the many Mafia achievement notices too (that way others won't have to look at them).  Sadly, Mafia Wars didn't give me the option to publish those posts to a specific friends list ... so I decided to delete it.

If you have a similar friends list you'd like to delete, here are the steps to do so.

  1. At the top of your Facebook page, you'll see a blue toolbar.  Click "Friends" on it. 

  1. When you get to the Friends page, on the left side of the screen look under the heading, "Lists" for the list you've created (and want to delete).  
In my case, the list I want to delete, is called, "Mafia Friends"
Click on the list you want to delete.

  1. At the top of the next screen (above your friends), you'll see a gray button that reads, "Delete List".  Click on it to delete the list.  

Note that when you delete a friends list, the friends that were in this list are still your friends, they just don't belong to this list anymore.

UPDATE:  Feb, 17, 2010:

Naturally the Faecebook programmers decided they needed to change the layout once again on Facebook so these "how to" instructions are not completely accurate anymore - but the concept is the same. You can still create and delete special friends lists in the new Facebook.  But now, you'll want to follow the instructions below:
  1. Click ACCOUNT and then EDIT FRIENDS (top right corner of Facebook screen)
  2. Under "Lists" in the left navigation, click FRIENDS
  3. The DELETE LIST button is now above your friends.
 Hopefully it will be a while before Facebook decides to change their layout again.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What is Facebook?

Facebook is a social networking website.  It's a place for folks to gather and chat with each other, play games, and stay informed on news and other stories.  Facebook is a competitor of MySpace (one of the first social networking sites created).

Signing up for an account is fast, easy and free.  Anybody can join, although it's generally recommended that kids under 13 don't.  But having said that, there are plenty of kids under 13 that are on Facebook.  If you'd like to sign up for a Facebook account go to

Once you have an account setup, the next step is to find family and friends and add them to your "friends list".  This step is necessary if you want to communicate or see what your friends are up to on Facebook.  The idea behind this step is to offer some basic privacy.  This way only people you list as "friends" can see you stuff on Facebook.

To find friends on Facebook, type their name in the search box.  Finding friends on Facebook can be a bit tricky because often times there's several people with the same name.  So figuring out which person is the one you really want takes some extra steps sometimes.  It's helpful if that person uploaded a photo of themselves (called a "profile photo").  This is the first step to identifying people on Facebook.  If there isn't a photo, or there's still some doubt to the person identity, then you can click the "View Friends" link next to the person your interested in.  The advantage of this is to see if you know the same people they do, and if you do, chances are this is the person you're looking for.

Adding friends on Facebook is a two-step process. First you have to "add them as your friend" (which in turn sends a message to that person that you want to be friends) ... and they then have to "accept you" as their friend.   If they don't accept you (or chose to ignore your request), you won't be ablee to see their Facebook stuff (posts, photos, etc.).

Once you've added friends to facebook (and they've accepted you as their friend), you can view their "friends list" - which can help you find more friends.  Some of your friends may suggest more friends for you which you'll see on your home page of Facebook. It doesn't take long to add a bunch of friends on Facebook.

The next step is the social networking part.  Anytime your friends write or post something on their wall (i.e., their home page), you will see it.  This works in reverse too.  Anytime you write or post something on your own wall (or homepage), your friends will see it.  So far so good - just you and your friends are seeing each other stuff.  However, this is where the privacy thing first starts to get out of control.  If you comment on a friends post, not only will they see it, but so will their friends (who many not be on your friends list).  Even though people you don't know will see your comments, they still won't have access to your Facebook stuff if they are not on your friends list. 

But the basic rule on Facebook is this ... don't write, comment or share anything that you don't want the rest of the world seeing!  Although there is some basic privacy on Facebook, you have to conduct yourself as if there is none.

We'll talk more about privacy and danger issues related to Facebook later, but for now, I hope you have a better understanding of what Facebook is and how to get started using it.

Understanding Facebook

When Facebook first launched, I signed up for an account under the advice I was getting from a business mentor at the time.  Social networking sites (like Facebook) are good business tools for various reasons.  But after signing up for the account, I hardly ever touched it.  Social networking was not my thing (and in many ways, still isn't).
Then one day, a friend told me about a game on Facebook and I decided to check it out because it was different ... and next thing I know, I'm really liking this game.  And while I was quickly becoming addicted to this game, I noticed that a lot more of my old friends I hadn't seen in a while were on Facebook and we started reconnecting.  Next thing I know, I'm hooked on Facebook and found myself visiting it everyday.

Yesterday I helped a 90-year old grandpa get started on Facebook so that he could surprise his grandkids.  How cool is that?  This gentleman had heard that his grandkids were on Facebook (often abbreviated, FB) ... he wanted to surprise them by showing up there himself.  And what a surprise it was.  Within minutes of setting up the account, he had made friends with his grandkids and was the talk of the town (so to speak).  His grandkids spent the rest of the day bragging how proud they were of their grandpa being on Facebook and finding them!

I get a lot of questions from clients about Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc. 
These are all social networking sites (and there are many more), where folks can congregate on the internet to chat, play games, read news and other interesting stories, etc.  Many of the questions I get deal with the dangers of using such sites and the folks asking are concerned about their kids and grandkids.  Naturally they want to protect them from internet dangers and so want to know more about how these sites work and what kind of dangers exist with them.

While the games and friends played a role in my getting more involved in Facebook, one of the primary reasons was so I could better answer these questions.   Those who really know me, know that I'm not comfortable disclosing information about myself and prefer to stay under the radar.  With Facebook, this is nearly impossible.  But in an effort to better serve my clients, I decided to put myself out on that limb in order to better understand the flow of information on Facebook.

So I will be posting several different articles on this blog about Facebook.  I hope that these articles will help answer all of your questions from "getting started" to "knowing the dangers".   Anytime you want to know something about Facebook, you can type "Facebook" in the search box above the posts and click the "Search this blog" button.  Every post I've written about Facebook will show up on the page.

So let's begin by talking about what Facebook is.  Click here to learn more.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Keyboard Shortucut Cheat Sheets

Just about everything you can do with a mouse can be done with a keyboard shortcut.  Although most people don't care to learn the shortcuts, they can be handy in various instances (for example, when the mouse fails).  Some keyboard shortcuts are also time savers.

Many of us use "Cntrl + C" and "Cntrl + V" to copy and paste, respectively.  These are two shortcuts which are not only time savers, but also tend to work in those instances where "Copy/Paste" are not available on a right click of the mouse. 

Most software applications also have keyboard shortcuts.  For example, if you're typing away in Microsoft Word and want to save your document, you can hit "Cntrl + S" on the keyboard.  This same keyboard shortcut works in most other software applications too.

When you're working in software, you can usually figure out the keyboard shortcut by looking at the menu.  Commands (like Save, Exit, etc.) will usually have the keyboard shortcut next to it ... they'll have a letter underlined.  When you see a letter underlined in the menu, it typically means that hitting "Cntrl" plus that letter on the keyboard is the shortcut.

Here's handy link with some keyboard shortcut cheat sheets you can download.  Notice that the shortcuts are divided into categories.  If you keep a 3-ring binder next to your computer for notes, printing these cheat sheets out and putting them in it could prove useful in the future.

Like anything else, the more you use the keyboard shortcuts, the more you'll be able to remember them.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Can't Receive Email from MSN?

Yesterday, many of clients reported that their MSN email accounts weren't working.  Turns out, there was a change at MSN that caused the problem.

You may have seen an email a couple of weeks ago that stated you needed to download software if you used Outlook Express in order to continue receiving email.  And if you're like most people, you weren't sure you could trust the email given today's internet scams.  Making matters worse, when you tried to search the MSN website for more information (in order to determine if the email was legit), you were unable to find anything ... resulting in you being in more hesitant to follow the email instructions.  And now you can't receive or send email from MSN.

Don't feel bad.  You were right to be cautious and hesitant about downloading software based on an email.  However, this email does appear to be legit and if you asked me MSN / Qwest could have done a lot better job of spreading the word about the upcoming changes on their site in order to ease people's fears.

Okay, so here's the scoop.  Over the past year or so Microsoft has been in the process of re-branding themselves from "MSN" to "Widows Live".  So everything is being renamed ... Windows Live Mail (instead of Outlook Express), Windows Live Messenger (instead of MSN Messenger), etc.

Also in the past, MSN did not support POP3 or SMTP (normal email systems) and so you had to use HTTP to receive email through Outlook Epxress (which was designed for POP3 and SMTP).  This created a lot of headaches for people, especially since MSN refused to support the use of their email through Outlook Express.

So now, MSN has decided to help their users out a bit.  Users now have two options in which to receive their MSN email.

The first option is to download Windows Live Mail (which is the new Outlook Express).  If you own a computer running Windows Vista, then you already have Windows Live Mail and don't need to do this.  But if your computer is running Windows XP or an earlier version of Windows, Microsoft is now letting you download and install Windows Live Mail so you can use it instead of Outlook Express.  Personally, I don't like this option.

The other option now available is to configure a POP3 and SMTP account.  The advantage of this option is that you don't have to download or install any software.  You simply create a new MSN account that uses POP3 and SMTP, change the ports, and then delete the old account.  It's simple and only takes about 5 minutes to complete.

For more information about how to configure your email accounts for MSN, click here.

If you need more help with MSN email, click here.  Notice there is a chat link at the top of the page too in case you wish to speak with an MSN agent.