bobquasit: (Default)
I don't know if anyone else is likely to end up fighting the SweetIM malware infection, but if you do, it's a real bitch. I had to clean it out of my mother-in-law's desktop recently, and it was NOT fun. On the off chance that you have to deal with it some day, here's how I killed it.

First, I installed Malwarebytes and ran scans. I had to run separate scans for every account on the system.

This was a Windows XP system, by the way, and it had some decent antivirus stuff installed. My best guess is that the infection was picked up from a free game site, by the way. Remember, always browse wisely!

Anyway, after I used Malwarebytes to get rid of the infection in all of the accounts, I still had to go into each browser (Firefox and Internet Explorer) and fix them; SweetIM had changed the home page and default search engine in each one. I changed the homepages from the SweetIM homepage, (a sure source of infection), and changed the search engine from the SweetIM search tool, which also comes with free infections.

Even so, I ended up having to completely reset Firefox on her primary account. SweetIM is a hellishly stubborn infection.

And after all that, I happened to notice that there was still a link on the desktop of one of the accounts to something called "search the web". Which, when I checked the properties, turned out to be - you guessed it - another SweetIM infection point.

These people are evil, evil, evil. I'm tempted to call for the death penalty for malware writers.

After that I did some housekeeping, including updating Firefox and installing Chrome, and now the system looks fine. But man, what a nasty piece of malware! Killing it took about two to two-and-a-half hours of my time. If there was justice in this world, I would be able to collect payment for that time out of the hide of the SweetIM people.

Plus damages. Lots of damages.
bobquasit: (Default)
Skype is in a war of sorts with Google Voice. And today, I discovered that Skype had taken my system hostage as a prisoner in that war.

I used to be able to use my Google Voice account to call any phone in America for free from my Gmail home page; just type in a phone number or the name of a contact and I'd be connected, with a clarity that actually stunned some of the people I spoke to. Apparently Google Voice uses some sort of astonishing new sound-processing algorithm.

And then recently I installed Skype, since several friends had urged me to try it. Today I tried to use Google Voice to call my parents in Massachusetts. I typed "Dad" in the Google Voice box...and instead of his home and mobile numbers appearing, they appeared with Skype icons surrounding them along with a dollar sign. When I hovered over the numbers, I was told I would be making a "low cost call with Skype".

Now, just to be clear: the call should have been free, via Google. Instead Skype blocked my ability to make that free call, and tried to force me to pay them for it. As far as I'm concerned, that's stealing.

I tried to find a way to make the call WITHOUT using Skype. No matter what I did, Skype wouldn't allow me to do that. I shut down Skype; when I went back and tried to call with Google Voice, Skype immediately restarted itself and invited me to pay them if I wanted to make the call.

I began to seriously consider uninstalling Skype. I have a temper, but I don't think anybody would take it well when some company takes over something on your own system and basically holds it hostage. Boiling with rage, I began to research a solution.

It wasn't easy to find, but I found it. The problem was an add-on that had apparently come bundled with Skype. So I had to go to the Windows Control Panel, choose Add/Remove Programs, and then removed the program called "Skype Click to Call". Mind you, I wasn't told that the goddamned thing would be installed when I installed Skype, and I damned well wouldn't have installed it if I'd known that it was replacing my option to make free phone calls with the requirement to pay Skype for those same calls.

But Skype, here's a message for you: I will never spend a penny on any of your services, EVER. I'll use the free stuff because my friends are on it. But otherwise, you can go screw yourselves.
bobquasit: (Bad Sam!)
After unending hours in live chat, and on the phone, and with technicians remoting in to my system, my ESP All-In-One Printer/Scanner/Copier still crashes every time I try to scan. The latest joke is that they are going to send me a CD of their software. Given that their level-2 technician remoted into my system and personally uninstalled the software and then downloaded it herself and reinstalled it, I am trying to understand why this would help. How could a CD version be MORE up-to-date than an online version which is available to their own technicians?

I used to love Kodak, no lie. They made rock-solid high-speed duplicators, back when I was running the copy center of a large law firm. And I appreciated their recent honesty policy about toner, which is why I recommended them to so many people. But now? I'm getting really, really pissed off at them.
bobquasit: (Ordinary)
Google recently added the option for voice calling to my Gmail and Google Voice. I can call anywhere in the US for free. But what's really exciting is the sound quality of the calls.

It's been frustrating to use cell phones, for me. My hearing isn't great in the human voice range, and cell phone sound quality usually sucks, to put it mildly. When I call my parents, we sometimes have trouble communicating (no jokes, please ). And when I talk to some of my friends on the cell, it's extremely frustrating; I listen as best as I can, but often miss part of what they're saying.

In addition to the sound quality problem, there's the...I forget what it's called, but basically the problem is that when you speak on a cell phone, the incoming voice signal is suppressed - and contrariwise, when someone is talking to you, they can't hear you. The old land-line connections weren't like that. And they're still not, but it sticks in my craw to pay to call my parents or friends for a land-line call when the same call would be free on my cell phone.

Google's new voice option solves both problems, at least for now. Until the end of this year, domestic calls are free and international calls are 2¢ per minute. They aren't saying what the cost will be after the end of the year, but in the meantime I can make free calls with my headset that actually sound clearer even than a land line call!

Some of you are going to be hearing from me before too long.
bobquasit: (Default)
I wrote recently about a problem I'd had on GoodReads, when I wrote a long review only to lose it all before I could post it. I suggested on the GoodReads feedback group that a save draft feature would be nice to have. Someone recommended the Lazarus add-on for Firefox and Chrome. I installed it, and I just tested it tonight. It's amazing - it saved my work, all of it! I'm delighted.
bobquasit: (Sebastian Riding)
I'm the nostalgic type. I remember a lot of my favorite things from when I was a child, and I try to share them with Sebastian.

Books, for example; I have a copy of almost every old book that I loved as a young boy. I've managed to get copies of some of those old TV shows and specials, too (although I still haven't managed to get Hodge Podge Lodge, unfortunately).

Records were a bigger problem. My turntable died not too many years after I bought my first CD player - which was one of the first CD players on the market - and I hadn't picked up a new one. Many of my particular favorites were never reissued on CD, and some couldn't be obtained even in LP form. They seemed to be completely forgotten.

Most of those favorite old records had been lost over the years, but my parents still had a few of them. There were three that I remembered particularly fondly: dramatizations of the lives of Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach. All that was left was the Mozart LP, and that was almost certainly in terrible condition. Sebastian is still young enough to enjoy those records, but time was running out...and I've never seen them on eBay or anywhere else.

Fast-forward to last month. Teri bought me a USB turntable for my birthday. I ordered a record-cleaner, which arrived on Friday; I tried to use it to clean The Story of Mozart. The record had been stored directly in the jacket for thirty years, and was very, very dusty. When I finished, the record looked clean. But as it played, large balls of dust were plowed up out of the grooves. The recording sounded terrible, with lots of loud hissing, strange distortions, and loud clicks from scratches. I worked the results over with the Audacity software that had come with the turntable, and was impressed at how much the results were improved. But they were still pretty poor.

Nonetheless I made a CD for Sebastian. I also decided to make the mp3 available online, because as far as I knew I was the only person who remembered that series and I thought it deserved to reach a new generation. I started to annotate the mp3 before posting it. But neither the jacket nor the label on the LP included the year that it was recorded! So I Googled "Tale-Spinners for Children", and found...a site that has mp3s of all 49 records in the series, plus dozens of recordings from similar series! The site's copy of The Story of Mozart sounds MUCH better than mine.

I suppose if you're old and cynical, you may not be able to enjoy these recordings. I'm sorry, if that's the case. But if you know any young children, you'd be doing them a favor to let them listen to some of these.

Tale-Spinners for Children
bobquasit: (Default)
Over on Askville (where else?) I gave someone advice about Linux. But I typoed. And the typo was such that I couldn't resist following up:

"It depends on the specific hardware and on what version of Linus you want to install."

As everyone knows, the Great Pumpkin version of Linus uses far more system resources than the security-blanket and armchair-theologian versions. :D
bobquasit: (Default)
I gave in and bought Motorola Phone Tools today. Had to spend an hour or so on the phone with Motorola support, trying to figure out why it didn't work. Finally I got it fixed up, and was able to download a year or two worth of pictures and videos from my phone.

The videos are of surprisingly poor quality, but the photos are decent. And now I can take as many photos as I want with my cell without worrying about filling it up or paying $$$ to send them to myself via the net.

Now I can sleep.
bobquasit: (Default)
I've been using the same graphic program for at least twelve years now. I've become pretty comfortable with it over time. One nice thing about it is that it doesn't require an elaborate installation procedure. I just copy the files over to the hard drive, click on the executable, and it's ready to go.

Except. Although it worked on my old computer running Windows XP, it won't run on my new computer running XP. The old one was the "Home" edition, and the new one is the "Professional" edition (both of them 32-bit), but I don't see how that could be the problem; I've run the program successfully on other computers with the Professional edition.

The problem was a dll file. I tried copying it and installing it to my new system, but nothing worked. Given that the software was from 1996, it really seemed that I should look for a modern freeware replacement.

The problem was that so many modern graphics programs are so complicated! I don't want to have to spend a lot of time learning a new program, and about all sorts of advanced techniques that I don't need right now. I want a program that will do pretty much what the old program did, without a steep learning curve. I mean, I'm very good at learning new software, but my free time is limited!

So first I tried GIMP. It's open-source, freeware, and came highly recommended. But it turned out to be way more program than I needed. It's more like PhotoShop than my old painting program, and was so complicated that I found myself pretty much stymied when I tried to use it.

Later, I lucked upon It's just what I was looking for! A free, modern, and relatively easy-to-use graphics program that I could work with straight out of the box. It has advanced features, but they're not in my face - I can learn about them later, and in the meantime I can edit my images. And Sebastian can draw pictures. In fact, he drew his first picture with it a few days ago; a picture of Godzilla and Hedorah. I'll see if I can get his permission to post it here tonight.

For Real?

Oct. 1st, 2008 02:27 pm
bobquasit: (Default)
I'm thinking Real Hard about buying RealDVD with my next paycheck. Anyone know anything interesting about it? Have you tried it yet? Apparently Hollywood is suing to get it off the market, so I'll probably need to pick it up soon!
bobquasit: (Default)
I installed the new Google Chrome browser a couple of days ago (the day it was released). As always, one of the first sites I checked was my own RuneQuest site; I wanted to see how it looked. And what do you think was the result?

Well, I kind of gave it away with the subject. Google blocked my site, and said it was infected with malware! I checked it out, and sure enough my index.html was infected with a script exploit. I cleaned it and replaced it. Then I found that index.php was infected too. I couldn't clean it, so I just deleted it. It doesn't seem to have affected the functioning of the site.

Unfortunately my site seems to have been added to a list of bad sites in the meantime. So not only is it blocked by Google Chrome (you have to check a box affirming that you know the site is infected if you want to see it in Chrome) but it's now blocked by my work, too!

I've requested a review by Google. I'm hoping I got all of the infection. I downloaded a fresh copy of everything on the site tonight (after making the fix and deleting the bad file) and ran a scan with AntiVir; everything came up clean.

And that's it. Good night!
bobquasit: (Default)
My brain is basically broken right now.

I have lots that I should be doing; that article about sheetless roleplaying, for example.

I annotated and posted another zine on my site this morning, but I could do another one. I do have it scanned. But I just can't bring myself to do it.

Maybe I should take a walk and get some lunch. But I hear that it's unbearably hot outside, and the air quality is supposed to be positively lethal.

Random note: I found a ton of old zines and editorials and other material on my computer, including a one-shot Babylon 5 zine that I'd completely forgotten. Unfortunately they're all in Publish-It 4.0 format, and while I can open them and print out hardcopies, every time I try to print them to Acrobat format I get this:

I can print out hardcopies and scan them, but then the text won't be searchable or indexable...and it's a lot more work. Plus I can't edit the zines for typos.

bobquasit: (Default)
I work with data. And I suspect that the sort of thing I do isn't done by many people. So this will probably either be meaningless to you, painfully obvious, or boring - take your pick.

That doesn't mean I won't subject you to it, of course. :D

One of the things I do involves cleaning name data. This generally arrives in Excel format (and if it doesn't, I get pissed off). It can range anywhere from a few dozen names to a few thousand, and I've had files of over a hundred thousand names come in. Fortunately, that's rare.

The problem is that the data is almost always really shitty. In part this is because it was put together or maintained by people who either didn't care about the data, or didn't really understand it. It's also true that in some cases the ultimate source of that data is a competitor who knew that we'd be working with that data. I'm pretty sure they try to make it as difficult as possible.

Just to give you an idea, it's not uncommon to see data like this, all in a single column:

Brown, Robert Q.
Harold ZbeodkwsiMr.
John B BodyLiesAMoulderinInTheGrave
OBRIEN, Seamus

My goal is to create clean last and first name fields as quickly and accurately as possible. I simply don't have the time to go through each record in a thousands-plus name file, though. So I've evolved a lot of little tricks over the years. These generally involve searching and replacing with wildcards in various ways. If you don't know, the wildcard characters are "*" and "?". The asterisk represents any number of characters, and the question mark represents a single character.

But lately I've been seeing a new problem: somebody is throwing wildcards into the data. Specifically, asterisks. The problem is that if I try to do a global search and replace to remove "*", I end up deleting ALL the data - the "*" is taken by Excel as a wildcard. It's quite an annoying little trap.

It may not be intentional, of course; it could just be various idiots trying to "footnote" the data, although I've never seen an actual footnote in a name file.

But I thought of a solution, and had the pleasure of having the first thing I tried work perfectly. I copied the entire column and threw it into a Windows NotePad file. My hunch was that NotePad was just basic enough to not have the wildcard replace option. And it doesn't; a search and replace of "*" with nothing works perfectly. Then I copied the data from NotePad, pasted it back into Excel, and voila! clean data.

Which still has to be worked on, of course, but at least I've gotten rid of those damned asterisks.


Jan. 5th, 2008 10:52 pm
bobquasit: (Default)
Lots to catch up on.

NeverWinter Nights
I managed to take my second fighter one level higher than the first and win the game. In the process, I discovered something annoying; I still couldn't get a +4 weapon, and when fighting in that bottleneck ("strange courtyard") I still kept getting "weapon ineffective!" messages. But something was somehow hurting the enemies, and I managed to kill them without dying.

Then I discovered that you can take your character online to a solo multiplayer game and play the most experience-rich areas of the final chapter to level up. It's not hard; it takes less than four 20-minute play-throughs to get your character up a level, even from 19 to 20! Then you can play the character in local solo play at the new, raised level.

But the ending was lame. There had been strong hints at romance with the main heroine/villainess (as well as with at least one of the henchwomen, which seemed odd; is polygamy common in the Forgotten Realms?), but the end didn't even mention her or, well, anything. It was just one of those lame "the adventure continues!" bits, nothing more than an advertisement for upcoming supplements.

And believe me, NWN's cutscenes aren't made with 1/1000 the skill of any of Blizzard's cutscenes. They were simply lame.

Nonetheless after Christmas I went to Best Buy and picked up the Diamond edition of NWN (and Same & Max Season One as well, but I've only just started playing that). I took it home and was surprised that it was only one disk; it was supposed to contain not only my original edition of NWN, but two major sequels and some additional campaigns as well. I chalked it up to improvements in compression algorithms, or the possibility that the original game had been pretty small; it was old, after all.

Yes, I'm an idiot. It was a DVD-ROM. I didn't figure that out until after I'd opened it up and put it in the CD-ROM drive with no reaction.

Now, my computer has a DVD-ROM. But like so much of the rest of the system, it's a cheap piece of shit. It hasn't worked since the second month after I bought the damned system. Sometimes it shows up on My Computer, but that's rare - and even when it does, it almost never actually works. It doesn't open, or respond to the "Eject" command, or anything.

The girl at Best Buy was pretty rude when I tried to exchange it for a CD-ROM version of the same game; she copped a big attitude. I told her that I'd called and confirmed that it could be exchanged for the CD-ROM version, and she acted like she was a queen being asked by a commoner to wipe his ass. Unfortunately in this case the queen won, because there IS NO CD-ROM version of Neverwinter Nights Diamond. I went back to the customer service desk to tell them that, and they looked at me like I was a fucking bug. See if I ever shop at Best Buy again!

Anyway, it seems that I have a shiny $20 coaster until I buy a computer with a DVD-Rom...which will be never, at the rate things are going.

Desktop Tower Defense
Is anyone else playing this? It's pretty damned addictive. If you haven't tried it, it's a free browser-based game.

I played it a lot, never managing to win but (of course) doing better and better as time passed. Recently I made a breakthrough, and today I was able to beat it in Medium mode without losing a single life. Here's how the board looked at the end:

The trick is to use the cheapest towers to build most of your maze, and concentrate on upgrading key towers to the most powerful form. I first managed to win by upgrading Pellet towers to long-range Snipers; I'd ignored them at first because the game describes them as "cheap", but eventually suspected that this was misdirection. It was, and it wasn't. The thing to remember is that one upgraded tower does more damage for the money than two less-upgraded ones. If you pump up each tower all the way to the final upgrade, your firepower will be maximized. Also, placement is helpful. I concentrated my towers in the center, so as to be able to concentrate fire both on the land-based creeps and the air-creeps which sail right over the towers. Speaking of air creeps, I found that Squirt towers upgraded to the max were highly effective both against ground and air; one centrally-located maxed Swarm tower (air-only) bracketed by a couple of maxed Squirts was all I needed to handle the final two Air bosses. As soon as they'd passed I sold the Swarm and used the money to quickly max out two or three more Squirts. I didn't lose a single life.

A couple of other points: it's a good idea to have at least a couple of maxed Freeze towers spaced early in the line of flight (west and north) of the air creeps, but not too close to the edges. They freeze both air and ground creeps, slowing and damaging them; this allows your Squirts to take them out more quickly. Another good idea is to make sure that your areas of fire are not wasted. Many of the towers have an enlarged area of fire in their final form, and if much of that area is off the edge of the field, you're wasting potential attacks.

I noticed that it was possible to screw around with the creeps by removing a key tower, giving them a shortcut; they'd turn around and head towards the opening, which (of course) I plugged before they could reach it. Then they'd turn back, giving my Squirts more time to attack. But it wasn't worth it. The countdown timer is always running, so the next wave comes on and you don't get much of a benefit from having the previous wave run back and forth. Plus there's the risk that the new wave will actually make it through the shortcut.

I also tried a diagonal maze - a lot - but ended up feeling that it wasn't as efficient as the straight(ish)-line maze.

Almost forgot: my top score so far is position 234435 with 6882 points, no lives lost.

Whew! Long post!


Aug. 14th, 2007 10:42 am
bobquasit: (Default)
I recently tried a program called Orb which allows you to view media (including video) from your computer on your TV, if the TV is net-enabled. Since the Wii has a net connection, I gave it a try. I've been hoping to watch Ultraviolet (the cool British TV vampire/detective show) with Teri; I have it on the computer, but not in a format that can be burned onto a video CD.

It worked, but unfortunately it was very laggy. Every ten seconds or so it froze and waited for buffering. So it's basically useless.


Aug. 16th, 2006 10:45 pm
bobquasit: (Reid's not bald!)
Here's a list of free security programs that I've used to clean up and protect the computers of several friends and family members. I suppose this will be old news to everybody who reads this, but I've helped a number of people with this info. And since I typed it all up in an email tonight, I thought I might as well excerpt it here - because who knows? I could be wrong, and this might actually be helpful to somebody.

Alternatively, I wouldn't be surprised if one or more people disagree with me about these choices, and will shame me by proving my ignorance in a comment. That's just the kind of fucked-up world this is.

Here's what I recommend:

1. Windows Update. Make sure that it's set to automatically update, but do a manual update just to make sure that your system is absolutely up-to-date. You should be able to start it by clicking on the Start button and looking at the items listed at the top.

2. Firewall. If you don't have a firewall running, activate your Windows XP firewall. Click on Start, Help and Support, and type in "Firewall". It will walk you through the process.

3. Anti-Vir. Consider uninstalling McAffee (if that's what you have) and installing Anti-Vir in its place. The website is . Once you've installed it, update it and run a scan. Remember that it's bad to have two anti-virus programs running simultaneously on your system, so if you do decide to install Anti-Vir, be SURE to uninstall any other antivirus program first.

4. Ad-Aware. Download, install, and update it. Then run a scan.

5. Spybot-Search & Destroy - . Download, install, update, scan. Also use it to immunize your system, which will protect you in other ways.

6. SpywareBlaster - . Download, install, update, and enable all protections. SpywareBlaster is not a scanning program, so you won't need to scan; it just blocks a lot of bad stuff.

I strongly recommend updating ALL of those programs and scanning at least once a month. Once or twice a week would be better.

You should also consider switching to the FireFox browser instead of Internet Explorer: . IE isn't very secure. If you do switch, make sure to activate SpywareBlaster's FireFox protections.

Oh, and the Google Toolbar is available for FireFox (at ) and for Internet Explorer ( ). It blocks pop-ups (not 100% of them, but the vast majority), and has a great built-in spellchecker for web forms - it even has a customizable dictionary.

One more thing: if you use Outlook or Outlook Express, it would be smart to change - those two programs are the ones most often targeted by hackers. I've switched myself and others to Gmail, and it's much better. If you want to keep your mail on your local system rather than online, you might want to switch to Thunderbird; I've never used it myself, but I've heard good things.
bobquasit: (Default)
First, a quick happy birthday to [ profile] dancing_kiralee!

And system was just attacked by something called Winfixer2005. To be honest, I'm not sure what happened. But what made it most disturbing is that I had actually updated and ran my full suite of protection software in the last five hours - that is, before my system got infected. My browser was open - FireFox - and I was trying to vote for my site on the "Top 25" poll when suddenly things slowed down and got weird. All of a sudden popups appeared like crazy, including some full-screen ones, telling me that my registry had been compromised and I needed to buy Winfixer 2005 right away.

I tried to close the popups but, but that just opened new ones. So I went into Task Manager and tried to close the single Winfixer page that was displayed. The response was that the program was waiting for a response from me. Nonetheless I closed it, and immediately ran a full system scan - Ad-Aware and Antivir. Neither reported any problem.

I just did a little research, and it looks as if I may have dodged the bullet - I don't think Winfixer 2005 installed, it was just trying to install. I've shut down and restarted, and haven't got the popups that are the sign of Winfixer. I've tried using both IE and FireFox, still nothing. But this is apparently a very virulent exploit or virus. It makes popups appear even when your browser isn't open. So, word to the wise, watch out.

Holy Cow!

Jan. 9th, 2005 08:44 am
bobquasit: (Default)
The Ctrl-wheel trick works with FireFox, and with Internet Explorer, too! Try it!
bobquasit: (Default)
I've been gathering tips and tricks from the Web for a project I'm doing at work; mostly stuff to help with Microsoft Word, since that's the application that most people use most.

I've found some pretty neat stuff. But yesterday I discovered something for myself: I was editing something, when suddenly things went crazy. I was holding down the Ctrl key, and for some reason I idly moved the wheel on the mouse. Suddenly the page view size decreased enormously, and I was viewing all of the pages in the document at once.

It turns out that Ctrl-wheel allows you to resize your view of the document on the fly, in 10% increments. It's incredibly easy and useful. I don't know why no one seems to have documented that. It works with older versions of Word, too. Kinda neat!


Dec. 4th, 2004 11:02 pm
bobquasit: (Default)
My monitor no longer displays the color red. Red comes out black, and everything is dark and dull, tending to bluish.

At a guess, the "red gun" in my monitor is no longer firing.

I am screwed.

On a separate note, yesterday and today I did a heroic task: cleaning out my father's computer. Ad-Aware found 251 contaminations, including over 60 registry entries and a process. It crashed when it tried to clean them.

I installed Spybot Search & Destroy, and it did a GREAT job - I recommend it highly. Also Spyware Blaster. Those two, plus the newest Ad-Aware afterwards, cleaned the system and seem to have secured it. You wouldn't believe how bad his system had been - constant pop-ups, to the point that it was unusable. Now it's just fine.

If only my monitor was...I'll have to dig out an old one tomorrow, and hope it works.

Gonna be hard to go back to 15 inches...


bobquasit: (Default)

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