Archive for October 2009

Microsoft Security Center annoyances

October 16, 2009

When Service Pack 2 for Windows XP was released, a lot of things in XP changed. Most for the better, some for the more annoying.

Security Center was a new addition to the Operating System, giving XP a default firewall and security program.

However, some people prefer their own protection software over Microsoft.

Me, for instance.

So I’ve had Norton, McAfee, AVG and the newest one, Zone Alarm installed as my protection software. Installed by myself.

So I installed the regular protection software onto my computer as normal and as I reboot it I got a pop up from Windows XP that my computer may be at risk. It was a pesky red shield with a white X in the middle.

Well, at first I thought something was wrong with Zone Alarm. I thought maybe it installed incorrectly or something. So I checked the installation and even uninstalled it and reinstalled it back on.

But after a couple of reboots and me checking it and everything, it seemed fine. It updated normally, nothing was wrong in task manager and it was running smoothly.

But Windows Security alerts continued to pop up. Every time Windows started up. At first I just ignored it. Right clicking on the shield and choosing to exit. No big deal. But it popped up every single time windows booted up.

So I lazily left it like that for a while.

It wasn’t until I was building a customers computer and ran into it again that I did something about it.

As I said, Zone Alarm had been functioning fine and everything so the software wasn’t corrupted or installed incorrectly. So I had to turn off a setting somewhere in Security Center. A setting that is on by default.

I right clicked on the red shield and choose to go to Windows Security Center. There I went to the left pane where it says Resources and clicked on “Change The Way Security Center Alerts Me”

There are three things Windows XP will alert you about.
a) The firewall
b) Windows Update
c) Anti virus/Anti spyware

So I just turned off the warnings for the firewall and anti virus/anti spyware. It wasn’t bugging me about Windows Update so I left that on.

I rebooted the computer and sure enough I did not get that pop up anymore.

Of course you’re going to want to check that there is nothing wrong with your
protection software first before turning the alerts off. But if there is nothing wrong
with the protection software you are using, then you can turn alerts off.

Magic Jack verification request

October 8, 2009

I am a proud owner of Magic Jack. It is awesome and wonderful and best of all, it saves
so much money on phone calls, it makes me want to cry or something.

It’s a very simple and easy device to use. Even with sign up for the first time,
it still only took about a minute or two to register an account with them.

Every time I wanted to use it, I simply plug it into a free USB port on any of my
home computers (and I have many) and it automatically recognizes the device and
auto runs the program. In seconds the device is ready
to call any number in the United States.

I have been using Magic Jack since March. Never had a problem with it at all.

Then today for the first time I plugged it in and it gave me an error message (see Windows not detecting DVD device for more details and a fix for that btw).

First it said I didn’t have my USB device plugged in. I assured it I did, by unplugging and replugging the Magic Jack elsewhere in another free USB port on my laptop. The error message came back up.

Well, long story short, I had to use a registry fix for an unrelated problem with
Windows not detecting my DVD device. As I said, read the previous post because
it has a fix.

Moving on, when I did finally fix the devices issue (unrelated windows error), instead of the
regular Magic Jack screen that says Ready To Call, I got, Not Connected. Just then
I got a big pop up window that wanted me to verify my account information.

Well, I’m a paranoid internet user. I don’t just give personal information to any
pop up that comes along, no matter how official it looks.

So I went to the source. The Magic Jack website and got on the Free Tech Support Instant Messaging
service they have there. A technician always available to chat 24/7. As is advertised on
the site.

So I opened a window up and asked the friendly tech what was going on.

She assured me this was very normal. From time to time Magic Jack will ask for
account verification without warning. And if you don’t supply it with such, you can’t
use the device.

I told her that was unusual as I had been using Magic Jack since March 2009, and
never had this pop up before. So I asked if there was a settings option inside Magic Jack
that I could turn this off.

No, was her answer.

She said it was normal and suppose to happen and if you just enter the information
in, you will be good to go.

So, with her on the line, I entered said information in and sure enough
I was able to get past the screen and see my favorite screen
READY TO CALL.

So, this is just a blog reassuring anyone who may be looking it up
on the internet, as I did, that this is normal. Straight from a Magic Jack technicians mouth.

Also, if you don’t have Magic Jack and you use a computer
constantly (as I do), and you make a lot of long distance calls.
This service makes sense. $20 a year for unlimited local and long distance.

I’m very happy with the service as you get free voice mail and
contact list and caller log FREE.

It’s a great service despite what others may complain about. I’ve
had it for many months and I’ve never had a problem with it.

Except this one, but this wasn’t a problem, simply a concern.

Windows not detecting DVD device

October 8, 2009

Among the many other things that have gone wrong this week, seems that something I wouldn’t
expect to go back, went bad. Sort of the last thing I would think I would need to fix.

Somehow my DVD RW device on my laptop got corrupted.

I have an Optiarc DVD RW in my laptop. And for two days now it apparently hadn’t been
functioning properly. I don’t know, it was working fine when I was watching House on DVD.
But I needed the drive to work to use Magic Jack. A wonderful invention of VOIP technology
that I highly recommend if you have a broadband internet connection, know how to use a
computer or have someone around that knows how to use a computer.

But that’s another topic. Let’s stick to this problem.

I had tried to use Magic Jack today and as I usually just plug it into one of my freed up USB ports
on my laptop, I got an error message that said I needed to plug it into a USB port. So I took it out,
and plugged it in another free port on my laptop. Same error message.

So I looked in My Computer icon and noticed that only the USB icon was there for magic jack. Usually there is also a CD ROM there as well, even though you don’t use a CD to install or use Magic Jack. So that confused me at first.

Then I inserted a CD into the DVD drive to see what would happen. And then I saw that nothing appeared
in My Computer. No drive, no nothing.

So I went into device manager to see what was going on and I found that oddly enough,
there was a problem with the driver of my Optiarc DVD device. It had a yellow sign on
the drive. I was confused because optical drives don’t need drivers in versions of Windows
after 95, so I couldn’t have needed to reinstall the drivers.

So I went looking on the internet to see what was going on.

That’s when I came across this enlightening forum article:
http://forums.driverguide.com/showthread.php?t=41081&vforum=0c3238d3

It seems that the problem was that my DVD device was not being detected by Windows Vista.

Why?

I still don’t know.

A corruption in the drivers? I don’t know.

But the fix worked perfectly. So I catalog it here.
http://forums.driverguide.com/showthread.php?t=21669&page=4

I will also write out what to do as well.

Simple solution:

Situation
There is a yellow exclamation mark for CD/DVD drives in Device Manager.
The device status in the properties of the driver might indicate an error code,
for example 32, 37, or 39. Or the drive simply does not appear in My Computer or
Device Manager.

Solution:

To solve the issue, you have to edit the Windows Registry:
Click Start, then Run, type REGEDIT or REGEDIT32and click OK.

Locate and then remove the following registry values:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE SYSTEM CurrentControlSet Control Class {4D36E965-E325-11CE-BFC1-08002BE10318}LowerFilters

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE SYSTEM CurrentControlSet Control Class {4D36E965-E325-11CE-BFC1-08002BE10318}UpperFilters

Close Registry Editor.
Reboot the system for the changes to take effect.

Note: Some programs are unable to detect the CD/DVD drive after these steps.
To solve this, simply re-install the program in question, eg: usually your recording software.
Also, in few instances the order in which the programs are (re-)installed can make a difference.

And so I follow the above instructions and rebooted my laptop. And sure enough
When desktop came back up, I plugged Magic Jack into my laptop again and
just like Magic (get it?) it worked!

Software that dosen’t clean up after itself

October 4, 2009

You’ve done it many times before. I have.
Went to the Add/Remove applet in Windows to finally get rid of that software that’s
been on your computer for ages, but you never use anymore. Or maybe to
get rid of old versions of software to make way for the new stuff.

You go into Add/Remove applet and select the desired software by name and choose to uninstall.
It asks you about a million times if you REALLY want to uninstall this software, etc.
You do, it gives you the quick progress bar and tells you it’s hard at work cleaning up.

Then the end comes and it’s complete.

You believe in the end, that’s it’s gotten rid of it. That it’s all gone. Outta here!

But you’d be wrong.

Wouldn’t it make sense to completely uninstall a program through add/remove programs?

You’d think so.

It would be even easier to uninstall these programs through the programs uninstaller that it
came with when it installed on your computer in the first place.

Once again, you’d think so.

However, as reality dictates time and time again
things aren’t always what they appear,
or don’t appear to be.

Some programs do uninstall completely, in fact most programs do, when you use the
Add/Remove applet in windows to get rid of those useless process time taking annoyances.

But sometimes, programs just uninstall the face,
and leave behind a mess to clean up
of hidden little bits and pieces in your computer.

Registry is where everything is listed.
Everything that installed on your computer
will show up registry, even if it dosen’t
show up in the Add/Remove applet.

Here, you can see every program that is
currently installed on your program.
What’s more is, you can see all the
pieces that programs you thought
you uninstalled have left behind because it
was apparently too much work and they couldn’t
be bothered at the time.

But it’s not just in Registry that programs
leave behind pieces of themselves.
They also are scattered in various
System folders, driver folders, etc.

Mining for all the pieces can be not only
time consuming, but…booorrriinnnngg.

I mean, why do you have to do all this extra work when windows or the
uninstaller program should have done it for you.

Because that’s life kiddo!

So, the moral to the story here folks, is this,
when you get rid of some software on your computer and somehow parts of it
keep popping up from time to time,
check further. You’d be surprised that you
really didn’t get rid of anything at all.

The new Zone Alarm does not play well with others

October 3, 2009

Recently while working on a customers laptop,
I happened to notice how unbelievably slow it was.
So I ran task manager to find out what was going
on and found that even task manager took a while
to appear on the screen.

The customers laptop was not that old, approximately
a year old by now. Brand new, it was top of the line
hardware so it should not have the kind of performance
issues it was displaying.

So at first, by default, I thought…Virus! Or spyware!
Or some other malicious software mining around
their laptop eating up processing power without
their knowledge.

As task manager finally (and I stress FINALLY) came up,
I noticed something called ScanningProcess.exe taking
up a major chunk of processing power for long periods
of time. In fact, there were a couple of copies of
ScanningProcess.exe all running at the same time.

Once again, by default, I thought…Virus!
Or some other malicious software in the system.
This comes from years of clearing customers
computers from malicious software because it
slows the machine down drastically without

reason to them.So I wrote down the PID
numbers and the executable file name and
all the information I could gather on it at the time from task

manager and went to my personal vast
virtual library of resources.
The internet. How I love you so!

I found that in fact it wasn’t malicious software, but in fact a
property of the Zone Alarm security suite software the
customer had installed on their laptop. Being good
customers of mine and having worked on machines and software
for them for many years, they are hip to the ways of protecting ones
computer from the evils of the world wide web.

However, because other software is free, and the dangers of the internet are so scary, the customer
also installed many other protection software onto their computer as well.
For example, AVG. Which is a FREE to use anti virus software with no expiration date on use.
Another protection software they had was the popular ad busting spyware software AD AWARE.
Another FREE to download and use Anti Virus software with FREE updates and scanning techniques, etc.

So on top of the Zone Alarm software they had installed, they also had a few different other
protection software as well.

Can’t be too safe these days, right?

I mean, if it’s FREE, why not vest up?

Well…the problem is Zone Alarm doesn’t play well with other protection software. Much like
Microsoft Windows doesn’t play well with…well….any other operating system.

It’s a drag, I know. Why can’t we all just get along?

The cause apparently is that Zone Alarm doesn’t like other protection software. It confuses ZA
and then bad things like Scanning tools go haywire and your fast as a bullet computer becomes
a senior citizen trying to pull a car, instead of driving it. VERY SLOW!

Well, in search of a fix for this issue, I came across a forum with help from
a Zone Alarm employee.

Below is the fix for this particular issue. It’s unfortunate that you have to install ZA
alone, because ZA tends to miss things some times that other programs pick up on.
I’m a heavy fan of Spyroot and Spybot Seek & Destroy myself.

Here’s the fix from ZA:

To troubleshoot issue with ZA you will need to remove any security tools installed on the system. It can conflict with ZA. If not, do not follow the steps detailed below.

First remove ZASS with the ZA removal tool (download on desktop and run as administrator):
http://download.zonealarm.com/bin/fr…cpes_clean.exe

Double check that all ZA related files/folders are gone:
1.) Restart your computer
2.) When you see the screen go black and it starts booting back up keep
tapping the “F8” key (at the top of your keyboard)
3.) This should bring up a menu. Choose Safe Mode off the menu by
using the arrow keys on the keyboard to highlight Safe Mode and press
Enter
4.) If you get a message asking to go to Safe Mode, choose Yes. If you
get a help and support window, close this.
5.) Double Click the Program Files Folder
6.) Right Click the Zone Labs Folder, click Delete, and choose Yes

NOTE: If you cannot delete the entire folder, please open the Zone Labs ->
ZoneAlarm folder and delete out as many of the files listed here as
possible.

7.) Close this window
8.) Click Start, My Computer
9.) Double Click the C:
10.) Double Click the Windows Folder (It may also be WinNT)
11.) Right Click the Internet Logs Folder, click Delete, and choose Yes
12.) Double Click the System32 Folder
13.) Right Click the Zone Labs Folder, click Delete, and choose Yes

NOTE: If you cannot delete the entire folder, please open the Zone Labs
folder and delete out as many of the files listed here as possible.

14.) Clear your Temp Directory per the instructions below.
– Go to Start -> Run
– Type %temp% and click OK
– Select all of these files and delete them
15.) Clear the Prefetch folder per the instructions below.
– Go to Start -> Run
– Type Prefetch and click OK
– Select all of these files and delete them

16.) Empty your recycle bin.
17.) Restart the computer.

18.) ZA does not play nice with many other security tools. They may block its correct functioning including updates. For example, spyware doctor, spysweeper, trojan hunter, win patrol, PCtools Threat Fire, Mcafee, Norton, Symantec, Adaware, SpybotS&D, WinPatrol, AVG, Avast free, NOD, Kaspersky, Comodo, Rising, PC Doctor, MS OneCare and many others. If you want to troubleshoot issues with ZA please remove these tools (not enough to disable) and install back (if you really need) only after you see your ZA is working as it should.

19.) Double check you have really removed all other security tools by running this utility
http://www.appremover.com/

20.) Check the system for malware. Check with MBAM and SuperAntispyware. See links here:
http://www.zaforums-stg.com/showpost…07&postcount=2

21). Clean your system and registry with ccleaner.com
http://www.ccleaner.com/download/builds/downloadbinslim

22). Re-download the latest ZASS installer
http://www.zonealarm.com/zasuitedownload

23). Install with default settings do NOT alter them. After re-boot go to ZA antivirus/antispyware and ‘Update Now’ and do not restore any previous ZA settings.

There you have it. In conclusion, install ONLY ZA on your computer.
Or, install the other protection software and leave ZA alone. I wouldn’t
recommend this, because ZA is still a great firewall and malware inspector.

Have a good day!