One is Good, Two is NOT Better.

We techs always recommend that you keep an antivirus program functional on your computer. Like all good things, too much can be a very, very bad thing.

Just like mixing various prescription drugs, mixing more than one antivirus can have disastrous effects on your computer. The problem is not in the file scanning portion of the antivirus, but its true, hidden bread and butter, the real-time protection. These functions check everything you open and manipulate for virus-like behavior.

Now, all you have to do is imagine two programs competing tooth and nail for access to everything your computer does and you can just imagine the crawl your computer goes through. I’ve seen it before. Just thinking about it again gives me the creepy cold chills of a truly scary book, without any of the enjoyment. That or the sick dropping feeling in my stomach.

So, as a note, please, please, please, only keep one of any type of active security program on your computer. Only one antivirus program with active, “real-time” protection, only one antispyware program that provides proactive protection. One good one is more than enough.

One Little, Two Little, Three Little Windows…

You would think that many people, even those not truly computer – savvy, usually know which version of Windows they are running on their Windows machines. Insofar as knowing whether or not they are running Windows 98 or Windows XP, this is usually, but far from universally true. What most people don’t realize is that for all intents and purposes there are at least four versions of Windows XP installation disks that are all mutually exclusive.

Yes, four. If you decide to include the corporate open license versions, there are even more.

Those of you stuck at two (XP Home and Pro) can be excused for your confusion, because in truth, that is what Microsoft will tell you. What Microsoft doesn’t tell you is that there are two versions of XP Home: The one you buy over the counter, and the “OEM” version that is usually preinstalled on your machine when you buy it from Dell (or Gateway, etc.). While the actual copy of Windows on the disk is identical between the retail and OEM versions, these both have separate disks, and separate sets of installation keys, and separate installers.

Wait, it gets much worse. For the tech, anyway.

Many people who need Windows XP reinstalled have lost their original disks. Fortunately, it’s easy enough to carry around a copy of the various flavors (OEM and retail) of XP home and pro. Guessing which to use is also usually pretty easy based on what OS was originally installed on the machine, which we can often discover by looking for the Microsoft label on the side. It’s critical that we use the correct disk, because with the new activation features, if you don’t get the right version on, you don’t have a valid activation key, and 30 days later Windows stops working.

Imagine, though, the confusion for the poor user who doesn’t realize there is a difference. I see enough people who don’t know they can’t use a friends’ copy of XP pro to fix XP home. Compound this with the fact that many home users who upgraded to XP in the first place often lose their keycodes, and reinstallation becomes nearly impossible unless you’re sufficiently geeky to keep rescue tools like Knoppix around, and USB thumb drives.

So what is Microsoft doing to make things easier for us, the users?


Worse than nothing.

According to a recent article at Ars technica , there will be seven, yes, seven versions of Windows “Vista”, destined to replace Windows XP. Hopefully, these also don’t come in OEM and retail flavors because at this point, I’m beginning to get confused as to which version is capable of what, and I pity the non computer geek. Carrying four CD’s around is annoying enough, and at least I know what I’m doing. Usually.

Setting Up a Home Router

A home cable/DSL router may be the second best improvement you can make to your home computer and network as far as making your broadband connection usable, and keeping your home computer safe. For a very little bit of time and effort (and roughly $40 American) you can prevent all sorts of headaches.

First of all, what is a router? According to my Techno Babble page it is:

A piece of hardware that connects two separate networks together and routes information between them…

The two networks we are talking about are the internet, and one that likely didn’t exist until you installed the router – your home network. The second you plug your computer into the port marked “LAN”, or one of the numbered ports (if the router has a built-in switch), you have an instant, if very small network made up of your computer and the router. The second you attach the router to the cable modem or DSL modem, you have added the router to the network we call the internet.

How to tell if you need a router:

Some DSL modems provided by companies like Bellsouth already act as routers. If this is the case, then you do not need to add a router, though you may want to add a switch and/or a wireless access point to allow more computers onto the internet, or to free yourself up from being tethered to the desk. In order to tell if you are behind a router:

If you have a Windows machine, click on “Start”, then “Run”. In the box provided type:


…and click OK (If you’re still using windows Me or Windows 98 you will have to type in the full word “command” instead of “cmd”). When the black box with the “>” prompt appears, type the following:


… and hit the enter key. You will get a short list of numbers.

For Macintoshes running OS X, open up the system preferences and look at the network preferences. For older versions of OS X you may have to specify “built-in-ethernet” in a drop-down menu.

What you are looking for is a line that starts with “IP Address.” Following it will be a series of four numbers separated by periods. If the first number is a 192, a 172, a 169, or a 10, and you are able to get online, then you can stop worrying. You’re good to go. If not, your standard mail-order place like CDW, newegg, or PC zone can help you, as well as any local Staples, Radio Shack, or electronics store that sells computer equipment.

Setting Up The Router

Hook it up between your modem and your computer as shown in the diagram below:


You will likely have to do one or more of the following three things: First, if you have a cable modem, unplug your cable modem completely for a few minutes. Don’t just turn it off. The reason for this is that it whatever computer or router it first sees is the only piece of equipment the modem will talk to. Unplugging the modem clears this memory and allows it to start talking to your router.

Knology and some other providers may ask you to provide the “MAC” address of your computer. As opposed to “Mac” computers from Apple, the MAC is a unique ID number given to every network card. Your router will have this number on the outside of its’ casing.

Finally, there is a percentage of internet companies like Time Warner that require your computer or router to log in. In this case you will also have to follow your setup instructions for configuring the router and find the option (often on the main page), to have the router connect to the internet using “PPPOE.” You will also have to type in a user name and a password that your ISP gives you. This can unfortunately be problematical and confusing, made worse because most ISP’s don’t support home routers, even though it is unsafe to put your computer directly on the internet without one.

When this is all set up, the router decides if any information it sees on the internet needs to be forwarded to your home computers, and if anything your computer is asking for needs to be sent out to the internet in order to download a web page or file. Without any further configuration or setup, you already have the following benefits:

  • Because of a firewall technology called NAT that is built into nearly all home routers, your computer and home network is now one step removed from the internet. By creating a separate network it just became significantly harder to crack into. More importantly, it is almost impossible for most “worms” (a type of virus that scans nearby networks every few minutes) to get into your computer.
  • On some ISP networks, it’s fairly easy to browse and find computers in your neighborhood. While this is less common these days, having a router prevents anyone else your neighborhood from seeing what computers you have running and from looking into any files you may accidentally share out.

Also, if your router has a built-in switch, or if you are using an separate switch, you can now connect more than one computer to the internet without paying up for more than one internet account. Finally, if you bought a wireless router or add a wireless access point, you can also access the internet from any wireless computers in your household.