Jewish World Review April 28, 2004 / 7 Iyar, 5764


Hijacker slips past safety nets — use stronger Rx; can Quicken just unilaterally discontinue service?; Windows ME can't find hard drive

By James Coates

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | (KRT) Q. I seem to have a bug in my Internet Explorer file. I accidentally clicked on an ad on a Web site. As a result, every time I am on the Internet this Web site changes my home page.

I bought SpySweeper and it helps change my home page back to what I want, but I have to run SpySweeper every time I'm on the Internet, so my surfing is going much slower. Can you help me find this problem? If you are curious, the evil Web site is www.webforhumans.com with an alias of about-blank.biz.

Chad Rubel, Chicago

A. Ah, what I won't do to pursue the truth, Mr. R. Or in your case, to pursue the ailment by catching it myself and then finding the cure while infected to the gills.

Any virologist will tell you this isn't a great way to work, but in checking out your complaint I, too, clicked the wrong icon on an unprotected computer and had the home page hijacked to that noxious about-blank setting.

It proved to be one of the nastiest of these terribly invasive worms used to direct a victim's Web browser where a participating business wants. I say noxious because this worm and other hijackers damage a computer by ruining a browser's freedom to roam and scattering nasty files about the hard drive that amount to booby traps.

They then write new instructions into the computer's Windows registry that run the booby traps each time you reopen the browser.

This means that you cannot simply restore your old home page using the familiar procedure of clicking on Tools in the browser and then Internet Options and General to find the home page setup. When users change this setting the registry booby traps just run again to restore the hijacking. This surely is the devil's work, eh?

While anti-spyware programs such as Ad-aware (www.lavasoft.de) will find and delete a great many of these hijackers, this about-blank one proved impervious to Ad-aware in my tests just as you say SpySweeper didn't fix it for you.

So I went for strong medicine.

The best way to eliminate this particular hijacker is to use the freeware Hijack This software. It is offered by a self-effacing Norwegian code writer named Merijn Bellekom and available at Shareware.com and through the extremely helpful Spyware info site (www.spywareinfo.com/(tilde)merijn/downloads.html).

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I must caution that this is at least an intermediate-level program because it can delete files that are important along with the junk, so follow the instructions and warnings carefully.

Afterward it's a good idea to keep something like Ad-aware's Ad-watch module running all the time to detect and deflect future hijack attempts.

Q. I just received a notice from Quicken that they will soon discontinue online services for my version of Quicken 2000. In order to regain online services, all I have to do is purchase Q2004!

One of the reasons I bought Q2000 was to get the enhanced online services. I never thought that a day would come when they would be unilaterally discontinued. Is this legal?

Robert Donaldson @Sbcglobal.net

A. Welcome to Quicken Sunset, as the folks at Intuit Inc., the maker of the popular Quicken personal finance software, call this decision.

The company has disappointed thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands) of customers running Quicken 2000 as well as Quicken 98 and 97 because they say they need to refocus on the newer, more complex and powerful Quicken 2004.

As of May 18, online bill paying, stock transactions and other Internet services will stop for users of Quicken 2000. On April 20, the company says it will pull the plug on Quicken 97 and 98.

Legal, you ask? When it comes to planned obsolescence nothing ever seems to be illegal in the computer marketplace. Four years usually is considered the equivalent of two generations, and the power of technology doubles every generation.

That principle is known as Moore's Law, named for Intel Corp. co-founder Gordon Moore. He coined the principle to explain to customers why every time they bought the most powerful computer it was considered a hopeless antique just 18 to 24 months later.

I would add, however, that Microsoft recently decided to back off its somewhat similar plans to discontinue support for Windows 98, still used by a hard core of customers who stood up and howled to the rafters. But the handwriting is on the wall.

Windows 95 support was dropped more than five years back.

As a frequent reviewer of Quicken software releases, I'd definitely agree that the improvements between 2000 and 2004 are huge and welcome indeed. Sadly, however, the decision to press customers to update will be a particular problem for people using older computers based on Windows 98 that just don't move fast enough to fully exploit Internet-based financial operations.

Intuit insists the $49.95 Quicken Deluxe 2004 will work on Pentium IIs with a mere 32 megabytes of RAM, but based on the graphics alone I'd say much more horsepower is needed.

Other readers concerned about the issue can get details at www.intuit.com/support/quick en/sunset/main(underscore)faq.html.

That same page has a contact link for making complaints like those that got Microsoft's attention over Windows 98, but as Gordon Moore also probably has said, don't hold your breath.

Q. I have a 40-gigabyte Acomdata USB 2.0 hard drive. When I plug it into my Windows XP computer, it is recognized and works fine. However, when I plug it into my fiance's Windows ME computer, it doesn't find the drivers.

I went to Acomdata's Web site and downloaded the drivers, installed them, and it looks like it was successful. When I try to find the drive under My Computer, it doesn't show up. I can't figure out how to actually access the drive. Can you help me?

Joseph M. Bley @yahoo.com.

A. This may be a silly suggestion, Mr. B., but the next time you fire up that Windows ME machine with the Acomdata drive attached, try this.

Hit the F5 key after first clicking on the My Computer icon to bring up icons for all present drives. This forces Windows to re-search its settings for all peripherals and often finds stuff that at first had seemed AWOL.

Failing that, the most likely problem is that you loaded the ME drivers only after first plugging the device into the computer and finding it didn't work. A long-standing Windows weakness is that the operating system keeps a record of everything ever plugged in to its USB ports and if you plug something in that fails to install properly, Windows will never again give you the chance to reload needed drivers.

So you need to fool the machine by telling it that the Acomdata USB driver doesn't exist by removing it from the Device Manager menu that tracks every peripheral on the computer.

In ME and Windows 98 you right-click on My Computer, then select Properties and click on the Device Manager tab. (In Windows XP one clicks on a Hardware tab to get the Device Manager.) Scroll down to the bottom heading for USB and highlight the one for USB mass storage device. Then click on the choice marked Remove below the list. This will eradicate the drivers you installed that aren't being seen.

Finally, restart the machine and first install the drivers, then plug in the device. The operating system now will be able to recognize the hard drive and associate it with the necessary drivers in the Device Manager.

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James Coates is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Let us know what you think of this column by clicking here.

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