Sunday, March 8, 2009

Yesterday Afternoon Was One Of Those Times When A Confluence Of Coincidences Conspires To Create Confusion And A Consternation Of Conflicts.

 Yesterday Afternoon Was One Of Those Times When A Confluence Of Coincidences Conspires To Create Confusion And A Consternation Of Conflicts.

Now just what in the hell does all that mean?  Through a minor fault of my own, and circumstances beyond my total control, almost everything in the program perimeter defense system on this machine ( “The Beast” ) decided it was time for major updating.


Vistas was first and that always leaves a mess of installation “cookie crumb-like” fragments to be dealt with in its aftermath.  What a pain. 


Then came Check Point software’s (Zone Alarm Security Suite ) with a complete version update.  As a Firewall I have found no other that suits my needs.  For some it is complicated, to me over the years it has become a totally manageable formidable ally.  With the addition of the Kaspersky anti-virus engine incorporated it is a stellar product, responding to malware in the wild more rapidly than even Symantec/Norton, (with which I have no argument other than the time factor of in-the-wild response). 


Check Point’s anti-virus and anti-spyware protections are first class; auto updating and auto scheduled scans are not intrusive.


Next in line came Lavasoft Software’s Ad-Aware .  An old trusted friend there have been some difficulties with the 2007 version living in peaceful coexistence with Microsoft’s Vistas…vexing to say the least. 


The solution, less than elegant, was nonetheless effective, albeit time consuming.  Not prepared to abandon the product I dutifully ripped it out, reinstalled it and without stopping updated to the next version which tears the 2007 offering out and replaces it, immediately upon which you get to do the routine all over again as “Ad-Aware “Anniversary Version” is installed and all is well. 


The problems in this process are the facts that one must do this all at one sitting to be successful, and that ripping out the original 2007 before reinstallation is no picnic.  All off the “work-arounds” found on the internet have proven futile as successive Vistas updates simply eat away at the 2007 offering and your right back to failure nonsense.  Ah well; that has become history and the new version has neatly combined what were two separate, integrated programs into one very nice, interface friendly tool and it runs comfortably in the back ground without being a memory hog.  Tick Tock!    


Next in line Sunbelt Software’s Counterspy was thirsty for a massive definition updating.  That was my fault of inattention…my fault; my time.  Done!


Bit Defender Anti-Virus needed the same updating.  That was a normal cycle deal.  Both Counter Spy and Bit Defender are locked out from being start up programs, serving as check up/clean up tools…and they are ruthless.  Bit Defender has the best root kit check algorithm I have yet to encounter and one of the most complete, easily understood identification report of any tool I have ever used.


The Windows Defender and Malware tools are kept up to date and auto updated.  The Windows Firewall is left on as a preliminary line of defense and should not be thought of as offering any serious protection.


SpyBot Search and Destroy had to into for a totally new version installation.  This “Freebie” should be on everyone’s machine ready for the day a real problem comes along, the same is true of HiJack This .  No one should attempt to use these tools without taking the time to read the directions.  They are powerful, useful, and informative but used carelessly they can be/create a problem.  I would, however, not be without them!


With my blogs I have to have several media players on hand and the most current of Codec files available.  They need frequent updating.  They are K-Lite Codec and Windows Essential Codec Service. Like defensive systems on computers; no one program does it all, covers it all.  The nice thing about these two services is not only the fact that one can stay current but they check up on one another for conflicts and poorly functioning, “given to crashes” codecs.  Simple delete them and await their improvement.  It’s that simple.


There is the frequent concern that people have that their machines are slowing down, getting old.  Getting old is one thing as things change and limited speed, memory or graphic abilities come into play or an over reliance on the Dog of a Browser: Internet Explorer.  That thing should be in the Bone Yard.  The only time it runs here is when it is opened by a site being browsed.  Yes, I keep it updated, but I also keep it locked up and I’ll explain that later as I explain how you control all the programming on “The Beast”, or any other complicated program loaded work machine.


The “slow down phenomenon” has more to do with accumulation of “trash”, trash you may have thought your browser had cleaned up automatically.  . Not on your life!  My beloved Photoshop can create an immense collection of “temporary trash” some not so temporary. Not on your life!


But I digress.  All manner of drivers can become sluggish and they need to be replaced and I have found no better solution than UniBlue Driver Scan Updates Program and every driver needing updating got it yesterday afternoon…monitor, film scanner, printers key board, mouse video camera, microphone, audio system: you name it  got it( Epson, Hewlett Packard, Nikon, Minolta, Samsung, Xerox, Logitech, Maxtor, Lacie, Iomega, Belkin, Harmon Kardan, Sony, etc.) …and all is well.


With   5 browsers, multiple media players, file savers, Audi Visual tools and email accounts, Photoshop and Word a machine can collect at lot of trash in a big hurry.  Those auto-clean up routines are less than stellar, in fact some of them are fraudulently nigh on useless; That is particularly true of install and uninstall routines.


So it was off to “search”, type in “Temp” and find all the various “temporary files and delete them all.  That can be tricky when the message “in use by another program” pops up, but don’t worry we get them all before all is said and done.


Vistas has a particularly messy update history and every so often one really should visit the windows folders, navigate to “software distribution” and if you find an “edb” file hanging around outside the  logs folder, open the logs folder, delete the edb file (it’s a fragment) and delete the remaining temp log files, and don’t worry Windows will automatically recreate all the necessary logs…if you care.


 Getting cleaner leaner and meaner all the time; moving right along.


Now it’s time to open each browser and indulge in the delete files, history, cookies etc. routines.  It will make you feel better if you do.  If you don’t the point in the cleanup will come when you will see 1,000s of bits of clutter…there still will be 100s if you’re an active computist.  Done!


Now comes the really time consuming part, and that is running a scan with every tool you have, hours and hours will pass and more things will enter the cyber happy hunting ground.  Is there a better pecking order in which to run these tools…yes…from the weakest to the strongest, and that would be Windows Defender to Zone Alarm in this case.  Oh, but I’m not done yet; then it’s time to go to the bullpen and run Counter Spy followed by Bit Defender, and finally SpyBot followed by HiJack This.


And the report to this point I am happy to relay consisted of a number of Temp Trash and stubborn cookies…all gone!


But we’re not done yet.  This is really like spending a day cleaning house and there is no Junk Drawer to hide stuff.  In fact two days ago in anticipation of this day’s events I had taken  nearly a year’s worth of work folders and moved them to an external 1TB drive.  That means that after all of these updates and cleaning, moves and adjustments that there is going to be a hellish collection of errant registry entries that act as a real ingredient in computer slow down that simply must go!


The first run at the registry is always done with the free Eusing Registry Cleaner which I run several times a week.  It is simple, gets all the routine gunk out and is not a danger to use….result: 2,300 registry corrections and the discovery of a watch point.  The watch point, which the program flagged and queried was two entries created by the new Ad-Aware program.  It seems it got around its Vistas incompatibility problem, in part with two unique registry entries.  That’s OK, but it just means that in the future that I have to uncheck those items before deletion, and if I forget; I will be warned…neat.  Everybody should have Eusing around, especially if your machine nears the load of 88 programs resident on this machine…and they are used!


Eusing is like performing a good dusting and now it is time to wax the Registry with a heavy duty Registry cleaner: UniBlue Registry Booster.   This program you have to study when you first install it so that you don’t get into trouble and have the need to restore the older registry and start the clean up all over.  All good Registry Cleaners have that ability.  Did I find any residual corrections needing attention; yes a few that made perfect sense and all related to updating, installing and uninstalling?  I mentioned that garbage earlier.


I am going to admit to you that I do not make a registry backup any longer.  That may be an act of either stupidity and/or over confidence, but I’d rather take the chance, because I’ll end up deleting those backups as a matter of cleanup sooner or later and if worse comes to worse I know other ways to restore things and the time spent in doing so, should it ever happen, will be my time and I will learn something from the experience.


Finally, after all the hits the machine has taken it is time for coffee and a break.  Good time to run the Defragmentation program.


That being done I call up Norton/Symantec Save and Restore and establish a restoration point.  I follow that with Vistas Restore, though I have a lot less faith in that routine as I have within the past week observed it destroyed by a current in-the-wild Trojan/Virus..Zafia B.  While I’m at it I probably should warn everyone about those “Pop-Up” free Virus scans you run into.  If it pops up…run.  It is a virus installation scam and one of the worst I have ever seen.  I helped eliminate Zafia B. from a friends machine.  It took 30 hours of on and off work time to root it out and repair the damage done.  Facebook is a serious problem at this moment as are Adobe PDF files which have come under attack.  Adobe is hard at work with a patch or update, so be careful.


What do you do now?  Turn the machine off and then reboot. And…wow…a “Speedy Gonzales” load with everything loading in in the right order with nary a hiccup.  


The finally commentary here and this is saving the first for last, literally.  I have installed a program from BillP Studios called WinPatrol.  It loads on startup, permits me to control even beyond Zone Alarm’s controls the programs that load on startup and it queries/warns me whenever something is changing or wants to change even a registry value and I get to say yes or no.  I started with the free version a few years back but graduated quickly to the purchased version.  It is OUTSTANDING!


I have said this before, but it bears mention again. I have installed McAfee Site Advisor which warns of “dirty sites” and allows me to review site reports to determine just what connections many political sites have to other inputting or frequented sites…invaluable.


Time to go, and if you are reading this; you know all is well here at “The Beast”! 

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