PC Surgeries – proving quite popular!

Well now! Since I started holding my free advice surgeries at AES in Keighley (there’s been 2 now), I’ve had plenty of people telling me what a great idea they think it is. And, although there were still empty slots each time, I was still able to help quite a few people with their issues. One laptop cured of its overheating problem, another with a lovely shiny new screen, and yet another one cured of its “cyberflu” 🙂

As a result, I’ve been invited back to hold another 2 events at the Keighley venue before Christmas, and a trial run at the beautiful Glyde House in Bradford City Centre. So I’ve created an events page rather than clog up my blog. You can book onto any of these via Eventbrite, and the links to do so are on the individual event pages. Just click on “Events” in the menu above.

Hope to see you there. And you can, of course, just turn up on the day if you want to. I would recommend calling ahead first, just to make sure there are some appoinments left; not everyone books through Eventbrite.

(Psst. The Bradford venue has a bar. And it’s almost Christmas. Go on; you know you want to 🙂 )

Still using Windows Vista?

If you’re still using a Windows Vista computer, you may or may not be aware that Microsoft stopped supporting it on 11 April this year. That means no more updates, even cruicial ones, and that will leave you exposed to risk even with antivirus programs installed and kept up to date. The Wannacry infection that brought the NHS to its knees earlier this year is a textbook example of this.

If you live in Yorkshire* and would like a FREE** check to see if your PC will upgrade to a newer version or if you’ll have to buy a new one, please contact me if interested, via Twitter or email.

*for a visit in person, the area covered is most of West Yorkshire and areas around the West/North Yorkshire border. However, I may still be able to help you remotely if you live further afield. Please ask.

**the check is completely free whether you decide to upgrade, or buy new, or any other option. It is also not conditional on retaining Techie Fairy to do the work, although of course I would be delighted if you did.

Keighley PC Surgery in September

As it’s been such a very long time since I blogged, I thought I’d come back with a flourish, by announcing the first of (hopefully) many local PC surgeries.

I will be holding the first one at Airedale Enterprise Services on 18 September, from 10am till 3.45pm. There will be half-hour slots available, (either to book in advance or turn up on the day) where you can bring your Windows laptop or desktop PC along for me to take a look at if you’re having problems. If it’s a desktop PC don’t worry; I will have a monitor, mouse and keyboard that should fit almost any machine.

If I can fix your problem in your half hour slot, then that’s it, nothing to pay. If I diagnose a problem that may ..Read the rest, if you like 🙂

Unpin icons from Windows 7 taskbar when right-click menu doesn’t work

I needed to do this today, after refreshing my Firefox install. The icon on the taskbar still worked, but obviously wasn’t behaving properly. So I opened Firefox from the desktop shortcut, pinned the new icon, then tried to delete the old one. No right click menu.

So I googled, as you do, and found various solutions. A lot of sites, including Microsoft themselves, provided command line instructions that deleted ALL the pinned icons. I thought, surely that’s a bit drastic. Found other fixes too, but they either weren’t explained very well, or didn’t make any sense at all.

So I devised a method based on all the posts I’ve read, but which is basically a refinement of this solution from Microsoft. It may not work for you. But hopefully it will. It did for me.

  • Navigate to C:\Users\{your username}\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Quick Lauch\User Pinned\Taskbar. (Your AppData folder is a hidden folder, so if you don’t usually have hidden items visible, go to your User folder, then add \AppData to the end of the contents of the address bar.)
  • In that list, find the shortcut that corresponds to the icon on the taskbar you want to get rid of and delete it. It may vanish at this point. Mine didn’t. If yours doesn’t either, carry on with these instructions.
  • Start Task Manager
  • Go to the Processes tab.
  • Find ‘explorer.exe’ and End Process. Don’t panic when your taskbar disappears.
  • Go to the Applications tab.
  • Click on “New Task…” at the bottom right.
  • Type explorer.exe and click OK.
  • Taskbar should come back, hopefully minus the unwanted icon.

Hopefully this has solved your problem. If not, you could try the Microsoft solution I refined to make this work. But you’ll have to repin all the apps you want if you do that. I just thought that was a bit of overkill for one icon 😀

2 weeks to clean up your Windows PC

When this story broke today on the BBC News Technology website, I was instantly torn between thinking “2 weeks is waaay too optimistic; it’s worth too much money to the crooks to be out of action that long” and “I wonder if this is more overreaction by people who don’t understand what’s going on, like with Heartbleed”.

Then PCPro tweeted their take on the same story. I’m now inclined towards my first thought. Two weeks is being extremely generous to people who are running an illegal multi-million dollar operation and don’t care how they make those dollars. They’re bound to have a fallback plan. And they’ll be angry at being thwarted, so they’ll probably attack even harder.

So, I’m going to err on the side of panic caution 😀 And advise anyone and everyone using a Windows-based computer to update all their security software and run offline scans now. Today. Certainly within the next 24 hours. And ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE STILL USING XP. I cannot stress that enough.

You should do this, even if you already have an antivirus program running. You, as the end user, have been cruelly misled all these years into believing that the Internet Security Suite you have bought (or not) means you can install and then forget it. Not true. Of course, it’s better than not having one (unless it’s AVG), but think of it like this; having a flu jab doesn’t mean you can then go snogging a room full of flu sufferers and come away unscathed does it? So why should your electronic “flu jab” be any different. You still have to take some responsibility yourself.

Having said all that, I thought that it might be some use to people if I told you how I would do a scan if you brought your machine to me. Maybe I’m doing myself out of work; I don’t know. But I’d rather try and contribute, in however small a fashion, to heading these thieves off at the pass, because we all benefit in the long run. So here you are, a potted method for scanning your machines for malware, for whenever you do it. And you should do it at least once a month, IMHO.

  1. If you have antivirus software, update to the latest virus detections. My personal favourite at the moment is Avira Antivirus (there’s a free and a paid, I use the free), but whichever one you’re using should be updated. Again, this is just my personal opinion, based on 3 years of observations from machines I’ve had to clean, but AVG and Norton are particularly ineffective. If you have those, I would strongly suggest changing them for something else. Or, to prove it to yourself, scan with those, then change them, then scan again. You will be stunned by what they miss. NB – You must uninstall your old antivirus program before installing your new one. Always.
  2. Whether your AV program of choice has this in its suite already or not, install at least one other antimalware program, if not 2. There are different kinds of infections, just like with people, and even the best security suite out there is unlikely to find them all. Again, from experience, I find Malwarebytes and Spybot Search & Destroy to be 2 excellent weapons in this particular fight. But be extremely careful where you download them from. Clicking on their names in this paragraph will take you directly to the author’s website. A worrying new trend is for the villains to bundle the genuine article with all their malware and then offer them on previously trustworthy download sites.
  3. Install your additional programs, if you don’t already have some, and then make sure they are up-to-date too.
  4. Reboot your computer into safe mode. This is important. Booting into safe mode loads a very basic, cut-down version of Windows, without all the bells and whistles or an internet connection. All the things that infections usually use to evade capture and “phone home” for reinforcements 😀
  5. Run your antivirus program first. Delete whatever infections it finds. Reboot (normally) if it asks you to. Let it do any finishing off it requests.
  6. Then reboot back into safe mode and do the same with your other clean up programs, one at a time. Reboot after each scan and clean. I usually run Malwarebytes next and Spybot last.

Be aware that all this can take several hours, but it’s worth it. It’s either a few hours of your time, a few hours of my (paid) time, or (worst case scenario) an empty bank account and a stolen identity. The choice is yours.

Welcome to the seventh circle of (Old Windows) hell

I’ve been saying this for months, despite some people questioning my motives for it, i.e. was I just touting for business. But now it’s official – Microsoft themselves are telling you; ditch Windows XP by the time they stop releasing updates for it on 8 April next year or your computer will melt on the 9th. ..Read the rest, if you like 🙂

Fanbois annoy me!

Well, they do! And I mean ANY fanboi, for any product. I just don’t see the point. Like the time someone on Twitter told me that I needed to take a long hard look at myself and admit that maybe I wasn’t the technical genius I thought I was (eh? Are you reading someone else’s Twitter, pal?) purely and simply because I wouldn’t agree with him that the iPhone was the best thing ever.

I wasn’t disagreeing with him, at all. ..Read the rest, if you like 🙂

Microsoft Office 2013 – a U-turn

A few days ago I wrote a slightly less than complimentary post about Microsoft’s seemingly draconian and frankly dumb licensing terms for full retail Office 2013. And it seems mine was not the only dissenting voice. Microsoft have (for the first time that I can ever remember) listened to the global wailing and gnashing of teeth and issued this complete about-face:

ZDNet article – Microsoft Restores Transfer Rights for Retail Office 2013.

Yay for people power. And yay for common sense! Although I still think it should cost a lot less than it does when LibreOffice is available fer nowt!

Office 2013 licence terms. Read the small print – then don’t buy it!

I followed a link from a discussion on one of my LinkedIn groups today, because the title intrigued me:-

Microsoft: Office 2013 license is for one PC, FOREVER

Now, I was initially confused. “Surely Office licences have always been forever?” I thought. The real arrogance of Microsoft only becomes clear when you follow the link to The Register article and read the subtitle – “Can’t be transferred, even to yourself”

Yes folks it looks like it’s true. ..Read the rest, if you like 🙂

Welcome to my website – it’s only taken 10 years!

Hello and welcome. I finally have something I can make into a smart, informative, and useful website. I’ve had a domain name (previously Carlton Consultants till I changed the name last year) for more years than I care to remember. But, like mechanics and their cars, or builders and their houses, my website has had to make do and mend, being either non-existent or half finished for all that time.

But I intend to rectify this, with the help of some very good people and friends, so – watch this space!