Friday, February 29, 2008

The Bad, the Great, and the Tedious

Taking me three times as long as I should have to find the half-dozen items on my list because the store is rearranged, I find myself in the electronics department next to the laptops looking at accessories.

"What's the difference between a notebook and a laptop?" a male customer asks a saleswoman.

A few questions later, she falters at his asking about wireless.

"May I answer that?" I ask. At their response, I continue, "All new laptops should come with wireless by now. What you need to watch for is which standard they're using."

"Which standard?" he asks.

"Yes, the draft 802.11n is 80% approved and will be official maybe late this year, surely sometime next year. With such a high percentage of approval, some companies are making compliant products already. If the computer you want doesn't use the 802.11n standard, you should wait, if you can, to buy it when it does because it's so close."

An older saleswoman joins us, then goes and checks their routers. "Here's one," she calls over to us. He and I go over to her while the first saleswoman leaves.

"Yes," I point to the box. "See this? This is the standard you want. Make sure your laptop and router match." I point to another router. "See this box? It uses an older standard. If you get the 802.11n on your laptop, it'll work because it's backwards compatible, but it won't be as fast. As long as you're buying new equipment, you may as well get the latest technology."

"How do you know about this stuff?" he asks. "I took some classes to learn about computers, but they didn't teach anything about this."

"I used to be a programmer; different system, but the principles are the same. If two sides don't use the same standard, they can't communicate or don't communicate as well as they could."

"Oh, no wonder! Say, can you tell me how people are able to steal other people's data when they're using wireless?"

The saleswoman leaves.

"Essentially, it's radio like your cordless and cell phones, just a different frequency, and the sniffers tune in. That's why you'll need to get a VPN, a Virtual Private Network, if you'll be doing anything sensitive like using passwords and doing online shopping or banking. A VPN makes a tunnel for your data to go through so sniffers can't see it. You'll have to google to find one. If you just surf and read, don't worry about it because you won't be submitting any personally sensitive information."

"Thanks a lot! I learned a lot and I think you gave me more help than the salespeople would have."

"It's possible. I just ordered my fourth laptop and I've always known more than the salespeople."

"Fourth laptop?" His eyes are big.

"The first hardly counts because it didn't have the hard drive I wanted. The salesman lied about the size and I had it about two months while going through him, his manager, and up to the district manager before they accepted it back. My third got stolen last July while I was in California and the fourth is to replace it."

It's Monday evening and my new laptop arrives the next morning, more than a week earlier than Dell said to expect it, only five days after I ordered it. Wow! How great is that? Not only did it arrive a lot faster than my last one, it doesn't have all the pre-loaded trial software crap I had to delete off the other. Much better!

I'm ready to go online with it before the new CD from my ISP arrives, so I decide to set up the connection myself since I have my username, password, and the ISP's phone number on my eight-year-old laptop.

First, download and install a firewall from ZoneAlarm to keep the hackers out. Check.

Next, the ShieldsUP! test at the Gibson Research Corp. to ensure the firewall didn't leave any open ports for the hackers to sneak through. Check.

Firefox because it's safer than Internet Explorer. Check.

SpywareBlaster to prevent malware from getting into those little hidden places in the first place, probably why Ad-Aware and Spybot-S&D never found anything after I ran it on my old laptop. Check.

Ad-Aware. Ad-Aware. Ad-Aware. Ad-Aware. In four tries, I can't get more than half a meg of the free version to download. Hmm, it hasn't found any adware, spyware, or other malware since the first time I ran it on my old laptop, so maybe I'll be okay without it for awhile.

Spybot-S&D to catch and kill malware if it gets past SpywareBlaster and its own defensive measures. While it overlaps a lot of what Ad-Aware covers, it also covers what Ad-Aware misses, and vice versa. That's why it's best to have two good antispyware programs. Check.

Avast! antivirus software to handle viruses, trojans, and worms. Check.

System updates - there are 41 of them. (No, I didn't get Vista.) The estimated download time at 49 Kpbs is over seven hours. How tedious. I think about going to the library to use their high-speed connection, but rather stay here watching "Monk," "Without A Trace," and "Law & Order" on TNT and USA. I fall asleep and nap during a couple of episodes of "Walker, Texas Ranger." Check. Finally.

I guess maybe I'll start working on my (ugh) income tax return tomorrow during the "N.C.I.S." marathon on USA.

Or maybe not.

[Note: SUPERAntispyware is another good antispyware program but since it's weak on defensive measures, takes about an hour and a half to run, has a bit of nagware, and doesn't uninstall cleanly, it's best reserved for cleaning up spyware and malware that other antispyware programs can't eradicate.]

1 comment:

Rox said...

Hey, thanks for puttting all that info about what you need for your computer. The only one I already had was ad-aware, so I downloaded the rest, now I feel much more secure. I had no idea, I'm such an idiot when it comes to this stuff. Thanks again!