Unknown Failure

Computers, bloody computers.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Outerinfo: AdWare, SpyWare, and Pop-Ups

I have a friend whose computer is infected with the Outerinfo pop-up...thing. I don't know whether to call it a virus, or SpyWare, or simply AdWare. It's a program that will cause advertising pop-ups to appear on your screen, regardless of pop-up blockers or other steps you have taken to normally avoid pop-ups.

Pop-ups suck. First of all, they're annoying. Secondly, they consume processor resources that you might have wanted to use for other purposes - like, say, using your computer. Pop-ups may consume 100% of available resources and render your computer useless. Thirdly, they represent an invasion of privacy - it's bad enough having ads on television, but imagine ads suddenly popping up and over the program you're watching. (Oh, that's right - a lot of networks do that now, having cutesy little moving ads for other shows occupying a significant portion of your screen and plopped right on top of your program.)

Finally, they're dangerous. These ads may be providing a gateway for more serious computer invasions.

I haven't been hit with these problems, not yet. I always surf with the Google toolbar with the pop-up blocker activated, and I keep AVG Anti-Virus and AVG Anti-Spyware (from http://www.grisoft.com/) active at all times. But if you do get infected, what can you do?

I've been looking into this problem for a while, and I still don't know the answer.
Pretty much every discussion I find of "outerinfo removal" or "outerinfo cleanup" starts with something like, "Here is my HijackThis! log, and it shows that..." I did some digging into HijackThis! and found this page, which started with these words: "Editors Note: Hijack This is for advanced users. If you are not familiar with running processes on your computer as well as anything ever installed that could tie into your web browser, it will not be much help to you." Great.

I'm posting this in the hope that someone, somewhere, knows a simple solution to getting this taken care of - even if that simple solution involves taking the computer to Best Buy or Circuit City and paying them to remove the program. But while I'm waiting, I'll post what links I've found.

First off, Outerinfo offers uninstall instructions, which I have been told do not work: http://www.outerinfo.com/howto.html

Here are various examples of people posting HijackThis! logs to various forums, and the removal instructions they received:
http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/forums/topic53234.html
http://help.lockergnome.com/general/Outerinfo-removal-help-ftopict52749.html
http://help.lockergnome.com/general/Hijack-log-problems-outerinfo-ftopict52664.html
http://forums.spywareinfo.com/lofiversion/index.php/t70139.html
http://www.geekstogo.com/forum/lofiversion/index.php/t99535.html
http://www.geekstogo.com/forum/How-to-remove-Outerinfo-pop-ups-aka-PurityScan-OIN-t134763.html

(And check out this quote: "Outerinfo is now being installed with other nasty malware that this procedure may not fix, so after following it I strongly suggest you post your HiJackThis log as well as the other logs on the forum and we'll clean up the rest of it.")

Finally, the question that's on the mind of anyone who's dealt with Outerinfo, or something similar, from Yahoo! Answers:

"Why hasn't OuterInfo been prosecuted? I keep getting these OuterInfo popup ads. And, I can tell by my web searches that many people are bothered by this problem. So, why is OuterInfo still in business? Can't the Department of Consumer Affairs shut them down? Can' t they be sued? They need to pay a hefty price for all the harm they cause. They are a criminal company and need to be prosecuted. And, the people who run it should be sent to prison."

And the responses:

"Best response", as selected by Yahoo! voters: "The reason this type of activity doesn't result in criminal prosecution is that there are no effective criminal laws covering the activity. They can be sued, but that's expensive, and the probability of recovery is relatively small, especially compared with the cost of the lawsuit."

Another response: "There are specific restrictions in place under the federal CAN-SPAM law and other related laws. But most companies skirt the edges of those provisions. But you can file a complaint with the FTC. "

If anyone has some solution that non-expert users can apply, or has a recommendation for professional assistance, please let me know. Thanks!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Firefox keeps crashing!

(Note: First published Saturday, May 27, 2006 on Another Monkey. This was the beginning of a series of posts on the js3250.dll crash. The other posts are cited below, as well as a possible solution that was posted to a Mozillazine forum.)

Note: This post is just superficial bitching about Firefox issues. For more in-depth bitching and some links, go to these posts:
- Firefox and the js3250.dll crash
- Is it fixed?
- The answer to the previous post's title is "NO!"
UPDATE, 1/6/2007: A POSSIBLE SOLUTION TO THIS PROBLEM HAS BEEN POSTED!
- See the bottom of this post for details!

Firefox keeps crashing on me! When I first downloaded it back in January 2005 Firefox was supposed to be infinitely better than Internet Explorer, and much more crash-resistant. Sadly, that is not the case. Maybe it's just the usual heat-related problems with my PC (although the room temperature is still below 78), maybe it's the increasingly complicated moving adds that infest most websites and kill my PC's performance.

Meanwhile, Firefox says that I have all the latest updates, so it's not that.

But whatever the cause, the symptom is that Firefox is collapsing faster than George H.W. Bush at a state dinner with the Japanese Prime Minister! Grrr!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Spam as poetry

(Note: This was originally published Wednesday, May 24 2006 on Another Monkey. In a week I would buy my house. I would later find that I was not the first person to perceive spam as poetry, and that sites dedicated to this avant-garde art form have been around for several years.)

Now that I'm at the end-stages of the home-buying process I'm being a little more cautious about deleting e-mails that once upon a time I would have automatically dismissed as spam. Whenever I get a response to an e-mail that I've sent to my lawyer's office, the subject line has usually been modified to include tags like "[Norton AntiSpam]" that suggest that my messages are being flagged as spam by their server, probably because they contain magic words like "mortgage" and "application".

Today I received a message with a subject line of "Application approval #" followed by what is probably a spammer's tracking code which I will not reprint here. The message is a jumble of semi-random words and phrases that, as others have observed before me, have a sort of poetic unity. So I've decided to reformat the message with line breaks and present it to you for your interpretation and appreciation.

Application approval #
(author unknown)
profit and johns may trail !
mulberry the cyanic or epistemology
not alfalfa not duke and balloon on pursue , cowbell !

dryad , flex a boggle may defunct in transferor

on coward or potato
not whore or rebut the audubon !

waller it ablaze or aperiodic
not catalysis a transfix but eddy but mike ,
dollar try docket it transoceanic
and
notebook in rood
not seneca or Keine
(email hier )
and deathward may tambourine it's
or greenland !

virginal it
see volumetric in decolonize some
the bilingual , chauncey or

And that's how it ends. "chauncey or?" Is that "or" as in the conjuction*, or "or" as in the term for gold used in heraldry? Is this an unfinished work? Can someone suggest the closing lines? Or does this represent a unified whole, a completeness that encompasses the incompleteness of the human condition vis a vis a universe that is at once knowable and unknowable?

*"Or" is not a preposition. Silly boy.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Would you like to buy a book about this annoying ad?

(Note: This post first appeared on Sunday, May 7, 2006 on Another Monkey. The problem was probably just what I stated here: an ad making excessive demands on a old, slow computer with an old, slow connection. I haven't seen this ad in a while, but boy, was it annoying.)

Is it just me, or is anyone else running into performance problems whenever they hit the new Ask.com ad? It's a little sidebar ad that uses a moving image of blurred search results flashing by while text pushing Ask.com floats over it. Unfortunately, my poor little computer on my poor little dialup connection has a hard time processing these graphics and performance slows to a crawl. If I have multiple pages open that contain this ad, or multiple copies of the ad on a single page, my browser may lock up or my computer may crash.

I know, I know. My computer is a little old 1999 (pre-Y2k!) Compaq Presario 7478 that has been upgraded only once, with the addition of a huge amount of RAM. (For some reason this PC came with a laughably small amount of RAM and I couldn't even upgrade to whatever the latest version of AOL was back in 2001 without the addition of another memory...thing.) And I'm still on dialup. Hey, what can I say? I'm a late adopter, and I'd rather hold onto my money and buy this year's latest and greatest computer at next year's discount prices.

I've never tried Ask.com. I still have a bad taste in my mouth from its previous incarnation as Ask Jeeves. Ask Jeeves was heavily touted as being the closest thing to AI that you would find in a search engine, but most of my searches resulted in a stock series of non-answers, including the infamous "Would you like to buy a book about ____?" As long as this annoying ad is bogging down my computer I don't think I'll be doing many searches over at Ask.com.

WE INTERRUPT THIS BLOG...

Well, the idea was this: I would repost computer problems mentioned on my Another Monkey blog, starting with the heat issues that first showed up in 2004 and going from there. I would locate these posts by selecting from ones with the "Computers bloody computers" label.

Simplicity itself. Only I just started labeling posts at the beginning of 2007, and there is a whole block from 2004-2006 I haven't labeled yet.

So, you may notice a leap to 2006. That's OK. I'm not reprinting every post, anyway, just those that had what I think are hardware or OS-specific issues, since even if this stuff is ancient history, it might be meaningful to others. Or to historians.

Maybe it's not just me

(Note: This was originally posted Tuesday, June 14, 2004 on Another Monkey. All references are to the versions of the programs available at the time. Note that this is the first mention of Alfred Bester's short story Fondly Fahrenheit.)

There are reports of new vulnerabilities being discovered in Internet Explorer. (Well, not exactly new, but new variants of old problems.) These vulnerabilities could allow nefarious sorts to do nefarious things to your computer. Microsoft seems to be a little tight-lipped on this one - no new patch (sorry, "service pack") has been released in the past few days to deal with this.

What's worrying me is that I'm hearing about other people having unusual PC problems recently. I know someone whose company has gone so far as to ban the use of Internet Explorer altogether.

I'm still thinking my problem is the heat, and also something to do with opening multiple Google searches simultaneously. Yesterday it was a search for information on James Joyce's Ulysses that did me in; today it was a search for a good informational link regarding Alfred Bester's Fondly Fahrenheit (a short story about an owner trying to deal with an android that malfunctions murderously when the temperature gets too high!)

I have a long posting I started working on this morning that I will eventually finish. In the meantime, I just wanted to let everyone know that tomorrow, June 16,2004, is the 100th anniversary of Bloomsday! Start reading James Joyce's Ulysses now, and you might be finished by next Bloomsday!

Monday, July 9, 2007

I hate computers

(Note: This was originally posted Sunday, May 23, 2004 on Another Monkey. Installing Norton SystemWorks turned out to be a huge problem, and uninstalling it would be even worse. I had successfully used Norton since I first got the computer in 1999, and this was the first hint of a problem. It's possible the issues were all hardware issues, and temperature-related.)

At least, I hate them when they don't work right. I hate mine right now.

No post yesterday, because my computer went south Friday night as I trued to do a spell-check on the 3 Brix Shy post (luckily, I remembered my oath and saved the post as I went along). That turned into a series of failures, and a series of ham-handed attempts at repair...once I thought I had my system stable, I decided it was time to finally load Norton SystemWorks 2004. Big mistake.

Something went wrong during the install. Maybe I have a virus. Maybe it tried to load to a bad part of my hard drive. Whatever, the install worked only partially, but now between 99% and 100% of system resources were being chewed up by Norton. I tried an uninstall...after a few attempts, I got the computer clean and functional. Then, like an idiot, I tried to install again...

My obsessive nature, and my personal philosophy of "If at first you don't succeed, apply more force" meant that I went through this cycle several times, resulting in a non-functioning partly uninstalled program that keeps insisting I activate it within the next 15 days.

I'm trying a few solutions. I've gotten enough resources freed up to let me use the Internet. Maybe I need a new PC...I've had this one for 4 years, but it's a 1999 model. Not ready to give up yet though. I'll keep trying to fix it. I don't want to keep hating my computer...

I, (state your name), do solemnly swear...

(Note: This post was originally published on Monday, May 17 2004 on Another Monkey. The problems referred to the then-current versions of Blogger, Internet Explorer, and Norton SystemWorks. The problem was primarily heat-related, and would continue to exist until just a few weeks ago, when a friend built and gave me a new computer. Blogger would introduce a "Recover Post" feature, which was itself pretty buggy, and then introduced an autosave function a few months ago. The Norton SystemWorks install would prove to be...problematic.)

...to always save my posts as I go along. Starting now.

I was working on a post that was as long and rambling as a label on a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap. It was actually a combination of three ideas: a post about the influence that British TV and radio had on me as a pre-adolescent, a post about the cacophony of events in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s that helped to lay the groundwork for the person I have become, and a post about the sheer number of cranks and crackpots out there who have put a lot of effort into creating very elaborate websites, and have muddied the pool of knowledge and information on the Internet (and made researching the previous two proto-posts virtually impossible) by dumping in random data sewage by the tanker load.

I was working on this, when my Internet Explorer crapped out. Twice. After the first time, I started this post. It crapped out the second time just before I could hit the “Save Draft” button. So now I’m writing this in Word. I hope I can bring it over without too much fuss.

Maybe the universe is trying to tell me I shouldn’t be doing this right now, and instead I should be compiling songs from a stack of CDs into a mix disc to play between bands at a friend's wedding, which is coming up in three weeks. Yes, that seems reasonable. That, or maybe I should finally hunker down and install my new copy of Norton SystemWorks now. Eh, I’ll go for the CD. Less like work!

Unkown Failure

I was chatting with a friend today and something went wrong with her modem. Suddenly my IMs were coming back with the message "An unknown failure has occurred." Unknown failure, unknown failure, over and over again...it sounded like the message was scolding me for having not done anything significant with my life. And then I thought: that would be a great title for a blog!

But what could it be about? People who are unhappy with their lot in life? Blogs that get very little traffic, and can use all the publicity they can get? Then I remembered my plan to do spin-off blogs from my main blog, Another Monkey. And since the "unknown failure" was in fact a computer problem, why not use the blog to repost all of my computer problem stories in one place? After all, these are posts that tend to get a good deal of traffic, and people searching for this information may find it convenient to have it all in one place.

So here you have it: Unknown Failure, a spinoff of the blog Another Monkey, reposting everything from the "Computers Bloody Computers" category. I hope you find it useful!