Tech Q and A: Does Your Mac Have the Conficker Virus?
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
By Guy R. Briggs
Every other week or so, FOXNews.com tries to solve your most vexing technology-related problems. Send your questions to TechQuestions@foxnews.com and we'll reply to selected ones in our next installment.
Windows Vista Deathwatch, Mk. I
Microsoft has announced the "Release Candidate" version of its new Windows 7 flagship product. It's available for download now (as an ISO file which can be burned to DVD) if you're a TechNet or MSDN subscriber, and will be generally available on May 5th if you're not.
One of the more interesting features of the new OS is something called "Windows XP Mode." Assuming you have the appropriate hardware, you will be able to run a fully licensed version of Windows XP, Service Pack 3, inside a "virtual machine" under Windows 7.
It appears, to put it dryly, that Microsoft has come up with an solution for the software compatibility issues that plagued Windows Vista.
If you want to evaluate the Windows 7 release candidate, remember that this will likely be a new installation for you. There is no upgrade path from Windows XP to Windows 7. If you have Vista installed, it must be at Service Pack 1 before the upgrade feature will work.
Macintosh Malware Found in the Wild!
Q: You mentioned that Conficker does not attack Macs. [Are] there any viruses, malware or other security threats I need to worry about for my Mac PC ? Should I install security software?
A: Funny you should ask! FoxNews.com ran a story just last week. See http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,517610,00.html. According to the cited source, it is the "first Macintosh-specific worm to be found 'in the wild' on the Internet," although, technically, it's a trojan, not a worm.
It's called iBotnet, and you get infected by running a pirated copy of iWork, Apple's office productivity suite, that contains the malicious code.
Should you install security software? If you're the type who wears both belt and suspenders to make sure his pants stay up, you should.
Most of the major security vendors offer Macintosh-specific versions of their products and they will protect you against malware, however infrequent it may appear.
A note on the Apple support site posted Nov. 21, 2008 reads, "Apple encourages the widespread use of multiple antivirus utilities so that virus programmers have more than one application to circumvent, thus making the whole virus writing process more difficult."
The Apple site suggests Intego VirusBarrier X5, Symantec Norton Anti-Virus 11 for Macintosh — both available from the Apple Online Store — or McAfee VirusScan for Mac.
If you're a software pirate, you should definitely get one of the above, and get it installed as soon as possible.
Daylight Lost Productivity Time
Q: I work for a large company using Outlook on a network. For some reason, when Daylight Saving Time went into effect, meeting reminders we received from outside contacts reverted to Eastern Standard Time when they appeared on our calendars. Our IT guy said he installed patches to fix this bug last year, but here we are and it's happened again. Several of our staffers were late to important meetings as a result. I'd like to get this sorted out before we set the clocks back in the fall. Any ideas?
A: The general craziness with respect to time zones in general — and Daylight Saving Time in particular — creates several issues for Outlook users.
Meeting organizers need to keep three factors in mind when setting up meetings and appointments: (1) the clock setting of the computer where the meeting is created, (2) the local time zone setting on the computer where the meeting is created, and (3) the Daylight-Saving-Time-adjustment on the computer where the meeting is created.
Why? Because meeting times are stored in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) which, basically, answers the musical question, "What time is it in Greenwich, England?"
Along with UTC, Outlook stores the time zone setting and DST adjustment of the meeting organizer's computer.
Suppose a meeting organizer in New York books a monthly teleconference for 11:00 AM Eastern, and invites a delegate from Phoenix. The meeting time will be adjusted in New York, forward or backward by one hour to match the computer's clock setting, as New York moves in and out of DST.
Unfortunately, it also adjusts forward and backward in Phoenix, where no DST is observed, because it is being controlled by the rules in effect on the New York computer when the meeting was created.
Suppose the meeting organizer's computer is set not to adjust for DST. Then the meeting will always be correct for the person in Phoenix, but wrong for everybody else during the summer.
The 2007 DST rule changes, which expanded the DST period by two weeks on either end, added an additional level of complication. Now you have to worry about whether or not the meeting organizer's computer was patched/updated with the new rules when the meeting was created.
When the computer physically moves to a different time zone, appointments, events and meetings are all going to be displayed relative to the time zone rule in effect when the meeting was created.
For example, when I relocated from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City last fall, all of my recurring meetings and appointments changed by 1 hour, as they should have.
But so did events, like New Years Day, which showed up as starting at 1:00 AM on January 1st, continuing to 1:00 AM on January 2nd. Not exactly the answer you're looking for if you're depending on Outlook to remind you of Dick Clark and the ball drop in Times Square.
To deal with these problems, Microsoft offers the Time Zone Data Update Tool for Microsoft Outlook. You can download it here. [http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=e343a233-b9c8-4652-9dd8-ae0f1af62568&displaylang=en]
You might also want to look at the troubleshooting document here. It is specific to Outlook 2003, but contains examples and workarounds for appointment times run amok.
Other than that, make sure all servers and workstations have the latest time-zone patches from Microsoft. If your corporation uses Exchange, I believe there are specific patches which need to be applied in addition to the OS-specific patches.
Make sure all the computers synchronize with an Internet time server, and that all are set to automatically adjust for time-zone changes.
"Meeting reminders we received from outside contacts ..." is a little ambiguous, but if it means that you have granted external entities the ability to create events in your calendars, encourage them to be patched, synchronized and automatically adjusted as well.
Use the tool from Microsoft, and pay particular attention to appointments created during the extended DST periods, that is, the two weeks before the old DST rule in the spring, and the two weeks after the old DST rule in the fall.
More Chrome Than a '57 Chevy
Q: I have Vista and I want to use Google Chrome for my browser, but I cannot set it to be my default instead of Internet Explorer. Please help!
A: Reminds me of the dreadful pun about using chromium as denture material because it is the only substance which can stand up to the sauce used in Eggs Benedict.
Oh, there's no plates like chrome for the Hollandaise! But I digress.
Click on "Customize and control Google Chrome" — it's the little wrench symbol near the top right corner of the Chrome screen. Choose "Options." On the "Basic" tab, there is a button, near the bottom, labeled "Make Google Chrome my default browser." That will do the trick.
Of course, the next time you run Internet Explorer, it will ask if you want to make Internet Explorer your default browser. When that happens, uncheck the box that asks to perform the check every time you start Internet Explorer, then click on "No."
You'll likely have to perform that last step each and every time your system downloads a major update to Internet Explorer.
It really, really wants to be your default.
Speaking of Internet Explorer
Q: I switched to IE8 and really like all the new items available, but I have a big problem: As I read newspapers online, IE8 sends this notice, "Internet Explorer has encountered a problem and needs to close." When I click on a URL in the box I get this explanation: "Mode name URLMON.DLL, Offset 003e.819, ver. 8.0.6001.18702."
A: Not an easy answer to this one, I'm afraid. Could be a number of things. The best I can do is offer some troubleshooting steps to try and track down the root cause.
If you're lucky, the problem will be the news site, not the browser. If you've not done so already, go to "Tools" in the Menu Bar and select "Compatibility View".
From then on, when IE8 recognizes a Web page that is not compatible with the new browser, it will display a Compatibility View button in the address bar, and display the page as if it were an earlier version of IE. The button looks like a torn sheet of paper.
Didn't solve the problem? Well, it was a long shot. The next thing I'd look for is some sort of malware infestation in the PC. Make sure your antivirus/antispyware programs are all updated and then run a complete system scan.
Still didn't solve the problem? Consider yourself lucky. You've got a clean system.
Try starting IE8 in "No Add-ons Mode." Right-click on the blue IE8 icon, and select "Start without add-ons."
If that solves the problem, you've narrowed the issue down to one of the add-ons. Start IE in regular mode, disabling and re-enabling the add-ons, one at a time, checking the news Web site after each one to see if that was the offender.
If you find one that makes the problem go away, either remove it altogether or go out and find a newer — and presumably working — version. You can find a tutorial here.
Still have the problem? You're killing me here! Time to check all of the antivirus and antispyware applications you've got installed. Some of them might not be compatible with IE8.
Go to each manufacturer's Web site and check if the versions you're currently running are compatible. If you find that it isn't, you have the choice to upgrade or uninstall.
While you're at it, this would be a good time to get rid of any 3rd-party trial versions are still hanging around, such as the 90-day versions of Norton or McAfee that may have come with the system, which you decided not to buy. Ditto any third-party firewall applications you're not using.
Still have the problem? Read http://support.microsoft.com/kb/923737, and then reset the IE8 Advanced Settings. I know we're both guys, and all, but you really need to read the Knowledge Base article before you try it — at least down to the Network Administrator section.
There's even an embedded button that will do all of the heavy lifting for you. Let Microsoft fix the problem.
Still have the problem? We're running out of options. Try booting the computer into Safe Mode with Networking and see if that works. Be careful! Despite the name, stay in Safe Mode only long enough to test!
If that takes care of the issue, it means that some startup program is interfering with the operation of IE8. This is really an involved process, but try disabling the programs which run at startup, one at a time, similar to the process you used with the add-ons, above. This is the point where you may want to talk to a pro.
Still have the problem? At this point, the best option might be to uninstall IE8 and go back to IE7. Sorry about that.
State of the DTV Conversion
The FCC and Consumers Union have teamed up to distribute a consumer guide that will prepare consumers for the already once-delayed DTV conversion. The press release, and a link to the guide (in PDF format) may be found here: http://www.dtv.gov/web_revisions.html.
Forty-five days and counting!
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