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The Wayback Machine

The Internet Archive is more than just a free online library. Another great resource of theirs is the The Wayback Machine.

The Wayback Machine is crawling the internet, constantly, like Google and other search engines. But this creation backs up archival copies of websites as it crawls. And you may use it yourself, to see what a website looked like at some time in the past.

You might just use this for the novelty of seeing a website (Amazon? eBay?) from many years ago. But the research possibilities here can get serious. Some people use The Wayback Machine to find info that was changed or removed. You can copy the URL from any website, and paste it in to the Wayback Machine’s search field, to see what’s available from back in time.

And if you come to use this tool a lot, know that they also offer an Android and iOS app, as well as various browser extensions, also free for all to use.

Nextdoor’s Questionable Marketing Tactics

Nextdoor is a social networking website with a focus on neighborhood connections and local resources. If your neighborhood isn’t already connecting through Facebook groups or other means, Nextdoor might be a useful option for doing so.

Now, if you’re already a Nextdoor user, we should go over their marketing tactics. They’re a little bit sus, in the parlance of the younger generation. To attract new users, Nextdoor commonly mails letters to people. On paper, through the USPS. These letters invite you to join up for free and try out Nextdoor.

But now here’s the sus part: These letters often drop names of people in your neighborhood. They mention your neighborhood by name, as well. They’re a little uncanny, and many people read these letters and smell a scam. There is no scam! But it sure looks sketchy…

We can’t stop Nextdoor from this marketing behavior. But we should be aware that Nextdoor may use your name or other PII on their marketing letters to others! Unless, you deliberately opt out, and here’s how to do that:

On a computer

  • Visit the Nextdoor website and sign in.
  • Click the account bubble to the upper-right, and then click Settings.
  • On the left, click Privacy.
  • Scroll down to the Invitation letters section, and turn off the toggle next to “Allow Nextdoor to mail letters on your behalf”.

In the Nextdoor app

  • Open the Nextdoor app and sign in.
  • To the lower-right, tap More.
  • Scroll down and tap Settings.
  • Tap Privacy Settings.
  • Scroll down to the Invitation letters section, and turn off the toggle next to “Allow Nextdoor to mail letters on your behalf”.

Snake Oil Software for your PC

There are myriad apps out there for your computer with names like Advanced System WinFantalizer ProBit Deep Cleaner IOCare Mechanic Utilities TuneUp Plus. They claim to do everything your system needs to run fast like a bunny. Problem is, they’re all rubbish. Don’t pay them any mind and certainly don’t spend any money on them. They are placeboware.

These snake oil products talk a good game. They claim they will speed up your performance and deep clean your OS and optimize your memory allocation and defraggle your drives. But take a breath and let the jargon fade away. They’re just trying to inspire you with buzzwords.

You’re Already In Good Hands

The Windows operating system already knows how to clean junk files automatically. It’s a feature called Storage Sense, and once turned on, you can trust in Microsoft to clear your temp files and other junk periodically, all on its own.

Microsoft already defragments your drives for you, too. You can check, you can open up the Optimize Drives panel anytime, and Windows will tell you the last date of defragmentation. Nothing for you to do here, either!

Thinking that your registry needs a good cleaning? Think again, Microsoft recommends against any such thing. And I can confirm, I have seen a lot of borked computers in my time, where the last thing the user had tried was a registry cleaner. You are always best off in leaving the Windows Registry alone!

But what about driver updates? Again, Microsoft’s got you: Windows Updates will cover most driver updates silently and automatically. If your computer needs drivers above and beyond that, then you want to rely on the manufacturer of your computer, not some 3rd-party app, to help with those. Dell, HP and the other big companies generally offer you driver updates through a program on your computer, or on their website. But you shouldn’t need to pursue this unless you’re looking to solve an active problem on your computer.

But My Computer Is So Slow!

And that is part of my work, figuring out why things are bogging down and preventing people from getting their work done. But there is no silver bullet or cure-all software out there. Every computer situation I deal with is different from the next. Some involve a quick fix, others require some serious detective work.

And guess what: If you install one of those Super-Pro-Max-Rainbow-Optimizer apps, your system is likely to become even slower. System performance is often a measure of Computer Horsepower vs. Active Software Burden. If you add another constantly-running program to your PC, that just adds to the load it’s carrying.

Here are some better ideas & tools for you, that are far safer to explore than installing these wacky, over-promising snake oil software:

  • Remove malware and disable bloatware/shovelware with ADWCleaner. It’s a one-time scan tool that will not conflict with your current antivirus.
  • Check your hard drive health! A failing hard drive will not announce itself, but can cause oddball errors and slowdown as it declines. I use CrystalDiskInfo to spot-check hard drive health, but your drive’s manufacturer may also offer a free download for this.
  • Consider a different antivirus solution. Many big-name antivirus suites put an immense load on the system. I have sped up many an older computer simply by trashing the TotalProtection360Antivirus Suite and installing a plain-vanilla, free antivirus.
  • Sometimes cloud backup software puts a drain on your internet or system speed. If you’re running OneDrive/Google Drive/Dropbox/Carbonite or similar, right-click on them in the taskbar and turn them off. Check your computer’s performance again, and reboot the system to allow those apps to restart.
  • Reboot all of your internet equipment, and use speed test websites to judge if your internet connection is the bottleneck.
  • Check to see that there are no pending Windows Updates. If there are, Download and install them and reboot and check again, until you see that there are no more updates waiting to come down to your computer.

Spam Text Messages

Here are options for dealing with spam received via text message:

Forward the Message to SPAM

When you get a spam text, forward it to 7726 (SPAM). This helps your carrier know about what spam is spreading where, and they’ll study the trends to prevent more spam from reaching you.

To forward a message on Apple devices, consider the section at this page titled “Forward older text messages.”

For Android devices, try these steps to forward a message any spam text to 7726.

Block the Sender

Most phones allow you to block a specific number from sending you texts. So when that annoying spam message arrives, block the sender’s number.

Here are the steps to block a text sender on iOS. On Android, try these steps or maybe these will help.

Note: If a spammer is spoofing your number, so that the text looks like it is coming from you, don’t block it. Just forward it to SPAM as described above, and contact your provider if it keeps happening.

Contact Your Provider

Each cellular provider offers different free tools for blocking unwanted calls and texts. If you are receiving a high level of spam messages, reach out to them. Ask them to review your account and phone settings, to be sure that all possible features are enabled, to block the maximum amount.

Report Spam to the Government

You are welcome to report unwanted communication (calls OR texts) to the FCC and the FTC. The DoNotCall Registry also wants your reports of spam.


Caveats

When acting on a spam text (to block it), take care to not tap on any attached files or links.

Do not reply to any spam text with any complaints or commentary. Do not try to unsubscribe, as this may create more spam for you!

Move the Windows 11 Start Button Back!

As more and more folks upgrade to new PCs, I hear the same comment over and over:

“Where’s the Start button‽ How do I get to all my… Oh. Huh, there it is.”

Indenting the Start button by a few inches is rather alien to long-time Windows users. But we can move it back to the left, if you prefer:

  1. Right-click a blank area on your Taskbar, and then click Taskbar Settings.
  2. Click on Taskbar Behaviors.
  3. Across from Taskbar Alignment, change the drop-down menu to read Left.

Bitdefender Rereleases Its Free Antivirus

I’m sorry to say that Bitdefender has pulled a fast one on some of us.

Last year, they announced that they were discontinuing their free antivirus for Windows. And users of the free software received emails from Bitdefender, urging them to take advantage of a low price of their paid software. For my part, I recommended people not buy their antivirus, and switch to any other free protection software. But many users upgraded and paid for their security suites, to continue with uninterrupted Bitdefender protection.

This past week, Bitdefender announced their release of Bitdefender Free Antivirus for Windows. It’s available now for download on their website. I’ve tested it out, and it installs and works as well as any of their past software. I’m guessing it wasn’t announced before now, in order to convert more people to paid accounts….

But I’m still not keen on pushing my clients to use this product. The built-in protection on Windows machines is just as highly rated as Bitdefender products. But I can say that Bitdefender is a quality product, should you prefer to use it. And if you want help converting back to a free account, or addressing any other payment issues, make sure to reach out to BD support.

Chewy’s Pet Portraits

If you’re a patron of the Chewy website, here’s some feel-good news for you: Every month, Chewy surprises random customers with portraits of their pets! You can’t request or buy these portraits, but you can feel lucky if one happens to arrive on your doorstep. Chewy reportedly sends out 1000 of these each week!

All that said, you can’t get a surprise if Chewy doesn’t know what you pet looks like. I recommend you find a favorite photo of your pet and add it to your Chewy account:

  1. Go to Chewy.com and sign into your account.
  2. Go to the Account drop-down menu in the upper-right of the website, and then click Account on the menu.
  3. On the sub-headings bar, click My Pets. If you see your pet listed, click it. Otherwise, click Add Pet and fill out the basic info for your animal.
  4. When you see your pet’s profile page, click the Edit button to the right, to reveal the Profile Icon and Cover Photo options for your pet.
  5. Click the pencil-icon on either to upload a photo of your choice.
  6. Make sure to click Save Changes at the very bottom after adding anything to this page!

If you have any trouble with this, scroll to the bottom of the Chewy website and chat with them. They are super-helpful and you might be able to send them your pet’s photo that way, as well.

Kaspersky Antivirus Concerns

Concerned about Kaspersky Antivirus? Here’s what you need to know, if you currently use their software:

Current Events

Germany’s Federal Government just warned businesses in their country to avoid using Kaspersky antivirus software. The concern is that Kaspersky software offers a potential vector for a future IT attack. There is no current threat, only a concern over the future possibility of one.

This is not a new concern. In 2017, the United States government expressed similar concerns over Kaspersky products, and banned Kaspersky software from all government departments.

Dig further and the history of the US Government and Kaspersky gets more sordid and confusing. More questions are raised than are answered. Is this simply the rise of anti-Russian sentiments, or are there legitimate threats to beware here?

If You Choose to Stop Using Kaspersky

Kaspersky Antivirus is a top-rated protection software. But if you feel the need to move on to something else, by all means do so! There are so many highly-rated antiviruses out there, and I commonly recommend people try out the built-in Microsoft Defender (Windows) or XProtect (MacOS) for free. Just uninstall your current Kaspersky programs and the built-in protections should kick in automagically.

If you have any trouble or errors while uninstalling Kaspersky software, don’t fret! there is a specific tool to use, if you need advanced help removing Kaspersky’s antivirus.

But many commercial antiviruses sign their users up for automatic renewal. You may want to check the Kaspersky website, and log into your customer account, to check this. Turn off any renewal options, lest Kaspersky charge you for something you’re not using.

If you’ve recently paid for Kaspersky, you are allowed to ask for a refund within 30 days of purchase. Contact Kaspersky Support from the options at the bottom of this page for that.

5G Is Not the Same as 5G

Tech jargon is confusing enough as it is. But then some geniuses had to go and name two completely different technologies the same thing. Not helpful….

I’m referring to the label “5G”, which can be used regarding your home Wi-Fi or with cellphones. I continue to find that people conflate the two technologies when they have absolutely nothing to do with each other! So I’m going to try and clear this up:

5G Stands for Fifth Generation

When talking about telecommunications, 5G refers to the latest technology that makes your cellphones work. Right now, the fifth generation (5G) of technology is being rolled out in our country. The fourth generation (4G) is the existing cellular communications technology used in much of the country, and 3G & 2G technology is on its way out. The old 3rd gen and 2nd gen antennae and other hardware is being decommissioned and dismantled to make way for the new hotness that is 5G.

5G Stands for 5 Gigahertz (GHz)

By now, most households have Wi-Fi to spread your internet connection around to laptops, tablets and smartphones. And many of you may notice that your Wi-Fi router offers two network names, one that may end in “-5G”. This is merely to distinguish the two bands of frequency emanating from your device. Those two bands are 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz, the latter can be referred to as the “5G band.” If you want to read more on Wi-Fi frequency bands, this site has you covered.

Facebook Phishing on Facebook

Watch out for this recent scheme on Facebook:

this is a clever FAKE Facebook page!

If you encounter this anywhere on Facebook, please know that it is not legitimate, and Facebook/Meta did NOT send this to you. Do not click the link. Do not respond to the message.

You can and should click the 3-dots button to the upper-right, to report the message/account to Facebook as a fake or impostor. That will help Facebook detect and remove the ruse.

True Facebook messages about your reports & violations would appear in the Support Inbox for your Facebook account. That can be a bit tricky to find, but try this link if you want to visit yours. You can trust what you read on that website.

How Bad This Scam Can Get

If someone is tricked into clicking the link, some browsers will protect the user and warn about the dangerous site ahead:

thank you, Google Chrome!

But other, less-secure browsers might load that link straight away, and then this alert appears:

fake Facebook login screen, made by cyber criminals

This is still all fake! The user’s FB account is perfectly fine, and the above text is 100% fiction. But when a person clicks the blue button there, the next page prompts them to type in their Facebook credentials. After that, the scammers quickly capture and use that info to log into that Facebook account.

Once inside the victim’s account, they will:

  • Change the FB password, locking the true owner out.
  • Change the account recovery methods, so that the true owner cannot reset his/her password.
  • Start using the account to scam everyone on the Friends List of the account.
  • Start using the account for other criminal enterprises on Facebook and beyond.

If The Worst Has Happened To You

If you have been fooled by this phishing effort, contact Facebook for help with your account ASAP. You may certainly try to reset your password first, but if that fails, Facebook will have to put you through some considerable verification steps and other processes to fix the situation.

You’ll need this Facebook article to begin the recovery process. Click on “I think my Facebook account was hacked…” and then click the get Started button. Answer the next questions as best you can and hopefully Facebook will repair your account… soon.

You might also contact your friends and family, via email or phone, to let them know about your stolen account. Tell them something like, “Don’t trust anything coming from my FB account, until I explicitly tell you I’ve recovered it!”

For more reading on this, check out the Malwarebytes Blog.

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