Sunday, December 09, 2007

Are Windows Vista PCs Disposable?

When something goes wrong with a Windows Vista PC, don't be surprised if it is more expensive to troubleshoot and repair it than it is to buy a new PC and move your data and apps from the old machine to the new one.

For example... recently, a 6-month-old Thinkpad with Vista Business came into our shop for repair, because it had started freezing up. When it froze up, it was totally unresponsive, and the only thing to do was hold the power button down until the system shut down.

The machine's freezes occurred for no apparent reason, and nothing in the error logs was determinative either. It was still under warranty. It was originally purchased from Best Buy or Circuit City for under $1,000.

The first thing we did was test the machine for hardware problems. Lenovo's diagnostics as well as the tools we use found no problems. So, there was no warranty involved in the repair.

At this point, we were dealing with an unspecified software, virus or malware problem, and the best, most-cost-effective solution in this situation has been (i.e., Windows XP) to copy the data, reformat the hard disk and restore the operating system, applications and the data.

On the ThinkPad, there is a suite of system tools that you can access from the "Blue Button" on the keyboard, and use to restore the ThinkPad to its new condition. It reformats the hard disk and reloads the operating system and applications that originally came with the computer. Before you do that, you have the option to copy your data, which we did to a USB hard drive.

Fortunately for our client and us, we also imaged the ThinkPad's hard disk before we reformatted the drive -- fortunately because the utility to copy the data failed to get most of our client's data. We ended up having to restore the image to a spare drive to recover all the client's data.

After we restored the ThinkPad to its original, like-new condition, we downloaded and applied all the Lenovo updates; both the Urgent and the Recommended updates. This took a lot of time and numerous system restarts.

After the Lenovo updates, we reinstalled the client's applications and downloaded and applied all the Microsoft updates and patches. This also took a lot of time and numerous system restarts.

Then we downloaded and installed updates and patches for non-Microsoft applications like Adobe Acrobat Reader and Flash, Sun's Java, and AVG's anti-virus. More time.

We recreated the client's user profile and set the Lenovo and Windows security the way the client had them.

Last but not least, we tracked down the client's data files, scanned them for viruses, then reinstalled the data on the ThinkPad.

At that point, the machine was working and no longer freezing. The problem appears to have been fixed. But the time and effort involved cost more than the machine was worth. In retrospect, the client would have been better served had we grabbed the data, thrown out the old machine and installed the client's apps and data on a new ThinkPad.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Who Is Reading Your Email?

This a subject I have written about before. It is worth revisiting because most people still think the email messages they send are private, like the US mail or a telephone call or a fax. But they are not. Click here to see my earlier posting.

Email and instant messages are nothing more than text files that can be intercepted and copied as they travel from here to there over the Internet. These stored messages can be later read by others and come back to haunt you.

In the future:
  • More and more organizations will engage in monitoring network traffic, including employee email, instant messaging, and web surfing.
  • Telephone calls are increasingly traveling over the Internet. They will be subject to the same kinds of storage, retrieval and monitoring issues that now affect email.
  • Employers will adopt the behavioral profiling technologies of online marketers in evaluating employees based on each one's use of information systems.

Bottom line, Big Brother will be listening, reading and watching you. So will Big Sister and all their Little Brothers and Sisters.