Date:         Sun, 17 Sep 2000 23:46:10 -0500
Sender:       The Internet TourBus - A virtual tour of cyberspace
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Comments:     Originally-From: Patrick Douglas Crispen

From:         Patrick Douglas Crispen 
Subject:      TOURBUS -- 17 SEP 00 -- THE FAB FIVE
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             TOURBUS Volume 6, Number 17 -- 17 Sept 2000
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   The Fab Five -- Weekly Computer Maintenance
Howdy, y'all, and greetings once again from the beautiful city of
Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where EVERY DAY is Thursday.  :P
I want to apologize for the tardiness of todayís post.  Despite what
you might have heard, I *DO* know the difference between Thursday and
Sunday.  Unfortunately, my laptop kind of died on Wednesday night, and
I spent the past couple days reinstalling Windows and all of my
programs while at the same time flying to both Biloxi and Savannah to
speak at conferences.  Needless to say, the last couple of days have
been, well, "interesting."
TOURBUS is made possible by the kind support of our sponsors.  A big
thanks to "VirtualBanking2000," and "," and "Affordable
Computer Supply Marketplace" for keeping the Bus rolling.  Please
visit and say thanks!
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On with the show ...
As I was reinstalling my programs and files, I kept thinking about
something called the "weekly fab five."  For the past three years, I
have been a part of Website Wednesday Night on the Steve and Johnnie
Show on WGN Radio in Chicago.  Listeners call in with computer-related
questions and I hem and haw and try to make up some sort of answer to
the callers' questions, all the time trying to hide the fact that I
have absolutely NO CLUE as to what I'm talking about.  It is actually
quite humorous.  Think of it as the blind leading the blind over a
really big, 50,000-watt radio station.  :)
Anyway, Steve, Johnnie, and I recently came up with what we call the
"weekly fab five," the five things you should do every week to keep
your computer running in tip-top shape.  Here is what we have been
1. Update your Virus Definitions
Yes, I know you are getting sick and tired of me telling you to do
this, but you'd be surprised at the number of people out there who
have NEVER updated their virus definitions.
According to our friends at Symantec,
     between 10 and 15 new viruses appear every day. In fact, from
     December 1998 to October 1999, the total virus count jumped from
     20,500 to 42,000.
It gets worse.  An additional 5,000 new viruses have been discovered
in the past year alone.  Before you panic, though, there are two
things to keep in mind:
     1. Even though it sounds like there are a squillion viruses out
        there, there are really only 250 or so viruses being passed
        from computer to computer.  The rest exist only in the
        laboratories of evil virus scientists.  :P
     2. Most viruses are easy to detect and neutralize before they do
        any damage, but only if you have an antivirus program using
        the latest virus definitions.  Virus definitions help your
        antivirus program both recognize and (hopefully) destroy known
        viruses.  What happens if you don't have the latest virus
        definitions?  Well, your antivirus program may not be able to
        detect some of the newer viruses floating around the Net,
        putting your computer and files in danger.
Fortunately, updating your virus definitions is a snap.  How do you
do it?  That depends on the antivirus program you use.  Norton
Antivirus has a "Live Update" button built into it; click on
the button, and Norton automatically downloads and installs the latest
virus definitions from Net.  McAfee VirusScan has a similar update
function (go to File --> Update VirusScan).
If you are unsure of how to update your virus definitions, visit the
Web site of your antivirus software manufacturer and look for their
"download," "update," or "technical support" section.  And if you are
on AOL, you can find the latest definitions for most antivirus programs at
keyword: virus.
So, the first thing we should do every week is update our virus
definitions.  The second thing we should do is ...
2. Run Windows Update
Okay, Iíll admit that running Windows Update once a week is overkill.
Sue me.  :P
Windows is aptly named because it is full of holes.  There are
several, inadvertent 'open doors' (or 'security holes') in the
Windows operating system that *COULD* conceivably make your computer
vulnerable to outside attack.  In specific, a mean-spirited hacker
*COULD* 'walk through' one of these open doors on your Windows PC and
read any file on your computer, delete specific files or programs, or
even completely erase your hard drive.
When the folks at Microsoft discover a security hole, they release a
software patch to close it.  Without the patch -- and there are MANY
-- your computer may be open to outside attack.
Fortunately, like updating your virus definitions, downloading these
patches couldn't be simpler.  Built into every Windows 98 PC and
into every version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer since version
4.0 is something called "Windows Update."  Windows Update is an
easy-to-use tool that helps you ensure that your PC is running the
absolute latest Microsoft software patches and drivers.
Here is how to use Windows Update to download all of the security
patches Microsoft has released since your PC was made:
     1. Connect (or logon) to the Internet.
     2. If you have Windows 98, launch Windows Update by going to
        Start --> Settings --> Windows Update.  You can also launch
        Windows Update by going to Tools --> Windows Update in either
        Internet Explorer 4 or 5.  Either way will connect you to
        Microsoft's Windows Update page
        [ ].
        By the way, if you don't have Internet Explorer 4 or later,
        Microsoft's Windows Update page will automatically talk you
        through the process of downloading and installing the latest
        version of Internet Explorer.
     3. On the top left-hand side of the Windows Update page, click
        on the "Product Updates" link (it is the one with the hand
        and the red asterisk).
     4. A pop-up window will appear, telling you to wait while your
        computer DOESN'T send any information to Microsoft (well,
        that's what it says!).
     5. Eventually, you'll see a page that says "Select Software."
        When Microsoft releases an essential update or patch to close
        a security hole in Windows, they put it in this page's
        "Critical Updates" section.  Select (or click on) EVERYTHING
        in the "Critical Updates" section -- you need *ALL* of the
        critical updates -- and then click on the big, gray
        "Download" arrow in the top right hand corner of the page.
     6. Follow the on-screen prompts.  That's it!  :)
Expect to see a MESS of critical updates the first time you run
Windows Update.  After that, though, you probably won't see more than
one or two Critical Updates a month.
By the way, if Windows Update doesn't work for you, you can download
*most* of Microsoft's Win98 critical updates at .
I seem to recall that some of the more recent version of the Mac OS
also have a Windows Update-esque type of tool.  I just can't remember
what it is.  Any suggestions?
Okay, two down, three to go.  The next thing we should do every week
is ...
3. Run ScanDisk
ScanDisk is a built-in tool from Microsoft that scans and, in most
cases, repairs errors on your hard drive.  These errors usually occur
when your computer crashes and has to be restarted.
The technical explanation is that
     Your files are stored on your hard drive in data groups called
     "clusters", sometimes these clusters can become "cross linked"
     with other clusters belonging to other files, or they can simply
     become "lost" from the rest of its fellow clusters.
     When you run scan disk the utility saves the "lost" file
     fragments into new files that you can view called "check" files
     (*.chk).  It also repairs cross-linked clusters by making a copy
     and pairing it to two separate families (the original and the
     cross linked one).
     [ ]
In other words, ScanDisk make your computer a little happier and a
heck of a lot more stable.  :)
To run Scan Disk, just go to Start --> Programs --> Accessories -->
System Tools --> ScanDisk.  If you have Norton Utilities or Norton
System Works, use Norton Disk Doctor instead of Microsoft's ScanDisk.
Disk Doctor is a little more thorough.
I don't think the Mac has its own ScanDisk program.  I could be wrong,
though -- the last Mac I owned used System 7.6.  I do know that Norton
Disk Doctor has been available for the Mac since 1989, and Norton
Utilities 5.0 for the Mac is HFS+ compatible so it works with OS 8.1
and later.
The next stop on our weekly hit parade is ...
4. Run Defrag
ScanDisk stabilizes your computer.  A disk defragmenter speeds up your
computer.  According to our friends at (the best technical
glossary on the Net, and one of my top 21 Web resources),
     When a file is too large to store in a single location on a hard
     disk, it is stored on the disk in discontiguous (not adjacent)
     parts or fragments.  This fragmentation is "invisible" to the
     user; however.  The locations of the fragments are kept track of
     by the system. Over time, disk access time can be slowed by
     fragmentation since each fragmented file is likely to require
     multiple drive head repositionings and accesses. (There's
     nothing you can do to prevent fragmentation, by the way.)
     A disk defragmenter is a utility that rearranges your fragmented
     files and the free space on your computer so that files are
     stored in contiguous units and free space is consolidated in one
     contiguous block.  This also improves access time to files that
     are now contiguous.
To run Window's built-in Disk Defragmenter program, go to Start -->
Programs --> Accessories --> System Tools --> Disk Defragmenter.  If
you have Norton Utilities or Norton System Works, use Norton Speed
Disk instead of Microsoft's Disk Defragmenter.  Speed Disk is a HECK
OF A LOT more thorough.
Again, I don't think Macs come with a disk defragmenter, but I do know
that Norton Speed Disk (in Norton Utilities 5.0) works wonderfully on
a Mac.
So, we've updated our virus definitions, downloaded and installed the
latest critical updates, made our computers more stable by running
ScanDisk or Disk Doctor, and made our computers a little faster by
running a disk defragmenter.  The last thing we need to do every week
is ...
5. Backup your Data
Here is a frightening thought: imagine what would happen if your
computer just up and stopped working.  All of your programs, all of
your emails, all of the pictures and files you have downloaded from
the Net ... gone.  How would you react?  Heck, how would you SURVIVE?
I ask these questions because computer hard drives crash all the time.
I know.  It happened to me on Wednesday night.
The reason why I didn't hurl myself from the top of Tuscaloosa's
AmSouth building shortly thereafter was that I had backed up most of
my laptop's critical data ahead of time.  Getting my laptop up and
running again just involved copying a bunch of files from a mess of
Zip disks I made a little while back.
In the world of computing, you either have a disaster recovery plan or
you don't.  Fortunately, backing up your critical data is no harder
than downloading new virus definitions or running a disk defragmenter.
In fact, Stan Miastkowski, on page 167 of the October 2000 issue of PC
World Magazine, has a wonderful article that tells you everything you
could possibly want to know about creating your own disaster-avoidance
plan.  If you don't have this issue handy, you can find Miastkowski's
article on the Web at,1400,18040,00.html .
Miastkowski reviews the hardware, software, and media you can use to
back up your computer.  He even offers a checklist of the essential
files you need to backup.
So, that's it.  Update your virus definitions, run Windows Update (or
the Mac equivalent), run ScanDisk, run a disk defragmenter, and backup
your data.  Do these five things in order ... each and every week ...
and both you and your computer will be a heck of a lot happier.  :)
I'd wish you a safe and happy weekend, but the weekend is almost over.
Instead, I'll wish you a quiet and uneventful week.
See ya' on Thursday-ish.  :P
PAY-UM (phrase).  The short form of the word Pamela.
Usage: "Woo-howdy ... you see that Pay-um Anderson recently?"
[Special thanks go to Pam Howell for today's word]
You can find all of the old Southern Words of the day at 
The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2239
Copyright © Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen - All rights reserved
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   The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2238
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