Alert – possible system attack

I  received the following email a short while ago.  Actually, I received two – one in my inbox and one in spam.

Dear Corel Customer,

Did you know WordPerfect can import and export to popular Microsoft Office file formats like DOC, DOCX, PPT, PPTX, XLS, XLSX?

Click here to install the Microsoft Office Compatibility pack to extend the power of WordPerfect and share documents in popular Microsoft file formats. Please note that Microsoft is retiring the Office Compatibility Pack in the near future.
Install Now
For additional information on the compatibility pack or if you have any questions please feel free to contact our customer support team.

Sincerely,
The Corel Team

I do very little work involving Word, and knew that WordPerfect is compatible with Word, so I asked the Corel Support Team whether this would be something I might use. Their response was very interesting:

We have receive several inquiry regarding an email from Corel@email5-corel.com
We are currently investigating this.
For now, we recommend not installing it.
We will notify you once we have validated the source and the content of the email.

So at the moment, it would appear this may not be a legitimate offer. I can understand people may be interested in having the ability to use WordPerfect and be able to handle Word documents, but WordPerfect does this without the installation of external programs or add-ons. If you are one of those people who, like myself prefer WordPerfect, and you receive this or a similar message from the email address in boldface, ignore it. You may be putting your computer at risk.

Cat.

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Do it your way

Every once in a while, someone will look at some of my photos, or read something I’ve written and suggest that I should teach photography and/or writing. That presents a problem for me.

I’m sure that each of you is very good at some pastime that gives you a sense of accomplishment. But, how would you go about explaining to somebody else just how you do it? That’s the problem with my photography and writing. Oh, I could probably teach each, but the course would be twenty minutes tops. I’ll try here to explain how I do what I do.

Photography: My philosophy is simple – if something catches your attention, snap it. You may look at the image on the camera screen and not see what you expected, but wait until you get it up on the computer screen when you process it. (I do digital photography, so my comments are restricted to computer processing.) The larger image may show you something surprising that you can turn into a beautiful photo. The photo at the top of this is an example of a photo I thought was “okay” until I saw it on the monitor, then it went up in my estimation.

Take advice if offered. I’ve had some free-lance photographers give me some advice that I think is worth passing on. First, remember that a digital camera darkens an image about 30 – 40% from what you see with your eye. You’ll want to restore that brightness before anything else. This of course wouldn’t apply if you feel the darker image is more effective.

Next, a free-lancer told me to avoid weddings if at all possible because you’ll never please everyone.

Finally, if you want to be a free-lance news photographer, the best advice I was given for this was “f8 and be there”. You can’t take the shot if you aren’t at the scene and an aperture of f8 will give you a decent depth of field.

As I said, I do digital photography and process my own work. There are many photo processing programmes available. My personal preference is a Corel programme called “Paintshop”. Some people prefer Adobe’s Photoshop. I’ve used both and prefer Paintshop. If you can, try as many as you can – some places offer free trial copies – before spending your money on one.

The choice of camera is up to the user. Many of my best work was done with a Canon point and shoot, including the header photo. I currently use a Canon DSLR, but depending upon my plans for the day, I have often used the camera in my phone. The quality of phone cameras has improved greatly.

I’m torn about suggesting photography courses. Yes, I can see the benefits for some people, but when I told an artist friend it had been suggested I take one, her comment was “Why? That would only ruin you. The course would only teach you to take photos the way the instructor does.” If you feel you’d benefit from one, go for it. As my friend said, if you feel competent, save your money.

In photography the most important advice I was given was that you have to have imagination and the ability to think outside the box. Photography is as much about feeling as technique.

Writing: I’ve always written, at least back as far as Grade 5. I was fortunate in having teachers who encouraged my writing and have since received advice from others. There are many courses in creative writing available through community colleges that you can take. My ex-partner was part of a group of writers who would meet once a week and present short stories for criticism. Some members were published authors; some were taking courses and others just sat down to write. Through the members of this group (I was a casual member since they often met at our house) I learned the proper format for submitting stories, but that’s about all.

Most often, aspiring writers are told “write what you know”. That is fine if you’re writing factual articles and stories. I have a blog and frequently write opinion pieces that I laughingly refer to as “rants, raves and reasoned discussions – reader’s choice.” The main exception to that is a series of blogs under the general title “Bring him to justice”. This series concerns the attempts by the Toronto Police Service to arrest a man charged with several counts of aggravated sexual assault. This series is factual and, full disclosure here, I’m doing it because I know several people he dated.

For my fiction, it’s rather difficult to write fiction strictly sticking to “what you know”. If I’m writing fiction, the process usually starts with me asking myself “what if…?” then writing a piece to answer the question.

Perhaps the best advice the writer me was given was “write the way you speak.” If you don’t use multi-syllable words as part of your usual vocabulary, don’t use them in your writing. I sometimes paraphrase this as “if you don’t use ten dollar words all the time, don’t use them in your writing, even if you get them half-off. You’ll probably mis-use them.” Something else – spelling counts. Spell-check is great in most cases, but if you use a homophones – and yes, I had to check the definition of this – such as “hear” or “here”, spell-check won’t catch it. Proofread, then proofread again.

There. My courses on photography and writing are finished. As the title suggests “do it your way.” Class dismissed.

Remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

Sorry, wrong number

I received the following in my Gmail spam over the weekend:

Your Navy Account Is Under Review
Navy Federal <inft@usamail.org>

26 Jun (1 day ago)

to Recipients

Navy Federal Credit Union

Attention !!!

Our system can not verify your account and this might
leads to account suspension

please click here to resolve the problem.

*Warning*

Do not login elsewhere after you verify the account within 24 hours

There are a couple of things wrong with this message from my perspective and a couple of general red flags. First, I’m Canadian and second, have never served in the U S Navy. I did serve in the Canadian Army however if that makes a difference.

Now, the general warnings. The address “to recipients” is a prime giveaway you are dealing with spam. If it was a message specifically for you, it would bear your name. I am also suspicious of the email address of the sender. “usamail.org” sounds official, but I somehow doubt it really comes from the USPS.

The warning at the end not to log in anywhere else for 24 hours is something I’ve not seen before, but it raises concerns. Why is it necessary that I stay off the computer for 24 hours after I click on their link? Would doing so somehow mess up their trojan or whatever they’ve put on your computer?

If you receive this email, even if you are a Navy veteran, just delete it. Or if you have some concerns, use the telephone and call whoever you need do. Just don’t click on the link.

Cat.

Enough is enough

I’ve been running four separate Facebook profiles – one for my writing; one for each of the photo businesses, and one personal. Yesterday I deactivated three of them, leaving only the personal account open.

I did so for a variety of reasons, perhaps the prime one being these arbitrary changes Facebook keeps inflicting upon its users. In most cases, there is no opt-out option for these. For each profile I provided such information as I felt comfortable disclosing. Every so often I would get a notification from Facebook that my profile was only 30% complete and ask me to answer such questions as where I live; what high school I went to and where I attended university. I didn’t want to provide that information and was able to just close those sections still blank. Until last week. That was when I discovered that unless I answered the damn questions I couldn’t close the section. Sorry Facebook, I’ve given you all the information I feel necessary.

Another thing Facebook does is change settings. In the newsfeed, there is a choice of “top stories” or “latest news”, with the default being “top stories”. Now I would rather see the latest news from my friends rather than whatever inanity FB feels I would consider a top story and set the filter accordingly. And at least twice a week I find it changed back. Facebook has no idea of my interests (because I didn’t fill out that part of the information) so how can they honestly determine what I consider a top story?

If Facebook continues to force these changes upon their users, they are going to find themselves going the way of MySpace, which tried the same tactics and found people left in droves.

Another reason I’ve closed these profiles is that I’m tired of all the drama some people post. With some, it seems that every little thought they have makes it to their status. I don’t give a rat’s ass. You are not the only person in the world with problems in your lives, so please, please stop posting this nonsense. Keep your problems to yourself or discuss them with close friends in personal messages, not in an open forum.

Others insist upon posting a detailed itinerary of their day (going shopping as I need a loaf of bread). Who cares?? Or they will post recipes containing ingredients I either don’t like, can’t afford to buy, or both. I live alone so why would I care about a recipe that serves 6? One day I deleted 14 recipes from one person. No status report, nothing of interest, just 14 recipes.

As I wrote above, I still have my personal profile, but I can’t guarantee how long that will be open for I know Facebook will introduce some other stupidity that will finally force me out.

Does anyone know of any other social networks? I’ve tried Google+ but find it all but undecipherable.

Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

Don’t take the bait

As you are aware, smart phones are, or can be, as susceptible to phishing attempts as are computers although it is called “smishing” when used on or against phones.  And the aim is the same as it is with your computer – to plant something in your operating system to either screw it up for you or to enable them to download all your data.

What prompts this posting is this: a little while ago I received the following text message:

 Hey, it’s Sarah!  I just made a profile on “justhookupcanada.com” I added some pics too 

This came from a telephone number with a 226 area code, which according to what I can find covers southwestern Ontario – London and Windsor being the two major cities in that code.  Well, I haven’t lived in London since 1957 and don’t recall any classmates named Sarah. And in the intervening years, not only have I moved many times, I’ve also changed my name, so I doubt this is anyone from my past in London.  As for Windsor, last time I was there was the mid-80’s and that was a business trip.  The other area code in that area is 519, so the possibility “Sarah” made a transposition error in entering the number is extremely remote, since my area code contains a zero.

That leaves the only logical reason for this text as being smishing.  There is a link to follow and to increase the chances of someone following it, the bait is that “Sarah” has posted photos of herself there.  Sorry “Sarah” I have no idea who the hell you are, so I’m not biting.

To my readers, remember that your smart phone has more computing power than early computers.  Protect it the same as you would your computer – laptop, desktop, whatever.  And as with spam email, don’t follow links from unknown senders.

Enjoy your week or if, like me, you have a long weekend, enjoy that as well and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

When I say “no”, I mean “no”

I’ve written before of my ongoing battle with computers, which is now some 30 years old.  My first opponent was a Commodore 64 and the current combatant is a Lenovo B575 laptop.

About ten days ago, I was reading one of the news sites I frequent when the computer froze. It wouldn’t accept any input – mouse, keyboard, touchpad or foul language, so the only way out was to shut the system down.  When I rebooted the computer, Windows wouldn’t load.  Fine.  Put the computer away for a couple of days.  I wasn’t going to be home anyway, so that was no sacrifice.

The Lenovo has something called a “one key recovery” feature.  Checked it out.  Two options were presented, the first being restore to factory specs and the second being restore from a backup disk.  Naturally, I hadn’t backed up the hard drive, in fact I don’t know many people who do, so “column B” was out.  Reading the information on option 1, I saw that using it would eliminate everything not on the hard drive when it left the factory.  I had about $300 in software that I’d ordered online (Paintshop Pro Photo X5 and WordPerfect Suite X6) and taken as downloads (dumb idea).  It was a couple of days before I remembered to phone Corel, the supplier, to see if I could get backup disks for these two programmes.  For a fee, I could.  Great.  Now that I know I haven’t thrown away three hundred dollars, I decided to proceed with the restore.

It didn’t take that long to restore.  I was pleasantly surprised to note that Future Shop, where I bought the Lenovo as a demo (last one in the store), had removed a lot of things from the system before they put it on display.  These are things I don’t use or, having tried them, don’t like, such as Chrome.  The system also came with MacAfee antivirus ware.  I’ve never been impressed with MacAfee, but before I uninstalled it, I downloaded and installed my preferred programmes. I might not like it, but at least it should ensure I get  clean download.  Got all my software installed and restored my files from backups which were about a week out of date.  I frequently chat with a friend using Yahoo messenger so went to download that as well.  During the installation process, I was asked if I wanted the Yahoo toolbar.  No.  Guess what.  Despite declining the offer, I got the damn thing anyway.  Uninstalled Yahoo.  Noticed a separate line in the programme listings for this toolbar.  Uninstalled that as well.  No use.  Still stuck with this thing I don’t want and don’t use.

Checked tools and settings in Firefox.  Couldn’t find a way of deleting the toolbar.  Looked in the computer settings with the same result.  Finally had to resort to restoring to factory specs again, which meant back to February 2012 when this system was built.  Through the process again – deep six Chrome and MacAfee; download my choice of antivirusware and reinstall my own software.  I noticed that Adobe Reader was two versions out of date and decided to update that as well.  I know from experience that occasionally there are unwanted hitchhikers on Adobe updates.  In the past my system has caught key loggers and, in one download, a worm buried in these updates.  This time I ended up with something called “Yontoo”, which is adware.  It planted itself in 37 different locations on my system.  Spybot was able to remove 35 of them and I was able to track down one more and delete it, but that last one was in a registry key.  Now I might be crazy, but I’m not stupid enough to go messing with the registry.

I spoke with my son, who is also my tech despite being 3,000 miles away, and he recommended AdAware.  I’ve heard of this programme before and knew it to be good.  Downloaded it.  Again, during the installation I was asked if I wanted to replace my current search engine, Google, with the AdAware secure engine.  Again I said “no”.  And again I might as well have saved myself the effort.  During the install AdAware replaced Google with its own search engine.  Decided to deal with that later.  Ran a full scan of my system with AdAware.  After four hours it caught 13 tracking cookies in addition to the remaining Yontoo irritant.  Deleted all of them.  Decided that if AdAware wasn’t willing to listen to me when I said “no” in response to their offer, I would uninstall the programme.  With AdAware, part of the uninstall process is asking why I don’t want it.  I told them, quite bluntly, that when I say I don’t want part of the programme when asked, I mean I don’t want the f’ing thing.  I must say though that AdAware did also give me instructions on how to restore my preferred search engine.

I don’t know about you, but if I’m offered something in a download, and I decline it, I have an expectation that my wishes will be honoured.  When I say “no”, I mean “no”.

Anyway, my computer is now back up and running and free of any unwanted visitors, so I’ll be posting more rants/raves/reasoned discussions (as usual, reader’s choice).

Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.

Updates and a new grumble

1 – On January 11, I wrote “I didn’t ask for it” which talked about the fact a company called U-file had sent me the CD containing the 2012 Canadian tax return.  As I had used U-file the past couple of years they apparently assumed I’d want to use it again for this year’s return.  My marital status had changed on the 2011 return, and when I clicked on the new status, I was greeted with a screen that asked all kinds of intrusive questions that, as I later learned, Canada Revenue Agency didn’t need the answers to.  That CD has since found its way into my trash can and I purchased a different programme which worked quite well and was nowhere near as nosy.

2 – February 12 brought a rant called “Customer service, what’s that?” about the response I received from Virgin Mobile when I mentioned I was being actively wooed by another cell phone company.  After posting that blog, I decided to contact customer service at Virgin by email.  Being somewhat lazy on occasion, rather than write a whole new piece, I sent them the blog – minus some of the snark of course.  About three days later I received a telephone call from a nice gentleman at Virgin who first apologized for the apparent lack of interest shown by the people who had spoken with me.  I explained that I had much customer service experience and suggested that the negative replies I had received did not reflect well on Virgin, then offered a couple of possible responses.  He told me they were valid ideas and he’d bring them up with the supervisor.  He then explained that Rogers Communications, the firm who had contacted me, (more on Rogers in #3 below) had an advantage over Virgin since Rogers could offer package deals on cell service, internet, cable and landlines, whereas Virgin only offered the cell service. The result was that he smoothed my ruffled fur (I’m Cat – I have fur, not feathers ☺) and I renewed my phone contract two days later.  No, I didn’t go for the BlackBerry Z10.  It might be good, but how many times over the past year or so have we heard of the Eastern Seaboard losing email and messaging capabilities because BlackBerry’s server went down.  Instead I went for the Apple 4s.  One advantage to that was that since Apple brought out the 5, the phone I chose was no cost.

3 – The new grumble.  Since April 2011, Rogers Communications have supplied my internet, cable and landline.  I was able to get some “incentives” on all three services when I signed up – two of them for a one year period and 24 months on the cable.  I’m on a pension, so these discounts play a great part in being able to afford the services I enjoy.  Last Saturday I called Rogers’s customer service to see if it would be possible to extend these incentives, or failing that, if there was something else I could take advantage of to keep my bills at a reasonable level.  I was told flat out that I’d have to wait at least 60 days then see if they had anything.  The girl did point out that I would still be getting an 8% discount on my cable bundle.  Big deal.  I’m looking at my bill increasing by about $30 a month and she’s telling me I still get a $2.76 discount on cable.

Tuesday I called Rogers again, but this time I spoke with a gentleman in sales.  I should have called sales the first time.  He couldn’t extend the current incentives, but between us (him offering and me accepting) we came up with new plans that increase my cost by $4 a month, but give me more features on the telephone service.  So I would have to score the interaction between Rogers and me as “Sales 1; Customer Service 0″.

Why does it seem that companies put people in customer service for whom the entire idea of customer service is a foreign concept?  Is it possible these people are chosen because they show an aptitude for being unhelpful?  In the case of Rogers especially, while they may be the largest company offering these services in Eastern Canada (east of the Manitoba/Ontario border), they are not the only one.  I am constantly pulling adverts from my mailbox for Bell, who offer the same services as does Rogers and at competitive prices.  You might think then than Rogers would be interested in retaining me as a customer rather than have customer service trying to drive me away.

Oh well, I’m guaranteed reasonable prices for all my services for at least the next year, so I’ll stop complaining.  And I’ve got a new cell phone and still have the same plan, so I’m happy.

Enjoy your day and remember to hug an artist – we need love too.

Cat.