Local Radio Station Running Scareware Ads

I’ve recently been hearing ads on the local AM radio station (WALG) for a website called My Clean PC (mycleanpc.com). I’m suspicious of any ad promoting a product that will easily fix all of your computer problems (in the same way I was suspicious of gas mileage products that “magnetically aligned the gas molecules” or just completely violated the principle of conservation of energy). So before you visit this site, I’ll share my experience. To test the site and see if they were promoting some type of scareware, I visited the site using a virtual computer running a fresh install of Windows. It was a computer with absolutely no issues and here is the result of my visit: (see screencap below):

Screenshot-Windows XP Professional - VMware Player (Non-commercial use only)-6

Two Thousand One Hundred and Forty Six Errors!! I must buy their non-functional software for $19.95 which will be charged to my credit card on a recurring basis. If this useless (most likely) software does not fix my computer, I can place a call to USTechSupport where they will extract much larger sums of money from me for useless tech support. I’ve seen some of their work on the computers of some of my newest customers.

Screenshot-Windows XP Professional - VMware Player (Non-commercial use only)-11.

My advice, of course, is to be very careful. Snake oil isn’t sold exclusively on the net. If you’re interested in methods for avoiding or quickly recovering from malware or scamware, you might be interested in the video below. My favorite method is to use Linux for nearly all of my browsing, while keeping Windows running as a virtual machine on the Linux host. It’s not perfect, but it’s worked very well for me so far. Another method is to use Windows as the host OS, but only browse the net using the browser in a Linux virtual machine. This is like having a nearly bulletproof browser in Windows.

I’m Calling About Your Windows Computer…

I was halfway through a pretty decent nap when the phone rang. After slowly picking up the phone, I said “Heeelllooo?”

“I’m calling about your Windows computer” was the reply. He had a thick Indian accent and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t an American Indian accent.

“I have a Linux computer” was my truthful reply.

linux-room

I know about the scam of course. Plenty of my customers have experienced it and it always starts the same. An operator from India calls and convinces his mark that there is something terribly wrong with his computer and it can be fixed by signing up for an annual tech support subscription of only $200 (approx). Sometimes, you may encounter the same people when you run a google search for Microsoft Support or Netflix Support. Be very careful. You should be directed to a Microsoft.com page or a Netflix.com page. Certainly, if you get a call that starts with “I’m calling about your Windows computer,” just hang up quickly. Too many people have lost too much money with this scam and today it’s practically epidemic.

Fake Chinese USB Flash Drives

not everything in retail packaging is new or genuine

A customer recently brought me several “512 GB” USB flash drives that he had purchased from a web site that ships from overseas. Each 512GB flash drive was purchased for about $7 each. Considering that the lowest price for a 128GB USB flash on Amazon is about $40 and their lowest price for a 512GB version is $465, the $7 bulk rate Chinese price seems unrealistic. I examined one of the drives from a linux computer (PXE booted for safety) and GParted displayed a 500GB partition. However, data could not be reliably saved to the drive. It appears to accept data but files become overwritten as more data is copied to the drive. The flash drives have been reprogrammed to show more than their true capacity. Unfortunately, the hacked nature of these drives makes them useless. So remember! If it seems too good to be true, it’s probably an online scam.

Upgrading to Windows 7 or Linux

This has been a busy week for Windows 7 upgrades. The typical upgrade involves backing up all personal data, cataloging product id codes from installed software like Microsoft Office, adding any necessary hardware like memory modules and video adapters, imaging the original hard drive as a precautionary measure, wiping the hard drive and then finally installing Windows 7 with the appropriate drivers, installing the previous Office software, activating the software and then finally copying all of the original personal data to the now upgraded system. The cost including sales tax ranges from between $188 to $284. A few customers have taken me up on a less expensive option costing less than $100 and it’s a very interesting option. Below, please take a look at some screen shots from a formerly virus plagued Dell Dimension 3000 that was originally purchased in 2004. It now has an extra gigabyte of memory and is running the 32 bit version of LXLE Linux. The total cost of updating was less than $100 and the results are amazing… and since it’s running Linux, it will never be infected with another Windows virus.

Screenshot from 2014-04-26 19:53:27

Music

Screenshot from 2014-04-26 20:17:07

Youtube

Screenshot from 2014-04-26 20:51:39

Games

Screenshot from 2014-04-26 21:17:22

Libre Office and much more.

Moral of the story: don’t throw away your old computers.