1981 Fleer baseball cards

1981 Fleer baseball cards

It’s just my opinion, but I think 1981 Fleer baseball cards get less respect than they deserve. It ended Topps’ 25-year monopoly on baseball cards and, frankly, I think it’s a nicer set than the Topps or Donruss sets from the same year.

Yes, compared to the smooth and polished Topps, the Fleer set at times looked like amateur work. But they didn’t make as many mistakes as fellow upstart Donruss did. And they tried some things with their set that Topps had been unwilling to do. The 1981 Fleer baseball cards got some critical accolades at the time, and frankly I think it’s an underrated ’80s set. It didn’t contribute a lot to the most valuable cards of the 1980s, but it certainly helped shape the decade.

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The best free antivirus

I’ve been re-evaluating free antivirus programs in an effort to find the best free antivirus. I think Microsoft Security Essentials is adequate if you don’t engage in risky behavior, and it doesn’t nag and doesn’t expire, both of which are good things. The best detection in the world is no good to you the day after it expires.

If you want something better, the place to look is AV-Comparative’s most recent test. In that roundup, I see four serious contenders: Bitdefender, Avira, Avast, and AVG. Those are the only four programs available for free that passed all of their tests with at least one star. Read more

How to use your computer skills to earn some extra money

If you’re in need of some extra money and you’re computer-savvy, the scumbags of the earth have a deal for you. You see, they load unwitting computer owners’ PCs up with loads of junk, and they can render a new, state of the art computer useless very quickly. That’s an opportunity for you to use your computer skills to earn some extra money.

If you can learn to clean up the mess, you can probably have as much after-hours work as you want.Assuming you’re pretty good at fixing your own computer (don’t go into business fixing computer problems if your computer runs like garbage), cleaning it up is pretty easy.

Keep copies of Ad-Aware, Spybot Search & Destory, Bazooka, and Avert Stinger handy on a CD or USB flash drive. Install the programs and then run them. I run Bazooka first and last because it’s fast and gives a good overview of the health of the system.

Run all of the antispyware programs and let them do their thing. Then run Stinger in case they aren’t keeping up with their virus definitions. Once you clean the system up, update the virus defs (install antivirus software if they don’t have any–AVG strikes a good balance between effectiveness and ease of use, and it’s free) and defragment the hard drive.

Most IT people I know charge about $50 for the service. Have the customer bring the PC to you since a good spyware scan takes several hours. Let Spybot scan overnight, then clean it, then led Ad-Aware run while you’re at work and let it clean.

Keep an extra monitor, keyboard and mouse around so you can just plug in your customer’s CPU and go.

If the computer is in such bad shape you don’t get a start menu, boot it in safe mode and clean from safe mode.

And there you go. An easy side business. Hopefully you’ll have a booming business so fewer people will call me.

Read this if you are using the free AVG 6.0 antivirus software

Grisoft has offered a free edition of its AVG 6.0 antivirus software for several years. Unfortunately it has discontinued the product and will stop offering updates on 31 December.

The solution is to download their new free version.It’s a pain, but unfortunately, free things almost always have some kind of strings attached. To be entirely fair, for-pay antivirus software often has some strings attached too.

So if you’ve been using AVG, or you have friends who have been, download (or get them to download) the new version and update it.

Some people have been complaining lately about AVG not updating their definitions as quickly as the other vendors. The result is that some viruses that Norton Antivirus would catch go undetected by AVG. If you can afford better virus protection, buying it is probably worthwhile. If not, the AVG free edition is still better than no protection at all.

MyDoom/Novarg Gloom

Just in case anybody is curious, my employer’s virus scanners filtered roughly 3,000 copies of Novarg (a.k.a. My Doom) during working hours yesteray. If that’s not a record for us, it approaches it. I know we weren’t the only one.I’ve heard Novarg/MyDoom/My Doom called the fastest spreading virus yet. I don’t have statistics on prior viruses with me, but suffice it to say, its impact certainly felt similar to the big names from the past.

Although SCO would like people to believe it was written by a Linux zealot, I’m more inclined to believe it was created by organized crime. Maybe the creators hate SCO, or maybe the anti-SCO DDoS was just an added touch to throw investigators off.

LoveLetter was the first virus outbreak to really have much impact on my professional career, and I noticed something about it. Prior to LoveLetter, I never, ever got spam at work. Not once. After LoveLetter, I started getting lots of it. I don’t believe LoveLetter’s intent was to gather e-mail addresses for spammers, but I do believe that more than one spammer, probably independently, noticed that viruses were a very efficient way to gather a large number of e-mail addresses.

I got spam before LoveLetter, and I saw viruses before LoveLetter. But I started seeing a lot more of both very soon after LoveLetter.

I don’t buy any giant conspiracy to sell anti-virus software, nor do I buy any giant conspiracy against SCO. I do believe in bored people with nothing better to do than to write viruses, and I also believe in people who can profit off their side effects.

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. If you run Windows, you must run anti-virus software. You can download Grisoft AVG anti-virus software for free. Don’t open unexpected e-mail attachments, even from people you know. Even if it looks safe. Don’t send unexpected e-mail attachments either–you don’t want anyone to get the idea that’s normal. Quite frankly, in this day and age, there’s no reason to open any piece of e-mail that looks suspicious for any reason. I told someone yesterday that this is war. And I think that’s pretty accurate.

If you’re an intrepid pioneer, there’s something else you can do too, in order to be part of the solution. If you join the Linux revolution, you can pretty much consider that computer immune. Macintoshes are slightly less immune, but certainly much less vulnerable than Windows. Amiga… Well, I haven’t seen the words “Amiga” and “virus” in the same sentence since 1991 or 1992. But one thing is certain: a less homogenous field is less susceptible to things like this.

When will we take security seriously?

Overheard today at work:
“Hackers don’t usually work during the day, or on weekends…”

I guess by that same logic, I could say that I ran file servers with all ports exposed on the public Internet for years and never got hacked (just don’t mention that those years started in 1996 and ended in 1998).

It’s sad that there are people who still don’t take security seriously. The attitude I heard 10 years ago–“What? Do they want to look at the GIFs and JPEGs on my hard drive? If they can get in, they can have ’em!”–pervades today. Nobody’s interested in your GIFs and JPEGs because you don’t have anything that hasn’t been posted on Usenet’s alt.binaries groups a dozen times, but they want your high-speed connection. It doesn’t matter anymore how insignificant you are. If your computer is online, they want it.

I’m quickly reaching the point where I believe it’s socially irresponsible to have anything faster than a 56K dialup connection and not have a hardware-based firewall sitting between you and the Internet. I bought a couple of the low-end Network Everywhere-brand (made by Linksys) 4-port cable/DSL routers a year ago. I paid $50 apiece for them. That’s what you’ll pay for a shrink-wrapped “Internet Security” software package, but it’s more effective and it doesn’t slow your computer down. Even a one-computer household should have one.

As far as antivirus software goes, Grisoft offers antivirus software free for home use. Yes, it slows your computer down. If you don’t like that, run Linux. Grisoft’s AVG is free, effective, and easy to use. And it stamps outgoing e-mail, assuring your friends that your mail has been scanned. That’s comforting in these days.

Hopefully the typical computer user will soon outgrow the teenage it-can’t-happen-to-me mindset.

But I won’t hold my breath. Since hackers only work on weekdays, problems can only happen when I’m at work and my home PC is off, right?

Technobabble

Grisoft AVG works as advertised. If you don’t want to pay for virus protection, do yourself and your friends a favor and head over to Grisoft and download the free edition of AVG. I used it Monday night to disinfect a friend’s PC that had become infected by the infamous KAK virus.
Free-for-personal-use anti-virus tools have a nasty habit of becoming un-free within a year or two of their release, but look at it this way: AVG at least saves you a year or two of paying for virus update subscriptions.

It’s not as whiz-bang as the tools from Norton or McAfee but it works. You can’t get as fine-grained about scheduling stuff but that doesn’t matter so much. You can schedule things like scans and updates, and it does find and isolate the viruses, and you can’t beat the price. Go get it.

Linux on vintage P2s. I helped Gatermann get Debian up and running on his vintage HP Kayak workstation last night. This is an early P2-266 workstation. Gatermann marveled at how it was put together, and with the calibre of components in it. It had a high-end (for its time) Matrox AGP card in it, plus onboard Adaptec Wide SCSI, 128 MB of ECC SDRAM, and a 10,000-RPM IBM Wide SCSI hard drive. It arrived stripped of its original network card; Gatermann installed an Intel EtherExpress Pro.

In its day, this was the best Intel-based workstation money could buy, and you needed a lot of it. Of course, back in that day I was working on the copydesk of a weekly magazine in Columbia, Mo. and chasing a girl named Rachel (who I would catch, then lose, about a year later). And I probably hadn’t turned 22 yet either. Needless to say, that was a while ago. It seems like 100 years ago now.

Today, the most impressive thing about the system is its original price tag, but it remains a solidly built system that’s very useful and very upgradable. He can add another CPU, and depending on what variation his particular model is, he can possibly upgrade to as much as a P2-450. A pair of 450s is nothing to turn your nose up at. And of course he can add a variety of SCSI hard drives to it.

Debian runs fine on the system; its inability to boot doesn’t bother me too much. I occasionally run across systems that just won’t boot a Linux CD, but once I manage to get them running (either by putting the drive in another PC for the installation process or by using a pair of boot floppies to get started) they run fine.

The system didn’t want to boot Debian on CD, or any other Linux for that matter. So we made a set of boot floppies, then all was well.

The batch that this computer came from is long gone, but I expect more to continue to appear on the used market as they trickle out of the firms that bought them. They are, after all, long since obsolete for their original purpose. But they’re a bargain. These systems will remain useful for several years, and are built well enough that they probably will be totally obsolete before they break.

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