You Can NEVER Have Enough Backups!

Just a brief post today to say what we’ve all heard so many times. “You can NEVER have enough back ups!”

Recent storms in our area caused us to suffer data loss when lightening ran in on some equipment, burning out both internal and external (backup) hard drives.  I have been working all week just to get back to some form of resemblance of normality, but want to tell you, BACKUP your BACKUPS!

If anyone has sent us any email recently, please resend your mail. I lost ALL email (sent and received) back to August 7th of last year. Long story as to why we didn’t lose it all… but backups on one external drive that I stopped using last August still had all old mail on it… so ALL was not lost. And yes, surge protectors were in place… but most surge protectors will not stop the power of lightening. My office consists of a total of 7 surge protector units, and only the larger, more expensive ones, performed well enough to stop the surge we experienced, and this was not even a direct hit.

Make sure you back up your back ups, and make sure your surge protectors will REALLY protect you, or be prepared to face (someday) what I’ve been dealing with this week.


Updates Without Your Permission

Holy cow!  One of the two monsters of the Internet is at it again.  For all of our newer clients who have not followed my thought processes over the years as to the “Two Monsters” I so lovingly refer to, they are “Google” and “Microsoft”.


Microsoft has begun patching files on Windows XP and Vista without users’ knowledge, even when the users have turned off auto-updates!


In recent days, Windows Update (WU) started altering files on users’ systems without displaying any dialog box to request permission. The only files that have been reportedly altered to date are nine small executables on XP and nine on Vista that are used by WU itself. Microsoft is patching these files silently, even if auto-updates have been disabled on a particular PC.


It’s surprising that these files can be changed without the user’s knowledge. The Automatic Updates dialog box in the Control Panel can be set to prevent updates from being installed automatically. However, with Microsoft’s latest stealth move, updates to the WU executables seem to be installed regardless of the settings — without notifying users.


When users launch Windows Update, Microsoft’s online service can check the version of its executables on the PC and update them if necessary. What’s unusual is that people are reporting changes in these files although WU wasn’t authorized to install anything.


For users who elect not to have updates installed automatically, the issue of consent is crucial. Microsoft has apparently decided, however, that it doesn’t need permission to patch Windows Updates files, even if you’ve set your preferences to require it.


To make matters even stranger, when I search on Microsoft’s Web site, there is no information at all on the stealth updates.  Let’s say you wished to voluntarily download and install the new WU executable files when you were, for example, reinstalling a system.  You’d be hard-pressed to find the updated files in order to download them.  As of this writing, you either get a stealth install or nothing.


Microsoft appears to have no malicious intent in patching them. However, writing files to a user’s PC without notice (when auto-updating has been turned off) is behavior that’s usually associated with hacker Web sites.  The question being raised in discussion forums is, “Why is Microsoft operating in this way?”


It’s important to note that there’s seems to be nothing harmful about the updated files themselves.  There are no reports of software conflicts and no reason to remove the files (which WU apparently needs in order to access the latest patches).  My biggest gripe is the mechanism Microsoft is using to perform its patching, and how this mechanism might be used by the software giant in the future.


On another note pertaining to Microsoft and their updates, Microsoft patched four vulnerabilities this month, but you’re still not entirely safe.


There’s a dangerous unpatched vulnerability, and the bad guys are actively exploiting it.  Until Microsoft releases a fix for the severe vulnerability involving Visual Basic, guard your systems against files that have a .vbp (Visual Basic Project) extension.


We considered putting a server-wide block on incoming email that contained a .vbp file attachment, but taking that step would keep you from running any legitimate VB projects.  So instead, I’m just sending you a MAJOR CAUTION FLAG to NOT open any attachments that may find their way to your in-box that has a .vbp extension unless you are absolutely, positively, without any shadow of a doubt, sure of who sent it to you, and that whomever sent it is free of any infections in their Visual Basic programming.


Finally… some readers last week expressed concerns about the recommended resource I referred you to (Secunia) to scan your system for outdated files, wondering about it’s safety.  Let me emphasize, the scan is safe, it is free, and can take you a couple of steps further along in the “Protect Your PC and Data at All Costs” goal.


Since their privacy policy seems to be hidden on their site, I did a little digging and found it (for those who even care)… and it can be found here:


If you had problems running the scan on your system for some reason (a few select users apparently encountered errors), it may be due to you either having major system files out of date, cookies disabled, or a couple of other things that I am not going to get in to in this post.  My only suggestion is, try it again, and also sign up for their software update reminder service.  It too is free, and they will not spam you or sell your address to any third parties.


I ran my system through their scanners again yesterday, (only a week after updating everything the first time) and found two more outdated applications that need to be updated to prevent vulnerabilities.  So again, I encourage you to bookmark their site, and make it a weekly part of your PC Maintenance to scan your system for outdated applications.


That’s it for today!  Be safe, and have a great weekend.



Unpatched Software Could Be Hazordous to Your Wealth

Keeping your computer safe from security flaws is important, but many people haven’t patched their media players and other run-time software: Java, Flash, QuickTime, Adobe Reader, and RealPlayer.  This exposes you to infected media files.


Here is a service that scans PCs for applications that lack available security patches.  I highly recommend you run this test on all of your computers. provides you with aggregate counts of the number of products installed and the percentage that are unpatched.


I ran the full system scan on my computer and found 2 of 11 of my applications were not up to date.  You should run this on your machine to make sure you don’t have applications running that may be vulnerable to security or attack.


When you get to the main page, just click on Start Now.  You’ll be asked if you want to enable the Inspector to search for software installed in non-default locations.  Since it’s the first time running this… I’d recommend you check the little box and just let it scan your entire computer and external devices attached.  On my system with two external hard drives and a ton of files and software, it took about 15 minutes to complete the entire computer scan.  Just grab your favorite beverage and let Secunia do it’s thing.


Once finished, it will show you how many of your applications are NOT up to date…and a link to get them updated.  After doing any recommended updates, there will be an option to allow Secunia to notify you upon any releases or updates being available to you.  Go ahead and sign up for the automatic email notifications.  That way… you don’t forget to perform this system-wide scan (at least monthly) for any recommended updates.


If you have to update any applications, be sure to do a system re-start to enable those applications to fully install the updates and remove any vulnerable versions that may still be sitting on your hard drives.



Interruptions: Are You a Victim?

“Interruptions are in the eye of the interrupted.”


Information that you think is important to your business, may simply be an interruption to your business goals.


An interruption is external. It’s a break in continuity, something unexpected that “pops up” and causes you to divert your attention.  Examples: Someone calling your name, an e-mail alert on your computer, a ringing phone, a raindrop falling on your head, a bowling bowl dropped in your lap.  Interruptions grab our attention by diverting our focus.

A distraction is internal.  It’s an emotional disturbance that requires our own compliance.  It’s your mind thinking about lunch options while you are in an important business meeting.  It’s a gaze out the window to watch the birds fly by or the feeling that you left your iron on in the laundry room.  There’s an underlying cause for distractions that divides our attention in a subtle way.  Distractions may seem like harmless “white noise,” but they can be quite, well, distracting.


Workplace interruptions and distractions serve one disturbing purpose: They take us off course.  Every time we “follow the bouncing ball,” our business goals get pushed aside.

By taking your focus off the “big task” of what your business needs (more on this in a sec…), your vision becomes clouded, your message muddled, your decisions diluted and delayed.


What’s even worse is that it becomes a habit. You end up conditioning your brain to respond in a similar fashion in the future.  In essence, you are re-wiring your brain to work against you.


There’s a real reason why many racehorses run with blinders on. It’s so they’ll stay focused on the task at hand – winning.


So why is it so difficult for entrepreneurs to do the same? Why don’t we work with blinders on, avoiding interruptions so we can focus on growing our business and achieving our goals?


Maybe it’s because you love being in the race more than you love achieving the results. You enjoy the “busyness” of your business, but are unwilling to get serious about doing what it takes to succeed. You’re allowing distractions and interruptions to pull you away from your business goals.


How can you avoid the interruptions that are distracting you from your work?


An easy answer is to work in solitary confinement, but that has its own downside, and is a bit unrealistic.  A better answer comes from asking a better question:  Why are you allowing yourself to be so easily distracted?


No one makes us answer e-mails.  There is no law, under penalty of death, to respond immediately to instant messages or a ringing telephone.


We can avoid interruptions and distractions if we want to do so. So why do we allow this to happen?


It’s always easier to blame an outside source for our troubles – a computer, a colleague, a PDA – rather than take that terrifying look inside ourselves to see what is lurking among the cobwebs.


Are we are our own worst enemy when it comes to distraction?  Are we the cause of our own interruptions that take us off the path to success and down a spiraling path toward procrastination and diminished productivity?


Think about it for a moment.  Each time you sit down in front of the computer you should do so with an ultimate goal: task completion.  But getting from Point A to Point B in your business is rarely a direct line of progression – at least, that’s what you’ve been telling yourself.


The demands on our attention are infinite, but our attention is finite. So we have to keep focused on the goal of winning.


Every time we turn our attention away from our purpose – task completion – and toward something else (i.e., reading e-mail, mindlessly surfing the Web, chasing butterflies, chatting on the phone), we imperil our business goals and do our customers a great disservice.


We can choose to blame technology, our neighbors, family and friends, but really the blame is our own.  It is our own refusal – note, I did not say “inability” – to eliminate the interruptions and distractions that cause frustration and prevent us from achieving ultimate success.


By allowing interruptions to sidetrack us – by giving in to the pull of distraction – we simply delay our primary gratification: the knowledge and pride in a job well done and the financial reward that comes with it.


Instead of doing what your business needs you to do, you end up doing what you want to do.


Let’s put that in perspective. You may not want to change diapers, but your children need you to do it. You may not want to pay taxes, but it’s probably a good idea to complete them on time each year.  In both cases, you just have to hold your nose and get it done.


Successful entrepreneurs (in the right business) love their businesses.  They shouldn’t “have to” do the job; they should “want to” do what is best for business development and ultimate reward.


This creates another immediate concern:


Do you know what your business really needs of you?


If not, all of the time you waste through “distraction” may really be the fault of your own “indecision.” You must decide what your business needs from you (in a step-by-step list of tasks) and eliminate the interruptions and distractions so you can get it done.


Early radio and television programs used to be interrupted by breathless announcers with a familiar refrain: “We interrupt this message to bring you a special announcement…” The message grabbed your attention and wouldn’t let go until you absorbed it, at which time you were “returned to your regularly scheduled programming.”


It’s time to get clear about what you need to do, focus your attention and “get with the program” of working on what matters.


So, why are you not achieving your business goals faster?


Do you have an interruption problem, a distraction problem, or an indecision problem? (Share your thoughts on this here by leaving a comment)


Sometimes introspection can be a painful journey of discovery, but one we all must take.


So do it right now, right here… Then get back to work!


Have a great weekend!!