Bits & P.C.s:

Back many years ago, when the size of a hard disk drive was measured in megabytes instead of gigabytes, a man by the name of Steven Gibson invented a program named “SpinRite.” This program had the ability to reformat your hard drive without overwriting the data on the drive.

This was important because the hard drives at the time were prone to failure. Many times it was because the drive would lose the format information; no format information meant the drive was unreadable, and the data and programs, even though they were still on the drive, were not accessible. Steve’s program would recover the drive and the data was saved. The program was a necessity for anyone who worked on computers.

Over the years, Steve has updated the program to keep up with the advances in hard drive technology. Even today, the program is only about 100KB big, and it will fit on a floppy disk. The reason for this is that Steve writes very efficient and compact programs.

The reason behind all this background information is that Steve has a Web site packed with many useful utility programs and computer security information. The site is Even more important is that the programs are very small in size and are free to download.

His “DCOMbobulator” program is designed to protect Windows XP users from getting infected with such Trojans and worms such as Blaster. He does this by disabling the feature in XP that makes it vulnerable to the infection. Although Microsoft has finally released an official patch to correct this problem, there have been reports that their patch may not always work.

The “Shoot the Messenger” program disables another Windows XP feature that has been exploited by hackers. XP has the ability to allow network users to send pop-up messages to other users on their local network. The hackers have found a way to access this across the Internet, which is why you may receive pop-ups without surfing. The government is now looking into the problem to find out why the feature was turned on by default in XP.

“UnPlug n’ Pray” disables the routine that was designed to allow devices to be installed on your computer while connected to the Internet. This is another area where hackers have discovered a way to gain access to your computer. This is not the same as the “Plug and Play” feature that installs drivers when you connect a new scanner or printer.

One other feature offered on the site is “ShieldsUp!” This online test will inspect four computer and will report how protected you are from intruders while you are on the Internet. It will tell you if your firewall program is doing its job and what ports are open that may allow an intruder in.

There are many other programs, tests, and security information available on the site. SpinRite is not a free program, but all the rest and others are. It’s not a “geeky” site; most of the explanations are easy to understand, and the site has much to offer.

Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service-related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times, e-mail, or call 243-1162.

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