A few LSW acquaintances picked this up this morning. A colleague at work, and a colleague at my future place of work, heard about it later this morning: I might be off the air for several days.
Why? Yesterday, when I turned on the home PC (a five-year-old Gateway, 2.2GHz. P4, “only” 80GB but I’m only using half that, XP/SP2, and it generally still “feels new), it basically didn’t respond. Oh, Windows came up, as did ZoneAlarm and the other tray items–but if you clicked on anything, it might respond a minute later, it might respond two minutes later, it might not respond at all. Tried a couple of things, including trying to bring up Windows in safe mode. Nada.
Arggh. Panic. Well, it is a five-year-old PC, and that is pushing my luck, but still…
So: Came home early today (hey, I’d been working extra-long days), tried some futzing around, no help. Went to Office Depot and Best Buy looking at possible replacement computers (which still might make sense)…but could I even retrieve non-backed-up data (e.g., settings, typefaces)?
Came back and had an Aha moment: Maybe I couldn’t get into safe mode because I use a wireless keyboard–and the “F lock” key wouldn’t be recognized until Windows was operating. To the garage to retrieve the “wired” keyboard. F8 at the right time, Safe Mode…and everything runs like a champ.
Hmm. Disabled Zone Alarm autostart (and unplugged the network cable). Restarted Windows. Everything runs beautifully. But, of course, without internet access–just fine for writing, spreadsheets, photo work, not so hot for email and blog reading and blogging and checking book sales…
Our local big-newspaper tech columnist asserts that you don’t need security software anymore, that your router’s firewall and the virus scanning built into most email systems is enough. I wonder whether his PC is being used as a bot… let’s say I’m doubtful of that theory, Pollyanna though I may be.
So, just for fun, I re-enabled Zone Alarm autostart…but turned off the automatic weekly scanning. I had noted that it was trying to start an incomplete scan–and most of virus software protection should come from real-time scanning, anyway, not the full-disk scans.
And it works just fine. For now, cross fingers.
Best guess: Zone Alarm Suite does separate virus and spyware scans. If you set both autoscans for the same starting date and time, the spyware automatically follows the virus. I’m guessing that the incomplete state caused them both to start simultaneously, and that the two scans went into deadlock (just as you can rarely use two virus programs simultaneously, as they’ll go into deadlock). My wife’s new Toshiba uses McAfee, which manages to combine both kinds of scanning into a single scan…
If I start scans manually once a month, it’s really unlikely that I’ll be idiot enough to start a spyware scan while a virus scan is running.
Comments involving Apple will be cheerfully ignored. In fact, if I do get a new computer, there’s a good chance it will have the same odd boxy logo on its front as this five-year-old beast does.