EAPH.com Logo EAPH.com: Hosting and Help for eBay SellersTM
Home . Member Login . Features . Try The Demo . Sign Up . Help
Terms of Service . Privacy Statement . Price & Service . Contact
FreeForm (robshelp.com)

More Tutorials Here

Keep your computer healthy

Now that you are (or will be) an eBay seller your computer through your web browser becomes a business tool along with whatever other purposes it serves in your household. As a business tool its performance, reliability, and security becomes more important than normal.

Start with a "can do" attitude...

Think of computer performance in terms of human activities. Using the web, email, installing new programs, etc. all have a direct corollary. We do what we can to avoid exposure to disease, we take medicine when we are sick, we watch what we eat, we understand if we're carrying a 50 pound backpack that we can't walk as far or as fast. You have control over those things with your computer just as you do with your body. You can take action to prevent problems and you can fix them.

Understand what are the most likely problem causers under your control

The truth is, no matter what computer you use, or what type of Internet connection you have, you will from time to time experience occasional problems with the web particularly when using more demanding web sites such as robshelp.com (FreeForm), when using the iDrive tools with EAPH.com hosting, or even eBay during the process of creating item listings. Keeping your computer healthy is all about shortening the list of potential problem causers.

The top two preventable problem causers: Spyware and Bloat

Spyware or virus infections affect web performance as a consequence of doing their own things in the background - sapping your web speed and causing your web browser to act unreliably. By nature, spyware does its best to keep itself hidden so usually the only symptoms are diminished web performance. See "What to do about Spyware" below.

Bloat is an accumulation of computer strength sapping (memory resident) installed software. You definitely have bloat if, when you start your computer, you notice a variety of software being loaded that doesn't seem crucial to the operation and security of your computer. No matter how powerful a computer you own, there is a limit to what it can handle all at once and the more things that are going on at the same time the greater the likelihood they'll bump into each other (memory conflicts). See "What to do about Bloat" below.

By the same token, if you are in the practice of keeping a large number of programs running at the same time you could be overtaxing your computer. Again, no matter how powerful it is, if you keep piling things on, you will eventually experience capacity issues spilling over into the performance of your web browser. Avoiding that problem cause is simple - shut down all the programs you don't actually need while performing your web activities. Re-open any given program later if/when you need it again.

What to do about Spyware

Understand the risk!

You probably know there is a vast network of thieves who live and breathe to find ways to break into and take over computers using the web. What you may not know is the majority of thieving efforts involve casting out huge nets with the sure knowledge that fish will be caught. Those fish are primarily computer users who don't understand the risks and/or haven't bothered to keep their computer and security related software updated.

In other words, because millions of people use the web thieves aren't necessarily attempting to get rich all from one grab - a hundred thousand small grabs will do just as well. Aside from identity theft, bank, eBay, or PayPal accounts being compromised thieves will want the use of your computer for other purposes too. There are so many computers out there under the control of thieves without the owner's knowledge that they are actually bought and sold in blocks of thousands as "zombies" for nefarious activities such as sending out spam emails (which in turn catch more fish).

Be very careful what you do on the web

Surfing the web isn't the safe activity it once was. One way your computer can be infected with a virus or spyware is by visiting "bad" web sites and getting tricked into giving the site programming permission to access your computer. Whenever you are prompted by your web browser with any kind of request for approval to do anything, stop right there. 1) Decide if the activity you want to perform at the site is important. 2) If so, separately confirm that the site is reputable before proceeding. Open another window of your web browser and do a Google search to see if you can find out anything about the site to determine if it's safe.

Be even more careful when downloading programs from web sites and/or installing "helper" applications. If you truly need what is being offered choose to download the installation file and scan it with an anti-virus scanner before running it.

Be very careful with links in emails

Emails themselves are not dangerous and are always safe to read. But clicking on links in them is one of the ways thieves trick people into visit their web sites. Emails can be constructed to mimic reputable services and links appearing in emails can also be disguised to appear as going to one place but actually go to another. Instead of using the links in emails, visit the site yourself using your web browser to confirm its validity and to act on whatever needs to be done.

Be extremely careful with email file attachments

Email attachments sent in mass, innocently passed on by friend, or even unknowingly sent from a friend's (infected) computer may contain spyware or a virus. Decide before opening an email attachment if it's worth the risk of infection. If you do decide to look at it, choose to save it to disk first, and then use an anti-virus scanner to scan it before opening.
Don't be afraid to stay in control - Set all your software including Windows Update, your anti-virus, and anti-spyware to inform you when updates are available rather than automatically installing. Stay in control of when updates occur so they don't interrupt your business activities.

Set "Windows Update" to inform you when updates are available

If you are like me there isn't any particularly good time for the computer to perform automatic updates. It interrupts your work and slows down the computer while it is running. As a result you may be tempted to turn Windows Update off entirely. Instead, do like I do and set Windows so that it informs you when updates are available. Do the same with all your software so you can perform updates when you are not in the middle of doing something else on the web. Just don't keep putting it off - likely as not the updates will be security related and the longer you wait the more you remain exposed to whatever threats the updates deal with.

Set your anti-virus and anti-spyware software to inform you when updates are available

Same as with Windows Update, keeping your anti-virus and anti-spyware programs updated is extremely important but can be quite a nuisance if you have it set to perform updates automatically. Instead, set them so they inform you when updates are available and install them when do not need to be using the computer for business activities.
Don't be afraid to take responsibility - Run anti-virus and anti-spyware "sweeps" yourself rather than automatically. Those processes slow down your computer while running so perform them at times when you do not need to use the computer for business related activities.

Run "sweeps" routinely as needed instead of automatically

If you are careful to follow all the guidelines above you really don't need to worry much about catching a virus or suffering a spyware infection. But, if you are not the only person using the computer and are not in a position to monitor everything they do on it you should run anti-spyware and anti-virus sweeps daily.

Unfortunately, sweeps can take a long time to run and take up considerable computer power. So, rather than having them run automatically, set a routine to run them yourself when you are not needing to use the computer for your business related activities. For example, instruct whoever is the last person to use the computer each night to start the sweeps as the last thing they do. In the morning you'll be able to see the results of the sweeps to confirm they were done.

Don't use "dictionary" words or predictable words for your passwords

This isn't exactly computer health or spyware issue but it is extremely important to your business. Just as thieves cast out fishing nets with the knowledge that they'll catch the unwary, they also know there will be people who are careless with passwords by making them predictable.

Like you see in the movies, you may imagine a thief sitting down at a computer trying to guess your passwords. Certainly that could occur but more likely the effort will be handled with automated programs that systematically test passwords from a list of predictable words compiled by the thief. Those are called "dictionary" attacks. The words in their lists may indeed include every word in the English language but probably don't need to go that far because thieves know that people will often be more concerned with their ability to remember their passwords than with the amount of protection it affords them.

It's OK to write down passwords!

It's way more important that you use complex passwords consisting of a random mix of numbers, upper, lower, and special characters than it is that you be able to remember them. A password like this: 9>*vP2=$ is completely unpredictable and completely safe from dictionary attacks (but just try to remember it, :)

What to do about Bloat

Sappers and Solutions:

Modern computers are designed for multi-tasking (multiple programs running at the same time) but inevitably the computing power available to each individual process or application is diminished as each additional one is piled on. Sadly, your computer won't warn that you have too many other programs running if/when you experience problems using any particular one of them. In short, it's up to you to manage that so you can be sure the bulk of your computer's power is available for the purpose at hand.

Basically, consider any process or program that is running, but not actually needed at that particular time, as a computer power sapper...

Sapper: All computer applications use what is called random access memory (RAM) - some more, some less. Typically the more RAM any one program consumes the faster it runs. Software designers, knowing that, will cause their applications to consume as much RAM as is needed to get any given operation done as quickly as possible. Examples of applications are word processors, spreadsheets, web browsers, and photo editors - software you work with directly to get things done. Obviously you need to use those programs but be aware that having them all open at the same time saps the computing power available to each individual one.

Solution: When performing important or demanding tasks, close whatever programs you may have open that you don't actually need at the time. When you encounter a problem using one program (such as your web browser), consider that the problem could be directly or indirectly caused by other programs you have open. Try closing them to see if it helps. Try to organize your business activities in batches rather than interactively. For example, do whatever you need to with all your photos first using your photo editor then close the editor before going on the next step (uploading, etc.)

Sapper: Typically the amount of time it takes for a program to load (start up) is how long it takes for software and data to be read from disk into RAM. Software designers know that and also know their product will be measured in terms of loading speed. So, the designers will often pre-load RAM at system start up so there is less time taken for their particular program to load when needed. It seems like a great idea to have any or all computer applications instantly available but you need to decide if it's worth the cost. Without having done it yourself you may end up with the equivalent of several applications open at the same time sapping the power available to any given one you are actually trying to use.

Solution: As you install software avoid options that may be described as "quick start", "always on", that sort of thing. Often those installations will place an icon in the system tray (the section of the toolbar along the bottom of your screen all the way to the right next to the clock). Right click on each of the icons you see there to learn what they are and what they do. If (as often happens) they are associated with software you don't need at all, write down their names then go to the control panel add/remove programs to uninstall them. If you find software you are not sure about, don't uninstall, but do try to find its settings and make adjustments so it does not automatically load at system startup. Technically the only programs that need to load at startup that might appear in the system tray would be those that are security related such as anti-virus and anti-spyware or computer hardware and peripheral device related.

Sapper: Some programs have to remain fully in memory all the time to do their job whether or not you are actually using them directly. For example, schedulers can't wake themselves up to give you a reminder at any certain day and time in the future, they need to stay awake all the time and keep checking to see if that time has come. Similarly add-ons either to the operating system or to your web browser are, in effect, "always on" and can potentially diminish performance.

Solution: Do your best to keep your computer and your web browser "standard". Avoid the temptation to customize them by installing nifty add-on features and tool-bars. The further you distance your computer or web browser from the norm by customizing it, the less likely it will perform reliably. There is also a potential for additional layers of processing to affect web performance. For example, it seems every add-on web browser toolbar has a pop-up blocker built into it. Each to perform the task of determining what should be blocked and what shouldn't requires real time processing or filtering of the content going to your web browser. Just remember it all adds up.

Tip: When things aren't working to begin with or suddenly stop working at a web site our first reaction may be to report the issue (send an email or go to live help) at the site, or we might wait a while and try again. Either way we are assuming the problem is beyond our control to fix which wastes time if it turns out to be something unusual going on with our own computers, our Internet connection, etc. Odds are any help desk is going to ask you do these two things anyway, so you may as well try them first yourself:
  1. Restart (reboot) your computer. That re-initializes its memory and (usually) also its Internet connection. That effectively eliminates any temporary condition which may have existed with those.

  2. If you are using Internet Explorer, delete its Temporary Internet Files - a common problem with that web browser.
Then, if other web sites are working fine, but you are still having problems with one in particular, contact them and tell them what you've already done yourself in trying to fix it.
EAPH.com Site Map Home - Member Login - Features - Try The Demo - Sign Up - Help
Terms of Service - Privacy Statement - Price and Service - Contact
©2002-2008 Rob Bell