All I can say when it comes to finally getting my production Vista desktop working as I think it should be is “It”s about (expletive deleted) time!” After building this system over the summer and dealing with the usual shakedown issues involved in getting all the software and settings installed, I found myself fighting a series of mysterious and frustrating hardware problems that lasted from the end of August through the first week of November, 2008.
The second Tuesday in each month is when Microsoft schedules its patches, fixes, and security updates. Recently, Microsoft has begun to offer Advance Notification for its Security Bulletins, which makes it a lot easier to tell what”s coming down the pike. For December, 8 updates have been pushed to the Windows Update servers
Because of their cramped cases and modest ventilation, most notebook PCs tend to run significantly hotter than desktop PCs. Recently, case and cooling specialist ThermalTake sent us one of their notebook coolers to look at, promising some “interesting results” from its use. With that tantalizing promise to test, we decided to check it out with our trusty Dell D620 Latitude notebook PC.
A rootkit is a particularly stealthy and nasty form of malware designed to take over complete control of a system (root level access in UNIX terms means “access to everything, no holds barred”). Rootkits seek to hide from detection via standard operating system based security mechanisms, and require special tools for detection and cleanup.
As somebody who”s been researching and writing about malware since 2003, I”ve come to recognize Danish information security firm Secunia as a reliable source of good intelligence about what”s happening on the threat landscape. When a malware alert, proof of concept exploit, or news story shows up with their name on it, I will invariably pay attention. That”s why I was very interested to read in a a recent issue of PCWorld (November 11, 2008) about the Secunia PSI vulnerability scanner.
When one member of my mirrored pair of system drives failed earlier this year, I replaced that pair of Seagate 7200.10 320 GB drives with a pair of Samsung SpinPoint HD501LJ SATA II 3.5″ drives with 16MB Cache. I also installed the still-working member of that pair in my system, so as to retain access to all kinds of files and information from that machine.
In writing about my trials and tribulations with Windows Vista on my production PC over the summer, I summarized my situation in a blog entitled “Time for a new motherboard?” on September 20. By the beginning of October things with the system had quieted down enough, thanks to switching to a single-vendor security solution (PC Tools Spyware Doctor with Antivirus, plus the PC Tools Firewall, and their ThreatFire behavioral malware blocker) and making some other software and configurations changes, that I thought I had the hiccups behing me. I was down to random problems once a week, and went three whole weeks without a single BSOD.
Last night when I was quitting for the day, after 11 PM, I noticed that the autoupdate function in Windows Update had posted two more items to my primary production PC. Both look interesting, but so far I”ve had some trouble trying to ferret out more details about one of these two patches.
I”ve been using Spyware Doctor to handle spyware on my machine for over two years now, with great success in handling spyware. In the past three months, I have switched to PC Tools Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus thanks to issues documented in my story “Best-of-Breed Apps Aren”t Always Best for Vista” –namely, incompatibilities between AVG AntiVirus 8.0 and Spyware Doctor 6.0 that kept causing blue screens on my primary production machine.
Normally, Microsoft reserves its security patches, fixes, updates, and other software tweaks and maneuvers for the second Tuesday in each month, aka “Patch Tuesday.” Yesterday afternoon I was somewhat surprised to see various sources trumpeting the release of an out-of-schedule security patch through Windows Update on the fourth Thursday in October.