Last Updated April 20th, 2010

When the Computer Virus is Winning…

I’ve had a pretty frustrating time recently fighting a computer virus. Not, thank goodness, on my work computer. On my husband’s computer.

We’re pretty sure this was a real nasty! Hard to tell because not a single scanner of any sort that we tried could find so much as a trace of it. We used programs such as Malwarebyte’s AntiMalware, SuperAntiSpyware, Microsoft Security Essentials, Avast and more, uninstalling programs as needed to let other ones work, and not a single one found a trace of the problem. They all reported us clean, as did every online scanner I tried.

That’s hugely frustrating when you know for a fact there’s some sort of malware on there. The redirect on Google searches alone was a dead giveaway, and the sudden failure of the sound card driver turned out to be a potential symptom of some types of rootkits.

What to Do When Nothing Works

I debated trying ComboFix. That one is considered a bit risky, as it can do other things to your system if you get it wrong.

But the decision came down to wanting to be 100% certain that the damn virus was gone. With every other scanner coming up negative, I decided that I’d rather be certain.

So I reformatted his hard drive and reinstalled XP. Bye bye virus!

Good thing we have a backup of his stuff on my external hard drive, one that hasn’t been updated in months, but that’s a good thing when you’re talking mystery virus that you aren’t sure when it got on board. Good odds the backup is clean, and the data loss is minimal.

Finding the drivers for a computer the age of my husband’s computer… miserable, just miserable! I had to take my best guess for the ethernet card driver. Got it right so far as I can tell, though. There are a number of websites out there that can help you find drivers, although the best source is often the manufacturer of your computer. Safest, too.

Even before installing most drivers must come installing a good antivirus and antispyware. I put on Microsoft Security Essentials because it’s free and is supposed to be good. I know it didn’t find the virus when it was already on the computer, but neither did any other program, so there wasn’t much to do about that.

What to Do After Reinstalling the Operating System Due to a Virus

There’s a lot to be done after the operating system is back up. Lots of programs to reinstall. Data to put back on the computer.

But all that is much less important than a step I had my husband take, and took myself just because it’s a good thing to do once in a while.

Change passwords. And user IDs on important things like bank accounts where permitted.

The trouble is quite simply that there’s no knowing how much data was taken. It might have been a lot. It might have not been any. Without so much as a name for what he had, we just don’t know.

Thank goodness the accounts all look fine so far.

Changing your passwords and making them challenging is a good idea anyhow. I explained to my husband what is considered to be a more secure password these days, which he wasn’t aware of. His original choices weren’t dreadful, but not especially strong either. They should be better now.

I did the same on many of my accounts too. So many of the passwords I have are the same as they were years ago. It was time for a change. And now they’re much stronger.

Most systems now will let you use not only alphanumeric characters, but certain special characters as well. The greater the range you use and the longer the character string, the stronger your password is. That doesn’t mean it can’t be beaten by brute force, but it means that someone else’s password will be easier to crack.

We’re still feeling a bit paranoid about whether or not any information was stolen. It’s hard to not worry when there’s a reasonable chance of it. But at least now we’re aware of it and have taken steps to take care of the situation.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated October 1st, 2009

Where’s All This Paper Coming From?

One nice thing about moving was getting all the stuff off my desk. Finally a reason to just throw all the stuff that somehow ended up on my desk into a box.

Most of it’s still there, so why is my desk cluttered again?

Mostly it’s paper, and I know who’s to blame. There’s a second grader in this house, and guess where all her school work ends up when she gets it back?

Ok, ok, I could give it back to her after I look at it. Blame it on me. Really. Just go ahead.

A little of the clutter has to do with bills received as I work toward making all our bills go on auto pay. Once all that’s settled I won’t have to worry about keeping track of who’s been paid.

And I suppose I can throw out the catalogs for the school fundraiser now that it’s over. No point in being tortured by those pictures of cookies anymore. The cookie dough will get here when it gets here, in late October.

I know I’m not the greatest at keeping paper clutter under control, but I do still have a few tips for managing it.

1. Have a safe place for bills that need to get paid.

Don’t let these get buried in the clutter. Put them someplace where you’ll find them in time to pay them. Get on auto pay if you like… I love it. Even pay them as soon as the bills come in if that’s what it takes. Just don’t lose track of any of your bills.

2. Have a safe place for checks that need to be cashed.

Motivation to get these taken care of quickly should be even greater than that for paying bills. But sometimes checks sit a little until I can make it to the bank. Giving them a safe place to sit ensures that I don’t lose any and need to ask for them to be reissued.

3. Give it back.

I’m not so good at this one, as I noted above. I really need to give my daughter the chance right away to decide if her school work is kept or recycled.

We don’t have it up yet, but we have enough wall space here that we’re planning on putting up a board for each kid to put up their favorite artwork and school work. Gives them a place to show off rather than leaving it buried for all time. At least until the boards fill up, as they will.

4. Make friends with the recycle bin.

I just need to get faster about this one. Papers need to go more quickly into the recycle bin than I tend to send them. My desk wouldn’t be half so cluttered if I would make a quick decision as papers come along.

5. Get it filed.

I put this last because really, there aren’t that many papers coming in that I need to keep in a file. Doing that means it will probably stick around FOREVER. Move after move after move. There aren’t that many papers that really need to be kept.

Business records, financial records, important school papers, yes. Every little message from the school, no. You know the stuff you want to keep.

Maybe eventually I’ll be better about keeping the paper to a minimum on my desk. For now all I can do is keep on trying.

At least my habits in this area can’t get much worse. Well, they could, but that would be quite the disaster.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated August 5th, 2007

Claim Your Work at Home Space

Many people who work at home don’t really have a good space for it. Not all homes have enough room for a separate home office, but having a dedicated work space makes a big difference.

If your business is primarily or entirely online, the main thing you need is your computer and desk. If this can be separate from what the rest of the family uses, that’s a big step. There are few things more frustrating than having to sort out conflicting priorities that keep you entirely from working. But the kids need the computer for their homework and what do you do but give it up?

home office

That’s why you need your own if at all possible.

A space to work on your business also makes it easier for you to set rules about when you are working. Even if you aren’t in a separate room you can set rules about what the kids can and cannot bother you with while you work.

The biggest challenge comes in when you can’t claim a separate space directly and you have to set up your home office in a shared area, maybe even a shared computer. You have to be able to do something.

My own office is somewhat shared. My own computer, desk shared (big desk). Much of my work time is with either one of the kids or my husband on the other computer. It makes for a bit more a challenge when working.

With this little space I keep a part of the desk and a file cabinet to my work. As I do work entirely online, my needs in terms of space are relatively few. Read the rest of this entry »

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated May 9th, 2007

Decluttering Your Home Office

The trouble with home offices is that they are often a mess. In my experience, it is easy to feel like it is more important to work than to straighten up my office. There are just so many more things I could be doing and they seem more profitable than handling the inevitable clutter.

But the time always comes when the job must be done. I have to clean my home office. And so I will share my tips for it with you.

Papers are one of the worst items for cluttering an office. It doesn’t matter if you do your business 100% online, somehow paper appears anyhow. Check stubs, random stuff you’ve printed, mail someone else dropped in your office for some unknown reason. And it just tends to sit, unfiled or not in the trash can.

As you can guess, the first step is to sort through all those papers sitting on your desk or elsewhere in your office. If you don’t have a good filing system set up, make one! There will come a time when you will need one or another piece of paperwork, and if it is filed you will have a much easier time finding it.

Now, look at everything else in your office. What really belongs in there? Is it in the most sensible location for it?

Having kids, toys often end up on my desk. Just random stuff, generally small, but they do get in the way of working. Then there are the random computer accessories that are rarely used and really don’t belong on my desk.

You may have things like printer cartridges sitting about. Think about the right place to keep them; easily accessible for when you need them, but not where they’re taking up space on your desktop.

Look at your work setup, especially those areas where you do most of your work. Are they comfortable? Reasonably ergonomically set up? If you’re having to stretch to reach things all the time or if you’re having concerns about carpal tunnel or similar problems, you probably need to work on the way you have your office set up. The better you can manage this the more productive you will probably be during your work hours.

Check your office for any other problems. A cluttered home office can feel comfortable but it can also limit your effectiveness as you work. You may be surprised at how quickly you can fix clutter issues, especially once you have a good filing system. A little bit of time invested can help you to be more productive overall.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated September 25th, 2006

Separating Work from Home When you Work at Home

Keeping your home life and your professional life separate when you work at home can be a real challenge. If you fail to set enough boundaries, your work life can run right over your home life, leaving you feeling pressured to keep working and unable to enjoy the time with your family you would like to have.

Depending on the age of your children, there are many things you can do to make working at home a little easier to keep apart from the rest of your life. If you can spare the space and equipment to set things up separately you can make things much easier to keep apart.

A dedicated work space is perhaps the most important item. You need somewhere that you can get work done with minimal interference. Ideally, this means a room you can close off to use as your home office, but not everyone has a room available for a home office.

You’ll need rules about your office. Can the kids interrupt you freely? Can you have younger ones bring in toys to play quietly so you can work while still supervising them?

A separate work computer once again is ideal but not achievable for everyone. A work computer allows you to have a machine that you don’t have to compete with anyone else to use. If you need to keep files confidential it is much easier to do so on a private machine than one shared with your family. Read the rest of this entry »

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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