Sunday, December 28, 2008

Computer Withdrawal!!!

I've missed you all (and being online in general). To make a long story - well, less long (can't promise 'short'. You know me.) - my computer was infected with a couple of nasty trojans on December 4.

Virtumonde and FakeAlert made themselves at home on my p.c., infecting all sorts of files, including my start up registry, which meant *everything* slowed to a crawl. I'm not kidding. I was typing a Word document last week. I'm typing away all along looking at a blank white Word document. I get up from my desk, go to the fridge, pour myself something to drink, load a few dishes in the dishwasher and sit back at my desk, just in time to see my words appearing one by one as if a ghost was typing them.

Side Note #1: I'm rather angry at McAfee right now. First, I renewed my annual Security Suite subscription on Oct. 21 - three weeks before expiration - and I have auto updates. Nevertheless, Virtumonde (which has been around since 2005) managed to slip past. How does that happen? Second, the viruses occurred during a visit to a "McAfee Approved" (green) site. To make matters worse, when I did a full system scan, it didn't even detect Virtumonde.

I contact McAfee Live Chat. They used to be great - they'd email you instructions on how to remove viruses. Not anymore. Now they charge $89.95 per incident to remotely remove your virus(es) for you. Excuse me, five weeks prior I paid them $69.95 to protect me in the first place. No way are they getting more of my money.

Side Note #2: I read about PC Tool's Spyware Doctor. It got excellent reviews and at $29.95, I thought it might be worth a try. It's a faster scan than McAfee, it found Virtumonde but couldn't remove it. I must say, I was impressed with their tech support. Twice I received an email reply within 24 hours. As of Dec. 18, my issue had been 'escalated' which I believe means that someone 'higher up' would take a look. However, as their 30-day satisfaction guarantee came to an end - with no resolution - I decided to cancel and get a refund. I wouldn't, however, rule out using them in the future.

So on Saturday, we go to Best Buy. Trying to decide whether to buy a new desktop p.c. to replace the possessed one, or whether to splurge on a laptop for me. We found a nice deal on a Dell. It's so new, they don't have it in stock yet, but hopefully it'll arrive Tuesday and I'll pick it up. (By the way, Brad at Best Buy is earning his commission or hourly rate - whichever.)

Since we committed to buying a laptop, I thought I'd make one last attempt at salvaging my 4-year old desktop. As in, scrubbing the hard drive and reinstalling the recovery disks I made when I first purchased the computer. What possessed me to create recovery disks is beyond me. I'm sure I was prompted to do so, but I don't recall neither hide nor hair. But sure enough, I have seven CD's labeled in my handwriting HP Recovery Disk #___ of 7.

Yesterday, I backed up all my digital photos and loaded all our playlists on iTunes so I can sync our Apple Christmas gifts (Touch for me, Nano for Dear Hubby, Shuffle for Son #2) one last time. Today, I "recovered" the p.c. and reset it to the way it was in August 2004. It took a few hours to reinstall the important stuff: Microsoft Office, Windows Updates, iTunes8, McAfee Security Suite (my subscription is valid through Nov., so I thought I might as well use them until then).

McAfee detected and quarantined a less malicious trojan (no Virtumonde!) and this computer - despite its age - is blazing! We're using it for a general family p.c. (as always). Dear Hubby is starting classes soon (more on that later), the kids need it for homework, etc. The laptop is mine and for emergencies.

I have so much to catch up on and hopefully, if all goes well with this computer, I'll be able to update you all soon. Thanks for hanging in there.

Hope you had a Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 12, 2008

We Interrupt My Vacation Posts for....SNOW!

Snow ... in southeast Louisiana. A rare, welcome treat. We had 3 to 4 inches yesterday. It didn't last long, though. Today's high was in the mid 50s so all that's left is a bunch of deformed snowmen on brown lawns.


Max was initially afraid of the snow, but soon loved romping and frolicking.

Son #1 started a snowman, and Son #2 completed it for him today. As you can see from the background, very little snow remains.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Vacation Day 3

Sorry I didn't blog sooner. I'm having computer issues, but I'll save that for another post...

Day 3 of our vacation was fun. We woke early and took the hotel shuttle to the Metro station (that's D.C.'s subway system) and rode the Metro into the city. We disembarked at the "Mall" which isn't a shopping center, but rather the area in Washington, DC near the monuments, museum and Capitol Building. Here are the boys at the Metro station awaiting our ride.

Our first stop was the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. We spent a lot of time in the dinosaur exhibit and the marine life exhibit.

This was all very nice, but my favorite part was the Gems & Minerals, home of the Hope Diamond, among other famous, fabulous jewels. Here are Son #1 and Son#2 next to my birthstone, amethyst.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Vacation Days 1 & 2

We recently drove from Louisiana to Washington, DC to visit my mother for Thanksgiving. I'm lumping Day 1 & 2 together since we were on the road both days (Louisiana to Knoxville, TN on Day 1, Knoxville to Alexandria, VA - just outside D.C. - on Day 2).

Zack and I were sick for a bit of the trip - strep & upper respiratory ick. If you have to feel yucky, it might as well be when you're snuggled in the car for two days. It sort of forces you to relax since there isn't anything else to do. Sons #1 and #2 passed much of the time playing video games (on long car rides, I relax the time limit they can play). Here's how Son #3 passed much of his time on Day 1:

The hotel in Knoxville was nice. The indoor pool was open 24 hours, plus there was a really neat game room - video games, pool table, racquet ball courts... We dined at Ruby Tuesdays, and turned in early.


Day 2 - woke in time to attend church, before hitting the road. A nice uneventful drive through the mountains. It apparently snowed a couple of days prior at the Tennessee/Virginia state line so we stopped at the Virginia Welcome Center so the kids could play a bit.

Later that evening, we checked into our hotel, the Hilton in Alexandria, Va. Our room was on the 25th floor - great view, fast elevator. Kids were impressed. We met my mother for dinner. Then returned to the hotel for prepare for a busy Day Three.