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Why Does My Computer Keep Making Loud Fan Noises?

A loud fan noise can indicate a number of causes, the majority of which are relatively easy fixes. The trick to diagnosing the noise is recognizing the type of use that might lead to heavy fan noise. The biggest indicator is that loud fans usually coincide with an overheating computer, which in itself can have different causes. Resolving the problem will help maximize the lifespan of the computer as well as solve the noisy fan problem for the user.

(Continue reading…)

Filed in: Computers, Hardware

Panda Cloud Antivirus Emerges From Beta

I reported on Panda Cloud Antivirus back in June and July in my Security Corner posts, Panda’s Cloud Antivirus (Beta) is a Winner! and Panda’s CloudAntivirus Update.

I tested Panda Cloud Antivirus extensively on my systems while it was in beta and only recently switched to Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) for evaluation. Today, I’ll switch back to Panda on my older, slower system to compare performance of each one. I have noticed a slight performance degradation with MSE that was all but non-existent with Panda. Now that Panda Cloud Antivirus is out of beta, I can make a fair comparison which I will report on later. Check out the full report in this Security Corner post.


Safe Computing Tips (and Other Changes)

I want to let everyone know of some new features you’ll be seeing here at Ask the Geek. First off, you’ll notice that there are more pages being posted. These are permanent pages that will always show up on the site, unlike the posts that usually wind up in the archives. I’ll be updating these frequently. The latest page is “Safe Computing Tips” and I suggest you check it out.

You’ll also notice a sign-up pop-up on some pages when you go to them. Please sign up so I can keep you up to date on new content and special offers from select vendors. I promise I won’t spam you with a bunch of useless junk; I will pass on any special offers that I become aware of from reputable hardware and software sellers.

For now, check out the “Safe Computing Tips” and sign up for my list. And be on the lookout for a new page that reviews top freeware, Open Source, and commercial software offerings.

As always, I’m glad to be of service and I look forward to keeping you as a loyal reader. If you ever need anything at all, feel free to hit the “Ask a Question” or “Leave Feedback” links over at the right.

The Geek


“psyb0t” Worm Infects Routers

Two router options, both of which I’ve said are security risks (see This Router Configuration Option Can Be Dangerous), can now be exploited to turn routers into zombie botnet members. My latest post at Security Corner, Worm Targets Home Networking Equipment, gives details and references to more news items. You can read those if you want, but for now, here’s what you should immediately do:

  1. Power cycle your router.
  2. Disable WAN-facing telnet, SSH or web-based configuration interfaces.
  3. Change the passwords to something unguessable (see this article).
  4. Upgrade to the latest firmware.

If you’re not sure how to handle this, find a geek who can. While the hacker who wrote this worm appears to have disabled the botnet’s control center, others will follow and it could get ugly.

You should also read and apply the Safe Computing Tips available as a free PDF download. Just click on the link to the right.

As always, I’m looking out for you.


The Geek


The Zonbu Laptop – Hassle-free, Affordable, Secure

Having recently had the pleasure of interviewing Zonbu’s CEO, Mr. Gregoire Gentil, and also having had the pleasure of testing the laptop, I have to say I’m impressed by both the business model and the product. But my being impressed is just one opinion; what are others saying about Zonbu? Rather than my writing my own review, I present  a random sampling of quotes from email and other reviews along with my comments.

Mr. Zonbu says: "The company has consistently delivered new releases, fixing bugs, enhancing the system and updating the key software packages. None of the updates have broken anything on my system and Zonbu has listened to the public feedback and made changes and adjustments to continue to improve and refine the overall experience for the end-user. I was skeptical about their ability to keep up the pace and handle things smoothly, but so far they have exceeded my high expectations…If you don’t want the hassle, let Zonbu take care of it for you."

Yep, it’s completely hassle-free and mostly automatic for even the most novice user.

John Biggs of crunchgear.com says: "The Zonbu notebook costs $279 with a 2-year $14.95/month subscription to Zonbu’s update and storage service. This, clearly, is Zonbu’s real MO. They offer unlimited support and upgrades along with 50GB of Amazon S3-based storage. If you opt out of all of the support, you pay $479 for a fairly basic laptop.

"Here’s the rub, kids. With the service pack you’re paying $637.80 for a Linux laptop."

The key words here are "unlimited support and upgrades along with 50GB of Amazon S3-based storage." Most people don’t have a clue how to back up and secure their PCs, much less do upgrades. Geek Squad will give you "Basic Security" for $229. With Zonbu, you plug it in, it works, it’s secure and you never have to worry about it. As long as you’re under the subscription plan, if the unit breaks, they ship you a brand-new one. That says "affordable" to me.

Arsgeek.com says: "On turning it on, you’ll see the typical Zonbu startup screen where various icons light up to show you what phase of the boot process it’s in. After about a minute or so I was on the desktop. Zonbu, no matter what else they may have going for them certainly have great wallpapers. The desktop is crisp and clean, with a few icons in the upper left and a few items in the taskbar on the bottom.

"I was immediately greeted with a network connection wizard which walked me through getting online using my home wireless connection. It was painless and in a minute I was happily online. I logged in with my email and password and I was ready to play!"

I had the same experience on first boot. Even a novice could get on line quickly, in my opinion.

Security? I can compromise your PC in just a few minutes at some of the sites I know of. I have been unable to compromise either the Zonbu desktop unit or the laptop.

The Zonbu laptop isn’t necessarily for Geeks to use, but it will certainly lower the amount of free tech support you have to give to your friends, neighbors, mom and girlfriend who all own Windows PCs.

The Geek

Filed in: Computers, Hardware, Reviews

New Zonbu Laptop: Affordable, Green, Hassle-Free Computing

small_zonbu_notebook_front_1 I just found out that Zonbu is announcing a new Zonbu Notebook (see photo), so Zonbu fans can be green and hassle-free on the go. Like the Zonbu Mini Desktop, the Zonbu Notebook is based on the same principles of hassle-free, environmentally friendly, and affordable computing.

Let’s take a look at what Zonbu has to say on these three points:

Hassle-free: The Zonbu Notebook works right out of the box. It includes 20 best-of-breed software applications, free automatic software upgrades, generous online storage, remote file access and sharing, automatic data back-up, unlimited online tech support, and free hardware replacement in case of damage.  Best of all it eliminates the need to spend any time on managing the PC, or spending money on anti-virus packages, back-up storage or firewalls.

Environmentally Friendly: The Zonbu Notebook uses less energy, reduced use of hazardous materials like cadmium and mercury, offers free recycling/take back programs and responsible packaging, meeting the EU?s strict RoHS standards and earning the Zonbu Notebook a Silver EPEAT rating.

Affordable: The Zonbu Notebook starts at $279 with a $14.95 monthly subscription fee with the same acclaimed hassle-free plan as the Zonbu Mini Desktop.

Having reviewed the Zonbu Mini Desktop, I have to agree it’s definitely hassle-free. In fact, it’s so easy, a seven-year-old can use it right out of the box (See my article at Ask the Geek, Too). I fell in love with it.

Now, we’ll see about the Zonbu Notebook–they’re sending me a review unit today. So, stay tuned and I’ll tell you all about it. (Chances are, I’ll fall in love with the notebook, too.)

The Geek

Filed in: Computers, Hardware

Noisy PC? Acousticpc.com will help you quiet it down

I recently had the pleasure of having a conversation with Eric Sivilla,
Acoustic PC Specialist and owner of Acousticpc.com – the leader in quiet PC cooling solutions. Eric knows his stuff when it comes to quieting down a noisy PC and he’s also quite a nice fellow, so you can be confident in doing business with him.

I never paid much attention to the noise coming from my PC, I just figured that’s the way it is and put it out of my mind. But when I decided to record some of the songs I’ve written, I was dismayed to discover that I could hear the PC noise in my recordings.

Where does all that noise come from? A lot of it comes from the cooling fans on your CPU and power supply. Some high-performance PCs also have a cooling fan on the video card and there may be another fan in the front or back of the case that draws outside air in. Your hard drive is also a noisy beast and difficult to silence, until now.

Check it out, will you? Eric has solutions for the most demanding quiet cooling applications including hard drive silencers, silent cases, acoustic case insulation, you name it. Here’s that link again:


Tell him The Geek sent you.

The Geek

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Filed in: Computers, Hardware, Links

How can I turn my IDE hard drive into a USB drive?

Marcella asks:

Both my desktop computers have died (electrical surge), and I’m using my laptop. I need a device that I can hook my desktop hard drives to and access/retrieve the files. All the storage devices I’ve found operate from an existing computer setup and need an O/S to run. Does a device exist that I can just attach my hard drives to and retrieve/store/access my files? In short, I don’t care about the computers, only about retrieving my data.

As a matter of fact, you can convert your drives to USB drives with a relatively inexpensive kit. Then you can plug them into your laptop and access all the data and even use the external drives as backups for your laptop. Here’s one link: http://www.usb-ware.com/tt-firewire-400-usb-2-drive-kit.htm.

The Geek

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Do You Recognize the Four Early Warning Signs of Hard Disk Drive Failure?

There’s an old adage among computer geeks that goes something like this: “It’s not a question of IF your hard disk will fail, but WHEN.” Usually, the failure will not be a sudden; drives normally fail gradually over time. If you know the warning signs of impending disk failure, you’ll save yourself from losing your files. In order of least important to most important, here are the four early warning signs of hard disk drive failure:

1. Your computer slows to a crawl while loading or saving files. The hourglass just sits there and spins. The file may or may not load or you get an error.

2. Your computer frequently hangs up and you lose all control. The keyboard and mouse don’t work and you are forced to use the power button to shut down. The keyword here is frequently. Don’t fret over the occasional, and inevitable, software lockup.

3. File loss or corruption. You know the file was there the last time you looked. Now it’s gone. Or, you open the file and there is gibberish interspered with readable text. Multimedia files may begin to skip or look garbled.

4. Your computer frequently hangs up while booting or you get a message saying “One of your disks needs to be checked for consistency…” All computers get this occasionally, but if it’s happening all the time it means your drive is in imminent danger of failure.

What do you do if you notice any of the early warning signs? First, immediately back up all of your files by copying them to whatever backup media you normally use (you ARE backing up, aren’t you?). Then get yourself a copy of Steve Gibson’s Spinrite — the best hard drive repair and recovery software available, bar none. Run Spinrite on the failing drive. I’ve seen “failed” hard drives run for years after having been repaired with Spinrite.

But if you have a complete hard drive failure, don’t panic, click on the Seagate Recovery Services banner above.

The Geek

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Filed in: Computers, Hardware, Tips

Fun toy for Geeks

My wife always tells me I’m a little kid in a man’s body. She’s right, and I want to tell you about a fun toy for Geeks that’s on sale right now at Staples(R): PNY Technologies’ Attache 2GB USB flash drive with U3 launcher. With $40 instant rebate, it’ll only set you back $24.98. I couldn’t pass it up, no matter that I already have four other ones (two of which are PNY Attaches) ranging in size from 64MB to 1GB.

What’s fun about a flash drive? Check out my article at Ask the Geek, Too.

The Geek

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Filed in: Computers, Hardware
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