quality

Not resetting warranty period after RMA sends a bad message

Looking at implications is a thing I do a lot.

You know how it is common practice in some areas that if you return a defective product you either get a used one as replacement or even if you get a new one the original warranty period continues and is not reset?
This is common, yes, but it is also bad style. What the manufacturer is basically saying is this:

You are not buying a product. You are signing an open-ended usage contract with a minimum guaranteed length. We don’t think our product should be of proper quality and last at least x years, but that you are buying x years of product use. If we keep selling you crap, it is your problem that will haunt you to and beyond the eventual end of the contract. Don’t expect to have a useful product beyond the warranty period.

Free virus scanners suck

I’Ve had it with “Avast!”. It annoyed me in so many ways. It kept detecting false positives als generic malware. So I put it on the exclusion list. Then it got detected in a different location when making a backup. So I set the heuristics down a notch. Still happening. So another notch down. Neuristics now on minimum. Still happening. Then, amazingly, there was a Steam update for Garry’s Mod and it detected malware in one of its DLLs, messing up my update. Then I turned heuristics completely off. It still detected one of my assembler demos as having malware. I submitted the file to Avast! for analysis but I guess they don’t move a finger unless a file is reported by many users.

And when I update the program, there’s a chance that it will just delete exclusions or reset various settings to standard, preferrably the auto-update I turned off.

Virus scanners are all about business fear. They don’t want to give you certain freedoms because it could mean that their product might look less effective, and that would harm their reputation.

So recently I finally had enough and uninstalled Avast! and looked for alternatives.

First I tried Avira. After installing and rebooting, I couldn’t even figure out how to open the main window. The task symbol, no matter what I did, wouldn’t give me access to something resembling a main window with program settings and such. That’s stuff I don’t like at all.
So I uninstalled that and tried one of the other ones I put my eyes on.

Next I tried Ad-Aware. That’s when the shit really hit the fan. After reboot, my system froze on the login screen with no user shown and a “Please Wait” with non-moving animation. Sometimes it would show a mouse cursor instead that was frozen. Sometimes I’d not even get that far, just a black screen.

And as various tests showed, it really was the virus scanner. Because after I had managed to research on my secondary PC about how many menu items there are in Win7’s F8 menu, I could blindly (since for some reason there was no picture) navigate to “Restors Last Known Good” and Windows started with no Ad-Aware antivirus driver installed.

So, amazingly, I gave it the benefit of the doubt, in disbelief that a virus scanner driver could mess a system up like this, suspecting that maybe I didn’t reboot often enough between those other virus scanner tries. This time I did. Very clean install. And, because Ad-Aware (as Avira, too) is so annoying that they only give you an online installer, not the complete package, I had to re-download those 150 MB I uninstalled minutes earlier – from their SLOW download server.

But, next system start froze again, just like first time.

So that was Ad-Aware. I was close to giving up, but I decided to try one more option that I had sorted out in my selection process because the interface looked too Win8ey for my taste: AVG.

So I installed AVG, found a nice amount of options to give me control over things. I couldn’t figure out how to remove their context menu item for securely deleting files though, which bothered me, and that feature could also not be excluded from the installation. So that pissed me off a little again, but that’s nothing compared to the massive flood of false positives I got. I scanned my assembler demos folder, where Avast! used to complain about one file there, and I got 28 alerts, many of them apparently based on heuristics. So I turned heuristics off and now I got 28 alarms for non-heuristic, specifically named malware. It’s even crazier: The one Avast! used to complain about was not among AVG’s alerts.

So that was that. Away with AVG.

Then I wanted to investigate and find out whether my intuition was right (I kinda knew it was), so I used a website that scans a file using many scan engines (https://www.metascan-online.com). And the picture I got there was pretty much what I expected: There was one half of the usual freely available scanners that detected malware in pretty much all the files I had gotten alerts on, and crazily all kinds of malware. Three different scan engines could detect three different, namely specified types of malware. Insanity!
And then there was the other half, the one with scan engines associated with virus scanners you have to pay money for, (names you would find in the business sector, such as ESET, Kaspersky, BitDefender, McAfee, TrendMicro etc.), and none of them detected anything in my allegedly highly infected assembler demos.

Avast!, which annoyed the hell out of me, seems to be one of the best free virus scanners, which is really sad. I have to draw my conclusions from the experience though. Virus scanners massively lose their usefulness when you cannot trust them to do their job properly. After all, it’s all about computer security, a sensitive area where one screwup can cause that which it is supposed to prevent, but just using oversensitivity to avoid that case can be very bad, too, and it shows that in a way those products don’t actually know what they’re doing.

One of the best virus and malware protections is an IT guy’s mind (optionally combined with a free online file analysis as mentioned above), but if you don’t want to invest in that expertise, you might have to pay a little to compensate for that.

P.S.: On top of all this, I recently learned about an incident where someone I know was using the paid(!) ‘total solution’ for PC protection from one of those who also offer a free version of the software, and it still happened that malware totally ruined the system.

When investigating, seemingly valid clues can be misleading

In the past days I learned that when you are looking for the cause of a problem and proceeding logically like a detective, clues can still be misleading. You can gather clues that are unrelated (coincidence) or related to a different problem. In the latter case, a problem can become quite nasty when another one intermingles with it.

I won’t go into detail about a case a few years ago where a graphics card I bought was faulty, and when I got a replacement from a different brand, that one was totally producing nothing but garbage on the screen on some systems while working perfectly on other systems, with no determinable common factor between them.

No, but I just discovered why the internet was so slow in the last few weeks. I didn’t change anything on my system, so I didn’t suspect it when bandwidth from many sources on the WWW was fluctuating like crazy, rarely ever giving me full speed. I did check many things on my system anyway, though.

It became more interesting when added to that, often the data transfer would momentarily drop to zero every few seconds.
I began investigating more thoroughly when my router lost connection and the DSL line quality became very bad for a few hours.

I tested DSL speed on another computer close to the router, without a switch in-between, and there I had the same bad download speed.

The problem source was so difficult to isolate here because THREE things were coming together!

The main problem was a gradually, over weeks, decreasing cable quality of my 20 meter ethernet cable. I’d never have expected that, but maybe it wore at some point, maybe at a doorway where people walk over the cable. This caused the bad transfer speeds, because the switch negotiated 100 Mbit/s, which the cable couldn’t handle anymore. In the end, the momentary dropouts were caused by the switch, and any other switch did the same. (Side note: My LAN adapter has a cable quality check and claims it’s fine, so this was useless. I had to manually tell it to use 10 Mbit/s to avoid trouble. I now have wonderful internet speed; no more anger over Youtube not being able to provide full speed. My, was I wrong.)

And here are the two deceivers:

1) The DSL line quality drop that my router indicated was unrelated.

2) The DSL speed test on the alternative computer SHOULD have been fine, since it is not using the faulty ethernet cable, yet it showed the same bad transfer speeds that my main computer did via the faulty cable. I have to assume that there simply actually was a speed issue with the test server at that time.

I keep having complex problems like this way too often.

When things just don’t add up, it might be because they’re multiplying instead.