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Protecting an eight-year-old computer?
Old 11-11-2005, 04:37 PM   #1
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Protecting an eight-year-old computer?

Here's a question for the board's experts... before I get asked it myself.

My FIL is nursing along an eight-year-old WIntel computer. I think it's a PIII but it might even be a PII. It runs Win98, which I believe even Microsoft has abandoned, and I don't think he's ever updated that OS with anything. It's pretty much the same as the day it came out of the box.

He surfs the Internet with a 56K modem and a Wal-Mart $4.95/month bare-bones ISP service. He doesn't really maintain any financial info on the machine, although he does discuss IRA RMDs on e-mail.

Business Week's recent phishing articles alarmed him enough to buy McAfee's latest firewall. When he installed it, however, he discovered that it hogs all the CPU cycles and slows his machine to a crawl. So he turned it off and now he's frustrated by a lack of options. I don't think he's at risk for anything by even the dumbest hackers, but that's not the point. He's worried and he won't stop worrying until he can feel assured that his computer is protected.

Clearly the appropriate solution would be to throw this machine into the nearest recycling pile and buy a new computer. His current machine doesn't have the CPU, RAM, or HD size to support anything more recent (not even WinME, let alone XP). I would dearly love to replace the whole system (I'm his tech support hotline) but that is not gonna happen unless I bond yields rise to 15% and he feels like he can spend real money again.

So until we find some way to buy him a real computer, does anyone have any idea what virus & firewall software would work with a Win98 machine? Is there something embedded in the OS that I could activate to make him feel better?
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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?
Old 11-11-2005, 05:09 PM   #2
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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?

Well, hopefully one or both of you realize that phishing has nothing to do with viruses. You can load up all the software you want, but if you take a bogus link and enter your confidential info, you're hosed.

In any case, you should probably avoid expensive and bloated software no matter what hardware you're running.

Here's a good, free, light-weight virus scanner:

Avast
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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?
Old 11-11-2005, 05:14 PM   #3
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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?

I have a Dell with a PI (90 megahertz) with Win95 on it. It still runs (ok, it crawls). The grandkids use it for some really old games I had and also for some internet (56k modem). It run a Seti program in the backround and sometimes gets stuck mentally.

I really don't care if the viruses get it or not. It is so old that I think any self-respecting virus would turn its nose up at it.
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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?
Old 11-11-2005, 05:47 PM   #4
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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?

Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveR
I have a Dell with a PI (90 megahertz) with Win95 on it.


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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?
Old 11-11-2005, 06:17 PM   #5
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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?

Nords: Christmas is almost here!
He's your wife's father, for crying out loud.
Spring for a computer, you'll feel good about it, and you'll have less problems to deal with.

Just a thought.

Jarhead
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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?
Old 11-11-2005, 06:42 PM   #6
 
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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?

Never buy anything for your parents that was built after 1945.
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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?
Old 11-11-2005, 07:26 PM   #7
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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?

Quote:
Originally Posted by TromboneAl
Never buy anything for your parents that was built after 1945.
Touchee!

My oldest daughter had been on our case for years for not having a computer. My wife and I had never even seen the Internet. Finally broke down and bought one about 3 years ago. Had to learn to type, also.
I'm sure she regretted the decision for a while.
(She lives about 200 miles away, and talked to her a lot for the first couple of months.

We're doing o.k. now, but your point is well taken.

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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?
Old 11-11-2005, 10:58 PM   #8
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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?

Quote:
Originally Posted by wab
Well, hopefully one or both of you realize that phishing has nothing to do with viruses.* *You can load up all the software you want, but if you take a bogus link and enter your confidential info, you're hosed.

In any case, you should probably avoid expensive and bloated software no matter what hardware you're running.

Here's a good, free, light-weight virus scanner:

Avast
Hey, I can always depend on your tactful & thoughtful comments, Wab. He's just your basic Depression-era novice trying to get what salesmen everyone tells him his computer should have. I'm surprised that CompUSA didn't smell the money and sell him a piece of hardware for a firewall. It's not that he NEEDS a firewall, especially when everyone can see he's running Win98, it's just that the media is making him feel naked in cyberspace without one. He's absolutely paranoid about online commerce, although he's finally starting to check his Schwab account online instead of waiting for the paper. Oh, the stories... but you guys have parents too and you know of what I speak.

We'll see how he likes the Avast home edition. It's the right price...

Quote:
Originally Posted by ex-Jarhead
Nords: Christmas is almost here!
He's your wife's father, for crying out loud.
Spring for a computer, you'll feel good about it, and you'll have less problems to deal with.
Now that the folks are only 15 minutes away, I'm beginning to appreciate why my spouse was always trying to get stationed overseas. But their granddaughter is very happy to have her grandparents around, and that's what counts.

You're right, we'd love to buy him a screaming gamer's box because it'd save me a lot more trouble than it'd save him. But it'd just worry him that we're spending our money foolishly and might end up having to go back to work. The only way he "upgraded" his old 28.8 modem & 13" monitor was when we handed down our 56K & 15" CRT (I did the work under his supervision). He still thinks our Sony flat-panel LCD is a wasteful indulgence...

Maybe I should go "win" a contest.

My MIL is spending more & more time on their old machine and she's starting to verbalize her growing displeasure. We'll help her plan her next cruise on our monitor & DSL connection, and once she's addicted to bandwidth & large displays then I think this problem will get solved the old-fashioned way.

Otherwise we're gonna have to wait a couple more years until their 50th anniversary.
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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?
Old 11-11-2005, 11:18 PM   #9
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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords
Hey, I can always depend on your tactful & thoughtful comments, Wab.
Sorry, one of my most cherished benefits of retirement is my freedom from tact.*

In any case, I would attempt to educate him about the threats.* *If you just tell him to sprinkle holy water install virus scanners for protection, he may not understand the danger he's still exposed to from phishing email, and the relatively simple precautions he can take (like never giving out confidential info in response to an email or phone call).
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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?
Old 11-12-2005, 09:16 AM   #10
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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?

I'm always on the lookout for inexpensive Wintel computers for family and friends - I always check the "Hot Deals" on www.fatwallet.com -

This is the season to find 3000+ MHz systems (sometimes with 15-17" lcd's) for under $300 after rebate!!!* or forego the monitor, use your dad's old monitor and pay a little less!* All of these inexpensive systems are huge improvements over the 8 year old boxes;* includes new XP OS, big hard disks, lots of memory, USB* (and maybe Firewire support) slots , modem and internet connections.* All of the computers use the same processors, same motherboards, hard disks, memory, etc so there is really little to differentiate any of them except for price - so go for low price and wait for the next generation systems.

It's less than two weeks to the BlackFriday (Friday after Thanksgiving) sales explosion leading up to the Christmas frenzy;* pick the targets and get out and save on high tech.* When looking, also think about picking up a wireless g router - I never pay more than $10 after rebate for routers by watching the specials.* The router alone will help your security when on a full-time broadband (dsl or cable) connection

As to a firewall, I use the free ZoneAlarm firewall and am pretty happy with it.* I also use Spywareblaster (also free) to keep the spyware out of the system;* it keeps it from being installed.* Since installing Spywareblaster, I haven't detected any spyware using either AdAware SE or Spybot14.

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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?
Old 11-12-2005, 06:36 PM   #11
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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?

If that's an external 56k modem being used, you might be able to pick up a cheap or free after rebate NAT-firewall router (probably wired, not wireless) that can work with a serial modem. If they are still around.
I've owned one, but never tried to hook it up to a modem. Not sure how many brands had the external modem feature and port, or how hard to set up.

I second the fatwallet notion. Especially if he's getting into his brokerage account with the PC.
Have seen modern Dell computers for as little as $200 shipped without OS or screen, and as little as $350 with 17" LCD and Windows XP. And that's just when I was looking.
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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?
Old 11-14-2005, 04:53 AM   #12
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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?

spend a little extra on a mac mini and never worry about viruses. I imagine you'd make up for the difference in cost over time by not having to pay anti-virus subscriptions.

You can look for refurbished ones; I saw a price of $379...

(edit: Make sure it's a model with a built-in modem, since some no longer have them.)
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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?
Old 11-14-2005, 10:21 AM   #13
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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?

He can download a free virus program called AVG or AGV or something like that....

I have read it is a very good one and it updates all the time...

It also works with 98 as I am using it on my machine..

And if all you do is surf at 56K, you do not NEED any more computer
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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?
Old 11-14-2005, 01:31 PM   #14
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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?

The frugal thing to do would be to find someone who has just replaced their 500PIII or early model P4 and wants to get the old box out of their way.

When I was working (Fed) we had to excess our old computers to schools, and we found that even schools were pretty picky and often would just refuse to consider something we'd been using until workstation refreshment came around. Other charities often seem to be equally picky. No one wants to be stuck with a bunch of computers that might have trouble running newer software that they'd manage to have donated to them.

But for your relative it doesn't sound like he's going to be running resource-intensive software.

Then again, new low-end computers are awfully cheap these days, so I couldn't see taking on someone else's surplus computer unless it was free or very nearly so (say $25-50).

cheers,
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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?
Old 11-14-2005, 01:53 PM   #15
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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Texas Proud
He can download a free virus program called AVG or AGV or something like that....
I have read it is a very good one and it updates all the time...
It also works with 98 as I am using it on my machine..
And if all you do is surf at 56K, you do not NEED any more computer.
Thanks for everyone's suggestions, I have them all on file for that inevitable "This @#$! computer!!" phone call.

As expected, my spouse's quiet conversation with her mother last week produced the most benefit. I suspect a "newer" computer will make its way to their house somewhere between Chanukah & birthday presents. In a brilliant stroke of parental manipulation daughterly generosity my spouse offered to pay for the new box, which was greeted with "No, we can afford to buy our own." Now they have to prove to us that they have enough money to afford an occasional upgrade to their life.

I don't know what it's like on the Mainland, but Craigslist here is filled with year-old giveaways for under $300. That's a good sweet spot.

My MIL surfs at 56K only because she didn't know anything better existed. Any day now she's going to start spending minutes at our house researching cruise deals & airline packages just to avoid having to spend hours on the same thing at her house. And when my FIL overcomes his eBay prejudice, he'll discover you can't snipe at 56K. So it's really in OUR best interest to get them up to broadband. But one step at a time.

Part of the problem is educational, which those of you coping with parents or parents-in-law have learned they will never overcome. My FIL has a couple other computer misapprehensions:
- His 56K modem is faster than our DSL connection because his computer boots to the desktop faster than ours.
- All these gigahertz really make his Internet go faster.
- His 60ish buddy plays a lot of online games with younger gamers who are always giving him viruses. "These kids today..."
- "(Insert spouse name here), you don't need DSL to read the Washington Post."
- "DSL costs WHAT?!? Do you know how many (insert 1950s relic here) I could buy for that money?!?"
- Our 19" LCD monitor has a bigger screen and therefore is more dangerous than his 15" CRT (which has approx 400 lbs of lead shielding). "Geez, these monitors today. All my retired buddies from the CBS monitor room are dying of cancer."
- IE 6.0 is a waste of time, based on a two-year-old C|Net review.
- FireFox is too new-fangled. (I don't use it either, but my excuse is that I'm too lazy & distracted to bother switching.)
- RAM is so expensive.
- Nothing in the world is important enough to exceed 20 MB of storage. (Yes, that's MB, not GB, because he hasn't checked the size of the 3.2GB hard drive he's using.)

Laurence, would your company like to hire my FIL to use in a training video? I'm sure there's a lot of computer-security marketing potential...
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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?
Old 07-28-2006, 10:46 AM   #16
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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?

An update and a question.

A couple months ago I tried giving my parents-in-law our old eMachines box-- but although I replaced its power supply, the glitch also took out the motherboard. My fault, and my credibility has been soundly spanked for it.

However the incident sparked a discussion and some (tentative) decisions. My FIL may be about to spring for a new (retail!!) HP system-- a Celeron running Windows XP Media Center, 15" LCD display, 200 GB HD, 512 MB RAM, blah blah blah. It's a typical underpowered starter system on training wheels that's perfect for their needs. The deal even kicks in an HP printer which he plans to resell on Craigslist "because your nine-year-old Epson Stylus Color 400 works just fine". The computer is about $500 (after rebates) at Circuit City.

He's pretty frustrated by Microsoft's termination of Win98 support-- "how can Gates just give up on 70 million users and still take billions from Buffett?!?" It still kills him to contemplate spending so much money for a new computer when "the old one works perfectly fine" (duct-taped CRT monitor power switch notwithstanding). But he's making great progress and I'm eagerly anticipating filling out the rebate paperwork in a month or two.

However he's being distracted by another jihad question. He read that AOL is going to stop charging for their software and he interpreted this to mean that they're giving away free Internet access. His research among Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft.com has revealed that Microsoft is "giving away free Internet that you can download off their website if you have the right system". Of course "free Internet" is a much better deal than his current $4.95/month dial-up. He says that WMconnect.com is getting better & better ("Gee, because you're the only customer still using it?") and he really likes using Netscape (yikes!) but he could be persuaded to switch for a freebie. As Dave Barry says, I am not making this up.

Now you know what I know and it's time to decrypt the advertising. I think that my FIL is mixing his vocabulary among computer hardware, OSs, booting up, and the act of connecting to the Internet. He doesn't really appreciate that they're all different things and we've been misled before by his lack of understanding. We queried whether this "free Internet" was dial-up, DSL, or cable and he's just not sure. He may be mis-interpreting Microsoft's beta of IE7 or their website offer to "Download Windows Live Messenger: The next generation of MSN Messenger helps you connect and share with voice, video, and more."

I'm pretty sure that I'd have heard the news if anyone was offering free dialup Internet access. However I'm currently under indictment as "bad motherboard boy" and I'm in no position to debate the topic. On the off chance that I'm wrong (again), has anyone heard of any ISP offering free connectivity?
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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?
Old 07-28-2006, 12:11 PM   #17
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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?

i thought i read something recently that microsoft is going to continue to support win98. also, for the new machine option, intel just announced very huge price drops.
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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?
Old 07-28-2006, 12:34 PM   #18
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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?

Amazingly enough - there are still some apparently free ISP's out there. I googled "Free internet" and came up with several (none of which I took the time to examine closely) but NetZero gives 10 free hours a month. Also, there is some kind of search engine at http://www.all-free-isp.com/. Where you enter your state and area code and it will return any free service in your area. I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't want to use them (Allah praise the cable modem!) but then again I'm not a Depression era kind of guy.
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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?
Old 07-28-2006, 12:58 PM   #19
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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?

Your FIL may have heard about AOL's Streamliner project.

One thing to keep in mind about any "free ISP" is that they need to make money in some way, so their products may come with certain strings attached that your FIL may not appreciate or fully understand. For example, at one point you could get an effectively free NetZero account. They made money by turning your computer into a ad-o-matic machine and I had to talk a few people out of getting this wonderful free service some years ago. They are apparently still around, but have gone through a couple of business models and I am not sure what their current status is.

So caveat emptor, beware of ISPs bearing gifts and all that
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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?
Old 07-28-2006, 03:54 PM   #20
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Re: Protecting an eight-year-old computer?

No free lunch. The 'free' internet services all have a catch. They either spray you with spam, have adbars and adwindows on screen at all times while you're online, sell your personal information to everyone on earth, charge exorbitant rates if you go over your 'free' hours. Then they sell themselves to a larger ISP and the next thing you know you're getting billed by earthlink or AOL.

I tried a string of free and super cheap ones with my MIL as she only uses the internet connection about once a month. I burned up so much of my own time getting her from one to the next that I finally quit and signed her up for the local ISP $12 a month plan and pay for it myself.

Do note that I fully expect google to start offering free ISP in at least most major metro areas at some point, in exchange for some client thats locked to googles search and ad machine, i'm sure.
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