AskDACS is a Question and Answer session before the main presentation at the monthly General Meeting. We solicit questions from the floor and then answers from other audience members.
Q – Does anyone have experience with PaperPort for document scanning and archiving? This is software that runs your scanner, does optical character recognition, then saves the result so it can be indexed and searched. I would like to feed it all my old documents and be rid of all the paper.
A – One person at the meeting reported using a previous version that produced a proprietary file format. Currently in version 14, newer PaperPort versions save the documents as Acrobat PDFs. The basic version of the software is often bundled with scanners. The “Pro” version is more capable (tinyurl.com/7l77mtp). The list price of $200 seems high, but right now it is offered at $100 on the Nuance website. Nuance is the company behind “Dragon Naturally Speaking” which works quite well, so PaperPort is likely to as well.
At the meeting, I suggested contacting the people who run the Bitsavers document archive (bitsavers.trailing-edge.com). The Bitsavers archive: “As of November, 2014 there are over 32000 documents containing over 3.2 million pages in the archive.” I did not appreciate the scale of the Bitsavers project or that they do not attempt to OCR every document. They give a brief description of their archival process on their index page. Bitsavers is the world-wide “go to” place for documentation on obsolete (i.ecollectable) computer hardware and software. For those interested in IBM mainframes from the 1980’s, the archive has an index to manuals on IBM 370 MVS (tinyurl.com/ofohbkn) where you will find the manual “Program Product MVS/System Product Version 1 General Information Manual” as a searchable text PDF. I believe this is the desired result in the question.
Q – Is there a free program that can edit a PDF file?
A – Directly editing a PDF is somewhere between easy and impossible, depending on how the PDF was created. Generally if you scan a document into a PDF, the PDF contains an image of the original document rather than the text. These cannot be edited, but a PDF created by Microsoft Word, or by “printing” a document to a PDF file may be editable to some extent. Nevertheless, there are programs that claim to edit PDFs. A quick search with my favorite search engine found several: PDFescape (pdfescape.com) is a free web-based service. PDF-XChange Viewer (tracker-software.com/product/pdf-xchange-viewer) performs several edits. While not free, Microsoft Word can import, edit and export PDF files although technically, this is not “editing a PDF”. I was surprised to learn that OpenOffice and its derivatives still lack the ability to import a PDF.
Q – When no one offered a question, I asked if there were people in attendance who are using a MoCA device or running their network over their television cable coax. We discussed this last month and with quite a few new people, I asked again to get additional input.
D – MoCA is an acronym for Media Over COAX Alliance, a trade group. A MoCA adapter is a bridge that allows network traffic (data packets) on your home network that runs on CAT5 twisted pair cabling to a specific frequency band carried over the coax. The current MoCA specification provides a very fast network capable of Gigabit speeds. The downside of MoCA is that it is shared media like all Ethernet networks were before switches replaced hubs. Newer television set top box devices like a DVR from Charter or Comcast or from TiVo all have MoCA built in. This includes what used to be called a “cable modem” but is now a “residential gateway”, that often includes both Internet service and voice over IP (VoIP) telephone service. If you have one of these new gateway devices from Comcast, do two things even if you believe you are not using MoCA: (1) change the network address in your router to 192.168.x.0 where x is any number from 2 to 254. The DHCP server in your router will automatically change to the new address, so that your devices will reconnect properly when they reboot. (2) Install a MoCA POE (point of entry) filter where your cable service enters the house. Do this even if Comcast will not supply the filter; if necessary, buy the filter yourself ($12 on Amazon thru DACS AmazonSmile).
Q – The network where I work is large and they have several DNS servers. Recently one of these DNS servers has started to return computer names in upper case when queried rather than the lower case that we have always seen and that the other servers still return. Does anyone have any ideas on why? We do this lookup using Java APIs but the result is the same when using the nslookup utility.
A – This question generated some discussion. Someone asked if the server in question was Windows- or Linux-based. They are Windows. One member said that the RFC (request for comment, the documents that define how Internet services work) specifies that computer names, like domain names, should be handled as case-insensitive. This would mean that an upper case response is allowable. At the meeting I thought that DNS returns the machine name in the same case as it was entered on the machine. Now I see this is not true on my Active Directory domain network running Win2008 and Win2003 servers. The nslookup utility on a Win8.1 machine displays names in lower case even when the name on the computer is upper case. I have no way to test the Java API. There is one network name service that always returns upper case, and that is WINS (Windows Internet Name Service). A direct query to WINS requires NetBIOS and the Java API is certainly not doing that. However, DNS servers on Win2008 and earlier (no Win2012 available) can be configured to use WINS. WINS is obsolete and enabling WINS and NetBIOS over TCP/IP is no longer encouraged in “best practices”. If a DNS server was so-enabled, it would explain the upper case. If that turns out to be the case, somebody owes me coffee and for a week. A member suggested that perhaps one server received a software update and the others did not. While this scenario seems benign, it is unlikely any Microsoft update would change this behavior in DNS. My bottom line is the change in behavior is likely a misconfiguration of that DNS server.
Q – A member asked if DACS could have a general meeting presentation about the various SIGs.
A –Earlier this year we cycled thru all the SIGs and had each leader give a 5-minute presentation about her/his group each month. In past years we have had general meetings where several SIGs shared the time of the general meeting presentation which is what the audience member was suggesting. We try to present as much variety as possible in the general meeting presentations, so it will be a while before we repeat these formats. In the meantime, each SIG has a page on the website and some have descriptions of the topics of the monthly meetings. If you have more questions, please email the SIG leader who will be happy to provide more information.
Q – My daughter’s laptop has been attacked by the “Browser Warden”, browser hijacker malware that continually opens annoying advertising. We have run her anti-virus program and Malwarebytes several times without success. How can we remove this? It has attached to all browsers.
A – One member had a similar experience and downloaded a removal program from the Norton website. The bigger anti-virus companies offer removal tools or sometimes a set of instructions that allow removal of specific infections. Malware programs are designed to be hard to remove, so the procedures can be intricate. There is a way to reset Internet Explorer to default “factory new” settings. Do not open Internet Explorer, instead open Control Panel and then click the “Internet Options” applet. At the bottom of the Advanced tab is a “Reset…” button. Click that and follow instructions. This may give a start at getting control of the computer. Since all browsers are affected, this is not really a solution.
Malware detection programs like Malwarebytes are more effective when run in Safe Mode. Prior to Win8, you enter Safe Mode by hitting the F8 key during the boot-up process just before Windows actually starts to load. In Windows 8.x starting in safe mode requires a series of steps:
- Open the “Charms” menu and pick Settings.
- Click “Change PC Settings”
- On the PC Settings screen, click “Update and recovery”
- On the Update and recovery screen , click “Recovery”
- Look for “Advanced startup” and click the “Restart now” button
- The computer will reboot and enter the “preboot environment”.
- Set the computer to boot into Safe mode.
When the computer boots into Safe mode, you will need to know the password for an administrator account. Safe mode loads only the most basic device drivers and services. Hopefully the malware will not be loaded and thus will be easier to find. If Malwarebytes still fails to find the malware, check to see if the definitions file has today’s date. If not, repeat the advance boot process and chose “Safe Mode with Networking” which will allow Malwarebytes to install the latest definitions.
The Wikipedia article on browser hijacking (wikipedia.org/wiki/Browser_hijacking) is required reading. Searching for the name of the browser hijacker will find numerous “solutions”. Beware of programs from sites you have never heard of before. Look for removal tools from reputable companies only such as Sophos (sophos.com), Kaspersky (kaspersky.com), VIPRE (vipreantivirus.com/live/), Norton (Norton.com), etc. Download any removal tools using an uninfected computer and transfer it to the problem machine on a USB thumb drive.
An audience member suggested making frequent backups. His solution is to make images of the hard drive that can later be restored. While this may “remove” the malware, it also removes any work completed since the image was taken. In cases of truly severe infections, I recommend reinstalling Windows, which is beyond the scope of this discussion. The discussion then turned to partitioning strategies which is also beyond our scope.
Whatever strategy you use in the short term, remember that once bad people have run code on your computer, you no longer “own” that machine – the bad guys own it. Even if you remove all visible traces of this infection, you can never be sure you have removed everything. The only sure way is to copy your data off the computer, wipe the hard drive completely clean and reinstall Windows and all of your programs.
This will be the last Ask DACS for some time. As you will read elsewhere in this issue, starting in January the format of the monthly general meetings will change. It has been fun moderating and writing Ask DACS for the past few years. I learned something new every month.
Ask DACS was originally called “Random Access”, after the similarly named sessions run by Lee Felsenstein at the Homebrew Computer Club. Homebrew was where Steve Wozniak showed off the board that became the Apple I. Lee Felsenstein designed both the “SOL” (Processor Technology) computer and the Osborn I (the original portable). The Osborn I was the basis of the Danbury Osborn Group (DOG) which became the Western Connecticut Microcomputer User Group (WCMUG) which merged with two other groups to become DACS. It all ties together as you will learn in the coming year as we celebrate the Danbury Area Computer Society’s 25th anniversary.