A customer asks:

Morning Peter – I have a question, do I need this file? [CNET_TechTracker_2_0_1_51_Update] I am committed to cleaning up my file space in 2019. I have just begun. I found the article below on Tech Tracker, which states some say YES keep it others NO.

Answer:

Good for you. File maintenance is a very important task that most people avoid doing and end up with user folders so cluttered and unorganized they can’t find anything.

The screenshot you sent shows Windows indicates this file is an ‘application.’ It appears to be a 2010 update to CNET TechTracker. It is ancient and not needed. Delete it.

CNET Tech Tracker may or may not be installed on your computer. It is a non-essential ‘free’ program that helps keep software on your computer up to date. Other than that I do not know anything about it. CNET is a fairly reputable outfit, but I am skeptical of supposedly free helper programs like this. CNET is making or hopes to make money somehow. Either by delivering advertising, collecting data,  or trying to convince you to pay for a premium version or to download some of the updates.

If you were to set Windows to show file extensions, you would see that full name is CNET_TechTracker_2_0_1_51_Update.exe This indicates it is an executable file, in other words a program.. “Application” or “app” is the in-vogue name for a program.

You should look very closely at any ‘application’ in any of your user data folders because it is not a document, picture, etc. it is a program which will execute when you ‘open’ it. This means it can install itself or do virtually anything else. This is a primary way that computers get infected with malware and other junk programs.

In particular, there should be no ‘applications’ in your Documents folder unless you put them there for a very specific reason such as to save an installer for some program that you purchased.

Another folder you should clean up is your Downloads folder. It is very typical that all kinds of program installers, updates, and a lot of other junk accumulates here. If you have actual ‘documents’ or pictures that you want to save (maybe downloaded as email attachments or from some web page link), move them to the appropriate place. If there are installers for program you purposely downloaded, you should make a special folder for them so you don’t delete them accidentally. Delete all the other accumulated junk.

No legitimate program should be permanently installed or running from Documents or Downloads, so deleting anything there should not screw up the computer.

There are many other hidden folders that should also be checked and cleaned up. Some of the places questionable programs install themselves are the application data folders because it is easier for junk programs and malware to get themselves ‘installed’ in to these folders compared to a proper installation in the Program Files folder. So any time I do a diagnostic and see something is running from an appdata folder I am suspicious of it.

Describing how to do a thorough check and clean up is beyond the scope of this column. If you need help, call me. I can do routine clean up by remote access. 315-376-8879.

Original newspaper column published January 2019

Facebook can be very useful but it is also a source of misinformation.

There is outright fake news promulgated by people and organizations with an agenda. In other cases it is just incorrect information that is picked up and shared, but it can also be something that was purposely started as a hoax.

The latest hoax, appearing conveniently around the end of the year, is a dire warning that “Everything you’ve ever posted [on Facebook] becomes public from tomorrow” because “Facebook is now a public entity.” The post contains some wording that is supposedly a legal notice you should post to prevent this, citing laws “UCC 1-308- 1 1 308-103 and the Rome Statute.”

Another variation of this hoax starts out with the supposed legal notice and then adds a note that “all members must post a note like this.”

It appears very convincing, particularly in light of recent allegations of less than completely trustworthy behavior on the part of Facebook.

Although this is the first time I have seen it, this is in fact an old hoax, apparently first appearing in 2012.

There was a related hoax that tries to convince users they can (or have to) pay Facebook “to keep the subscription of your status to be set to private.” But supposedly “If you paste the [hoax] message on your page, it will be offered free…” 

Facebook explicitly states “Our terms say clearly: You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it’s shared through your privacy and application settings. That’s how it works, and this hasn’t changed.”

You can read the entire notice and find out more by going to https://www.facebook.com/fbfacts/1573108242983244.

Social media has made spreading hoaxes and misinformation really easy. Before social media, email was also very effective.

The thing is that the Internet has also made it relatively easy to check on the validity of information. Although we know that there are many sources of “fake news” and others that are heavily slanted in one direction or another, there are certainly enough reputable sources that can debunk outright hoaxes like this one.

Just pick some of the key words or phrases and do a search. In this case if you use the search on “Facebook UCC 1-308- 1 1 308-103 and the Rome Statute” you will get a ton of results including articles from major news outlets.

Speaking of search, you should be careful what search engine you use. Google is the undisputed king of search engines but I try to avoid it because Google tracks everything. I use DuckDuckGo.com because it doesn’t track you personally.

You can set your web browser to use any search engine. The problem is that this setting can also be hijacked without your explicit consent. Your start page and default search provider can be changed to some fake search engine that gives only results they want you to see. This could be to only their advertising partners or worse, to infected web pages.

I see this all the time on computers that come in for service. Please make sure you are using a reputable major search engine when you search.

Call me if you need help. 315-376-8879.

Original newspaper column published January 2019