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A Reader Speaks Out!
Information Avenue & InfoAve Premium Edition -August 13, 2004

Submitted by Cloudeight Subscriber Dee

Dear Readers of Cloudeight Newsletters:

In the August 9 issue there was a reference made to a reader who wrote in and stated, “So, who cares if someone tracks my browsing habits and sells this information to advertisers. I get a cool little smiley program free….”

Well, I care. Why? Because I get paid to fix computers for these people. That cool little smiley program isn’t free. It comes with a price. I’ve been on computers since 1963 and will not label myself as an expert, because I don’t know it all and never will. And, I too, still screw up on occasion. This is what happened to me recently because I wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing.

I hit the “yes,” button instead of saying, “no,” to installing a program that came onto my screen while surfing. That little sucker installed so fast, it made my head spin. Fortunately, I have enough experience to know what to do when one suddenly goes brain dead and puts their computer in jeopardy.

The first thing that happened was Zone Alarm alerted me to the fact that a program that I’d never heard of was trying to access the Internet. I denied the access. Then another program tried and another. In all, about four different spyware programs had found a home. It took me half a day to evict them. Forget the uninstall programs that came with them. They didn’t work. These programs were imbedded deep within my system. They all wanted to hijack my homepage, which they couldn’t do thanks to Spybot. I won’t even go into the amount of popups being killed. It was non-stop.

After doing some research into the nature of the beast, I went to work getting rid of them piece by piece. Both Spybot and AdAware were helpful in deleting a large part of what had been installed, but they weren’t capable of doing it all. The coup de gras was having to go where even wise men fear to tread….the registry. A place not for the faint of heart. My beloved computer is once again a happy little camper and my head is finally healing from the injuries I inflicted upon it when I smacked it numerous times in retaliation for being so stupid.

Now, what would this have cost someone who doesn’t have the knowledge that I do. It cost me six hours of my valuable time. Since I run my business out of my home, I do not have the over-head most computer repair shops have. I charge $25 an hour. Had this been someone else’s computer, I would have had a nice profit of $150. However, the going price in my area at the shops is $60 an hour and up. You’re looking at a minimum of $360.

Unfortunately, most places don’t want to get involved with this type of work. Their “fix” is those dreaded words, “formatting the hard drive”. I charge a flat fee of $100 to format, and for another $50 will get all your programs reinstalled and things as back to normal as possible. Computer shops won’t do that. It’s just a formatting and here’s your computer, you do the rest of the job. Minimum fees I’ve seen are $160.

Now you know what a “cool little smiley program free” costs. Of course the other cost, which can’t be measured in dollars, is your lost data.

There are tons of reputable sites out there with free programs to download. If you see one you like and it isn’t free, then buy it. It’s cheaper than repairing your computer.

No one has an excuse for going out there unprotected. Zone Alarm, Spybot, AdAware, Avast Virus Protector, Spyware Blaster, and countless others are all free. Cloudeight has written wonderful programs and offer them to you at a very affordable price (unsolicited plug). The Web sites they recommend are trustworthy. For those of you who are newbies, you won’t go wrong following the advice on their site.

My last words of advice….backup, backup, backup. If something horrible should befall your computer (I’ve had a hard drive go within six months of buying a new computer), nothing will be lost. I have years and years of work, files, programs, pictures, you name it; all backed up onto zippies, CD’s, an external hard drive, and yes, even floppies. Everyday I back up my work. When you lose your data, it’s gone…forever. Unless, of course, you want to pay one of those companies who specialize in this field over $500 to retrieve your vacation photos and anything else you had stored.

Computers were not invented for the purpose of playing Sims (love that game), doing your Christmas shopping in your pajamas, and thanking Aunt Emma for the yellow, polka-dot tie she sent you. They were invented to process information, to do mathematical computations, store valuable information, and hopefully make our lives easier.

I hate it when someone invites me over to see his or her new “toy.” It is not a toy. It’s a sophisticated, valuable piece of machinery. Treat it with TLC and respect.

If you don’t, or are tempted to download one of those cute, free, little smiley programs, think of me………laughing all the way to the bank.



Comments by Eightball & Thundercloud

We'd like to thank Dee for her contribution. In her well written, open-letter to all of our subscribers Dee points out one simple, easy-to-remember, fact "There's no such thing as free lunch". Our stationery is free and we've tried hard to keep it free by offering Cloudeight CD-ROMs, Cloudeight Software, Cloudeight Endorsed Software (which is always extensively tested and programs we really do use on our own computers), Google Search Boxes, Google Contextual Advertising, a few pop-under banners (that we at one time had removed from our site and recently, due to a revenue drop had to, reluctantly, add back) and a ongoing partnership with Free CD Software (a very reputable and reliable associate). We have refused over $100,000.00 in potential revenue by turning down numerous offers to include spyware/adware in our products.  We will never do that. We'll close up shop before we'll sell our souls to the devil.

We created Smileycons to offer everyone another choice after seeing how many people were getting conned into installing spyware and search engine hijackers like the two most popular "FREE" smiley programs (and most of you know who they are). Spyware and its cousin adware, at the worst can and will ruin your computer and at the least use up your valuable resources, invade your privacy, track your surfing habits, and display endless popups on your browser and desktop that make your computer no fun to use.  Smileycons has been successful for us to an extent, but nowhere near as successful as the two major "Free" ones that you'll end up paying dearly for in the long run.  We're going to keep making Smileycons better; Soon, we will be adding 2 original expansion packs for the Winter holidays. We want to make it the best. And, we will. Smileycons and our Email Backup Guardian are not free, but they allow us to offer you more than 5000 truly free downloads. Free for you and free from spyware. It's not a free lunch. Less than 5% of our site visitors support the free downloads for the other 95%. The advertising on our site and our software programs and endorsed software programs support our Cloudeight Internet Web site and our Funletters Web site. They also help pay for our Web forum, which over 3000 people enjoy every day.

Do you have something on your mind? Would you like the chance to share it with over 340,000 readers? .  Please make sure it's your own, original work. If we like what you've written we'll feature it in one or more of our newsletters!

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2004 Cloudeight Internet LLC (all rights reserved) Dee Warner's letter used with permission.