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26/12/2017

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I also took a hard look at any programs I had installed prior to the start of the problem, uninstalling them and deleting all references to them just in case. But I just wasn’t able to find the offending program or process.Then it was on to Google to see if anyone else reported this problem and how they fixed it. There were a few examples, and all signs seemed to point to some flavour of rootkit, which made my blood run cold.My first move was to check my other systems to see if they exhibited the same behaviour. I found that my laptop had the same problem as my main business system, which could mean that I'd picked it up on the road.I immediately stopped using email and stopped using these systems to access our shared NAS. I didn’t want this thing to spread any further. And I certainly didn’t want to become a carrier by spreading it to clients or business contact via emails, documents, or any other befouled form of communication from my sick machines.I tried most, if not all, of the suggested procedures that worked for other users. I downloaded the recommended rootkit detectors and put them through their paces. None of them found my rootkit or detected the problem I was dealing with.

(I’m not naming names here. I don’t want to slime them just because they couldn’t find my particular rootkit. I have reason to believe that my infection was somewhat unique at the time, or at least rare, and you can’t expect any tool to be 100 per cent accurate all the time. But rest assured that I tried the most prevalent and best-reviewed tools out there.)All of the above steps took time, and I was falling farther and farther behind on work while trying to fix it. I finally threw in the towel and brought in the professionals. All of the major security firms have subscription or one-time services that almost guarantee a fix for your system. They use a remote agent to take control of your PC and apply hardcore tech antibiotics.I cut a deal with one of the largest and most respected security firms, signing up for around $100 bucks to start up a multi-system subscription. Since I could cancel the subscription after the first month, I figured it was a good deal if the virus had spread to other systems in our little infrastructure.

They got to work the next day. I booted my system and stood by while they loaded tools, ran scans, etc. I could watch what they were doing and noticed that it all looked pretty familiar – full system scan, looking at processes, running rootkit detectors, etc. I finally got bored and wandered off to work on my goal of doubling my body weight in less than six months.After they logged off, I fired up the system and was greeted 10 minutes later with exactly the same random audio.The next day was the same routine, but with second-line support – smarter guys, I guess. I booted up, they played around for a few hours, and then shut it down. I reboot, find the problem is still there, and call them back. The second-line tech confessed that he couldn’t find a virus or anything out of the ordinary on my box.It was time to bring in the A Team – third-line technicians. Guys who have Jedi-like powers over all things virus-related. They’d beat the hell out of the virus, and for no extra charge, find the guy who wrote it and kick his ass for me. But that would probably have to happen tomorrow or the next day, because they were busy.

After some bureaucratic snafus, I finally got to talk to third-line tech guy. His voice had that world-weariness that comes from having seen too much darkness in too short a time. We talked about Trojans, rootkits, data hostage schemes, and other disasters. He was definitely the right guy to tackle my problem.He did say one thing that was very disquieting: “Dan, I do have to let you know something. I’ve seen these symptoms once before, and I wasn’t able to fix or save the system. So be prepared for that, just in case.”Huh? Wasn’t able to save the system? What the hell? How well could this thing be hiding itself? And how did it get in?Turns out that there are things that even a Jedi can’t do, and these include identifying and fixing some rootkits. Even figuring out how the rootkit got in can be beyond their powers because, according to the Jedi, rootkits can be piggybacked onto normal software updates and the like. Once inside, they burrow deeply into the morass of files, often disguising themselves as something innocuous.

After delivering that warning, he got to work and promised to call me when he had any news. After a few hours, I finally went to check on the system and found an open Notepad session on my desktop. It read:“As I mentioned, this is a brand new infection that not even our most advanced tools will clean. I would recommend using a previous image as we discussed to put the pc back a few days. Please give us a call if there is anything further we can assist with.”Review Windows tablets have hardly set the world on fire. Limp processors, confusion in the mind of Joe Public over the difference between Windows proper and Windows RT, plus a lack of apps for the user-interface-once-known-as-Metro have all combined to dampen enthusiasm.The list of reasons is a long one. But with the arrival of Intel’s new Bay Trail Atom CPUs and Windows 8.1 several OEM’s including Dell, Asus and Toshiba are taking another stab at the idea. In my paws at the moment is Toshiba’s effort, the £299 64GB Encore 8-inch tablet.

Initial impressions are frankly not that good. The design is solid enough, but there more than a faint whiff of the budget about the rounded, plastic faux aluminium back and the overall thickness of the thing. At nearly 11mm, it's much more chunky than the competing iPad or Nexus kit and weighing in at 450g too, it’s hardly what you’d call light either.If you covered over the Toshiba branding you would suspect it was made by Archos and commanded a price well south of £200. Take a look around the sides of the Encore and you’ll discover that the microSD card slot is exposed to the elements. To be fair, a card will slot in far enough to make accidental ejection fairly unlikely.The power and volume controls are not exposed enough though. You have to search for them and the push with rather too much deliberation for my liking and the fact that the Windows home button below the screen isn’t illuminated or profiled can make it difficult to work out which way up you are holding the thing in the dark.

The screen goes some way to redeeming things. It may only have a resolution of 1280 x 800 – equivalent to 189 dpi when stretched across an 8-inch diagonal – but it’s a IPS affair with broad viewing angles, plenty of brightness and good colour saturation.The 8MP camera and 2Mp webcam are a cut above what you'd find on most tablets too, with image quality through both components appearing fairly impressive. When I first launched the main camera, the app crashed and Windows restarted itself to install an update which was a little worrying but everything has been reliable since then.The Toshiba Encore is quite well connected too, with a micro HDMI port to partner the usual micro USB 2.0 socket. The Bluetooth 4.0 radio is bang up to date but the 802.11n Wi-Fi card only supports the 2.4GHz wavelength. A rather less common addition for a Windows tablet is the GPS receiver to pinpoint your location on Bing maps. The stereo speakers on the bottom of the Encore aren’t too shabby but a little more volume would be nice.I suspect the most common version of the Encore to be found at retail will be the 32GB version but I’d strongly suggest forking out the extra £50 for the 64GB machine. Windows 8.1 is many things but small is not one of them and my Encore showed only 52GB of nominal storage and even before I started loading it up that only equalled just under 40GB of usable free space.

If you have only 32GB to start with, then things will get very tight, very fast. Sure you can use the up to 32GB capacity micro SD to pick up some of the slack but I’m always happier with a decent wedge of built-in storage.Hauling the coal inside the Encore is a quad-core 1.33-GHz Intel Atom Z3740 Bay Trail processor with 2GB of RAM and thanks to that – and the 32-bit incarnation of Windows 8.1 that runs this Tosh tablet – it can do everything a regular Windows laptop can do and subjectively it always felt pretty fast and fluid. Indeed, much more so than any Windows tablet running on previous generation Atom chips that I’ve tried.The 95LX was a bigger success than any of its predecessors, selling 400,000 units – but it was still seriously constrained. It didn't have the spec to run full desktop apps and DOS was not a convenient OS for a personal digital assistant.

The device that redefined this category appeared later the same year – and like the Portfolio, it was British.Psion's first attempt to follow on from the Organizer range was a range of laptops in 1989: the MC200, MC400 and DOS-compatible MC600. The lower-end models ran Psion's own OS, EPOC, later retrospectively renamed SIBO to distinguish it from its 32-bit successor. SIBO was an impressive achievement – a complete multitasking GUI running on an 8086 with 256kB of RAM.The most desirable model, oddly, was the midrange MC400 model – but at £845, it was beaten by PC laptops. Psion's response was to re-engineer their device for a less-crowded market sector: the pocket.By the time the famed Psion Series 3 shipped in 1991, others had pioneered the trail of pocket-sized 8086 computers. Atari's Portfolio and the HP 95LX showed that you could create such a device for a reasonable price, but it was then too compromised to be a general-purpose MS-DOS PC, and the Poqet PC showed that whereas a no-compromise PC was technically viable, it ended up costing more than a laptop.

Psion took a third direction – retaining and enhancing its proprietary OS but modifying the GUI for a small screen and keyboard-driven operation, and bundling it with a complete suite of apps in the ROM: a database, word-processor, spreadsheet with charting functionality, a world clock, a programming language and an Agenda program which to this day remains one of the best ever written for any platform. Compared to the DOS-compatible competition, it was another world: even the lowest-end 128kB RAM Psion 3 could flip between the graphical Agenda, address book and word processor programs with responsiveness and stability to provoke envy in the owner of a desktop PC with the then-current Windows 3.0.The screen was small, the keyboard a chiclet type, but the flexibility and power of even the £179 entry-level model was remarkable. Its hardware design was impressive, too, with a clever (if fragile) pivoting hinge that meant that both halves of the machine were thinner than its own batteries. When open, the upwards-facing part of the battery compartment had a touch-sensitive membrane containing a row of buttons for quickly launching or switching apps.

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