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Issue #345: March 2, 2014

Q:  With my computer on, modem on, but not in any web based program active, can a spammer or hacker still get into my computer? Few days back, I had a popup stating that I was being watched by two people. Have Skype with camera that would show me in front of the computer, but Skype is not active.

– Glen H.
Shalimar, Florida

A:  I think you’re being a little tripped up by simple semantics, Glen.  You’re also creating an excellent demonstration of why it’s so important to carefully and completely read dialog boxes before dismissing them, because the dialog box most likely indicated what software created it.

If I look at my Geek Lights on the Corner Facebook account, it tells me that I am being followed by almost 700 people.  Yet, when I look over my shoulder, there is nobody there.  Why?  Because Facebook uses the word “Follow” to indicate that somebody has expressed an interest in a topic, and wants to be notified when there are any updates to it.  Facebook also happens to use the words “Like” and “Watch” in ways that don’t necessarily match their more traditional definitions.  I see complaints from people all the time in the comments section on tragic news stories, asking why so many people “Like” this horrible news.  It’s not that people actually like the news, but that’s the word Facebook chose for people to indicate they have an interest in a page, a post, a picture, or a story.  Many people “Like” a story on Facebook not because they like the topic, but because they want to know when the article is updated or someone else comments on it.  Another reason to “Like” something is to let the person who posted it know that you read it without actually having to comment on it.  The word “Like” works well in many cases, but is awkward on the ear when talking about certain events.  Try this one:  New post from Jeff Werner: My cat died today.  (Glen H. likes this)  If I saw that, I’d know that you read my post, and you probably are not actually liking the fact that my cat died, but you’re acknowledging reading about it, and you’ll also get notified when other people “Like” the post, or comment on it.  Facebook is not the only social media site that does this.  For example, Google has its own “+1” function that works in a similar manner.

So, Glen, I believe that what’s happening is that on some social media site you have a couple of fans.  They may be relatives, friends, co-workers, or just people who appreciated something that you posted online.  Whoever they are, they asked the social media software to watch for new posts from you, and let them know when it sees any.  They aren’t really “watching” you though.  That’s not to say it is impossible to remotely activate someone’s webcam and watch through it, because there are very well-documented instances of exactly that.  However, the people who engage in that kind of activity don’t normally pop-up notifications on your system telling you that they are doing so.

Q:  I have an HP OfficeJet Pro 8600 All-in-one.  I am able to print wirelessly but cannot scan wirelessly. Scanning works fine when connected via USB cable. Both printing and scanning wirelessly worked fine with the 17″ MacBook Pro running OSX Lion. This problem occurred after upgrading to OSX Mavericks and installing the associated HP printer driver/software. This problem remains unsolved after a number of screen share sessions with Apple and HP tech support. I also upgraded the modem at about this same time.

– Michael C.
Destin, Florida

A:  Spouse Peripheral and I picked up a similar printer last month after our venerable old HP all-in-one decided quite suddenly that it no longer wanted its job.  “Too expensive to fix,” they told me.  Thanks, Bi… um, I mean, whoever is in charge over at HP!

I’m not at the top of my game diagnosing problems on Mac systems.  However, the reading I’ve done says that if you can print but not scan, check for a firewall blocking things.  So, try disabling your firewall(s) and see if that helps.  If so, then you’ll need to get more specific, since you don’t want to be completely without a firewall.  Beyond that, a complete removal and re-installation of the HP software suite would be my only suggestion.  That assumes that the driver checks to be sure everything is working as it installs.  Optionally, you might just need to be more persuasive with HP Customer Service.  With a little persistence, I’ve had good luck in the past with their online chat service and their telephone support, as long as the device you’re inquiring about is still under warranty.

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