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Issue #540: November 26 – December 2, 2017

Q: Whenever I open my computer my screen is filled partially or completely with gibberish. I have succeeded in printing this and it is three pages, Here is a partial line printout: a.gb_ub_vb a,#gb etc. another line sample: progressmove {o%}margin-left-100% etc.  There are two and 3/4 pages of this. It has quickly disappeared, but now lingers on screen. I wish I could e-mail you these pages but frankly don’t know how.  I have only a simple B/W HP LaserJet 1022 printer.

– Richard M.
Miramar Beach, Florida

A:  Wow, Richard.  I had a tough time making heads or tails of your question.  Let me see if I have this straight.  Each and every time you “open your computer” the screen is either totally or partially filled with garbage text.  Somehow you have been able to print this (which implies you are running a program, but you didn’t say what).  The text has both gone away, and is still on the screen.  You want to e-mail me a copy of it, but your printer isn’t sophisticated enough.  Did I get all that right?

There are several possible ways to interpret the phrase “open my computer,” but I honestly don’t think you meant any of them.  From the context, I’m guessing you mean that you opened a web browser, which is a far different thing than your opening the computer itself.  If my assumption is correct, that would account both for your ability to print the “gibberish” and for part of the content of the text you provided.  Most of it doesn’t mean anything to me, but the phrase “margin-left-100%” looks a lot like one of the properties available in the Style Sheets that most web pages use.  As for the other stuff, I really don’t know how it can both “quickly disappear” and “linger on screen” unless you mean that it used to disappear, but now it doesn’t.

Assuming you’re getting this gibberish when you open your web browser, the most likely scenario is that you’ve picked up a piece of malware that has hijacked the browser.  The malware is either corrupt or malfunctioning, and instead of doing what the author intended, it’s displaying garbage on your screen.  It’s going to take far more information than you’ve provided to recommend any kind of fix, other than running some of the malware tools I’ve recommended in the past, or simply taking your system into a repair shop for analysis and cleaning.

I can’t imagine why you would think your printer would have anything to do with e-mailing me anything.  The only thing you would be able to e-mail to me would be an electronic copy of your screen contents, typically called a Screen Capture, or Screenshot.  These are very similar to pictures that one would capture with a digital camera or Smartphone, except your computer internally takes a picture of its own screen.  Don’t feel bad if you don’t know how to do this – you’re not the only person who lacks the knowledge of how to make screen captures.  I hear from people all the time who don’t know how.  So, I’ll use the last bit of column space for this week to teach you.

The easiest way to make a capture is with a little app built-into Windows called the Snipping Tool.  You can find it on the Start menu by simply typing “snip” in the search box, then clicking on it when it shows up in the results.  The “Mode” dropdown tells the tool what you want to snip.  “Window Snip” would be a good choice for something you want to send to me, as it will capture the entirety of any visible window you choose.  To make the snip, click “New” then place your cursor over the window you want to capture, and click your mouse.  The Snipping Tool window will expand to contain your captured image.  If you don’t like it, you can click “New” again and re-capture.  If it’s satisfactory, click File->Save As… to save the capture to your local drive.  Be sure and pay attention to the directory in which you’re saving it, so that you can find it again when you want to attach it to an e-mail or upload it to my website.

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