...ha ha....ha ha ha ha haa haa haaaaaa....ha haa...ha ha...
(I'm sure Dr. Horrible would be so proud!)
So I reformatted the new(ish) laptop, and the evil(in-a-very-bad-way)ness was still there. But guess what? With aid of my trusty iPad and teh interwebz [<---yoof speak!], I was able to combat it....or at least put it to sleep in a Jean-Luc Picard v. The Borg kind of way. Oh yes! My tech is now my own again.
Which is just as well because the only help (and I use that term in its loosest sense) that the people at Net Intelligence were able to give was:
"As this is a Home Access machine, you will need to contact the provider of the machine, as it is they who provide support for any queries you may have. They also hold your account details, so will be able to give you any information related to this."
This completely ignores the part where I'd told them I'd bought a reconditioned machine, and that I'd already contacted Comet (the provider) who told me to contact them (NI)...
"There should be contact information for the provider either on the machine, or on the documentation that came with it."
Oh, and the part where I told them that neither I, nor the shop, nor the previous owner had any of the documentation. I did find a number to call in a document on the machine (referred to in my previous post on this subject).
"Home Access machines were not intended for resale, we are unable to support any that have been purchased second hand."
Aah, so they did actually understand I'd bought it second-hand then....question is, didn't the government foresee that this kind of thing would happen?
So, how did I do it? Quite easily as it turns out...
1. Download Autoruns
NetIntellingence will actually block some Microsoft Help sites, particularly ones which tell you how to fix issues such as network protocols, but fortunately, by going into the Control Panel, and changing my home page to Google (again!) it allowed me to access the 'net long enough to download this little program.
2. Run Autoruns
For some reason - and I'm guessing NI is responsible for this - it installed itself into My Documents, not Programs, so if you can't find it in the usual place, you know where to look! Anyhow, I digress...
- Unzip the autoruns.zip file, and click on autoruns.exe
- Click options then choose hide Microsoft Entries
- Click File
- Click Refresh
Autoruns will run a diagnostic of your system and then list all the programs and processes which are currently running on it (barring the Microsoft ones you excluded), so it's helpful to not actually have anything extra running at this time.
Does anyone remember how easy it was to use Windows 98? When you could go into the system and tell it which programs to run at Startup? I miss those days when I could speed up my PC like that! Anyway, Autoruns is sort of like that - from the list, you can choose which programs you want to run and which ones to disable....heheh!
3. Scroll down and uncheck anything which has the NI logo. It will appear in several sections.
4. Scroll down further until you get to the section which is labelled:HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\WinSock2\Parameters\Protocol_Catalog9\Catalog_Entries
5. Uncheck entries which look like this (there should be about four of them):
"000000000001""Netintelligence Home Edition LSP""Netintelligence Ltd""c:\windows\system32\nihlsp.dll"
Alternatively, the entries may look like this:
(Clicking on the image will enlarge it)
6. Reboot your computer. You should now have disabled NetIntelligence. Try loading up a webpage which was previously blocked.
NOTE: Instead of being able to uncheck the protocols above, you may get a message telling you; "WinSock Protocol Providers cannot be disabled (only deletion is supported)." In this case, you need to reinstall WinSock2. Don't worry, it's really easy! The following is from the Microsoft website, and applies to Vista and Windows 7. For other OSs, check the website....but do it from a computer which doesn't have NI installed because NI will close down the Microsoft Help pages!
1. Go to Start --> All Programs --> Accessories --> Command Prompt this will bring up a terminal (it looks a bit like a DOS screen!)
2. In the terminal, type: netsh winsock reset (if you type it incorrectly, an error message will come up, so make sure you type it exactly as I've done here)
3. Type: exit
4. Press Enter
5. Re-run Autoruns as before, and again, uncheck anything with the NI logo next to it (you may find one more than before, I did). Again, scroll down to: HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\WinSock2\Parameters\Protocol_Catalog9\Catalog_Entries
this time you should either find that the entire section is missing, or there is nothing in it. To double-check, click the tab at the top which is labelled WinSock - there should be no NI entries there at all.
6. Reboot your computer.
7. Load up previously blocked web pages.
In both scenarios, you should now be able to delete the NI folder and shortcuts. You won't have uninstalled it but it will be disabled, so should give you no more trouble.
I'm not saying that there should not be restrictions on kids using the internet, but if there are to be any, surely they should come from parents, not the government. Really, if parents want their children to do tech things, they have a duty to understand these things themselves, and be proactively involved. They should not rely on a net nanny to do their job... especially not in their own homes!
It seems to me that programs like NetIntelligence and its ilk are designed for tech-phobic/tech-illiterate and/or lazy parents...and that frankly, is wrong. As a parent, it is your job to ensure your child is able to use tech safely, sensibly and responsibly. Far better to take the time to understand how things work, and communicate with your child than sit them in front of a computer screen and expect someone/thing else to babysit them. What a child will learn from this is any or all of the following;
a) their parents can't be bothered
b) their parents are idiots
c) that with a bit of savvy, they can get around any security measures their parents put in place
d) getting one over on their parents and 'the system' is immensely satisfying....so what can they do next?
I freely admit that most of the things I've learned to do/taught myself have been the result of someone or something either telling me I couldn't/wasn't allowed, or them actively trying to prevent me from doing so. I don't consider myself to be particularly contrary but I've always had an inquisitive mind, and I've always wanted to know 'why not?' when told no. I do not believe that children today are any different...in fact, I'm 47 and I'm still no different! I still want to know the reasons why I can't do something, and if I don't agree, then I will do something about it! And guess what? I'm one of the most responsible and conscientious people you'll ever meet!
Teach kids how to be trustworthy, and you'll be rewarded no end; teach them that they are not to be trusted, and you'll open up a whole world of pain.... for them as well as you.