HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Family Money

Personal Directions

The Doctor's Consultation by Dr. Iain Corness

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

Family Money: With-Profits Funds

By Leslie Wright,
Managing director of Westminster Portfolio Services (Thailand) Ltd.

Most commentators would have us believe that with-profits funds are old hat and have little place in today’s marketplace. In the vast majority of cases, they are right – but not all.

Ironically, the severe criticism aimed at with-profits vehicles has come at a time when they have actually outperformed the market. They are designed to hold back returns when the market rises in order to soften the blow when it falls. And this is precisely what they have done. While the FTSE 100 fell almost 45% in the three years to February 2003, the average with-profits fund lost around 30%. As one pension fund researcher admits: “In the past three to four years, they have delivered exactly what they are designed to.”

Falling Bonuses

But at what cost? The concept of ‘smoothing’ returns is valid but in practice, life offices have paid out more in bonuses than they can afford. Plummeting stock markets have hit reserves hard – yet life offices are still committed to maintaining bonus payouts. This double whammy has left some offices dangerously near insolvency levels. Equitable Life, Royal & SunAlliance, Britannic Assurance and NPI have all closed their with-profits funds to new business. More are bound to follow.

This is the single biggest problem facing with-profits funds. In practice, actuaries making asset allocation decisions are more concerned with solvency than with maximising returns. They cannot risk increasing liabilities so they have been forced to sell equities and buy lower-risk investments, such as bonds. But the long-term returns on these instruments will not be as strong as equities. So, even if a life office believes that now is the right time to invest in shares, it cannot afford to do so. Investment policy is not, then, being driven by the needs of investors.

Small differences in asset allocation can have a huge impact on investment returns over the long term. For example, one analyst firm has estimated that ฃ10,000 invested in Scottish Equitable’s Growth fund could be worth ฃ33,000 in 20 years’ time. The same amount invested with Equitable Life could be worth less than ฃ23,000. The bottom line is that the vast majority of with-profits funds will not offer attractive returns in the long run.

To make matters worse, much of the gains made by life offices in the coming years will be used to rebuild reserves. In most cases, payouts to investors in the form of annual bonuses will continue to fall even if markets continue to rally. In some cases, bonuses will be cut to zero. If equity markets start to fall again, many life offices may be pushed into insolvency – and some offices have very little to play with (although negative free assets do not mean the life office is bust, merely that it is in poor financial health and would be in serious trouble were it not for a parent company).

These are the most important reasons why you should not invest in most with-profits funds.

Lack of Transparency

But there are others. There is virtually no way of knowing exactly where your money is being invested. Nor is there any way of knowing exactly how the underlying fund has performed. Costs are also unclear – you never quite know what the charges and commissions are. This may have been acceptable 20 years ago, when there were few alternatives, but not today when there is a wide choice of transparent products on the market. You can, for example, invest in an equity income, balanced or cautious managed fund and know precisely what charges you are paying, what the individual underlying holdings are, and what the performance has been.

For all these reasons, one large onshore IFA stopped promoting with-profits funds a year ago and has no intention of changing its stance in the near future. Another well-known adviser, Bestinvest, does not sell them either, while another is urging investors seriously to consider cashing in their funds, even if there are “quite severe penalties” in the form of market value adjusters (MVAs).

Smoothed Returns

But others are less damning. The MD of one discount broker house admits that 75% of with-profits funds are “an embarrassing legacy from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and need to be routed out”. Indeed, he believes three-quarters of funds will disappear in the next five years due to consolidation in the sector. But he does argue that a few life offices can still outperform over the long run – even taking into account charges, commissions and MVAs.

Another adviser also believes with-profits have a future: “They are still doing what they were designed to do and there really is no viable alternative.” While there are products that invest in the same asset classes, none are specifically aimed at ‘smoothing’ returns in quite the same way as with-profits. But, again, he believes there are very few offices running quality funds. Overall financial strength and commitment to the product are the two most important criteria, he argues, and only Legal & General, Norwich Union, Prudential and Standard Life make the grade. Only these offices, he says, have the necessary reserves and equity exposure to produce competitive returns.

Like most packaged products, with-profits funds offers nothing more than a well-diversified portfolio of equities, bonds, cash and property. If creating your own sounds like too much hassle, look at balanced or cautious managed funds, or distribution bonds. Only if a steady income is important to you and you like the idea of ‘smoothed’ returns, should you consider a with-profits fund.

Look for a good asset mix – around 50% in equities – and healthy reserves (but don’t trust life offices’ own free asset ratio figures). Then go for a transparent fund where charges and holdings are clearly laid out. Unfortunately, you may have to wait a while before a selection of such products is available.

Personal Directions: Winning versus Winners

By Christina Dodd,
founder and managing director of Asia Training Associates

This week I’d like to share some thoughts on the subject of “winning”. Author and well-known speaker Shiv Khera has put interesting ideas to paper in his book “You Can Win” and talks about “Winning versus Winners”. I hope you find his views enlightening.

“What is the difference between winning and being a winner? Winning is an event. Being a winner is a spirit. Winners have kept winning in perspective based on their value system. Two inspirational winners:

1. Olympics is a lifetime event. Lawrence Lemieux stopped racing in a yacht race to help a fellow competitor who was in trouble. The whole world was watching. His priority of safety for other people’s lives was greater than his desire to win. Even though he did not win the race, he was a winner. He was honored by kings and queens all over the world because he kept the spirit of the Olympics alive.

2. I heard the story about Reuben Gonzales when he was in the final match of the racquetball tournament. This was an important event and he was playing for the world title. In the final game at match point, Gonzales played a super shot to save point. The referee and the linesman both confirmed that the shot was good and he was declared the winner.

But Gonzales, after a little pause and hesitation, turned back to shake his opponent’s hand and said, “The shot was faulty.” As a result, he lost the serve and eventually, lost the match.

Everyone was stunned. Who could imagine that a player with everything officially in his favor, with winning in his pocket, would disqualify himself and lose. When asked why he did it, Gonzales replied, “It was the only thing to do in order to maintain my integrity.” He lost the match, yet he was a winner.

Winning is an event; being a winner is a spirit

Three people ran a marathon besides hundreds of others. The medal was won by a fourth person. But does that mean that these three people were losers? Not at all. They all went into the race with different objectives. The first one went in to test his endurance and he did and came out better than his expectations. The second wanted to improve on his previous performance, and he did. The third person had never run a marathon in his life. His objective was to complete the race and reach the finish line, and he did. What does this tell us? All three with different objectives met them and they were all winners, regardless of who won the medal.

As Mark Twain said, it is better to deserve an honor and not have it than to have it and not deserve it. Because dignity is not in possessing but in deserving.

If winning is the only objective, a person may miss out on the internal rewards that come with winning. More important than winning is winning with honor and deserving to have won. It is better to lose honorably than to succeed with dishonesty. Losing honorably may signify lack of preparation but dishonest winning signifies lack of character.

The real test of a person’s character is what he would or would not do if he knew he would never be found out. It is not worth compromising one’s integrity and taking shortcuts to win. You may win a trophy but knowing the truth you can never be a happy person. More important than winning a trophy is being a good human being.

Winners live and work every day as if it were the last day. Because one of these days it is going to be the last and we don’t know which one it is going to be. When they leave, they leave as winners.

“There are some defeats more triumphant than victories.” - Michel De Montaigne.

Winners are

Remember, winners are gracious. They never brag about themselves, they respect and appreciate their team members and opponents.

Many people know how to be successful. Very few know how to handle success. And there is always something about success that displeases some other people. The reality is that life is a competition and we have to compete. In fact, competition makes competitive people grow. The objective is to win, no question - but to win fairly, squarely, decently and by the rules.

Winners leave a legacy

Great people leave something behind. Winners recognize that no one can make it alone. Even though champions get the medals, they realize that there are many people behind their success, without whom it would not have been possible. Their teachers, parents, coaches, fans and mentors. One can never fully repay those who have helped winners. The only way to show a little gratitude is by helping those who are following, and the following poem, by Will Allen Dromgoole, says it all.

The Bridge Builder

An old man, going a lone highway,

Came, at the evening, cold and gray,

To a chasm, vast, and deep, and wide,

Through which was flowing a sullen tide.

The old man crossed in the twilight dim;

The sullen stream had no fears for him;

But he turned, when safe on the other side,

And built a bridge to span the tide.

“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim, near,

“You are wasting strength with building here;

Your journey will end with the ending day;

You never again must pass this way;

You have crossed the chasm, deep and wide -

Why build you the bridge at the eventide?”

The builder lifted his old gray head:

“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,

“There followeth after me today

A youth, whose feet must pass this way.

This chasm, that has been naught to me,

To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.

He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;

Good friend, I am building the bridge for him.”

For more information on our programs and how we may be able to address your training needs please contact me at [email protected] or visit our website. Until next time ... have a great week!

The Doctor's Consultation: White sticks and Labradors

by Dr. Iain Corness

As we get older (sorry, that should have read “as YOU get older” as I have decided to stay the same age as I am for a while yet), one of the problems we get is failing eyesight. This is more than just the arms not being long enough, but you are likely to end up needing glasses for ordinary living as well. I have to admit to wearing contact lenses to see where I am going, and reading glasses as well to read the newspaper.

There are also those people who have needed glasses all their lives, who have opted for contact lenses, rather than Lasik treatment to re-shape the eyeball. For all of us - this week’s contribution is for you.

The first thing to remember is that we were not designed to wear contact lenses. Stuffing bits of plastic between your cornea (the front of the eyeball) and the eyelid is decidedly not physiological. The potential for irritation of the sensitive cornea or the inside of the eyelid is there all the time. Just remember what the last foreign body felt like in your eye. Felt the size of a house brick and in actual fact it was only a very, very small speck!

Continuous irritation leads to tissue reactions that can range from small lumps on the inside of the eyelid to ulcers on the cornea. And all of these conditions are potentially very dangerous. Yes, you can become blind through wearing contact lenses.

The first factor is the length of time you wear the lenses. I know that some are being touted as ones you can leave in for days at a time - but I am sure that I would not. No matter how thin and reputedly permeable, contact lenses starve the cornea and predispose to ulcer formation. Take my tip and take the lenses out every night.

After removal, store the lenses in those natty little screw cap holders that the lens solution people give you with the bottle of goop. However, the natty little holders need to be clean. When was the last time you actually cleaned and washed yours? Once a week, give the holders a good scrub and allow to air dry.

So what solution should you use to store the lenses in overnight? Honestly, it’s up to you. Having a Scottish heritage, I go for the cheapest of the ‘good’ brands, but I do know of people who use ‘normal’ saline (which is dirt cheap) and have no problems. The advertising bumff about stopping protein build-up and all is hype in my book.

Certainly, it is important to get rid of protein deposits on the contact lens, but you do this with gentle rubbing of the lens with the finger. With my soft lenses I generally have some solution in the palm of one hand and drop the lens into it and then rub for a few seconds, then turn the lens inside out and rub again. After that I turn it right way up, rinse the lens with solution and have a go at stabbing the floppy thing onto my eyeball.

I also keep a bottle of contact lens lubricant in my drawer at work, and one on the bathroom shelf at home. The eye specialists also recommend that you have some non-preserved artificial tears to use.

That’s about it. “See” you next week!

Agony Column

Dear Hillary,
The wife and I moved here only last year, and I’m in a bit of trouble. You see, I’ve been studying Thai language and I like to practice at all possible opportunities. Last weekend we took a drive out to the country. On the way back, we spotted a lovely restaurant and decided to give it a try. I struck up a little conversation with the dolly who took us to our table, and there the trouble started. I asked for the restaurant’s business card and the lady in question brought the card and knelt down beside me. She chatted in English and patted my arm and leg. She told me about all of her relatives and friends who are married to farangs. She told me she was always at the restaurant. I thought she was quite friendly although she never spoke at all to the wife. The wife was furious when we left and I was quite taken aback. The wife thinks the lady was coming on to me, especially when she noted that the lady gave me her personal card and wrote her mobile number on the back of it. Tell me, Hillary, do you think she was coming on to me? In front of the wife?
Confused in Chiang Mai

Dear Confused in Chiang Mai,
Be confused no longer, my unbelievably naive Petal. Of course she was coming on to you! If the young lady was looking at promoting the restaurant she would have given you the restaurant’s card and its telephone number, surely! You don’t write your personal mobile number on your own personal business card if you don’t want the recipient of the card to ring, now do you! Why was the young lady chatting to you in English, when you say you like to practice your Thai at all possible opportunities? The fact that her relatives and friends have married foreigners doesn’t have any bearing on the restaurant or its food, does it? Think of it from your wife’s point of view (by the way, please refer to your spouse as “my wife” and not “the wife”), she is left out of the conversation while you get your leg felt by a “dolly” (your word) who gives you her phone number. How would you feel if some hunky Thai guy knelt down beside your wife, fondling her leg and giving her his business card, while totally ignoring you? Thais are noted for their friendliness - to everyone, not just husbands who are prepared to ignore their wives as well.
Dear Hillary,
My girl’s young brother is staying in our village with another of her relatives for a few weeks. She has started to bring him over for dinner and helps him with his homework afterwards and then they go and watch the Thai TV soapies, which means that I am totally left out and can’t watch the BBC channel. Since it is my house, surely I should have some say in this matter? What should I do about this situation?

Dear Noel (with his nose out of joint),
I was tempted to tell you to stop being such a wimp and go and talk to your lady and let her know that you are feeling left out, but after re-reading your letter, I think it would be much better if you just buy another TV and sit in the spare room watching the BBC. Ask for pizzas, as they can slide these under the door without having to disturb you while watching the news.
Dear Hillary,
Is it coincidence, or just plain stupidity, but almost all the letters you seem to get come from farang males in trouble with their Thai ladies relates to the fact that their ‘lady’ is one they have picked up in a bar. Surely everyone has heard that saying, “you can take a girl out of the bar, but you can’t take the bar out of the girl.” I have been married to my Thai wife for four years now and there has never been a “bad moment” in all that time. She is beautiful, intelligent (a qualified accountant) and caring. I do not have to change the locks on my doors or worry that my suits will be cut up. She does not need cables of gold to hold her in the marriage, or motorcycles, or houses. There is no family buffalo on its last legs, and we are not over-run with relatives from Nakorn Nowhere who want to stay. We have a partnership and mutual trust. Why don’t some of these men look for the “good” girls?
No Bars For Me

Dear No Bars For Me,
There may be lots of reasons. One may be that the number of “good” girls is much smaller than the demand, so the single males end up with the “good-time” girls, of which there is a more than adequate supply. Look after your wonderful wife and buy her plenty of chocolates (you can send the champagne to me) and continue to build on your mutual trust. Bar scene farangs are generally not looking past the end of their noses - it is some other part of the anatomy.

Camera Class: Shooting a calendar in Thailand

A new business opportunity?

by Harry Flashman

Many moons ago I wrote about the trials and tribulations of shooting a commercial calendar. Not one of these calendars you can have done by the photoprocessor, where they superimpose a year’s worth of dates on a photo of your grandchild, but a glossy 12 month, 12 image calendar.

My own particular calendars were examples of those glossy numbers to be hung on the wall. They were commercial calendars for a concrete company and involved months of work in planning, getting permission for every proposed image, shooting prospective models and getting the OK from the Board of Directors, gathering props and painting items in the required gaudy pink colour of the company. It was also an expensive exercise. I’ll correct that - it was a very expensive exercise!

However, Howard Greene popped in the other day with his latest calendar, shot in Pattaya and printed in Bangkok. It is a glossy 12 page number and we spoke on the relative merits of shooting calendars in this country as opposed to similar projects overseas.

Taking models first - in the US or the UK/EU, you are looking at model fees that can run into thousands of dollars and you require signed model release forms as well. Since this particular calendar of Howard’s was done using the staff of the bar, it was all considered to be part of the job!

There were some other relative freedoms here that could not be duplicated overseas, other than at frightening costs. One shot featured an elephant. Try renting one of those overseas for the equivalent of 2,500 baht!

The roller-coaster ride was another example. No release was needed from the venue or arrangements be made for a closed set. In actuality it cost four tickets on the ride - that was all.

Looking critically at Howard Greene’s images, I find little to be critical of. He has used long lenses for most of the photographs to produce a suitably vague background. The roller-coaster shot is a typical example where by shooting into the sky, there is nothing in the background to detract from the powerful image. The girls in the pool and on the beaches are similar, with uncluttered backgrounds.

However, before you glue your 200 mm lens on your camera and rush down to the beach with a bevy of beauties, remember that any commercial calendar shoot requires the photographer to (in Howard’s words) “execute the vision of the client, giving the images consumer appeal.” And by “execute” he means “carry out” not “kill”.

Of course, if you, the photographer, want to go it alone (and pick up the cost of printing) then the only person you have to satisfy is yourself. And hope you’ve judged the market correctly and you can cover your costs. Even a little profit, perhaps? However, look at the fun you can have practicing.

A small thing, but something I liked about this calendar, was the stout spiral spine and hanging tab. The printing was also first class, with a clear lacquer final finish. These calendars have to last for 12 complete months, hanging on their nails in the hallway or wherever. All in all, a most professional production and a credit to all concerned, including the young ladies who featured. Even the service staff, who had such happy grins it is difficult not to burst into smiles yourself.

We take for granted just how inexpensive life can be in Thailand, and calendar production is just one of these. I believe there is an opportunity for some photographic entrepreneurs to begin marketing Thai calendar production for overseas clients. There are incredible cost savings for overseas companies to pursue. As for me, I’m not greedy - 5% will do for bringing it to your notice!

If you would like one of these calendars then you can order it from the web through or you can purchase one directly from FLB Entertainment Ltd., on Pattaya’s Walking Street, or through selected Bookazine outlets. RRP is under 400 baht.

Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums

Q. Dear Dr Byte,

I have an old Pentium MMX 200 computer and I have been using PCyllin anti-virus for several years. So far, apart from one scare two years ago, I have had a virus free internet experience. You can’t say the same for some of my friends who seem to catch viruses every time they go online.

We (my friends and family) have been discussing whether its time to update our anti-virus applications and I was wondering what you would advise. For my own part, I have to say that the old adage, don’t fix it if it’s not broke sounds like a good starting point.

Should I drop PCyllin and upgrade to Norton or McAfee?
Doi Saeket

A. To update your anti-virus or not to update. That is the question!

How do software companies entice you to upgrade to the latest versions of their software? Usually, they hope the new version contains enough enhancements to make you interested enough that you make the leap. However, as we’ve seen with Microsoft’s operating systems, improving software doesn’t always mean you’ll upgrade - after all, there are still several thousand people worldwide running Windows 95. For many, as long as the old software works, there is no reason to pay for an upgrade.

With anti-virus software, however, you must update your application with the latest virus signatures in order for it to be effective. That’s why this is such bad news for the thousands of you using Norton Antivirus 2000 and 2001. Norton’s maker, Symantec, is pulling the plug on not only technical support, but also virus signature updates for these older products. Oh, you didn’t know that did you?

With the release of Norton Antivirus 2003, Symantec says Norton Antivirus 2000 customers won’t be able to simply renew their subscription to the latest virus signatures, as they’ve done for the past two years. Instead, you must first pay $30 to upgrade the software.

According to the support policy spelled out on Symantec’s Web site, when you purchase any new Symantec product, you should expect to pay for 2 years of technical support and 2 to 3 years of virus updates (depending when you buy the product). After that, you must upgrade to the latest product - or go without anti-virus protection.

Dirty trick? Not so, says Symantec. They explain that it’s in your best interest to upgrade to the latest Norton product, because anti-virus software engines need to evolve as viruses and other security threats become smarter. This means that the scan engine technology available in Norton Antivirus 5.0, for example, isn’t going to stop the complex threats appearing today - and that’ll you’ll be better protected with the 2003 version.

Still, while I can see this point, there remain a few flaws with Norton’s current policy - and with the product itself. First, Norton Antivirus automatically installs as part of other products, for example Norton Internet Security and Norton SystemWorks. Customers who are comfortable running, say, SystemWorks 2001, must now upgrade to SystemWorks 2003, whose enhancements over the 2001 version are essentially cosmetic i.e., nil. In the case of Norton Internet Security, while 2001 version runs fine, NIS 2003 crashes during its boot cycle and it is difficult to uninstall without downloading a special removal tool from Symantec.

Second, I have always disliked the way the later versions of Norton and McAfee insert themselves into every aspect of a computer and even worse, hog all your essential resources such as RAM.

Which brings me to the third problem: Ever try to remove Norton Antivirus from your computer? It’s not easy. The Windows uninstall process doesn’t always remove all of Norton’s various changes to the Registry, so, as with NIS, you have to download a special Norton Antivirus removal tool from Symantec to complete the task. Symantec say that they are taking complaints about user installation and upgrade very seriously - but offer no immediate remedies or solutions.

Other anti-virus apps may also require the removal of older versions, but the process isn’t as complicated as with Norton.

Another major complaint I have about anti-virus software is the high price of update subscriptions. I do think that anti-virus updates should be free - at least for home users. Symantec say, “Doesn’t our name have value with the customer?” Norton’s name does date back to the early days of anti-virus software, and McAfee even further back.

What really doesn’t make sense is that other antivirus vendors have begun to charge even more for their subscriptions. Panda Software, for example, charge a whopping 108 dollars for 36 months to keep Panda antivirus up-to-date. In addition, upgrading from Panda Platinum 6.0 to the latest version, 7.0, will cost you $59.95. And upgrades from all versions before 6.0 cost $69.95 - the same price paid by new customers.

Another player in this field, Trend Micro, recently increased its annual support fee to $26 when it released PC-cillin 2003. The increase, however, comes with one year of free technical support and a promise to include an automatic upgrade to latest version of Trend’s PC-cillin when one is available. In light of Norton and McAfee’s fee-based technical support, $10 annual antivirus subscription, and $30 upgrade price, Trend’s $26 fee starts looking like a good deal. But don’t go yet, fortunately for you, I have been shouting the virtues of my favourite anti-virus application which I have been using for the last 7 years. And no its not Norton, McAfee or Pcyllin or Panda.

I can steer you to reputable antivirus products that do not charge for antivirus updates. After reviewing the latest releases from Norton, McAfee, Trend Micro, and Panda, I still vote Vet Anti-Virus number one in the world.

And at less than $35 for a one year license which provides unlimited updates and download new versions during the life of the license, its really very, very inexpensive and very, very underrated. (Oh and it uninstalls itself as part of an upgrade). Download a fully functioning demo from and buy a licence on line at the same site. This gets my 5 star rating.

Alternatively, look at AVG Anti-virus which has a free version. AVG is rated at stopping 95-97% of virus infections. You can download AVG from the UK developer

AVG gets my 4 star rating.

Q. Dear Dr Byte

I read somewhere that someone has developed an Anti-Virus Virus. While I am all for something that can take on the baddies, I am not sure if it’s ethical and what would happen if I let lose the anti-virus virus on my own computer?
Mae Hong Son

A. Is there an Antivirus virus on the loose?

The appearance and spread of viruses throughout the tech-enabled world is par for the course for home and corporate users. However, occasionally, a virus contains a more interesting wrinkle than being named after a tennis player or teen-punk idol. For example, James Pearce of ZDNet Australia confirmed that tech security companies are warning of a new virus designed to attack a version of the already-existing Yaha virus. Trouble is, the new virus may also crash your computer.

The [email protected] virus arrives as an attachment called “mathmagic.scr”, with the subject “Fw: Sit back and be surprised...” It attempts to attach itself to all the .exe file in the Windows and C:\Program Files\Mirc\download folders, but due to bugs in the software may crash the computer or corrupt files in these folders.

The Sahay virus also checks the computer for characteristics of the W32.Yaha family of worms, and if any are found attempts to remove them, and then displays this message: “Title: Exchange viruses? Message: Hi there.. it seems you were infected with Yaha.k.”

I think the worm was written by an idiot who sPeLlS lIkE tHiS, and goes on to say... abused my website and got me toreceive the complaints. Therefore, I have just disinfected you.Don’t worry tho.. as I didn’t wanna steal from you, I gave you this virus (Win32.HLLP.YahaSux) in return :) Greetz, Gigabyte [Metaphase VX Team]

The worm then sends itself to all contacts in Outlook’s address book and restarts the computer. Trend Micro told ZDNet Australia that in five years working in the antivirus field, they had never seen a virus attempt to delete another one. “The hacker community on the whole is a very competitive, small-knit community. It doesn’t surprise me that [the Sahay writer] has done this, he’s trying to promote his handiwork.” According to David Banes, regional manager for security company Symantec, Sahay is not the first virus designed to attack another virus, but it is the first one for quite a while. It is more usual to receive a hoax email claiming an existing, necessary file is a virus, such as the Jdbgmgr.exe hoax, which claims a file is a virus when it is really a debugger register for Java. Symantec has posted information about removing the virus on its Web site. “The idea of a virus that removes a virus has been tossed around for a while, but antivirus companies tend to frown on it,” said Banes. “Either way you’re running code on someone else’s machine without them knowing about it.”

So there you have it. Unusual - yes! A virus that does attack other viruses - yes! BUT ... the surprise payload is that it’s likely to crash your computer. So my advice, as always, is to protect yourself with the best ant-virus product you can afford and update it at least once every week. But maybe, just maybe, someone out there in Cyberland does have the germ of a good idea...!

If you have any tips that you’d like to share, or any questions about your internet or pc experience, contact me: Dr Byte, Chiangmai Mail.