Q. Can you please explain all of this talk that some computer owners may not be able to access the Internet soon? How worried should I be and what can I do?
-- Robert Staley, of O'Fallon
A. In a nutshell, you probably need not be too concerned -- especially if you give your machine a quick, easy check. But first let me try to explain the problem without getting too wonky:
Last November, the FBI ended a two-year investigation by arresting a group of computer hackers who were spreading a piece of malicious software called the DNSChanger Trojan.
DNS stands for Domain Name Server. For simplicity sake, let's say you use AOL as your Internet service provider (ISP) and you want to shop at Amazon.com. To access Amazon, the AOL DNS turns "www.amazon.com" into its real Internet Protocol (IP) address, which is a long string of numbers you'd never remember. This allows you to access Amazon.
But if your computer is infected, the DNSChanger malware would change your computer's DNS settings and route you through hacker-controlled DNS servers. These, in turn, will lead you to websites filled with spam and viruses or show malicious ads on sites instead of legitimate ones.
The trouble was that the FBI could not just shut down the criminal servers or else infected computers would have lost access to the Internet immediately. So, they temporarily replaced them with clean servers that are now scheduled to be turned off at midnight Monday.
It was hoped that by now owners of infected computers would have found and fixed the problem. If you'd like to discover whether you're harboring the malware, try logging onto http://dns-ok.us or www.dcwg.org and doing a quick check.
I've done so, and my computers apparently are clean -- as are the vast majority. Only an estimated 500,000 personal computers were infected, a small fraction of machines in use.
Marching on: As expected, I received a raft of thanks and warm memories from people who lived through the glory days of the area's drum and bugle corps.
Laurie Wobbe, of Smithton, wrote of how she recently gave her aunt -- Marilou Reiff, of Belleville -- an extra-special 75th birthday by inviting Reiff's fellow Bellettes to a party.
"Almost all of them attended," Wobbe wrote. "I must say, this group of women were all very close and were all very enthusiastic about their drum and bugle days."
Anne Waller, of Belleville, gently chastised me for being unaware of a small corps at Landsdowne Junior High School in East St. Louis, circa 1941-42.
"We wore navy uniforms with orange tams and scarves," she wrote. "I played the drums. I can still play a mean 'street beat' -- and I'm 84 years old!"
And Dennis Luessenheide, of Maryville, didn't want anyone to forget the Okawville Explorer Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps with its green uniforms and white trimmings which marched proudly from the '50s to the mid-'60s when the founders aged out of the group. He, like several others, also praised the Ainad Shrine's adult corps from East St. Louis.
Prayers needed: To anyone who knew them or enjoyed their delicious food, please keep Cathy Pees-Armstrong and her family in your thoughts.
Just a couple of months ago, I enjoyed a happy reunion with my grade-school friend as I did research for a couple of columns about her family's popular Pees Fish Stand (and Welding Service) on South 13th Street in Belleville.
But early this week she wrote to tell me that her 29-year-old daughter, Carrie Ann Breding, drowned late last month during a family vacation on the Gulf of Mexico near Foley, Ala.
She apparently was trying to save two of her children after they were pulled away by a strong rip current. The children were rescued safely, and her husband, Mark, pulled her from the water, but she died later at a nearby hospital. The Quitman, Texas, couple were married just last Sept. 1.
Funeral services were held Thursday at Lowe Funeral Home in Quitman. Memorials can be made to a savings fund for her daughter, Carrie E. Hill, in care of Regions Bank.
Small oops: Before anyone calls, it dawned on me that in listing former downtown Belleville stores in my recent column about Grant's, I mistakenly wrote Woolworth's when I meant J.J. Newberry at 15 E. Main St.
Name the three TV comedies that left the airwaves while they were still No. 1 in the ratings.
Answer to Wednesday's trivia: You can run, but you apparently cannot hide from mosquitoes. According to the American Mosquito Control Association, salt-marsh mosquitoes will migrate up to 40 miles for a meal -- this despite the fact that they weigh only 2.5 milligrams and fly at an estimated top speed of 1.5 mph.
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or firstname.lastname@example.org