Monthly Archives: May 2009

How to use a Blackberry Smartphone with a cheap “Pay As You Go” mobile phone plan…

Rick Robinette gives you the 411 on getting the best from your Blackberry Smartphone in these uncertain economic times.

The object of the this story is to demonstrate how I maximized the usage  of a Blackberry Smartphone using one of the cheapest mobile phone plans out there. For the sake of this article, the model phone that I used for this project was the Blackberry Curve 8320 Smartphone.

If you do not know what a Blackberry is, I encourage to visit the Blackberry website [ CLICK HERE ] .

Blackberry Smartphone

When it comes to mobile (cell) phones I cannot see myself conversing for a 1000 minutes (16.66 hours) a month. That is two workdays to me or time that I can allocate to other things where I can see results.

Please do not get me wrong, a mobile phone is very much needed in circumstances where your business or livelihood is dependent on quick communications. The plan which I currently use is a “pay as you go” plan (with T-Mobile). I have learned to discipline myself with the usage; PLUS I do not give my number out or use it for lengthy conversation.

I have always been fascinated with PDA’s, have owned quite a few, and was currently looking for something that would provide PDA capabilities, as well as, mobile phone capabilities. I did not want to pay a lot or get trapped into a lengthy service contract with a mobile phone provider just to own a computer in my pocket.

During a recent visit to the local mall I entered into my usual question and answer session with the sales rep at one of the T-Mobile kiosks.  I have done this in the past at other locations in an effort to educate myself about mobile phones.

One of my primary questions has been,  “What phones will my T-Mobile “pay-as-you-go” SIM card work in?”. You would be surprised at the answers I have received. I have always been told I would have to purchase another phone plan, if I wanted a Blackberry, etc…

Ultimately I always leave very confused about mobile phones. In this case, the sales rep proceeded to inform me that my SIM card in my cheapie phone would function in any of the phones they had. The sales rep proceeded to show me several phones including the Blackberry (all with heavy price tags if I were to buy the phone straight out).

As my “gadget luck” would have it, I was preparing to leave and the sales rep proceeds to tell me that he had an used Blackberry Curve 8320 for sale, minus the software for the phone.

Long story short, I get what I think is a good deal on this phone…  I buy the phone and with my cheap “pay as you go” plan, I challenge myself (as a project) to find workarounds to getting data to and from the Blackberry without the need to purchase a high priced data plan.

Reflected below is highlights of how my project turned out…  Some of the information alone may be helpful to other Blackberry owners and in some cases, depending on the phone (and provider), may not work at all. Some of the information reflected may be common information to mobile phone power users and may make me appear as if I don’t have a clue about mobile phones…

Well I don’t, but I am learning!  All I can tell you is, that I took a cheap phone plan (pay-as-you-go) and an expensive smartphone and customized it for my personal needs.

SIM Card

SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) is the card located in your phone that is a module that identifies to the mobile phone provider, who you are. It can also serve as storage media for your contacts, etc… The module can usually be removed and swapped to other phones (with the same provider).  In my case the SIM card worked with no problems and all my contacts were transferred to the Blackberry.  I now have voice communications with the Blackberry using my “pay as you go” plan.

Coverage

My phone coverage improved noticeably.  Locations where I could not get service, I now have service.  Proves to me that some mobile phones are better in transmission and reception than others.

Blackberry Desktop Manager Software

Since there was no software with the smartphone to manage the phone from my computer, I had to go find the software on the internet. I easily located and downloaded the software from “Blackberry” and installed it on my PC .

The Desktop Manager Software is an integral piece that you need to keep your phone software up to date; AND to provide file management, software management, and backup capabilities.

The installation was also bundled with a Roxio package to manage and convert audio, video and photo files.  After learning the Desktop Manager Software, I knew at that point this was my gateway for installing third party software onto Blackberry.

Calendar, Contact, and Task Management

In order to take full advantage of the calendar, contact and task management portion of the phone, I needed some type of syncing capabilities.

The Desktop Manager Software provides syncing capability to Microsoft Outlook and to Yahoo.  I exclusively configured my Yahoo internet mail account to manage my contacts, calendar, notes and tasks on my Blackberry.

When I connect my Blackberry to my computer, run the Desktop Manager Software, it automatically syncs with my Yahoo account on the internet. This also gives me the ability to pull up my information from any PC connected to the internet.

Wi-Fi

The Blackberry Curve 8320 has wi-fi (wireless) capability.  I configured the Blackberry to connect to the wireless router in my home, which provided me with (at first) limited access to the internet.  You will see below the workaround I utilized to gain full access.

Internet Browser

The browser on this particular phone was very, very limited (proprietary to T-Mobile) and did not provide complete internet access via my wireless access point. I initially did not think this was possible without a data plan, but after some careful thinking, I knew there had to be some way that I could bridge that gap.

I downloaded and installed Opera-Mini which is browser software designed for mobile phones. I now have full access to the internet via my wireless router or at any Wi-Fi access point that will let me in.  (Note: Opera-Mini is an awesome browser for this purpose).

MicroSD Card (with PC Adapter)

RadioShack had an 8 gig MicroSD memory card on sale ($20), which I installed into the Blackberry…  I now have storage capability; plus when  connecting the Blackberry to my computer it is recognized as a mass storage device.

I can now transport my files, portable apps, etc… This particular phone model has a camera (w/photo viewer), video camera (with video player) and voice recorder (w/audio player) built in.

With the added storage I successfully converted a full length movie to play on the Blackberry; added MP3 music files, photos, documents, etc…

Software

Now that I have learned to install software onto the Blackberry, I am currently exploring the internet for “freeware” software for the Blackberry.  Several sources that I have located are:

Blackberry Freeware

Blackberryfreaks.com

Blackberry Freeware Directory

In closing, I have been quite pleased with the outcome of this project and the Blackberry Curve Smartphone.  I welcome any comments or suggestions.

This is a guest post by Rick Robinette, who brings a background as a security/police officer professional, and as an information technology specialist to the Blogging world.

Why not pay a visit to Rick’s site at What’s On My PC.

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Filed under BlackBerry, Interconnectivity, Mobile Applications

PC-BSD – Best Unix for Beginners?

Interested in an alternate operating system? Mark Schneider has some great advice on PC – BSD.

I recently downloaded and installed the latest versions of PC-BSD and I have to say I’m extremely impressed.

The install went fast (18 minutes), and it was extremely simple and straight forward. I downloaded the 7.02 version using the DVD option. Downloading using http went fairly quickly – I tried to use bit-torrent and there were simply not enough seeders to make it reasonable.

pcbsd_1.3_desktop_antik

During the install you get the option of adding various additional components already on the DVD including FireFox 3.0, Thunderbird, and Open Office 3.0. Based on FreeBSD version 7.0 PC-BSD is stable and secure, the GUI is the new KDE 4.1.2 and I really enjoy it. Installing new apps is far easier and straight forward than Linux in my opinion, and I’m comparing it side by side with Kubuntu 8.10 which also uses the new version of KDE.

The secret to improving usability in PC-BSD is the PBI or Push button Installer or PC-BSD Installer. The .pbi extension has all the files needed to install the applications by simply double clicking the file; this is essentially the same as a setup.exe file in Windows or the .DMG file in OSX.

The pbi applications can be found at http://pbidir.com/ where a great variety of programs can be had. For more hard core Unix geeks the FreeBSD Ports are also available. FreeBSD Ports are similar to the apt-get found in Linux systems and any FreeBSD Port can be downloaded with all their packages and dependencies to install them in PC-BSD. But for beginners everything you’ll need not on the install DVD, will be found at pbi.dir.com site.

secondlife1

(Second Life running on PC-BSD)

The default browser in KDE is Konqueror which is what the Safari browser was originally based on – it’s a very fast browser but I vastly prefer FireFox. FireFox on PC-BSD came with all the plug-ins installed to play YouTube video’s and to render most web pages as they were meant to be seen.

PC-BSD seems like the perfect OS for a Netbook. It’s lightweight and simple, and has great applications like the Flock browser available, which is perfect for social networking sites and cloud based email. Unfortunately, a Netbook isn’t in the budget right now but I’d love to hear from anyone who’s installed it on one.

I’ve tried at least a dozen different Linux distros over the past few years and although they all worked fine, I really feel PC-BSD has surpassed them in ease of use for the beginner.

There were a few issues though. Although it runs flawlessly on my desktop, PC-BSD did have a few problems on my Thinkpad R60. The ATI video card isn’t supported for 3D graphics and the proprietary driver available on Linux builds doesn’t work. It also had an issue with my Wi-Fi card, although it would connect it never showed better than a 25% signal despite being in the same room as the router.

The signal would also occasionally drop out only to reappear shortly afterward. So its worth looking through their support page and checking to see if your hardware is supported.

If you’re trying it on a laptop with network cards not supported, I’d hold off. Its main feature is simplicity, but that will go away quickly if your hardware has known issues – in that case Ubuntu, or Kubuntu, might be a better choice.

Despite the few glitches I still recommend PC-BSD. It’s well worth a try especially if you’re the sort of person who likes to try new Linux builds, or you are looking for a secure and stable operating system to put on your machine without shelling out for Windows.

Download at: PC-BSD.org

This is a guest post by Mark Schneider of the Techwalker Blog, who brings a background as a high level super user, to the blogging world.

Why not pay a visit to Mark’s site today.

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Filed under Alternatives to Windows, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Operating Systems, Software

Knockout Malware With SUPERAntiSpyware Free Edition

stolen-laptop Given the increasing number of Trojans, Spyware, Virus’, Phishing Scams, Identity Theft Scams, and other threats we now face, there is no one anti-malware tool that is likely to identify and remove all of this rogue malware that infests the cyber world.

So to ensure maximum safety, it’s important to have layered defenses in the ongoing fight against system infection.

The free edition of SUPERAntiSpyware is an excellent choice, as a secondary line of defense in this battle. This free version of the award winning program, with its easy to employ interface, is used by millions of people worldwide to protect their computers.

SuperAntispyware 1

While SUPERAntiSpyware is well known for its high malware detection rate, it has not in the six months I have been testing it, discovered anything which the other anti-spyware programs, that I use have not found. This speaks to the high quality of many competing anti-malware applications, and not to any short comings in SUPERAntiSpyware.

A simple, intuitive, and easy to use interface makes SUPERAntiSpyware straightforward to setup, customize and run, for both less experienced and expert users alike.

One extra feature in this anti-malware product caught my attention however; a repair function which allows the user to recover settings frequently wrecked by malware, and which are often not recoverable despite removal of the malware process. These settings include Internet connections, lost desktops, the ability to edit the registry and frustratingly, access to the task manager.

SuperAntispyware 2

Since SUPERAntiSpyware does not provide real time protection against infection, like many free versions of anti-malware programs, I would not recommend then, that you use this free version of SUPERAntiSpyware as a stand alone security application since it simply will not offer you adequate protection. Instead, use it only as an on-demand scanner.

Despite this real-time protection shortcoming in the free version, SUPERAntiSpyware deserves its reputation as a first class security application, and it’s definitely worth considering adding to your security toolbox as a secondary line of defense.

As a full fledged security application, with all of its features unlocked; real-time protection, scheduled scanning, and scheduled updating, SUPERAntiSpyware is very well priced at $29.95 US.

SuperAntispyware 3

Fast facts:

High malware detection rate

Small footprint and low resource usage

Easy to setup, customize and run

Custom scanning of hard drives, removable drives, memory, registry, and more

Detects and removes spyware, adware, malware, Trojans, dialers, worms, keyloggers, rootkits and hijackers

Free for personal use

Prevents potentially harmful software from installing or re-installing (paid version only)

Examines over 50 critical system points on start up and shut down (paid version only)

System Requirements: Windows 98, 98SE, ME, 2000, XP, Vista or Windows 2003

Download at: Download.com

Alternative free anti-malware applications reviewed, and downloadable, on this site:

Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware

Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware is an excellent choice, as a secondary line of defense. The free version of this speed demon (it’s faster at scanning than any anti-malware program I’ve tested in the last 2 years), with its easy to employ interface, is used by millions of people worldwide to protect their computers.

Spyware Doctor Starter Edition

Spyware Doctor Starter Edition from PC Tools is an excellent choice, as a secondary line of defense. This free version of the award winning program, with its easy to use interface, is used by millions of people worldwide to protect their computers; it’s reported there are a million+ additional downloads every week. Be aware however, there is no real-time protection offered with this version and this is the reason I recommend this application as a secondary scanner only.

Spyware Terminator

Having tested virtually all of the major anti-spyware applications over the past year or more, I’ve settled, for now, on Spyware Terminator primarily due to its strong real-time protection against spyware, adware, Trojans, key-loggers, home page hijackers and other malware threats. Spyware Terminator excels in strong active protection against know and unknown threats. If anything, I find it perhaps a little overly aggressive. On the other hand, better this than the alternative.

AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition

AVG Anti-Virus Free now incorporates protection against spyware through a new combined anti-virus and anti-spyware engine as well as a “safe-searching component” which has been incorporated into the new AVG Internet Security Toolbar. This program scans files on access, on demand, and on schedule and scans email incoming and outgoing. I recently added this application to my Windows 7 (beta) machine, and to this point it has performed flawlessly.

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Don't Get Hacked, Free Security Programs, Freeware, Software, Spyware - Adware Protection, System File Protection, System Security, Windows Tips and Tools

Remove Privacy Center – Help and Solutions

With a little luck, some hard work on your part and using the recommended removal tools, you can stomp on Privacy Center, aka PrivacyCenter, rogue software.

Unfortunately, Privacy Center can be installed on a computer system without any action on the part of the user. Delivery methods used by this parasite include dropping a Trojan, disguised as a video codec. It can also be downloaded voluntarily, from rogue security software websites, or from “adult” websites.

Privacy Center 1

Once installed, this parasite can impact a computer in a number of ways including changing Internet browser settings, connecting to the internet, delivering adware, disguising itself to remain hidden from the user, and running as a background process.

The objective of Privacy Center, which is the objective of all Rogue Security Software, is to convince the victim to pay for the “full” version of the application in order to remove what are, in fact, false positives that this program is designed to display on the infected computer in various ways, including fake scan results, pop-ups and system tray notifications.

Privacy Center 2

Generally, reputable anti-spyware software is capable of detecting rogue software if it attempts to install, or on a malware scan. But this is not always the case. Anti-malware programs that rely on a definition database can be behind the curve in recognizing the newest threats.

A good partial solution to this problem is to ensure you have installed, and are running, an anti-malware application such as ThreatFire, free from PC Tools. This type of program operates using heuristics, or behavioral analysis to identify newer threats.

Rogue Security Software unfortunately, is usually very sophisticated and can write itself into multiple parts of the operating system, and in many cases, it can hide its files, registry entries, running process and services, making the infection difficult to find, and extremely difficult to remove.

If you are a victim of Privacy Center, or other Rogue Security Software, the following removal solutions will be very useful.

Removal Solutions:

Malwarebytes, a very reliable anti-malware company, has created a free application to help keep you safe and secure. RogueRemover will safely remove a number of rogue security applications.

You will also have the option of downloading the free version of Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware, (I recommend that you do so), a highly rated anti-malware application which is capable of removing many newer rogue applications.

411-Spyware.com is an invaluable asset in the battle against rogue software. This site contains tools and instructions for removing most rogue software. If you have an interest in Internet related security issues, I recommend that you bookmark this site.

Bleeping Computer is a web site where help is available for many computer related problems, including the removal of rogue software.

SmitFraudFix, available for download at Geekstogo is a free tool that is continuously updated to assist victims of rogue security applications including the removal of Antispyware 3000.

Please note: A high degree of computer operating system knowledge is a prerequisite to the successful removal of Rogue Security Software. If you lack this experience, it would be preferable that you enlist the aid of a computer savvy friend, or a professional.

Despite using any, or all, of the recommended tools, you may find that Rogue software is still resident on your system. This is possible due to the number of variations involved with this type of malware. In such a case, reformatting of the Hard Drive and a clean installation of the operating system may be the only alternative.

What can you do to ensure you are protected, or to reduce the chances you will become a victim?

The following are actions (familiar to regular readers of this site), that you can take to protect your computer system:

When surfing the web – Stop. Think. Click

Don’t open unknown email attachments

Don’t run programs of unknown origin

Disable hidden filename extensions

Keep all applications (including your operating system) patched

Turn off your computer or disconnect from the network when not in use

Disable Java, JavaScript, and ActiveX if possible

Disable scripting features in email programs

Make regular backups of critical data

Make a boot disk in case your computer is damaged or compromised

Turn off file and printer sharing on your computer.

Install a personal firewall on your computer.

Install anti-virus and anti-spyware software and ensure it is configured to automatically update when you are connected to the Internet

Ensure the anti-virus software scans all email attachments

Be proactive when it comes to your computer’s security; make sure you have adequate software based protection to reduce the chances that your machine will become infected.

I recommend that you ensure that the current anti- malware applications, which you depend on to protect your system, are up to the task by reading “The 35 Best Free Applications” on this site.

If you missed “Rogue Security Software on the Rise – What You Need to Know Now!” you can read it on this site.

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Malware Advisories, Rogue Software, Software, System Security, Windows Tips and Tools

Tech Thoughts Daily Security Alerts – May 30, 2009

Panda Security launches the new Beta of Panda Global Protection 2010, its most complete security solution – Panda Security, The Cloud Security Company, has released a beta version of Panda Global Protection 2010, it’s most complete anti-malware suite for home users. This beta version is available here.

Obama Moves Cybersecurity into the White House – President Obama today unveiled a broad-ranging plan to shore up the nation’s digital infrastructure, pledging to elevate cybersecurity on the national security agenda and establish an office in the White House to coordinate efforts across the various agencies.

Microsoft Warns of DirectShow Vulnerability – Microsoft is reporting that a vulnerability in DirectShow, a framework for playing various media types, is being exploited in the wild in some versions of Windows.

Stupid way to end piracy – The file itself comes with a Winamp icon on it, so it looks like a regular mp3 file to the user. When the file is clicked it modifies some registry entries related to WinLogon ….

Panda Security’s weekly report on viruses and intruders – Real-time information and resources to stay safe from virus attacks.

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Filed under Internet Security Alerts

Tech Thoughts Daily Security Alerts – May 29, 2009

Microsoft to patch new DirectX hole – Microsoft on Thursday said it is working on a security patch for a vulnerability in its DirectX streaming media technology in Windows that could allow someone to take complete control of a computer using a maliciously crafted QuickTime file.

McAfee Airs First Episode Of Cybercrime Series – The Business of Hacking You” exposes techniques used by international cybercriminals.

IM account info found online – Crime Security firm Symantec has warned that information relating to instant-messaging accounts such as email addresses and passwords can be easily found online.

Bing search engine launched – Bing is promising to give relevant information with features including Best Match, which identifies the best result for popular queries and Instant Answers, which provides quick results in the body of the first search results page.

Tech Insight: How To Protect Your Organization From Malicious Insiders – New report offers insights on how to keep the bad apples from spoiling your company’s whole barrel of data.

90 percent of e-mail is spam, Symantec says – Spammers seem to be working a little bit harder these days, according to Symantec, which reported Tuesday that unsolicited e-mail made up 90.4 percent of messages on corporate networks last month.

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Filed under Internet Security Alerts

Computer and Internet Security – How Savvy Are You?

When you surf the Internet are you a savvy computer user? Are you aware of the dangers and pitfalls that wait for the typical unsuspecting user? How likely are you to be pounced on by the multitude of scam artists, schemers and cyber-crooks lurking in the shadows, just waiting for victims.

In any given week I speak with 100’s of typical Internet users who generally have the same behavior characteristics while surfing the Internet in that they:

Use a search engine to locate and generate information.

Despite the fact that cyber-crooks continue to be unrelenting in their chase to infect web search results, seeding malicious websites among the top results returned by these engines – the typical user I come into contact with, has little or no knowledge of current conditions and believes search engine output to be untainted, and free of potential harmful exposure to malware.

Sadly, current statistics indicate that web pages continue to be infected with malware at an ever increasing rate. Some estimates suggest that a legitimate website is infected every five seconds!

For a comprehensive article that discusses how “phishers” are currently infecting legitimate sites check out “More Than 80% Of Phishing Attacks Use Hijacked, Legitimate Websites”, on  the Dark Reading web site.

Trust the information they discover while online to be reliable and credible.

Rogue security software developers, for example, rely on the innate level of trust that typical Internet users’ have developed, to convince users’ to download this type of malicious software.

The vast majority of typical Internet users I speak with are not aware that such a class of software even exists. But it does; and regrettably, it is now widespread.

A rogue security application is an application, usually found on free download and adult websites, or it can be installed from rogue security software websites, using Trojans or manipulating Internet browser security holes.

After the installation of rogue security software the program launches fake or false malware detection warnings. Rogue security applications, and there seems to be an epidemic of them on the Internet currently, are developed to mislead uninformed computer users’ into downloading and paying for the “full” version of this bogus software, based on the false malware positives generated by the application.

Some types of rogue security software have the potential to collect private and personal information from an infected machine which could include passwords, credit card details, and other sensitive information.

Communicate with family and friends by email.

The worldwide Internet population is now estimated to be 1.08 billion users, so the ability to communicate with family and friends has increased dramatically.

Unfortunately however, cyber-crooks are well aware of the opportunities such a large number of unaware potential victims present for illicit monetary gain.

Incredible as it seems, billions (that’s right billions), of spam email messages are generated every hour through so called botnets; zombie computers controlled by cyber-criminals.

The IC³ (Internet Crime Complaint Center) recently stated that these types of attacks against Internet users are occurring with such frequency, that the situation can be called nothing short of “alarming”.

Yet, the majority of typical users, that I meet, are unaware of the very real dangers that spam emails hold for their safety, security and identity protection.

Email scams work because the cyber-crooks responsible use social engineering as the hook; in other words they exploit our curiosity. The fact is, we are all pretty curious creatures and let’s face it, who doesn’t like sensational email topics.

Sensational news alerts, for example, continue be one of the methods cyber-crooks have selected to capture users’ attention, rather than emails offering pharmaceuticals, expensive watches, or other knockoff products.

As I have pointed out in the past on this Blog, the following are actions you can take to protect your computer system, your money and your identity:

Install an Internet Browser add-on such as McAfee SiteAdvisor, which provides detailed test results on a site’s safety; protecting you from security threats including spyware, adware, spam, viruses, browser exploits, and online scams.

Don’t open unknown email attachments.

Don’t run programs of unknown origin.

Disable hidden filename extensions.

Keep all applications (including your operating system) patched.

Turn off your computer or disconnect from the network when not in use.

Disable Java, JavaScript, and ActiveX if possible.

Disable scripting features in email programs.

Make regular backups of critical data.

Make a boot disk in case your computer is damaged or compromised.

Turn off file and printer sharing on the computer.

Install a personal firewall on the computer.

Install anti-virus and anti-spyware software and ensure it is configured to automatically update when you are connected to the Internet.

Ensure the anti-virus software scans all e-mail attachments.

Be proactive when it comes to your computer’s security; make sure you have adequate software based protection to reduce the chances that your machine will become infected.

Finally, a major step you can take to in prevent yourself from becoming a victim of cyber-criminals is to overcome the instinctive response to just “click” while surfing the Internet. That instinctive response poses one of the biggest risks to your online safety and security.

Stop – Think – Click

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Filed under Browser add-ons, Don't Get Hacked, email scams, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Internet Explorer Add-ons, Internet Safety, internet scams, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Phishing, Rogue Software, Safe Surfing, Software, System Security, trojans, Viruses, Windows Tips and Tools, worms

Tech Thoughts Daily Security Alerts – May 28, 2009

The Web’s most dangerous keywords to search forWhich is the most dangerous keyword to search for using public search engines these days? It’s “screensavers” with a maximum risk of 59.1 percent, according to McAfee’s recently released report “The Web’s Most Dangerous Search Terms“.

Correcting the Rhetoric: Windows Vista Is Secure – Windows Vista has come under fire for not being as secure as some would like. But is that criticism really fair?

Adware Stalks Torrents, Social Networks – Just as malware attacks have saturated nearly every element of online content distribution, adware continues to follow suit.

Energizer Malware Keeps Going and Going – Analysis: How do you fix a machine with malware so entrenched in the OS that nothing can remove it?

ID Theft Use of Credit Cards Leaps – ID theft victims are much more likely to get hit with fraudulent charges on their credit cards or debit cards, according to a new study from the Identity Theft Resource Center.

Twitter worm warning issued - Twitter members have been advised to watch out for a scam that claims to help you get more followers.

Gumblar Virus Becoming A Major Threat – Never heard of the Gumblar virus? Nor have most people, but it’s rapidly becoming a major threat to PC users.

Do you know how security savvy you are? – The “Ask Dr. Greene” website provides users with an opportunity to take the Security Savvy in response to increasing concern that the “digitally active,” are easy targets for cyber-criminals.

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Old Computer? Think It’s Junk? – Give It One More Chance!

If you’re in the market for a new computer it’s probable that it’s due to one of the following.

Your computer takes a long time to boot and operates slowly.

Your Internet experience is slow.

Your Hard Drive is full.

image I test new software on an almost daily basis, and I do some of that testing on a Dell OptiPlex 110 with 512 Meg of memory, running Windows XP Professional.

Surprisingly, this is a 6 year old computer and 90%+ of the software and Internet testing that I perform, runs smoothly and adequately on this platform.

So keep in mind that for everyday work, word processing, spreadsheets, e-mail, and general Internet surfing you don’t need the latest, greatest, and most expensive computer.

If your current operating system is Windows XP (and 90% of us run XP), read the requirements that Microsoft set out as the minimum requirements for a computer to run Windows XP when the operating system was released.

These requirements were taken directly from the Microsoft website. “Here’s What You Need to Use Windows XP Home Edition”

PC with 300 megahertz (MHz) or higher processor clock speed recommended; 233-MHz minimum required;* Intel Pentium/Celeron family, AMD K6/Athlon/Duron family, or compatible processor recommended

128 megabytes (MB) of RAM or higher recommended (64 MB minimum supported; may limit performance and some features)

1.5 gigabyte (GB) of available hard disk space.

Super VGA (800 × 600) or higher resolution video adapter and monitor

CD-ROM or DVD drive

Keyboard and Microsoft Mouse or compatible pointing device

I have seen, even quite recently, machines which meet only these minimum requirements satisfy the needs of their users.

This article is not all encompassing, but let’s take a look at some of the alternatives you have before you replace what may be a perfectly functional computer which meets your current needs.

If you do decide however, that upgrades to the system are required, a good rule of thumb is to purchase a new system if the upgrades total 50% or more of the cost of a new computer.

Your computer takes a long time to boot and operates slowly.

PCs don’t slow down without a reason. All computers have characteristic operating patterns that lead to predictable, but preventable issues. Simple maintenance, practiced regularly, which is easy even for a non-expert, can keep an older PC running smoothly for years.

Disk fragmentation, especially on intensively used systems, will degrade performance over time. This is a good task to automate by using a third-party tool like Auslogics Disk Defrag. This application is free and it does a great job.

Auslogics Disk Defrag:

The program is extremely easy to use, does not require any analysis phase and is faster than most disk defragmentation software I’ve tested in the past, and it’s free. In my view, it’s one more maintenance process in helping me get the maximum performance out of my hardware.

Fast facts:

Improve computer performance and stability

Increase your productivity – no more waiting for files to open

Defragment disks in minutes

Disk fragmentation map and detailed fragmentation report

Download at: Download.com

Your Hard Drive is full.

A full Hard Drive will not function efficiently since you require at least 2 – 3MB of free space for programs to run smoothly. If you lack this much free space, you should uninstall unused programs on your primary drive.

Revo Uninstaller:

Revo Uninstaller is a superior program for uninstalling programs from your computer. This free program with its advanced and fast algorithm scans before, and after, you uninstall an application. After the program’s regular uninstaller runs, you can remove additional unnecessary files, folders and registry keys that are usually left over on your computer. This feature is a definite plus.

Fast facts:

Superior uninstaller

Free

Fast algorithm scans before, and after uninstall

Removes additional unnecessary files, folders and registry keys

Download at: Developer’s Site

CCleaner:

Running a Disk Cleaner will optimize systems by emptying the Recycle Bin, Temporary Setup Files, Downloaded Program Files, Temporary Internet Files, Old Chkdsk Files, Temporary Files, Temporary Offline Files, Offline Files, and so on. For a full and through cleanup, I highly recommend CCleaner. As well, you should consider copying archived files such as pictures and music, to CD’s or DVD’s to free space on the Hard Drive.

Fast facts:

Frees up valuable hard disk space

Advanced features to remove unused and old entries

Comprehensive backup feature

System tray icon

Privacy tool

Download at: Download.com

Your Internet is slow.

Even the fastest Internet connection is a lot slower than any relatively modern PC, so make sure your Internet settings are properly optimized. Ashampoo Internet Accelerator 2 is an excellent free Internet connection optimizer.

Ashampoo Internet Accelerator 2:

A slow Internet connection costs time and gets on your nerves. So, taking the time to optimize the settings is considered a must.

Ashampoo Internet Accelerator is a great little application that makes it easy to perform this simply task.

Fast facts:

Free

Fully automatic

ISDN, DSL via LAN cable or cable modem, DSL via wireless LAN

Improvements in performance connection

Download at: Download.com

Clean your machine:

Keep your computer clean and dust free and perform a periodic full system cleaning. Elsewhere on this Blog there is a comprehensive article on cleaning your computer. Check out “Save Your Money – Spring Clean Your Computer”.

What Dirt?:

High heat and dirt are definite killers of system components! Just recently I had to replace a CPU on a client’s machine due to restricted airflow caused by dirt on the CPU fan.

Check all connections.

Open the system and verify that all connections feel solid and are placed correctly. Double-check any accessory cards for a snug setting and good connections. Make sure cable tensions are appropriate.

Don’t strain connections:

Having too much strain on a cable or connection can damage the cable, device, jack/node, or the computer. Be sure that there is plenty of slack in the cables on the device and computer ends. Excess strain may cause intermittent performance issues.

Malware Infections.

It’s possible of course, that the performance of your computer has been adversely affected by malware infections. If you believe that’s the case read my article on this Blog, The top 10 best free security applications your security toolbox can’t be without!

Once you have removed system-clogging clutter, ensured your Internet settings are properly optimized, are satisfied your system is not infected with malware, and performed the other simple maintenance, your old PC might just surprise you with its capabilities.

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Filed under Cleaning Your Computer, Computer Maintenance, Freeware, Registry Cleaners, Save Your CPU, Slow Computer, Software, System Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows XP

Tech Thoughts Daily Security Alerts – May 26, 2009

Clickjacking: Hijacking Clicks On The Internet – Growing threat could present big problems for Web sites and applications.

Windows Vista SP2 ready for download (and Windows Server 2008) – Have you been waiting patiently for Vista Service Pack 2 to be available? Your wait is over!

The Top 500 Worst Passwords of All Time – From the moment people started using passwords, it didn’t take long to realize how many people picked the very same passwords over and over. Even the way people misspell words is consistent. In fact, people are so predictable that most hackers make use of lists of common passwords just like these.

Are Your “Secret Questions” Too Easily Answered? – Research finds that the answers to secret questions used to retrieve forgotten passwords are easily guessed.

Why Conficker Is Still Plaguing Windows Users – Conficker just won’t go away. Despite the efforts of the security community and the presence of numerous tools for detection and removal, the worm is still trying to infect as many as 50,000 new Microsoft Windows PCs a day. The question is: why?

Adobe responds to increased hacker threat, introduces its own Patch Tuesday – Adobe, makers of the world’s most popular PDF-reading software, has responded to increasing malicious attacks against its software by announcing a regular patch cycle.

Finjan Discovers Botnet Of 1.9 Million Computers – Malware-infected computers are controlled by central command server in Ukraine, researchers say.

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Filed under Internet Security Alerts