Monthly Archives: December 2010

Stings “Fields of Gold” – An Auld Lang Syne Alternative?

Totally off topic, but since I’m still on vacation (for a few more days), I get to wander a bit on the journalistic map.

We all have certain songs that evoke emotion, and this time of the year, for many of us, it’s “Auld Lang Syne” – loosely idiomatically translated as “for the sake of old times”.

So, while practicing  my rendition of this Scottish poem (written by Robert Burns in 1788), in the shower this morning (so that my choral contribution later tonight won’t sound totally tuneless  :)  ), I couldn’t help trying a few bars of Stings “Fields of Gold”.

In a very loose fashion, this great tune covers some of the same ground as Auld Lang Syne – especially for those who remember lost lives, lost times, and lost loves.

The following is a particularly good rendition of Fields of Gold taken from YouTube. See what you think.

My good friend, Paul Andrew Russell, is running this New Year’s tune (from ABBA), over on his site. I don’t think he’ll mind if I steal it.  :)

15 Comments

Filed under Windows Tips and Tools

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 31, 2010

How to Watch Streaming Video Anywhere in the World – So you’re jetting off to a tropical island in uncharted waters. But how are you supposed to enjoy paradise when copyright laws put the international hammer down on Netflix? Winter travelers, meet your new best friends: Proxy and VPN services.

China Declares Skype Illegal – After having already banned Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, the Chinese government has now decided to outlaw Skype, as well. The move, announced in the People’s Daily, means that all Internet phone services will now be considered illegal within the country, except for those offered by two state-operated telecom companies — China Unicom and China Telecom.

Mozilla exposes older user-account database – Security researcher finds partial database of user-account information on a public server. There was “minimal risk” to users, Mozilla believes.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

New Business Apps For Users Of Google’s Chrome Browser – The five Chrome add-ons reviewed here include one that automatically searches the Web for information about contacts in your Google contacts list and another that lets you create simple slide presentations for showing in a browser window and post them on the Web.

VA Doctors Used Unsecure Yahoo Calendar to Store Patient Data – In its monthly report to Congress, the Veteran Affairs Department listed a Yahoo calendar containing patient data among a number of data security lapses it dealt with.

Security 2010: The Year in Review – There was no single miscue or scandal in 2010 that adequately sums up all that’s transpired in the data security universe in 2010. That, as much as anything, illustrates just how prolific hackers and malware authors have become and why consumers and enterprises will need to be especially vigilant in the coming year.

Pew: 65 Percent of Web Users Have Paid for Online Content – Almost two-thirds of Internet users, or 65 percent, have paid to access or download online content, according to a Thursday study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Facebook is 2010’s Most-Searched Term, Hitwise Says – Facebook was the most-searched term in 2010 for the second year running, capturing 2.11 percent of U.S. searches, according to Wednesday data from Experian Hitwise.

Entrepreneur: Free E-mail Services For Your Small Business – I’ve tested the top free online e-mail products for small firms, plus Facebook’s new Messages service, which some are touting as a collaboration tool for small groups inside a small business. Here’s what’s new, what’s good and what’s bad for each…”

Top 10 Dumbest Tech Moves of 2010 – Among this year’s award winners: Steve Jobs, Steve Ballmer, Mark Zuckerberg, Google, and the CIA

Company News:

A closer look at Steganos Privacy Suite – Steganos Privacy Suite (v.12) is a suite offering most Steganos privacy and encryption products bundled up together: Safe, Portable Safe, Crypt & Hide, Password Manager, Private Favorites, E-Mail Encryption, Trace Destructor and Shredder.

Vuze 4.5 - If you’re in the hunt for a BitTorrent client that does more than let you download large files, Vuze 4.5 (formerly known as Azureus) is a compelling application. Not only does it enable speedy downloads, it adds a slick interface, file transcoding, and remote control—features not found in competing clients such as BitTorrent 7.2 (Free, 3.5 stars), uTorrent, and Deluge.

Store Every Movie Made This Year on Your Phone (With Room to Spare) – IBM says it has made a significant leap forward in the viability of “Racetrack memory,” which has the potential to exponentially increase computing power.

A New, Simpler Way to Torrent – BitTorrent 7.2 features multi-OS support, an intuitive interface, swift downloads, and an apps center, but it could use better search results and visual polish.

Off Topic (Sort of):

A New Year’s Resolution for the Rich – …. in the meantime, the average net worth of the richest 1 percent of Americans has doubled (to $18.5 million), while that of the poorest 40 percent has fallen by 63 percent (to $2,200). Thirty years ago, top U.S. executives made about 50 times the salary of their average employees. In 2007, the average worker would have had to toil for 1,100 years to earn what his CEO brought home between Christmas in Aspen and Christmas on St. Barthes. (submitted by Michael F.)

The Top 30 World Universities in the World – For our purposes here in ranking universities, we considered the current state of the world economy. Most countries are still mired in a low period of employment and personal finances are strained. With this in mind, I used data compiled by QS Top Universities and combined the scores for employer reputation and the rankings generated by the tuition (adjusted for American dollars) to bring you the Top 30 World Universities. (submitted by Dar)

Beautiful photos from National Geographic – Here are some of the the winners and finalists of National Geographic’s 2010 photography contest, and there are some stunners. Go have a look, and be sure to look at everything, since some of the runners-up are, to me, as good or better than the winners. (submitted by Michael F.)

World’s Smallest Periodic Table Etched Onto a Single Hair – The University of Nottingham helped a professor celebrate by “etching” a copy of the periodic table of the elements onto a strand of his hair.

Today’s Quote:

I am no more humble than my talents require.”

-   Oscar Levant

Today’s Free Download:

Peace on Earth – I don’t normally think much of one-wallpaper Windows themes, but Peace on Earth is particularly nice. The single image is a beautifully rendered photograph of Earth from outer space, with North America smack in the middle. This is a simple little Windows 7 theme, and well worth the download.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

Comments Off

Filed under Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

Two Free VirusTotal Apps Can Help You Catch Malware Preemptively

imageYou’ve run your primary anti-malware application, and up pops a notice advising you that you have an infection. But since you’re an aware computer user, you launch both your secondary malware scanners in sequence and – surprise! According to your secondary scanners you are not infected.

But, you’re aware that anti-malware programs that rely on a definition database to identify malware files, can often be behind the curve in recognizing the newest threats.

So, decision time. Do you then trust your primary anti-malware application and attempt removal, or instead, do you trust the results produced by your secondary scanners, and leave well enough alone?

In reality, you’re not limited to just these two choices. There is another option open to you.

If you’re worried about a specific file, here’s an interesting twist on free Online scanners – you can have any computer file (files are restricted to a maximum of 20 megabytes), scanned for nasties by thirty five plus diverse online scanners; all in one go, through VirusTotal.

To take advantage of this service, simply upload a file that you’re uncertain of to Virus Total, or as an alternative, submit your suspicious file to Virus Total by email. What could be simpler?

image

File submissions (Last 7 days)

This graph shows the number of files received at VirusTotal over the last 7 days. The image illustrates how many of these were new at VirusTotal, and the submissions which were detected by at least one antivirus. Click on any graphic to expand to original size.

image

Top 10 file submissions (Yesterday – December 29, 2010)

This table shows the most submitted files yesterday to VirusTotal, the last detection rate, and the number of times they were submitted is specified.

image

Quick facts:

Free, independent service

Use of multiple antivirus engines

Real-time automatic updates of virus signatures

Detailed results from each antivirus engine

Real time global statistics

Keep in mind, this service is not a substitute for an appropriate local defense system, including a firewall (either software or hardware), and a sound and effective anti-malware application.

Upload your suspicious file/s to: Virus Total

VTzilla:

 

VirusTotal recently released a Firefox only extension – VTzilla. VTzilla has been designed to scan URLs, links, and files (potential downloads) for malware, by employing the installed toolbar, or alternatively, the right click context menu.

Using the toolbar, I’ve plugged in my own site address as an example.

image

VirusTotal’s report indicates my site is a safe site, and does not contain malware.

image

Next, I visited Download.com and set up a download. Before saving the file however, using the right click context menu again, I had VirusTotal perform a scan.

image

The result indicates a clean site.

image

A couple of caveats:

Regular VirusTotal users are aware that file size is restricted to 20 MB or less, and this restriction unfortunately, is still in effect for this new service.

VTzilla is available only as a direct download from the developer’s site at the moment. It should be available from Firefox’s add-on repository, in due course.

Overall, I think this extension has some value. But, it is not a panacea. More and more, if a site is imbedded with malware, just visiting the site can trigger a driveby download. Porn surfers particularly, need to take note of this.

System requirements: Firefox 1.5 – 3+

Download at: the developer’s site.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

7 Comments

Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Browser add-ons, cybercrime, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Internet Safety Tools, Malware Protection, Safe Surfing, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 30, 2010

The most popular Windows Blog tips of 2010 – While 2010 was the first full year of Microsoft Windows 7, the previous versions of that operating system still have an integral role to play in many enterprises. Consequently, many of 2010’s most popular Windows Blog tips deal with Windows XP and Windows Vista.

Privacy Alert: 10 Biggest Threats of 2010 – 2010 could go on record as the year the privacy mess hit the proverbial fan. Companies such as Apple, AT&T, Facebook, and Google all got nailed for sharing users’ personal data in big ways, accidentally or otherwise. Police officers were caught tracking people’s movements via cell phones, while Web advertisers tracked surfers’ virtual movements via hard-to-kill cookies. Schools spied on their students, mobile apps spied on their owners, and the feds caught heat for getting a little too personal with their security searches.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Lifehacker: How Do I Avoid Getting Scammed When Buying or Selling Online? – I was selling stuff online before I entered puberty and have had only one bad transaction (out of hundreds). I believe that’s because most people you’ll encounter are good and honest. Nonetheless, we share a common paranoia of getting conned. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to ease your worries and prevent problems from happening, though. Some involve intuition, and others just help to minimize the chances of an issue.

WordPress News: Important Security Update - Version 3.0.4 of WordPress, available immediately through the update page in your dashboard, is a very important update to apply to your sites as soon as possible because it fixes a core security bug in our HTML sanitation library, called KSES. I would rate this release as “critical.”

Android Trojan with botnet capabilities found in the wild – A new, more sophisticated Trojan for Android devices has been spotting lurking on third-party Chinese Android app markets – the first ever piece of Android malware that has the capability to receive instructions from a remote server and thus become part of a botnet.

The 30 Must-Play PC Games of The Decade – No longer is gaming that shameful hobby you mumble in between “hanging out” and “…uh, other stuff.” Now, it’s just something everyone does. In that spirit, we thought it’d be fitting to spotlight some of the games that helped put our favorite past-time on top of the world. So, without further ado, we present the 30 best PC games of the past decade!

Company News:

 

IBM: Five innovations that will change lives by 2015 – IBM has delivered a series of predictions for technological innovations it says will have broad impact and change lives by 2015. They range from 3-D and holographic technology in cameras and cell phones, to batteries that will power devices by “breathing” air, to recycling the energy produced by the world’s data centers.

Google offers Android tips and tricks – Google released a list of ten tips for those using Android 2.3 (“Gingerbread”) on its Nexus S. The tips, some of which may work on other devices, were accompanied by a list of four keyboard tricks and 14 interesting applications.

45TB of storage in a Linux NAS – Synology released the DS1511+, a five-bay NAS will accept up to two DX510 expansion units for a total of up to 15 drives. Using 3TB drives yields up to 45TB of storage.

Nintendo 3DS Hazardous to Kids? – Those thinking about buying the upcoming Nintendo 3DS for your pre-schooler might want to wait a few years. In advance of its Nintendo World 2011 demo, Nintendo posted a warning that suggests children under the age of six should not use its 3D functions.

Off Topic (Sort of):

 

Then and Now: How Technology Has Changed Our Lives – Advances in technology have fundamentally changed everyday existence. In recent decades, technology has introduced major changes in the way we live. Here are 11 examples of how things are different–for better or for worse!

2010 Tech Predictions That Struck Out – “Never make predictions, especially about the future,” said (supposedly) Casey Stengel, the New York Yankees manager famous both for winning and for saying zany but pithy things. The five technology mavens cited here should have thought about that before stepping up to the prognostication plate. But predictions are an editorial staple; these were just whiffs instead of home runs.

The 10 Best Hacks of 2010 - 2010 has been a great year for homemade hacks and mods. Not content with rooting phones, modders took to all areas of tech to fiddle, from PC casemods, to farming aids, to clothing. Below are a few of GeekTech’s favorite hacks from over the last year.

2011: The Year of eSports - Ever wonder how people get paid to play video games? Find out why professional gaming, or ‘eSports,’ will be big in 2011.

Today’s Quote:

 

Procrastination isn’t the problem, it’s the solution. So procrastinate now, don’t put it off.”

-    Ellen DeGeneres

Today’s Free Downloads:

 

avast! Free Antivirus – Avast Free Antivirus 5 is well designed and generally easy to use. It provides good, all-around malware detection in a speedy, well-designed package. We liked its easy installation process, smooth interface design, and minimal impact on system performance.

FlashCookiesView – Flash cookies, aka “super cookies,” can be used to track your browsing just like normal browser cookies. But Flash cookies will stick around even if you delete your regular browser cookies, and they can’t normally be viewed. The FlashCookiesView tool shines a light on these out-of-the-way files.

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

1 Comment

Filed under Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

Happy New Year 2011

Dear readers and subscribers,

As 2010 comes to a close, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you, and your family, a happy, and healthy New Year. May 2011 fulfill all its promise, and may all your expectations be exceeded.

image

“Every man should be born again on the first day of January.  Start with a fresh page.  Take up one hole more in the buckle if necessary, or let down one, according to circumstances; but on the first of January let every man gird himself once more, with his face to the front, and take no interest in the things that were, and are past”.

~    Henry Ward Beecher

32 Comments

Filed under Living Life, Personal Perspective

Check Windows Security Status With Free Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer 2.2

imageIntrusion detection systems do a good job (or so I’m told), in protecting physical environments against desperados and trespassers. But, creating an access point by leaving a window or a door open, obviously reduces the efficiency of such a system.

Computer intrusion detection systems are no different – leaving a window open in Windows (if you’ll pardon the expression), can result in an illegal intrusion that can often remain undetected.

To help you assess the overall state of security on your computer (and close any open windows in Windows), Microsoft provides a free scanning tool – Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer 2.2 (MBSA), last updated in October, which will scan your system and provide you with a report on your computer’s security, based on Microsoft security recommendations.

MBSA includes both a graphical and a command line interface, that can perform local or remote scans of Microsoft Windows systems.

Scanning Options:

For each scan, the following options can be enabled, or disabled, as needed, in the MBSA user interface:

Check for Windows administrative vulnerabilities – scans for security issues such as Guest account status, file-system type, available file shares, and members of the Administrators group.

Check for weak passwords –  checks computers for blank and weak passwords during a scan.

Check for Internet Information Services (IIS) administrative vulnerabilities.

Check for SQL administrative vulnerabilities – checks for the type of authentication mode, account password status, and service account memberships.

Check for security updates (missing updates) – scans for missing security updates for the products published to the Microsoft Update site only.

The two areas, in the report, you will find most useful as a home user, are:

Security misconfiguration (less secure settings and configurations).

Missing security updates and service packs (if any).

The report will provide you with specific steps to take, should the application find issues.

The following screen capture from my test machine, illustrates the results of a typical scan – click to expand to original size.

Baseline Analyzer

In order to run a scan with MBSA, you may need the IP address of your computer – the easy way to obtain this is here.

System Requirements: Windows 2000; Windows 7; Windows Server 2003; Windows Server 2008; Windows Server 2008 R2; Windows Vista; Windows XP; Windows XP Embedded. (32 bit and 64 bit).

Download at: Microsoft

Note: Microsoft recommends viewing the readme.html file, before running MBSA the first time. If your a typical user I don’t think this is necessary, but….

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

6 Comments

Filed under Application Vulnerabilities, Computer Audit Applications, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Freeware, Microsoft, Security Rating Applications, Software, System Security, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – December 29, 2010

Rescue CDs: Tips for fighting malware – Malware is sophisticated enough to manipulate the host computer’s operating system to help it hide. That’s why rescue CDs are becoming the go-to malware detection and removal technology.

The Best Online Backup Services – Nine out of ten of you probably don’t back up your personal data daily. Chances are excellent that you’ll regret it someday. Given how simple and inexpensive online backup has become, you’ll only have yourself to blame.

Random Tips: Speed Up an Old PC, Rotate Photos, Find Manuals – Resuscitate a slowly deteriorating computer, rotate a photo without special software, find missing tech manuals online.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Top five TR Dojo episodes of 2010 – 2010 was another amazing year for TR Dojo. We won Gold at the Azbee awards for the second year in a row and we aired our 100th episode. Now, within all those tweaks, tips, and best practices there were a few episodes that really stood out.

Geolocation, mobile devices and Apple top the list of emerging threats – McAfee unveiled its 2011 Threat Predictions report, outlining the top threats that researchers at McAfee Labs foresee for the coming year.

Essential Tools for Business Travelers – Serious road warriors need serious tools. PCWorld blogger Tony Bradley puts in his fair share of travel time, and he’s discovered a few phenomenally useful additions to his productivity arsenal. This week, he shares five life-saving tech tools for staying connected on the go, keeping your laptop fully charged, safeguarding essential data that you carry with you, and more.

Android Tips, Tricks, and Apps from Google – Here’s an assortment of suggestions and ideas for making the most of the Android mobile operating platform, direct from the horse’s mouth.

Tuesday Most Active Day for Malware Distributors, Says SonicWALL – According to the analysis, Trojans tend to peak in September and December, corresponding with the proliferation of back-to-school offers and holiday greeting cards. However while worms spike in December just in time for the holidays. As expected, adware threats peak over September, October, and December, as online advertisers serve up more ads during the holiday season.

Company News:

 

Apple to Offer iPad 2 in Three Versions: Report – Apple is planning to release three different versions of its update to the popular iPad tablet, according to Taiwanese industry publication DigiTimes.

Oracle’s Latest VirtualBox Handles Heavier Workloads – Oracle on Dec. 22 released a new version of its freely available virtual machine distribution software that enables desktop or laptop computers to run several operating systems simultaneously.

AT&T Releases Anti-Texting while Driving Documentary – AT&T yesterday released a 10-minute documentary to educate drivers on the dangers of texting while driving. The film, The Last Text, is part of AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign, and features true life stories of individuals whose lives have been negatively affected by texting while driving.

Skype Video Chat Headed to Apple Devices Next Month? – “Get ready, Apple—the exclusivity of your company’s FaceTime video-chatting service for the iPhone might soon be drawing to a close. And it’s going to take a service as large as Skype to make the first push into Apple’s territory, for rumors are intensifying that the company plans to unveil its own video-chat feature for its mobile apps at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show in January.”

Off Topic (Sort of):

 

Cracked: 5 Silver Linings Now That Identity Theft Ruined Your Life – Looking back on it now, you have to admit that this was bound to happen eventually. Someone has stolen your identity, using nefarious schemes and treachery, yes, but also greatly assisted by some of your shocking personal security habits.

114 rogue security software you don’t want on your computer, how to protect oneself against such threats, and how to clean up after infection – Rogue security software are probably one of the most popular ways for scumbags to swindle money out of computer users. Indeed, it takes just a simple advertisement proclaiming “your computer is infected, clean it now” to trick users into downloading fake anti-viruses. (submitted by Dar)

Cracked: 5 Ways Stores Use Science to Trick You Into Buying Crap - A big chunk of the world economy runs on human weakness. Peer pressure, vanity, insecurity, the fact that we just cannot resist the sight of melted cheese — all of these will make us fork over our cash. And really, we’re fine with that. But what you may not know is that there are some other, much weirder scientific principles that factor into what you buy. You might not know about them, but the people selling you things sure as hell do.

Hackers Attack Criminal Sites, Security Experts to Expose Flaws – A group of hackers attacked and took offline several sites belonging to credit-card sharing groups, security experts and other hacking communities who made mistakes in basic security.

Today’s Quote:

 

Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.”

-   George Bernard Shaw

Today’s Free Downloads:

 

FreePrintable.net – Just in time for the new year, I’ve added some more variations to the 2011 calendars at http://www.Printable2011Calendar.com. There’s a wallet calendar, 2011-2012 academic calendars, and many year-on-one-page calendars including: vertical and horizontal calendars, large print, calendars with holidays in red, months either descending or going across, versions with shaded weekends, a Monday start, and more.

Five fun, free Android games – What better way to while away the hours spent standing in lines, waiting for friends, and traveling on planes, trains, and buses than with some fun, free games?

If you found this article useful, why not subscribe to this Blog via RSS, or email? It’s easy; just click on this link and you’ll never miss another Tech Thoughts article.

2 Comments

Filed under Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News