Category Archives: Software

Using Artisteer to Develop WordPress Themes

Your theme is the first thing visitors will notice when arriving on your site. Although it may be the content that drove them there in the first place, it’s the design that will help them decide on whether to stay and read more.

The Artisteer program is one of those methods that can help you develop a great looking theme tailored to your desires. There are many features in this program that make it a wonderful tool, especially for those who plan on developing more than one website.

1. User Interface - The user interface of Artisteer is incredibly easy to manage. Each tool is self-explanatory and nearly every aspect of the website can be altered. The layout of the tools is chronological and will help any user customize a blog theme from top to bottom, literally. Adding images, font sizes, icons, and more can be altered to make your site look and feel exactly how you want it to.

The WYSIWYG editor will show a representation of what your page will look like when a visitor is browsing it. Any aspect you change can be seen within Artisteer and you can make easy adjustments in order to produce the theme you are envisioning.

Whether you need a specific pixel dimension for your blog’s width or imposing borders around the blog itself to give it a drop-shadow effect, the Artisteer software can handle it all. While the preset suggestions will randomize a look and feel for the website, you can change any aspect you wish in order to create the perfect look to fit your niche.

2. Graphics - Although you don’t need Photoshop or Illustrator to create impressive graphics, it doesn’t hurt if you have these skills. You can develop all of your graphics, icons, header images, and more using any image development program you have including Paint. As long as your image is saved as a supported graphic type such as a JPG, PNG, and others you can add them to your theme.

These images can range from small icons or bullets to as large as background images for your site. There is truly no limit to what imagery you can use within the software. However, keep in mind that your website could perform poorly the larger and more elaborate your images are.

3. Exporting - When you are done with your masterpiece, simply export the theme as a .zip file that is usable by WordPress. Once you are in your Admin panel for WordPress, browse and install the theme like you would any other. Your website will look exactly as it does in the Artisteer WYSIWYG editor.

Artisteer will allow you to save these .zip files for installations or .artx files for editing your templates for future updates. You may find that a specific font or color scheme isn’t widely accepted by your target audience and using the .artx file in Artisteer will allow you to make quick changes and theme version numbers to keep track of your progress.

Looking to add that personal touch so that you get credit for developing such a beautiful template? Artisteer will allow you to embed your name, link to your website, and version information within WordPress so that anyone using or seeing your template will know who made it and where it came from. This could help others click on the information at the base of the page to drive additional traffic to your own website.

4. Ideas - Artisteer gives you the ability to create as many themes as you want for any occasion. You can make a different theme for your blog corresponding with the seasons. Holidays can be accentuated by developing graphics and color schemes that match such as cool colors and white for winter. The possibilities for design are only limited by your own imagination. Backgrounds, overlays, and even java video can be used in this development program to provide a unique look that no one else in the world has.

5. Extenuation of Development - Artisteer doesn’t just make themes for WordPress. A wide variety of other content management systems are also able to utilize these templates such as Joomla, Blogger, and Drupal. You could provide themes and designs for friends and family. You could even assist others in a professional atmosphere by helping them develop an attractive site using the Artisteer program.

6. Continued Support - As Artisteer has gained so much popularity as being one of the best template and theme design programs from the various content management systems, there is little fear from the software becoming outdated. Versions and upgrades are constantly available from Extensoft, Inc. and available forums are constantly utilized by users in order to share knowledge and help with virtually any problem should one arise. The responsiveness of the staff is impressive and they can be very helpful if you’d rather contact them directly.

You can sift through the websites looking for that perfect theme for your blog, or you can create exactly what you want. You can pay someone to develop your themes for you, or you can buy Artisteer and make them yourself whenever you want.

You don’t need extensive programming or graphic design knowledge in order to create a lavish theme perfect for your content. You only need a basic idea of what you want your blog to look like.

Author Bio:

This is a guest post by Liz Nelson from WhiteFence.com. She is a freelance writer and blogger from Houston. Questions and comments can be sent to: liznelson17 @ gmail.com.

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Filed under Software, WordPress, Website Builders, Web Site Design, Blogging Tools, Blogging Tips

Beat Obama’s Bandits With TrueCrypt Free (Open-Source) Encryption

The so called “War on Terror” has long since lost its luster and should be appropriately reclassified as The War of Terror. The U.S. has been singularly impudent in terrorizing the terrorists but instead, it has managed to terrorize the rest of the world using a system of surveillance schemes that have gone off the board. Chalk one up for Al Qaeda – the only winners in this debacle.

In the meantime, Americans continue to live in fear – trading away freedoms for security in a war that is simple unwinnable. Obama, despite his assurances that he would “fight terrorism while maintaining our civil liberties” has been a principle mover in this assault on democracy.

And, the master of the reversal has more -

Obama, in a 2008 election sound bite, drew a sharp contrast with the Bush administration which he proclaimed, offered Americans “a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand.” And for good measure – for stooping “to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime.” It’s a surreal world we live in, is it not?

But why be satisfied with my ramblings? Here’s the video.

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As America continues its slide into Fascism (eagerly joined in the venture by Canada, Australia, the U.K. and countless other self-advertised “democracies”), the justified expectation held by these governments is – you – yes, you – will take no active part in expressing your outrage at the escalating intrusions into your private life. Sadly, the undermining of democracy, or more to the point, democracy as we though we knew it, continues apace.

As a consequence (hardly the only consequence, of course), encryption technology is once again in the spotlight. And no, using encryption does not mean that one has something to hide.

Sophisticated and  aware computer users know, that financial data and other confidential information, can easily be subject to intrusive viewing by those not authorized to do so.

Putting Obama and his bad boys aside, here are some examples of how this might occur:

Internet malware attack: Increasingly, statistics reinforce the fact that financial data continues to be targeted by hackers/information thieves, for the purpose of identity theft.

Contrast that reality with these facts; there is no such thing as a totally secure Internet connected computer. All Internet connected computers are subject to attack and compromise.

Lost or stolen Laptop: How often have we read the following – 200,00 (insert your own number here), bank account numbers, Social Insurance Numbers, names, addresses and dates of birth were on a laptop stolen/lost earlier this week.

In too many of these cases, negligently, the data is unencrypted. Certainly Laptop theft or loss is not restricted to organizations; it can just as easily happen to you.

Lost or stolen USB drive: Since USB flash drives are so portable, you can take a drive virtually anywhere. Just like most items that are portable and that you carry with you, this type of drive can be lost, or stolen.

To reduce or eliminate the security threat of sensitive data exposure then, the most prudent course of action is data encryption. Essentially, data encryption is a secure process for keeping your sensitive and confidential information private. It’s a process by which bits of data are mathematically jumbled with a password-key. The Encryption process makes the data unreadable unless, or until, decrypted.

It happens to us all: Just this past week, I lost not only my house keys (first time ever) – but the USB key attached to the keychain. If you guessed that the drive was encrypted – take a bow.   Smile

TrueCrypt:

TrueCrypt is an outstanding free open source software application for establishing and maintaining an on-the-fly-encrypted volume. On-the-fly encryption simply means that data are automatically encrypted, or decrypted, just before they are loaded or saved – without any user intervention. The program automatically and transparently encrypts in real time.

No data stored on an encrypted volume can be read (decrypted) without the correct password/key file or correct encryption keys. The entire file system is encrypted (i.e., file names, folder names, contents, free space, Meta data, etc.).

Files can be copied to and from a mounted TrueCrypt volume just like they are copied to/from any normal disk (for example, by simple drag-and-drop operations). When you turn off your computer, the volume will be dismounted and files stored in the volume will be inaccessible and encrypted. You may of course, manually dismount the volume.

TrueCrypt offers a number of options – you can store your encrypted data in files, partitions, or on a portable storage device such as a USB flash drive.

Installation is simple and straightforward – no gotchas here. Lots of steps – but easy steps.

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If you choose “Keyfiles”, be sure you understand the ramifications. This is an extra security step which has limited application for a home user. You do not need to select this option.

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And – Win 8’s File Explorer reports that the volume has been setup successfully. If you expand the graphic below (click), you’ll also notice my first TrueCrypt volume on this HD from May 9, 2006.

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Indicative of this application’s popularity is the fact that it is downloaded tens of thousands of times each day, across the Internet.

Fast Facts:

Creates a virtual encrypted disk within a file and mounts it as a real disk

Encrypts an entire hard disk partition or a storage device such as USB flash drive

Encryption is automatic, real-time (on-the-fly) and transparent

Provides two levels of plausible deniability, in case an adversary forces you to reveal the password – Hidden volume – No TrueCrypt volume can be identified (volumes cannot be distinguished from random data)

Encryption algorithms: AES-256, Serpent, and Twofish. Mode of operation: XTS

Ability to encrypt a system partition/drive (i.e. a partition/drive where Windows is installed) with pre-boot authentication (anyone who wants to gain access and use the system, read and write files, etc., needs to enter the correct password each time before the system starts

Pipelined operations increasing read/write speed by up to 100% (Windows)

I’ve been using TrueCrypt for a number of years, and I have developed a lot of confidence in this outstanding application. If you determine that encryption of your sensitive data is a priority, I highly recommend that you give TrueCrypt a try.

How effective is TrueCrypt? If you have any doubts as to how effective TrueCrypt really is, then read this article. FBI hackers fail to crack TrueCrypt:

The FBI has admitted defeat in attempts to break the open source encryption used to secure hard drives seized by Brazilian police during a 2008 investigation.

System Requirements: Win 8, Win 7, Vista, XP, Mac OS X, and Linux.

Download at: TrueCrypt

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Filed under downloads, Encryption Software, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Open Source, Software, Utilities

Review: Counter-Strike Global Offensive

imageCounter-Strike Global Offensive, or GO for short, is the next title in the series of counter-strike games. I have played all of the recent games, so I figured I would give this one a try as well.

The first thing I noticed when starting up Global Offensive was that the graphics have improved. The maps have become a bit more detailed and the character models are much improved. The previous versions of counter-strike required a lot of skill and strategy and CS:GO is the same way. Due to this, CS:GO has evolved as the next big game being played in leagues and in LAN tournaments.

For those who have no idea what counter-strike involves, it is a pretty simple concept. CS:GO pits terrorists versus counter-terrorists in 2 different scenarios.

The first scenario is a game mode in which the terrorists are trying to plant a bomb at particular locations around the map. It is the counter-terrorists job to try to stop this from happening. If the bomb gets planted, the counter-terrorists have a limited amount of time to try to defuse the bomb before it blows up.

The second scenario is a hostage rescue mission. In this mode, the terrorists start by a group of hostages. The counter-terrorists then try to reach and rescue the hostages.

Maps

One thing that has stayed pretty consistent through the different versions of the game is the maps. CS:GO holds true to the counter-strike series by having many of the same maps, just with a few updates. A few of the maps have minor changes that have helped to balance sides a bit.

One great thing about CS:GO is the communities ability to create maps. Unlike other games like Call of Duty and Battlefield, counter-strike comes with a map editor which allows members of the community to create their own maps. These custom maps are a huge hit with the casual CS:GO gamers. A constant creation of new maps can really keep the game interesting.

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Weapons

In general, the weapons are pretty similar to the previous versions of counter-strike. However, there were a few small changes. A few pistols have been changed. Also, a few SMGs and shotguns have been changed as well. Most players use the rifles and these have pretty much stayed unchanged.

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Competitive Match Making and Ranking System

One huge change in the new CS:GO is the competitive match making system. In previous versions of counter-strike, you would simply have to find a server on your own through browsing. Usually when doing this, you would have to find and play in a community run public server – these rarely used competition rules. If you really only played casually, this wasn’t a huge deal. However, if you liked the idea of a playing a match, then it was pretty tough to find a game.

With CS:GO, you are able to play in competitive mode with the click of a button. If you want to play with friends – easy, just invite them to a lobby before you search for a game.

This new system gives you a rank after a few games. This rank is then used to help match you up with players that are around your skill level. If you play with friends, the system will try to average your ranks when looking for a game. I personally have seen many of my steam friends get into the competitive mode. These were people who never left a casual game in the past. I see this as a big accomplishment by CS:GO to be able to bring new players into this mode of the game.

Overall, I think CS:GO is a great step for the counter-strike series and I would recommend this game to anyone who enjoyed past versions of counter-strike.

Guest author Bio:

Guest author post  by Dominic Acito of domstechblog.com. Dominic brings a background as a high level super user and gamer, to the Blogging world.

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Filed under Games, Guest Writers, Online Gaming, Software

EULAlyzer – A Free Tool To Help “Uncomplicate” End User License Agreements

imageI’ve always considered that reading a EULA (End User License Agreement), is sort of like reading the phone book; and who reads a phone book?

I must admit that I get bored and distracted when reading EULA text; especially since I’m forced to read reams of small text, in a small window, which requires me to scroll continuously. I suspect, I’m not alone in this, and that most people just skim over the text; or more to the point – don’t bother reading the EULA at all.

However, there’s a downside risk in not reading the EULA carefully. By not reading the EULA carefully, we may let ourselves in for some unwelcome, annoying, and potentially dangerous surprises.

One of the most important aspects of any software license agreement is, the information it provides concerning the intentions of the software, and whether there are additional components bundled with the main application.

Additional components that could potentially display pop-up ads, transmit personal identifiable information back to the developer, or use unique tracking identifiers.

Not all software applications contain these additional components of course, but you need to be aware of those that do when you are considering installing an application.

Software developers who choose to employ these tools (to gather information for example), are generally not underhanded, and in most cases there is full disclosure of their intent contained in the EULA. But here’s the rub – virtually no one reads EULAs.

EULAlyzer, a free application from BrightFort (formerly: Javacool Software), the SpywareBlaster developer, can make reading and analyzing license agreements, while not a pleasure, at least not as painful.

This free application quickly scans a EULA, and points out words, statements, and phrases, that you need to consider carefully. Results are rated by “Interest Level” and organized by category, so it’s easy to zero-in on the issue that concern you the most.

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Working similar to an anti-spyware program, EULAlyzer flags suspicious wording on a scale of 1 to 10 – based on how critical the disclosed information can be to your security, or privacy.

Let’s take a look at the license agreement for Piriform’s CCleaner.

You’ll note that there three areas of limited concern that have been flagged – as shown in the screen shot, below. Clicking on “Goto” icon will expand the related wording.

I’m very familiar with Piriform’s freeware applications – nevertheless, as is my habit, I read the EULA carefully.

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Let’s take a look at the license agreement for GOM Audio Player.

Again, EULAlyzer has flagged a number of issues – but, in this case, these are issues that I considered very carefully before installation this application.

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If you, like me, download freeware frequently, then you need to read the software license agreement carefully. EULAlyzer will make it easier for you to focus on the important aspects of the agreement.

There is no doubt that we could all use a little help in working our way through these wordy, but necessary agreements. The reality is, all software EULAs should be read carefully.

Fast facts:

Discover potentially hidden behavior about the software you’re going to install.

Pick up on things you missed when reading license agreements.

Keep a saved database of the license agreements you view.

Instant results – super-fast analysis in just a second.

EULAlyzer makes it simple to instantly identify highly interesting and important parts of license agreements, privacy policies, and other similar documents, including language that deals with:

Advertising

Tracking

Data Collection

Privacy-Related Concerns

Installation of Third-Party or Additional Software

Inclusion of External Agreements By Reference

Potentially Suspicious Clauses

and, much more…

System requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8.

Download at: Major Geeks

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Filed under Don't Get Scammed, downloads, Freeware, Software, Utilities

Little TunnelBear (free) – A Drop Dead Simple VPN Built on Simplicity and Speed

I’m an Internet privacy advocate (regular readers will now pause – laugh – and say – “no kidding!”), and while the fight to rein in Google, and others, might seem unwinnable, privacy advocates have not lost the battle – yet. Which is why, I have a great interest in any tool that will either stop Google and other data accumulators from collecting, storing, and dissecting my private personal information, or inhibit their ability to do so.

As a result, I’ve long made it a practice to camouflage my IP address when searching for sensitive subject matter.  Sensitive subject matter doesn’t always involve porn. Although, ………….   Smile

Take a look at the following free VPN (Virtual Private Network) application – Little TunnelBear (a paid version with enhanced features is available), which allows you to surf the Web while hiding your IP address. Hiding your “real” IP address won’t leave traces of your private surfing activities – protecting you from snooping web sites, annoying advertisers, employers, curious family members, and of course – Google.

I’ve been running with TunnelBear, (for 6 months or so), on a daily basis – and I’m impressed – very impressed. This application is “snappy quick” which cannot be said of the majority of the 10 (or more), VPNs I’ve tested here in the last few years.

While the service is not entirely free (500 MB monthly free – an additional 1 GB is available (free) if one “Tweets” the application. Even with my heavy usage, I generally don’t run out of free data access (1.5 GB), until the 25/26th of the month.

At that point, I switch over to the free version of Expat Shield which unfortunately lacks the quickness of TunnelBear, with the additional handicap of being ad supported. Having said that, I’ll emphasize (from a previous review), that Expat Shield is a terrific application and, the developer is certainly entitled to generate revenue.

TunnelBear will get no points for a stylish  user interface …

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…. but I can assure you, that in this case “hot looks” cannot compete with speed, simplicity  and ease of use.  And, TunnelBear has all that – and more.

Simplicity – no need to launch a Browser first. Switch on – choose your preferred locale (the UK or the US) then launch a Browser.

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Please note that occasionally, you may find that instead of the UK, you will be assigned an alternative European IP address. Hungary and Holland come quickly to mind. It would be preferable, in my view, if the GUI reflected that fact.

Boost the freebie – If you have a Twitter account, and should you choose to do so, a quick Tweet is all it takes to bump up free data access to 1.5 GB. A very sweet deal, I think.

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Following which, an email similar to that shown below, will confirm your additional 1 GB of data access.

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I’ll repeat – Even with my heavy usage, I generally don’t run out of free data access (1.5 GB), until the 25/26th of the month.

Significant points:

There are no ads and the application doesn’t have to run in the background, or at startup.

Employs a minimum of  AES 128-bit encryption.

Normal surfing (hopping from site to site), showed no slowdown (none that I could measure in human terms) in connection speed.

Once the application has been started – all applications that communicate with a remote address will do so through TunnelBear.

As with all such applications, a leap of faith is required. While the application does shield you from prying eyes, the developer has full access. You need to consider the implications. In other words – do you trust the developer.

Here’s what the developer has top say on that issue –

“TunnelBear stores the absolute minimum amount of information required to operate our service. This information includes your email, first name, last name, # of times you’ve logged on and the overall amount of data you transferred for the month. We do NOT log any information as to the websites you visit, nor do we store your IP address after you disconnect.”

Having tested my fair share of anonymous surfing applications in the last few years, I’d judge this application to be as good, or better, than most.

Supported systems:

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Download at: Developer’s site (http://www.tunnelbear.com/)

Additional information is available from the developer’s FAQ page here.

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Filed under Android, Apple, downloads, Freeware, Google, Online Privacy, Software, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Free BootMed For Your Sick PC

imageI’ve covered a boatload of  free Live CDs (a boot disk on a CD) in the last few years, including – Boot, Recovery, Rescue, Antivirus, and so on. To work effectively with such tools generally demands a very high level of user experience with operating systems, which effectively restricts usage to geeks or, the occasional very daring newbie.

I’ve just spent a week, or so, testing BootMed, a Ubuntu Linux driven set of recovery tools which is a little different than most such tool sets – it’s much more new user friendly.

On launch, BootMed defaults to Firefox which opens on the developer’s site – “What can BootMed do”.

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That’s a bit of a twist on most recovery tools/disks/applications, since the developer has recognized that not all users have the practical background, or the experience, to work with these types of tools unaided.

The tutorials (walk- throughs) on this page (What can BootMed do) – shown below – should make working with the specific applications included on the CD/DVD much easier for less experienced users than it would be otherwise. Kudos to the developer on this one.

Recovery

Misc.

More experienced users will simply venture straight to the Desktop to access the available tools.

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The following screen capture illustrates the applications available.

Note: Under “Applications”, additional tools are available.

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You can see from the following screen capture, BootMed allows the user to access all attached devices (and their files), from the “Computer” icon.

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The following two graphics show the AV’s available. Both AVs will automatically update their definition database – provided the PC is connected to the Internet.

McAfee’s Stinger – a stand-alone utility used to detect and remove specific viruses.

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ClamWin Free Antivirus – ClamWin is a free antivirus designed for Windows.

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Two file recovery applications are available including PhotoRec, a powerful recovery application.

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And TestDisk, which adds additional functionality – including partition recovery.

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There are many more applications included in this bag of tools including – GParted partition manager, as well as WINE, which will allow you to run Windows applications from within BootMed.

The CD/DVD burning application Brasero (available under “Applications”), is shown in the following screen shot.

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System requirements: Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7

Download 32 bit ISO at: Download.com

Download 64 bit ISO at: Download.com

I particularly like BootMed since it allows a fairly typical user access to complex tools while at the same time, not feeling abandoned in the scary world of operating systems. The developer has recognized this chill factor, and does a fair amount of “hand holding” – I think that’s very cool.

If you’re now a geek, or a high level user, think back to the days when you could have used some “hand holding”. If you were lucky enough to get it, I think you’ll agree that “hand holding” can make a major difference.

Don’t have a CD/DVD drive? Then – install BootMed to a USB flash drive. Easy to follow instructions are here.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, CD/DVD Recovery Tools, downloads, File Recovery Software, Freeware, Live CDs, Software, System Recovery Tools

Open Source BleachBit 0.9.3 – Deletes HTML5 Cookies

imageI considered just giving up – but, I’ll be damned if I will. I take every precaution I can to guard against the invasive parasitic practices of data collectors who are persistent in their attempts to collect “anonymous” data on my personal browsing habits. But, it’s never enough.

Despite my precautions – despite the tools I use in an attempt to respond to the insidious nature of web tracking – I find myself fighting a constant rear guard action. No sooner do I reach a plateau from which I can exert a functional level of control over the “behind closed doors nature” of Internet tracking – than I’m forced to deal with an even more insidious method of personal data collection.

Let’s spin back for a moment, to the time when the so called LSO (Flash Cookie) was introduced as a response to users gaining control over standard HTTP cookies. Control which allowed for the acceptance, the rejection, and the wiping of private data – including wiping cookies.

The Flash Cookie changed all that. By design, a Flash Cookie (Super Cookie)remains active on a system even after the user has cleared cookies and privacy settings. BetterPrivacy – a free Firefox add-on, stepped into the battle to address this issue, and gave users an opportunity to identify, and delete, Super Cookies.

When a Tracking Cookie is not obvious to a casual Internet user and, when that cookie cannot be deleted without the aid of a specialty cleaner, then Internet tracking has been taken to a level that borders on deception. Hell, let’s call it what it really is – crooked, immoral, fraudulent, illegal, ……..

When I first wrote on Super Cookies in September 2009, I made the following comment -

“……….with little resistance being offered by the “sheeple”,  and a failure by regulatory authorities to enact appropriate consumer protection laws, we can expect privacy intrusions , like this, to accelerate.”

It’s hardly surprising then, that we are now faced with the Evercookie (HTML5 Cookies)

From Wikipedia:

An Evercookie is not merely difficult to delete. It actively “resists” deletion by copying itself in different forms on the user’s machine and resurrecting itself if it notices that some of the copies are missing or expired. Specifically, when creating a new cookie, Evercookie uses the following storage mechanisms when available:

  • Standard HTTP cookies
  • Local Shared Objects (Flash cookies)
  • Silverlight Isolated Storage
  • Storing cookies in RGB values of auto-generated, force-cached PNGs using HTML5 Canvas tag to read pixels (cookies) back out
  • Storing cookies in Web history
  • Storing cookies in HTTP ETags
  • Storing cookies in Web cache
  • window.name caching
  • Internet Explorer userData storage
  • HTML5 Session Storage
  • HTML5 Local Storage
  • HTML5 Global Storage
  • HTML5 Database Storage via SQLite

Hold on – there’s more:

The developer is looking to add the following features:

  • Caching in HTTP Authentication
  • Using Java to produce a unique key based on NIC information.

We’re not quite finished.

With this tool it is possible to have persistent identification of a specific computer, and since it is specific to an account on that computer, it links the data to an individual. It is conceivable this tool could be used to track a user and the different cookies associated with that user’s identifying data without the user’s consent. The tool has a great deal of potential to undermine browsing privacy.

I don’t know what your definition of hacking, or illegal access encompasses – but, in my view, the placement of an Evercookie steps over the line into the realm of cybercrime. I suggest to you, that if a government were to penetrate a user system to plant an Evercookie as a matter of course – the outrage would be immediate. But, private enterprise does it – and the “sheeple” happily bow to what they consider the inevitable.

The tracking industry (a multi-Billion dollar industry), has gone too far on this one. I predict the litigation lawyers, and privacy advocates, will run out the big guns in a justifiable attempt to eradicate this spyware.

Personally, I believe that criminal charges should be laid against the executives of those organizations currently using Evercookie. I see no difference between these yahoos, and Russian cybercriminals.

Additional statistics on which web sites are currently using Evercookies can be had by reading an eye opening article by one of my favorite Tech writers Ed Bott – here.

In the meantime, you might consider installing BleachBit – an open source application which will delete Evercookies from your system.

In the following screen capture I have focused on a Firefox cleanup – including wiping HTML5 cookies.

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In this screen capture the focus is on deleting Flash cookies ((Super Cookies).

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Lets take a look at a preview of what’s going to be deleted -

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Choosing the same parameters using CCleaner (a Flash and Firefox cleanup), leads to a considerable difference.

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Fast facts:

BleachBit quickly frees disk space and tirelessly guards your privacy.

Free cache, delete cookies, clear Internet history, shred temporary files, delete logs, and discard junk you didn’t know was there.

Designed for Linux and Windows systems, it wipes clean 90 applications including Firefox, Internet Explorer, Adobe Flash, Google Chrome, Opera, Safari,and more.

Beyond simply deleting files, BleachBit includes advanced features such as shredding files to prevent recovery, wiping free disk space to hide traces of files deleted by other applications, and vacuuming Firefox to make it faster.

Better than free, BleachBit is open source.

System requirements: Window, Linux.

Languages: This application is available in 56 languages.

Download at: SourceForge

BleachBit is a powerful application; I recommend that you spend some time becoming familiar with its operation and capacity, before using for the first time.

You should consider viewing a tutorial video available here.

30 Comments

Filed under downloads, Evercookies, Flash Cookies, Freeware, Open Source, Privacy, Software

Captcha Monster Eliminates CAPTCHA Completion Frustration

The CAPTCHA, short for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart”, serves a useful purpose – minimizing, or eliminating, one of the scourges of the Internet; the comment spammer. I can speak to how disruptive comment spam can become since, on a daily basis, I have to deal with 300 – 400 comment spams on this site. It’s infuriating, frankly.

I’ve often though of implementing a CAPTCHA scheme here – but then, I come to my senses. I hate CAPTCHAs and, I do everything I can to avoid sites that use them. I’m just no good at trying to work out a “u” from  “v” – an “rn” from an “m”. I could go on but, you see the point, I expect.

I’m hardly alone in this, and as an alternative, many sites off an audio CAPTCHA. You’d think that this would solve the problem for people like me – but no. Generally, I have absolutely no idea what’s been read back. The end result? I’m out of there.

Visual CAPTCHA samples.

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Graphic – Wikipedia.

So, is there a solution for people like me who have a low solve percentage? (in my case approaching zero   Smile) As it turns out – there is.

Captcha Monster – “an easy-to-use, innovative Firefox add-on that completes CAPTCHA tests without you even asking it to. The add-on was designed with people who suffer from dyslexia and/or sight problems in mind, but also extends to those who are just plain fed up of having to prove they are not a site-hacking machine.”

Captcha Monster – screen shots from the developer’s site. Click to expand.

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Fast facts:

Captcha Monster can work for you in different modes.

Set it to its highest level if you want it to routinely weed out CAPTCHA tests.

Run only when you are filling out forms or simply request it as you need it.

With an average solving time of 8.5 seconds, quite often the CAPTCHA window will be completed before you even see it.

98,94% success rate.

Works with virtually any CAPTCHA.

Complete automation.

Dedicated support.

Unlike many Firefox add-ons however – Captcha Monster is not a free service. Instead, the developer offers a number of monthly plans – as follows.

Basic plan – 60 CAPTCHAs a month @ $2.99 monthly.

Extended plan – 120 CAPTCHAs a month @ $4.99 monthly.

Professional plan – 760 CAPTCHAs a month @ $9.99 monthly.

System requirements: Firefox.

Download: You may download a 30 day trial version at the developer’s site: Captcha Monster.

You can checkout the FAQ page here.

A big shout to Mateusz M. for taking time to turn me on to this service.

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Filed under Adaptive Technologies, Comment Spam, downloads, Firefox Add-ons, Software

Free Expat Shield – Easily Watch BBC iPlayer From Outside The UK.

My very good friend, Michael F., with whom I share similar views on life, technology, and related issues, often forwards articles/announcements/videos etc., that I’ve managed to miss – but, wished I hadn’t. I can easily say that Michael keeps me on my toes – so, thank you Michael.

A few weeks back though, I had no access* to a particular documentary suggested by Michael – Surviving Progress. Since the documentary “explores how we are repeatedly destroyed by ‘progress traps’ – alluring technologies which serve immediate need but rob us of our long term future”, it was a “must see.”

So then, how to overcome the viewing restrictions imposed by the BBC iPlayer* since this super service can only be viewed in the UK?

Here’s an example of what you’ll see, should you visit BBC iPlayer from outside the UK. Bummer!

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Still, you can’t keep a good man down – and, I’m a good man – sort of.   Smile So, on the hunt I went for a VPN that would provide me with a UK address – which, as it turns out was very simple exercise.

AnchorFree, the developer’s of the ad-supported VPN service Hotspot Shield, which I’ve reported on a number of times, offers a free additional VPN – Expat Shield (ad-supported) – specifically designed to provide users with a UK IP address.

Following an easy straightforward install, Expat Shield was quick to launch and showed little or no degradation in connection speed – more on this in a moment.

Once the application is up and running, you’ll find a new icon in the Windows System Tray. Clicking on the icon provides access to a selection of input commands, as shown in the following screen captures.

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Having viewed the Surviving Progress documentary earlier, for this review, I watched the full length feature film, The Four Feathers –

“England, 1884. When British officer Harry Faversham resigns right before his regiment is sent to fight in Sudan, three friends and his fiancee each award him with a white feather to symbolize his cowardice. Disowned by his father, renounced by his fiancee and disgraced in society, Harry is determined to prove his bravery. Thrilling adventure based on the classic novel.”

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What an enjoyable experience! The film streamed perfectly – no stuttering or slowdown of any description.

Since the BBC is by far and away my favorite TV network, I’ve made good use of Expat Shield. If you’re a British expat and you miss the BBC, then consider adding Expat Shield to your system. I think you’ll be very pleased with this free solution.

Fast facts:

Get a UK IP address.
Secure your web session, data, online shopping, and personal information online with HTTPS encryption.
Protect yourself from identity theft online.
Hide your IP address for your privacy online.
Access all content privately without censorship; bypass firewalls.
Protect yourself from snoopers at Wi-Fi hotspots, hotels, airports, corporate offices.

System requirements: Windows XP, Vista and Win 7.

Download at: ExpatShield

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Filed under downloads, Freeware, Online Privacy, Software

Trap Malware With Toolwiz TimeFreeze

Toolwiz CareBack in April, I reviewed and highly recommended, a suite of freeware utility applications – Toolwiz Care. Having tested the application extensively, at the end of the day, it was no great leap in logic to say –  “This application is feature packed, and includes a wide range of tools that an average computer user should find powerful, efficient, and effective.”

One of the components included in this super suite is Time Freeze (recently released by the developer’s as a stand alone application) – a “one click simple” virtual system which, when active, virtualizes the operating system. In other words, a copy of the operating system is generated, and it’s within this “copy” – or sandbox, if you like – that all activity takes place. Keep in mind – the operating system is virtualized, only when Time Freeze is active.

So, why bother running in a virtualized environment, you might wonder? The answer is pretty simple – in most circumstances, there’s no real benefit. In fact, running virtualized may create a slight time lag in system response. There are, of course, particular circumstances in which running a virtual machine offers major  advantages – but, those circumstances (since I’ve covered this aspect numerous times in the past), are outside the scope of this review.

Instead, I’ll focus on the security aspect of running in virtual mode with Time Freeze when connected to the Internet. And, there can be significant security benefits.

Let’s assume, for example, that while surfing the Internet you fall victim to a drive-by download (more common than you might realize), while visiting an infected web site. Running in “real” mode would mean that you now have a significant problem on your hands. You can, if you like, believe that your AV application will protect you from the consequences – but, don’t count on it.

The same scenario, while running in virtual mode, will have an entirely different outcome. Since, in virtual mode – it’s a copy of the operating system which is facing the Internet – all system and application changes are restricted to the virtual environment. In other words – it’s the copy which has been infected. Simply rebooting the system does away with the copy, and with it – the infection.

Toolwiz Time Freeze, of all the virtual solutions I’ve reviewed over the past few years, has to be the simplest. It’s easy to use, non intrusive, and after initial setup, requires a minimum of user intervention – perfect for the average user.

Installation was hassle free – it was just a matter of  following the on-screen instructions.

Since the application place a small toolbar (shown below), on the Desktop – launching the application is a snap.

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A quick click on the toolbar and, a click on “Start TimeFreeze”…………

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… and, you’re in business.

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Backing out of the application is equally as easy. At which time, you will have the option of saving any changes made to the system – or not. Not saving changes will require a reboot.

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Fast facts:

Start up system protection. Prevents malicious threats being made and doing harm to your computer. It puts the actual system under protection and creates a virtual environment for system partition.

Simply reboot to restore your system to the previous state.

Don’t reboot to accept all the changes. It will take several minutes to save the changes to your real system.

Folder Protection – Help you to prohibit the changing of files by others.

Helps you to prohibit accessing the protected folders by others.

Protects your files from being infected by viruses or stolen by trojans.

Very easy switch between virtual & real system.

To enter virtual system, no need to reboot computer. To return to real system, just exit System Protection.

System requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8(32 bit and 64 bit)

Download at: Major Geeks

FAQ for Toolwiz Time Freeze

A word of caution: There are no perfect solutions – this application will not protect you against rootkits. Developing safe surfing habits remains your best protection against malware infection.

A further word of caution: Although I’ve had no difficult with this application, there have been reports of system crashes caused by Toolwiz Time Freeze. It’s always good practice to occasionally create a Restore Point – just in case.

This just in: Jim Hillier over at Daves Computer Tips reports the following:

Hey Bill –

I was using Time Freeze pretty regularly to test software for review purposes. I actually stopped using Time Freeze because of persistent issues. Occasionally, after the reboot process, a random service would be stopped. It was no big deal, just go into Services and re-start whichever service had been affected. Then finally, after a reboot, the OS would not load at all. I tried everything to get the OS to boot but no go. I can only assume that this time an essential system service had been stopped. I ended up having to restore a recent image.

So, you may be better off avoiding this application.

10 Comments

Filed under 64 Bit Software, downloads, Freeware, Software, System Utilities, Virtualization