Category Archives: Windows XP

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

GigaTribe Private P2P – Share Your Videos, Pics, And Docs Privately

image A few days ago, I ran a few tests on peer to peer downloads, on the off chance that things had improved in this malware infested playground. No such luck, of course.

Of the five game files that I downloaded, every one came packed with a Trojan downloader, which, had I installed any of these applications, would have wrecked havoc on my test machine.

In a nutshell, that’s the main problem with public peer to peer file sharing. The chances are high, that you will not get what you think you will, and you will get what you don’t think you will.

Additional issues (but not the only issues) are:

Privacy: When you are connected to file-sharing programs, you may unintentionally allow others to copy confidential files you did not intend to share.

Spyware: There’s a chance that the file-sharing program you’re using has installed other software known as spyware to your computer’s operating system. I can assure you that spyware can be difficult to detect and remove.

So what’s a fellow to do who enjoys file sharing, and who doesn’t want to be burned by the cybercriminals who skulk on public file sharing networks, searching for victims?

A terrific solution to this quandary is a free application from GigaTribe. An application which is designed to create a private network between you, and your friends, relatives, co-workers, or, whomever you choose.

If you have every used peer to peer software, then you’ll find no learning curve involved in using GigaTribe – it’s functional, efficient, attractive, and “follow the bouncing ball” intuitive.

How much more simply can it be than this:

GigaTribe

The following graphic is from the publisher’s site.

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Fast facts:

GigaTribe has more than 1, 600,000 users.
Its unique technology has been developed by talented programmers with a strong history in the software industry.

There are no limitations on quantity or file size.
All your files are kept on your hard drive, eliminating the need to transfer them to an external server.

Files are available in their original format.
In just a few clicks, you can share and also find files as if you were in a virtual library. You will see files as they were organized on the hard drive, and you can download them in their original format.

You don’t waste time uploading files.
Once you select which folders you want to share, the contents of those folders are instantly accessible to your friends.

Your files remain yours!
Files you have decided to share are not saved on another company’s equipment. You keep your data under your control.

It´s a two-way sharing service.
Each contact can both share and download. You decide which content is worth downloading among the files available to you.

You may invite up to 500 friends.

Transfer automatically resumes.
If a download is interrupted (for example, if a contact goes offline), the transfer automatically resumes with no loss of data when your contact comes back online.

Security is, of course, GigaTribe´s major concern.

Only the people you have invited can see your files. Only the folders you have selected are visible to your contacts. Every exchange is strongly encrypted – No one can see what is being shared.

Downloads are encrypted (Blowfish 256-bit).

As an added bonus, users’ can create profiles, and have access to personal chat and a private blog, all from within the program. Now that’s cool!

According to the developers, GigaTribe (although I haven’t tested this), can also be used to access your PC from a remote location.

System requirements: Windows 2000, XP, 2003, Vista, Server 2008, Windows 7. (no indication on the publisher’s site of x64 compatibility).

Languages: English, Español, Français, Deutsch, Italiano, Português

Download at: Gigatribe

It’s not often that I can rate an application 100%, but GigaTribe comes very close. A superb application! If you’re into private file sharing, or it’s something that you’ve considered, then give GigaTribe a whirl – I think you’ll be glad you did.

For additional information checkout the developer’s FAQ.

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Filed under downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Networking, Peer to Peer, Privacy, social networking, Software, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

TweakGuides.com – A Tweakers Paradise?

imageComputing is more or less all about generics – a sort of, one size fits all approach. But, if you’re like me, the last thing you want is a machine that’s configured to run with settings which don’t take into account your specific requirements. Luckily, there are more than a few free tweaking apps available, which help average users apply the most common system tweaks.

But, if you’re considering customizations beyond the basics – tweaking your games, browsers, video card, or overclocking your CPU for example, you’re going to have to to dig a little deeper on your own. Unless you’re aware of TweakGuides.com, that is.

If you’re looking for a site that covers tweaking the way it should be covered – detailed, suitable for both novice and advanced users, and written in plain language, then TweakGuides.com is the place for you.

Just some of the goodies available at TweakGuides:

Firefox Tweak Guide

Google Customization Guide

The Gamer’s Graphics & Display Settings Guide

Game Tweak Guides

But, I’ve held onto the best for last – TweakGuides Tweaking Companion – a terrific compilation of Windows customization, optimization and troubleshooting advice for Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7.

From the site:

The TweakGuides Tweaking Companion (TGTC) is the complete system customization and optimization guide for all Windows users. Designed for novice and advanced users alike, it is written in plain English to help you genuinely understand all key aspects of Windows and your PC.

The guide covers every major topic, from the correct installation of critical drivers and software, through to simple explanations and recommendations for every significant Windows setting and feature, all the major performance and convenience tweaks and customizations, as well as detailed troubleshooting advice.

Also provided are links and instructions for a large number of reliable free applications which can enhance your system and give you viable alternatives to purchasing commercial software.

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In all cases, the regular system specific edition of TweakGuides Tweaking Companion (PDF) is free.

Once downloaded, first extract the PDF file from the .ZIP archive using the built-in Windows compression utility, or the free 7-Zip utility. Then use the free Foxit Reader software to read the PDF file.

To round out the free offerings, the site provides a very active forum – the place to go for questions, answers, and advice, on operating systems, software, and hardware.

A big shout out to regular reader Michael F., for introducing me to this super site.  Thank you Michael.

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Filed under downloads, Firefox, Freeware, Google, System Tweaks, Technicians Advise, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Is Windows XP Dead? Not According To OPSWAT’s June 2011 Quarterly Report

imageTo quote Mark Twain, “The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” I suspect, if Windows XP were capable of speech, we just might hear the same observation repeated regarding its own demise.

Sure, Windows XP no longer holds the overwhelming market share it once held – which, according to Computerworld, reached a high of  83.6% of all operating systems in November 2007. But, statistics in OPSWAT’s latest quarterly report, to be released today, might surprise those pundits who frequently pontificate that XP is dead – dead – dead. We’ll, it just isn’t so!

There’s little doubt of course, that XP will eventually disappear from the scene – but, not quite yet. In the meantime, according to OPSWAT, XP continues to hold a better than 50% worldwide operating system market share at 55.84%, followed by Windows 7 at 38.81%. Vista trails the pack, with a dismal showing of 4.72%.

BTW, I’m not here to dispute the fact that Windows 7 is considerably safer overall than XP – that would be simply ludicrous. But, it’s equally as ludicrous to ignore the fact (as so many self described “experts” do), that XP continues to command a huge market share. 

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Graphic courtesy OPSWAT

Additionally, the OPSWAT’s report takes a close look at Worldwide and North American Antivirus vendors market share and, the gathered information may hold some surprises for those who assume that the security application marketplace is controlled by a select few major developers.

The following graphic reflects North American market penetration only. Worldwide statistics are available in the full report.

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Graphic courtesy OPSWAT

Report methodology: Usage data for security applications on Windows systems.

The data was collected using OPSWAT’s AppRemover and Am I OESIS OK? tools, which utilize the detection capabilities of the OESIS Framework to collect information regarding the applications installed on endpoint computers.

More than 43,000 data points were compiled for this report.

The full report which is chock fill of absorbing statistics is available here.

So, who is OPSWAT? 

If you’re a techie then you’re very likely familiar with AppRemover, a free powerful anti-malware, antivirus application remover from OPSWAT. Beyond this direct connection however, you might not be familiar with OPSWAT.

From the site:

OPSWAT is the industry leader in software management SDKs, interoperability certification and multiple-engine scanning solutions. Our solutions are simplified and comprehensive, solving complex development problems to reduce time and costs for your engineering and testing teams.

OPSWAT offers software manageability solutions to streamline technology partnerships between leading technology solutions and software vendors. By enabling seamless compatibility and easy management capabilities, we make connecting your solutions with other software applications effortless.

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Antivirus Applications, Freeware, OPSWAT, Reports, Windows 7, Windows XP

Free Secret Disk – Keep Your Secret Computer Files “Secret”

imageThe days of privileged information, and personal privacy, have gone with the wind. Private information concerning you is accumulated, bought and sold, and then manipulated for profit. If you’re like most people in developed countries – you probably don’t care. After all, you have nothing to hide; right?

In the broader sense, you are probably right; not that there’s much you could do about it, in any case. We really do live in the era of “Big Brother”.

Privacy though, can be a real issue when it comes to your computer, and the information stored on your Hard Drive. Something, I’m sure, you do not want compromised.

Most of us have information on our machines that we consider privileged information – sensitive financial data readily comes to mind. As well, many of us have additional files that we may consider sensitive and confidential. Files that we don’t want a spouse, girlfriend, a child, or others, to have ready access to.

Recently, I’ve noticed the unusually high number of child pornographers (those with child pornography on their Hard Drives), who were caught (including in my own community), following maintenance work on their computers by computer technicians.

Possession of child pornography is a heinous crime, and we should use all appropriate methods to root out both its production, and possession; applying the most severe criminal sanctions for those convicted.

Having said that however, I’ve always had an aversion to computer technicians inappropriately searching through customers’ Hard Drives. Something which occurs much more often than the average user might suspect.

Hint: Don’t keep what might be considered embarrassing personal pics on your computer unless they are encrypted, or otherwise protected. You wouldn’t want that type of pic copied by someone (and they frequently are by those having unrestricted access), for their own uses – would you?

I’ve long been a strong believer in encrypting information that needs to be restricted, and there are many free encryption programs available for download, that do a great job.

Encryption though, is not the only way to restrict access to private information on a computer. Last year, I came across a neat little program – that’s since been updated – which handles the privacy issue in an non-encrypted way. A way that is effective in ensuring private files remain private.

Secret Disk 1.27 (updated January 23, 2011), does one thing, and it does it very well. It creates a separate secret disk on your Hard Drive, in a non-complex way, for your “secret” files. When the disk is locked it’s invisible, and cannot be seen by other users.

Installation and setup is a snap. Following installation, simply assign a password to Secret Disk, and you’re good to go – simple, fast, and uncomplicated!

Multi-language.

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The screen capture below, shows Secret Disk as drive “Z” on my Windows 7 test system.

Click on graphic to expand to original size.

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Fast facts:

Separate disk for your private files – this tool will create a separate disk for your private files.

Access with a password – you can access Secret Disk only with a password.

Locking – when locked Secret Disk disappears and stays invisible with all contents.

One second protection – when you need protection Secret Disk disappears within one second with all content, no matter how many files you have on the disk.

Power failure – in case of power (or Windows) failure, Secret Disk will be automatically locked.

Automatic locking – Secret Disk can be automatically locked if you away from your PC (screensaver is running), or when you press the  F8 key.

No hardware – no additional hardware required. Space for secret disk will be taken from your system disk.

Recommendation: If you’re looking for a free application to protect your secret files from prying eyes, Secret Disk is definitely worth taking a look at.

Secret Disk is a particularly good application for novice, or casual computer users, who don’t have the skills to work with more complex encryption applications.

System requirements: Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 7

Supported languages: English, French, Italian, Korean, Chinese, Russian, Norwegian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Turkish, Japanese, Finnish, German

Download at: Developer’s site (PrivacyRoot.com)

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Filed under downloads, Encryption Software Alternatives, Freeware, Privacy, Software, System Security, System Utilities, Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Paragon System Backup – Free For 3 Days Only (Save $29.99)

Paragon  System Backup (3 user license), is available for free until April, 22 9:00am (EST). To take advantage of this offer you will need to visit the Paragon Facebook page and click the “like” button. You will need a Facebook account in order to do this.

From Paragon:

System Backup – Simple, smart and secure technology – plus premium backup options!

System Backup is easy to use and highly automated: out-of-the-box automation for scheduled background protection of your complete system and data. Plus, customizable backup strategy options for specialized individual needs. Choose instant automation or customize each backup detail, System Backup does both with maximum levels of protection and power.

Key Features and Benefits of System Backup:

Software and Hardware Support
Windows 7 support

Accomplish any operation under Windows 7.

update Improved support of 64-bit platforms

There’s no more need for bootable media when modifying system partitions, even with Windows 64-bit operating systems. The program automatically reboots in the Windows native mode to complete operations without any additional commands.

New New Linux kernel

The latest Linux kernel provides support of wider range of hardware.

Automatization Features

update Automated Backup Strategy

Choose between the built-in backup strategy or create your own and the program will keep automatically backing up the system and data on a regular basis. This “Set & Forget” approach provides a new level of flexibility and minimizes user involvement by focusing only on the most relevant options.

New Advanced Backup Strategy

The program has advanced features for configuring backup strategy:

  • Scheduling: fuzzy or precise
  • Snapshot type: auto selected, full or differential
  • Retention policy: number of archives to keep
  • Volumes to backup: all or user selected
  • Exclude masks: exclude unnecessary data from backup image

update Precise Scheduling

Automate the exact time to run backups and lighten your workload.

Backup Features

New Space Saving Options

You can decide storage space saving options for defining whether to create differential snapshots automatically according to the program’s sophisticated algorithm, or to create full snapshots after a defined number of differential snapshots, or to not create differential snapshots at all.

New Backup Object Selection

Define what volumes to protect using backup strategy (every object, or user-defined) to secure really important data.

NewAdjust Backup Process Priority

Backup process priority can be raised or lowered automatically by the program giving you more or less hardware resources available for other running programs and tasks. Available only for automated backups.

update Exclude files and folders

Exclude files or folders from a backup image according to defined masks. Reduce the size of backup images and minimize backup time by excluding unnecessary files such as music, movies, etc.

Smart backup engine

The Smart backup engine distributes resources to other applications when backing up in the automatic mode so that simultaneously running applications don’t take a performance hit.

Backup on-the-fly

System Backup saves your PC on-the-fly without interrupting your current activity. You don’t need to close any of your applications or restart the computer during the process.

Restore Features

Easy restore to a previous state

System Backup restores a snapshot of your PC to the point where it last ran smoothly.

Fast recovery after system failure

Start the recovery process simply by clicking F6 key.

Selective restore

Easily extract files and folders from a snapshot without needing to restore the whole PC.

New WinPE 3.0 Recovery CD

The latest version of Windows Pre-installation Environment provides a wider range of hardware configurations.

User Interface Features

Intuitive user interface

Simple and convenient with contextual help for all user controls.

Advanced notification system

Color indicators in the system tray inform you about the level of danger your system is in and prompt you with ways to repair it.

From the Facebook page:

Simple, smart and secure technology – plus premium backup options!

System Backup is easy to use and highly automated: out-of-the-box automation for scheduled background protection of your complete system and data. Plus, customizable backup strategy options for specialized individual needs. Choose instant automation or customize each backup detail, System Backup does both with maximum levels of protection and power.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Backup Applications, Backup Tools, downloads, Free Full Versions, Giveaways, Software, Software Giveaways, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Windows Problems? Get The Answer Straight From The “Horse’s Mouth” – Windows Help Files

imageIf you have a problem with your car, it seems obvious that you’d seek out answers from your mechanic friend, and not your friend the plumber, or your friend the carpenter. In other words, you’d get the answers to your questions straight from the “horse’s mouth” – meaning, from the highest authority.

In the real world it does seem to work that way – we do go to the highest authority. In the technology world on the other hand, there seems to be a bit of a reversal in this common sense approach.

Take an issue like “my computer won’t start”, for example. Surprisingly, there are over 42 Million search results on Google for this dreaded situation.

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It’s not a scientific observation by any means, but this amazing number of search results is one indication that computer users are more prone to search out answers to technical issues, from sources other than Microsoft which, in many cases, is the highest authority for computer related issues.

It just seems practical to follow the advice on a Microsoft diagnostic page (as in the following example), which can often lead directly to a solution, rather than to search haphazardly and to trust that along the way a solution will present itself.

Screen capture from the Microsoft page.

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The diagnostic page shown above, continues with additional suggestions and recommendations.

I’ll often get questions from friends on Windows related issues, or on a specific application issue, and I’ve made it a habit to ask – “Have you checked Windows help files” or, “Have you checked the application’s help files”. It’s not unusual that I get a blank look, followed by a – huh?

This type of interaction is really a perfect opportunity to teach that Microsoft provides very substantial help files, and, that many product developers provide not only help files – but often offer troubleshooting guides, and FAQ’s, on their websites.

Piriform’s CCleaner for example (click graphic to expand).

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It’s been my experience that Microsoft help files are an underutilized resource; it shouldn’t be that way. While all Microsoft help files are not created equal, for the most part, this resource is a powerful problem solver. Likewise, specific application help files are often flush with problem resolutions.

From Microsoft – How to access Windows help.

Windows 7

On the Windows Taskbar click the Start menu (the Windows icon located on the left side).

Windows Start menu

Then select Help and Support.

Windows Start menu with Help and Support selected

The Windows Help and Support dialogue will open, providing you with additional options for solving your problem.

Windows help dialog

Windows Vista

On the Windows Taskbar click the Start menu (the Windows icon located on the left side).

Windows Start menu

Then select Help and Support.

Windows Start menu with Help and Support selected

The Windows Help and Support dialogue will open, providing you with additional options for solving your problem.

Windows help dialog

Windows Search 4.0 for Windows XP

Click in the Windows Deskbar to display the Windows Search Results window.

Windows Deskbar

Then click on the down arrow next to the Windows logo.

Windows Deskbar with down arrow selected

Point to Help, then click on Search Help to open the Help window.

Help menu with Windows Search Help selected

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Filed under Computer Tools, Education, Help, Microsoft, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP