Monthly Archives: January 2009

Portable Apps Suite Is Sweet – USB Office

USB Stick 1 With Portable Apps Suite, (free to use, free to copy, and free to share), you can carry your favorite portable computer programs with you on your USB flash drive, iPod, or portable hard drive, to school, work, or your hotel while you’re taking that much deserved vacation!

The Portable Apps Suite allows you to play your media files, browse the net, compose documents, or check your email on the road. The applications can be used on any Windows computer, and on shut down, to insure your privacy, will not leave any traces on the host computer.

PAS is a collection of portable applications which includes, ClamWin Portable (antivirus), Mozilla Firefox Portable Edition (web browser), Gaim Portable (instant messaging), OpenOffice.org Portable (office suite) compatible with Microsoft Word files,

Sudoku Portable (puzzle game), Mozilla Sunbird Portable Edition (calendar/task manager) and Mozilla Thunderbird Portable Edition (email client), all preconfigured to work portably.

portable-apps

You can install any of three variations of Portable Apps Suite based on your preferences or your USB drive’s capacity.

Standard Suite – 260MB – All applications as noted above

Lite Suite – 105MB – AbiWord Portable substituted for Open Office

Base Suite – Basic Menu Program – add only the applications you choose

All versions of the Portable Apps Suite include the integrated Portable Apps Menu and the Portable Apps Backup utility, along with a set of custom icons, auto play configuration, folders, and a quick start shortcut.

System Requirements: Windows 95/98/Me/2000/XP/Vista, and Wine under Linux/UNIX/BSD/Mac OS X

Download at: PortableApps.com

Additional portable applications offered for free download at PortableApps.com.

Accessibility

Firefox Accessibility Extension – Make Firefox more accessible

On-Screen Keyboard Portable – Easily access an on-screen keyboard

Virtual Magnifying Glass Portable – A full-featured screen magnifier

Development

Notepad++ Portable – A full-featured text editor with syntax highlighting

Nvu Portable & KompoZer Portable – The easy-to-use Nvu web editor

XAMPP – Apache, mySQL, PHP, phpMyAdmin, in one package

Games

DOSBox Portable – classic DOS games to go

Mines-Perfect Portable – a classic hunt-for-mines game with advanced features

PokerTH Portable – classic Texas Hold Em style poker at its best

Sudoku Portable – the wildly popular and addictive puzzle game

Graphics & Pictures

GIMP Portable – Photo and Image Editor

Internet

FileZilla Portable – the full-featured FTP client

FireFTP Extension (for Firefox) – a lightweight extension

Miranda IM Portable – chat with AOL, MSN and Yahoo users in a customizable interface

Mozilla Firefox, Portable Edition – the award-winning web browser that’s safe and secure

Mozilla Thunderbird, Portable Edition – the handy email client

Nvu Portable & KompoZer Portable – the easy-to-use webpage editor

Pidgin Portable – chat with AOL, MSN and Yahoo users in an easy-to-use interface

PuTTY Portable – lightweight telnet and SSH client

Sage Extension (for Firefox) – A full-featured RSS extension

WinSCP Portable – SFTP, FTP and SCP client

Music & Video

Audacity Portable – A simple audio editor and recorder

MPlayer Portable – Full-featured movie player with support for most video formats

VirtualDub Portable – video processing and capture utility

VLC Media Player Portable – An easy to use media player that plays most audio and video formats

Office

AbiWord Portable – a lightweight word processor compatible with Microsoft Word files

Lightning Extension (for Thunderbird) – A lightweight extension for your calendar and tasks

Mozilla Sunbird, Portable Edition – Calendar and task management with a familiar interface

Mozilla Thunderbird, Portable Edition (Address Book) – Email client’s built-in address book with import/export functions

OpenOffice.org Portable – word processor, spreadsheet, presentations with Microsoft compatibility

Sumatra PDF Portable – a lightweight PDF viewer

Utilities

SwissMemory3

7-Zip Portable – File archiver and compressor

ClamWin Portable – Antivirus on the go

Command Prompt Portable – Simple link to a customizable command prompt

Eraser Portable – securely delete files and data

KeePass Password Safe Portable – Secure, easy-to-use password manager

PortableApps.com Backup – integrated backup utility bundled with the platform

PortableApps.com Menu – integrated start menu bundled with the platform

Toucan – backup, sync and encrypt for advanced users

Download at: PortableApps.com

2 Comments

Filed under Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Mobile Applications, Open Source, Portable Applications, Productivity Software, Software, USB, Windows Tips and Tools

Simple/Wizard Driven 3DPlus 2 Design Software Free

serif3dplus2 As I’ve mentioned before on this Blog, SerifSoftware entices you in an unusual way to buy, or upgrade, to their latest software offerings. They will give you, free of charge, an older version of any of their software packages. An interesting twist on the usual “try it for free for 30 days” we are all pretty familiar with.

Having used and tested, Serif’s free editions for 10+ years now, and I find that even their older software is more than up to the tasks I set.

Sure, the applications may be older than the current versions, but in terms of functionality and features, generally you are not missing much. Most software today, tends to be overblown and bloated with features that many users have little or no need of. So, in these older free versions there are not as many tools as one might find with more recent products, but those that are there tend to be the ones that are most used by typical users.

serif3dplus2screen3

(Click pic for larger)

Despite the slightly dated appearance of Serif’s 3DPlus 2, this is not an ‘old’ program that’s been revived just for give-away. 3DPlus 2 is a very functional and easy-to-use tool, capable of producing great 3D graphics, logos, headlines and 3D animations.

Serif keeps things simple by offering template-based wizards for still and animated graphics, combined with preset controls and 3D content. The gallery of ready-made objects, from basic shapes to clothes, household appliances, sports equipment and more, is designed to save you time. As well, 3D Quickshapes gives you an easy shortcut to stars, arrows, speech bubbles and other basic shapes.

It won’t take you long to become familiar with keying in text, extruding it to create a 3D object, adding texture and lighting, dropping in a background image, adding other 3D objects from the library and changing the camera position to get a better view from above, below or behind.

There’s something pretty neat about being able to build a solid 3D object, move it around and view it from every angle. Serif 3DPlus 2 lets you do just that, without anything getting in the way of the fun.

Quick Facts:

Easy-to-Use Interface

• With its simple interface and intuitive tools, 3DPlus makes creating any 3D design a breeze. The new Wizard interface and convenient tabbed Studio Bar mean it’s easier than ever to get exactly the 3D effects you need.

Automated Wizards

• Get the precise result you need with 3DPlus 2’s collection of over 300 automatic Wizards. From designer logos and Web buttons to animated greetings, 3DPlus has a Wizard for every occasion.

Bevels and Extrusions

• Add a new dimension to your text and designs. Choose from a range of customizable bevels, apply to your objects and watch as 3DPlus creates professional quality effects.

Web Impact

• 3DPlus is the perfect tool for creating 3D logos, banners, Web graphics and animations. With 3DPlus you can add a 3D look that will really make your site stand out.

Automatic Animation

• With 3DPlus, 3D animated graphics are easy Object and lighting effects can be applied with a single click and easy-to-use yet powerful 3D animation tools and instant special effects allow you to create animations in seconds. Export your work as an animated GIF to your Web site or presentation.

Camera Control

• View your scene from any angle with six preset camera positions and freeform orbiting.

Lighting Effects

• With full control over the lighting of your scene and a gallery of preset schemes, 3DPlus allows you to add drama or subtlety to your scene with a single click. You can create and save your favorite lighting schemes for future use.

Models/Materials Gallery

• Personalize your work. Choose from over 600 3D Models and over 500 backgrounds, textures and fills, all easily accessible from 3DPlus’s easy-to-use gallery.

Text and Effects

• Add text and apply textures, bevels and shadows to create effects. Whether you need a new logo for your company, product or club, or a new graphic for your Web site, 3DPlus makes it easy to get the look you want.

3D Objects and Materials

• Creating 3D Objects is easy with 3DPlus. The materials, patterns and textures in the 3DPlus Library provide all the power and flexibility you need to create 3D elements, 3D worlds, scenes, and animations.

3D QuickShapes

• Can’t draw? 3D QuickShapes work like intelligent clipart, no need to draw at all, just select and customize.

System Requirements: Windows 95/ 98/ 2000/ XP

Download at: SerifSoftware

2 Comments

Filed under Drawing Software, Free Full Versions, Freeware, Productivity Software, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

Cloud Computing – Is Your Head In The Cloud Yet?

This is a guest post by Glenn Taggart of The Crazy World of G, who brings a background as a high level super user, to the Blogging world.

cloud[1] As Glenn explains “Even though I spend most of my day at a desktop or on the road (in the Pacific NW), with my laptop, I have an insatiable thirst for leading edge computer technology that helps me get my job done faster.

I firmly believe we are on the verge of an open source cloud computing world. The company I work for is making great strides in making our software web accessible (which is no small feat!) I am excited to share my cloud research as it evolves”.

Take a look at some of the Cloud applications Glenn has discovered, and has put to good use.

HOMEPAGE

iGoogle – I love all things Google and this is my first stop when I enter The Cloud. Check out the Radiohead theme to customize iGoogle.

WEB MAIL

Gmail – integrates nicely with pretty much everything. It’s also the consummate beta so if you are a geek wannabee, you can make sure to tell everyone you are testing beta software.

RSS READER

Google Reader – The best RSS news compiler.

OFFICE DOCS

Google Docs – Word processing, Spreadsheets, calendar, etc.

FILE HOSTING

Mediafire – Unlimited file hosting for all types of files. I use it to back up my media and it has an excellent photo album view that lets you share files and folders. Highly recommend.

PERSONAL DATA / PASSWORD MANAGER

Clipperz – I’m still a little weary of putting my bank account info in The Cloud but Clipperz uses a pretty strong encryption method which is fine for storing your other passwords.

BOOKMARKS

Delicious – Does an excellent job managing your web bookmarks and integrates nicely with Firefox.

PHONE CONFERENCING

Rondee – I use it and it works great.

Calliflower – I use this service as a backup. Haven’t had to yet…

FILE COMPRESSION

Shrinkfile – Compresses/Extracts files to zip, etc.

FILE CONVERSION

Zamzar – I use this to convert open office docs to Microsoft doc formats. It will pretty much convert any file you throw at it to a compatible format.

IMAGE HOSTING

Rapidpik – I use this to host image files for my blog on occasion. Very fast and no sign up required.

PHOTO EDITING

Photofunia – Uses face recognition technology to insert your mug in a variety of different poses.

Face In A Hole – Another face recognition site. Just upload your favorite face photo and choose the pose.

PixiFX – Online image editor. I like the various borders they offer (among other effects). Once again, upload your photo and choose your effect. User friendly.

MEETING SCHEDULER

Diarised – I haven’t had the opportunity yet to use this but I’m anxious to. Very nice layout.

CALCULATOR

Ecalc – This is the daddy of all things calculated and converted.

LARGE FILE SENDER

Filemail – I use this every once in awhile when I have to send a large file(s) to someone who’s email won’t accept large files. This happens to me frequently.

FAX

Drop.io – Online fax machine. It’s a pain to use but it works in a pinch.

Another promising cloud technology that I’m keeping my eye on (I already registered, it’s not yet available) is Grand Central which has just been purchased by Google. Check it out, it looks pretty cool.

14 Comments

Filed under Cloud Computing Applications, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Google, Interconnectivity, Networking, Productivity Software, Recommended Web Sites, Software, Web Development, Windows Tips and Tools

Encrypt Your USB Drive with Free Software

encryption 1 What is it they say about the shoemaker’s daughter – oh yes; she has no shoes!

What is it they say about the computer tech who consistently warns computer users to take particular care of USB drives to ensure they won’t be lost, or stolen? Well today they might say – he should be more careful and follow his own advice!

I have made a habit, these last several years, of carrying one or more USB drives with me no matter the activity I’m engaged in. So it wasn’t unusual that while skiing this past weekend, I had two flash drives with me. What was unusual though was – I lost both sticks on the slopes. Yes, skiing occasionally involves falling head over heels.

Other than the minor cost involved in replacement, and the drudgery of reinstalling my trusty ‘tech toolbox” no real harm occurred since both drives were encrypted. Nevertheless, the lesson learned here was – none of us are infallible.

Sure, I know, you’ll never lose your USB flash drive, and you take particular care to ensure it won’t be stolen. But does loss, or theft, of a USB stick happen? You bet. My recent experience is a perfect example. Just this past week, it was reported that in the U.K., 9,000 USB drives were found by dry cleaners in 2008.

The following are selected statistics, but they make the point that USB sticks, or other portable media devices, frequently get lost, or stolen.

Privacyrights.org recently reported that in the last two years, personal information on over 244 million Americans has being stolen, or exposed in other ways.

– Recently in the U.K., an unencrypted Ministry of Defense USB drive was found on the floor of a nightclub. That’s not much of a story I suppose, but added to the other fifty eight Ministry of Defense unencrypted drives that were reported lost in 2008 which contained details of troop movements, locations, and travel accommodation, and it takes on a different perspective.

– In the U.S., The Transportation Security Agency (TSA) recently admitted the loss of an unencrypted external hard drive containing the personal, bank and payroll information of up to 100,000 of its former and current employees who worked for the agency from January 2002 until August 2005.

– Several months ago, unencrypted data on all 84,000 prisoners in England and Wales went missing after a contractor lost a USB stick on which it had been stored.

– According to Security Software Zone

“Government data loss and data leakages related to lost or stolen computer memory sticks, are now commonplace.”

In too many of these cases, negligently, the data is unencrypted. Certainly Laptop/ USB flash drive theft or loss is not restricted to organizations; we know that it can just as easily happen to you or me.

To reduce or eliminate the security threat to your sensitive data, the most prudent course for you to follow is to encrypt your data. If you’re unfamiliar with data encryption; simply put, it is a process by which bits of data are mathematically jumbled with a password-key. The process makes the data unreadable unless, or until, decrypted by you.

Microsoft revealed recently that Windows 7, its next operating system, will include a feature that will let users encrypt USB drives.

In the meantime, here are a number of free encryption applications that will encrypt your data and are suitable for a USB flash drive.

EncryptOnClick

Encryptonclick 1 EncryptOnClick is a free program that lets you securely encrypt and decrypt files. The program is very simple to use, and features military grade 256-bit AES encryption.

After you have launched the application, simply select the target file/folder you want to encrypt.

Following the easy interface, type a password for that file/folder which will then be encrypted. To open the encrypted file/folder at a later date, you must type the correct password.

Quick facts:

A very secure encryption and decryption method is used (256-bit AES encryption)

Files are both compressed & encrypted, which results in a smaller file

Password protected

Will encrypt single files or all files in a folder

Very simple to use interface

Can be used on a USB key

Fully Unicode enabled so filenames in any language can be encrypted

Will encrypt, decrypt, compress, and uncompress files which can also be opened and decrypted using third party programs like WinZip 9 – provided the correct password is used

Will detect if you’re decrypting a file that is in a temporary folder, and if so, will prompt you to see if you would like to decrypt it into a different folder

Command line parameters can be used

Complete help file

Free technical support, online forums, knowledge base, and FAQs at 2BrightSparks

Tip: Use on a USB key by copying the files EncryptOnClick.exe, EncryptOnClick.exe manifest, ExceedZip.dll to a named folder on the USB key.

System Requirements: Windows 98/ME/2000/XP

Download at: Download.com

TrueCrypt

truecrypt 3 TrueCrypt is an outstanding free open source software system, (one I have using for the last several years) 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. No data stored on an encrypted volume can be read (decrypted) without using the correct password/correct encryption keys.

TrueCrypt uses 11 algorithms for encrypting private files in a password-protected volume. You can store your encrypted data in files, partitions, or a portable storage device such as a USB flash drive.

Once your encrypted files are mounted to a local drive with your password or key, you can manipulate those files, i.e. you can open, copy, delete, or modify them. When you have completed working on those files, you then dismount the volume and the files are then safely secured from unauthorized access.

Quick 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

System Requirements: Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista

Download at: Download.com

For those of you who are more interested in protecting files, or folders, on your home computer the two applications above will do the job nicely. Choice is good of course, so here is an additional free program that you might be interested in.

My Lockbox

mylockbox 1 My Lockbox is a freeware software application that allows you to do just that, and then password protect those files on your computer.

Other users will not have access to these files, nor will they be able to accidentally, or otherwise, view them or manipulate them in any way.

The protected folder (lockbox) is hidden from all other users and applications on your computer; including the Administrator and the System. The lockbox (protected folder), is impossible to access not only from the local computer, but also from the Internet.

Following the on-screen instructions makes this program extremely easy to setup and use. The lockbox location, password, and parameters are configured during the easy setup procedure.

After the setup is completed, the lockbox will be hidden and locked until you, as the user, enter the valid password. My Lockbox Control Panel allows you easily change basic lockbox parameters: lockbox location, protection status, and password.

The program is effective, easy to use and best of all – it’s free.

Quick facts:

Very easy to use

Almost any folder on your computer can be password protected

Instant protection – no file scrambling

Lockbox folder is inaccessible even by the system administrators

Lockbox folder is inaccessible both locally and remotely

Lockbox folder can be protected in Windows safe mode

Hotkeys support – you can popup the Control Panel with a keystroke

Skinned user interface

Freeware

System Requirements: Windows 2000, XP, 2003 Server, Vista

Download at: Download.com

5 Comments

Filed under Don't Get Hacked, Encryption, Encryption Software, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Mobile Applications, Open Source, Privacy, Software, System Security, USB, Utilities, Windows 7

Total Protect 2009/ TotalProtect2009 – 3 Removal Solutions

The crafty cyber-crooks who developed PC Protection Center 2008 are at it again with the release of Total Protect 2009. Total Protect 2009 is yet another rogue security application, in a long line of rogue security applications, currently circulating on the Internet, seeking out unaware users in order to infect their computers and to steal their money.

Like all rogue security applications, Total Protect 2009 is a master at using Trojans, and fake advertising, to convince unaware Internet users to install this parasitic application.

(Click pic for larger)

TotalProtect - site

The Total Protect 2009 site looks harmless but…….

If you’re an experienced computer user, then you’re aware that the Internet is saturated with rogue security programs like Total Protect 2009, which, if installed, can often cost the unfortunate victim loads of money in an attempt to get rid of it. What you might not be aware of is, rogue security software, has now evolved into a billion dollar criminal enterprise.

TotalProtect

In the last year, or so, I have heard some horrendous stories from readers where the common thread has been the debiting of their credit cards, multiple times, by the cyber-criminals responsible for the distribution of Rogue Security Software.

The objective of Total Protect 2009, which is the objective of all Rogue Security Software, is to convince the victim to pay for the “full” version of the application in order to remove what are, in fact, false positives that parasitic programs, such as this, are designed to display on the infected computer in various ways, including fake scan results, pop-ups and system tray notifications.

Like many parasitic applications, this particular rogue security software’s installer is often found on adult websites, or it can be installed manually, from rogue security software websites including totalprotect2009.com.

The graphic below, illustrates how WOT (Web of Trust), described later in this article, protects web users from interacting with unsafe sites, such as totalprotect2009.com.

TotalProtect WOT

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

If you are a victim of this, or other Rogue Security Software, the following removal solutions will be invaluable.

Removal Solutions:

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

SmitFraudFix, available for download at Geekstogo is a free tool that is continuously updated to assist victims of rogue security applications including the removal of Total Protect 2009.

Malwarebytes, a very reliable anti-malware company, has created a free application to help keep you safe and secure. RogueRemover will safely remove a number of rogue security applications. You will also have the option of downloading the free version of Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware, a highly rated anti-malware application which is capable of removing many newer rogue applications.

What you can do to reduce the chances of infecting your system with rogue security software.

Consider the ramifications carefully before responding to a Windows Security Alert pop-up message. This is a favorite vehicle used by rogue security application to begin the process of infecting unwary users’ computers.

Be cautious in downloading freeware, or shareware programs. Spyware is occasionally concealed in these programs. Download this type of program only through reputable web sites such as Download.com, or sites that you know to be safe.

Consider carefully the inherent risks attached to peer-to-peer (P2P), or file sharing applications where exposure to rogue security applications is widespread.

Install an Internet Browser add-on that provides protection against questionable or unsafe websites. My personal favorite is WOT (Web of Trust), an Internet Explorer/FireFox add-on that offers substantial protection against dangerous websites. The graphic earlier in this article illustrates how WOT’s drop-down warning curtain is activated on visiting a dangerous website such as totalprotect2009.com.

4 Comments

Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Don't Get Hacked, Free Security Programs, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety, internet scams, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Rogue Software, Spyware - Adware Protection, System Security, trojans

A Tech’s First Impression of Windows 7 – Part 3 – Improvements over Vista?

This is a guest post by Paul Eckstrom, a technology wizard and the owner of Aplus Computer Aid in Menlo Park, California.

Why not pay a visit to his Blog Tech–for Everyone.

I have now been using Microsoft’s latest operating system, Windows 7, for a week. I configured it to my taste (aka “preferences”), and installed my primary applications (and a few games) and done lots of things to try to break it.

bell_x-1 Yes, you read that last part correctly – I said “try to break it”. You see, there simply is no better way (many people feel) to test a thing than to fill it up with High-Octane, put the petal to the metal, use the gears to keep the RPM’s well into the red, and go! go! go! until a piston sails up and through the hood. Of course.. for this to really mean anything.. you must do this several times in a row.

Not only is this method fun, but this is how “limits” are discovered. Ask Chuck Yeager. (Geeks call this “benchmarking”).

Some findings: I have found that it is fairly easy to get a fail on IE 8, the newest release of the venerable Internet Explorer web browser (which is still a beta also). Open too many tabs (6+), or a Microsoft.com page using Silverlight, and you’ll get a “Not responding” fairly quick. But, I have also found that it is extremely difficult to get Windows 7 itself to fail. Win 7 is fast and it’s stable.

In fact, despite my best efforts and determination, I have yet to have a lockup, or BSOD¹. Improved multi-processor/multi-threading ability is noticeable. No Windows Update fails either, as still befalls Vista SP1 (you know the ones.. you have to reboot 3 times and/or use Startup Repair to get to your Desktop?)

After my admittedly amateur and unscientifical-style testing, I would be willing to quite prematurely guestimate that Windows 7 is one-hundred and thirty two point six times (132.6x ) more stable than Vista was, and at least .. oh, um, let me say, one magnitude more stable than Vista w/SP1.

All jocularity aside, only time will tell how accurate my estimates and impressions are. But I’m impressed. Quite impressed. This is a beta, after all. (I’m willing to wager that this is a historic first — “beta” and “stable” are never used in the same sentence. I’ll come back to some of the reasons for this.)

Plus number 6.

Other differences: While retaining most of what we’ve come to know in Windows, (such as, by default, the Taskbar is on the bottom, Start button on the left, everything “interesting” is found in Control Panel, etc.) there are some changes.. changes that affected me in my daily usage. First up on that list is the Taskbar has changed in appearance and behavior.

The Taskbar (aka “Superbar”) is similar to Vista’s in that it has a “hover” feature, as shown below… though it has been enhanced to show thumbnails of the program’s open windows (or tabs, as in this case) for easier selection, and direct-action “maximize”.

win_7_superbar

Windows 7 “Superbar”. (Click pic for larger)

But look closer. Quick Launch and tabs are combined into “pinned” icons, and the System Tray (the icons down by the clock) are now an “up arrow”. To make a program a “Quick Launch”, or visa-versa, you simply drag-and-drop (and select “pin to taskbar”, no more “lock”/”unlock”), and open programs – “tabs” – ’stack’ to the right.

It’s weird how much I miss the by-the-clock icons.. though they’ve never really served any truly practical purpose (except maybe as a source for context menu shortcuts). I find myself clicking the arrow, to make the System Tray visible, and reassure myself – yes, they’re still there.
I’ve been running (and troubleshooting) Microsoft operating systems since Windows 3.11, and I just expect those things to be there…

Speaking of things that are missing: menus have been consolidated and “pruned”. They seem to me less cluttered, more intuitive, and easier to navigate. This is most noticeable when trying to access system tools and the elements that make up the Control Panel. Long-time Windows users and über geeks may feel that Microsoft has unnecessarily moved a few things (and occasionally get annoyed, at first), but newbies and flexible-types will find things “friendlier”… IMHO.

Plus number 7.

And Defender is nowhere to be found in Programs or the Start menu: it’s in Control Panel.
(Don’t ask. Haven’t even a guess.)

And, when you first get started, “Network” is missing from the Start menu.
But that’s a topic for Part 4..

Link for Part 1 of this series, A Tech’s First Impression of Windows 7 Part 1 of a series
Link to Part 2, A Tech’s First Impression of Windows 7 Part 2 — Transferring Your User Account To Windows 7

¹ Blue Screen Of Death (see Troubleshooting the Blue Screen Of Death)

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved

1 Comment

Filed under Beta Software, Free Full Versions, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Operating Systems, Personal Perspective, Productivity Software, Software, Windows 7

Uninstalling and Installing AntiVirus Software…

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

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

Antivirus software are complex programs designed to identify, neutralize or eliminate malicious content that invade your computer.  Many people over a period of time will change from one brand of antivirus software to another.  Antivirus software is big business and today there are many flavors and options available.

For example; There are (3)-three “FREE (for personal use)” reputable antivirus packages that are widely recognized (see below).  I prefer any one of these over the major brand antivirus software packages due they are light on system resources, and are not bloated.   As a matter of fact, I cannot remember ever having a commercial (paid for) version of an antivirus program on any of my computers at home.

Avast

Avira AntiVir

AVG

The points of this article is to educate you to the fact that there are FREE antivirus software options available and that follow-up research may be required to “completely” uninstall (remove) antivirus software from your system in the event you desire to install another antivirus program.

Antivirus software, when running on your system, is hooked into many areas (i.e. registry, file system, resident memory, etc…) and uninstalling it can leave debris behind that can cause other systemic issues.  Antiviruses are like viruses; they can be hard to get rid of…  To prove my point, I researched (9)-nine antivirus programs and found that every one of them had supplemental removal instructions or tools, in addition to following the typical Add/Remove console process found in Windows. I have listed the sites below for convenience and reference.  During this research I also found that locating this information was often buried deep in their sites and was not readily accessible.

Antivirus Programs
Uninstall Information & Links

Norton Removal Tool – The Norton Removal Tool uninstalls all Norton 2009/2008/2007/2006/2005/2004/2003 products, Norton 360 and Norton SystemWorks 12.0 from your computer. If you use ACT! or WinFAX, back up those databases before you proceed.

McAfee Consumer Products Removal tool (MCPR.exe) – uninstall or reinstall supported McAfee consumer products using the McAfee Consumer Products Removal tool (MCPR.exe)

Avast! uninstall utility – Sometimes it´s not possible to uninstall avast! the standard way – using the ADD/REMOVE PROGRAMS in control panel. In this case, you can use our uninstallation utility aswClear.

Avira AntiVir -Normally the Avira Registry Cleaner removes all entries that were created by AntiVir. In this way, it prepares your system for the installation of a new AntiVir version.

BitDefender Uninstall Tool – There are two methods of uninstalling BitDefender from your computer: using the system tools and using the special uninstall tool provided by BitDefender.

Kaspersky’s Antivirus Removal Tool – Some errors might occur when deleting Kaspersky Anti-Virus product via Start > Control Panel > Add\Remove Programs. As a result the program will not be uninstalled or will be partially uninstalled.  The removal tool is required to remove a variety of their products.

F-Secure Internet Security (and antivirus) – Should you decide to uninstall, F-Secure does not provide its own uninstaller. You must use the Microsoft uninstaller found in Add and Remove Programs within the Command Console. After a reboot we found no Registry files, but we did find several program and log files in an F-Secure directory tree on the root drive.

Trend Micro Antivirus –  Trend Micro Support to remove Trend Antivirus plus AntiSpyware from my computer?

AVG – Open the directory with AVG Free Edition installed in and run the SETUP.EXE file or download the current installation file of AVG Free Edition from here and run it to start installation process. A window with following options will be displayed during the installation process: Add/Remove Components, Repair installation or Uninstall

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Downadup Worm – Lightning Speed PC Infection

worms_4_mayhem Nearly nine million PCs worldwide have been infected by the Downadup worm, and the number is set to rise, experts have warned.

Finnish security firm F-Secure said that 8.9 million computers were now infected – a massive rise since four days ago, when 2.4 million PCs had the worm.

The Downadup worm, also known as the Conficker worm, can spread through local area networks, the internet and on removable storage devices, the company warned.

“Downadup has ‘old school’ worm functionality (no user interaction required), the likes of which we haven’t really seen for a while now. It also knows some current tricks,” Sean Sullivan of F-Secure said.

A recent report from rival security firm Secunia revealed that 98 per cent of home PCs were not secure.

For more on this checkout Web User UK, and What’s On My PC by fellow Blogger Rick Robinnette.

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Filed under bots, Don't Get Hacked, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Safe Surfing, Spyware - Adware Protection, System Security, trojans, Viruses, worms

A Tech’s First Impression of Windows 7 – Part 2 – Transferring Your User Account To Windows 7

This is a guest post by Paul Eckstrom, a technology wizard and the owner of Aplus Computer Aid in Menlo Park, California.

Why not pay a visit to his Blog Tech–for Everyone.

In Part1 of this series, A Tech’s First Impression of Windows 7, I described the install process for Microsoft’s new operating system, and today I will proceed to the next step of setting up a new computer.. transferring all your stuff from the old machine, and ‘tweaking’ things to just your liking.

Last year I wrote wrote about the fastest, easiest, user state migration I had ever had — New PC? Migrate Your User Account The Easy Way — and described a Microsoft download that allowed me to not only transfer settings and preferences (aka ‘tweaks’) and my files (.doc, .jpg, mp3, etc.), but my installed programs as well. (Which to me was about the neatest thing since sliced bread?)

[Note: Microsoft has since removed the utility, Windows Easy Transfer Companion, referenced in the link/article above. Apparently, it doesn’t work on Vista SP1, and/or XP SP3.]

Should’a caught this sooner, but

For the purposes of this article (and, simulating what the typical user will do with a new computer and/or OS), I took an older machine running XP that had been one of my “daily usage” machines before being relegated to testbed duty and re-attached it to my home network (LAN).

Easy Files and Settings Transfer: On my Windows 7 machine, I typed “File an” into the search area of my Start menu, and Windows Easy Transfer showed up in the results immediately. A click launched the Easy Transfer Wizard, and I was asked if *I was on the new machine or the old?

New

How did I want to make the transfer? – Over the network. (the other choices were CD/DVD, or an external HD.)

Does the old machine have Windows Easy Transfer? – Um.. probably not, so, No.

It offered to provide the program if I would plug in a thumb drive, so.. I did.

It said “Finished” and told me to go plug the thumb drive into the old machine and let it “autoplay”, so.. I did.

The old machine (slow!) did its thing and presented me with a code, 123-456, and told me to go to the Windows 7 machine and enter the code, so.. I did.

Bingo, I was connected, and the Windows Easy Transfer tool started to scan the XP machine for “transferable items”.

transfr11

When the scan finished, I was provided with a result, and there were some default items already checked off — pictures, music, and documents. No surprise there, but I was very pleased to see the “Programs” folder.. could it be?

transfr21

So.. I drilled down into the “Customize” section and selected the applications I wanted to try to transfer to the new machine (though, I could’ve just done the whole folder). That will save time.. and hunting down install CDs!

I clicked the “Save” button”..

transfr1plus1

And presto. Seven minutes later my “user state” was now on my new machine. And so I have a new “easy champion”, and I confess.. I’m impressed.

Well, I ran long. Tweaking the Desktop, and “Superbar”, and other personalization’s will have to wait for the next article.

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Free Full Versions, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Operating Systems, Personal Perspective, Software, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools

Google – Get Off Your Collective Butts and Fix The Problem!

google-logo Internet security is a “sexy” business – one gets to work in the “dark side” of the Internet and is constantly challenged to stay ahead of the learning curve, develop new techniques, appliances and applications to protect Web sites, and attached devices and systems, from hackers, cyber-crooks, malware and while understated, terrorists.

Failure to protect the Internet, which by definition is an open network, has substantial penalties ranging from productivity decreases, infrastructure compromise, to a failure in consumer confidence and more. It’s this last one – a failure in consumer confidence that is the focus of this article.

In dealing with Internet security issues, I’m often frustratingly reminded of the “head in the sand syndrome” – if we ignore it will go away, if we ignore it then it can’t be real, if we ignore it will get better, anon. It’s no surprise then that a substantial security issue, well known to Google, which has failed to come up with an effective solution, continues to plague the Internet.

Those of us who are involved in Internet security know, and have known for a considerable time, that cyber-crooks are unrelenting in their chase to infect web search results. We know that there has been a steady increase in the use of custom-built Websites designed to drop malicious code on computers, and in the manipulation of legitimate pages in order to infect computers with malware.

For example, until quite recently (less than 3 weeks ago), a user searching for the following string on Google “Microsoft Office 2002 download” would have encountered a Microsoft.com redirection link as the first result. That link had been redirecting visitors to a malicious web site, that then launched a malware attack which included an attempt to convince victims to download rogue security software. Microsoft has since fixed the problem.

Equally as disturbing, seventy nine percent of compromised web pages tracked in the last year were on legitimate web sites; including web sites belonging to Fortune 500 companies, government agencies and ironically, security vendors.

google_adwords_machine

If one were to poll a group of typical Internet users as to the safety and reliability of search engine results there is little doubt that the answer would be positive. Given that search engine results can be manipulated in the ways described above, and other ways, it is reasonable to ask the question – why aren’t typical Internet users aware of this situation.

Arguably, a case could be made that Google and others subscribe to the “head in the sand syndrome” – if we ignore it will go away, if we ignore it then it can’t be real, if we ignore it will get better, since to acknowledge this issue, and to give it the focus it deserves, would erode consumer confidence in the product. Good corporate thinking, huh?

Here’s a sample of what Internet users are facing, posted on the Internet just today, January 16, 2009:

“I’m the owner of the site http://www.xxxxxx.net. When anyone searches Google for our firm, the first result looks like the link to our site. But when anyone clicks on that result they get redirected to an alarming site that tries to sell fake spam software. The hijack site takes control of the browser! This is happening when our potential clients search for us! Help! If I type the address directly into my browser then it works fine. I submitted a spam report to Google a couple of days ago, but nothing has changed yet”.

So how do the crooks do it?

Common techniques used by cyber-criminals include the manipulation of search engine results, and the seeding of fake Websites among the top results returned by these engines. When a potential victim visits one of these sites (as described above), the likelihood of the downloading of malicious code onto the computer, by exploiting existing vulnerabilities, is extremely high.

There are several ways that this can occur. Cyber-crooks can exploit vulnerabilities on the server hosting the web page to insert an iFrame, (an HTML element which makes it possible to embed another HTML document inside the main document). The iFrame can then activate the download of malicious code by exploiting additional vulnerabilities on the visiting machine.

Alternatively, a new web page can be built, with iFrames inserted, that can lead to malware downloads. This new web page appears to be legitimate.

An additional method, employed by cyber-crooks is the insertion of false dialogue boxes, fake toolbars, and more on sites; all designed to load destructive malware which could include rootkits, password stealers, Trojan horses, and spam bots.

So will Google address this issue? Sure, but only when malicious hackers finally force them to. Great business model Google!

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

Checkout Need Free Security Programs? – 10 Of The Best! on this site

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Don't Get Hacked, Google, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety, Malware Advisories, Online Safety, Rogue Software, Safe Surfing, System Security, trojans, Viruses, worms