Monthly Archives: November 2010

Windows 7 and Vista Ultimate Windows Tweaker –

Ultimate Windows Tweaker is a freeware utility for tweaking and optimizing Windows Vista, and now Windows 7 –  both 32-bit, and 64-bit versions.

This small (235KB), program has a clean, easy to understand interface that gives you access to over 150 system settings, some of which are hidden, and others that are just hard to find. The interface is organized for easy navigation, and it is complete with detailed descriptions for easy reference.

The major benefit in using this type of tweaking application is the ease with which you can make changes to your system – without the drudgery of having to go through menu after menu, or manually editing the Registry to get the results you want.

However, as with any application that makes changes to your system, use caution and be sure to have a verified backup. Fortunately, Ultimate Windows Tweaker allows you to create a system-restore point before you make any changes.

The following screen captures should give you a good idea of what you can accomplish using Ultimate Windows Tweaker.

Personalization Tweaks. Click on any graphic to expand.


System Performance Tweaks.


Network Tweaks.


Additional Tweaks.


System Requirements: Windows 7, Vista – 32 and 64 Bit.

Bonus: Ultimate Windows Tweaker can easily be copied to a USB flash drive for portability.

Download at: The Windows Club

While this application is designed for advanced users, I see no reason why careful average users should have any problem tweaking their system using Ultimate Windows Tweaker.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Portable Applications, Software, System Tweaks, System Utilities, USB, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista

Hard Drive Kidnapping – GpCode Ransomware On The Attack Again!

imageWhen we think of kidnapping, extortion, or blackmail, I think it’s safe to say, not many of us would consider our computer files being a likely victim. That is, unless we were familiar with a particular form of malware known as Ransomware.

Ransomware is a particular vicious form of malware – malware that encrypts the victim’s files, and then demands a monetary ransom to decrypt those kidnapped files.

Once again the Ransomware Trojan Gpcode, first encountered some years back by Kaspersky Lab, is on the loose. This is the fourth release of GpCode that we’ve covered here in the last few years, and as expected, this version continues to use RSA-1024 and AES-256 encryption.

As opposed to past variants though, this time around GpCode doesn’t delete files after encryption. Instead, to make it more difficult for a victim to recover from the attack – files are overwritten.

Once GpCode has finished its nasty work, the victim is presented with the following Desktop message.

Followed by a ransom note via Notepad, which is launched automatically by GpCode. The ransom note demands payment of a $120 fee.


Preliminary indications are; the attack vector is a malicious PDF which when opened, downloads and installs, the ransomware.

Vitaly Kamluk over at Kaspersky Lab’s Securelist site, offers the following advice – “If you think you are infected, we recommend that you do not change anything on your system as it may prevent potential data recovery if we find a solution.

It is safe to shutdown the computer or restart it despite claims by the malware writer that files are deleted after N days – we haven’t seen any evidence of time-based file deleting mechanism. But nevertheless, it is better to stay away from any changes that could be made to the file system which, for example, may be caused by computer restart”.

Reduce the possibilities of infection by this and other malware, by taking the following precautions:

Don’t open unknown email attachments

Don’t run programs of unknown origin

Disable hidden filename extensions

Keep all applications (including your operating system) patched

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

Disable Java, JavaScript, and ActiveX if possible

Disable scripting features in email programs

Make regular backups of critical data. If you are infected this may be your only solution

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

Turn off file and printer sharing on the computer

Install a personal firewall on the computer

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

Ensure your anti-virus software scans all e-mail attachments

Don’t store critical data on the system partition

Let me reemphasize – Make regular backups of critical data. If you become infected, this may be your only recovery option.

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Filed under cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, Internet Safety, internet scams, Internet Security Alerts, Malware Advisories, Ransomware, Windows Tips and Tools

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – November 30, 2010

Free vs. Fee: Free and Paid Antivirus Programs Compared – Depending on whom you ask, paying for antivirus software is either a good investment or a total ripoff. In reality, neither viewpoint is accurate. You can find plenty of good reasons to choose a paid antivirus product, and plenty of good reasons to go with a freebie.

Downloads to Lighten Your Laptop – Hacked off about hackers? Reaching too far for Wi-Fi? Drained by low-battery worries? These free and low-cost downloads for your laptop let you stop stressing and enjoy your notebook PC again.

Fake Trojan Removal Kit runs ThinkPoint rogue – When looking for an anti-malware solution, it pays to be extra careful. Take the example of the “Trojan Removal Kit”. It is offered on fake security scan pages that you might end up on quite accidentally, and often those pages sport names such as – in which the “XXX” can be any combination of numbers.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

9 in 10 see cloud as opportunity, not threat – When asked to specify the nature of the opportunity, more than two-thirds picked ‘reduce our IT infrastructure costs’ as the most important factor, while 29 percent said, ‘Cloud will help to manage peaks and troughs in system usage.’ Among the 1 in 10 who saw cloud as a threat, almost half cited security, while almost as many said, ‘Reliance on external networks and bandwidth will expose us to additional risk.’

Exploit Code Out For New Windows Kernel Flaw – Security experts are warning about a newly discovered local privilege escalation bug in the Windows kernel that affects most of the current versions of the operating system, including Vista and Windows 7.

10 Reasons Why Your Customers Should Be Skittish About the Cloud – As IT organizations dive headlong into cloud deployments for cost and efficiency dividends, they’re finding that the law of unintended consequences is rearing its ugly head in the deployment aftermath. Courion Corporation has released the results of a survey that examined some of the security and audit issues that cloud adoption has brought to bear on enterprises. The global survey queried 384 business managers from enterprises, primarily with at least 1,000 employees. The results are eye-opening.

Facebook infested with new worm; More proof site is insecure? – Facebook is infested with a new worm, hijacking status updates and spreading like wildfire to other users. Another bit of evidence towards Facebook being insecure, and lax with user privacy and data?

Company News:

ippi to Give All Customers iNum® Numbers From Voxbone – Voxbone will announce tomorrow that global VoIP provider ippi will be giving all its 150,000 customers free, Voxbone-supplied iNum numbers – phone numbers with the global area code for IP communications.

E-Reader Buyer’s Guide: Kindle, Kobo, Nook, Daily Edition, iPad – E-reader expert offers all you need to know about pricing, connectivity and features for the new family of e-readers out for the holidays.

Google TV Death Knell Sounded Amid Black Friday Sales – Media are lining up on the Web to sound the death knell for Google TV, the marriage between Web and channel surfing that spawned some pricey hardware products from Logitech and Sony.

Apple Bans Android Magazine From App Store – A magazine app from Danish company Mediaprovider has been rejected from Apple’s App Store because it featured exclusive content about the Android operating system, Media Watch has said.

Off Topic (Sort of):

A short history of Apple Mac malware (1982-2010) – The threat may be much lower than on Windows, but more and more people are choosing to protect their Macs against malware. Learn about the viruses, worms, Trojans and scareware that have affected Apple computers. Did you know that there were viruses on Apple computers before they existed for PCs?

11 Impressive World Records Set By College Students – College students often have a reputation for procrastinating, over-sleeping, and being too wrapped up in their own academics and social lives to offer anything to society. But as these projects prove, it takes a lot of organization, dedication and stamina to set a world record. From recycling to organ donation to dodgeball, these college students have turned regular community, social and advocacy events into something even more impressive.

Why Your Next PC Will Be a Tablet – The world of computing is at a crossroads. The primary computer for most users today is not a PC; it’s a phone. While the PC sits on a desk at the office or on a coffee table at home, smartphones go everywhere with us and integrate into every part of our lives. But despite getting smarter and smarter, phones are too small to replace PCs completely. We need a device that bridges the gap between what PCs do and what mobile phones do. That device has arrived. Welcome to the age of the tablet.

The five most overhyped tech products of 2010 – The pace of technology innovation quickened in 2010 but there were still plenty of overhyped products floating around. Here are the top five.

Today’s Quote:

“We all have our time machines. Some take us back, they’re called memories. Some take us forward, they’re called dreams.”

Jeremy Irons

Today’s Free Downloads:

HTTPS Everywhere – A collaboration between the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Tor Project (which employs a network and free software to help protect people’s privacy), HTTPS Everywhere ensures that when you visit certain sites, all of your communications are encrypted and secure.

7-Zip 9.20 – It’s easy for Windows users to forget that WinZip isn’t the only file-compression utility in the world. Like its better-known competitors, the free 7-Zip unpacks a host of archive formats, including ZIP, TAR, GZ, and its own 7z format. Unlike WinZip, though, it can create TAR and GZ archives, which are commonly used on Unix and Linux systems.

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Comments Off on Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – November 30, 2010

Filed under Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

TuneUp Utilities 2011 – Five License Giveaway!

I’m stepping back slightly from what I said earlier this year in “Software License Giveaways – Go Big Or Go Home”, and instead, I will continue to host license giveaways for applications from mature software developers. The type of applications that have real value for an average user.

As part of Tech Thoughts “Keep your PC in top shape focus”, TuneUp Utilities has generously provided me with 5 free licenses for TuneUp Utilities 2011, (retail value 49.95).

To enter the contest to win a free license, simply add a comment at the end of this article. On December 7, 2010, all comments will be added to the online List Randomizer, and the first 5 names that come up, will win a free license (installable on up to 3 PCs), for this award winning application.

As with previous giveaways, you don’t need to write a paragraph – “enter me”, or something similar, is enough. There’s no need for me to acknowledge your entry, but rest assured, if you comment – you’re in.

Good luck!

Read the following review, and I’m sure you’ll agree; this is a contest worth entering!

TuneUp Utilities 2011 – Tune Up Your PC To The Max

imageIf you’re an average PC user, I’m willing to wager that your computer underperforms. Getting the best out of your PC – getting what you paid for from that high powered beast, is more complex than it has ever been.

Sure, if you are technically competent, you are likely aware of, and comfortable using, any number of free system tools readable available for download on the Internet – tools that can act as a helpmate in tweaking and maintaining computers.

But, typical users need more than just a helpmate application to assist them in tweaking and maintaining their computers. Drilling down through complicated operating system structures to get maximum performance from an operating system, is generally outside the range of a typical computer users skill set.

Just like high end users though, average users want maximum performance  from their machines as well – if they only knew how. Luckily, there are applications designed specifically for average users that take the “if they only knew how”, out of the equation. Applications that make it easy for a typical user to achieve the same level of high performance, as a techie.

Despite the fact that I’m a huge fan of free software, I have to admit – there are times when only a commercial application will meet all of a typical users tune up needs, in one application. And that brings me to TuneUp Utilities 2011.

I’ve been using TuneUp Utilities since 2003, and I’ve come to rely on it to help me get the very best out of all my machines. Despite the fact that I’m a huge fan of free software, there are times when only a commercial application will meet all of my needs in one interface.

Let’s take a walkthrough to look at  just some of the powerful features which are available in  TuneUp Utilities 2011. Clicking on any screenshot will increase the size to the original.

Following installation, you will have the opportunity to analyze your computer to search out issue that are negatively impact performance.


When the analysis phase is completed,  system issues that require action can be dealt with easily and quickly.


All system issues have been fixed and all recommendations show green across the board.


If you prefer not to go the automatic route, an abundance of applets (32 in total), are available to analyze and repair, maintain and improve, and configure the operating system, as the following screen capture shows.


The “fix problems” applet shows here, that Windows Media Player presented a problem with my personal privacy on the test machine, which was easily fixed.


Common computer problems are a snap for TuneUp Utilities 2011 to deal with. Simply select the problem, and in a couple of clicks the issue is resolved.


Customizing Windows to get that “just you” look, couldn’t be easier. Virtually every Windows element can be customized.


For this test, I set TuneUp utilities to run once every 3 days, and after 9 days of operation you can see from the screen shot, the machine remains fully optimized.


Since I last tested TuneUp Utilities in October 2009, the developer’s have made substantial improvements to an already top notch application – including the following:

TuneUp Program Deactivator with TuneUp Programs-on-Demand Technology – For the first time ever, you can turn off programs completely and drastically reduce the load on your PC: The services, startup entries, background processes, or scheduled tasks in a program that are turned off will remain inactive until you need them again.

TuneUp Start Center – Thanks to the fresh look of the Start Center, users will find all optimization features in seconds: Features stand out more clearly as they are now divided into five categories for maximum readability and immediate access. TuneUp Utilities tuning highlights appear immediately under the categories of “Status & recommendations”, “Optimize system”, “Gain disk space”, “Fix problems”, and “Customize Windows”.

TuneUp Turbo Mode – With a single mouse ‐click, shut down over 70 background processes that slow down Windows 7, Windows XP, and Windows Vista. By pressing a button, you get an immediate boost of power when working at your PC, a smoother gameplay, and complete control over background activities that slow down your computer.

Tuning status – Tuning status shows how many optimizations have already been performed with TuneUp Utilities, and what potential for optimization still remains. You will never forget or overlook a single tuning measure again!

Rating function for programs – The experiences of countless TuneUp Utilities users help you make the best tuning decisions. Windows performs best and is most effective when you turn off programs, deactivate startup entries and/or uninstall third‐party software that you don’t need on a daily basis. But it’s often unclear what lies behind a cryptic program entry. The new rating functions supports you here to make better decisions on each program.

Overview of all functions pane – Made for true Windows experts: The new “Overview of all functions” view on the Start Center gives you instant access to all TuneUp Utilities™ features and settings—32 in total!

As with previous reviews of  TuneUp Utilities, I could go on and on describing the additional features that are included in this terrific application but, I think you get the point. This program is overwhelmingly inclusive, and provides virtually every tool and applet, that an average computer user is ever likely to need.

Is it worth $49.95 for a 3 machine (many of us have more than one computer), license? In my view the answer is a definite – yes. TuneUp Utilities 2011 is easier to use than ever, is overwhelmingly inclusive, and provides virtually every tool and applet, that an average computer user is ever likely to need.

Take a free test run on TuneUp Utilities 2011 for 15 days, and see if you don’t agree that this is one commercial application that offers excellent value.

System requirements: Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP (all 64 bit compatible).

Download a fully functional 15 day trial version at: TuneUp Utilities

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Computer Maintenance, Computer Tools, Computer Tune Up Utilities, Giveaways, Integrated Tune Up Solutions, New Computer User Software Tools, Software, Software Giveaways, System Tweaks, System Utilities, TuneUp Utilities, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – November 29, 2010

The Tech Brands You Can Trust – Every year PCWorld polls its knowledgeable readers to see which companies are providing the best tech support and service. The results of our latest exclusive survey of 79,000 tech aficionados reveal some welcome improvements and some familiar shortcomings.

Quick Tip: Scan Windows 7 system files to repair errors – Knock on wood, this has not happened to me in a very, very long time, but every once in a while the Microsoft Windows system files will become corrupted and report errors. The solution to this annoying, but fixable, problem is to repair the files. A reboot of the PC will often do the trick, but there is a way to repair files while Windows 7 is running and, presumably, you are working productively.

How do I… Add image thumbnails to Microsoft Windows Explorer? – When you are dealing with a folder in Microsoft Windows containing numerous images, it is often very helpful to see thumbnail representations of those images in the Windows Explorer display. This built-in functionality is available in both Windows XP and Windows Vista, but how you turn the feature off and on is slightly different for each version.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Vinself – a backdoor for corporate networks? – A new backdoor that has seemingly been developed to compromise corporate networks has been discovered by FireEye’s researcher Atif Mushtaq, and made him speculate that – taking in consideration the recent emergence of other powerful backdoors – some criminals have begun looking beyond stealing only that which is immediately available on a system.

Congressman wants WikiLeaks listed as terrorist group – The incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee says WikiLeaks should be officially designated as a terrorist organization. “WikiLeaks appears to meet the legal criteria” of a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, King wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reviewed by CNET. He added: “WikiLeaks presents a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States.”

Stop Using Windows XP, Please – I have a confession to make: I’m writing this story on a Windows XP laptop. It’s not by choice, of course. My company is still standardized on the near-decade-old operating system, and only recently has entertained the idea of buying new systems and not ghosting them back from Windows 7 to some version of Windows XP. In other words: I feel your pain.

Google Apps Script API flaw allowed attacker to impersonate Google – Details about a recently discovered and exploited vulnerability that allowed a 21-year-old Armenian hacker to harvest GMail addresses and send to their owners a message coming from a legitimate Google e-mail address are still unknown, but the vulnerability has been patched.

Company News:

Clues to Skype Integration Found Within Facebook Code – Facebook code has once again started up the rumor mill that the company is looking to pack real-time video chat alongside its standard Facebook messaging options. App developer Tal Alter happened to notice some interesting elements buried within a JavaScript object called “VideoChat”—which appears at random on given Facebook pages.

Dell Inspiron Duo Is a Tablet, PC and Movie Screen for Consumers – Microsoft-running tablet PCs used to be solid enterprise territory, but the Apple iPad has changed all of that. Case in point, the newest Dell, the Inspiron Duo convertible tablet, was introduced Nov. 23 for students and families.

OpenDNS Versus ISPs: Too Much Toe-Stepping? – Security or capitalism? Those are the two competing issues fueling the recent conflicts surrounding OpenDNS. For those uninformed, the service—completely free, if you so desire—is like a third-party butler for the Internet.

Apple, News Corp Preparing iPad Newspaper – Apple and News Corp are reportedly prepping an iPad-only newspaper, The Daily, for launch in the near future. It could change the dynamics of the e-reader market.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Poll: Should the U. S. Federal Government censor the Internet? – There is a bill winding its way through the U. S. Federal legislative process called the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA). If it were to become law, the Federal Department of Justice of the United States could effectively take down an entire website by blocking access via the DNS servers. ISPs would remove the offending website from the DNS or be liable for fines and other legal actions.

True Cost of U.S. Gasoline is $15.14 per Gallon, Report Says – So you think you’re getting a good deal on a tank of gasoline these days? You wouldn’t think so if all the oil industry tax subsidies received from the federal and state governments and other costs that went into producing that gallon of gasoline were included in the pump price. Such external costs push the true price of gasoline as high as $15.14 a gallon, according to a new report released by the International Centre for Technology Assessment. (submitted by Dar)

9 Technologies That Were Ahead of Their Time – Sometimes you build it, but they don’t come. Here’s a list of duds with potential, good intentions, and occasionally a legacy.

Google Maps Faces July 2011 Deadline on China Regulations – China will investigate and prosecute Google next July if the search engine company does not acquire the necessary state license to operate its Google Maps.

Today’s Quote:

The ‘Net is a waste of time, and that’s exactly what’s right about it.”

William Gibson

Today’s Free Downloads:

Hotspot Shield – Feeling safe when you connect to a hot spot at cafe, airport, or some other public location? You shouldn’t. There are plenty of potential dangers lurking there, including nearby hackers who may try to sniff your packets, or figure out other ways to snoop at what you’re doing online. Particularly dangerous is if you visit any Web sites and type in your user name and password–they could be hijacked.

Fast Duplicate File Finder – With photos, videos, and music files clogging up your hard disk, it’s harder than ever to keep it clean, trim, and free of duplicates. Use Fast Duplicate File Finder, though, and you’ll be able to find duplicate files with ease, and keep your hard disk in tip-top shape.

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Filed under Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

Is ZoneAlarm Free Firewall 2010 The Best Firewall For You?

imageI’m always surprised when I get asked “The Firewall” question – why do I need one? The answer is always the same – a Firewall, either Hardware or Software, is designed to block unauthorized access to your computer from the Internet, at the same time permitting protected authorized communications – provided it includes outbound protection.

Most casual users that I come into contact with believe that Firewalls need to be expensive to ensure that they get the job none. But, that’s not always the case. ZoneAlarm, for example, is a very robust, uncomplicated, free Firewall, which is non- intrusive, and very appropriate for casual computer users – and gets the job done.

ZoneAlarm Free (last updated November 23rd, 2010), was the first Firewall I installed on a personal system, and that was back in the early days of Internet connectivity – 1996. After all these years, ZoneAlarm Free continues to be my all time favorite free Firewall.

Here’s why:

In my 14 years of experience with ZoneAlarm Free, never once has it let me down.

It’s the least intrusive free Firewall that I’m aware of – Firewalls that demand attention every 5 minutes drive me crazy!

It provides strong inbound intrusion detection, coupled with strong outbound protection. Outbound protection is an absolute “must have” today, since the botnet threat continues to escalate. ZoneAlarm will prohibit botnet connections.

ZoneAlarm’s “stealth mode” keeps my computer invisible on the Internet. If I can’t be seen by cybercriminals, my risk exposure is reduced substantially.

ZoneAlarm Free continuously monitors Internet activity through its True Vector Internet Monitor, and notifies me with an alert if it detects an unsafe, or disallowed activity.

Fast facts:

  • DefenseNet – Leverages real-time threat data from community of millions of users to detect and block the latest attacks.
  • Inbound Firewall Protection – Stops hackers and other intrusions by making your PC invisible online.
  • Outbound Firewall Protection – Blocks spyware, botnets, and other malware from sending your personal data out to the Internet.
  • Quiet and Automatic – Runs in the background, un-noticed and out of the way, with rare alerts.
  • Anti-phishing and Site Check – Toolbar blocks fraudulent websites including those that trick you into entering personal data.
  • Identity Guard – Provides credit scores and recovery services to secure your identity online and offline.
  • Works with all Antivirus – Compatible with antivirus software, such as AVG and Norton Antivirus.

What you need to know:


The program settings screen is definitely new user friendly, as the following graphic illustrates.


The graphic below illustrates  a security popup since a new application is seeking first time access to the Internet. Users have the opportunity to allow, disallow, and with a checkbox tick, have ZoneAlarm automatically remember the response.


The activity log can be particularly valuable for more experienced users.


ZoneAlarm’s default settings are well thought out, and provide excellent protection for less experience users particularly – and despite the hype put out by media, most computer user can be classified as having limited system experience.

Experienced users on the other hand, can tinker to their hearts content, customizing and tweaking the application to meet their specific requirements.

If you are a casual computer user, ZoneAlarm Free is definitely worth considering as a new Firewall installation, or as a replacement for a current Firewall that is not meeting your expectations.

The following graphic illustrates ZoneAlarm’s protection details, on one of my systems, over a 60 day period.


System Requirements: Windows 7 (32-bit/64-bit ), Vista, XP SP2 or SP3.

Download at: the developer’s site (Check Point Software).

Note: Test your existing Firewall at Steve Gibson’s site – ShieldsUP! If your current Firewall is not in stealth mode (this test will confirm it), and if it can’t be forced into stealth mode, then you should consider changing your Firewall application.

Note: If you are currently running Windows Firewall, then installation and setup is a breeze since you have the opportunity to turn off this Firewall. On the other hand, if you are running another Firewall, it’s important that you uninstall
this application (use the applications built-in uninstaller), before installing ZoneAlarm Free. I mention this as a precaution only, since it’s as likely that you won’t encounter any difficulties. But……..

If your current Firewall does not include a built-in uninstaller, then use Revo Uninstaller which will delete the application including the applicable Registry entries.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Anti-Malware Tools, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Free Firewalls, Freeware, Internet Safety Tools, Malware Protection, Online Safety, Software, System Security, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Social Media – Advantages for the Business Owner or Marketing Executive

Guest writer Bryan Keller, gives business owners the lowdown on social media  and explains how taking advantage of social media and online business communities, can positively impact the bottom line.

imageAs recently as only 2-3 years ago, very few business owners took much of an interest in becoming part of the growing number of social media or online business communities that have exploded across the Internet in recent years.

Today however, most if not all business leaders, from the very smallest sole proprietorship to the very largest corporation, are aware of the fact that the Internet is quickly becoming the average consumer’s first resource in locating and choosing the party they ultimately choose to do business with.

Electing not to participate in this expanding progressive electronic evolution, would and surely will, have a very severe negative impact on those businesses that are not fully invested in the experience.

The number of professional user groups on websites like Facebook and LinkedIn has grown more than 10 fold or over 1000% over the past two years. Dismissing this trend as pure fancy would be an unwise maneuver for any savvy business owner or marketing executive.

These professional networks can provide many benefits to every type of business. And, the benefits are not only applicable to the business owners; belonging to a social network also provides numerous benefits to all of the other members (and prospective customers) of the social network as well.

Benefits of Social Networking from the Standpoint of the Business Owner:

Building or Increasing Company or Product Awareness – Social Media Sites provide a tremendous asset that allows custom tailored delivery of timely assessments of the types of services or products that a business provides, supplies, or offers.

Additionally, press releases describing exciting new changes taking place within a business serve the business and the consumer alike. A business forum can also be a fantastic way to provide consumers with near real-time helpful information on the steps needed to be taken in the advent that someone may be experiencing some sort of a problem with a particular good or service.

Observe and Track – Because Social Media Networks are designed to allow two-way communication between its participants, as a business owner you will have the luxury of seeing what other members of the online community may be saying about your brand, product, service and competition in virtually ‘real-time’.

Engage (Current Customers) and Entice (New Customers) – Do not neglect the opportunity to involve existing customers and network subscribers in all manner of interesting and topical debates, quizzes and feedback forums and blogs. When doing so the benefit is manifold as this process has the added effect of enticing new customers and subscribers simultaneously as they get drawn into the discussions.

Assist and Support – Here is the perfect opportunity for a business to demonstrate to its valuable customers in a substantial way, the benefits and advantages of using their goods and services. A great way to accomplish this is by providing valuable support in near real-time for any difficulty, problem, confusion, or question an existing customers or prospective customer may be experiencing with regard to the company’s products or services.

Attract and Qualify – By including the appropriate keywords and tags in the social media site profile, blog posts, articles and forum discussions, the result will be many, many, new potential customers who will be directed to your content automatically by the search engines as they search the Internet for relevant information that happens to match your niche (and these prospective clients are pre-qualified as strong potential leads – they found you because you offer something they were searching for and are obviously interested in).

Increase Your Bottom Line – Marketing 101.

Creating a Call to Action: (A Perceived Sense of Urgency)

Give a deadline which is clearly defined and visible in many advantageous locations throughout your business website. One effective way to achieve this is to create a deadline by which time certain featured products or services must be purchased or agreed upon due to the fact that the price for that good or service is scheduled to and will increase beyond a specified date and time.

It is imperative that you follow through on the price increase as well. An angry customer is one who is told that a price will go up on a product, after which they rush out and purchase said product or service, and then low and behold the deadline passes and the product never changes price. No one likes being lied to. Stay true to your word. Honesty and Integrity go hand and hand with trust and loyalty. You can always discount products again at a later date.

Always precede any price increase with many highly visible notices allowing your customer to take advantage of the current rate before the increase is scheduled to go into effect.

Trial offers are also a fantastic way to allow a consumer the chance to try on a limited basis the product or service you are offering. (If you are offering truly outstanding products and services, then obviously you would want people to have a chance to learn that first hand.)

For a Trial Period to be effective it should be offered as what is called a ‘No Risk’ trial. In other words let your customer know that if for some reason they decide they are not satisfied with your product or service within the trial period they can cancel the agreement without being charged for anything (no questions asked).

Freebies are also a great way to entice people into trying a product or service. They are best used as an added feature to a package of goods or services that your potential customer may be contemplating buying.

Be Creative, think of other ways to create that sense of urgency such as ‘If you order our system within the next ten days we are going to throw in at no extra charge 5 free video tutorials that speed you through the process of learning our course (regularly $99 value!)

Remember these are merely examples; the only limit is your imagination!

Guest writer Bryan Keller:

I own a Computer Repair and Data Recovery business in San Antonio, TX, San Antonio Computer Repair. I spent 10 years in database development. I am now also providing Website Development, Hosting, and SEO services. We use the Joomla CMS. Altogether I have been involved in computer programming for over 30 years.

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Filed under Communication, FaceBook, Guest Writers, Interconnectivity, Networking, social networking, Social Networks

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – November 28, 2010

CNET: Security Starter Kit – Refined for 2010, the Security Starter Kit will ensure that your sanity lasts way longer than your resolutions through a collection of must-have programs to protect your Windows computer.

Make a bootable USB installer for Windows XP, Vista, 7 with WinToFlash – Making a bootable USB flash drive for Windows Vista and Windows 7 isn’t all that tricky, but it’s always nice to find an app that simplifies things. Not only does WinToFlash make the process about as easy as it can get, but it can also create Windows XP, Server 2003, and Server 2008 installers.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Best Web Sites for Holiday Bargains – Looking for some help and inspiration with that holiday shopping? Get ready for Cyber Monday and the ensuing madness with a plan of action. Check out these web sites to help guide your way through.

IE9 beta patches bring stability, feedback fixes – The latest beta of Microsoft’s upcoming Internet Explorer 9 browser has two new fixes out that the company says will improve stability, as well as squash a feedback bug some users had been experiencing.

Ubuntu Will Begin Updating Daily – Increased frequency could help the Linux distribution stay on top of software complexity, Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth reportedly said.

Top Smartphone Apps to Keep Road Warriors on the Go – Travel delays, snowed-in airports, TSA scans and pat-downs, equipment problems, and more. Unless you have your own private plane, the jet-set life is not a glamorous one anymore. It’s full of inconveniences and time killers. Get the edge on knowing about delays, planning trips, being productive and staying entertained. Don’t leave home without them.

Cloud security is dependent on the law – I am a true believer in the disruptive value of cloud computing, especially the long term drive towards so-called “public cloud” services. As I’ve noted frequently of late, the economics are just too compelling, and the issues around security and the law will eventually be addressed. However, lately there has been some interesting claims of the superiority of public clouds over privately managed forms of IT, including private cloud environments.

How to Completely Erase a Hard Drive – Sometimes simply deleting files isn’t good enough. In this how-to video segment, PC World explains a number of simple techniques for permanently and securely removing sensitive data from old drives before recycling or disposing of them.

Desktop PC Buying Guide: The Specs Explained – We help you identify the key specifications and components you need to consider when shopping for a desktop PC.

Company News:

Android App of the Week: Ulysse Gizmos – If you’re one of the millions who does enjoy spending time away from electricity, chairs, showers and beds, though, then this week’s Android App of the Week is essential. It’s called Ulysse Gizmos, and it’s a neat tool that collects together almost every bit of information that a frequent traveller might need, thanks to the wealth of sensors that are included in the average Android handset. (submitted by Dar)

Star Walk for iPad (interactive astronomy guide) – The near-flawless culmination of hardware and software is probably the biggest contributing factor of the success of iOS devices. The touchscreen, wifi, GPS, camera, accelerometer, Bluetooth and now gyroscope can all be integrated into applications either by 3rd party developers or Apple themselves. Star Walk for iPad proves this all over again. Designed for consumer and professional alike, this virtual planetarium utilizes the accelerometer to create an interesting semi-augmented reality feel. (submitted by Michael F.)

Logitech Z305 – The Logitech Z305 is an unobtrusive solution if you’re sick of the tinny, enclosed sound from your laptop speakers but don’t have room for a five-piece PC speaker set. We recommend this plug-and-play external audio device for its simplicity of operation, low cost, and convenience for use on the run.

Opera Upgrades Mobile Browser for Symbian – JavaScript performance is improved ninefold, and the new version also includes geolocation.

Off Topic (Sort of):

New from WikiLeaks – An upcoming new WikiLeaks release could reach 2.8 million classified documents, the organization says.

‘God is better than football’ – As Harvie’s Alzheimer’s disease worsens, his nursing home is visited by a church group, entertaining him with the song ‘God is better than football, God is better than beer’. Harvie sees in his imagination the residents of the home animated into a choreographic sequence, inspired by Busby Berkeley’s 1930s Hollywood musicals. (submitted by Dar)

Should you wait to buy a tablet? – Is now a good time to buy a tablet computer, or is it worthwhile to wait? CNET Senior Editor Donald Bell surveys the current state of tablets and offers his best guess for the future.

Pirate Bay appeal falls on deaf ears – A Swedish appeals court upholds the copyright convictions of three of the four founders of The Pirate Bay–perhaps the world’s most notorious file-sharing Web site.

Today’s Quote:

To be positive: To be mistaken at the top of one’s voice.”

Abrose Bierce

Today’s Free Downloads:

AVG LinkScanner Free Edition – The most dangerous page on the web may be the one you are about to click on. AVG LinkScanner provides an advanced layer of security against fast-moving, invisible web threats, and hacked web sites. It verifies the safety of web pages you visit, and of links returned from web searches (Google, Yahoo! and MSN), so you know how safe/unsafe a page is at the time you attempt to click on it.

ZoneAlarm Free Firewall 9.2 – ZoneAlarm Firewall Free 9.2 has gotten quieter and more effective, and should be considered an excellent tool for replacing the adequate default Windows firewall with a stronger option that includes better outbound protection, antiphishing guards, and ZoneAlarm’s behavioral detection network.

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Filed under Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

Sandbox Firefox With Secure Browser Version 5.1

imageI first reported on Secure Browser, a virtualized version of Firefox back in July of this year, and since then there have been a number of upgrades to the application, including 64 bit compatibility.

This is not 1985 when the only thing you had to worry about was what might be on the floppy disks you exchanged with your friends. Today, your Browser is the conduit into your computer – that’s the route by which the majority of malware spreads.

So, controlling malware intrusion, while surfing the Net, through the use of a ‘”virtual” environment rather than operating in a “real” environment, continues to make sense given the level of cyber criminal activity on the Internet.

In the last few months we’ve looked primarily at operating system virtualization – Shadow Defender, Returnil Virtual System, Wondershare Time Freeze, and a number of other similar applications. But, there are alternatives to OS virtualization – specific application virtualization running in a sandbox.

KACE Networks, Secure Browser (last updated Oct 20, 2010), is a virtualized version of Firefox which according to KACE –

Changes or malicious files inadvertently downloaded from the Internet are contained within the secure browser, keeping the underlying OS and computer secure from hostile changes.

Any changes resulting from browser activity may be quickly and easily reset to effectively “undo” such changes and return it to its initially installed state.


Graphic courtesy of Kace.

Fast facts:

Provides a virtualized and contained Firefox v3.6 Browser with Adobe Reader and Flash plug-ins.

Rapidly reset any changes made during normal use back to their initial state, enabling easy recovery from infections or attacks.

View statistics related to the number of processes detected and blocked.

Set white and black lists to limit access to known good sites, or prevent access to known bad sites to further limit the risk of attack and infection.

Contrary to my usual practice, I have not tested this application. Instead, I’m reporting on it’s availability only. I tend to stick with Ubuntu when surfing the Internet.

System requirements: Windows 7, Vista, XP (32-bit and 64-bit systems).

Download at: KACE

Note: Registration required.

Alternative solutions:

Sandbox your current Browser in Sandboxie.

Run the Chrome Browser which includes a form of sandboxing.

Run Comodo Dragon a variation on Chrome with additional privacy controls.

Run Ubuntu while surfing the Web.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Anti-Malware Tools, Browsers, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Firefox, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety Tools, Malware Protection, Online Safety, Software, Windows 7, Windows Tips and Tools, Windows Vista, Windows XP

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – November 27, 2010

The Best Antivirus Software for 2011 – We’ve reviewed 20 of the best (and worst) premium and free antivirus applications so that you can pick the right one for your needs–because, make no mistake: you need AV.

Mac Malware Attacks Prompt Security Vendors to Rush Out Antivirus Tools – Security vendors are saying that attacks on the Mac are now significant enough that Apple users should invest in antivirus software for what was once the “invulnerable” platform. With Koobface variant Boonana fresh in people’s minds, the concept of a virus attacking Macs seems less laughable than it did even two years ago.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Convicted Botnet Author Describes Next Targets – In an interview with CDN, Calce said while everyone is focused on the cloud, his biggest concern is that we’re not even secure with our current infrastructure, and here we are putting our data alone in one bubble.It’s a great concept, but he said security seems to be an afterthought. “It’s hard to patch-up holes when so many bullets have already been fired. I know I’ll never get businesses to agree but we need to slow down technology, and stop reinventing without fixing the predecessor first,” said Calce. “We’re always taking on security as an afterthought. We should redesign the protocols behind the Internet to make it less exploitable.

U.S. seizes sites linked to copyright infringement – Department of Homeland Security launches major crackdown on online copyright infringement, seizing dozens of Web site domains linked to illegal file sharing and counterfeit goods.

Facebook posts cause bank worker to lose layoff payoff? – Bank worker crows on Facebook after hearing her workplace will be liquidated. She thinks she’ll be transferred or paid off. When bosses hear of posts, they fire her instead.

Network security facing dual challenge – Network security systems are under pressure. You might not be experiencing it yet, but you will soon. The dual challenge of dealing with more attacks at higher speeds threatens to undermine the stability of the most important commercial platforms of the 21st century; namely the Internet. What can be done to address these challenges and avert the economic impact of an Internet collapse?

Weaving a Dangerous Web – Another year passes and even more security issues crop up on the Web. In an unsurprising report from Websense Security Labs recently, it seems that the number of malicious websites has multiplied more than two-fold from 2009 and data stealing attacks on the Web are on the rise as well. The most significant findings? The fact that many of the Web’s ‘nice neighborhoods’ are going rogue as well.

Company News:

Introducing the world’s first HDTV powered by Google TV – The world’s first and only HDTV powered by Google TV gives you easy access to more entertainment than ever. Search the entire web, TV listings and apps1 to find exactly what you’re looking for. Watch TV, browse the internet2, or do both at the same time on the same screen.

The Attachmate, Novell Deal – Attachmate Corp. as agreed to buy Novell for $2.2 billion in a deal that includes Novell selling some assets to a consortium led by Microsoft.

Motorola Droid Pro Ready to Invade the Enterprise – Launched to Verizon Wireless stores Nov. 18, Motorola Droid Pro is one of the carrier’s latest stocking stuffers for the holiday season, joining the summer’s Motorola Droid X and Motorola Droid 2 as an Android 2.2-based smartphone with a 1 GHz processor with the complete Google Mobile apps experience. But this Droid isn’t like the others. Droid Pro is markedly different from those media-friendly devices because it’s enterprise-friendly, or tries to be.

Google Cloud Connect: Threat to Microsoft Office? – Google has released Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office, which allows users to save their Office documents in Google Docs. Offered as a Web-based alternative, the free software plug-in represents yet another Google foray into cloud productivity. The question is, how much of a threat does it pose to Microsoft, which is also trying to expand its cloud offerings for Office workers?

Off Topic (Sort of):

Thomas Edison’s Oddest Inventions – Thomas Edison is an inventor known for great things. We also know he had a pretty good sense of humor. Some of these er, lesser known contributions from Mr. Edison were ahead of their time; others are just plain twisted.

Such a well behaved herd of sheep you are! TSA thanks you for allowing them to violate your rights and to assault you. If ever there was an indicator of just how apathetic and well trained the American public truly is, it must be this situation with TSA. Like a herd of bedraggled sheep, thousands of you forfeited your 4th and 5th amendment rights and allowed the government to irradiate you and view your virtually naked body, or allowed yourself to be subjected to an enhanced pat-down…nothing short of a sexual encounter. (submitted by Dar)

5 Classic Google Maps Mis-Directions – Whether you’re getting to the one store with the only Turbo-charged Buzz Lightyear or trying to wend you way back to Grandma’s house for the holidays, you may rely on Google Maps. Many people do–and sometimes with comical results. These are some of our favorite and funniest.

Christopher Hitchens 1-0 Tony Blair – Staunch atheist wins over audience in debate with Catholic convert over whether religion is a force for good in the world.

Today’s Quote:

It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues.”

Abraham Lincoln

Today’s Free Downloads:

Windows 7 Firewall Control – The software protects Windows 7 and Vista applications from undesirable network incoming and outgoing activity and controls applications Internet access.

FixCleaner Slim – FixCleaner is a computer utility designed to remove errors and boost the performance of home PCs. The advanced system cleaner in FixCleaner combines the vital tools you need to regain lost PC performance, remove data clutter, and boost startup speed.

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Filed under Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News