Monthly Archives: July 2011

More Freebies From Microsoft Research Labs

imageWe are excited to be developing technologies that weave software, hardware, and services into every aspect of our lives, thereby advancing toward the goal of making computers genuinely useful — We see a future in which computers interact with people the way we interact with each other, think ahead to anticipate and meet our needs, and support us as we make the most of our ideas, efforts, and intellect.”


Joulemeter is a software tool that estimates the power consumption of your computer. It tracks computer resources, such as CPU utilization and screen brightness, and estimates power usage.

System Requirements: Windows 7

HD View 3.3

With HD View, you can view and interact with very large images on the Web. HD View supports smooth panning and zooming, as well as appropriate viewing perspectives as you zoom in and out. HD View also makes creating and hosting your own HD View images easy. HD View is available as a plug-in for Windows-based browsers, including Internet Explorer and Firefox.

System Requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 (32-bit version).

Image Composite Editor (32 bit)

Microsoft Image Composite Editor is an advanced panoramic image stitcher. Given a set of overlapping photographs of a scene shot from a single camera location, the application creates a high-resolution panorama that seamlessly combines the original images.

The stitched panorama can be shared with friends and viewed in 3D by uploading it to the Photosynth web site. Or the panorama can be saved in a wide variety of image formats, from common formats like JPEG and TIFF to the multiresolution tiled format used by Silverlight’s Deep Zoom and by the HD View and HD View SL panorama viewers.

System Requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7

Download 64 bit version here.


Ever found yourself lost in the eye of a brainstorm? Lots of great information, but it’s all over the place! Sticky Sorter is a Grassroots Project, developed by two Microsoft Employees, that you can use today to manage such challenges.

The inventors, Julie and Sumit, were looking for an easier way to capture, sift through, and organize hundreds of research observations traditionally done on physical sticky notes in an affinity diagramming exercise with researchers from around the world.

The result is StickySorter which met their complex needs, supports virtual collaboration, and is now available for you to use in managing your next brainstorm.

System Requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 with .Net Framework 2.0.


Touchless is an Office Labs Grassroots Project that started from an idea Mike Wasserman, a Microsoft Office Graphics developer, started during his college days to create multi-touch experience using a webcam. Through Office Labs sponsorship, Mike’s weekend hobby turned into an open-source prototype, currently available for download.

With just a webcam and color markers, you can get a taste of Touchless through the multi-touch demos provided. Play a pong-like game, rotate maps, control a snake, and draw with markers. If you’re someone technical, the Software Development Kit (SDK) is available for you to view, contribute to the code, or create your own multi-touch applications to help explore the possibilities.

System Requirements: Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, Webcam

Bonus – Not free, but free trials:


Songsmith generates musical accompaniment to match a singer’s voice. Just choose a musical style, sing into your PC’s microphone, and Songsmith will create backing music for you. Then share your songs with your friends and family, post your songs online, or create your own music videos.

System Requirements: Windows XP (SP2), Vista, Windows 7

AutoCollage 2008

Researchers from all disciplines and the Cambridge Innovation Development team worked together, building Digital Tapestry and AutoCollage research into a new product. Face detection, saliency filters, and other Microsoft research identifies interesting parts of pictures. Advanced object selection and blending technologies seamlessly combine these pieces into a beautiful new AutoCollage.

System Requirements: Windows XP (SP3), Vista, Windows 7

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Beta Software, Computer Tools, Digital Media, downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Image Editors, Microsoft, Multimedia Tools, Photo Tools, Productivity Software, Software, Software Trial Versions, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Supercharge Windows Start Menu With Microsoft Labs Free Speed Launch

imageWindows “Start” menu is pretty cool – it acts much like a one stop shop for application launch, and it allows access to additional functions and computer locations.

Overall, the start menu suits me well, but I’m always curious about tools that claim to make my Windows experience a little faster or, a little easier. So, when I came across a small free application from Microsoft Office Labs – Speed Launch, I took it for a spin.

Speed Launch, at its core, is an application launcher with a bit of a twist – it’s easy for an average, or less experienced user, to get their head around. The drag and drop interface is uncomplicated, and easy to grasp.

Or, as Microsoft puts it –

“Using the application is definitely no rocket science, since it can actually be managed quite easily. The basic principle relies on dragging and dropping the shortcut into the bull’s eye, and typing in the name for the newly created shortcut. Absolutely any file stored on your hard disk will be appended to Speed Launch’s shortcut list.”

Shortcuts can include an application, a Web site or a document,  triggered by a  word, or a phrase of your choice. Once you have set up Speed Launch with your shortcuts, accessing the launcher is east – just hit Windows (key), plus C (key).

Following installation, you’ll notice you now have a small bull’s eye on screen. I attempted to capture this bull’s eye in the following screen shot, but on a 24 inch screen it’s very small. The bull’s eye is in the center of the screen in this case, but it is movable, or it can be hidden.


The right click context menu allows full control over the application, as the following screen capture indicates.


Here’s an example in which I set up CDBurnerXP to run from the launcher.

View Slide Show





The following example shows the effect of using the application’s Megasearch function which will open the pages of the three search engines in separate tabs in your default web browser, based on your query.


The result is illustrated in this very small screen capture. Sorry about the size, but I think it helps to get the idea across. I really liked this feature.


View Slide Show

Watch the video and slide show for the step by step  process by which Speed Launch allows you to identify and quickly  retrieve what you use most.Play Video

Watch the slide show for the step by step process by which Speed Launch allows you to identify and quickly retrieve what you use most.

Watch Video

Matt created this video to show how to create functions.  Watch it and learn to create your own.Play Video

This video shows you how to create functions. Watch it and learn to create your own.

System requirements: Windows 7, Vista or Windows XP SP2 with .Net Framework 3.0.

Download at: Microsoft (Go to “Try It”, on the right hand side of the page).

Note: Microsoft has a number of Lab sites all of which offer a range of free tools.

This is a rather cool little application, well worth a look.

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Filed under Application Launchers, downloads, Freeware, Geek Software and Tools, Microsoft, Productivity Software, Software, System Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – July 31, 2011

Still Awesome After All These Years: Eight Excellent Free Downloads – Wine gets better with age. Men get more distinguished-looking. And some programs are like perennials, returning each year with fresh blooms and stronger stems. Indeed, think of some of the world’s best productivity tools and system utilities, and I’ll wager that some were “planted” at least five years ago–decades in computer years. Take a look at eight of these blossoming apps, all of which are more awesome than ever, and all of which are, amazingly, free.

9 Apps to Transform Your Android Phone Into a High-End Camera – We scoured multiple Android app stores to find the ultimate photography apps for shooting, editing, and sharing pictures. Here are the nine apps we tested that every photographer should have.

Lifehacker: Top 10 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Gear (Without Spending Extra Money) – The life of a tech junkie is expensive, but you don’t always need to spend tons of money to get tons of features. Here are some of our favorite ways to add extra features to your tech without paying an arm and a leg.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Millions hit in South Korean hack – South Korea has blamed Chinese hackers for stealing data from 35 million accounts on a popular social network. The attacks were directed at the Cyworld website as well as the Nate web portal, both run by SK Communications. Hackers are believed to have stolen phone numbers, email addresses, names and encrypted information about the sites’ many millions of members.

Fedora 15 – A couple of years ago I messed up my laptop so badly (downloading stuff) that I couldn’t even recover it back to factory settings. Fortunately, I had already downloaded a copy of Ubuntu 10.04. I was going to give it a try but was forced to actually install it after my escapades with Windows Vista resulted in me having no working computer.

Google+ Tips: How to Use Your New Favorite Social Network – People are still becoming acclimated to the service and features like Circles, Sparks, Hangouts and, of course, the all-important mobile application. This eWEEK slide show runs down some tips and resources that new Google+ users may want to try to improve their current social-networking experience.

Internet Explorer Users Are Kinda Stupid, Study Suggests – If you use Internet Explorer, your IQ might be below average–at least, according to one study. On average, Internet Explorer users fared the worst, with IE6 users at the bottom of the pile and IE8 users performing slightly better. Firefox, Chrome and Safari fell in the middle with little difference between them. IE with Chrome Frame and Camino landed on top, along with Opera, whose users scored the highest (on average).

Security Best Practices A Big FAIL In Most Organizations – Enterprises, government agencies mostly missing the boat in proper security practices.

ISP Data-Retention Bill Rankles Privacy Advocates – Opponents of a proposed data-retention bill say the law wouldn’t markedly help lock up child pornographers and pedophiles, but rather would treat all Americans as criminals.

Company News:

Google acquires over 1,000 IBM patents – Company’s purchase includes a host of patents related to everything “Web-based querying” to the “fabrication and architecture of memory and microprocessing chips.”

CA Suite Manages Multiple Hypervisors – CA Technologies has launched a spate of new products, including the CA Automation Suite, to help IT service providers build out and manage virtualization and other cloud infrastructure technologies from multiple vendors.

Microsoft, SUSE Extend Interoperability Agreement – In a move the companies hail as “Microsoft-SUSE 2.0,” Microsoft and SUSE have extended their 5-year-old interoperability agreement for another four years.

Go Daddy Selects Trend Micro – Trend Micro Deep Security has enabled Go Daddy to block threats in the cloud before they reach its network and servers.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Cracked: 6 Lies About the Human Body You Learned in Kindergarten – Unfortunately, many of the answers you get there are lies that seem specifically designed to make the world around you seem boring. Because how else are they going to get you to stop asking so many damn questions? For instance, you probably still believe …

Future Of The Black Box Flight Recorder Explored – “If real-time stock quotes can be transmitted to anyone with a smartphone, why does the vital work of investigating an aeroplane crash still depend on reading physical memory chips that must be rescued from the wreckage?”

Three signs Google+ is here to stay (And two that it’s doomed) – One month in, here’s a look at three signs that Google+ is here for the long haul – and two signs that it’s doomed to fail.

World’s first ‘printed’ airplane takes to the skies – Engineers at the University of Southampton have developed an unmanned air vehicle (UAV) whose entire structure has been printed, potentially changing the economics of aircraft design.

Today’s Quote:

I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions.”

–     Lillian Hellman

Today’s Free Downloads:

Process Hacker – Process Hacker provides a customizable tree view with highlighting showing you the processes running on your computer. You can see detailed performance graphs. A complete list of services and full control over them (start, stop, pause, resume, and delete.

Ultimate Boot CD – Consolidate as many diagnostic tools as possible into one bootable CD. This will create an ISO image which you can use to create a bootable CD with your favorite CD burning software.

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Filed under Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

Catch Your Online Grammar, Spelling, and Style Mistakes, With After The Deadline

imageChurning out two blog posts every day is hard on the eyes – not to mention the back, the wrists – well you get the point. As a consequence – I sometimes find myself looking (with crossed eyes) at words running into words, gross misspellings (easy to correct), or improper word usage (sometimes, not so easy to correct). Your versus you’re, and its versus it’s, for example, can be particularly difficult to pick up when used incorrectly.

Here’s a good example of this – recently pointed out by a reader.


“You’re friends won’t – other than to deny that they watch it – or, perhaps to decry it’s prevalence” You’re means You are – so “you are friends won’t” doesn’t make sense, use “Your friends” instead.

“It’s” always means “It is” – so “decry it is presence” doesn’t make sense; use “decry its presence” instead.

Not a big deal, you might be thinking. Maybe not – but as often as not, common errors, particularly punctuation errors, can change the meaning of what you meant to say. I’m sure you’ve seen this example – Let’s eat, Mother. versus – Let’s eat Mother.

I write all my blog articles in open source LibreOffice (with grammar checker turned on), and then copy the articles to Windows Live Writer prior to posting into WordPress.


Despite an active grammar checker, proofreading, as time consuming as it can often be, is unavoidable. Still, I’ve learned that proofreading is no guarantee that the odd mistake will not slip through.

There is a partial solution (no technology is perfect), that can help you (and me), avoid the most common grammar mistakes, spelling errors (including contextual spelling errors), and style mistakes, in online interactions – including blog postings, emails (mistakes here can be deadly), Facebook, Twitter, etc.

After the Deadline – developed by the people behind WordPress – is an open source (free), language checker for the Web which is available as:

An add-on for Firefox.

An extension for Google Chrome.

A plugin for Windows Live Writer.

A plugin for self-hosted WordPress blogs.

An extension for Writer (still in Beta).

Following installation of After the Deadline on my system as a Firefox add-on, I found it to be reasonably accurate – but not perfect (more on this later). Nevertheless, I’ll keep it on my system – at least in the short term (for the second time).

Installation, in my case, was the usual automatic Firefox add-on install, followed by an easy Options set up as the following screen capture indicates.


The following screen shots (click to expand) show spelling errors (an unrecognized word), and style recommendations – in a previous post.



The type of recommendation shown in the screen shot directly above (change “terminate” to “end”, or “stop”), is the primary reason I deleted this add-on previously.

Consistently, higher level words were marked down as “complex expressions”. It may be popular to assume that “dumbing down” is in vogue, but not from where I’m sitting.

Fast facts:

Checks Spelling – Spell checker looks at context and uses artificial intelligence to make recommendations.

Detects Misused Words – Most spell checkers assume any word in their dictionary is correct regardless of context. This means all misused word errors go unnoticed.

Checks Style – Style checker has thousands of rules and uses context to choose the best suggestions.

Checks Grammar – The grammar checker in After the Deadline protects you from common writing errors. After the Deadline uses statistics to automatically find exceptions to its grammar rules, making it one of the smartest grammar checkers around.

Explains Errors – The misused word detector, grammar checker, and style checker explain the mistakes and suggestions to you. Click an error and choose the “Explain …” option.

Download at: After the Deadline

After the Deadline checks English, French, German, Portuguese, and Spanish text.

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Filed under Browser add-ons, Chrome Add-ons, downloads, Email, FaceBook, Firefox, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Google Chrome, Interconnectivity, Software, Twitter, Windows Tips and Tools, WordPress, Writing

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – July 30, 2011

The Best Free Software of 2011 – Got Windows? These 208 free products are yours to download and install to help you with just about any computing job you can imagine.

Lifehacker: How Can I Diagnose and Fix My Slow Computer? – My computer’s feeling a little sluggish lately and I want to boost its performance if possible. I see ads all the time for PC optimization programs, but they all look spammy. Are there any easy and reliable tools I can use to check my PC and tune it up?

Google Enables Gmail Two-Factor Security in 150 Countries – Nearly six months after first introducing two-step verification for its Gmail service, Google has expanded the security feature to users outside the English-speaking world, opening it up to people in more than 150 countries.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

What You Need to Know About the Internet Snooping Bill (and How You Can Protect Yourself) – On Thursday, the US House of Representatives approved an internet snooping bill that requires internet service providers (ISPs) to keep records of customer activity for a year so police can review them as needed. Here’s what this bill means for you and what you can do about it.

Conficker found on external HD devices on sale – Australian supermarket chain ALDI might seem like the last place where one can pick up a Conficker infection, but according to an emergency security alert by the Australian Computer Emergency Response Team, the worm has been discovered on a Fission External 4-in-1 Hard Drive/DVD/USB/Card Reader product the stores offer for sale.

Just how stupid are IE users? – A Canadian psychometric company declares after a study that those who use IE6 are the least intelligent of all. The next least intelligent? IE7 users. However, IE9 users are dumber than those of IE8.

“Wrong hotel transaction” spam bombards victims with malware – A particularly malicious spam run consisting of emails ostensibly sent by reception desk managers of various hotels has been targeting Visa users.

Stanford researcher exposes Microsoft’s Wi-Fi database – To pressure Microsoft to curb access to its geolocation database, researcher creates Web page that lets people send queries based on their–or someone else’s–computer’s unique Wi-Fi address.

Company News:

AT&T says it will throttle heavy data users – The measures take effect on October 1 and will apply to the top 5 percent of heaviest data users still on an unlimited plan for its wireless network.

Adobe releases long list of Lion, Safari compatibility issues – Adobe Systems recently released a list of problems with Apple’s Mac OS X 10.7 release, a k a Lion. Many products are also incompatible with the new 5.1 version of Safari and its handling of Java.

Spotify already slapped with patent infringement lawsuit – Spotify has only been available in the United States for a couple of weeks, and it has already been hit with a lawsuit.

Microsoft to pay Alcatel $70M in patent ruling – A jury has decided that Microsoft must pay Alcatel-Lucent $70 million in damages for infringing on the company’s patent in its Outlook software.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Woman injured having sex on business trip wants workers compensation – An Australian public servant says she is entitled to workers compensation after she was injured while having sex in a motel room during a business trip. The woman claims she suffered a psychiatric injury, as well as injuries to her mouth and nose, when a glass light fitting in her room smashed down onto her head while she was having sex with an “acquaintance.”

Lifehacker: Basic Self-Defense Moves Anyone Can Do (and Everyone Should Know) – Would you be able to defend yourself and your loved ones if someone were to physically attack you? It’s a question most of us don’t want to consider, but violence is, unfortunately, a fact of life. Thankfully, regardless of strength, size, or previous training, anyone can learn several effective self-defense techniques. Here’s how to prepare for and stay safe in common real-world violent situations.

Video: The G-Mailman – The video pokes fun at Gmail’s keyword advertising and Google’s lack of respect for user privacy as a “GMailman” browses through emails to find keywords and create personalized and “unsolicited” ads. It ends saying: “Your email is your business. Google makes it theirs.” (submitted by Michael F.)

10 things you should never say on the job – Ever had one of those heart-stopping moments when you realize you’ve said just the wrong thing at work? Here are some guidelines to keep that from happening again.

Today’s Quote:

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ (I found it!) but ‘That’s funny …”

–    Isaac Asimov

Today’s Free Downloads:

SuperRam – SuperRam increases computer performance by freeing wasted memory back to your computer. By optimizing memory utilization your computer will operate at stable speeds and never run out of memory.

Where’s My PC!? – Where’s My PC!? is a simple utility designed to help locate lost or stolen computers. It works by registering the computers IP address in a database at user defined intervals. The user can then access the database remotely via the portal on

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Filed under Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

Don’t Have WinPatrol? Look What You’re Missing!

imageI’m often asked to describe the security applications I run on my primary home machine and, I’ll occasionally post an article which does just that. Regular readers will have noticed, that consistent with that old aphorism “the only constant is change”, my choices of security applications over the years have frequently changed. Except for one application – WinPatrol.

WinPatrol makes my indispensible program list every time – as it has for the last 10 years, or more (WinPatrol is now in its 20th version). No other security application, on any of my machines, comes close to that.

WinPatrol’s strong point is – it monitors system areas that malicious programs attack. The free version of this highly regarded application doesn’t stop there though. With WinPatrol in your system tray, you can monitor your system, startup programs, services, cookies, current tasks, and more.

If anything changes, Scotty (the system tray Icon) will alert you. Taking it one step further; WinPatrol allows you to terminate processes and enable, or disable, startup programs.

WinPatrol’s user interface couldn’t be any simpler. New users should have no difficulty following this self explanatory layout.

Selecting options is “click the box” simple.


The following screen shot shows currently running applications on my machine, at the time the window was captured.


The following screen shot shows recent activity. The right click context menu allows the user to perform a number of operations on the selected entry. I’ve illustrated this by selecting “Properties” of the highlighted .dll.


WinPatrol Free – Feature Chart


Additional Features in WinPatrol Plus


System requirements: Window XP, Vista, Win 7 ( including x64 support).

Download WinPatrol Free at: BillP Studios

If you’re currently a WinPatrol user – don’t keep it a secret. Let you friends/relatives/associates know – WinPatrol is a must have application.

BTW, Bill Pytlovany, WinPatrol’s developer, accepts and encourages donations.

WinPatrol Plus lifetime licenses are available as follows:

WinPatrol PLUS $29.95

WinPatrol PLUS Family Pack $49.95

Download WinPatrol Plus at: BillP Studios

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Anti-Malware Tools, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Freeware, HIPS, Malware Protection, New Computer User Software Tools, Software, System File Protection, System Security, System Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – July 29, 2011

10 things you should still do to every Windows PC – There are at least 10 things you should take a few minutes to do to every new Windows PC to get it ready for daily use. Don’t let your back-to-school PC drag your first semester down.

Browser Wars: Chrome vs IE9 vs Firefox – It seems like a new browser ships every week, always bringing some minor upgrades and some minor incompatibilities. Chrome, Internet Explorer and Firefox are still the big players, but Opera and Safari can’t be ignored. has tested all the latest versions and declared a winner of the browser wars. At least for this week.

How to Set Up a Small Business Wireless Network – We lay out all the main points you need to consider before you start building a wireless network for your small business.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

OS X Lion: Macs are no longer beginner-friendly – OS X Lion brings major security updates and glossy new features to the table, but drastic interface changes may be a big problem for less tech-savvy users.

Reports: Tea Party leader arrested on piracy charges – Anthony Trinca, 61, is accused of selling versions of Microsoft Office, Windows, Adobe Photoshop, and Rosetta Stone language programs that were counterfeit, news site TG Daily reported today, one of several outlets to write about it. Trinca, president of the Grand Strand Tea Party, was arrested on Tuesday after someone to whom he allegedly sold software resold some of it and refused to give a refund when a buyer insisted it was pirated, according to the police report.

BT commanded to block site linking to pirated content – The verdict is in: British Telecom must block users from accessing the Newzbin 2 website, an aggregator of links to pirated movies and other content. The ruling could provide a much needed precedent for future suits initiated by the artistic content industry, since this is the first time that an ISP has been ordered to comply with their requests by a court of law.

Windows 7/Vista Home Networking Setup and Options – Not everyone has upgraded to Windows 7; some home networks still rely on XP and even Vista. We look at the steps you need to take to setup networking in both Vista and Windows 7

Updatable firmware could be the new target for hackers – So, other than bricking batteries (something that a mischievous hacker might be happy doing), what else can be done? Well, Miller thinks that this could be used to install malware onto a system in such a way that it would survive a total disk wipe and BIOS reflash – persistent malware that could only be eradicated through reflashing the affected component.

Company News:

Norman antimalware appliance built on Linux platform – Norman announced the latest version of its Network Protection (NNP) antimalware appliance, which improves protection against persistent IT infrastructure security attacks.

AVG releases Premium Security– AVG announced Premium Security, the Internet security solution that surveys the Web for incidents of stolen identity. It includes AVG Identity Alert, AVG Internet Security and AVG Quick Tune. By monitoring a user’s e-mail address and debit and credit card numbers – the three primary elements of an online identity – the system notifies the user if personal details appear somewhere they shouldn’t.

Web app security scanner Netsparker 2.0 released – Netsparker can crawl, attack and identify vulnerabilities in all custom web applications regardless of the platform and the technology it’s built on, just like an actual attacker.

Nintendo Dropping 3DS Price to $170 – Nintendo on Thursday said it will drop the price of its hand- held 3DS console from $249.99 to $169.99 in the U.S., starting August 12.

Amidst Returns, Logitech Dropping Google TV Revue Price to $99 – More people are returning Logitech Revue set-top boxes for Google TV than buying them, so Logitech will drop the price from $249 to $99.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Infographic: The Coming Data Boom – We all know that we are creating more and more data, but once you move past GB into petabytes, metabytes, and hyperbytes, things get a little hard to visualize. This graphic does a good job of putting the data boom into perspective.

On Pseudonymity, Privacy and Responsibility on Google+ – The code that Google applies, the rules they set up now in the software, are going to influence our right to speak out now and in the future. It is imperative that we impress upon Google the importance of providing users with the same rights (and responsibilities) as exist in the society that nurtured Google and brought about its success.

MS-DOS Turns 30: PCMag’s Original Interview with Bill Gates – One of the cool things about working at PCMag is that we have access to 29 years of great tech coverage. So when MS-DOS turned 30, we decided to go back and see what a very young, very smart Bill Gates had to say about his creation. Check out our full interview.

New Dirt On Dry Cleaners – Why is vinaigrette so hard to get out? Why do women’s shirts cost so much more to clean than men’s? Why do so many buttons fall off? Baffled by erratic and expensive service, toxic chemicals, customers turn to washable clothes.

What did the RSA breach end up costing EMC? – In its earnings call for the second quarter of the running year, the company has revealed that it has spent $66 millions for investigating the attack, hardening their systems and working with customers (transaction monitoring, SecurID token replacements) to implement their remediation programs.

Today’s Quote:

Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But since no one was listening, everything must be said again”

–     André Gide

Today’s Free Downloads:

nfsLondonMetroMap3 – The nfsLondonMetroMap3 screen saver puts the London Underground on your desktop. It’s a great way to familiarize yourself with the Tube before traveling to London, or to reminisce after a trip to the city. Mind the gap!

nfsParisMetroMap – Do you have a soft spot in your heart for the Paris Métropolitan chemin de fer? Or perhaps you’ve got a trip planned to the City of Light? Then download the free nfsParisMetroMap screen saver.

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Filed under Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

Secure Your Online Banking With A Linux Live CD

imageWhile connected to the Internet, just like you, I face exposure to Trojans, spyware, viruses, phishing scams, identity theft, scam artists, schemers and cyber crooks lurking in the shadows, just waiting to make me a victim. Even so, the odds of me picking up a malware infection, or being scammed, are low  – not 0% but…… Am I just lucky, or is it more than that?

Well, to some extent I might be lucky – but, it takes much more than luck to stay safe on the Internet. For me – it really boils down to prevention. Preventing cybercriminals from getting a foothold by being vigilant and adhering scrupulously to fundamental security precautions, including –

A fully patched operating system.

A robust firewall.

Automatically updated anti-virus and anti-spyware software

An aggressive HIPS (host intrusion prevention system).

Increased Internet Browser protection through selected add-ons.

and, most importantly never forgetting toStop. Think. Click.

Despite all those security precautions though, there’s one connected activity that still concerns me – online banking. Regardless of the fact that I choose my Internet banking provider based partially on its low profile (four branches as opposed to the usual 3,000/5,000 branches common in Canadian banking), I’m not entirely relying on this low profile as a guarantee that cybercriminals will not target my provider.

The inescapable fact remains; I am my own best protection while conducting financial transactions on the Internet. Frankly, I’m not convinced that financial institutions are where they need to be when it comes to protecting their online customers.

Despite my best efforts it’s possible (though unlikely), that malicious code may be installed on my computer – ready to pounce on my banking user account names, and passwords. Which is why, I have long made it a practice to conduct my financial affairs on the Internet via a self-booting Linux Live CD running Firefox. Since a Linux Live CD is read-only media, the environment (running entirely in RAM), will be much more secure than Windows.

Yes, I admit that it’s a pain to shut down and reboot just to complete an online financial transaction but, I’d rather be safe than sorry – I’m into an ounce of prevention. Since the majority of malware is Windows specific, banking online through a Linux Live CD is my ounce of prevention.

Recommended Linux Live CDs:

Lightweight Portable Security (LPS) – A Linux distro from the US Department of Defense.

Ubuntu – fast, secure and easy-to-use.

Puppy Linux – A complete operating system with suite of GUI apps, only about 70 – 140MB, and boots directly off the CD.

KNOPPIX – Live Linux file system on CD.

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Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – July 28, 2011

Free Fixes: Recover Stolen Laptops, Add Uninstall Option, Organize Icons – Use free LockItTight to recover a stolen laptop, MenuUninstaller to add a useful task to your Windows context menu, and Bins to organize your taskbar icons more effectively.

How to migrate your email to Hotmail or Gmail – College is coming to an end for many, and so will your email accounts. This guide will show you how to keep your old college emails.

My top five Linux desktop distributions – As someone who’s been running and testing Linux desktops almost from day one, I think I know a thing or two about the top Linux desktops.So here, from bottom to top, is a gallery of my current favorites.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Enable Direct2D and DirectWrite Hardware Acceleration for Better Graphics Performance in Firefox – If you have a decent graphics card (DirectX 10-capable) and Windows 7 (or Windows Vista with the Vista Platform Upgrade), you can make graphics processing a bit more efficient with these tweaks:

Who’s Tracking Your Cell Phone? – Is your cell phone being tracked? The odds are quite good there’s a spy in your pocket. The only real question is, who’s doing it?

40 Google+ Tips and Tricks for Power Users – Get the most out of Google’s new social network with these awesome tips and tricks.

In Defense of Online Anonymity: The Google+ Policy is Wrong – Google has recently taken some flak for its “real names” policy on Google+ — a number of users have had their Google+ accounts (and, sometimes, all related accounts) suspended for failing to use their real names.

Myanmar is No.1 in Attack Traffic – Internet attacks can come from any country in the world at any given point in time. Over the course of the first quarter of 2011, Akamai’s latest State of the Internet report found one country to be the source of more attack traffic than any other.

U.S. Says Cybercrime a Major National Security Threat – A new report from the National Security Council warns that international cybercrime has reached the upper echelon of threats of to the security of the United States and is responsible for as much as $1 billion in losses in just one year in the U.S. The report, which focuses on a number of broad threats presented by organized crime groups around the world, says cybercrime poses a “significant threat to financial and trust systems.

Company News:

ARM reports healthy results, but shaky consumer demand casts shadow – ARM Holdings has reported a 27 percent increase in year-over-year revenue, an 25 percent increase in pre-tax profit, and the signing of 29 processor licensees — nine of them new. But both ARM and key licensee Texas Instruments have added a cautionary note about the rest of the year, given the shaky state of consumer confidence.

Intel touts record revenue and ‘ultrabook’ initiative – Reporting results for the second quarter of its financial year, Intel said Atom processor revenues have dropped by 15 percent, and lowered its forecast for 2011 PC sales to around nine percent. But revenue and net income were respectively up 22 percent and 10 percent year-over-year, marking a “fifth consecutive quarter of record revenue,” officials added.

Acer to Launch Laptop with Nvidia Tegra Processor, Reports Say – Acer plans to introduce the first laptop with an NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual-core processor, as well as an Intel-based Ultrabook, and new tablets running Android 3.2, according to DigiTimes. The choice of the NVIDIA Tegra processor is peculiar, but might help Acer get ahead in the race to flood the market with ARM-based laptops.

General Dynamics Completes Acquisition Of Fortress Technologies – General Dynamics completed its previously announced purchase of Fortress Technologies, Inc. on July 22, 2011. Fortress Technologies is a provider of secure wireless networking equipment for the U.S. military and other government customers. The value of the cash transaction, which is expected to be accretive to General Dynamics’ earnings beginning in 2012, has not been disclosed.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Black Hat Pwnie Award Winner Will Be a Criminal – Law enforcement may be interested to see if anyone actually shows up to this year to accept the annual Pwnie Award for Epic Ownage at Black Hat, since all the nominees face possible criminal charges. Nominees for the prize are Anonymous, LulzSec, Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks, and the perpetrators of the Stuxnet worm.

Nine Habits of Ineffective People – Good jobs are scarce these days, so you might think people would be careful to hang on to work when they’ve got it. Yet many employees sabotage their own careers through excruciatingly ill-conceived — and easy to avoid — work habits.

Move over, George Jetson! – Home automation no longer exists only in a fictional futuristic world. The modern technology offers remote or automatic control over as many electrical features in your home as you desire and can afford.

Why Twitter Is Obsolete – The microblogging service Twitter debuted five years ago, and by all accounts it’s one of the great success stories of the social media era.

Today’s Quote:

For myself I am an optimist – it does not seem to be much use being anything else.”

–     Sir Winston Churchill

Today’s Free Downloads:

Power Scheme Toggler – Power Scheme Toggler lets you change your computer’s power usage profile with a click of the mouse. Setting it up is almost as fast as using it: Choose two power schemes that you’d like to switch between, create a toggle shortcut, and click Save.

WinHotKey – Freeware application WinHotKey is a great first step toward the world of one-button automation, because it builds a ton of customizations into a program that’s pretty simple to use–at least, in comparison to the relatively script-heavy hotkey applications we’ll soon be discussing. Once you’ve installed the application and navigated past its opening tutorial screens, you’ll see a list of hotkeys that have already been configured for your system. Keep them by doing nothing, or delete them by highlighting them and clicking Remove Hotkey.

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Comments Off on Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – July 28, 2011

Filed under Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News

Tech Thoughts Daily Net News – July 27, 2011

Now You Can View Raw Camera Files in Windows – It just got easier to be a Windows-using digital-SLR photographer. Starting today, you can download the Microsoft Camera Codec Pack, which will profile native file support for over 120 camera models, including those from Canon, Nikon, and Sony. Previously, if you wanted to view raw camera files in Windows Explorer or Windows Live Photo Gallery, you had to go to your camera manufacturer’s site and then find, download, and install a codec that would allow Windows to display the raw files.

How to Protect a Home-Based Business and Its Profits – Work-at-home entrepreneurs can build empires on a shoestring budget by using innovative technology to do the work and solve problems. Mobile and remote computing in particular help small businesses turn on a dime to meet and beat changing job and market conditions. Unfortunately, those technologies also pose the greatest security threats to the company.

Tech Thoughts Daily Tech News 2

Many Employees Would Sell Corporate Information, Study Says – A survey of more than 3,400 employees in the United States, Great Britain and Australia finds corporate loyalty be damned, your company’s data may be on its way out the door when certain employees resign or get laid off.

90,000+ web pages compromised through iFrame injection – Researchers from security firm Armorize have uncovered a massive iFrame injection attack that has compromised 90,000+ Web pages belonging mostly to e-commerce sites. The injected iFrame points to the domain and through a series of redirections and JavaScript loadings of additional iFrames takes the user to a page one the domain where a number of exploits try to take advantage of a handful of vulnerabilities in the user’s browser.

Phishers target Google AdWords users – Trying to trick AdWords users into thinking that one of their income source is threatened, the phishers sent out emails with “Account has stopped running this morning” in the subject line, and urging them to check it out. The offered link to the account takes the potential victim to a rather faithful copy of the legitimate Google AdWords login page.

Is 2011 Finally the Actual Year of Mobile Malware? – This year will be the year of mobile malware” has been such a staple of new years predictions that it has turned into a running joke. But thanks to the design of Android and its markets, and some innovative malware designers, we seem to be there. Android malware has moved well beyond the proof of concept stage.

U.S. Cyber-Security Tsar Resigns Unexpectedly – The director of US-CERT, a division of the Department of Homeland Security has resigned amidst a surge in the number of cyber-attacks on government agencies and private contractors.

Company News:

Metasploit Pro 4.0 released – Rapid7 launched Metasploit Pro 4.0, a penetration testing solution that provides security professionals with a better view of their threat landscape by integrating with more than a dozen vulnerability management and Web application scanners, and by providing data to security information and event management (SIEM) systems through a documented interface.

Passware Kit Forensic Decrypts TrueCrypt Hard Disks in Minutes – Passware Inc., a provider of password recovery, decryption, and evidence discovery software for computer forensics, announced that the latest version of its flagship product, Passware Kit Forensic, has become the first commercially available software to break TrueCrypt hard drive encryption without applying a time-consuming brute-force attack. It was also the first product to decrypt BitLocker drives.

Entrust strengthens mobile security with device authentication – In an era when mobile devices are commonplace, Entrust introduces a straightforward method for adding digital certificates to mobile devices – and with little management from IT staff. Through Entrust’s self-service module, end-users add certificates to their own mobile devices via an easy-to-use interface for advanced certificate-based authentication.

Telesphere’s New Enterprise-Grade Cloud Videoconferencing Service: Powered by BroadSoft, CounterPath and Polycom – By enabling one-to-one and group face-to-face communications, VideoConnect improves productivity, collaboration and relationships among customers, partners and employees. In packaging together the combined capabilities of BroadCloud Video, CounterPath and Polycom, Telesphere now offers businesses of any size cost-effective, enterprise-grade videoconferencing that employees can connect to ranging from room telepresence environments, desktops and the rapidly expanding user base of video-ready smartphones and tablet devices.

Off Topic (Sort of):

Anonymous to FBI: You Can’t Arrest an Idea – In an open letter, affiliated hacking groups challenge the FBI’s effort to shut them down, vow to “continue the fight” against governments and corporations.

‘War Texting’ Attack Hacks Car Alarm System – Researcher will demonstrate at Black Hat USA next week how ‘horrifyingly’ easy it is to disarm a car alarm system and control other GSM and cell-connected devices.

Sorry Doc, Scientists Say Time Travel Is Impossible – Dashing the hopes of “Back to the Future” and “Bill and Ted” fans alike, a group of Hong Kong scientists claims that recent research proves that time travel is impossible. A team at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, led by Professor Shengwang Du, has concluded that single photons cannot travel faster than the speed of light in a vacuum.

Tablets are for people who hate computers – Tablets may be stealing some of the thunder from traditional PC sales, but that doesn’t mean they’re for everyone. If you’re already proficient with a PC, you may be disappointed by a tablet.

Today’s Quote:

Change your thoughts and you change your world.”

–      Norman Vincent Peale

Today’s Free Downloads:

HTTPS Everywhere – This Firefox add-in helps protect against privacy invaders. A collaboration between the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Tor Project, HTTPS Everywhere ensures that when you visit certain sites, all of your communications are encrypted and secure.

TrackMeNot for Chrome – This Chrome extension takes a novel approach to protecting your privacy. Rather than hiding your Web searches, it takes the exact opposite tack: It inundates search engines with a blizzard of background searches so that no practical profile can be built.

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Filed under Internet Security Alerts, Tech Net News