Category Archives: Cloud Computing Applications

Google Drive: One of the Best Things to Happen to the Web

Store your files in a safe placeI remember when I bought my first MacBook. I had been waiting two years to make the exciting switch to Apple, and once I did, I knew I’d never go back. I even remember the day I turned it on.

I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around all the beautiful typography, colorful hues, up-to-date programs, and obvious innovation that composed my 12-inch computer. Sure, it wasn’t a cheap purchase, but I was in love… with a computer.

As the years go by and innovation and creativity continue to grow at infinite speeds, I’m captivated by technology more and more every day. It would be foolish not to give credit to Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and Twitter for changing the way in which we exist and interact with one another. No one could deny that. But, I want to take a moment to talk about Google, particularly Google Drive (formerly Google Docs).

Since the day I started using Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and the rest of those compose-your-own-document programs, I have absolutely detested them. Not only have they become more and more difficult to navigate through over the years, they are also unreliable. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve grown angry with a Word document for instantly formatting my stories, at PowerPoint for crashing when I’m almost done finishing my last slide, or at Excel for being one of the most poorly designed programs on the market today.

Whenever it came time to print a document or email it off to a colleague, I always prayed everything would work out. My mind would conjure up the worst anxieties about a paper not making it to its destination, and often times, my premonitions came true. I’d wonder why the document didn’t download as the right file, why my PowerPoint presentation was not compatible with a newer version of PowerPoint, and why I put up with all the stress of these programs.

Google Docs, now called Google Drive, changed the way in which I interact with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. If a document wasn’t able to print from my home, I could breathe a sigh of relief knowing I could access it from anywhere. If my computer crashed, I felt confident in knowing all of my documents were still accessible. If I needed a colleague to look over my work before I submitted it, I could rely on Google Docs to “share” my document with them and allow the person to incorporate changes or suggestions.

In fact, I no longer even store programs like Microsoft Word, Excel, or PowerPoint on my computer because I find Google Drive to be useful in most every shape and form.

Google has been at the forefront of innovation since its creation. Google Drive is receiving a lot of positive reviews, and the hype surrounding this newest version couldn’t be more appropriate.

Google Drive allows individuals to collaborate on documents at the same time, access documents through a simple link, search through a document archive, and go back and undo automatic revisions. If that isn’t exciting enough, an iPad and iPhone app is coming soon that will allow individuals to access Google Drive through their smartphones or tablets. If you haven’t accessed Google Drive yet, give it a test drive and see what you think.

About the Author:

This guest post is contributed by Katheryn Rivas – an avid blogger whose true calling is researching and exploring the future of learning. For comments and questions, she can be reached at katherynrivas87@gmail.com.

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Filed under Cloud Computing Applications, downloads, Freeware, Google Drive, Guest Writers

Download Free Norton Identity Safe Beta – Simple, Secure, Password Management For Windows, iOS, And Android

imageFair or not, I look upon weak password control – which leads to a catastrophe – as a self-inflicted injury. According to Norton research – 45 % of us re-use the same, easy to remember password, across multiple sites. Which, virtually assures, that should a hacker gain access to such a password – the door is now open for illegal access to all accounts. A catastrophe waiting in the wings.

I understand the dilemma. Complicated, in other words, safe passwords are often hard to remember, whereas easy passwords, in other words, unsafe passwords, are generally easy to remember. And, a single password is surely easier to remember than a series of passwords, simple or not.

What a troublesome problem!

Good news:

Today, Norton will release Norton Identity Safe Beta – the free public beta of a service which will allow you to secure and synchronize logins, passwords, credit cards, and other web form information across PCs, iOS and Android devices – using the cloud.

As an added bonus, Norton Safe Search is included.  Safe Search bumps up a user’s confidence level since a user can easily see (from search results), if a website is safe before visiting the site.

Norton Identity Safe setup walkthrough.

Consider very carefully as to whether “Remember Password” is appropriate in your situation.

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Pay close attention to the password requirements.

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Almost finished.

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On completion, a web page will open with the following. From what I can see in this early test – since the application seems to rely on the Toolbar for access – you must accept. In Firefox, for example the Toolbar can be controlled through Tools – Add-ons.

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Not quite finished. It’s time to check your inbox – confirm your email address. Click on the link………

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and – finished!

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Norton Identity Safe Home:

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Norton Identity Safe Fast facts:

Simplified password management – Eliminates the hassle of remembering multiple logins and passwords, as users only need to remember one master password for quick, secure access to their favorite sites.

Streamlined user experience – Shows users their logins with thumbnail images, allowing them to log in to a desired site by clicking on the image, or for mobile and tablet users, by simply touching the screen.

Share Via – Allows users to safely share online content by sending URLs through email and social networking plugins, directly from Norton Identity Safe beta.

Automatic login synchronization across devices – Enables users to store a password on one device, and easily log in from another device – wherever they go.

Supported browsers:

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Download at: Norton Identity Safe

Note: Norton Identity Safe Mobile Edition beta application, must be installed on mobile devices to access Norton Identity Safe.  The mobile applications complement the PC client, which must be downloaded and installed prior to installing the mobile applications.

Note:  If you have Norton Internet Security or Norton 360, you already have Norton Identity Safe installed.

Norton let me know of the pending release of Identity Safe Beta, yesterday. So, you’ll understand, this is not a review – but rather, a heads-up.

If you choose to download Identity Safe, I would be most interested in your personal observations as to functionality and value.

Helpful hints – here are some guidelines on choosing a strong password:

Make sure your password contains a minimum of 8 characters.

Use upper and lower case, punctuation marks and numbers.

Use a pass phrase (a sentence), if possible. For example, I use an 18 alpha character pass phrase (upper and lower case), supplemented with 4 numeric characters on this site. And, only on this site.

Since brute force dictionary attacks are common, do not use single word passwords that are words in a dictionary.

Use a different password for each sign-in site.

If you have difficulty in devising a strong password/s, take a look at Random.org’s – Random Password Generator – a very cool free password tool.

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Filed under Android, Anti-Malware Tools, Beta Software, Cloud Computing Applications, Connected Devices, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Freeware, Norton

ElfYourself – That’s right (Go ElfYourself)!

imageAgain this year, as they have for the last 5/6 years or so, OfficeMax is offering the charmingly humorous ElfYourself, an online animated Christmas greeting creation tool.

Working with ElfYourself is actually a bit of fun, and while the end product is not “professional”, in any sense, the result is pretty cool – especially when one considers the price; FREE.

Once the project is completed (it takes just a few minutes), you can then share your Christmas greeting by email, or post it to either your Facebook Wall, or to a friend’s Wall. This year you can even share on Twitter.

Go to ElfYourself to get started.

Once on the site, follow the simple instructions. The following screen captures will give you some idea of how uncomplicated the process is.

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The cropping tools could be a little more robust, I think. But, free is free – so, who’s complaining.

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The interface allows a number of minor adjustments.

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Once the face has been adjusted to your liking, the next step is choosing a dance to accompany the animation.

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Luckily, there’s a fair number of choices.

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New, this year – you can now download the finished video and save the file locally.

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Once you’re satisfied with the results – sharing your creation is a breeze.

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If you’re tired of the same old, same old, Christmas greetings, then visit ElfYourself and get creative. You’ll have a bit of fun at the same time.

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Filed under Arts and Crafts, Cloud Computing Applications, Freeware, Just for Laughs, Recommended Web Sites

Aviary Application Suite – Free In Browser Creativity Tools

imageI’ll admit, I’ve never been a big fan of cloud based applications – too old, too staid, too set in my ways, and of course – my dissatisfaction with cloud security. Still, I’m slowly being converted to the idea that online applications are, in some cases, as powerful and as convenient to use, as onboard applications.

A recent discovery – Aviary Application Suite – an impressive suite of browser-based design tools (see the following graphics), has been a bit of a convincer for me -maybe it’s time to get on the “cloud” bandwagon. Could be that this old dog can learn new tricks, after all.

The Aviary Application Suite offers an amazing range of high quality applications including –

Image Editor: Use the Aviary Image Editor for basic image retouching or complex effects.

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Markup Editor: Use the Markup Editor to crop, resize and markup images and web pages captured from your browser.
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Vector Editor: Use the Aviary Vector Editor to create fully scalable vector art.

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Audio Editor: Use the Aviary Audio Editor to remix music tracks and audio clips. Apply sound effects and record your own voice and instruments.

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Additional components.

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First impressions:

The developer has put together a first class set of full blown creative applications that have been designed with simplicity in mind – yet, has managed to retain the power one would normally associate with locally installed applications. I must admit – I’m very enthusiastic about this cloud service. Scores a definite 10/10 in my book.

As part of the package, Avery provides a full range of tutorials (60+), designed to help users get the most “bang for the buck” from each suite component.

There’s much more to be discovered on the site than I can cover in a short review so, I recommend that you drop by the site and wander a bit.

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Filed under Cloud Computing Applications, downloads, Drawing Software, Freeware, Graphic Software, Image Editors, Online Tools, Software, Windows Tips and Tools

OPSWAT’s Metascan Online – A VirusTotal Alternative

imageI’m right and you’re wrong.

No, I’m right and you’re wrong!

You’re listening to a couple of sports fans arguing over who’s the best tennis player maybe? Could be – but, if you’re analyzing a downloaded file with more than one antimalware application (and you should), you could be witnessing a more serious difference of opinion.

You’ve primary anti-malware application is advising you that the application you just downloaded contains malware. But, since you’re an aware computer user, you’ve launched your secondary malware scanner and – surprise – there’s a difference of opinion – no malware.

So, you’re now dealing with the big question – are you dealing with a false positive thrown up by the primary malware scanner, or is it more likely that the secondary scanner is misbehaving?

You could just flip a coin, or go with your best guess – but, you didn’t become a super user by flipping coins, or guessing, when it comes to your system’s security. No, you’re better than that, so you upload the questionable file to VirusTotal, where it will be scanned for nasties by thirty five plus diverse online scanners.

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VirusTotal result – a clean file. Elapsed time on this scan – under a minute.

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As an alternative to VirusTotal, or in addition to (maybe not a bad idea), you can run the file through a new service now being offered by OPSWAT, the company behind the highly recommended AppRemover.

OPSWAT’s Metascan Online, is similar in many respects to VirusTotal – as the following screen shots indicate.

Browse your Hard Drive for the file to be uploaded (for this test I’ve selected a different executable – 15 MB as opposed to 3 MB).

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Detailed results are shown in the  following screen capture. As you can see – the file has been processed through 19 AVs and has come up clean. Elapsed time on this scan – just over a minute.

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This new service was launched just a few days ago, so you may experience a glitch or two. In testing, over several days (in both Windows and Ubuntu Linux), I must admit I bumped my head a time or two,  but after speaking with the company, the minor server issues I encountered were resolved quickly.

Responsiveness to customer issues is the hallmark of a client centered organization, and OPSWAT certainly meets that test.

Fast facts:

Use of multiple antivirus engines

Real-time automatic updates of virus signatures

Detailed results from each antivirus engine

Real time global statistics available

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Keep in mind, an online scanning service is not a substitute for an appropriate local defense system, including a firewall (either software or hardware), and a sound and effective anti-malware application.

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, Cloud Computing Applications, Don't Get Hacked, Freeware, Malware Protection, Online Malware Scanners, OPSWAT, Recommended Web Sites, Windows Tips and Tools

Free FileHippo Update Checker – Excellent Alternative To Secunia PSI

I gotta love the regular readers here – they definitely keep me on my toes. Based on a recent article – Not Running Secunia PSI? Why Not? – a number of readers had the same question (both in comments and privately); what about FileHippo Update Checker? Rightfully so – FileHippo Update Checker is an outstanding application in its own right.

Luckily (whew!), I had reviewed and recommended this solid freebie back in May, 2010. Based on reader feedback, I’ve edited this previous article (including updated graphics), and reposted it here.

Free FileHippo Update Checker – A Very Cool Tool

image One of the most frequently repeated pieces of advice on this site is – “Keep all applications (including your operating system) patched, and up to date”. Sounds like good, practical advice – and it is. But as those of us involved in computer security know; this is advice that is not always followed.

Experienced users are generally aware that free, automated applications, are readily available for download, that take the burden out of updating and patching.

One particular application that I have reviewed and recommended a number of times – that does just that is, Secunia Personal Software Inspector (PSI), which constantly monitors a system for insecure software installations, notifies the user when an insecure application is installed, and then provides the user with detailed instructions for updating the application, when available.

Like all applications, PSI is not perfect. The most common complaint seems to be, that after updating applications it may still report that specific applications are out-of-date, or pose a threat.

Regular reader, and IT pro, Georg L., from Vienna, Austria, has pointed out that an alternative to PSI, which is compatible with x64 systems, and which does a comparable job of checking your installed software for critical updates, and security fixes, is FileHippo’s free Update Checker.

Following Georg’s recommendation, I sparked up an older test machine, and downloaded and installed Update Checker. The test scan took only a matter of seconds. Less than 3 seconds in this test – virtually in the blink of an eye!

The updated Browser screen shot below, illustrates the results obtained following the Update Checker test scan.

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For testing purposes I clicked on the green download arrow which opened the following download applet, so that I could update one of my favorite free utilities – CDBurnerXP

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I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised when I noticed FileHippo’s Update Checker returned results for Beta Updates as well – as the following screen capture indicates. For those users who like to test Beta software, this is a definite bonus.

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It’s important to understand that all software of this type may well have shortcomings of one type, or another. FileHippo’s Update Checker, for example, does not support all programs.

This should not be surprising, given the enormous quantity of available applications. The most popular applications, of course (the ones you are most likely to have installed), are covered.

From the developer’s site:

We work hard to include as many programs as we can in the Update Checker, but we currently cannot detect them all. This can be for various reasons, including: technical issues, publisher limitations or lack of consistent version numbering. However, we’re constantly advancing our detection methods and working with publishers to improve this.

Note: The Update Checker will not send any personal information back to FileHippo.com. The only information collected is a list of programs and their versions, along with the operating system details to help with processing.

Additionally, none of this information is linked to your IP address; the logs are deleted after processing.

Recommendation: I was quite impressed with this application’s speed, and thoroughness. A definite practical alternative to Secunia Personal Software Inspector.

If you’re inclined to do so – download both applications, take them for a spin, and form your own opinion. You’ll have a little bit of fun!

System requirements: Windows 7, Vista, XP, 2003, 2000, ME or 98. (both 32 and 64 bit where applicable). Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 (the installer will prompt you and download it automatically).

Download at: FileHippo

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Anti-Malware Tools, Application Vulnerabilities, Cloud Computing Applications, Computer Audit Applications, Cyber Crime, Don't Get Hacked, downloads, Freeware, Recommended Web Sites, Software, System Security, Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools

Not Using Google Shortcuts? Here’s What You’re Missing

The following article was originally posted September 6, 2010.

Comments from readers:

I have to say that is such a great plugin. It is so customizable and puts all the Google services at one place. I can even remove the separate plugins I have for Gmail and reader.

Great find, Bill. I’m going to be putting this to good use!

Looks fabulous Bill. I removed the Google Toolbar from Firefox as it refused to untick some checkboxes, so this could be a great substitute.

imageDespite my personal view that Google trashes personal privacy rights, I continue to use a fairly large number of Google services, including Gmail, Google Reader, Maps, Calendar, and so on.

Until now, I’ve used my Bookmarks menu in Firefox to access these services, since this method is very convenient. But, when I came across the Google Shortcuts extension for Firefox, all that changed.

An  add-on that can display over 160 Google services as buttons next to the address bar, or in a one-click popup menu, is a sure fire winner with me. And Google Shortcuts for Firefox, or Chrome, can do that – and more.

Adding this extension to either Firefox, or Chrome, is accomplished in the usual manner that most of us are familiar with (you’ll find the download links at the end of this article).

Following installation, I jumped right in – setting up the extension to best serve my particular needs.

You can place your most commonly used Google services as buttons beside the address bar in Firefox, as the following screen capture indicates. This seems like an awkward way to display – eats up a lot of screen real estate.

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The option of using a dropdown menu option instead, as I’ve done here, is a better alternative – at least for me.

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The number of services available is really astonishing. In fact, there are services listed here that I was completely unaware of. Hopefully, G+ will be added shortly.

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Additional control options are available on the advanced options setting screen.

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Requirements: Firefox 2.0 – 6.*, or Chrome

Download at: Mozilla or Google Chrome Extensions

For super convenience, this is one of the better Firefox add-ons I’ve come across – I highly recommend it.

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Filed under Browser add-ons, Chrome, Chrome Add-ons, Cloud Computing Applications, downloads, Firefox, Firefox Add-ons, Freeware, Google, Google Chrome, Google Software, Interconnectivity, Software, Windows Tips and Tools